What Became of Marjorie? – Chapter Two

Chapter One
Chapter 2

It was just after noon when Maisie returned from her car with her laptop when she almost bumped straight into Katie crossing the hall.

The older woman was all smiles again. ‘Lunch will be served in a few minutes if you would like to join me. I hope you like homemade vegetable soup.’

‘Thank you. Yes, soup sounds lovely.’

‘OK, I’ll take it to the Great Room, as it was called. I can fill you in on its history while we eat.’

Maisie thanked her again before off-loading her laptop into her room.

The soup was delicious and Maisie said so as the two chatted at one end of the grand antique dining table that could seat twenty easily. ‘I can’t imagine sitting at this table filled with guests. Do you actually cook for them all?’

‘Not so much these past ten years. I do remember assisting the housekeeper Hilda and a second cousin of Stan’s.’ She leaned forward as if to tell a secret. ‘Cousin Merle stayed until she gave birth to her still-born son, but we won’t go into that.’ She paused while she spooned another mouthful into her mouth and tore a small piece from her home baked dinner roll. ‘When I married my husband Stan, we bought a modest cottage in town. I didn’t want to burden his parents and grandparents with another mouth to feed and to be honest, I hated the house back then and it wasn’t over friendly at times. Merle was a spoiled brat when she first came but I think her situation and Stan’s parents parenting skills changed her by the time she left.’ Katie ate a little more before speaking again.

‘Remember I mentioned Tom earlier?’ She waited for Maisie’s nod. ‘Well he was courting me for a while before I met Stan. Oh, we all turned out to be good friends, especially when Tom met Suzie and married before Stan even proposed to me. We lived in town a few years before both Stan and Tom went off to the Gulf; Stan was Navy and Tom was Army. They never set eyes on each other again.’ Her voice was almost a whisper. She cleared her throat and continued. ‘Stan was killed when his ship struck a mine just after his ship entered the Gulf. Tom returned a year later with an injured leg. He still walks with a limp. Anyway, Stan’s father wouldn’t hear of me living on my own. Besides, I couldn’t pay the bills or buy food for myself.’ She smiled at the memory. ‘Stan didn’t want his “little lady” working after we were married.’ She cleared her throat again. ‘Now, where was I? Ah yes. There were no local jobs I could do so I was contemplating returning to Parramatta where I still had family…’

‘How interesting,’ Maisie interrupted. ‘That’s where I live. Sorry. Please go on.’

Katie shook her head. ‘That’s fine. Fancy that?  Anyway, that’s when the invitation came from Stan’s parents. Of course, I had to work for my keep and I was only asked to help where I could until I settled in. After a few months, I found myself taking care of Stan’s grandmother who by then was confined to bed. She was a cranky old thing but we grew to love each other and enjoyed spending long days together doing needlework and chatting. After she died, I took over the care of all the upstairs rooms. Oh, and Merle had returned to Sydney by then and became a mid-wife or so we heard. After guests left for the day, I cleaned and readied everything up.’ Here Katie smiled. ‘I guess that’s how I got into a habit of cleaning upstairs in the afternoon.’

Maisie smiled too. ‘So how was it that you were left with this huge place. Surely there were other family members around.’

‘Sadly no. Stan wasn’t the only son who died during the Gulf War. There were three other sons and three daughters. The youngest boys both died before they married. Stan’s eldest brother returned but never married. I think he died from a broken spirit. He never spoke much about the war but it was obvious that it caused him more than physical pain. Stan’s father died in his late seventies and his mother soon after. Stan and I hadn’t been married long, so we had no children of our own.’

‘And the sisters?’

‘One went to Melbourne and married there. We heard soon after that she had died from natural causes. I never knew what. She was only in her early thirties. One sister, Christine, was living in town with her husband but they were much older than Stan and I. They never had children and Christine didn’t want the place. She died only last year in a nursing home. There was one other sister, Marjorie. She was the youngest. The solicitor who managed the affairs when Christine died even tried looking for her back in Ireland. Nothing. It was like she just vanished into thin air.’

After Katie had been silent for some time to finish her soup and bread, Maisie quietly asked about how she managed on her own for so long.

‘I down sized, I guess you could call it. I only cope with up to six guests at any one time. I open up the house on occasions for bus trippers but just for afternoon tea and a guided tour. It helps with the bills.’ She sat up straight. ‘You know what? I haven’t given you the guided tour. I won’t charge you,’ she laughed. ‘I just know you would appreciate it.’

‘WOW! Thanks! That sounds wonderful. Would this afternoon be a good time?’

‘Give me an hour while I tidy upstairs. It’s just you and me so it won’t take long.’

‘I can clean up these dishes if you like.’ Maisie stood and picked up her empty bowl.

‘Well, I don’t see why not. Thank you. You’ll find everything you need in my little kitchen. Oh, just put the lid on the soup pot and check that I turned it off. I’ll deal with it later.’

The afternoon was everything Maisie expected and didn’t expect. The building and all its history turned out to be the perfect place to break her recent writer’s block.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie? – Chapter One

Chapter 1

It was a glorious night with an Autumn full moon and a canvas of twinkling stars that stretched out before Maisie. She stood now on the only second-floor balcony of this quiet country retreat. Huge Banksias all but obliterated the front of the historic building; the perfect location to write her new mystery novel. Taking in a slow deep breath of the crisp air she took the few short steps to the railing and took in the outline of the surrounding landscape beyond the front garden.

The Last Stop Hotel had been built in 1869 but was renamed Kelly’s Inn in 1880 after a fire partially destroyed the ground floor on the same day as Ned Kelly’s death. One hundred years later, it was converted to a bed and breakfast by an Irish family of the same name who immigrated during conflicts that took the lives of family members and friends. Generations later, Kelly’s Inn had still retained its name and function. It was inherited almost a decade earlier to the Australian born Gulf war widow, Katie Kelly.

Maisie gasped with surprise at the sight of a shooting star. She watched in awe until it disappeared from view. A squeak that sounded like a gate opening or closing, brought her back to the moment. The following echo of a click confirmed it. There in the moonlight off to her right was a hooded figure who was now heading down the path and into a dark shadowed area that she perceived as the bush-land she noticed when she arrived that afternoon.

With strained eyes focusing, she waited for further movement. ‘Perhaps I just imagined it’, she mumbled to herself. After all, she knew she had an imagination that freaked everyone she knew.

Closing the balcony double doors behind her, she headed for the bathroom to ready for bed. Tomorrow, Maisie hoped, would be a day of exploring and note taking.

Maisie woke to a faint tapping at her door. Blinking at the clock beside the bed she wondered for a second where she was. Another slightly firmer knock woke her fully. ‘Come in,’ she said, before thinking about who it could be.

Mrs Kelly entered with a tray atop with a mug of hot coffee, a small creamer jug and a bagel filled with bacon and melted cheese. ‘I don’t usually serve breakfast in bed to my guests but I need to drive into town for more supplies.’

‘Thank you. What time is it? This clock doesn’t seem to be working.’

‘So, you’re not an early riser?’ The woman moved the clock back a little so she could place the tray on the side-table. ‘The clock is working fine. It’s five-thirty in the morning.’

Maisie groaned but it was too late. ‘Sorry, I often write late into the night.’

‘That’s all right’. She grinned. ‘When I return, we can sit down and discuss your nocturnal needs and later breakfast times’.

‘I should have mentioned it yesterday, but an early start would do me good today. I need to make notes and check out this beautiful place’. Maisy looked around the ornately decorated room.

Katie Kelly went to the door before answering. ‘Until I return, can I ask you to keep the “checking out” to the down stairs and surrounding grounds.’ She turned and smiled. ‘I prefer to “right” upstairs after midday.’ She winked and left the room.

Maisie smiled as she placed her feet on the floor and reached for the steaming coffee.

The largest room downstairs had obviously been the 1880 refurbished dining room or perhaps a dance hall, which could explain the size and the raised section at one end. The chandeliers above glowed dimly, but the intricate embossed ceilings held her attention.

‘Your mouth is open.’ Mrs Kelly interrupted her reverie. ‘There’s a few dust spiders up there that drop unexpectedly.’

Maisie mouth slammed shut as the woman’s jovial laugh echoed down the long hallway toward the back of the house. She gathered herself and rescued her notebook that had dropped to the floor before following her host.

With a huge grin from Katie Kelly, Maisie stepped into the outdated but awe-inspiring industrial kitchen.

‘This kitchen is amazing.’

‘Yes, it’s that. Too big when I’m here alone during the colder months. I use the old domestic kitchen.’  She pointed to an open door beside the door they had come through. ‘Take a look.’

To her surprise the smaller kitchen was no bigger than an English utility room she had seen on one of those country-life television reality shows. It had all the basics a single person would need. In fact, it was better designed than her own kitchen in her Parramatta apartment.

‘So, how was your breakfast?’ Her host peered from behind the open door of the biggest refrigerator Maisie had ever seen.

‘Lovely, thank you. I’m sorry I put you to all that trouble.’

‘Nonsense, I enjoy spoiling my guests. Even nocturnal ones,’ she added with a wink.

Maisy couldn’t help but like this motherly older woman. ‘So, how can we make this work, Mrs Kelly?’

‘For starters, stop calling me Mrs Kelly. It’s Katie. I’m not the old housekeeper.’ She paused before continuing. ‘Well, old maybe.’

They both laughed.

‘OK Katie. You can call me Maisie. I’m so glad I came across your website. Which reminds me. Do you have WiFi?’

‘No. We are too far out and I like to keep it that way.’ Katie closed the fridge door and placed the last of the shopping bags under the huge work-space that seem to possess the room. She leaned against it. ‘I use the butcher’s computer in town. Tom is happy for my guests to use his WiFi too. Just be ready for his weird tales from the past…like the one he tells about the young newly-weds that stayed in the room above on the night of the historic fire’. She pointed toward the ceiling before adding: ‘then there’s Old Ned himself but I’ll let Tom tell his stories.’ Katie slapped her ample thighs. ‘Let’s go into the sitting room. It’s warmer in there. First on the left,’ she pointed. ‘I’ll bring down a pot of tea’.

The next few hours sped by filled with hot tea, scones and laughs. Katie answered historical questions about the house and family. Maisie interest peaked when Katie mentioned the family cemetery a little way passed the side gate.

‘Last night I thought I saw someone going through the gate. Actually, I heard the gate squeak.’

Katie sat silent before answering. ‘You must be mistaken,’ she snapped. That gate hasn’t squeaked for years. I’ll check it later when I dig up some potatoes for tonight’s tea. Will you eat with me?’ she continued bringing an abrupt end to their pleasant morning.

‘If it’s no problem. I can pay for any extra meals I have.’

‘Now cut that out, Miss Maisie. You’re welcome to join me at any meal. As for breakfast, why don’t I prepare it once you come downstairs each morning. I’ll be somewhere down here. Probably in the kitchen.’ With that, Katie packed up the dishes and left the room.

It took a few minutes before Maisie moved. She was at a loss to the sudden change of mood. She was concerned that she had offended the woman and decided to immediately apologise. Entering the kitchen a few minutes later she searched for Katie but she obviously made herself scarce. With a deep sigh she returned to her exploring. It was too late to drive into town. I don’t want to upset Katie again. Still mystified, she headed back to the large room she had visited earlier.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace