I’ve added some more pages so Lisa can edit.
By Jason Andrew
Abigail had a secret. Thankfully, her father smoked, which covered up the dragon scent, and her mother didn’t believe in such things.
It had all started the day after her family moved to the Queen Anne district of Seattle from San Diego. As the moving truck pulled into the driveway of their quaint, freshly painted brownstone, Abigail noticed an old woman briskly jaunt past their new home.
Neither her parents nor her older brother Bill noticed the strange, old woman carrying a tiny parasol while wearing a large black, floppy hat with a red bow.
Abigail had a fondness for old hats; the fancier the better. She had a second hand coffee table photo book devoted to antique Victorian hats. Her mother, the psychology professor, considered it an odd obsession for a thirteen year old girl and theorized that Abigail’s obsession with the Victorian era represented a desire for abnegation of puberty and sexual desire.
Aside from the hat and the parasol, the old woman seemed odd and out of place to Abigail. Perhaps, she thought, it was because the old woman looked content and confident.
Abigail had wanted an old lace Victorian dress, much like this old woman was wearing, for Halloween; but her mother refused on the grounds that it would send mixed gender issues to her friends. She didn’t need to worry, Abigail didn’t have many friends.
It’s not that Abigail was mean-spirited or actively disliked; she merely enjoyed her own company. At a very young age, her parents encouraged her to read and it was the one thing Abigail actually listened to them about. Conversely, Bill was very gregarious and constantly involved in sports, cars, video games, and his friends. As a result, Bill was considered the well-adjusted child while Abigail was the one that needed the extra attention.
The old woman in black nodded to Abigail, who quickly glanced away, not waiting to be caught gapping at her new neighbor. Old woman was the wrong term to think of her, Abigail realized. It seemed somehow disrespectful. “Mom, who is that?” Abigail asked.
Abigail’s mother craned her neck to face where she was pointing and adjusted her glasses. She was tall and thin, as though spread a bit too thin. Her name was Irene, but secretly Abigail and Bill referred to her as the Professor. “I don’t know, dear. I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet,” She admitted. “Steven?”
Abigail’s father, who had begun preparing to move boxes, grunted in reply. “Do you know who that older lady is?” Her mother asked.
Abigail wasn’t completely certain what her father did for a living. She knew that he worked with computers and numbers. She also knew that it had something to do with automated data exchange, communications, and processing. It definitely had something to do with automated processing of information. Her father had tried to explain to her on the drive up to Seattle, but the comforting sound of his voice just put her to sleep.
“That’s Mrs. Aithne. She’s something of an urban legend around here,” Her father explained.
“What makes her an urban legend, Dad?” Abigail asked.
Steve paused for a moment, surprised that Abigail was actually asking him to explain something. “Well, she’s the oldest living resident of the neighborhood. Apparently, some of the local kids think she’s a witch. Our neighbor, Bob, across the street to the left, told me that the kids think she cursed all of the dogs not to do their business on her yard. In fact, his dog won’t even go near her house.”
As the subject turned to dog feces, Bill quickly became interested. “Wow, she has the power over dog poop!” He said, snickering.
“Maybe she can lend us some of her mojo, or you’ll be cleaning the yard quite a bit there, sport,” Her father teased Bill.
Abigail glanced from her brother to her father. She wished it was easier between her and either of her parents. Bill was only two years older than Abigail, so it didn’t seem fair that he’d have such a connection to them.
“Naturally, when a woman achieves wisdom and becomes one of the elders of the tribe, the patriarchical society must rise up against her by spreading these stories. That’s how the Salem Witch trials started, you know,” Her mother said, acrimoniously.
Her father grunted again and nodded. Bill started moving boxes now that the subject had progressed beyond body fluids or functions. “Maybe we should introduce ourselves,” Abigail suggested.
Irene smiled. Her mother rarely smiled in such a way that Abigail could count teeth. The last time she smiled like that, Bill and Abigail ended up picking up trash on the highway. “Abigail, I think that’s a wonderful idea. I’ve very proud of you. Tomorrow, you should bring her over some cookies as a way of saying hello. I’m sure she’s lonely. I’d go, but I have a staff meeting.”
Bill was starting to sweat from moving boxes. “Are you two ladies going to help us move the boxes, or is that man’s work?” He asked.
Abigail caught her father smiling, and trying to hide it from her mother. “Of course not, William,” Irene protested. “Abigail, it’s time to show the men that the Harrington Women are just as capable as the Harrington men.”
Moving a family to a different state is akin to a chemistry experiment. As space is limited, each member of the family needs to examine their possessions and get rid of that which is non-essential much like you would distil an element to its base form. Abigail donated a good portion of her childhood toys and books to charity, which pleased the civic minded Irene. Irene and Steven donated a decent portion of their furniture and household items rather than haul most of their belongings across two states. Besides, Irene knew that attachment to material objects was a sign of callow spiritual development. Despite this, Steven managed to hold his ground and save several of his prized collections, including his old table top arcade games.
Bill had the most difficulty with the move. He loved their old house, their old neighborhood, and most of all his friends. He was very content with his life.
Irene and Steven assured Bill that he would quickly make new friends, but Bill was unconvinced. Irene and Steven had both gotten jobs in Seattle and with the difficult economy, this was a blessing, Irene had insisted. Secretly, Steven pointed out to Bill that with their new jobs, they would be able to afford a new computer and that seemed to appease him.
Abigail liked her old house, but felt ambivalent about moving to Seattle. While San Diego was familiar and comfortable, she hated the heat. Seattle was the great unknown; mysterious and romantic.
The new house was painted a dark cream color and was quiet spacious for a brownstone. Irene and Steven moved into the master bedroom. Bill quickly claimed the basement bedroom leaving Abigail with the second story bedroom. Over the next few days, the Harringtons unpacked boxes, made several trips to Ikea, and transformed the new house into a home. Abigail and the Harringtons forgot Mrs. Aithne.
It took almost two months before Abigail saw Mrs. Aithne again.
It was late August and the weather was unseasonably warm. Steven worked on the eastside of Lake Washington so he often arrived home fairly late due to traffic. Irene was learning the feel of her new job at Pacific University. Steven and Abigail had long learned self sufficiency and occasionally enjoy each others company between battles of sibling supremacy.
“Damn, I can’t believe we don’t have air conditioning!” Bill cursed.
Abigail sighed. “It doesn’t get this warm in Seattle that often.”
“I just wish we could go swimming or something,” Bill replied.
Bill hadn’t met as many new friends as he would have liked so he was a bit lonely. “School will start soon,” Abigail said, hoping to comfort her brother.
“Let’s sit on the lawn and play Uno. It’s got to be cooler outside!” Bill suggested.
The front lawn had a nice patio set perfect for playing games in the shade and catching the breeze. The sun was setting and starting to cool. Bill organized the pieces while Abigail made lemonade. Uno was the one game the family enjoyed playing together and competition was usually fierce, but friendly.
“Ha, Billy’s playing with his little sister!” a shrill voice cried.
Abigail rolled her eyes. It was Trunk, who was so named because he was as large as a tree trunk. At the age of fifteen, Trunk could buy cigarettes and alcohol unhindered due to his size and appearance. Abigail wasn’t certain if that was because Trunk looked older or because the clerk feared that Trunk might eat him. “Go away, Trunk! We’re busy,” Abigail replied.
Trunk had made his business to make Bill and Abigail feel welcome in the neighborhood. Of course, that included teasing, taunting, and occasional head locks. “Billy, I might have to teach your sister not to be so mouthy,” Trunk warned as he hopped over the diminutive Harrington picket fence.
“Ah, come on, Trunk. We’re not bothering you,” Bill protested.
Bill was in reasonable shape, as a teenager that enjoyed sports. He gained Irene’s curly, dark brown hair and Steven’s tanned skin tone and green eyes. He was a good looking kid, and despite knowing it was a decent brother. Of course, Abigail once caught him shirtless, staring into a mirror while kissing his biceps.
Despite this, Trunk outweighed Bill by at least a hundred pounds and acted like he knew how to use his fists. Trunk had long, greasy brown hair tied into a ponytail and a scruffy goatee. His skin was pocked with zits. The feature that horrified Abigail the most was his large, square slightly yellow teeth. It reminded her of an old nightmare about a giant eating her. Irene had many different theories about why she was afraid of giant teeth, but eventually found other elements of Abigail’s personality to analyze.
Bill and Abigail exchanged glances. “It’s not my fault, blame her,” Trunk said, almost snorting.
Trunk’s shadow seemed to grow with every step, a menacing, amorphous blob that seemed to be reaching for them. It become more difficult to see Trunk as the fading rays of the setting sun shaded his form forcing them to blink. To Abigail, his shadow seemed to expand, growing large bat-like wings.
“Bartholomew Jones! What do you think you are doing?”
It was a gravelly woman’s voice. Abigail realized that there was someone else behind Trunk. Bartholomew “Trunk” Jones replied in a polite, but defiant voice. “I’m visiting my friends, Mrs. Aithne.”
“I’m surprised that you would try to lie to me, Bartholomew,” Mrs. Aithne admonished Trunk. “After I caught you trying to egg my house, I’d think that you know you can’t hide anything from me. I can see right through you.”
Trunk laughed mockingly. “Of course you can, Mrs. Aithne.”
“Besides, someone that wets the bed shouldn’t be so bold,” Mrs. Aithne replied sharply.
Trunk sucked in his breath as though kicked in the stomach. He tried to speak, but started stuttering. “I…I don’t…”
“Don’t you think I can smell it on you, Bartholomew? You obviously don’t shower enough to look at your hair,” Mrs. Aithne continued.
Abigail couldn’t see Trunk’s face because of the shadows, but from his sobs she imagined that he was starting to cry. “Don’t…”
“Don’t what? Make you feel helpless? Ashamed? Like you were about to do to these nice kids?” Mrs. Aithne inquired.
“I think, Bartholomew, will be leaving now,” Abigail interjected.
Trunk nodded, gratefully. “Very well. As a reminder, Bartholomew, you should arrive at my house about eleven tomorrow to mow my lawn. If you do a good job, there will be sandwiches,” Mrs. Aithne replied, dismissing Trunk.
Trunk didn’t waste the opportunity and darted out of the yard and across the street. Abigail wasn’t certain that someone that large could move quite that fast. “Wow, that was great!” Bill cheered.
“Thank you, William, isn’t it?” Mrs. Aithne asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Bill answered, clearly a fan of Mrs. Aithne.
“May I come in?” Mrs. Aithne asked, gesturing to the Harrington’s wooden fence gate.
“Yea, of course,” Bill replied, running to open the gate.
“Mrs. Aithne, my name is Abigail and this is Bill. We’re very pleased to meet you,” Abigail said, greeting her neighbor.
As the sun set a bit more and the street lights turned on, Mrs. Aithne’s wrinkled, but warm face became visible. She was wearing, once again, an antique Victorian dress with a large hat and holding a parasol. Mrs. Aithne waited until Bill opened the gate and then nodded slightly. “Thank you, William.”
“Please call be Bill, Mrs. Aithne,” He pleaded.
“As you wish,” Mrs. Aithne replied. “Bill, it is. It’s very nice to meet the two of you. It’s rare to find such polite children these days. Your mother was quite correct.”
“Thank you,” Abigail replied.
“And speaking of which, I spoke with Mrs. Harrington and she mentioned that the two of you were interested in getting to know me and perhaps have low tea tomorrow,” Mrs. Aithne informed them.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Aithne. I have baseball camp tomorrow,” Bill said, telling the truth, but secretly glad to have an excuse.
“I’ve always wanted to try low tea, but I’m afraid I don’t know much about it,” Abigail admitted.
“How delightful! A chance to, how did Mrs. Harrington phrase it, pass along the knowledge of one of the elders of the womanhood tribe,” Mrs. Aithne replied, amused.
Abigail blushed. “I’d like that.”
“Excellent. Perhaps you could come over around eleven tomorrow,” Mrs. Aithne replied.
Abigail wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone else, but she was curious. Why would Trunks have been so afraid of an old woman? How did she know he wet the bed?
Irene couldn’t be happier, which irritated Abigail. “Abigail, it’s important as you blossom into womanhood that you connect on a spiritual level with elders of our sex. I wish you could have met your Grandmother. Mrs. Aithne seems like she might be lonely,” Irene explained.
Abigail decided that on some issues, it might be wise to just accept she agreed with Irene. That night Abigail dreamed of taking a daring flight into the starless black sky to escape giant teeth.
The next morning, Abigail wore a white sun dress, white gloves, and a mock Edwardian hat with a feather. “I haven’t seen you wear that since the Millar wedding,” Irene commented, approvingly at breakfast.
“I didn’t know you had anything white,” Steve teased.
“Why does your funny hat have a feather?” Bill asked.
“I’m really sorry I can’t get dressed up with you and sit with Mrs. Aithne all day,” Bill replied, almost sounding sincere.
Abigail Harrington arrived at Mrs. Aithne’s brownstone at one minute before eleven. Trunks was already trimming her bushes with ancient rusted clippers. Abigail could see that Trunks wouldn’t have much to do as the yard was well maintained.
“Abigail, thank you coming,” Mrs. Aithne replied, who also wore a hat and gloves. She glanced over at Trunks. “Bartholomew, I expect a full hour of work from you. We’ll be back at noon. If you have done well, there will be sandwiches. If not, there will be consequences.”
Trunks continued clipping the hedges without comment. Mrs. Aithne opened her front door and politely waited for Abigail to enter her home. “Thank you,” Abigail replied and walked through the door.
Mrs. Aithne’s escorted Abigail to the living room. The house was clean as Abigail expected, but every inch of the walls were covered with pictures, old photographs, or shelves displaying collectibles, coins, or antique buttons. “Wow, your house is neat,” Abigail replied, trying to soak it all in.
“I’ve collected these treasures over the years. I’ve very proud of them. Please sit,” the old woman offered.
Abigail sat on one of the loveseats facing the coffee table. Mrs. Aithne excused herself to the kitchen and returned with a silver tea tray set, complete with polished silver spoons and a polished tea kettle. “Thank you very much for all of this, Mrs. Aithne. I appreciate the effort.”
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Aithne replied. “No one likes to have tea anymore. The women of the neighborhood are far too busy going to and fro to bother with an old woman with out a family. I appreciate the company. Do you know how low tea got started?”
“It was because of tea on the low table, like a coffee table, right?” Abigail answered.
“It was traditional to have a meal in the morning and then late evening. Afternoon tea became very popular. High Tea was served at the dinner table while Low Tea was served in a more friendly setting. It’s a very important custom.”
“My mother doesn’t think so,” Abigail retorted.
“I’m very surprised consider the role it had with women’s suffrage,” Mrs. Aithne replied.
“What do you mean?”
“In those days,” Mrs. Aithne explained. “A young woman couldn’t just go somewhere. Oh no, her reputation might be sullied and then she’d never find a husband. Women weren’t allowed to meet at a hall or a tavern. But, they could meet their friends for tea.”
“I’ll tell Mom about that,” Abigail promised earnestly. “She’ll make it into a new ritual celebrating womanhood.”
Mrs. Aithne poured Abigail a cup of Ceylon tea. “Would you like some sugar?” She asked.
Mrs. Aithne offered the sugar and then excused herself once again to the kitchen. She returned with a plate of buttermilk and raisin scones. “These were the traditional snack,” She explained.
Abigail sipped her tea and then took a bite of one of the offered scones. “This is perfect. I’ve never tasted anything better.”
“Thank you, Abigail.”
“Were you a historian?” Abigail asked.
“Oh no,” Mrs. Aithne replied. “I’ve just enjoyed keeping the traditions. What about you? Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?”
Abigail took another sip trying to think of a new answer to an old question. “I like looking at old things. I like old hats, old movies, old books. I don’t know really. I’m only thirteen.”
“I was just like you at your age. The odd duck out as it were. I did alright, dear. You will too,” Mrs. Aithne said before taking a bite of a scone.
Somehow, even though Irene had told her this many times, Abigail felt a little better. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Certainly, dear. Although I can’t promise to answer you.”
Abigail took another sip to buy time to collect her thoughts. “Why is Trunks, I mean Bartholomew, so afraid of you?” She asked.
Mrs. Aithne laughed as though it was the most amusing thing she had ever heard. “Why because if he didn’t, I’d eat him alive, deary.”
“I don’t imagine that he’d taste very good,” Abigail retorted.
“Maybe that’s why he’s hedging my bushes now,” Mrs. Aithne added.
At noon, Mrs. Aithne invited Bartholomew inside for sandwiches. “Won’t you come inside for lunch?” She asked, kindly.
His expression showed that he was clearly horrified and politely thanked her and then ran as fast as his rotund legs would take him. Abigail giggled so hard that she had to stop in order to take a breath. “Such a shame. I suspect we would have enjoyed his company. Provided I put plastic on the floor, of course.”