I stumbled out of the car. I touched the snowflake earrings dangling from my ears (I found them at my feet this morning).
“Let’s just get this over with,” I grumbled.
“Why does everybody in town dislike the Stewarts? I had a delightful time sledding with Timmy,” Jaci said.
“You’ll figure out soon enough,” Abby said rolling her eyes.
Mr. Steve rang the doorbell and straightened his tie. Darcy answered the door.
“Darcy? What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Emily invited me over for dinner,” Darcy said. He opened the door wide enough for us to walk in.
“Welcome! Welcome!” Mrs. Stewart smiled as we poured into her family room. “I’m so glad you could come.”
“Thanks for inviting us,” Momma said. I wonder how hard it was to say that.
“It’s the least I could do after what my Emily has done to your Natalie,” Mrs. Stewart said. “But don’t worry. I am working on her.”
I didn’t know what ‘working on her’ meant but I hoped it worked.
“Oh, I love your dress! Did you make it yourself?” Jaci asked overlooking Mrs. Stewart.
Mrs. Stewart was wearing a plain looking pink dress. She didn’t have on her glasses today. A smile managed to creep into her face.
“Yes. Yes, I did. I love making clothes but Emily will only let me make her Sunday dress,” Mrs. Stewart said.
“I don’t see why. Your work is very good. Even mother wasn’t this good,” Jaci said kneeling to admire the hem.
“Are you a coach?” Megan asked. I felt like laughing. Mrs. Stewart did have a voice of authority.
“Why do you ask, child?” Mrs. Stewart asked.
“Whistle,” Megan said pointing to Mrs. Stewart’s chest.
“Oh. This? I use this to communicate with my grandchildren and sometimes my husband,” Mrs. Stewart said holding up the whistle. I hadn’t even noticed she had been wearing it. Come to think of it I think she was wearing it the day she burst into the school and at The Hill.
“Speaking of those children, where are they?” Mrs. Stewart asked. She blew her whistle five times.
A sound that sounded like elephants stomping rang through the house. Momma tried to hide the horrified look on her face. Mr. Steve seemed unfazed. Jaci stared at Mrs. Stewart in amazement. Megan covered her ears. Darcy (I almost forgot he was there) stood like he was in the army.
Timmy and Emily ran down the steps and got in line with Darcy.
“State your full name and age for our guest please,” Mrs. Stewart said in a stern voice. She blew her whistle once.
“Timothy-Caleb Jeffery Stewart. Age sixteen,” Timmy said. He looked at Jaci.
“But I’ll be seventeen on April 3rd,” Timmy added not taking his eyes off Jaci.
“Thank you for that extra and unasked for information,” Mrs. Stewart said. She blew her whistle twice.
“Emily Elizabeth Stewart. Age twelve,” Emily said. Emily looked at Darcy.
“But I’ll be thirteen on July 27th,” Emily said looking at Darcy. Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes and blew her whistle three times.
“Darcy Chadwick Edwards. Age thirteen,” Darcy said. He looked at me.
“But I’ll be fourteen on August 10th,” Darcy said still looking at me.
“At ease children,” Mrs. Stewart said. “And next time please just give what I ask for.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Timmy, Emily, and Darcy said. Timmy and Emily ran upstairs. Darcy reluctantly followed.
“I’m so sorry about them,” Mrs. Stewart said shaking her head. “Dinner will be in a minute. My husband has not returned from Pittsfield yet.”
“May I go upstairs?” Jaci asked.
“Oh of course!” Mrs. Stewart said. “You, Natalie, Abby, and Megan can all go upstairs. Six whistle blows means dinner.”
Jaci took her time going up the stairs. That wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t ahead of Abby, Megan, and me.
“Move it, slow poke,” Abby said walking past her. Jaci looked hurt but she continued to walk up the steps. Abby slammed a door upstairs.
“Take my hand,” Megan said to Jaci. Jaci took Megan’s hand and they finished walking up the steps.
“Oh! I wonder what room is what,” Jaci said looking at the five doors along the hall.
Timmy walked out of the third door.
“I’m just going to assume that the third door leads to Timmy’s room,” I said. Jaci nodded.
“Hey, Jaci,” Timmy said smiling.
“You have a nice house,” Jaci said.
“Thanks,” Timmy said.
“Can you please tell me what’s behind these doors?” Jaci asked.
“Oh sure,” Timmy shrugged. “The first door is Grandma and Grandpa’s room. The second room is Emily’s. The third room is mine but sometimes I have to share it with Darcy. The fourth room is the upstairs bathroom. I think Abby’s in there. And the fifth room is Grandma’s sewing room.”
“I would like to see the sewing room,” Jaci said. Timmy looked like he didn’t want to show us the sewing room but one look at Jaci made him do it.
“This is where Grandma does all of her sewing,” Timmy said opening the door.
“Oh my goodness! I must have some of this fabric!” Jaci said holding up a roll of pink fabric. Jaci went around the room showing things to Timmy, Megan, and I that had to do with sewing. I don’t think Timmy was really listening thou.
Six whistles went through the air. Timmy offered his arm for Jaci and Jaci took it. She gave Megan a look that said follow her.
When we got out to the hall, Darcy took one look at Timmy and offered me his arm.
Let me get this straight. I did NOT want to take his arm but I did NOT want to be rude. So I let Darcy escort me downstairs.
“My lady,” Mr. Steve said to Momma when he saw Darcy and Timmy escorting Jaci and me. Momma giggled and took his arm. Mr. Steve offered his arm for Abby and she took it. Mr. Steve looked at Timmy and Jaci. If you ask me he looked a little upset to see Timmy escorting Jaci.
“Such gentlemen!” Mrs. Stewart gushed. Emily just pouted. Mr. Stewart looked at Timmy but Timmy didn’t notice.
There were little pieces of paper at different spots. I sat at my spot across from Darcy.
For once I felt bad for Emily. Her spot was the edge of the table between Mrs. Stewart and Timmy. I almost actually offered her my spot.
But Abby had a spot wedged between Mr. Steve and Mrs. Stewart so that was just as bad.
“Let’s eat,” Mr. Stewart said. Worry crept into Jaci’s face.
“Aren’t we forgetting to say the blessing?” Jaci asked. Mrs. Stewart looked at Mr. Stewart.
“Why don’t you say it, Ms. Matthews?” Mr. Stewart asked. Jaci nodded.
“Dear Lord. Thank you the food on the table. I’m sure Mrs. Stewart worked hard on it. Thank you for the chance to have dinner with the Stewarts. Lord, please bless the food we are about to receive for our nourishment, body, and soul in Christ’s name, Amen,” Jaci prayed.
“Thank you,” Mr. Stewart said reaching for a roll.
“So, Riley and Steve, when do you think the wedding will take place?” Mrs. Stewart asked reaching for the green beans.
“I’ve always wanted a spring wedding,” Momma said.
“Springtime is a wonderful time of year! It gets so pretty out here. You just have to take a walk on the Mohawk trail in the summer. My husband takes Timmy, Darcy, and Emily camping during the summer,” Mrs. Stewart gushed.
“I walked a little through the Mohawk Trail coming here. It’s surely a beauty in God’s creation,” Jaci said. Mrs. Stewart nodded.
“Did you just say walk? You didn’t walk here from Maine did you?” Timmy asked.
“Oh, heavens, no!” Jaci laughed. “I walked from Pittsfield to Florida.”
“You did what!” Mr. Steve, Darcy, Timmy, Momma, and Abby shouted at the same time. Jaci looked shocked.
“Are your ears troubling you?” Jaci asked speaking louder. “I said I walked from Pittsfield to Florida. It took me two days but I did it. I could have been here in one but I got a little tired along the way and took a nap in the woods. I lost track of time I guess.”
Mr. Steve looked horrified. Abby looked like she wished Jaci had just stayed in the woods.
“Why did you walk from Pittsfield to Florida? You could have gotten a cab,” Mr. Steve said.
“A man did pull up to me when I was in Pittsfield. He said he was a cab driver and said he could take me to the place I needed to go. But Mother always told me never to get in a car with a stranger so I didn’t,” Jaci said. Mr. Steve shook his head.
“I don’t think I want to hear anymore,” Mr. Steve said stuffing pot roast into his mouth. Jaci looked confused but she didn’t say anything.
“Abby, How’s Boston?” Mrs. Stewart asked.
“It’s good,” Abby said. “I just finished the Smith Project.”
“I heard about that. The building looks gorgeous!” Mrs. Stewart smiled. Abby nodded.
And that’s the way dinner went. We had scattered conversations about this and that. I was just glad nobody was fighting.
Emily got up from the table leaving her dirty plate and Mrs. Stewart gave one long whistle.
“Emily Elizabeth Stewart! How many times am I going to have to tell you to scrap off your plate after dinner and ask for permission to leave?” Mrs. Stewart said. Emily rolled her eyes.
“Did you roll your eyes at me?!” Mrs. Stewart shouted. “Get on your knees!”
“May I say something?” Jaci asked as Emily got on her knees. Mrs. Stewart looked at her but didn’t say anything.
“Mrs. Stewart, it’s easy to see that you love and care about your grandchildren but don’t you think it’s rather harsh making them kneel to the ground in front of people and make halfhearted apologizes? If there not truly sorry for what they do what good is all this? By the way you treat them with the whistles and kneeling apologizes I wouldn’t be surprised if Emily and Timothy-Caleb leave the minute they turn eighteen and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. I would find it a little hard to believe I was loved if I was treated like that. Mother didn’t always make it easy to see that she loved me but she wasn’t as bad as this. All thou she wouldn’t let me learn how to drive. She just said that she had her reason. That always meant that the discussion was to go no further but I’m getting off course. Now please don’t think I’m criticizing you but isn’t there a better way to punish your grandkids?” Jaci asked.
Mr. Steve looked like he wanted to disappear. Timmy looked shocked and fearful. Emily looked at Jaci with wonder. Abby looked at Jaci with wonder and amazement. All eyes were on Mrs. Stewart to see how she would react.
“Miss Jaci Matthews, I like you,” Mrs. Stewart finally said smiling. “You remind me of me when I was your age. Always speaking my mind. If you had blonde hair you could be a spitting image of me.”
Jaci smiled. Relief seemed to wash over Timmy’s face.
“I like you too, Mrs. Stewart. I think we’re going to be good friends,” Jaci smiled.
Mr. Steve, Abby, and Darcy just looked at Mrs. Stewart and Jaci in wonder.