realized that she was hungry and was expecting to eat the sandwiches I had promised her.
I jumped up from my seat, and motioned for her to sit down, the disappointment washing away and being replaced by a feeling of joy and excitement. She was staying! At least for tonight and maybe tomorrow, and maybe for a while even. I wrenched open the ice box and stood staring at the contents for several minutes, trying to clear my brain enough to think of what I might need for a sandwich. I decided on ham and pulled an opened tin out, along with some mayonnaise and placed them on the table. I grabbed the bread from the breadbox and began slicing it. I pulled two small plates from the cupboard and put the bread on them and returned to the table. She took a plate from me and I waited as she smoothed some mayonnaise on each slice and placed a thick piece of ham between them. I then assembled my sandwich, and the two of us ate in silence. I could tell she was very, very hungry. She was trying to take small bites, but she ate quickly, taking big gulps of air between each mouthful. I offered her a glass of milk and she accepted, swallowing that down too. Then I pulled out a pound cake and cut two thick slices off. I put one on her plate and one on mine and sat back in my chair to watch her finish eating. She was eating more slowly now, enjoying the taste of the pound cake – taking several bites and then a swig of milk. The pound cake crumbled on the tips of her fingers and the milk oozed from the corners of her lips. When she was done, she licked the crumbs off and wiped her face on the back of her hand.
“Tank you for the food, Mr. Palmer,” she said.
“Please, call me Bram,” I smiled, taking the plates and putting them in the sink.
“Here, I do dat,” she said, standing up.
“No, no,” I said. “It’s alright, you’re not officially employed yet. Tomorrow morning you can start with the duties around the house. Tonight you’re simply my guest.”
Melee’s face twisted in confusion. It occurred to me that she might never have been anyone’s guest before. Might never have spent a single day without working. She glanced from me to the sink and then to the stairs, as though she were thinking perhaps it best she go to bed if she wasn’t required to do the dishes.
“Please,” I said, motioning to the chair. She sat back down, clasping her hands tightly in front of her on the table and biting her lip, a quiet snort escaping her nostrils.
“I guess you were pretty hungry after your walk today,” I said cheerfully, hoping to start a conversation.
“How far did you come?” I asked.
“Dono,” she shrugged, “maybe five or six miles. I can’t tell. It was raining so hard, you know.” She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Well,” I said, hoping to put her at ease, “I do hope you’ll be happy here.”
“Tank you, Mr. Bram,” she said.
“No, just Bram,” I reminded her. She didn’t answer.
“So how did you find out that we needed a new maid?” I asked.
“I din,” she answered.
“Excuse me?” I was surprised by this.
“I din know you need a new girl. My papa saw de store and just decide to go der and axe. Der was no one else around when we got to town, de storm was so bad.”
“Ah.” I said. I was trying to deal with the impact that this had on my mind.
“Mr. Bram, do you mind if I go to bed now? I’m very tired,” she said, with an exaggerated yawn.
“Oh, not at all,” I answered, distracted.
She thanked me again for the sandwiches and then turned to go back upstairs for the night.
My mother named me Amy Lee. I think it’s a pretty name. It’s sad that I never heard the sound of her voice calling me that. In giving me life, she lost her own. I was the only girl. The last child of six : five sons and one daughter. I was the daughter she never had, but
R.J. Washburn, Ron Washburn