Every Sort of Help: Hammersmith (eleven)
Every Sort of Help
There were two types of men women fell for. Her weeding partner was of the third. Ralph had been. Inclined on their honeymoon to sit by the window, read the newspaper, and tell his new wife, “Go off, look at the stores, if that’s what women like to do. I’ll be fine.” Aimee recalled having a different way of explaining things to herself, eight years ago. Of course, like Nico’s poorest of the poor, out there might be another layer, a male type never encountered, and so never considered.
She shook her head. The point she was making was only this: Bladon Shaw, a fellow competent and busy (though not so much so, as to have gone far in the world), was also quiet-natured and secretive. In his own words, he didn’t need anything. He was not a poor lamb, like Carey…not a bold talker, like Vic, or like—
She ought to call him Monty. She was getting an idea about Mr. Hogben, a last sortie, before she called the battle lost.
Meanwhile, Shaw. She hadn’t succeeded yet in having much to say to him. He seemed to have nothing unprompted to say to her. He had come out to the garden on her heels, after she’d surrendered her kitchen to Minnie; Minnie, making good on her promise of fixing lunch.
“No, goodness, put your feet up!”
And on this day, had her company been wanted anywhere, Aimee might have. She could hear Mrs. Frieslander telling the story to Monty and Biyah—the three of them in the parlor, waiting lunch—about the man whose passage to America her father had paid, on condition of his marrying her eldest sister, and who had married, instead, a girl he’d met in steerage.
Bidding for solitude, Aimee had begun this chore, that Shaw would like to take away from her…because she hadn’t been able to go up and sit thinking in a chair at Carey’s bedside, while he slept. Ruby, at the creek having taken up nursing him, was still at it.
And her nephew, being well suited temperamentally to omitting Jane from his calculations—and bedazzled as he was with Ruby’s birds (Aimee was a bit, herself)—she had put her head round Hogben’s door, meaning to say something pointed about a telegram.
Ruby touched a finger to her lips, then whispered loudly, “I’ll stay, if you don’t mind, unless you tell me I’ll be more help in the kitchen.”
Aimee beckoned her to the threshold, trying anyway.
“Well, it’s your business, what you do…” She seemed to goggle at her own beginning, having swept a glance up the hall. Ruby was thinking of the empty rooms, so found when she’d arrived. She remembered to whisper again, while from downstairs came an upwelling of clatter, something metal striking the kitchen tiles.
“I’ve been let go. But Minnie is still an act. She ought to stop making delays and never mind about me. I’ll only get a room somewhere and see what work is being advertised. She wants to make him take me back. She told him he’s got no drawing card without her, and he said to Minnie, I’ll ruin you. Do you know, she says…”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)