Suzy Stewart Dubot
Copyright©May 2014 Suzy Stewart Dubot
Published on Shakespir
An Anglo/American who has been living in France for over 30 years, she began writing as soon as she retired. It is a passion discovered late in life, but lived to its fullest.
Before retiring, she worked at a variety of jobs. Some of the more interesting have been : Art and Crafts teacher, Bartender, Marketing Assistant for N° 1 World Yacht Charterers (Moorings), Beaux Arts Model, Secretary to the French Haflinger Association…
With her daughters, she is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She uses words when she’s not protesting in the street. She is an admirer of the British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, who was also a founding member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.).
Her website :
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Credits Cover Design : Suzy Stewart Dubot
“Well, now that you’re here, Ada, come in. This is an unexpected surprise. I was just having some iced tea with Irene.”
Martha stepped back so that Ada could enter the glass covered veranda. It was a fair-size room with a mist of asparagus ferns along the two sides which had glass. The lushness of the plants’ feathery stems added a cool green aura to the room on this sweltering summer’s day but did nothing to lower its temperature.
Without ceremony, Martha preceded Ada into the main house, which had an overhead fan turning. Ada’s smile was lopsided as the ineffectual fan whirred softly. Martha hadn’t changed. She was still too miserly to have air-conditioning.
Martha turned and went directly into the dark dining room where a grey-haired woman of a similar age sat at the table. Her hair was pinned into a roll around her head, reminiscent of a hairdo fifty years or more earlier, and this look was backed up by the wire-rimmed glasses perched on her nose.
“Been a while, Irene,” Ada offered as her opening statement.
“That it has,” Irene responded.
“You might as well sit down, Ada. I suppose you’d like some tea too?” Martha had not failed in her duties as a hostess. She had been brought up knowing the rules of polite society.
“I would, if you can spare a little extra ice…”
Martha shuffled on through to the kitchen which didn’t have the metal awnings to reduce the light. It was perhaps the most cheerful room in the house, and this regardless of the dismal mood Martha was engendering effortlessly.
Ada took the seat which completed the third side of the end of the table. It was a heavy mahogany, Victorian table of an era long gone. It had been made to seat twelve, if needed, but Martha was a widow with no children, so it had never given more than a portion of itself.
‘A waste,’ Ada thought.
How many times could she have used such a table through the years? Five children and now the grandchildren would soon have filled it.
Martha returned with a plain glass in her hand. She had taken Ada’s request literally because the glass with the drink held only a sliver of ice in it.
Ada smiled politely and thanked her for the tea.
As if previously agreed, the two women sat wordlessly watching Ada, waiting for her to explain her visit. It was obvious to them that Ada had had a point to her unsolicited intrusion. She didn’t live near. It had to have taken her twenty minutes to arrive on foot. And even though there were trees shading the roads all the way, it was still hot.
Ada bided her time as she sipped her tea. It wasn’t the wait for the sliver to melt and cool it which had her sipping te drink, but the fact that she actually hated tea. The tea was only a formality. If they’d been drinking poison, she would have had a glass of that too.
She placed the glass quietly on a coaster and took a hanky from her purse to wipe her lips, which everyone knew was only a delaying tactic. When she’d finished, she spoke.
“You still got Guppies, Martha?”
Martha hadn’t been expecting such an incongruous remark, so could only stare at Ada with her mouth a little open. It took a good ten seconds before she reacted.
“Did you come over here just to ask me if I’ve still got fish? You never were straight forward, Ada. Tell me now, without beating about the bush, why you came today in particular?”
Without breathing a word, Irene pushed her glasses higher on her nose not wanting to miss any interaction between the two women.
“Of course, you won’t remember what day this is. It’s my wedding anniversary. Fifty years today.”
Martha looked puzzled.
“Well that’s no big deal,” Martha said. “If Lee hadn’t got run over, I would’ve been married fifty-one.”
“Do you remember what I gave you as a wedding present?” Ada continued, undaunted, squinting at Martha, daring her to have forgotten.
“Why I believe I do. You gave me an icebox.”
Irene looked surprised at such a generous gift, which annoyed Martha.
“She worked in a factory that made them,” she explained curtly to Irene.
Her tone indicated that Ada had probably received a break on the cost.
“Paid full price like everyone else,” Ada replied, when in fact, she’d had a small discount and the cost of the icebox had been taken out of her pay each week until paid for.
Now Ada turned to Irene.
“I’ll give you ten guesses as to what Martha gave me as a wedding present.”
“Ain’t no good when it comes to guessing games,” Irene said squirming.
She didn’t want to go against Martha even if she had the reputation for being tight. If she guessed something expensive and it turned out not to be, that would put her in a bad light. If she guessed something cheap, and it was cheap that didn’t help her cause either. Whichever way she leaned, she couldn’t win, so best to keep quiet.
“Well, you may be surprised,” said Ada “to hear that I still have that present.”
Whereby, she reached into her handbag and brought out a small milk jug. She put it in front of them so all could see it.
Irene had the decency to look a little embarrassed.
“It is a pretty little milk jug,” Irene tried to diffuse the situation.
“It is white and it is plain, Irene,” Ada contradicted. “There’s nothing pretty about it. It probably cost a nickel in the dime store. That is, if she’d bought it. It just so happens that I know that it was a gift to her, and as she didn’t want it, she wrapped it and gave it to me for a wedding present!”
Irene was wriggling uncomfortably on her chair. Her glasses had slipped again, but she wasn’t about to push them back this time. Her reasoning told her that if she couldn’t see clearly, she’d not have to look anyone in the eye.
“I promised George and myself that if I lived to see our fiftieth anniversary, I’d bring it back. Something to mark half a century of stinginess. He wasn’t against the idea.”
She shook her head. “Plain white. How mean can you get?”
She pushed away from the table and stood.
“I never liked it, Martha. I never used it either, so it is still like new. Give it to someone else for a wedding gift and see if they like it any better.”
Martha’s mouth was clamped shut as she looked very grim. There was nothing she could say offhand.
“Always wondered about those Guppies. You no doubt spent more money on them over the years than you ever did on me, your sister.”
She glared down at Ada.
“I’ll see myself out.”
“Let me know next time you plan to visit,” Martha called after her.
“Get yourself a telephone, then,” Ada riposted.
The front door slammed stirring the asparagus ferns and sending air around the room, but to no avail. It was still oppressively hot.