An Old Reflection – Part II

Here is the second piece of Mirrors.  You can read Part I here.

I’m definitely feeling a pull to continue this story, now that it’s floating around on the big wide web!

Part III is coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Part II

Alice looked up from her notebook. The sun had set behind the weeping willows on the estate across the street, and her room had grown too dark to write in any longer without additional light. Wearily, she pried her fingers from her pen and flexed them, one at a time. The joints on the middle and ring fingers cracked, proudly announcing the retreat of her youth. She reached her arms above her head, arched her back. She was just about to do the whole routine over again when she heard Elsie calling from the bottom of the stairs,

“Alice, dear, supper will be on the table in five minutes.”

“Thanks Elsie. I’ll be right down.” Damn, where had the afternoon gone? She couldn’t quite recall, thanks to fuzzy writers-brain, but she was pretty sure she had sat down just after lunch, about one thirty. It was six now, according to the wall clock next to the window. No wonder her hand was cramped. Alice flipped quickly back through her notebook, stoically maintaining her pact to never re-read until she had finished a chapter, but curious how many pages she had written. Forty? She should really offer her services as a stenographer – the pages were barely legible, but those were real words, real scenes; potentially viable publishing fodder.

A rapping below the floor came from downstairs. Supper! Alice closed the notebook and locked it into her desk drawer. She was not actually worried about anyone stealing or reading her work, but instinct nagged her to protect this pulpy offspring, nonetheless. She put the key on its chain back inside her shirt and rose from the chair. Both knees and some unknown joint in her back popped as she stood. Giving her whole body a quick shake, she unlocked the office door and headed down the hallway to the stairs.

Elsie was laying out the cutlery as Alice came into the kitchen.

“Oh Elsie, let me do that. I’m really sorry, I was all caught up.” She distributed the two stacked plates to their respective sides of the table and went to get glasses from the cupboard. Elsie shook her head and smiled.

“Writers-brain, I know. Did you get much done?” She gently took the china teacups from her employers hands and set them back in the cupboard, grabbing two glasses instead. Alice smiled sheepishly.

“A lot, actually. I don’t know if any of it is good, but once it’s down, it can always be tweaked, I guess.” Surveying the completed table, she sat in her chair and tilted it onto its back legs. Elsie walked past her to the sink, unobtrusively pushing the seat back onto four legs as she passed.

“Well, I hope you are done for the night. Hal mentioned something about bringing home dessert. I assume that means profiteroles picked up from the freezer section, but I’m sure he wants to spend the evening with you.”

Alice nodded contentedly, “That’s fine. I might not be able to move my fingers tomorrow as it is. Sometimes I really wish I could get a train of thought going on a computer, but all that buzzing and harsh lighting throws off my concentration.” She flexed her fingers thoughtfully, “I think I’ve gone down a ring size…”

Elsie laughed, and they both looked toward the foyer, hailed by the sound of the door opening and Hal’s hasty removal of coat and shoes. A few seconds later he appeared in the doorway still wearing his hat, holding a box of store-bought éclairs. Elsie winked at Alice and went to check on the chicken.

“How’re my two favourite girls?” Hal tossed Alice the frozen box and set his hat on Elsie’s bent grey head as he went to the sink. “I don’t even want to know what is on my hands after a day like today”

Elsie carefully removed the hat, “And I don’t want to know what is on this!” she laughed, hanging it gingerly on the back of Hal’s chair. All three chuckled companionably, and Elsie placed the steaming roast chicken in the center of the table.

“Are you sure you don’t want to eat with us?” Hal asked. Either he or Alice asked nearly every night, and always heard the same answer.

“Oh no. Boundaries are very important. And besides, I’m a vegetarian!” Elsie smiled warmly and excused herself. A few seconds later the back door opened and closed softly, as Elsie made her way to the guest house. Hal turned his attention to his wife and reached over the squeeze her hand.

“How did the writing go today?”

“I wrote a lot. Either that or I fell asleep for five hours and someone else wrote a lot.” She smiled. Hal knew she wouldn’t give him any more specifics. He’d come to accept her closed-mouth approach to writing. She had once told him she felt that if she spoke her story aloud too soon, it was like leaving young children out in the cold. In a way, he understood what she meant, though he would have liked to feel a little more special and in the loop than everyone else who got to see the pieces only when they were finished. He squeezed her hand again and dropped the topic.

“How was work?” Alice asked, rising to get the milk from the fridge.

“It was kind of like selling houses in a crappy economy. Oh wait, that’s exactly what it was. It was long and tedious, and let’s just say I’m glad to be home!”

Alice laughed.

The two had a nice dinner, chatting amiably while Hal ate the carrots off of Alice’s plate, and she ate the broccoli off of his. They had an éclair each, but Hal had plans with Rolf, his business partner, that Alice had completely forgotten about.
“I’m sorry to tempt you with cream puffs and then bail,” Hal said as he put his hat back on his head and started toward the door, “You look so pretty tonight…”

Alice shook her head, “Don’t be ridiculous. And, I know.” She tossed her head playfully and kissed him on the cheek as she passed with their dessert plates. ”Besides, I feel like I was on a roll today. If my hand is too stiff to hold the pen, I can at least record some ideas for the next chapter.”

After Hal had left, Alice climbed the stairs to her office and locked the door behind her.

***

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