This is part of the ongoing WIP, which I really ought to link up I suppose, or not and you’ll have to buy it when I’m done!
There were lamps. Lamps, and candles, and Bonnie knelt next to the chest, looking up at John with her hands full of slightly honey-scented tapers. “We could just leave the electric off….”
He laughed and shook his head. “Go long enough without a shower and you will change your mind, no matter how romantic you think lamplight is!”
“Oh, “ she wrinkled her nose. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
“I can haul water in from the pump for a horsebath tonight,” He held out his hand, and she took it to get up.
“Horsebath?” She cocked her head in curiosity.
“What we used to call washing the basics, while standing in a big metal tub, at the hunting camp. Not here, I don’t remember this place without electricity although I knew from Mom that they sometimes have long power outages in the winter, that is what this…” He gestured down at the cedar chest full of supplies, “is for.”
“It’s good.” She lit one of the candles with the long lighter that had been with them. There were candlesticks on the mantle, and with the oil lamp lit on the table, they had enough light to make their supper a cosy experience. The other lamp was in the kitchen, where the old gas range was warming a pan full of soup. “I have to go stir the dinner!”
She hurried into the other room, and he didn’t follow her right away. When he did appear his hands were full of a big tin tub.
“Right where I remembered it! Hanging on the wall in the tack room. I dusted it off, but the inside’s clean enough.” He put it down at the far end of the kitchen. “We can have our wash in here after dinner.”
She looked up from the stove. “I feel more than a little like a pioneer wife. I should be asking my ancestresses what to do next. We had some bread, would you like me to toast it? I can in the oven.”
“A woman of talent.” He murmured, wrapping his arms around her from the back. “I don’t mind it just as bread. What is in the pan?”
“Tins of beef stew.” She pointed. “They were in the pantry and the sell-by dates were fine. Those are more guidelines, anyway… I’ll have to do a full inventory and make a shopping list, but not much point until we get power on. Well, at least the perishables. We could get ice and put that in our little cooler, but it won’t hold much.”
“Shh.” He released her as she turned off the heat under the soup. “We will have to figure out who to call, but that’s in the morning. Tonight?”
“We get to pretend we live in olden times.” She started opening cupboards. “Aha! Bowls. We have water to drink. I’m just happy you insist on traveling with your own coffee. We can’t brew in the pot, but I can work with grounds.”
“If you can find Uncle Ted’s percolator it will be great coffee.” He turned around thoughtfully. “Might be out in the big pantry.”
“There’s another pantry?” She repeated in astonishment. “There are two in here!”
“Two doors. I can say it’s two, makes me feel like I’ve got an awesome kitchen.” She picked up the lamp and followed him. “Oh! This is like a whole ‘nother kitchen, too!”
“The utility room.” He pointed. “Washer, dryer, big laundry sink which also gets used for processing food, and a counter that doubles as folding space and sometimes ironing board, hence the scorch marks. And the big pantry.” He opened a door. “The camping stuff used to be here…” He looked in the corner. “Still is. Guess Uncle Ted didn’t rearrange Gran’s stuff much after she passed. He looked up. Bonnie was holding the lamp high and looking around with her mouth in an o of surprise.
“There’s… there’s a lot of food in here!”
“Yes,” He looked around. “Used to feed a lot of people, from family to farm hands. We will have to look at dates on jars,” he warned. “Some of this may have to slop the pigs at this point or go in the compost.”
Her face crumpled. “Oh,” Her faint protest made his lips quirk. He’d chosen a good partner.
“Wait a second.” He had the percolator in one hand, and now retrieved one of the big canning kettles from a rear shelf. “Ok, let’s go have our dinner while we heat bath water.”
The big pot safely on the power burner and full of water, they sat at the little table, facing one another.
“This is the breakfast table,” He told her. “Big dining room is through there.” He gestured at the shadowy archway to the side of the room. “Living room you saw, we came through it, and the dining is that bump-out at the front of the house. But the kitchen door is usually where we’d come in and out. I just felt like carrying you over the proper threshold.”
He couldn’t quite make out her blush.
“You didn’t have to… I’m solid!” She put her spoon down with a clink. “John, I’m so overwhelmed.”
“I’m an old-fashioned man.” He belied his words as he pushed his bowl to the center of the table and put his elbows on the table. “I know it’s a lot. You don’t get the experience of starting your own household. Instead, you have a whole house full of stuff. Food…”
“Memories. Love.” She reached across the table and he took her hand in both of his. “Oh, it’s so much, but it’s not bad. I’m just… going to have to take some time to wrap my head around it.”
“It’s going to be rough sometimes.” He cradled her hand in one of his, and stroked her palm with his thumb. “I know we’ve talked it over time and again, but the reality will be different.”
“I’m prepared.” She sat up and squared her shoulders. “And I’m no city girl, John Hardine!”
“I know it, my Bonnie girl.”
“Do you want more food?” She switched to practical in a heartbeat. “I am not going to open the refrigerator tonight. I don’t want to know what horrors may lurk there. So we can’t keep any leftovers.”
“I don’t think there was much.” He released her hand. “Ready to wash up and adjourn to bed?”
This time, he couldn’t miss the blush.
In the morning, she awoke in a tangle of blankets with no husband sharing them. Worried, she sat bolt upright, then jumped out of bed, scrambling for one of the blankets. Their clothes would still be in the kitchen where they had left them the night before. Wrapped up against the chill, she padded down the stairs. John wasn’t in the kitchen, but the coffee pot was still quite warm, and there was a note on the counter next to the stove.
“Gone down to check the mail, I didn’t think about that last night. Will come back soon and hungry.”
Bonnie found herself laughing and dropped the blanket, grabbing for her clothes. “There’s no one for miles!” She said out loud to herself. “I could go outside naked if I wanted and wouldn’t that surprise him?”
She didn’t, but she could picture his reaction so she started making biscuits with a satisfied smile on her face. It was a bit too chilly to go out sans jeans and shirt, although once the oven started to preheat, it took the edge off. In the morning light, it was much easier to find the things she needed to cook with. She included a pot of water heating on the back of the stove, for dishes later. The kitchen was so clean and orderly she hated to see her own pile of unwashed dishes by the sink.
Bonnie pulled the biscuits out of the oven. She hadn’t attempted gravy, with no milk, but there was a jar of strawberry jam. John’s favorite, and this one was from the canned goods here on the farm. He still hadn’t returned, and she pictured him pacing in the driveway, impatiently waiting for the mail to arrive. She shook her head. They should probably go talk to the postmistress, who seemed to know things beyond her ken.
I was prompted this week by Becky Jones with “He paced in the driveway, impatiently waiting for the mail to arrive.”
I prompted ‘Nother Mike with “You don’t have to go that far, you could just…”
You can find all of the prompt responses to read over at More Odds Than Ends. Or you can send in your own prompts to take part in the challenge or labeled as spares. It’s fun, and keeps the writing flowing during the dry times.