August 28th, 2007–Abby–Welcome to Patty’s Place!
“Well, what do you think?”
Abigail stood in the cozy living room, nervously playing with her hands. Her expression was eager, but there was undoubtedly a bit of worry in her eyes. “I hope you like it…” she trailed off, and then plunged on, “I know it was awfully presumptious of me to decide on the house without any of you having seen it before, but I did show you lots of pictures, and you all seemed to like it then…I hope you haven’t changed your minds since seeing it in person –”
“Abby, it’s lovely,” Grace broke in with a smile.
“Absolutely perfect,” Jacinta pronounced. “It is a bit small, but I’d far rather have small and cozy with kindred spirits than a mansion by myself.”
“Practically perfect in every way,” Rissa quoted her approval. “It’s charming! Actually, I’m astounded you could find something so lovely in such a marvellous location, and for so little! Can I have the room with the window-seat, upstairs?”
“You’ll be the envy of us all,” Heather said with a twinkle. “And the house – all of it – is indeed lovely.”
It was a pretty house, there could be no doubt of that. There was a window-planter filled with cheerful red geraniums by the front door, and a red water-pump in the center of a garden overflowing with lilies-of-the-valley. The door itself opened to a tiny kitchen behind a wooden railing, which had been topped by a row of teacups, intersposed with small green-glass vases.
November 15th, 2007 — Rissa–Let Us Commence.
I was dusting one of the dressers down in our sitting room, when, with a clunk, down fell this little notebook. I suppose it must have fallen and gotten lodged behind it at some point. A little sad. I should so much have liked to be able to read over the first four months we have spent here at Patty’s Place.
That said, I suppose I shall catch our journal up, and leave it over by the tea pot (where someone is sure to find it!)
We arrived here in July. I see that Abby began to write of our first moments at Patty’s Place before the notebook was lost and forgotten. Since July what has happened? Well, we have settled in for one thing–if settling in means discovering that certain sections of the water closet plumbing give unholy moans when a tap is turned, and that it truly is possible to go through an entire tin of Earl Grey tea in less than a week. But I digress. I think I can speak for all when I say that Patty’s Place is truly charming, and we love it to bits. Everything from the little red pump out front, to the greenish-brown porcelain — is it a dog? a cat? — sitting over the stairs, to the herd of lecherous spiders which seem to have set up their ancestral home in the corners of our water closet long before we arrived. Well, perhaps not the herd of spiders.
When we came to Patty’s Place, the world was green and growing and muggy and we kept the windows open all day and made frequent pilgrimages to the shore. Now that it is November, we have been drawn inwards. The tea kettle is constantly singing, the quaint little pot-bellied stove up between the attic bedrooms gives off a cheerful glow, and we have even on occasion built up a fire in the fireplace to thwart the cold evenings. (And let me tell you, that was no small feat! I don’t believe a single one of us had ever actually built a fire before–you know, with logs and tinder and such–though I had seen it done a few times before. The driftwood is so plentiful here, however, that I am sure we will be thoroughly toasted before the winter is out.)
At present, Jacinta is the only one of us in college. She is working very studiously and we hardly see her, except when she peeks out of her room to hunt up some tea and cookies. Abigail, Grace, and I are all employed–working girls, we are! I shall let them tell their own adventures in the working world. Abby, undoubtedly has the most charming job. I’m sure Grace and I would trade with her in a heartbeat. I am working at a large-ish local dry goods store; they have swiftly promoted me, so I spend my days at the front desk servicing customers, keeping track of who has which keys, and directing the couriers, and so forth. While I am pleased with my wages, the position is not quite my ideal.
I have registered for courses for the spring semester, however! Getting back into the academic swing of things shall be very nice, indeed.
I do believe I catch the scent of caramel corn wafting up the stairs. Excuse me while I go investigate.
November 21st, 2007–Jacinta
The door to the sitting room in Patty’s Place slowly creaked open, and a ghostly white face, with wide eyes and frazzled hair poked her head around the door. “Do I smell tea?” Jacinta’s voice, cracking with disuse, sounded through the air.
“Jacinta!” Abby and Rissa, curled on chairs in front of the fire bounced up and ran to greet their long-lost comrade.
“You look awful!” Abigail hugged her as she pulled her friend all the way into the room. “I’m so glad you are here!
“Did you finally finish all your papers? Did you get any sleep?” Rissa put a cup of hot Earl Grey tea and a scone into her hands.
“I am finished with my papers and all my homework until next Monday – I am beyond thrilled!” Jacinta gratefully sank down next to the warm fire, sipping the tea. “So what have I missed? Do we have plans for Thanksgiving? Is anything exciting happening? I don’t intend to pick up a schoolbook until next Monday, so I think we should do something exciting.”
December 4th, 2007–Grace–“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside’s delightful”
Well, here we are again–amassed in the sitting room with a fire in the grate to my left and a mug of marshmallows drowned in hot chocolate readily acessible on the table next to me.
I haven’t had my turn writing in this dear journal of ours yet, and it was deemed not long ago that it was definitely my turn. So here I am. I flipped back through the pages written by the other girls before I began and it brought a wistful smile to my face. Ah, what fun times we’ve had. Rissa was correct in saying that while it was very nice back in July, it has since become rather inclement outside. That doesn’t make us enjoy the place any less–even with all of the quirks that come along with it. The loud noises, drafty windows, cramped stairs…we adore them all.
I have spent a lot of my time in the kitchen lately. Or, rather, Rissa and I have been sharing the kitchen. Yesterday I had it all to myself for a spell, though, as Rissa was busy running to and fro with suspicious looking red tissue paper and large, knobby packages. I settled for making Peanut Brittle. It was all going along just splendidly until….I scorched it. I hid that first batch behind…well, I won’t say what it is behind. At any rate, the second batch turned out much better and Abigail is across the room from me at this very moment crunching loudly on a peice of it while skimming through a tome she found upstairs.
Jacinta has peeked out of her sanctuary a few more times since Rissa last updated in here, and she looks just as charming as ever. A few fingers on her right hand were smeared with ink, which seemed to be proof enough that she hasn’t been making up all the stories about the horrendous amounts of studying and writing she has to do. Poor darling.
Abigail regales us all during the evenings with snippets of the book she is writing. It often takes some pretty stiff bribes to get her to reveal her writings–but nothing is impossible! She writes so cleverly. I can only dream of writing a first draft such as hers, but I’m more than willing to settle with being dear friends with a soon-to-be famous authoress. At least, we all think she should be famous.
Ohh, I just got up and blew on the window until the frost melted and I could see out–the world is a real winter-wonderland. Large, soft flakes flickering past the clearing. The air is still and silent…the world is at peace.
All is well, outside and in.
December 7th, 2007–Abby–Musings in the Small Hours
So. It’s my turn to write in here, I understand – at any rate I’ve absconded with the journal and am now curled up in my bed writing in it, trying very hard to keep my pen from sputtering – which, I am afraid, it has been inclined to do lately.
First of all, just in case any of my housemates happen to flip back and re-read my entry, I must insert the obligatory mention of how very much I adore Patty’s Place. Obligatory or no, it’s the truest thing since the colour blue, and there is nothing better to come home to after a long day at work overseeing a group of Rather Trying and Rather Young Ladies. Well, we each have our burdens and mine, I fear, is actually comparatively light, so I shall refrain from further comment. But oh, how it is lovely to come home to Patty’s Place! with dear, dear friends whose very presence is veritable Balm of Gilead to a rumpled soul.
It hasn’t all been rumpledlyness, though. No, indeed. I have, I fear, been indulging myself rather a lot, what with paper crafts – I am working on my scrap-book again – and reading a great deal of murder mysteries and Regency romances. I begin to sigh over heroes named Anthony (Average statistics, it would seem, have been entirely disregarded in the stack of books I brought home from our lending-library, and I have encountered entirely dashing and dapper and generally quite swoon-worthy Anthonys in no less than three…or is it four? books so far out of that armful, and I’ve only read half a dozen or so yet.) Now, where was I? All this talk of Anthonys have driven any other thoughts clean out of my mind. (The lady says with a blush!) Oh, yes. I begin to sigh over heroes named Anthony, wish for adventure more exciting than the Mystery of the Vanished Photo Box, and dream over…oh, no. No. I refuse to fall back into that trap.
(I must add, I take umbrage at Grace’s most recent entry. Accusing me of “crunching loudly across the room.” Indeed, no! It was most certainly not above the average volume of crunching. And I think it most unfair of her to later accuse me of absconding with half of the batch of candy. Just because I proclaimed it the “best I’d ever had,” she begins to insult me by saying I took it. And if she should find a tin of it hidden beneath a stack of loose scrap-booking supplies in my room, I haven’t the slightest idea how it got there.)
I think perhaps I should bring this entry to a close. With every minute that passes, I feel sillier and sillier, and I’m certain no one wants to read a rambling entry full of random inanities and jokes that I find absolutely brilliant right now, but morning light shall show to be weak and … yes, rather silly.
December 14th, 2007–Rissa–Ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope
Well, the girls of Patty’s Place have undoubtedly had their first great winter storm of the season! It started at about nine this morning, and reportedly, everything in town shut down even before it had opened. Never mind how we spent the day. It was all quite mundane, I think; Jacinta finishing up her last exam for college, Grace trimming our tree, me scurrying about trying to get my Christmas packages in order and ready to ship. At about four-thirty, though, it occurred to us that our front walk was covered in about eight or nine inches of snow. And now that we were on our own–a passel of defenseless and slightly silly girls of about twenty–if we didn’t do our own shoveling, neither would anyone else.
Abigail demurred, mentioning something about delicate wrists and purple fingernails; Jacinta had only just gotten home from her last exam and still needed to write an essay, so we couldn’t very well require her assistance. That established, Grace and I threw our scarves over our heads, donned our mittens, and discovered in the shed two shovels that we had no idea when we had gotten or how they had come to be there.
The snow was still flying thickly and the sky was turning from gray to that dusky periwinkle of winter evenings that connotes stillness, yet the neighborhood seemed quite alive. All up and down the street, families were out clearing their steps and sidewalks by the light of the streetlamps. Despite the seeming drudgery of the activity, there was more merriment in the air than anything else. Grace and I scraped and shoveled our way down the walk as the snowflakes stuck to our lashes and crusted onto our scarves. It was strangely exhilarating to be out in the wood-smoky night-time as the snow slowed and the stars peeked out.
In about an hour, we were half done, and noticed a man in a brown coat standing down on our sidewalk watching us. When he saw that we saw the he saw us, he looked both sheepish and jubilant, marched up through the uncleared end of our walk, doffed his cap, and informed us that with our starry eyes shining out next to the fluffy white scarves we had wrapped over our heads and around our throats, we looked quite like Russian princesses. I could believe it of Grace; she was quite rosy and bright from the activity. As for myself, I am sure I bore more resemblance to a steaming draft horse. The gentleman introduced himself as being new to the neighborhood, but neglected to mention his name. His chivalrous impulses seemed appeased merely by looking at us, and after he had observed our snow-shoveling technique for about another four minutes following his introduction, he lifted his cap, bid us Adieu with some fine words about Greek mythology and its one fundamental lack of some extraordinary being to represent ice and snow which could only be personified with such glowing ice princesses as ourselves, and then hied himself off into the swiftly falling darkness. Perchance we have a poet in the neighborhood? Grace and I have had loads of fun this evening mocking him to the other girls, anyway. He reminded us vaguely of a character — Guy Carlisle — in a story that Abby has been writing, only our poet is not nearly as unpleasant, but quite as absurd.
Aside, it is my prediction that we shall not have many future opportunities of shoveling our own snow. I am quite persuaded that the men and boys in the neighborhood are quite going to fight over who gets to clear snow for their pretty neighbors–namely, us. Or anyway, if the whole neighborhood, both eligible bachelors and otherwise, doesn’t fight over the honor, I think we shall at least have one hero. As we neared the end of our walk (and Grace started pelting me with snowballs) I chanced to look up in mid-shriek and saw a candle-lit face in our nearest neighbors’ window.
There is a young man next door. He’s boarding with our elderly neighbor, the venerable dowager, Mrs. Crumm. His name is Alistair Cordwell, I believe, and is studying at the same college as Jacinta, only he’s a few years ahead of the rest of us. I forget just what he’s studying–likely Grace might know, however. . .He is falling behind, I’ve heard, though, because he’s been sick in bed for a month with pneumonia. Anyway, mark my words: the next time a snowstorm hits Patty’s Place, we shall look outside and see our walk quite mysteriously and absolutely cleared before we can lift a collective or individual finger. Further mark my words: I think our amiable neighbor (and I do not mean Mrs. Crumm, unsurpassedly amiable though she is) shall have done it. I will not guess at his motivations for such an action. . .but again. . .perhaps Grace could!
I forbid you to line out my insinuations, by the way, dearie.
Enough of this dithering, though. Let me bring this plot arc to a close by saying that at about six-thirty this evening, a weary and jubilant Grace and Emily staggered up the front steps of Patty’s Place, woolen skirts crusted over in snow clear to our knees, and were greeted by a warm fire, good friends, and Abby’s best biscotti.
By the way, no one’s allowed to muddle up the snow-angel I made at the foot of the oak.
January 1, 2008–Abby–“…for the days of auld lang syne…”
Happy New Year, dear readers! Hard to believe that ‘07 has come and gone so swiftly, and yet, in many ways – for me at least – it was quite a long year, and a fulfilling one. And now, with a new year at our very doorstep (upon us in nineteen minutes as of right now!) I want to cling on to the old one, to not let it go. I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet!
Still, come it will, as inexorably as … well, time itself. I haven’t made any resolutions, but some of the other girls have, and there’s nothing so good for a resolution as getting it down on paper and declaring it to the world. So, without further ado:
Jacinta: “I resolve to not flirt so much. It has recently come to my attention that I do it without realizing, and I will try to combat these tendencies during the coming year.”
Rissa: “My new year’s resolution is to be a little snarkier.”
Grace: “Clumsiness, I find, is so underrated. I’ve been Graceful since birth (I can’t help it!), but the various merits of clumsiness have recently been pointed out to me, so I resolve to do a little more tripping and flailing around wildly in the new year.”
Well, there you have it! We’ll see how long they can stick to their worthy goals in the coming year.
January 1, 2008–Rissa–Amendment
I’m afraid Abby fibbed a little last night when she said she hadn’t any resolutions. Yesterday, I distinctly heard her say the following:
“I’m going to trip over my two left feet, flail clumsily to regain my balance, and accidentally catch him with a lovely right hook to the jaw. . .Except I think I might make it the eye instead of the jaw. A black eye will last longer than a sore jaw.”
She said this with a grin which, although charming, did not seem to particularly denote a jest or any semblance of facetiousness. Rather, one might say it had some qualities of the fiend. . .Further,
“I’ll practise my tripping mechanism, too. We want it to look as artless as possible.”
I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds rather suspiciously like a set of resolutions……
January 3, 2008–Grace–Of Sleepwalking and Other Such Mundane Events
Life has begun to slow down since Christmas has passed and we’ve moved into a new year–’07 flew by so fast I hardly know what to do with the fact that it is now January of ‘08.
Many happy hours were spent together during December . . . we had snowball fights (as indecorous a pastime as that sounds for a group of young ladies), made gingerbread houses, took turns reading aloud far into the night by the light of the fire, encouraging each other in our baking attempts–some attempts definitely had better results than others, but we’ll just leave it at that. I will say, though, that Emily makes butterscotch to die for, Abby concocted some popcorn balls that were out of this world, and Jacinta’s customary Christmas Potato Salad was even more scrumptious than ever–if that be possible.
I spent this morning cleaning up my room . . . I actually had to find my room first. Yes, it was that bad. But, I will say that I had a charming time cleaning it–I ran across some old manuscripts of some stories I had written several years ago. My reactions to them flip-flopped back and forth from cringing with dismay and cackling helplessly. Rissa poked her head in on her way past to see if I was quite all right–I can’t blame her, considering the noises that were emanating from my room. I nabbed her and regaled her with my stories . . . the poor dear. I daresay she was appalled at my lack of finesse in writing, even at that young age, but she obliged me quite charmingly by snickering at the appropriate places and looking very sad and worried whenever the heroine threatened to be in any distress. At any rate, though, I can say that my room is much cleaner than it has been in several weeks. I have candles burning on the desk next to me and Emily is downstairs “tickling the ivories”, if you will. The effect is exceptionally calming . . .
Jacinta has had the last few weeks off from school and we’ve seen much more of her these days than in the last few months put together. She has quite inundated our lives with her singing and dancing. She spins fairy tales at an alarming rate and keeps us all in stitches with the attention she draws from random unsuspecting gentleman who pass by. The latest such episode included a fellow by the name of Geoffry Hanklefish, a large iron skillet, and a snow drift . . . but, I will leave the details for Jacinta to go into if she should so desire.
We had a scare not long ago. It was morning, very early morning . . . not yet light outside. We were all sleeping peacefully in our beds, dreaming happy dreams. Two seconds later I was wide awake in my bed. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light my mind raced wildly . . . what had awakened me? I instinctively knew something was not right. I reached for my robe and slipped silently across the room to the door which I had left cracked open the night before. Just as I reached the door and put my face to the crack I saw a flash of movement flit around the corner. My breath drew in sharply and I drew back from the door . . . was someone in our house?! An invader . . . a . . . ? I stopped myself from thinking too intently on what could be and though instead on what was. I figured Abby’s parasol was probably the thing most resembling a weapon on this level of the house. Abby’s room is just down the hall from mine and since the intruder had turned the corner that went down the stairs I decided to risk making the trip down the hall to waken Abby. (She would want a share in the adventure anyway . . . I didn’t want to risk getting killed by her for not telling her when something exciting was happening.) I stepped out of my room and took two steps down the hall. A board creaked. I stopped in my tracks and listened. All was silent in the rest of the house, so I continued the last few feet to Abby’s door and pushed it open. My mouth gaped open. There was enough light coming through the window from the reflection of moonlight on snow that I could clearly see Abby’s bed . . . Abby’s empty bed. Had the intruder taken her? Had she already heard the intruder and decided to take things into her own hands . . . alone? I glanced over to the corner and saw her trusty parasol. She would have taken it with her if she had gone to vanquish the enemy, right? My mind flitted wildly from one scenario to another . . . what if she was kidnapped? My mind was made up . . . something had to be done, and someone had to do it. I crept back down the hall toward the stairs. I could hear movement on the stairs and I was determined to see who . . . or what . . . it was.
Just as I poked my head around the corner of the stairway there was a loud crash and a slight scream. I jumped back and let out a squeal of my own. Once I regained composure I heard some mumbling and sniffling. I recognized that sniffing! I hurried back around the corner and down the stairs. There at the bottom of the stairs sat an Abby . . . a rather harried looking Abby. The humor of the situation seized me and I began to laugh helplessly. My peals of laughter aroused Emily and Jacinta from their sleep and they stumbled from their beds to investigate. I explained my side of the story while trying to choke down my laughter and once Abby had been fetched from her uncomfortable seat among the boxes at the bottom of the stairs she told her side . . . or all she could remember. She couldn’t remember much more than slipping and falling down the last few stairs and ending up at the bottom with me looking down on her and laughing hilariously. After all was said and done and Abby had been comforted (she was eventually able to laugh at herself, but moaned continuously about the fact that she had sleep walked! Other people might sleep walk, but not her, she sniffed) we all settled down for a cup of tea and then returned to our beds. As far as we know, there has not yet been another incident of sleep walking . . . now, if we could only get her to sleep talk.
Speaking of a cup of tea, though . . .
January 8, 2008–Rissa–Raindrops
I suppose this must be a January Thaw. I’m up in the sun-room–which isn’t terribly sunny at the moment; raindrops are lashing the southern windows. There are just a few sad little swaths of snow hiding beneath bushes and under the picnic table. Yesterday, I went down to the mailbox quite comfortably in just my shirt-sleeves.
And down in the mailbox, I found a Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. catalog.
Now, I’m afraid this exposes me as a dreadful eccentric, but I am precisely the type of girl who sits at the kitchen table at midnight, poring over seed catalogs by lamplight. And dreaming. Don’t ask me why carrots suddenly become so romantic when they’re written up and attractively illustrated in a seed catalog, because I’m sure I have no idea, but there you have it.
I’d like to plant plum trees and apple trees, (I’d say lilac and lily of the valley, but we already have some of those. We do need roses, however,) and dahlias and peonies and painted daisies and sweet-peas. . .And kohlrabi, actually. My grandmother always grew kohlrabi. I remember sitting on the front steps with a salt-shaker, and she would slice one just out of the garden. . .
Good heavens. What is this world coming too, when instead of dreaming over her beaux at midnight, a girl dreamsover the vegetables of her past?
January 9, 2008–Jacinta–Gentlemen and. . .what else is there?
Ah, so it appears I’ve been accused of being a flirt. I do hope the rumour has not traveled further than these pages – men are so much more likely to ignore me if it has. And as everyone knows, I couldn’t live with that. No, the truth is – I love being romantically, dramatically, melanchol-ily, alone. There is so much more scope for the imagination when one does not have a beau – so many more stories to spin, and tales to unfold within one’s own mind.
Honestly, it’s not my fault that one fellow offered to carry the single (very lightweight) item I purchased to the carriage for me. Or that the other went and did his hair before rushing out to bid me good evening. Or that the waiter at the restaurant the other day was especially solicitious toward me.
Ah, well – the girls don’t seem to believe that I have nothing to do with these things. I mean, really – they still think that the Geoffry Hanklefish thing was my fault. What? You don’t believe me? Fine. I suppose I shall have to (sighing dramatically) tell the whole story again. It was nothing, really. I was perfectly and innocently waiting behind a big snowdrift to pelt Rissa as soon as she got home from college. She was due at any moment, and as I crouched perfectly ladylike-ly and excitedly behind the large patch of snow, I didn’t notice a gentleman coming down the street. Well, according to Abby- who, for some unbeknownst reason was watching carefully out of the window – he saw me, and stopped and stared at me with stars in his eyes. Apparently the black lace shawl I had over my hair made my face stand out stunningly (Abby’s words – not mine). And, according to him, it was absolutely adorable to see such a lady as myself waiting behind a snowdrift to attack someone. This gentleman thought I was waiting for just anyone, not someone in particular, and decided to outwit me – perhaps he thought such a thing would impress me. I am most insulted he would try such a thing. He started sneaking around behind me – getting his shoes quite wet with snow in the process, I must add – and Abby, immediately changing her mind to believe he was a murderer about to attack me, came flying out of the house with the first thing on hand – a frying pan, of course, since she was in the kitchen. I whipped around to see why the screen door had slammed, I encountered a strange face near at hand, and did the most natural thing ever – lady or no – I struck him. Okay, okay – it might have been more than a simple strike since he was left with a large black eye and was instantly buried in the large snowdrift. Only his pants were left showing. Hearing another noise close by and not quite recovered from the shock I’d just had, I swung around again, accidentally (key word, accidentally) tripping Abby and sending her and frying pan flying in different directions. It wasn’t my fault that the gentleman had just managed to extract himself from the fluffy white snow and that the frying pan went in his general direction. It wasn’t like I planned for the frying pan to hit him on the head and knock him out cold.
Anyway, he recovered from the frying pan, frostbite (hey – two young ladies aren’t always strong enough to carry a 6′2 man into a house, and throwing the water on him to wake him up didn’t work- in fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it contributed to his frostbite.), and black eye. We found out his name was Geoffry Hanklefish (WHAT a name!) and he had the audacity, upon first coming out of his unconscious state to smile dreamily at me and ask if I would marry him if he let me punch him again.
So – that concludes my most recent adventure. *sighs* Oh, for a long, lonely, romantic walk in the snowy patch through the woods. Who knows what could happen next?
January 16th, 2008–Abby–rings and things and buttons and beaux!
Well, I don’t know how anyone could ever trump that previous entry (save with news of an engagement or the like) so I’m just not even going to try. From me all you’ll get is a nice homey little bit of news, presented in my own rambling sort of way.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of sewing lately – or at least, collecting pretty fabrics, poring over the latest issues of the fashion magazines, sketching out skirt designs, and the like. I have several skirts sketched out that I plan on making to wear in the springtime…
Do you know what? I think I’ll skip all that rambling newsy stuff and skip right ahead to the most interesting news of all . . . it snowed again last night! This by itself isn’t much of news, but you see it hadn’t snowed since that last entry made on December 14th. We were all quite impatient with the weather, because of course we were anxious to test that theory about a snow-covered driveway and our amiable neighbor, Mr. Alistair Cordwell. So we cast hopeful eyes up at the sky whenever it became suspiciously gray, only to become quite downhearted when the clouds passed by harmlessly. Grace began to act strangely, overly quiet one moment and overly gay the next, her colour coming and going with each new mood. The signs were faint, and a stranger would have seen nothing, but to we who know her so well, the signs were unmistakable, though of course she merely laughed and told us we were all doodyheads.
But I digress! The snow – last night. Right. *nods* We went to bed under a clear sky, the stars shining with all their strength, no tell-tale ring around the moon as portent. And then we woke up (for my part, unusually early) to a beautiful blanket of white on the ground, fully nine inches thick, looking like a soft featherbed had been spread over the earth. We squealed delightedly and scratched out our names on our respective frost-covered windows, and as we all convened in the kitchen to put the teakettle on, we slowly became aware of an odd sound. It was sort of a scraping, scratching sound, evenly spaced out by moments of silence, as regular as clockwork. We all sort of stared at one another, and then suddenly we could see realization dawning in each other’s eyes. Grace turned pink, and turned to busy herself with the teakettle, her hand fumbling a little as she reached for the handle. Rissa, Jacinta, and myself dashed toward the front window, tweaking the lace curtain just enough to peer out.
Sure enough. There he was, bundled up against the cold, a scarlet scarf wrapped around his neck, industriously shoveling our driveway. He was just finishing up, and after one last shovelful of snow, stood back and surveyed his work. He gave a little nod of satisfaction, gave what I thought was an extremely wistful glance toward the front door, and turned to leave.
Quick as a flash, Jacinta raced to the front door, flung it open, and called out, “Hello! Oh, hello.” He turned around, a smile lighting up his face, and Jacinta went on, before he could speak, “We couldn’t help but notice you so kindly shoveling our driveway–”
“It’s my pleasure, indeed it is!” he assured her earnestly.
“And we wondered if you’d like to join us for tea and scones,” Jacinta finished. “It’s the least we could do.” She smiled at him brightly, and wondered why he hesitated. Then she suddenly became aware that she was still in dressing gown tied over nightgown, hair in a braid down her back and bare feet poking out beneath. She blushed quite furiously, but I was much impressed by the way she kept her composure. She hardly skipped a beat before going on, “Shall we expect you in, say, twenty minutes?”
He looked a bit relieved, and that smile light up his face once more. “I would be delighted!” He accepted with alacrity, dropped a quick farewell bow, and headed off for his home, no doubt to, as Rissa put it, “primp like a girl in front of the mirror.”
When Jacinta shut the door there was a general stampede in the direction of bedrooms and bathrooms as we all rushed to get ready for the day…and more importantly, the Entertainment of the Handsome Neighbor.
…which I will leave for Grace to tell you about.
January 20th, 2008–Rissa–Wanted: 10 Gallon Hat
Firstly and unrelatedly, I would just like to announce that if Grace does not set her side of the story down in writing soon, she may have to suffer someone else’s version of the events to be recorded for posterity. . .
In other news! The girls of Patty’s Place are going on vacation. Oh, no, not so dreadfully soon. Not until June, actually, but depend upon it: the thought of tire-swings and hammocks and Two Whole Weeks of Vacation is going to be all that’s pulling some of us through the spring.
We decided upon the locale first. Northern Colorado–in addition to Grace having some relatives there, the mild Wild West connotations and rugged landscape sound very appealing. We took out any number of pamphlets and looked over any number of ads, and finally have arranged to rent a quaint little cabin for one week, and prevail upon Grace’s relations’ generosity for the other. Oh, the cabin! We’ve hung on every word of the descriptions and memorized the little illustrations that were sent us. Stone fireplaces! Rushing rivers! A hammock! A tire-swing! While I was at working my office job today, that hammock was most distracting. My soul quite yearned for it. Now, I don’t pretend to defend myself. A soul that yearns for hammocks and June whilst being practical and earning money in January must be an uncommonly lazy, useless, lumpish sort of soul. But there you have it.
Abigail and I actually purchased our train tickets this afternoon–everyone else is having to travel separately and are making their own arrangements. Our purses are feeling much slimmer than usual, I fear. . .I can hardly believe I’ve actually conceded to a whole two weeks of vacation; my practical self is ready to boycott, really, but I keep telling myself that after cramming this semester with no less than six courses, and twenty hours per week at a part-time job besides, I will more than deserve a two week vacation by the time it is over. I’m almost beginning to believe myself, too.
Anyway, it hardly needs to be said that our Colorado Vacation is the subject of most of our conversation and preoccupation these days. Hammocks, and tire-swings, and mountain lions! I wonder if we shall run into any cowboys. Is Colorado far enough southwest for that? Or is it being pulled into the 20th century along with the rest of the nation and are cowboys already extinct? I suppose it would probably be better if it’s the latter. Just imagine. If we ran into any cowboys in Colorado, we might not be able to drag Abby home with us again. . .
February 7th, 2008–Abby–An Unwanted Post
You might have noticed the title of this entry and thought it rather odd. But I know we were all looking forward to have our first introduction to a certain Mr. Alistair Cordwell put down for posterity by she who would do it most justice, and that someone is certainly not me.
Hm, that sentence looks rather odd. I’m sure there’s something seriously grammatically wrong with it. But that’s just one of my endearing traits, right? Right? Um…right?
(and echo answers, “Right!”)
Anyway. Back to the Introduction to Alistair and my determination not to tell you about it. I will, however, say that it involved a bouquet of hothouse tulips – it, alas, being still too cold for nature’s own – a coal shovel, and an accident-prone fountain pen.
And to bring this post of busy nothingness to an end, I shall inform you that it’s my night to make supper, and so shall dot off to get started on that. Toodle-pip, dearest journal and anyone-who-chances-across it!
March 19, 2008–Rissa–Alas.
I’m sure it would be so much more interesting if we could coerce Grace or Jacinta into writing, since Abby’s determined not to have three in a row. All I can say on my own account is that I’m on spring break and slept in till half past noon today. It’s the fault of my new white flannel sheets–the, er, static electricity, ah, glued me to them? Something like that. And then I got dressed and raided the icebox and did the dishes and fetched the mail. And somehow it’s already 4:30, and I have to leave to go to work in about an hour. If I didn’t write here, I promise you there are only two things I might possibly have done with this hour: 1) Spread out all my patterns for summer dresses across the entire floor of our parlor and ineffectually daydream over them, or 2) Crawl back into that oh-so-divine bed of mine. So there you have it. It’s raining today. I never get anything done when it’s raining. Yesterday, however, it was sunny and I cleared every last bit of furniture from my room and swept and dusted and spring-cleaned to my heart’s content, then moved everything back in and alphabetized my entire 300+ collection of books. And to think some college students go to Florida on spring vacation. I can’t imagine why, what with all of the scintillating things they can fritter their time away with in their very own rooms.
I’m only partially kidding. You can have no idea how amusing I find it that under this new system of order my Emily Dickinson is right in between Dostoyevsky and some penny-dreadful story of the sea. It’s both terribly funny and wonderfully fitting. Or here’s another for you: Mary Poppins in between Anna Karenina and Anthony Trollope. Jane Eyre is keeping Madame Bovary company, ironically enough. And how adorable Robert and Elizabeth Browning look sandwiched in between the Brontes and Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m having a ball with these juxtapositions. Enough of my pseudo-intellectual dithering, though. Let me tell you about what everyone else has been up to, for it’s so much more exciting.
Abby, for one, has gone into business. She’s opened up a little mail-order shop of sorts, and is selling vintage patterns and various crafts–everything from scrapbooking art to pretty red doilies. In less than a week of being open, she’s sold 40% of the original stock she presented!
Jacinta is academically plugging away. Since last she’s written here, she’s been the belle of a St. Valentine’s Day Ball in a gorgeous pink gown, and the other day she nearly got a chance to visit the Supreme Court.
And Grace is spending the month in North Carolina. I believe she’s returning on April 9th. We miss her dreadfully, but she’s having fun by all accounts, what with weddings to attend and unmentionables to shop for. We haven’t been hearing from her nearly as often as we would like for she forgot to bring along her stationery and address book, but I have heard rumors that she’s considering catching up on her correspondence by writing on toilet paper (count on her to have the most . . . Creative ideas,) so perhaps we’ll have something ‘ere long.
Do you know, we actually have a couple of other girls living at Patty’s Place with us. Dearer girls there never were, but they cannot be persuaded to join in our chronicles here! My rule is that before I mention them in one of my entries, they’ll have to write one of their own first. Till then, they’re invisible.
Did I mention it’s raining? Drat the rain. It makes me into such a sloth. Well! I consider my duty discharged. . .I think I’ll go crawl into bed for the remaining 45 minutes until I have to drag myself into work. . .
P.S. I flip back to re-read old entries and what do I find? You’re such a liar, Abby. You had Not written the last two in a row.
April 1, 2008–Abby–Exciting News!!!
*bounce* I’ve been brimming over with this for days now, and I’ve finally been granted permission to tell you – the lady in question being rather too coy to tell you herself. But… *drumroll* Our own Rissa is engaged!! I know you’ll all join me in wishing her much joy and happiness – and in admiring that ring!
His name is Arthur Chapman, and he’s simply too perfect for her. None of us liked it when she made us keep silent about him, but you know Rissa’s shy, retiring nature…and being a pessimist, she didn’t want everyone pitying her if it went the other way than it did. *nods sagely* Of course, I knew he was the one the moment he told her hello.
Anyway, I’ve put a picture of him below the cut. If it were above, I really think your computer might just explode from too much dashing-ness.
Wow, that was almost painful. I think I win the prize for worst April Fool’s joke ever. Still, I had to try. Even if every single person who visits sees right through it.
And that is a beautiful ring… *wistful*
April 16, 2008–Jacinta–Colours of Spring
How amazing it is to finally have spring here! Look at all the colours surrounding us! Red, pink, blue, green, yellow – and to top it all off, we have moods to match. That is, I have. Red for love, pink for blushing, green for nausea when I think he likes someone else, yellow for sunshine and a beaming face when I’m thinking about him, and blue for the times I acknowledge that he barely knows I exist. **sighs**
That’s right – I’ve fallen into unrequited love. Rissa’s been trying to convince me that it is much better that it is unrequited because it is so much more romantic and one can have the pleasure of loving someone without the bother of the actual relationship, but I’m still trying to decide if I agree. I never thought someone would capture my heart without even trying, but he’s an exceptional young man – and obviously one of the ‘unattainables’ that girls always fall for. I wonder if I could convince Abby to throw a dance and invite him?
Ah, well, I’ve determined for the upteenth time to not like him any longer. I shall pretend he doesn’t exist and go on to make lots of other young men fall in love with me and then turn them down heartlessly without giving them a reason. Cynical? Nonsense. I’m not cynical. Am I?
On another note, it is so bothersome to have to write speeches and papers indoors while a warm breeze blows outside. What are men and papers compared to rocks and mountains? I scarcely see Abby, Grace, and Rissa I am so busy. I can’t wait for summer and break to come so that we can again go on picnics and to dances, and on carriage and horseback rides. It will feel so delightfully, wonderfully free! And I shall introduce them to the new spot I’ve found in the woods. After a good romp in the woods, one emerges out onto the ledge of a cliff and can see out over the mountains for miles. It is so beyond lovely! I know they will love it! ‘Tis the perfect place to read, dream and write. Especially dream.
**floats off singing**
April 30, 2008–Grace–…from dream to dream
One would think that with the amount of intense staring I’ve done at this Very Blank page something would happen. I have tried and tried, to no avail. Alas.
I suppose it means I shall simply have to break down and actually write something. Yes. With my pen.
Well, I have spent the day with my hair tied up in a scarf (it was supposed to be tied up, anyway. Abigail kept remarking that she wasn’t sure why I insisted on wearing such an atrocious piece of cloth on my head when it really wasn’t doing anything at all for me–she informed me that my hair was just as much in the way as it always is. I think she secretly adores my hideous head gear and wants to use it for one of her crafts she’s always puttering away at. *triumphant*) and bustling busily around the house cleaning everything in sight. The windows quite sparkle now–perhaps a bit too much. We have a large door opening out onto our back veranda (we like to call it a veranda, anyway, though it is really quite a small piece of porch) and placed within this door is a Very Large Window. It quite takes up the majority of the door space, really. Well, I fear my window cleaning skills might be superior to most of my other skills because shortly after I finished cleaning this Very Large Window and leaving the room, I reentered. I stopped short and inspected my Very Large and Clean Window with a critical eye. Yes! There it was. My detectives skills really should be quite the rage in our little neighborhood here, for there just slightly below my eye level was a mark. A smudge, to be precise. On my window. This smudge was suspiciously close to the size of a nose. Due to some other occurrences that took place just shortly after this, I have deduced that someone attempted to cross the threshold while the door was still closed. I won’t be so indelicate as to even begin to imply who, but they . . . well, no, I won’t say anything. (Her nose is red, though.)
After my cleaning expedition, which included every part of the house I could reach without risking life or limb, I descended upon the kitchen. The clean sparkling kitchen looked like a hurricane victim when I got through with it. Rissa’s eyes quite resembled saucers when she came for her 10th (or was it 11?) cup of tea of the day and saw the mess that was the kitchen. I smiled glibly at her and continued my methodical rotations of the whisk in the white sauce I was making. She raised a dubious eyebrow at me and meandered out to the backyard with her teacup. I must say, though, that even though I endured much teasing about the state of the kitchen, there was not one word said about it after they tasted the soup. I am exceedingly modest about my cooking abilities, so I’m not sure what brought on this change of pace, but . . . there was no leftover soup after supper.
The weather has been beyond delightful these past few days–weather of blissfulness, for sure! And the tulips are blooming. Blooming, I say! Most of the bickering around here (as infrequently as such an indelicate thing takes place!) can be directly correlated with the fact that we have lovely weather and a lovely white wicker swing out in the backyard right under the large maple tree.
The day is ending with each of the girls doing their own thing. Jacinta is pacing up and down the floor of her bedroom practicing a speech. Her term is almost over at the university and she is wildly cramming for her finals. The speech threatens to be good if one can judge from the amount of rapid pacing and the strength with which she is currently delivering it to the Lady of Shallott who resides on her wall.
Rissa is quite taken up with procrastinating. She also is nearing the end of her term of studies before the summer, and we can always tell when she has plenty of assignments to complete–she does everything but those assignments. This just goes to show how remarkable she really is . . . she hardly even has to try to get good grades!
Abigail. Well, Abby has been nervously biting her nails and wailing at random intervals about an interview for a prospective job she has coming up tomorrow. We of course haven’t a doubt in our mind that she’ll quite astound her interviewer with her incredible charm and accomplishments, but . . . she adamantly refuses to believe us. One would think we lie to her on a regular basis considering how easily she is dismissing our words of sheer comfort.
My evening seems to be one of wild distraction interspersed with fits of focus. I go from desperately wishing the mail came at least three times a day (I’m waiting for Some News of my own about a job–at a bookstore!) to knowing quite positively that I won’t get the job to pouring over a catalogue full of pretties that came in today’s mail to comforting Abby to . . . well . . . I almost seem restless tonight. That’s why the journal came out and you now have several pages of blatherings about nothing.
I think I’ll go sit outside Jacinta’s door and clap wildly along with The Lady of Shallott when she finishes her speech.
(This update could have taken quite a different turn, but I didn’t want to soil the pages with what is really on my mind. One has to think about the fact that people in generations down the road will pour over these pages with rapt eyes–I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone. *g*)
May 17, 2008–Abby–Of lilacs and kissing (colleges) and if life were a novel and so on and so forth…
It’s been so lovely at Patty’s Place lately. No one could wish for better weather than we’ve been having. The lilacs are blooming in full profusion, and every room in the house boasts an enormous bouquet of them in purple, white, or both! How fortunate that all of Patty’s Place’s occupants adore the scent.
I love spring. Others may prefer autumn, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t adore it too, but there’s just something about spring that speaks to my very soul. You’d think, though, that with loving it so deeply there wouldn’t be this ache in my heart. You know what I mean. You have no idea what you want; you only know that you desperately want it! I guess that’s spring fever for you. It wouldn’t be spring without it. Indeed, I wouldn’t wish it any other way.
But enough of that. I’m beginning to get incoherent and rambling. I’m only writing in here because somehow this journal made its way to sitting squarely in the center of my pillow. I thought it was trying to tell me something. *nods*
Jacinta has kissed college goodbye for the summer, and seems to have developed a strange fever of her own. She’s grouched incessantly these past months, and graced our conversations with random interjections about syllogisms and fallacies and premises, or the industrial revolution of the 1700s. It’s rather amusing, actually. We’ll be chatting along merrily, and so will she, and then suddenly she’ll fall silent. A few minutes will pass and she’ll sit with furrowed brow and a blank expression denoting deep thought, and right in the middle of someone’s sentence will deliver a dry monologue on some obscure person who lived in 1786, for instance. Anyway. Now she’s telling us she misses college. We have suggested it isn’t college she misses so much Certain People, and it isn’t college she should kiss goodbye so much as….well, never mind.
Rissa’s life should be a novel, because then we’d know for certain that the detested job only sticks around for chapters one through fifteen, whereupon a handsome, dashing stranger enters at stage left and whisks her off her feet, or variations thereof. Still, she finds time to be frivolous, whether it be blissfully ignoring the fact that she should go to bed because she must get up in two and a half hours, or sending her room into complete disarray (at least her version of disarray. Mine is totally different) by spreading armfuls of fabric and sewing patterns across every available surface and planning out summer frocks, or being wickedly amused at two gentlemen racing their automobiles at breakneck speed down country roads, threatening life and limb. She insists they were reaching speeds of at least twenty-five miles an hour! I confess to thinking her of some slight exaggeration in that respect.
Grace has had friends visiting, and as a result has been heading out on the town every night for the past week or so, only to come home, nab someone’s cup of tea (usually mine, the little what-not!) and collapse on the couch to put up her feet, complaining loudly about the horrors of being popular. We can tell, of course, that she adores her friends to smithereens and is having entirely more fun than any one person should be allowed to have at one time. Nevertheless, we look forward to our upcoming vacation and having her all to ourselves for at least a little while.
That lovely spring weather I mentioned? I haven’t quite been enjoying it, save for having my windows thrown open so the fresh air can breeze through my room. I’ve been hunched over my sewing machine, working away at some spring frocks for that upcoming vacation I mentioned. I was working on a white lingerie blouse earlier today, and found to my horror that the white lace I’d purchased wasn’t white at all…it was ecru! I didn’t wish to go out, and purchase some new lace, so I decided I’d bleach the ecru. Blissfully I set about this, adding a wee bit of bleach to a bowl of water, and drowning the lace in this. I swirled it around and left it to sit for a few minutes. When I returned to rinse it out, I found myself staring at a tangle of stringy-looking …er, stringy stuff in a bowl. White stringy stuff. After a minor panic attack, I rather hopelessly rinsed it off, squeezed it out, and draped it over the clothesline to dry, and left to drown my hopelessness in a cup or two of Earl Grey.
Whoever said that a cup of tea solves everything was right, you know. I optimistically returned to my lace, and a bit of poking and pulling and detangling revealed that it was still lace…albeit shriveled and shrunken and hopelessly tangled lace. Nevertheless, I had two cups of fortifying Earl Grey in me, and was determined to persevere! Inch by inch, I stretched and flattened the tangle. I am pleased to announce, an hour or two later, that I have my lace back! Hurrah!
And now, I think I shall get back to sewing…as soon as I run downstairs to leave this journal in a conspicuous place for the next person to find it and make an entry. .
May 28, 2008–Rissa–Let’s Get Away From It All
It is One Week till our vacation. Grace has traveled on ahead to Colorado, and the rest of us are scheduled to depart by train in a week. Less than a week! Six days and…seventeen-or-so hours! The picture pasted at the top of our journal is a hand-tinted photograph Grace posted to us as soon as she arrived. Mainly to make the wait longer and more tortuous, I expect.
Every free moment I have, my brain is suddenly flooded by all the packing lists I haven’t written yet…and the mysterious sound of a disembodied train whistle.
Since Grace has gone, and her friends with her, Patty’s Place has become fairly quiet. You wouldn’t believe all the ruckus she’s capable of…people coming and going at all hours, off to picnics or getting up impromptu games in the park…But yes! The only sounds now are the hum of the sewing machine upstairs and the whistle of the tea kettle which I have to go pour out before it boils itself dry….
Anyway. I must be feeling very elliptical today. Abby and I keep squabbling over the sewing machine. I think she’s gotten the most time with it by far, but I’ve still managed to eke out one new summery frock and two skirts. One of the skirts–the one I made specifically to be a part of my traveling suit for this vacation–is particularly garish. (Not to mention anachronistic!) Abby has informed me that if we get separated at the train station and she doesn’t recognize me–it won’t be because she doesn’t recognize me.
I could really say the same thing, though. She has been exercising her millinery skills lately, and let me tell you, the thing she’s come up with looks precisely like a muffin. A blueberry muffin. With frosting. I can easily imagine her wandering around the wilds of Colorado with her new hat on…like a pastry perched atop her head. We’ll have to watch out that some wild animal doesn’t decide she looks like dessert with whipped cream on top and carry her off.
Kidding, kidding, Abby! All right, dear readers. It has to be admitted: Abigail is quite adorable enough to carry off even a hat that looks like a muffin with charm and ease.
(As for me, I think I’ll stick with store-bought from our local milliner’s…)
I feel like I’m forgetting to mention something. Well, there’s Jacinta. We’re not quite sure what’s become of her, really…While she was in college for the spring term, we at least had the thump of her textbooks and the furious clacking of her type-writer to assure us that she was really still here, but now we’re quite at a loss as to what’s become of her. She is supposedly going to be traveling with us in a week, though, so perhaps we shall see her then. That is, if she doesn’t refuse to be seen in public with me and my skirt and Abby and her hat…
Well. I finished out my semester, too. Am waiting earnestly for my grades, because there were a few courses I was a little iffy on this year. I’ve been putting in a few more hours at my part-time job now, too…
Oh, piffle. What am I doing, talking about grades and dollar-signs when it’s summer and we’re going on vacation in a week!!
June 3, 2008–Rissa–We’re On Our Way, Pack Up Your Pack!
My grandfather, whenever harnessing the horses to go picnicking in the country or traveling to neighboring cities always used to sing this little ditty:
We’re on our way, pack up your pack
And if we stay, we won’t come back
How can we go? We haven’t got a dime
But we’re goin’ and
we’re gonna have a happy time.
I am sitting in the midst of a Stonehenge of steamer trunks and hat-boxes, and in about five hours, Abby and I will be at the train station waiting to board!
Just had to leave that little bon voyage to our dear Patty’s Place. In the meantime, we’ve preyed upon the kindness of an old friend to house-sit at Patty’s Place, and are leaving the journal in her keeping.
I should probably try to get a little sleep tonight, at least….
June 22, 2008–Anne–Welcome Home!
I have already blotted ink all over this page before I’ve begun. Alas, such is life these days. I suppose my writing here warrants some kind of explanation or introduction, but as I’m pressed for time I hope I’ll be forgiven if I do it only briefly. I’m Anne, and have been keeping house at Patty’s Place during the recent absence of her usual residents. (I do feel the need to refer to this house with a feminine pronoun–”it” sounds altogether unsuitable for a place so full of welcoming personality.) I live not too far from this dear place, and am very fond of dropping in for a visit on occasion.
Any road, here I sit in the parlour, amid the merry chaos of welcoming the adventurers home. I have secured a promise that details of their travels will be forthcoming as soon as the tea table has been laid, for truly, one cannot expect a lady to launch into a narrative before she’s had some madeleines, cucumber sandwiches, and (my personal favourite) strawberries and clotted cream.
All has been well here in your absence, my dear friends, and though I have been madly dashing back and forth between various engagements and rehearsals for the Shakespearean Festival, I have still found time to water Grace’s geraniums (how I wish mine at home would thrive as yours do!), give all the rooms a good airing (which is to say that upon one evening during a summer rain I threw the windows and doors all open to let the glorious scent of it soak the air inside), play a very little on Rissa’s piano (you must give me some Beethoven now that you’re home), and make excellent use of both the bookshelves and the teacups. I have also made the acquaintance of the White Lady in the garden; one evening at twilight she was strolling pensively among the roses and I happened upon her before she went out through a gate that is no longer there.
I shall put down this pen, now, though I’ve barely had a chance to begin–the tea kettle is singing!
July 8, 2008–Rissa–Well, we’re home.
And have been for an eon or two, it feels. I can speak for all when I say that we had a simply wonderful time vacationing in Colorado. In fact, it was indescribably wonderful–probably the reason none of us have attempted to write in our Patty’s Place journal about it until now. Indeed, an account of our travels is a tall order, and I’m not sure I feel equal to it! I can try to make our beginnings, however.
The first question that the curious reader will no doubt want answered is: Did Abigail meet any cowboys, and if so, what mayhem did this result in? Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for us,) she didn’t see a single one. Well, while strolling in Estes Park, we espied a few gentlemen of advanced years sporting cowboy hats, but they were hardly what Abby had in mind as far as matrimonial prospects go. No, the truth of the matter is that there were cowboys in Colorado, and the fates simply conspired to keep her from seeing them. It continually happened that Abby would be peering into her camera to capture spectacular mountain vistas, and we would raise the cry, “Look, Abby! A cowboy! Over there!” And she would immediately look up, but in all the wrong directions, and they would have wandered off around a corner by the time she realized where we were directing her vision. In her defense, though, it isn’t as if we were flailing wildly about and overtly pointing. It is probably our ladylike discretion that has preserved our Abby’s heart.
Ah, but in the words of our esteemed Jane Austen, “What are men to rocks and mountains?” It is probably just as well that Abby never got her cowboy fix, because we had a hard enough time dragging her home with us at it was.
As has been mentioned before, we spent the 7th to the 14th of June in a little mountain cabin, and the three or four days on either end of this week we were able to trespass upon the hospitality of Grace’s family. Naturally, as we boarded our west-bound trains, we regarded the cabin-week as the main Event of our vacation. It turned out, though, that we enjoyed the time we spent with Grace’s family just as much if not even more. It was perfectly beastly of her, but Grace never mentioned just what delightful friends and relations she has. We were absolutely smitten with the lot of them, and feel as though we’ve all gained family members, ourselves.
Good grief! But I’ll have to hurry off to bed if I’m going to make it to work by six tomorrow morning! I shall leave you, then, with a snapshot of Grace and Abby taken by Frank (oh! and we haven’t yet introduced Frank in this account! A frightful ommission) at a little cove we named Outlaw’s Hideout–and the promise that you, dear reader, will be regaled by tales of Oswald the Ghost, impromptu moonlit dances, Wilterdink the Pufferfish, and dive-bombing hummingbirds in the not too distant future. Who shall take up the threads where I leave them? Abby? Grace? Jacinta? Frank?
July 17, 2008–Grace–“Because I am afraid, I press on…”
I think the reason that we don’t update this journal very often (other than because it keeps getting lost in the piles of sewings supplies that are each of our rooms), is because we feel pressured to write some long entry detailing the lives of everyone of us.
This should not be.
I shall change the trend.
I had been keeping to my room a lot lately until I decided that I was sick and tired of being holed up all alone with only my sewing machine to yell at. So, I decided to haul the sewing machine down to a table near the kitchen. I’m much happier there–I have more room (though we have no table on which to dine) and I have more to yell at than just my sewing machine. *halo*
I’ve been hooked on bags lately . . . (not to be entirely anachronistic, but I’m not sure how to get around it) as you can see here. They all turn out so adorable! All of my friends are getting quite laden down with bags and totes of all shapes and sizes. Hee. It makes me happy. Skirts and blouses are also high on the list these days, but those haven’t really seen the light of anyone’s days but mine.
Rissa has had a long and, I’m sure, grueling day at work, so I’m off to comfort her and make her some tea while we chat about the day. Toodle-pip, dearies!
July 29, 2008–Rissa–“as of innumerable wings”
I am sitting, as I write, underneath our spreading maple tree as the sky fades to dusky lavender and green and a fresh breeze swims up from the shore. It is nearly August, and I am thinking constantly of the first few stanzas of Longfellow’s “Prelude” to Voices of the Night.
Patty’s Place is wafting through the summer on a sea of dreams. I shall let some of them swirl around in the deeper currents for the time being lest the bubbles burst as they reach the surface. . .
Hmm. Grace had written her entry on the liberating effects of not feeling obliged to list off everyone’s news every time one writes in our journal. Obviously, what with the strange and twisting metaphors I have been indulging in for the past two paragraphs, this doesn’t work for me. If I don’t write about these wonderful fellow-residents of Patty’s Place, what’s left except trees and dreams, after all? I suppose I could try filling the space with my news…
Great Scott, have I any? Hmm. Well, I am putting in many hours at work and lately it has seemed that every day I am convinced anew of the total depravity of mankind both in general and particular–oh, the stories I could tell you about this one outrageous woman today!–But then I come home to Patty’s Place and realize that even “if unholy deeds ravage the world, tranquility is here!” Last week, I spent more time doing the office work than usual, and nearly bled to death from paper-cuts. I am trying to dream up a brilliant way to sell all except my most essential books, but am not having much luck. Also, I’m reading a book written by a pioneering woman who rowed down the Nile by herself in a little rowboat, and am feeling inspired to pick up a certain Egyptian Vacation story I had been writing once upon a time with a few other people.
I think that covers it. Thoroughly. Hmm, is it just me, or was that rather deathly dull? So I can’t write of things in general and still be coherant, and I can’t write of my own doings and still be interesting…Sorry, Grace, it looks like I’ll have to fall back on the habit of plundering everyone else’s big news!
Ahem. So then. Abby has gotten a job! Hurrah, hurrah! Of course, they hired her practically the instant they laid eyes on her. She is going into the same line of business as I am in, in fact, working for the same company. I wish her infinitely better luck.
Grace is working herself to death, as usual, and in her time off (when she could be napping like I do) has been loitering around the sewing machine and working on some projects she’s getting paid for. There’s industry for you.
Once again, Jacinta has sort of fallen off the radar. The last time I saw her was when we arrived back at the train station after our vacation, where she promptly ran off shouting of plays and plans over her shoulder. She had gotten a role in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, you see. I wonder if her performances have started yet? The abominable creature (I write that most affectionately) hasn’t bothered to invite us or even tell us when and where they are. But I suppose she is busy and preoccupied.
We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of our lovely house-sitter and neighbor, Queen Anne, lately, too. Every once in awhile a voice murmuring excerpts from Shakespeare comes from over the lilac bushes which separate our yards, though, and I take it as a good sign of her continued existence.
Oswald has moved into our cozy attic room. Or anyway, we think he has. Being a ghost, he unencumbered by much in the way of luggage when he arrived, and we hadn’t had to lug his steamer trunks up the staircase or anything, you know….But our best evidence that he has followed us home from Colorado is that all of a sudden there is a kitchen drawer that will not stay closed, and frequently we will come into the sitting room to find our film projector on, but running down as if it had just been cranked, and our collection of Meg Ryan films in a state of disarray. Oswald is a particular fan of Meg Ryan, you see.
But the sky has deepened to a dark, starry blue now, and I’m only writing by the light of our kitchen window. The breeze is turning a little chilly, and I think I shall go inside, leave this small volume in a particularly conspicuous place, and finish my journey down the Nile.
August 3, 2008–Abby–Let the Rain Fall
Rainy days are always idyllic at Patty’s Place, especially when no one has to be off to work. At least that is what I thought to myself, as I baked a pan of the most delicious-looking brownies. Leaving them to cool, I found my latest half-finished book and my workbag, and headed out to the porch to get a bit of work – if it can be called work, it’s so pleasant! – done whilst watching the rain fall.
I suffered a severe shock when I went back inside, some half an hour later, to find Rissa cross-legged on the floor in our sitting room, a glint of fiendish glee in her eyes, tearing one of her journals to shreds and tossing the pieces into a completely unnecessary fire.
“Rissa!” I gasped. “What on earth are you doing?”
“Happy the people whose annals are vacant,” she said darkly. “Thomas Carlyle.”
I have not Rissa’s gift of remembering a quotation, but I cannot bear to see anyone destroying a book so wantonly, particularly since I had not read it, and should never be able to do so now. And I intended to let her see it. “Well. Tinkerty-tonk,” I said, leaving the room, and by Jove! I meant for it to rankle.
Grace was upstairs looking irritable, staring outside while her fingers beat a staccato rhythm on the windowsill (incidentally, I always thought that word was “stattaco” until more recently than I care to admit! But that’s beside the point) and I poked her with my crochet hook.
“Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who adores stormy days,” I begged. “It seems to send Rissa into strange moods wherein she demolishes all the chronicles of her early years – no, don’t even ask. And here you are, looking all moody and – oh.”
I ceased my monologue upon glimpsing the focus of her moody gaze – the front gate of our mysterious and handsome neighbor’s house. He was standing under a large black umbrella with a rather pretty specimen of the female persuasion – I need hardly add that she was also quite human, of course. He appeared to be bidding her farewell in what seemed to me a rather unnecessarily familiar manner. Don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t anything romantic about the rain. It’s positively dripping with the stuff.
(Author’s interjection: Har har)
Grace looked a trifle sheepish, and then suddenly bounded up from her seat. “Come, I want to show you something – my latest purchase from that favorite clothing catalog of ours – you know the one. Anthropologie. It’s a new dress, and simply marvelous…”
“You goose, Grace. Very well,” I said amiably, “if I must be shown, I must be shown. Undomesticated bovines couldn’t stop me from being shown.”
Suffice it to say, I was shown.
(Which is to say, my pen hand begins to cramp, and I was just seized with a sudden wish for a steaming cup of Earl Grey. So I hastily and disjointedly finished this entry – you must admit, that last sentence is rather pointless …or do I mean, beside the point? Anyway, it definitely doesn’t go with the story. But it struck me as a rather snappy closing statement. So I wrote it. And now I am leaving. Goodbye.)
*makes a face at journal and leaves it somewhere as equally conspicuous as the place from which it was picked up*
August 26, 2008–Grace–A Day in the Life of Grace
Grace sat in the window seat of her bedroom and gazed out at the sunlight shimmering through the leaves, creating intricate patterns on the emerald lawn and flower beds—both in pristine condition, of course, since the girls’ neighbor had taken pity on them and offered his services in return for a pie on the third Thursday of every month
Thoughts flitted through her head as she sat with her head leaning against the window; thoughts almost as numerous as the amount of pillows with which she had recently bedecked her bed and window seat.
Judging from what happened next, it would seem that one thought suddenly became quite significantly more dominant than the rest.
“That’s it!” She burst out suddenly before jumping off the window seat and dashing down the narrow staircase. “I refuse to stay cooped up in the house one instant longer. I’m going on a picnic.” She announced grandly as she sashayed through the main room and into the kitchen.
Once in the kitchen, Grace enveloped herself in a Very Large and Voluminous Apron proceeded to fly about as only Grace could. It wasn’t very long until she had a woven basket setting on the table stuffed to the brim with a jar of cold water, a salad too beautiful for words to describe, a bowl of fruit, all the necessary eating accessories, a large ivory-hued blanket, a book, and her sketch pad and paints.
She discarded the apron, jabbed a hatpin through her hat, tossed a quick goodbye over her shoulder, and headed out the back door.
A few minutes later Grace was dotting down the street on her bicycle with the basket secured to the back. She carefully guided her bicycle onto a gravel path and slowed her pace to enjoy the beauty around her. The trees on either side stretched their arms to each other and created a tunnel of cool shade broken up by dapples of sunshine. Lilac bushes long bereft of their fragrant blossoms from the springtime lined one side of the path, and a small bubbling stream edged the opposite side. Grace stopped her bike by a small grassy spot where the stream widened and dismounted. After spreading the blanket and partaking of the contents of her basket, she laid back and smiled dreamily up at the cloud faces above her. This was bliss in one of its fullest forms.
The sun was several degrees past its zenith when Grace rubbed her eyes and sat up in confusion. A soft gasp escaped her lips as she suddenly realized where she was and the danger she could have been in had a chap of less-than-honorable motives happened upon her alone deep in the woods. She quickly dismissed the thought with a grin, contemplating on how much more exciting things were when they could turn bad, but didn’t, and proceeded to repack her basket.
A twig broke. Grace jumped and spun around on one foot to ascertain where the sound had come from and if she was in imminent danger of being carried off or eaten alive (for we all know how common it is for citizens to be eaten alive in this part of the country…). A man emerged from the bushes not ten feet from where she was standing. He straightened his hat and brushed the leaves and spiders off his jacket before looking up.
“I wondered when you would wake up.”
“Oh…” Grace looked startled. This fellow had been watching her?
“Don’t be frightened, my dear, you have no cause to worry. I am Cornelius Vartoli.” He looked as if he expected the young woman standing in front of him to . . . do something when he announced his name so grandly. He probably was not certain himself what he expected her to do, but it was obvious he was not intending for her to just stand there staring blankly at him.
Grace soon regained her composure and closed her mouth. The fellow standing in front of her cut a rather interesting picture, and her eyes twinkled as she realized it. He was wearing a small-brimmed straw hat and none of his clothes matched. He looked rather thrown together, Grace thought. His face, though, was quite another matter. When one looked at this part of his personage, one quite forgot the thrown together-ness of the rest of him. His face was firm and strong—it looked as though it could have been carved by one of the classic sculptors—and yet it had the softness and gentleness of a delicately painted canvas. He held a bouquet of flowers in his hand.
“How long had you been watching me, Mr. Vartoli?” Grace asked, for lack of anything else to say. She seemed to have lost her infamous ability to make small talk without a second thought.
“I had walked by at half past the hour and saw you,” he said and pulled a gold watch out of his pocket, “and after I had completed my errand” he motioned to the flowers in his hand, “I was returning to town. I had just heard a crying sound in the woods as I came up on you again and went to investigate. It must have been some animal crying for its mother, because my investigations were all for naught.”
“That must be what awakened me.” Grace replied as she gathered the blanket off the ground and folded it. “I’ll admit I was rather startled to wake up and see you emerging from the bushes.”
Cornelius Vartoli smiled. “Thought I was an ill-bred chap, did you?” He reached to help her heft the basket back on to the back of her bicycle and secure it.
“I hadn’t the time to actually formulate any real thoughts about you, actually. But, aside from the rakish angle at which that long twig is sticking out from your hat, you don’t exactly look the part of a rogue.” She grinned archly at him.
He returned the grin and tossed the offending twig aside. “Are you headed home, –“ He trailed off as he realized he didn’t know the lady’s name.
“Grace.” She offered simply.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Grace.” He swept his hat off his head and tipped his head respectfully. “You are on your way home, I presume?”
“I am, yes.”
“May I accompany you?”
She smiled her permission at him and began pushing her bicycle back down the gravel path. He strode along beside her, hands behind his back clasping the flowers tightly.
They made small talk as they headed toward the small town. He told her about his family and background in enough detail that she was able to fully put to rest any lingering doubts she may have had about his motives. She talked about herself in a rather vague manner as was her custom—not purposefully, but because she talked about everything in a rather vague manner during the first half hour after she had slept.
When they arrived at the doorstep of the small white cottage with the sign out front reading “Patty’s Place”, Grace parked her bicycle and turned to face Cornelius Vartoli on the front doorstep.
“Thank you for the enjoyable walk back, Mr. Vartoli.” Grace said pleasantly.
“It was my pleasure, Miss.” He replied. He stared down at his feet for several moments before looking up. “My grandmother lives down that path where you were resting…and I was down there visiting her…and…she always makes me take flowers from her garden when I leave…and…well, would you take these as a gift from me?” His voice veritably cracked from nervousness as he handed her the bouquet.
Grace accepted them delightedly and stuffed her nose into the middle of them, inhaling deeply. “Lovely.” She sighed. “Thank you, sir.” She smiled at him and he turned and walked down the steps and into the street. He turned around and waved. Grace watched him round the bend and disappear before going inside and being accosted by the girls who had been peering curiously out the window. She set any rumors to rest before they ever got started and told them of her lovely picnic.
And that was the last time any of the Patty’s Place girls ever saw Cornelius Vartoli.
The bouquet of flowers holds a place of honor on the kitchen table.
September 2, 2008–Rissa–Neither Here nor There
Today marked the start of my fall semester of courses. . .I wore a pair of new boots I had worn to a Very Important Meeting last week for they seemed good walking shoes–and good luck, judging by the effect of the meeting! But I hadn’t even hoofed it across campus to my first class before I was ready to take them off and walk barefoot. The sight of two wildly expectorating young males (Grace’s embellishment), however, convinced me to suffer my martyrdom of new shoes. By the time I came home, though–ooh! Worse blisters I’ve never had!
Still, though, I have wandered about barefoot ever since, and have almost forgotten about them. In that way, blisters of the sole are much easier to bear than blisters of the soul. For the longest time, certain things have been chafing away at me, and my soul has been a miserable, blistered little shred. You see, you can’t just walk around bare-souled to alleviate the pain, especially in the present climate. Souls are so much more susceptible than soles to cold, and a cold soul is something very hard to recover from. Take Ebenezer Scrooge for example: It took a heavy dosage unpleasant memory and then a strong poultice of his own mortality administered in the dead of night to put him on the road to recovery.
But what I had been meaning to write before I got side-tracked was. . .
Dear me, what was it? I can’t recall.
September 7, 2008–Rissa–Shadows on the Wall
A hurricane swept up the coast, and the dregs of it reached us last night. Torrents of rain. . .We all huddled in the parlor, and it was deliciously like sitting in the belly of a ship tossed on stormy seas. The wind creaked in the eaves, and the rain thwished at the sides of the house like waves. I had been hauling around my brick of an Early English Literature textbook all day intending to settle down to my first bit of course reading, and so by the light of a lone candle passed around, we read Beowulf aloud.
“A few miles from here
a frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.
At night there, something uncanny happens:
the water burns. And the mere bottom
has never been sounded by the sons of men.”
The candlelight cast eerie shadows upon the wall and I wished the storm wouldn’t end.
And yet, there’s something delicious in the morning after a storm. It seemed to take something with it as it whirled away heralding the end of summer. The crows had begun spreading rumors of autumn in early August, but a starkness to the morning light marked a true turning today. Glorious autumn. I can’t wait to set a jack o’ lantern out on the step and fill Patty’s Place with the spicy scent of pumpkin pie and apple cider. And. . .
This fall shall find my steps turning towards a small bookstore. Finally, I have finagled a way out of my department-store retail job downtown: my last day there’s the 19th. And then. . .part-time hours as a bookstore clerk. As the proprietor showed me around and instructed me on her organization of the genres, my heart glowed. To think I will be paid to sell books! I can’t wait until every nook and cranny and volume of that bookstore is familiar to me–and somehow, I don’t think it will take very long….
September 12, 2008–Abby
It was not the most pleasant of wakings. Even before I was fully conscious, I was aware of the dull, pounding pain in my temples. I tried to make myself stay asleep, and the clock and I fought this out for a while until at last I dragged myself from my bed, wincing at the nausea that rose when I moved.
I was not well.
I tried to coax myself into feeling better by sheer routine, making up my bed and heading to the kitchen to brew myself the customary morning cup of Earl Grey, but it wasn’t long before I gave up and retired back into my room, swiping a handful of pastel-covered magazines from the side table as I curled up on the bed. I didn’t actually read any of them for half an hour or so, but eventually I found myself propped up on my hand, becoming increasingly engrossed in the pages.
Inkblots. A small, privately-produced newsletter for literary ladies, each article written with obvious thought and care, love of books and literature seeping through to the reader and producing an instant feeling of kindredness, even if you’d never so much as heard of the author before. I re-read with delight explorations of fictional heroes and heroines, articles on the character of Sherlock Holmes, short stories penned with thoughtful consideration, book reviews.
It was then the idea came to me. We really must start a Literary Society at Patty’s Place!
September 27, 2008–Abby–Notes from a Dreary Day
There is no better cure for the feeling of being entirely “whelmed-over,” as Phil Gordon* would say, than…going on a massive cleaning rampage.
Or at least determining to go on said cleaning rampage. Whether or not any actual cleaning will be done remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s the ridiculous putting-off-of-cleaning rituals that are most comforting. Bustling around the kitchen, carefully choosing the biggest apple from the basket, shining it up and turning it into a baked apple…preparing a fresh, hot pot of Earl Grey…indeed, who needs to clean after that?
So what have the girls of Patty’s Place been up to lately, that they – or at least I – feel so overwhelmed? I really could not say. That’s the trouble. Rissa is off at her bookstore job (I’m so envious!), I’m a drudge at my department store (don’t believe me. except…well, yes. ), and Grace…ah, yes, Grace. Who knows what she’s up to? We know she’s up to something, but that’s all we know. I just love surprises.
Really, I do. Um..really.
I’m just going to blame this mood on the weather. And the fact that I’m percolating up a new mystery novel in my mind. Which I should most decidedly not be doing, as I have several other manuscripts I could be working on, and one that I should be working on. You betray me, Mind. You know better than this.
I’m … going to ignore everything and just curl up in the corner (with my baked apple and pot of tea!) with a very special edition of The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes. *nods*
*Phil Gordon is a character from our beloved novel, Anne of the Island. I don’t think she ever actually said, “whelmed-over” anywhere in the book, but…it sounds like something she would say. *nods*
(Also, since I wrote in here twice in a row (!), it is not most emphatically Someone Else’s Turn. *plops journal in the very center of the kitchen table* *removes it ten seconds later to put it, just as centered, in the middle of Grace’s bed*)
November 10, 2008–Jacinta–Snowy Dreams
So I took a random walk today. We had our first snow of the season, and I could not resist the temptation to meander down an old path in the woods, leaving behind me fresh footprints in snow that had never before been tread upon. I wandered down the path, regardless of cold or time for a good part of the afternoon, sometimes looking in awe at the beauty surrounding me, sometimes daydreaming about my Ideal. It was an enchanting afternoon, indeed. Very Anne-esque. Or Emily-esque. Either works. Tomorrow I shall drag Abby out with me and we can tread upon the snow a second time, chattering about dreams we have that are far too idealistic, but essential to our lives.
It’s fun to dream up romantic scenarios, but you know, I hope they don’t come true for awhile yet because that would mean the break-up of our Patty’s Place. It’s always hard to think about how things won’t ever be the same in the future and we need to enjoy them right now while we can. But enough of that. I think I shall go sit by the fireplace and write a tragic love story.
November 21, 2008–Rissa–Pondering Immolation
I am sitting here at the kitchen table while an Applesauce Gingerbread Pudding I’m concocting bubbles merrily away in the oven. It’s only about half past five, but it’s dark as midnight outside; it makes the golden kitchen glow seem all the more safe and warm.
Grace is off warbling at a concert, Jacinta’s preparing for her finals, and I assume Abby’s at work since she certainly isn’t here. (You can always tell when Abby’s around by the periodic thudding she does when she runs into things.) So it’s just me tonight, and the cat curled up in front of the stove.
A great many changes are afoot at Patty’s Place. I think we aren’t announcing them until a bit closer to the date, but January may see a great shift and renovation for this journal! Pictorial clue: Look Up.
I keep turning to Abby and Grace with a question in my mind that can’t quite reach my lips. It’s this: “Do you realize–really realize–what an extraordinary thing it is we are doing?” For me, why, it is tantamount to a total evolution of values and the renunciation of all the cynical and slightly (I think, anyway, or at least I hope,) misguided ideas I was raised to live by. It will be a re-centering. Or perhaps I’ve grown up without a center, so this will be a just-plain-centering.
A slightly anachronistic little poem has been often in my mind of late. “The Lesson of the Moth” from Archy and Mehitabel.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a cockroach turn into a moth, watch closely.
December 14, 2008–Abby–of Lizzy Bennet and a day in the life of a Retail Drudge
It’s snowing at Patty’s Place! No, really – look at the header up there. *glee*
Life has been a little dull around here for some of us, and more than usually exciting and active for others. Grace, for instance, spent last night dancing the night away at a costume ball – she was Elizabeth Bennet, and never has that beloved character been portayed with more grace and spirit than her incarnation of last night.
Meanwhile, I was off working; refolding innumerable towels and replacing them on the shelves has seldom been more arduous, knowing that elsewhere was music and dancing and people having a jolly time. With the holiday season upon us, however, employees are not allowed to request days off, and so there I was, putting a friendly, cheerful face on things while inwardly I was moping away and seething with resentment.
All right, not really. (Especially considering that in actuality, Grace and I are about 2000 miles apart, and there was absolutely no chance of my being able to attend in the first place!)
But I did look foward to hearing every detail about the ball from Grace, and look at the photographs she had to share. And look! I’ve nabbed one of them to paste into this journal entry:
January 8, 2009–Abby–A New Year, A New Life…
A new life. Stay tuned for some big changes around Patty’s Place!