Story for the Day: Helping in the Kitchen -- Part 2
“That was amazingly done,” said the commander, astonished. “I don’t believe I have ever seen Alasdair turn around half so fast in all my life. Vyrdin should be confounded at your powers of command.”
“Aye, well,” said Calleen, abashed and yet pleased, “I said what a mother would say, and I meant it. I don’t need help, but my Shea needs to know his family loves him and is here for him.”
“Poor Alasdair,” said Carrigh, sighing into a raised hand. “He will feel as though he’s neglected Sheamas and talk of nothing else at home.”
“That is rather the object of Tyfferim guilt. It is all certainly true, whatever is said, but it doesn’t make whatever it be any less distressing.”
“He will panic now,” Carrigh laughed.
“And so he should, girl,” said Calleen. “If it keeps him outta here, all the better.”
“Who gave Deal the tea to do?’ said Aiden, coming up behind Adaoire. “Was it you, Ma?”
“Aye, so it was.”
“Water’s out, and she was about to come back in here and boil it herself.”
“She stays out there, Aiden. I’ll put the kettle on again. Adaoire, don’t you let her come back in here.”
Calleen turned to the stove, mumbled something about having to solder an iron gate onto the kitchen door post, and began to refill the kettle. Pleasant as it was to have so much of her family around her, it was contemptible to have anyone standing idle in the kitchen without anything to furnish their hands, and as they were not helping her, as no one was, she implored that they all have tea. They must have at least one cup, and after Alasdair had been forced into compliance, no one would dare refuse her. Boudicca and Carrigh sat whilst Martje handed round cups, and only Aiden and Adaoire were permitted to find the tea sachets and brew anything.
While the tea was in preparation and thimbles of dried leaves going round, Dealanna returned from the sitting room, to ask for more boiled water, but when she observed her husband and her brother-in-law serving the those sitting at the corner of the table, there was nothing much for her to do but to acknowledge that she had been deceived, humph, and look grievously forlorn. It was unpardonable rudeness not to help an old woman with the management of her kitchen, and while others might allow for the feelings of the old woman, Dealeanna certainly could not. It was her kitchen now, she had relinquished it to her, but there was no getting Calleen to surrender, though Martje seemed to float in the background mightily at her ease. That she trusted her daughter and her sons to help but not herself—it was an insufferable slight, and she began, without Calleen’s permission, to direct management of the freshly boiled water and arrange about their teacups, and duty which had never augured must interest until now.
“Aye, I’ll let you pour it,” Calleen resigned. “There’s yer water, and you can do what you want with it.”
A short thanks was all that Dealeanna would express, and she went about servicing every cup as though it were the best blessing of life, taking care to hold the saucer and only add the milk after the leaves had steeped. She had her duties, and Martje and Calleen had theirs, and all seemed rectified at present, any wounded feelings had been done away, and all familial discordances had been suppressed, but after everything was safely out of the oven and cooling on the table, and everyone’s tea was nearly finished, Calleen came round to refill every cup. Dealeanna got up directly and was about to begin her entreaties when her husband, probably from the terror of hearing his mother’s remonstrances, interposed with, “Did you see the letter come from Breigh?”
Calleen stopped, and her eyes instantly brightened. “Did you get a letter from him this afternoon, then? I didn’t see it. I didn’t know any had come. Did the Scoaliegh deliver it at this time of the day—and before a holiday? What’d it say? Is Breigh busy at the dairy, then?”
It was said with such agitation, with such maternal anxiety, that Adaoire felt wretched for having mentioned it. The glimmer of expectation, the agonizing misery of unfounded hopes, the yearning that her aspect recommended was sorrowful compunction for Adaoire’s heart. He deliberated over whether he should give her the letter from Cabhrin, tucked away in his back pocket, but he knew it should bring her more pain than pleasure to read its contents, and he therefore would curtail it for her, leaving out what was requisite for family peace on the holiday and relaying only what was necessary to brighten her spirits.
“Gives his best love and all,” said Adaoire, forcing a smile. “He says the dairy’s the busiest now than it ever was before.”
“Aye, that’s Breigh doin’ that,” Calleen proudly declared. “All that hard work he puts into that place. He sure deserves all the business.”
“Aye,” said Adaoire. There was a pause. Adaoire stared into his cup, hesitated and debated with himself, and then, as though the result of some silent conclusion, “Cabhrin is visitin’ with him for the holiday. His ship just docked in Glaoustre, and he had time for a few days visitin’ before goin’ aff again.”
Calleen looked all the exultation she felt. “Is he now?” she cried, with delirious joy. “Cabhrin’s there with him? Aye, I’m glad for it. Breigh shouldn’t be alone on the holiday, and Cabhrin shouldn’t be at sea for it.”
“Aye,” but it was said with a coolness so unlike Adaoire, in so severe accent, that his thoughts on his brother’s staying away could not but be recognized. Everyone either glanced charily at him or turned away, finding it easier to look elsewhere than it was to see Adaoire so wholly altered. Pleased as he was to see his mother was so sanguine upon hearing of her son’s shore leave, it brought a pain and agitation to Adaoire and Aiden that must be felt.
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