1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 56



"Hey, Katerina, come in," Missy called from her perch among the pie crusts. "I can use some company. This is our cousin Chandra. Lenore is over at Bryant’s sister’s." Missy proceeded with the pie crusts.


About fifteen minutes later, Debbie shooed Katerina outside to join Chip. "Go out with the guys," she said. "This kitchen isn’t all that big to start with, and it’s getting crowded. They’re around in the side yard."


"Poor kid," Missy said. "I sort of like her, but talk about a fish out of water."


"They’re not likely to settle in Grantville. The kind of career that Chip’s aiming at, she’ll be in her normal habitat ninety percent of the time, at least. And, as your dad says, a real asset to him."




"Hey, Katerina, come on," Chip called. "I’ve got more family for you. Meet my uncle, Wes Jenkins, and his new wife, Clara. And Mikey, he’s Chandra’s oldest. She managed to get the other three down for naps right after she got here, or they would all be out here running us ragged. Plus Ron and Gerry Stone. Ron’s sort of informally attached to Missy and Gerry is his brother. Uncle Wes, this is my just-about-to-be-a-fiancée Katerina."


Wes smiled. "I would offer to shake hands," he said, "except that I am carrying two dozen eggs."


Chip turned to the older woman. "I guess you’re my Aunt Clara now, aren’t you."


She smiled. "Oh, yes. Though I have been someone’s Aunt Clara for many years, already." Clara stood on her tiptoes, kissed Wes on the cheek, took the eggs from his hands, and said, "Have fun with Mikey. I’m going to run in and help Debbie and the girls."




Chandra looked out the window, noticed that Mikey had diverted Grandpa and Clara as well as the boys for a visit to the swing set and that Katerina had found them. Then she sighed.


"Aunt Debbie?"




"Have you noticed anything different about Lenore, lately?"


"Like what?"


"Lenore’s quite a bit like Mom, you know. She’s never been right up front when it comes to expressing her own opinion about anything."


"Yes." Debbie sighed. "Every Thanksgiving, when we were deciding who would bring what, Lena would always say, ‘everybody else pick and I’ll bring whatever is left on the list.’"


"That was Mom. Sometimes, at dinner, Dad would ask her questions for fifteen or twenty minutes trying to find out if she actually had a preference about where we were going on vacation or what color car they should buy. He was always awfully patient about it. More than I was, once I got into my teens," Chandra admitted.




"So Bryant isn’t patient like that with Lenore, Aunt Debbie. And he doesn’t care at all what she wants, as far as I can tell. He was sort of squashing her between when he got back from Magdeburg and when he left for Frankfurt. At least, he was trying to. Lenore doesn’t ever really want to speak up for herself. She’s like Mom that way, but this time, she dug in her heels. He wasn’t listening. I’m not looking forward to having him get back from Frankfurt next month."


There was a tap, or a light kick to be more precise, at the back door. Missy, hands still sticky, opened up. Clara was waiting. "Hello Debbie, Chandra, Missy. Sorry, my hands are full, but it is eggs, because I promised to show you how to make the egg-glazed flatbreads we always had for the autumn Kirmess."


Missy took the eggs so that Clara could get her cloak off, without interrupting the preceding conversation. "Like you said, Bryant isn’t even in town most of the time, any more," she protested to Chandra. "He’s off working on these big fire prevention projects. Lenore pretty much has to cope on her own."


"That doesn’t keep him from trying to boss her. This time, she honestly doesn’t want to do what Bryant is telling her she has to. Not one little bit. I sort of like being a stay-at-home mom, but she went to all the trouble of learning how to read the German handwriting and stuff. She liked what she was doing at work and she doesn’t want to give it up permanently. Lenore didn’t mind staying home for a while after Weshelle was born. Well, she did, really, even though she went along with him on it, but Weshelle is completely weaned now, old enough that she doesn’t have to be an ‘office baby.’ I can keep her along with my kids."


"What is this leading up to?" Debbie asked.


Chandra looked around from where she was chopping onions for the stuffing. "Lenore’s going to go back to work after New Year’s. She’s already set things up with the judge."


"Isn’t that going to cause major problems?" Debbie frowned.


"I don’t know if they’ll get to be ‘major’ as long as Bryant is out of town. All he can do from someplace like Frankfurt or Magdeburg is write letters complaining about it. But she hasn’t told him. She’s trying to evade. That’s what bothers me. I’m getting nervous about what might happen when he comes back later on and finds out that she is working again, if she doesn’t tell him that she’s going to first. Or if someone who doesn’t realize how touchy things are right now happens to mention that she’s going to while he’s here over Christmas. And now that Dad’s back, she’s likely to ask him to back her up against Bryant."


"Oh." Missy frowned, glancing over at Clara, who was constructing the pastries. Uncle Wes had a temper, sometimes. She wondered if Clara knew that, yet. Probably. They’d worked together long enough.


"You’re smart to be taking the librarian training," Chandra said. "Dad would have been happier, you know, if we had both gone through college. Not Lenore taking a few courses here and there and me not going at all because I married Nathan right out of high school. I wasn’t really thinking about it, then. Mom only finished high school, after all, and Nathan thought that I needed to work. But since he’s been out of town on this armaments business, I’m beginning to think that Dad was right."


"Any change in that argument?" Missy asked.


"No, Nathan still doesn’t want me to come to Frankfurt. He’s still saying that health care and schools for the kids are so much better here in Grantville, and that’s true enough. But he’s been gone more than a year and a half. Other guys in other cities have their wives with them, now. And their kids. And he’s only come home once. Suhl wasn’t that far away, but he’s never even seen Lena Sue and Sandra Lou. They’re a year old, now. It’s scarcely worth making a cake for the first birthday, is it? Sugar is so expensive. They don’t really know what’s going on, yet, and it’s not as if we can take snapshots any more. And he’s not coming for Christmas. I took the kids to that new old-fashioned photography shop downtown and got their picture taken together, to send him for a present. But if . . ."


"If what?"


"If he hasn’t come by spring, I’m going to Frankfurt, whether he wants me to or not. Just to see what’s going on. That was one thing that I wanted to ask you, Aunt Debbie. If I go to Frankfurt in the spring, could you and Missy keep the kids for a few weeks? Even though you’re managing the teacher training now and she’s going to school?"


"I’m sure we can."


Chandra looked down at the onions again, blaming them for the tears in her eyes. "Don’t skimp on the teacher training program, though. If, well, if things don’t work out with Nathan in the long run, I may need it. Or something."


Tom, up from his nap, came wandering down the hall barefoot.


Missy looked up. "Who’s on babysitting patrol?"


"You take it, honey," Chandra said. "Get all three of them up, will you, and then take them out where Katerina and the guys are to run off some steam before we start eating.


"And talk to Katerina. She’s bound to be feeling a little out of it. Keep her company."




"Nani and Pop are having dinner with Aura Lee and Joe. Ray’s family will be there, too. They all decided to go to Aura Lee’s when we decided not to have dinner at home but come over to Gran’s instead." Missy’s tone was very neutral.


"Presumably," Chip said, "Nani has her nose a bit out of joint because the rest of us are here."


"She was expecting a formal presentation of Katerina."


"There’s time after dinner. Katerina and I can walk over there and I’ll introduce her to everyone else."


"You two," Missy said, "certainly do have an unending store of excuses to go for walks." She gave him a wink. Not only she but everyone else at the table could make a pretty good guess as to what they spent some of their time doing on those walks.


Then she turned. "I’m sure this is exactly how you wanted to spend your first visit to Grantville, isn’t it, Katerina? Meeting more and more apparently endless bunches of Chip’s relatives, most of whom are going to give you that ‘is she really suitable?’ look. You’ll survive. Clara had to go through it last month and she’s flourishing. Aren’t you?" She waved to Clara at the other end of the table, who waved back.


Missy turned back to Katerina. "But, of course, she didn’t have to face up to inspection by Nani. That’s Mom’s side of the family."