Choking on my pull of pumpkin milkshake, I wrestled with the Princess’s steering wheel trying to keep her from swerving into the oncoming lane (there wasn’t anyone else in sight, but keeping up good habits is always recommended). Not once, in our months of sharing rooms in the Lavender Lady, did I suspect Ms. Hettie and Beatrice were related.
My Miss Marple skills need some work. Perhaps I should ask Leo for some knitting lessons….
“Your Great Aunt? That piece of sour candy is your Great Aunt?”
Holy mother forking shirt balls, I should probably not refer to Ms. Hettie like that to her niece.
“You should hear what she calls you.” Beatrice said in her mildest voice. “What made you think she snitched on us to Little Ben?”
Distracted from panicking over my gaffe (which also successfully lowered my volume dial from a nine to a five), “She was the only one I could think of, outside of the four of us, who might have known where we were going.”
“How? Oh, right, the sea shanty…”
Glad she glommed onto my train of reasoning so quickly, “She keeps pretty close tabs on us, and Little Ben was tipped off…So I thought she might have made the call.”
Silently nodding her head in time with Moonlight Serenade (KARB was paying tribute to Glenn Miller today), she took a moment to respond, “It makes sense I grant you, but no, she would never do something like that. She can’t stand tattling. Plus, I’m her favorite niece.”
Back to square one.
Bummed at the conviction Beatrice spoke with, I moved on. “Why didn’t you tell me you two were related?”
Clearly laughing at me without actually uttering a sound, Beatrice made an effort to smooth my jangled nerves. “Because you two clearly enjoy your skirmishes, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”
“I don’t know if I’d use the word enjoy…”
My statement generated a stare; I could physically feel boring into the right side of my skull. “Really? So you didn’t bake several batches of Earl Grey cookies, filling the entire house with their aroma last week, in order to lure Ms. Hettie into the back garden? Where I found you both enjoying them, drinking London fogs and bickering about quail when I got home?”
Hunching over the steering wheel, “Those were extenuating circumstances, I was going stir crazy, and she brought the tea…” The words sounded petulant, even to my ears. “Fine, I did. But when you say I lured her with cookies, it sounds unsavory.”
Actually laughing now, Beatrice grabbed her lemonade at took a long draw.
“So why don’t you call her Great Aunt Hettie or just Aunt Hettie?”
Fidgeting with the straw, “During a visit, when I was younger, I overheard her telling my mother that being called great by us kids made her feel old, so I started calling Ms. Hettie instead. It stuck.”
Curiosity creeping into my voice, “I’ve never asked, but how did you end up living downstairs from Ms. Hettie?”
Putting down her drink, she ran her thumb up and down the seatbelt a couple of times before answering, “Ms. Hettie took me in and told my family off after we had a falling out. We respect each other’s space, so the arrangement worked well for both of us, now I keep them from pestering her about moving to someplace smaller.
Sensing her reluctance to canvas the topic further, I moved on to something much funner. “Do you think Wood suspects?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a smile slowly chase away her frown, “No. I spoke to Laney yesterday, and he thinks he’s coming over to give you one last check-up and a celebratory dinner. He’s clueless about the evening’s entertainment.”
Grinning, “You’ve tested the VCR?”