Miss Limburger: “How did you get back in?”
What am I, a stray cat?
Turning away from the sink’s sorely disappointing taps (not that I’d held out much hope they’d work, but nothing ventured) towards the door, I witnessed the rest of the group’s faces when they walked into the kitchen and beheld my muddy splendor. (Mr. John Dupree’s chin hit the ground so hard I practically heard it.)
Beatrice (with a suspiciously straight face): “What on earth happened to you?”
Mrs. Von Haeville The Elder (covering her nose with a hankie): “What are you doing in here? I thought we agreed that you were to wait outside.”
Mr. John Dupree (jaw still on the floor): “Are you missing a shoe?”
Apparently, I’d lost all the ground I’d made up with the bespoke man – by wearing said ground.
The Quiet Von Haeville Sister (stepping forward and handed me a packet of towelettes from her purse): “These should help.”
Ina Von Haeville (the corners of her mouth turned down): “At least one of them learned some manners, not that it matters. Will you be able to guard IT on your own?”
Me (sliding a glance to Ina Von Haeville and nodding while accepting the wipes): “Thank you.”
Ina Von Haeville (scowling at her nieces): “Then I’m leaving, I will not stay in the same room with those girls.”
Good to her word, and with one last milk curdling glare at her step-nieces (causing them to shiver in unison), she left the building.
Beatrice (studying the mud trail, closed closet, and me): “Seriously, what happened?”
Time to keep my word to Ina Von Haeville – which means I need to swivel the spotlight off of myself – and I knew right where to shine it.
Me (throwing Miss Limburger to the wolves): “I tore my coat escaping from the garden Miss Von Haeville locked me in. I probably have at least one spider wandering about my person after walking thru its web. And I lost my shoe, in the morass optimistically called an ornamental garden, getting back to the house.”
(BTW, this doesn’t even make my top ten most mortifying moments – but I must admit – explaining one lost a shoe is a new one.)
Beatrice & Mr. John Dupree (in unison to Miss Limburger): “You locked her outside?”
Miss Limburger (on the back foot): “I..umm…”
Mrs. Von Haeville The Elder (a small smug smile on her lips): “If Mary locked you out, how did you get back in?”
I think Miss Limburger suits her better. I wonder if her mother ever repeated the old pearl – if you keep pulling that face, it will freeze that way. Because she perpetually looks like a wedge of Limburger is under her nose. If she hadn’t been wearing the identical expression when we first met, I might think her current countenance had something to do with the odoriferousness of the sludge currently coating me.
Did I mention that Muck Duck Pond supported a respectable population of ducks? (Who were not pleased to meet me.)
Either way, her elder sister isn’t saving her bacon today…
Me (brandishing the token of brass triumphantly): “Got lucky and found a spare key hidden the eave.”
Mrs. Von Haeville The Elder (looking between her sisters): “Did you know….?”
Just as Ina predicted, both women shook their heads no.
Mrs. Von Haeville The Elder: How did you find it, if we didn’t even know it was there?
Me (handing the key to Mr. Ottoman): “Born under a lucky star, I guess.”
Mr. John Dupree (in full lawyer mode smoothly cutting Beatrice off): “You will be replacing her damaged items. Correct?”
Instantly the three women burst into indignant protests aimed at avoiding all accountability.
Me (visualizing a shark’s smile): “Why don’t we call it even, my shoe for the padlock I broke getting out of the garden?”
Mr. Ottoman (in soothing tones to Beatrice & Mr. John Dupree, while trying to shush his clients): “That sounds fair. Ms. Beatrice, why don’t we finish up while your…your Girl Friday cleans up?”
Spotlight successfully swiveled.