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Authors: Christa J. Kinde

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BOOK: The Blue Door
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7
THE BAKERS DAUGHTER

C
an’t we
do
something about that Messenger?” grumbled Murque. “He’s
up
to something, going from house to house.”

“He’s a mailman, idiot,” snapped Dinge. From their hiding place within the shadow of a lilac hedge, the two demons watched Milo’s car roll to a stop. “If we
could
get to him, he would be gone.”

“We pick off Messengers all the time.”

“Yeah, well this one has a Guardian,” the crouching demon whispered hoarsely. “There! See?”

Murque swore under his breath, then muttered, “I thought only
people
had Guardians. He’s just a poser.”

“Their Flight’s been more cautious since midsummer.”

An unholy gleam lit his cohort’s eyes. “Lost track of one of their own, didn’t they?”

“That they did,” Dinge replied with a rusty laugh.

Prissie didn’t
do
rough and tumble. She wore dresses, had excellent posture, and strove to attain what she considered the best of feminine beauty. Jayce and Naomi couldn’t really explain where their daughter got all her notions, but they saw no harm in letting her have her way.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” Jayce called as his daughter passed by.

“Grandma’s,” Prissie replied. “I need to practice.”

“Sure, sure,” her father replied. “It’s a good thing there are two kitchens on this farm, or Zeke and I would be out of luck.” Her younger brother grinned from his perch on a step stool, proudly wearing one of his father’s aprons. Wednesdays were always their dad’s half days, so he came home early to hang out with them around the house, often making a mess of their kitchen in the process.

She regularly experimented with new recipes herself, usually with less-than-stellar results, but she was determined to conquer the culinary arts. The only problem was … she wasn’t very good at it. To be perfectly honest, she was terrible at it.

Jayce had offered to teach his daughter everything he knew, but she was privately frustrated with him for being so comfortable in an area where she struggled. It was much easier to go to Grandma Nell for lessons, so Prissie conveniently ignored the fact that her father and brother were bonding by making candied rose petals.

A half hour later, she was liberally sprinkled with flour
and grimly gripping the handles of a rolling pin. “Gently, sweetie,” urged Grandma Nell. “You need a delicate touch when it comes to pastry.”

“I know,” she tersely replied.

“You should accept the advice of those who are wiser than you,” remarked Koji, who’d stationed himself on top of her grandparents’ refrigerator. Prissie shot him a dark look, which he met with an uncertain smile.

“Lighter,
lighter
, dear,” urged Grandma Nell, demonstrating again with a deft turn of her round of dough. With sure hands, she rolled out the pastry, transferred it into a waiting pie tin and then crimped the edges.

Prissie banged at her lump of dough and sighed in dissatisfaction when the crust tore. With a scowl, she folded it over to try again.

Grandma peered over her shoulder. “You should have just patched it.”

“But it wasn’t
right
!” argued Prissie.

“It’s okay to have a little imperfection,” the older woman tutted.

“I can’t have any mistakes if I’m going to win a ribbon at the fair!” she protested.

“People expect a homemade pie to have a few irregularities. Trying to hide them only makes matters worse because overworking the crust toughens it,” Grandma Nell explained. “Don’t worry so much about how it looks; taste is the important thing.”

“Yours always look perfect,” Prissie pointed out dejectedly.

“I’ve had a few more years of experience,” her grandmother chuckled. “Speaking of taste, have you decided what kind of pie you’re making for the competition?”

“Will the apples from Great-grandma’s trees be ready in time?”

“Oh, I dunno. It’ll be close, but you might find enough ripe apples to work with.”

“I will ask Abner to help if you want,” offered Koji from overhead.

Prissie knew she’d heard that name before. “Who?”

“What, dear?” asked her grandmother, who was mixing up a crumb topping.

She made a shushing motion at the boy and replied, “Grandpa always brags about those apples and the pies his mother made from them.”

Nell’s blue eyes sparkled. “That’s the truth, and for good reason. Pete’s mother loved those trees! Their apples were the secret behind her pink applesauce, which was the prettiest color, and without a drop of food coloring to help things along.”

“I maybe remember it … a little.”

“You were only five when she passed on, but you loved the color pink even then,” Nell smiled. “I’ll see if I can hunt up her recipe. She was real particular about the blend of apples, and that may translate into a winning pie.”

“Shouldn’t I make up my own recipe?” Prissie asked.

Grandma Nell shook a floury finger in her direction. “Those who are smart learn from those who are wise. And it
will
be your own recipe if you’re adapting Mother Pomeroy’s pink applesauce into a pie.”

Prissie’s eyes took on the shine of anticipation. “I want to! Can I?”

“I don’t see why not,” her grandmother said with an indulgent smile. “But first things first, roll out your crust.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Prissie exclaimed, using her rolling pin to give the dough a zealous thump that made Nell — and Koji — wince.

“My pie looks pitiful,” Prissie mourned as she slid it into the oven next to her grandmother’s. “Neil is going to make fun of it; I just know it.”

“I would like to taste your pie,” Koji declared.

“I could probably sneak you a piece,” Prissie offered. “Momma wouldn’t mind.”

“Perhaps … perhaps if I …” the boy began, suddenly looking nervous. “Prissie, if Harken and Shimron obtain permission for a change in my status, would you accept it?”

Prissie couldn’t understand why Koji would need
her
approval for such a thing, but there was no mistaking the hopefulness shining in his dark eyes. Planting her hands on her hips, she asked, “Is it something
you
want?”

“Very much,” he replied seriously.

“Then, why don’t you?”

Koji’s smile was truly beautiful.

Just then, someone rapped smartly on the screen door. No one in the family ever knocked, and most folks who dropped by simply gave a holler, announcing themselves. “Who could that be?” she murmured.

As if in answer, a cheerful voice hailed, “Special delivery!”

Koji hopped lightly from the top of the fridge and darted toward the front porch, calling, “Milo, she agreed!”

Prissie followed much more slowly, wringing a dishtowel between her hands. The mailman waited just beyond the welcome mat in his uniform — a long-sleeved shirt
with the postal service’s logo stitched onto the arm. “Hello, Miss Priscilla,” he greeted, nodding pleasantly at Koji. “I had a feeling you would be here. There’s a package for your grandmother.”

He lifted a parcel about the size of a shoebox, and Koji looked expectantly at Prissie. “Can Milo come in?”

“I guess,” she allowed. “Grandma’s in the garden.”

He nodded. “I’ll wait.”

Koji ignored the uncomfortable silence that snuck into the room and helped things along by interrupting it. “Where is the box from?”

“Spain,” Milo replied.

“Do you know someone in Spain?” the young angel inquired of Prissie.

“My Aunt Ida,” she replied curtly. “It’s where she and Uncle Lo were going next after Portugal.”

The conversation stalled again, but thankfully, Grandma Nell bustled up the path from the garden, a basket under one arm, and a bunch of hydrangeas in her other hand. Milo quickly moved to open the door for her. “Good afternoon, ma’am!”

“Oh, Milo! What a nice surprise!” she exclaimed. “Come on through, and I’ll find you a little something. Prissie, fetch me a vase for these. You know where they are.”

She gladly escaped and took her time choosing from the empty vases lining the shelf over her grandmother’s laundry tub. “Unbelievable,” she grumbled, unhappily patting her flour-streaked apron.

“What do you not believe?” inquired Koji curiously.

Prissie whirled, startled that the young angel had followed her. “Milo’s timing,” she groused.

“His delivery was punctual.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she snapped. “I wasn’t expecting to see him today.”

Koji’s face took on a look of concentration. “I thought you said you were not avoiding him.”

“I’m
not
!” Prissie protested.

“Are you unhappy to see him?”

“N-no, but I’m a mess, and I don’t know what to
say
to him!”

He considered this for a moment before asking, “What would you speak to Milo about if nothing had changed?”

She shrugged moodily. “Things.”

Koji accepted her answer without hesitation. “He would still like to hear about things. I know it.”

When Prissie returned to the kitchen with a cobalt blue vase, Milo was already seated at the table, a tall glass of iced tea and a plate of lemon bars set before him. Grandma turned from the sink where she was rinsing tomatoes and said, “Lovely, sweetie. Now, go sit with Milo, and we’ll have a look into Ida’s box together.”

Trying to hide her nervousness, Prissie slid into the chair next to Milo’s. A glance in Koji’s direction showed that the younger angel had returned to his perch on the refrigerator, which offered a decent view of the proceedings while keeping him out from underfoot.

Grandma Nell bustled over and thumped a red enamel colander and a bowl of freshly picked beans between the two. Without batting an eye, Milo reached for a handful and began snapping the ends off. At Prissie’s startled expression, he smiled. “I’ve been doing this for quite some time. Your grandmother trained me when I first started my route.”

She couldn’t decide whether she should be annoyed that her grandmother had been quietly hogging so much of Milo’s time over the years … or amused at how much the mailman looked like one of her big brothers. They always looked so awkward when Grandma bossed them into helping snap beans or shell peas. “Does she ask you to hunt duck eggs, too?” she asked before she remembered to hold back.

Milo’s eyes took on a sparkle, and he shook his head. “I haven’t been asked to do that yet, but two winters back, I received lessons in knitting.”

“How did that go?” Prissie asked in amazement.

“Not very well,” he admitted.

“Oh, I dunno,” Grandma remarked as she placed the vase of flowers on the counter. “You and Pete had some good visits while you were learning to cast stitches.”

“No argument there,” Milo replied. “Though Harken wasn’t terribly impressed with that lumpy scarf I produced. He thought it looked more like a fishing net!”

Prissie giggled and reached for a handful of beans. “That wasn’t very nice!”

“Maybe not, but sadly, he was right.”

Grandma Nell brought a pair of scissors with her to the table and carefully sliced through the packing tape. She peeled back the heavy brown paper, taking care to save the postmark, then opened the box. Setting aside the letter that had been placed on top of the other items, she murmured, “What have you been up to, my girl?”

Ida’s boxes arrived at regular intervals from cities all over the world, depending on where she and her husband might be visiting. Uncle Loren worked for a missions organization and traveled from church to church, offering encouragement
to the many men and women who served the Lord in faraway places. “Did she send the usual?” Prissie asked.

“Of course,” chuckled Grandma Nell, fishing out a small sheaf of papers and a clear plastic freezer bag from under something folded into tissue paper.

While Pete and Nell Pomeroy loved hearing from their daughter, they didn’t like for her to fritter her money on useless things. Early on, Grandpa had jokingly announced that as a farmer, he was mostly interested in dirt. The first time Ida sent him a small bottle of sand from the shore of Honduras, a tradition was begun. Now Ida always included a soil sample for her father, one for every place she visited.

Grandma’s standing request was for church bulletins. Not all churches used printed announcements, but Ida always found something — a missionary’s photo postcard, conference fliers, or cuttings from local papers. Over the years, Grandma Nell’s collection had grown to include news from many foreign lands in many foreign languages.

Of course, there were always other things as well — small gifts that reminded Prissie of her aunt Ida’s enthusiasm for life, no matter where it took her.

“Oh, look at
this
!” Grandma exclaimed, shaking out a black shawl with a deep fringe. “Spanish lace! Gracious! Ida knows better than to send something this fancy to me!”

In spite of her grumbling, her grandmother looked pleased over the present and swung it around her shoulders with a swirl of the silky tassels.

“It’s pretty, Grandma! You should wear it to church!”

Milo was spared from making any fashion comments by taking a large bite of lemon bar and chasing it down with a
swallow of his tea. However, he reached over and tapped the corner of the bulletin. “May I see?”

“Help yourself,” Grandma Nell replied as she opened her daughter’s letter and unfolded a sheet covered in Ida’s distinctively loopy penmanship. Some smaller cards fell out, and she looked even more excited than she had been about the shawl. “There are recipes this time! Now where are my glasses?”

As her grandmother bustled into the bedroom for her reading glasses, Prissie stole a look at Milo. The mailman had gone back to snapping beans, but his eyes followed the text of the announcements in the church bulletin Ida had sent. “Can you read Spanish?” she asked in surprise.

“Yep,” he replied calmly, then cautiously added, “Language is no barrier for someone like me.”

Prissie knotted her fingers together. The lull was getting awkward again, and she didn’t like it. Taking a deep breath, she asked, “Does it say anything interesting?”

Milo brightened somewhat and pulled the folded paper closer. “This is talking about some services they’ve been having, and how they’ve pulled in some new attendees — folks who’ve never been to church before.”

BOOK: The Blue Door
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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