The Taverner Chronicles: First Ventures, One
And now we return to the beginning of the story; in February of 1933. I'm going to write this serial in tune with the months; hence whatever season it is in real life, so it shall be in the story!
...let me know what you think!
It was one of those cold, February days that kick and bite at any and all, forcing everyone to gather around warm fires without the intention of leaving. Gianna and her brother Andrew were indeed huddled close to the parlor fire, bundled in blankets, sweaters, and anything they could find that was remotely warm. Gianna stirred and looked at the clock on the mantlepiece.
'Are any of them home yet?'
Andrew smirked in his usual fashion and pulled his blanket closer around his shoulders.
'No, otherwise they'd be in here with us. It's beastly cold in the rest of the house!'
Gianna rolled her eyes.
'Thanks for telling me, genius.'
Andrew flashed her a look, but realized that she was in no state to argue. Cold twelve-year-olds aren't very patient, and besides, she usually won, so he kept his tongue in check and merely contented himself with staring moodily into the fire.
A sound from the foyer alerted the two and got them to their feet. As they went for the door, Gianna whispered,
'Who do you think it is?'
'Probably Dad or Millie, Mum's never back this early.'
But as they opened the door, they were surprised to find their mother stamping her feet in the foyer. When she saw them, she smiled wearily and opened her arms to them. In spite of the cold, they both gave her hugs, realizing that something must have gone wrong. Andrew's thoughts raced.
Nothing could go wrong now, not with things as bad as they were!
Mrs. Taverner noticed the anxious look on his face and shook her head. He nodded, realizing that she did not want him to say anything in front of Gianna. The three retreated into the warm parlor, where Gianna helped her mother to take her wet things off. As she sank into the comfortable easy chair before the fire, Mrs. Taverner looked at Gianna in earnest.
'You know what would make me feel so much better dear? A cup of tea.'
Gianna sprang into action, running out of the room and slamming the door behind her. Almost as soon as she had left, Mrs. Taverner took a hold of her son's hand.
'Don't assume the worst, Andrew. I've only lost my place at Williams' store-'
'Only lost your place? But you worked so hard to get that job!'
'Andrew. Listen to me.'
Andrew bit his lip. It was hard to keep in all the anger that he felt, but he knew that he would have to restrain himself for his mother's sake. She was close to tears as it was now, and he could see that she was trying hard to be brave.
'Mr. Williams is hard pressed for money himself, and he and I decided that it was best that I left.'
'What will you do now?'
She didn't reply, only looked at her son with a desperate look.
'Things will get better in the spring, you'll see.' was all she could think of to say.
The two stood in silence. What could be done? Work was getting harder and harder to find, and the loss of another job was almost crushing now.
'Oh, come now, look at us so glum!' Mrs. Taverner ventured, after a few moment's silence, 'We mustn't let Gianna see us so crestfallen!'
Andrew tried to look cheerful, but it was nearly impossible with such a hard thing pressing on his mind. Gianna presently came into the room, bearing a little tray with the tea service.
'I had to re-use the leaves again, mother- but I think it tastes much better when you use them over.'
Andrew brought a small table to his mother's side and Gianna put the tray on it.
'Why thank you, dear! I haven't had a cup all day, this is just what I needed!'
Once again, Andrew was both amazed and proud of his mother's ability to almost entirely mask her pain. She chatted away with Gianna about the goings on of the day, what was to be made for dinner, and so on- without a hint of the hard conversation that had only just transpired in the very same room. He sighed and realized that the hard times they were going through had only brought them all closer together.
'Andrew! I've something to tell you!'
He awoke from his thoughts and immediately paid attention to his mother.
'Children, I have a surprise for you.'
'A surprise!' Gianna cried, 'Where is it? When can we have it?'
'You need to wait until your sister comes home from her work, and then I'll tell you where it is.'
Andrew didn't know what to say. In spite of all their adversity, their mother still managed to rummage a surprise for them... but what kind of a surprise? Surely it couldn't be presents, for they could hardly afford to buy new tea leaves! He smiled at his mother and laid a hand on her shoulder. Gianna, on the other hand, was at the front window, peeling her eyes for Millie's return.
'She won't be home for another hour at least, Gi!' Andrew said.
Gianna looked incredulously at her brother.
'I know that, but sometimes on Tuesdays she comes home early. Maybe she will this time too.'
Andrew knew that she would doggedly persist in watching until Millie came home, much to the detriment of the tempers of those around her, so he decided to wait in his own room.
During the winter, the Taverner's moved their bedrooms downstairs so that they wouldn't have to carry precious fuel to the second floor and conserve it at the same time by only heating a small number of rooms. Andrew had the morning room, which was set aside from the other rooms by a small corridor. This suited him well.
When he entered his room, he immediately grabbed another sweater from his dresser and pulled it over himself. It was almost like an icebox in the room, but it was better than having to put up with Gianna's impatience.
One thought stayed in his mind... what was this surprise?
And why did he have such a strange feeling about it?