These are Delores' words from last week.
Drugged, scandalous, frying, clerk, entrance, hidden
What would I do without her?!
“It was scandalous, I tell you! Scandalous!”
The weekly afternoon tea of the local Ladies’ Aid Society was hitting on all cylinders.
Mrs. Petrie had the floor. Currently, she was making her point by jabbing a tiny, half-eaten petit-four in Mrs. Hall’s direction.
Mrs. Hall nodded solemnly, her own cake untouched as she carefully sipped a fresh cup of hot tea.
I watched as Mrs. Petrie took another nibble of the rich frosting, heavy jowls quivering in delight.
“Do you know what happened?” Timid little Mrs. Barry’s soft voice took advantage of the momentary break.
Mrs. Petrie puffed up importantly and launched in again, crumbs of cake flying. “Oh, my dear, I know everything!” she said. She reached for a second petit-four, then a third, and set them carefully on her plate.
I glanced at the laden tray in the center of the table and sighed, praying silently that I’d made enough.
Mrs. Petrie’s stories do tend to go on . . .
“Well . . .” Mrs. Petrie looked around the table, making sure she had collected everyone’s attention. Her voice lowered. “They found her at the entrance to the park!” she said. “Drugged, they said!”
“No!” someone gasped.
“Yes!” Mrs. Petrie’s voice slid up a notch. She stuffed her second cake into her mouth and chewed quickly. “She was wobbling about, hardly able to walk!” She swallowed and reached for more cake. “Her brains are absolutely fried!” She shook her head woefully and pushed in another bite. “They say she’ll never be the same!”
“But that’s awful!” Mrs. Barry said, shocked.
“Oh, my dear, you don’t know the half!” Mrs. Petrie said, her voice lowered again. “They’re saying it was the clerk she’d been seen with! He did it to her!”
Mrs. Harris looked quite shaken. “Do you mean to tell us that that boy gave her . . . drugs?”
Mrs. Petrie nodded, her face grave.
“Oh, but that’s terrible!” Mrs. Butterfield dabbed at an imaginary tear. “What on earth will Margery do?”
“Well I know what I’d do if it was my daughter!” Mrs. Petrie said stoutly. “I’d put her on bread and water for a week!” She stuffed in another cake.
“But her brain!” Mrs. Butterfield said.
“I know!” Mrs. Petrie said. “She’s been absolutely ruined!”
Seven heads shook in sympathy.
I sighed and reached for a cake. The tray was getting perilously empty.
Just then, the door opened.
Seven heads swung around. Seven pairs of eyes speared the newcomer.
“I’m sorry I’m late!” Mrs. Beaker said, breathlessly. “I had to . . .”
She got no further.
“Marjorie!” Three of the ladies had risen to their feet. “We just heard!”
Mrs. Beaker paused in the act of removing her coat, frowning. “Heard what?”
“About your daughter!”
“Oh, that!” Mrs. Beaker laughed. “What a mix-up!”
Several people glanced quickly at Mrs. Petrie, who calmly claimed the last cake and started eating.
“Umm . . . what happened?” Mrs. Barry asked.
“Well, that boy Abby’s been seeing took her for a walk in the park,” Mrs. Beaker said. “Apparently, he’d been planning on surprising her with a proposal.” She smiled.
“What was he proposing?” Mrs. Hall asked suspiciously.
“Marriage!” Mrs. Beaker said.
“What?” Someone drew the question in with a shocked breath.
All eyes turned to the now-silent Mrs. Petrie, who continued to chew solemnly.
“But it was sort of a disaster,” Mrs. Beaker said, seating herself at the table. She glanced briefly at the empty tray, then nodded her thanks as someone filled a cup for her.
I slid my untasted cake in front of her and she nodded again.
“Really?” someone said. Everyone leaned closer. “Do tell!”
“Well, he had hidden the ring somewhere in the park, but, as they were walking, it began to rain.” She took a sip of tea. “Oh, lovely!” she said, smiling at me.
I smiled back.
“Then what happened?” Mrs. Butterfield asked impatiently.
Mrs. Beaker frowned. “Well, as far as I got the story straight, he had to run to the spot where he’d hidden the ring because he was afraid that the rain would wash it away and Abby ran after him and broke the heel off her shoe!” She laughed. “I guess she went down in a heap! By the time he had rescued his ring and his future fiancée, both of them were a little worse for the wear!”
The ladies at the table were silent.
“They staggered out of the park, their arms around each other . . .” Mrs. Beaker laughed again. “I guess it was quite a sight!”
“So . . . no drugs?” Mrs. Hall asked.
Mrs. Beaker frowned. “No. Well, Abby took a couple of painkillers after they had collapsed onto the bench outside the park,” she said. “She had given her ankle quite a turn.” She looked at me. “This cake is divine!”
“Thank you,” I murmured.
“And now, Abby is engaged!”
There were several rather forced expressions of congratulation and, for a few seconds, the other ladies silently sipped and nibbled, casting the occasional accusing glance in Mrs. Petrie’s direction.
Suddenly, the visibly un-repentant woman sucked in a breath. “Oh, girls!” she said. “Did I tell you about Old Man Gunnar?”
All eyes turned toward her.
“Apparently, someone is trying to murder him!”
“Do tell!” someone said.