you're the one who has everything

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An orphaned child

Submitted: August 31, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 31, 2019




You’re the One Who Has Everything

It was past the usual dinnertime, late, because little Isabelle had just finished with the tutor. She and her grandmother sat at the long dining table in silence; the child stared unhappily at the plate in front of her. In the kitchen, Janice, the cook in her twenties, and Mary, the old housekeeper, knew Isabelle didn’t want to eat.

“Last week she tried to run away,” Mary reminded Janice, shaking her head.

“I know.” Here we go again, Janice thought.

“She’s obviously still depressed. And rightfully so. My God, to have caused the death of both her parents, she’s living with unspeakable pain. And talk about depressed, Mrs. Haskell only leaving her bedroom for meals, poor soul. To lose her only child —”

“Mrs. Haskell better get over it if she doesn’t want a nut case for a granddaughter. Besides, I don’t think children get depressed. Anyway,” Janice rolled her eyes, “the kid’s rich now.”

“At her age, money doesn’t mean anything.”

“It would to me if I were in her shoes.” Janice pictured herself being able to stay home and do some really creative cooking, maybe even take a course in cake decorating. “But that was a dumb thing Isabelle did, beyond dumb. What was she ever thinking of? I don’t know if I want to have kids, they’re weird.”

“Kids don’t think ahead to what could happen. Little Isabelle will never get over it,” Mary said, wiping her eyes. “Don’t forget I was Nanny to her mother.”

The two women stood leaning against the counter. Through the kitchen window, the moon began to show on the horizon. The bell rang, summoning the cook to the dining room.

Janice pushed through the swinging doors.


Grandmother Haskell said in a monotone, “Please scramble some eggs.”

“I thought chicken was her favorite,” Janice said, looking at the barely touched meal.

Both grandmother and child stared at her in silence. Janice returned to the kitchen.

“This is going to take all night. It’s late, and my husband will be in bed by the time I get home. Too bad the kid didn’t run away,” Janice said to Mary, not really meaning it. She broke two eggs into a pan, stirred them quickly over a hot flame, and then slid them onto a plate. Backing through the swinging door, Janice set them unceremoniously in front of the child.

“You know she likes catsup,” Grandmother Haskell said with a tired sigh, not seeing the bottle in the cook’s hand. Janice hit the bottom of the bottle with the butt of her palm, covering the eggs with red.

“What do you say?” the grandmother prompted automatically, not raising her eyes from her plate.

“Thank you,” Isabelle whispered.

Grandmother Haskell stood up slowly. “Go upstairs when you’re finished and get ready for bed.” Previously so vibrant, she almost shuffled toward the door, her shoulders rounded. Her hair needed washing.

Back in the kitchen, Janice said, “Isabelle won’t eat that, either.”

“She hardly ever eats anymore,” Mary responded.

“This is going on too long. Mrs. Haskell has aged twenty years. Have you looked at her face? I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before without makeup. The accident was almost three months ago, wasn’t it? I guess I can understand her, but why is the kid still acting this way?”

“That’s a silly question.”

“She’s got about everything a child could ever want.”

 “Except her parents and a normal life,” Mary said, amazed that Janice still didn’t seem to get it.

“Well, right now, I just wish she would go to bed. I never seem to get home before my husband is asleep. That doesn’t do much for our marriage.”

“The child delays over meals because she wants attention. She’s afraid to be alone in her bedroom. I know the feeling,” Mary said.

“Yeah, I know she’s sad, but she’s gotta move on.”

“Isabelle was such a happy child. She’s pathetic now. Look at her.”

“I don’t want to look at her. I want her to leave the table and go to bed.”

“All she wants is for her life to go back to where it was. And I do, too. I mean for Isabelle, of course.”

Janice looked through the small window in the door, wanting to change the subject. “Oh, now see what she’s done. She knocked over her milk.”

“I’ll go clean it up,” Mary offered.

“No, I will.” Janice hurried ahead of her into the dining room. “You should go to bed,” she snapped at Isabelle.

“But Grandma said I have to finish my eggs.”

“They’re floating in milk now.”

The child just stared at the plate.

“I’m not fixing you another meal. You’re finished.” The young cook took the plate and flipped back the messy tablecloth.

Isabelle slid quietly off the elegant chair.

“Why didn’t you let her finish?” Mary asked, as they were cleaning up.

“I said it before, I want to go home. And not in the middle of the night.”

 “It’s not that late.”

“It is for me. She could have eaten the first meal I made.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“I guess you’re right,” Janice agreed, not wanting to continue the conversation.

“You’re lucky,” Mary said. “You’re good-looking and you have a husband waiting for you at home. You’re the one who has everything.”

“Come on. You’ve got a good life, too.”

“Not true. All I have is a rented room and no husband waiting for me. I’ve never been good-looking. The only thing I ever had was being needed in this household. And now I might as well be a piece of furniture.”

Janice interrupted, “Well, I’m out of here. You coming?”

“No, you go ahead,” Mary said.

“Good night, see you tomorrow,” Janice called over her shoulder as the back door closed behind her.

 Mary walked quickly to the pantry, pulling down peanut butter and jelly from the shelf. She put milk to heat for cocoa on the stove, enough for two, and then made a sandwich. At the bedroom doorway she paused, balancing the tray. Little Isabelle sat on the edge of her bed, twisting her fists into her eyes, no tears, no sound. The child’s feet were resting on a lumpy, soiled Raggedy Ann.

Mary set down the tray and soundlessly crossed the distance between them, kneeling before the child.






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