Monday, April 21, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Three, part two

In chapter one, American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States.  In chapters two and three, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village in time for an early snowstorm.

Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter Three, part 2:

Forty minutes later, she heard the doctor’s car pull up to her house, and was glad she hadn’t dawdled over her shower and change of clothes.  She’d made time, though, to flick on some mascara and whisk a pale gloss across her lips.  She pulled on her heavy tweed coat, tweaked a beret into place, grabbed her purse, and pulled open the front door to find Max on the doorstep, reaching for the heavy brass knocker.
“Hello again,” she greeted him.  “That needs polishing.”  Digging gloves from her pockets, she missed seeing him grin.
“Hello again, yourself,” he answered.  “You’re admirably prompt, and your hair looks glorious.  Do you bring your own prayer book?”
Taken aback by his compliment – mousey hair rarely gets described as glorious – Tory had to think about the question for a moment.  “My mother does, but I don’t even own one.  I think Neil’s the only one of us who does; his godmother took her work seriously. But he doesn’t bring it; we’re regular enough churchgoers that we know most of the words, and Neil’s not shy about mumbling when needed.”
“I hope I get to meet him one day,” Max murmured.  Then, louder, he asked, “Neil is your brother?  The one who has made use of Josh Brown’s services?”
“Yes; he and Emma – they’re twins – both ski and snowboard competitively.  Sometimes maybe too competitively.  Collarbones and shoulders and tibias and ankles and one quite drastic femur.  That was Emma’s.  It’s not really a bad record, when you consider they’re almost thirty.”  Tory was confused to see that the doctor was coming around to the passenger side of the car with her, and boggled slightly when he opened her door for her.  “Oh,” she exclaimed, and tried to recover with a more subdued, “thank you.”  Shoulders shaking, he closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side while she buckled her safety belt.
He seemed to be quite familiar with the route, though she volunteered a suggestion or two.  Other than that, conversation was minimal, and the silence perfectly comfortable.  ‘That’s because it’s not a date,’ Tory thought to herself.  ‘If it were, I’d be struggling to seem interesting.’  Rather than struggle, she contented herself with watching the passing trees, checking on neighbors’ shoveling progress, and enjoying the comfort of the powerful, well-padded car.  “Rear-wheel drive,” she announced, speaking a thought aloud.  “Mercedes are always rear-wheel drive.”
“My friend Jaap arrives tomorrow to housekeep for me,” the doctor replied, “and he’ll have a Land Rover for us.  I’m not entirely impractical.”
‘Just stinking rich,’ Tory thought, and felt a guilty pang immediately as the church steeple came into view.  ‘But it wasn’t judgmental,’ she reasoned.  ‘Only an observation, really.’  As he parked the car, she reminded herself of the old-fashioned courtesy he’d offered in holding the car door for her, and except for unbuckling her seat belt, kept still after he cut the engine.  Sure enough, he swung his long legs from the driver’s seat, then walked around to her side and opened the door for her.  Despite feeling self-conscious, she managed to exit the car, one hand on his, without stumbling, dropping anything, banging into her companion or otherwise disgracing herself and her athletic family.  ‘Although,’ she reflected as they entered the lovely old white-clapboard building, ‘he’d be a decent person to bump.’  Sitting down, she stifled the thought and stilled her mind for the service.

Soothed and centered by the ancient liturgy and rites, Tory rose for the processional, enjoying the rumble of the doctor’s deep baritone beside her.  After the benediction, they began their shuffling exit.  Max complimented Mr. Rourke on his sermon regarding humility, and Tory led the way to the parish hall for coffee hour.  “We should spend a few minutes, anyway,” she explained to the doctor.  “It’s not a large congregation, and we’re always very excited to see each other, let alone guests.”  That time she did notice the sudden quirk of Max’s lips, and his dropped eyelids, but had no chance to ask what he’d found funny before old Mrs. Tambor from the Altar Guild pounced.
Fortunately for the doctor’s sense of privacy, neither she nor any of the long-time parishioners who followed her were as interested in him as they were in talking about themselves.  Tory made an introduction or two and then wandered away to find a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun, leaving Max to stories of grandchildren, cataracts and snowstorms past.  Glancing at him from across the room, she thought of an ocean-side cliff, massive and reliable as the waves of elderlies eddied around him.  Not a perfect analogy, she realized, but a vivid one.  After fifteen minutes or so, she returned to offer him tea and a chance to leave, and he took both graciously, leaving an interested murmur behind as they walked toward the door.
“A very welcoming group,” he observed as they stepped outside.  “Thank you for introducing me.”
“I hope you don’t mind,” Tory said, “I mentioned to a few people that you’re here to cover for Josh.  After she talked to you, Mrs. Tambor came over fishing for information, and she’d gotten the idea that you were staying at our house or something, so I wanted to straighten that out before the game of telephone could start.”
He looked at her quizzically, and she explained the children’s game of a whisper chain, where the sentence the final player hears can be dramatically different from the one the first player whispered.  “Aha,” Max nodded.  “Gossip.”
Tory laughed.  “I suppose,” she said, “but that’s got a very negative connotation, doesn’t it?  I’m just thinking about people chatting; keeping each other up on the local news.”
“In fact, a valuable social function.  And research certainly seems to be moving toward a conclusion that interaction with others, and especially forming intimate relationships, is vital for longevity in good health.  Though exchanging information about a newcomer to the community hardly qualifies for intimacy.”
“No, but it may be a step in the process.  And that kind of deep relationship is really valuable, but I suspect any engagement in the social web is useful.  From my candy-striping through my hospital clinicals and now at Dr. Bachman’s, I see so many people I wish I could prescribe a couple of friends for.  It’s not just old people, either.  We get people in their twenties and thirties who are just doing so much, or focusing on one goal, like a fast-track career or raising super-children or even just buying a Camaro or whatever that they’re giving themselves blood pressure problems, stress injuries, digestion issues...  I want to  sit them down and tell them to spend ten minutes patting a dog before they can leave.”
Max’s rich laugh enlivened the chilly air for a moment, and Tory smiled at the friendly sound.  “I want to tell you a bit about my research,” he said, “but I’m not sure where we’ll be going.  Do we want the car?”
Recalled to the purpose of their outing, Tory declined the car and swept an arm before her to show Max the small town center.  “Just down the hill,” she said, “is pretty much everything we offer, except groceries, which are to the west on Pleasant Street.  Otherwise, we’ve got the library, yoga, several burger and pizza options, beer and plenty of antiques.  A lot of places don’t open on Sundays, especially in the winter, and some close down completely for the season in mid-October, and don’t open again until April or May.  Restaurants are mostly pizza and burgers; the diner will give you breakfast all day, and it’s a pretty good one.  Real eggs, from shells.”
“Should I ask what other kinds of eggs there are?” Max inquired doubtfully.  Tory paused a moment, pursed her lips and shook her head.  “Well,” he responded, eyes twinkling, “shall we take a bit of a look around, or do you need to get back home?”
“Oh, I’m always happy to poke through a few shops,” Tory assured him, and they headed down the hill together.


  1. What a lovely surprise--asking about a personal copy of the BCP. My sister is an Episcopal priest. That post-service coffee and gossip for the elderly is so true!

    Loved the snarky thoughts and guilt as the steeple comes into sight. :)

    Thanks for another charming installment.

    Catherine (a Betty van den Wasatch)

  2. Utterly charming. What a treat to have another installment so soon.

  3. Thank you for this installment. It served the function Betty Neels books so often did - offered amusement, comfort and distraction from a wicked and unexpected sore throat. The contemporary sensibility is terrific!

  4. That was fast, Betty van den Betsy. As Betty Shanda said, "Utterly charming". I cannot wait to see what Tory and Max are up to next! Who they will meet...

  5. Life After Betty

    Lisa Kleypas, Rainshadow Road

    From the beginning on, I was reminded of Betty novels, sometimes I was fairly tickled (whatever that means) by the similarities. Tickled pink.

    Heroine: Lucy, glass artist, had lived with her boyfriend Kevin who owns a landscaping business for two years.

    On page 18, Kevin comes to her studio and tells her it isn’t working for him. Them. He’d been talking to someone about it, got closer, it’s not Lucy’s fault, it’s not his fault, the person is her sister and, oh, could she find another place to live a.s.a.p. ‘cause her sister wants to move in?

    The Sister: Alice, little script writer

    Typical evil sister/evil Veronica attributes:

    • taking, taking, taking – taking everything as her due
    • selfish, spoilt rotten ever since she had meningitis when she was five (and Lucy seven) years of age
    • her parents give her money even when she has a job.
    clattering stacked bracelets
    stealing her sister’s boyfriend

  6. Right after Kevin broke up with her, Lucy goes for a ride on her threespeed bike, a turquoise vintage Schwinn, with a flowered basket on the handlebars. On the beach, she has her first meeting with the hero who coming from a family with two alcoholics for parents believes in nostrings affairs and nothing but.

    Hero: Sam, vintner/grape grower/winemaker
    • lives in a renovated Victorian house adorned with gables, balustrades, a central cupola, and a widow's walk
    • with his brother Mark and their orphaned niece Holly whom they raise
    • and Renfield, a rescue dog, an English bulldog with health problems whom they had adopted when noone else had wanted him

    Surprise, surprise. For the first time since Alice had meningitis, her mother takes Lucy’s side. Stealing Lucy’s boyfriend is a no go. No money coming from their parents towards the wedding. Wedding? Yes, our little manipulator Alice had put the thumbscrews on Kevin when she lost her job. Ever practical... So she made Kevin find a guy to romance her sister so mom and dad would pay. Sam owes him, so he makes Sam say yes to the scheme. Sam is not averse to dating Lucy a couple of times. He tells Lucy upfront about Kevin’s scheme so all is on the up and up. And they both know Sam doesn’t do commitment...

    If you ever wish to read Rainshadow Road, know there is real magic in it

    If you ever wish to read Rainshadow Road, be warned there is a lot of talk of Brighton, but, thankfully, only a few Brightonish scenes. You can see the first one coming. So if you start thinking, "Hey, he’s not going to... " He is. Start turning the pages if you want to avoid it.

    If you ever wish to read Rainshadow Road, don’t read the summary on the back. If you do read it, know it is to be taken with a grain of salt – make that a whole salt shaker: Lucy is not engaged to be married, so Kevin is not her fiancĂ©, he’s her boyfriend. If things become complicated between Lucy and Sam it has nothing to do with Kevin. The last sentence – And when Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretences, her world is shattered, and she is forced to question everything. – is pure fiction on the blurb writer’s part. There were never any false pretences to begin with.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Betty Anonymous. I immediately found a copy of Rainshadow Road and I really enjoyed it. I’m fine with the Brightonish parts in a non-Betty book. Not a magic fan myself, but hey, it works in this book. Anyone else have Bettyish authors to recommend?

      Also, earlier question about mentions of France in Bettydom-I’m pretty sure the evil stepmom and stepsister (Lilith?) in Tabitha in Moonlight were last seen headed to Paris. (Ala Thelma and Louise in the most excellent review, which also features a Paul Newman illustration for those oil stained shorts. Yum)

  7. Widow's Walk

    ♫ It's a small world after all... ♫ I was looking for pictures of the diner Tory mentioned in the story and found a widow’s walk in Bristol, a building typical for the Victorian era, the HENRY WHIPPLE HOUSE Bed & Breakfast Est. 1904.

    1. Why anyone would want a widow's walk in Bristol, New Hamster (as I like to call it), is an unfathomable mystery to me. Widow's walks were designed for stay-at-home spouses to scan the far horizons looking for their shipboard spouses returns from the sea. Bristol has a fair-sized lake, but any rowboat could get across it in an hour or two. Maybe the putative widow was looking out for a hot-air balloonist...?

  8. Oh, my dear Betty, this is simply wonderful! Thank you!