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, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman. To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!
Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten - Installment Eleven - Installment Twelve - Installment Thirteen - Installment Fourteen - Installment Fifteen - Installment Sixteen
THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission
The next day, she kept her appointment to pick up Titus, driving up the hill to Josh and Sheila’s with a freshly-washed cat bed on the passenger seat. It was just 6:00, since she guessed the household would stick to later, more European mealtimes. It seemed she was right; Jaap answered the doorbell wearing a clean white apron and welcomed her in, explaining that he’d just put a cauliflower to braise for dinner. “Well, then,” Tory offered, “I’ll just grab Titus and go.”
“A drink first?” Jaap suggested. “That might give the beast a chance to accustom himself to his new bed. I thought you might be interested in the kitchen here, and could perhaps advise me as to one or two things that are unfamiliar.”
“Oh, of course,” she agreed, and walked with him to the kitchen. Given a choice of cocktail or mocktail, she picked the non-alcoholic one, and was rewarded with a tall, iced elderflower concoction that was light and delicious. Jaap told her he’d brought the cordial syrup with him from the Netherlands, wisely not trusting to find it in rural New Hampshire. “Although I think it’s quite popular in restaurants, now, so you’d probably be able to get it in Boston, and maybe someplace like Walpole,” Tory mused.
Jaap mentioned Thanksgiving, and Tory suggested he might like to arrive an hour or two before the 4:00pm dinner time. She got the impression he would enjoy being part of the preparations for the big meal. Jaap agreed with pleasure, and asked whether he might bring anything to add to the table. They went through the various traditional menu items, and settled on salad as his contribution. It wasn’t an essential element of the meal, Tory reflected, but it was nice to add some color to the largely-beige dinner, plus salad traveled well and no one at her house ever seemed to remember it or have time to throw one together.
“Mr. Max is a great one for vegetables,” Jaap informed her. “He’s not particular at mealtimes, but he does prefer to emphasize nutrition over trends and luxuries. Now Mrs. Winton, who cared for the children when they were little, she seemed to think bread and butter, porridge and potatoes were all children needed to grow strong.”
“Very English of her,” Tory commented.
“Rather Dutch, as well,” her companion said mournfully. “But we had Bep in the kitchen, and she watching cookery shows, and took courses at the – you might say town center, I think – and taught her niece, Sitska, who’s the cook now, that we ought to have greens and citrus and spices and all the rest, not just this stodge and fat. So we eat very well indeed at home.”
“I love the Indonesian spices,” Tory said, remembering the rijsttafel. Jaap beamed.
“Mr. Max, also,” he said. “You know he goes to that area every year or two, as part of Mediciens Sans Frontieres. You know that company? He has always been a great donor to charity. His mother the same, and his father in his day as well.”
“I didn’t know about that,” Tory informed him, impressed. “We call it Doctors Without Borders, and my sister spent two years with them, in Uganda, when she finished med school. Medical school.”
“He has a program for club feet,” Jaap elaborated. “He is very generous. He was since he was a little boy, taking care of his sisters, and standing up for the scholarship children at school. I remember he came home once with his shirt torn, and a cut lip, and asked me to help him tidy himself before he went in to his mother. ‘Fighting is not the right way, Jaap,’ he said to me, ‘but when I saw them bullying Rafik, I had to help him. Another time, I shall be there in time to be sure no one starts anything.’ He was twelve, maybe eleven.”
Jaap paused to contemplate the memory of a young Mr. Max, and Tory tried to imagine him as he’d been then. Even allowing for Jaap’s prejudice, she could believe he’d been special from an early age.
“There have always been rescue dogs, cats, once a donkey at the house in Friesland,” Jaap spoke again. Tory checked the time, suddenly guilty. “Speaking of dogs,” she said, “I’ve really got to get home to mine. Titus seems content in his bed, so I’ll just carry him out that way.”
Of course, Jaap insisted on seeing her to her car, holding doors and closing them again, and assuring her he looked forward to seeing Titus and her, and meeting the rest of the clan, in three days. She smiled and waved and drove away, glancing down to ensure the cat was still settled. He was. “I love donkeys,” she remarked to him. The handsome calico readied himself for a snooze, and evinced no opinion.