65 When Troubles Melt

It was bedtime. Poppy and Pansy snuggled on either side of Mrs. James as she read The Wizard of Oz, interpreting the chapter that finds Dorothy held prisoner by the Wicked Witch of the West. It was a longer book than most people imagined, those who had only ever seen the film. As the girls had impossibly, in her mind, never seen that movie and were completely new to the story, Mrs. James held in her hands an annotated version complete with notes, maps, and multiple drawings to enhance their reading experience.Chapter 65 When Troubles Melt

Bedtime stories offer much opportunity for confidences. These ought never to derail the narrative, only supplement it, Mrs. James theorized. The end of a chapter thus forms a conversational bridge toward the next. That is why picture books have shorter chapters and why in the best ones, the page must be turned to begin again.

Poppy, whose namesake flower in scarlet abundance had in a recent chapter caused a great sleep to envelop the travelers, asked, “Do you think if Dorothy could just get that witch to breathe in some poppies to make her fall asleep, then she and Toto could escape? Can you send poppies to people, like you can other flowers?”

“Poppies will last as cut flowers for a while, when properly cared for.” Mrs. James knew it was important to provide facts in answers. “But there may not be enough of them in one bouquet to cause sleepiness. We’ll have to see if Dorothy can find another way out of her predicament.” Pansy was miffed because there were no pansies in the story.

“Dad told us he sent flowers to that nasty girlfriend of his, that Kitty one, because he’s not going to see her for awhile.” Mrs. James was very pleased at this development but far too prudent to comment, preferring to wait to hear what they thought about it.Ā  “He said he hoped she didn’t have any hard feelings. I’m not sure what that means.”

“Usually when you send flowers to someone, you write a note on a little card to say what you hope will happen.” Mrs. James put two and two together; maybe it was these flowers that been sent down the drain, with many a hard feeling indeed, but then ‘diverted’ onto the floor instead, causing the reported problem on the meeting room ceiling.

“Too bad the message wasn’t ‘Sleep tight,’ like you say to us.” Poppy remarked, sticking to her theme. ” Anything, as long as it makes her go away. He told us it was so he could spend more time with us.”

“Instead of her,” piped in Pansy.

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy spending more time with your father. Let’s see how Dorothy is coming along with getting back to her family.” They read on, and in due course came to the confrontation between Dorothy and the witch.

“Is that all it took?” Pansy was amazed. “Just drenching her with a plain old bucket of water?” Poppy laughed, delighted by the simplicity of this solution.

“We could have tried that, if we’d known. Maybe that’s why she never went swimming with us and just sat watching. She gave us these really mad looks if any of us tried to splash her.” Mrs. James paused to consider the curiosity of this, a lifeguard who apparently never entered the water; perhaps her idea of swimming was just an excuse to preen at the water’s edge. Pansy was gleeful.

Of the few indoor condo pools, some feature natural light and seating on the deck.

Of the few indoor condo pools, some feature natural light and seating on the deck.

“We could have melted her right on the spot!”

“When Dorothy, without knowing that was how to do it, melted the witch, she made her go away. In a way, that’s happened to you, too.” observed Mrs. James. Pansy looked puzzled.

“You mean we made Dad’s girlfriend go away?

“Won’t he be mad at us?” Poppy looked worried.

“Apparently, your father decided that he preferred your company. That is his own choice, so he would not blame you for it. As to Miss Doyle, it sounds as though she will soon be vanishing, a kind of melting away from your life, and with nary a flower nor a bucket in sight.”

“But she’ll be mad at us, for sure. She’ll still be living here.”

“Well that’s as maybe. But when you are here, you are always with either your father or with me, aren’t you? So there’s nothing to worry about, at all. Anyway, there are people living in this building whom I never see from one association meeting to another, that is, if they attend. There are even a few residents I’ve never even met, much less bump into on a regular basis. You’ll be fine.”

“If I see her again,” Pansy proposed, “I will just keep thinking ‘Splash, poof!’ and imagine her disappearing.”

“You’re starting to sound like a witch yourself.” Poppy teased.

“Maybe, but at least I’d be a good witch, not a bad witch.” Pansy retorted.

“Well, it’s high time you were both tucked in. Tomorrow we have a busy day, remember?”

“We put our pet questionnaire under everyone’s doors.” Poppy exaggerated. “Finally!”

“Gertie’s printing the flyers and will bring them down in the morning.”

“And we have to think of a recipe from our family.” Pansy chimed in. “Does it have to be something we make first, or can it be something we just like?”

“The general idea is to contribute a recipe you’ve tried at least once, like, and want to share, yes.”

“So when we decide, we can make it with you, tomorrow?”

“Depending on what it is, and whether we’ll need extra ingredients, yes.”

“Let’s make cupcakes.” Poppy suggested.

“We already have a few cupcake entries. They’re popular. How about tarts, instead?”

“Have we ever had those? What’s in them, mostly?”

“‘Mostly pepper.” said the cook.”

“That’s from a book, isn’t it?” guessed Pansy.

“Right you are – from Alice in Wonderland – and we can read that, next. It has a tea party that never ends.”

“Can we have a tea party?” they echoed. Pansy warmed to the idea. “With people that come here and eat cupcakes and tarts, with us? But with milk and soda, instead of tea?”

“Perhaps we could just about manage all three.”

“So, whats in them, really?” This was an undisguised attempt at postponing settling down.

“Treacle.”

“Mrs. James!!” they protested.

“They are like little pies, that you can eat in two or three bites, like a cookie. Now,” giving the last of several hugs and kisses, “sleep tight.”

Mrs. James thought, like Mrs. Darling sorting out her children’s’ minds, that this idea – a tea party open house – could be an excellent way to re-introduce or launch, as Gertie would say, the cookbook. She also speculated, as she set about putting her place to rights for the evening, whether Greg’s decision to spend more time with Poppy and Pansy would mean that she would be spending less, and if her hours with them would be changed. She’d become quite accustomed to this routine and the shape it gave to her week. He’d be having to discuss this with Georgia, and Gina’s times might be changed, as well. She couldn’t help but speculate how that conversation might go, with what degree of acceptance his growing sense of responsibility could be met. A lot of things seemed to be changing at once, except her own fondness for the girls. That had come with the territory, a nanny’s occupational hazard.