(1 of 1. Originally posted on January 19, 2024 for the prompt “Mrs. Grumplestone’s Visit.”)
“Mrs. Rumple is in town.”
Jeffry and Jenny groaned in perfect harmony.
“I know how the two of you feel about your old nanny, but she cared for you as if you were her own children,” Mrs. Evans fixed her twins with a stern look. “I’ve invited her for tea. And you two will be on your best behavior.”
“Why is she even here?” Jeffry grumbled.
“She is here on private family business. Whatever her reasons, we are going to make her feel welcome.” Mom tapped her finger on her lips. “In fact, you two are going to make cookies. It’s the least you can do, to thank her for the Christmas gifts she sent.”
Jenny slouched into the kitchen, muttering under her breath, with Jeffry close behind. Her stream of protests increasing in volume proportionate to her distance from adult ears.
“Christmas gifts? Only the ugliest pair of knit socks I’ve ever seen. They don’t even fit.”
“Cared for us?” Jeffry chimed in as they pulled ingredients out of the cupboards. “Right. Like a guard cares for prisoners. She never let us do anything fun.”
Jenny set a couple of mixing bowls on the table. “I’ve met stones that were more pleasant than that old witch.”
“I think she was carved from stone.”
Jeffry snickered. “And she griped about everything. Remember how she screeched when she caught us playing by the river? She didn’t let us leave the house for a week after that.”
Jeffry laughed so hard, milk splashed over the edges of the pitcher he was holding. “Maybe we should ‘accidentally’ add salt instead of sugar. Can you picture the look on her face?”
Jenny sucked in her cheeks and puckered her lips, sending Jeffry into another laughing fit. More milk slopped onto the floor.
“Great, now I have to clean this up.” Jeffry set the pitcher down and went to the sink to get a towel. He happened to glance out the kitchen window, and saw a woman walking through the abandoned lot next door. “Hey, didn’t Mrs. Rumple used to live in that old house beside us?”
“I think I just saw her walking through the yard, going behind the house.”
Jenny ran up next to him, standing on her toes to look out. “Are you sure it was her? What is she doing?”
Jeffry shrugged. “Catching frogs for her witch’s brew? I don’t know.”
The twins exchanged a look, then turned as one and raced out the back door. They tromped across the weedy neighboring lot up to the old house, slid alongside the rotting boards, and peered around the corner, gripping each other’s arms.
Mrs. Rumple knelt, the hem of her wrinkled calico dress squashed into the mud, in front of two small headstones. She pulled a tiny pair of knit socks out of her bag and laid them in front of the markers. She rested her palms on the earth and doubled over, weeping.
Jeffry and Jenny backed away, and slipped into their house. In silent agreement, they made the best cookies they’d ever made in their lives.