*The Hiding Place

IMG_5669.jpgShortly after the babe’s first month, Aunt Agnes came for a visit and asked to take her namesake for a walk in the pram. Being a particularly cold March day, the infant was bundled in thick blankets, knit with the wool from the family’s flock of sheep. Hours passed and they didn’t return. As dusk gave in to darkness the family became worried and sent two of the older girls in search of their aunt and sister.

They looked around the neighborhood, peering in windows and tapping at doors. The town square and shops in the village were deserted; everyone had gone home to their supper. The lone shop-keeper that was just closing for the night had sold Agnes a full set of baby clothes and a bottle with a nipple imported from America a few weeks earlier, saying that she was going to be caring for her goddaughter soon.

The sisters glanced at each other and took off running for their Aunt’s house, another mile down the road and behind the Presbyterian Church. When they arrived, they found the house empty and the hearth cold. They called out but heard no reply so they ventured into the backyard. A small puff of smoke was barely visible through the thick moss covering the gardener’s shed built against the stone cottage. The girls tiptoed to the lace curtained window to peek inside.

The bare workspace had been transformed into a cozy hiding place with rugs on the floor and polished wood furnishings. A cot and washbasin were tucked into a corner and a bassinet sat by the glowing fireplace. Aunt Agnes was rocking the baby, singing softly, when her nieces gently opened the door.

The sisters quietly took their sister and walked back home.

Agnes didn’t visit her sister, nieces or nephews again until Christmas. She arrived bearing gifts for all, and extra-special ones for her goddaughter, as if the incident with the infant had never happened. And no one brought it up.

The baby had been nicknamed “Ginger” for her head of gorgeous flaming red curls and would never be referred to as “Agnes” outside of school. She was the favorite of her siblings, who didn’t mind her being spoiled by her godmother over the years.

On Easter Monday, 1939, Agnes helped her goddaughter dress for her wedding in a smart carmel-colored wool suit and matching hat. The fox fur lining the jacket collar and cuffs had been her gift. Ginger, having heard the story about her “kidnapping” had never had the nerve to ask her Aunt for the real story.  Now she did.

Agnes’ answer was simple. “Ach, my sweet Agnes. Your parents had 11 other children and I had none. I didn’t think they’d miss you. And you know,  you will always be mine.”

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Written for the To Live & Write in Alameda June 2019 “Flash Lit” Challenge #1. We had three days to write a poem or short story (of 500 words or less) or create a piece of art to the theme “The Hiding Place” and post the link in our group. 

 

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