Have a great weekend everyone, stay safe, whatever you do...
Chapter 4 - ends
As delicate and refined as the woman appeared, for the second time since meeting her Karl realized that there was nothing at all delicate in the way she consumed her food. She tucked into her food like one who had been hungry many times in her lifetime. She left nothing behind; not a spot, not a crumb. He had never seen a woman eat this way in all his life. She ate like a hungry thresher! He couldn’t help the smile that briefly flickered across his face as he watched her polish off the large bowl of porridge.
Emilie looked up and found her new employer smiling at her. The appearance of unexpected merriment transformed his face, making him seem much younger than before. She smiled back at him and felt the softening that relaxed his features as he continued to hold her gaze.
“Dada, I am Emilie’s teacher,” Raymond’s high-pitched voice shattered the moment.
Karl turned his attention to his son. “You are her teacher?”
“Yes. Annie said I should be Emilie’s teacher, because she talks funny!”
“Son, Emilie does not talk funny; she just talks with an accent, that’s all.”
“What’s that?” Raymond was determined to understand why Emilie talked the way she did.
“What’s what?” Karl’s forehead puckered in the frown that he so often wore.
He is a good father, Emilie thought to herself as she watched the exchange between father and son. Emilie knew instinctively that Karl held an abundance of bitterness deep inside his heart, but watching him with his children, a very different man emerged. With them he was gentle, patient, kind. He might have had a horrible marriage, like Martha had implied; but he loved his children more than life itself, that much was plainly evident.
“It’s just a word for speech that sounds different to what we are used to, Ray.”
“Well it sounds funny to me.”
Karl apologized for his son’s ignorance with an expression that painted his face a deep crimson.
“Maybe Emilie can be your teacher too, Ray. Maybe she will teach you to speak German.”
“Will you Emilie? Raymond’s smile lit the cozy little kitchen. “Will you teach me German?”
“Yes Raymond, I’d be happy to be your teacher.” She smiled at his excitement and knew that she and Raymond would get along just fine.
“Mamma!” Anne-Marie held her empty bowl and spoon for Emilie to take away. All conversation stalled as the impact of Anne-Marie’s one voiced word made its way around the table.
Each person seated at the table had their own reaction to that one innocently spoken word. For Emilie it was embarrassment that she could be so easily mistaken for the deceased mother of the young child. Karl, felt incredible shock; firstly because it was the first word his daughter had uttered since the death of her mother, and secondly; because the woman who Annie-Marie had just called “Mamma” was not in any way like the mother the young child remembered. Raymond’s face, registered confusion upon hearing a word that had not been spoken in his home for many months.
Emilie reached to remove the empty bowl from the child’s outstretched hands all the while trying to think of something to say in response to the child’s quietly spoken declaration. She glanced nervously at Karl, only to find the same look of confusion on his face that must have registered on hers. He shrugged his shoulders and rose from the table, taking his and Raymond’s dishes with him. He moved to the sink and carelessly tossed the dishes in the enamel wash pan waiting there, then returned and removed Anne-Marie’s bowl from Emilie’s hand.
“I’m sorry” he said so softly that Emilie could barely hear his words. “She’s so young…”
Emilie sprang into action. Jumping up from her chair she wiped Anne-Marie’s face and hands then released the little girl from her high chair. Anne- Marie ran from the room as fast as her chubby little legs could take her, her face aglow with happiness, totally unaware of the indecorum of her softly spoken word.
Raymond left the table as well and would have followed his sister into the small living room, but Emilie stopped him before he had a chance to leave the room.
“Raymond, I think maybe you forgot to wipe your hands. Come and let Emilie do it for you,” she gently scolded the child. His eyes swung to his father’s as if to say, “Can she do this?” and when his father made no comment he shrugged his shoulders and complied with Emilie’s request.
As they watched Raymond leave to finally join his sister, Emilie said softly, “I don’t think Anne-Marie meant anything by what she said.”
“I don’t think so either, but if she says it again, we’d better correct her.”
He sensed that his new housekeeper was not in agreement, but she surprised him by nodding her head. For one fleeting moment he wondered what kind of a mother this young German woman would make to his children. He was almost certain that she would never leave them as their own mother had, but he quickly pushed the notion firmly from his mind as his thoughts strayed to his deceased wife.
Death was unavoidable, but his children’s mother had left them long before she had left this earth. She had stopped caring, stopped loving, and stopped mothering those two long before she had had drawn her last breath, and because of that he could never again entrust the lives of his children to another woman they could call mother. No, it was better for them to have a housekeeper who could perform all the duties of a mother, someone’s love they would not come to depend upon. He would not see their small hearts broken ever again, this he vowed as he followed his children’s laughter that filled the small confines of his imperfect world.