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Sharing the Love (Of Baked Goods)


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Mature Content: No

With: Clara and Emmeline
Location: Lickskillet Diner
When: Fall, mid week
Time of Day: Mid afternoon

 

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Clara had finished her time at the Lost Lake Ranch, caring for the twins of course. She normally got a wagon ride back to her farm home a few miles outside of town. But on this day she had informed the driver that she had business in town, not to worry about her, and saw to it she was dropped off on what served as Main Street of Kalispell.  In one hand she clutched a small gunny sack, amply bulging. She was coming to this baking session prepared, as was her style.

 

The timing was rather fortuitous as when she stepped inside the place, there were currently no customers. Probably anyone eating lunch had long ago finished and left and it was too early yet for most folk to partake of supper. Perfect! That would mean the two of them could concentrate on the point of her visit - baking! She was excited actually. Not that showed on her youthful features though, that was not Clara.

 

"Hello? Miss Emmeline?" she called out.

 

@Bongo

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Emeline was in the kitchen, just finishing up with the dishes when she heard the call, so she set aside the plate she was rinsing and headed into the main dining room, drying her hands on her apron.  "Can I help...oh, Clara!  How good to see you!"

 

She'd been expecting the young woman, but wasn't sure exactly when, and now was as good a time as any.  "Are you here to eat, or did you want to do some baking?"  She'd surely be happy for the company, and had little doubt that she might learn something from the girl.  "I'm just finishing up dishes from lunch, and I have supper started, so I was just getting to my desserts."

 

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The woman soon appeared from a back room, greeting her with some enthusiasm which pleased Clara indeed.

 

"It is nice to see you too, Miss Emmeline. Hope my timing is satisfactory,"  she replied.

 

As to the woman's question, Clara made it clear, "Oh I am here for the baking. Like we discussed." 

 

It seemed the timing was excellent as the woman was only getting set to start on desserts.

 

"Perhaps I can assist you then in that endeavor," the girl offered, but there was more, "Oh, I have some apples with me. Thought we could use them for a pie or cobbler. Whatever you fancy." She held up her small gunny sack.

 

"I also brought my own apron."

 

 

@Bongo

 

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"Oh, wonderful!  And fresh apples are great."  Emeline smiled as she turned back toward the kitchen.  "I've got some preserves but no fresh fruit for today."  She glanced back at the young woman.  "Cobbler or pie are fine, or I was thinking of experimenting with turnovers, something men can take with them to eat later...I've been thinking on meat pies, too, and providing packed lunches that folks can just grab and take for later."

 

Certainly, boxed lunches would be an idea for people who had to go to work, or were traveling, and maybe one day she could contract with the train company and stage line to provide those at the stations.

 

"I think I have everything we'd need for whatever we decide."

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

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The woman was glad for the apples, Clara was pleased her gift had been a success then. It got the pair off on the right foot then, even Clara had to admit she did not always make the best first impression. She felt it might well be because she was smart and wasn't afraid to show that. Her father suggested it might have to do with her learning to smile more. Emmeline jumped right into what they might do and had plenty of ideas, fascinating ideas too Clara was impressed. She had only thought of pie.

 

"Turnovers? I have never eaten turnovers, more than likely because I have never made them. And if I don't do it, nothing is going to get done in my home," she freely admitted.

 

"Packed lunches? So they just come on in, set down their money, and leave with a lunch in a bag? Interesting," Clara pondered the concept out loud, it seemed sound.

 

The girl followed the woman into the back kitchen, her eyes taking in the room. It was well laid out, clean (always important at least to Clara), and warm with the stove going. There was a fireplace also, with a kettle over it. Perhaps for soup or the daily supply of beans or corn mush.  It was a fine kitchen and instantly met with Clara's silent approval.

 

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"Yes, sort of like a box social, only they don't have to date me to get lunch!"  Emeline smiled as she moved to rinse the last of the dishes, letting them air-dry in a rack.

 

"So, all right, if you want to try meat pies, we need crust..."  Then a thought occurred to her and she chuckled.  "Well, turnovers are essentially meat pies with fruit filling, so we'll only need the one sort of crust.  It has to be flaky, of course, but sturdy enough to hold up to a bit of travel.  Do you have a preference to start with sweet or savory?"

 

There was already some chicken and beef stewing, so that could make a good base for the meat pies, and Clara's apples would actually be a good compliment to those.

 

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Clara smiled at her lunch box crack, it did get her wondering though about the woman. Was she married and if so, where was the husband then? Did he expect her to run this place by herself? Or maybe he was gone out of town? The conversation however brought her focus back on food. The woman was finished with her dishes so it was time to get down to baking. Clara rolled up her sleeves, she was ready.

 

"Crust, yes. There are those who underestimate the importance of crust but I am not one of them. My brother Wyatt, when he was younger, would not even eat the crust but I had to cut it off for him. Now that he is twelve, he eats anything that cannot get away from him though, " the girl remarked.

 

"Let us start with the savory then, please. I am interested in how you do these meat pies. We can save the apple ones for later," Clara made her decision to Emeline's options.

 

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"I'm interested in how to make them, too!"  Emeline laughed.  "I've heard of them, but have never tried any myself.  The key, I understand, is indeed a good crust, and a good seal once the ingredients are put on it."  She pulled down a large mixing bowl and set it on the counter.  "Do you have experience baking in bulk?  I plan on making enough for twenty crusts, but we don't need to use a full crust for each hand pie."

 

Glancing at Clara, she asked, "Did you learn to bake from your mother?"

 

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Ahh, so Emeline did not know either about these turnovers? Well, that could make it an adventure then but Clara never shied away from a challenge. Besides there were two of them so they could better figure it out even experiment together.

 

"Oh? No matter, we shall give it our best then. If nothing else we can eat our mistakes," Clara declared as she finished rolling up her second sleeve.

 

"Experience in bulk? No, I do not. I bake for my family needs. There is my father and then Wyatt. Of course myself so three," she answered.

 

The woman asked about her mother then, had her mother taught her about baking. A fair enough question though talking about her mother was still not easy for the girl despite the time which had passed since that horrifying afternoon. Emeline did not know the details though so could hardly be blamed for bringing up what was an uncomfortable topic.

 

"Yes, she did. I learned very much about everything from my mother. She was a fine housekeeper, cook, seamstress, laundress, and of course...mother. We were very close," Clara declared trying not to get emotional about it.

 

"I miss her. We...miss her. She saved my life...."  her voice trailed off then.

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"We'll need five pounds of flour to start," Emeline instructed, nodding to the flour bin.  "I'm sorry about your mother."  She glanced at the girl with a small smile.  "I'm sure she'd have it no other way.  I can't think of anything that would stop a mother from protecting her children...but it must be difficult for you, to lose your mother.  I'm most of a grown woman, and I miss my mother, and we are only separated by the miles."

 

As she spoke, she fetched a tin of lard that she measured into the bowl with the flour.  "It sounds like she taught you well, and you do a fine job of looking after your brother."

 

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Yes, the woman was no doubt right, Clara realized her mother would have had it no other way, choosing it to be herself who was sacrificed not her child. But the thing was Clara still felt embittered SHE had not been given a choice that time.  If only it had been her who died, then the family would be better off - Wyatt would have two parents as it should be. Her father would not be so lonely. Not that he ever complained, but Clara felt she knew.

 

Clara had listened to the instruction Emeline gave though and began measuring out the flour needed even as she continued to talk. She didn't talk about that day much at all but once the words came, they poured out it seemed. Whether the woman, for all intents and purposes a stranger really, wanted to know or not, she was going to hear it.

 

"It was my fault my mother died. I mean not intentionally my fault, but if it had not been for me and my clumsiness, perhaps she would have not died. We were by the stream, rinsing out some clothing when the Indians came. We first saw the Indian when he rode straight up toward us. He was yelling like the savage he was. His body was painted, his face black and red. Mother said to run and we both started for the farm. Father was there with Wyatt but he had a rifle and he knew how to use it from the war. We did not get far when I tripped and fell. I screamed for her. Then I saw the Indian, he had a bow and he fired it at me. He hit me too. Mother came back for me, she should have kept running, she might have kept running if I had not cried out for her. She reached me but I could not get up, it hurt too much. The Indian had another arrow ready to fire. Mother stepped right in the way to shield me and he shot her then. That was the last I remember."

 

"When I awoke I was in a bed, a doctor was there with my father and Wyatt. Father told me that I needed to remain very still and take it easy. The doctor had removed the arrow but it was very serious. He promised he would stay with me. I asked about her but he did not answer right away. When he did he told me she was gone."

 

Finally she had run out of breath, out of words. But the memory was still as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday, Clara doubted it would ever really go away. Her eyes were watering but she did not cry. She never cried.

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Emeline listened silently as the story poured out, her heart breaking for the girl.  Loss was never easy, of course, but for one so young, and the circumstances so tragic...there was no doubt why she blamed herself. 

 

"We'll need three tablespoons salt and 4 of sugar mixed in the dry," she instructed as she pulled down the tin of lard.  "A mother knows," her words were soft, "when their babies are in trouble, they know, and even if she had made it to safety she would have gone back for you."  Of course, she couldn't know for certain, but unless the woman was cold-hearted and self-serving, she would have done what she had to, and, of course, the woman's actions had shown her character.

 

"It's good that it wasn't you and your brother alone out there."  She was trying to think of a way to help Clara look at things from a different perspective.  "He seems so carefree, as a boy should be," she smiled, but then let out a breath as she added the lard to the dry ingredients.  "How do you think things might have gone if he was the one who had fallen?"

 

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The very specific directions snapped Clara out of it. The girl was very particular, detail oriented, and she always wanted to do whatever she was doing just so. It was exactly the sort of thing to break her dwelling on the sad past.

 

"Oh, yes, sugar...salt," her eyes went to the assorted cans facing her, all well labeled thus making the completion of this little task a simple one, she got started immediately even as she listened to Emeline. The woman was right about mothers of course, well at least Clara's mother. She also brought up Wyatt.

 

"Yes, carefree does well describe him. Perhaps too carefree. I always have to prod him to finish his chores - well, the ones he does not like - and now that he is going to school again, do his schoolwork. Wyatt does not like school much," Clara sighed as she carefully measured out the amounts requested.

 

"He much prefers to spend time with Father as opposed to me because of it," she admitted, someone had to be the stern one  though she would never admit it to strangers, her Father was too easy going, laid back, in her humble opinion.

 

Clara paused to look a bit perplexed at the woman on her last point though.

 

"Well.... I am unsure of course. Since it is a hypothetical. My folks would have been heartbroken. And there would be no one to pass on the family name then."

 

@Bongo

 

 

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The girl hadn't quite caught on to what Emeline was trying to express, but she wasn't going to pursue it.  She did, however, chuckle.  "Isn't it odd, that somehow the family line would die out with your brother, but it doesn't matter of you have children who carry on?"  Granted, the name might be lost, but the line would continue.  "But it is sad, that Andrew's part of his line..."  She shrugged.  "My husband was an only son, and we lost our children, so..."

 

Letting out a breath, she shook her head.  "I do wish he could have lived on through a child, but it wasn't meant to be, I suppose."  Glancing at Clara, she handed her a dough blender so she could start mixing the dry and wet ingredients.  "Nothing to be done for it, but then it's hard not to imagine...what might have been."  She supposed, though, that even a young girl such as Clara had her ideas of what it would be like to have her mother being the one she was cooking with, or to stand by her at her wedding, help her through childbirth, then with raising her children.

 

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Oh here she had been going on about her tragedy and her sadness, not even realizing til Emeline related her own tale of loss. Why it was even worse! To lose one's husband and children? She did say 'children', so more than one! Clara was wide eyed at the revelation.

 

"Oh gosh, I am so sorry. I wondered if you had a husband about, I mean as beautiful a woman such as yourself, why would you not? But I had no idea. A husband and children.....that is tragedy multiplied," Clara sighed.

 

She would have given the woman a sympathetic hug but then Clara did not do that kind of thing. She had never been that way even with her parents. By now both her father and Wyatt knew better than to even attempt it. Instead she accepted the dough blender from the woman.

 

She could not help herself though, "Was it Indians?"

 

 If it was this would be further proof why she hated Indians with a passion.

 

 

 

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"No, no, it wasn't Indians."  Emeline shook her head, taking a breath.  "It was cholera that took little Chloe.  She was barely a year, with a bright smile just like her papa, and so many brown curls." 

 

Silent for a moment, she got out a wooden board and rolling pin, then added, "I was pregnant at the time, and the stress was too much, I suppose.  And Andrew was killed in an accident two years later.  I've been on my own since then."  She did finally smile and chuckle a little.  "I have had offers from gentlemen, but I have to wonder how much that has to do with the scarcity of women in these parts.  I haven't really felt compelled, though, except for the gentleman who was here when you and your brother came in...we're going for a ride on Sunday."  Hastily, she added, "And it's just that, a ride and picnic, a chance for me to get away from here for a while."

 

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Disease. It happened all too often and too many times the victims were children. Clara frowned. A little girl, with a nice name too she thought.

 

"That is so sad, I'm sorry," Clara truly felt for the woman.

 

But then she apparently lost another child in the womb too. The girl spoke up then, "I had a little sister, Katherine, who was still born. We never got to know her but my mother still cried for days."

 

And then of course her husband, dead in an accident. And that left her all alone. Clara knew at least she had her father and brother still. She should not complain, especially to this woman. But Emeline did smile just a bit as she revealed she was going out with that man who had been talking with her when she and her brother had the free pie. Interesting, Clara thought the man looked mean. But obviously he did not come across that way to this woman - or maybe she is desperate? None of her business though. And she deserves some happiness in her life.

 

"Ah yes, I recall him. Well, good for you. I wish you a grand time," she said in all sincerity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"I'm looking froward to just getting out for nothing more than getting out."  Emeline chuckled as she split the mixed dough in half and gave part to Clara, then started kneading her part.  "Honestly, since...I've been alone I've been so tied up in work.  Of course, at first I had to, just to get by, then, I suppose to take my mind off of," she let out a breath, "off of the past.  But maybe it's time to get away some, do something that isn't cooking or cleaning or gardening...I can afford a day a week, and if it isn't right, I can always go back."

 

Shaking her head, she looked at the girl.  "Sorry, I'm using you to talk myself into having some fun."  She laughed.  "I suppose that gives you the right to be the first to chastise me when I find out I was wrong!  What about you?  Do you take time for...other things?"  Unless this counted toward that?

 

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Emeline seemed to feel the need to explain herself, why she had agreed to go out with this man. But she did not. Clara would certainly not begrudge her some happiness. Her life sounded sad and running a place like this all by herself - well that had be a lot of long hours and hard work.

 

"No, you should go do this. I definitely approve," she declared, all the while during this conversation she continued with her part of the baking preparation. It wasn't like she did not know how to do any of this. She had been baking since a child when she helped her mother then.

 

"You have no reason to apologize. I am enjoying our conversation. At home it is only men....very well, a man and a boy. It is nice to chat with a woman on occasion," she declared.

 

"I would never chastise you. I might only point out that you will be out of town with this..... gentleman alone. So I hope you are truly confident he is of an upright character," she couldn't help but fret for Emeline at least a little.

 

"What about you?  Do you take time for...other things?"  the woman now asked.

 

Sadly she did not.

 

"No, I am very busy every day but Sunday, which of course is the Lord's Day so ...." Clara did not finish that thought but she was confident Emeline got her point.

 

"I have to cook and do laundry, help with the fields, see to my brother, and sundry other chores. Father works hard, do not get me wrong. But in all honesty if he had to do the cooking, we might all perish from starvation or poisoning," she joked, sort of.

 

"Then I also have a job at the Lost Lake ranch working as a governess for Shade Thorton's twin niece and nephew," she added before sighing.

 

"No boy is interested in the likes of me, I know I am rather lacking in ....looks," she did not want to say 'ugly' but there were many times she felt it was true.

 

 

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"Oh, nonsense," Emeline declared, "you are a handsome girl, and besides, if all a man is concerned about are your looks, then he isn't likely worth your time."  That was something she truly believed, but then, she had never felt the need to marry just for the sake of it.  "He should be more concerned about your character and integrity...and it doesn't hurt if he makes you smile!"

 

Emeline found that she was enjoying the conversation, it had been a long time since she had talked to another woman.  Well, Clara was still quite young, but she had a good deal of maturity and was pleasant to chat with.

 

"Think of it this way.  Think of the most handsome man you can imagine...then picture him as lazy, slovenly and a drunkard...Now it doesn't matter so much what he looks like, does it?"  Well, it made sense to her, anyway!

 

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Of course Emeline tried to cheer her up by calling her 'handsome' which was kind of her but Clara pointedly noted the woman did not use the word 'pretty'. She stated that looks were not important and those who only judged by them should not be worried about. Yes, Clara got it, she even agreed with that philosophy but despite the logic, at times she did weaken and give way to silly emotions.

 

Then Emeline gave a hypothetical example, Clara listened and indeed again it was a most reasonable argument. Clara nodded as she kept kneading.

 

"Well said. You must think me a foolish young miss, but I assure I am not normally this.... pathetic. Pity and, even worse, self pity are useless. And I came here to bake not blubber," she assured the woman.

 

Then it came to her. She might be missing a golden opportunity here?

 

"Ma'am? You run this place and have to do all the work by yourself. Would you perhaps be interested in hiring me to work here? I can promise you that you would get yourself a hard worker who would always take her duties most seriously," she decided to just boldly throw it out there.

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"Well said. You must think me a foolish young miss, but I assure I am not normally this.... pathetic. Pity and, even worse, self pity are useless. And I came here to bake not blubber,"

 

"Well, I don't know about you," Emeline commented with a grin, "but I find that an occasional blubber is good for the soul.  And I am honestly happy for another woman to talk to.  And, there is no harm in wanting to look pretty."  Something Emeline didn't have time for these days, but maybe she could take a little to help the girl out.

 

"Ma'am? You run this place and have to do all the work by yourself. Would you perhaps be interested in hiring me to work here? I can promise you that you would get yourself a hard worker who would always take her duties most seriously,"

 

"Oh, well..."  The offer took her off-guard and she really hadn't put serious consideration into it, or whether she could afford help.  But business was going pretty well, and certainly she could do more if she had some help.  "I suppose we can come to an arrangement, I'd be happy for someone around besides the cat to talk to!"  She laughed, then asked, "What did you have in mind?  There's seeing to the tables, cleaning, cooking..."  Since she already did that all herself, anything would be a help.

 

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Emeline looked surprised by her sudden offer but Clara figured that was natural enough. The girl hung on the woman's every word.

 

"I suppose we can come to an arrangement, I'd be happy for someone around besides the cat to talk to!"  She laughed, then asked, "What did you have in mind?  There's seeing to the tables, cleaning, cooking..." 

 

She was willing! Clara brightened up, forgetting all about her unhappiness of just a moment earlier. Looks weren't important, helping earn money for the family welfare was however.

 

"I assure I can be much more loquacious and interesting than any cat when it comes to conversations," she promised.

 

"And once you hire me, I will do whatever you wish me to without complaint. I can do any of those things. Well.... I mean I have never waited on tables of strangers but I have waited on my family every day. You will not regret hiring me, ma'am. I am a hard worker, a quick learner, and I do not complain. Besides what I just said about my looks, I mean."

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"Oh, well, I'd hardly call wishing you looked differently complaining," Emeline commented with a smile, "but I do suppose you are right about the cat.  Talk about complaining!  He's never happy!" 

 

She set aside her lump of dough to rest, then asked, "What hours do you expect you'll be here?  I'm usually starting at five, and here until nine or so."  She shrugged.  "Of course, I'm sure I can put you to work whenever you come in.  So, for our meat pies, I have some shredded beef, what sort of vegetables and seasonings do you think we should put in them?"

 

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"I believe it is the nature of cats," Clara gave her view on it but the talk moved to more important matters.

 

"I must of course get my father's permission but I do not anticipate any issue there.  He trusts me. It is a possibility he just might drop by to meet you - just so you know," Clara now answered.

 

"I could make it most days, except Sunday of course. Currently I work three days a week but I am capable of doing more should you wish. Starting early is not an issue though keep in mind, I need to get here and I do live outside of town. However, we have a horse and I am a more than capable rider. I do suspect though that Father will not be willing to tolerate me having to travel in the darkness at night so nothing too late."

 

As for the meat pies, Clara thought on it a few seconds before answering that too, "Onions go well with beef, we could dice up an onion? Oh and perhaps potatoes, boil up one and dice that too?"

 

@Bongo

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)
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