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Sagas of the Wild West
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An Empty Stomach


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Mature Content: No

With: Emeline and anyone else who happens to be around at the time
Location: Main Street and Lickskillet Diner
When: June 19, 1875
Time of Day: Mid-afternoon

 

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If Lucinda tilted her head up and looked cross-eyed at her nose, she could see where the sunlight made tiny golden freckles through her straw hat. But that was unladylike, so she contented herself doing it just the once and took comfort in the knowledge that they weren't real freckles.

 

She hefted her carpetbag in one hand and her small suitcase in the other, and then had no hands left for her slightly larger and heavier trunk filled books. She had known it would be difficult to manage three cases, but couldn't stand to leave her books behind.

 

Well, she would have to leave them behind temporarily until she could find someone willing to move the trunk for her. For now, she shoved the trunk with her foot to get it as much under a porch as she could. When she looked up, she saw a sign that read, "Lickskillet Diner."

 

Her stomach rumbled in a most unladylike manner and reminded her that she'd not eaten since the stage left the station early in the morning. She pushed open the door and took a seat at one of the tables. It had been a while since she had eaten in a restaurant. Did restaurants out here have waiters? She took off her hat, set it on the back of her chair, and then sat ramrod straight in her chair to wait and see what happened.

 

@Bongo (Can't believe this is our first thread together!)

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It was the 'slow' hours between lunch and dinner, so Emeline was in the kitchen, cleaning up from one meal and starting to prepare the next, and the tinkling of the little bell over the front door alerted her to a new customer. 

 

After wiping her hands free of flour, she grabbed the pot of fresh coffee and headed to the dining room.  It was easy to spot the newcomer, since there were only a handful of other customers at the moment, and they were already eating their meals.

 

"Good afternoon," she greeted with a smile, trying to decide if she'd seen the young woman around town before, "welcome to the Lickskillet.  Would you like some coffee?  Or I can get you some tea."

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda looked up as a pleasant-looking woman approached her. So places out west did have waiters and waitresses after all. She returned the woman's smile and was surprised to find that her lips and cheeks still remembered how to express happiness.

 

"You have tea?" She put a hand to her mouth in surprise and pleasure. It had been a long time since she had used up her precious supply of tea leaves from back east and she had never come to really enjoy coffee. The thought of having tea was almost overwhelming, but she swallowed down her excitement and answered the woman.

 

"Oh, tea would be lovely. I will take it however you would make it for yourself. And...I know it's not lunch or dinner time, but would you happen to have a small meal I could eat? Some potatoes or vegetables...anything, really."

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"Yes, I keep tea," Emeline commented, smiling.  "It's a bit harder to get out here, but the advantage is that I can make it by the cup, so there isn't any waste."  While she was primarily a coffee drinker, there were times that the lightness of tea 'hit the spot'.  Not only that, but she did keep some specific teas for medicinal use.

 

"I have the makings for shepherd's pie, there's some beef stew, and chicken and dumplings."  There as always something ready, even if it varied from day to day.  "And I have pie...apple, peach and rhubarb, if you'd like, for later."  Then she shrugged and laughed.  "Or for first, there's no rule that says you can't have your dessert before dinner, right?"

 

@Bailey

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"I'm so glad you have tea. I've been so long without it that it'll be like Christmas to get to have it again." Lucinda was sure that her happiness showed on her face, but she didn't mind right now. She was too tired and hungry to care about being serene at the moment.

 

"May I please have chicken and dumplings and a slice of rhubarb pie? The pie can wait until a bit later, though. I know there's no rule about it, but I always eat dessert last." She quirked one eyebrow and stretched her lips in something that was similar to the smile from the woman in front of her. "Thank you so much...Miss?..."

 

There was no way to tell for sure whether this pleasant woman was a Miss or a Mrs. She did seem old enough that it would be strange if she wasn't married, but it was always better to assume the innocence and youth of a woman.

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"Mrs. Blakesley...Emeline."  She smiled brightly as she added, "Soon to be Mrs. Barnabas Pike.  I own the place and do most of the cooking myself.  There's a young woman, Clara, who works with me as well."

 

Before going to get the order, she asked, "Are you new to town?  I'm not terribly busy right now, I could join you for a few minutes if you'd like?"  Emeline enjoyed getting to know folks, and especially a young woman alone and new to town could use some information on what to expect in Kalispell.

 

@Bailey

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"Oh, really? Congratulations, then, Mrs. Soon-to-be Pike!" Lucinda smiled warmly, but her smile was tinged with sadness, as were her thoughts. This woman had found someone she liked enough to marry again, but Lucinda doubted that she ever would. Out here, anyway. Back east was a different story.

 

"I would be glad of the company if you could spare a few minutes," she answered. Now the question was...what would they talk about? All Lucinda wanted to know was news from the east, but it wasn't likely Emeline would know any more than she did. And as far as news went, living by yourself for six months didn't give you a lot of news-worthy things to talk about.

 

"Could I also have some water? I don't know about you, but stagecoaches make my throat terribly dry."

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"Oh, certainly, just give me a moment."  She was efficient from her years of experience, and the food was already prepared, so all she had to do was plate it, set everything on a tray and carried it back to the table.

 

"Here we go...let me know when you're ready for pie and I'll get that for you."  Settling across from Lucinda, she sipped her coffee then explained, "I've been here for a couple years, so I know some of the comings and goings, if you have any questions."  She wasn't one to gossip, but there were things that were general knowledge, so speaking of them wouldn't be considered rumor.

 

"I started a cafe in a tent in Dakota territory to support myself after my husband died, then moved here and bought this place...I live upstairs, so it's convenient, but Mr. Pike is building a ranch outside town, so I'm not certain yet how we'll work that out."

 

Chuckling, she shook her head.  "Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away!"

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda took a bite of the chicken and dumplings and sighed contentedly. It wasn't that the food she'd had at the stations between Spokane and Kalispell had been bad, but this was so much better. She took a tentative sip of her tea and nodded appreciatively. Honestly, it was almost like Christmas.

 

She continued eating and listening to Emeline. After a winter completely alone, it was surprising to hear one person talk so much.

 

"No, please don't apologize," she said quickly, realizing that she'd been staring at Emeline. "My conversation skills just need some dusting off, that's all. I think it's wonderful that you've been able to support yourself this whole time. Did you have any cooking experience before you started the cafe?"

 

She wondered if she might be able to start some business to support herself, but then laughed inwardly. What a ridiculous idea. Once she made it back home, she wouldn't have to support herself any more. But would she be able to make it back home?

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"Oh, well, I was cooking with Mama since I was little, then for my husband, of course, but no, I'd never even considered it as a way to make a living."  She smiled a bit sadly, then shrugged.  "But after I lost Andrew, I really didn't want to go home, and even before he had died I found that ladies are revered in a mining camp...we're so few, and the men are so homesick."  She laughed.  "My food could have tasted like sawdust for all that they'd cherish a home-cooked meal and a chance for a feminine smile."

 

It had been a bit of a humbling experience for her, but for the most part she had been treated with respect.  "It was like having dozens of brothers, but then, there were also dozens of proposals every day!"  She laughed at that.  "Anyway, they liked my cooking and my pies, paid well, and gave me the chance to move here and buy a place that wasn't a tent.  And now it's really becoming a home.  It has its faults, but everywhere does, and the scenery isn't nearly so beautiful."

 

@Bailey

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