return – chapter 2


Weeks later

“Get up.” Miss Helen splashed cold water in Joanne’s face, placing her hands on her large hips. She put the pitcher of water down on the nightstand with a bang. The maid had been in their family since she was a baby, but was more like her grandmother than anything.

Joanne gasped, sitting up in her plush country bed. “Miss Helen!”

“Don’t Miss Helen me, nothing. Get out of bed. It was just a man. There will be others.” She yanked the plaid covers off Joanne’s bed, balling them up and tossing them on the floor. “We’ve got work to do. Your father tried to feed the animals and he shouldn’t be doing nothing in his condition.”

“What time is it?” She cracked her eyes and looked out through the sheer curtains. The sun wasn’t even out. Moving back in with her father was hard enough as it was. Joanne wanted to lie in bed forever and sleep away her problems like she had the last two weeks.

“Time for you to quit feeling sorry for yourself. Your father needs you to run this farm.” Another wave of depression swept over her. Coming home to see her father had had a stroke, barely able to talk let alone work added even more pressure. She was angry no one had told her.

She stared at the oak wood floor, adjusting her eyes to the morning light. “I shall do it tomorrow.”

Miss Helen opened the windows, letting in the nippy fresh country air. Twisting her full lips, she mimicked Joanne’s articulate speech. “No, you shall do it today. I don’t know what happened to you up there in that fancy dancy New York, but I spanked your fanny when you’re a little girl and don’t think I won’t do it again.”

Joanne sighed, falling back on the bare mattress. She looked around the pale pink room still decorated with the antique dolls she collected when she was a child. How she wished she could go back to that time when her mother was alive and life was simple. She was still filled with dreams, as impossible as they were and there were no men to crush her heart.  “Get out of bed or I’ll drag you out,” said Miss Helen with her booming voice.

She’d never take no for an answer, so Joanne rose to her feet. “It’s winter. There are no crops and the animals can wait a couple more hours.”

Miss Helen splashed her with more water. “By the way, there’s a man downstairs to see you,” said the older woman, as Joanne gasped.

A man? Who was it now? Another door-to-door salesman, probably. She wiped the water from her face. People mistook their grandiose plantation-style farm for wealth when they had none to speak of. “Your father left you in charge of this farm. And I’ll be damned if I see you throw it all away.”

“Can’t you tell him to leave?” Joanne asked, rubbing the water from her face.

Miss Helen narrowed her eyes at her. “If you’re not dressed and presentable downstairs in three minutes, I’m sending him up.”

She was tired of being bossed around. She was a grown woman after all. “You wouldn’t dare,” Joanne said, putting her robe on.

“Try me,” said Miss Helen, narrowing her eyes and heading toward the door. Her maid didn’t make idle threats.

“Who is he?” asked Joanne, grabbing a rubber band on her nightstand and tying her long hair into a ponytail.

Miss Helen stopped in front of the door and turned. She hid her smile as if she had a secret. “Three minutes.”  NEXT>>