“Tea and Chocolates”
by Jo Janoski
Stopping only briefly to glance at her watch, Emily hurried down the street. Seven o�clock � it�s a good thing Tom cancelled.
When he called from the drug store phone, his voice and demeanor were strained, but he would not say why. Emily presumed that he didn�t want to talk in a public place where others could listen.
It was just as well. A plumbing problem at the girls� house now took center stage. A quick inspection was in order before calling for help.
A wet snow sheeted down, making the evening cold and sloppy. By the time she arrived, Emily�s glasses had become covered with water from melted snowflakes slamming against the lenses in the driving snow. A dry hanky from her pocket came to good use to dry them before she knocked on the back door of the house. It was wearisome coming by the back way, but necessary to keep her identity unknown to the residents, a practice to which she still strictly adhered.
�Emily, I�m glad you are here. We have a visitor in the front room,� Rachel said as she pulled the old door open with a jerk. �I�m not sure whether I should let her stay or not.�
�Who is she?�
�I don�t know her name. She seems to be in a state of confusion.�
�Hmm, let me take a look at her,� Emily answered, leaning against the service door. It pushed open a crack to reveal a woman slumped forward in a chair. Dressed in dark clothes, a hood obscured her face. The door squeaked, and the sad figure then turned to look toward the noise; her face became visible. Emily jumped back to let the door swing shut. Gracie! Her heart drumming, Emily leaned against the wall for support. What is Gracie doing here?
�What�s wrong?� Rachel queried.
Emily turned her head away. �I think I know her,� she mumbled. �I don�t want her to see me here. Go in and see what you can find out.�
Emily was glad when Rachel left the room. Hands trembling, it was almost impossible to pick up the kettle and put it on for tea. Gracie here! She must not find out about Emily�s involvement in the women�s home. She would go straight to her Mother and tell.
Laying out the china teapot, Emily collapsed in a chair at the table.
Thoughts swirled in her mind of Gracie�s meanness a few weeks ago when she told Emily to stay away from Tom. A sick anger filled her heart. She felt like screaming! A bitter person like Gracie didn�t belong in this place.
Rachel returned, biting her lip, wearing a worried expression.
�She�s pregnant! The man responsible told her to get rid of the baby, and she seems confused as to what to do. I couldn�t get anything else out of her; it looks like she hasn�t slept or eaten in a while. She seems a little feverish too.�
Almost tipping over her tea, Emily grabbed the red and white china cup just in time to save it from destruction. Gracie unmarried and pregnant! She was in trouble. This would bring disgrace upon her family. A moment ago Emily was consumed with hatefulness only to realize now that Gracie had problems far greater than she could have imagined.
�Give her the room in the rear on the second floor. It is bright and cheerful. I will start making some poached eggs and toast. Maybe she can get that down. Here, take her a cup of tea to start.�
Emily dashed about the kitchen to fulfill her plans. The activity seemed to come on like magic, no small task considering Emily was not an easy hand in the kitchen.
Later, after Gracie was fed and settled in her room, Emily considered what to do about a doctor for her. Many would frown about helping an unmarried, pregnant woman, and Emily wasn�t sure who would help Gracie, perhaps the new doctor in town.
Feeling thankful for her family�s status, she knocked on his door that evening. Recognizing her immediately, the man who answered seemed impressed by her presence and fumbled about, straightening his tie as he spoke.
�Well, Miss McNamara, what a surprise!�
�Dr. Bauer, I was wondering if I could have a word with you,� Emily stated in a dignified fashion.
Opening the door wider, he motioned her in, offering her a seat by the fireplace. It was a simple wooden rocker, but perfectly suitable considering the rustic appearance of the room. Indeed, there were no upholstered pieces at all, only a couple of wooden chairs and an old desk. Having just arrived in the area, he apparently had not furnished the room yet. Smoothing her skirt as she directed her gaze at him, Emily considered how best to explain her problem.
He was a new doctor in the neighborhood. To be truthful, there were two other practitioners in the area already. He seemed like a good man, though, who, no doubt, would soon win over patients for his practice.
Towering at six-foot tall, well above Emily, his startling blue eyes seemed capable of reading one�s life story in just a single glance. They were eyes of honesty.
�Well, I was hoping you could help a friend of mine.�
�And she is sick?�
�Yes, she has a fever and she is pregnant,� she barely whispered the last word. �She is pregnant, and not married.�
�And you are afraid I will not treat her?� he asked, his voice husky.
�Well, the more established doctors would frown on it.�
�Miss, I am a doctor, not a priest. I have vowed to help the sick, not judge them.�
�I didn�t mean to offend!�
�No offense taken,� he cut her off with a smile.
�She appears to have been wandering for a while, without rest or food. We gave her a bed and something to eat, but I am still worried.�
�You must take me to her then.�
�Doctor, there is one other thing.� Emily blushed. �She doesn�t know I am helping her, and I need to keep it a secret. She must never know I helped her, not ever.�
�How unusual!� he paused, and then added, �� but none of my business. Shall we go?�