Mrs. Ansford dropped onto the sofa and let her head fall back. She was exhausted, and it was only one in the afternoon. They’d been to church, and it had taken most of the morning to convince her mother-in-law to get out of bed and come with them. She was still suffering from the shock of her late husband’s ashes being lost in such an unfortunate manner, and it had sent her into a spiral of depression that she might not get out of for months.
Not that the other Mrs. Ansford was ever really happy. No matter how much Lauren tried to get her out of the house to do things and be around people, it was like fighting to give a cat a bath.
Well, she’d eventually convinced her to come to church, and it did her good, Mrs. Ansford could tell, but they were rather late, and the grim Mrs. Bee sat her down after service and lectured her about timeliness, the appropriate number of children to bear, and the merits of elderberry tea for half an hour while her mother-in-law disappeared into a corner and her husband disappeared… oh, who knew where he’d gone? He certainly didn’t seem very interested in saving her from the loquacious exhortations of the matriarch.
It was actually a sweet girl named Anne who rescued her, asking her to help clean up the communion, which Mrs. Bee could hardly object to. And Mrs. Ansford did love to help where she could, and likely would have quite enjoyed the chance to do something productive with Anne, except that she managed to knock over the wine and spill it all over Anne’s dress. Anne wasn’t the most well-off person, and that dress was likely the only nice one she had.
Anne wasn’t angry, and in fact said multiple times that it was alright, and the stain would come right out with some washing, but Mrs. Ansford was still mortified. Too mortified to realize she had money in her pocketbook and could have given Anne something to get a new dress with until they were driving away. She’d have to send it… no, she didn’t know where Anne lived. Well, next Sunday then. But coming back a week later to repair the injury was even more mortifying. Why was she so clumsy?
The instant they arrived back home, her mother-in-law walked upstairs and went straight to bed again. Which meant Mrs. Ansford would have to go up and convince her to come down again for Sunday dinner with the Bells and the Jacksons. The cook wasn’t ready. She wasn’t even working on getting anything ready. She was reading the paper when Mrs. Ansford came to check on things. And who knew where the maid was, but the dining room was dusty, and the table wasn’t set. She spent the better part of the hour looking for her and finally given up and set the table herself when the maid waltzed in the back door carrying a case of cigars Mr. Ansford had sent her to get.
“Ah, Marie, thank you,” Mr. Ansford said, taking the box and peering into the soup pot.
“Aaagh,” Mrs. Ansford sighed, throwing her hands up and storming out of the kitchen.
So here she was, hiding as long as she could before the battle of wills with the other Mrs. Ansford and the inevitably esoteric financial conversation of Mr. Ansford and Mr. Bell. She and the women would retire to the drawing room, and there Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Jackson would have an equally esoteric conversation about something revolting like vomiting children or gout.
“Mrs. Ansford!” shouted Marie from downstairs.
Mrs. Ansford closed her eyes and groaned. Why did some days have to be so difficult? Could anything else go wrong?
It was at that moment that she had a vision-like realization – something she, of course, already knew, but somehow, she felt it quite deeply now – that there were other people in the world with as equally complicated and unpleasant lives as hers. In fact, right now, there could be someone in Boston receiving terrible news, or having a plan fail or a hope crushed. Someone might even be dying.
Wasn’t there someone she was just talking to who was in the midst of terrible circumstances? It was right at the back of her mind… who was it?
“Mrs. Ansford!” came the call again.
Mrs. Ansford pushed herself off the couch and walked down the stairs. At the bottom she caught a glimpse of the dreary painting her father had given them for a wedding gift. Apparently, it was expensive, so they displayed it prominently, but if it hadn’t been, it would have gone in the attic. It depressed her every time she looked at it.
Aha! That was it! It was Mrs. Lawrence she had been talking to. Mr. Lawrence had been kidnapped. Now that was awful. Much more awful than a hectic day of frustrations. Poor thing. She wondered how she was doing and if they’d found Mr. Lawrence yet. What a bizarre situation. She would have to ask her about it next time –
“Mrs. Ansford, did you want the silver or the China?” Marie asked.
“Marie, I’ve told you, you don’t need to ask me about little things like that. Use your best judgment, and I trust your taste. You don’t need me to tell you every single little thing.”
Marie nodded and ran back off to the dining room. Mrs. Ansford sighed and walked back up the stairs to try to get her mother-in-law out of bed again.