The Inheritance #5 – A Strange Partnership

Posted on April 30, 2011 11:37 pm under The Inheritance
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Kelly turned onto Beach Road. Large homes peeked from behind tall trees and security gates. Some were owned by the town’s more affluent citizens. Others were vacation homes and remained unoccupied for much of the year. Her grandfather had been the neighborhood’s only factory worker.

Ned Conley began work at the textile factory on his sixteenth birthday. His parents offered no resistance. Ned was good with his hands and took care of their home repairs, but he was a poor student and they had a lot of mouths to feed. He gave half of each week’s earnings to his parents and banked the rest. At eighteen, he joined the military. By the time he returned, another child had been added and Ned’s few possessions had been boxed and relegated to the attic. Ned moved into a boardinghouse and resumed work at the factory. He returned home each Sunday for dinner, praising his mother’s cooking, discussing politics with his father and playing with his younger siblings. Before leaving, he stuffed half his week’s earning into his mother’s cracked sugar bowl.

When George, the town’s unofficial handyman, decided it was time to retire, he approached Ned. Soon his spare hours were filled with plumbing, carpentry and landscaping jobs. Ned gave half of the income to his parents and banked the rest. While his peers sowed their wild oats and finally settled, Ned worked and continued to grow his bank account.

One Friday evening, a co-worker, Orson Woodruff, invited him to dinner. Orson’s invitation was not as spontaneous as it appeared. Thirty years Ned’s senior, the gentle giant was looking forward to retirement with his wife, Ruth. Three of their children had left the nest. Only their oldest remained. At first glance, it seemed incredible that Emma had not married several years before. She might have been thin, if gentle curves had not enhanced her willowy figure. Dark hair framed a captivating face and fell in waves to her waist. Those who were kind, described Emma as “different”. Too different, it seemed. Despite Orson and Ruth’s attempts at matchmaking, Emma remained at home.

Ned enjoyed the meal. Orson and Ruth kept up lively chatter and the food was delicious. Ruth hastened to assure him that Emma Jean had made everything. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, spinach and biscuits were followed by a mouthwatering apple pie. Through it all, Emma sat across from him without saying a word. When he complimented her on the fine meal, she gave a slight nod of her head. It was the extent of their conversation that evening.

The pattern continued for several weeks. Ned welcomed the break from boardinghouse meals and enjoyed the comfortable informality of the Woodruff home. Emma intrigued him. Her lack of conversation was less off-putting than the magpie chatter of his female coworkers. Beneath the quiet exterior, he sensed an active mind.

One evening, Orson’s brother knocked at the door, just as they were finishing their meal. The usually congenial couple did not offer him a seat, but sat looking at him. When he finally spoke, the jitter in his hands jumped to his voice.

“Hate to interrupt, but I could use a hand out at the farm, Orson. I’ve been trying to, er …, trying to do something and need some help”, he finished lamely.

“Perhaps you could come too, Ruth. Edna’s been trying to get a new pattern fitted and she says another pair of hands would be a big help.”

“Would you excuse us, Ned?”

“No problem, Orson. I should be leaving too.”

“No. Stay and have some of Emma Jean’s blueberry pie. Someone should enjoy it. Perhaps you’d be willing to help her clean up a bit too.”

“Sure, Orson.”

The couple fairly danced out the door, leaving Ned and Emma in silence. Emma waited until Ned had finished his pot roast, then quietly went to the kitchen and returned with two slices of pie.

“You make some mighty fine meals, Miss Emma.” Ned waited for her nod.

“I like to make things.”

Although her voice was soft and melodic, Ned nearly fell off his chair. He recouped quickly. “So do I. Do you make other things?”


“I’d enjoy hearing about that.”

She nodded, stood and motioned for him to wait.

She returned in a few minutes, dressed in trousers and a loose fitting top. Her heels had been replaced by canvas shoes. She inclined her head to the back door and he stood and followed her out to a small shed. It held shelves full of earthenware, a work table and a pottery wheel.

“You made all these? They’re beautiful.”

“I make bird houses, too.”

Ned looked around, but only saw the pottery.

“May I see some?”

They left the shed and she walked towards the woods at the back of the property. As they approached, he saw a small trail, barely visible through the brush. He followed her down the path, which opened into a clearing. It took a minute to realize just what she was showing him. All around the edge of the clearing were birdhouses of various sizes, which seemed to blend into their setting. The posts were filled with ornate carvings and each house was different. Many had been occupied. Muted paints and bare wood had added an aged look, as if they had been there for many years.

“I like the antique look of them.”

“I like old things.”

“You have a real gift, Emma. Have you ever sold your work?”

She shook her head.

“I enjoy walking in the woods. Would you care to join me tomorrow? We could take a stroll around the lake.”

This time her nod was affirmative.

It was the first of many walks. Although Emma would never be loquacious, she began to talk more. Ned enjoyed the peace of being with someone who never used extraneous chatter to fill silence. They returned to the lake frequently, favoring a small beach on the far side for their picnic lunches. One day as they ate, Ned spotted something through the branches.

“Emma, that looks like one of your bird houses.”

She smiled and led him up a path away from the beach. More of the birdhouses dotted the path which eventually gave way to a grassy slope. At its top stood a rambling old house and several small sheds. As they approached, it became evident that the home had not been occupied for some time. Broken windows had exposed the inside to the elements and the roof had partially collapsed on the west end. Still there was an undeniable charm and Ned felt it call to him. Looking at Emma, he suspected she felt the same.

“How long have you been coming here, Emma?”

“Since I was eight. No one lived here. I dreamed it would be my home someday. I like old things.”

On Monday, Ned made inquiries and within a few weeks he owned the property. The following Saturday, they had lunch on the beach and he suggested a walk to the house. As they approached it, he stopped and turned to Emma.

“This is my house now, Emma. I’d like it to be your house too.” He saw the light in her eyes and knew the answer to his question before he asked.

“Will you marry me?”

She nodded.

He had hoped for something more. He craved a kiss, an embrace or her hand entwined in his. He swallowed his disappointment. She had agreed to marry him. He would be patient.

They wandered back down to the beach as Ned shared his renovation plans with her. Finally he fell silent and they sat on a fallen log contemplating the water. Emma rose with grace and faced him. In one fluid movement, she removed her top and stood before him, neither coy nor shy. For a second he couldn’t move. Her hand released the drawstring of her trousers and she spoke softly.

“I like to make things, Ned.”

He rose, enfolded her in his arms and whispered. “So do I, Emma. So do I.”

Three Word Wednesday. is a meme that challenges writers to create something using three selected words. This week’s words are grace,jitter and thin. Click on the link to view other entries or submit your own.

11 Responses to “The Inheritance #5 – A Strange Partnership”

  1. Lisa Says:

    A very nice story. Look forward to the next installment.

  2. Jae Rose Says:

    What an ending..I was trying to figure out where Emma’s ‘catch-line’ was going and you wrapped it up brilliantly (for now at least)..Ned and Emma are great characters..they give hope to all us odd people! Jae

  3. sharkbytes Says:

    Just found your web page. What fun! I’ll be back.

  4. Kim Nelson Says:

    I so enjoy the characters, their clear personality traits, the interactions between them. Reading this was like watching a well-directed play.

  5. Sheilagh Lee Says:

    What a marvelous love story.Truly beautiful

  6. Judith Leger Says:

    Oh, Grandma, that is so sweet. Such a nice, smooth story! Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Old Egg Says:

    I see a great future for these two, they have have generous ways. I loved the subliminal sexiness in the story. Well done indeed.

  8. Ren Says:

    I’m coming back for the next installment. I love sweet, romantic stories.

  9. earlybird Says:

    What a delightful story. More please.

  10. rmpWritings Says:

    Wonderful. It pulled me right along. Lovely!

  11. Bee Says:

    Wow! This was great. Loved the totally awkward “let’s leave these two alone for a bit” thing with Orson’s brother – it definitely felt real.