Alice and the Warden – 20

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That evening, Hackett parked in the driveway and had no sooner gotten out of his car when Alice came running out. She practically jumped on him as she wrapped her arms around him, then planted a big kiss on his mouth. “I’m so glad I don’t have to wait till tomorrow morning to see you,” she said breathlessly. “I missed you so much!”

He chuckled and stroked her face. “I missed you too, darling.” Then, taking her hand, he began walking up the drive to the front door. “So, is this how you’re going to greet me every day?”

“Maybe,” Alice replied, hugging his arm. “But who knows, maybe I’ll turn into a grumpy mom and complain about everything the second you arrive. We are still newlyweds, after all, so there’s plenty of time to change.” She stopped on the porch to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him again. “You haven’t rethought me yet, right? You still love me?”

“Even more than I did yesterday,” Hackett replied, swooping Alice down to nuzzle her neck.

Gertie cleared her throat from the open doorway, bouncing Alicia slightly in her arms. “Sorry to run, but I’m late with making dinner. Thanks for letting me hold the baby.”

Alice blushed and giggled slightly, “I think she likes you,” she said as she took her infant back. “Oh, Basil! Look at this!” she exclaimed, pulling the blanket aside to show the baby’s feet. “Gertie made booties for Alicia! Aren’t they the cutest ever?”

“They’re very adorable,” Hackett agreed with a smile. “If you don’t mind, I’ll walk Gertie back to her house. The light is growing dim.”

“Oh you!” Gertie flapped her hand at him as she picked up her bag, grinning all the same. “I’m not that old yet.”

“I’m still looking out for you anyway.” Hackett winked at her. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, darling.”

Alice gave him another kiss, then vanished inside. Hackett helped Gertie down the porch steps, then held out his arm to escort her to the sidewalk.

“I must confess,” Gertie said, “I brought over brownies earlier as an excuse for snooping, but I didn’t expect her to be such a doll. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s gotten so excited over knitting.”

“Does my marriage have your approval?” Hackett asked.

“Yes … But I do wish that you had told me beforehand and held a proper ceremony. What does your mother think of it all?”

“Who says I told her?”

Gertie’s mouth tightened and her nostrils flared. “You should know better than that at your age! Why, if I was your mother, I’d give you a sound paddling for eloping without telling me, even if you are a grown man. Imagine the nerve! You call her up right now!”

Hackett laughed heartily. “Don’t worry, Mom already knows everything. She bought a plane ticket to come visit next week.”

“Why, you!” Gertie glared at him indignantly. “I’m far too old for those sorts of jokes.” They stopped on Gertie’s porch, and she hesitated before opening her door. “Do you still need me to help with the chores? I don’t mean to insult your new wife, but you know how young people are these days: they don’t have an ounce of basic survival skills.”

Hackett thought for a moment. “You probably should,” he said slowly. “But could you do me a favor and teach Alice those basic survival skills?”

Gertie looked skeptical. “It’s getting time to start canning, I’ve got several birthdays coming up, and my daughter just told me that she’s expecting again. I’ll be busy.”

“I’ll paint your porch for you in exchange,” Hackett offered.

“Oh, fine. If she’s that exuberant about everything, then it will be all right.” Gertie sighed. “It’s about time someone touched up this old porch, and I was getting tired of the color anyway.”

“Thank you, Gertie. I couldn’t live without you.” Hackett chuckled. “Alice is turning over a new leaf in her life, but she’s still only just beginning. I want her to have all the help that she needs.”

“I’m glad to see that you’ve fallen in love again,” Gertie said. “I worried quite a lot about you after Miranda—”

“I should get back,” Hackett interrupted. “Goodnight!”

“Goodnight, Warden,” Gertie replied, then let herself inside.

Hackett let out a heavy breath as he walked back to his own home. It had been a long and trying day, but the greeting Alice had given him had lifted his spirits considerably, and he hoped that she would never change – he liked that she was happy to see him.

Inside the living room, Alice had resumed working on an asymmetrical shape with her knitting, and she grinned as Hackett came inside. “Gertie taught me today,” she said, holding up her needles. “When I get good enough, I’ll knit a tacky sweater for you, and you’ll have to wear it because your wife made it.”

“Is that your motivation?” he asked, sitting down next to her and pulling her into his arms.

“Yep! As Mrs. Alice Hackett, I feel that it is my duty to cause you grief in new and unexpected ways.” She set the yarn down and adjusted the baby so she could snuggle comfortably against his chest.

“You have a funny idea of marriage,” Hackett murmured, his mouth touching the back of her hair as his fingers caressed her shoulder.

Alice closed her eyes. “Honestly, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my parents did, and vowed to always do the exact opposite.”

“Might not be a bad idea.” With a devilish grin, Hackett moved to whisper in her ear, “So, what’s for dinner?”

Alice wrinkled her nose. “Brownie crumbs!”

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