Alice and the Warden – 34

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Gertie arrived first, letting herself through the gate into the backyard with a white paper gift bag in hand. She immediately tapped Kate on the shoulder to gain her attention, and the two women hugged.

“Gertie!” Kate exclaimed with a laugh. “How are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m keeping busy. Now tell me, how could you let your boy elope without a proper ceremony?” Gertie looped her arm through Kate’s. “I feel as if we missed out on something important.”

“I told him to follow his heart, and he said that he wanted to bring Alice home as his bride. She had absolutely no where else to go after she was released, you know, so I gave him my blessing.” Kate patted Gertie’s hand. “Besides, we’re all here to celebrate now, so we’re not really missing out.”

“Where is the young dear?” Gertie asked. “I’ve got something for her.”

“Inside. I believe she had a diaper to change,” Kate replied.

“I’ll be back to help you finish setting up. I’m expecting a few of my grandkids to stop by shortly, so I hope you don’t mind some extra guests.”

“It will be delightful! Rob is bringing his wife and children as well, so they’ll have plenty of playmates.” Kate grinned. “Basil is still inside as well, so go ahead and pop your head in.”

“I’ll do just that. It’s so good to see you again Kate. How long are you in town for?”

“The whole week. I hope you’ll take a day off for me, since I would just love to catch up with you.”

“I’ll plan on it then. Be back in a minute.”

Alice was sitting in the kitchen with the baby in her arms, watching Hackett form balls of ground beef and smash them flat into patties, when Gertie opened the back door and called out, “Hello!”

“Hello Gertie!” Hackett answered. “You’re early.”

“I thought that you could use some help getting ready,” Gertie said. “Alice, dear, I brought this for you. Think of it as a wedding gift.”

Alice gave Hackett a quizzical look, but he simply smiled at her. She took the gift bag and reached inside, pulling out a soft, white, shawl.

“It’s hand wash only, so make sure you don’t run it through the machine – especially the dryer,” Gertie advised. “Anyway, I started knitting it for myself awhile ago, but when I finished it a couple of days ago I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that it suited you better. So, there you are.”

“It’s really gorgeous,” Alice said breathlessly. “Thank you so much.”

“Well, I’m going to go help Kate outside if you don’t mind.” Gertie seemed oddly shy, and unconsciously wrung her hands as she spoke. Alice wondered why.

“How about you grab a couple of the salads on your way out?” Hackett said, pointing towards the fridge. “We still need to get the buffet set up, and time is running out.”

“Yes, it always does that. I’ll think of how you can thank me later.” Gertie grabbed a couple of big bowels and disappeared out the back door.

“Gertie must think that you’re something special,” Hackett said as soon as they were alone. “That’s mohair.”

“I have no clue what that is,” Alice replied, fingering the edge of the shawl and marveling at the lace pattern. All of the stitches seemed beyond perfect, especially in comparison to the asymmetrical shapes that Alice had practiced making.

“Expensive, that’s what,” Hackett replied.

“She’s really good at knitting. Do you think that I could do something for her in return? As a thank you?” Alice looked at him earnestly.

“I don’t see why not.”

“I don’t have any skills though, so I don’t know what I could possibly do. I’ve just never had anyone make something so beautiful for me before, and I feel like I need to properly show my appreciation.”

“Something will come to you.” Hackett piled his patties onto a large serving plate. “Now, darling, could you put Alicia in the carrier and help put the food out? We need to pick up the pace if we’re going to be ready on time.”

“Sure. Sounds easy enough.” Alice put the shawl back into the gift bag and stood up. “Give me a minute to put this away, then I’ll finally deign to lift a finger in assistance. Consider yourself bless-ed.” She put extra emphasis on the last syllable. Gertie’s present had lifted her spirit considerably, and after the emotional rollercoaster she had been on, she landed in a state of giddiness.

Hackett chuckled. “I suppose that’s what I get for marrying a mysterious princess. Hurry up then, before I decide to put you back in that tower.”

Alice stuck her tongue out at him, then giggled as she scampered to the bedroom.

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