Fat Bailey ran across the hotel corridor, trying to find a place to hide. He didn't mean to break one of his mother's favorite plates. Hub made him do it, it was an accident! If only he didn't had that stupid slingshot, if only his stupid brother didn't have that stupid stone above his head… If only Hub didn't scare him, Fat wouldn't be in this mess in the first place!
For now, the room was his sanctuary, his escape. But once he stepped out of the door, he was going to face his mother and Max's wrath. They weren't overly scornful like other parents, but the disappointment in their voices were even more painful than any slap across the face.
And he didn't want to see his own mother in pain, all because of him…
"Why, I didn't know I would have a visitor come into my room…!"
Jumping, Fat turned and saw a woman. She looked slightly younger than Grandmother Bailey, though her red auburn hair showed signs of grey.
"I'm so sorry, ma'am, I'm just running from my brother, I didn't mean to…"
Instead of the usual slash of an elderly tantrum, this woman seemed curious to why Fat was in her room. In fact, a smile was on her face.
"Are you playing hide and seek with your brother?" she chuckled. "Why, darling, you're more than welcome to hide here."
She gestured to him as she walked to the small table with silverware and assorted biscuits.
"Come help yourself, I just had tea," she said, still smiling. "I was about to clean this up, but now that you're here, I don't see why not you can have some. Tea always helps sooths the mind and the imagination, especially in hide and seek. It will sharpen your mind…!"
Each second that passed in the room, the tension was getting more and more awkward. What kind of old lady was she? She was certainly not like his Grandmother Bailey, what with his grandmother's strict manner and formal air. By now, he would have been dead because of that woman. He would be running his heels out as if the Dickens were behind him.
But instead, she was helping him?
"You're not mad at me at all, ma'am…?" he felt himself speak, barely audible to himself.
As if Fat said a profanity in front of her, the woman's eyes widened, though there seemed to be a... childlike curiosity in her elderly eyes. She laughed, still smiling.
"Why, child, why would I be mad at you? … Oh, how rude of me, I'm so sorry. I forgot to ask… what is your name, child?"
Fat couldn't move his muscles at all. His arm was stiff frozen. This woman was being so… kind, but why? Why was she being so generous to a child like him?
"… Fat, Fat Bailey," he began. "My grandmother calls me by my Christian name, Henry, but everybody else calls me Fat."
"'Fat' is your name?" she began to chuckle. "You're not at all chubby, sweetheart…!"
A small smile finally came across Fat, finally relaxing in front of her. She began to pour some tea from the pot.
"I was chubby when I was born, so that's how the name caught on," he began. "I don't mind, though my grandmother calls me and my brother by our full names. It gets Hub angry though…"
The woman handed Fat the steaming cup of tea. He sat on the cushioned chair.
"When I was your age at school, I was teased and picked on about my hair," she said, sorting out the small biscuits and placing them in Fat's direction. "I was called 'carrots' and a boy even pulled one at one of my braids."
"That's horrible," said Fat, reaching for one of the biscuits.
"Though, I could never be mad at him forever," continued the woman. "And now he is my husband."
Fat's eyes just about shot out of their sockets from the shock, couldn't believe what his ears were telling him.
"You married him?"
"We've been married for many years," she said, beaming. "We've been through so much together… Getting back our house, Green Gables, trying to find him in the Great War, his struggles at the hospital, he's a doctor."
Hub felt himself smiling as she looked at him while she sat on her chair. He could tell that she really loved her husband, and they endured many hardships together. It reminded him of his own parents, before his father died and was taken away from his own family too soon…
He noticed a thick book on top of a suitcase, and he smiled as he recognized the cover.
"Kindred Spirits, I love that book…!" beamed Hub.
Turning, the woman smiled as she looked at the cover, looking back at Fat.
"You like Jack Garrison's work?" she asked.
"My stepfather, Max, is a real mystery buff, so we have lots of books like that at home," said Fat. "It's a real page turner; I'm glad that I read it. I'm trying to find more of his works, they're really addicting."
"I'm sure Mr. Garrison would love to hear your comment…" she placed her cup back on the saucer and looked out the window, gazing at the early afternoon sun.
"Are you from around here?" asked Fat.
"Oh, I'm from Prince Edward Island," she said. "My husband and I were on our way to see our daughter and her family, and we're just heading back with her from her husband's lumberyard. Are you from here as well?"
"As a matter of fact, I live here in New Bedford," began Fat. "My grandmother runs the Silver Dome Mine here, but I decided to live with my mother. In fact, we only came to New Bedford about two years ago from North Ridge. My family lost the hardware store, and that's how we moved here in the first place. That was also before my father passed away… He has the same first name like the author of Kindred Spirits, Jack Garrison."
There was a long moment of silence. From the giddy, youthful cheers from a woman of her age, she now seemed sympathetic and somber. Just as she was patient and cheerful, she was easily swayed from one emotion to the next, but she still seemed balanced. No matter how big the change of emotion was. Fat didn't have to explain any further. It was like she knew what he was thinking and what he went through. She was a stranger to him, but for some reason, he felt that he knew her all of her life, no matter how old they were.
"I lost my own parents at a young age, both of them in fact," she began. "For a long time, I thought I never was going to have a proper family of my own, but then I was finally adopted by Marilla and Mathew. They were brother and sister. Mathew accepted me immediately, but Marilla took longer for her to get used to me. Then when Mathew passed away, Marilla would be all alone without me, and I had to take care of her… We were close ever since, and we still are now, even though she is not of this world anymore… I even named one of my daughters Rilla, just so I could keep the memory of her alive. I always thought I was going to be alone, but then at the end of the day, the love you take is equal to the love you make. "
She smiled at Fat.
"Especially at times like these, when you need all the love you can get…"she continued. "It's the only thing that can't be taken when you're tired and worn out."
Despite the smiles and the laughter from everyone, there were troubles in the family. From fighting with Hub to being scorned by their mother, there were times when everything just crumbled and fell apart. When money was tight, their father passing away, when grandmother took him and Hub away from their mother, when the members of their own family turned against them... Though despite the wide gaps, the struggles and hardships only seemed to make them stronger. They can survive on their own, without the help of anyone, including grandmother.
Maybe the incident of breaking his mother's favorite china wasn't so bad at all. Tomorrow is a brand new day with no mistakes. He was going to live.
Hub looked up at the clock in the room, and realized his stay was prolonged. Hub probably gave up looking for him, and his mother might be on the edge of calling Sargent Stoneman.
He was probably going to have to atone for the broken plate, but he'll live. There was going to be tomorrow. His family was going to stay beside him… no matter what.
"I should probably get going," said Fat. "My family's probably wondering where I am. Thank you for the tea and scones, I'm extremely glad to have met you."
The woman smiled. "And I'm glad to have met you, Fat Bailey. It was a pleasure to have met another kindred spirit like you. Oh, and take this."
Opening an old carpet bag, she handed Fat a copy of another book. The golden embroidered title said The Road to Avonlea, by Anne Shirley.
"Jack Garrison knew Anne Shirley and was great friends with her," the woman said. "Without him, she wouldn't probably have saved her husband, who fought in the Great War. She wouldn't be alive if it weren't for him."
Fat took in the details of the book, from the threads stitched into the peach cover, to the bright golden lettering of the cover.
"Thank you, thank you so much…!" Fat's eyes were still glowing. "I don't even know your name."
"Mrs. Blythe," she smiled. "You may call me Mrs. Blythe, fellow kindred spirit."