Abigail, Rebecca and Miriam (Ch. 1)

By Lyman Henderson, C.M., B.A.

You may be surprised but Abigail was still a spinster! At 55! Now it wasn’t that she was ugly. Far from it. A luxuriant bush of black hair (well it was dyed but a man wouldn’t notice that… if it were done well, and it was) framed a quite delightful face with a suppressed glimpse of humour around the eyes and lips. Now her figure wouldn’t win a beauty contest but it was warm and well… welcoming. So what was the trouble? Why no men in her history? No sex appeal?

Well, you wouldn’t call Abigail “sexy.” But she wasn’t ignorant of what sex was all about. She’d read a lot, maybe too much on the subject. But the reading had been mostly academic. She just couldn’t picture herself in any of those situations. In short, she was an expert with no experience!

But why no experience? After all at 55 she must have had some exposure to the opposite sex. Let’s face it, men were everywhere particularly in this large metropolitan area. Of course she had dated. But love never blinded her and she was picky. There was Oscar, who could charm the side off a freight car. Unfortunately he had a breath like a sea-boot and she just couldn’t stand proximity. Nevertheless he hung around for a couple of years until she gently sent him packing. He was followed by Anthony, the introvert. He was well endowed in fortune and fame. She didn’t have anything against introverts but this one never saw beyond himself. He never really saw her. She tried special clothing styles, hair styles, make up, to no affect. She got a tired of being invisible. There were a half dozen others but she never got past the kiss on the cheek.

No, she certainly wasn’t lesbian, even though she knew what that meant. She was just… unattached.

Now Rebecca was Abigail’s younger sister, who came to live with her since her last divorce. (There had been two previous ones.) The old family house was large and the two could live in the same house without living with each other—which is why the domicile worked so well. Rebecca was a far stretch from Abigail. She also was a beauty, blond this time, but with a more flamboyant flair than the meeker Abigail. She was a connoisseur of Eros and she went through men as you might a fine meal, savouring, enjoying but losing interest once the plate was bare.

Now there was a third member of this disparate family—a member who despite her tender age will have a significant part to play in this short story. Miriam was Rebecca’s only daughter. She was just 15 but had wisdom and insight far beyond her years. The fact that her mother loved her but showed scant interest led to her being very self-reliant. She had inherited the distinctive family elegance and beauty but bagged a bigger share of brains. She tolerated her mother’s erratic and erotic life style. But she ached for Abigail and her need for a man—the right man of course. She was just going to have to do something about it. In fact she was already doing that something. She had gone through her mother’s appointment book and selected a day when she knew her mother had a date she wouldn’t want to break. Then she phoned her school and scheduled a parent/teacher meeting on that date.

When we enter the story, the three women are sitting in the living room, sorting out the resulting scheduling problem.

Miriam summed it all up. “Well, mother, if you can’t go to meet my teacher you can’t go! But the appointment is made so who goes representing you??? Who better than your sister? I’ll introduce her as my aunt and almost ‘guardian.’ That should do it. Then we can come back and report everything to you.”

“Fine by me,” responded Rebecca, her mind already moving onto someone else.

“Hold up a moment!” Abigail interjected. “Don’t I get any say?”

Miriam spoke. “First things first. Are you free on Thursday at two o’clock?”

Abigail searched the calendar in her mind. It was not crowded. “Well, yes I guess I could go.”

So it was agreed. That Thursday, Abigail selected her attire with great care discarding the black and grey for a subtle olive green. She chose a simple gold strand for her bare neck. She wanted to make a good impression for Miriam’s sake. She drove down to rendezvous at the school. They met in the corridor. “I should warn you, Abigail,” said Miriam. “My teacher, Albert Harrister, is a bit of a dream catch.”

Abigail stopped short sensing a trap. “And what exactly do you mean by a dream catch?”

“Well, he’s in his mid fifties, I would say. He’s handsome and he’s a very good teacher. He makes his subjects interesting and he’s got a great sense of humour.”

“And I’ll bet he’s married!”

“Well, no. He lost his wife about two years ago.”

“I’m being set up!” Abigail balked.

“Not at all. This is just a parent/teacher meeting, that’s all. All you have to do is listen and ask a question or two if it seems appropriate.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure!”

They resumed their corridor walk. Miriam knocked and opened a wooden door with a glass window. It had the number 284 printed on it. They walked into an echoing classroom, full of desks and chairs drawn up as if on parade. Mr. Albert Harrister was at his desk at the front, going through a stack of papers. He looked up. He did a double take on Abigail. He jumped to his feet, nearly upsetting his chair in the process. “I’m sorry, you startled me.” He blushed.

Miriam performed the introductions. “Albert, this is Abigail Howson. She’s my aunt. My mother couldn’t come but Abigail is very close to me. We all live in the same house.”

“Abigail?” He was stalling for time. “That’s an unusual name. Is there a Nabal?” The question could have been impertinent, but he asked it with a disingenuous smile.

Abigail felt warmed. She smiled in response. “It seems you know your Bible. But to answer your question, there is no Nabal. Miriam’s father is history and I… I am single,” she concluded awkwardly.

“It was inappropriate of me to ask. It just so happened that I was reading Samuel I last night and I couldn’t resist the gambit.”

“Good ice breaker, but high risk,” Abigail responded dryly.

They settled down to business but almost immediately Miriam’s cell rang. She stood up and walked towards the door while answering. She listened a moment, put her hand over the phone and asked her teacher, “Do you two really need me? I’ve been waiting for this call for two days.” Albert looked almost pleased. “No, no. I think your aunt and I can handle this alone. Give us half an hour.”

As Miriam left, Albert turned to Abigail and said, “Let’s start off with the positive points, Miss Howson.”

Abigail stiffened as if stung! “Oh, Abigail please, please. Only our aged postman calls me ‘Miss.’ It sounds so… spinsterish.”

Albert laughed easily. “Well Abigail, you certainly don’t look spinsterish. So I’m Albert. Now I want to start off by saying that you have an unusual and talented niece. She may have a few teen age problems but nothing to get excited about.”

“By ‘teen age problems’ do you mean boys?”

“Well if boys are a problem, she seems to be handling that pretty well. I was thinking more of planning the use of her time.”

“I confess that this role of parenthood has just been thrust upon me quite suddenly. I haven’t been doing much supervising of her life. Maybe I should sort of act like a consultant. It’s s cinch that my sister won’t.”

“Let’s cut to the chase. I was hoping to speak to Miriam’s mother but if you are acting in that role then I’ll speak to you frankly.” To her amazement, he took her right hand and laid it flat on the table, palm facing up. Then he put his thumb in the middle of her palm. “It’s like this. Every once in awhile, God sends into the world a highly unusual infant. There seems to be no pattern as to where or when this child may appear.” As he mentioned each name, he pressed his thumb into her palm again.  Julius Caesar was born of a patrician family in Italy, about 100 years before Christ. Abraham Lincoln was born in a farmers’ log cabin in Kentucky in 1809. Mahatma Gandhi was the child of a middle class Indian family in a small town on the west coast of India. Pierre Trudeau came on the scene in 1919, as the son of a businessman and lawyer. His father owned a gas station which he later sold for a great deal of money…”

Abagail interrupted. “All this is very interesting but I don’t see what it has to do with Miriam.”

Still holding her hand, Albert looked at her intently. “I think we have another such person in Miriam! She’s attractive and effective. Her school marks are always high. Her creativity is astounding. Her IQ is off the dial. She’s a born leader. She’s politically astute.  She’s a natural sport—president of the girl’s basketball team.”

Abigail withdrew her hand gently. “Wow! That’s quite a build up. I guess living with her every day, I just didn’t see these things.”

“That’s just it, Abigail. We can treat her like any other normal kid and she will do well. Or we can guide her and mentor her and help build a person who changes the world.”

“I don’t think I’m that smart,” she commented humbly.

“Nor am I,” he replied. “But through our school connections we have access to unbelievable resources. It’s just a case of steering her in the right direction. Are you with me or am I going to take this on alone?”

“I’m with you… I think. But I’m out of my depth. I wouldn’t know where to start, or what to do.”

“The first thing is to work with her to develop an objective. What does she want to do? What goals has she in mind? Where does she want to be 10 years from graduation? From there the three of us can develop a study plan, in fact a life plan.

“Frankly I’d like to see her get a Rhodes Scholarship. That’s a subsidized advanced study course at Oxford University in England. It’s very competitive but very prestigious. It would be wonderfully broadening for her. She’d make valuable contacts she’d keep for life.

“Here let me read you this. The late Cecil Rhodes had the intention of ‘improving the world through the diffusion of leaders motivated to serve their contemporaries, trained in contemplative life of the mind, and broadened by their acquaintance with one another and by exposure to cultures different from their own.’”

“Wow, that sounds amazing! How do you go about competing?”

“I don’t know but I can find out fairly easily.”

Abigail sat silent for a moment. “Of course, I’ll have to clear all this with her mother, Rebecca. I think she’ll agree. She’ll probably be glad that she doesn’t have to do the work. But she would be mad as hell if she discovered that we were working behind her back.”

“That brings up two other things I want to discuss with you. Assuming that Miriam is successful as she progresses through life, there’ll be certain recognitions. When that happens it won’t be you standing proudly beside her, it will be her mother.”

Abigail paused for reflection. “I think I can accept that. My reward will be in seeing Miriam progress.”

“Brava! Then there is one more thing.” My heavens, he’s blushing she noted. “If this goes ahead, you and I are going to be spending a lot of time together.”

She stared at him intently for a long moment. “If you can take it I guess I can.” She laughed gently.

A half hour went by quickly. They worked well together and kept to the subject at hand. However an observer might have noticed that they were sitting closer together than might be absolutely necessary. It was at least 45 minutes before Miriam showed up at the door. “You two finished tearing me apart?” she asked.

Albert stretched. “Yes, we’re through the tearing apart bit. From now on it’s reconstruction.”

“And what exactly does that mean?” asked Miriam.

“Oh, you’ll see,” replied Albert enigmatically.

Abigail and Miriam were quiet on the drive home. Finally Miriam asked, “Well?”

“He thinks very highly of you.”

“Oh I didn’t mean that. I mean what did you think of him?”

“He seems nice enough.”

“‘Nice enough’ for what?”

“Not for anything, just nice… Miriam! Are you trying to set me up?”

Miriam blustered for only a moment. “Well you would make a nice couple.”

Abigail was silent for a long while. The she let out a long sigh. “Maybe we would.”

She took th thought to bed with her that night.

At precisely the same time, though some kms. away, Albert was preparing for his usual lonely bed. He was savouring a night-cap glass of red wine. He let his thoughts wander. Abigail. I could get used to that name. “Abigail, would you share a glass of wine with me?” Hmmmm.

6 Responses to “Abigail, Rebecca and Miriam (Ch. 1)”

  1. charles kirby says:

    Lyman…why must you always leave me wanting to know: “:Then what happened?” And by the way…how does creating written conversations come so easily to you? As usual…an imaginative account of people we have all surely known! Congrats. Charles

  2. jack long Feb 21,10. says:

    Good story but it needs to go further. It’s as if this is the first chapter in a book, not a short story. Please do a sequel.

  3. Barry says:

    I want to weigh in on the ending since it has become a hot topic.

    I enjoyed the ending as much as I did that of Shrimp to Shrimp!

    It is the mark or artistic creativity to be able to leave your audience’s minds in a state that demands the imagination to continue the story.


  4. Buck says:

    Now eager to read the sequel

  5. MadeleineFound it a bit long, but enjoyed the folksy narrative.Keep on writing. By the way, I finished your momoirs, and enjoyed the great story of an says:

    Great story, and can hardly wait for the sequel. I just heard about your hip operation. Hope all went well and you are on both feet again.

  6. Lynn says:

    I’m going to read the next installment now and comment once i know the whoile story. You sure packed a lot in this one.

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