BY NICOLE SENYI
Copyright is held by the author.
“A PACKAGE came for you today. From your Aunt Mildred.”
Lucy took off her hat. The ends of her curly brown hair dripped onto her already sodden wool coat. Even by Halifax standards it was a nasty day. She picked up the brown paper parcel on the small table by the door where they kept their mail, keys and other such odds and ends.
“Did a letter arrive with it?” Her Aunt Mildred always sent a letter full of family news, village gossip and unwanted advice.
“Not this time,” said her husband from behind the newspaper he was reading. Charlie was ensconced in his favourite easy chair, his spectacles glinting in the light from the fire.
“Perhaps it got lost in the post,” mused Lucy. Charlie grunted. Apparently a missing letter from her aunt in England could not compete with the latest goings on of the stock market.
Lucy slit open the package, careful not to tear the paper. Rather than the usual cotton bag, her aunt had sent the flour in a blue painted tin. She opened the lid and pinched a bit of its contents between her fingers. It was much finer than the usual stuff Mildred sent. Between the expensive tin and the fine grind, it must have cost her aunt a pretty penny. Lucy made a mental note to send a thank you card and perhaps some ginger snaps. Aunt Mildred was always writing that the ones in Nova Scotia were far superior to those in Yorkshire.
“Well anyways, I can finally make those biscuits I was telling you about.”
“I don’t know why you can’t use the flour they sell here.” Charlie looked up over his newspaper to frown at the tin in her hand. Lucy sighed. Charlie might know more about business than she, but when it came to cooking or baking, he was hopeless.
“I’ve told you; Canadian flour doesn’t include baking powder. English flour does.”
“Can’t you just add baking powder?”
Lucy flicked her gaze to the plaster ceiling and shook her head. “No. It’s too hard to get the right ratio for the English recipes.”
Charlie shrugged and retreated behind his broadsheet.
The biscuits, or cookies as Charlie called them, were superb. Light, buttery, with just a hint of nuttiness that must have come from Aunt Mildred’s expensive flour, they were the best Lucy had ever baked. Charlie ate at least six. She had to hide the rest since Father Andrews was coming to tea the next afternoon.
Lucy didn’t much like the good reverend. But he was a friend of her mother-in-law, so Lucy felt obligated to ask him around for tea a few times a year.
Father Andrews was late, as usual. While Lucy waited for him, she sorted the mail that had arrived earlier. Among the bills was a letter from her aunt. She sliced open the envelope and was about to read its contents when a knock sounded at the door. She sighed and put down the letter. She’d have to read it later.
Tea was as unbearable as always. Father Andrews complained about the morality of today’s young people, praised the 18th amendment, and condemned liberals, immigrants, and Catholics. The high point of the afternoon was when the Reverend asked for seconds of Lucy’s biscuits.
“More young ladies should excel at the womanly arts,” Father Andrew said, biting into the biscuit with relish, crumbs clinging to the corner of his mouth.
Lucy nodded, pleased by the compliment, even if the sentiment raised her hackles.
Later that night, after she and Charlie had finished their supper, Lucy finally had a moment to read Aunt Mildred’s letter. She took the letter into the living room where Charlie was already seated by the fire. Helen Kane’s voice warbled from the wireless in the corner.
Her eyes skimmed over the first few paragraphs — family news, complaints about Lucy’s mother, and the failing health of her aunt’s West Highland terrier. Lucy smiled at her aunt’s usual melodrama. She continued reading. She gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. No. It couldn’t be. She must have misread her aunt’s untidy sprawl. A wave of dizziness made her close her eyes.
“What is it, dear? Is everything all right?”
Lucy shook her head, not opening her eyes.
Charlie knelt down beside her chair and took her hand. “You look like you’re about to be sick. What’s happened?”
“I-I don’t think I can tell you. Here. You must read this yourself.”
She passed him the letter, her hand shaking.
“ ‘Dear Lucy,” Charlie read, “‘I was so delighted to receive your letter –
“No, read this bit,” Lucy stabbed her finger at the offending second page.
Charlie cleared his throat. “ ‘I hope that this letter precedes my package. I have sent it several days in advance just to be sure. As you know, dear cousin Edward passed away in March. He was cremated and there was some discussion regarding what was to be done with his ashes. Your mother argued to have them scattered over the Highlands, as Edward was very fond of Scotland and spent many fishing and sketching trips there. But Edward’s daughter, Rose, insisted they be sent on to you in Canada. Edward dearly loved your quaint province and so I ask you to please scatter his remains in some picturesque place . . .’ ”
Charlie’s voice died. He cleared his throat again.
“Lucy, does this mean what I think it means?” His voice was barely above a whisper.
Lucy nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
“You mean the cookies . . . the reverend . . . he ate . . .”
There was nothing for it. She had to just say it. “Yes. We ate Cousin Edward.”
When Nicole Senyi was seven, her mother asked what she wanted to do for her birthday. Rather than going to the zoo or spending the day at Chuck E Cheese, she chose a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to see the mummies. Her love of the past eventually led to a degree in History and Egyptology from the University of Toronto. Fast forward a few years. After a successful career in communications, Nicole decided to pursue her passion — writing historical fiction. In 2021 her short story, The Bridge, was awarded Honorable Mention in the Mainstream/Literary category of the 90th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. When not writing, you can find Nicole working in her garden, reading, or cooking and baking for her husband and son. Find Nicole on instagram @nicole.senyi