Gwendolyn quickly walked about the house telling the servants to work faster.
Her husband was due home any minute and the house needed to be perfect. She walked across the freshly scrubbed floors into the nursery and checked on the baby who was being sung to by his nanny. Pleased that John was quiet, she left to inquire about that night’s dinner, hopefully the cook didn’t forget to put the pepper on the roast.
At a quarter past five, Edgar Harper arrived home from his job as the Dean of Science at New York University. His wife and the housekeeper, Janice, who promptly took his coat and hat, greeted him at the door.
“How was your day, darling?” Gwen cheerfully asked whilst quickly fixing her hair but Edgar just walked past and headed to his office. Janice shot a sympathetic look towards the missus, she deserved better than him. But it wasn’t her place to say anything.
“That’s great, dear. My day was fine too, thanks for asking.” Gwen murmured to herself. She honestly didn’t know why she continually asked him how his day was. She hadn’t received a response since the stock market fell two years ago. She knew she should have been happy that they were still able to keep the house and the staff after the crash, but she couldn’t help but feel that she would rather be poor and happy then rich and miserable. She quickly scolded herself. How dare she be ungrateful for her good fortune? She had a son to take care of and a roof over her head. What more could she ask for?
Gwen softly knocked on the office door. When she didn’t receive a response she opened the door and peered in. Edgar was reading the Times at his desk; she really hated it when he ignored her.
“Eddie dear?” She asked while stepping into the room.
This time he glared over his paper.
“What is it?”
“I just–I just wanted to let you know that–that I had to spend a little more then normal today. You see the price of ink went up so the cost of the Times also went up, I just wanted you to know.” She prayed that her face didn’t express how scared she was. When he was angry things didn’t go well. She wrung her hands behind her back as she waited for his answer. After a long pregnant pause he placed the newspaper down.
“ Do you even realize how much I work too keep food on the table? To put a roof over our heads? Over my son’s head? Are you really such a moron? I work too hard for you to just spend money willy-nilly. We’re in a depression, for God’s sake. We can’t be spending heaps of money every day.” He grunted, his face turning a purple-red. The large vein in his neck stuck out and started throbbing. He removed his fob watch from his desk and launched it towards Gwen’s head. It barely missed and shattered against the wall behind her. She fell to the ground in fear and started to cry.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Please”
“Stop your blubbering and stand up. You look like a hysterical fool. Now get ready for dinner.” He then turned back to his paper. Gwen hastily dried her eyes and left the room. Some of the servants were standing outside of the door but scattered when the missus appeared in the doorway. She prayed that they hadn’t heard the fight. She dreaded gossip among the household; nothing good ever came of it. Hurrying up the stairs she went to the only place she felt safe.
When she entered John’s nursery she instantly relaxed. She relieved the nanny of her duty and took the sleeping infant into her arms. Holding the little one close she walked towards the rocking chair by the window.
“Look Johnny, you can see the zeppelins flying over head. I bet one day you are going to be a zeppelin pilot when you grow up. My little boy is going to fly all over the world and get away from this horrible place. “ She cooed to the baby. If only she had the nerve to leave Edgar and take her son away. She would raise him as a proper gentleman. He would be handsome too. Some days Gwen dreamed of running away with John and boarding the first zeppelin she saw at the depot in the new Empire State building. She would find work as a seamstress and they would have a good life. It would be hard, but good. But she couldn’t leave. Edgar had provided them a good home and a future for John, he would be a scientist like his father and would eventually teach as well. If she left she would have nowhere to go, no one to turn to. Life was difficult but it hadn’t always been this way. Edgar and her were happy the first few years of their marriage; they were loving and affectionate. Everything Gwen had ever dreamed of. But as the marriage progressed he began to lose his temper more and more easily. After the market fell he became violent. He lashed out at every little mistake she made or the household made was taken out on her. She knew that she shouldn’t have stayed in the loveless marriage for as long as she had but she didn’t want to be deemed a social outcast, as divorcees often were. No one had money anymore so people were judged more harshly on their place in society, not that were was a society anymore.
She sighed and kissed John’s little head and sang him a lullaby before she headed down for dinner.
After the roast was served with just enough pepper, everything seemed to go back to normal; Edgar was his usual calm business like self. He slowly tasted the roast and gave it the much yearned for nod of approval. Not much was spoken at the table; the only noises heard were the sounds of cutlery and the sipping of wine. As the dessert was being served Edgar announced that he had solved the problem of todays over spending.
“Yes, my dear. I’m going to let the nanny go. The savings we make from not paying her will make up for the extra spending you did.” He said between bites of his strawberry shortcake.
“Don’t you think that is a little drastic? Her job may not be a necessity in this house but she makes everyone’s jobs easier. With her I can do some of the errands around town without having to worry to much about him. But if you think it is needed, I understand, I guess.”
“Oh, I just remembered the other part of the solution.”
“The other part? Wouldn’t firing the nanny be enough?”
“In the short term yes, but I’m planning for the long term. I’m putting John into foster care. He’ll be raised by others for a few years and he will return to us when he begins school. I think that he has been too much of a distraction for you. Your household duties have been lacking since John was born and while we have servants, your job as a wife has been disappointing. ”
“Edgar, you can not be serious. I won’t let you take our baby from us. WE are his parents WE should raise him. We don’t know who the people raising him will be. They could be monsters to him. Please let him stay at home. You can get rid of all the servants if you just let him stay home. Please, Edgar. I need him here, I need my baby.” Gwen said, tearing down her face.
‘You will listen to me, Gwendolyn. This is my house and these are my rules. I say that my son is going away and that is that. I don’t want to hear anymore of this nonsense from you. I know what’s best for this household.”
There was no use in arguing with him. She knew now just to let him get his way and no one got hurt. He left and went back to his office. She had to do something to save her son. Johnny couldn’t just sent to another family like he was nothing. She had to think of something and she had to think fast. Then it came to her, she knew what had to be done. It was the only option she had left.
The rest of the evening went on as normal. Gwen ironed Edgar’s shirt for work the next day, she tucked the baby in for the night, and she dressed into her sleeping gown. By the time Edgar went to bed she was already asleep.
Edgar woke every morning at 6am. He would get ready and be out the door by 6:30. Normally the lady of the house would rise at 7, but today wasn’t a normal day she was up at 6:30 and fully dressed in ten minutes. As the housekeeper was cleaning up the remains of breakfast Gwen asked her if she could retrieve the large picnic basket from the closet.
“I want to take John to the park today. It’s such a nice day outside and the fresh air would do him so good.”
“Yes, ma’am. Would you like me to pack a light lunch?” Janice asked.
“Yes, please.” Gwen smiled at Janice. Back in the master bedroom Gwen painstakingly went through he closet looking for the clothes that would take up the least amount of room. She laid her two plainest dresses on the bed and in the center of them she dumped the contents of her jewelry box. She didn’t need these luxuries anymore, she would sell them and live off of the money she made until she found a job. Securing the jewelry in the dresses, she folded them into a small square that would fit inside the blanket. Holding the bundle to her chest she went into Edgar’s office. She knew he had some “emergency” money stashed away somewhere in here. After checking all the drawers and folders she had still not found the money. She glanced at her bundle that she had placed on the large oak desk. If she were Edgar where would she hide the money? If she were he she would hide it in a safe but they didn’t have one of those, she would know the servants gossiped about everything he bought. Think. Think. Think. Where is it? Then she remembered a saying Edgar would tell her when the family was down on their luck.
“Blessed are the poor; for they shall inherit the earth”
This stuck out in her mind. Wasn’t she poor now? Didn’t she need help? Laying her head on the desk she looked at the bookshelves that lined the room. The answer was here and she couldn’t see the answer. Tears of frustration blurred her vision, everything was heading in the right direction but this roadblock was the only thing stopping her from freedom. From her life. Where did Eddie go when he needed help? Where did he turn to?
Eddie turned to religion. Gwen rushed over to the bookshelf that held the families Bible. When she opened the good book fifty dollars was tucked away into the pages. She smiled and said a quick prayer of thanks and pocketed the money. Now it was time to gather up the reason she lived.
John was awake and cooing in his crib when she entered.
“Good morning, my little prince. How did you sleep? We are going on an adventure today? Aren’t you excited?” She packed his diaper bag as much as it could hold with diapers and clothes. Walking over to the crib she swaddled him in his favorite sleeping blanket and cradled him close.
“Life is going to change for us.”
Carrying John, the bundle and the diaper bag into the dining room. The picnic basket was packed with lunch and a picnic blanket all ready for their day at the “park”.
“Ma’am?” Janice asked as she came into the room. “Would you like some company on this excursion of yours? John’s nappy bag looks heavier than normal, I wouldn’t mind carrying it.”
“No, Janice. I’m fine. Thank you for asking though, but I can handle it myself.”
“Alright, Miss. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
The front door had never looked scarier. It loomed overhead like an ogre guarding a bridge. There she was bundle and food in the basket, John at her hip, and the bag slung across her chest. She was ready to go, but her feet wouldn’t move. Was she really ready to leave? Could she really abandon Edgar and the house? John then looked into her eyes and she looked into his. He smiled up at her, his face pressed into her bosom. She wasn’t doing this for her. It didn’t matter if she thought she was ready. This was all for John. She reached for the doorknob and opened the door to their new life outside of Edgar’s grasp.