Flash: Q is for Quicken

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

“You don’t need to do that, you know.”

Crawling out of the oven, Abigail threw the sponge into the bucket of blackened water to find the witch priestess had joined her in the kitchen. She smiled at the pregnant woman before carrying the water over to the modern double-sink and poured the water down the deeper one. “Then who’s going to get it done, Mistress, with you being in a delicate way and all?”

Lizzo snorted, rubbing her belly. “Emma is not delicate, nothing about pregnancy is delicate. Not the vomiting, not the swollen feet, not the baby gymnastics off the bladder at,” the woman squinted at the digital clock on the cast-iron-looking stove, “3 am.”

“Aye, ma’am there is that.” The house servant nodded, rinsing out the bucket and refilling it with warm water, adding a few squirts of soap the new owners had brought with them. “Still, you should not be doing all the things with the little one on the way.”

“I don’t.” She smiled gently, with satisfaction, continuing to rub the side of her belly, pressing every now and again, “Jonathan does so much, and Malcolm is a great kid.”

“Thanks Mom for the praise.” The dark-haired teenage boy grinned at his mom as he crossed to the humming refrigerator in a pair of gym shorts and nothing else.

The living woman raised her eyebrows. “And what are you doing up, young man?”

“Got hungry,” he said while rooting around the meager groceries they had stocked for their first night at their new residence. “Pizza was great, but doesn’t last long.”

“Nothing does.” Lizzo muttered leaning forward, making eye contact with the ghost giving her new kitchen a deep clean, who smiled back at her, a joke between adult women. Lizzo found her lips twitching. It’s been a long time since she had a proper coven with other women to joke with, one of the things she gave up for her marriage and children.

Her son dumped what was to be tomorrow’s lunch on the wooden island and started making himself sandwiches. Someday she would figure out the calorie intake he needed while growing like a weed, but with pregnancy brain, that wasn’t going to stick for a while.

“Now I understand why I had to pack so little for the move.”

Malcolm shrugged, teasing his mom right back. “I figured you were paying by the pound, better in me than in the truck.”

She laughed at his audacity.

“Want one?” He held up a sandwich from the cutting board he was working on.

Pausing in her tummy rubbing, Lizzo considered before reaching out a hand. “Yes, thank you.” Calories when building another human being were a constant; only problem is her stomach was fighting for room with Emma and losing. She could only eat snack-sized meals and it drove her batty.

The sandwich was thick artisan bread with lettuce and tomato, and deli rotisserie chicken spiced with pepper and thyme. Malcolm dragged his three on the cutting board over to another of the high stools around the prep area, leaving the extra tomatoes, the half head of lettuce, and what was left of the bread and meat out. The mostly solid servant rinsed her hands and moved to put the leftovers away.

“No, don’t do that.” Lizzo ordered.


“That is for Malcolm to put away.”

“Mom,” her son whined.

“I’m not going to have Caitlin think I raised a slob.” Lizzo nodded at the debris. “Clean up after yourself. A clean work area…”

“Is a safe work area.” Malcolm rolled his eyes. “Which hat?”

Abby’s head bounced between them, following the conversation from where she had returned to scrubbing inside the cabinets.

“It’s the straw one, but the silk one just may make an appearance.”

“Alright, alright.” The teenager shoved the last of his first sandwich into his mouth and loaded up his arms with the unused sandwich makings. “Better, mom?” he said, slumping into his chair after completing the task.

Lizzo nodded setting down the second half of her sandwich, to find a glass of water on the table. She hadn’t noticed the ghost getting that close to her. “Thank you, Malcolm.” She turned her head to the mostly manifested woman “And thank you, miss.”

The ghost ducked her head. “You’re welcome ma’am.”

“You are something, aren’t you?” the witch shook her head, going back to rubbing her right side.

“Ma’am?” Abby asked, pulling over a step stool to get the upper cabinets.

“I’ve met some spiritual phenomena before, most barely better than a memory on repeat. But you,” Lizzo waved a hand to where the other was working, “you are all of you. And capable of moving things easily.” Lizzo squinted again, studying the ghost, changing her sight to Sight, the gray-blue kerchief catching back the straggly gray-brown hair shifted to a bright blue holding a cascade of rich auburn curls. The pale dress, became alive with bright yellow flowers, and a bright, healthy green aura flowed out of her skin, indistinguishable from a living creature, screaming her natural nurturing nature for anyone who cared to Look. “And learning. You speak mostly modern English, just a hint of an … Irish? … accent, but you work all the modern gadgets like you were born to them.”

“I just am me,” done with her present task, Abby climbed down from the slate counter to rinse out the bucket again, “I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere. It’s not like I can travel none.” After rinsing the bucket out, she set it down, dropping the scrub brush, sponge, and a bottle of soap into the bucket. “But six families have lived here and I help when I can. I’m just sorry you moved in when it was in such a mess. I’ve been sleeping for a bit. If it would be okay, I’ll get the bathrooms next. I only have a few more hours until sunrise.”

“I would appreciate that so much. But again, you don’t have to do this,” Lizzo reassured her. “Any of this.”

“I enjoy it.”

“If this is not out of line, and you can decline to answer of your own free will, may I ask how old you are?” the witch tilted her head, “During daylight hours, it’s hard to see you clearly, but right now, you look barely older than my Malcolm.”

“My father signed me over to a captain when I was thirteen, and he sold my indenture paperwork to Mr. Palmer.” The ghost shifted her stance, looking off into the distance a moment, shadows crossing her face a little more literally than on a normal living being, before continuing. “I worked for him less than a year, the Mistress had my papers resold to the Henrys, the ones who built this house. They needed workers when it got finished.”

“And you said the fire was five years in.”

“Yes ma’am.” The woman brushed her apron and smoothed her skirts, keeping her head mostly down.

“You are only eighteen?” Malcolm moved around the table. “Maybe nineteen?”

The servant lifted her head. “I guess. That sounds about the all of it.”

“Plus another hundred or so years.” His mother added. “Malcolm…” a warning clearly threaded her voice.

“Right.” The teenager blinked, looking over at his mom. “Sorry.”

“We’ll talk more in the morning. Go get some sleep.” Lizzo snapped. “That is a silk hat order.”

“Yes, priestess.” Malcolm rushed out of the kitchen, through the butler’s pantry, to the morning drawing room where the family was camping overnight until the furniture arrived.

After watching him clear the room, the witch turned her attention back to the house ghost. “You lived in a different time. He is still a child.”

“Mistress,” Abby bowed her head before raising it to meet the other woman’s eyes, “I will never act to harm a child.”

“Good.” Lizzo kept eye contact for a moment longer before standing herself. “Thank you for cleaning. I’m going to try and get some more sleep. Am I going to see you tomorrow?”

“Not likely until nightfall, Mistress, this” Abby swung the bucket in her hand, “takes effort and I’ll need some resting, but with the little ones around, the house is happy.”

Frowning at that, but the constant tiredness creeping back into her thoughts, Lizzo had to let it go for another time, making a big underlined fluorescent mental note for there to be another time.

(words 1,409, first published 4/19/2023)

Series: Under Contract
1. N is for Noise (4/16/2023)
2. Q is for Quicken (4/19/2023)
3. Y is for Yield (4/28/2023)
4. Z is for Zzzz (4/30/2023)