Tea for Two: A Carding Chronicle

SH-teapotLast week, Edie Wolfe and her neighbors, David and Lillian Tarkiainen, had their good night’s sleep shattered by the scream of a peacock.

It was a bit unnerving, especially when they discovered that the flamboyant bird had a love interest hiding in the bushes.

But who owns the peacock and why is it there?

Edie has a hunch so she calls Lee and Christine Tennyson, Carding’s favorite local farmers, to see if they’re missing any birds.

And that’s when she falls into the “Tennyson tangle.”

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. Carding is the small town (population 3,700 or so) that no one can seem to find on a map of the Green Mountain State. But you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont.

Details about the novels are at the end of this story. And may I encourage you to subscribe to my website so you won’t miss out on anything Carding.

This three-part tale continues in Edie Wolfe’s kitchen over a cup of tea with Christine Tennyson.

Glad you’ve stopped by for a visit.

“You’ve known the twins for a long time,” Christine Tennyson began as she sipped a cup of tea in Edie Wolfe’s kitchen.

“Since high school,” Edie said. “They were a year ahead of me.” She didn’t know Christine well but it was clear that the younger woman was agitated. “They’ve always had a reputation, one that’s earned in my opinion, as being a bit eccentric.”

“I really don’t know them as anything more than Lee’s aunts. I’ve only met them three or four times since we got married.” She chuckled. “But I have to say that they’ve sent our kids some rather bizarre birthday gifts.”

The peacock in the backyard screamed again as it approached a rather bemused rooster standing in the center of Edie’s stubbled November garden.

“What do you supposed the attraction is there?” Edie mused.

“I have no idea.” Christine shook her head. “We knew that Flora Mae and Mary Beth planned to be in Carding for Thanksgiving but we had no idea when they would arrive. Then yesterday afternoon when I got home from school with the kids, I found Lee standing in our backyard just sputtering with anger.”

“Lee angry? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry,” Edie said. “I don’t think anyone in Carding has seen him angry.”

“Well, he was. When he calmed down enough to be coherent, he told me that the twins showed up in a rented van with a peacock in a cage in the back seat, marched into our barn, took our rooster, and then left without so much as a by-your-leave,” Christine said. “He’s still in shock.”

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s supposed to be a meeting of the Tennyson clan over Thanksgiving weekend to decide the fate of the house on the green,” Edie said. “Local legend has it that ownership of that property is so tangled, no one’s quite sure who owns it or who’s responsible for it.”

“It’s worse than that.” Christine set her empty cup in the sink. “Or better, depending on your point of view. During the summer, Lee and I found out that the property taxes haven’t been paid in over a year. The house isn’t in any danger of a tax sale yet…”

“But it could be. If the twins don’t have the money to keep up with the taxes, it’s easy to get so far behind that a tax sale becomes inevitable,” Edie said. “How many of the extended Tennyson family are planning to come?”

“There may be as many as twenty here in person and another ten joining online,” Christine said, drawing on a pair of heavy leather gloves. Outside, the peacock was raising its feathers, and the rooster looked embarrassed. “I think I need to rescue my poor bird.”

“What about the peacock?”

Christine sighed. “I guess I can take him too.”

“So what did you want my advice about?”

“Edie, none of the Tennysons wants to throw those two women out of the only place they’ve ever called home but they also feel a sense of responsibility for the property,” Christine explained. “We just can’t let this situation continue. So tell me, how would you get Flora Mae and Mary Beth to relinquish their interest in that house?”

Edie cocked her head. “My first question would be: Can you determine who actually owns it?”

“Actually, we already have. When we found out that the taxes hadn’t been paid, everyone agreed to hire Charlie Cooper to investigate the multiple wills and inheritance claims,” Christine said.

“What did he find out?”

“Legally, the ownership is shared among the eight first cousins in Lee’s generation. Together, they can authorize the sale of the property,” Christine said.

“What about the twins? Do they have a say?”

“Interestingly enough, they don’t. From what Charlie can determine, their father had a falling out with his parents and they left him only an insignificant gift of money in their will and no part of the house on the green at all. There were four Tennyson children in that family, and the other three siblings took control when their parents died. When the last of that generation passed away, the property was inherited by Lee and the cousins,” Christine said.

“You mean the twins have been squatting in that house all these years?” Edie said.

Christine zipped her jacket up to her chin. “Yeah. Ironic, isn’t it? At the time, no one else wanted to live there because they were all busy with their own lives and careers. As long as Flora Mae and Mary Beth kept the place maintained and paid the property taxes, no one had any reason to bother them.”

“Well, that puts a whole new spin on the situation, doesn’t it?” Edie said.

“It sure does. That’s why I’d be grateful for any ideas or advice or common sense that you can throw my way. No one wants to make the twins homeless but this situation can’t continue.” Christine looked up at the clock. “I’ve gotta go, Edie. Thanks for the tea and for letting me talk.”

Edie nodded her head, her face already thoughtful. “I think I’ll walk down the street to pay the twins a visit. I’ll let you know if I learn any information to add to yours.”

Christine impulsively threw her arms around Edie’s neck. “I feel better already,” she said as she hurried out the back door.

“But I didn’t promise anything,” Edie murmured into now-empty kitchen.

In Edie’s opinion, most sticky situations can be defused by lemon cake or spice cookies. Since she needed time to think as well as do some research, she pulled cookie ingredients out of her cupboards and set a large bowl in the center of her counter.

She was just sliding the first two pans into the oven when Ruth Goodwin appeared at her back door. “I was passing and smelled ginger,” she said. “Are you baking for Thanksgiving already?”

“No, I’m planning on paying a visit,” Edie said. “To the Tennyson twins.”

Ruth’s head snapped up. “How did you hear so soon?”

“Hear that they’re in town?”

“No, hear that an ambulance just took Mary Beth to the hospital.”

Edie sagged down into a chair. “So that’s why they came home for Thanksgiving. Mary Beth was ill. They haven’t made an appearance in years, and I wondered why they chose to do it now.”

Ruth grabbed a potholder as the timer on Edie’s stove began to beep. “I heard they showed up at Lee and Christine’s place and kidnapped a rooster.”

“Yeah. I think it’s supposed to keep their peacock company.”

“Their what?”

Edie leaped to her feet, stripped off her apron, and covered the remaining cookie dough to keep it moist. “I think we’d better get over there to check on Flora Mae. The twins are never separated, and if they didn’t take her to the hospital with her sister, she’ll be frantic.”

Ruth turned off the oven, and pulled her car keys out of her pocket. “Can I assume you’re going to fill me in on what’s going on as we drive over there?”

“The twins didn’t pay the property taxes on the house this year, the building’s getting shabby, the twins don’t own it and never owned it, and none of the Tennysons have any idea what to do with them,” Edie explained as the two women piled into Ruth’s bright yellow Jeep.

Ruth stared at her friend before she turned the key in the ignition. “So we’re off on a rescue mission. I love those.” 

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, has just been published! You can find them all on Amazon or you can order them through your local independent book store.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you’d like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

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