The Family Way (Molly Murphy, #12)
New York City, July 1904
Satan finds work for idle hands to do. That was one of my mother’s favorite sayings if she ever caught me daydreaming or lying on my back on the turf, staring up at the white clouds that raced across the sky. I could almost hear her voice, with its strong Irish brogue, as I sat on the sofa and sipped a glass of lemonade on a hot July day.
Frankly, I rather wished that Satan would find me something to do with my idle hands because I was dying of boredom. All my life I’d been used to hard work, forced to care for my father and three young brothers after my mother went to her heavenly rest. (At least I presume that’s where she went. She certainly thought she deserved it.) And now, for the first time in my life, I was a lady of leisure. Ever since I found out I was in the family way, back in February, Daniel had treated me as if I was made of fine porcelain. For the first few months I was glad of his solicitous behavior toward me as I was horribly sick. In fact I began to feel more sympathy for my mother, who had gone through this at least four times. But then, at the start of the fourth month, a miraculous change occurred. I awoke one morning to find that I felt well and hungry and full of energy. Daniel, however, still insisted that I did as little as possible, did not exert myself, took no risks, and generally behave like one of those helpless females I so despised.
He wanted me to lie on the couch with my feet up and spend my days making little garments. I had tried to do this and the quality of my sewing and knitting had improved, but still left a lot to be desired. Besides, I knew that my mother-in-law was sewing away diligently and that my neighbors Sid and Gus would shower the child with expensive presents.
So this left long hours to be filled every day. Our little house on Patchin Place could be cleaned in a couple of hours. I did a little shopping, but Daniel’s job as a police captain meant that he was seldom home for lunch and sometimes not even for dinner, so little cooking was required. I was glad of this when the weather turned hot at the end of June as my growing bulk meant that I felt the heat badly. Daniel suggested that he could fend for himself just fine and I should go up to his mother in Westchester County, where I’d be cooler and well looked after. I didn’t say it out loud but I’d rather have endured a fiery furnace than a prolonged stay with Daniel’s mother. Not that she was an ogre or anything, but her standards of perfection and her social interactions with members of high society left me feeling hopelessly inadequate. I knew that she was disappointed that Daniel had not made a better match than an Irish girl with no money and no family connections.
She never actually came out and said this, but she made it plain enough. “I took tea with the Harpers yesterday,” she’d say. “I remember that one of the Harper girls was rather sweet on you at one time, Daniel. She’s gone on to make an excellent marriage with one of the Van Baarens. Her parents couldn’t be happier.” And then she’d look at me.
So I was prepared to endure any amount of heat rather than Daniel’s mother. I just wished these last months would hurry up and be over. I put down my lemonade glass and picked up the undershirt I had been attempting to sew. I could see sweaty fingerprints on the fine white cotton and several places where the stitches had been unpicked. I sighed. I just wasn’t cut out to be a seamstress. As a detective I hadn’t done at all badly, but that profession was now closed to me. Daniel had made me promise that I’d give up my agency when we married. I had hoped that Daniel would share his cases with me, that we’d sit at the kitchen table and he’d ask for my opinion. But he had claimed that his recent cases had been too commonplace to be worth discussing or else so confidential that he had to remain tight-lipped about them.
I looked up as the sun suddenly streamed in through the back parlor windows. A sunbeam lit the dust motes in the air and painted a stripe of brightness on the wallpaper. Now this room would soon be too hot for comfort and I’d be banished to the front parlor, dark and gloomy, until the sun set. I got up to draw the heavy velvet drapes across the window and noticed that the lace curtains looked rather dingy. That would never do. Having achieved lace curtains for the first time in my life, I should make sure that they remained a pristine white. I went into the kitchen and brought back a high-backed wooden chair. I proceeded to climb on this with some difficulty, then I reached up to unhook the first of the lace curtains.