William had yet to come home with the horses from town. The day grew late.
Racing past as if the clouds themselves were giving chase, the afternoon had been reduced to a gray dusk. Throughout the drifting week the sky had been milky, washing out the colors of even the most flaming trees. A loose chill permeated the glen where Meredith and William Tawney had built their home, only a miles journey out of town. Business and the trip to see to it usually kept William the day, but the nature of the weather and his absence rose concern in Meredith regardless.
One of the secondary families to New York and the valley, William had profited in land development and farming through an employer who actually came from the first settlement to Plymouth, John Alden Lesting. John Lesting had taken a liking to William and procured his investment of the man in his dedication to the company that Lesting possessed. In time, William had expressed interest in expanding the efforts of Alden Developments by taking a portion of the load on himself elsewhere. Threatened by the possibility of William gaining too much control in his company, Lesting excused William from his position in the hopes to make an example of William’s insolence while concurrently exercising his own power.
Despite being without a trade, William had stowed his money thoughtfully. With the know-how of Lesting’s agricultural skills and land development, William and Meredith moved beyond Terrytowne limits to establish themselves. As an independent, it allowed the two enough money to separate from the confines of Terrytowne and build anew outside of the city. It was the hope of the Tawney family to procure business further south of the Hudson, outside of Lesting’s way.
Regular trips were made to town for various financial handlings and the exchange of their produce for sell or trade. Lesting of course learned quickly of William’s new venture but had not yet struck to knock his former employee down. Land further south was far less hospitable and more a challenge to develop than Lesting cared to manage. If the young Tawney wished to break his break raking boulders from riverbeds, then so be it. For the time being, William’s endeavors did not pose a threat to those of Lesting’s own. When William Tawney went into town that sulking morning, it was simply business as usual.
Tucked within a modest kitchen, an iron stove lofted aromatic veins of baking apple. And Cinnamon. Not always a luxury the Tawney’s could afford. With Meredith’s thoughtful planning and William’s perseverance on the farm, the two were capable of such pleasures in their home. A cinnamon laced apple pie was one of them. As Meredith pulled if from the oven, the scent intensified having broke free from the oven’s confines, escaping to meld in the open air of neighboring rooms. It would be a subtle hint at the evening’s dessert when William finally returned.
Placing the pie on the window ledge, Meredith gazed out into their orchard, situated just west of the home. She relied on the window draft of the closing day to cool the pie rather then open it completely, sacrificing both warmth and the lingering aroma. Gently resting the confection, her eyes took in all the gnarled shapes of the apple trees, leafless with the onset of fall and ensuing winter. Their fruit had long been picked earlier in the year, canned or crated, placed below in the cellar.
Somehow the crawling blanket of grey made the barren trees seem even more devoid of life. Parching the last bit of color from their bark, it rendered them all into wiry hands, frozen and up reaching.
Rubbing her hands upon her apron longer than needed, Meredith again wondered about the time and her husbands delay. Crossing the kitchen threshold with empty clacks of steps, Meredith sought out the oil lamps as the overcast sky seemed to only thicken with the hours. Within minutes, the first floor lights had been lit along with a small fire. Though warmer, the newly risen hues of yellow did nothing past the windows, where the murk of the day still rested. Pointlessly checking on the pie, her steps echoed from the wooden floors as she crossed the rooms again. From the window, she lost the trees as the yard receded, the night setting in distantly.
A gradually persistent wind made light of the various leaves on the ground, creating the only other activity on the property aside from Meredith’s preparations.
William was beyond late at this point. Business in Terrytowne rarely ever went past the middle of the afternoon and at that point the time was already well into six o’clock.
Trekking once more to the front parlor, Meredith checked the incoming path. Nothing but rustling leaves and a pair of squirrels darting about. Shivering before she could catch herself, she thought herself foolish for being so unnerved by the day. New York was no stranger to its poor weather and muted days like this. However the rapidity to which the weather rolled in, coupled with her husbands lateness, was enough to raise anxiety.
William had spent the morning in town handling his normal affairs. When he departed from his home, he knew that he likely would be delayed in returning home. Upon his last visit, Lesting had sent him a notice that he wished to meet. In past months, labor had finally turned a profitable corner for William. The land further south was finally showing promise. William knew Lesting would eventually take notice and either seek to rehire him or absorb William’s new venture as his own. Knowing Lesting the way he did, William did not prepare himself for an honest encounter. Knowing what Meredith would say if he was entertaining such a meeting, William had prepared a lie he would never tell. He felt just in his decisions nonetheless. Deceitful or not, money could be still be made with Lesting if William was careful.
Turning to check the pie a third time, a sudden commotion caught her peripheral from a side window. Letting her gasp subside into the quiet of the house, Meredith approached the window as if it would shatter in on her. From the glass, several white wisps floated in the yard. Violently their movements cut into the frame of the window, too fast to initially register. The wind pushed the house with a bellowed rush, causing boards to gently creak from the pressure. Meredith’s attention drifted momentarily at the noise but rocketed back to the window when a white form slapped against the glass only to slide away from view.