Ways of the Widow – Matthew Wilson

“I don’t want to work here,” I said. “Not now.”

“Oh, honey. The woman does a nice thing for you and you think she’s the worst. Anyway, what’s wrong with selling hats? This store’s been in our family for eighty years.”

I didn’t wish to hurt her heart by saying that it looked older with a boiler that didn’t warm the rooms and a leaky roof that didn’t keep the floor dry.

True, I wished for more than this – I wanted to explore the world. But I had no money so I created that world in my mind. I dreamed up a library of falsehoods to make me believe that magic existed when my mood was low. To give me heart and hope in dark times.

But damn it, I wasn’t lying this time and as mother refused to believe me then I would expose Hannah’s villainy before she discovered I could not be brought off.

Mother had always asked me not to be ungrateful when given presents so I reconsidered and took seven pounds out of the till – just enough to write to Sheffield archives and request any recent obituaries on the name Stokes.

It took a week before I heard anything. Mother would have grounded me had she known but I was lucky that the postman fetched the shoebox of printed newspaper obituaries when she was out.

Mother would tell me to hand drinks out at her bridge club. Of course I had listened to their prattle but one nugget of information had remained when one of the women mentioned Yorkshire.

Hannah had noted to having lived there, a beautiful spot in Sheffield that she had left some years before. Was she married? Had she had any other kids?

The woman was a mystery so I determinedly rummaged through the newspaper cuttings that the archives had posted me until I struck gold.

LOCAL WOMAN DOUBLE SHOCK Hannah Stokes, 28 wishes to thank friends for the kindness and flowers shown at the double funeral of her daughter and husband, felled last week from diphtheria. Mrs. Stokes nursed the pair for 48 hours before their spirits gave up and though their lives were insured for a hefty amount…

A Thomas Stokes had been prosecuted for shoplifting, Marion Stokes wished to report the theft of her poodle, Lancelot but it was at the bottom of the shoebox when luck found me again. When the penultimate clipping informed the reader of a terrible tragedy.

FIRE OF UNCERTAIN ORIGIN KILLS WIDOW A house fire reportedly started by a lighting strike is believed to have killed a local widow, Hannah Stokes, 30, of 29 Croftwell Road. Mrs. Stokes seemed to have turned her life round of late with plans, mentioning to friends that she planned to spend some insurance money recently received on the trip of a lifetime. Though detectives rustled through the ashes of the ruined home, they found no sign of Mrs. Stokes but did pull out the charred bodies of her three daughters that had once been fortunate to survive a recent diphtheria epidemic…

I had a motive but no proof. Hannah loved life and money so to get the best of both she rid herself of barriers to these things. She could have more fun with a spouse’s insurance money than the man himself and children were another mouth to feed.

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