Better to be a wealthy widow than a burdened family hen.
But mother would never believe me and when Hannah tittered girlishly at bridge that she had met a man – one she wished to marry, I knew that I had to act to save his life.
* * *
I was small when it happened – when the spider bit me. Mother had told me to dust and clean beneath the counter but of course, I didn’t. I was waiter and cashier enough and refused to be a maid so mother could pinch pennies but when the hat box fell off the counter and I reached down to reclaim it, I felt a pinch of fangs between the cobwebs.
I fitted, I foamed and wept but when the venom left my body and mother paid the doctor’s fee for saving my life, she told me to be wary of black widows. If I ever found one that had dared out into the sunlight I should stamp on it.
I intended to do just that.
Sergeant Michael Sullivan made no pretense about being in love with Mother. Despite being single and motherless himself he had brought seventeen ladies’ hats in our store for an excuse to talk to my mother and stare longingly at her like some besotted schoolboy.
He was a simple lad of good humour and slow to temper but when I brought him the paper cuttings he didn’t immediately shrug me off. If he were to make Mother his sweetheart then it wouldn’t help his case to call her only son a nut.
“Again with the stories, Sam?” He took off his helmet and rubbed the lard on his head after mother had mentioned once that she liked a man with well kept nice hair. “Have you heard the one with Peter and the wolf?” “But the newspapers -”
“It’s not against the law to start your life again halfway across the country,” Michael explained, patiently. “And who’s to say it’s the same Hannah Stokes? Even if the ages match up. Okay, so she’s unlucky -”
“No one’s THAT unlucky,” I said, tears streaming my eyes at the unfairness of it. For once I was telling the truth and no one would believe me. “The only thing that hasn’t happened to her is a meteor landing on her head.”