By Ursula Wong
Belle went into the kitchen to find Sissy wedging a pry bar behind the cap running along the wall above the wainscoting, sweat running down her cheeks.
“Leave that alone!” Belle said.
“Why? It’s going to be mine eventually. I can do what I want,” said Sissy.
“Grandpa left everything just so, and that’s how I want it to stay as long as I’m alive,” said Belle.
“But this stuff is so old and boring.” Sissy gestured at the honey-colored wood and the stove with blue flowers painted on the enamel. She wiggled the lever against a stubborn nail.
“Didn’t you hear what I said? You leave this house alone and if you don’t like it, well there’s the door. You and Tom can find someplace else to stay.”
“You know we have no place to go.”
“I mean it, Sissy. I don’t want Ed’s handiwork destroyed because you think you have better taste.”
Sissy’s knuckles turned white as she clasped the lever. A chill seized Belle’s back.
Then Sissy giggled and put it down. “I do have better taste.”
Shaking off the discomfort and telling herself that it was just a family quarrel, Belle climbed the stairs to the landing and the rocking chair Ed had made. She sat and gripped the arms, wondering where that girl gotten all her damn nerve.
In a few minutes, Sissy came up carrying a cup of tea and a butter cookie. It was Belle’s best China.
“Thanks.” Belle smiled and took a sip. Maybe Sissy was trying to apologize and had finally gotten the message that she was serious about the house.
“Are you going to be home all day?” asked Sissy.
“Far as I know,” said Belle. As she took another sip, her eyes grew wide. She grabbed her throat. “Did you put something in the tea?”
Belle dropped the cup and saucer to the floor.
Sissy’s voice sounded far away. “It’s okay, Tom. Get the tools and let’s start working.”