Listen to the Moon mini-stories

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On this page, I’ve collected all the mini-stories I’ve written at various times about the characters of Listen to the Moon. I’ve organized them chronologically, so you can read them in order or navigate to the one you want using the Table of Contents.

 

Table of Contents

  1. Toogood as a child at Tassell Hall.
  2. Mrs. Khaleel’s day off.
  3. Sukey makes dinner for John.
  4. Sukey and John at the end of a long day.
  5. Mrs. Khaleel’s job interview at the vicarage.
  6. Mrs. Khaleel visits the Honey Moon [link goes to a public post at my Patreon]


1.

Karenmc asked for Toogood.

***

Johnny ran in from the laundry, holding Lord Tassell’s handkerchief carefully by the corners so as not to wrinkle it.

Gil Plumtree, Lord Tassell’s valet, examined the square of linen solemnly. “Splendid!” he pronounced at last, grinning down at Johnny from his great height. “White as snow, you see? Not a drop of blackberry juice or blood left on it.” Lord and Lady Tassell had decided to go blackberry picking and returned with a basket of berries, purple tongues, and a number of long scratches.

Johnny squared his small shoulders proudly. “I did it just like you showed me. It wasn’t so hard.”

Mr. Plumtree ruffled his hair. “That’s because you’re a smart kid.”

“Johnny, have you been bothering Mr. Plumtree again?” Mrs. Toogood called across the kitchen from where she was slipping butter under the skins of whole chickens for tonight’s dinner.

“I wasn’t bothering him,” Johnny said indignantly. “I was helping him.”

“Indeed he was,” Mr. Plumtree said.

Johnny shot his mother an I told you so glance. “Do you think I could be a valet one day like you?”

There was a pause. Mr. Plumtree met Mrs. Toogood’s eyes across the kitchen. “Of course you could, my dear boy. But don’t you want to be a butler like your father?”

Johnny snorted. “Butlers don’t have any fun.”

Mr. Plumtree let out a bark of laughter, quickly smothered.

“Don’t encourage him, Gil,” Mrs. Toogood said, sounding tired. “Johnny, your father has plenty of fun. Now help me with the spit.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Johnny said. There was no use arguing with adults.

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2.

Sara requested Mrs. Khaleel on her day off!

***

Sometimes Noor wished Imogen could get away more often on Saturday afternoons. But too many townsfolk started off their day of rest on Saturday evening, and a day of rest for Lively St. Lemeston meant a day of work for Imogen. Still, she spent most of her Saturday afternoons at Makepeace’s Coffeehouse. She liked sitting behind the counter there. It was warm and friendly and felt safely cut off from the rest of the room, the coffee was excellent, and she didn’t have to work, after all.

When Imogen had a spare minute or was fussing with the brewing beans behind the counter, they’d talk, and when she was wandering about the place, Noor would sit back and sow gapeseed, or tell a waiting customer which was her favorite cake, or read one of the newspapers scattered around the room, or get in a little flirting. She was especially fond of trying to get recipes out of Mr. Moon, who came in sometimes to check on the cake supply and blushed in a very darling manner. And when a customer didn’t eat their cake, she and Imogen would cut off the bitten part and split the rest.

Sometimes Imogen, bustling by, would say, “Hand me one of those plates, sweet,” and she’d laugh and say “But Imogen, I’m on holiday!” and make a show of doing it very slowly.

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3.

Laura S. requested “Sukey and Toogood doing something super-domestic, and they get in a fight about how to do it, but then they have to make up 🙂 🙂 🙂”

***

Mr. Summers was still in London, and John had given the staff a brief holiday. Mrs. Khaleel was staying with the Makepeace girl, Thea and Larry were with their families, and Molly was spending the week at Lenfield—John had talked the housekeeper there into showing her the ropes at a larger household. Maria, to his surprise, had even agreed to look out for her.

That meant he and Sukey were alone in the house tonight. She had insisted on cooking him dinner, like a good wife.

John was realizing he’d never eaten her cooking. Still, it hardly mattered if she was bad at it; he was staying out of the kitchen so as not to see her methods, and he was quite capable of eating whatever she served him with a show of enthusiasm.

She rang the dinner bell for him. They both thought that was funny. Dinner was laid out on the table: roasted beef, potatoes in dripping, a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery in Market Square and two bottles of cheap wine.

“I could have brought up wine from the cellar,” he protested.

“Yes, but then you would have worried about how much we were drinking,” she said, and he couldn’t deny it.

“It smells wonderful.”

“Who can ruin beef and potatoes?” she scoffed, and promptly began to slice the meat in the wrong direction.

He manfully said nothing, even though it would be tough and—

“What?” she demanded, dropping the knife with a clatter and leaving the carving fork sticking sadly out of the beef.

“What do you mean?” he asked, trying to sound innocent.

“You were making a correction face.”

He buried his head in his hands. “I’m sorry! You’re just slicing it the wrong way.”

“What?”

“You should always slice beef against the grain, so you don’t have to chew the long bits…”

She crossed her arms. “Show me.”

So, feeling the world’s biggest arse but unable to stop himself, he pulled open the cut she’d begun to show her the long parallel strands of the meat. Then he sliced a hefty slice off the end of the roast and laid it on her plate. “It’s perfectly cooked,” he offered.

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why I bother.”

John felt lower than dirt. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”

She sighed. “I know. I just wish I was…better at things.”

“You’re wonderful at being a wife,” he said, flushing.

She leaned back in her chair, face relaxing. “Oh, well, that.”

“Much better than I am at being a husband.”

She kicked him under the table. “Don’t fish.”

“I’m not.”

She grinned. “Well, there’s always time to learn.”

Dinner was delicious, but dessert was even better.

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4.

Gab asked for “Sukey and Toogood at the end of a long day.”

***

It was Easter night. Mr. Summers’s eldest granddaughter was in town with her family, so on top of spending hours standing in the gallery in church, the vicarage staff had been running around after two small children and cooking four times as much as usual. Sukey had seen John grimace and press a hand to his lower back, once or twice, and she knew his feet must hurt as much as hers did.

She was not heroine enough to draw him a bath. In fact, she wanted nothing more than to fall into bed at once. But then she would go to bed grumpy and wake up grumpy and likely be grumpy all day tomorrow too. So she laid a blanket over their chair to make it less hard, and carried a pot of hot pepperminty water into their room and dumped it into a basin.

“Sit and put your feet in there,” she demanded, pointing. “I’ll be right back with a roll and some leftover ham.”

John only argued a little, for show. Sukey thought that was progress.

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5.

Sarah requested Mrs. Khaleel backstory.

***

Noor had a favor to ask.

She wasn’t looking forward to it. She hated asking for favors in general, and this was a big one. She had come to Lively St. Lemeston at fifteen as nursemaid to the Hawkins-Whitshed children, and she’d nursemaided them steadily ever since. She was twenty-seven now, the children all were off at school or had tutors and governesses, and the Hawkins-Whitsheds had given her a glowing letter of reference and shown her the door.

She wanted to bring a gift with her, and it was late summer, the nicest part of the English year. She lingered by the river picking blackberries until the sun began to sink in the sky. Then she hurried with her basket to the vicarage, hoping she hadn’t put it off too late, and the vicar wouldn’t have finished hearing requests from parishioners and already be sitting down to dinner.

The butler looked annoyed to see her. “I’ll take that to the kitchen for you,” he said, reaching for her basket.

She clung to it more out of startlement than anything. “I wanted to give them to Mr. Summers.”

The butler shrugged and led her to his study. “Miss Khaleel, sir.”

Mr. Summers was scribbling away about something with his glasses on. He glanced at the clock before looking at her, and Noor hoped her hair had stayed up and that he couldn’t see the blackberry scratches on her arms. Allah be praised for dark skin. “Nora from the Hawkins-Whitsheds, isn’t it? What can I do for you?”

She held out her basket, trying to look calm and collected. “That’s me, sir. I brought you some blackberries.”

He plucked one from the pile and popped it in his mouth. “Ah!” he said with surprised pleasure. “Still warm from the sun. Thank you, my dear.”

She set the basket down. “I was hoping you might know who’s looking for a nursemaid. I’ve got a letter of reference.”

He chewed another blackberry or two, thinking. “How old are you? You won’t want to chase after babies much longer, and they’ll know it.”

Calm and collected. “I’m only twenty-five,” she lied, even though the thought of raising another brood already made her want to sink with weariness.

The vicar drummed his fingers on the table. “You helped in the Hawkins-Whitsheds’ kitchen, didn’t you? My cook is leaving, and I’m very fond of East Indian cooking. Did you make the mulligatawny they served me last month?”

I made the pigeon pie that day too, she thought, annoyed. Fond of East Indian cooking, ha! He’d have an apoplexy if she served him anything with real pepper in it. But her heart began to pound anyway. A cook?

She hadn’t helped much in the kitchen—only recently, with the last child more and more at his lessons. But she knew enough to manage meals for one man and a few servants until she could learn the rest. “I did, sir. I hope it pleased you.”

“Make it tomorrow for my dinner,” he said, grinning like a skull. “If it’s as good as I remember, you’re hired.”

She grinned back. “It will be better.”

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6.

Sara C. requested Mrs. Khaleel visits the Honey Moon.

Click here to read the mini-story at my Patreon. (No subscription required! But patrons did get to request stories and see them first.)


That’s all for now, but keep an eye out—I’ll be taking prompts again one of these days!

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