I looked at Daphne and she looked at me. We both had stunned looks on our faces.
Turning to Mrs. Douglas, we said in unison, “What baby?”
Mrs. Douglas answered in a very nonchalant voice, “Tha one that y’all will be having. She’ll be tha spitting image of Daphne. Her name will…”
I held up my hands and uttered, “Wait, wait, wait! Where’d ya get all this information?”
“It was William. He lets me know in dreams any extraordinary events that will occur,” she purred.
I must have looked at her like a slacked-jawed imbecile because she remarked, “I know that ya don’t believe me, but he told me when ya would show up, that ya and Daphne would fall in love, and just last night, that y’all will have a baby girl.”
I turned to look at Daphne and she was as dumb-founded as I was. Finally, her expression changed from one of shock to one of curiosity and she asked her cousin, “What was tha baby’s name?”
I immediately intervened by paraphrasing from 1st John 4:1, “Darling , let’s not test the spirits too far, okay?”
Daphne looked at me and frowned. Mrs. Douglas shrugged. I looked at Hattie, who was looking at Mrs. Douglas as if she were the herald of the Second Coming. John Lee was nodding and smiling from ear to ear.
I looked back at Daphne and her expression was now one of being thwarted a very important fact that she wanted to know. I gave her a pleading look, which made her roll her eyes.
Mrs. Douglas’ bombshell sort of brought all conversation to a close. I could tell that the ladies were just waiting for a chance to get Mrs. Douglas alone and pump her for information. I understood that I couldn’t stop it and also that I would be excluded from any and all of the pertinent spiritual palaver that had occurred between Daphne’s cousin and her deceased husband.
I sighed and turning to John Lee asked, “How long do ya think it will take us to load up tomorrow?”
He thought a moment and answered, “Probably less than an hour.”
I smiled and added, “Great. We should be in Shepherdstown by nightfall.”
The ladies never heard our exchange. All their eyes were on Mrs. Douglas, who was enjoying her sudden importance of being a messenger to the spirits.
The cook broke the silent adoration of the ladies when she entered our small dining room and asked, “Apple or blueberry pie?”
As if coming back to consciousness from a coma, the ladies blinked and began to give their dessert orders. I opted for another cup of coffee.
Finally, Daphne asked her cousin, “Does William come to ya quite often?”
I gave her a stern expression, but she quickly stuck out her tongue and turned to wait for Mrs. Douglas’ answer. So much for being the head of the household.
Looking at Daphne, Mrs. Douglas confessed, “Not really. He only started to talk to me…” at this moment she paused in her explanation and turned her head to look at me before continuing, “just before you arrived.”
I was taken back by this revelation. My eyes opened wide at the possible characterization of my arrival being an infectious event. All eyes were on me as I answered in an offhanded way, “Really.” Then I continued to sip my coffee.
The arrival of the pie broke the charged atmosphere of the tiny enclosed space. Everyone heartily plunged into their dessert choice, except for John Lee, who still continued to look at me with a curious expression. Reluctantly he broke his gaze and began to eat his pie.
While they continued eating, I surreptitiously analyzed all the dinner meal participants out of the corner of my eye and marveled at how each one had been instrumental in helping me to survive on this earth. They might think of me as an evil omen, but I loved each one and considered them a member of my family.