Entering the house through an unprepossessing side-door into a maze of tiny interconnected rooms that had been part of the kitchen offices until Robin's Georgian ancestors had moved the kitchens into their own wing across the moat; they were too small to be of any modern use, and the space they occupied too narrow to turn into a larger room, so the rooms just sat empty to confuse visitors.
Robin's grandparents had moved the working kitchens back into the main house after the first War, as modern servants didn't care to take a thousand steps from the kitchen to the dining room weighted down with heavy silver platters; the huge original kitchen, which had been turned into a smoking and billiards room in the interim, was revived and lined with cupboards and appliances in the height of 1920s efficiency. Robin's mother had turned the place into more of a family kitchen as was popular in the 70s, putting couches and a television in the area beside the ancient fireplace and disguising the cabinets and new appliances behind worn wooden facades to make it look more medieval.
Now the kitchen was the domain of Mr. and Mrs. Ricks, a married couple who had been taking care of the house since shortly after Robin's father died; they made the kitchen their headquarters and did all of their maintenance and repairs from there, cooking and cleaning for anyone who came down to stay, but mostly just keeping a spark of life inside the house so it didn't get stale and creepy.
The Rickses were typical country people, in Robin's estimation, rather taciturn and melancholy; they were both tall and very thin, dark but somehow colorless, with long faces and skins weathered beyond their years, enough alike to be cousins (which Robin assumed they were). Ricks never spoke unless forced to, and answered in monosyllables; Mrs. Ricks was more voluble, but only just.
"Good, you're back" Mrs. Ricks said, looking up from some work she was doing at the ancient scrubbed oak kitchen table "I was wondering if I should send Ricks out to fetch you."
"Would you believe, I got lost in the woods?" Robin laughed ruefully at himself, perching on one of the high stools lined up on one side of the old table to form a breakfast bar.
"It's not called the Wanderwood for nothing," she said, unimpressed, pushing a plate of bread and cheese across, "Eat this, tide you over 'til you can have the lunch I'm packing for the train."
"Oh, thank you," Robin sighed with relief, taking up one of the simple canapes (rather than a hunk of bread and a hunk of cheese with some pickle in the middle, Mrs. Ricks knew her employer liked the bread cut into pieces with a little square of cheese and a dab of relish on each one), "I'm starving, all I've had since breakfast was a chocolate bar."
"Mmm," the lady murmured neutrally, though managed to convey her belief that Robin shouldn't eat so many sweets, while she placed the components of Robin's now-cold lunch into plastic tubs which, with some flatware and a glass wrapped in a cloth napkin and the half-bottle of Moselle in a Thermos flask to keep cool, went into a thermal-lined nylon satchel for travel.
1943 Words Total