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New Life In the Old Place

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It’s housecleaning day. Ms. Hudson comes in, graceful and smiling softly, placing her tote on the hallway hook, looking impossibly immaculate and well-dressed for such a … demanding … task.

Because even though it’s only been seven days, there’s red poster paint all over the floor (splatter tests), books everywhere, dishes piled to the cabinet (spaghetti’s been served in mugs since Thursday) and Clyde’s tank is dark and not smelling at all lettucey-fresh.

Ms. Hudson takes things in stride, gliding from disaster to disaster with ease, only frowning when she sees Clyde’s tank. “Let’s let the sun shine in, shall we?” she says, directly to the tortoise, who peeks out of his shell with what Joan might well assume is a grateful expression on his reptilian face.

Removing the tortoise and placing him safely in a box, Ms. Hudson cleans the tank, handling the heavy glass easily, washing it out thoroughly before replacing the light bulb and arranging his rocks just so. Soon Clyde’s home is just as clean and pretty as the rest of the brownstone — a small miracle residing within a larger one.

She even pulls out a slow cooker Joan had no idea they had and within minutes a stew is bubbling inside. Ms. Hudson waves off Joan’s protests — she doesn’t have to cook, after all — with knowing grin. “Any more jar tomato sauce for either of you and I fear for your health. You don’t even have to stir this, just let it go until seven o-clock tonight and put it over a few slices of crusty bread or potatoes, if you’re feeling ambitious. You need some protein that doesn’t come from a tuna can or peanut butter jar.”

Joan hasn’t heard that line since living with her Mom and it makes her warm inside to hear it again. ”How is everything going with your cousin?”

“Pretty well. And no, I’m not back with Davis.” Ms. Hudson laughs softly. ”Don’t say you weren’t asking that as well.”

Joan laughs with her. “I kind of was.”

“I know. But I’m fine and this is a good do-over for me. I feel very … needed.” She reaches into the terrarium and strokes Clyde’s shell which makes him crane his neck up toward her, pleased. ”Anyway, I’m done here,” she says, whipping off and folding her apron as efficiently as she put it on upon arrival. ”Our agreed upon price?”

“Oh, yes. Except … I don’t know what Sherlock agreed upon,” Joan says, suddenly disgruntled that she is in the dark again about yet one more facet of their living arrangement. ”And the cooking …”

“That’s on me, this time,” Ms. Hudson replies, amused. “For anything fancier than crock pot stew, I’ll need an advance. Never mind about paying, I’m sure Sherlock will find a way to get it to me tomorrow. Now be sure you eat and make sure he eats … you know how he is when on a case.”

“Boy, do I.” Joan helps with her coat and bag. ”We appreciate your work. Well … I appreciate it anyway.”

Ms. Hudson takes a final look around, ticking off every thing accomplished with a long exhale. ”I look forward to next week’s surprises. See you then and thank you.”

“No, thank you,” Joan says, waving her off until she’s past the corner. With a pleased sound, she surveys her and Sherlock’s spotless kingdom, intent on enjoying it for as long as possible — which means until Sherlock’s been there for more than ten minutes.

And while it’s probably her imagination, she almost thinks she sees a sad look on Clyde’s face. “Oh, don’t worry. She’ll be back. I’ll make sure he doesn’t turn you into something too degrading until then.”

Clyde turns back to his fresh piece of vegetable and munches it while Joan goes to make a hot cup of tea, that she’ll enjoy until a real dinner is ready.

This is, she thinks … the life.