Now for the best part, the prizes!!!!:)
A hand stitched, home-grown lavender stuffed sachet,
A hand stiched flower that you can pin to your jacket, in your hair, or on a dress,
and a lovely blue bracelet! So the Second Place Winner who will receive all that is above is....(am I rising your anticipation yet?:)
Congratulations, Leah!!! Please leave me your email address (will not be published) and I will contact you about your prize!
It was the year 1908, and I, Jane Marywell, was getting ready to go to a new young lady's school. I was sixteen and had just moved from East bay, Louisiana to now Rochester, New York City. After he had lost his job several months before, My father had found a new job and we were just settling into our new home. I kept asking God, why we had needed to move. What was His purpose sending us here?
My mother kept telling me that we would soon get used to the idea of living in the cramped, loud, bustle of this big city. I was not familiar with this place and everything seemed strange and different from my beloved East bay, Louisiana. My seaside house, which I missed so much was now in my dreams and my new surroundings did not seem real to me. My seagulls, my sand, my shells, my ocean was now not mine. My aunt, uncle and three cousins, who I had not seen in a few years, were the only people I knew. They would be very dear to me through this transition. My cousin Libby, sixteen like me, was my dearest companion out of them all and had blond hair and bright blue eyes, like my ocean. I loved looking into them for they gave me comfort and gave me a little piece of home. I envied her rosy cheeks and crisp red lips which always wore a beautiful smile. My complexion and features were much less stunning and lovely. My dark brunette hair had almost a gray coloring and my eyes were a dark musty brown.
On this particularly cold rainy day, Libby and I were on our way to the young lady's school. It was my first day and I was beginning to feel unsure of the fact that I was not the most bright student and would have trouble making friends. But Libby rattled on telling me all about it and the wonderful teachers and other young ladies that I would meet. Her words somewhat comforted me as they distracted me from my fears.
When we finally arrived, my brow was furrowed with new worries and my heart beat fast.
The building was narrow, tall and drab. Black doors, walls, window frames were the scenery.
The sign on the building read. 'Lady's Christian Fine Arts school'
"We'll stop by my favorite teacher first." Libby whispered in my ear excitedly. We entered the building and climbed a set of echoing stairs.
As we got to the first teacher's room, a tall slender woman met my eye. Her face was plain, but she had a sincere smile that brightened her simple features. " Hello Mrs. Smith! This is my cousin Jane Marywell, who I've been talking about." Libby said with enthusiasm. "Welcome Miss Jane! I hope you find our school as fine a one as in Louisiana." Mrs. Smith said. " I teach writing here at our school. What is your favorite subject?" I smiled at the question. I loved music, and acting, but writing was my passion. "I love to write." I answered.
As the day continued my mood become more hopeful. This school was different but a good kind of different.
I reminisced about my day as Libby and I walked briskly home from the icy gusts of wind.
As I ate dinner with my family and cousins, my thoughts wandered to my ocean once more. The sunrises and sunsets that I had looked forward to each day. I decided to make the most of my new home and try and keep my spirits up. I thought I might write a poem about the the joys of New york to keep my thoughts from wandering.
As I finished getting ready for bed that night, my mother and father came in and said prayers with me. My father's deep voice gave me peace as he talked to God, asking for His guidance and protection over us in our new surroundings. I kissed my mother good night and gave my father a big hug. " I know you miss your home Jane, but I feel that God has a plan for us here." My father said to me before he closed my bedroom door. I looked at him and answered with trust. "I know." We smiled. As he closed that door, I felt that God was holding my hand and giving me peace. This new place which I knew little about, was still God's world. And I knew no matter where Christ took me, He was there, holding my hand. As the days and months moved on, I started to enjoy the cold wind that rushed past me each day. Libby and I became the best of friends. I also met new girls at the school and we now had a bible devotion each week at my house. God had given me joy and contentment. The beautiful scenery here in New York had become as beautiful as the seaside. My family and I visited Louisiana several times each year and I would sit on the rocks, breathing in the ocean, watching the sunset and write.
And the Third Place Winner that receives the prize above is:
Congratulations, Abby!!!! Here is a button for you to paste onto your blog! Please leave me your email address (will not be published), and I will contact you about your prize!
Treasures from the Heart
It was the day of my 16th birthday, 1992, and I woke up to the smell of cinnamon buns. I breathed in the smell as I got dressed. I ran downstairs right as my mother was taking the buns out of the oven. "Happy birthday, sweetie," she greeted me. "Thank you, Mother," I smiled and sat down at the big kitchen table. Then Father and Grandpa came stumbling sleepily down the stairs. As they seated themselves at the table, Mother put a bun on one of her best china plates and served it to me with a grin. "Wait 'til you see what your dad and grandpa have for you," she looked at Father. He went into the other room and brought back a small wooden box. "Oh..." I breathed, as he opened it to reveal a beautiful necklace. "It was your gramma's," said my grandpa tearfully as he fastened it around my neck. I smiled as I thanked him. My grandma died two years ago, and she had been one of my best friends. “I made the box,” said Father proudly, “Look, it even has a space in the bottom for your Bible!” I leaped from my seat and ran into my room to get my Bible. As I passed my vanity mirror, the necklace sparkled and I smiled once again. It was so hard not to smile on your birthday.
It was a week after my birthday, and I wore the necklace every day, keeping it in the box with my Bible when I was sleeping. That box held my two most treasured possessions. One morning, I woke up and got out of bed to read my Bible at my vanity. I opened the box, but my beautiful necklace wasn’t there! I raced from my room and found my mother in the kitchen. “Mother, Mother,” I cried, near tears, “my necklace is gone!” We searched my whole room, and when Father and Grandpa got up, the whole house. “It’s no use!” I sobbed, “It’s gone!” I took my box and ran from the house to my favorite spot in the woods, a small pond where I often read my Bible and prayed. I decided to read my Bible, for comfort. When I opened my box, and took my Bible out, there was the necklace, shining as brightly as ever! I held it up to the sun and laughed.
After reading my Bible that morning, I showed my family the necklace. “I should have known,” my mother said, “the only place we didn’t look!” I smiled once again, now knowing that even though I loved my necklace, my Bible was my real treasure.
And now, drum roll please, announcing the FIRST PLACE WINNER that will receive:
And a hand made bracelet
~Sarah from Country Musings~
Congratulations, Sarah!!! I will send you your prizes with your next letter!:)
And here is a button I created for you:
Changes in the Wind
“Mary! Mary where are you?”
“Here! Over by the flower bed.”
A tall, thin, and sprightly young woman came bounding around a bush to where her sister, Mary, was standing with a basket of flowers in one hand, and a handful of her skirts in the other.
“Clara, would you stop running around like a heathen? You should try to act decent every once in a while.” Though the tone was stern, a light danced in Mary’s eyes as she watched the restlessness of her younger sister.
“I am sorry, Mary. I will try not to run, only I just received a letter from father! I wanted to show it to you.” Clara came closer to her sister with a spring in her step and shortness of breath from her excitement. “Look! Hand written by him, not one of his attendants.”
Mary seized the letter and stared at it longingly. She turned it over and fingered the seal, still unbroken. “You didn’t open it yet?” She inquired of the slight figure beside her.
“Of course not,” was the incredulous reply. “I wanted to share it with you first.”
Mary eyed it a bit longer, then handed it to Clara.
“Here, you read.” Mary gathered her skirts about her and sat down on the low wall that separated the little country garden from the river beyond.
“Dearest daughters,” Clara began, after clearing her throat. “Your letters have been a great comfort to me in this time. I would have written sooner, but business has kept me from my fatherly duties. Pray, forgive me.
“I am doing well, and hope you are the same. Mary said you were both keeping busy in the garden this year. I am glad of it, for your mother dearly loved the little garden, in which you are no doubt sitting at this moment.” Clara paused and smiled at her sister.
“He knows us too well,” Mary commented.
Clara nodded and continued.
“Be sure to take care of the lilacs, for your mother loved them the best. I remember how many a time I would walk out in search of her, only to find her sitting on the wet grass underneath that lovely lilac, smelling the blooms. It was then that I had the little bench built for her to sit upon when the weather was good.
“If my business goes smoothly, I should be home in a fortnight. Though business may call me back, I will at least spend a holiday with two of the loveliest girls in England.
“May God protect you, yours etcetera.”
Clara folded the letter and pressed it to her heart. “A fortnight, Mary! Why, that is so soon. Oh, what shall we do?” Her blue eyes lit with joy as she pranced in a little circle.
“Calm down, Clara. It is a fortnight, and though we will have much to do, there is still plenty of time.” She smiled, though, as Clara stood still, though obviously wanting to run all around the garden with her joy.
“Oh, alright. Go and tell Hannah to get some soup for supper. Be quick!”
Clara lost no time and had disappeared around the bush before Mary had time to finish her sentence.
Smiling, Mary looked out over the river. It was so peaceful, so lovely. The twilight hours made it more magical, in a sense. The river babbled calmly along the banks, making little gurgling noises as it went. Blue birds were chirping from their perches, and the bees buzzed contentedly as they went from blossom to blossom, exchanging old pollen for new.
Father was coming home! Mary smiled again to herself. He hadn’t been home in 7, no 8, oh she had lost count of how many months he had been gone. Ever since mother died, he had been going on trips more frequently.
Standing and scooping up her basket, Mary made her way to the little cottage that they called their home. Her thoughts still on father, Mary hardly noticed the beauty of the evening like she usually did.
She was glad he would be coming home, but being away from him for so long would put an awkward strain on their relationship. It had happened before, and it could happen again. She dearly hoped that all would be the same, but she knew in her heart that it would not. Things had to change, and though she hated change, it was exciting in it’s own way. It brought new things to life, new people to meet, new things to explore. Yet, even with it’s glories, it brought sorrow, death, strife, and hardships.
Was it truly worth looking forward too? Mary paused with her hand on the handle of the cottage door. She smiled to herself as she heard Clara’s excited conversation with Hannah float through the windows.
Opening the door, she entered and turned to look out into the twilight covered world. Tonight she would forget about the hard part of change. Tonight, she would enjoy Clara’s incessant chatter and cherish the moments around the fire, for each moment was more precious than the last, and each one passed as quickly as the blink of an eye.
A week had passed, Mary and Clara were still making sure that everything was in preparation for their father, and still no word came from him saying that he was coming.
Clara, disappointed as she was at the thought that he might not come home, tried her best to hide it from Mary, for Mary had enough worries on her shoulders, what with all the cleaning and baking to do.
Mary was, in her own way, slightly disappointed. She hoped that their father would come for he had been away an awfully long time, and yet she almost hoped that he wouldn’t come. She had never quite forgiven him for leaving them on frequent trips after their mother had died. Didn’t he need to stay home where she and Clara could comfort him, and he comfort them? She had tried to forgive him, she truly did, but down in the depths of her heart she knew she hadn’t forgiven him entirely. She supposed it would have been easier if.. oh she didn’t know. What did she know? Wasn’t she a simple ignorant farm girl, striving to keep up with the collectors pay? Wasn’t she only the first born, destined to do all the duties of the house while scraping together little bits of money so that Clara could go to school?
Mary took a piece of laundry off of the clothes line, snapped it to get the wrinkles out, folded it neatly, and set it in the basket. As she reached for another piece of laundry, her thoughts ran ahead of her.
What would life had been like if mother were still alive? She wondered as she folded a pair of drawers and set it in the basket. Would father still be home? Would work be easier? Would life have more joy in it?
Why was father so far away from home, any way? Would he really have stayed home, even if mother were still alive?
Mary had often heard her mother say that father was a restless sort of person, and liked to move about, though in all the years that their mother was living, Mary knew that he was never away longer than a fortnight, at the most.
Perhaps this was his way of grieving.
Angry thoughts flooded by her as she lugged the basket of laundry to the kitchen.
“Why?” She spoke aloud. “Why?”
“Why what?” Clara said as she came out of the door to greet Mary.
“Oh nothing… did you get the next wash finished?”
“Yes, everything is ready for the line, I was just headed out.” Clara gave Mary a smile as she passed by and headed to the clothes line to hang all of the wet laundry to dry in the warm sunshine and air.
“Mary seems rather out of sorts today,” she thought aloud to herself. Clara liked to talk, and if there was no one around to talk to, she simply talked to herself.
“I do so hope father comes! If he doesn’t Mary will be so upset. She has gone through so much to get ready, that it truly would be terrible if he didn’t come.”
She was silent for a moment while she pondered over what she just said.
“Clara, me love? Where ya be?”
“Over here, Hannah!” Clara called gaily. She paused in her work and tucked a stray hand of golden hair behind her ear.
An older woman, maybe in her forties, came huffing over to the young girl. She had a cap on her head, though this was slightly disarrayed from the work of the day, and an apron over an old work dress.
“Well saints alive, I never did so much work in my life!”
Clara smiled, “What is it Hannah?”
“Only a letter. It does na say who it is from, though the hand looks slightly familiar.” Hannah turned it over in her hands, before giving it to Clara, who took it eagerly.
“I think it is from father! Perhaps word confirming his coming.” She eyed it longingly, but put it into her own apron pocket to save to read with Mary.
“Well, I hope so! I never did see so much runnin’ around and doin’ one’s work like a chicken with it’s head cut off…” Her voice trailed away as she returned to the house and left Clara smiling to herself. Good old Hannah! What would they do without her?
Clara’s fingers were simple itching to open the letter, but she set her mind to her task instead, though even that was rather difficult.
When she had finished, she picked up her basket and raced to the house. Bursting through the door way, which had been left open in the fresh morning light, Clara raced to the end of the house where there stood a little ladder. Up the ladder she scrambled, and, just like she thought, she found Mary up in the little loft putting fresh ticking into the mattresses.
Mary didn’t look up as she said, “Clara! I do say, if you don’t stop running..”
Clara cut her short. “Mary, another letter from Father!”
Mary sighed and stood up from her previous kneeling position. Putting her hands on her hips she looked at Clara for a moment.
“All right. Aren’t you going to read it?”
Clara, who had already taken the letter out of her pocket, tore the seal and quickly unfolded the letter.
“Dear daughters, I hope to arrive next Thursday in the afternoon. My coach should arrive at three o’clock.
“With love, yours etcetera.”
Clara paused for a moment and looked at it with a mixture of dismay and excitement on her face.
“Whatever is the matter, child?” Mary asked as she noticed the crest fallen expression.
“Oh, it is just that I don’t think he wrote this himself. It looks more like one of his attendant’s hands.” She let her hands fall arms length while still clasping the letter.
“Perhaps he is just so busy packing his things, that he needed someone else to write,” Mary comforted.
Clara smiled, “I suppose so. What must we still do? I have put the laundry out to dry, but I never know what to do afterwards.”
Mary sighed and looked around the loft. “Well, let me think. I have got the ticking almost done, the laundry is drying, Hannah is cooking lunch….” Her voice trailed off for a moment as her brow furrowed in thought.
“I suppose the parlor could use a good sweeping.” She looked up at Clara.
“Done!” With green eyes dancing, her pink lips parted in a smile, Clara scrambled down the loft ladder and was gone.
Mary could soon hear her below, humming a little tune in beat with the ‘swish, swish’ of the broom against the wooden floor.
Kneeling down again, Mary continued with the ticking. By the time Hannah had lunch on the table, both girls were finished with their present tasks.
“Well,” Mary said as she sat down and sighed wearily. “We will have a busy week ahead of us, for now we know for sure that Father is coming.”
Clara nodded and put on a rather serious face. “Yes, I suppose you will… I, however, will be busy with other things.”
Mary jerked her head up in time to see the twinkle in Clara’s eyes.
“Oh?” She asked nonchalantly.
“Yes, though I suppose that perhaps I will be able to help you for a little bit.”
“Clara Madison! What are you up to?”
“Oh, nothing,” Clara tried to give the most innocent look to Mary. “I suppose you will have to wait and see.” Clara gave Mary an angelic look and continued eating her soup.
Next Thursday arrived and everyone was in a flutter. Last minute baking had to be done, fires stoked, and any other little cleaning things that needed doing.
Three o’clock came, and passed. Four o’clock, five o’clock, and still no Father.
Clara was beside herself with worry. Mary tried to stay calm, but she had a funny feeling in the bottom of her stomach. A feeling she got only when something dreadful was about to happen.
“Mary, do you suppose he got hurt?”
“I don’t know, Clara. Perhaps he only got stuck in some weather.”
“But the day is as fine as any!”
Mary was about to reply when they heard the chopping of horses hooves on the gravel outside. Both raced to the window and looked out.
A man in a dark cloak swung down from his steed and made his way to the door.
Mary and Clara went to the door, Clara slightly sooner than Mary, and opened it with expectant faces.
It was not their father. Mary’s feeling came back again in the pit of her stomach.
“Miss Madison?” He swept off his hat.
“Yes?” Mary answered with a slight tremor in her voice.
“I have come to inform you..” He paused, looked at the ground and twirled his hat in his hands. He swallowed hard and continued. “Have come to inform you that your father is.. is dead.”
Mary sat at the rough, wooden kitchen table and looked out the window to the dark world beyond.
Dead? No! He couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible, it just wasn’t.
Clara had gone to bed with a headache after sobbing the rest of the afternoon away. Mary was still in shock and hadn’t really had time to even thinking about grieving. It just couldn’t be true! Surely they had the wrong man.
No, it had to be him.. Mary had kept the messenger for half an hour to get particulars and to make sure for absolute that it was Mr. Madison, not someone else.
He had been in an accident, the details of which the messenger spared her. He had even given her a description of the man. That was all that needed to be told. He had told Mary that a lawyer would take care of any business that was unfinished and that she needn’t worry about anything.
Now, here she was sitting. Fatherless, perhaps penniless, and who knew what else.
“I suppose it will take a while for me to get used to him being really gone,” she said aloud as Hannah entered the small and cozy room.
Hannah huffed over to the little stove, put on a kettle of water, and sat down across from Mary.
“It must be real hard, Miss Mary. I don’t doubt it twill be strange! Still seems unreal ta me, and I knew him since he was first married ta your dear mother.”
Hannah reached across the table and squeezed the hands that were clasped on the table. Mary let a tear roll down her cheek and tried to smile at Hannah, but only more tears flowed. All of the things she thought about her father came flooding back to her memory, making her sob even harder.
Hannah was up and hugging her in an instant. She let Mary sob for a few minutes and just held her. It felt like the old times when Mary, as a young child, would come running to her if she got hurt. Hannah always knew how to make a smile reappear on a child’s face.
When Mary had finished wiping her eyes, Hannah went and fixed her a cup of tea. Mary calmed herself down while she waited for the tea to steep and let her thoughts turn to what they would do, now that their father was dead.
Mary never was sure where their money came from. All she knew was that Father had a stash in his desk. Mary was always frugal with it and never spent more than they absolutely needed. Clara would sometimes go into the nearby village, which was about two miles away, and sell some of their fresh flowers. With that, and the savings their father had set aside, they were comfortable.
Now they wouldn’t have money coming from their father. They would simply have to make it on their own.
Perhaps she could hire for mending. She was always very good with the needle, and if folks were willing to pay a few shillings for a good mending on their clothes, that would at least keep them fed. Then, if Clara could continue selling the flowers in the spring, they could set enough aside to start saving. Perhaps Hannah would even be willing to start hiring out somewhere else part of the week and bring back part of her money.
May shook her head. No, that wouldn’t do. Hannah would probably go off and find better wages.
She looked up at Hannah where the older woman was getting another cup of tea for herself.
When she sat down, Mary looked at her for a moment before asking, “So, where will you go to now, Hannah?”
Hannah looked up, absolutely confused. “What do ya mean, Miss?”
“Well, I mean, now that Father is dead, and we don’t have much money to pay wages, I just thought you would want to go elsewhere.”
Hannah looked at her incredulously. “Me? Leave here? I’d sooner have me head cut off. What in the world put that idea into that pretty head of yours? I never had one thought of leavin’ me sweethearts, and I certainly won’t consider it now.”
Mary grinned, “You are a star, Hannah! I don’t know what we would do without you. You do realize I can’t pay you as much as you had been getting.”
Hannah waved a hand at her. “I won’t be needin’ more money. Tisn’t like I’ve got me own place to keep up. Nah, I have me own bed here, a roof over me head, and good food in me stomach. I don’t need more than that.”
Mary walked over and kissed the older woman on the cheek. Hannah, a bit flustered at this unusual show of love, fluttered her hands about her. “Now, you had best get into bed, Miss. I don’t want you sleepy-eyed tomorrow morning.” Mary smiled, gave a last squeeze to Hannah’s stout shoulder, and climbed into the loft.
Clara was already sleeping soundly, her soft breathing being heard clearly across the small space.
Mary climbed into her cot, after putting on a night gown, and slid under the covers. Weariness seemed to pull her from every limb but her brain was still at work.
After lying there for at least another hour, and hearing Hannah’s soft noises as she herself got into her bed, Mary forced herself to relax and go to sleep. Her eyelids were heavy and slowly drooped closed. Mary fell asleep.
Months had passed, winter was at it’s deepest, Mary and Clara had resumed their normal life activities. Hannah, as good as ever, was their backbone. She helped to cheer up the dreary nights with her delightful concoctions and humorous stories of her childhood.
Clara was slowly regaining her usual chatterbox conversation and cheerful attitude. When they had received word that their father had died, Clara had gone into a sort of slump. Nothing seemed funny to her, nothing could make her smile. She walked around the house with a dole face and sorrowful eyes.
Mary and Hannah did their best to get her to cheer up, but it wasn’t until months later that she finally started coming out of her shell.
Now she would join in on the lively conversations around the fireplace, jokes, and other things throughout the day. Though these weren’t as frequent like before, it was still an improvement.
Mary, Clara, and Hannah were sitting around the small fireplace one cold and windy evening, enjoying a cup of tea after a supper of soup.
“I still think it might work.” Mary was saying.
“Yes, but will it work for a living?” Clara responded, her green eyes questioning.
“To be sure! Why, twill be the golden apple of the day.”
Mary smiled at Hannah’s description. “I am not sure it will be the ‘golden apple’, but if folks around here are willing to buy it, well… I think it will work.”
“Will we look for new plants, or just use our good old ones?” Clara now asked.
“I think,” Mary said thoughtfully. “That we should keep the old ones. Everyone knows what they are, and that would make it easier for us. No advertising for new ones.”
Hannah and Clara nodded.
“As soon as Spring comes, we must get right to work. I still have some lavender left over from last spring. It is hanging in the loft. Perhaps we could sell some of that.”
“Be sure to keep a bit of it for medicinal purposes,” Hannah reminded.
“Well,” Clara said as she stretched out her feet towards the warm blaze. “I suppose we will be fine for the rest of this winter with the money Father had leftover.”
“Mm, yes. If we are careful with it. You will need a new dress before long, Clara. Yours is worn thin.” Mary eyed the overly patched dress skirt with a solemn face.
Clara waved her hand. “Posh, you need one more than I do. This one is only a year old, whereas yours is two! I can live with this old thing for a bit longer. Besides,” She pinched the worn fabric between her fingers. “I have grown attached to it. I don’t think I part with it, even if I wanted to.” She let the fabric fall about her ankles again and smiled at Mary.
“Well, I be thinkin’ lately, Miss Mary,” Hannah said after a pause in the conversation. “That I could find a bit of work elsewhere. Oh, don’t worry, I won’t leave you,” she said quickly at Clara’s shocked face. “I only mean to work a few days. I can spend the rest here, but I can get some money to add to our box.”
Clara jumped off of her chair, threw her arms around the older woman’s neck, and kissed her on the cheek. “You are wonderful, Hannah!”
Mary smiled. “I had hoped you would, Hannah, but I hated to ask. Are you sure?”
“Quite, and there won’t be no changin’ of me mind.” Hannah nodded.
“Yes, but hate to have you go and work two places!”
Hannah shook her finger at Mary. “I won’t hear none of this nonsense. Twill be what it twill be.”
“You are too good for us, Hannah.” Mary stood and kissed the older woman on the cheek.
“We are family, aren’t we Mary? You, Hannah, and me.” Clara smiled at them and laid her head contentedly on Hannah’s shoulder.
“Clara?” Mary said a few weeks later as they sat in the kitchen preparing supper. Hannah had found some work in the nearby village and was gone for three days. She spent the rest of the week with Mary and Clara.
“I was wondering…” She paused for a moment as she thought of how to form her words. “You went to school and got some good learning. Well, I never set foot in a school in all my life. I don’t know how to read.” She waited to see what Clara would say.
Clara, sensitive to what Mary was saying, said nothing in reply and simply waited.
Mary took a deep breath. “Would you mind teaching me to read?” She turned and faced Clara.
Clara took a moment to think about it. “I suppose I could. I don’t know how good of a teacher I would be. But, Mary, I don’t have any books!” Clara finished, wide eyed at the sudden thought.
“Yes, I know. However, I saved a few of Father’s. I don’t know if they are good for teaching with, but I suppose something is better than nothing.”
Clara smiled and was silent for a moment.
“Mary, why did you never go to school?” She asked softly.
Mary looked down at her hands, which were busy peeling potatoes, and swallowed hard. She looked up at Clara. Clara stood, waiting patiently.
“When I was old enough to go to school, Father didn’t have very much money. Mother often had sick spells and I had to help take care of her. Hannah had many other household duties to take care of. When you were born, I was once again busy helping Mother. When she died, Father was heartbroken and never even thought about sending me to school, or if he did, he never said anything. I never brought it up. When you were old enough to go, I took my savings from odd jobs I had done for neighbors over the years, and made sure you could attend that year. No one should go without some education.”
“And yet you did.” Clara commented softly.
Mary looked up and gave Clara a shaky smile. “No, but I have lived without it. Now I have a fine scholar for a sister who can do the teaching.” Mary continued to peel potatoes.
“I suppose that the evenings would be best?” Clara said as she reached for a potato. Mary nodded. Instead of taking a potato, Clara squeezed Mary’s hand.
“Thank you,” She said simply.
Clara and Mary had just finished up a reading lesson and were now working on some sewing by the fire.
Hannah, who was gone to her other employer’s house, was sorely missed at this time. She could always bring a little cheer to the boring evenings with just about anything.
“I think it is my turn to make supper tonight,” Clara commented after about a half hour of sewing.
“Oh, don’t worry, Clara. I can get it tonight.” Mary started to stand.
“No, no. You have done most of the work lately. I can cook supper tonight. You keep your feet up and don’t worry about it.” Clara placed a kiss on Mary’s forehead, then skipped out of the room.
Mary smiled and shook her head.
An hour later, Mary suddenly woke. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “I must have fallen asleep.” She rubbed the crick out of her neck and shoulders and looked at the clock. A whole hour had passed! Where was Clara?
Mary stood and went to the kitchen. When she entered she found quite the chaotic mess. Clara was a sight to see, indeed. Her hair was dismantled and she was covered in flour up to her elbows and tiny spot on her cheek. She looked up when Mary entered and gave her a woebegone look. Mary started to smile, then she started to laugh; a soft laugh at first that bubbled out of her, and then it turned into a out right laugh.
Clara, who didn’t exactly see what was so funny, simply stared at her, then at herself.
“Oh, this really is dreadful, Mary! I have been in here all evening trying to make these dumplings.” Clara held up a bowlful of some kind of mush. This made Mary laugh even harder.
Clara set the bowl down with a hard thump and looked at Mary.
“Oh,” Mary gasped as she reached for a chair and held onto her stomach. “I am sorry, Clara. I don’t mean to laugh so. It is just too.. funny!” She sat down and started laughing again until the tears rolled down her face.
Clara, who had been examining her flour covered arms and apron, started laughing too.
After the two had calmed themselves, Clara said, in a once again doleful tone, “Oh, what am I to do? I am such a mess.”
Mary walked around the table and gave her hug, then pulled back and chuckled when she realized that she, too, was now covered in flour.
The two set to work and had the kitchen cleaned up and a slightly more edible dinner simmering in a pot.
“Mary, since I am giving you reading lessons, I think it would be a good idea if you taught me to cook.” She looked at Mary, who stared back, then they started laughing again.
“Clara, I just don’t think you should go out.”
“Mary,” Clara said, exasperated. “I have bundled up warmly. I can’t stay here tonight knowing that the poor Hump children are cold and starving. They only live on the outskirts of the town.”
“Yes, I know. However, that is three miles away!”
When Clara showed no sign of removing her coat, scarf, and mittens, Mary huffed.
“Fine, I will at least go with you.” Mary reached for her coat.
“No, you promised Hannah would get the washing and ironing done.”
Now faced with another problem, Mary bit her bottom lip.
“Look, I can be there and back before nightfall. Besides, if I go I won’t have to help you with the work.” Clara’s beautiful green eyes twinkled with merriment.
“Alright, you may go. Only be sure to be quick and stay warm!”
Clara was out the door in a flash, with her basket in hand and scarf flying behind her.
Mary set to work on the washing and ironing. In the winter, all the clothes had to dry in the warm kitchen. It was like a maze, trying to get around all the hanging laundry.
When all of that was done, she sat down to work on some needlework. She had been trying to knit up some new socks for Clara, but was having problems with the pattern. She was soon engrossed in her work, and, forgetting the time, let the whole of the afternoon slip away.
It was when she stretched from the uncomfortable position she had been in that she realized what time is was.
“Clara,” She murmured as she moved towards a window and looked out. It was dark, and worse yet, snowing.
She waited a bit longer, moving to different positions, trying to find something to do, and yet still watching all the windows for any sign of Clara.
When another half hour had passed, she decided to go look for her.
Putting on her warm coat, scarf, and mittens, she stepped out into the black night. The snow hit her face furiously and stung. She pulled the scarf around her head so that only her eyes were peeping out.
As she walked, she kept looking back towards the cottage to keep it in view. Just a few yards in front of her, she could make out something on the ground. She got closer and realized it was a body.
“Oh, no. Not Clara!” She ran as fast as her legs could carry her and reached the form.
It was indeed Clara, freezing cold past the point of shivering.
“No!” Mary screamed. “Clara, wake up! Oh, please wake up, Clara!” She shook Clara’s shoulder but got no response.
Panic started overtaking Mary. I must think, think Mary! She screamed to herself. The Cottage, where is it? She looked around and saw the faint flicker of light from one of the windows.
Oh thank you, dear Lord. Please, please keep her alive. Please don’t let her die! Up until now, Mary had not much prayed, or even cared really about God. Her Mother had talked much of God and His goodness, but Mary always felt like God had turned His back on them when Mother died. Now, she surprised herself by calling to Him.
She struggled to lift Clara off of the cold ground. After several tries, she finally fell exhausted next to her sister.
Please, dear God. Don’t let us die. Help me…help me.
She breathed heavily for a moment, and then felt her strength renewed. Standing again, and lifting Clara with some difficulty, she tried once again to make it towards the cottage.
The minutes that passed felt like hours to Mary. She didn’t know how or when, but she suddenly found herself at the cottage door. She opened it and stumbled in. Then, half dragging, half carrying, she moved Clara into the little living parlor and laid her next to the fire.
Mary fell to her knees and got to work getting Clara’s frozen clothes off of her. Then she stoked the fire into a better blaze and set to work rubbing the cold and lifeless hands.
Clara’s face was tinged with blue already, and her hands felt like ice. Mary kept rubbing them and planting kisses on the slim fingers.
“Please don’t die, Clara, please. I can’t live without you. Oh please Clara, wake up! Don’t leave me like this!” She kept talking to Clara, trying to get a response.
Oh, if only Hannah were here! She would still be gone for another day.
An hour passed, then two, then three and still no sign of life in Clara’s form. Her face had slowly lost the blue tinge, and her hands had started to warm.
Mary had put some water over the fire and let it heat slightly. Then, she took rags and kept putting the warm water on Clara’s face and any other exposed skin.
When the sun started to rise, revealing a beautiful white wonderland, Mary had fallen asleep, exhaustion having overtaken her.
When she woke, someone was shaking her shoulder. She jumped. “Where is Clara?” She frantically looked around the room. Two strong arms grabbed her shoulders and helped to stand.
Hannah made Mary face her. “Shush, child. She is in her bed.” Hannah had tears in her eyes.
“Oh, Hannah, you’ve come!” Mary fell into the comforting arms and let her tears flow. Hannah held her as if she would never let her go.
When Mary had calmed down a bit, Hannah held her out at arms length. “The doctor is here with Clara.” Her grey eyes met Mary’s brown ones.
Mary swallowed hard. “Oh, Hannah. Please tell me she will be alright.” She looked searchingly into Hannah’s face. She held her head in her hands when Hannah gave no indication that everything would be alright.
“May I see her?” She asked after a few minutes. Hannah nodded.
Creeping silently up to the loft, Mary peeped in. The doctor was bent over Clara’s thin form and was examining her.
Mary tip toed over and knelt down beside her sister.
“Will she be alright, doctor?” She asked hopefully.
The doctor looked kindly into Mary’s eyes. “There is no use hiding the truth, young woman. Your sister is very ill. She has suffered quiet a freezing. As to whether or not she makes it, well, I can’t promise anything. I would suggest that you prepare yourself.” He patted her on the shoulder and climbed down the loft, leaving the sisters together.
Mary gently took Clara’s hand and pressed it to her cheek. She stared lovingly down at the pale and worn face. Oh the poor girl! She was so thin.
“Oh, why did I ever let her go?”
“Don’t go blamin’ yourself, child.” Hannah chided as she came up beside her. “She would have been fine if it hadn’t gotten stormy, and you couldn’t control that.” Mary rested her head on Hannah’s shoulder while still holding Clara’s hand.
“I won’t let her die, Hannah. I won’t. God can’t take her from me so soon. Look at her. She is so beautiful. She could have married and had children of her own. She is so young, she doesn’t deserve to die.”
“All of us deserve to die, me love. You know that. You also know that Jesus came and died for us so that when we did die, we could live in Heaven with Him if we accepted Him as our savior. We are but sinners and need Him.”
“Hannah, I don’t think God even thinks of us. Ever since Mother has died, everything has gone wrong. First father dying, and now maybe Clara. Oh, I can’t stand it!” She started to cry again. Hannah held onto her as her own tears mingled with Mary’s.
Days had passed and Clara seemed to be getting no better. She lay as if in a coma and never stirred. Her breathing was slow and shallow. How Mary’s nights haunted her. If only she hadn’t let Clara go. If only she had gone with her. If only.. but it was no good wondering what might have happened ‘if only’. Right now was what was happening and she had to face it.
As Mary rolled over in her bed for the fifteenth time, she thought she heard Clara groan. She quickly threw back her covers and crawled over to Clara’s cot and listened. Clara seemed to be gasping and wheezing.
In the cold, pale moonlight that shone through a little window above Clara, Mary could see the perspiring face of her beloved sister. Mary felt Clara’s forehead. She was burning up!
Mary threw off Clara’s quilt and listened to her breathing again. Yes, she was definitely gasping. Gasping for air? Mary bent close to her sister’s ear.
“Clara? Clara, wake up.” She said softly. No response.
The gasping seemed to be getting worse. Tears rolled down Mary’s cheeks. Was this the end? Was Clara making one last struggle?
Mary bent over and placed her arm under Clara’s thin shoulders. Lifting her, Mary was amazed at how light she was. Mary held Clara close to her as Clara’s breathing got worse.
“Oh, God!” Mary sobbed. “Please! Please don’t let Clara die. I can’t live without her! I can’t!” She paused and sobbed for a minute or two before pulling herself together.
“God, I know that I have refused you again and again. I am sorry, please forgive me. Please, don’t take Clara’s life for my sins! Forgive me, Lord. Please, forgive me.”
Clara suddenly flailed her arms, gasped one more time, and thin was totally still.
Mary lifted her enough to move her into the moonlight. She looked at the pale face. It was still. No sign of anything.
“Oh, Clara,” Mary let her head fall on Clara’s chest as she sobbed.
Five months later, on a sunny day, much like one many months before, Mary was sitting on the same low, stone wall where Clara had found her to read her their father’s letter.
The flowers were blooming, and birds were singing, and Mary felt like god was smiling down upon them. She drank in the scenery and let the warm sun kiss her face.
“Mary?” A sweet voice called.
“Over here!” Mary answered. She turned and smiled as Clara came slowly around a rose bush. A shawl was about her thin shoulders, but her face was as beautiful and radiant as ever.
Mary scooted over a bit and let Clara sit beside her.
“Mm, isn’t today beautiful, Mary?”
“Yes, it certainly is, but it is so much better because I have you.” She hugged Clara close.
They held onto each other for a moment more, then Clara pulled back. “I told Hannah I wanted to help do the laundry today.” She smiled at Mary as she rose from her sunny seat.
“Don’t work too hard!” Mary called after her. Clara waved.
Mary sighed contentedly as she looked around and saw everything with new eyes. The beautiful stream that babbled along it’s course, the rose bush with it’s many butterflies that fluttered about it, the little cottage that held so many memories. She looked over and watched Hannah and Clara as they laughed and hung the laundry.
Perhaps change wasn’t so bad after all. It brought new life to things. It taught love and patience. It held new things to discover. Yes, perhaps change wasn’t so bad after all, and was, in it’s own way, rather good.
Again, I want to thank all of you girls for participating! I hope all of you had a great time, and hopefully in the near future, I will host a giveaway! *wink*
Love from Your Sister in Christ,