Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Three
I’m loving these Sunday Stories because I’m so lazy that it makes me smile to just copy and paste a story into a blog entry and call it a blogging day. Haha… But seriously, it makes me smile to read through this story that I wrote when I was twelve! Way back when I knew nothing about writing or editing or the publishing process, and I was just writing because it made me happy.
Hope you enjoy this week’s installment! Let me know what you think in the comments!
The sweet smell of rain and grass envelops me as I squeal and toddle across the field of bright red flowers. She giggles and chases after me, her bright eyes sparkling with laughter. She scoops me up in her arms and spins me around. “Come here, my little rose,” she calls. She collapses onto the bed of flowers beside me and closes her eyes. The rain trickles down my little face as I watch her. Her red curls clung to her cheeks. She opens her mouth and tilts up her head. She’s singing—an old Irish lullaby, her voice softly lilting. My pudgy hands reach out and grasp a flower. I lay it on her stomach and wait. She slowly opens her eyes and smiles at me. “I love you, Rose,” she whispers. Her voice is soft and warm. Just like I remember it.
I woke up to a rosy glow coming from the window. The beams of light fell on the cold bedroom floor. Beside me Annie peacefully dreamed away.
It was the first time I’d been alone since I got to America. I stared at the ceiling in silence.
The remnants of my dream faded away. I desperately searched my mind, longing to remember what she looked like again; what she smelled like; what she sounded like.
I sighed and rolled over, wiping the tears from my eyes. What is the point of dreams? They do nothing except remind you of the things you will never remember.
I shivered and tucked the blanket under my chin.
I tried to remember what it was Mama had said about what happens after you die, but I couldn’t recall ever talking about it.
Where was she? Floating around in some distant land on a little cloud; or lying under the ground somewhere?
My mouth made some kind of strangled sigh that made Annie roll over. Her long eyelashes cast shadows on her pale cheeks; her lips tilted in a smile. She mumbled something in her sleep.
I rolled my eyes. What are you thinking, Rose? You know there’s not a God. I crossed my arms and twisted up my lip. I refused to believe a so-called “loving” person would let children be made orphans and parents be made childless.
I grunted again. Annie wiped her nose drowsily. My bitter thoughts slowly seeped away.
It’s such a shame to have to awaken peaceful souls and make them face reality.
“Good morning, Annie,” I whispered. “Wake up.”
Annie rustled and yawned. “Rose?” Her voice was soft and sleepy. She paused thoughtfully. “Why does my face feel warm and fuzzy? The rest of me’s so cold.”
I looked at the beams of sunlight spreading colorful rays all over the room. “You’re probably getting that heat from the sun. It looks beautiful.”
“Oh,” Annie climbed out of bed and felt her way to the window. She touched the glass. I pulled my knees up to my chest and watched her. “It is warm,” she said, pausing. “Rose, what does it look like? Is there a rainbow in this room?”
I started. Slowly, I put my knees down and tried to think of what to say. “Well, I’m not really good at describing things. You probably wouldn’t like it.” I sighed. Pathetic.
Annie frowned. “Please try.”
I bit my lip. “Well, a rainbow really isn’t a certain color or mood. It’s lots of colors, so it has lots of moods.” So far, so good. “It’s warm, like a fire, but it’s also cool like winter.” I paused, wondering whether to go on. “I’d like to think of a rainbow as looking like something different, though. To me it feels like love. Like yours and Jenny and Patrick’s love, and my love, and Aunt Catherine’s love. That’s what rainbows feel like, which is even more important then how they look.” My eyes welled up with tears. I was thankful Annie couldn’t see them.
She walked across the room and touched my cheek. Could she feel the wetness? “Thank you, Rose,” she said sweetly before she kissed me and felt her way out of the room.
I stared at the doorway long after she’d left.
“Who are you?” The small man squinted at me and Jenny. His breeches were ill-fitting and his vest was halfway opened. With every word he spoke spit flew in our faces.
I winced and wiped it off my cheek. How pleasant. “As I said, I’m Rosalyn Keegan, and this is Jenny Moore. We just arrived from Ireland yesterday.” I folded my hands and tried to look professional.
Mr. Jenkins grunted. “Of courthe. I could tell that the moment you opened your mouths.” He bent over his paperwork. “I thuppose you want a job, eh? Well, thith is the plathe to be if you’re Irith or black. I thuppose I’ll give you the thpoths.” He looked up and stared into my eyes. “You’ll haf to thtart tomorrow.”
What? I bit my lip and kept my hands from wiping the spit off my forehead. “We’re available any time, sir.”
“Good,” Mr. Jenkins had a hungry look in his beady eyes. “Yeth, very good.” He rubbed his hands together greedily. “You’ll need to work thwelve hourths a day, of courth, not counting your one hour lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00.”
“Of course,” Jenny said.
“Good. I’ll thee you two at 7:00 thomorrow morning.” The small man leaned back in his chair. “You are dithmithed.”
I smiled victoriously and marched out the door. Thank you!
“Rose, wake up!” Jenny threw up the covers and shook me hard. “Rose, it’s almost 6:30. Wake up or we’re going to be late!”
“What?” I sat up with a start, and managed to knock Jenny in the head. Ugh. I lay back down.
“Ouch! Be careful where you swing that thing.” Jenny rubbed her forehead, a hint of a smile on her lips.
“Jenny! Why didn’t you get me up earlier?!” I moaned.
“I tried to, but you sleep like a log.” Jenny laughed and smoothed down her dress.
Ugh. She must have gotten up thirty minutes ago.
Jenny smiled and sashayed to the wardrobe. “What do you wish to wear today, m’lady? Shall we go with the pauper style?”
I jumped out of bed and threw on a calico dress. “Help me button it!” My voice was half sleepy and half impatient. I can’t believe this. We can’t be late on our first day!
Jenny fumbled over the little buttons on the faded blue dress. “Be patient; I can’t when you’re so jittery,” she laughed, slapping my arm lightly.
“Sorry, but you’ve got to hurry. I can’t imagine what Mr. Jenkins will do to us if we’re late!” I tapped my foot. Oh, come on, Jenny. “Can’t you go any faster?”
Jenny turned me around and smirked. “Relax, Rose. We’ll get there on time.” She buttoned the top of the dress and patted my back. “And a good word never broke a tooth,” she added sternly.
“Thanks for helping me,” I sheepishly offered.
“You’re welcome. Now pull back your hair.” Jenny handed me a ribbon and opened the door. I smiled and pulled the comb through my tangled red locks.
“Are you two leaving?” I turned to see Annie sitting up in bed. Her hair was ruffled but she smiled slightly.
“Oh, good morning.” Jenny said softly. “You’re up early.”
“You woke me up by accident.”
“Sorry,” I cringed. “We have to leave, though. The factory opens in twenty minutes.”
“Oh. Have a good first day.” Annie smiled.
“You girlth will be working right here.”
I dodged the rain of spit and tried to smile.
“Thith ith Ida Mann.” Mr. Jenkins grabbed the shoulder of a young colored girl, who looked about my age. “She’ll sthow you how the mathines operate. Ida,” Mr. Jenkins motioned to us and walked away.
“Hello, I’m Rosalyn Keegan and this is Jenny Moore. We’re from Ireland.” I smiled warmly.
“I know.” Ida said shortly, turning to the machine. “This is pretty simple. All you have to do is this.” Her hands wove the thread so quickly that all I could do was blink.
I tried to ignore her frosty glare and think positively. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.
“Um, could you show us that again?” Jenny peered at the machine.
“What are you-blind?” Ida pouted.
I felt my blood heat up. What’s wrong with her? I frowned. She looked like one of the orphans in Ireland last summer who had been stung by a bee and someone asked her how she felt.
“There.” Ida wiped her hands on her dress when she finished. “Now that was the last time I’m going to show you. If you have any questions, ask someone else.” She turned on her heel and stomped away.
I stared at the loom with no idea what to do. This may be harder than I thought.
I sat on the windowsill and gazed outside. It had been such a long day.
“Rose, are your arms sore?” Jenny lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.
“Hmm?” I turned and smiled. “No, I’m perfect, as always.”
“You mean you’re not achy at all?”
“Of course not.” I rubbed my arm unconsciously. I looked down and quickly folded my hands.
“Lucky.” Jenny massaged the small of her back. “I feel like I got caught in a water mill and have been turning around and around between bars all day.” She laughed and limped over to where I sat. “What are you looking at?”
I motioned out the window. The moon hung from the sky like a big white gumdrop shining above us, peering through the storm clouds. Huge, dark buildings loomed in the distance. Smoke rolled out of chimney tops. Rain poured down, illuminated by the street lights below.
I sighed. “America. It’s so big, isn’t it? Aunt Catherine said that America is massive compared to Ireland.” I shivered. “It’s scary to think about it. This country goes on forever while Ireland seems so small and unimportant compared to it.”
Jenny sat down beside me. “It makes you feel humble. God made this world so huge but compared to it we’re tiny specks of dust. Someday we’ll die, and this world will go on; but no one will remember us.”
We looked at each other and I could feel teardrops forming in my eyes. This isn’t like me. I looked away.
“Rose,” Jenny whispered, “I don’t know if now is the perfect time…but, are you ready to tell me about how your parents died?”
I was almost ready to say no. But the tightness in my chest stopped me. I squinted to find the big sea. It was no more than a thin line in the distance. I touched the windowpane. Icy cold. I pulled my fingers away. “There’s not much to say.” My voice was little more than a whisper. “My mother was a wealthy young lady. My father was a shoe maker. They fell in love, despite her parents’ wishes. Then she ran away with him. Her family disowned her.” I followed a raindrop with my finger. “My mother found out she was pregnant. My father left her. We lived alone until I was four. Then she died. Just like that, she was gone.” I let my hand fall. “I wasn’t even there. I don’t even know how she died. The people from the orphanage came to get me the next day, after my grandparents refused me.”
Jenny was silent. Well, she coughed a little.
I fought the tears running threatening to run down my cheeks. “I don’t remember her at all.” My voice broke.
Jenny reached out to touch my hand.
I ducked my head and wiped my eyes. “When I was a child,” I said softly, laughing a little. “I had a quite romantic attachment to this battered old grave in the orphanage’s cemetery, under a weeping willow tree. It must have been decades old: weathered and desolate, with no name or date written on its surface.” I smiled at the memory. “I’d dress in my black cotton dress and bring a pure white rose to adorn it with. And I’d cry and pray over the body within until my face was red and soggy.” I looked down. “In my dreams, that body always belonged to my mother,” I whispered.
“Was she a Christian?” Jenny said suddenly.
“Was she a Christian? Aunt Catherine’s a Christian. She says that when they die they go to heaven.” Jenny looked genuinely curious, not at all like she was purposefully trying to provoke me.
I tried to hide the bitterness in my voice. “My mother was not a Christian.” I don’t think. “And neither am I. I don’t believe in God.” I felt a strangled wave of hot anger flash through me. “And if He is I hate him!” I burst out, choking down my tears.
“Lady, Honey…” Aunt Catherine stopped in the doorway. She glanced at the two of us and seemed to reconsider what she was about to say.
“Maybe I’d better go get the others and we’ll all say a prayer together before we go to bed.” She turned on her heel and left. “Sugar! Sweet pea!”
I bit my lip, ashamed of the words I’d blurted out. I didn’t really hate God, did I? I lifted my chin. No, because there is no God to hate.
Jenny smiled and pressed my hand. “I won’t tell anyone, Rose.”
About my parents or my problems? “Thank you.” I self-consciously rubbed my puffy eyes. “Why, look at us! Aunt Catherine must think we’re crazy.”
“You are crazy!”
I nudged her playfully, and she nudged me back.
Aunt Catherine came into the room again with Pattie and Annie. “Children,” she reprimanded with mock seriousness. “Let us settle down and pray.”
We soberly sat up, folded our hands, and bowed our heads. “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
I looked around. Jenny was right about the Moores being a religious family. Even Annie and Pattie sat perfectly still, heads bowed and eyes closed. I looked down guiltily and closed my eyes.
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
To be continued…