This is a hard blog post for me to write. Because it means I have to reveal some things about my life and my family’s history that aren’t exactly the funnest things to talk about. Because I don’t have a perfect life, and even though I had a wonderful childhood, it was at times far from ideal or rosy and pretty.
I recently had the opportunity to share my faith and offer some support and encouragement to a woman that I sort of casually know, but who had posted something on Facebook about some trials she was going through in her life. Financial problems, troubled loved ones, and overall discouragement at the lack of prosperity in her life. I commented with a few words of encouragement and a Bible verse (Psalm 121:1) and later got a message from this woman sharing her heart about how hard she is trying to trust God, but how difficult it can be when things just don’t seem to be working out in life, and you can see how hard that is on those you love.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to say in response. Here I am, a seventeen-year-old kid with a publishing contract and twelve hundred dollars worth of camera equipment. What could I possibly have to say about financial hardships or suffering in life?
A lot, actually.
My parents got saved later in life. My dad had lost both of his parents when he was a teenager, and he’s told me time and time again that he was always pretty much the life of the party in every circumstance, drinking too much and experimenting with drugs from a young age. My mom’s parents separated when she was seventeen, and she lived on her own in the city and worked her way through college, where she met my dad through mutual friends at a restaurant where she worked as a bartender. (Whoa, my parents have such a romantic story, right? That’s where I’m sure going to look for my husband–at a bar! Not!) Anyway, long story short, they fell in love, got married, and had two daughters. Then when I was five, my dad decided out of the blue that he wanted my mom to homeschool me, to which she promptly replied “You’re crazy!” and then “But I don’t know how!”
So she got some help and figured out what kind of books she needed to buy and how this whole homeschooling thing is supposed to look. One of the curriculums she decided to use for me was a Bible program to teach me basic Bible stories and help me memorize some verses. She’d been attending a lukewarm church for a while and thought it would be a good idea to teach her girls some Christian morals and stories. But what she wasn’t planning was just how gripping the simple Bible stories would be on her adult heart. The first story she read through was the introductory “ABC’s of Salvation”. And that was all it took. One simple kindergarten-level telling of the love of Christ for sinners, and her heart was pierced. She confessed to the Lord just how much she needed Him in her life, and from that day on, she was a changed woman.
God started working on my dad at about the same time. So within a few months (he knows it to the day!) my dad was down on his knees asking God to take over his life. He said that pretty soon after that, when on a Christian retreat with some men from the new church they were attending, He knelt by his bed and asked for God to take away his addiction to alcohol. And he said that after he prayed that, he felt the hugest weight lifted off his shoulders. He came home, dumped out every beer left in his fridge, and hasn’t had a drink since then. Not because he believed alcohol was evil or sinful–but because he was excited for the opportunity to show the world that he was a different man.
Well, the road in front of them wasn’t easy. In fact, it was bumpy and painful. Because only two weeks after my dad came to Christ, he got laid off from work. My mom hadn’t worked in years, so for the first time our family was completely without income in the midst of a huge nation-wide financial crisis. And, if things didn’t seem desperate enough, my mom soon found out something else: She was pregnant. With child number three.
I was probably only five or six when all this happened. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that our family was entering into a stage of life that would last for the next four or so years. And that was the time we all fondly call, “Food Pantry Days.”
Why? Because we were poor. We were more than poor! I was too young to realize a lot of it at the time, but my parents are very quick to admit that they struggled keeping food on the table. Milk was a necessity we couldn’t afford a lot of the time. We ate boxed spaghetti just about every night. Without butter. Without cheese. I remember complaining about that to my friends. Boiled spaghetti with salt for supper. And pbjs on food pantry bread for lunch.
Christmases came and went. We learned to make things for each other. I remember hand sewing a sleeping bag for my little sister’s doll and making a crown out of pipe cleaners and party streamers for the baby. One Christmas I complained about the lack of toys I got, and I’ll never forget hearing my mom crying about it later and feeling the worst kind of guilt in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know we were poor! All I knew was that we ate spaghetti with salt and frozen chicken nuggets and lots of people gave us hand-me-down clothes. Which were usually too short considering how freakishly tall I was.
Things got better in time, obviously. My dad had been working at a low-paying job for Habitat for Humanity, but he eventually moved on and was hired somewhere else. The bills got paid. We were able to pay off whatever credit card debt we’d racked up and even started saving to build a house. We were back on our feet financially and life was looking good again.
I didn’t know very many details of that time in our life until I was much older. But then my parents started sharing about it openly. They had no shame in the change they would collect to buy milk or eggs or whatever else they needed. They were quick to admit that they had fallen into debt that had burdened them until they could pay it off. They confessed that they had considered bankruptcy then had declared it not an option unless they were willing to one day go back and personally repay all of those people every cent they had borrowed from them.
But the biggest truth they’re willing to admit is this: That they would not be the people they are today if the Lord hadn’t walked them through those trials. My dad will be the first one to tell you that. He honestly believes that God put him through all that so soon after his salvation as a way to grow him quickly. Because sometimes, my dad will tell us, you need to hit rock bottom in life. Because it’s when you’re sitting at the very bottom that you have no place to look but up.
My dad told me something once that both simultaneously shocked and touched me. He told me that his number one prayer in life wasn’t for my prosperity or overall happiness. His prayer was only that one day God would bring me through some kind of trial. That me and my husband would face some obstacle that would just prove itself to be too big to overcome. Too painful or too scary for us to handle. And that, through that trial, God would show Himself to us and draw us closer to Him.
I have to admit that hearing my dad say those words has meant more to me than few things I’ve ever heard him say. Because I know that he loves me enough to honestly want that for me. Because He wants me to have the same beautiful, intimate, childlike relationship with Christ that my parents do. The kind of relationship that comes through walking hand-in-hand with the Father through some hardship. The kind of relationship that grows from a deep abiding trust that God will always bring me through.
So how did I respond to my friend on Facebook? I told her a few of these things. I offered to pray for her. And I shared this song by Laura Story, that has always proved itself to be nothing but a comfort and encouragement to me as I think about what mountains God has in store for my future. Because sometimes, God’s blessings do come through raindrops. His healing does come through tears. And my parents are living proof that sometimes, it does take a thousand sleepless nights to really know that God is near. And I have found that, indeed, every trial in this life has proven itself to be God’s mercies in disguise.
So it’s absolutely fitting that we’re reading a story about an Irish orphan on today, of all days. (Because it’s St. Pattie’s Day–duh!) I personally could care less about it being March 17th and all that, but it was kind of cool when I woke up to the sound of my dad blasting our old “Irish Tenors” cd and all I could think about out was how many times I played that on repeat when writing this novella. Kind of cool…
Anyway, if you need a refresher on the first chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
Ellis Island. “Isle of Tears.” I glanced at the Statue of Liberty curiously.
“Jenny!” I suddenly shouted as the tidal wave of people pushed me away from her. She grabbed Pattie and Annie with one hand, and with the other she reached out and clutched my threadbare coat. I turned and fought through the crowd to get back to them, holding my hat on with my spare hand. I’m beginning to think this is more dangerous than the boat.
“ORDERLY LINES!” someone bellowed.
Annie gave an uneasy laugh. “Jenny, the ocean has come on shore with us and is knocking us around.”
Jenny chuckled and glanced at me. “Aye.” She sweated nervously. “We all have to stick together.”
We? The word sent thrills down my back. I was part of a “we”. I nodded eagerly.
“Rose,” Jenny continued, “You make sure that nothing happens to Pattie. I’ll take care of Annie. Whatever happens, just stay right behind me and try not to get separated. If we do…”
A jab from somebody sent Jenny and Annie forward, leaving me and Pattie behind. I grabbed his hand and elbowed my way forward.
“I don’t need you to look after me!” Pattie shouted over the loud noise, trying to jerk free.
“Do you want to get left behind, taken away, and locked up in an orphanage all alone in a strange land?” I shouted back, rolling my eyes. I felt him squeeze my hand a little.
The noontime sun shone high, its heat pounding down on my back. I squirmed, my hair sticking to my neck.
We were shoved into a large brick building. I looked around and gawked. All around me were hundreds, maybe thousands, of immigrants, all arriving on different boats and speaking different languages.
The Americans pushed us into line and passed out letters to put on our coats and bags. Then we entered a massive room with dozens of lines of people. At the front of the line, men in white coats probed the immigrants and looked them over. Children screamed while mothers whispered frantically in strange languages. The two families in front of us were babbling away in what sounded like Polish and German. I leaned forward and tried to guess what they were saying. What a lovely trip, John. Yes, beautiful country, Mary. Such smart white coats these doctors wear here. Yes, Mary, they’re not terrifying at all.
Pattie gave my hand a little squeeze. I looked down at his dark hair and smiled.
After a few hours, the men in white coats finally got to us. “Name!” the sweaty doctor yelled, shining a bright light in my open mouth.
“Rothalyn Keegan.” The words were difficult to say with cold steel on your tongue.
I flinched as he poked and prodded my body. “Where are you from? Can you read? Where are you going? Where’s your family? Have you ever been in jail?”
I nodded or shook my head after each question, holding my breath and praying for it to be over soon.
Finally he gave the four of us one last look-over before shoving us on. “Next!”
I heard a lady scream as her daughter was led away with an X on her coat.
Annie shivered. “I didn’t like him, Jenny.” She grabbed Jenny’s arm and clung to it. “His voice was mean.”
“Shhh. I know.”
Pattie’s mischievous smile upturned half of his mouth. “I came awfully close to telling him that if I wasn’t already insane he sure was going to make me,” he whispered.
I gave a surprised laugh. “Aye, Pattie. But be careful,” I whispered back, “Even little pigs have big ears.” I wiggled my eyebrows.
He smirked and I dared to ruffle his hair. I think that being with this family is the start of a great adventure.
We grabbed our bags and pushed open the door that lead to New York. My adventure was just beginning.
Jenny brushed the dirt off her skirt and grabbed Annie’s hand as she stepped off the ferry. “Be careful, Annie. There are a lot of careless people here.” She glared at a man who had nearly run her over.
“I’ll say. Did you see that rude girl?” I asked. “She knocked me right off the ground and didn’t even apologize about it.” My blood boiled.
Jenny raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have thought that you of all people would be concerned about being knocked over. You seem to be in the practice of it yourself.”
I held my hands out sheepishly. “Will you ever let me free of that one little incident? It was a mistake.”
Jenny smiled forgivingly. “Besides, maybe she was in a hurry. We don’t know what her reason could be.”
I shrugged. She didn’t seem very sorry about it.
“Besides,” Jenny continued, “Why worry about what’s already happened?” She turned to Pattie. “Pattie, would you….” He was in complete awe. Jenny tapped him teasingly. “Patrick, what is it?”
“Look at it all,” he whispered.
It was so big. The buildings seemed to extend forever, nearly touching the sky. A smelly, black fog covered the air with a thick blanket. People bustled everywhere, bumping into each other and talking loudly. Dirty children ran barefoot down the alleys, and pale men sat on the corners.
I gawked up at New York City. This is America, the beautiful?
“What does it look like?” Annie asked.
“Um, it’s very crowded,” Patrick stammered, looking at us for guidance.
“I can hear that. But what does it look like?”
My head was racing. “Well, I’ve certainly seen things more…attractive,” I offered pitifully.
“It’s sort of dirty,” Jenny bit her lip. “There are a lot of children running through the streets, and, well, poor men sitting on the corners with tin cans in their laps.” She took a deep breath. “There’s a giant building in the distance and it’s making smoke as dark as death. It’s not as lovely as Ireland, Annie.”
Annie bent her head.
“Don’t worry, Annie,” I said brightly, “Nothing can be as pretty as Ireland! You know that.” I tousled her hair.
Jenny smiled at me gratefully. “Aye,” she continued, “And no use crying over something we can’t change. We might as well find Aunt Catherine and Uncle Gerald.” She turned and laughed. “Why, there’s Aunt Catherine now!” She waved at her aunt and grabbed Annie’s arm.
Patrick frowned. “What’s wrong with her?” he muttered.
Their Aunt Catherine stood about twenty yards from us. She wrung her hands and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. She wasn’t very beautiful; but she was certainly grand; with a sort of motherly look about her. Her hair was turning gray and her green eyes had begun to fade. Her body bulged here and there, and a few wrinkles graced her face.
She must have been very pretty when she was younger. I looked her over carefully as we rushed across the streets. Now she looks more like the aunt that parents warn their children about: Don’t eat too many sweets, be sure to go to bed on time, wash your hands whenever you’re done playing outside; and above all: Don’t listen to your aunt when she tells you otherwise. I chuckled a little under my breath.
“Children,” Aunt Catherine cried in a strange accent when they were closer. “Oh, children, come give your Aunt Catherine a hug!” She spread out her arms and enveloped the children in an embrace, crying freely. “Oh, you’ve all gotten so big! I haven’t seen you, Jenny, since you were six years old. You’ve grown into such a beautiful young lady!” She wiped her eyes and hugged Jenny again. “It’s so wonderful to see you again, Lady.” Lady?
“Aunt Catherine’s from the South,” Jenny whispered to me once she was free. “Uncle Gerald is from Ireland.”
That explained the funny accent.
Aunt Catherine turned and faced Pattie. “And is this handsome young man our little baby Patrick?” she drawled. He shrugged his shoulders, dodging her glance. “Well, sugar, aren’t you going to give your Aunt Catherine a hug?” She held out her arms expectantly.
“No,” he replied. Jenny kicked him in the shins, but he remained sullen.
“Oh.” A shadow crossed Aunt Catherine’s face, but she quickly turned to Annie. “And who is this pretty young thing? This couldn’t be Annie, the beautiful little girl I heard about?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Annie curtsied in the direction of Aunt Catherine’s voice.
“Why she’s just a little doll now, isn’t she?” Aunt Catherine gave Annie a little squeeze. “I believe that you and I are going to become very good friends, sweet pea.”
“Aunt Catherine loves nicknames,” Jenny whispered again. I hid my smile.
Aunt Catherine turned away. “Come along, children. I suppose I’ll take you to my home—if you could call it that. When I grew up, in the South, a house was a home…” They began to walk away from me chattering.
I longingly watched them take a few steps before sighing to myself. Well, I suppose I’ll have to find someplace to start anew. I turned and looked around.
Suddenly, Jenny was at my side. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I completely forgot about you.” She grabbed my elbow and pulled me to her aunt. “I want you to meet Aunt Catherine.” She presented me and smiled widely.
Aunt Catherine straightened and peered down at me. “Who is this?”
“Rose Keegan, miss.” I curtsied.
“We met her on the boat,” Jenny explained. “And I figured her curls complimented my brown hair quite well, so, for vain reasons, I decided to keep her around.” She smiled at me teasingly.
Aunt Catherine looked me up and down. “Well, she is very beautiful. I’m not sure about that red hair, though. Have you got a terribly feisty temper, dear?” She paused and raised an eyebrow at me. My skin flushed. She smiled, satisfied, and gave me a hug as well. “Well, that pretty blush just gives it all away. I do believe that you and I will get along together quite well, honey.”
I smiled at Jenny. I like her already.
“So where are you going to stay, honey?” Aunt Catherine pulled away and beamed at me.
“I…I don’t know. I ran away from the orphanage in Ireland.”
Aunt Catherine’s eyes softened and she took my hand. “I was an orphan, too, honey. But I never did run away, though. Guess I never got the courage. Never was a gutsy girl; though you wouldn’t know it now.” She winked cheekily. “So what made you do it?”
I froze. “I…I just decided that I needed to leave.” Why do all these people ask so many questions?
Aunt Catherine looked a bit confused, but she brightened quickly. “Well then, honey, I guess you’ll have to stay with us. If Lady trusts your character, than so do I.” She held my hand and Annie’s and gazed at us all tenderly.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just rent out a place somewhere. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying in New York, anyway.”
“Nonsense,” Aunt Catherine shook her head. “You must stay with us. I insist on it.”
It was no use arguing with her. I tried to smile happily.
“How old are you?” Aunt Catherine continued.
“Ah, Lady’s age! It will be good for her, having someone else her age to talk with.” She stroked Jenny’s hair affectionately. “I know, when I was a girl—”
Jenny rolled her eyes at me. “Well, Aunt Catherine,” she teased, “When will Uncle Gerald be coming to see us?”
Aunt Catherine suddenly burst into tears. “Oh, Gerald!” she sobbed, holding her hand to her mouth.
Oh, no. What’s wrong now? Pattie and I shared a questioning glance. I shrugged. I don’t know.
“Aunt Catherine, what’s wrong?” Jenny asked gently.
Her aunt’s shoulders shook. “Gerald died last week,” she whispered, “I…I meant not to tell you. To let you be happy for the first few moments of your new life. But then you said his name and…” She let out a snivel and wiped her eyes, throwing back her head dramatically. “I’m afraid…he…he went to the factory to work and….and,” She broke into sobs again. We stared at her silently.
“Aunt Catherine, you must be joking.” Jenny said; but she wrapped her arms around her aunt.
“It’s no joke, Lady!” Aunt Catherine bawled, “There was a terrible accident at the factory and he didn’t survive. Everything’s gone wrong since then. Some awful men came to my house yesterday and said that if I didn’t give them all the money that Gerald owed them by next week, they’d kick me out and sell my house!”
Somewhere, from a distant ally, I heard screams. I frowned. What is this terrible country?
Pattie and Annie glanced at me, confused.
“Oh, Lady, it was so much money!” Aunt Catherine continued dramatically. “I’d planned not to tell you just yet. I wanted you to enjoy at least one day in America happily. I don’t even know why God brought you from Ireland, only to kill you here!”
“We’re all going to die,” Jenny whispered, and wrapped herself up in Aunt Catherine’s arms. Annie’s eyes began to water, and even Pattie rubbed his face on his shirt.
Suddenly, the bubble burst and all four of them burst out in tears.
A gust of smog filled the air, and I began to cough. Oh, for heavens sakes! Can’t anyone here think logically instead of bawling their eyes out? “Listen here!” I shouted, surprised to hear my voice sounding so cross and firm. I shook my head to clear it and continued, “Look at you! This is ridiculous! This is America, Jenny! America, Pattie! Have you no pride? No vision? The land of opportunity!” I took a deep breath. “Surely it can’t be so hard to find a job for Jenny and me, Miss Catherine.”
Aunt Catherine sniffed. “Jobs?” she whimpered.
“Oh, for the love of Pete!” I rolled my eyes.
“Jobs!” Aunt Catherine grew excited. “That’s it! Children, I have come up with the perfect answer! Lady,” She took Jenny by the shoulders and beamed, “You and Rose will get jobs in a factory!” She glanced at me. “Oh, and call me ‘Aunt Catherine’, honey.”
“So this is your house?” I looked around the small apartment. The walls were bare, and there was no furniture except for a small table, chair, and a bed. Jenny had a frozen smile on her face. I couldn’t blame her; the orphanage was looking luxurious.
“Yes,” Aunt Catherine lit a lamp sheepishly. “There are two beds upstairs, though. I think maybe one of you should sleep with me, one should bunk with Sweet Pea, and my Sugar will sleep alone.”
“Stop calling me ‘Sugar’,” Patrick mumbled, glaring and dodging her touch. I almost choked on the laugh I was trying to hold in. Why was everything so funny all of the sudden?
“Pattie,” Jenny whispered. There was fire in her eyes.
If one more person talks I solemnly believe the floodgates will burst and I’ll end up laughing hysterically and shaming myself to the ends of the country.
“Well, you know the old proverb: a cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle. I’ll sleep with Annie upstairs.” My voice squeaked slightly. I smiled and pushed a stand of red hair behind my ear.
“I knew you’d agree, Honey.” Aunt Catherine said pleasantly.
Jenny frowned. “Do you think that those men you were referring to will give us a little extra time to make that money?”
“I don’t know, Lady,” Aunt Catherine shrugged. “Maybe you and Honey should go down there tomorrow and see.”
“Is that okay with you, Rose?”
“Aye,” I tossed my head carelessly. “Who could say no to me?”
Jenny giggled and nudged me playfully. We climbed up the stairwell, laughing.
“Sweet pea,” I heard Aunt Catherine say to Annie, “Those two are going to become the best of friends.”
To be continued…
And the winner of one custom-made coral Hannah Everly bow skirt is…. Entry #25–Hannah Elise! Hannah, my Hannah will be emailing you soon with details! Congrats!
And to everyone else who didn’t win but who would still love to get their hands on a bow skirt, they are all still available in Hannah’s etsy shop! If you order now, you may get it in time for Easter! 😉
I also wanted to upload a video blog today, talking about the ups and downs of owning your own business. I may invite Hannah to join me and expand on this topic sometime, but for now I thought a brief overview of my thoughts might be interesting to you all! 😉
Does being an author beat flipping burgers at the local McDonald’s? (The answer is YES)
I’m just tickled pink to announce the launch of my sister Hannah’s spring line of skirts for her business Hannah Everly Designs!
Can I just say that I think this is my favorite collection of her’s yet? You guys remember the super cute wrap skirts she started out with last year, and of course you remember fall’s adorable (and highly pin-able) bow skirts. But don’t you just love these fresh, springy patterns? I absolutely die over the polka dot one, and have already requested one for myself. 😉 And the yellow gingham and coral would be perfect for spring and summer!
Anyway, Hannah has graciously offered a giveaway for blog readers, so listen up!
Up for grabs is one custom made Hannah Everly bow skirt in coral.
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In order to be entered in the giveaway, all you have to do is comment below and tell us where you would wear your coral bow skirt! (To Easter brunch? Graduation? A tea party with friends?)
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Liking Hannah Everly Designs on Facebook
Tweeting about the giveaway (be sure to use the handle @RachelCoker03 so I can see you tweeted!)
Pinning the top image!
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So this new addition of Sunday Stories is really dear to me. It’s the first ever novella I wrote, way back when I was about twelve or thirteen, I think? I’m pretty sure it dates back to 2008 but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, I used to have a really affection for Irish culture for some reason, and I thought nothing was more beautiful and romantic than an utterly clichéd story about a red-headed Irish orphan. *cringe* Hey, at least I can laugh about it now!
Anyway, I’ll post a chapter a week every Sunday until it’s all finished! And then you all can decide if this is a good story, or a cute attempt of a thirteen-year-old girl to write something sentimental and sweet. I love hearing your comments, so comment away!
My heart raced as I leaned against the cold, brick wall. I crept down the stairs, carpetbag in hand, hugging the wall. Creak. An old, worn step groaned. I held my breath. Did anyone hear?
A few seconds confirmed that no one had. Silently, I tiptoed down the hall and paused at the door. Should I go through with it?
I could feel my heart pounding as I pulled the key I’d swiped from Mrs. Brown out of my apron pocket and unlocked the door. Noiselessly, I snuck out and ran down the road to the rickety gate. I pushed it open and ventured out into the realm of freedom.
My steps left footprints in the dusty road; each step leading a little closer to the dream of being free. I closed my eyes and savored the feel of the moonlit autumn breeze.
I turned and looked at the old orphanage one last time. The iron gates closed with a loud creak. I tossed my dark red hair and stamped my foot, sending up a cloud of sand from the Irish path. Who’s laughing now? “Ha! Ha! Ha! Me!” I grabbed my bag and ran. I skipped down the road, swinging my bag and giggling hysterically. I’d never felt so carefree and happy.
I knew the way down the road in the dark, climbing over the short stone wall and brushing dust off my cotton dress.
I needed to escape. I’d lived in the orphanage for as long as I could remember. Years of sorrow, pain, and forgotten memories surrounded me.
I paused at the bend and reached into my skirt pocket. Eighteen years didn’t amount to much, but the money was enough to get me out.
That was the only thought that had been resounding in my head for the past three weeks. Ever since I snuck out during Easter service to barter for my passport.
I continued to make my way in the moonlight, the dew dampening my dress.
Finally free, I reached the dirt road and pranced down it to the boating dock.
The dock was unusually crowded the next morning. “Um, excuse me,” I clutched my bag close to my chest, “Can anyone help me?” A bump in the shoulder was all I got in response. More than a little upset, I glared at the offender’s back. “Excuse me!” Silence. Frustrated, I stomped my foot in an angry huff.
“You there!” A man with a thick red beard suddenly grabbed my arm. “Let me see your passport.” My arm ached but I managed to grab my passport and show it to him.
“Here.” My heart pounded. I placed a hand on my chest, willing it to slow down.
He snatched the passport and examined it quickly. “You’re good to go.” He ripped the money out of my hand and shoved a ticket in its place. I was pushed onto the boat, in the midst of hundreds of anxious people.
“Watch it!” A lady shouted, shoving me out of her way.
I stuck my tongue out at her back. Childish, Rose, I chided myself instantly, straightening my back and trying to politely push through the crowd.
I’m not quite sure how, but I ended up on the south deck, facing Ireland’s rolling green hills. Before I knew it, the boat was pushing off at an alarming rate. I gripped the railing and turned away. I might never see it again. The thought echoed through my mind.
I looked around the deck and paused, trying to sort through my thoughts amid the buzz. There were so many—young and old, some rich and most poor.
Just as I was observing the lack of other redheads on deck, someone shoved me violently from the side, sending me off balance. I stumbled into a young lady standing by the side of the ship. “Oof!” My weight pushed the girl onto the ground, and I landed ungracefully on top of her.
“Oh, my!” The young lady whispered under her breath, trying to lift her head. “Am I under attack?”
I frowned at her, quite alarmed. She seemed about my age, with long dark hair and milky white skin. Humor twinkled in her big brown eyes.
The girl was very calm and collected, even after being knocked to the ground.
The very opposite of me: a tall, skinny girl with dark red curls and bright green eyes. She looked composed and unruffled; I was wild and fiery.
I scrambled to my feet, and then helped the girl regain her posture. I took a quick glance around. The sight of two young ladies in a heap on deck had drawn a great deal of attention.
“I’m very sorry,” the young lady began.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” I interrupted, “That was very, very clumsy of me. I hope you’ll forgive me.” Oh, I must be a sight. I touched my disheveled hair and placed my bag on the ground.
The girl raised an eyebrow. “It’s no problem, miss.” With a final amused grin, she turned back into the crowd, grabbing the hands of a young boy and girl.
Watching them leave, I felt little bit of my initial excitement deflate. Nonetheless, I held my chin up and looked around for help. An important-looking man leisurely leaned against the wall on the far side of the deck. I made my way to him. “Excuse me, sir. Do you know where I’m supposed to sleep?”
The man briefly tipped up his hat to look at me before putting it back in place and closing his eyes.“In the cabin with all the other women and children, I suppose.” He grunted and folded his arms, obviously intent upon sleeping.
I waited for him to continue, rocking back and forth on my heels. Realizing he’d dozed off again, I said loudly, “Um, would you please tell me where that is?” I gave him my most dazzling smile, but he didn’t seem to notice. This is awkward. I resisted the urge to lean in close and tilt up his hat to see if he was even awake. After a few moments, I cleared my throat and repeated the question.
He sighed and looked at his wristwatch. “Really, sometimes I haven’t the slightest idea what you Irish people are saying. Could you please repeat the sentence?” He folded his arms and settled back against the wall. But at least this time he was watching me.
I took a deep breath and slowly repeated, through gritted teeth, “Would you please tell me where that is?”
“Where what is?”
I groaned. “The cabin!”
He sighed. “Here we go again,” he muttered.
“Ugh!” I stamped my foot. I strangled down the urge to stand on tip-toe and shout the question into his ear.
“I think she’s asking where the sleeping quarters are.” A voice with only a slight Irish accent spoke out from behind me. I turned to find the dark haired lady smiling at me.
The man nodded briskly. “Just to your right, down those stairs.” He licked his lips and returned to his nap.
I made a face at him, childish or not, before turning to thank the girl. “How could…” To my horror, she was already walking away.
At the sound of my voice, though, she turned to me expectantly.
What now? “I, uh, didn’t introduce myself back there. I’m Rosalyn Keegan, but you can call me Rose.” I smiled and extended my hand, hoping the introduction was enough to start a conversation.
Slowly she shook it, her dark eyes glancing over me curiously. “I’m Jenny Moore, and these are my siblings, Annie and Patrick. But you can call Patrick ‘Pattie’.” She motioned to the children standing to her right. The young boy looked about fourteen or fifteen and reasonably healthy, but the girl was hardly more than a breath of air. She clutched Jenny’s hand and smiled over my head.
I frowned before realization hit me. Oh, she’s blind. I straightened and tried to grin. “Well, now that we’re acquainted I’m sure we’ll all be good friends.” The boy named Patrick was glaring at me. I cleared my throat nervously. “Once again, I’m very sorry about my careless blunder. This ship is something, I tell you! People everywhere, not looking where they’re going or what they’re doing. Someone’s going to get hurt!” I said in a rush. “Well, I mean, you almost got hurt, but…” Almost immediately, I felt my face flush. Oh, I did it again!
“Aye,” Jenny said quietly.
Did she agree that someone would get hurt, or that she was nearly harmed? I wrung my hands in despair.
Unsure whether or not she desired my company, I lingered a little longer, saying a few commonplace things and feeling like a fool. When will I learn to be graceful and quiet? “Well,” I finally said, picking my bag back up, “I suppose I should go and see the cabins.”
“We’ll come along.” Jenny grabbed her siblings’ hands and led the way.
I felt my heart racing as I fell in step behind them. Does she want to be friends? I bit my lip to suppress the large smile spreading across my face.
The cabin had the worst stench ever. Even after being on the ship for two days I couldn’t get used to the smell.
“Ugh,” I rolled over on the bunk and looked at Jenny lying next to me. She stared up at the ceiling silently, holding her own stomach. “Can we go get some air?” My voice came out as a squeak. I made a face at her pleadingly.
“Aye, we need it! Annie, Pattie, come on.” Jenny sat up and climbed down the ground.
I shook the dirt off my dress and grabbed Annie’s hand. “Come on.” She smiled in my direction and I felt my heart flutter.
We pushed past the passengers crowding the deck and made our way to the railing.
The breeze felt so wonderful. I clutched at the rail and closed my eyes, feeling almost all my nausea vaporize. I took a deep breath. The wind danced around me, teasing my hair and tickling my skin. Rose, it seemed to whisper. Slowly, I opened my eyes, the vast blue ocean surrounding me coming into focus.
The sea seemed to stretch on forever and ever; the most wonderful, majestic thing created, swallowing us up in its greatness. I felt so small and unimportant beside it.
I sighed and closed my eyes again, suddenly feeling lonely and unprotected.
“So,” Jenny asked, “What makes you wish to travel to America?”
I started at her voice, blushing yet again. I’d forgotten anyone else was there. I tried to smile. “Um, well…” I twisted a fat curl, turning back to the scenery. “I ran away.” Did she notice the squeak in my voice?
Annie frowned. “Why?” She reached over and felt for my hand. I took hers and gave it a little squeeze.
“I used to live in an orphanage. You can’t imagine how terrible orphanages are.”
Pattie crossed his arms. “I don’t want to.” He glared at me.
“Pattie!” Jenny exclaimed, boxing his ears lightly. “A good word never broke a tooth,” she whispered to him fiercely. She looked up and gave me an embarrassed smile. “Our father died of cholera years ago, when Annie was only a baby. We moved to England for a few years, before coming back to Ireland to start anew. But the famine hit, and took Lucy, Martha, and Marianne. Our Aunt Catherine, who lives in New York, wrote Mama and sent the money for our passes. By the time the tickets came, Mama was gone, too. I guess we came too close to being in an orphanage for comfort.” She took Annie’s other hand and leaned back on the rail. “How did your parents die?”
I frowned and gazed over the wide sea. Twice I opened my mouth to answer only to shut it. “It’s…It happened so long ago…I’m not sure I remember. I have a terrible memory.” I tried to wave my hand in an offhand way, furiously fighting the tears in my eyes. It hurt too much to tell the truth. What was I supposed to say? “I don’t know how my mother died”?
“Oh,” Jenny blushed this time. “I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t asked you.”
I waved a hand carelessly, still not trusting myself to look at her without crying. “Do you…” I stopped to gulp and bite my lip, “Do you ever wish that there was a heaven on earth that you could go to whenever you need to get away? Whenever you feel like the whole world is piling on top of you and you just can’t stand it anymore?” I finally glanced her way.
She smiled faintly. “Maybe it’s called America.”
The ship jolted in the rolling storm. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my churning stomach, pinching my nose to wipe out the horrid smell.
Candles had been snuffed for fear of fire, leaving the cabin dark and quiet. Softly moaning mothers and children rolled around gagging.
The storm had been going on for a full day now. I hadn’t had a breath of fresh air since the night before last.
Annie groaned beside me and vomited into a small bucket. I sighed. I had thrown up so much the past few days that I was only dry-heaving by now. Annie lay back down and grabbed my hand. “Jenny,” she whispered, “When will it be over?”
“I—” The ship gave a tremendous jolt. I moaned and reached for the bucket.
“Soon,” Jenny began, “I think—“
Suddenly, the cabin door burst open. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky behind the figure in the doorway. “Man overboard!” The sailor cried. “All stay below deck!” He leaped away from the cabin, slamming the door behind him.
I shot up and ran to the doorway, jumping over the sick children lying on the floor. I stood on the tips of my toes and looked through the peephole.
The deck was filled with water. In the flashes of lightning, I could see seaweed and fish sliding across the floor. Sailors rushed about, sliding and falling on the wet wood, apparently blinded by the stinging wind, as they rushed lug ropes to the railing.
I craned my neck and shouted commentary over my shoulder. “There’s a bit of a mess out there! They’re reaching over the edge of the deck—Oh! They’ve got someone! They’re pulling him up!”
The rude red-headed sailor was being hauled over the edge of the railing by crew-men. Thunder roared behind him as the crew pulled up another person, a young boy, who must have been thrown overboard first. The boy shivered as the crew threw some blankets on him and pushed the two towards the cabins. I saw him smile shyly at the red-headed man. The man looked down gruffly, but gave the boy a friendly little shove.
“They’re all perfectly dandy,” I announced to the cabin, making my way back to my bed in the dark. I climbed in next to Annie and stroked her hair. “Goodnight,” I whispered, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”
“Hurry up,” Jenny giggled, pushing me up the stairs.
“I’m trying,” I snapped back, bounding up them as quickly as I could. We all stopped and stared when we reached the top deck. Pattie was the first to recover, hollering and running to the railing. I laughed and chased after him, grabbing the edge and craning my neck.
America. I could see it before us, a wide streak on the horizon. If I squinted hard enough, I could just make out the buildings and factories in the distance.
“America,” Jenny whispered.
“I’m going to buy myself an American flag and hang it from my window,” I said excitedly.
Pattie jumped up and down. “I’m going to learn how to play baseball!” His eyes sparkled.
Annie wrinkled her nose happily. “I’m going to memorize all the words to Yankee Doodle.”
“And I’m going to knit a red, white, and blue blanket,” Jenny said.
I smiled at her and jumped up to see if I could catch a glance of the Statue of Liberty. “Tomorrow,” I said excitedly, “We’ll be on dry land in America.”
To be continued….
Hey, I think I’m going to post a new “Sunday Stories” tomorrow… How do you all feel about starting that up again? No fairytale this time, but still something interesting and semi-romantic. 😉
Hannah and I watched this movie last night with some of our parents’ old friends and nearly DIED LAUGHING. I couldn’t resist sharing. Hopefully “Franck” will put a smile on your faces this morning….
Why yes. How very observant of you. I do like clothes. I’m not sure how you all figured this out, but maybe it struck you one day when you realized that I’m never photographed in the same outfit twice, and that my wardrobe resembles a rainbow. Not quite sure…
But anyway, I thought it would be fun to blog about clothes just once! Because, hey, I am a girl and like ninety percent of my followers are girls. (Sorry to the couple of guys who are going to have to breeze past this post!)
The best way I can think of to tackle this topic is to approach it the way I do everything else in life. By making a list! So here’s the lowdown on what I like, where I shop, and what my secrets are. Maybe you love clothes and maybe they’re just something to put on your back, but I view them as a great way to express your personality and tell people a little about yourself without having to do too much talking! 😉
- Firstly, I love *vintage* clothes.
A lot of people are scared of vintage because, hello, it’s basically old used clothes. I do have several friends who refuse to buy vintage or used clothes because they don’t want to own anything that once belonged to someone else, and that’s totally okay! I do realize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. BUT, if your cup of tea happens to be beautiful, unique, high-quality clothing, then vintage might be for you! Plus, there’s just something so individual about vintage clothing. I hate the idea that I could show up at a party and have three different girls there wearing nearly the same identical dress as me. It might be snobby, but I think it’s more a uniqueness thing. I’m not exactly like anyone else, so why should I dress with them? Thank you, but I will take my 70’s rainbow striped maxi dress and 50’s lace tulle dress over that American Eagle hoodie anyday.
- I’m also afraid of department stores.
You will never find me in a Kohls. Or a J.C. Penney’s, or a Macy’s. On a random day, I might be found in Walmart buying groceries or cds, but in general I have a strong dislike and distrust of department stores. Like, they literally freak me out. I’m not sure what it is, but I get nervous at the idea of going in them! Maybe it’s all the racks and shelves of multiple copies of the same things… It’s a bit weird. Plus, don’t even get me started on Targets. I have this theory that all of Target’s and Walmart’s items are made in the same factory, then some woman goes around and wraps the Target stuff in fancy boxes and hires a fancy photographer to make it look good. So basically, Target is like a snobby Walmart. There, I said it! 😉
You all can judge me now…
- I like to support independent designers.
There are so many amazing, creative, and super talented designers out there who no one ever takes notice of because they’re so busy snatching $7 cardigans off afore-mentioned Target clearance racks. There’s just something so impersonal about the general shopping experience of modern websites and stores. Everything is mass-produced these days. Compare that to the rare talented individuals who still have a passion for sewing their own clothes and selling these amazing finds to women and teens who are actually interested in high-quality homemade goods! And by homemade, I’m not talking about cheap hand-sewed mocks. I’m talking about crazy cool tulle skirts, printed dresses, and embroidered blouses! I love supporting independent designers, and even though I’m not a liberal by any stretch of the mind, I do buy into the “Sweatshop Free” movement.
Let’s stop supporting companies who may condone factories operating under long, dangerous hours with minimum pay and poor working conditions and give our money instead to the designers and small businesses who are creating items we can love and wear guilt-free! 🙂 Designers like my wonderfully talented sister Hannah, and her shop Hannah Everly Designs. (Giveway soon, by the way!) I also love and support several other independent designers! Their clothes may cost a bit more, but remember that you aren’t support a corporation, you’re supporting an individual. And every penny of your money is going toward encouraging and helping that person to continue their art. Which I think is a pretty cool thing!
- I usually wear dresses.
Okay, in the summer I wear a dress EVERY DAY, I kid you not. Well, maybe I’ll wear a pair of shorts like once a week but other than that it’s a dress. I don’t even wear skirts that much. It’s pretty much all dresses. I mean, they’re so easy to wear! You don’t even have to worry about matching a shirt and a bottom, or whether or not your top is going to ride up. You can just throw on a cotton dress and a pair of sandals and go. Gah. It’s so easy that now I’m just dying for it to be summertime… And if you’re worried that the breeze might cause your dresses to be a problem, just wear those cheap Soffe shorts underneath them. That’s what I do!
- I wear heels.
Even though I’m 5’8, I still wear heels every Sunday and sometimes other days of the week, too. Because life is just too short to worry about being taller than everyone else! If I spent all my time worrying about what other people thought about my clothes or my shoes or my height, I would miss out on a lot of fun in life. I just wear things that I like, even if it’s something weird like an orange velvet blazer or red polka dot heels. If it makes me smile and feel good about myself, then it’s worth it!
- I bargain shop.
It’s probably a result of the two million hours of Dave Ramsey lessons I was forced to listen to growing up, but I refuse to pay full price for anything. Like, I’m literally looking at my closet right now and I don’t think I paid full price for a thing in it. Okay, maybe the orange suede Mary-Jane heels. But they were the only ones left in my size! Other than that… Haha, but seriously, don’t expect that everything is non-negotiable! Even if you have to go to a department store *shudder* look for coupons or other promotions. And if you, like me, can successfully avoid the siren (?) call of department stores, many jewels are to be found in the world of online shopping. I have gotten soooo many designer, vintage, and even regular J. Crew and Anthropologie finds through Ebay. I’m scary good at navigating Ebay, it’s not even funny. (I even wrote an article on it for a friend’s blog here) Etsy.com is also an amazing goldmine, and whenever I find something I like on there, I just message the seller and make an offer on it. Never pay what they’re asking you, unless they won’t compromise and you can’t imagine life without it. (In which case, you’re probably too attached to clothes anyway and need to stop spending so much money!)
- I read blogs.
Ugh. This is embarrassing. Yes, I am “that person” who reads style blogs. Let’s be brief about this, okay? My favorite is obviously one of my closest friends Elaini. She’s amazing. Her blog is here. I also love DesignLoveFest, Classy Girls Wear Pearls, and WishWishWish. Among others…
Yeah, so that’s about all I have to say on this topic. I think. For now. 😉 But something tells me I’m just going to end up getting a bunch of comments asking, “Rachel, if you’re going to be so snobbish about Target, then where on earth do you actually shop? Are there other stores out there???”
Haha, yes. So here’s a list of my absolute favorite places to shop, both in-person and online.
- J. Crew (outlet or clearance only)
- Anthropologie (um, I will shop their clearance sometimes, but I usually just buy amazing Anthropologie dresses on Ebay, hehe)
- Modcloth.com (an amazing resource for adorable vintage-inspired dresses all made from sweatshop-free designers!)
- Goodwill (don’t judge! It takes some hunting, but I have found some beautiful designer dresses at Goodwill! I just always take them to a tailor afterwards to make sure they fit properly)
- Eshakti.com (my sister will kill me for posting this–a gold mine for dresses and where fifty percent of my dresses come from)
- And of course, my sister’s etsy shop, Hannah Everly Designs!
Are there any questions? Where do you buy most of your clothes? And is fashion even a priority to you???
This is something I’ve been planning for a looong time, and I’m so excited to finally get to make the announcement on my blog! Many of you have heard my story of how I grew to become a published author at the young age of sixteen. Well, I credit a huge part in my success to my wonderful writing coach Jonathan that I worked with for about a year when I was twelve/thirteen. Before I started working with Jonathan, I knew NOTHING about writing AT ALL. So I had to learn all the basics–adjectives, adverbs, characterization, plot building–you name it! And yet, somehow along that journey, I learned something else. I learned how to embrace my passion for writing–for crafting stories and developing characters and expressing myself through words. And now, I want to be able to do that for other young people out there in the big wide world of writing. I know that there are other girls (and maybe boys?) out there who have a passion for writing but maybe need a little push to help them fine-tune their craft. Maybe you’d like a second opinion on your work, or you think you could use a bit of help “perfecting” your writing before sending it out in the scary world of agents and editors and publishers.
That’s where I come in!
Basically, I want to be your friend and mentor. I want us to have an open relationship where we can talk about writing and where I can give you writing assignments once a week and then see what flows from that. Ideally, you, as my student, will write short stories and I will look them over and write up my notes. Maybe I’ll notice that you need work developing your characterization, or setting up scenes, or working on pacing. Or maybe I’ll notice a bigger problem if I see you struggling with plotting out ahead of time or developing your tone of voice. As a seasoned writer and fresh set of eyes, I would be able to pick out these problems and work through them with you, helping you to learn to edit your own stories and stay on top of your own weaknesses.
Every month, I would also give you reading assignments based on whatever we were talking about. If I was trying to emphasize to you the importance of powerful dialog, for instance, I might have you read a play and would point out to you how that author used nothing but dialog to craft a strong story. Or we might read some poems as we study the rhythm of words and the flow of an idea. The power of literature is so important when you’re a writer, and everyone can benefit from reading (or re-reading!) the great classics that have paved the way for authors to come.
The main objective of my coaching would be not only to help you hone your writing abilities, but also to discover your artistic voice. To help you try out different styles of writing and storytelling, and help you discover what style of writing is really “you”. How can you best tell your story to the world through your pen?
It would also be a very personal and open relationship. If you were able to, I would love to start off our relationship with a little Skype chat and “get to know” each other. To talk about your goals and your favorite books and stories, and get to know a little about me, too. We would work our way through short stories, novellas, and eventually novels, all the while really analyzing your writing and discovering how to make you an even better storyteller.
I will admit that I knew practically nothing about writing until I was eleven years old, but I have learned to much over the years and I want nothing more than to share my passion with others! And to this day, no matter how nicely I think I’ve written something, I still have editors and agents who will go through and point things out and help me fine-tune my own abilities. I just want to do that for others!
Anyway, the tutoring would probably consist of an email a week. I would give you an assignment, then you would have a little under a week to complete it. You would send it in to me and I would email you back in a day or two with my comments, ideas, and your next assignment. You would (hopefully!) be constantly growing and learning and becoming aware of both your strengths and weaknesses.
Obviously, I will work on writing up a contract for my students. The cost will probably be $100 a month, and I will probably make the contract to be signed for three or four month increments at a time. I will also work on discovering contests, teen publication opportunities, and other fun opportunities for my students! The basic idea is that this should be like any other “sport” or instrumental lesson you might take in life. Just as if you were paying me to teach you piano, you’re paying for a professional opinion and for someone to work with you to develop your skill in this area. And then you would be expected to work on it your own throughout the week!
So when would this fabulous writing opportunity start? Haha, good question. Truth is, I’m pretty flexible. Right now, my schedule is pretty tied up until May, but starting at the beginning of the summer, I will be totally free! In fact, I’m stepping out on a limb with this and quitting my day job so that I have more time to work with my writing students. I’m praying that God will provide the number of students I need to make a decent living, but I feel like He’s laid this on my heart for this season in my life, so I’m optimistic that He will provide the writers!
If you and your parents are interested in lessons, or would like more information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s right, I changed my email address. I’d really like to keep my private life and my professional life separate, so if you all could start emailing me at this account, I’d really appreciate it!
Even if you’re not interested or can’t afford it at this time, I do sincerely hope that you continue writing and know that you can email me any time with a question. I always answer, no matter how long it may take me to write up a reply!
So what do you think? Would this be like a dream come true for some of you, or do you think I’m crazy to be quitting my job to teach writing, of all things?
Okay, first off, can I just say “WOW” at all the book suggestions I got in my last post??? Seriously, you guys are the BEST! I can’t wait to get my hands on some of those titles I’d never heard of…. Mmmm…
So today my sisters and I decided to be totally weird and make a video of us reading a few of my favorite reviews of my newest book “Chasing Jupiter” in horribly corny British accents. Gah.
I know what question will be on all of your minds after viewing this… And the answer is no, we haven’t always been this amazing.
So, I feel like in my senior year of high school, I’ve hit a bit of a slump. I feel like I’ve run out of good books to read! Which I know is totally not true, but pains me nonetheless. I’ve worked my way through just about every “Literary Classics” list I can find, and I think I’ve read just about every great classic written by a dead author that I’ve heard of. So now I’m opening up the floor to suggestions from everyone. What books should I read this year?
Yikes, that’s kind of a broad questions, and I’m probably going to end up drawing a huge, unbearably extensive list of novels that I would in no way ever be interested in reading from some of my blog followers. But I guess that’s okay. I just need suggested titles that I can pick through and select a few promising books to read.
I suppose I should also premise this by admitting that I am NOT a fan of sci-fi fiction. Just thought I ought to throw that out there. “Lord of the Rings” is probably the most sci-fi-ish I’ve ever gotten, and I didn’t even like most of C. S. Lewis’ books because of that very fact. Um, I also don’t like trashy romance novels? You’ve probably realized that by now. 😉 I just thought I’d remind you.
At the end of the day, I love historical fiction, but I’m willing to try out some contemporary fiction if it’s written well and has high standards. I’m also willing to try out a few older classics that I may not have heard of before if you all suggest them. I’d also be willing to read children’s books, even though I’m seventeen, if they came highly recommended.
Basically, throw out some of your favorite book titles at me so that I can be entertained, okay? I’m totally using you guys for my own gain, and I’m not even all that guilty about it, to be quite frank…