The carriage door opened and I smiled as the April sun warmed my face. Reaching out my hand, covered in a netted, lacy glove, I took the one Beagles offered me and climbed out of the carriage. It was so nice to be home again. Oh, I had enjoyed my stay at the Greyhounds immensely, I always loved going there, but it was still so wonderful to be back. I had been gone a long time. Well over two months. Dear Mrs. Greensten had taken ill and had written my uncle requesting for me to come and help nurse her. My uncle was not quite inclined to let me go, but I badgered him into it. His mother was not getting any younger and she had been ill quite a lot this winter and I was always such a great comfort to her. Of course in the end he yielded. He loved his mother dearly and would do anything to comfort her! The only reason he had hesitated was because he didn’t like me being gone for a long time.
Visiting Mrs. Greensten always brought warmth to my heart. She had often told me I was her favorite grandchild, failing to remember the fact that technically I wasn’t her granddaughter at all. We loved each other anyway and I was very fond of the old lady. She had wanted to keep me longer than the original month and a half, and had even succeeded in dragging it out to two months, but at last I had taken my leave. My birthday was a week away and Uncle Andrew would have never forgiven me if I had stayed away for my birthday.
It was supposed to be a very grand affair. After all, I was turning sixteen and this was to be my debut! My sixteenth birthday ball would be the ball where I would be presented to society. I was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time! Would I be able to fool society? So far I had managed to get away with my lie only because I lived a rather secluded life with little visitors. Oh there was that dreadful Prissy Missy and her brother, but we rarely saw each other, and apart from going to visit Mrs. Greensten, I had little company other than the people at home. I had been able to keep the secret from all the slaves, from Jeff, even from Elsie. To everyone I was Miss Rose. No one suspected or even came close to thinking that I could have been born out of wedlock. Could society be as easily blinded! And even if I was able to convince everyone that I was indeed Miss Rose, I would still be looked down on, at least a little. After all, my mother had most likely married beneath her and this was highly frowned on. Mrs. Thompson had once called it ‘bad blood’ and said it would no doubt come out in my behavior.
I was too much like my mother and had bad blood in me, I often wondered if it could get any worse. Mother had created scandal when she had run away from home and I often felt people almost expected me to do the same thing. Would I be able to convince society that I was everything a young girl of good education and proper upbringing was supposed to be? Convince them I would not end up like my mother did? I felt like I had to prove my worth to the world! I had to show them that I was not a mistake, that I had meaning, had a purpose for existing.
Back to me climbing out of the carriage.
“Thank you, Beagles,” I said to him once I had gotten out.
“Glad to be home again Miss Rose?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you for coming all the way to Greyhound to pick me up.”
Beagles laughed. “It was no problem at all, Miss Rose, besides, your Uncle was afraid should I not come, we would never get you back.”
I giggled at this statement and walked up the path that led to our front door. My aunt’s flowers were already in full bloom. One thing my aunt and I shared in common was a love for flowers. It was probably the only thing we shared in common. I was still not good enough for my aunt. I would never be good enough and I just had to learn to live with the fact.
As I walked past the beautiful rose bushes that lined the walkway, I could see Kristoffs bent figure tending to them. A dear old man with grey hair and sad eyes, he had the most gentle, humble soul imaginable. He was kind and thoughtful, but he always looked so sad. I do not know the story of his life, he never told it to me, but I guessed it was not at all a happy one. Standing next to Kristoffs was a young man. I didn’t recognize him as any of the household slaves.
“Did Uncle Andrew get a new one?” I thought, “He doesn’t look like someone I have seen before.”
He had been bending over one of the bushes and straightened up abruptly. In an instant I found myself staring into the deepest, darkest, most handsome eyes. Eyes that gazed deeply into my own and for a moment there was no one else in the world but the stranger with the dark, captivating eyes. The moment broke and I only had a glimpse of his handsome features and his strong build before I hurried into the house, my face burning from the blush his stare had caused. He watched me go into the house; I could feel his gaze as I shut the door behind me. I took a deep breath and collected my scattered self in time for Ben to greet me.
“Welcome home, Miss Sarah,” Ben beamed at me. He seemed happier than he had been in a long time. Was it because of my homecoming? Not likely,
“Allow me to take your things! Did you have a pleasant journey?”
“Yes, thank you, Ben,” I was just about to ask him about the stranger in the garden with Kristoffs when Uncle Andrew and Jeff walked up to greet me.
“She’s home at last! We were beginning to seriously think you would not make it in time for your birthday after all,” Jeff said.
“I knew Uncle would have never forgiven me if I wouldn’t have come back,” I replied with a laugh as I gave my uncle a kiss on the cheek. Uncle Andrew smiled at my show of affection. He was still quite awkward with expressing any affection on his side, but never stopped me from openly showing mine.
“How is my mother?”
“Oh, better than ever, she’s quite made up her mind to come to the ball.”
“And this from the lady who wrote Uncle only two days ago saying that she simply had to keep you for another two weeks at least because she did see how she could get by without you.”
“Now, now, Jeff, she just didn’t want to part with Sarah. She is very fond of the girl.”
“How come she isn’t as fond of me?” Jeff put on mock offence.
“Because you’re a boy, Jeff,” Uncle Andrew replied and slapped him on the shoulder. “My mother had enough boys in her life. It’s no fault of yours you weren’t born a girl.”
“I feel much like poor David Copperfield at the moment,” Jeff stated with a frown, then laughed! “Considering I would be a terrible nurse perhaps it is all the better that she didn’t want me to come over.”
“Uncle, was that a new slave outside?” I motioned towards the door.
“Huh?” My uncle’s face seemed a little too innocent.
“Outside, I’m positive his was a face I hadn’t seen before.”
“Oh, um, him, well yes, we got him to help out in the garden,” Jeff quickly put in. I looked from my uncle to Jeff and back to my uncle. Something was afoot.
“All those flowers,” My uncle explained, “and with you getting into them as well, I didn’t think Kristoffs would be able to handle it on his own, so we got some help.”
“Aha…” I replied.
“Anyway, you ought to go upstairs and wash from your journey,” Uncle Andrew went on. “Do you think you will be able to join us for lunch? Or are you far too tired?”
“I shall certainly join you all for lunch. How is Aunt Helen?”
“Feeling much better than when you left.”
“Funny how she never wants you as a nurse even though she’s ill far more often than grandmother.” Jeff said in jest.
I sighed and looked down. Uncle Andrew gave Jeff a sharp nudge. Jeff instantly repented.
“I’m sorry, Sarah, don’t mind me. I always open my mouth and get my foot stuck in it. Please, please don’t take it to heart.”
I smiled and shook my head, “don’t worry Jeff, it’s nothing. I know you meant no harm. I’ll go up to my room and see you all when lunch is served.”
“Very well, Sarah,” My uncle leaned over, placed a peck on my cheek and squeezed my hand. I gave Jeff a little poke in the hopes of making him not feel bad about what he had said earlier and went to my room. I passed by Mama’s portrait in the hall.
“I’ll be as old as you were when the portrait was painted,” I softly spoke to it. “I wonder what were you thinking when you were my age.”
I climbed the stairs to mine and mother’s room. She had also had her coming out party on her 16th birthday. Only her life after she turned 16 had turned out quite catastrophic. Elsie was waiting for me at my room.
“Sarah, Sarah, you will never believe it,” she gushed as she helped me with my coat and hat and took my parasol from my hands.
“What won’t I believe?”
“Sam! Sam is back!”
I looked at her strangely, not knowing if I was hearing her right. Sam? Samuel Climb, her brother? Sam was back? He had been gone for so long, nearly seven years. I had thought of him often over the years. I couldn’t help it when my window overlooked a forget-me-not patch. Forget-me-nots had always been Sammy’s favorite flowers, and whenever I gazed at them, he would always come to mind. But I had never even allowed myself to entertain the hopes that I would see him again.
“What do you mean?” I asked her at last.
“What could I mean?” Elsie rolled her eyes in a very Elsie fashion. Elsie was still my closest friend and confident. No one on earth could replace the dear girl whom I loved with all my heart. She loved me too, in a fierce sort of way and was very jealous of me. She didn’t like it when someone else would try to do ‘her work’ of taking care of me.
“I mean it in the most literal way; Sam is back!”
“But how…when…” I was confused.
“Oh, he’s made a full circle and come back to us. Your uncle purchased him while you were away to help out with the garden! You didn’t even realize it, but you just met him a moment ago.” She giggled (which was a rare thing for Elsie; she wasn’t much of a giggler). “That was him in the garden working with Kristoffs.”
My eyes widened as the truth dawned on me. The new slave, the new face, the dark eyes. I had met Sammy face to face. He had been there, right in front of me and I hadn’t recognized him!
Yup, Sam is back! :D Wonder where he was and what he has been doing these seven years? Answers to come in the next chapter :)