(Author's note: This story was written several years ago and at last I have begun the editing and revising version. Due to that there might be some parts that don't seem to fit quite well together. I hope to have it all changed by the end of February, until then please bear with me and be a little patient as I correct mistakes, change plot holes and tie up loose ends. Thank you so much.)
Everybody is a stranger ~ John Mayer
Illegitimate and bastard - two words that fall upon a room like a death sentence when spoken. Two words that mark you as an outcast for all eternity. You are not lawful; you were not meant be; you are a mistake, something that should never have happened.
They were two words that hung over me like a dark cloud as I stepped off the train and looked around the crowded station and searched for faces I had never seen. Had Aunt Helen come for me? Or had the two words closed her doors? What would I do if she didn't show up? People jostled and pushed me forward, I dumbly followed along. Of course I was used to being on my own, but I never felt as alone as I did on that day, June 2nd, 1848.
Tired of being shoved I elbowed my way out of the crowd and to a bench. Climbing up I once more scanned the sea of heads. I knew that lost in the mess of people I had little hope of being found, up here there was a better chance.
Sure enough in a few minutes there was a light tap on my shoulder. I turned and came face to face with a tall man. He was dressed in a fine, unbuttoned coat and cotton waistcoat. My eyes noted the gold chain hanging from the pocket, where no doubt the gold watch was safely tucked inside. His trousers were black and pressed, his boots made of a fine brown leather that shined in the summer sun. Simply put the man was a picture of good manners and high social status.
It was while looking at him that I suddenly realized, for the first time perhaps, just how shabby I was. My blue coat was so faded it looked grey, my dress threadbare and patched in three places and my shoes were scratched. My one relief was that he could not see the holes on the soles. I felt so poor compared to him and nervously played with the ends of one of my yellow braids. If only I knew what he wanted from me. I hoped he wasn't going to hurt me.
"Are you Sarah, Evelyn Beverly's daughter?" He asked, a little unsure it seemed.
He knew my name and my mother's name - there was measure of comfort in this. Maybe he had come from my aunt.
"I am, Sir."
"My name is Andrew Greensten and I am your uncle."
A surge of relief swept through my whole being. Of course my aunt was a married woman. I glanced behind him. If he had come she must have too.
"My Aunt Helen?" I timidly enquired.
"She is waiting for us at home." He replied. "Is that all you have?" He motioned towards the bag that lay at my feet.
He reached over and picked it up before extending his free hand to me. I took a deep breath, and, placing my hand in his, jumped off the bench. Together we walked away from the station and to a carriage parked in the shade of some tress. My eyes widened when it dawned on me we would be riding in it.
"Are we to travel in that?" I dared to ask, glancing up at him. How tall he was! I hadn't quite realized it when I had been standing on the bench.
"Yes, we are," he replied.
There was a man waiting for us at the carriage. He opened the door and helped me inside. My new uncle followed in after me. The door was shut, the driver got up and with a flick of the reigns we were off. The inside of the carriage was so new, so soft, so expensive! I didn't know carriages could be like this. But then, I had never ridden in one before. I had never even ridden in a cab. If I had ever need to go anywhere, I had always walked.
My new Uncle Andrew had seated himself across from me and was studying me intently. This added to my very self-conscious state and I shifted and squirmed a little in my seat. Afraid he would notice the holes in my shoe I tried to keep my feet turned downwards. At last Uncle Andrew leaned back and smiled at me.
"That's good news," I comforted myself and smiled back at him. He had nice chestnut hair, but I noticed it was beginning to grey a little at the sides. "I wonder how old he is," I kept on musing.
"Was your journey very long?" He asked at length in a gentle voice.
"It was very long," I sighed. "Boston is so far from here! And there is nothing worse than traveling alone. The train car was full of men and they were loud and rowdy. I didn't enjoy it very much."
"I should think not," he agreed with a slight shake of his head. "I'm afraid the journey isn't quite over yet as our drive will be rather long. The railway and steam engine are still something of a novelty and not every town has a station.
I nodded, wondering what my new home would look like, how big it would be, and what the neighbours wold be like. I hoped they were pleasant people who didn't shout and have drunken fights. I had had enough of that in the slums.
We rode past a town, but to my surprise we didn't stop by it. Rather we kept driving down a road that ran by large fields with people working in them. After an hour or two a large, white house came to sight. I gasped at the grandness of it. Two stories, with pillars at the entrance, and balconies on the second floor. There were so many windows, telling me there must be a great many rooms inside. There was a low, fancy wall going around the house, but it was more for decoration than protection. As we were on the top of a small hill I could easily see that surrounding the mansion (for indeed, it was that) was the largest flower garden I had ever seen. Never before had I beheld so many flowers all together in one place. No one had gardens like these in Boston.
"That is a large flower garden!" I couldn't stop myself from saying.
"It is, isn't it?" Uncle Andrew agreed and let out a smile. "It belongs to your aunt and is her pride and joy. I'll warn you ahead of time not to pick any of the flowers. She will not be happy with such actions.
I nodded my head obediently. It was in my best interests that I stay in the good graces of my aunt and uncle. The carriage turned from the main road and drove into the grand gates, from which a smooth drive up led up to the entrance. The driver halted the horses at the steps leading up to the front door. He then hopped from his seat and opened the carriage. My uncle got out first and I scrambled after him.
"Thank you Beagles," Uncle Andrew nodded to the driver and taking my hand, led me up the porch stairs. I gazed in awe at the pillars and ceiling which was formed by the enormous balcony on the second floor. My uncle had to drag me a bit, for I kept stopping to gaze around me. When we got to the fancy front doors, one of them opened and I halted in my tracks. The door had been opened by a man, by a black man. I had never seen a man with such dark skin before. He was even blacker than the chimney sweep who had lived next door to me in Boston.
He was dressed in a smart coat and stiff, starched shirt and black waistcoat. He gave my uncle a little nod of greeting before setting his gaze on me.
"Sarah," Uncle Andrew introduced, "this is our butler, Ben. Ben, this is Evelyn's daughter, Sarah."
"How do you do, Miss Sarah?" Ben asked me in a deep voice. It was a voice that sounded quite unlike anything I had ever heard before. "I's hope the journey was pleasant?"
"Not really." I was no good had hiding my puzzled expression and my confusion show through my actions and my tone of voice. I didn't mean to stare and be rude, but I couldn't help myself. I didn't know people with such skin existed.
"Ben, where is the Mistress?" My uncles asked, seemingly blind to my obvious shock.
"In the parlor, Massa, she's waiting for you."
We stepped inside and Ben closed the door after us.
"Give your coat to Ben, Sarah." Uncle Andrew commanded. Ben had already taken my Uncle's coat and hat. My uncle also handed him my little bag.
"Take it to her room!" He said and grasping my hand turned to walk down the grand hallway, filled with paintings and furniture.
"Oh my!" I took an abrupt step back. Hanging on the wall, right by the entrance was a large portrait of a beautiful young girl in a light yellow dress and blue sash. Her pale face was adorned with a girlish smile and laughing blue eyes. In that lovely belle of the ball I recognized my own mother.
"Yes, Sarah," my uncle nodded his head. "That is your Mother. The portrait was painted on her sixteenth birthday!"
He allowed me to gaze at it in awe for a couple of seconds before leading me to a white door with light blue designs engraved in it. He turned the golden knob and we stepped inside. I found myself in beautiful room, filled with light and fresh air from the large windows. Everything in there, from the pale blue drapes on the windows, to the light blue cushions on the chairs and divan, to the white and blue porcelain vase with flowers on the table, spoke of wealth, and of good taste in color and furniture.
Sitting by the window, needlework in hand, was a lady in a brown silk dress. The neckline was modest and the sleeves long, but there were two layers of ruffles at the hem, not fancy and frilly, but sewn in such a way to give elegance. Her light brown hair was twisted up into a bun which had a ruby clip nestled in it. The lady looked pale in the sunlight, and I dared to even think rather delicate and sickly, but there was an air of fine breeding in the way she sat and conducted herself.
As we entered she raised her eyes and swept them over my little frame. I felt a chill go down my spine from her gaze. I couldn't explain why, but in that moment I felt very unwanted. When she was through looking at me, she set her pale blue eyes to look directly into mine and in sudden fear I lowered my head a little to stare at me feet.
"Sarah," Uncle Andrew Introduced, "this is your Aunt, Helen Greensten."