Someone knocked on my door.
“Come in,” I called.
The door opened and Uncle Andrew walked in.
“I don’t regret what I did,” I looked up at him, “I should have done it long ago. I’m only sorry I hurt so many people in the process.”
“You really should apologize to your aunt,” his voice was rather distant.
“I know, I really hadn’t meant to be so rude, but Uncle Andrew, with Aunt Helen if I don’t fight for respect she’ll slander me right and left. I know there is no way to make her like me, but at she can at least be civil. I'll apologize for being rude, but sometimes I do have to stand up for myself.”
Uncle Andrew nodded his head and gave something of a sigh. “I also just wanted you to know, I never thought you would do something…unmaidenly. Helen had her fears, but I stubbornly stuck to the fact that you had sense and knew where to draw the line.” This last sentence made him very embarrassed and he was silent for a few moments. At last walked up and sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m glad she didn’t drown you.”
“Pardon me?” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
“You’re mother. I’m glad she didn’t drown you when you were born, I’m glad she kept you,” his voice was gentle and low. “You know, Helen and I don’t have any children, it’s something I knew we would never have when I married her. I’ve always longed for a daughter, Sarah, and my dream came true when you appeared into our lives.”
“I haven’t been exactly the ideal daughter,” I turned a bit red.
“You’ve just got a little too much of your mother in you. It's the same independent spirit, and it needs a little freedom; being cooped up on this plantation all these years is not good for you.”
“I don’t feel comfortable going out into society, everyone here knows the story of my mother and the mystery of my past is something they are always trying to uncover. I’m afraid one day they’ll ask one question to many and before I can stop myself, I’ll give myself away.”
Uncle Andrew smiled and tried not to laugh. I didn’t understand what he found so funny.
“You’re not angry with me, about Sam and all?” I timidly asked.
“I was, but then you brought out a very good point that either way Sam is gone, so what’s the point of me being angry? You’re satisfied, I’m satisfied, and since no one will suspect anything other than another slave escaping from a plantation, and that is not the rarest thing in the world, I suppose we’ll just have to let the past be the past and move on. I’ve seen what holding grudges can do to a family, Sarah, and I will not have it happen here.” He grew quiet for a moment and a faraway look appearing in his eyes. “It’s over and finished and it’s time to move on. The past couple of days I have been in serious thought and have come to the conclusion that it would be best for you to get away from this plantation and from this house. You need to get away from memories and thoughts that will plague you if you remain.”
“You want to get rid of me?”
“Not for good, no. I would never want to do that, but I feel it was wrong of me to keep you locked up here all these years. I wanted to protect you from the way your mother had turned out but I think I took it to the other extreme. You need to breathe some fresh air, so to speak. You need a change of scenery, some new experiences. Living alone in this house, hardly going visiting, hardly meeting anyone your age, it is natural things should have happened the way they did. You’re still young and you need to see the world, meet new people, and make new friends. I feel it would be good for you to travel before you settle down and begin running a household.”
“Travel?” I looked at him with round eyes.
“Yes. My sister-in-law, Elinor, is planning a trip to Europe. She was going to go last year but the illness of my mother put it all on hold. She just wrote me yesterday with the request that I allow you to go with her, as her companion. I think the trip would be good for you. It will further your education and give you a nice change of scenery. What do you say?”
A trip to Europe? Could he be serious? I would love that! Get away from the memories that clouded every inch of this room, ever blade of grass in the garden. Get away from this house, get away from my aunt, how wonderful would that be? I couldn’t believe what Uncle Andrew was saying to me.
“I would love to go very much,” I slowly replied.
“I know it’s all a little sudden, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time. You will leave for Greyhound within the next two days, stay there for a little to spend some time with my mother while all the arrangements are made and then you and Elinor will travel across the ocean.” He stood up to leave, when his suddenly eyes caught sight of the dress on the floor. I had thrown it off when I came home from my night adventure and all the commotion with Sammy missing must have made Elsie not notice it and hang it up.
“Where did that come from?” He eyed the old ragged dress with surprise and suspicion. “Is that the dress you wore last night?”
I turned beet red. “Yes, sir,” I stammered, “it’s an old dress of mother’s.”
Uncle Andrew bent over and picked up the dress, running his hand across the right sleeve, his fingers caressing the threadbare fabric.
“You brought it with you when you came here? Ah, yes,” He answered his own question, “there was that note in the pocket, the Italian poem.” He reached over and pulled the out the note. Unfolding it, he ran his eyes over the foreign words, then placed it back. “Poor Evy,” I heard him whisper. Looking up, he handed the dress over to me. “I’ll go write my sister-in-law and tell her to expect you,” he said and with a smile left the room.
I sat staring at the fabric in my hands, not quite understanding what had just taken place between my uncle and the dress.
“Now, I know you have a thing for exotic men.”
I blushed at Elsie’s choice of words. The girl was blunt to her very core and whatever was on her mind was on her tongue when she was around me.
“But you will not bring any Italian, German or French husbands back with you. An Englishman I think I could still deal with, but I don’t want someone who rambles on in some foreign language and is filled with strange customs.”
“Really, Elsie, I’m not going to Europe to find a husband. After all that has happened to me, I want to stay as far away from men as possible.”
“Always a good policy to have,” she agreed with me, “You stay clear of them foreign gentlemen. They’re strange and suspicious people.”
I was busy writing a note to Jeff while Elsie was running around the room, placing dresses into trunks. “Mind your manners and don’t pick up any of those strange customs. You are leaving an honest American girl and you will return an honest American girl.”
I giggled, “perhaps I should bring you a husband from Europe.”
“Lord love you, what would I do with him? I told you my opinion of foreign men. No husbands for me or for you from Europe. Particularly from Italy, I could never bear it if you ended up with an Italian husband.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I replied, trying to focus on my letter, “but why it should matter to you, I don’t quite understand.”
“Why? Because I’ll find it very hard to serve my mistress and try and put up with her foreign husband; I’m sorry, Sarah, but I do draw a line at some things and Italian husbands are one of them.”
“Who says you’ll be living with me in the same house when I marry?”
“Who says? I says of course. I guess you could count me part of your dowry.”
“Elsie, please,” I lay down my pen, “I don’t like to hear you talking of yourself as a thing. You’re my friend and companion. You’re the closest thing I have to a sister and to a mother. I never did nor ever will think of you as a slave, more like a mentor. I know I have been a real wretch of late, and I know how much pain I’ve caused your family. I don’t suppose an apology will be able to set things right, but I am sorry for the way it was with Sam, I know it hurt more people than just me and him.”
“Sarah,” Elsie walked over to me, “I don’t blame you for the whole mess of things any more than I blame Sam. The two of you really got carried away, but I suppose you are young so none of us could expect more. Sam should have known where to draw the line too. And anyway, allow the past to remain in the past. Sam is free, that was all he ever wanted, and it was you who granted him his freedom so I suppose in a way it all worked together for good.”
“I don’t see or understand how you can find it in your heart not to hate me.”
“Why, because you are a young, foolish girl who always lets her emotions get the better of her. How can I blame you for that? Quite the contrary, I’s can see plain as obvious that you need someone to guide you and since you aunt has so blatantly refused to help you out, there’s no one left but me. Why do you think I’m giving you all this advice for your stay in Europe? You just heed every word I tell you and you’ll stay just fine.”
Her frank, sincere belief that without her, I would be totally ruined kept me from being offended at what she had called me. I knew her to be mostly right, and I was just happy she wasn’t upset or angry with me about the whole Sammy ordeal. Em and Ben had been so understanding too, as was Nettie, they had even gone so far to thank me for setting Sam free and helping him run away. After all the hurt I had caused they were still thanking me for something! I didn’t think I would ever understand what it was in the Climbs that made them such saints. I knew it was wicked for me to have such thoughts, but I couldn’t help but compare them with my aunt, and think how much better Christians they were. My aunt was a Christian in word, but the Climb family were truly Christians in deed.
I had arranged for Kristoffs to look after my garden while I would be away. Uncle Andrew was thinking that perhaps he would just let old Kristoffs take complete control of my tiny garden and he would find someone younger and stronger to manage Aunt Helen’s. I knew Uncle Andrew would never trust me with a young gardener again! I was just glad that he had forgiven me and he wasn’t mad at me anymore. I had really made of mess of things, but thank God, everything was working out alright in the end. Only Aunt Helen remained cold and upset, but I figured I would try to somehow patch up my totally destroyed relations with her when I returned from Europe.
The carriage was waiting for me, my trunks had already been taken down and I was alone in my room. Reaching into my box, I pulled out the note and reread the four scribbled words. I still had to somehow get this note to Harriet. The whole scandal with Sammy had put my investigation to a halt, but I resolved to resume it once I came back. At least I had some clue as to who she was; all I really needed now was to somehow discover where she lived. Gently I put the note back into the box and closed.
“Don’t worry, Mama, I’ll get this note to Harriet. I’ll keep my promise to you, even if it’s the last thing I do.”
My eyes swept over the forget-me-nots in a vase on my dressing table. I wondered where he was right now. Wherever his path had taken him, I hoped he was happy and safe and able to make a better life for himself.
Perhaps my circumstances had not changed, and I was still as much a mystery to myself as I had ever been, but having Sammy in my life helped me appreciate being who I was. I was learning to accept that the fact that just didn’t have a father and had to cover up a scandalous past didn’t mean I was worthless. I was still someone special in God’s eyes, just as I was in Sammy’s. It had been a beautiful journey, almost a dream it now seemed, which was now over and I knew I had to move on with my life just as Sammy would have too. The outcome was one that neither of us could have ever predicted, and yet, we had each gained something from the journey we had set on. He had gained his freedom and I had gained an understanding that it was alright for me to be a Rose, even if it meant being a blue one. Would I ever see him again? I didn’t know, it wasn’t likely, but hadn’t he been gone from my life once and then suddenly made a full circle and reappeared? Who knows, fate is a funny thing and maybe the circle would start again. In the meantime, I had to get to the carriage waiting for me outside to take me into another chapter in the story of my life.
The time has come, my dear readers, to temporarily part with Sarah and the Greensten Plantation. Though of course I am sure you have all noticed that the ending leaves more questions than answers and there is still much we wish to discover. Times are changing and the civil war is at hand, how will Sarah be able to cope with it all? Roses of White, book 2 in the Rose trilogy is currently being posted. You will find it if you go to my page.
I want to thank you all who took the time to read, it means a lot to me and I wish I could do more than just write out a thanks, because words can’t really describe my gratitude. I’ve always been very shy about my writing and it was a little hard for me to take the first step in sharing my works with others, so I really, really, really have a big thank you to everyone who supported me and read this story. A particular thanks to Carpathia, NadiaLitovka and LaniCruzado143, thank you for being such faithful voters and commenter’s, it really meant to so much to me. And of course, a big thank you to my sister, Barabasha, for always being there to help me as I was writing the story, being my faithful critic and just really being the one who brought the story to life. Like I said in the beginning, it is just as much your story, De, as it is mine, thank you so much :)
Thank you all once again for reading and supporting me. Looking forward to sharing more adventures with you
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