“Must we always be poor now?” Groaned Sienna from the floor.
“Dear me, being poor is no fun.” Sighed Martha. Riley said nothing. She flipped over a page in her newly acquainted book gifted by Aunt Cordelia.
“Oh, how a shrew Katherine is! And how sweet Bianca is!” She cried all of a sudden.
“Would you ever put that book down?” Demanded Martha, crossing her arms.
“Would you just stop moaning and groaning about all this poorness? We should be grateful for what we have like good little girls.” Riley replied swiftly with a bite of the apple she had been holding but not eating because of the thrill her dear book gave her.
“I’m not that little, Riley.” Said Martha modestly, feeling as if she was an adult already at the age, 17.
“I’m not either.” Said 11 year old Sienna. Riley looked down at her and laughed.
“Little, little Sienna. I don’t suppose you will grow up.” She snickered causing Sienna to fume and whack her on her head.
“Ow!” Cried Riley, dropping her book and rubbing her head.
“I will grow up and you’ll see!” Sienna stuck her tongue out at her. Smirking and with a roll of her eyes, Riley resumed the page she had been so engrossed into. The front door slammed shut and they heard familiar footsteps echoing in the hallway.
“Mother! Mother’s home.” Said Martha jubilantly as if Christmas had come a day early.
Her face glowed with delight and her long, brown hair bounced on her back as she leapt out of her armchair. With Martha’s brown hair, rosy cheeks and a rather plump figure, many men stared at her with awe despite her old, plain clothes. Riley’s short, brown hair, thin figure and bony cheeks caused people to tut tut at her, thinking she could not eat much. Sienna’s curly, blonde hair and flushed round cheeks made students and teachers privately ponder whether she was a pretty girl or not.
“Hello, my sweets.” Said Mrs Flora as she entered the warm, glowing room. Her daughters each gave her the daily welcome home hug more sweeter than ever. Sighing with satisfaction, the 40 year old mother stepped back and observed her girls.
“Martha, you seem much better from the cold you had this morning and Riley, you seem more tired than ever. Do you ever want to go to bed? And Sienna, how was school today?" She said, kissing the girls on their cheeks.
"Mr John said I was a dunce at algebra. I don't think that's fair since Rilla Jones is worse than me. He just doesn't say anything to her because everyone knows he's so into her." Blurted Sienna, causing Mrs Flora to stare down at her disapprovingly.
"Now, you must not talk of your teachers that way, Sienna." She warned. "All will end badly."
Sienna scowled and said nothing. She couldn't bear for her dear mother to hate her. No one would want Mrs Flora to hate them. She was such a dear, gentle lady.
"Oh, mother. Do you think Aunt Cordelia can give me more books? This one was such a sweet book. She gives the most darling stories!" Said Riley with excitement. Mrs Flora's face suddenly clouded over with deep sorrow and sadness.
"Girls, I have sad news regarding your Aunt Cordelia." She said. Her voice cracked at the name 'Cordelia'. "Your Aunt Cordelia passed away today." She announced with great effort. The three sisters gasped.
"Oh, mother! She didn't!" Cried the girls.
"She hadn't been very well for a while. Scarlet fever killed her." Explained Mrs Flora, her eyes filling with heartbroken tears.
"She was such a sweet woman till the end." Said Martha with gloom. Riley simply nodded, unable to absorb the words properly and for once, Sienna had gone absolutely silent. Never in her life had she heard of someone dying of a fever. She had thought everyone who was ill lived. So, imagine the shock she was feeling when she found she was wrong! And besides, Aunt Cordelia had given her a pearl drop ring which she adored and had promised her more jewelry.
"I think I'll pass dinner." Said Mrs Flora quietly and went to her room.
"Same." Said Martha and Riley. They looked down at Sienna expectantly.
"Fine." Sighed Sienna and she shuffled to their room with a loud, grumbling stomach and wondering what death had to do with not having dinner.
That night, everyone lay in their beds, hearts aching and wondering how they should tell the father that his sister had died when he came home from the war. Each of them let out tears and sobs and when they came downstairs in the morning, had identical swollen, red eyes.
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