The Mona Lisa Sisters

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Chapter 13

Our first night at sea is rough. As we clear the coast, the on-shore rollers are noticeable. Katie wakes me to say, “Miss Lura, Ada Mae’s sick. She got sick the first night on the ship coming from America too.”

Before I finish asking Katie, “How sick is she?” I have my answer. The smell of vomit fills the room. Calling Colette for this will do no good. Turning on my bed lamp and rising, I see Ada Mae bending over the toilet. Good, any more will go in there. She is crying.

There is a puddle on the bedding and a trail to the bathroom. This is one time I’m happy that the bathroom is so close. Picking up the soiled linen, I roll it up and place it outside the cabin door. I hope that this will be the only set of linens set out.

Katie is holding her sister as I ask, “Ada Mae are you feeling any better?”

Katie answers. “I don’t think she will throw up any more, but she has some of it on her nightdress. If you give me another, I’ll get her changed.” The girls still prefer to dress out of my sight.

When Ada Mae is changed and stops crying, I say, “Girls, you get in my bed for the rest of the night. I’ll sleep here,” pointing to the bedding still on the floor. Both protest but I will hear none of it. “Do as I say and be still.” This is the first time I’ve spoken sternly to them. Surprised, they hush and settle down on the small bed. The girls are fine and sleep through the night. I on the other hand, find myself rolling about on the floor. Before dawn, seasickness has taken hold of my stomach. Fortunately, I’m able to reach the commode before losing what remains of my dinner. I manage another hour of fitful sleep before I hurriedly dress for breakfast. We reach the dining room before it closes. “Ah, girls, it is wondrous what a good meal can do to improve one’s disposition.”

Finished with breakfast, we go on deck for a brisk walk. As we reach the end of the second-class promenade, a man comes through the doorway and turns in my direction. He glances up, turns and reenters the passageway. I get but a brief glimpse of a tall man with blonde hair and a light brown beard. In that brief moment, his eyes fix upon me. What is it about his eyes? Do I know him? I enter the passageway. He has disappeared.

Stepping back onto the promenade, Katie is looking at me with a questioning expression on her face. “What is it Miss Lura?”

I brush her off with, “Nothing, nothing at all darling. I thought I recognized that man. I was mistaken.” I ask myself, do I know him? There was something familiar about him. Whatever it is, I feel safe.

“Girls we must not neglect your education.” I bought books for them to read when it occurred to me that I mustn’t let their education go unattended. I have the girls read for an hour every day and then I work with them on their mathematics for another hour.

As expected, Ada Mae is the reluctant one. “Miss Lura, why must I read and do my numbers?”

“Young ladies need an education in a world dominated by men. Until we are all educated it will be difficult, no impossible, for women to take our rightful place in society.” I’m not sure they understand me, but no matter, we begin. “Ada Mae, I have a wonderful book for you read. Mr. Lewis Carroll wrote about a young lady just like you.”

“Oh, who is that?”

“Her name is Alice and the book is called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I think you will adore it.”

Katie quips, “What about me? What do I get to read?”

Treasure Island. It is about the adventures of a young boy, Jim Hawkins. He falls in with pirates and their search for gold. A Scotsman, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote it in a children’s magazine as a collection of short stories. It was so popular he made it into a book.”

I hand the books to the girls. “I will read my own book while you read. If you have questions, or need help with words, I’m here. When we finish reading our book, we can trade.”

Ada Mae asks, “What are you reading Miss Lura?”

“I have selected The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”

“Who is Sherlock Holmes?”

“Mr. Holmes is a detective. An Englishman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him. The book is a collection of short stories about his adventures in London, England. So, you see we are all three reading adventure stories. Now get comfortable and begin reading.”

An hour later, Ada Mae is at the limits of her patience. She remains in her chair, but her head is tilted back as she gazes about the cabin. I cannot ignore the noise she makes tapping her foot on the floor. “Ada Mae are you alright?”

“I’m tired of reading. May I do something else?”

“Did you not enjoy Alice?”

“Oh yes Miss Lura. I do like it. I’m just tired of reading.”

Smiling, I tell her she can put her book away. Katie looks up at me. “Do I have to put my book away? I would like to read a while longer if I may.”

“Certainly you may continue to read. I will never stop you from reading. Each of us reads at a different level of enjoyment. I shall read for another hour.”

Our day passes with no event of note. After returning from dinner, I tell the girls, “It is time for mathematics.” Ada Mae grumbles, Katie says little as we start with simple addition.

An hour later it is Katie who showing signs of impatience, asks, “Can we quit? My head is spinning and I’m getting tired.”

Ada Mae says, “This is fun. I don’t want to stop.” The affinity for reading remains constant for Katie. While Ada Mae dislikes reading, her interest in mathematics grows each day.

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