As Jessie sat on the train her thoughts were at first of John, but then she forced herself to focus on Aunt Betsy. Why did she not tell her she was ill? And why would she send her off? Jessie could have helped her, somehow.
She thought of her old life with Aunt Betsy. It seemed so long ago. It was not really much of a life at all, now that she knew what a real life could be like, with real friends, family, responsibilities, and John. At least the John she thought she knew before.
The train finally arrived in the city and Jessie headed straight for the Hospital. She had been gone so long she nearly forgot how busy the city was. There were wagons and people everywhere.
When she entered the hospital, she went to the woman behind the information desk.
“May I help you miss?”
“Yes, I’m looking for my Aunt.”
“Her last name please.”
“McCann, Betsy McCann. She is still here, isn’t she?”
“Oh yes, Betsy! She’s been here awhile now. She’s a real character. You may go up and see her. It’s room 42.”
“Thank-you,” Jessie said, relieved.
As she opened the door to Aunt Betsy’s room, she could see her asleep in the bed. As she went closer, she could see she was pale, very pale and thinner too.
“Aunt Betsy it’s me, Jessie,” she whispered.
“Jessie! Oh my child, look how you’ve changed! Come sit by me dear. I’m so glad John sent you. I knew I was right about him. He’s been good to you, yes?”
“Well yes, but what about you. What’s happened to you Aunt Betsy?” Jessie asked as she held back her tears.
“I’ve been very ill child. It’s almost time for me to share my life with God now. Where is John?”
“He couldn’t come. He’s very busy on the farm and . . .”
“Well, I understand. I had hoped he’d be able to watch over you and be sure that you get your money from the sale of the Hotel.”
“I’m not a child Aunt Betsy.”
“Yes, well you’ll have to see my lawyer, you know Mr. Whitney, he was at the Hotel often.”
“Yes, I didn’t know he was a lawyer.”
“Oh yes, and he has all the paperwork set up. He’ll be able to explain all the figures to you. The Hotel was not the best life for you, but now when it’s sold, it will benefit you. You and John both. I thank god John was here to take care of you.”
“Aunt Betsy, why did you send me with him? I could have stayed here and kept after you and the Hotel.”
“No. I told you before you left. That Hotel was no place or you. And me, you don’t need to take care of me. I can take care of myself. Besides, look at you. You have grown up. And you look like a proper young lady. John has been good for you, I can tell . . .”
Aunt Betsy began coughing and moaning. She could hardly catch her breath.
“Go now child. Go and see Mr. Whitney.”
“But Aunt Betsy, I don’t want to leave you now.”
“You can come by tomorrow. It’s late and I need my rest.”
“Well, O.K. then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jessie didn’t get a chance to ask Aunt Betsy half the questions she wanted to. Like how did she know John? And why did she choose John? And what was he paid for? She simply treated Jessie as a child as usual. Yet, Jessie was glad to see her again.
She walked to the Hotel. It had become more run down outside than she remembered it being. When she entered, she was shocked to find it empty. Completely empty. There were no tables, chairs, or even beds.
She went up to her old room. It was empty as well. She looked at the tiny room and the Hotel very differently now. Aunt Betsy was right about one thig; it was no place for Jessie. She couldn’t believe she’d spent so much time here and now didn’t miss it at all.
Jessie decided to head over to Mr. Whitney’s office. As she entered, she saw a woman behind a huge desk.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, is Mr. Whitney available?”
“My name is Jessie. I’m Betsy McCann’s niece.”
“Oh yes, we’ve been expecting to hear from you. You may go in.”
“Thank-you.” Jessie said as she went over to knock on the office door.
“Yes, come in.”
“Mr. Whitney . . .”
“Jessie! Come sit dear. I hardly recognized you.”
“My Aunt insisted I come see you.”
“So then you’ve seen her today?”
“Yes, she doesn’t look well.”
“It’s been a hard few months now. I have your file here, the Hotel is set to be auctioned this Thursday. I haven’t told Betsy yet, but I’m afraid there won’t be much left after the doctor bills are paid, the furniture has all been sold already.
“Yes, I saw. I stopped by before I came here. Did you know she was ill for a long time now?”
“Well, I knew for sure when she went to the Hospital, but I’d suspected long before then. But you know your Aunt, she won’t take help from anyone. Are you alone, Jessie?”
“Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“Well, no. I hadn’t really thought about it yet. I left so suddenly.”
“You can go to the Inn across the street. Mr. Feeney owns it, and he owes me a few favors. You can stay as long as you’ll need to. Just tell him I sent you.”
“I’ll contact you there when I have some more information for you.”
Jessie left and walked to the Inn. She was very glad Mr. Whitney had made these arrangements for her. She had left so quickly, and then she was busy thinking about John, that she hadn’t had a chance to figure out what she would do once she actually arrived here. And besides, she only had a few dollars on her that she had taken from home, from her sewing money. It certainly would not pay for a room and food for long.
At the Inn, Mr. Feeney seemed more than happy to accommodate Jessie. After settling in her room she decided to go back downstairs for a bite to eat.
As the waitress came over to her, “Jessie! Is that you?”
“Yes. Shirley? How are you?”
Shirley was one of Aunt Betsy’s “girls,” but she had come to work for her shortly before Jessie had left. They didn’t really know each other all that well.
“I’m sorry to hear about Betsy.”
“Are you staying here for long?”
“Well, I’m not sure yet. Do you know where Veronica and the baby are?”
“Yeah, she moved up north, back to her parents.”
“Oh, well that’s good.”
“What can I get you?”
“Just the sandwich special will be fine. Can I have it to bring up to my room?”
“Sure. It’ll just be a minute.”
Jessie ate her sandwich alone, in this strange room. She already missed having dinner with John. Though she was still so angry with him. Even though she was able to see Aunt Betsy, it did not change her feelings. How dare he keep these secrets from her! Especially, after they had made love! That changed everything. She was actually beginning to think that John loved her. How foolish! He couldn’t love her, he probably thought he owned her or that making love was part of the package deal or something!
She settled in her bed, closed her eyes, and waited for the morning. Perhaps she could get some clearer answers from Aunt Betsy then.