Letters in the Attic

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Chapter 16: The Encounter

Elise: -January 1866-

Elise stood in the street and stared at the old, fading building in front of her, watching the sky with heavy eyes as it melted into shades of orange and yellow as the blue and black hues retreated beneath the horizon. The colors swirled together like paint and water, and she felt her gaze move to the rising sun, feeling its heat faintly creep upon her chilled body. The cold January breeze clung to her skin and she shivered violently. She pressed her hands against the hot, steaming cup of coffee in her hands and inhaled the scent. It was comforting. She tightened her shawl around her freezing shoulders, covering her slender neck from the raw cold. A bell rang from the building next door, and she was surprised to see movement so early in the morning. The war left a dark, hovering cloud over The Crescent City and Elise’s expectations of owning a successful business had plummeted. In only a few days, she’d felt the aftermath of the war, and feared that she’d made the wrong decision to return to New Orleans. The sting of the war’s effects had not hit the bustling streets of New York with as much force as it did down South in her beloved city. She failed to find René or her parents and felt a growing desire to return to her friends in New York. However, amid the city’s struggles, she noticed a few young, fashionable young ladies pacing the length of Royal Street, browsing through the windows and entering the shops. Though her store was currently a blemish on the street, she set aside her grief, determined to draw people in and make her small shop at the end of the street a necessary final destination for the New Orleans elite.

Shortly after the bell rang next door, her bell rang too. She wasn’t open yet, but she crept to the door, coffee in hand, and answered. The stranger reminded Elise of herself, though this woman filled out her dress with attractive feminine features and was much prettier, displaying a long set of brown curls that dangled from her shoulders.

“Welcome to Royal Street, ma’am!” she said with a friendly smile forming across her face. Her voice was pitched high and quick, with a thick drawling accent. Her dark, olive skin accentuated the darkness of her brown eyes and Elise was mesmerized by her natural beauty.

“Thank you. Please come in.” As the woman looked around, Elise shifted her gaze to the shop once more and took a deep breath. “God has smiled on me.” She was surprised at how easily the words left her mouth because she’d never possessed the talent to easily converse with strangers. It was a marvel that she was ever married at all. The woman adjusted her shawl before continuing.

“Charlotte Walker.” She stated her name with a small curtsy. “I own this shop here,” she said pointing to the building next door. “So I suppose that makes us neighbors.” When Elise responded with a mere sip of her coffee, Charlotte pressed on. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but what is your name? We were not told that the store had been purchased. Suddenly the doors were open and we heard noises coming from it. We’re all a family here. We compete, of course, but we’re a family.” She looked at Elise’s decrepit building with a slight hint of disdain.

“Elise Pellerin,” she responded with a slight tilt of her head. “Quite a pleasure to meet you too. I’ve only just arrived yesterday, from New York.” The woman’s face shifted into a look of disapproval, then softened immediately.

“You don’t sound Northern, ma’am,” she pointed out, her nose twisting slightly. The war was fresh on their minds.

“I’m not.” She inhaled her coffee once more. Without pressing Elise’s history any further and accepting what she said as truth, Charlotte’s gaze shifted to the mug.

“Would you like some coffee or tea?” Elise offered, noticing Charlotte’s glances. “I’ve not opened yet, so there won’t be a disturbance.”

Charlotte smiled and nodded, following Elise into the small, dusty shop. They were welcomed by a cluttered stairwell, and as they turned right, the room was packed with the trunks and clothes that Elise had sent weeks before their arrival. She’d only unpacked the bags they’d taken on the train and hadn’t brought herself to unpack the rest in case she ran back to New York. The room was smaller than Peter’s and her workspace was cramped. A large wall separated the kitchen from the store, and Elise led Charlotte through the door. Charlotte’s abundant dress barely fit through the opening and Elise struggled to contain her laugh. Charlotte was severely overdressed, and Elise noticed that her cheeks were slightly rouged. The pink hue of the blush accentuated her perfect skin, and Elise rolled her eyes at the observation. Charlotte’s skin didn’t need enhancement. The farther they walked in, the more embarrassingly unkempt it seemed, even though she felt like she’d accomplished much the day before. Perhaps she’d merely imagined the work she’d done. She closed the door behind Charlotte, revealing the smallest kitchen in the world. Since her arrival, Elise felt as though she’d stepped into a miniature, dirtier version of Peter’s shop.

“My apologies, Mrs. Walker, I only arrived yesterday morning. This place has been vacant for quite some time.”

Charlotte smiled graciously as she wiped away the dust from the chair near the small table. “Oh, heavens no!” Charlotte said, excusing her behavior. “It’s just,” she began, pausing for a brief moment. “This is a brand new dress. The first time I’ve worn it actually,” she said proudly. “Please, do not take offense. And please, Ms. Charlotte if you don’t mind.” Elise forced a smile and handed her a cup of coffee and took a seat next to her at the small table, fit only for two.

“Please, tell me about yourself,” Charlotte demanded, her eyes hungry with the need for gossip and new information. Before a sound escaped Elise’s mouth, Charlotte’s eyebrows raised. Elise stared at her, confused.

“A married woman?” Charlotte asked, eyeing Elise’s wedding ring. Any trace of a smile fell from Elise’s face, and Charlotte sensed it immediately.

“Widow?” she asked, her eyebrows rising further. Taken aback by Charlotte’s intrusive comment, Elise took her hand and placed it on her lap, hiding it from view. Charlotte continued to stare, her eyes wide behind the coffee cup. Despite her seemingly innocent and genuine curiosity, Elise was already tired of her bluntness and wanted nothing more than for her to leave when she heard the word “widow” spoken so casually. At least Peter and Camille had the decency to treat the matter with respect.

“Mama!” A young voice called. Followed by the voice, a crash of boxes followed, sending Elise to her feet and running to her daughter. Thank you, child, she thought, grateful for the distraction from Charlotte’s unexpected interrogation.

“Oh, my dear I am so sorry. Mama will have this cleaned up soon, okay?” Elise said, wiping the fresh tears from Renée’s face. The mess in the room increased tenfold. When Renée noticed the woman in the kitchen, her tears stopped immediately.

“Who is that, mama?” The four-year-old asked, pointing. Charlotte’s eyes lit up at the sight of the child, and she stood quickly.

“This is our new neighbor Mrs. Charlotte Walker,” Elise answered coldly. She purposely ignored Charlotte’s request not to refer to her as “Mrs.”

“Ms. Charlotte, if you please. Though my husband died several years ago I have not yet remarried.” Her voice was completely devoid of emotion at the mention of her deceased husband. Elise rubbed the ring on her finger nervously, anxiously dreading any more of Charlotte’s questions. Though some days she felt like a widow and had lost most hope, she had not wholly accepted the possibility of René’s death and still considered herself a married woman, not a widow. Perhaps it was silly of her to think such things, but she couldn’t help it. Charlotte moved quickly to the edge of the window and her face was so close to the pane it fogged the glass. Much to Elise’s surprise, Charlotte did not ask any more questions at all.

“I think I’d better take my leave, Mrs. Pellerin. It is nearly time to open my shop. Please, let’s meet again soon. I am interested in knowing you better, and our little family will be wanting to meet you. I have a child of my own. A little boy, Elijah. I see these two becoming close friends!” she excitedly said, giving a soft look to Renée. As preparation before walking outside, she pushed her dress up, forcing her breasts to topple over the edge. Elise’s own hands rose to her bosom at the sight of it, feeling the very small, inconspicuous breasts on her own body. The sight made her uncomfortable.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Charlotte,” she forced out. Charlotte stepped out of the house, greeted by the rising sun. Elise watched as her new neighbor approached and conversed with a small group of women, periodically glancing back to her shop several times. Elise hugged herself and slipped away into the darkness of her shop, happy to have Charlotte out of her new home. She wished for the company of Peter and Camille.

“Renée, please, change into something warm,” she gently ordered. “We will be painting today and I need your help. Will you help me?” Elise asked, kneeling and brushing Renée’s hair from her face with her slender, delicate fingers. She was dreading the notion of painting in the biting cold, but the shop desperately needed a fresh coat and the sooner it was presentable the better. Renée bounced upstairs not minding at all, humming to herself and Elise felt lucky and blessed to have such a child in her life. She shivered from the cold and lit a small fire in the hearth. The flames grew and she watched them flicker specks into the air. She heard a noise from the stairs again and yelled for Renée with no response. She stood, rubbing her hands together, and saw a small envelope at the doorway. Surprised to see any letters at her new home so soon, she hoped it was from Camille, though she’d only just written them of her arrival the night before. Much to her disappointment, it was another letter written to Caroline, sent back to her, and rerouted to her new address. She clutched the letter, her face burning with the heat of the tears. She shut her eyes hard, and pressed them together, preventing them from falling. She’d cried so much. It was tiresome.

“I’m ready, mama!” Renée said, bouncing down the steps. She brushed her fingers against the side of the dress and twirled the edges.

Elise handed Renée a large shawl. “Here, put this on, darling. It’s a cold morning.” The shawl swallowed the child. Elise gathered the bottles of black and red paint from the steps and walked through the door. I need a bell, she thought.

***


Clara: -December 1906-

“Hello, again Clara! Please, do sit,” Elijah offered, holding his hand out to a chair. Though I felt guilty for taking him from his responsibilities, I still visited him nearly every weekend since I arrived. For two months I was given answers and learned about my family’s past, and I felt as though I could talk to Elijah all day. He was cheerful, obliging, and kind.

I took a cup of tea from the server. “I must apologize for intruding on your work so often. I will be leaving near Christmas.”

“Absolutely not,” Elijah argued. “Your visits are a pleasure, not an intrusion and I never imagined I’d converse so regularly with Renée’s child.”

I’d told him of my siblings, and our magnificent home Deveaux Grove and in return, he told me of my grandmother’s life at The Painted Ribbon.

“Oh, yes they spent weeks painting the exterior of that building,” he said, motioning his hands toward my grandmother’s shop, “My mother offered her help. She had many connections in town. But Elise refused. She had a very unusual sense of independence for a woman. Quite inspiring, really.”

Several of his curls fell to his face. Elijah was undeniably handsome, with dark, black hair and olive skin. His face was free of blemishes, though he had several wrinkles forming at the sides of his mouth. His dark eyes sparkled with every smile and his loud, boyish voice was comforting.

“Are you the same age as my mother?”

At the mention of my mother his eyes smiled. It made me curious about their friendship.

“I am two years older.” I gaped at him in disbelief. He looked no older than thirty years old. A frown formed across his face as he recalled a memory. “My father was thrown from his horse when I was only an infant, and my mother raised me alone. She remarried eventually of course, as most widows do. Your mother and I were very close.” A small smile formed across his face. The more he spoke of my mother, the more I wondered why they never married, though I did not dare ask him. He seemed to adore her, but in my state of bitterness, I hardly understood why.

He ran his fingers through his curls, contemplating a thought. “Oh, Clara, did your mother write back?” Upon hearing his question, I reached into my bag and handed him her letter. It was not meant for me but I was eager to read it. As he opened it, a large smile formed across his face.

“Would you like me to read it aloud, Clara?” he asked. It wasn’t the appropriate answer, but I nodded anyway.

“My dearest Elijah,” he said, grinning at the paper. “How pleased I was to hear that you’ve met my daughter Clara. I hope that all is well and that the business is prosperous and its tedious nature minimal. I remember the struggles that the business caused for our mothers and I do not wish it on you. I can assure you that we are all in good health. I do miss you, dear friend, and mama spoke of you often before her memories faded. Of us all, I believe Clara is the most heartbroken from mama’s passing. Please, speak well of my mother and remember the good memories we share with her. Clara is a remarkable young woman, and I am positive that by now you know that. I see myself in her quite often. She is sensitive, much like me but she feels deeply. I am incredibly thankful and blessed that she has met you, my dear and beloved friend. I do not know when I shall return to New Orleans, as I have very little desire to. You are always welcome at Deveaux Grove if you ever find yourself near St. Martinville. I miss you and think of you often.

Keeping you ever in my thoughts,

Renée Deveaux"

Elijah read the letter loudly, smiling at each word but I felt myself shrink at my mother’s praise of me as I remembered our last quarrel.

“I didn’t know you were so close,” I said, remembering her letter’s words of warmth and admiration toward him.

He looked up at me, his dark eyes growing serious. “Oh, yes. Yes, we certainly were.” His voice was raspy from melancholy. I immediately dropped the subject, suddenly not wanting to hear more.

He took a deep breath and changed the subject. “Their store became one of the busiest on Royal Street. Your grandmother had and still has quite the reputation here. It was a shame to see her leave.” It was then that the man who first greeted me weeks prior approached us. He bent down, close to Elijah’s ear, and whispered.

“Miss Clara, I apologize but I must tend to my work. Please, do not hesitate to visit me again while you are here.” He took my hand and kissed it gently, squeezing my fingers. As I walked out of the store, through the crowd of rich, beautiful women, I caught another glimpse of The Painted Ribbon. The door slammed shut behind me and the cold December air punished my hat. I held it down and walked closer to the vacant building. The black paint was chipped and dry, and the windows were still dusty and boarded. I wanted so badly to peek inside, but couldn’t. As I walked back to William’s apartment I imagined Elise and my mother brushing the black paint against the wood.

***


Elise: -March 1868-

Elise locked the door to the shop and let out a sigh of relief that the day was over. Though the war had devastated the Southern economy, the shops on Royal street miraculously survived, and the rich, elite people of New Orleans continued to purchase linens, fabrics, and custom dresses in droves. It had been two years since Elise moved into the small shop in New Orleans, and she had successfully developed a reputation among the regular shoppers and shopkeepers. Renowned among the others as a talented seamstress, Elise made a small, independent living for herself and her child. She quietly prepared dinner in the small kitchen, periodically glancing out of the window to Charlotte’s shop. She cleaned the dishes vigorously, pressing the damp cloth against each dish with force. A man outside of her window stood at the street lamp, lighting them and illuminating the street. She tossed the towel on the table prepared to storm out of the door when she finally saw Charlotte walk out with two young children and with the sight she was finally able to release the breath she’d been keeping in. Charlotte knocked on the door, obnoxiously peeking her eyes through the window.

“Elise!” she said, tapping on the glass. The children followed, and the sound of loud taps filled the room. Elise furrowed her brow, frustrated with Charlotte for bringing Renée home so close to dark. She calmly opened the door, and Renée released herself from Charlotte’s grasp with ease and ran to her mother.

“Oh, mama I’ve had the most lovely time! Mrs. Charlotte’s store is so much different than yours!” the six-year-old exclaimed.

“Yes, my dear, I’ve been inside her shop. Please, run along upstairs. It’s nearly dark and you need to be sleeping soon.”

“I assume they’ve had dinner?” Elise asked Charlotte, skipping the pleasantries.

“Of course!” She seemed almost offended by the question.

“Charlotte, it’s quite late. I was not expecting it to be nearly dark when you returned,” Elise said, with evident frustration.

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “My dear, sweet friend Elise, you do worry yourself too much. We were having a lovely time. Our children get along beautifully. It will be a beneficial friendship when they begin school,” she said, patting her son’s hair. It was then that Elise realized that she’d completely ignored the shy little boy grabbing his mother’s hand.

“Little Elijah, how lovely to see you,” Elise said, forcing a smile. The boy smiled at her with sleepy eyes.

“Will you let us in? Or will you keep us out here in the humidity?” Charlotte demanded. Though it was only March, the muggy, Louisiana spring was already upon them. The puddles in the street released a putrid aroma, and Elise cringed when she noticed it.

“Yes, please, I apologize. Come in. I can prepare tea if you’re interested.” Elise opened the door for them, and Charlotte’s puffed-up dress scraped loudly against the opening. Elise rolled her eyes at the noise and watched Elijah trail shyly behind his mother. Charlotte nodded at the suggestion of tea, and Elise walked them to the kitchen. They took their seats, and Elijah, quiet as a mouse, took a seat next to his mother. He resembled her in almost every respect and had dark curly hair, intense brown eyes, and flawless olive skin. Elise prepared the tea and took a seat across from the two.

“That reminds me, Elise, you really should consider putting Renée into school soon,” Charlotte said. “Elijah will be put in shortly, and I do think it will be good for them both to have a friend at the local picnics.” Elise contemplated what she was told and was compelled to agree. They sipped their tea until Charlotte broke the silence.

“How is that gentleman I see visiting your store so often?” she said, her eyes twinkling with gossip. Elise groaned in frustration at Charlotte’s question but Charlotte ignored her and scooted closer in her chair, eager to hear more.

“He’s married, Charlotte. He merely dotes on his wife. Immensely.” She shifted uncomfortably in her chair before shooting her a stern look. “And he appreciates my work.” Charlotte sent a disapproving glance in Elise’s direction and scoffed profusely before continuing.

“Stop creating false scenarios in your head,” Elise said, loudly setting her cup down. Elise could only imagine the stories that Charlotte had created about the handsome gentleman that visited her store weekly, but Elise was not lying. The man merely spoiled his wife, buying her fabrics and endless dresses with his large fortune. Elise wasn’t interested in anyone. She was still undeniably in love with René and felt no reason to hide those feelings. She wore her wedding band with pride.

Charlotte set down her cup dramatically. “Elise I will be blunt.”

“You always are, Charlotte.” She did not cover the displeasure in her voice.

“Your husband is presumed dead. Why do you not move on?” Her candidness had become commonplace in their conversations, but Elise still found it inappropriate.

She tapped the tips of her fingernails on the porcelain teacup. “I am not the only one in this room without a husband, if you recall,” Elise replied, a slight fire igniting in her chest. Charlotte pouted like a child, crossing her arms, accentuating her bust. Elise rolled her eyes.

“I am not in love with my deceased husband,” Charlotte responded. Elise cringed at the phrase “deceased husband” and recollected the young, handsome, and thriving man she’d married.

Elise glared at Charlotte. “You do this every time we see each other, Charlotte. I believe this conversation needs to come to an end.” Elijah leaned into his mother with shallow breath and drooping eyelids.

“And I think it is time to go home,” Charlotte said, caressing Elijah’s cheek. The two women stood in unison.

“I am ready to sleep now, mama!” Renée yelled from the top of the stairs. Elise led her guests from the house, locking the door behind them. Discussing René with anyone, particularly Charlotte, was exhausting despite the number of years that had passed. She missed him, and though she’d accepted his fate, she held on to him and often imagined what her life would be like if he was still with her. Seven long years had passed. Would she ever move on? She moved to the lanterns and candles throughout the house, walking upstairs to meet Renée. The upstairs room was much smaller than the downstairs, but she was grateful to provide her child with her own bedroom.

“Mama I’ve been waiting forever,” she scolded.

Elise feigned sorrow at her words.

“I forgive you. Please, read to me.”

Elise walked to the bookshelf and closed her eyes before pulling a random book from the shelf. Great Expectations. She sat next to Renée, and read the romantic novel until Renée drifted deeply into sleep. Elise took the novel and continued reading. Though the romantic trials in the novel differed from her own, she sympathized with young Pip, and silently agonized over her own tragic love story.

***


“Renée please hurry up!” Elise said, gathering ribbons and clearing her workbench. Renée ran down the steps, tripping over her own feet and dress with each step. The child was clumsy.

“Which colors do you prefer, my love?” Renée pointed to the blue ribbons, and Elise wrapped them tightly around her waist. She frowned when she noticed the dirt on the bottom of Renée’s dress.

“Oh, my dear, I am sorry. I will hem your dress. Mama’s been so busy.” Renée merely shrugged and ran toward the door as they left for the docks near the Mississippi River. The docks were Elise’s favorite part of town, and she was always eager to visit the seafood stands. She expected quietude on a Sunday afternoon but the streets of New Orleans were bustling. Their shoes splashed the water that flooded the grouts, and the humid air sunk into their skin through their dresses. The long, red, strands of her hair were loosely arranged in a hairpin, and though she had not yet reached thirty years of age, several gray strands mixed with the red. The traffic on the streets was loud, and Elise held Renée’s hand tightly, avoiding the large horses and carriage wheels. There was no trace of a breeze. The sky was a bright, solid shade of blue and despite the uncomfortable weather, Elise rejoiced in its beauty. She stopped at a seafood stall, eager to prepare dinner for the evening.

“Renée stay close, please,” she requested, as she released her child’s hand and examined the variety of fish on display. As she conversed with the booth keeper, Renée’s attention was drawn to the bells near the ship docked in the harbor. To get a closer look, she moved away and toward the dock’s edge, disobeying her mother’s request. Before long, she was alone within the crowd, distracted and eager to see the prodigious ships. As the bells sounded again, the vibrations shot through her body and filled her with exhilaration. As she watched, wide-eyed at the wealthy people boarding the ship a man approached her. He was tall, with a soft voice and long. His brown eyes, slightly covered by his hair, stared down at her and he smiled. Across his lips was a long, thin scar. His gentle voice filled her with a sense of familiarity. He did not frighten her.

He knelt beside her, glancing around for her parents. “Hello young miss, what are you doing here alone?”

“I like ships, sir!” She leaned in closer to him, and whispered, “Don’t worry, my mama is close.” Elise was near but out of sight. The man chuckled at her enthusiasm.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“My name is René. And what is yours?” he asked with a smile. Her mouth opened, releasing a small gasp. As her eyes widened, René’s interest was piqued.

A wide grin formed across her face. “That’s my name too, sir!” A woman called for the man, and he turned his back. Anxious to not miss the ship, he faced the young girl again.

“Young miss, I am proud to share my name with you. But I must go. It was an honor meeting you,” he said, attempting to bow while kneeling. He glanced at her once more. “Find your parents. It isn’t safe for a young lady to be alone.” She nodded. He smiled again and turned his back a final time. He was greeted by a raven-haired woman. Just as she was waving, Elise ran beside her and grabbed her hand with force. Elise looked in the direction of the stranger that had spoken to her daughter who was arm in arm with his partner, his back turned to her. He was walking up the ramp to the ship with a slight limp and required the help of the woman. She glared in the stranger’s direction. The bells tolled loudly.

“Renée, who was that?” she scolded. Before Renée could answer Elise took both of her hands and pulled her close and knelt to her level. “You cannot speak to strangers. I asked you to stay close.” She hugged her child, preventing her from answering. Renée broke free.

“His name was René! Just like me!” It took a minute for Elise to process what she’d just said. While René was not an uncommon name, every time she heard it her mind jumped to every conclusion possible. She stood and turned to the ship, eager to see the man again, but he’d disappeared.

“Can you identify him for me?”

Renée looked at the ship in search of the man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Elise felt an uneasy, anxious knot in her stomach as she continued to scan the ship. It quickly filled with people, and though she felt Renée pulling at her dress, desperate for her attention, Elise’s eyes stayed on the ship. The possibility of his survival was filling her with angst and anticipation. She was overcome with an overwhelming sense of hope, though she felt like vomiting. She remembered his touch and her skin tingled at the thought. The pleasant sensation was marred by the memory of his body being dragged by the men out of the alleyway, as she was helpless to scream or move. Minutes passed as the bells grew louder and more frequent. The ship began to move, slowly separating itself from the dock.

Without thinking, she let go of Renée’s small hand and ran to the edge of the dock, shoving past people recklessly as she ran, desperate for the possibility to see him. And she did. He was standing near the hull in the middle of the deck, glancing out into the horizon. Elise’s breath caught in her throat and she nearly couldn’t breathe. It was him, undeniably so. Her stomach hurt, and her fingers curled, painfully pressing her fingernails into her palms. As she opened her mouth to call his name, he noticed her too. His face was older, his hair was longer, his rich curls taking shape around his neck, and the large scar across his mouth blended into his cheek. He stared at her, almost as if he didn’t believe she was real, and they took in each other’s presence as the ship moved farther from the docks. Elise ran to the edge and her body nearly fell into the deep brown water. As she did, he ran to the edge of the ship, stepping onto the rail, allowing his body to stretch over the water, as if he was trying to see her for as long as possible. He’s alive, she thought. She imagined him running to the captain, begging him to stall the ship and let him off. She hoped he would jump in the water and swim after her. But he didn’t move. He merely grasped the rail and she was forced to watch him grow smaller into the distance. She yelled his name so loud it choked her.

A strong gust of wind pushed her long hair out of its clip, releasing the long, red locks. She froze in place, her eyes not leaving him as his features became too small to recognize. She collapsed on the docks, a broken woman, sobbing uncontrollably into the wood of the dock. Renée ran to her, yelling for help, but Elise heard nothing. Though she was filled with hope, reassured that he was alive, she was also overcome with a sense of dread at his departure and cursed herself for not looking for her daughter sooner. As she cried, she anticipated his return. He’d seen her and recognized her, surely he would return. Surely, she thought. As the ship disappeared into the horizon, she was nonrespondent to the crying child pulling at her dress. She was overcome with the desire to leave Renée behind and jump in the water after him. The thought caused a pang of guilt in her stomach. Defeated, and too distracted with her thoughts to hear the pleas of her child, she ran to the office and begged the attendant to tell her where the ship was going. She even lied that she was a passenger, begging him to stop the ship but it was too late. It was taking him to Europe with several stops along the way and she’d never see him again. She didn’t mean to, but she ignored her small child who was grasping at her dress as her thoughts wandered. Her mind was focused on a singular, dominating thought. He’s alive.

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