Hello, and Happy Hump-day!
I’m back again with the fifth chapter of my book, Sorrel’s Story.
If you haven’t read the story, you can click the link below.
Here’s Chapter Five!
In this chapter, the reader would hope that something pleasant happens to Sorrel, and that her misery and grief are forgotten, at least for the moment.
As the author, I am left with the sad duty of informing you that an angry girl who refuses to see any good in the world does not allow anything pleasant to happen to her.
The reader may argue, “What about Mrs. O’Keily, who feeds and rooms her even though Sorrel doesn’t know how to clean? What about Willie, who tries to understand and befriend her, even though she’s heartless and proud? Aren’t these things pleasant? Don’t they count?”
Indeed they do count, and they are the very things that should be pleasant to Sorrel. And the reader might wonder, “Then why did you say that Sorrel will have nothing pleasant happen to her?”
And I will remind them that I did not say that nothing pleasant will happen to Sorrel. Rather, I stated the fact that she does not allow something to be pleasant.
Pleasant things do happen to people, but it is up to them whether or not they will see the good in it.
The reader may ask, “Will Sorrel ever stop being angry and hurt?” And I would suggest that we continue the story.
For as an author, I am not allowed to disperse this information, known as a “spoiler alert.” I am merely here to tell the story, and let you glean the true meaning from it.
Sorrel woke up as light from the dusty window filtered in to illuminate the empty fireplace and faded chair.
Idly, she fingered the old quilt, tracing hand-stitched patches and worn fabric. She was startled by a loud knock on the door.
Mrs. O’Keily opened the door slowly, and peeked her head in. “Sorrel? Are you alright? You’ve been sleepin’ for quite a while. I could use your help as soon as you get dressed.”
Sorrel nodded her assent as Mrs. O’Keily closed the door hurriedly. She stretched and dragged herself out of bed.
She tossed her nightgown onto the old chair in the corner, not bothering to fold it. Pulling her green smock over her tousled head, she combed her knotted hair and splashed water on her sleep lined face.
Opening the window, she let Chicago in, as the clopping of hooves and the calls of passers-by filled the little room.
She shook loose of sleep’s hold enough to exit her room, and even remembered to lock her door. “Sorrel Lock,” she reminded herself.
She had almost slipped up twice when using the fake last name. Turning, she met Mrs. Oliver coming down the hall, a basket in her arms.
Mrs. Oliver sewed to bring in extra money. She smiled at Sorrel, almost dropping a lovely light blue dress from the top of the pile. Sorrel didn’t smile back, but at least acknowledged Mrs. Oliver with a nod.
She bolted down the stairs in front of her, banging her shin on the banister in the process.
Wincing, she limped to the kitchen, where Mrs. O’Keily stood waiting.
“Breakfast is in ten minutes. Stir the oatmeal while I make eggs, dear,” she ordered, not unkindly.
Between stirring, Sorrel set the table with silver and linen napkins. She put a pitcher of water on the table and glass cups at every place.
Boarders began to flock in. First, Hank Campson in work clothes. A button up shirt and a pair of rather soiled pants completed his wardrobe.
He sat down, but stood as soon as Miss March entered the room. Though she only worked in a thread factory, she was as fresh as a daisy in a crisp flowered dress.
Hank cleared his throat and said a gruff, “Good morning.”
Mrs. O’Keily smiled knowingly, and Sorrel looked from face to face.
Willie strode in next, his hair combed and his movements rushed. He smiled at Mrs. O’Keily, gave a voluntary grin to Sorrel, and sat down to shovel food into his mouth.
Five minutes later, he pushed back his chair and nodded a goodbye.
He looked to Mrs. O’Keily, but she only said, “I’ll send lunch over.” He nodded and strode out of the room.
“Where’s he going?” Sorrel asked curiously.
“He works at the steel factory,” Mrs. O’Keily answered her.
The rest of the boarders slowly left, and the two worked in silence for some time before Sorrel asked suddenly, “When did his father die?”
Mrs. O’Keily turned to study her, surprised at the question. “Four years ago,” she said, her voice soft. “I believe he was your age when it happened. Now he’s almost eighteen. A hard worker, too.”
Sorrel found herself asking, “How did he die?” Mrs. O’Keily turned back to cleaning up breakfast.
“A factory accident,” she answered.
Sorrel shivered, and shakily brought more dirty plates to Mrs. O’Keily. She felt sorry for Willie, even compassionate. But then she asked herself why.
Hadn’t she lost all her family? Didn’t she have much more to grieve for?
She shook her head to clear it and forced herself to put it out of her thoughts.
Mrs. O’Keily left to check on a boarder, and came back, a worried expression on her kindly face.
“Mrs. Wakefield is ill, Sorrel. I think I’ll make some soup. Run down in the cellar and get me a jar of broth. Then I’ll send it up with you to her room.”
Sorrel paused. She disliked the cellar with every bone in her body. But Mrs. O’Keily was waiting. She hurried outside, down the outside steps, and into the dank cellar, lighting a candle on her way.
In the dampness, she shivered. She snatched up a jar of broth and darted up the stairs, slamming the bulkhead doors on her way.
She deposited the jar in Mrs. O’Keily’s waiting hands and plopped down, heart beating. She waited patiently for the soup, then knocked timidly on Mrs. Wakefield’s door and advanced into the dark little room.
The old woman in the bed against the wall coughed weakly, then laughed. “I’m a sick old goose,” she apologized.
Sorrel set the the soup on a small nightstand and sat down heavily. She hadn’t gotten to say goodbye to her grandmother. Is this how she went? Ill and bedridden?
Suddenly, Sorrel felt unwell, too. Her head throbbed, and she shook violently. Why was the world so cruel?
A tear slipped down her cheek unnoticed in the darkness. The woman sat up slowly, and dribbled down the broth feebly.
But she talked as she did so, kind and sweet. “Haven’t seen you before, dear.” Sorrel shook her head and wiped away the tell-tale tear.
“I live here now.” The woman coughed again, and soup spilled onto the bed cover.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you.” Sorrel tried to smile.
It wasn’t nice to meet Mrs. Wakefield. Not like this. But she said, “You, too.”
She took the soup from the lady and brought it back to Mrs. O’Keily, with as tender a farewell as she had said since coming.
In other words, she simply said, “Goodbye.” For the first time, she felt concern for someone besides herself.
But she soon was back to her old self, as she sat in her own dark room, anger welling up inside her. It wasn’t fair that people died! The world was cruel. Cruel and unfair.
Sorrel finished her crying and hurried back to Mrs. O’Keily, who no doubt needed help with lunch.
Instead, Mrs. O’Keily handed Sorrel a bag, with rolls and boiled eggs packed into it. “This is for Will, at the factory.” She handed it to Sorrel with a gleam well hidden in her eyes.
“The steel factory is down the street and to the left,” she reminded her. Sorrel looked at her, confused.
“Is that why he doesn’t come for lunch?” Mrs. O’Keily nodded her head.
“I thought today you could bring it to him today,” she replied.
With one last questioning glance, Sorrel took the bag and left for the factory, following the directions as if her life depended on it. She didn’t see the merry look on Mrs. O’Keily’s face when she left, or hear her say, “Maybe I’m cut out for match-makin’. I enjoy it plenty enough.”
All she heard was the clatter of carriages, dinging of the horse-drawn trolley, and the chatter of people on the sidewalks. All she saw was the destination. A big, brick building with a black iron fence around it.
She sat in the dirt to wait. After about ten minutes of idly watching the coaches pass, she heard a distant ringing, and turned to watch adults and children alike file out of the building, to take their lunch break.
After a while, she spotted Willie, his face flushed from heat, his hair slightly damp.
She yelled over to him through the fence, causing quite a few people to stare. Aware that she was being watched, she blushed and stepped back. But Willie recognized her and came toward her rapidly.
“You brought my lunch?” he asked hopefully.
Sorrel handed it through the fence. He plopped onto the dusty grass, opened the bag, and began to eat as if the world would end. She studied him while he did so, and if he was self-conscious, he didn’t show it.
Sorrel sat in the grass outside the fence, lost in thought. So this was the boy whose father had died. You wouldn’t think it to look at him. He seemed to be in good spirits, and friendly. How was it that he could go on living, when God had taken his father? Why wasn’t he angry?
Sorrel became agitated, watching him eat with such a carefree air.
“Don’t you care?” she burst out. “How can you be so happy when your father is dead?” she stopped, realizing the fullness of what she had just said. Willie’s jaw tightened, and he studied her with such a serious gaze that Sorrel squirmed.
“Of course I care,” he said evenly. “But I have to go on living. I’ve got Mom to take care of.” Sorrel’s eyes flashed.
“At least you’ve got somebody,” she shot back. Willie eyes were confused, but evidently Sorrel was angry. His eyes flashed back, though he was struggling desperately to keep his temper in check.
“What did I do to earn your anger? Ever since I met you, you’ve acted as though I’ve wronged you. Like you hated me. What did I do?” he repeated, his face tense, his eyes sharp. Sorrel was taken aback, but only for a minute.
“You cruel boy! You have a mother, and until four years ago, a father. Mine have been dead forever, and my only relative, my grandmother, is dead now, too. And no one cares. No one at all. The world is an awful place. Yet you go around laughing and mocking me.” These last words caused him to flush.
“When have I ever mocked you? I’ve been as kind as I knew how, even though you offended me and hurt my pride.” But his eyes clouded with something, and if Sorrel had known that it was compassion, she might have softened. “I’m sorry that your parents are dead,” he told her, his voice beginning to level out.
“You should be. Everything has been taken from me.” At this, he started up again.
“That’s not true! You have Mrs. O’Keily, who pays you even though she’s days away from the poor house. But you’re too caught up in self-pity to notice!” Sorrel stood up, practically shouting.
“If this had happened to you, you might understand! But unfeeling as you are, you have no idea!” With that, she shot him a venomous look and fled down the street, aiming for the boardinghouse.
Willie stared after her, his brown eyes flashing with anger. That girl needed help. But she wouldn’t let anyone help her. He sat down again with a thump.
Then he shrugged, sighed, and got up again to pace. What could he do? What in the world could he do? Finally, he sat back down. “God, help her. Help her somehow.” And he finished his lunch as the bell began to ring.
What do you think of Chapter Five? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
That’s all for now,