How’s your day been so far? 😀
Here’s Chapter Four of my short story, Sorrel’s Story.
If you haven’t read the first installment, you can click on the link below.
Mrs. O’Keily knelt on the smooth plank floor, where she was painfully bent to retrieve a fallen potato.
Hearing footsteps, she looked up. Sorrel stood there in the morning light, an earnest look on her face.
“I brought a carpet bag when I came, but someone stole it. I haven’t anything to wear except this,” she began, fingering her wrinkled skirt.
Mrs. O’Keily studied her a moment before saying, “I believe you, Sorrel.”
The girl looked relieved. Mrs. O’Keily continued. “I suppose you will have to go home to retrieve more. I can spare you for a few days.”
Sorrel’s jaw tightened, and she shook her head. “I haven’t a family. They’re all dead.” Mrs. O’Keily’s face softened.
“I will pay you early so you can buy the things you need.” She stood up slowly, and looked Sorrel squarely in the eyes.
Clearly and simply she finished, “I am taking a risk in paying you early because I trust you, Sorrel Lock. Please do not disappoint me.”
She waddled away to her room, leaving a glowing Sorrel. She had never been trusted before. Always before, she had had maids and governesses chasing after her, not willing to believe she was responsible.
Mrs. O’Keily returned with a few dollar bills in her hand. “Here,” she told Sorrel. “Seven dollars. I’ll pay you the fifty cents at the end of the week.”
Sorrel thanked her and hurried out of the room. Mrs. O’Keily stood watching her.
“She’ll come back,” she whispered. “She wouldn’t take the money and run.”
That night at supper, Sorrel appeared right on time. Her hair was brushed smooth and pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck.
She was wearing a brand new mossy green smock and her dusty shoes had been wiped off.
The boarders tried not to stare, but their curiosity was piqued. Where did the raggedy girl from yesterday go off to?
Sorrel gave a discouraging glare to anyone who stared too long, and sat down prettily.
Willie coughed, trying to disguise a laugh at her strange manners, and Mrs. O’Keily nodded approvingly.
“You look nice, Sorrel,” she stated. A few of the boarders agreed politely. Sorrel was quite flushed with triumph – she had never taken pains to look nice before, and now she felt quite pretty.
She smiled as she ate, almost forgetting that her parents were dead, her grandmother gone, and her belongings stolen. Almost, but not quite.
After dinner was over, she was back to her morose old self.
Willie caught up with her after dinner. “I saw you looking in the bushes last evening. What were you looking for?” he asked, a teasing smile on his face.
“A place to hide from you,” she retorted as she continued to walk. He followed her.
“You’re quick. It’s a time in itself keeping up with you.” Sorrel turned to stare at him. “Well I’m glad I provide such ample entertainment for you,” she said, her voice spiteful.
Willie turned to study her face, his head cocked as if to get a more explaining angle. She stopped walking and turned to face him, her face flushed.
“Do you always pry into stranger’s business?” she demanded. He took a step back, his smile gone.
Then he forced a smile back onto his face, though he didn’t find it funny. “No, I suppose I’m just like that,” he said, his voice low. “I want to know about other people’s lives, ever since Dad died. It makes me feel less lonely, somehow. But I’ll stop. Please forgive the intrusion.”
He made a quick nod in her direction before hurrying off, a tense whistle on his lips. Sorrel watched him go.
“I always scare everyone off,” she said, a menacing look someone might call repentance on her face. “At least now I can have some peace,” she added, but she sounded unconvinced, and looked regretfully back at the direction Willie had left.
She bit her lip, her jaw tense, as she mounted the large wooden stairs. “Why does everyone have to be sensitive?” she muttered.
Willie had walked back to the kitchen, but when he was sure Sorrel was gone, he returned to his mother’s apartment.
He took the worn stairs two by two with his long stride, and quickly ducked inside room number three.
His mother was staring into a small fire, looking into the distance. Willie walked quietly to her and bent down to kiss her cheek.
She looked up, but didn’t say anything. She reached out to him. Stroking his hair, she whispered, “It’s been such a long time. Why does the pain still hurt?”
He didn’t answer, but smiled a sad smile. His mother saw it, as a tear formed in the corner of her eye.
She looked at his deep brown eyes, and his dark, wavy hair, now blackened by flickering shadows.
She studied his strong jaw and thick eyebrows, and watched the firelight dance on his face.
“You look just like your father,” she whispered. Willie smiled halfheartedly.
“Do you want to remember him, Mother? Or would it be better to forget?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.
Her eyes softened, and she answered quietly, “I will remember him always, whether I want to or not.” Willie nodded and put his arms around his mother.
“Then let’s want to,” he replied. A silence hung in the air, but not a tense one. For grief, when shared, becomes a bittersweet thing.
It brings people closer together, though the pain is harrowing, and the grief unwanted.
His tired mother let a few tears fall silently, hidden from view. Willie held her in his arms, hiding his pain manfully. The two sat in darkness for a long time, remembering.
In a dark room down the hall, a bitter girl was remembering, too. She was remembering her grandmother, and the parents she never knew. She was thinking with hatred of every person she knew who had someone to love.
She meditated on the impudence of Willie, laughing and teasing while her family was dead.
She tried to hate him. She tried to think of everything he had done against her. But as she did so, Willie’s words flashed through her mind, “Ever since Dad died…” and she shuddered.
The room was drafty and cold, but the girl’s heart was much colder. Huddled in a quilt, she clenched her jaw and muttered, “I don’t need anyone. I’ll show them. I can do everything on my own.”
Oh, the heartache this poor girl felt. But she refused to be comforted. She insisted on doing things alone. She insisted upon being miserable.
That’s it for this week, folks!
What did you think of Chapter Four?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading,