Story Without a Name III Chapter 2

The days turned into weeks, and then months, and my mother’s absence was felt acutely. I left school in order to take better care of my father and my siblings both.

I did my best to oversee the running of the house, and Lizzy tried to help me as best she could. Even so, it was as if the heart had gone out of our home.

Eleven months passed, and although we never did fully forget the hole in our family, we settled into new routines, new patterns. Life continued, even beyond the death that touched us.┬áThat’s where we found ourselves when the second tragedy struck our family. Settling into a new life without my mother.

The day started like any other spring day. The snow had melted into an ashy slush that coated our cobblestone streets, the sun was shining, and the birds were busy building their nests in the trees that lined the neighborhood streets.

Henry had gone back to college after mother’s funeral, and Julie returned to her finishing school. Papa began traveling to find new goods for his shop, and wen he was home he’d shut himself in his office for hours at a time.

Papa had just come home from one of his trips, and he and I were waiting for Julie to come home, so we could eat our dinner. When she finally came dancing in, Papa stared at her, disgust on his face. It didn’t take long to see what the problem was.

A bright pink bow held her hair back, the only color in her outfit. Forbidden color.

Julie took her seat, oblivious to our father’s anger. He stood and tersely crossed the room, and pulled the ribbon from her hair.

“Papa!” Julie cried out, partially from pain as several stray hairs came out with the ribbon and partially out of shock and confusion.

“What’s this?” he demanded of her, holding the ribbon up. “Do you have no respect for your mother?”

“Papa, I do, but-” she began helplessly. I froze in my seat, , watching them, terrified of my father’s wrath.

“You are in mourning, Julia Maria Hancock!” he roared.

“I’m sorry!” she whimpered, tears forming in her eyes. “I lost my own ribbon this morning, and Lily lent me one of hers.”

“You are not supposed to be wearing color!” he yelled, causing Julie to shrink back.

“It was an accident! Mine slipped out on the way to school, and Ms. Carter will use the ruler on us if our hair is let down!”

“That is no excuse!”

“I tried to do what is right!” Julie exclaimed, and ran out of the room. A few minutes later we heard the front door open and slam shut again.

“Julie, wait,” I called after her as I moved to follow her, knowing full well that she couldn’t hear me. Papa turned away as I left the room. “Julie, come back!”

She was in the street by the time I had reached the door, the late afternoon sunlight blindingly shining down on our street. She was obviously crying as she ran. It was no surprise that she didn’t see the automobile.

“Julie, look out!” I screamed, darting down the front steps. She was only halfway across the street, still moving, when a motor car sped around the corner and down the block.

Julie paused for a moment, a moment too long. I froze as the car connected with her body and she went flying over the roof of it. A wordless shriek broke from my lips as the brakes screeched.

She hit the ground with a sick sounding crunch, and blood stained her dark colored gown and white underthings, which were peaking out from under the skirt’s hem.

I ran out to her with no regard for my own safety as the driver got out of the cursed contraption and made his way to her side. She was dead. Anyone with eyes could see that much. Nonetheless, I frantically searched for a pulse as people poured out of the houses around, summoned by my horrid shriek.

Father barreled out of our house, appearing by my side suddenly. He quickly scooped Julie up and carried her out of the road like a rag doll, up our stairs, leaving me kneeling beside the small puddle of blood staining our cobblestone street.

“Miss, I’m sorry, I didn’t see her. I’m so sorry,” the driver said helplessly to me. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I rose, hurrying blindly back into the house.

I couldn’t help but remember the day mother had taken ill, and how Julie and I had come back to the empty house. Lizzy jerked me out of my memories as she descended on my like a bird of prey, gripping my upper arm.

“Miss Samantha, what happened? What happened to Miss Julie?”

“She was hit,” I said, the voice not sounding like mine. “She’s gone.”

“Are you alright, Miss?” she asked me, the concern evident in both her face and her voice, as a tap sounded on the door.

“I’ll be fine,” I lied, straightening my skirts. “Answer the door and show them into the parlor.”

“Your father took Miss Julie into the parlor,” Lizzy said gently.

“Why did he do that?” I moaned, frustration tinging the horror and the rage I felt. “There’ll be blood all over the furnishings!” It was the least of my concerns, and I allowed myself to be distracted by it. I didn’t want to face this horror, but I knew I’d have to. I took a deep breath, trying to steady and calm myself. “Show whoever it is into the library. I will be with them shortly.”

“Of course, Miss,” Lizzy said, making her way to the door.

Dread carried me to the door of the parlor, and I let myself in to see my father kneeling beside the horsehair settee, where Julie was laying, motionless. As I approached, I could see that Papa had closed her eyes, and that she looked like she was sleeping.

The curtains hadn’t been drawn that morning in the parlor, and dark shadows fell across the floor. Darkness enveloped the entire room, and death hovered in the shadows.

“Papa,” I said quietly. He gave no response, as he merely sat beside Julie silently. Reluctantly, I crossed the room to his side, and placed a hand on his shoulders, which were trembling slightly. He seemed broken, almost completely leveled by this blow.

“It’s my fault,” he whispered hoarsely. “She’s with your mother, and it’s my fault.” Tears escaped from his eyes, and I rose, not wanting to witness this breaking of my proud, strong father.

I left the parlor, feeling as though I was suffocating. First mother, and now Julie… The blackness seemed to be trying to drown me.

My next stop was the library, where our visitor was waiting. Reluctance clung to me, and with a heavy heart I opened the door.

A young man sat in the armchair in front of the fire, his legs crossed nonchalantly. Apparently he hadn’t heard me open the door, and I shut it carefully behind myself.

“Hello,” I said, coming around the armchair. He leaped to his feet, startled by my entrance. As I saw his face, I gasped, realizing that this was the driver of the car. The man who had killed my sister.

“Miss, I’m so sorry,” he said, speaking rapidly and with the hint of an accent as he extended his hand. “I didn’t mean to hit her. Please tell me she’s alright?” he begged, genuine sorrow and remorse on his face.

“She’s dead,” I said coldly, trying to hold the wave of tears back. He flinched back, anguish shooting across his face. “You killed her.”

“Mon Deiu,” he murmured, recoiling. He dropped his hand. “Please, tell me, is there anything I can do for your family, to ease this crime I have inflicted on you?”

“No,” I snapped, my hurt coming out as wrath. “Do you think my sister’s life is so cheep that money might buy back what you took?”

He flinched away, and I knew that I should feel remorse for hurting him, but I didn’t. Instead, I turned away from him, trying to keep my exterior from betraying the turmoil inside.

“Nothing I can do for your family will ever replace what I have taken from you, or bring back your sister,” he said gently. “I am aware you are hurting, and in mourning over another loss. I, however, would like to make amends for this horror that I have wreaked on your household, if you will allow me.”

I turned to look at him as he drew a small card holder from his pocket. From it he took a calling card and offered it to me.

“So you can find me, if you change your mind,” he said. When I made no move to take it, he set it on the side table and made his way to the door. “What was her name?”

“Julie,” I said. “Julie Hancock.”

“And you?” he asked, lingering in the doorway.

“Samantha,” I said, a steely tone entering my voice.

“I am sorry, Miss Samantha Hancock,” he said before taking his leave.

~~~

Andre's Calling Card

A History Major’s Rant

This semester, as I engage with the texts of the past, I’ve been struggling on an emotional level with the material I’ve been reading for courses.

It is so hard to be so steeped in humanity’s failures, to see the death and dying, to see the fighting and the drinking and the drugs effect so many people’s lives. It’s hard to read about the destruction of the earth and other people so someone could make a quick buck. It’s hard to read about people dying brutal, bloody deaths, inflicted by other people. It’s hard to read about the injustices committed because of race, or gender, or people group. It’s hard to see the broken Imago Dei in the past, without looking away.

People come to my major because they think that History is an easy “A.” They think it’s about memorizing facts, names, dates. That’s not what it’s about, and I’m reminded of that every semester. It’s easy to lose sight of the people behind those names and dates, the ones who made this world we’re in now what it is.

Some days, I just want to find peace, love, joy. I long for a restoration from this broken reality. That’s the hope of Christ, and I can’t imagine doing my job without it. I don’t think I could do my job without it.

All of this is to say, it’s easy to say that hurtful thing. I know, I’ve done it repeatedly. But hurt people hurt people. In five words, that’s my summary of history. Guys, I’ve come to treasure those moments where people show kindness, no matter how small. It’s not the stuff that’s often remembered in history texts, and it seems like it’s far outweighed at the time. But it’s the stuff that makes us human. It’s the stuff that keeps us going. We can’t keep on like this. If we profess to be image bearers, then aren’t we called to reflect the goodness that God is? Even a little light can be bright in the darkness.

Friendships (Don’t Be Me)

I looked up today and realized that I was firmly and irrevocably on the outside of what used to be two of my dearest friendships. And it breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not entirely innocent. I have this brutal temper, and it tends to emerge when I’m stressed out of my mind, like I was about a month ago. I made some deep wounds, because I was hurting. little did I know that the wounds I inflicted were actually on myself, when I thought I was lashing out at air.

I know this about myself. And I thought that my friends knew that. So I assumed we’d be okay at the end of the day.

We aren’t. They view me like I’m some kind of monster, a stranger who will verbally destroy anyone who dares disagree. They’re still friends, it’s just me who’s on the other side, outside in the cold.

They say I won’t listen, but they don’t speak.

This is being written after an attempt on my part at patching things up. But nothing’s been done on their part to make amends. At least, nothing that I’m aware of.

They claimed to be concerned about me, but I don’t believe that they really are. That suggests an active attempt to help, to care, to be there, and they were not there when I felt like my world was falling apart.

All of this has left me redefining what a real friendship is. And I’m incriminating myself as well as them by everything I say after this.

Friendship is what happens when two people choose to love and care for each other for no reason other than a genuine enjoyment of the other’s company. It’s a bond that, in some cases, is deeper than anything blood can create. It’s an acceptance of the other person for who they are, and a choice to stay by their side when the world is falling apart around their ears.

Friendship is patience, it is love, it is laughter and loyalty. Friendship is crying and comforting and protecting. Friendship is understanding.

I can point fingers in all directions to show the failures of these, ESPECIALLY IN ME. Because even though this is my ideal of what friendship is, I am still human and I still fail. And, even if you don’t know me, you must know that although I hold myself to impossible standards (see some of my previous posts for more insight), I realize that no one else will live by them.

The break down in these two friendships began because of poor communication. They broke down because I hit a boiling point, and let all of the ugly out. I made assumptions, and I was wrong.

They doubt the sincerity of my apologies because of the way I behaved to try to survive. They didn’t care that there’s more to the story.

I find myself becoming resigned to this whole situation. It’s just another day in my life. Another friendship gone.

On the off chance that they’re reading this, that they’ve made it to the end of this article, they’ve heard me speak my piece. The ball is in your court. You know who you are, and you know your options.

For the rest of you reading this, treasure your friends, and choose your words carefully. Be cautious about hitting send. Don’t be me.

Gen Y and Self Vandalism

This semester I’m taking a US Cultural History class, which is fascinating. This class has caused me to pause and think about the way my generation functions, how we have been set up to interact with the “real world.” But the longer I’m in the class, and the longer I think about it, the more cynical I become.

You see, it strikes me how selfishly blind my generation is. No one cares for the well being of anyone else in a truly selfless and loyal way. There’s no concern for how one’s words effect and affect, because we’re “just kidding.” There’s no concern for how habits, like gossip, reveal two things- a victim complex (heaven help us if someone dares take responsibility) and a lack of respect for both self and everyone else.

Vicious lies and exaggerations blow beliefs out of proportion and feast on well-intentioned sympathy. Extremes offer something to talk about, just because we like the sound of our own voices, drowning out those who have a real message with derision and mockery.

All of this is revealed through not only nasty habits, but taste in music. A walk through the pop and rock sections of a music store will generally reveal artists who endorse this self-absorbed mindset, and it only takes a look at bands that are well known (Evanescence is who comes to mind) who sing of depressing loneliness, allowing for the hearer to wallow in self-sympathy, saying through their choice in music that they did all they could. This listener is their own worst enemy, unable to see beyond themselves, to see the damage left in their wake. They simply recite their sad stories and bare their scars over and over again, brooding on all their perceived injuries.

I will not deny that sometimes their scars are real, and tell a heartbreaking story. But there’s a difference between using those stories to make a point compared to brooding on them and reading way too much into every little comment. It is this second type I am referring to. It’s not healthy, and it’s highly destructive- to self and everyone else.

Along that similar thought process, not everyone is like this. I’ve met some genuinely kind, godly people my age. I’ve had some deep, encouraging conversations. I’ve had intellectually stimulating conversations with people only a few months older than me. But the trend I see is that of the selfish Gen Y.

We were the kids raised in the wake of globalization and the internet. We network instinctively, but this has given way to cyber-bullying. We are the true iEverything generation. We’ve been through countless anti-bullying campaigns and numerous self-worth messages. We aren’t allowed to say what we mean anymore, or mean what we say, especially if it offends. We’ve taken up a passive aggressive methods that put the Cold War to shame, because it’s all we’ve been left.

We rely on shallow relationships that spread horizontally, including everyone. This becomes a problem, because we no longer have relationships that are independent of each other. How we interact with one person is how we interact with everyone. If you hurt one person, you become a pariah in your social group, and there’s no forgiveness found there.

I suppose I could make excuses. After all, this applies to me too, though I so wish it didn’t. But I find I can’t excuse these behaviors, especially after feeling the sting of it. Something needs to change.

Respect needs to come back. A balance between this respect and our inflated self-image needs to be found, so we can not only respect ourselves, but others. After all, if we don’t respect ourselves, why would we respect others?

We need to learn how to listen, how to sit quietly and try to understand and comprehend what others are saying. We need to stop over analyzing everything that is said or done, and accept that maybe, just maybe, everyone else isn’t out to hurt us. That maybe they’re hurting too.

In short, we need to grow up. We can’t all be Peter Pan. We need to leave behind Middle School mentalities.

It makes me so sad that we’ve lost the innocence of childhood. That gentleness and kindness have become objects of mockery. We were made in the image of God, and we might have been his masterpiece, but someone went through the gallery and sharpied it, and every other piece in there.

The sobering thought is that it was me, and you, who desecrated that masterpiece. We are our own vandals. We can’t continue in this trend. We’re only hurting ourselves and others far more. Something needs to change.

If everyone has a longing for a basic dignity, a dream of equality, and a hope that one day they’ll be respected, without having to change themselves, then shouldn’t that be where we start? I don’t believe it’s too late for my generation, but I don’t think changes will be easy.

Unrealistic Expectations and the Myth of Perfection

I am a Type-A perfectionist with mothering tendencies. I am very much a morning person, and once I’ve gotten my shower, I’m wide awake and happy as a lark. I like to have things a certain way, and since I’m a micro-manager, if that way isn’t achieved it’s very hard for me to focus on anything. I have to be dying to miss a class, and my homework must always be at least a high B. When I work, I believe that I should give it my all, and do my very best. And it’s a constant struggle to fulfill my ideal of perfect officer for both my club and my honors society.

I’ve read theories on why I am the way I am. Everyone has contributed their two-cents worth about my personality flaws, and I catch myself taking these to heart, becoming paranoid about being perfect. I’m sure all of these theories play a part in it. I am a first-born, and a “parentified” child. I was homeschooled, so I expect more of myself academically than I expect from my peers, and it’s a thorn in my flesh that I am not the best at everything I do. I am an unrepentant over-achiever, and anything short of perfection, or my perception of what that would be, is not good enough.

These tendencies have caused huge problems for me. Friendships have been lost, or put in danger, because I come across as bossy and a “busybody.” I have been known to make friends feel like I don’t really want to spend time with them because I’m so busy, and penciling them in is taking away from other things, or on the other hand, I’m way too involved for their comfort. I never stop moving, meaning that I’m exhausted at the end of the day, and grumpy because I haven’t met my expectations for me.

Pausing now, in an hour of time gained unexpectedly, I can’t help but think about my expectations, my values, and the consequences. If I’m being brutally honest, I know that my goal- perfection- doesn’t exist on this earth, and it makes me think about why I do what I do.

There’s this drive in me that’s forever pushing me forward, while pulling me back over my mistakes at the same time. I need to do better. Need to reach my goals. This need makes it impossible for me to sit still (even as I’m writing this my feet and legs won’t stop moving, and I’ve gotten up several times to do little tasks.) I’m tied to both this vague future point and everything I have ever done wrong, and it leaves no room for present satisfaction.

I try to be “normal” and not let these needs and habits interrupt my life. I can try to explain it to those who are closest to me, but whether they take this into their calculations of me or not is another matter. I try to take everything I’m told with a grain of salt, and not let it become too personal. But sometimes, I really just need affirmation.

Sometimes, I just need someone to be patient with my quirks and habits. I need to people understand just how deep their words, even the most basic comments, go. I need to be heard out and what I say be taken seriously and treated with respect, and not joked about. Some days, it’s a struggle for me to not sink into a semi-depressed state because I’ve fallen short of perfection yet again.

Please don’t give me a handful of nice sounding Christian platitudes. I know that God is the only place where perfection exists, and that I’m not God. I don’t want to be God. I know that I’m a broken human being, and telling me that I shouldn’t have such high expectations of myself doesn’t help, it just makes me feel worse, because no one else lives like I’m a broken human, too. I know that one day God will make all things right, and restore the earth and everything in it to perfection, and I have faith that I, too, will be restored.

It’s not something that logic can work through. Trust me. I’ve been trying for the last twenty years. It’s not something that I’m entirely sure I can fix, and if I can, I can’t help but wonder if I’d really want to fix it.

You see, these traits make me a fantastic employee, a great student, and a Super-Womanesque officer. I’m responsible to a fault.

I guess my point in writing this is to clear my mind, to point out that you can take me or leave me, but understand that there’s way more under the surface than you could ever imagine. I (almost) always mean well in what I do, despite how that comes across. And above all, I just wanted to point out that I am merely human, despite everything I can seemingly accomplish without help. Please treat me like that.