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. That’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.