Epic of the Vampire; Canto 2- Serpentum

The fallen angel

once shone brighter than any

like a star at night.

A prince in heaven,

yet he was a mere servant.

Pride stiffened his knees.

He was created,

and yet he lived without end.

Then God created-

created humans.

Created for God’s pleasure,

raised above the gods

made to serve the God.

The morning star grew jealous,

hatred grew its roots,

clinging to his heart.

The gracious Father knew this,

his heart broke from pain.

In mercy he called

his glorious one to him,

wanting repentance,

knowing he would not.

In hatred, the angel cursed

the one who made him.

Cast from the heavens

his rage he turned on humans-

feeble creations,

yet reflecting God,

those who bear his own thumbprints.

He soon determined

the best revenge be

by marring that image borne.

Sly as a serpent,

he befriended man,

drawing him aside in dark,

to strike the death blow.

Death, too merciful,

everlasting life he gave,

one not worth living.

Unable to speak

the name of his creator,

the word burned his lips.

Cast from paradise,

the angel grasped mankind’s heel,

like Jacob he clung,

dragging him to Hell.

He offered the forbidden

as the drink of life.

Sin would sustain life,

eternal isolation

without any rest.

Gleeful in his wrong,

the fallen angel rejoiced

at what his hands made.

He had made man fall,

unable to call on God,

trapped in the darkness.

Victory was his.

The fallen angel rejoiced

in his wrongdoing.

He celebrated

his revenge over the Lord,

or that’s what he thought.

He brought the long night

over the face of mankind,

the shadows were long.

He laughed at God’s face,

the one who created him,

he turned his back on.

Epic of the Vampire; Canto 1- In Principio

In the beginning,

God created the heavens

and man walked the earth.

He gave life, substance,

breath and shape. He imparted

His image on man.

God loved creation,

tended it and sustained it,

giving his own son.

Among the angels

one grew jealous of mankind,

and hated them much.

He plotted revenge

against God’s favored people.

How to make them fall?

This wretched creature

had no creativity,

he could only change

the nature of man.

“Blood is used for atonement,

ambrosia, life blood.

It is blood I use

to humble this creation.

Forbidden to drink

this drink offering.

I decree they will partake,

to sustain in death

a half-life in dark.

They will feel nothing but cold,

for breath will not pass

between their foul lips.”

Thus saying, he took a man,

wrought the curse on him.

Not dead or alive,

he preyed on blood of his kin,

his friends he drank dry.

A monster, alone,

but when he drank, he could feel

the warmth of their flesh,

their closest held dreams.

For a moment he was man,

only as he drank.

Revolted, he stopped,

refused to drink mankind’s blood.

In a hateful rage

the jealous angel

sent him into a frenzy,

taking his free will,

making him a beast.

Villages he would ravage,

man, woman, and child-

none were safe from him.

Yet the monster craved a mate,

as the years were long

and he could not die.

“It is good for him to have

one to hold, like him.”

The jealous angel

took a woman and changed her,

making a partner.

Because they lived not,

a child’s life they could not make,

child of their own flesh,

to them was given

the power to make others,

their children of death.

The fallen angel

did this to make mockery

of his creator.

Nameless Story III Chapter 3

His card stayed where he had left it until several days after Julie’s funeral, when I helped Lizzy clean the library. She picked it up and looked curiously at it, reading the name several time through.

“What’s this doing here?” she asked me, offering the card to me. I took it and glanced down at it.

“Andre Bourbon? I don’t think that Papa associates with journalists,” I said, turning it over.

“You could ask your father, perhaps?” Lizzy suggested.

“No,” I said. Papa had shut himself up in his room, rarely emerging. Lizzy and I had taken turns bringing him trays, but even he hardly at what we brought him. It was then that I remembered. “It’s the motorist’s card.”

“Why’d he leave it?” Lizzy asked, turning away to finish her dusting.

“He offered his assistance, should we need it,” I said, sliding the card into my apron pocket. Later I would put it with my father’s other cards.

~~~

Thomas Letter~~~

“Samantha,” Henry said after we had finished our supper one evening. “Father received a letter concerning you earlier this evening.”

“What about me?” I asked, clearing the table. After the expenses of Julie’s funeral, we had to let go of our evening maid, which meant that Lizzy and I were trying to fill her place.

“Thomas Cook wanted to maintain correspondence with you while he’s working abroad,” Henry said. “Because he intends to pay you court when mourning ends.”

“And what does father think of this?” I asked calmly, pausing.

“Papa hasn’t seen the letter yet. Nor will he,” Henry said. “I’ve been handling his personal correspondence.”

“What?” I asked, surprised. “But, Henry-”

“Samantha, he wasn’t responding to them,” Henry said. “Good lord, have you seen the man, Sammy? He sits catatonic on the edge of his bed. His guilt is eating him alive from the inside out.”

“So you’re reading and answering his mail? It’s not as if he’s dead, Henry!”

“But it’s also not as if he’s in his right mind, Sam,” he retorted. “Now, back to Thomas. Should I give him permission to write you?”

“Do what you like, Henry,” I said, gathering my load and heading out to the kitchen with our empty dishes. I had just set them down on the counter when I heard a Lizzy shriek and a crash from upstairs.

“Lizzy, is everything alright?” Henry called, and I heard him thunder up the stairs. Terrified, I raced to follow him upstairs.

“Mr. Hancock!” Lizzy was blubbering uncontrollably. She stood outside the door to father’s room, sobbing hysterically. “I went in to bring him his supper and I found him like that!” Henry burst into the bedroom and I moved to follow him as Lizzy grabbed onto my arm, holding me in place.

“Miss, you can’t go in there!” she exclaimed. “It’s too horrible. No one should ever see that.”

“Oh God,” Henry said. “Papa! Papa! No, no, no!” He reappeared in the doorway, a sickened look on his face. “Lizzy, take Sam downstairs. Now!”

“What happened, Henry?” I asked, a sick feeling forming in my gut. “What’s happened?”

“Come this way, Miss Samantha,” Lizzy said, pulling on my sleeve. “You don’t want to see.”

“See what?” I asked, trying to jerk away from Lizzy, who only held me tighter. “What happened?” I asked again, desperately.

“Don’t struggle now, Miss,” Lizzy said, wrapping me in a hug, holding me back.

“Just go downstairs, Samantha!” Henry shouted at me as he returned to our father’s room. “Go now!”

I struggled with Lizzy for a few moments before I finally broke free, and I vaulted to the doorway, where I froze. A cord hung from the ceiling, and from it my father was dangling.

“No! Daddy!” I screamed, stumbling back. I tripped on the hemline of my skirts and landed at Lizzy’s feet. “Papa! No! Why? Why?”

The tears came unbidden, and I started to cry. My world felt like it was slipping away, one person at a time.

“Oh, Sammy, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have seen this,” Henry said gently, kneeling beside me. “I didn’t want you to see that.” He wrapped his arms around me, and I cuddled into him.

“Why’d he have to-?” I asked quietly. “Why couldn’t he have stayed?”

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” he replied. “But I don’t know. Now will you go downstairs with Lizzy, and she can make you a nice cup of tea? I’ll clean this up, and then we can discuss father’s wishes.”

“Come along, Miss Samantha,” Lizzy said gently, lifting me to my feet. “Come on downstairs, miss.”

~~~

Henry’s Journal

Wednesday 18 November, 1893

I’m getting concerned about Sammy. We had Father’s funeral three nights ago, and cremated him out beyond city limits, like we do for all suicides. But Sam- she just sits and stares into space. Rarely does she respond to anyone speaking to her, and Lizzy is doing all she can to make her eat. It’s like a part of Sam died with our father.

On another note, I have finally begun to going through the recent records of the shop. Father didn’t tell us, but his manager has revealed that we are greatly in debt. I believe this is due to poor management of the shop while Father was in mourning- Mr. Williamson is fond of taking risks with the finances entrusted him, which Father would have never approved of.

I don’t know what I can do for Sammy. I need to provide for her, but I’m afraid the monies Papa had set aside for her dowry were lost in the poor investments made. I can only hope that I can earn it back, and it won’t hurt her prospects. Maybe Thomas will take her even with a small dowry because of our friendship. At least I have a year to find a way to fix this.

~~~

Andres Letter 1

 

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. 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.

~~~

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.

Story Without a Name III Chapter 1

The rain fell outside, hitting the windows of the small townhouse. I sat by the bed in the center of the room, numb, despite the warmth of the fire crackling merrily behind the grate. Mother was sleeping now, peaceful at long last.

As I sat there, watching her, I couldn’t help but remember the day the illness had struck. She had gone to the opera with Father the previous night, and hadn’t gotten back until late. Even so, Mother had gotten up early, as usual, to oversee the servants as they went about their morning chores.

She had looked pale, but assured Father that she was fine. He had then left for work, as usual. Mother had then sent my sister and I off to school, and the day had passed just as many others had.

Julie, my sister, and I had not known that anything was wrong until we had seen the collection of vehicles parked outside our humble townhouse. At the sight of them we had broken into a run, dashing headlong across the street, panic driving us.

We saw no one until we entered the small hall, where the maid, Lizzy- or as she was fondly called by us children ‘Liza-Bet’- took our hats and coats, hushing us and half-heartedly scolding us for tracking mud onto the Gallian rug. She hustled us up the steps, sending us into the old nursery.

“I’ll let your papa know you’re back home,” she said, leaving the room. “And I’ll bring you your supper.”

“Liza-Bet, who do those carriages belong to?” Julie asked before the door had closed completely. Lizzy paused in the doorway, uncertainty flickering across her face.

“I’ll tell you when I bring your supper, Miss Julie,” she said, finally. As the door clicked shut, Julie turned to me.

“Sammy, I’m scared. Why is she bringing our supper here? Why are we not eating with Mother and Papa, like we always do?”

“I don’t know,” I said, feeling helpless as I held Julie close to me. Gently I stroked her hair, like Mother used to do when we had nightmares. “Liza-Bet will explain it all to us. It will be alright, Julie.”

I held her for several minutes as we waited, not knowing what was happening. Finally the door opened, but it was not Lizzy bringing the food.

Our brother Henry walked in, a serious look on his face. Julie pulled away from me and ran to him, happy to see him once more, as he had been away at University for the previous five months.

“Has anyone told you what’s happening?” he asked, hugging Julie but looking at me.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “We came home from school, but nothing-“ I didn’t know how to express the scene we had come home to.

“Mother took ill this afternoon, so Lizzy sent for Father, who called for Uncle Charlie and the physician,” Henry explained, his face twisting. “The physician says that it’s gone on too long, that he can do nothing more for Mother.”

“But Mother was quite well this morning,” I protested.

“Oh, Samantha, if only,” Henry said, shaking his head. “Mother’s admitted to having pains in her side for quite some time now, but she never complained. If only she had, maybe she’d have more time now.”

“No,” Julie whimpered, searching Henry’s face for some sign he was joking. “She can’t be dying. Surely there’s something that can be done?”

I had frozen, a numbness beginning to spread through me. Henry wouldn’t lie about something so important. Surely not. Horror filled me, choked me.  I couldn’t make a sound, though I wanted to scream. My eyes were dry, though I wanted to cry a river. I wanted to flee, to run and never stop running, but my legs wouldn’t move.

“There’s nothing,” Henry murmured. “She has maybe two months, at best.”

“No!” Julie shrieked, tears coming to her eyes. “Stop it, Henry! Tell me this is all a joke? A prank you’re playing!”

“I wish it was a prank,” Henry said bitterly. “If it is a joke, someone has duped us all.”

That had been two months ago, and with every day that came and went, it felt as though our household had fallen apart. Without Mother overseeing the day to day comings and goings, the house seemed darker and dirtier.

I had tried to fill the empty spot, making sure that the house and its inhabitants were clean and presentable, but it still didn’t contain the same comfort, the same warmth that Mother had given everything she touched.

“Samantha, could you come with me to the library for a few minutes, please?” my father stood in the doorway. I didn’t know how long he had been there, but I was so tired from my vigil at my mother’s bedside that I didn’t care to find out.

Reluctantly I rose from my seat, glancing down at her as I moved. She was sleeping peacefully still, though sweat was beginning to give her forehead a shine.

“I’ll be right back,” I promised her quietly. I followed Father out of the room, closing the bedroom door behind me. He didn’t speak again until he had firmly closed the door to the library behind me.

“Samantha, I know these are trying times for our family, but it has not escaped my notice that you have become a beautiful young lady, nor has it escaped the notice of Thomas Cook.”

“Thomas Cook?” I said, confused.

“He has asked me for permission to pay you court.”

“Pay me court?” I repeated slowly, confused. Like a sunrise, his meaning dawned on me, and with it came the anger. “You mean to say that while my mother, your wife, has been sick and dying this last month and a half, you’ve been planning my marriage?”

“Er, not exactly,” he said, looking confused by my reaction. “I mean, I only told Thomas that he could court you. I’m aware that now is not the most opportune of times-“

“Not the most opportune of times? Your wife will be lucky if she lives through the night. She is going to die, and then we will all go into mourning! Don’t you care at all about your wife?” I was hysterical, crying and screaming.

“Samantha!” he said sharply, standing up, angrier than I had seen him in a long time. “I am only trying to do what is best for you!”

“But-“

“I am your father, and you will do as I say. I have granted Thomas permission to court you. If his courtship of you is interrupted by mourning, then so be it. This is what your mother would have wanted for you. Thomas can provide you with a secure future, a home and a solid income,” his expression softened slightly. “I am just as concerned for my wife as you are, and I had hoped to bring you some happiness in these dark days.”

Guilt for yelling at my father filled my chest and as tears filled my eyes. I was exhausted and all of my emotions were closer to the surface than they should have been. Father walked around his desk and wrapped his arms around me.

I could smell the spices from his shop on his shirt and the clean scent of the soap Mama made for our use mingling with the stale scent of his tobacco. This was my father’s scent, and it soothed me with memories of him comforting me after nightmares had woken me.

“Samantha, all will be well,” he murmured. “I’ll sit with your mother this evening. Go, get some sleep. You’ve carried more than your share of this burden, and I am proud of you.”

“Papa, I am sorry,” I said quietly, feeling like a little girl again. “I shouldn’t have said what I did.”

“Don’t think of it,” he said, smiling as he let go of me. “Now go get some sleep.”

~                                          ~                                          ~

After I had washed and rested, I prepared Papa a breakfast tray, with Lizzy’s help. When I let myself into my mother’s room, I paused, surprised by what I saw.

Father sat in the chair by her bedside, asleep, her hand in his. The fire still burned in the fireplace, and I stepped in, setting the tray on mama’s bedside table.

“Papa,” I said quietly, so as to not wake mother. “Papa, I brought you breakfast.”

He stirred, and blinked blearily up at me. He looked so old in that moment, as the fire cast shadows across his face.

“What time is it?” he asked, reaching for the mug of coffee that was still steaming.

“It’s just after seven,” I answered, keeping my voice low. He looked up in alarm.

“I need to go,” he said, taking a hasty gulp of the coffee as he bolted from the chair. He set the mug back down and he leaned over my mother to kiss her.

I knew something was wrong when he pulled away, mumbling a mixture of prayers and curses. He fumbled with her linp hand for a couple of moments before his fingers settled on her wrist.

“No,” he murmured. “Meredith, no.”

“Papa?”

“Meri, you can’t leave me,” he whispered, ignoring me. I blushed at my father’s nickname for my mother, but I felt the blood drain out of my face as he lifted her to his chest, kissing her chest.

I knew then that she was gone. My mother had died.

I backed out of the room, feeling panic building inside of me as I turned and ran out of the room. Down the stairs I flew, through the halls and the kitchen, into the pantry. I slammed the door behind me and sank down into a sitting position on the floor.

It was then that the tears came with great choking sobs. Alone in the dark room I allowed myself to lose control for the first time in weeks.

It was Lizzy who found me, who convinced me to leave my hiding place. Lizzy who urged me on in my duties. Lizzy who helped me fill my mother’s shoes.

~                                               ~                                          ~

I stood, staring down into the coffin, looking at my mother’s body. She was just an empty shell, the hollow skin of my mother.

It was there that I saw Thomas for the first time since Papa had given him permission to pay me court. For all the good that had done. I was now in mourning. He couldn’t do anything for another year now.

“Samantha,” he said quietly, approaching me. “I’m so sorry, for your loss.”

“Thank you, Thomas,” I said quietly, looking up at him.

His hair was a sandy blond color, neatly combed into place as always. Everything about him was tidy, well kept. In the back of my mind I wondered how many maids his mother hired to keep him as he was.

“Has your father told you-?” he began awkwardly.

“Yes, he did,” I cut him off. “Mr. Cook, I don’t believe this is entirely appropriate.” Tears filled my eyes as I thought about where I was. Why we were here.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, searching my face anxiously. “I didn’t mean to be insensitive-”

“Thomas!” my brother appeared at my side, as if summoned by magic. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here today.”

“I heard about your loss,” he said. “It would be wrong of me to not come and offer your family my sympathies.”

“We’re grateful for it,” Henry said.

“Miss Samantha,” Thomas said, turning back to me. “Before I go, I want you to know, I will wait for you until your mourning period is over.” With that he turned and walked away, leaving me feeling more vulnerable than I had been before.