Wednesday, March 31, 2010

St. Columb - Chapter Six


Over the next several weeks I began to fall into a routine at St. Columb. I would awake every morning promptly at six and have breakfast with Emma, who had been up an hour before helping with the preparation of breakfast for the children. Afterwords, I would walk with her over to the orphanage and help serve from seven to eight; then I would proceed to the offices and begin the daily grind of finding these wonderful children homes. After about a month or so since my arrival, I had managed to arrange adoptions of fifteen children.
I can remember precisely this one little girl that I had the perfect family for: Her name was Beatrice. She was eight years old, rather healthy and had radiant red hair; she was very shy but once she became accustomed to me and the Ashley family she proved to be a very lovable and affectionate. The Ashley's were a wonderful family, I wished that I could've swayed them to take more than one child because they really were delightful people. Mr. Ashley served in the war as a medic and met Mrs. Ashley while she was working in the clerk's office. After the war they were married, unfortunately Mrs. Ashley was unable to have children. I have been in contact with them for a few months now and was very excited to have found them a child that they connected with. There were just a few more technicalities to go through and they could take little Beatrice home tomorrow.
It was during lunch that I noticed Beatrice was secluding herself from her usual table. This worried me, I suspecting that she was having second-thoughts about leaving; after all she had been at St. Columb since she was four, and had little memory of her parents or her previous home.
“Emma, why do you suppose little Beatrice is sitting alone?”
“I don't know. It always bothers me to see one of the little ones sitting by themselves, perhaps she's sad. She's always been a pensive little thing.”
“You don't think she's having second-thoughts do you? About allowing the Ashley's to adopt her?”
“No, I don't think that. I do think that she will miss her friends, she is very close with Max and Shelia, the little dark-haired girl over there emptying her tray. She'll probably miss them terribly.” I looked in the direction where Emma was pointing and saw Sheila, she was walking towards the exit, followed by little Max; Max tugged playfully at her hair, and Shelia chased him out the door.
I saw, after turning my attention back to Beatrice, something that struck me as very shocking, Robby had made his way over to where Beatrice was sitting and was talking to her. His back was to me so I couldn't see his face, but judging from Beatrice's he was welcome. She wasn't smiling, but she seemed comfortable with him; I saw him tap her nose, she smiled then.
“Does Robby get along well with the other children?”
“Not so much with his peers, but he does a splendid job with the younger ones. When the orphanage started to become too full he helped out the other staff members, he may not be a sociable boy but I am grateful for his help. I wish I could be with every one of these children.”
“Oh Emma that's nearly impossible! Not only that but think of your own child, you have the maddening task of not only being the headmistress to over sixty children but a mother to your own. To be quite honest I think I would've gone mad years ago, you're doing a brilliant job. You're doing the best you can, and that's enough.”
“Thank you Rachel, it does my heart good to hear that. I hope Grace feels the same way.”
“Grace loves you, and she knows that you love her. Trust me, I have an eye for these things.”
“After you managed to get fifteen children adopted in a month, I think I'll trust you with just about anything.” Emma smiled, squeezing my hand.
I laughed and turned my attention back to Robby and Beatrice. I noticed that the smile had disappeared from her face, Robby reached across and took her hand in his; he rubbed the top of it and said something to her. Beatrice then stood up and took her tray to the wastebasket, she emptied it and soon went out the door. I couldn't tell if she was in a better mood or not, but when I had turned my attention back to Robby, he was gone.
The rest of the afternoon went by relatively uneventful, I organized the paperwork for the Ashley's so to have it ready for them tomorrow morning; I also set up an appointment to meet with another couple about adopting one of the older children, Jake. I was filling out a form when I heard a slight knock on the door frame, I looked up and saw it was Grace.
“Hello Grace! What a pleasant surprise, how has your day been?”
“Just fine, I just came home from school.”
“Glad to hear it. Did you want something darling?”
“Actually I was wondering if you could do me a small favor.”
“I will if I am able, what is it?”
“Well Dougan is going into town to pick up our order at the bookstore, we ordered new textbooks for the younger children. I have a ton of homework to do and I was wondering if you could go in my place and help him with the order. He just needs someone to read the checklist off to him as he loads it in the truck, just to check for accuracy you know.”
“Oh well I think I can manage that. I just have a few more forms to take care of here and I'll be finished for the day. You can tell Dougan that I'll meet him in front of the house in about ten minutes.”
“Thank you so much! I'll tell him!” and with that she was off. I later learned that the following conversation had ensued:
“Gracey! Well did you ask her?”
“Yes, and she said she'll meet you in front of the house in ten minutes.”
“Oh Gracey you're the best, thanks!”
“You know she is a really nice lady Dougan, you could've asked her out to dinner yourself.”
“Well it would've been weird...this way I have an excuse that we're already in town. Besides, what if she were to think me a fool?”
“You wouldn't know because you didn't ask. You're too much of a bloody chicken.”
“I am not! I'm cautious!”
“Chicken! Chicken!” Grace laughed imitating a chicken.
“Grace what are you doing silly girl?” Emma asked coming out on the porch.
“Imitating Dougan. He's a regular full-bred chicken.”
“Emma I'm going to toss your daughter in the creek.” Dougan replied, grabbing at Grace. She squealed and ran up the steps to her mother's side.
“Not if you want to continue living in my attic. She does have a point Dougan, you could've asked her yourself.” Emma laughed putting her arm around her.
“Bloody hell, you women always stick together!” Dougan muttered, storming off to get the truck.
“I always thought Dougan to be a pretty tough chap mum. Why is it that he's so afraid of Rachel?”
“Its not that he's afraid of her per say, he's afraid of the possibility of rejection dear.”
“Rejection? But Rachel likes Dougan, why would she say no?”
“Darling you'll find that relationships between men and women don't really change much. One party will always be hesitant of the other and always afraid of what the other will think of them. Your father was terrified at the possibility of courting me, he thought I would think him a lunatic.”
“Really? What did you do?”
“I told him he'd be a lunatic not to court me.”
Grace and her mother laughed and went inside, leaving Dougan to his thoughts. I must say, the conversation was equally as amusing when I was told of it later.

I came out to find Dougan waiting for me in front the truck, he smiled and opened the door for me.
“Well then shall we go?”
“As long as you promise not to have me working like a slave, I am very delicate you know being a woman.” I teased as I climbed into the cab.
“Oh bollocks, I'm sure you could hold your own. But since you're new, you get to slide.” he said, closing the door once I was inside. “This time.” he added with a wry smile.
The errand didn't take long, but it was getting late and I was feeling rather hungry.
“Did you want to stop and get somethin'? There's a place right up here that has smashing food.”
“That sounds heavenly, I'm starving.”
I was so occupied with my hunger that I didn't notice Dougan's eyes light up or how he could hardly contain his smile, which probably was best because he would've been rather embarrassed if I had inquired about it. The restaurant was very lovely, it was small and not very busy; the setting was very intimate. I found myself growing concerned about my appearance, after all the wind had been blowing that day and had probably made a total disaster of my hair. I also wondered if there was anything on my face; I couldn't just open my mirror and check, Dougan would think me a frivolous, vain woman. I tried not to worry about it. Why was I worrying about it?
“This is perfect, I've never seen it this empty before. It's usually pretty hoppin' when I come here.”
“You come here often?”
“Not often, but sometimes when my mates and I want someplace to cut up. I don't do it very much anymore, the orphanage keeps me pretty busy.”
“Do you ever miss it? Cutting up with your mates as you say.”
“Not really, that was a thing of the past. I'm a much different person now, I know what I want and where I want to go. I have Emma to thank for that.”
“Really now? Do tell, you've made me curious.”
“Well as much as a pain the older kids can be, I do enjoy bein' around them. They trust me, and I would do anythin' for them, Emma said that it takes a special person to tolerate that age. She said that once I get enough money saved up I should go to school and be a youth counselor, I gave it some thought and decided it was a brilliant idea.”
“That's wonderful Dougan! I could see you being an excellent counselor, you have the patience of a saint.”
“Well that's what I like people to think.” he laughed; the waiter brought us our food and drinks, I was very happy to see that glass of wine. A girl can only handle so much tea and milk.
“When do you think you'll be able to start school?” I asked, sipping my wine.
“Not anytime soon. I couldn't leave Emma with all of the work that needs to be done around there everyday. The other staff workers are too busy with the kids to do what I do, especially now with all of the kids around. I'll wait until things have settled down. Plus I don't like the idea of leaving Emma and Grace without a man in the house, especially since they live so far out in the bloody country.” he replied, taking a bite of his steak
“Dougan Bardwell you may just be the most noble man I have ever met.” I smiled, he looked down and blushed, setting down his utensils.
“Nah, not really...” he began, looking up at me. “You're the one who's to be admired.”
“Why do you say that? Believe me I'm nothing special I assure you.”
“Yeah you always seem to have hope in somethin'. A trait that is all but gone in people today. Not only that but you see people, you've somehow managed to find these kids wonderful homes and everyday there are more and more people coming to the orphanage to inquire about adopting kids. You have no idea how desperate things were gettin' around there, I had never seen Emma so stressed and upset; she was worried that we would either have to start sending kids away or worse, Parliament would take her land away. When we heard from you it was like an answered prayer...especially to me. I thought I would never see Emma or Grace smile again. I began to loose hope...then you showed up and turned the whole place around. You saved us Rachel, and for that I am eternally grateful.” he said, reaching across the table and taking my hand in his.

I don't know what it was in that moment, perhaps it was the way he looked at me or the way my hand fit perfectly in his; the only thing I did know was that I was madly in love with Dougan Bardwell.

“Dougan...I—I don't know what to say....that has got to be the most sincere thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.” I replied, putting my other hand over top of his. We sat there for a moment, gazing at each other. Finally he broke the silence, jolting me back to reality.
“Well then, if you're finished I suppose we ought to be gettin' back.” he said, standing and putting on his jacket and cap.
“Yes, I believe we should. We may be able to make it in time to see some of the children before bed.” I replied standing.
“Well...I did have one more place to show you if you weren't in any rush. It's all fine and dandy if you are, the place isn't going anywhere.”
“I would hate to mess up your plans Mr. Bardwell, t'would be terribly rude of me.” I smiled, earning me that charming boyish grin of his.
“Well then Miss Winter, shall we?” he replied, offering me his arm. I laughed and gladly took it.

Dougan took a back way to St. Columb, showing me the beautiful countryside and the winding path of the creek. We drove to the very top of a hill and stopped, he got out of the truck and walked around to my side, opening the door for me.
“Here we are, go and have look there at the top of the hill.”
I walked a little ways to the peak of the hill and was immediately breath-taken. The hill lead into a small valley that held St. Columb, the moon glowed full and round overhead; the sound of the creek accompanied by the sound of the nightingale and crickets was very soothing. I felt like I was in a Shakespearean garden, a regular Titania in her realm of faeries.
“It's beautiful isn't it? I come up here every night before bed just to do a bit of meditatin'. Can't sleep if I don't.”
“Its magical Dougan. Really.” I said turning to him.
“Yeah...magical.” he said in a low voice. My heart began to race, his handsome features were accented in the moonlight; his bright blue eyes held me in their gaze. He pushed a stray lock of my hair out of my face, his hands gently grazing my skin; his touch caused my skin to tingle. I held his gaze, seeing nothing but him in that moment; he gently cradled my chin in his fingertips and kissed me. It was a lovely kiss, soft and gentle; nothing to rushed or demanding. He pulled away, his cheeks turning scarlet again.
“Sorry...I don't know what came over me...” he chuckled nervously. I smiled and laced my arms around his neck.
“Did I give you any impression that I was not enjoying that?”
“I don't think so.”
“Then why in heavens name did you stop?”
He laughed and pulled me close to him and kissed me again.
We spent an hour or so sitting there, enjoying each others company; I checked my watch and realized that it was dreadfully late and we still had to get the books unloaded.
“Dougan we had better go, it's almost ten.” I said standing up and stretching.
“Cor blimey we've really been out here that long? Well lets load up then.” he said hopping to his feet and taking my hand. As we walked back to the truck I noticed something glittering in the bushes.
“Wait, what's that?” I asked him; I walked over to the bush and noticed that it was a little girl's bracelet. I felt myself grow cold, and I felt a very unsettling feeling in my stomach.
“Rachel what is it? What's wrong?”
“Dougan...this is Beatrice's bracelet....the Ashley's gave it to her yesterday.”
“Don't panic, she probably lost it when she was playing today. We sometimes bring the kids up here.”
“No you don't understand, she doesn't like to venture out this far!” I started into the woods, I knew in my gut that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Dougan followed me, we called out Beatrice's name hoping to hear a response; nothing. Just the sounds of night.
“Perhaps she found her way back, its dark out even with the moon this full. She wouldn't stay...” Dougan was trying to console me but he saw it was for naught, I think he also felt the same way I did.
“We have to find her Dougan. We can't go back until—“ I stopped, my eye catching something further down the riverbank. Not saying anything, I ran towards it, hearing Dougans voice call out my name. I ran until I came upon it, I stopped dead in my tracks; it was as if the devil himself stopped me. To this day I will never forget that scene until the day I die, it is carved in my memory and will remain there.

There was little Beatrice, sweet, loving, affectionate Beatrice; lying dead on the riverbank. Despite my best efforts not to, I screamed; I remember nothing after that except darkness.

#22: Just a little info on St. Columb

Because I'm paranoid about copyright issues and consider plagiarism one of the worst sins in the creative world, I felt that I need to give you a little information on it, and explain the beginning statement. While the story and idea is all my own, as is most of the characters; the work itself is an attempt to pay homage to one of my favourite authors: Daphne Du Maurier. Some of the characters are inspired by some of her greatest works, anyone who is well-read in the Gothic world of Du Maurier could have probably seen a connection. Allow me to explain:
Rachel Winter: This name is a hybrid of two of my favourite Du Maurier heroines: Rachel Ashley from My Cousin Rachel and the unnamed heroine Mrs. de Winter in her critically acclaimed novel Rebecca. Both novels are written in first-person, told from the new Mrs. de Winter and the aristocratic Phillip Ashley. Just as an inside joke, I also said she was from Manchester, England (across the Atlantic Sea, and I'm a genius, genius...) for my friend Rachel.

Frenchman's Creek boasts the credit for both the title and one of the key characters in the story. St. Columb is the last name of this novel's heroine: Dona St. Columb. Frenchmen's Creek is easily my favourite novel because of how much I can relate to Dona, so I felt it proper to pay homage to that by titling the story in her honor. One of the key children in the story is named Dona Austen, I feel that I don't really need to explain this any further.

Dougan Bardwell has nothing to do with Daphne Du Maurier, but with me. Dougan Bardwell was my Nana's younger brother (I'm assuming that would make him my Grandfather? Or Uncle? I don't know, unfortunately I never met him), so I felt that it would be a nice homage to my family whom I love so very much. Miss Stewart emulates my Nana in the best possible way; just a bit of trivia: My Nana loved Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart novels.

The other characters in the story are also whispers of Du Maurier novels, but I don't want to go into them because we're only five chapters in with much more to come. Besides, a good writer never gives away any secrets and keeps you guessing until the very last page.

Oh stop groaning, you wouldn't want it any other way.
At least that's how I see it ;]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

St. Columb - Chapter Five


Meals were remarkably well organized given the fact that the orphanage was at over-capacity. The mess hall was set up youngest to oldest, each child sat with its own age group and a staff member of some sort tried to sit at every other table. I was allowed to help Emma and the two cooks in the kitchen serve the food. The children looked at me with a natural curiosity, some even started a conversation; one particular little red-haired boy quickly stole my heart.
“Hey! You're new! Who are you?” he asked.
“Rachel, and who are you good sir?” I smiled, he blossomed under the compliment; I saw his little chest puff right up and with a grin he replied:
“I'm Max.” he was missing a few of his teeth, and his curly red hair fell in his green eyes.
“Well Max it's a pleasure to meet you. You must be one of the older boys here.”
“I sure am, I'm eight! I'll be nine in April!”
“Eight! My goodness you fooled me, I thought you were older. It must be your height.”
“You think I look older miss?”
“Max my dear I could have sworn you were at least ten.”
“Well golly!” he smiled. This little boy was already becoming one of my favorites. I walked with him to the wastebasket, I noticed that he had left a rather healthy serving of his vegetables untouched.
“Tell me Max, why haven't you eaten those sprouts of broccoli?”
“Because its bloody nasty, I hate broccoli.”
“Ah, yes I did too when I was your age.”
“You did?”
“Oh yes, but I made the mistake of not eating it and I didn't get very tall, well as you can see.”
“It makes you grow tall miss?”
“Why of course, but I didn't have anyone to tell me that. If I did, I would have surely eaten it.”
“You would have? Even if you didn't like it?”
“Yes. Because sometimes you have to do things that you don't necessarily like, in order to do the things you really enjoy. Do you understand?”
“Yes miss I do.” he smiled, accentuating his dimples and freckles. Sitting down at a nearby table, he took up his fork in his little hand; he hesitated for a moment, eying the broccoli sprout as if it were going to attack him; after a moment he soon ate every bite.
“Well Max, what do you think?”
“I think I can feel myself growing taller already miss!”
“Spot on! Before you know it you'll be bigger than Dougan!”
“Yeah! Then I can take him for piggy-back rides!” I laughed, he smiled at me again. “Well I have to go see Miss Stephanie, the schoolmaster. She wants me to go study my multiplication tables. It was nice meeting you miss!”
With that he had already put his dishes in the washtub near the wastebasket and was off.
“You know I've been tryin' to get that boy to eat his vegetables for almost a bloody year now, and here you've been here a few hours and he cleans his plate.” Dougan laughed. I turned to face him, he had cleaned up a bit; his hair was neatly combed back and he was wearing a red shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He always seemed to be so bloody distracting.
“Well sometimes you just have to know how to deliver the speech.” I replied, returning his smile.
“I've done that same speech, and it never seemed to work for me. Even though the boy is always askin' me to play a game of Peggity with him.”
“Well he sees you as his competitor. Little boys are striving to be the best, if he were to do what you wanted him to then he would 'loose the edge'. Myself however, he wants to impress me so I use that to my advantage.”
“You really know how to talk to kids.” Dougan smiled sitting down across from me, straddling a chair
“Oh bollocks.” I laughed
“No it's not! You have a gift Rachel, I can tell. I know these things.”
“You do now do you? You have only known me a few hours.”
“That's all I need.”
“And what is my gift, besides convincing little boys to eat their vegetables?”
“You see people, especially children. You are sensitive to their needs and their desires, you don't give a rats arse about what people think as long as the kids are happy.”
“My, my Dougan. And here you are talking about my so called gift, you seem to have a gift for seeing people yourself. Tell me, what else do you see?”
“Hmm....lets have a look.” he smiled, leaning forward and locking eyes with me. For a brief moment, I was hypnotized by his bright blue eyes looking directly into mine; it was as if he could see past them into my very soul. He smiled,
“You're shy by nature, and you enjoy readin'. You also act much older than what you really are.” he smiled. “None of which are bad traits.”
I felt my cheeks grow scarlet again, he had me spot on. How he did it I'll never know, to this day he still baffles me.
“You're a regular Nostradamus. Now let me see what I can tell about you.” I looked him up and down, cradling my chin with my finger; he was still smiling at me. “You sometimes pretend to be a bit of a bad boy, but you're really a softie, especially with the little ones. You also enjoy reading but will never admit it to anyone because that's not the sort of thing men in this day and age do.” I smiled, sitting back and folding my arms triumphantly.
“Now how do you enjoy I enjoy readin'? How do you know its not just some silly little idea that your girlish mind cooked up?” he smiled, tapping my forehead.
“Because, only a fellow reader would notice if another reads.” I laughed, returning the tap.
“Buggar you're right.” he laughed. “You won't tell anyone will you? I have a reputation to keep. If any of the older ones ever got wind of this, I'd have to start whippin' them to get respect.”
“I suppose I can keep that in my back pocket. Oh I have something to talk to you about.”
“Oh boy, what did I do?” he smiled.
“Well do you remember bringing a rather scrawny little blonde-haired girl in here about three years ago for stealing a loaf of bread?”
“Vaguely. Why do you ask?”
“Do you remember my story on the way here? About finding my sister?”
Dougan stared at me a minute, as if he was trying to connect what I was saying. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he sat upright, grasping the back of the chair.
“Cor Blimey! Lyn is your sister! God I'm such a bloomin' fool!” he said slapping his forehead.
“Oh no you're not, how could you have known!”
“Well now that you've said somethin' I was wrackin' my brain to try to figure out why you seemed so bloody familiar. I knew that I had never seen you before in my life, but somethin' kept nagging at me. I know now it was those beautiful eyes you have. They're just like Lyn's.”
“You think my eyes are beautiful do you?” I smiled, enjoying his reaction; his dark complexion became very red and he began to pick at his callous. I was happy he didn't notice that I too was rather red and my heart soared at the compliment.
“Well....I—yes...I mean they're unique...n—not that...that it's a bad thing. I—I think it's rather...cute...I mean beautiful...I mean...oh bloody hell you know what I mean...”
“Thank you Dougan. For both the compliment and for what you did for my sister.” I laughed, touching his hand; I earned a gentle squeeze and a smile in return.
“You're welcome Rachel.”

After dinner, I was introduced to the rest of the staff, they were all quite lovely and I was very satisfied with Emma's choices, she later told me that she may be more particular about who she chooses than I was. Before I retired for the evening, I went to visit Lynsay and spend more time with her. I found that she still sketched and painted a little, something that pleased me greatly; I always enjoyed her work and told her she'd be just as brilliant as Georgia O'Keeffe if she kept at it.
“Oh what a load of bollocks Rachel, Georgia O'Keeffe has an understanding of color and texture that I never will.”
“Poppycock. These are brilliant Lynsay! Oh what's this?” I noticed that there was one tucked inside a folder on her desk.
“Oh please don't look at it, it's not done and to be quite honest I don't think I ever will finish it.” she said, trying to grab it before I could get a hold of it; I proved to be faster than her.
“Now you've only made me curiouser.” I smiled, escaping her grasp and walking to the edge of the bed to avoid it. I opened the folder to find a sketch of myself, sitting on a bench reading with her sitting beside me with an open sketch pad.
“Oh Lynsay...this is beautiful. I should scold you for trying to hide it from me.”
“You think so? I feel like there's something missing, I don't know what but I feel like it's unfinished.” she replied, walking over to my side and looking at the drawing with her head on my shoulder.
“Well if you think it unfinished, then I must trust you're artistic instinct. But you must show it to me when you finally decide it finished.”
“All right, I promise I will.” she smiled at me, taking the folder and placing it back on her desk.

I said goodnight and proceeded to make my way downstairs, when I reached the second floor I hear a peculiar sound coming from the dark end of the hallway. It sounded a bit like whimpering, but as I advanced further I found it to be crying; barely audible but crying nonetheless.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
I stood and listened, trying to find the source of the noise; I heard rustling underneath the bench by the window, I squatted down and saw a tiny figure moving in the dark.
“It's alright, I won't hurt you. Won't you come out?”
I thought I heard the figure whisper 'yes...' but I wasn't sure. When I helped the child up I noticed it was a young girl with platinum blonde hair and cream-colored skin dressed in a pink nightgown that was a bit too big for her. She was very small, probably less than forty pounds; I would've guessed she was only four or five years old.
“There now, that must be a bit more comfortable than crammed up in that tight space. I believe I saw you at dinner earlier, forgive me but what is your name darling?” I asked, squatting down to her level; I tried to keep my voice soft and calm, this child obviously had a fright and I didn't want to scare her anymore.
“Dona...Dona Austen miss...” she said, her tiny voice barely above a whisper.
“What a pretty name, and how old are you Dona?”
“I'm seven miss...but I don't look it.”
“Well that'll soon change I promise you. Now would you like to tell me why you were hiding? Or would you rather me walk you back to your room?”
Dona turned away, her tiny little gaze lost for a minute; it was as if she was making a life or death decision, I began to worry.
“Well we don't have to do either if you don't want to, we can sit here if you like or we can go somewhere where there's a bit more light. It's whatever you feel most comfortable doing dear.”
“I don't want to go anywhere where's there's light...the monster will find me.” she replied, turning her gaze back to me and grabbing my hand in her tiny fist; her eyes were wide with fear.
“Alright, alright we don't have to go anywhere where's there's light darling. What do you want to do?”
“I suppose you can just take me back to my long as you promise...not to leave me.”
“I promise Dona, I won't leave until your safe.”
I stood up and took her hand in mine, I felt like a giant compared to her and I'm not a tall woman myself. My hand wrapped around hers making it disappear in a case of flesh; I concluded that this poor girl was probably denied the proper nutrition when she was an toddler, therefore attributing to her small size now. We walked downstairs to the first floor, where her room was located; I discovered that she bunked with another little girl a bit older than her.
“There we are, nice and snug.” I said quietly as I tucked her in her bed.
“Thank you Miss Rachel.” she whispered.
“Do you want me to stay with you until you fall asleep?”
“Yes please....if you wouldn't mind miss.”
“Alright, I will.”
“Thank you...I don't think the monster will come if you're here...”
“Monster? What do you mean dear? There are no such thing as monsters, I promise.”
“There is here...” she whispered.
I didn't press the issue any further, I didn't want to upset the child or scare her. I simply sang her a lullaby that my mother used to sing to me, soon she was fast asleep and I took my leave out of the room. I found myself bothered by Dona's last statement....

“There is here...”

I would soon find out that monsters do exist, and that they can come in the most unlikely forms and do the most evil thing imaginable.

Monday, March 29, 2010

#21: The art of self-mutilation

I'm not talking about cutting yourself, or doing that crazy thing where you strangle yourself and see how long you can go without air before you pass out...which sounds like so much fun...

The kind of self-mutilation I'm talking about is the kind we put ourselves through when we're in a relationship. It can be any sort of relationship: spouse, friend, family, lover, etc. When it comes to your family, unfortunately we really have no choice but tolerate them; as I always say, you have to love them...not like them. This sort of process usually involves people who aren't related, case in point: spouses, lovers and friends. I'm going to tackle that age old question: Why do people stay with/tolerate/marry/hang out with people who really don't appreciate what they do or how much they care?

Now, I'm not lucky (or unlucky) enough to have fallen in love yet. I'm okay with that, I figure for God's sake I'm only 22 and damnit I'm going to ENJOY my twenties. Your thirties are for marriage, kids, and all of that other crap. I've found however, that this doesn't apply to people who are in a romantic/intimate relationship. I've always prided myself in not giving a damn about what other people say, and having the ability to really read people even after spending only a few minutes with them. These two instincts can be suppressed when I allow myself to trust and be comfortable with someone who I consider a friend. I have a lot of friends, but I can count my really good friends on my one hand; let me tell you what, it's an honor to get on that hand.

I don't allow myself to trust people until they earn it, and I'll trust you until you give me a reason not to; once that happens don't expect to earn it back for a long time, if ever. Lately I've been in these two friendships where I know that there is little chance where anything will be salvaged from it, but yet I still find myself checking their facebook pages or something stupid like that to see what they're doing; that turns out to be a mistake because I usually end up getting pissed off, I remember the reason why we're not talking or hanging out as much and I remember that I had just started to consider both of them really good friends. They had just made it on that hand. The reason is irrelevant, and who knows? Maybe I did do something that caused them to believe that I wasn't the person they thought I was; though I have to say in my defense, I'm not that hard to figure out. I have a reputation as being very straightforward and honest, no bullshit here. I am sure of one thing: They definitely aren't the people I thought they were.

And yet I still went on considering them my friends, breaking my back to try to call them, talking to them, pretending like nothing was bothering me and everything was just hunky dory. It clearly wasn't, but I told myself it was. Why? Why do we do that? Is it because we are remembering all that they did for us when times were great? Or because we somehow think that this is a storm that will eventually subside? Are we somehow worried that we'll be labeled a 'quitter' by society?

I think it's all of those things combined. We don't want to give up, we still care about the person and remember all of the good times, and we think eventually this storm will pass, its just a rough spot. It's hard to look at it for what it really is: a relationship that just doesn't work anymore. The problem with just letting it slide is that it starts to eat at you, festering like an untreated wound. The wound eventually becomes an infection that spreads like wildfire and you soon find yourself being consumed by it, hating them. Hate is like a poison, and there isn't an antidote for it; you have to be the one to fight it off, which is hard to do with an infection caused by a festering wound. Soon you're no better than the people who screwed you over.

I felt myself beginning to feel this way, and it scared me. I knew then that I had to begin to disconnect myself from them. It sucks because these are people that I trusted, and they just kind of blew me off. I'm not going to dwell on it, I've still got plenty of friends, and I know that those few really good friends I have are in it for the long haul.

So the way I see it, the faster you see that a relationship isn't going to amount to anything, the faster you'll heal. And who knows? You may find something that is a whole lot better, and will last a long time; maybe even forever.

At least, that's how I see it ;]

Friday, March 26, 2010

#20: The Facebook Experiment

This is the one social experiment that I am certain will cause the loss of many friends and being ostracized for the rest of my life. However, my insatiable curiosity can't be ignored so I figured its worth it. I must extend my thanks to my dear friend Jamie who kept the curiosity aflame; check out her fashonista blog, she's pretty much the coolest person I know ;]

On Thursday, I changed my relationship status from 'single' to 'in a relationship'. The amusing part about it is that I'm still single; hence the comment about the loss of friends and being ostracized. I meant no malice or anything like that, this was simply an experiment. Just in case you didn't know there are approximently 350 million people who actively use the site, and about 175 million people log into Facebook every day. Facebook has been growing by well over 600,000 users per day over the last several weeks, continuing the company’s torrid growth pace. If Facebook were a country, it would now be the 6th most populous in the world.


In my mere twenty four hours of being 'in a relationship' I only received 9 comments and 9 likes, but I received about 30-50 texts within an HOUR of changing it. Plus one or two messages and 3 emails that night. I think that counts for something. Then again I only have a mere 248 friends; I don't 'friend' everyone that asks me so they're quite small. Not only that but I only wanted to leave it that way for twenty four hours because quite frankly, I don't think I could take being inundated with texts and emails for much longer.

There's a reason I don't share everything on Facebook, I also don't friend people I don't know, or who are only mere acquaintances. Quite frankly, the only reason I even signed up for the damn thing is because I have friends all over the country. I'm still very much a people person and believe that face to face conversation is the best way to get to know someone. After a few conversations in class or over coffee, then I'll accept your friend request. We live in a society where instant gratification is becoming very much a way of life, Facebook satisfies that urge to know EVERYTHING about EVERYONE. It also satisfies the inner creeper in all of us. Not gonna lie...I've been known to be a little bit of a creeper on Facebook.

That was the whole point of the experiment: To prove how much this networking site has become a fixture in our lives. You can't have a conversation or turn on the TV without hearing something about it. It's a little scary when you think about it.

It was also a good way to sift out the people who really were happy and the people who just wanted to know because they're nosy and it completes them to know everything.

So yeah, I lied. Believe what you want, chances are if you're a naysayer or anything like that I really don't want anything to do with you anyway and you'll probably get deleted. Its not your fault, I never should have accepted your friend request anyway. I went into this knowing that I was going to catch some major crap for it at the end, I have thick skin; bring it on ;]

Just don't get mad if you get deleted.
At least that's how I see it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

St. Columb - Chapter Four


For a moment, I seemed frozen as did she. She was beautiful, blossomed into a young woman she had. I some how managed to speak, though my throat was dry and my voice trembling.
“L—Lynsay?” I asked, my voice just above a whisper. “Oh God, is it you?” I reached out and touched her cheek; her eyes were wide as she took my hand.
“Rachel?” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
I remember not saying anything else, but taking her in my arms and holding her tight. I could feel her tears on my neck, soaking my collar; we said nothing, our sobs were all the words we needed. It must have been several minutes before we pulled apart, I remember even after we did we said nothing for another several minutes. I looked at her, she was a vision; I thought she favored mother. She was a hair shorter than I; with long honey-colored hair, a fair complexion, and, of course, those beautiful jade eyes that I had searched for in the faces of thousands of children. She had transformed from a tiny little sprout of a child, to a beautiful, shapely young woman. She told me later that my hair wasn't the light brown she remembered, but had changed to an auburn color or else she would have recognized me right away.
“Well, it seems as though you two know each other. So I'll take my leave, Rachel you can find me in the mess hall's kitchen when you're ready.” Emma replied, she was smiling at us both; she then turned and made her way to the mess hall.
We made our way back to the tree that Lynsay was originally sitting under.
“Rachel I always knew you would find me! Even when I was brought here, I knew that somehow you would find your way to me.”
“Oh Lynsay I can't comprehend to you how happy I am right now. How did you wind up so far outside of London? Be honest with me, I won't get upset I promise. I'm just so happy you're beside me again.” I embraced her again. She pulled away and looked down, she hesitated a minute and began to tell me of her journey to St. Columb:
“Well...after the bombing that night, I awoke in a hospital. Apparently I had a nasty gash between my shoulder blades, and had taken a sharp hit to the head.” She pulled her hair back to show me the scar from the laceration, it stretched horizontally from the top of one shoulder blade, to the bottom of another. I remember feeling ill and cursing myself for not making more of an effort to stay close to her.
“After I had healed up, they inquired about my family. I lied and said that I had been separated from them during the air-raid, that they were sure to be looking for me. I feared that if I had told them that it was just you and I, they wouldn't have let it slide as much. I awoke one night to overhear the nurse and doctor saying that they had someone coming from the city orphanage tomorrow to take me away. I got scared, I thought that if I went I would never see you again...maybe if I had gone with them...” she trailed off, turning her gaze to the creek.
“Lynsay darling you couldn't have known that I would have chosen the occupation that I did.” I said, taking her hand. “Don't feel responsible for anything...these were events that neither of us could have controlled...”
“I suppose you're right....anyway I ran away that night. I went back to the last place I saw you and backtracked. I thought that if I did that maybe someone could lead me to you. I gallivanted around, looking for you, and slept where I could. It wasn't until the bombings started to get terrible that I left the city, a group of other people my age were fleeing to the country. Most of them vowed to come back once the Germans left, I being one of them. We separated afterwords, I managed to find an abandoned shed a few miles away from here. I—I did have to steal Rachel....I had no money and I was awfully hungry...” she started to cry. “I know it was bad, but I promised that I would try to make up for it somehow...oh you must be so disgusted with me....”
“Oh my dear sister, I could never be disgusted with you....” I embraced her, stroking her hair. “You were doing what you had to in order to survive, I would've been so scared that I would've gotten caught.”
“Well...I did. That's how I wound up here. See, Dougan goes into town every day with things to sell from the garden if there's any to spare; which usually there isn't but it happened to be my saving grace that this one day there was.” she said plucking at the grass. “I hadn't eaten in quite some time and I was famished. My hunger clouded my judgment and I tried to steal a loaf of bread when I thought no one was looking. Well Dougan saw me, and tried as I did to escape, that man can bloody run.” she said, laughing a bit. I smiled, so Dougan was my sister's saving grace; I would have to be sure to talk to him about this next time I saw him.
“He caught me by the arm, I tried to fight back. I must have looked a fool, clawing and scratching at him as if it would do any good. He bound my hands, he told me it was for the safety of his eyes. He explained to me that if had only asked, he would have gladly given me the bread; now he had no other choice but to take me to the police. I begged him not to, I knew that I would never escape the police; I know now that he was only saying that for bargaining power, the sneaky Irishman.”
“Oh no dear, he's only half-Irish.” I smiled, earning me a laugh from Lynsay.
“Yes I know. As it turns out he told me that I had to come here and stay for three years in order to 'pay my dues' for stealing. I asked him how he knew I was going to stay, that I wasn't going to just run away in the cloak of night. He simply said that I had honest eyes and that if I had a lick of conscience or heart I wouldn't run. I know now that he saw how emaciated and sick I was, and he knew that I wouldn't have survived much longer in that pitiful little shack. I owe him my life...” she said, smiling at me.
“Well, I'll have to properly thank Dougan when I next see him. Tell me Lynsay, why did you tell them your name was Lyn?”
“I was scared that people were still looking for me so I shortened my name and didn't tell them my last first I was scared that you wouldn't be able to find me, but something told me that you would so I didn't worry about it anymore.”
Before I could respond, the bell rang for supper; all of the children ran toward the mess hall, laughing and calling out to one another. Lynsay and I stood, linked arms and followed them; I stopped a few feet from the door, noticing a figure sulking beneath the willow on the far corner of the building.
“Is that Robby?” I asked Lynsay
“Yes, he always waits until everyone else is inside before he goes in. That way he can go in unnoticed, he's a bit of an odd duck. I know that he's been through something terrible but there's just something not quite right about him, like he's hiding something. I usually steer clear of him.”
“Why's that dear?”
“Because he tried to kiss me once, then when I said no he became...different. I can't describe it but it gave me the willies. Now I only associate with him when there's a lot of people around. Come on Rachel, I'm hungry and Mrs. Noll's making her roast beef tonight.” Lynsay tugged at my arm, I followed.

I still, even to this day, can see Robby sitting underneath that tree; though he was some distance away from us, I could still feel his eyes on us as we walked into the mess hall. Even now, I still wonder if I had followed my instinct then, if things would be different. Maybe the tragedies wouldn't have happened, maybe I could have done something for him. We mustn't dwell on the past, that's what they say, we must learn from our mistakes and move on. That's what the sycophants say when they don't know what else to say; they give empty advice in order to say that they did their best for you

I wonder what they would say if they knew what I know now or had seen what I had.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Columb - Chapter Three


Mrs. Noll and her daughter Grace were there to meet me at the door; Dougan dutifully took my bags up to the room I would be staying in. I remember immediately liking Mrs. Noll, she was younger than I expected; she was most likely in her late thirties. Her face still maintained a youthful glow that was framed by dark red hair; she had fine features and pale, pink lips that a brilliant white smile hid behind. Her bright blue eyes were full of patience and kindness. Grace was a carbon copy of her mother, I dare say she was a mirror image of what Emma Noll might have looked when she was younger.
“Rachel Winter, I am Emma Noll.” she said, embracing me and kissing my cheek.
“Mrs. Noll it is so good to finally meet you in person. You have no idea what an honor this is.”
“Call me Emma. Oh please, you're doing us an honor by coming here to our little orphanage. This is my daughter Grace, I wouldn't be able to do much without her.” she said putting her arm around her daughter. Grace stepped forward and shook my hand.
“Hello Miss. Winter, it's such a pleasure to meet you.” she said, smiling shyly.
“You may call me Rachel. Miss Winter is far too formal, besides I have a feeling we'll all be friends before long.”
“Alright Miss—I mean Rachel.” She replied, her smile getting wider.
“Come inside, I've prepared a small meal for you. I knew you would be hungry after that long train ride.” Emma said, putting her arm around me.
“Oh thank you so much, I am rather hungry.”
“Afterward we can show you around, but not before you eat.”
“Its like you read my thoughts.” I smiled
The main house, where I would be staying, was a large, three story farm house. It had a spacious den with a large fireplace and rather impressive library; the den led into the kitchen which wasn't as big as one would think after seeing the den, but it was cozy. I was seated at the table and was educated on what Emma's interpretation of a 'small' meal was. I was served a glorious helping of homemade beef stew, accompanied by generous slices of fresh-baked bread, a fresh salad and warm apple cider.
“This is wonderful Emma, really how do you manage to feed all of these children, and now me?”
“Well as you know I can't turn a child away, I would never be able to live with myself. When food started to become an issue I began to grow my own. All of our vegetables and dairy are farm fresh, I had Dougan build a small greenhouse to keep the garden in a growing season a bit longer than normal and we have three dairy cows and about fifteen chickens. We still have to rely on the market for food, especially during the colder months when the garden isn't prospering as much, but growing our own food alone saved a bundle. It also allowed me to store some money away in case of an emergency. That's something that the children don't know.”
“Astonishing, absolutely astonishing Emma! Your resourcefulness is something to be admired.”
“Oh please dearie you're giving me too much credit, when one has eighty children in addition to her own to look after one has no choice but to be resourceful.” she laughed. “Well I see that you've eaten everything, it's good to see a young woman with a healthy appetite. Shall I show you to your room then around the orphanage?”
“Yes, I would quite enjoy that.”
My room was small, but very comfortable; the bed was in the far corner next to the window, one could sit there and look out over the creek that flowed into the forest. I had my own bathroom and a rather spacious closet and dressing table.
“I hope this is suitable for you.”
“Oh yes very much, its much better than some of the previous lodging's I've had on assignments.”
“I thought you would prefer a room away from the children. While I do adore them, I am so grateful to be able to come up to the house and relish in the peace and quiet.” Emma laughed “My room is just down the hall, and Grace's is right next door. Dougan sleeps in the attic, the stairs are located at the end of the hall here. If you ever need anything, just knock on one of our doors and don't hesitate! We don't expect you to know everything my dear.”
“That's good to know. Now, if you don't mind, could we go and see the children?”
“Of course my dear. Come on then.”

I can't describe what an excitement I felt in that moment, it was quite childish really knowing what I know now. However I tried to maintain my professional demeanor, I was after all here on a rather difficult assignment. Doctor Yellan informed me that in order to consider this trip worthwhile, I would have to make sure that at least twenty or thirty children would go to good homes. It doesn't sound like much but when you consider the location being miles from any sort of city, well it adds a rather beastly challenge.
The orphanage was built on a large area of land behind Emma's house, standing four stories; it was a humble looking building of a rectangular architecture and had a tin roof. Though the building from the outside looked rather gloomy, once you entered the doors it was like a whole new world. The downstairs area was sectioned off into four parts; the first part was somewhat of a makeshift school, complete with desks and chairs, along with a chalkboard and a few books. The second part was the mess hall, which had several long tables accompanied by chairs, and a large open kitchen in the back. The third part a reading and indoor play area, reserved for the older or quieter children; it boasted several books, games and a humble fireplace. The fourth part was housing for the staff, which was about twenty-five or so; there were two cooks, a nurse, a schoolmaster, and a head governess along with several others who simply provided companionship for the children. The next three floors were reserved for housing for the children; their ages ranged from two to seventeen, once they turned eighteen they had to be sent into the city to learn how to work and earn a living. I was amazed at how such a tiny orphanage could be so resourceful; I found later that Emma Noll was no mouse. If something was needed for those children, she would fight tooth and nail until she got it.
Emma showed me the layout of each room before taking me upstairs to show me the childrens' living quarters, which were very acceptable despite the influx of children. As we reached the top floor, I noticed a boy sitting in the window at the end of the hallway.
“Who is that? Is he one of the older ones?” I asked her quietly
“Oh yes, that's little Robby Spaniel. Though he's not quite little anymore, he used to be a gangly thing I would imagine he's about seventeen now. He was brought here when he was quite young and was nothing but skin and bones. His parents were murdered by Nazi's when they invaded his home, the poor dear saw it all so he doesn't say much; he's a bit of a worry to me because he always seems to be brooding on something.”
“Would it be alright if I were to go and have a word with him?”
“Oh no, not at all. He is very shy though, just to be warned.”
I made my way toward the end of the hallway, upon hearing my footsteps he looked my way. He seemed to quiver a bit so I made sure that my movements were slow and calm.
“Hello, is it alright if I sit here?” I asked quietly, smiling at him. He shook his head and pulled his feet into his chest to make room for me. I'll never forget his face, it will be etched in my mind until the day I die. My first impression was a boy who hadn't quite reached the end of puberty. He was a little homely with brown eyes, one of them lazy and he had greasy brown hair that was kept short. His complexion was pale, with thin lips that hid his crooked teeth; his ears added a comical aspect to his body as they stuck out away from his head. His body was still gangly, but his arms indicated that he did do some sort of lifting.
“My name is Rachel, might I inquire yours?” I asked him as I sat down. He glanced at me sideways, unsure of what to make of me.
“Robby.” he said quietly.
“Well Robby it's awfully nice to meet you. I'm not bothering you am I?”
“N—no...I was just...thinking. I sit here everyday in the afternoon.”
“It is a pleasant place, it seems very peaceful.”
“I—it is....I like it. If you don't m—mind my asking Miss, where did you come from?”
“I don't mind at all. I came from London, I'm a social worker.”
“A—are you the one t—that's going to help Mrs. Emma for a while?”
“Yes I am. I'm going to make sure that you all go to loving homes and are comfortable here.”
“Y—You're not going to send me away are you?”
“Send you away?”
“Y—yes....send me away from here....”
“I'm not sure I understand Robby....”
“This is my home. I don't want any other.” and with that he quietly got up and walked down the hallway, acknowledging Emma as he went down the stairs. Emma sighed and sat down next to me.
“He's been our biggest challenge, he arrived here four years ago and for the first few months we couldn't get him to say two words or play with the other children. He soon came into his own in time but he's been adamant about not leaving. I think he's afraid to, this has been the only solid home he's known, and with him witnessing such an event as he has...well part of me feels for the boy. However I can't keep him here for much longer, he's going to turn eighteen in the summer.”
“Well perhaps I can help with him. I've had experiences with children like him in the past, maybe I can get him to see reason.”
“Oh that would be a miracle.” Emma laughed and stood. “Well come on then, let me show you out back. That's where most of the children are right now.”

I was shown out back, which boasted an impressive playground and an open field. Most of the children were either on the equipment or playing a game of cricket out in the field; however some of them were reading underneath the shade of the trees that ran along the creek. I felt such a feeling of joy then, seeing the children playing gave me a sense of utter delight and reminded me how innocent life can be. As I was surveying the landscape, a particular girl sitting close-by caught my eye; she was reading at the foot of a mighty spruce that sat close to the riverbank. Emma caught my glance and smiled,
“That's Lyn. She's been here for about three years, she's also about seventeen.”
My heart stopped, I must have looked pale because I felt Emma's hand gently grasp my arm.
“Rachel darling are you alright? You look ill all of a sudden.”
“W—what did you say her name was? And her age?”
“She calls herself Lyn, she's seventeen. Why do you ask?”
Before I could answer I saw her stand, she turned to face us. She was slightly shorter than I, with honey colored hair; I wanted to signal her to come this way, but she was already walking toward us her attention still to her book.
“Lyn darling, come here there's someone I want you to meet.”

My heart began to race as she made her way toward us; it couldn't be, it just couldn't. She stopped to give Emma a hug, when she turned her attention to me I noticed the color of her eyes. They were a unique shade, much like mine.

Veering off a bit

So yesterday's post was a bit rushed. I was intent on getting all of my posts that weren't linked to this blog deleted from my facebook account. Apparently the company reserve the right to retain everything you post on your profile even if you delete your profile. I was deleting all of my poems, short stories, etc. from there and I was so intent on posting the story I posted yesterday that I forgot to explain the concept of it.

The story itself is a product of an incredibly delightfully dark and twisted idea that my father gave me. I'm not going to go into detail because I figure everyone is like me and can figure out the plot with only a few hints.

I plan on posting a few of my other stories and poetry on here as soon as this story is finished.

Stay tuned for Chapter 3, I plan to have it posted sometime tonight, possibly later tomorrow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Columb - Prologue, Chapter's One and Two


Its the same dream over and over again; I feel rain stung my eyes, smell the scent of fresh earth as I race through the underbrush, and cry out as the branches claw at my body. I can hear my pursuer quickly catching up with me; his maniacal laughter echoes over the sound of the rain and wind. I somehow muster the strength to run faster, now hearing nothing but the pounding of my heart and my pursuers crazed cackles. If I can just get to the road I'll be able to get help...Just a little farther...make it to the road, come on....make it to the bloody road!
His animal-like eyes and laughter haunt me as I awake in a cold sweat, finding myself safely in my bed with my husband. It's strange how the memories you wish would disappear stay with you. You're left with a scar deeper than any flesh wound, to which there is no healing ointment. Sometimes I wonder if I somehow share the responsibility for my state. Why didn't I see it before? Why wasn't I more persistent in my finding? Maybe if I had been...
Well, I'm getting ahead of my story. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Rachel, Rachel Winter. I was born in Manchester in 1922 and moved to London when I was quite young; I had a rather pleasant childhood, there were no foul memories until the Great War started. I was eighteen at the time and my father was lucky enough to avoid the draft but that couldn't stop him from helping his countrymen. Both he and my mother aided the troops in London; our house became a sanctuary for all those who were wounded. When that horrid Blitz started our house became less like a sanctuary and more like a place of death. My sister, Lynsay, and I helped our parents as best we could, but it was not enough.
My sister and I came home one day to find our house in ruins, destroyed by an air raid earlier that day. Our greatest fears were realised when we saw our parents being carried away on stretchers. Fearing that Lynsay would be removed from my care and thrown in an orphanage; thereby separating us forever, we ran away. For about a year we managed to survive, working in a soup kitchen in exchange for food and shelter we managed to carve out some sort of life. I promised Lynsay that I would protect her, and after this dreadful war was over we would try to make a normal life; I would finish my schooling and we would be able to survive off what meager earnings until I could get a real job.
On the sixth of March in 1943, I lost my sister; it was in the confusion of a nighttime air-raid that we were separated. I spent days, weeks searching for her but it was all for naught. I refused to believe that she was dead; something inside of my soul told me that she was still alive and I just couldn't ignore it. When the Germans surrendered in 1945, there was a need for social workers to aid the misplaced children of London. I immediately applied for the position, hoping that it would lead me to my sister. I trained for a year, and was soon able to go to orphanages on my own. I found I did enjoy the work, for it was very rewarding; however my main focus continued to be my reuniting with my sister.
It was in 1947 that I discovered an orphanage called St. Columb, located a mile or so outside of London. It was here where my journey would take an interesting turn, and a boy of seventeen would be responsible.....

His name was Robby.....


I can remember the day I was assigned to St. Columb very vividly. It was a crisp autumn day, absolutely gorgeous really; I was sitting in Doctor Richard Yellan's office waiting for him to sign the approval of my going to the tiny orphanage. Doctor Yellan was an incredibly kind man, he was responsible for most of my training and offered me housing in exchange for being a temporary governess to his young son. The office was remarkably comfortable and had a touch of home; pictures of his wife and son decorated the wall. I remember looking at them as he went over my file.
“Miss Winter,” he said, jolting me back to reality. “You're sure you want to go to St. Columb's orphanage?” he asked me.
“Yes sir, why do you ask?” I replied as I straightened my hat. I remember it being remarkably irritating that day.
“Its just that your resume is remarkable as well as your skill and you could get a position here in London, you wouldn't have to go through the hassle of moving into the country. Not only that but St. Columb's Orphanage is small, it won't—“ I politely silenced him by raising my hand.
“Doctor Yellan, I am well aware of the small hassle's that come with my choosing of St. Columb. While I'm sure the other places would further benefit my professional career, I would prefer to go to St. Columb's because that's where I am needed. That is where the highest percentage of children who lost their parents in the bombings are. Those are the children that are most deserving of a loving home.”
“Well there's no convincing you otherwise. All right then, I shall call Mrs. Emma Noll this afternoon; she is the one in charge up there.” he said to me, putting the files back in the folder. “An upstanding lady, she lost her husband in the war poor girl. She hit some rather beastly times after that.”
“Oh my, the poor dear. How did she come about running an orphanage?”
“Well Parliament noticed that she had quite a bit of land and offered to aid her in her finances in exchange that she harbor some of the children who lost their parents in the Blitz. She and her daughter Grace have been running the orphanage for two years now.”
“Why that's astonishing! I don't know if I would have the strength to do such a deed. I look forward to meeting her.”
“If I get a hold of Mrs. Noll, you may leave immediately in the morning. I must say Miss Winter that you are quite possibly one of the most driven students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching and employing.” he stood, placing the file in a cabinet. I remember that kind smile that brought me so much comfort each time I saw it.
“Thank you Doctor. I wouldn't have been able to have done any of this without your kindness. You truly have given me the ability to move on.” I replied, fighting back the tears that were so desperately trying to break free.
“Oh my dear girl. You're not giving yourself enough credit. You had the ability to move on all along, you just needed someone to push you in the right direction.” he walked around the desk and embraced me. He reminded me so much of my father, that I couldn't help but allow those tears to fall.
“You'll find her Rachel, don't loose hope.” he whispered.
“Thank you Doctor....”

I left the office in a splendid mood; I was certain that Doctor Yellan would get a hold of Mrs. Noll and I would leave early the next day. I had spent most of my training in and around London; I hadn't been as far out in the country as I would have liked to have been for my sister had to be there. Every single orphanage I went to, I found myself searching the faces of the children for my sister. She had to be about seventeen now, but I would know her. She had eyes exactly like mine: a unique shade of jade that we inherited from our mother. I wasn't certain if her hair was still the same blonde color, so I had to rely on that one single trait. Naturally if she wasn't at St. Columb, I would just serve my time there until they didn't require my services then I would simply keep searching; however I can distinctly remember feeling a pull towards this tiny orphanage that I had never seen, nor heard of until just two weeks prior. To this day I really can't explain it other than some sort of divine intervention.
My apartment was located about 2 kilometers away from Doctor Yellan's office so walking was my primary source of transportation, unless of course the weather was ghastly. It was a pleasant neighborhood, the residents were mostly elderly couples and small families; we all knew each other and looked out for one another. Miss Stewart, a kindly spinster, was my neighbor and somewhat of a surrogate grandmother. I always stopped to see her promptly at four o'clock, just in time for afternoon tea. Today was no different.
“Rachel darling you're late.” she said, wearing that familiar pink gingham apron over her usual blue dress; she was smiling, her eyes twinkled.
“I'm so sorry Miss Stewart, my appointment with Doctor Yellan lasted a bit longer than I thought. You're not going to turn me away I hope?” I replied, playfully pouting.
“Oh of course not dearie. Now come sit down before the tea turns stone cold.”
She had set up a lovely table on the balcony outside, I remember thinking how I hope to be as spirited as she when I'm the ripe age of seventy-five. We sat down in the comfortable chairs and she at once questioned me about my meeting.
“I thought it would be a travesty to sit inside on such a gorgeous afternoon. Well now don't be all steel-lipped darling, tell me about your appointment. What did Doctor Yellan say?” she asked, handing me a steaming cup of tea.
“At first he wasn't to keen on the idea of my going so far out of the city. He tried to talk me out of it by saying how a person with an impressive resume such as myself would be much better suited at one of the bigger orphanages here in London.”
“Well that's quite a compliment dear, but we both know you want to go to this orphanage—oh blast what's the name of it again? It's a bloody pain to get old sometimes.”
“St. Columb. I told him that was where I was needed, my passion has been giving the children who lost their homes and families in the bombings a new start. He, being the incredibly understanding man that he is, saw my point and is calling the owner of the orphanage as we speak. If he gets in touch with her today, I could leave as early as tomorrow morning.”
“Well cor blimey that's bloody fantastic! How long are you going to be there darling?”
“About two, possibly three months at the least. The last orphanage I was stationed, I worked there for almost a year. I don't think that will be the case with this one though. It's strange...I feel like this is where I need to go. Like I'm being pulled there by some other source greater than myself. Does that sound silly?”
“Oh no, no, no. My dear it doesn't sound silly at all! You're following through on your convictions, I can't think of anything more admiring. If you don't mind my saying so dear, I have a feeling that this will be the assignment that will bring you full circle.”
“You really think so Miss Stewart? You're not just pulling my leg are you?”
“No my dear, I really believe that. You're going to grow more than you ever have. I can guarantee it.”

I remember those words like they were just yesterday; to this day I will never know how Miss Stewart was blessed with the foresight of knowing just how much I would grow from this. I only wished she could have seen what I would have to experience before the growth would start.


Just as I had hoped, Doctor Yellan contacted me later that evening and told me that I was ready to go; I could leave the next morning, but I had until Friday to get there so there was no rush. Never being a patient woman about these sorts of things, I immediately began packing; I packed for three months, I thought that would be a sufficient amount of time to aid Mrs. Noll and her daughter with the influx of children that had come to the orphanage.
Perhaps I should explain how I found this tiny little orphanage. I was reading the Times about two weeks prior to my meeting with Doctor Yellan, I always would search for orphanages that needed the assistance of a social worker. You see the orphanages may have had sufficient staff and lodging but when it came to putting the children in good homes, they sometimes had a lapse in judgment. Mostly it was the simple fact that times were very tough; food and space were precious commodities and sometimes the orphanages were so intent on creating more space that they would overlook things they shouldn't. Enter the social worker, we provide the service of inspecting the family that wishes to adopt a child. If they meet the criteria, (mine were very strict, I wasn't going to let just anyone adopt a child) then they sign a form and are free to take the child home.
I came about a fascinating article about St. Columb located in Basildon, the reporter was interviewing Mrs. Noll about her recent increase in children at the orphanage; the orphanage itself is large enough to hold about fifty children, however in the past month or so that number has increased to almost eighty. Mrs. Noll, being the kind and compassionate woman she is, would not turn a child away from her doorstep. “Oh we'll manage somehow. We have before and we will again.” that's what she said in the article. Unfortunately, she didn't have the connections that they do in the city so the children were going unnoticed; while the food supply was dwindling. She was only given a certain amount each month by Parliament to supply food, clothing and other expenses; granted Parliament wasn't stingy by any means, but they weren't prepared to fund that many children. I was so moved by the article that I immediately brought it to Doctor Yellan's attention; I requested that, after my current assignment, I be placed in St. Columb.
I sent a wire to Mrs. Noll, telling her that I would arrive sometime in the afternoon tomorrow. Afterward I began to organise my files, I found myself unable to shake a feeling of enigma. Now I know what the feeling was but at the time I found myself excited, I loved that I felt a pull toward this place. It gave me hope that maybe the heavens were guiding me towards my precious Lynsay, that I would see her again and be able to fulfill the promises that I made to her. On the other hand, I felt a slight feeling of uncertainty; possibly even a bit of fear. These conflicting feelings made sleep impossible that night and before I knew it, it was time for me to get up and depart for the train station.
I managed to catch the early train to Basildon, which wasn't necessarily considered a town when I first arrived. You see in the 1940s, Billericay and Essex County Council, who were scared about the lack of amenities on the area and how it had evolved, petitioned the Government to create a New Town. Basildon was one of eight 'New Towns' created in the South East of England after the passing of the New Towns Act. On January 4 1949, Lewis Silkin, Minister of Town and Country Planning, officially designated Basildon as a 'New Town'. Basildon Development Corporation was formed in February 1949 to transform the designated area into a modern new town.
The train ride was a pleasant one, but dreadfully long. Basildon was much further outside of London than I had anticipated, I was glad that Doctor Yellan hadn't realized this or else he may not have let a young woman of twenty-four go on such a long journey by herself. I finally reached Basildon, and longing for a cup of tea I stopped in one of the small cafe's nearby. I left word at the train station for Mrs. Noll; she was going to be sending someone to meet me there so I didn't want them to think I hadn't come. I took my seat near the window and I relished in the warmth and comfort that the tea brought.
It wasn't long before I heard my name mentioned at the front of the cafe; a tall, handsome, dark-haired man was inquiring about me to the girl behind the counter. I assumed he was one of the workers sent by Mrs. Noll, finding myself staring at him I quickly turned my attention to the magazine in front of me, hiding my scarlet cheeks.
“Miss Winter?” his voice was soft, but I could hear the hint of Irish in it.
“Yes? Who's inquiring?”
“I'm Dougan, Dougan Bardwell.” he replied, sitting down and taking his cap off. “I've been sent here by Mrs. Noll, we received your wire last night. I have to say that everyone's excited for your arrival.”
“Its a pleasure Mr. Bardwell I—“
“Oh please, call me Dougan. Mr. Bardwell makes me feel like my father.” he laughed
“Well then Dougan, I am happy to be here. Shall we go then?”
“Oh don't rush, finish your tea. I'm sure you need it after coming all the way here from London.”
His smile was entrancing, showing off his chiseled jaw and white teeth. His shoulders were broad, leading me to believe that he spent most of his time doing work outdoors. His hair was thick and dark, it came down to the nape of his neck; he was cleanly shaven, and of a darker complexion. His hands had a few callouses on them, but they seemed to be gentle when they needed to be. The most hypnotizing feature about him were his eyes; despite his darker features, they were a bright blue like the sea. I found myself caught up in his gaze.
“Are you alright Miss Winter?”
“Yes, yes. I'm sorry I was just thinking about something.” I stammered, feeling quite a fool.
“Well are you ready? Its about another twenty minutes to St. Columb.” he said, flashing me another paralyzing smile.
“Yes, I think I'm quite ready.”

The ride to the orphanage was much more pleasant than the train ride to Basildon, I was certain it was the company I shared rather than the vehicle we were in.
“How long have you been working for Mrs. Noll Dougan? If you don't mind my inquiring that is.”
“Oh not at all. I've been with St. Columb since it opened. My parents were killed by a bomb they thought was deactivated and I was searching for something to do with my life. I heard about Mrs. Noll and her daughter comin' up on hard times, what with starting this orphanage and all, and I thought I would be of some service doin' somethin'.”
“How noble of you. Did you and your family come here from Ireland? I noticed you have a bit of an accent.”
“My mother did. She met my Da here in England and they got married. Don't worry, I'm only half-Irish.” he smiled
“Well that's a relief. For a minute there I thought I was in the company of a bloody Irishman.” I smiled, he laughed. It was rumored that the English and Irish had a rather nasty rivalry, you wouldn't have known from the lovely conversation that was going on it that car.
“How long have you been in this business of social work Miss Winter?”
“Rachel please, Miss Winter is so formal. I don't want anyone to think I'm unapproachable.”
“Alright then, Rachel.” he smiled at me again.
“I suppose its been almost two years now. I started when the Germans surrendered, and I've been in it ever since.”
“Spot on, why did you choose such an occupation? Let me know if I'm pryin', I don't mean to.”
I smiled, I wasn't sure if I wanted to tell him the real reason or just the generic 'oh I just love children and making them happy'. His eyes were so trusting though....
“I, well I went in it because...”
“Ah bloody hell I'm pryin', I apologize Rachel. You don't have to answer if you don't want to.”
“No, no its okay. You're not prying, you're just trying to make conversation. The main reason I chose this occupation was to find my sister. You see we were separated in a nighttime air-raid almost four years ago...” I stopped, trying to maintain composure. I was unsure why I was telling this story to a man I had just met twenty minutes ago.
“I'm you think that someone picked her up and put her in an orphanages' care?”
“Yes, I refuse to believe she's dead. Something tells me she's not...I know that's silly.”
“No it's not, hope is such an uncommon thing these days. Its a relief to talk to someone who hasn't lost it. Most people who were separated from someone they loved durin' that damned Blitz have already assumed that they're dead. You have remarkable strength to go on believin' that your sister is alive.” he said, glancing at me.
“Thank you're one of the few who haven't assumed that she's dead or tell me it's a hopeless cause. And I really appreciate that.”
“Well I do what I can, those kids there are so full of hope and happiness. Some of them have come from the worse situations imaginable, seen things that kids shouldn't see; and yet they still carry this glimmer of faith that they'll get adopted by a loving home. I figure hell, I have no excuse not to have a little faith.” he smiled. “Oh look, we're coming up on St. Columb now.”

I remember the car coming to the top of the hill overlooking the beautiful landscape that surrounded the tiny orphanage, it seemed to almost envelope it. There was a creek that flowed from the back of the house and continued into the small forest that wrapped around the southern part of the property. Never in a thousand years, did I think that such horror could live in a place of serenity.

Friday, March 12, 2010

#18: Gallivanting around the city

For those of you who don't know (which if you're reading this on my Blogger account you probably fit into that category)I 'ran away' last Friday to the 'most livable' city in America: Pittsburgh.
Now one may ask 'Why on earth would you spend your spring break in Pittsburgh? There are so many other happenin' places for a young college kid as yourself!' Okay first of all, nobody uses happenin' anymore unless they are completely trashed; secondly, the people in those locations are usually wasted, horny, and smell of vomit, chaos and bad decisions. Thirdly, the people that I so desperately wanted to see were in fact, in PITTSBURGH. I didn't give my real reason for escaping because I figured people would just assume that's what I was doing for spring break. Not only that, I wasn't quite sure of the reason myself. I told myself that if I could just run away for a few days that my sorrow wouldn't follow me and I would live in blissful ignorance. I would arrive in PGH, be with my friends, sneak away to New York and see some shows, and my problems would just stay in the god-forsaken sinkhole that is my hometown. I kick myself now because I'm old enough to know that isn't the case, however I think that some lessons that you've learned tend to sink to the back of your mind. This happened to be the case. It wasn't until I was on the train on Saturday, heading into FABULOUS New York with the best people ever, that I began to really feel the sadness that I always feel on March 6th; the day my Mother died. I attempted to hide my tears and feelings to no avail, Kate and Rachel are very observant and understanding people and they did an excellent job of making me feel it was okay. They knew that I had been through some really shitty times these past few months; with my Nana dying in January, then dealing with this very difficult time of year that was now intensified with a fresh loss. I began to really think: Why am I still feeling this way when I'm with two people whom I haven't seen in months and am so happy to see? Why are these feeling affecting me in a place where I am most content and happy? The answer is simple:
She was my mom. She was my MOTHER. There will always be a void there, its something that won't disappear. Honestly, I don't think I would want it to because the day that happens is the day I truly loose her forever. While it wasn't as intensified in a different location, it was still there. I still feel the ache, and you know...I'm okay with that. I've moved on, I'm at a place in my life now where I'm just trying to figure things out. And while it is incredibly difficult sometimes without a mother, I manage; with a lot of help from some incredible people.
Well now we have all of that out of the way....allow me to gush about the two shows I saw:

Even though I had the privilege of seeing it when I was sixteen, I marched down to the tkts booth in Times Square to inquire about Phantom of the Opera tickets. I managed to snag a Row H orchestra seat, and with my prize in hand we met another dear friend of ours, Meg, for a bit and wandered about the city for a while before she had to go. After getting beautified, we each went our separate ways; Kate going to see Present Laughter, and Rachel (along with our friend Megan who decided to be spontaneous and join us) went to see HAIR. Seated in theatre, I felt the same thrill that I did when I saw my first Broadway show; this show holds a special place in my heart because it was the first show that I felt a strong connection with the main character. While Beauty and the Beast was great, it didn't have the power that Phantom did. I felt Christine's pain and confusion; stupid as it sounds, the show really helped my little sixteen year old self feel like I belonged. Jennifer Hope Wills played Christine Daae, and she was spectacular. The Christine's that I've heard in the past usually sound all operatic and mature. While that's fantastic, I think that they sometimes leave out the innocence, timidness and naivety that is somewhat crucial to the character. Jennifer did an amazing job of balancing the opera with the child. She hit those E's when the song required and maintained the child-like persona that is so often forgotten with this character. It was absolutely fantastic. Oh and how could I talk about this show without talking about the Phantom? John Cudia was just...amazing. Seriously there's no other way to describe it without making this post ridiculously long. Search him on YouTube. Also, Andrew Lloyd Webber just premiered his sequel to Phantom at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Love Never Dies basically picks up 10 years after the Phantom disappears, I'm counting the days until it comes to Broadway.

The other gem I saw was Billy Elliot. It's set during the Miners Strike in northern England mining town. Eleven-year old Billy Elliot, whose father and brother are participating in the strike,(whose mother has died quite some time ago and whose grandmother is not completely aware of what's going on), doesn't like the brutal boxing lessons at school. Instead, he falls for the girls' ballet lessons. When his folks find out about this unusual love of his, Billy is in trouble. Being supported by the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, he keeps on training secretly while the work situation as well as the problems at home get worse. Finally, Mrs. Wilkinson manages to get Billy an audition for the Royal Ballet School, but now he also has to open his heart to his family. I've never seen the movie, but after seeing the show I'm pretty sure it can't compare. Yeah I know that's not really a fair assessment but I think you would feel the same way if you heard the music and saw the absolutely phenomenal dance numbers.

So that's pretty much it. I didn't intend for this to be so long, so kudos to you if you read it. I think everyone needs a little escape, they provide opportunities of self-discovery and amazing experiences with those you love.

At least, that's how I see it :]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#17: Get a head start on your Beach Reading :]

Okay its no shocker that I am a HUGE book nerd, especially when it comes to classic literature. There's just something about it that's so entrancing; not to mention without these amazing works we wouldn't have any of the authors that we have today.

I have several locations where I enjoy reading, including: my bed, the park, and in our AMAZING hammock out back. But my absolute favourite has got to be the beach; I have a feeling that many of you out there feel the same way :] SO I've managed to compile a list of authors and their works that I think anyone could enjoy; whether you like classic literature or not. Lets start with one of my favourite authors Daphne du Maurier:

1.) Rebecca - This book starts out with the famous first line—“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderly again...”—begins this Gothic, ghostly novel about a young woman who marries and moves in with the handsome and mysterious Max de Winter, only to find that her new home is haunted by the memory of her husband’s first wife. When I say 'haunted' I don't necessarily mean windows slamming and things flying all over the place, you'll have to read the book to see what I mean. This story is more subtle suspense, less blood-and-guts which is refreshing in this 'SAW' era we currently are experiencing. This book will definitely have the hair on the back of your neck standing on end, especially when you discover how freaking scary Mrs. Danvers, the ghostly housekeeper, really is. If there's a literary figure out there more terrifying than her, I don't want to meet her.

2.) Jamaica Inn - The coachman tried to warn her away from the ruined, forbidding place on the rainswept Cornish coast. But young Mary Yellan chose instead to honor her mother's dying request that she join her frightened Aunt Patience and huge, hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn. Right from the first turn of the page we're swept into a world that is wrought with danger, passion and uncertainty. Just as a disclaimer, this book was responsible for many a sleepless night in my house. Du Maurier is a master of suspense and plot twists, this is probably one of the best early example of this.

3.) Frenchman's Creek - Jaded by the numbing politeness of Restoration London, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape. One day, chance leads her to meet a mysterious (and freaking HOT) French pirate, hidden within Cornwall's shadowy forests. Dona embarks on a high-seas adventure wrought with danger, excitement and (of course) passion. However her adventures soon come to an end and Dona is faced with a decision: should she sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him?

You can find more Daphne du Maurier here. Now that we've gotten that on the record, allow me to share some other favorites:

Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart - When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, everything seems to be a dream come true at first. Little by little, the young governess soon becomes very aware of the iminent danger surrounding the Château Valmy. Little accidents soon turn into life-threatening events. And when an accident nearly kills her charge, Linda soon finds she can't even trust the man she loves; for he is linked by blood to them: Raoul de Valmy.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen - Despite being set in a long-ago era when everyone wore funny hats, this novel’s got more drama than any of those crappy shows on Mtv or VH1. Forbidden romance! Illegitimate children! A feisty heroine who sticks it to anyone who crosses her path! If you like the class wars, love triangles, and backstabbing of the teen chick lit universe, you’ll love this book.

Rosemary's Baby, Ira Levin - When it comes to intelligent, sexy horror, this book blows the Twilight series into outer space (where it belongs...never to be discovered again). Rosemary is happily married and expecting her first child until she finds herself tormented by nightmarish visions and vicious cravings for raw, bloody meat. If you’re ready to forget about vampire romance, Rosemary's Baby is a great choice. Plus, there's no dogs for those of you with allergies.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath - This is a largely autobiographical novel. It tells the story of Esther Greenwood's mental breakdown, beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York during the early 1950s. Page by page the reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real, even rational! The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden - Nine-year-old Chiyo, sold with her sister into slavery by their father after their mother's death, becomes Sayuri, the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the focus of this fascinating first novel. Narrating her life story from her elegant suite in the Waldorf Astoria, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from Granny and Mother, the greedy owners, and from Hatsumomo, the sadistically cruel head geisha. But Sayuri's chance meeting with the Chairman, who shows her kindness, makes her determined to become a geisha. Under the tutelage of the renowned Mameha, she becomes a leading geisha of the 1930s and 1940s.

A Pocket Full of Rye, Agatha Christie - I am a HUGE Miss Marple fan, and this is probably one of my favourites. When an unpleasant businessman is taken ill at his London office and subsequently dies of taxine poisoning, authorities discover a house full of likely suspects: a young, sexy wife having an affair; a money grubbing son worried about his father's management of the family business; an angry daughter frustrated in love by her father's control. But no sooner do police suspicions begin to form around one of the three than murder strikes again--and then again--in such a way as to leave them baffled. Enter, of course, Miss Marple, who sets about uncovering a killer who may be a psychopath that is killing victims in accordance with the old "Sing a Song of Sixpence" nursey rhyme.

So I think that's a good start, but if you want MOAR, I suppose you'll just have to check back....

At least that's how I see it ;]