Here is a little short story I wrote about my ancestors. The names and major events are real, but the dialogue and ‘exact happenings’ are fictionalized. This is a rough draft, in production. Comments welcome.
She stood with her back against the fence post, a daisy dangling from her fingers, as she stared up at the sky. Sighing, she turned and leaned in to the fence. The daisy fell carelessly to the ground, along with a lone tear. Everyone was in bed asleep, she need not worry about who might hear her crying, but still she maintained her composure. Straightening her back, she spun on her heels, threw her chin into the air, and walked proudly back to the house.
From across the distance, a pair of eyes surmised her figure as they followed her steps. The owner of the eyes also followed.
She slipped back in to bed as quietly as she could, but she still awoke him enough for him to turn and hug her close. She sighed. It was not a sigh of happiness and contentment that a woman feels when being held in the calm night by her husband, but it was a sigh of discontent, a sigh of wandering eyes and thoughts.
The eyes outside had stopped. They had followed her to the front door of the house, but they still had an honesty about them, integrity that kept them from trying to peer in to the windows. Slowly they turned and disappeared into the darkness.
Morning came and she arose at the normal time along with the roosters. She started to prepare breakfast and began her chores. Today was going to be her day, her time of freedom, she was greatly excited. Garrett, her husband, was taking the children into town to visit their grandmother. He would be leaving them and returning by nightfall, they would stay for a few nights. It was not a long trip but someone had to stay behind and take care of things, and besides that, she had been sick not long ago and claimed that she needed the rest, even though she felt just fine. She had a lot planned for that day.
She managed breakfast with a smile and even returned his kiss when he left with the children. She cleared the breakfast dishes and finished up her morning chores as fast as she could.
He smiled as he drove away. He loved his wife and children more than anything else in the world and he was excited about tonight. For a while now he had felt as if he had neglected his wife. She had, after all, been through a lot lately, what with the harvest and the normal every day things that happened. He would be keeping an eye out for lovely flowers on his way home and he even thought of picking up some nice, as expensive as he could afford, material in the general store today. She deserved a new dress. His heart sang as he drove away, making his plans… Susanna, Susanna, oh Susanna!
The last pitcher of water warmed, Susanna ran as quickly as she could outside to the tub. She had placed it in her favorite spot, under the large elm tree behind the house. She poured the last of the warm water into the tub and let the pitcher slide from her slender fingers onto the ground. With fresh clothes and linens nearby, she slipped from her dress and into the water. She had been saving some of her favorite perfume and soaps and today was the day for their use. She added them to the mixture and leaned back to relax.
She was not sure how long she’d been there in the tub, lost in her thoughts, when she heard a twig snap. Slowly she opened her eyes and turned her head to the right. There, not too far away, leaning on the fence, was a man. He did not look familiar, but she felt as if she should know him.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” she demanded. The man came closer. “Stay there, stay away,” her voice sounded threatening. Or was it threatened? Realizing she had no choice in the matter, she did her best to cover herself with the water. “This is our property, you are not welcome here. Go, now, or my husband will be out soon with the shotgun.”
The man, now nearer than he had been before, laughed. “Your husband’s not really here, is he?” She had nothing to respond. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you none. I just want to talk to you. Don’t you recognize me?”
Eyes narrowed, she peered at him. “No… wait… Elbert?”
He laughed again, “Right! I knew you’d know me!”
“What are you doing here?” She was excited to see her old beau, and extremely curious as to what he was doing in her town, let alone her property.
“Well, Ma and Pa bought that land over yonder, next to you. I can’t seem to get away from them, they drug me along. I was taking a walk and saw you last night, standing outside. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“is this really Susanna, could it be?’ And, of course you are. I followed you to the house, but I lost my courage to say anything, so I just saw where you live and then I left. I thought I’d come by today to see you and meet your family, but it seems you are the only one here. I didn’t mean to disturb you, I was going to wait for you to finish then hide, then knock at the door.” He winked at her.
After a lengthy conversation, Susanna instructed Elbert to go inside and wait for her. After she dressed, she went inside to meet him. They talked all day, it seemed. She was amazed at the man sitting before her. It had been so long since she had seen him, since before she married and he had left town for a small excursion that ended up taking longer than it was meant to. The town had mourned him as dead, only to find out later it was not so. Or so she had heard, after they left Pennsylvania, but now she knew it was true.
Darkness fell and Susanna snapped back to life. She ushered Elbert out the door to spend her night with Garrett when he arrived a few minutes later. All the while, however, her mind was on Elbert.
Days passed and each one Susanna met Elbert at the edge of the property while Garrett was out in the fields. Elbert even stole a kiss or two.
The day came for Garrett to return to town to pick up the six children. Elbert arrived promptly an hour after Garrett left. He laid the pressure on Susanna.
“Come away with me.”
“I can’t,” she stammered.
“Yes, you can, let’s go. Now. Let’s go now, it’s the perfect moment.” He pleaded. “I lost you once, I won’t do it again. Besides, you can’t tell me that you’re happy here.”
“But ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ my children… what about them?” The thought of losing them, especially her girls, brought tears to her eyes.
“So bring them along. Please.” She wanted to, oh how she wanted to leave with him. She’d never forgotten about him, not even after these years. “I have to leave Iowa, I have to go to Missouri, have some business there, Susanna, I want you with me.”
“Let me think about it, all right?”
“Yes, all right.” He kissed her and took his leave. Susanna sat there at the table, darkness flowing in around her as the night came. Her thoughts whirled around her.
Garrett had arrived with half of the children, the three youngest, Mary, Fanny, and Benjamin. They had been ready to come home, but their two older brothers and older sister had decided to stay back for a little bit longer to help their grandma with a few things. Garrett was to pick them up in three days.
By the third day, even though she had not seen him since he asked her to leave, Susanna had made up her mind. After Garrett left, she sent Mary for Elbert and packed their things. They stole out quickly, telling the three children, ages 11, 9, and 7, that they were going on a trip with “Uncle” Elbert.
When Garrett arrived home, he had expected the children to come running to see their older siblings. But none did. He walked in the door and found no one at home. It was strange, indeed, but he assumed that they had been out picking berries or flowers or had gone to the swimming hole and had stayed too late. Or maybe they went to a nearby relative’s house and would arrive soon. But, no, the extra horse and wagon were still in the barn. Then he found the note. It said simply, “I’m sorry.”
The years passed.
Susanna called Mary to her. “I’m dying, Mary, please, get me a priest, I must confess what I’ve done.”
“What have you done, Mother? What do you need a priest for?” Mary knew full well what her mother spoke of, but she needed to hear the confession herself.
“I have sinned against your father, I left him, I should not have left him. I should have stayed and fulfilled my vows. I took you children away from everything you knew and brought you here, away from your father. It’s my fault that Fanny and Benjamin are dead.”
“What’s done is done, Mother. But if you feel the need to confess, you should do it to God and Father, not a priest. Please, let me compose a letter to Father for you. But please do not concentrate on the wrong, but see the larger picture, you now have two more wonderful children, Susanna and Daniel. And Elbert is a good step-father and loves you dearly. It’s also not your fault that Fanny and Benjamin died, it’s not your fault that they got the Cholera and their bodies were not able to handle it.”
Susanna dictated a letter while Mary put it to the paper. Elbert sat in a corner and cried.
Susanna died in the Cholera epidemic of 1868 and was buried with her two children in a grave for the victims. Years later, a railroad depot would be built over that grave. Who will remember the stories, the stories of those buried there? None. None, but their descendants who see “the big picture.”