Dorothy skipped into the barn. “Lookie, here! A looooove note from Samuel Stivens,” she taunted in a sing-song voice. She made kissing noises and then clasped the letter to her chest.
Caroline dusted off her skirt and ran toward her little sister. “Give it to me!” Her left boot knocked over the milk pail.
Both girls gasped.
Caroline stooped to right the bucket. “Mom’s going to be mad. Sophie’s dry and we won’t have milk for dinner.”
Dorothy scrunched her eight-year-old face. “Maybe it’s ‘cause yer tryin’ to milk a bull. Can’t you see the horns?” She giggled. “Or the…” she pointed to the underside of the animal. “Yer lucky you didn’t get knocked silly!”
Blushing, she ripped the letter from Dorothy’s hand. She plopped onto a bale of hay and took a deep breath before slipping her finger under the envelope flap. Sam left for the city two-and-a-half months ago to find work because after three seasons of drought, the ground supported death more than life. Caroline prayed this would be the letter where he sent for her.
I found a job at the docks. For twelve hours a day, I stack grain. The meager pay barely covers my expenses. It’s not nearly enough to support a family, so I have to withdraw my proposal until such time as I am able to afford to properly care for you.
I hope you will wait for me, but I understand if you cannot do so.
Caroline felt the blood drain from her face. At age nineteen and seven months, her parents pressured her to marry. Mostly because they couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, but she knew the gossip about her marriageability bothered them as well.
“Whatsa matter?” Dorothy patted her shoulder. “You look like you seen a ghost.”
“You wouldn’t understand, Dot.” Caroline sighed. “Sometimes when you’re grown up you have to do things you don’t want to do.”
Dorothy wrinkled her nose. “Then I don’t wanna grow up.”
Caroline smiled. “Neither do I, kid. Neither do I.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Dressed in her nightshirt and sleeping cap, Caroline sat at her wooden desk, inked quill poised over paper. Just as she imagined, her father insisted she marry Bart Folsom. His family owned the town mercantile, which her father found stable and honorable. He turned a blind eye to the rumors of Bart’s carousing and dalliances with prostitutes in the shadowed alleys beyond Main Street.
Her protests ignored, Caroline had to accept that she would be wed the next month. At the mere thought of him touching her, acid backed up into her throat. She forced it down.
I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling and that you are unable to keep your promise. I had hoped that you would find faith to believe love would see us through you would find prosperity.
She crumpled the paper and shoved it off the desk. She felt trapped by the limitations of her words. A part of her wanted so much to condemn him; as if his guilty emotional imprisonment would grant her freedom from her own atrocious future. However, in her heart, she didn’t want the responsibility of forcing him to bear the burden of her circumstances, so she decided to project the illusion of happiness instead.
I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling, but I believe, in time, innumerous blessings will be bestowed upon you. The good Lord gives us tribulations so that we may appreciate our times of peace.
You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month. Although I gave my heart to you, I will dedicate what remains to my new husband.
I wish you the best.
She folded the paper in thirds and slipped it into an envelope. After extinguishing the lamp, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers to her chin. In the morning, she would take it to the post office. She hoped her letter would free him to pursue a new future.
Loneliness and dread gnawed at her insides. Caroline knew she had no choice but to accept a life without her Samuel. She figured in time, she might be blessed with some shade of happiness. She prayed the same for Sam.
But Sam was never the same again.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 734) and (1) use “But Sam was never the same again.” as the last sentence; and (2) make some sort of reference to the video prompt, a short film, entitled Writer’s Block, by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley.
The letter with the strike-through lines and the paragraph following it are my references to the video prompt.
Note: I amended the last few sentences after original posting (but before linking to Speakeasy grid.) I think it flows better now. Also, for fun, I wrote a continuation, from Samuel’s POV. It’s not part of the challenge, but if you’re interested in reading it, click here!
The challenge is open to everyone, so click the badge below if you’re curious to find out more!
P.S. I have been away from the computer for the last few days, so I’m a bit behind on reading and commenting. If you’ve visited here lately and I’ve not responded, please bear with me as I catch up 🙂