A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter IV

From the ongoing novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.

Rachel St. Louis, Creative Writing Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






A Daisy for Hannah Jane

Chapter IV

I knelt beside my bed, hands folded, knuckles turning white. We hadn’t expected “Charlie” Jamison Jr. to vanish completely, and the search party had promised to alert me after I’d vowed to pray alone instead of helping. Now I found it a stupid decision. But I wondered where Jamison went for the last five hours.

I wondered about a lot of other things, too.

I wondered if Raymie would come home soon, if Mrs. Jamison really was a clone of Mrs. Chauldings, if I would ever find a good life that lasted, if my parents would still be alive, if only I’d left that door open.

And here I was, trying to pray earnestly when all I could do was bang my head on the bedside. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t go on. Right now, I knew I’d have to focus on Jamison Junior. Not the war, not my parents, not my grandmother, not my past.

I lowered my head again and uttered another fervent prayer for Jamison. We really needed to find him, and I was positive it was my fault.

Replaying the scene in my mind again, I couldn’t believe all that had happened.

After Jamison turned away from his mother and ran yesterday, Mrs. Jamison just stared off into the distance. I was frozen, unsure of what to do.

“Mrs. Jamison? Are you all right?”

The woman snapped back to the present, but her eyes were still a little glazy. She hadn’t been drinking. “It’s happening again,” she whispered, her voice eerie. “It’s just what happened to his father.”

I moved closer to her, slowly putting my hand on her arm. It seemed to keep her steady. “What happened to his father?” I asked gently.

“He ran.” She swallowed down her tears.

“Ran?” I felt sick.

“Yes. He ran into the night, the night… It was so dark, you see. So dark.”

A shiver ran down my spine. “Why did he run away?”

“He hated me.”

“He what? Surely you aren’t thinking straight, Mrs. Jamison.”

“I haven’t been more sure in my life, lassie.” She blinked away the tears once more. I took one of her gloved hands in one of my rough ones and looked her in the eye.

“Your son is going to come back,” I vowed. “He just became a bit uncomfortable is all.” Mrs. Jamison nodded. “It’s my fault he was. If I hadn’t pushed him so, he would’ve stayed. I bet he’s gone home.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” she replied, much to my surprise. “He’s never felt this way before.”

“What way is that, ma’am?”

“The way a man loses himself in.” She smiled, beginning to chuckle to herself. A joyous sign.

She was contagious. I felt a grin break free on my own face. “Should we begin to look for him? I –” Interrupting myself, I felt uneasy as to what Jamison would do if he saw my face again.

“Although I’m sure he wouldn’t be pleased to have me find him. He was upset. I’m sorry, Mrs. Jamison.”

She shook her head. “Let’s go now.” She lifted her many skirts to begin trekking through the woods in the direction Jamison had gone. “You know, lass, this may be a good sign.”

“How?”

She lifted a low tree branch over her shoulder. “Well, he’s always been a very silent man.”

“Really?” I remembered the first day I’d met him, when he’d been shuffling along behind Sir Henry, laughing when I threw retorts at the snob. “I find that a little hard to believe.”

“Oh, he’s a sarcastic one at times, and he always enjoys a good laugh. I always wished he’d become an actor, though. Ever since he was a child, he’s always been good at that sort of thing. Besides, he’d make lots of money doing what he loves, and eventually marry someone he’d forever be content with. But he’s been more humble than anything else. He decided to stay in town, working for Sir Henry.”

“So he does live around here.”

“Who? Sir Henry?”

I tucked a hair behind my ear, smiling. “Yes. I knew that Sir Henry Dover had been lying when he said he’d grown up in West Banks. Who had ever heard of a such a place? I knew he was a fake all along.”

“Yes, but my son does work for him. He may get good pay, but Sir Henry has a life of his own. Business, business, business. Seems like his chances to marry into the Chauldings is slim.”

“You are a perceptive woman, Mrs. Jamison. Just like your son.”

“I only regret not having a better attitude around him.” She stopped dead in her tracks and turned. “I apologize for turning my nose up at you. I frequently have a difficult time accepting others into my son’s private life. It’s complicated, lass, but I am a very selfish woman.”

She turned on her heel without another word, breaking a path. I was amazed I’d got Mrs. Jamison to talk.

We went on for more than a quarter-hour, fruitless. We stopped when we reached an old road I used to walk on to get to the schoolhouse as a child. Dead end.

“So am I,” I finally said.

She looked at me, taken aback. “Pardon?”

“You said you were a selfish woman.” I crossed my arms over my chest, taking in the crisp air. “I said so am I.”

“I’m sorry for your loss. Your parents.”

She avoided eye contact. I followed suit. “Thank you, ma’am. I’m sorry for the loss of your husband.”

She took my cold hand, smiling weakly. “I think I should head home. Maybe I’ll find my son there. Thank you for the talking, miss. I quite enjoyed it, as long as you don’t mention it to another soul. Especially my Charlie.”

I nodded as we steered our way down the opposite side of the road. “Cross my heart.”

Looking back on the strange situation, I clenched my hands together tightly in prayer. My knuckles were equivalent to the snow outside my window. The short bonding time with Jamison’s mother had been good healing, but Jamison still hadn’t been found. He was missing completely, and it was my fault. I never should’ve pushed him.

God, let us find him, I prayed in earnest. Wherever he is, let him be safe. Let him come home, even if he never speaks to me again. God, I thought I’d gained a friend. I thought of Mrs. Jamison. The pleasant tone of his mother was equally surprising. But they’ll hate me now.

“Miss Lewitt!” A deep, hearty voice bellowed from outside. A large fist pounded the door several times as I jumped up to open it.

Before me stood a man I’d never known. He was tall – lumberjack quality – and wore a long trench coat. You’d think he was wealthy, but the dirt streaked over his high cheekbones, the obviously unwashed and tousled hair, the mud-caked work boots and the bruises covering his giant hands said otherwise.

“Timothy Garnes,” he said. “Thought you’d come out. Guess not.”

I gripped the doorframe, steadying myself. Never had I been so exhausted. “Have they found him?” The words tumbled out of my mouth faster than they came to my brain.

Mr. Garnes gave me an amused look that made me want to scream. Still wordless, he beckoned me and walked down the brick path. Slowly.

“Wait, sir,” I called, shrugging on Mr. Stoldings’ old coat. “I’m coming.”

Mr. Garnes pivoted, his broad shoulders straightening. I locked the door behind me and braced myself against the biting cold. “Over this way,” he muttered. His deep, resounding voice was quiet.

I followed him down many roads silently. After minutes of forgetting what my feet felt like, we reached a clearing where people milled about. They sent me a worried vibe. The way they walked aimlessly and looked about almost frightened me. Something was off.

I looked up to Mr. Garnes, but he gave no hints. Didn’t even look at me.

So I ran to the spot. This had to do with Jamison, I knew it. Breaking my way through gaggles of people, I held my breath. I pushed away possible scenes of what could’ve happened to poor Jamison and focused on the now. It was God’s whisper that confirmed what I felt: I had to help him somehow.

“Excuse me. Pardon, excuse me.” I swallowed down the bile rising to my throat when I saw Mrs. Jamison, dressed in drab black, on her knees crying. Tears painted her china face, her eyes darker than her dress.

“Mrs. Jamison, are you all right?” It was a stupid question. Of course she wasn’t.

She said nothing and pointed to the left, towards the biggest crowds. Mr. Garnes was among them.

I took shallow breaths and prepared myself for the worst. I pushed my way through to see a body on the ground. There lay a young man with his eyes closed, clothes ripped, giving off the worst stench. It was the odor of death.

I turned and heaved, barely clearing the radius of people. Once again, I was ashamed. I fear I’m too sinful and sensitive to ever be gracefully proud of anything in my life. But another voice – godliness, perhaps – whispered in my ear, “What about Raymie? Aren’t you proud of him? Aren’t you proud to soon be called his?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer. For the first time in my life, I doubted my devotion to Raymond Stoldings.

Wiping my lips with the sleeve of Mr. Stoldings’ coat, I clenched my teeth and stationed my feet on the ground. It didn’t work; I felt as if I would faint.

I spotted Mr. Garnes and stumbled over to him. He was like a light to me already, even though we’d met mere minutes ago. “How did Mr. Jamison… How did he…”

“Jamison?” He wrinkled his brow. Then I saw his eyes cloud with compassion for me and I knew there was doomsday to all of it.      

He grimaced and informed me in that baritone of his, “They told me to fetch you from the dead man’s house. Think a soldier. They found ‘im in the woods with a note clutched in his hand.”

I couldn’t breathe. I should’ve known. I should’ve expected him to come back somehow. Raymie has always been a good rebel. But not alive? No, that wasn’t him at all. It was all a dream. A lumberjack leading me to an empty edge of the forest, Mrs. Jamison among the crowd, my fiancé being deceased and across the pond…

But it was all too real when Mr. Garnes thrusted a slip of paper at me. Raymie’s handwriting was too distinct for this to be a nightmare.

Had to cross sea to get back to you Hannah Jane my love. You are my life. I had to exscape the trenches.

But I have news that will leave you unstable. Im sorry. Im so sorry Janie. But they’re after me so I write this quickly, just in case. Sorry if grammars bad. I mailed you a letter from the post office on my way to our house you’re stayin in now

you’ll see later but you gotta live with your grandma soon as my letter reaches you Janie, and all will be explaned. Im so so SO sorry for what happend. Please forgive me

I’m comin.

Raymie

I read it thrice, and still didn’t have a clue. I saw dots after the fifth reread and my peripherals were turning yellow, then black. He never came. He was close, however he got here, but now he was deceased. Who are “they?” Who dared to do this to him? Did I have enough strength to fight back? Are “they” out for me, too?

I didn’t know what to feel. Revenge? Grief? Stupidity? Hurt? It still wasn’t real, but somehow it was.

“Miss? You all right?” Mr. Garnes’ voice was the last thing that echoed in my groggy head before sweet unconsciousness overtook me.

• • •

That was it. I finally dropped the pencil and crumpled my sketch of the snowy garden into a ball. I sauntered over to the fireplace, opened the door, and threw the failed imagery in.

It nagged me. I must get that letter. Two days since that skimpy funeral and I still had no idea of why Raymie died, or how. Or what his “news” was, which he kept apologizing for. It made me feel like I was actually deteriorating inside.

I’d almost forgotten the Jamisons altogether, if it weren’t for their presence in my garden, where the burial ceremony had been held. Mrs. Jamison was in the same black dress she’d worn to what the town called “the finding.” Jamison himself hadn’t spoken a word to anyone the whole time. I didn’t know when he returned, where he’d been, or if he even cared at all.

I rubbed my aching temples and dressed myself for a walk. My life was awful.

But most of all, why did God let this happen? I let the fierce words roll over and over again like waves. My cold, stocking-and-boot-clad feet led me in the direction of the town square. I was unnoticed.

Why did God let this happen? The question rebounded. Well, I prayed for Jamison to be found the day he went missing, five hours straight. I prayed for Raymie’s safety. I prayed for my one grandparent to turn around so she could see how much she needed to be my grandmother and not Mrs. Chauldings. And guess what?

Nothing worked!

I wanted nothing in life anymore, except maybe a home where I didn’t cry in every time I saw a tiny detail reminding me of my long-gone fiancé. It was getting annoying.

Maybe I needed to try Raymie’s religion. After all, he did look peaceful when Mr. Garnes and the man who taught Raymie his trade lowered him in the cold, solid earth. What was it? Destiny? Faith? Devotion?

God?

No, now you’re just being desperate. Get a hold of yourself, Hannah Jane. God let Raymie die. So why did you want to take His side? Let ‘im hang on a cross like the Book says. Why do you think He cares for you, when he took away the only source of love in your life? Think again.  

It wasn’t the constant voice that used to whisper. It was something else, darker, foul, inscrutable. But it hit home, unfortunately for my conscience.

Patience was wearing me thinner than the muslin I draped over Raymie’s still face just a couple of days before.

The bleak winter sun pierced my eyes. I focused on the ground, stone after stone I stepped on. Maybe this was what I’d do until the letter came, just walk and walk, thinking.

I was sure I needed friends, but where were they? Mrs. Jamison and her son, whom I missed, were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it was because today was the first time I left my house since that horrific day. Perhaps not.

I hummed a few tunes, adjusting my mourning veil. I was so self-conscious of it, but I needed it. The thing reminded me of what I still had to lose: My identity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email