A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter IX

From the ongoing novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.

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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter IX

Art by Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis

Rachel St. Louis, Creative Writing Editor

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A Daisy for Hannah Jane

Chapter IX

My face was blotchy and my eyes were red, stains from my uncountable tears painting themselves over my hot cheeks. Of course, I couldn’t see my pitiful face, but I knew I was a mess.

The dank room was as black as the bruises on my arms and legs, last time I’d felt them. I had never been more miserable. I longed for Jamison and Harriet, the only people in the whole world who loved me. When will anyone notice I never came back from the post office?

Crawling on the damp concrete floor, I winced each time one of my uncountable bruises or burns scraped it. I groped around the pitch-black room for any walls, chairs, anything tangible. My hands touched nothing but the chilled air. Where am I? Why can’t I remember how I got here? Oh, right. I had no memory of what had happened after Sir Henry’s henchmen had left me unconscious. How logical. Oh, I’m lost, hungry, cold, isolated, and practically blind…

“Help,” I tried to scream, realizing it was a mere whisper. “Someone, please, help.”

My raspy voice cut my throat. It hurt more than all my injuries, all of which had been the effect of the manhandling. Why me? Why? They should be jailed. Turning my angry thoughts away, I wondered what Jamison was doing right now. I could barely keep my eyes open…

• • •

“With all due respect, Doc, are you sure about this? There’s no way it was merely a falling accident. I’ll pay for all of the exams and medications I can.”

I blinked my eyes open. I made out a blurry Jamison wringing his hands at my bedside, his mother not too far behind. Strange… I’ve never seen him worried. The doctor wore a stony expression on his face and suddenly I was afraid of what they’d done to me for treatment.

I inhaled and looks at my arms. A mosaic of blacks and blues, much worse than I’d thought. I almost gagged when I saw my right hand. A finger didn’t look right, and they obviously hadn’t treated it. I touched my arm wounds and felt a thin layer of ointment on them. I couldn’t help wondering what the ointment was made of.

“Jamison?” My voice didn’t sound like my own. It frightened me.

“Hannah Jane!” His mother rushed over and knelt beside the cot I laid on. She brushed a few hairs off my forehead. The gentle touch of her tender fingers sent a shiver through me and I wanted it more than anything.

“They’re going to get you all healed up, Hannah Jane. We just need to keep praying, dear, and I promise the expenses are not a problem. But we need to know what happened.” She leveled her exquisite hazel eyes with mine.

“How did you find me?”

She took another tangled lock of hair and brushed it away from my face, tearing up. “My son found you, Janie. He – ” She put a hand over her mouth. “Oh dear,” she said. “I shouldn’t have called you that.”

“What, you mean Janie? It’s just a nickname.”

“But it’s what your fiancé used to call you.”

I sat up quickly, summoning every ounce of pain in my body. My head began to throb, but I ignored it. “Your son wants to marry me?” I gushed.

She erupted. “Lie down, Hannah Jane! We don’t want you any sicker. Now, what’s all this about my son?”

I slowly lowered my body, mind reeling. “I’m confused, Mrs. Jamison. You just said something about a fiancé. Who else but your son? I haven’t courted anyone else in my entire life. Wouldn’t I remember?”

She inhaled sharply, something flickering over her eyes. “Raymond,” she said softly, taking my left hand lightly. She brought it to my eyes and I saw the most magnificent engagement ring in the whole world.

“What a pretty ring!” I gasped. “Jamison, why don’t I remember your proposal?”

Jamison turned his head abruptly. “I made no proposal,” he told my quietly. “Don’t you remember Raymond? Raymie Stoldings?”

I stared at the ring, trying to think of why the name rang a bell. But I couldn’t.

“Janie.” Mrs. Jamison held my hand. Hers was cold. “Janie, think hard. You know me and my son, don’t you?”

“Of course. Jamison has always been good to me.” I smiled at him, but for some reason, he looked worried.

“Do you remember any of your family?” Mrs. Jamison probed.

“Oh, yes. Where are my mother and father? My father’s a lawyer, you see, so he was home only half the time I was a child, but I remember Mother’s cakes. Oh, they were so good. But one day…” I frowned. “I think something went wrong with her cake one day, and the wood stove door wasn’t closed all the way. An ember popped out and I remember screaming. Before I knew it, my dress was on fire and I couldn’t do anything about it. I ran outside to the well so I could put the fire out in my panic, though it wasn’t logical. I was foolish and slammed the door behind me.”

“What happened then, Janie?” Mrs. Jamison asked. Her son was deep into my story.

“The house was on fire before I knew it. Mother and Father didn’t know until Father came home and Mother was in the pantry. Oh, I remember their hollering. I’ll never forget it,” I sobbed, trembling violently.

Jamison’s eyes nearly popped out of his head by the end and he dove to my side. “It’s all right now, Janie,” he said, almost hugging me. “You’re safe now. It’s going to be fine.”

“Your grandmother took you in after the fire, didn’t she? And then you ran away for five years.”

“Who told you?”

“You were moaning about your ‘bitter’ life in your sleep.”

It all came back to me. “Oh! I remember it all now. Those men captured me and brought me somewhere.”

Jamison perked up. “Yes, Janie. Who were those men? What did they do to you?”

“Sir Henry’s henchmen. Were you part of it, Jamison?”

“No, I swear. I work on his property.” He scowled at the thought. “What did they do to you, Janie? We have to know.”

The doctor looked curious, too. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as it came flooding through my mind again. “He said he wanted me dead, and he snapped. His men, big, burly, dirty men, grabbed me by the arms and I fought against them.” I looked at my bruises. “Obviously, they didn’t let me fight back.”

“What else did he say?” The doctor pitched in.

“He said I was descended from an ambassador and nobody had told me. He wanted to marry into the Chauldings, and he wanted me out of the way. Is he going for Grandmother next?”

Jamison frowned. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“They knocked me out quickly. I gained consciousness in a dark room and then passed out again, I think. No one was there with me and I couldn’t find any walls. I woke up here with more bruises than I’d thought I would have.”

The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Jamison, Mrs. Jamison. I’ll go check on the records now.”

He walked out of the room. Mrs. Jamison straightened and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. We were silent.

Jamison took slow strides to the bed. His mouth was a straight line, but his eyes were everywhere except on me. Wordlessly he took my hand and examined my ring. Then he squeezed his eyes shut for several long moments, probably praying.

I let my hand rest in his and Mrs. Jamison smiled. She gave a little wave before leaving the room. We were alone, together.

“I was not the only child.” Jamison broke the silence and opened his eyes. “I had an older brother. He was two years older than me.”

Was?” My breath caught in my throat.

“Yes. We had some situations in my family. You see, my dad ran when he found out – ”

“Ran? I’m sorry, Jamison, but I don’t think men run from a situation. They run to another one.”

He huffed. “Well, my papa ran away. Because he was angry at my mother for breaking one of his rules.”

“What?”

“My father was a controlling man.”

“He controlled her? Why did she give in and have another child with him anyway?”

He shook his head. “Mother didn’t tell me much until a couple of years ago.”

“I don’t understand.”

He took a deep breath. “I’ll explain more when you’re in better health,” he told me, “but I think you fell in love with me because I look so much like Raymond.”

“It’s not because of that, exactly. I… I do love you,” I stammered, “and that is difficult for me to say.”

He took my hand. “I know. But let me say what I’ve been wanting to.” He blinked, two rows of speary dark lashes swiping over his clear eyes. “Raymond was my older brother.”                                                                                        

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