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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XXXI

Art by Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis


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A Daisy for Hannah Jane

 

Chapter XXXI

Charlie never thought of himself as a bad guy. He never knew the path of his life had been shunned by the nuns who still haunted his youngest son’s dreams. He didn’t know his elder son, the one he barely knew, escaped from the trenches. It was not possible. He didn’t know his Raymond was killed by a power-hungry man whose henchmen married him off to their poor “sister” in France while under the influence of alcohol.

He didn’t know the murder was an attempt to become the husband of Hannah Jane Lewitt, whom his sons loved, the only living heir to the metropolis of the Chauldings’ estate. Private banking proved the Chauldings’ fortune was larger than anyone ever imagined, according to Mrs. Chauldings. Caroline had begun to confide in him. No idea why, especially since he reunited with his wife, and all of the Jamisons were living together under Caroline’s roof. It was as if Mrs. Chauldings was sick, but he had his doubts. He always had his doubts.

So he should hate Janie. He should loathe her beyond reason.

But he didn’t. He couldn’t even try without feeling compassion for her. The young woman had been through a lot, maybe too much. There was something about her he trusted, something that made him feel alive again. A renewed spirit? An all-around air of fiery sweetness? A content mind?

He rolled over on his side, trying to blink the darkness out and telling himself he wasn’t in the cell anymore. He was in a nice bed, and his wife would come into their new bedroom when dinner was over. He’d been too tired to eat.

Whatever it was that Janie had, he would speak to his beloved wife and living son that night. If there was anything his actions and the jail had taught him, it was never to second-guess something you know is true.

Truth? What did he know about truth? All he knew is that this Janie wasn’t just a girl with two first names. She was more than special, almost in full bloom of her life. He wove his fingers together and laid his hands over his stomach, where the scar was. He tried to prepare himself for telling his wife how and why the deep gash had gotten there.

Footsteps echoed down the hall. He expected his heartbeat to quicken, for the guard to mutter something about “no funny business” with the rest of the “criminals.”

“I ain’t no crim’nal. Life’s made me rough on the outside. Ya don’t understand! I never meant to — ”

“Shhh, Charlie, dear. It’s all right. You’re at home now. Shhh,” his wife murmured as she fluffed up his pillow. He could make out the contours of her face in the dwindling moonlight, soft and loving. He could tell she was smiling. “Still handsome,” she whispered before falling asleep.

His heart blossomed. She’d forgiven him. After all he’d done and after all their children went through, everything aside, she forgave him. He couldn’t comprehend this woman.

He’d talk to her tomorrow. He thought and thought and thought. If she were a flower, in the mental blooming stage anyone could see in her, he figured Janie would be a daisy. Full of life, pretty, and innocent.

Innocent. What a joke. He used to be innocent until proven guilty, but assumptions made by others had been prof enough. He hated liars.

He always seemed to take things the hard way, even without meaning to. Hopefully, he and his wife would have a happily-ever-after now. He knew the Grahams had it, that was clear. He hoped his son would be the same with Janie. He hoped, but not in the same way Mrs. Chauldings did. She hoped for the impossible, trying to reach out and touch the intangible.

Cry out to Jesus again, a Voice told him. You’re still His child. You’re still a Christian. Somehow he knew Mrs. Chauldings needed the same advice. But was she of the Spirit as his family, the Grahams, and Janie were?

•  •  •

Mrs. Chauldings was withering away, and she wasn’t unaware. Inside her, Caroline was calling out for help louder than ever. No matter how much she wanted Caroline to emerge, she would not. Everyone was constantly surrounding her, always in her way. Couldn’t an ill woman wither in peace?

She laid there on her extravaganza of tasseled pillows, her proud nose pointing to the ceiling. She wondered if this was what she would look like in her coffin sometime next year, in her dreaded life of 1919. Stop! You’re being morbid! she scolded herself.

Caroline took over her thoughts. She thought about the rest of the sleeping household and if anyone else was having trouble falling asleep.

But, most of all, why had she spilled out everything to this stranger in his first afternoon in the Chauldings mansion?

She disliked her actions, but could never help doing them. She was actually relieved to have a deadline on her life. That way, death wouldn’t be sudden. She didn’t like it when things were sudden, and everything had been out-of-the-blue lately.

Deep down, she wanted Janie to marry Jamison. So when he’d “released” her, she was angry and glad at the same time. But when Janie had gone out to visit him at Bosney’s once, she made Timothy fetch a doctor. She’d been right. She was ill.

She wanted to become Caroline again, just before it was too late. Her hard Chauldings crust wasn’t letting her. But, like her granddaughter, she would break free. One day.

 

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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XXXI