September 11, 1896
There will come a day when nothing will surprise me anymore. I can see it on the horizon and feel it in my bones. The willingness to believe anything is possible and anything can happen at anytime in anyplace is slowly replacing my childhood notions of fate. I will never be rescued by a knight in polished silver unless I become that knight myself. Call it disillusionment, call it cynical, call it anything you like, but know it is truth.
We said a silent prayer at the table before consuming our dinner meal. I sat with my roommates although we do not speak. They say here at Primrose we girls will learn our place and for now I know my place is with them whether I like them or not. If I am honest, I am more jealous than disliking of them. They come from places and lives which remain merely dreams to me. I wonder if I had lived in one of their shoes, would I have ever had any desire to come here? Which then begs the question, what drove them here?
I noticed as soon as I sat down at the table, Miss Bowen was absent. She is normally, infuriatingly prompt and proper. The lack of her presence was acute to me and I believe it was to my peers as well. Mrs. Carrington seemed a bit out of sorts without her.
“Miss Bowen will not be joining us this evening.” Mrs. Carrington announced in answer to our stares at the empty chair.
Curiosity may have gotten the better of me where it not for the front bell. I was about to ask why when it rang. The sound interrupted my thought and instantly guided my assumptions, she was having dinner out with someone. I could not know if for certain but I was right and the evidence suggested as much.
Mr. Carrington rose quietly and exited the dining hall to tend to the visitors. The quiet gossip of my peers began anew with his departure. The main topic of the night seemed to be a man named Remington Drake who was apparently guilty of stealing the virtue of young ladies and then discarding them with disdain. In my personal experience a lady’s virtue is normally only be taken when she is complicit in the act. The fact seemed to elude those around me.
I was running slightly behind on my studies for the day so after a few spoonfuls of chicken soup I asked to be excused. Mrs. Carrington seemed annoyed at first but quickly relented and waived me off. I carefully snuck a dozen crackers into the folds of my skirt and made my way out, intending to head straight to my room. Daylight would be gone soon and as my candles have seemingly disappeared, likely on the train when that young man sent my things scattering under benches, I find it difficult to study after dark.
In the hallway though I stopped dead in tracks. I heard the voice before I saw him but I knew it was him instantly. He had two men with him I did not recognize and then there was Mr. Carrington talking in whispers with him.
“Miss Sarah Waters, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you here tonight.” William Howe said.
“Why is that Mr. Howe? Do you feign ignorance about knowing I am here or were you just planning on hiding from me?”
“Watch your manners, Miss Waters.” Mr. Carrington said.
I glared at him but thought better of answering back right at the moment. It would not do to initiate a confrontation.
“Tell me Mr. C, have had the pleasure of tanning the hide of this little lady?” Mr. Howe asked.
“That is not your business or your concern Mr. Howe.” I answered for him.
“Little touchy on the subject are we? I’ll take it as a yes then.” Mr. Howe said and grinned his wicked grin.
“What business do you have here Mr. Howe?” I asked.
“Mr. Howe’s business is not your concern, Miss Waters. I suggest you retire to your room before your mouth lands you in more trouble than you can handle.”
“I wasn’t speaking to you Mr. Carrington.” I said.
“Watch yourself, Miss Waters.” Mr. Carrington said.
My eyes were locked on William. He seemed to be debating whether to tell me the truth of stay silent. Whichever he chose I was going to find out anyway.
“Just passing through. My boss is here to visit an old family friend.” He said.
It did not take me long to put the pieces together. Mr. Parker was here for Miss Bowen. It seemed unfathomable that Miss Bowen, for all her faults, could be friends with the likes of Mr. Parker. Then again my own placement at Primrose, scholarship and all, was rather unfathomable. For the first time I began to wonder if my presence here was to keep me out of the way and under guard. Had I fallen into a carefully devised trap?
Mr. Parker and Miss Bowen descended the stairs. She looked beautiful and elegant beside him with her hair tied up high and wearing a blue gown in the latest evening fashion.
“Sarah?” Mr. Parker queried.
The other men faded away and even Miss Bowen was but as blur in my vision. I stepped toward him with a soldier’s precision.
“You don’t get to call me Sarah, not ever.” I said. My voice was cold and quiet even to my own ears.
“I’ve done everything I know how to help you and your family. I cannot change the past and I cannot bring your father back. Tell me what to do or say and I will if it will help.” Mr. Parker said.
“Go to Hell.” I said.
Edith looked stunned as she tried to understand the dynamic unfolding.
“Miss Waters!” Mr. Carrington said, more like a warning than a name.
Mr. Carrington’s hand fell on my shoulder and gripped hard as if to yank me back. I turned my head to the side to ensure he heard me.
“Get your hand off me.” I ordered in the same voice.
The hand did not leave.
“You will not speak to guests in my home that way.” Mr. Carrington said.
“If you welcome murderers and bandits into your home, it is the risk you run. Get your hand off me now.” I said.
Still the hand did not leave. The grip tightened and began to apply backward pressure. I stepped back into it and ground my heal into the toe of his boot. Mr. Carrington gasped in pain. His hand released my shoulder. I shoved him back into the wall and turned my back on him again to face Mr. Parker. Miss Bowen ran toward him but her eyes were locked on me. I think she was scared.
“Get out.” I said to Mr. Parker, standing only inches away from him.
“I understand you are upset, Sarah, but this has to end.” Mr. Parker said.
“Call me Sarah again and it will be the last thing you ever say.” I said.
Behind me I heard the sound of a gun being drawn from its holster. I laughed, it was frightening even to my own ears.
“Put those away, you idiots. The lady wants us to leave so we leave.” Mr. Parker said.
He walked past me and headed out the front door with Mr. Howe and his men just ahead of him. At the door he turned to Miss Bowen.
“We will have to schedule for another time I think.” He said.
“Goodnight.” He said and left.
When the door clicked closed I turned and started up the stairs.
“Where do you think you are going?” Miss Bowen called out.
“To my room to study.” I said.
“We need to talk.” Miss Bowen said.
Mr. Carrington glared at me and for a second I thought he was going to make another grab for me but instead he shook his head and walked away, leaving Miss Bowen and I alone.
“What was that about?” She asked.
“If you don’t all ready know, you don’t want to.” I said and walked away.
I heard her follow me up the stairs but when I went into my room she did not follow. As I opened my books my mind considered the possibilities of Miss Bowen. After tonight I am more certain than ever; people are rarely what they seem.