In Closing With Open Eyes

Penelope Sumter
December 31, 1896

Elizabeth this! Miss Bassett that! If Wilbur says her name just one more time this year I swear I will kill him in his sleep tonight. Lucky for him, the year is almost over. The two of them were nearly impossible to be around for the drive home and watching them say goodbye at the train station was pure hell and to make it worse, hell had frozen over, complete with icicles and lots of yellow and brown snow.

The two hours from there to home with Wilbur might as well have been two hours alone for all we spoke. What do you say to a man who is living in a fantasy world and fails to notice the road signs? If anyone knows the answer to that, keep it to yourself because I am not interested in the slightest anymore. When the day comes that Wilbur walks head first into reality, I want to be there watching and laughing as payback for this trip.

Mother was her usual self for the holidays. Annoying, annoyed and a complete annoyance. If she was ever a pleasant woman it was long before she met my father and a decade at minimum before I was born. I really do not know how my father tolerates her constant bickering. Maybe she is why he prefers to work all the time and always seems grumpy.

“Do you call this clean Penelope?” She asked inspecting my clothing that first day home. We had been in my bedroom with no one else around still she felt the need to add my name into every criticizing sentence leaving her mouth.

“This packing is atrocious Penelope.”

I know. They made me do it myself and I broke two nails getting the cases closed! Why could father not have sent me to a more decent institution?

I held my tongue.

“Did I raise you to be a slob Penelope?”

Maybe not, but you did not raise me to do hard or industrious work either. I am supposed to supervise servants doing chores not doing them myself.

I bit my cheek to smile pleasantly despite the words throbbing in my temple.

Eventually she set her sights on Wilbur and I was grateful to be alone. Unfortunately solitude was not to be mine for more than seconds. Jason entered my room only minutes behind mother. He was no more pleasant to see.

I did not believe him at first but the rest of vacation has proven his word the truth. He claimed my father was so angry he did not wish to see or hear me during the holidays. It seems Wilbur was told not to bring me home nor to bother coming himself but rather than listen, he chose to ignore the message. On the one hand I completely understand why Wilbur would ignore it but on the other I cannot help thinking we might have enjoyed ourselves more in his flat.

So it would seem father believes I am an embarrassment to him because of my associations and actions at Primrose College. The amusing part is he and Jason seem to believe Miss Bassett is some sort of woman’s liberation activist. If she knew she would be tickled pink but in reality she is just another girl in a woman’s college with dreams of a better future than past. If that is a political movement then the entirety of the human race is a member.

Between the hate from Jason and the love from Wilbur, I am sick of hearing about my roommate. You cannot blame me, it is as if my existence has somehow become secondary to hers even in my own family. When Jason and Wilbur began arguing about her again this afternoon I lost hold of my tongue and I think it was perfectly understandable.

“If Miss Bassett is so Goddamn important to you both why the hell aren’t you both with her? I don’t give a crap what she said to whom and when or why she said it. She’s a snobbish brat with impulse control problems who likes to pretend she’s from a better home than she is. That doesn’t make her the devil or an angel it just makes her like almost every other girl in Primrose College and they all have one damn thing in common, they aren’t me!” I shouted.

It felt good to shout. It felt like the whole world finally fell silent and opened its lazy ears and eyes to notice I existed. Wilbur and Jason both stared at me, mouths agape waiting for flies. Mother glared. Father walked into the room for the first time since I have been home.

“Watch your language Penelope.” Mother scolded.

“I would like to see you in my study Penelope.” Father said.

If mother was the determining factor I would have been certain I was heading for a proper whipping but the look in father’s eye told me his request had an entirely different basis. I rose and walked quietly to my father’s study. He closed the doors behind us and then pulled a chair out for me. It was a polite gesture but one he has not extended to me in a very long time. He sat behind his desk, his hands folded on top of it.

“We have important matters to discuss. I have not wanted to burden you with knowledge you do not need but things have changed. A new year is beginning and with it I have decided it is time for a new start between us. You must never repeat what is said in this room today, beyond these walls. Do you understand?” He said.

“No, but I think I will.” I said.

He nodded.

“It time you knew the truth about Primrose. I wish it were not necessary, but your world is about to change forever.” He said.

It was my turn to nod. Then he told me everything.

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