December 15, 1896
My bags were packed and sitting on the gravel drive of Carrington Manor. I stood beside them in the cold morning air, watching my frosty breath float away into the clear horizon. A hundred girls, just like me, stood beside me waiting for their turn to board the wagons that would deliver us to the rail platforms two days outside of town.
“Where is your ticket?” Mr. Carrington asked.
It was my turn to board.
“It will be waiting for me at the window.” I replied.
David promised to arrange it, all I needed to do was wire him once I got there.
“Without a ticket, you are not going.” Mr. Carrington replied.
“But I can’t get a ticket unless I get to the station.”
“I’m sorry but, this is a one way trip with the wagons and I can’t risk have any of you girls needing a way back here.”
“I won’t. My brother will send a ticket for me. Read the letter if you don’t believe me.” I pleaded.
“I’m sorry Miss Bassett, you’ll have to stay here unless you have a ticket now.”
“Take you things back inside and stop wasting my time.” Mr. Carrington ordered.
I would have liked to have argued longer, but it was of no use and the other girls were beginning to get annoyed with me. We all knew his rule, whether we agreed with it or not was another matter. I had hoped the Christmas spirit might have given Mr. Carrington a heart, but if anything it has made him a more stubborn man.
I promised myself I would not cry. My bags felt heavier than before when I lifted them from the ground and trudged the short distance back to the house door. I looked back over my shoulder at all the lucky girls, heading home and as I closed the door to the outside, tears were streaming down my cheeks.
There are many things in this world which are unfair. Most of them, I ignore or accept as necessary, but to be alone at Christmas when you should be with those who love you, is too much to expect. With every step toward the stairs leading back to my room, my rage against Mr. Carrington’s injustice grew stronger. Unfortunately, it was Wilbur and not Mr. Carrington whom I nearly trampled in my blind rage.
“Whoa! What’s wrong?” Wilbur said.
His strong hands gripped my shoulders after I had ran headlong into him. I nearly slapped him, but the genuine concern in his eyes stopped me.
“Nothing.” I said.
I sniveled and tried to wipe my cheeks on my dress sleeve.
“You’re upset.” He said.
“Of course I am.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does.”
He guided me to a chair in the dining room and made me sit down. He kneeled beside and took my hands in his.
“Tell me what happened.” He said.
Something about his manner made me feel utterly foolish and childish. Everything came blubbering out of me about my dad failing to send a ticket despite his promises, about the letter from Sylvia and how devastatingly unbearable it would be to miss my nephew’s first Christmas. Once I started talking it was like I could not stop, but Wilbur only listened until I finished.
“I’ll get you to your brother’s for Christmas.” He said.
“What? How?” I asked.
“Penelope and I are heading home as soon as she finishes packing. You can come with us and I’ll get you on a train to Florida from Charleston.” He said.
I know I should not have, but I threw my arms around him, kissed his cheek and buried my head in his chest as I squeezed him with all my strength. His hands patted my back and returned the hug in kind.
“Thank you.” I said.