There’s an old saying in the highlands. If you can see the sky, then, if you wait long enough, the sun will come out again no matter how bad the storm clouds are.
The world was shaking.
No, not the world.
I was shaking.
From somewhere there was the sound of pained sobs and anguished cries. My whole body shuddered. Me. I was making those sides. I raised shaking fingers to me cheek and they came away wet.
“Bobbie!” There were arms around me and I recognised Henri.
“Bobbie!” I looked to see Jo was with her. “What’s happened?” She asked at the same time I asked her:
About me was confusion. I willed my legs to take me from the landing into the room I shared with Jo. Shared, and would share no longer.
I was alone now.
Alone I stepped into a cacophony of banging and shouting and rattling an orders given and received. The noise, movement and disorder was an assault upon my senses.
“Bobbie?” My friends had come to my side once more and I clung to them.
“My parents, my beloved Mother and darling Papa are… their ship… It’s— It’s— and they’re… they’re go-gone.”
I sobbed into the arms of my friends while comforting words were said and hands stroked my head.
“Miss Cox! Stop that dallying this instant! May I assume that these books without their nameplates filled out belong to you?”
We all looked up.
“Ye— yes Miss Jane.” Jo said.
I looked about our room. Clothes were strewn on the bed and being packed into boxes. Books were stacked up. She’d even started going through our desk, removing my pens, pencils, paints and bottles of ink to be sold. My beautiful pen handle from my father would be there. The bedspread from my mother. Not mere items but objects that held memories I could never relive. She left nothing behind.
“We’ll look after you, lass.” A hand was on my shoulder and I looked up to the unfamiliar male voice. Tomas. Of course, Miss Jane would want him to move the trunks and the boxes…
“Then they can stay. It is your old roommate’s possessions I am removing, Miss Cox, it would be beneficial if you would assist rather than standing around gaping in that manner.”
“Removing? Removing where? Miss Jane I demand to know what is going on!” Jo ran to Miss Jane and tore Strider, my toy horse, out of her hands. “Bobbie is my friend and a student of this school. Her possessions are her own, what right do you have to take them?” Her hands were balled into fists.
“Can’t you see how upset she is? She’ll be sick with crying if we don’t help her, what are you doing?”
“Miss Cox if you speak one more word out of turn you’ll be in detention for a month. Roberta is no longer a student of this school and from this day forth no longer your friend. Her parents are dead and their property must be sold to pay off their debts.”
“This box here has Roberta Hilton written on it. Tomas, put it in the pile please.”
I felt something cool against my forehead.
Henri had sat me down on our little chair and Marjorie had fetched a cloth damp with cold water and the were wiping my face and hands.
“Thank you.” I murmured.
“Don’t take that!” Jo dived into the box Tomas had taken from our wardrobe. “My wand is in here.” She pulled out my wand. “This is mine.” She said.
“Well then put it away you silly girl. Which of these pictures are yours?” Before Jo could answer there was a timid knock at the door.
“Miss Jane? Excuse me ma’am but I found a dress.”
“Lets have a look at it.” Miss Jane strode over to Frankie and took the garment out of her arms. “Yes, well, it will have to do. Roberta, change out of that finery, that will have to be sold also. Frankie has a dress you may wear.” Miss Jane looked at me expectantly.
“You can’t make her change here!” Jo shouted back.
“I’ll— I’ll take my leave ma’am.” Tomas said, making to back out of the room.
“Nonsense!” Miss Jane said. You’ve work to do!”
“She can change in our room.” Henri said.
“As long as it’s done. I want that dress back in good condition.” Miss Jane held out a small pile of linens to me which Henri took after I did not lift my hands to do so.
“Two sets of undergarments, two pairs of stockings and a two night dresses. I will allow you to keep these Roberta and be
thankful that I am so generous.”
“Yes Miss Jane.” I murmured before Henri dragged me out.
Frankie followed us into Henri’s room.
“What has happened?” She asked. “Miss Jane said to find you a servant’s dress and that I’d be having a new companion in my attic.”
“Bobbie, is it certin, are your parents really…” Henri trailed off and I nodded in reply to her unfinished question.
“Lady D’Winter says there’s no money and it’s here or the streets.” I said, wiping at eyes that were already red and sore. “But that can’t be right! It just can’t! She says our house is sold and our servants gone! But that just can’t be right!”
Henri bit her lip.
“I’m sorry Bobbie, this came a few days ago.” Henri turned and rattled through her desk. She held out a slightly crumpled letter. It looked familiar. I recognised my own writing on the front but the words written across them were new. “It was returned by the new occupants of your old home. I’m sorry, but it must be true.”
I buried my head in my hands and a new flood of tears joined the ones that had barley dried on my cheek.
“Now miss, I’m sorry, but we have to get you changed or else there’ll be trouble with Miss Jane.” Frankie laid a hand on her shoulder. “She has been quite generous, like she said, you know. I know it doesn’t seem like it now but your old things are better than anything we could get you.
Wordlessly I let Frankie and Henri peel me out of my fine dress and take my hair down. My new dress was rough against my skin and worn in places, but it was serviceable. It was a little tight around the middle but otherwise fitted well.
As Henri brushed my hair out I wound my precious ribbon around and around my hand. Friends forever. No one could take that away from me.
There was a knock at the door and Marjorie entered.
“Bobbie,” She said. “This is from Jo.” She held out a small picture frame. “She snuck it when Miss Jane wasn’t looking.”
I took the frame and opened it. From each side my mother and papa looked out at me and I blinked back tears so I could see their faces.
“Tell her thank you, from me.” I said.
“Is she ready?” Miss Jane’s voice sounded from the landing and as quick as a flash Frankie snatched the frame from my ands and buried it in my pile of linen, which she held close.
“Yes Miss Jane.” Henri answered.
“Come on, Miss, we have to go.” Frankie led the way out.
Jo was waiting for me on the landing and threw her arms about me.
“I’ll write to Mother and Father.” She sobbed into my ear. “And Henri will write to hers and her brother and we’ll do something, I promise we will. I don’t care what Miss Jane says, we’ll do something.”
“Miss Cox, for the last time, contain yourself.” Miss Jane pulled me away from the tangle of Jo’s arms.
The journey from there to Frankie’s little attic room passed in a numb blur. It was the longest walk of my my life yet passed yet all too soon Miss Jane was making her way back down the spiral stairs leaving Frankie and I alone.
I sat down on the bed and pulled out my parents’ portraits from the pile of linen Frankie had set down.
“Mama. Papa.” I traced my hand over their faces.
“Miss, I know sleep is the last thing from your mind right now, but you’ll need sleep. Grief makes you tired and you’ll need all the rest you can get anyway.” Frankie put her arm around my shoulders.
“Bobbie.” I said. “No Miss. Bobbie now.”
“Bobbie.” Frankie repeated.
I closed the picture frame and looked at my reflection in its mirrored surface. My face was red and tear stained, but Roberta Hilton looked back out at me. Whole, and complete. I shook my head. Roberta Hilton wasn’t whole nor complete. She was distraught and broken. Her life had been torn apart. I was just Bobbie now, and I would never be complete again.
“Do you have some scissors?” I asked.
“Yes… But what for?” Frankie sounded hesitant.
“Please.” I said.
With a sigh she crossed the room and was soon placing something cool and heavy into my hand. They were old and the blades stuck a little when I opened them, but they were serviceable. Frankie hovered nearby, as if scared of what I might do, so with one swift movement I took my hair in my left hand and cut if off below the shoulders.
I looked at my reflection in the mirrored surface again. Bobbie looked back at me. The little girl whose life was in tatters and whose heart was shattered.
There were no windows in Our little attic room. No sky above but for the rough planks of unfinished wood. No hope that the sun would come out.
End of Part One
From the Author:
I want to thank all my readers again for your wonderful support and comments! Today I just passed 2,500 total views which is HUGE for me.
This is the end of part one but there’s a lot more story left to go. The past few chapters I’ve been working on the next one to be posted which isn’t ideal as I prefer to work ahead, so I’ll take a two week break from posting chapters to ensure that every chapter in part two arrives on time. Never fear, I’ll still be around and hopefully I’ll catch up on all the stories I have waiting for me to read!
Also, sorry about the picture with the walls down (did you spot it?) I only noticed it when I was uploading the photos and it took me forever to line up!