By Piano Bookworm
“Mother!” Fifteen-year old May looked in the front hall. “Where are you, Mother?” Looking in the sitting room, May saw her mother sitting in a chair, her eyes closed. Quickly she went into the living room.
“Mother, I had a wonderful time with Elsa . . . mother?” May stopped in confusion. “What’s wrong?”
Her mother looked at May sadly, and sighed. “Darling, I’m afraid we will have to move.”
Taken aback, May frowned. “Move! Why do we need to move, Mother? Where are we going to move to?”
“We are going west, my dear. Your father has lost all his money and credit here. We are ruined, and there is no other place for us to go.”
May looked around at the Marston family home. It was not grand, but it was beautiful, and May loved it. Now they would have to leave. Why, she wondered. Why do we have to leave this? How did Father lose his money? However, she said none of these out loud. Instead, she just sorrowfully went to her rooms, certain that her father was surely not responsible for the loss of his money. Whoever had made her father lose his money was a thief.
May Marston was the only child of the Mr. and Mrs. Marston, and she was a bit spoiled. After her studies were done, which was usually by midday, she was able to go where she liked. Usually she spent the rest of the afternoon with her best friend, Elsa Greeling. Elsa’s father was the banker for May’s father, and since the two men were fairly good friends, Elsa and May had met. Soon they discovered that they had much in common, and they had been best friends for years. May would run over to the Greeling’s whenever she had something to tell Elsa, and Elsa was always assured of a welcome at the Marston’s.
The girls had not been aware of the growing animosity between Mr. Marston and Mr. Greeling. Although they didn’t know it, Mr. Marston had begun to feel that he could not trust Mr. Greeling.
May sat in her bedroom, thinking. Looking sorrowfully at each of her precious possessions, she realized that many of these would have to be left behind them. Her books! Scanning the bookshelves, she saw many treasures: Ivanhoe, Shakespeare’s Plays, her Bible, and others. How many of those could they take west? A growing anger grew in her heart against whoever had caused their ruin. Surely he was responsible for this.
Three years later.
A covered wagon rumbled slowly over the horizon, forlorn against the prairie grass. No other wagon was in sight, but there was a sod house with a young woman standing at the door, watching the wagon. Whispering and tugging at her skirt, the wind blew her hair into her face, and she brushed it away. Who were these people? Hardly anyone came west without a wagon train. On the horizon, she saw the hill. Shuddering, she turned away and went back into the sod house.
But the wagon came nearer. Finally it stopped at the house. Looking out of her house, the young woman saw that there were three people in it: an older boy who was driving the horses, a girl about her age, and a younger girl. Lifting her head and smoothing her skirt, she took a deep breath and went out to welcome them. As the boy stopped the horses, the girls jumped out. The older one came over to her.
The two girls looked at each other. They presented a strange contrast, standing there. The one who had been in the sod house was wearing calico, and had windblown, light brown hair, and tanned and rough skin. The newcomer was fair and wearing fine clothes. She had dark hair, pinned into place neatly. Finally, the newcomer spoke. “May we stop here? We are nearly out of water, and you must have some here.” She seemed sad and awkward.
The young woman raised her head. Looking the stranger right in the eyes, she said: “Yes. Yes, you may, although I am tempted to say no, Elsa Greeling.” Blazing out of her eyes was such hatred that the newcomer recoiled.
“M-May?” she stammered. “What’s wrong? Why are you here? Why are you talking to me like that?” Tears started in her eyes.
May gritted her teeth. “You pretend you don’t know, Elsa? Your father caused my father to go bankrupt.” Swallowing back tears, she continued. “And that caused their deaths.” Quickly she turned away, not wanting Elsa to see her tears. How could Elsa not know? She had to know, and May would never forgive the Greeling family.
She heard Elsa step forward quickly. “May? What are you talking about? I don’t understand.” Her voice sounded frustrated. “May! What are you talking about! How dare you!” Her voice softened. “May, please take us in. I don’t know what you are talking about, so maybe you can explain it to us.” It sounded as if she was almost on the verge of tears.
May turned around just in time to see the young man come around the edge of the wagon. Stopping when he saw the tears in Elsa’s eyes, he looked at May in anger.
“What are you saying to my sister? Don’t you dare make her cry!”
Elsa pulled his arm. “Stop, Jerry! Look at her. Don’t you recognize her?”
Jerry swung his head toward her. His eyes widened. “May? May Marston? Why are you out here? After your family disappeared, we couldn’t find out what had happened to you.” There was an incredulous tone in his voice.
May raised her chin defiantly. “Well, you may stay the night, for old time’s sake. And I will see if I know any good routes for you to take in the morning.”
She went inside and shut the door, leaving the others out by themselves. Jerry and Elsa looked at each other. Jerry spoke first.
“What was she doing, Elsa? Why were you crying?”
Elsa looked away. “I don’t know, Jerry. She said that we caused their deaths, but who are they? And how did we cause it?” She looked right at Jerry’s eyes. “She’s changed, Jerry. She’s not our friend anymore.”
The door to the cottage opened. “You may come in now,” said May’s voice coldly. Elsa called her sister, and they went in.