These are the Shorts are a series of interactive short stories written by the one and only Modo. At the end of every piece I will give the readers an opportunity to choose the first line of the next part of the story, thus making it an interactive piece. I hope that you all enjoy this new portion of Singing With the Volume Up.
The Secret of the Lavender Rose Part 1
I learned at an early age that hoping got people killed, or worse, jailed. I had never left the borders of Essex; in fact, I barely left the street I grew up on. There was no point really; my destiny was already arranged. I would turn out just like all the other women of the city; first be married off to a man twice my age, bear hoards of children, and then live out my remaining years just as the rest of the widows: in dreadful solitude. I gave up on dreaming years ago and today only pushed hope further away.
Jail, or Darkness as it was called in Essex, was just what nightmares were made of. No one ever saw someone again after they were confined to Darkness; there were only letters sent every seven years to inform their families that they were still alive. The letters were always short, written in cursive, and smelled of lavender. No one ever talked of why visitors were not allowed, or why only women were jailed, or even why one must be bathed before entering. Actually no one ever talked about Darkness because it was forbidden by law. Cynthia Shard’s eldest sister, Emily, was jailed on my fourth birthday after being sealed to a man 46 years her senior. First the medics were sent in to stop the bleeding from her wrist, there are rumors that she had to be revived three times before her heart would beat on its own. Her mother was ordered in to dress her in her finest wardrobe and lastly in went the guards.
The patrons of Essex mourned the confinement of another young girl to Darkness, but sorrow never stopped anyone from watching the scene play out in the streets. I always remember Emily’s peaceful demeanor that day; she went without a fight. She had an aura of peace around her and some say she wore a hint of a grin when she looked out the windows of the transport for the last time.
This was far different than Frankel Dug’s sister who was covered in mud by time she reached the transport after being chased through the hog’s quarters. I searched for Frankel amongst the tragedy unveiling; with my eyes of course, as any movement during a jailing was forbidden. Finally I found him standing near an apple tree. He never looked up during a jailing. Something about Frankel was absent; like his soul had been drug away by a pack of wild dogs the day of his sister’s confinement. He was empty, but his hollowness never out shadowed the twinkle of his emerald colored eyes.
When I turned eleven I remember guards driving to Cynthia’s home and delivering the first letter from Emily. Families were not allowed to keep letters, only read them and then return them back to the intimidating guards. At my birthday party that night I asked Cynthia about the letter. Almost rehearsed Cynthia murmured ” I am sorry for all my mistakes. Tell Cynthia do not make the same. Your loving daughter Emily.” When Cynthia spoke Emily’s name she fell to the ground in an uncontrolled weeping. I rushed her to the washroom as such a public display of sorrow would breed talk in the town and lower Cynthia’s chances of securing a wealthy husband.
In an angry whisper I demanded Cynthia to freshen up and continue her flirting with Alex Burtman, an eligible bachelor who expressed great interest and wasn’t older than her father.
Cynthia sloppily attempted to convince me otherwise. “Samantha, but I know that was not my sister who wrote that letter. She has never called me Cynthia. When I was born she couldn’t pronounce my name so my parents taught her to call me kitty. Never a day went by that Emily didn’t call me Kitty. She is dead Samantha I know it!”
Lost for words I did something I had never done before. I hugged Cynthia. I hugged her until her breathing returned to normal. I still ponder my intentions of that moment, but Cynthia read me loud and clear. She saw it as a way to be silenced, muted about Darkness. Shortly after I helped her wash her face and we left the washroom. We never spoke of that time again. I actually never saw Cynthia in public after that day until this very moment, as she was being carried out of her house by guards, lifeless. Unlike her sister she had succeeded in ending her life after being promised to Rupert Cummings just the night before her 15th birthday; a man 40 years her senior and had a reputation of having a heavy hand. As they loaded her body into the transport the whole town stood still once more. I hung my head; not in despair but in a ploy to not have my words heard. I whispered “goodbye Kitty” as the sirens rang out in the streets.
As my head rose I locked eyes with Gertrude Homes, a widow that lived directly across the street from me. There were rumors Gertrude was a witch, but if you looked an ounce suspect in Essex there were rumors about you, so I never paid any attention to the gossip. Gertrude had stringy white hair, walked with a cane, and was only ever sighted at funerals and jailings. Our eyes met and then she did something rarely seen in Essex. She smiled at me. It was like I was frozen in her gaze and before I knew it everything faded to black.
Choose the first line of part 2 of The Secret of the Lavender Rose
- I woke up to water being splashed on my face and immediately looked for signs of Gertrude, but she was nowhere to be found.
- Frankel’s eyes were even more breathtaking up close.
- My mother only cooked soup when she thought someone was near their death bed; so when I awoke to the smell of herbs I kept my eyes closed just a little longer to avoid the scene that she would cause upon my awakening.
Always with love,