It was near the end of October and
the leaves were dropping off the trees and tumbling toward the
ground. Red, orange, and yellow decorated the cobble streets.
Fighting against the biting cold, Walter sat on the stairs of the
big church; that's what the kids called it. He was waiting there
to see Elizabeth. It's been an hour.
They'd been friends now for some months, though his parents didn't approve. She was poor. Since she was poor she must be unclean they reasoned. A well-bred New York boy mustn't associate with such a girl. Her father left her mother when she was very young and she had no memory of him. Walter saw no problem in being her friend; he liked helping her and her mother out. In one week it would be her eleventh birthday.
Elizabeth arrived at the church in her normal attire. It was a plain, long sleeved cotton dress that went just past her knees. When she saw him she ran toward him and burst out in tears with the news she had.
"Momma's putting me on the train to
leave. I'll be gone by the day after tomorrow."
"Why? Where will you go? " Walter stepped away to get a better look at her. Her blonde hair was blown and dusty from living on the streets; her face was red from the wind, and her clothes were worn because she couldn't afford anything new. This was his best friend.
"Somewhere out west. On the orphan train the other kids all had to go on. Momma can't afford me." Just then her mother appeared and she had to leave.
He stood there and watched her
shuffle after her mother, rubbing her brown eyes with the sleeve
of her dress. Suddenly, he turned and ran home. He ran to his
room and rustled through the mess on his desk. There it was in a
little box; a gold heart locket. It was Elizabeth's birthday
present; she had admired it through the shop window for as long
as he'd known her.
When the day for her to leave came, she stepped outside and found the little box with the locket. In the locket was a tiny note with 'I will find you' in it. No sign of Walter to thank though; he was hiding behind the corner of the street, his green eyes flowing with tears. The train arrived right on time, smoke puffed from it making it look like a dragon. She was handed over to a woman named Alma-Maud, who was a placing agent. Miss Maud led a troop of thirty plus Elizabeth onto the train to their cart. It was a small, cramped box car. The kids were all told to forget their lives in New York.
At the first stop only two of
Maud's thirty-one were adopted. The adults at the station felt
the kids' muscles and looked at their teeth, inspecting them like
cattle. Three stations later Elizabeth was adopted. By then they
were in Colorado. Her new parents cleaned her up and bought her
new clothes. For years she was raised as an only child to the
Knights. Her father was a tailor and her mother stayed home to
teach her. She never did forget New York but she came to love her
new home and he people who came with it. Soon she was known as
simply "Liz" to the people in her small town. They had seen her
go from a ragged dusty shy child to a well-kept kind and
As the years passed her hair grew longer and she more elegant.Her brown eyes shonebrighter than ever as she made many new friends.Her clothes were as fine as the richest New Yorkers. Many a suitor came but all were turned away. There was only one, she said, who could have her and someday he'd come. Her father disapproved of some boy from an unknown backgroundand the town women did too. Everyone but her mother and Esther, the elderly town romantic.
Walter was raised to take over his father's business as a sailor. He grew his hair longer than accepted but he wore the best clothes available. People saw him as a rebel, with too long hair and loud laughter when surrounded by the other men. He and his father took many people who wouldn't or couldn't take trains where they needed to go. Many women wished to marry him but he was oblivious to even the prettiest girls. His parents scoffed at his explanation; that he would find and marry the little girl he'd loved as a child. On November 2, 1896 he remembered her. His best friend; the little girl with blonde hair and the plain dress. Exactly six years ago he'd lost her.