I tried to be brave; I tried to remain the lady I was raised to be. But, all I felt was hatred. Hatred at my father dying from smallpox, hatred at him leaving my sister and I with nothing, and hatred at my mother for dying while giving birth to me, it all hit me as I sat in my beloved garden. I just wanted to scream and cry all at once, but all I managed was a few small tears.
Here I was, left orphaned and destitute. Most of the contents of my family's home was already sold off to pay for my father's debts. The few things left were packed in a wagon and on their way to the train station.
As I looked around me, it was like nothing cared that I had lost everything. The birds still sang in the apple trees, the bees still buzzed about my precious flowers, and the sun had the audacity to glimmer on the pond like a thousand diamonds.
"Cat, it's time to leave," my sister, Grace called to me from the porch. She gave me a sad glance before retreated back into the house.
I wiped the tears from my face and made my way over to the back door. I grazed my hand over the flowers along the path. Hopefully, whoever bought the house would take care of them. Most likely, they would just die off from lack of care.
The porch steps creaked under my weight. The wood of the door felt rough under my palm. These feelings, noises, smells I was just now taking notice. I felt like a ghost inside the house. After nineteen years, the house had never felt this empty, this quiet. The servants had all been let go, the remaining furniture covered in white sheets. It was so quiet, I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat. I couldn't stand it anymore. I ran to the front door before more tears could fall.
I blinked in the dazzling sunlight. A horse-drawn carriage was sitting on the gravel in front of the porch.
Grace, already in the carriage, stuck her head out of the small window. "Come on, Cat, we'll miss our train."
I made my way down the steps, my footsteps crunching on the gravel beneath my feet.
"Miss Catherine," the driver held the door open while holding out his other hand to help me inside.
I ducked my head and stepped inside. Grace moved over so I could sit next to her on the leather seating. She leaned over and patted my hand, soothingly. "We'll be fine, Cat. We'll start a new life. It'll be fine, you'll see."
I held in the sobs that wanted to escape my throat on the ride through town. Smithville, Georgia wasn't a grand city or anything special, but it was home. It was where I was born, it was where I learned to ride a horse, it was where I went to school when I flat out refused to go away to school like my sister had. I closed the curtain over the window. I didn't want to watch as my whole world slipped away from me. I felt like I was falling and no one tried to catch me, they all just stared as I neared my death.
The carriage jolted to a stop as we arrived in front of the train station. Grace and I stepped out and made our way over to the platform. The train was sitting at the station, smoke creating a haze over all the people waiting to board. I should be exited to ride a train for the first time, but all I felt was disdain for the iron horse. I jumped as a whistle sounded. Grace grabbed my hand and pulled me to one of the cars. She showed a man our tickets and he helped us onto a step and into the train. It was hot inside, and made it difficult to breathe. The car was full of wooden seats covered in a faded, red fabric. I found an open window and sat next to it, grateful for the fresh air. As the train jolted into motion, I leaned my head against the cool glass and tried to make myself fall asleep.
I was born Catherine Rosaline Carson is the year 1853. I was raised in a very happy home. The only dark cloud over our lives was the loss of my mother. I always wished I knew her, but I don't even know what she looked like. Both my sister and I were raised to be ladies. Grace, of course, was delighted to go away to finishing school at the age of twelve, but I threw a fit and cried for days before my father relented.
Grace is twenty-one, two years older than me. Most of the town expected her to be married by now, but leave it to her to be picky. She had plenty of suitors; she wasn't lacking in beauty. Everyone said she looks like my mother. She has golden hair, always piled up on her head, and the brightest blue eyes, the color of the sky. She always says she wants to marry for love, and that's why she won't marry any of the men who've courted her. But until she's married no one would pick me over her. She's beautiful and a real lady while I look more like my father with my chestnut brown hair, green eyes, and inability to behave myself.
My father was a well-loved physician in our town. He was the one everyone called when they needed a baby delivered, had a broken bone, or came down with the pox. That was his downfall. He caught smallpox from one of his patients and died soon after. After he died, my sister and I were alone. The only living relative we had left was an uncle who ran a cattle ranch in Kansas.
So, here I am, my entire life ripped out from under me as I head down the steel road into the unknown.
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