Reminders of a Life Unlived

Emma’s first complete memory was boarding the train in New York at the age of six that would take them out West.  The train itself was a comfortable a sleeper car train. Green seemed to be the prevailing color scheme on both the exterior and interior of the car.  

Emma was scared, but she could feel Danny’s hand trembling in her own, so she put on her best grown up act. 

“Emmy, where do we go?” Danny’s whisper was barely audible.  

Emma looked around for Miss Greenleaf, but she was busy sorting the luggage with the porter. Apparently some of that luggag now belonged to Emma and Danny and contained some toiletries, a few work outfits and one Sunday best outfit. A gift from the Society to bring into their new lives with their new families.  

Since Miss Greenleaf was obviously preoccupied, Emma started scanning the sections of the car herself.  Closest to them, Marcus and his gang of older boys were harassing Neville and Christopher Lingpin.  Emma wanted nothing to do with that lot.  Half way down Ethel McDonald was bossing around some younger girls, but all the way at the end, Emma spotted Maria sitting by herself in the last section.

“Come on, Danny. Let’s try to sit by Maria.” Maria was twelve and had lost her entire family to a fire a few years back. She didn’t speak much until you got to know her, but she loved Emma and Danny from the first time they met.  The two children hurried to claim seats with her before anyone else could.

“How are you doing today Maria?” Emma asked in her most well mannered voice, but before Maria could respond, Danny had jumped in her lap to give her a great big hug.

“Maria, you’ll let us sit with you, won’t you?” He begged. “I don’t know whatever I shall do if you say no!”

“Daniel!” Emma began to reprove, but Maria cut her off with laughter.

“Emma dear, don’t be mortified,” she laughed, cupping Daniel’s face in her hand. “Young Danny here is obviously excited to start this brand new adventure.  It is quite understandable and certainly forgivable that his enthusiasm has gotten the better of his manners. Of course I shall be honored if you two will accompany me for the course of our journey.  Please have a seat.  Do you have anything to be stowed in the berths?”

“Not until Miss Greenleaf gives us our luggage.”

“But nothing of your family?” Maria pressed, a furrow beginning in her brow. Emma felt for the first time she could remember the sense of hollow sorrow that would become such a familiar sensation in her life.

“Only the few things we carry on our persons,” she answered truthfully. She unwrapped the sack she always carried, revealing it to actually be a woman’s shawl.  Within were a few hard crackers, and two drinking mugs.  “I don’t know where the mugs came from, but the shawl belonged to our mother.”

“Did she give it to you?” Maria asked.

“I’m not sure,” Emma responded. “I don’t remember her or our father.  I suppose they died.  Miss Greenleaf says we were dropped off at the Society by a Good Samaritan who was scared we would die on the streets with no care. But we did have a few other things on us,” Emma reached below the collar of her dress and pulled out two chains.  One contained a locket and the other a pocketwatch. She opened the locket and leaned it forward so Maria could see. “I was wrapped in the shawl and carried the locket and Danny had the pocket watch around his neck when they found us.”

“And no one robbed you of them?” Maria wondered.

“We were very lucky,” Emma agreed. “This locket has a picture of our mother on one side, wearing the shawl, see here?  The stitching at the hem is the exact same pattern.”

“Oh yes! I see.” Maria reached for the shawl and ran her hand over the pattern. “Very skilled knitting.”

Emma turned to the other side of the locket. “And this is our father. He is wearing this locket watch here.”

Picking up the pocketwatch and turning both it and the locket to the back, Emma showed Maria the inscriptions.  The locket read: “To our daughter, Emmy, with Love”. Likewise the pocketwatch read: “To our son, Danny, with Love”.

“This is how the Society knew our names,” Emma explained.

“Wow, I can imagine you’d want to keep that close to you. Can I see the pictures of your parents again?” Emma handed Maria the locket and Maria examined the pictures again. “You both definitely look like them.  Their eyes, though! I’ve never seen two people with more brilliant eyes!”

The conversation was interrupted by the train whistle and Miss Greenleaf calling everyone to attention for final instructions before departure.  Emma folded the shawl back up and tucked the pocketwatch and locket back under her collar. She’d pull the back out at bedtime so Danny could have some time with them.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Home Turf.”

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