“We are here!” announced Bertha, as the streetcar came to a stop. The three of us stepped off the car, and began heading towards our home. It was very cold and even more miserable out, so we gladly hurried home. Thanks to our brisk pace we arrived home in a few minutes.
I quietly knocked on the door, immediately it was answered by Lizzie. “My oh my! Mr. Henry, welcome home!” exclaimed Lizzie as she hugged him, and led him inside.
“Hello Lizzie. It is nice to see you!” he said with a hearty laugh, that reminded me so much of two years ago.
“It is nice to see another young face in this house.” said Mary who was behind us. Then Henry went on to speak to her. Bertha and I watched, happily, so far so good, but the bomb had to drop, the truth would come out, and I could not hide it, anymore.
After I showed Henry his room, which had been empty for a while now, he had not yet asked me about our parents, but I knew at least my father would come down and “welcome him.” I left him in his room to unpack. As I headed down stairs, I caught the eye of my father who had his study door open, but I looked away.
I then helped Bertha lay the table, we were using the nice China today. We barely spoke, even when Henry came down stairs for supper, we were both thinking the same thing. As we all sat down for supper Henry inquired again about our parents, this time more suspiciously.
“Hello Henry.” said my father, as he headed into the room, I stared at him, but I knew that this was going to happen, Bertha looked down uncomfortably as she placed soup on Henry’s place.
“Hello father!” said as he stood up, our father gestured to him to sit down, which was something he did often. My father sat down and gestured to Bertha to serve him some soup, then there was an awkward silence, Henry confused why I was partially glaring at my father, and why Bertha was so uncomfortable.
“Well Henry, welcome home.” he said as he shook Henry’s hand, our father was far from a loving man. “Let us pray.” said my father quietly, he then proceeded with the prayer that had many things in it that suggested Ralph.
“Thank you, Father. Let us eat.” suggested Henry awkwardly, as he took a spoonful of soup, everyone else began eating. My father seemed to be in a decent mood, but that would change in any second.
After we had finished dessert, my father began asking Henry many questions, which left the atmosphere even more awkward, he even began asking about College! Which was ridiculous, Henry was only home for a couple of hours, and now he was being harassed by the questions of his future. Bertha, who had fled out of the room right after she served dessert, was probably listening in on the conversation. I just watched Henry become more and more uncomfortable.
“Father, how’s mother, and where is she?” asked Henry, quietly, before our father left the table.
“Your mother, well she is in poor health, so she is resting.” he replied, much to my relief. My father was not feeling bitter.
“I heard that. But what is ailing her?” asked Henry with concern, as he wiped his mouth.
“She has not been well for almost a year now, since Ralph was killed.” said my father very bluntly. I wanted to shrink away and hide in a cave at that very moment. Henry just stared in shock at my father, not speaking.
“He’s dead…” that was all he could say, my poor brother.
“Yes. Killed on the very land he was fighting upon.” said my father bitterly.
Henry buried his face into his hands, and then stood up. I tried to stop him, to explain everything, but my father told me to leave him be. I watched my brother as he went upstairs to his room, my father stood up calmly, I glared at him, why did he have to be so blunt? So harsh?
After my father left back into his miserable study, I sat alone, thinking what to do next. I decided to go speak with Henry. Explain, like I was going to do before my father had stopped me. As I stood up Bertha pulled me aside.
“Mr. Monroe is right, your brother needs time to understand and to figure out his new life. He just came back from war, who knows what he has seen or been through, and hearing that his mother is ill, and his brother is dead, who knows how he is feeling.” explained Bertha, kindly.
“You’re right Bertha. I should leave him be, even though how much I want to explain. He is probably furious at me.” I replied, regretfully. I was a fool..
“Good. After I’m done with clearing that table, how about we go through some of your mother’s old coats, that are in the chest in the attic.” she suggested.
“I would like that.” I said, anything to do with fine clothing or furs, I would have to be involved in. The rest of the evening was rather quiet, just Bertha and I trying on coats, pretending to be fine and wealthy ladies, which was childish, yet fun. Henry did not leave his room once, but that was expected.
That night I lay in bed for a while, contemplating on the days ahead, and how to handle my family’s position, but I eventually drowsed off, into a restless sleep. I soon awoke, thanks to a light in the hallway outside of my room. Curious, and half asleep I stumbled out of bed, thinking that someone had left on a light. I quietly creped up at my door and opened it as quietly as I could, to not awake anyone.
I saw Henry, pacing back and forth with a portable light, he looked anxious and was taking deep breaths. He was very awake, unlike myself, who was a second away from collapsing thanks to my sleepiness. I wanted to speak to him though, ask him why he was pacing, but I was far too tired and drowsy, so I creeped back inside my room, and was soon fast asleep, before I knew it.
The next morning when I awoke I immediately regretted the decision I made last night. But I decided to forget it and move on. Maybe Henry was sleepless that night? Or maybe he woke up in the middle of the night like I had, but what could explain the pacing? It looked like the kind of thing that someone would do if they had a nightmare. But there were probably other explanations.