The noise of the patter of footsteps awoke me, I turned around and opened my eyes. My room was pitch dark, it was still the middle of the night. Slowly I got out of bed and opened my door, and looked about the hall. Henry’s bedroom door opened a crack, and I could see light.
Curious why my brother was awake, I left the room and walked down the hall. When I reached Henry’s partially opened door, I hesitated, thinking he did not want to be bothered but I decided to knock anyway.
“Who is it?” asked my brother, who was sitting at a desk.
“It’s me.” I said quietly, there was no use in waking up our grandparents.
“Oh Shirley, what are you doing at this hour?” he asked as he turned around.
“I could ask the same.” I replied as I entered the room. “Are you sleepless tonight?” I asked, quietly.
“Yes, I was having some dreams, unpleasant ones. Sometimes it’s better to stay up all night than sleep with horrific visions.” he replied as he gestured to me to sit.
“That sounds terrible, talk to me.” I said, knowing that Henry was ready to speak to me.
“Well during the war, I saw many people get killed, including my best friend James. I also probably killed many people myself, but it was hard to see, with so many bullets passing your head, and so many guns getting fired, so I truly do not know. The tragic thing is that when I enlisted I thought it was honorable to fight for my country, and so did everyone else, on both sides, but when you are really there you see how glorious it is.” he said, taking a deep breath.
I nodded, not speaking, as Henry continued. “Ralph never really wanted to enlist, but I pressured him. I was a fool if Ralph stayed home and had not enlisted he would be very much alive today, and Bertha would not be heartbroken.” he said burying his face into his hands.
“It’s not your fault, Ralph made his own decision.” I said, that was the only thing I could say.
“You’re wrong about that Shirley.” he replied, lifting his head, sadly. The sad thing was that Henry was right, he had pressured Ralph.
I decided against saying anything, Henry needed to speak. “Everyday I see the faces of the people I knew and lost. I also see the faces of the soldiers on the other side. The side we were fighting against were just like us, groups of youngmen, who were fighting for their country and the glory for doing so.” he said bitterly, as he took a sip of water.
“I’m sorry Henry. I don’t know what to say, but…” I replied, putting my arm around his shoulder.
“It’s alright, I will have to live and get over this.” he said, sadly.
“Henry, quick question before I go back to sleep, what do you mean about Bertha being heartbroken?” I asked slowly, I was curious, I felt like I needed answers.
“Bertha and Ralph were courting for six months before he enlisted and left. I never saw two people so in love, it makes our parents marriage sallow, especially now. It’s cruel that they were seperated.” replied Henry, with a sad smile.
I was shocked, surprised, and astounded, all at once at that moment. Ralph and Bertha? I thought. How could I not have noticed, why wasn’t I told, and why Bertha hid it from me? I thought as my mind screamed. How many things did I miss, how many things I did not know about Ralph? Why didn’t they trust me and instead told Henry? Or did Henry find out? A million such questions swirled in my mind.
“Are you lying?” I asked, hoping this was one of Henry’s foolish jokes, but he seemed serious.
Henry just nodded, he had the expression horror, as if he was realizing that what he had told me was a secret that he had to keep. I on the other hand felt betrayed, angry at Bertha, and most of all saddened because I knew so little of my deceased older brother.
I slowly stood up and began to leave, I needed to sleep on this. “I should not have told you. Bertha is going to tan my hide, now.. Please let me explain” said Henry as he groaned.
“There’s nothing to explain, Bertha and Ralph were courting. I just need to sleep on this.” I replied coldly as I left the room and closed the door behind me.
That night I slept restlessly, thoughts on Bertha, Ralph, Henry, the party, my grandmother’s fragile condition, and my parents fragile condition, roared through my mind. I felt like I was going insane. But eventually I dozed off. But I awoke again, and began pondering again.
I felt strangely alone even though there were ten servants, my grandparents, and Henry all sleeping in the house. I began to miss the way the world was, but I realized that I always missed the past. After some more tossing and turning I fell asleep for good, but my dreams were full of the thoughts I was thinking.