bold>April 29, 1874
The breeze slowly whispered my long brown hair into my eyes. I looked down over the cliff and watched the waves lap up against the rocks. Oh how I would miss this place, all of the memories and good times. I was so engulfed in the water's rhythm that I didn't even notice my best friend had walked up behind me until he said
"Beautiful isn't it. You know I don't think that I have single memory of this place without you being here" I jumped a foot in the air and cried
"Will how many times have I told you not to sneak up on me!" He just grinned like a fool and said
"What ever happened to the nothing ever scares the fearless Elizabeth?" I just glared at him. He just sighed and said " Why do you have to move to Iowa, nothing's there it's all here in California"
"Will, you know it's not my choice Pa and everyone else can't stay here, not after ma's death. Plus Ma's parents live in Iowa and Pa's parents live in Illinois. It will be nice to see them after ten years. Please don't make this harder than it already is," I pleaded.
"Sorry Liz it's just going to be so boring here without you, I mean who is going to keep me out, and get me out of trouble?"
I laughed and said "Guess you'll just have to stop getting into trouble, besides I'll write once a week as long as you write back"
"Yeah, Yeah you know I'll write back. Come on we should probably head back you're leaving tomorrow and you still have to finish packing."
"Okay lets go home, but can we stop off at my house so I can grab what's left there. I know I was suppose to do it earlier, but I just couldn't bring myself to go in there alone. Just not yet" I said sighing wistfully
"No problem do you want me to go inside with you?" He asked
"Thanks, but I think I can go in by myself as long as I know you're out there waiting for me. I just need to do this partially alone. I won't be long." I promised
"Hey Lizzie take all the time you need I'm not going anywhere." He said softly.
I just smiled at him. Just then we turned the corner on the old path and came to a huge clearing with a partially burnt down wooden house in the middle of it. I stared at the house, my home for over ten years. I remember coming here years ago. To this very clearing, but back then there was no house. Just an empty patch of land surrounded by trees. It took two years to build. Amazing isn't it. My house took two years to build and only an hour to practically be destroyed. All of a sudden I felt a hand shaking my arm.
"Liz you alright?" Will ask concern in his eyes "You sure you don't want me to go in there with you? Or better yet just let me go in there and get your stuff."
I smiled and said" No, that’s alright I have to face this before I leave."
I took a deep breath and headed for the house. I could still smell the smoke from the fire and for an instant I froze thinking that the fire was just waiting for me to enter the house then it would start up again. I shook my head, I was being crazy the fire was out and it wouldn't start unless I started it myself. I reached the front door, or what was left of it. Carefully pushing the broken door aside I stepped into the hall of my home. I was instantly enveloped by a stronger reeking smell of smoke and choked on it. I made my way down the hall and into the kitchen, where the fire had started. The west side of the wall in the kitchen was almost gone. There was nothing left to save in this part of the house that my brothers and sisters wouldn't have gotten already. So I made my way to the stairs that led to the second and third floors of the house. I slowly and carefully went up the stairs. Some stairs were missing altogether while others were only half gone. I tried to avoid those so as not to fall through the stairs and hurt myself. I by-passed the second floor, there was almost nothing left in those rooms. There was two rooms on the third floor, Lilly and my room and Annie's room/ Mama's sewing room. I slowly walk into my room. The smoke damage is less in here. Hardly any at all. I look at where Lilly's and my bed would be. Most of my books and possessions have been put in boxes and are currently at Will's house waiting to be stored in the covered wagon with everything else. The only things that remain are a old quilt, hairbrush, and some ribbons. Things Lilly must have forgotten. I grab those things and head into the other room, Mama's and Annie's room. I look around and carefully avoid the hole in the center of the room. I walk up to the window and look outside. I see Will sitting on the ground looking anxious, but knowing that this is something that I have to do alone. I can't take it anymore, this house and all of its memories. I can feel the tears clouding my eyes shaking my head to clear my vision I suddenly start to run out of the room. I'm half way across the charred room when I let out a small shriek and trip over a loose board on the floor. I looked back at the board that tripped me glaring at it when I see something glimmering in the sunlight. I crawled over to the loose board and gave it a good hard yank and it came up. Underneath the board was a small hidey hole. In that hole was a small gold necklace with a ring on it. On the ring was a tiny sapphire stone in the shape of a heart. I gingerly pick it up and examine it. I've never seen this before which surprises me because Ma always let me wear her jewelry. Looking back into the hidey hole I see a small journal with a black leather cover and a blue ribbing sticking out of it. Opening the journal to where the ribbon is I see a note and its addressed to me.
Happy eighteenth birthday! When I turned eighteen my mother gave me a journal and said to always follow my heart and to write down my thoughts because I always had a ton of them. Please write in this journal like I did. It doesn't matter what you write. Its been a tradition for the past five generations of my family. I give you this journal also in hopes that it will bring you closer to me. I know that I won't be there for when you turn eighteen. I want you to have this in hopes that you will always remember me. I was also given a necklace when I turned eighteen. Cherish it as I did and never let anything stand in your way and take care of your brothers and sisters you were always the wise and smart one.
I didn't even realize I was crying until I saw a tear drop fall on to the page. I sat there for another hour it seemed like before I stood up. Adding the journal to my pile of stuff I put the necklace in the journal so I wouldn't lose it. Grabbing the bundle I started slowly downstairs. As I walked out the door I see Will stand up and come towards me.
"Liz are you aright you look like you've seen a ghost." I numbly hand him the journal and collapsed on to the ground. I watched Will read the letter my mother left me his eyes widening. When he finished reading it we just stared at each other. Finally I broke the silence by saying,” Why didn't Pa give this to me when Ma died?"
"Maybe he didn't know about it Lizzie, come on we should head home."
"Yeah probably should," I say but not really meaning it.
I was lost in a daze thinking when Will suddenly says "Where did you find the diary and necklace?"
I smile at the question and said " I tripped over a loose floor board on my way out of Annie and Ma's room." I looked over at will to see him grinning to.
"You know you sure didn't get you mother's gracefulness did you?" He joked.
I glared at him and shot back "Your one to talk saying how you fell flat on your face while walking on flat ground! And yes, I did inherit my mother's grace thank you. I just have my special moments" Will laughed quietly. We walked in silence for the rest of the way to his house where my family has been staying since the fire. When we got to Will's house we went inside and I went straight to my Pa and showed the journal and necklace. Pa read and reread the letter over and over again. When he read it over twenty time he finally gave it back to me and said "I never knew about the necklace or journal Lizzie, I swear, if I did I would have given it to you years ago."
"I know Pa. Don't worry about it. I'm going to go to bed early tonight, see you in the morning okay Pa."
"Okay, remember you have to get up early." he said. So I headed off to bead where I wrote my entire day in the journal that is now my diary.
April 30, 1874
I'm back in my old house in my comfortable bed, But something is wrong I feel it deep in my bones. What woke me up? I crept out of bed and walked toward the small window in my room. I looked out at the pitch blackness. Nothing out of the ordinary. I Walked slowly back to my bed trying to convince myself that everything was okay. That's when I smelled something off. Was that smoke? I headed towards the door. I slowly walked down the two flights of stairs. I opened the door to the bottom floor, but as I opened the door I was suddenly engulfed by a thick smoke that made me choke and my eyes water. The smoke was blinding I couldn't see three feet in front of me. I walked slowly through the smoke trying to feel where I was at. When I had wandered aimlessly through the smoke for a few minutes. I found my way to the kitchen. As I opened the kitchen door I was flung backwards on to ground as ten feet high flames burst out of the kitchen seeking something fresh to burn. I struggled to stand up, but when I did I couldn't move. I was frozen with fear, to scared to even scream. The flames had me mesmerized. I don't know haw long I stood there staring into the flame when a loose ember flew out and hit me in the arm. The pain was excruciating, but it did shake me from my paralyzed state enough to start screaming as bet as I could with all the smoke in my lungs. I bolted up stairs screaming my head of that there was a fire. I made it up to the second floor where I started pounding on my brother's door like my life depended on it.(which if you think about it, it sort of did.)I then shouted "Wake up you guys the house is on fire get everyone and get out of the house!" But no one ever came to the door. I was coughing heavily because of the smoke. After a few seconds I figured that no one was left on the second floor. So I headed towards the third floor stairs. I was almost to the third floor when I tripped on the corner of the stairs. Choosing some of Will's more "colorful" words I continued on to my room. I tore through my bedroom to get my sister Lilly, but she wasn't there. I go into Annie's room but she's not there either. No one was in the house but me. I had to get out of the house! I started towards the door when suddenly the floor beneath me suddenly gave way and I was falling. Falling toward the flames towards my painful death. I started screaming. Then I was being roughly shaken. What was going on? I was fallen down towards the fire when I was suddenly awaken. Someone was shaking me awake. Mary, Will's younger sister, was standing above me trying desperately to wake me up. I got up into a sitting position and looked around, I was in Mary's and Lydia's room.
"Liz are you okay?" Lydia asked worriedly. “You started tossing and turning then just flat out screaming"
"I'm sorry Liddie, Mary It was just a nightmare about the fire. I'm sorry if I scared you" I apologized. "Go back to sleep, I won't start screaming again okay. I promised. They both nodded and went back to their beds. I laid back down in my makeshift bed, but I didn't want to go back to sleep for fear of having that nightmare again. I stared up at the ceiling of the room. I couldn't stay there the room felt suffocating like the smoke during the fire. I quietly crept out of my bed and headed for the door. I snuck down the stairs and avoided the squeaky floor board next to the door. Carefully unlatching the door. I slither out the door and close it silently. I take a breath of the fresh night air. The sweet smell of fresh cut hay and the wild flowers. The peaceful sound of the crickets chirp, the horses neigh, and the tinkling flow of the creek. I gaze up at the sky and look at the stars winking back at me. I let loose a huge sigh. Since all of the horrid things that have happened lately I forgot just how beautiful things here are. I start running towards the cliff where I had so many happy memories. I finally get to the cliff. I walk to the edge and look down at the flowing water so peaceful and quiet. I suddenly have a flashback of a few years back. I'm here with my Ma and It's late July. We stare out at the wave lapping against the rocks. Farther down the cliff is a tree that we tied a rope to. Grabbing the rope we run and jump off the cliff into the freezing water below. After our swim in the ocean we find a trail up to the top of the cliff where we lay down and dry off in the sun and have a small picnic. I'm abruptly jolted into the present, by the sound of breaking twigs. I whirl around to see what's behind me, my heart pounding in my chest. I see yellow eyes peering back at me. My breath catches in my throat. Although wolves are not common here in California there are a few around this area. The yellow eyes started to get closer. I looked around for a stick I could use to defend myself when the moon came out from behind the clouds and I saw what the yellow eyes belonged to.
"FANG!"I shout. He runs to me and jumps up, knocking me down to the ground and starts licking my face. I start crying. Oh how I missed Fang this last week when I thought he was dead. Once I got myself under control I stood up and started back to Will's house. I glanced at Fang who was trotting next to me and notice that he looked thinner. His coat wasn't as shiny and full as it used to be. Fang is a two year old Siberian Husky that I found in a creek abandoned when I was visiting Will. We have bee inseparable ever since. Seeing him here now lifts my spirits about the journey to Iowa. Maybe it won't be so bad leaving my home. As we got to the door of the house I gave it a gentle tug, but it didn't come open. I tugged a little harder, it still wouldn’t open. That's when I remembered the bolt on the door. Mr. Johnson, Will's dad, must have reached it. Oh well, at least it's warm out. I walk to the barn where the Johnsons keep their animals and where our horses and oxen were living for now. Grabbing two old saddle blankets I climbed up to the hay loft. Fang followed me up the ladder, one of the first thing I taught him, I laid one blanket on the hay and sat down on it and folded the other blanket around me. I leaned back down and closed my eyes. I felt Fang lay down beside me. His warmth was comforting against my side. As I stared up at the barn roof I thought about all of the good and bad things that have happened to me . Then I got to thinking some more and I realized that I should remember the bad things that have happened, but not also not forget the good things as well, and for the first time since my Ma died I slept peacefully.
May 1, 1874
I woke to the sound of a rooster crowing in the distance. Next to my ear I heard a soft gentle purring. Sunlight seeped through the cracks in the barn walls, I was peaceful and comforting. I Slowly sat up and looked for the source of the purring and found it belonged to Faithful and Turbo, twin kittens that Lilly found in our barn three or four months back. I smiled at them intertwined so many different way you couldn't figure out where one kitten started and where one ended. I slowly stood up so I wouldn't wake up fang who was still dead asleep. However it didn't work. I still managed to wake him up. I shouldn’t have worried about it though, he opened one eye and just stared at me, then rolled over as if to say " yeah, yeah, I love you, but not enough to get up this early." I rolled my eyes at him and headed towards the ladder. Reaching the bottom I walked towards the apple barrel. Grabbing two apples, a small dull knife to split them in half with, and a horse brush. Walking over to the stalls that held our four horses. I stuck my head into the first stall and saw my horse Snickers staring back at me. I unlatched the stall door and sidled inside. Slowly walking over to Snickers I notice that she needs a brush down. Handing half a apple to Snickers I started brushing her down admiring how soft and silky her light grey coat was. My favorite part about her coat however was the dark grey, brown, and black dots that were splattered across her body. So entranced with my thoughts that I didn't even realize that I had stopped brushing Snickers, when I felt a gentle nudge against my chest and warm breath being blown in my face. Smiling I resumed my brushing. I had just continued brushing Snickers when someone said behind me "I can't believe you actually like that thing, it's a monster!" Will said glaring suspiciously at snickers. I giggled, " Ah Will," I sighed, "Snickers just likes the way you squeak when you get bitten, you can't blame her. Trying and failing to suppress a smile I continued to brush Snickers. About a minute later Will asks the question I was hoping he wouldn't ask. "Mary says that you weren’t in your bed when she woke up during the night, where were you?" I cringe slightly knowing that he'll be worried about the dream I've been having every night since the fire.
I sighed and even though I knew that I should tell him the truth, I just can't. I don't want him worrying about me once I leave so I say " I couldn't sleep so I decided to go out for some fresh air. Someone must have gotten up during the night while I was out side and they reached the door so that I couldn't get back in." Will gives me a look that says "I don't believe you". I can also se hurt in his eyes. He knows I'm not telling the truth. But I know it's for the better, some secrets we just have to keep to ourselves. I resume my brushing hoping that he will forgive me. A few minutes of uncomfortable silence he finally says, "breakfast is ready were just waiting to find you and for Nathan and I to finish chores."
Nodding I turn and head towards the door. Stopping to set the brush back inside one of out boxes. I go to each of the other three stalls and feed a half of the remaining apples to the rest of our horses. Giving each of the horses a last pat I follow Will out of the barn and into his cozy wood cabin. We head for the kitchen where everyone is waiting for us and Nate. Taking a seat next to Lydia I ignore her questioning looks. Seconds later Nathan comes into the house and sits with the rest of us. After the daily prayer, one in which I don't join in, we start to eat. The food is delicious, we have all kinds of fruit that Mary grows. Bacon and ham, which I stay away from because I am vegetarian. I also see fresh biscuits and bread, scrambled eggs, freshly brewed coffee and ice cold fruit juice. Grabbing as much as I can fit on my plate I start to eat slowly, hoping to delay the inevitable, for we were leaving for Iowa once breakfast was done. Even though I ate as slowly as possible, it seemed only minutes had passed before we were cleaning up the dishes and the men were going to saddle up the horses and hitch up the oxen to the wagon. Finishing up the dishes we my sisters, Will's sisters and mother, and I head outside. The day is beautiful, the sky a light baby blue, white fluffy clouds, and the sun instantly warmed my skin. If I wasn't leaving in a few minutes I would have just enjoyed the weather before it disappeared and turned into rainy miserable weather. But I was, I was leaving the one place that had been a true home to me. I was leaving my best friend, the beautiful ocean, and now both of my mothers. And I wouldn't be back ever unless I made the trip on my own, years from now. I could stay I know I can. But my Papa had already lost both his wives, if I stayed it would break Papa's heart. Not to mention my little sisters, now that our mother and step-mother had died they will need me to be there. Looking around I notice that my younger brothers and Will were either finishing up packing up the wagon or hitching up the oxen. My two older brothers and my Pa were saddling the horses. I looked towards the side of the house and saw Mary, Lydia, and Mrs. Johnson who was holding my baby sister Annie. Walking over to Will's sisters I knelt down and gave each of them a huge, while telling them that I would be okay, not to worry, and that I would miss them. Standing up I saw tears falling slowly down Mrs. Johnson's face. Oh her beautiful soft kind face. When my mother had died she was there to comfort me and helped me get through it. She was just like a mother to me which made it all the more harder to leave her. I wiped the tears away from her face and took Annie in my arms. Cradling her I said good-bye to them one more time. Next I walked towards the covered wagon and climbed into it, then I set Annie in the makeshift crib that Nathan and Will made. I jumped out of the wagon and turned around only to encounter my three other sisters all had tear stained faces that were also red and puffy. Smiling reassuringly I hoisted all three of them into the wagon next to Annie. Only to be besieged by Lilly's kittens and Fang. After I hoisted them into the wagon I looked around to see how long it would be before we left. Everyone was in place except me and Pa, who was saying good-bye to Will and Mr. Johnson. Slowly walking over to where Will is standing staring at me I say my good-byes to Mr. Johnson. Then I turn my attention to Will, my best friend, someone who was always there for me, I don't want to say good-bye. But I have to so I give him a hug. I hold onto Will as tightly as possible, never wanting to let go, but knowing that I had to. So that I could be brave for my sisters. Giving him one more squeeze I whispered in his ear "Don't forget to write to me!" He just holds me tighter so that I can hardly breath, as if that's all the response I need. Which when I think about it is all the response I need, it's actually better than words right now. Slowly letting go I take a step backwards and try to blink the tears from my eyes. Turning around I see Snickers saddled and ready to leave. I know everyone is waiting for me. So I take a deep breath, put on my brave face and clamber into Snicker's saddle. Nodding towards Pa, who is seated on the wagon seat with the reins in his hand. He clips the reins and we start moving. I wait to be the last person. So our journey East has started. I don't look back. I want to but, I know that if I do, I won't have the strength to look forward again. I think back to this morning before I remembered what day it was. Waking up in the barn, the sun streaking through the cracks and the peaceful calm of the morning. I look forward again, but I don't see the sun anymore, it's as if grey clouds had engulfed me. My perfect beautiful day gone.
Publication Date: 03-02-2011
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