By: Lauren S.
Tom awoke early the next morning by the sound of groans. He quickly looked in the direction of Nick’s cot, the blankets slightly moving up and down. Nick was just beginning to become conscious.
“Jooo, Jo?,” Nick kept repeating.
“Nick, are ya awake?” Tom whispered so as to not awaken him if he wasn’t.
“Yahhhhhh!” Nick yelled in response to Tom but also mixed with pain.
Nick grabbed towards his back, the pain almost overwhelming him.
“Where’s Jo? Where am I?” Nick asked with saddening emotion.
“Nick, yer are on the rescue ship. Jo is not here. Don’t ya remember?” Tom said while trying to comfort Nick.
“I want to see Jo, ahhh,” Nick said while the pain again overtook his entire body.
“Nick, you can’t see her. She’s not here,” Tom again answered.
“Does she know I’m alive?” Nick asked with hope but still with pain.
“No, all hands aboard were reported lost at sea. We will send a telegram later. Right now ya need yer rest,” Tom answered sternly.
“Quiet down now there Nick. I need ta go find Charlie, he is the one taking care of ya,” Tom said while getting up from his chair.
‘Jo is not here. I was trying to get back to ya my love,” Nick thought as small tears welled up in his eyes as loneliness settled into his soul.
“Charlie, he’s awakened. Come quick,” Tom yelled while running up on deck.
He was in a frantic mood. Tom wanted Nick’s current condition evaluated while Nick was still conscious.
Levi overheard the commotion up on deck and joined the two frenzied men that ran down below deck to Nick’s cot.
The three men arrived in Nick’s dim corner, which was only illuminated, by one lantern. The light barely reached the perimeter of Nick’s cot, causing Charlie a troublesome environment in which he had to evaluate Nick’s present condition.
Nick turned his head slightly to the right as Charlie, Levi and Tom came up to his cot.
“Ok, ya need ta tell me when ya feel pain and when ya don’t. This is very important,” Charlie said informatively. Nick nodded his head in understanding. Charlie started to probe Nick’s body with a needle. Charlie started with Nick’s neck.
“I need ya ta tell me if ya feel the needle poking ya,” Charlie asked.
“Yeah, I feel that,” Nick answered.
Charlie continued to poke with the needle, next on Nick’s bloody chest and upper back. Again, Nick gave a positive response.
Next, Charlie continued with the needle to Nick’s legs. Nick did not respond, so Charlie poked with the needle even deeper into Nick’s skin.
Tom and Levi looked at each other with worried eyes. Nick saw their demeanor and knew something was wrong.
“What’s wrong?” Nick questioned. Nick quickly glanced at his legs where Charlie had the needle.
“I can’t feel that! Why, why can’t I feel my legs?” Nick gasped in urgency.
“Calm down Nick, hyperventilating will not help ya. I do not know why, it could be yer accident, then wound to yer back, I am just not sure. I have seen things like this and the men get their feeling in their legs back. It just took some time,” Charlie revealed.
“So it might not stay this way then?” Tom and Levi both asked in unison.
Nick looked at Charlie, awaiting the answer to this important question.
“It could be temporary, but on the other hand, at the worst scenario, it could be permanent,” Charlie answered.
“Does that mean I would never walk again?” Nick asked. He wanted to know the complete truth of the future of his condition.
“Yes, it could mean that, it’s a possibility,” answered Charlie.
For now, Tom and Levi did not continue their feud of unknown cause. They had to be silent and be strong for their mutual friend in need. Nick closed his eyes to let the current situation simmer in his mind.
‘Never walk again. I can’t allow myself to return to Jo this way. I love her too much to make her commit to taking care of an invalid,’ thought Nick with only Jo’s happiness as his major concern.
“Tom, I want to ask a promise of ya,” Nick queried.
Tom quickly went to Nick’s side. “Yeah Nick,” answered Tom resolutely.
“I want ya ta promise that everyone that survived the wreck will not say that there were any survivors to any newspapers or anything,” Nick asked of Tom.
“But why Nick?” Tom asked with interest.
“I don’t want Jo to know. She deserves better than this. It’s better that she thinks that I am dead, I have already been reported that way,” Nick replied.
“Doesn’t she deserve to make up her own mind about this? I thought you loved her?” Tom asked with concern.
“I do love her, that’s why I am doing this, it’s better this way, you promised me. This promise must not be broken. I must remain dead,” Nick said in a concrete tone.
“I will make the promise, but I still think you are making a mistake,” Tome finally agreed.
“Then let it be my mistake, but I know in my heart what is right,” Nick replied.
Tom left the room, shaking his head. ‘It will be a mistake, I just know it,’ thought Tom to himself.
Nick fell asleep in Tom’s absence, his mind full of thoughts about Jo, knowing he would never see her beautiful face again. Her smile would never again brighten up his life nor would he get to argue with her about their difference in opinions on how to take care of the children. ‘Nat, what’s going to happen to him. I was like his father, now he will have no one. It will devastate him. But, this is the best thing, what good would I be to anybody in this condition,’ thought Nick with some regret, trying to set in his mind that he was doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Nick slowly drifted off to sleep, dreaming of the past, mostly of Plumfield and of course, Jo.
After the memorial dinner concluded, it was time to clean up the many empty plates that remained on the long dining room table. Jo lingered alone for a moment, hoping to hear Nick walk into the room to tell her about another prank the kids had concocted, but no one came in. Jo could only hear the breeze outside lightly come up along the windows, just a brief sound that shuffled by the house.
All of a sudden Nan came running into the room followed by Tommy chasing her with his bullfrog. The other children followed him, they wanted to be first hand spectators of the event. The children all ran up the stairs, followed by the slamming of doors.
Asia ran into the room only looking at Jo’s face briefly, then glanced in the direction the kids ran. She was always worrying herself about the children.
“What are those kids up to now?” Asia asked exasperatingly, now looking at Jo directly.
“Oh, they’re fine. They are just having their usual fun, though I need to talk to them about finishing their chores and no running in the house like that,” Jo said, sounding like her usual self.
Asia smiled, “You are sounding better. I hope you can move on like after Fritz died Mrs. Jo. I know it’s not easy to hurt twice in such a short period of time, but you are strong Mrs. Jo and you know you have everyone here to help make you stronger. Just don’t push us away like you were before.”
“Thanks for the advice. I don’t know what I would do without you Asia. You cook for me as well as sort out my life,” Jo replied appreciatingly.
“Well, I am going to start getting these dishes cleaned up,” Asia said while moving towards the table.
“I better go get some help from upstairs for you. By the way, do you know where my two sisters ran off to?” Jo asked while glancing around the house.
“I think they went to take Laurie home. He had a lot of work to get done, but they did mention they were coming back to help sooner or later,” Asia replied in a hopeful tone.
“Let me hurry then to get some help NOW,” Jo said jokingly to Asia.
‘It’s nice to see Jo coming back to us,’ thought Asia.
Jo hurried up the stairs, but before she could reach the children’s rooms she was intercepted by Charles in the hallway.
Meanwhile, Meg and Amy returned from town. They went into the house and found it empty and quiet.
“Wow, it’s so quiet in here,” Amy said while looking at Meg with an astonished expression.
Next, they could hear the sound of dishes clanging together, they knew someone was in the dining room conducting the tedious job of cleaning up. They walked into the room to find Asia carrying a huge stack of dishes that were about to fall over.
“Let me help you with that,” Meg exclaimed as she hurried over to Asia and managed to catch the plates that began to fall.
“Thanks, that was close. I don’t want to have the same reputation as Tommy for breaking dishes,” Asia said thankfully to Meg.
They both walked into the kitchen, leaving Amy alone for a moment.
‘I wonder where Jo is, maybe in the parlor writing in her conscience book again,’ Amy thought to herself as she walked towards the parlor, leaving Meg and Asia alone to clean things up. She found an empty chair and desk in the parlor, so Amy continued up the stairs, hoping to find Jo in her bedroom, But before she even rounded the corner she observed Charles talking quietly with Jo. Amy hid herself just around the corner of the hallway, knowing that she should not eavesdrop on their conversation. ‘I need to make sure Charles is legitimate,’ Amy thought. Amy remained quiet and listened intensely, striving to hear their obviously personal conversation.
Jo was so surprised to run into Charles, her face blushed as she backed away from him and at the same time she remembered a similar situation months before with Nick downstairs in the kitchen. Jo thought it was odd that her mind had quickly thought of the distant memory and that she never realized her true feelings towards Nick then. Jo decided to take Asia’s advice and to move on with her life and to not make the same mistake with her feelings as she had with Nick.
“Hi Jo. How are you holding up?” Charles said in a gentlemanly manner.
“Oh, I’m fine. Was there something you needed,” Jo asked in anticipation of the moment.
“Nothing specific. If you are feeling better then, would you like to take a walk with me tonight? It looks like its going to clear up and there’s a full moon tonight,” Tom asked in a direct tone with no hint of shyness in his voice.
“Sure, that sounds great. Maybe we can go up on the widows walk and find all the stars,” Jo added.
“Great, see you at about 7 then,” Charles agreed.
Amy could hear the entire conversation. ‘How can she agree to take a walk with him, I will just have to take an opportunity to check up on this Charles Paddington at 7 then. It should not be too hard to find something suspicious,’ Amy secretly plotted in her thoughts.
Jo left Charles’s presence in the hallway and continued to the bedroom to coax some of the children to help downstairs with washing of the dishes.
Charles turned and had a conquering expression on his face as he headed towards the stairs. Amy saw this expression as she hurried away from the corner and down the stairs, because Charles was headed in her direction. ‘I don’t want to be caught eavesdropping by him, who knows what he might do to me if he suspects I know anything about him. I suspect he is a very dangerous man and I must be carefully cunning to outsmart him without getting hurt, but I also have to protect my big sister, for she did save my life years ago on that ice that broke beneath my feet. I almost drowned!’ Amy’s thoughts were now gaining the fortitude of a plan.
Amy pretended to be walking up the stairs for the first time, passing Charles on the landing. He did not even glance at her, letting Amy know her little plan had succeeded.
Amy continued to Jo’s bedroom, the door was closed so she knocked on the door and asked, “Jo, its Amy, are you in there?”
Jo could hear someone calling her name as she came out of the boy’s room. “Amy, I’m over here,” Jo said in Amy’s direction.
Amy turned around quickly, she was stunned by the abrupt response from the opposite direction than that she was anticipating it to come from.
“Jo, there you are. I have been looking for you, I want to talk to you about something very important,” Amy explained with an intense seriousness in her voice.
Jo looked at Amy knowing that they needed a private place for this discussion. “Let’s go in my room, we will not be interrupted there,” Jo said while following Amy into Jo’s bedroom.
“Jo, I don’t think you should spend any time with Charles,” Amy said abruptly to begin the intense discussion. Amy only cared for the safety of her sister.
“Why? He seems nice enough,” Jo exclaimed.
“I just feel there is something wrong,” Amy replied in a caring tone towards her sister.
“What evidence do you have?” Jo asked in an unbelieving tone.
“Well, none right now, but my gut feeling tells me I am right. You should just not see him Jo,” Amy solidly explained.
“Your gut feeling Amy, that’s not enough of anything. I don’t understand, everyone wants me to move on, leave Nick as a memory as I did with Fritz when Nick came into my life. Now, you are telling me to do the opposite. I happen to like Charles, he is a gentleman. If there was anything bad about him I would know it Amy, you don’t know him as well as I do,” Jo confusedly exclaimed her argument.
“Jo, please listen to m…….,” Amy tried to say, but was interrupted by Jo’s fierce voice.
“I don’t want to hear any more of this nonsense Amy. Spending time with Charles will help me forget the painful past. Now, will you please leave me alone right now,” Jo stuttered out to Amy, knowing she was harsh to her sister, but also angry that she was yet again meddling in her personal relationships.
Amy quickly left the bedroom exasperated at Jo’s outspoken nature towards the situation at hand. ‘I will just have to find that evidence to prove to Jo,’ thought Amy with a more positive outlook on the situation.
After the bedroom door shut with a shudder of the walls from Amy’s angry reaction to Jo’s passive manner about Charles. Jo walked to her window, dusk was coming quickly to the world. The sunset was a beautiful red, the intense light radiated through the glass and made Jo feel warm for a moment, maybe that Nick’s arms were around her keeping her warm.
“Oh Nick, how I wish you were here now. My life would be so complete. Please, God, let his strength in death help me to continue in my life,” Jo whispered to herself as she also thought of Charles and the night to come.
Will Nick ever walk again? Will he ever walk back to Plumfield? Maybe Jo will find out that Nick is alive? Will Amy find the truth out about Charles before it is too late? Will the future be promising for all involved?
Wait to find out in the continuing series “Past, Present & Future.”!!!
Part 10 will be coming soon!!!
Please email me at Minuet26@aol.com about my story with comments.