“My dear Emiline, you simply must face the facts. Your parents were not carried off by a,” Governess Metlock waved a hand in Emiline’s direction. The white lace trim of her black satin sleeve danced in the stale air, “what did you say? Winged bear?”
Emiline sat in a straight-backed chair, her feet swinging through the air. Her dark hair drew back into a long braid. She nodded, “Yes Governess, a winged bear.”
Thin eyebrows disappeared into the graying woman’s hairline. With a shake of her head Metlock looked down at a stack of papers with a sigh, “It was a most unfortunate accident. Your parents died in their coach on the way to the train station.”
The young girl clenched her fists, anger wrenching at her heart. Emiline knew better. She had seen the beast lurking at the end of the lane, waiting.
The Governess continued, rifling through her papers as she spoke through pursed lips, “Reality can be hard on a young, moldable mind. The fact is, you are the head of your household now. Your brothers depend upon you and there is no time to waste on frivolity.”
Governess Metlock paused in her work and looked over half-moon spectacles. “This day you are to become a woman, Emiline Bunting, a girl you are no longer.”
Emiline’s anger snuffed out as she felt the implications of the Governess’s words weigh down on her shoulders.
I am the head of my household. Mamma, Pappa, they are gone. We are all that is left.
Emiline felt her bones sag against the wood chair. Her resolve melted into its course recesses, rooting her to the spot. She looked around the now uncomfortable room. Dust drifted from dark wood bookcases as memories raced through her mind.
How many times have I stood in this office? How many times was I told this was our safe place? Home away from home.
Her father had stood in this same room, hand on the Governess’s shoulder. He had thanked her for the work and care she had given his children.
Father trusted her. And now he’s . . . gone . . . and she’s turning us away.
Tears welled in Emiline’s eyes as she noticed the stiff woman had pulled out a ledger. A quill scratched against paper, underlining the silence in the room. In that moment, Emiline realized just how little the Governess cared about her family’s plight.
Without raising her face the Governess spoke. “Now take your cloak, and bag too. Your brothers are waiting by the front gate. What happens to you lot is no longer any concern of mine nor this establishment. I must cast you from our good graces and pray that fortune is kind to you. Good day.”
That was it, her final statement on the matter. A page turned as Emiline’s mouth fell open.
“But…b-but…” Emmaline’s face burned in anger, tears stung her eyes as fear blinded her thoughts. Tension grew within the room, and a row of candles guttered in a sudden breeze.
“Enough! That is enough!” Governess Metlock snapped her book shut, flicking wet ink over her desk. Emiline shrank back, her voice collapsing in on itself.
The woman rose from her desk, eyes piercing Emiline where she sat. She took a nimble step around her desk and bent down to the young girls level. “I thought I had made this perfectly clear. There are no such thing as winged bears. There is no room in this world for imaginative minds. You are a silly girl about to meet reality in a very cold, very dark way. Your parents are dead. They will not be coming back and you are the only one who can save you and your family. Now wake up and start living in reality.”
With her last words Governess Metlock pulled Emiline from her chair. All resistance fled Emiline’s body as her former caretaker pulled her into a damp foyer. Rain poured down clouded glass windows as the evening outside deepened.
“Here is your cloak and bag. I’ve seen fit to have your brother’s wait outside for you.” Governess Metlock deposited a thick gray cloak into her hand as a dusty carpet-bag thumped onto the cold wood floor. Moving as if in a dream, Emiline pulled the cloak and hood over her shoulders. Without ceremony Governess Metlock picked up the carpet bag. She thrust it into Emiline’s chest and at the same time threw open the front door. Rain spattered onto the floor as Metlock pushed Emiline onto the front porch.
Water poured out of gutters and ran through the streets. The cacophony filling the silence Emiline felt within her mind.
At the bottom step, with a bag in each hand stood two forms. One stood taller than the other, his head moving from side to side scanning the street. They were Julius and Samuel, Emiline’s brothers. Rain poured out of their small black bowler hats as both waited. Julius was looking up the street, no doubt he already a direction of where to go in mind. Samuel stared up at the Governess Estate, taking it in one last time. Tears coursed their way down his cheeks, mingling with the rain.
Before Emiline could turn around the door banged shut. A deadbolt dragged into place, and light disappeared beyond the tall glass windows. The smaller figure began to cry. Rain continued to soak into Emiline’s coat. She wanted to kick the door, hit it with all her might. Her fist tightened as tightly bottled up screams threatened to rip free of her throat.
A small urgent voice floated up to her,”Emie, we need to get moving. It’s growing darker and They are out there.”
It was Julius, he had a hand on young Sam’s shaking shoulders. He looked Emiline in the eye as she descended the steps. His words spurred her forward. Of course he was right, They were coming.