'Tis been a while, but so much has been going on lately and life has been bitter.
But something not-so-bitter has happened.
Almost two months ago, my sisters and I were sitting in the parlor, sharing stories and having a marvelous time. The maid walked in, and turned around, displaying a dirty-blond boy, who was about 5'6, with a big smudge of dirt smeared on his cheek and the stench of sickness, rotting food, and the ocean lurking on his clothes, which were ripped and tattered, revealing his chest and left thigh. Without even thinking about it, I knew who it was.
"Jacob!" I leaped out of my seat on the sofa and folded him into a hug. He hugged back, tight as ever. As Claire and Kat also hugged him and peppered him with questions, he beamed and grinned, as if he'd been on the greatest adventure of anyone's life. His voice never even hinted at sarcasm and always held it's sincere tone that clearly spoke 'I had fun on the ocean, but it's time to be home now'. But his own mouth said something different a few hours later.
The night before he left, I was sitting underneath Franklin Smith's big apple tree. (Mr. Smith is Grandmother and Grandfather's grumpy old neighbor, who's always yelling and complaining.) I was daydreaming, and Jacob broke my vision of him getting on a boat and waving goodbye with a big joyful grin on his face by sneaking up and hoarsely whispering "Boo!" I almost shrieked until I remembered where I was.
I grabbed his hand and shushed him as he started to laugh in his trademark howl. He looked at me and smiled. "I'm glad to be here with you girls." He murmured softly. "You've said that many times." I felt hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I said that. Soon I found myself with my face buried into his nice shirt that just didn't smell right. It doesn't smell like Mother's homemade soap. I almost said that aloud, but didn't want to make Jacob upset also. I watched him use his almost-sickly, bony fingers to push a few strands of shaggy hair out of his eyes. It always fell that way, and Mother would always make him push it back. It was worse the past few days because it looked as if he hadn't cut his hair in months. Which he probably hadn't.
"Don't cry." His voice sounded wobbly. "C'mon, sis. You'll make me start crying." I raised my head and looked into his eyes. They had little sparkles that seemed to dance when he was grinning from ear-to-ear, which is what he was doing now. I smiled back, feeling a little uneasy as he kept looking at me.
"Is something wrong, do I look funny?" I inquired. He shook his head, flinging his hair across his forehead. "I just . . . well, I told Claire I'd stay." "Well, are you going to?" A sullen look fell over his face. "I lied. She told me that everyone is horribly disappointed in my actions. I apologized and told her I wouldn't go back, but I must. What will she say?" I looked at my shoes for a few moments, as Jacob held his breath, waiting.
"She'll be angry . . . but she will have to learn she's not our mother sooner or later. She'll get over it eventually, I'm guessing. She must." He gave me an agreeing nod, took my hand and made me stand up. "Back to the house?" He asked. I nodded and we ran across the lawn softly.
He waited until another ship came around a few weeks later, collecting young boys. Then he left. He sneaked out one night. I heard him softly close the front door, then I watched him run off into the dark city streets towards the harbor through the window. Claire found out the next day when she went searching for him to bring him in for breakfast, and was irate when she realized he'd lied to her. She's been sulking since.
I prayed for him fervently after he left. His thirteenth birthday passed and we even celebrated, without him there. It was just yesterday that he came back, and left me with a big decision to make.
We were sitting under Mr. Smith's big apple tree in the dark again, and I, looking into the stars so I woudln't cry this time, whispered, "I will miss you, brother." He looked at me and smiled. "You know what?" His sparkly eyes danced with excitement. I pleaded to him with my eyes to tell me. "We've been looking for a girl crew member, and they want a young teenager, and . . . well, I was thinkin' you could come with me." I stared at him in shock for a moment. Go with him? What would my sisters think? And Robert. OH, Robert would scold me harder then ever before! But I'd be out on the sea . . . and he wouldn't find me. Jacob and I would be back in England; that's where the ship is going next, right? All of those confusing thoughts swirled in my head, and Jacob must have noticed, because he put his arm around me and whispered, "Think about it. You have until the morning after tomorrow, that's when we leave. Europe, here we come!" It suddenly became very cold outside. I started shivering and Jacob held me tighter.
So tonight, I asked Claire what she thought of me leaving. I don't think I should have told her. I asked Kat, and she told me that Father was already upset enough that one child left, and he'd surely become sickly and frail if another one did, too. She swore she'd never go, even if her life depended on it.
I'm going to ask Claire again in a few minutes. I wonder what she will say?
Diary, I think I am going.