Both Ella and Jennie have gone to bed. Ella, now ten years old, reflects on their life with Aunt May and Uncle Russell.
I lay in the dark beside Jennie and listened to her sniffling, knowing she was crying, not knowing what to do. Lucy can’t help us. No one can. Uncle Graham and Aunt Hilda were convinced a demon possessed my little sister, and they were punishing her.
The first dream I could remember her having was about Mark. She didn’t say anything about it until after he died—months after the border ruffians had attacked Pa. She had seen that in a dream too but thought it was just a nightmare. She knew when Ma was dying. But we all knew that even though we didn’t admit it to each other.
When we came to live with Aunt Hannah at the hotel, Jennie finally told us about her dreams. Aunt Hannah was nice about it although I could see she wasn’t sure Jennie’s dreams were really prophecies of what was to come. And why did a dream have to be caused by a demon? Joseph in the Old Testament had dreams. Uncle Graham didn’t say Joseph was possessed.
Aunt Hannah was gone, and Lucy was with Aunt May, and we were stuck here with Uncle Graham and Aunt Hilda. Lucy was wearing nice clothes and getting ready to go to parties and have beaus while Jennie and I were just servants to Uncle Graham and his church.
Beside me, Jennie’s sniffling stopped and her breathing deepened. She was sleeping. I gripped the blanket around my shoulders and wondered when sleep would come for me. There were chores to do tomorrow: beds to make, floors to scrub, meals to cook. School was two months away. For the first time, I longed to go there, anything to get out of this house for a few hours a day. An awful thought worked its way into my thoughts: What if Uncle Graham wouldn’t let us go to school. He didn’t think girls needed an education. He’d always griped about Aunt Hannah wasting time educating us. In spite of all my dark thoughts, sometime in the night, I fell asleep.
Jennie’s flapping arms and shouts woke me.
“No! No!” she cried out.
I rolled out of the way of her flailing fists and pulled the blanket tight around her so she couldn’t hit me. “Wake up, Jennie. You’re dreaming.”
After a short struggle, her body quieted, but she was still crying.
“What is it, Jennie.” My face was close to hers. A sliver of moonlight allowed me to see her eyes. She seemed to be looking past me.
“I won’t,” she said.
“Won’t what?” I asked, letting go of the blanket because she’d stopped fighting me.
The door to our room flew open, and Aunt Hilda stood illuminated by the lamp Uncle Graham, standing behind her, held. Both were in their nightclothes.
“What’s going on in here?” Aunt Hilda demanded.
Jennie sat up. “My stomach hurts.” She pressed her hands to her belly and gagged.
“Don’t make a mess on the bed,” Aunt Hilda said. “Go on.”
Jennie sprang from the bed, ran past them, and headed down the stairs and out the door. “She didn’t have anything to eat since this morning,” I said. Well, not that they knew of. I had given her the biscuit and meat. I hoped no one checked for crumbs. I prayed God would forgive me for lying. I remembered the first lies I ever told were about food. Mrs. Collins had brought us something when Ma was sick, and we ate it before Pa got home. There were lots of things we learned it was best not to tell Pa. The same was true here. I didn’t believe Jennie’s upset stomach had anything to do with food, but I wasn’t going to say so.