"I know that you have suffered from a painful loss recently, Amelia, but it has been a few months now and I had expected your work to improve." Miss Hawkins was the headmistress of the finishing school Amelia attended. She was not a very compassionate woman, and in fact often seemed to be little concerned at all for the feelings of others; especially the feelings of her students. Miss Hawkins was a bitter old spinster, well she wasn't actually that old, no older than forty-three, but in the society that most of her students families lived in she was considered ancient and past the marrying age. Perhaps that is where her bitterness came from, from the judgments of others.
"I'm sorry Miss Hawkins." Amelia apologized insincerely. She didn't really care what her headmistress thought at the moment. She knew that her grades had been slipping miserably and that she had not been keeping up to par in the school's system of diligence. Why should she? Her father was too busy to notice, her mother was not around, so why should she care?
"Yes, I know Amelia, you are sorry, you have been very apologetic the last seven times I have called you into my office." Miss Hawkins shuffled through a stack of papers and withdrew one. "For the past four years you have excelled in all of your classes, particularly your music and art lessons." Amelia nodded her agreement. "However, in these last few months, Mrs. Lewis tells me that you have not completed a single assigned portrait and Miss Holmes claims that you refuse to learn a new piece. As you know, Hawkins Finishing School is not accustomed to this sort of behavior in your studies, Amelia. Can you please explain your teacher's reports to me?"
Amelia shrugged. "No."
"Excuse me?" Miss Hawkins's eyes widened in surprise at her student's careless answer. "Amelia, I do not wish to suspend you, but if you can not correct your current failing status, I feel I will have no other choice."
"Fine," Amelia sighed. "Do what you must." She stood. "May I please be excused now?"
Miss Hawkins nodded. "Yes Amelia, you should have just enough time to clean up before supper."
"Thank you." Amelia quickly fled from Miss Hawkins's compassion-free suffocating office. But when she reached her bedroom, she didn't freshen up as she had been ordered and she didn't join the rest of the students for supper. There are some moods that can not be appeased by food or by the company of others.
Crying could be one of the worst sounds to be heard. Lonely, tragic, all-encompassing sobbing. Nobody could possibly enjoy the misery of genuinely contrived tears. And yet, nobody had the power to stop uncontrollable crying. Amelia Perkins knew this feeling of painful tears too well lately. Lately being most every day of the past six months. She remembered the day that had started her endless crying, she remembered everything about it. She doubted ever being able to forget that day. That was the first day of her life without a mother and it was the beginning of the following months of miserable crying.
Amelia's father had not been without his own tears either. Georgiana and William Perkins had been childhood sweethearts. There was never any doubt about them being married. It had practically been decided by Georgiana's thirteenth birthday. They were wed by time she was sixteen and their first and only daughter, Amelia was born only a year later. It had been a complicated delivery and William had to suffer through the fear of the possibility of losing his wife and child. Only a miracle could have saved them and they were blessed with just that. Mother and daughter survived, but not without tragic consequences. After delivery Georgiana never fully regained her health or her strength, and she became easily susceptible to many dangerous diseases, including the one that took her life, consumption.
There were days when William's pain and sadness became so great that he could barely pull himself out of bed in the morning. Somehow he managed to force himself to live his life, though, constantly trying to put the memory of his wife behind him so he could get through a day of work. That is how he had to live now, one day at a time. He could not afford to dwell on the past. His life would not permit it. He owned a few factories around the London city where they lived, and it was a demanding business that required much of Mr. Perkins's time.
Unfortunately, because of her father's busy daily schedule, Amelia was lucky to be able to spend an hour a day with the only parent she had now. She was only weeks away from her sixteenth birthday, her mother would have been being fitted for her wedding dress at the same age. Amelia would not be married at sixteen though, she had no reason to be, she did not even have a love interest at the moment. Since her mother's death eight months ago, Amelia's life seemed to have been put on a sort of temporary hold. She had more or less abandoned the friends she had and she had ignored any young men who had shown her any interest. She had basically lost any desire in life. She saw no reason to enjoy anything anymore if her mother could not be there enjoying it with her.
"Amelia, there is something I need to discuss with you." William Perkins addressed his daughter after Sunday afternoon dinner.
"Yes, papa?" Amelia lounged on the exquisitely embroidered rug in front of the large fireplace in the main parlor.
"Miss Hawkins sent me a message yesterday morning." William leaned forward on the sofa, enforcing eye contact with his daughter. "It concerned your current status at school." Amelia shrugged as innocently as possible. "Amelia, she says you seem to have lost interest in your studies." He waited for her to respond but she was silent. "Is this true?"
Amelia shrugged, "Papa, I've recently realized that I don't like studying."
"Oh, is that so?" William laughed heartily. "Amelia, it is not your choice to dislike your lessons. It is your obligation to partake of them and excel in them, whether or not you enjoy them." He patted the sofa next to himself. "Amelia, come to my side, darling."
Amelia sighed and joined her father on the sofa. "Papa, I can't do well if I can't enjoy myself." She rested her head on her father's shoulder. "You know that."
"You have not seemed able to enjoy much of anything lately, my dearest." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders comfortingly.
"I miss her so much, papa, I can't go on without her." Amelia began to cry.
"We both miss your mama, Amelia, but I plead you not to dwell on the tragic." He tried to hold back his own tears. He could not let his daughter see him sad. He had to be the strong one in what was left of their family. "I can not allow you to lose strength for your life. Your mama would never have wanted that, Amelia. She wanted and she still wants for you to become a beautiful and an intelligent woman."
"I know papa," Amelia tried to stop crying. "I'll try to be better, I promise!"
"Of course darling, of course you will." William wiped away his daughter's tears. "I have a made a decision, Amelia. I do not want you to be here in London at the moment. Not with everything that has happened. It is too much for you, I am afraid. I should have taken you away sooner." He stood and began to pace the room. "We will be leaving in ten days. I have already given word to your school and arranged it all with Miss Hawkins."
"But, papa, where are we going?"
"To America, my dearest." William smiled at his daughter. "I am taking you away from London as I should have done months ago. We are going to America for a few months. At the end of our stay I shall decide whether or not to bring you back here or not."
"What do you mean, papa? You wouldn't leave me in America alone, would you?"
"I have not decided. My sister does live there, however, and we shall see what happens over the summer." William tried to ease his daughter's worried mind. "Do not think about it now though, Amelia. You may as well go and begin your packing." He beckoned her into his arms for a hug. "In an hour I will have Jacob drive you back to school."
Amelia obeyed her father at once. She didn't want to upset him because she feared he would decide to leave her in America after all. She couldn't stay in America alone. London was her home. Even if it made her sad, America couldn't make her any less miserable. But, she was interested in visiting America. She'd never been there and everyone said it was an incredible place. It could be fun. She became determined to find everything that could be positive about a trip to America with her father.