A/N: *sigh* ok, so I'm SO sorry for my hiatus! can you forgive me? I've come up with this new idea, and hopefully I can finish this one...Wings of Eagles still needs some major editing...and I'm actually thinking of reposting everything with the new edits. Anyway, so yes, this is a new story for my return to FictionPress at least, for a while...I have many chapters of this story written, but I have to rethinking the ending, so fair warning, these chapters won't be posted quickly. I just hope you all will think that this story is worth the wait. XD Thank you to anyone who reads this, and espcially to those who review...XD Don't worry, I haven't forgotten my other stories, I just need to rethink the path that I'm going to go with them. And for Mercyette...yes it's FINALLY posted. XD
The passing scenery was filled with hundreds of trees. One after another, they passed by in a blur, to where Abigail could not make out when a tree started and when it ended. It was just one long stream of green and brown. Constant and fast, making Abigail quite dizzy. But she liked that. It made her forget the pain, it made her calm and relaxed, as if the past two months had never happened. She wanted them to go away, wanted it to be a dream that she would inevitably wake up from any minute. No matter what she tried to do, reality was strong and she had to face the cold hard fact: her mother was dead.
Abigail felt a single tear roll down her cheek as memory took her back to that night. It'd be one she could never forget, no matter how hard she tried. The room was quite dark, it was late, and the room smelt like burnt paper. She was freezing but there was nothing that she could do about that. In the distance, Abigail had already heard the midnight bell ring, but it had been faint, distant. She couldn't care less what time it was, for her ears were constantly being filled with her mother's constant coughing, her mother's groans, her mother's gestures of pain. All of it struck Abigail to the core, but she could do nothing but watch her mother lay there in pain. It had come so suddenly really. One moment her mother was up and about cooking and cleaning, and the next she was in bed like a helpless little child. The thought of losing the only parent she knew scare her to death. Her father was no longer around, for reasons that her mother refused to tell her. Of course, she had her guesses, but right now, her father was no concern to her. He had left, he didn't care, so why should she waste and spend her energy on him.
No, instead, her eyes were constantly fixed upon the woman she admired so much. For the past few hours, she had been tending to her, wetting toilettes and putting them softly on her forehead. The air was thick, heavy, and Abigail felt like her every step was weighed down by stones. She couldn't rush to her mother's side quickly enough. Every moment she was gone, it was a moment that her mother might possibly need her most, and Abigail didn't want that to happen. She felt a constant source of duty for all her mother had done for her over the years. She had raised her alone, despite all the gossip, the scorn, the haughty glances that she received because she was raising her alone. In that year, people didn't look too fondly on her mother, and some even dared to say that her situation was her mother's fault. Abigail dared anyone to say that to her face. She'd show them never to make such assumptions about her mother.
As the bells rang once more in the distance, signaling the first hour of the day, her mother began to have another one of her coughing fits. The Loudest and most violent one yet. Her whole body would shake due to the force of the cough, and the sound…it was like gun shots, loud, hard, and violent. Abigail was scared, but she stayed by her mother's side, unable to move. She couldn't make herself look away, even if she wanted to.
For fifteen minutes the fit raged on, and Abigail sat there stunned. The doctor was on his way, but she wanted him here now. She needed his experience. She had nothing to help her mother but Doctor Andrew did. He had the supplies that might help her mother. After the fit had run its course, Abigail heard a carriage arrive. Standing up, she looked out the window and just as she had guessed, the doctor was finally here. Holding in her desire to run, she walked with a slightly quickened pace. When she opened the door to greet him and the maid who had sent for him, a sense of relief filled her.
"Thank you, Doctor Andrew, for coming so late in the night. You do not know how relieved I am that you are here now," Abigail declared, though she did not look one bit relieved, more anxious than anything.
"It's no problem, Miss. It's why I'm here. Is…your mother doing better," asked Doctor Andrew, sympathy dripping from his every word. He had obviously made many late night trips. He was used to it, for it was part of his job. He had to be there for people at every hour of the day.
Abigail sadly shook her head in response. "I'm afraid she is doing worse than when I sent Harriett for you. She's constantly coughing, her head is hot, and I'm…worried." Tears were on the verge of forming, but she tried to be brave. She didn't want to break down. She wanted to stay strong for her mother, and besides, she tried to believe there was some way that this illness would pass and that everything would be better.
The doctor nodded sympathetically. "Where is she?"
Without a single word, Abigail turned around with the candle lighting her way and led the doctor her mother's room, where she was having yet another coughing fit. The doctor followed and went to work, checking her temperature, and her symptoms. It didn't look good, but Doctor Andrew never did mattered much. "Do you mind warming up some water?"
Abigail once more didn't say a word, for she was still in a state of shock, but she swiftly walked out the room and did as she was asked. When she arrived back, the doctor looked at her and shook his head lightly. "I'm…so sorry. There's nothing I can do for you mother."
Abigail tried not to cry, but tears came. She walked over to her mother and sat by her side, stroking her hand, ever so gently. Her mother looked so pale, so weak. It was hard to believe that it was only a week ago that she was walking around, perfectly fine. She looked far from fine now. It was the plain and simple truth.
For hours, Abigail had not heard her mother utter a word, only small groans, and of course, the coughs. But after a few minutes by her side, stroking her hand, her mother spoke, leaning in to whisper something in her daughter's ear. Abigail leaned forward and listed. "Please forgive me," she said simply. "stay strong. You're uncle…in California, he'll help you."
After those words were said, everything went quiet, and the doctor simply laid his hand on the woman affectionately. The hand that Abigail had been stroking now turned limp, and just like that Abigail had no mother. She was gone. No more would she lay her eyes upon those blue eyes, those She was utterly, and completely alone in the world. Her mother was no longer alive, no longer able to care for her, as she had been for years. Silently, Abigail let some tears flow down her check as she rested her head on her mother's lifeless body. She felt a hand touch her shoulder, one she knew to be the doctor's. "I'm very sorry for your loss," he said, and Abigail knew he meant every word.
Looking up after a second, she gave a weak smile and answered, "thank you." Time seemed to stop for Abigail as she sat there by the bed, willing her mother to breathe once more. But it never happened. It took a few hours, but Harriet finally suggested that she get some sleep. The doctor left, and Abigail laid down, but sleep was impossible. Every time she closed her eyes, the image of her lifeless mother burned in her head. It was impossible to erase.
Thoughts of what she would do now, also tormented her mind, but luckily she remembered her mother's words, and realized she did have somewhere to go, even if it was the last place she wanted to be: California. People had told stories about gold and riches, but she honestly did not care. She had everything she wanted right here in Virginia, so what was the point in traveling so far? No, she didn't seem to have a choice. She was still young, only seventeen with no prospect of marriage. Maybe there were some men who were interested in her, but she had not returned that interest. She had always this high idea of marriage, something her mother and begged her to put aside. Abigail was no convinced. Now, she wondered if it would have been better if she had listened to her mother. She would have been married and taken care of. Not that she wanted to depend on the man for the rest of her life, but she would not have to worry about her situation because she couldn't necessarily live on her own. Abigail came to eventually realize that she was fortunate in one aspect, though: she was born an only child and had not the burden of taking care of a younger sibling. Not that she didn't want one. She had always hoped, always wished she could, but for as long as she could remember, it was only her mother and she. Now, she was completely and utterly alone.
It was a few days later, after her mother's dim and wet funeral, that Abigail got a ticket to California. She quickly packed her things, sold her home, and decided she'd save that money for whatever she could, just in case her uncle decided not to take her in. There was no real way she could tell, since she had only sent the letter two days before.
Looking back at that night and why she was actually on this train, brought more tears to her eyes, but each time, she wiped them quickly. She was stronger than this, wasn't she? Letting out a small sigh, she looked back out for a second. As the hours passed on, feeling like days, the scenery changed. No longer was it lushes and green, but instead, trees were scare, the land was bare. Why anyone would want to live out here was beyond her, but she figured gold was enough to entice some poor men. She had no need for the gold though, but here she was. Her uncle was the gold-digger, and that was why she was dragged over here.
The rocks, the sparse trees seemed to pass by her even more quickly than before. Tree, land, tree, rock, rock, land…like a little pattern. Abigail slowly turned away and decided that it might be best to take a small nap. After all, she'd probably needed it. Only the Lord knew what her uncle and his daughter were like and what could happen. With her small purse tightly secured in her hand, she closed her eyes and fell into deep sleep.
The voice rang in Abigail's ear as she woke up from the dream. Slowly ever so slowly, Abigail opened her eyes to see a man standing in above her. With a look of complete and utter confusion, she Abigail sat up. "Is…anything the matter?" she asked.
"We've stopped. We've arrived in California, Miss."
Abigail found it hard to believe, but when she looked outside, she realized that this must be California. People all around her were getting off, hugging relatives, and gathering their bags. In the distance, she saw the plain landscape, with only a few hills of heavily forested land. It was nothing like her beautiful East. She missed it already. Had she the choice, she would have turned back, but she had nothing, no one else to turn to. She didn't even know her father, so staying with his family, or even her father, was quite out of the question. No, she was here, and while she was here, she figured she might as well make the best of it. She had to believe that if she was going to keep up a good composure.
"Are…you coming, miss?" the man asked.
Abigail quickly gave him a smile and nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course."
With that, Abigail stood up and gathered a few bags and hauled them off the train. Smoke met her once she stepped outside. The smell was unpleasant, and she found herself coughing for a minute there. Looking around, she took in the scene. It was busy. Apparently many people wanted that gold, they wanted to get rich, and they thought they'd find it here. Abigail didn't want to out rightly laugh at them, but she had to shake her head. It was so sad that they thought money solved all their problems.
Lifting up her dress so that the dirt wouldn't ruin the hem of it, she looked around to see if she spotted her uncle. She had only heard of what he looked like. According to her mother, he visited her once when she was five his little daughter who was four at that time. Abigail didn't remember a thing.
Apparently, though her uncle recognized her. As she let her eyes glance around she hear someone call her name. From instinct, she turned and discovered it was a man with a large dark beard, and rugged hands and clothes. He was not at all dressed the way she thought gentleman should dress, but she should have expected no less. After all, he had to be poor enough to be so desperate for gold, and he couldn't wear nice suits to the mines. Abigail only hoped that the women didn't wear similar clothes. She hoped at least they had some dignity to look nice for their husbands.
Looking further, she noticed her long, frizzy and unkept hair, her scared and bruised arms. Abigail would never had been caught dead in such a manner. It would be simply so humiliating.
Putting all judgment of attire aside, Abigail took a few steps toward her uncle and gave a smile. "Uncle Henry?" she asked, making sure that he was indeed the man she had expected. He nodded. "That's me."
The man gave a wide grin of pride that Abigail almost wanted to mock. What did he have to be proud of really? And did he have to give her such a wide grin when he knew the circumstances that brought her here? Quickly, Abigail checked herself, realizing that she shouldn't be so ungrateful. He had, at least, agreed to take her in. He had received her letter and had waited for her here at the station. He was going to provide a roof over her head and food. She had to be thankful for that, right? So, as hard as it was, Abigail forced a smile and nodded.
"Shall we go then?" Abigail asked. The man nodded and quickly reached to grab some of the bags. Abigail shook her head. "I can take them." She answered with a smile bringing them closer to her side. She had nothing against her uncle, she just didn't want to burden him more than she knew she would. Maybe if she founds some charming guy, she wouldn't have to feel so guilty for living under his roof. But that was a big if. She wasn't sure if she was even ready to love.
"I can get it…really, no problem, ma'am. I'm capable 'nough to carry these here bags" Henry answered, still reaching for the bag. It appeared that Abigail had no choice, and so she reluctantly relinquished two of her bags, and followed him out to the carriage. What had annoyed Abigail the most about her interaction with her uncle though was not his insistence to carry her bags, but more or less, his speech. Was it so difficult to speak proper English. But again, Abigail realized she was not here to judge, and so she kept her mouth shut long enough to last the ride that was, in short, long and uneventful. He didn't even say one word to her as he drove the carriage onward.
What they arrived to was certainly not what she had expected. She was used to the beautifully contrasted homes of the East, she was used to the beautiful trees and flowers, but there, before her, on the barren land was a small wooden shack, barely enough room for two people. And she was going to live here? For how long would she have to live in such conditions?
"There's home!" Henry declared pointing to the home that came into view. For a while, Abigail had hoped it wasn't true, but his words confirmed it. Abigail sat there simply staring in disbelief. How could people live like this? It was utterly inconceivable. Was there not even a little garden? Apparently not.
Reluctantly, when the horses stopped, she stepped down from the carriage and stared. "Are you ok?" he asked. Abigail simply nodded and gave a small sigh. "So this is your home?"
"This is home," he answered, the hint of pride evident in his voice. "Do you want to come it?"
Abigail would have been more than happy to say 'no', but that wasn't proper. Besides, he would provide a room and food, so wasn't that what she asked for? It would have been foolish to expect to live in a beautifully constructed home made of bricks. No, this was California. Very few made the state a permanent home, so she hoped that maybe within a few months her situation would change. Of course, she had heard her uncle had lived here for over five years now, and that he still believed he would strike gold one of these days.
With a slight nod, Abigail walked behind Henry and entered the tiny wooden door, almost too small for her to walk through. She had to bend her head slightly to keep from having her forehead meet the upper portion of the door frame. "Yes, I might have mentioned before, that you probably should be careful when walking through there. But I see you noticed…took me a while to get used to it"
A smile was forced as Abigail looked around the place, taking it all in. There wasn't much really. A simply kitchen with a wood-burning stove, a tiny dining table, and sheets on the floor, that she could only suppose was mean to be the beds. Granted, they had about three quits to cushion the hard flooring, but Abigail didn't know if she would survive. She needed a real bed, one that was easy on her back. But it wasn't her place to complain. No, she kept telling herself that she had to be thankful.
"Well, there's the stove, as you can see, and the table," Henry declared pointing. "and me 'n my Riley sleep over there on those sheets. We had to move 'em round to make room, but you have your own quilt to sleep on. I know it's not much, but it's all we have right now." Once that was said, Abby knew she couldn't raise a word of complaint. She tried to tell herself that maybe, just maybe the situation wasn't as bad as she first guessed.
Abby, taking the few bags in her hand, continued to walk behind Henry and placed them down by the table. "I spose we'll keep your things here fur now…I hope you don't mind." Abigail quickly shook her head. "No, it's perfect...absolutely perfect."