Life is that of a story, it has a beginning, middle, and an end. But unlike in a story where you can simply close the page and put the book away if you don't like that which you read; in life you must simply rewrite the story. In life you cannot rip out pages of the past, although I'm sure you'd like to. Instead, you must stand tall, breathe deeply, square your shoulders and march on. I am here to tell you the story of one such girl who did this.
But alas this story does not have a happy beginning; in fact I hardly know where it begins. But I do know most of the middle, and the secrets of the end. I know of the heartache's and struggles. Of the loves and laughs shared, I know it all.
From what I've gathered, the girl was born on a hot summer night in the year of 1863. She was a bastard child, for her father had never married her mother. But perhaps that's not his fault; he never got the chance for he was fighting in a great war. The American Civil War, a devastating fight that brutalized the land, and hearts, and spirits of all involved. However she was far too young to understand, seeing as just a short two years later the war was over, and her father dead. She could not have known this, no, this is information only an Orphanage could gather. And rather poorly might I add.
When the girl had come to the orphanage, she bore no name. Finally the Nuns settled on a derisive name for the girl; Lelia Dixie for the nuns were true Southerners at heart. It was a strong name, but also soft and feminine. Alas she would need a surname, so they gifted her the name of the orphanage, Harrington. And thus, Lelia Dixie Harrington she was christened.
From that moment her life was planned out before her. She would grow up in the orphanage, help with the younger children, take the vows to become a nun at thirteen, and live out her life helping those in need. Oh, but if it were only the truth. I could stop the story here, and allow you to believe that Lelia had a long, filling (if not boring) life. However that is not the truth, and if there is one thing I must pertain to in this story it is the truth.
In the beginning the life of Lelia Dixie went as the Nuns had planned. She did grow up in the Orphanage, leading the life of a nun in training, she helped with the little ones and was adored by the women of the area, who would often times try to lavish her with gifts; only to receive the same reply each time, a graceful declination. But in the year of 1956, her life was put into turmoil once again.
Just two months before she was to take the vows of a nun, she was awoken one morning by a burning smoke. It was thick and heavy, and made her cough. And in the nature of Lelia her first thought was of the younger children. Oh how she hoped the Nuns had retrieved them.
Lelia stumbled to her dresser and took the cloth she used every morning to wash her face and soaked it in water. She then wrapped it around her face and tried to find the door in the hot smoke filled room. She grasped the door and nearly screamed as he hand was scorched. She was going to die here, she was sure of it, of what a terrible way to die. Lelia could hear shouting in the rooms below and felt tears running down her face as she backed towards the window.
It was cooler here, of that she was certain, she turned to the window quietly praying to God to forgive her for what she was about to do. She shoved hard against the window, once, twice, thrice until with a loud POP it sprang open from it's rusted hinges. Still praying Lelia stepped quietly onto the window's frame. She took a deep breath and on the release a whispered "Amen". However, before she could go through with the fall that would surely kill her, the door crashed open behind her, she startled and by the grace of God she fell backwards.
At least that's how she told it. Anyone who was actually there knew that Lelia had fallen from that window. Amazingly she fell gracefully into a large pile of hay. However her body had suffered a shock, and believed God's hand had carried her through the burning building. God may have carried her, but not through the building.
Lelia's life changed drastically that day more than just losing her home. No more than a mere hour had passed from being discharged from the hospital when she was handed a ticket for a train and to she was to head out west where missionaries were needed. That would be where she would continue her training.
Lelia looked at Father Abel and Mother Superior Grace with tears in her eyes. "Mother Grace, please don't send me away! I know nothing of the west, only that it is filled with savages and men with no manners. Not at all gentlemanly! Oh please, Mother Grace don't send me away!" Lelia wailed. Mother Grace looked down at Lelia sternly.
"Lelia! Stop that nonsense, you our not making our Lord proud. These men may be Savages and brutes but as a messenger for the Lord it is your duty to help tame them. Show them the ways of our Lord in Heaven and guide them towards the guiding light. There is another Abbey that has been developed just near the Texas line. You will be sent there to complete your vows, after which if you wish, you may return" Mother Grace placed both hands on Lelia's shoulders, "I know you can do this. Do us proud Lelia Dixie Harrington." And with that she pushed Lelia towards the train station and smiled fondly.
Father Abel sighed, "Do you honestly believe this is what's best for her Mother?" he rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Mother Grace smiled lightly," Abel, anything is better than the torment she would suffer here. She would forever be an outcast. She will be all right; my sister has what is left of a plantation with children her age around. The girl is only thirteen, perhaps she will be able to act as it for once."
And with that Mother Grace turned and walked back to the remnants of her beloved abbey.
Lelia had finally settled in the compartment of the train, and gazed out the window watching the rolling valleys of her home pass by. She would miss this place, the woods and rivers. The smell of fresh cut pines and summer days. The laughter of the children she had helped; The kind words of wisdom spoken by Mother Grace and Sister May Belle, always with a soft smile, the long southern drawls, the Abbey, the Harrington Orphanage for Southern Children, and definitely the little children.
Lelia had to force back a sob at the thought of all the little children who had been lost so heedlessly to the fire. The sisters had done the best they could, but still some lives could not be saved. Baby Eleanor who had yet to take her first steps, or speak her first word. Little James with curling brown hair and bright blue eyes and cheeks that dimpled when he smiled. Young Sarah who was always quiet but followed Lelia daily through her chores, and Edward who was always a mischievous little boy, but had the kindest of hearts.
Lelia's will finally broke as she let out a sob for the young children she had grown to love and know. Never to take another breath, or run and jump as all children do. In slight she envied them, but immediately felt guilty, they were children and she was a gift from God. Mother Superior Grace had said as much, which was why she could not understand the need for her to leave when she would be so desperately needed to help rebuild and mourn. As customary she would wear black for a full season, then change to lighter grays until she took her vows.
Lelia was not a vain person, for she did not believe it appropriate behavior of a nun. She did not spend hours on her hair, wear rogue or lip stain, or even rice powder. She in the eyes of many could be very pretty if she'd put forth the effort, however she was blinded by her pride and determination to become one of Christ's chosen. While Lelia was not gluttonous, lustful, envious, sloth like, full of wrath, or even the slightest bit greedy, she was extremely prideful.
And Pride is the most dangerous of sins.