Every hundred years or so, a love comes around that is so true, and so pure, it can withstand anything. It is Real Love. The forever kind. And it's not as common as you would be led to believe by t...
Every hundred years or so, a love comes around that is so true, and so pure, it can withstand anything. It is Real Love. The forever kind. And it's not as common as you would be led to believe by those dime novels. Most people will never witness it in their lifetimes, let alone experience it. I was lucky enough to witness Real Love first hand, and I will never forget it.
She wasn't a fairytale princess, and he wasn't a heroic knight in shining armor. At least, not on the outside. She was a ribbon girl, and he was an orphan turned jack of all trades. The poorest of the poor, street trash to those members of high society who thought worth was measured by a pocket full of money, and home on the Upper East Side.
Their story has slipped through the cracks of time, and I feel, as a witness, it is my personal duty to make sure it never dies. So I'm going to tell you exactly what happened, all those years ago. In my own words, and in the words of my best friend, who was indeed, the princess who wasn't a princess.
New York City, 1902
Monday, Day One
Elijah 'Bolt' Henderson drew in a long drag through his cigarette, allowing the smoke to burn his throat and lungs, before finally pushing it out through his lips. He rested his hand on the brick ledge, the only barrier between him and the forty-something foot drop off the side of the roof. He watched the smoke curling up from the glowing tip of the cigarette, lost in a sea of thoughts.
He was brought back to reality by the sound of shoes clanging up the iron of the fire escape.
Bolt turned at the sound of her voice, tossing his spent cigarette on the ground and stomping it out. The shadows in his eyes were momentarily pushed away, and a small smile found its way to his lips, "Hannah."
"What're you doing up here?" She asked, crossing the roof to stand next to him, wrapping her arms around herself for warmth, "it's freezing."
He didn't answer, but pulled her into his embrace, leaning back against the wall, and clasping his hand around his own wrist, locking her into his hold. Hannah leaned back, resting the back of her head on his chest, and appreciating his warmth.
Bolt buried his face into her hair, breathing in her scent. Standing so close to her made the decision he was being forced to make even more difficult.
Hannah remained silent for a moment, before her curiosity got the better of her, even though she had been enjoying the quiet moment, "So?"
"So, what?" Bolt questioned, his voice muffled by her hair.
"So what are you doing up here? And smoking, at that. I could smell it the second I came onto the roof." Hannah replied, wrinkling her nose in distaste.
Bolt grimaced, "Sorry. I was just feeling a little stressed, that's all." He had begun smoking almost a year ago, an attempt to take his mind off the hunger and cold he often felt as a result of being poor. He knew Hannah hated it; she couldn't stand the smell. So he had done his best to quit. Because, truth be told, if Hannah asked him to jump off a bridge, he would do it in a heartbeat, just to make her happy. Every once in a while though, the merciless grip of addiction would find a hold again, and he'd fall back into the habit.
Hannah twisted her neck, straining to see his face in the darkness, "What are you stressed about?" she asked, concern instantly written on her face. Bolt wasn't one who was easily stressed out. In fact, he was the most easy-going person she'd ever known. It was like nothing could fluster him.
Bolt sighed heavily, avoiding her gaze, "It's nothing, Hannah. Don't worry," He kissed her forehead, waving of her question, "C'mon, it's getting late, I'll walk you home."
Hannah nodded, slipping from his grasp and taking his proffered elbow instead, allowing him to lead her down the fire escape. They walked close together, neither saying much during the twenty minutes it took to get from his boarding house to hers. Arriving at her front steps, they both paused.
"Goodnight," Hannah smiled up at him, gently squeezing his arm before pulling her hand back, and hurrying up the steps, glad to be getting out of the cold.
"Goodnight, Hannah." Bolt replied, watching until she entered the house, and clicked the lock behind her, before he turned, heading back towards his own home. He shoved his hands in his pockets, walking with his head down, once more losing himself to his thoughts.
He didn't even notice when the shadows to his left shifted, a figure slipping out from an alley, and creeping up next to him. He did, however, notice the searing pain to his left cheekbone, as a fist connected with a loud crack. Through his pain, he spun around, fists clenched, ready to defend himself. Bolt paused when he saw the boy standing there. He couldn't have been much older then thirteen and he was cradling his injured hand close to his stomach. Bolt clenched his teeth in irritation, letting his fists drop back down to his sides.
"What, are they not teaching you to fight before they send you out now?" Bolt asked, an edge to his voice. "My skull is a lot harder then your fist."
The boy glared up at him, trying to look menacing, "Shaddup." He spat, "Dis is a warning. Ya got a week left, or my boss is comin' after ya!" With that, he kicked some dirt in Bolt's direction, before taking off down the street.
Bolt watched him run, absentmindedly rubbing his cheek, wincing at the bruised feeling that was already spreading. He hated sucker punches. If someone was going to start a fight, they ought to at least have the decency to start a fair one. Bolt turned, once again starting back towards his home, still lost in thought, but having the presence of mind to keep his eyes sharp, scanning the streets and alleyways as best he could in the darkness. He knew he shouldn't be surprised. Bolt released a heavy sigh, rubbing the back of his neck.
One week. That was all the time he had.
Hannah climbed the stairs to the small room she shared with her sister. She was tired, and she knew her sister wouldn't be happy about her coming in so late. She would tell her how improper her behavior was. She fitted her key into the lock on the door, trying to open it as silently as possible, hoping her sister was still asleep. She winced when the handle jangled loudly in the door. She didn't know why they even bothered locking it, the knob was so loose, you could just push the door and it would open.
She entered the room, sighing as she saw that Elisabeth was still awake, sitting up in bed, reading an ad from today's newspaper. No doubt it was all about the latest fashion trends, Hannah thought in spite of herself, smiling at Elisabeth before turning to shut the door behind her.
"Ellie, you're up late," Hannah said, tugging her gloves off, and placing them on the small dresser.
"Hannah, you're out late." Was Elisabeth's tart reply, "You weren't with that boy again, were you?"
Hannah didn't answer right away, carefully pulling the pins from her hair, allowing the light brown curls to fall across her back, before answering Elisabeth, "He's not 'that boy', Ellie. His name is Elijah. And yes, he was kind enough to walk me home, tonight." Hannah finally responded, conveniently leaving out the fact that she had gone to see him at his boarding house after work.
"What were you doing out so late, anyways? You weren't still working, were you? Hannah, Mr. Morrison, shouldn't be working you so late."
Hannah sighed, pulling her nightgown on, and sliding under the covers of the small bed, next to Elisabeth, "No, Ellie," she said, knowing the only reason her sister was asking was because she was concerned for her. Ever since their parents had gone back to Germany, Elisabeth had felt the need to become a second mother to her younger sister. Even if the only age difference was a year.
New York City, 1900
Mama Evans wrung her hand nervously, looking from one daughter to the other, as if memorizing their features, "Are you sure you want to stay here, Elisabeth? You girls shouldn't be separated from your father and I, you're too young! Come back with us, you can learn the language when we get there. Papa and I will even teach you some on the ship."
Elisabeth, smiled tightly at her mother, unbidden tears filling her eyes, "No, Mama, New York is our place. I don't want to learn another language, and another country's customs."
Papa interrupted, placing a weathered hand on his wife's shoulder, "This is what you wanted, Ana. You promised yourself when you came over here, all those years ago, you promised your future children would be Americans, through and through. And they are. Let them be Americans. Ellie's seventeen now, she'll watch over Hannah. Say your goodbyes, the ship will be boarding soon,"
Mama's eyes overflowed, tears streaming down, over her plump cheeks, She reached out, pulling both her girls, into a long hug, "You look out for each other, you hear? You're all each other has, now."
All three of them were crying by the time they pulled away, and when Hannah looked over at her father, she noticed even his eyes were moist with emotion.
Hannah and Elisabeth stood together, as the ship pulled away from land, holding hands, and crying silently until they could no longer make out the forms of their parents, standing on the deck and waving to them.
"C'mon, Hannie," Elisabeth said, wiping her cheeks with a dainty handkerchief, "We'd best go back to the boarding house, and make sure we have everything we need."
Hannah hesitated a moment, wanting just one more glance of her parents, before she gave in to her sister's tugging on her sleeve, allowing herself to be led back to the boarding
house, the place they would come to know as home.
"Hannah, did you hear me?" Elisabeth asked, for what must have been the second time.
"What?" Hannah said, pulling herself out of her memories.
"Don't say "what" Hannah, it's uncouth. I asked you were you'd been, if you weren't at work."
"Oh. I went to see Becky after work. I told her I'd bring her some ribbon. She's courting Stephen Miller, you know," she replied, skillfully steering the conversation away from herself. What she said wasn't a lie, she had gone to see Becky after work, but that was before she'd gone to see Elijah.
"Stephen Miller? Well, he's too good for her. I thought for sure he was going to begin courting you soon, Hannah." Elisabeth said, as she blew out the kerosene lamp.
Hannah turned on her side, curling up in an attempt to find a comfortable position on the stiff mattress, "No, he's courting Becky." She murmured, ignoring Elisabeth's jab at her friend, "And I'm courting Elijah."
Elisabeth snorted- in a most unladylike manor- saying, "You can't call that courting. He's never come to call, and you know, Ms. Brennen has a very nice parlor set up for gentlemen callers. She was just telling me today that she was expecting you to start courting soon. And, really, Hannah, he's not worth your time. You're a very pretty girl, I'm sure there's a nice young man that would be willing to court you."
"Well, Ms. Brennen is a busybody. And I don't want to court any other 'nice young men' if all that's attracting them to me is my looks, Honestly, Ellie, you act as if that's the only thing a man is looking for."
"Hannah, your naivety is really quite endearing. Get some sleep, tomorrow will come early."
Hannah had to grit her teeth to refrain from responding. She reminded herself once again that Elisabeth only meant what was best for her. She just didn't realize that Elijah was what was best for her.
/I'd known Hannah Evans for a long time. And as corny as it sounds, she was everything I could ever hope to be. She was pretty, but not that stark beauty that some girls lay claim to. Her beauty was found in her smile, which was always ready, in her blue eyes, which had the uncanny ability to convey her every thought, and in the warmth of her voice, always evident, no matter what was going wrong in her life. And things went wrong in her life often./