The morning after the funeral, Sarah stared straight ahead, through the bars of the empty crib in the morning light. It had been moved to her room after her mother became ill. She had thought nothing would be as hard as losing her mother. She remembered the day before when Aunt Amanda had said, “I’d like to talk to you.” Sarah had followed her aunt into to her mother’s bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed that her mother had died in four days before. The room still had a sick smell, even though the church women had cleaned and aired it. Aunt Amanda said, “You know Aunt Anna has been married for eight years and has no children. She would like to take Mary and raise her. That would be easier for you, since you have your hands full as it is.”
Sarah felt her hands go numb. When the shock of what Aunt Amanda just said had sunk in, Sarah shook her head.
“I’ve already talked to your father. He said we should do as we see best.”
Sarah sobbed out loud. “I know this is hard on you.” Aunt Amanda said. “But giving her up today is going to be easier than later.”
“I can’t do it,” Sarah whispered, shaking her head slowly back and forth. Tears ran like streams down her cheeks and dripped off her chin.
“We will take care of everything. If eventually you leave home to get married, the children would most likely go into different homes anyway. This is better for Mary, because she can get settled while she is so young.”
In the end Sarah and Susie packed Mary’s clothes, the little dresses, the diapers, and the tiny shoes.
Sarah envied Susie, sleeping quietly in the morning light. She was eleven, too young to do what was expected of Sarah. Sarah knew she had to go downstairs and light the oil stove and make breakfast, then get the children off to school. Emma told her the church women would come and put the furniture back and put the house in order.
One Saturday night, after the children were in bed, Sarah’s father sat in the hickory bent rocker, smoking his pipe. He coughed as a cloud of smoke spread up towards the lantern hanging from the ceiling. He said, “I’ve talked to the bishop and he agrees with me. You should stop seeing Jacob. Your job is to be here at home.”
Sarah dropped her mending and stared at her father, first in disbelief and then disgust. Then the truth sank in, her blank stare turned into a glare of hatred for the vile man who was her father. She wanted to scream. She imagined the words, You are not being fair and you know it! It’s not my fault Mem died, that you had so many children, that you gave your baby away, and that you drink and keep us poor! Why should I take this? I will run away from home if I have to!
Fear kept her quiet. She didn’t want to see his red-faced anger explode and have him hurl himself at her with all his brute strength. Her father puffed his pipe, picked up his newspaper, and ignored her stare.
Sarah held back the angry tears as she moved slowly from the living room into the safety of her bedroom. She clenched her fists in the dark, the screams held in with her agony. Her father had taken from her the one hope that kept her going during the last weeks.
To be continued…