Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Thirty-Seven
22nd February 1968
There was a flurry of birthdays in the house. Tatiana and Malcolm on the 21st of February, then Suse on the 29th, and finally Marie Alexandra was turning twelve on the 15th of March. Sophie heard this with absolute terror. For years, her mother had told her that she would inevitably become something terrible when she turned twelve, completing the destruction that she had wrought on her mother’s life from the moment she had been born. When Sophie had been younger, she had resolved never to turn twelve and had thought that her mother would be happy with that. Instead, her mother had gotten furious and had accused Sophie of mocking her.
Marie though, she was the greatest, bravest, most amazing girl in the world. Sophie remembered that night in the castle when they had been scared by the storm and the window had blown open. Marie had gotten up and closed it as if there was nothing to be afraid of, she had then ordered Sophie along with Nella and Nan back to their own beds. They hadn’t listened and Marie had ended up sleeping in Nella’s bed. It was a reminder of how last summer had been so perfect. Even the chores around the castle had a lot of fun because of how they had done everything together, it really had all been a game. Then had come the crash back to the reality of Sophie’s life and everything that had followed since. Living in this house with Marie was vastly different than in the castle. Though she was a few years older than Sophie and that was a huge gulf there, still she got to watch as Marie did the most amazing things all the time. The thought that something horrible might happen to her was more than Sophie could bear.
Finally, on Friday afternoon it all came to a head when Katherine got a call from Sophie’s school. Her reaction was absolutely shocking to Sophie. She didn’t yell or hit her, instead she had mentioned that according to her teacher Sophie had said that she had seemed distracted and sad all week before hugging her and asked to know what was going on.
“Can you please tell me what is going on?” Katherine asked.
Sophie had been not expecting that at all. A simple question that complete disarmed her.
“When I was not much older than you, I had someone hurt me terribly” Katherine said, “I didn’t talk to anyone for nearly a year and the problems never went away until I dealt with them. Silence just made it worse.”
With that Katherine went back to looking at the papers on her desk. Sophie knew that there were things going on in the world that Katherine couldn’t talk about, important matters and she could see that this woman who had taken her in seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet she had taken time from her day to find out what was going on. Sophie felt a stab of guilt over having done that and sitting there watching Katherine work turned out to be excruciating. Before she knew it, she had blurting out everything and Katherine just sat there listening.
“Your mother… is not well and is finally getting help” Katherine said, “Growing up can be horrible at times, but it is not something that you need to fear. As for you becoming something terrible, she was projecting her own past onto your future and I doubt that will occur. It is perfectly natural to be scared about what might happen to someone in your family, Marie will be alright and you as well.”
Sophie found that last part particularly jarring.
Los Angeles, California
“Where did you learn to do this?” Ritchie’s mother asked as she saw engine that was completely disassembled on a table in the garage. Ritchie had pulled the engine from Bob’s car and was rebuilding it. It was something that would need to be done if he was going to be replacing the piston rings anyway. There was the added bonus of Bob having to take the bus to work all week as well.
“John Casey, my original team leader insisted that everyone learn because it isn’t like if we can call road service when deployed” Ritchie replied.
“He sounds like a smart man” Concha said.
“He was” Ritchie replied, his mother gave him an odd look and he kicked himself. She had to have noticed that he had just referred to Jonny in the past tense. It was something that he had tried to avoid mentioning around her, how even at the best of times his job could be dangerous. Telling her that even someone like Jonny had gotten killed would upset her. Jonny had oozed cool and was tough as nails had ended up with a quiet burial at Arlington, that the details of his final mission would remain secret, probably forever, because to do otherwise might start a war. It wasn’t a big leap of logic to see that it could just as easily happen to Ritchie.
“Never mind that” Concha said, “Bobby said that Lucia Cruz came around the other day.”
So, Bob had figured out a way to get even with Ritchie for taking his time fixing his car.
“She told me to mind my own business” Ritchie said as he got back to work on the engine.
“You have a career, most men in the neighborhood cannot say that” Concha said, “Perhaps she will come around.”
“She will see the realities of my career and run the other way” Ritchie replied, the full truth was the best thing he could say here. “I can be deployed at a moment’s notice, be gone for weeks and not be able to breath a word about it afterwards. Pure poison if you want to have a relationship. Not many women put up with that.”
“Funny, except for the secrecy, you just described your father’s work” Concha said, “Ever thought that the problem is just that you’ve been fishing off the wrong pier?”