The next two days, Marilyn sat inside her bedroom, unable to eat, staring out her window into the gardens and longing for a better life. Zelda and her father had argued the night before, but she hadn’t made out what words were being said. This time, they hadn’t been fighting much, causing her to realize with a sinking feeling that Zelda was both wearing her father down and controlling his and all of their lives.
There would never be another way. They may never encounter an end to all of this torment that raged through the household, where she became Zelda’s next victim for revenge, for a constant brutal need to use “their daughter” whenever she had the chance.
However, as Marilyn stared outside, she noticed movement from inside the garden gazebo. Though he was farther away, she recognized the person there.
There, sitting on the long, curved bench reading with his feet up, was Henry, dressed in a suit like always, and her heart flipped over. She couldn’t help but smile. No matter her previous confusion for the man, she knew one thing: the comfort of his friendship that had somehow caused her to become in love with him. She must leave the estate forever, but there seemed no way to do so now, not with Zelda in command of everything.
Suddenly, a quiet knock came about on the doorway, and Maisie peeked inside.
Marilyn smiled in relief. “Hello, Maisie.”
“Hello, dear.” Maisie peered behind her to make sure nobody had seen her, and then slipped inside the room, closing the door behind her. In her hand she held a small envelope, in the shape of a telegram, along with a plate of food full of luscious fresh strawberries, blueberries, and fresh cut watermelon from the kitchen. She sat at the edge of her bed, and handed her the plate of food first. “Here. I know you haven’t come out of your bedroom since yesterday.”
Seeing the food caused Marilyn to realize how ravenous she really was, and she thanked Maisie, taking the food and beginning to eat it.
Between her third and fourth bites, she smiled at Maisie, who gave her a loving, kind smile back. “What has been happening out there?”
“Not much. It’s been rather quiet.” She sighed. “I’ll wait until you’re finished eating to explain further.”
It didn’t take Marilyn long to finish, because she’d been famished. After she finished, feeling better, she told herself she’d sneak into the kitchen for some more food later, and set aside the empty plate.
“What’s happening?” she asked in an uncertain voice.
Maisie studied her for a long moment, and then whispered, her face looking miserable: “Zelda is kicking me out of the house for good. I’m supposed to have my bag packed by dawn.”
“What?” Marilyn couldn’t believe it. “You mean to tell me that she’s forcing you to leave because you and Father are married?” she demanded, feeling even angrier at Maisie’s slight but obvious nod. “But why?”
“I suppose she believes that word is going to somehow get out that she’s not your father’s actual wife.” Maisie frowned and shook her head, gazing out the window for a long moment. “It’s funny, it really is – ironic, more than anything – but I’m trying my hardest to not think ill of the woman, no matter how unbelievable she’s being.” She glanced at her. “You should, too, my dear.”
Marilyn nodded. “I’ll try my hardest to, Maisie. But…” She sighed. “Why isn’t Father doing anything to keep it from happening?”
Maisie smiled. “My dear girl, I love your father more than anything in this world, stronger and more purer than any other love could ever be.” She gazed down at her hands. “But…your father is much destroyed. His heart is broken after everything that has gone on in the household since we first decided we should hire Zelda. Some way or another, she ended up getting the final say in everything going on within the estate. He was the breadwinner…and yet, she’s acting as if she controls everything and everyone.”
“I know.” Marilyn swallowed hard, and then clasped Maisie’s hand. “I’m really sad that you have to leave…Mother.”
Maisie smiled, and proud blush reddened her cheeks. Then, once she raised her head again, there were tears in her eyes, and she cupped one side of Marilyn’s cheek.
“The day you were born, aside from our wedding day, was the happiest day of my life, you know.”
Marilyn bit her lip, her throat swollen with emotion and not knowing how to respond to that.
Maisie let her face go, but continued to hold her hand. “Once the midwife brought you into my arms, I had the most perfect realization of what to name you. You and I both carry the same middle name. I named you Marilyn Elizabeth James.” She chuckled, and then patted her hand and slipped the small sheet of paper into her palm instead. “This is for you. Ben brought this to me right away, and right away, I knew to whom it belonged.” She stood, and then studied her daughter’s face. “Will you be there to wish me goodbye tomorrow morning?”
Marilyn nodded and smiled, not knowing what to say. She wanted to tell her birth mother how she was sorry, that she longed for her a much better, happier life, that she wished all of these terrible events had never happened. From the bottom of her heart, she was sad that Zelda had desired to become fake Mrs. Wesley James, to control all of their lives.
Instead, however, she remained quiet.
Maisie, smiling, cupped her chin, and kissed her on the forehead. The kiss was one of the sweetest actions a mother could possibly show with her own child, and it brought Marilyn to tears as her birth mother left the room.
Fighting back her emotions, she ripped open what appeared to be a telegram from Henry. She smiled at what she read, which caused her to gaze out of her bedroom window toward the gazebo, where Henry awaited for her return.
She glanced back at the small note on the telegram, which simply read:
I will be sitting right here at your gazebo, waiting for you so we can begin our life together. I want you to know that I’m really looking forward to that day, and until then I will be, forever and always, yours.
I love you.
Dawn came far too fast. Marilyn rose early, and worked between sewing and gazing outside, staring with longing at the gazebo where Henry relaxed again today, reading and every so often glancing back at the manor. It seemed as if he longed to see her, and Marilyn could not quiet the quick pounding of her heart whenever he did so.
Then, finally, her name was called downstairs.
Soon, Marilyn found herself in the large foyer, along with Father, Zelda, and Maisie. All the servants of the household were there, too, standing in line farther back and closer to the wall compared to the rest of them.
Maisie had her suitcase packed and sitting by the door where Ben also stood, awaiting the next command. Maisie, dressed in an old turquoise and black-colored dress, along with a gray bonnet and gloves, finished saying goodbye to all of the servants. Charlotte, in tears, dabbed at her damp cheeks with a handkerchief, and Marilyn sympathized with her. She’d obviously been Maisie’s closest friend of the household, and now she would never see her again.
Marilyn backed up so she stayed out of the way, and stood near the window which led onto the gravel driveway and a big buckboard that awaited outside, ready to take Maisie away. She noticed that her father, several feet away, stood straight as a statue but quiet. No emotion played on his face.
“Goodbye, everyone,” Maisie whispered to the servants, looking calm and collected, although smiling. “I will miss you all.”
Charlotte nodded, sniffling hard, and then finally hid her face in the handkerchief.
“All right, that is it.” Zelda shot forward, nudging Ben out of the way, and swung open the door. She indicated the door with a sharp twist of her hand, and then glared over at Maisie, who merely looked at her with quiet obedience. “You’ve said your goodbyes. Leave!”
Maisie studied her for a bit longer. Then, she stepped over to Ben, who handed her the suitcase without another word, and she stood in the doorway, glancing around the foyer as if painting a beautiful picture of the room in her mind. Her gaze fell upon Marilyn. She smiled over at her, love quite evident in her eyes.
Marilyn smiled back, afraid to say a word, but also not knowing what words to say. “Goodbye” didn’t seem good enough. She wanted to tell her that she’d miss her and that she would be missed by everyone, but no words came to her mind.
Suddenly, then, Maisie glanced over at Father. This time, however, she didn’t smile. As she gripped her suitcase, she and Father stared at each other for a long moment. Marilyn studied at her Father’s face, sullen and stark, but then, tears welled up in his eyes. Yet they didn’t fall.
“I’m commanding you to leave now!” Zelda commanded. “Maisie! Out! Now!”
Maisie, acting as if she could not hear, strode forward, her focus on Father, and then reached forward, her hand grasping for him. Her face was filled with desperation, apologetic…so many pleas of help written there.
Marilyn swallowed hard, her heart pounding from inside her, as Father extended his own hand, his face contorted, and he grasped Maisie’s hand. Her fingers went around his, and they were connected, together only for a moment, as emotion after emotion played across Father’s own face.
Tears rolled down Marilyn’s cheeks, and she squeezed her eyes shut, looking away. What hit her the worst was knowing her parents would never see each other again, and she couldn’t bear to see Maisie leave with so much left to say and to give as a mother.
With resignation, Maisie let go of Father’s hand. His own hand dropped to his side. Then, after one final look at him as she backed away, Maisie twisted away. She hurried outside and down the road.
Her knees feeling like wood with numbness, Marilyn walked to the window as Ben helped Maisie into the buckboard. He closed the door, and then walked back inside the house.
Then, with her face sad and blank as she stared outside, Maisie began her way to a brand new life. The crunching sound of the carriage wheels descended upon the gravel as they disappeared from the property.
Without another word, Zelda glanced at Father with bitterness before turning and disappearing down the hallway.
Father sauntered outside, first walking and then hurrying down the gravel road before stopping and, to Marilyn’s great surprise, falling to his knees. Once this happened, unable to see anymore, she turned and whispered to the servants with a cutting smile: “You may go now.”
They did as she asked, and Marilyn left, too, treading back upstairs toward her bedroom.
While she did so, her heart swollen with grief, she tried her hardest to ignore the desperate, bone-chilling screams from her father echoing off the stone walls of the estate like broken glass.
That evening, fighting to know the truth, Marilyn opened the door of her father’s office. Soon, her father would start drinking again, so she decided she better do it now before she lost her nerve. If she didn’t, she might never receive the chance to again. After Maisie’s departure, he might change to a different human being.
His soul and heart were both becoming different.
As she stood in her father’s office doorway, the hallway light illuminated inside to reveal two un-opened tall bottles of whiskey on the top of the pianoforte. His desk sat next to it, and its owner resided in his office chair, facing the adjacent window, and puffed every now and then from his cigar he held within trembling fingers.
She swallowed hard. Then, taking a deep breath, she brought her lantern into the room, letting the door click closed behind her.
“Father? It’s me.” Marilyn brought the lantern over to the end table by the sofa, its location between the pianoforte and her father’s grand office desk.
The room should’ve been a little bigger for an office at a huge estate. But granted that her father rarely used it anymore except for sitting in it and mulling over his thoughts, not to mention drinking, it still seemed an understandable place for him to be.
Marilyn, hesitant, sat on the edge of the sofa, and studied her father’s face.
Her father wore his bathrobe over his pajamas and slippers, and he puffed again at the cigar, his head resting against the back of the chair.
“Is something wrong, Marilyn?” he asked, no emotion obvious in his voice. He sounded dead, as if all the joy and happiness found in life had been sucked out of his body.
Marilyn didn’t blame him, since Maisie’s absence from the household had taken a great, significant toll on him.
“I have one question for you, and one only.” Fear clung tightly from deep inside, but she forced it away. She’d now developed into a mature adult, and she trusted Father with the truth. Besides, she needed to know. “I’d like to know how you and Maisie met and came to…here…before you married.” She swallowed hard.
Father stopped puffing his cigar. Then, he glanced over at her. His gaze was blank, emotion-less. He set aside his cigar in the ashtray on the end table beside him, and then rested against the chair for a few moments longer.
Then, before Marilyn assumed he wasn’t going to say a word, he spoke, his throat slightly hoarse from fatigue: “Within that first moment of bliss, she’d been acting on the theater stage.” One side of his mouth crooked up, and a sudden sharp gleam sprang across his face, causing Marilyn to relax in her seat. “She was on the London, England stage. She bore a singing role, and she did it so well. Her voice was beautiful. She sung as if the song were her last, as if she wanted all the world to know how talented she was.”
Marilyn smiled as she imagined it.
“Of course…” Father chuckled, a sound foreign to Marilyn for most of her life. “She’d been a replacement for another actress, who’d abruptly become sick that morning and unable to perform. The audience loved her, though. She sparkled, transcendent before everyone’s eyes, startling and so beautiful. So beautiful…” He gazed off into the darkness of the room, in deep memory. “The first chance I got, I went to see her backstage, but they told me she’d already left. I ran outside the theater, wanting nothing more than to meet up with her.
“Then, at last, I found her standing on the street corner, looking lost, sad, and concerned. All the light which had been in her eyes on that theater stage had vanished from the world. She’d grown up an orphan on the streets, having lost her parents in a terrible train accident as a small girl. Nobody wanted poor, shy her, so she’d survived alone.
“The first thing I said was: ‘You were charming tonight,’ which had probably not been the most delightful sentence in the world to say. She peered up at me as if I were a crazy man drunk from the theater and wanting a girl to bring home. But as an honest, hard-working man, I wanted no such thing. I told her funny stories about how I worked as an administrative assistant at my father’s work, and the more nervously told stories I gave her, the more she relaxed with me. She agreed to meet up with me for tea later in the week. Well, as you can imagine, that week couldn’t go by slowly enough. After the tea meeting ended, she asked if we might meet up for dinner sometime, and of course I felt much obliged to want to do so.
“The more we got to know each other over the next four or five months, the more I fell in love with her. She was a girl from a poor background, much like my mother who, ironically, had also been an orphan on the streets. I continued to hold my ground. I couldn’t let go of the most priceless treasure I’d ever known. She stayed at a boardinghouse at the end of the block from the theater where she worked, so it became easy for me to go right over there at the end of my own work shifts, flirting with her and teasing her, making her laugh and blush, because she was so shy and cute. Then, one night, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was so nervous. I bought some flowers at one of London’s flower shops, with a note asking her to marry me, and tucked the note within the flowers, although still visible to the eye. I went to the boardinghouse front door and knocked. She stayed up late, the last person to go to bed every evening since she also worked the financial books for the boardinghouse. She swung open the front door, and seeing her so beautiful in the dim porch light, I couldn’t speak. I handed her the flowers with a smile. She took them, but then studied me for a long moment, wondering if there was anything else I wanted from her, still oblivious to my proposal note hidden with the roses.
“So then, I kissed her, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her close. She kissed me back, a long, deep kiss. By the time we finished, she’d accidentally dropped the flowers on the ground in the process, and we were both breathless… I smiled at her, put my hat back on my head, and left.”
Father’s smile on his face shifted into a deep frown, then the still, sad and dead-looking expression it’d been before. “She’d accepted it, of course. We married, bought this estate, and then had you. I’ve never regretted it since, Marilyn. Not once.”
“I know you haven’t, Father,” Marilyn whispered.
Father turned his head away from her, gazing back into the darkness. The conversation was over, any other words left unsaid.
Marilyn, with a heavy sigh, stood and turned to go. But before she passed him, Father snagged her wrist.
She glanced over.
His hand becoming more gentle, her father lifted her hand and nestled it against the side of his scruffy beard. Such a sweet gesture was something he’d done many a time when she’d been only a little girl, before everything terrible had happened. Remembering that, her heart went out to him even more.
Finally, he heaved a sigh, and once he did, Marilyn realized he was crying.
“I’m…so sorry you had to deal with all of this pain and struggle over the years, sweetheart,” he whispered in a raw and broken voice, and all Marilyn did was stand there shocked. She clasped her other hand to his head and brushed his hair.
“I’m so sorry…” he continued, squeezing his eyes shut. “I’m so sorry for hurting you…”
Her breath caught then, and Marilyn recognized it as the truth, the cold stark truth she’d awaited for all of these years. She smiled. Then, giving him a hug, she kissed the top of his forehead.
“I love you, Papa,” she whispered then, giving him the nickname she’d called him so often when she was a girl. “I always have and always will.”
Finally, she brought back her other hand, and made her way out of her father’s office, leaving him to cry in the darkness.
In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, Marilyn found herself once again at her bedroom window, in her nightgown and staring off toward the gazebo that now sat empty, since Henry had gone back home for the day.
Suddenly, however, there erupted a slamming of the door and all at once, the sound of Zelda’s harsh argument with Father about something.
In return, though, causing Marilyn to jump in her seat, her father returned with a furious tone that sent her still in her place: “You fired the only woman I love to prove your point, Zelda? That you are once and for all the ultimate authority of the household?”
By how he slurred his words, he’d been drinking.
“I am the command of the household, Wesley, and that is how you have to come and accept it!” Zelda shouted back. “But she’d always been a wretched woman, completely poor, barely no pennies to her family name, and yet you are to love a woman like that, who is hardly a woman in the first place?”
“How dare you say that about Maisie! How dare you!”
Marilyn clasped a hand to her mouth.
“Wesley, what are you doing? Let go of me! No, Wesley, no! Please! No! NO!”
Tears rolled down Marilyn’s cheeks at the sound of the first hit, then the the second. After that, the fight ended, and she sighed with relief, for her father did not show himself as an abusive man at all anymore. He’d only gone and slapped Zelda to prove a point, that no matter what authority she had in the household, she’d still gotten rid of his first and only love.
Marilyn’s body shook as she hugged herself, listening to Zelda’s crying that sounded so sharp and piercing to the ears that she couldn’t move, could hardly breathe. All she did was pray that the abuse had truly ended.
Moments later, after the stark slamming of the bedroom door, the darkness of the house became bone-quiet. Marilyn, trembling, slipped back into her bed. She covered the sheets over her head, in case it happened again, and she cried herself to sleep. She prayed for mercy, for justice, for happiness in her life.
Most of all, she prayed she would one day see Henry Jackson’s face once more.
The next morning, while sitting in the armchair beside her bed, catching up on her sewing, Marilyn glancing up when hearing a knock at the door.
She set aside her sewing, and got up to answer it.
When she opened the door, Charlotte stood on the other side, tears damp on her face.
“Your mother wishes to speak with you downstairs in the dining room,” she whispered.
Understanding how Charlotte felt upset about Maisie no longer living there, along with the entire household situation, Marilyn placed a comforting hand on the maid’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Charlotte,” she whispered, who bowed her head and bit her lip, shy for her upset manner being so obvious.
Marilyn turned and strode down the stairs, wondering what Zelda had planned for her now.
Once she reached the dining room, however, she found her father at the head of the table, looking like he hadn’t slept all night, drinking his morning coffee and reading the paper. His scrambled eggs on his breakfast plate had grown cold.
“Ah, there you are.” Zelda, bags of fatigue under her eyes, yet also looking as if she still reigned in control of things around the estate, clamped down her coffee teacup as Marilyn approached. “I have news for you, my dear. It so happens that you will not have to worry about Maisie Carter anymore.”
“How’s that?” Marilyn snapped, not caring at all how she spoke to the authority of the house. “How have you come to ruin our lives even more?” She glanced at her father, who threw aside the newspaper and flipped out a bottle of gin from the inside pocket of his coat. He dumped some into his coffee.
“Watch your mouth, young lady.” Zelda sat up straighter in her chair, and then stood. “Just because you think your life is over doesn’t mean you have to be so nasty to your own mother.”
“Oh, so now you’re my mother again.” Marilyn forced out a laugh, tasted it as bitter. “How in the world has this come to so you can take over my life?”
Eyes wide with disbelief, Zelda raised a hand to slap her, but Marilyn struck it aside instead.
“Let me get something straight with you, Zelda,” Marilyn bit out. “You are not my mother, never will be, and I will do whatever it takes—and I mean whatever it takes—to get my birth mother back.”
“You won’t need to!” Zelda exclaimed. “Because I have decided to create a divorce settlement for the two of them!”
“A divorce?” Marilyn screamed, so angry the roof of the mansion would explode with her ire. “You’re forcing Maisie and Father to get a divorce?”
Zelda glared over at her, her face pale from under the dining room light. “Marilyn, calm down. This is no time to get fussy!”
“Get fussy? Get fussy? Is this what you call it now, Mother? Or should I even call you that?” Marilyn shouted, her voice getting hoarse with how high-pitched her voice became, her blood boiling with fierce anger. “After you blame me for letting myself be born, who tells me to love a woman who claims to be my biological mother, separating my real parents forever? This is no family! This is a nightmare! And I’m never going to be free!” She lifted her chin in defiance. “Until now!”
She glanced over at her father, who was, not quite to her surprise, smiling over at her. Pride shone on his face. He was proud of his daughter.
Which gave Marilyn all the encouragement she needed.
She spun away, and then hurried from the room and out of the house at a dead speed.
“Marilyn!” Zelda bellowed behind her. “Marilyn! You come right back here this moment!”
But Marilyn did not care. She did not care about running away forever, leaving her family behind. No doubt they no longer loved her. Maybe they never had.
But one person in particular did.
Rushing out into the pouring rain, Marilyn didn’t stop from running. She ran and ran, straight down to the garden gazebo a quarter of a mile away from the house, where Henry awaited.
He sat reading a book as she bolted toward the gazebo. But as she neared, running as fast as she could, Henry set aside his book, as if in shock, and stared at her with wide eyes as she strolled into the gazebo toward him, soaking wet.
“You are my husband,” Marilyn declared, breathless, “and you saved me.” Her shoulders heaving, she neared him until she lured hardly even an inch away from him, staring into his deep blue eyes. “I love you, Henry.” She smiled. “I love you very much.”
Surprised, Henry hardly needed much more time to respond. Beginning to smile, he cupped the back of her head, drew her close, and kissed her deeply. The intense kiss caused Marilyn to grab onto his shirt and pull him closer, an action that both took her breath away and made her dizzy, but in a good way.
When Marilyn drew back to gaze into Henry’s eyes, she didn’t need a reminder of his own love for her. Her past now no longer mattered. Her family would disappear from her memories. Being in his arms like this, Marilyn was finally home.
Hundreds of memories would surround Marilyn years afterward. Memories from when Henry took Marilyn to Morwick, New Zealand to live and raise their family in a different country, and also to promote their coal mining business. They sent off fliers and went into nearby towns giving out advertisements for several months. Soon, families traveled to Morwick, settled, and began to help with the coal mining business. Money began coming in, a specific chunk going to Henry and Marilyn and their newborn daughter Martha, who was born a year after they’d settled in Morwick.
Marilyn never received word from her old family again, except for a letter from Charlotte several months after she’d left home. Charlotte, who’d received Marilyn’s letter one month after they’d arrived in Morwick, telling everyone they were settled, had written back only to tell her the news. Maisie had died in a hospital following a terrible wagon wreck. Hearing the news, her father, sick from grief, had drunk himself to death several days later. Zelda, on the other hand, soon after left the estate, forgetting about creating the divorce settlement between Wesley and Maisie, and was never seen again. This left the servants to sell the estate and find employment elsewhere. However, Henry’s parents sent letters every few weeks, and they responded when they could.
Four years later, one month after Alice was born, Morwick bought a brand new train. This became the second train since they’d found Morwick.
Marilyn smiled. She’d had quite a lot of fun with Henry and the children. It had truly been a great life really worth living.
But now, as she strode down another deep coal mining tunnel, knowing the outcome of her fate, it still could not keep from frowning. Although the situation seemed pretty grim, she reminded herself that all three of her children were safe, and that gave her comfort. Martha and Alice were off to worlds unknown where, unseeingly, three days after they’d left, the magic suitcase had reappeared on her doorstep.
She had lied to Martha and Alice for the first time in their lives: the magic suitcase reappeared after three times of being used, not two. After that, whatever became of the suitcase, she didn’t know. But it was a great comfort to know, at long last, her children were safe.
And soon, so would she.
As she remembered this, Marilyn couldn’t hear Mr. Prick’s harsh laughter, couldn’t remember his threat after Martha and Alice had left that he would destroy Morwick forever. The single solid smile hiding her tears left all of her gentle, tranquil face as she stretched toward Henry, her children, and most importantly, her Father in heaven and meeting Him…as she disappeared into her new adventure of endless eternities…