Allison walked quickly so as not to be seen by her friends, albeit judgmental people they were. Many people are exceedingly skeptical of a young girl who isn’t merely an arriviste but also has the power of beauty. This skepticism isn’t often helped by the ever-increasing rumors that surrounded her. As Allison looked down, she noticed the hems of her petticoat being soiled. Blast these incredulous skirts! She thought. It hadn’t been but two years ago that she had been permitted to wear what ever suited her, not that anyone much cared what she wore back then. What is it about these brainless, wealthy society types that make it pertinent for a girl to wear six-foot trains everywhere she goes? At this, the blonde haired girl hiked up her skirts well above her normal hemline as people began circulating around her about their business. The street only continued to become more polluted with her every step, as did many expressions of the male populace around her.
“Allie, darling, you must hurry up. Uncle James is still waiting for us in the office. The latest post from your mother will be there, and I suspect that this letter shall contain her approval for us!” called a familiar voice. A tall man with short black curls and black skin came into her view. Their faces both filled with excitement, while a look of disgusted bewilderment appeared on the face of nearly all the surrounding humanity. Allison’s expression changed as soon as she realized the implications of this remark.
“Luke, you know what a scene you have just created for me? Are you trying to make everyone hate us by calling me by my nickname? It isn’t as if mother just approved our marriage, though you couldn’t tell based on the expression of nearly every woman around. And take your hand off of my waist!” she said with an offended whisper.
“Well, I – ”
“You know that nearly half the town thinks we are up to something already,” Luke moved his hand from her waist and offered his arm instead. She accepted it then continued, “And quite possibly we are, but I don’t want to be thought of as unseemly. It took us long enough to be understood a business partners before this current spectacle. You really ought to–”
“Allie, just shut up and hurry up,” Luke said as he pulled her arm hard in exasperation. Allie blushed a bit and smiled up at him with an apologetic eye and was greeted by an understanding smile. “Well, come on now!” he said with an air of pressing excitement and took her hand in his.
By the time they arrived at the office, they were in great spirits, telling each other of the frequent absurdities the community carried on. As they entered the grandly decorated room, a rather rotund, pale man with a gray beard stood up beside a desk.
“Uncle James, how are you? Your new day suit looks fine on you! Is mother well? Did she say? What about the buisness?” inquired Allison in a rapid manner.
“Hello, Luke. My dear Allie! How many questions you have. Yes, yes, mother is well.” His response was slow and studied. The younger two before him were still glowing with excitement. “And how are you Luke? You look fine today as well.”
“I am well, sir,” he said in a decidedly deep and respectful way, “Thank you. I hear you have news about the business.”
“Oh, yes. Everything is fine, just fine,” James said in an introverted, disturbed manner. This left Allison intrigued and after a great pause she spoke up.
“Uncle James, is anything wrong at home?”
“Yes, if there is anything wrong, she should know of it!” Luke said demandingly.
“Luke, my boy, there is no reason to raise your voice.” He scratched his beard in a troubled style. “The fact of the matter is that Allison’s brother has been sick since last spring with the fever. You mother has neglected to note this since she didn’t think it would amount to much but, just very recently, he has had a complication and she is certain of his passing now. I’m very sorry, Allie.” Allison sat down on a bench, shocked.
“They live more than two weeks away,” she said in a muttered tone, “There is no way to reach them quickly enough.” Luke sat down beside her. Nobody moved for a very long while, with only the sounds of her quiet sighs and sniffles composing a small rhythm. The short rhythm soon turned into a heightening symphony that was ever growing each minute.
“Allie girl, I’m going to take you back to the hotel now,” Luke said as the sobbing quieted. Placing one an arm about her waist, he helped her to her feet. She felt smaller and weaker to him than ever before. James nodded to Luke as he held her and walked out into the settling dusk and Luke nodded back as James closed the door. The formerly muddy street had seemed to firm up beneath his feet as he silently walked her to the hotel. The horse drawn ice cart flew by them.
Up the stairs, he carried her and to her room where he unlocked her door for her. By now her eyes were barely staying open. Placing her as comfortably as he could, he laid her on her bed and pulled the blankets around her. With her eyes still open but glazed over, he started to turn toward the door when she whispered quietly, “Don’t leave, Luke. Say you won’t leave.”
He turned to look at her.
“No, I won’t leave until you want me to,” he quietly whispered back. Then, going to the corner, he grasped a red velvet chair that appeared purple in the blue moonlight through the window. Setting it beside her bed, he sat down and started to undo her hairpins carefully.
“I’ll stay just as long as you need me.”