First Blood – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara was waiting on the platform with Sister Maria, while she may have had the same name as her sister the similarities ended there. This was a stern woman who had lived through hard times and Clara could guess where the conversation would lead once they left.

Clara was anxious, a maelstrom of emotions lay just beneath her calm exterior. A lot had taken place since her mother had been laid to rest; the chaos that invariably followed when a family’s anchor is lost.

A glowing light approached in the distance. At first it was as bright as a star and slowly it grew in intensity until Clara had to avert her gaze. The ground began to tremble and yet no one was worried, for them this was routine, mundane, certainly nothing out of the ordinary to have a mechanical mammoth barrelling towards them.

Clara was startled when Sister Maria pulled her back from the edge of the platform just as the whistle screamed out into the night. This particular train was been an express and had no intention of making a stop at this nondescript outpost.

Clara sighed, disappointed that her great journey was still on hold. In the distance she saw a small group headed their way over the boardwalk. Until that moment they had been the only ones waiting for their train.

Once their faces were illuminated by the light, Clara’s eyes brightened and she ran towards them. She jumped into Maria’s arms embracing her sister with all her might. It felt good to feel wanted and loved.

When Clara turned to Ada she noticed the family elder was holding onto a young man’s hand. She had seen him before, the son of a miner who had likely reached the age where he too would be going deep beneath the surface.

It took a brave (or desperate) man to go deep under the ocean floor to collect coal. To breath in that dust and not see the light of day for twelve hours a day, all the while surrounded by other men and dwarvish horses. Clara hoped he would at least be spared her father’s fate.

“Couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye,” Ada said a moment before she kissed Clara on the forehead.

“My train won’t be here until the morning,” Maria said as her voice trailed off.

Clara nodded, trying to keep from crying, although she found the stern gaze from Sister Maria did much to help. Originally Eva and Maria were supposed to head out together.

The Church had lined up work in a laundry for the elder sisters, while Clara would attend a school somewhere else. Now it was clear that they would each walk their own path.

“Congratulations,” Clara said while looking at both Ada and her beau.

It seemed a sensible thing to say, even though she could not bring herself to smile. She wanted to stay with her sisters, but they were too old to attend this school. Now it seemed that Ada would soon be wed, which effectively douse any flames of hope in Clara’s heart.

Ada keeled down to look Clara in the eye. It was hard to keep this moment from devolving into a shower of tears. They all knew what this moment meant for the rest of them.

“Thank you Clara,” Ada said. She then hugged Clara before adding, “Don’t forget to write.”

Another train came in from the distance, mimicking the actions of its predecessor except that this one slowed with a long deliberate squeal.
Clara even felt the rush of steam as the locomotive stopped by the cistern. There the engine would fill her boilers with enough water as continue on with their journey.

“Miss Grey,” Sister Maria said from a distance.

It seemed that this fond farewell would have to be cut short. The nun had no intention of boarding late so the girls could have some closure. A shame really, but Clara knew that this moment would be cherished for years to come.

“I have to go,” Clara said.

Her eyes welled up and a single tear streamed across her left cheek. This was going to be far harder than she had hoped.

“We will miss you,” her sisters said in unison.

“You’ll come and visit some day,” Clara asked.

Both her sisters nodded before they individually gave her a big hug. All three sensed it, but none would ever say it; this was the last time they would be together. For Clara this also became the last time she would see her sisters.

“Come now,” Sister Maria said with a hint of inevitability oozing from every word.

Her sisters gave the nun a dirty look and Clara concealed a giggle. She then ran down to the platform, grabbed her tattered suitcase filled with worn clothes and boarded the train.

By the time they were seated and Clara had noticed her sisters were already gone. That’s when the tears began to stream, not that she would gain any sympathy from Sister Maria.


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