I loved it when Grampy came to stay. I fill up with such excitement when I see his suitcases in the entrance hall, waiting to be taken to one of the guest rooms. Every Friday I wake up early, just knowing he’s there. Grampy always comes really early so he can catch Father before he leaves – if Father’s there, more often than not he isn’t. I tiptoe to the bathroom, deliberately passing the grandfather clock to check the time and see if I can hear Grampy talking. I never do. Normally it’s 06:00am. Quiet as a mouse, I go back to my room having a quick peek at Edward sleeping. He looks so young and innocent. I whisper a quick ‘I love you’ even though he can’t hear me and carefully close the door so the click of the door closing is muted. Still on my toes I go to see Momma in my parent’s room. I try to be discrete about peeping in but no matter what Momma always says “Is that a little monkey creeping around outside my door?” I really don’t know how she knows. She must be psychic. Anyway, when she says that I can’t help but give a little giggle and Momma chuckles softly because she find my laugh a infectious one, so she says. Today was extra special. I actually got an answer. An evasive answer, but an answer none the less.
“Come on in then, angel,” Momma said, so I bounded into the room.
I love my parent’s room. The floor is like pale sand and the walls are sky blue so it looks like the perfect seaside. The curtains hanging over the balcony doors are white. There’s a magic to the room.
“Good morning, sweetheart, did you sleep well?”
“Yes, Momma, thank you. And how about yourself?”
“Beautifully thank you”
I walked over to the bed. Momma had been reading. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontё, but now, she put the book aside and patted the bed. I sat down.
She was looking at me strangely again. Momma does that sometimes. Almost… as if she’s worried but also as if she’s trying to distance herself.
She quickly composed herself.
“Momma, may I ask you something? I don’t want to seem like I’m prying, it’s just something I’ve always wondered.” I was good at keeping my face smooth so she didn’t know I’d noticed her peculiar look she’d given me.
“What is the purpose of Grampy’s visits? It can’t just be to talk to Father as Father isn’t actually here most of the time, and surely it can’t be to see us for a catch up! He comes every week! Don’t get me wrong, I love Grampy and adore seeing him. I just wondered why.”
Momma tensed slightly.
“Well… he generally does come to see you Papa but he doesn’t know when your Papa’s here so he checks every week. Also because it’s a long journey he wants to make it worthwhile by staying, plus there’s the off chance your Papa might be home, like today.” I suppressed my slight frown at the reminder my Father was home, I never felt truly comfortable with him, “Grampy is always wanting a word about important matters with him,” Momma smiled and relaxed, “at any rate your Grampy loves you and Edward very much and wants to know what’s been happening.”
Her eyes were still tight, but I was good at reading faces. What she said was the truth, however, not the whole truth.
“Thank you, Momma,” I said after a pause in which I processed that and stored it away in my memory. I leaned across to kiss her cheek.
She patted my head.
“There’s a good girl. Now how about you go back to your room and pick out something to wear while I dress. Might I recommend the purple dress that flows so beautifully on you, with the ribbon around you waist. I think your hair will be fine down,” she gave me a smile of dismissal so I turned and exited the room.
* * *
After Sophia dressed me I skipped downstairs. As soon as I spotted Grampy’s oh so familiar belongings a huge grin spread across my face. First things first though I headed for the kitchen.
“Morning Jenny, how are you today?” Jenny is our cook and is an absolutely lovely person. At first glance she looks very young but she’s been with us for as long I can remember. I asked her once and she says she is only 28 years, 2 years younger than Momma. Nothing is too much trouble for Jenny, not even Edward’s appetite!
“Mornin’ Mistress Willow,” I hate being called that, “I am very well thank you. I would ask you the same question but since your Grandpa’s here it would seem almost foolish!” She laughed.
I flashed her a grin in response.
“Jenny, that smells wonderful!”
“What is it you want young Mistress? The same as your Grandpa’s having; sausage, egg, bacon and toast?”
“As wonderful as that sounds, do you mind if I have kippers?”
“Of course not, love, they’ll be just how you like them. Now run along and catch your Papa before he leaves.”
I sighed as quiet as a breath but turned for the dining room.
I knocked on the door announcing my arrival. Momma was there already. She smiled at me acknowledging my presence so I entered the room. Grampy wasn’t in there yet, but Father was. I curtsied to him, never meeting his eyes.
“Father,” I murmured.
I saw him nod curtly in my general direction so I rose and sat at the table, fixing my gaze firmly on my lap.
“Is Edward up yet? I want to say goodbye before I leave.”
Just at that moment, Edward bounded into the room, his hair untidy as usual. His entrance caused me to snap my head up and scrutinize Father’s every move. Edward headed straight for Father (boy could Edward move fast when he wanted) and threw his arms around Father’s waist.
“Just went to see Jenny,” he panted gasping between every other word from the exertion of running so fast, “she told me you were leaving.”
“That’s right, son,” he said ruffling Edward’s hair affectionately making it even more untidy, “be a good lad and stay out of trouble.” He unwound Edward’s arms (not harshly) and strode over to Momma.
“Goodbye, my darling, I love you,” he murmured and kissed her softly. He turned to leave.
“Goodbye, Father, stay safe,” I muttered after him. I know he heard because I saw his back tense slightly before disappearing from view.
We heard the door shut as he left.
I held back exhaling in relief.
Edward yawned, widely.
“Hello Momma, morning Willow. Oh, hello Grandpa,” Edward said, looking at the door and over my chair as he sat down.
I twisted around in my chair and there was Grampy in the doorway. I smiled hugely at him and he smiled in response.
Grampy was Momma’s Papa. His name is John Williamson and is well respected for his knowledge of world affairs. When I was younger he and Grandmamma both came to see us. Grandmamma taught me how to dance and how to do my hair in elaborate styles. I loved her immensely and she had appeared equally fond of me but it was always Grampy I loved spending time with. He’d have long talks with me about world politics treating me like I was an adult not a child that everyone else treated me like. They still do but not Grampy. Anyway, Grandmamma had died three years ago when I was seven years old. I’m ten now. Edward and I celebrated being a decade old around a month ago. It’s late July now so Edward doesn’t have school. Our birthday was why Father came home even though it was a month ago; he couldn’t get time off to be there on the day. He gave Edward a wood-work set in which he can carve a toy or something of the sort. I got a nod of brief acknowledgement and then I got being ignored. As usual.
“Hello to you too, young man,” Grampy chuckled, “and you, Elizabeth and Willow”
“It’s wonderful to see you as always, Papa,” Momma responded.
“A very good morning to you, Grampy,” I beamed.
Grampy sat down and we all settled down. Grampy sat at the head of the table (naturally) with Momma and me on either side of him and Edward on the other side of me.
Just then Jenny came in with our breakfast. As she set it down in front of me I said with a smile,
“Thanks Jen, you’re a star.” She blushed slightly.
“You’re quite welcome Mistress Willow,” Jenny replied, embarrassed at my compliment but pleased none the less. She curtsied tidily to us and left.
Edward was shoveling his food in his mouth the moment Jenny had set it in front of him. His plate was piled high. I shook my head, more indulgently than anything else, knowing I couldn’t ever be truly disgusted with my brother or ever angry, even if I really wanted to be. Edward grinned at me when he caught my eye knowing I couldn’t be really grossed. I, also, couldn’t help but smile back, his grin was so impish and mischievous.
“Don’t forget to chew,” I said before delicately cutting and eating my own. He rolled his eyes at me (a habit he had, unfortunately, picked up from me) before continuing with finding a way through his mountain of food. I tried to catch up with Momma and Grampy’s conversation. They were discussing the tensions occurring Europe. I’d heard a little about it, there was a lot of competition between Germany, under the leadership of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and some of the surrounding countries including Great Britain whose King was George VI. It was suspected that war would soon break out over there. I don’t know why Momma and Grampy seem so worried though since it is happening in Europe, it won’t affect us surely? We don’t have an alliance with anyone.
We finished eating and as Jenny came to clear the table Edward asked to excuse himself from the table, barely waiting for Momma’s consent he rushed from the dining room and I heard him running up the stairs; where my brother gets all that energy I’ll never know, I can only hope that one day it will be a great advantage for him in the future. Momma also stood to leave saying she had to give the maids their chores and finish some more of her sowing. Giving Grampy and me a smile each she gracefully swept from the room. As soon as Jenny had finished her tidying, I gave her a smile and then looked expectantly at Grampy. He smiled and winked at me.
“Come on then, Willow, my dear, to the drawing room.” I jumped up eagerly as he rose from his chair and we walked to the drawing room that Momma requested to Father we have for Grampy specially. We entered the room and I took my usual seat opposite Grampy’s seat behind the desk while he closed the door. He sat down and looked at me. I waited patiently for him.
“You are looking well, Willow”
“Thank you, Grampy, the same to you”
“How is your singing coming along?”
“Very well thank you, Edward and I have compose some more songs”
“Excellent, excellent” Grampy took a great interest in my singing he said that I had the voice of an angel and could go far if I were so intended. He always makes sure I’ve been practicing because he wants me to do well in life.
“What is it you want to talk about today then, my dear?” I hesitated. “What wrong Willow?” Grampy asked full of concern.
“Do you really think I’ll make it anywhere in life? I mean I am a girl and Edward is Father’s favorite. Father willingly pays for Edward’s education but he takes no interest in mine. You and Momma teach me, which is extremely fortunate because you’re both highly intelligent but I’d love to go to school and get the best education I can otherwise how on earth will I make it anywhere in life? It’s so unlikely. Father will just marry me off to some rich family’s son and forget about me. I’ll be expected to be a good wife and mother and that’s it. I won’t get a good job or earn money. I have no purpose or exciting destiny, that’s just how society works. I am just an insignificant person, so how do you know I’ll get anywhere? Why take an interest in me, why not Edward?”
Grampy waited patiently for me to finish babbling. He paused before answering thinking it through. Then he chuckled.
“How can you think you cannot get anywhere, Willow? Did you not just listen to what you just said? You’re so insightful and knowledgeable, much so for a twe… ten year old. Trust me, Willow, my dear, you will go far if that is truly what you want, or you can marry and be a mother if that’s what you wish. You choose your path in life, not people of the society, you. And if some people don’t approve just ignore them and carry on doing what you want, otherwise you won’t make it anywhere.”
I thought about that. I liked to think I could do whatever I wanted, and what I wanted was to see a changed society one where women could have equal wages and work as well as be a mother and wife. I’d heard about the Suffragettes but I didn’t fancy all the marching and getting called nasty names.
“Thank you, Grampy. For your faith in me and your support, too”
“You’re quite welcome, Willow, my dear. Now may I ask you a few questions?”
“Of course you can, Grampy”
“Do you feel close to your Mother?”
“Yes, although sometimes I see her looking at me almost as if she wants to distance herself from me,” I could talk to Grampy about it he never tells anyone about our discussions and I could tell him anything.
“I see. What about Edward? Do you feel close to your brother?”
“Definitely, we’re very close. I love him a lot and I am always watching out for him,” Grampy smiled at this.
“You’re as brave as a lioness,” he murmured. Then raising his voice he asked, “You’re Father? Do you feel close to him? I don’t mean him traveling causes distance; I mean emotionally do you feel connected to him?” I paused slightly thinking my answer through.
“Honestly, no,” I said slowly, “I get the feeling that Father doesn’t want to get close to me. He always gets angry when someone says something like ‘Oh that Willow, she’s certainly got that seriousness from you’ or ‘Very quick with words, that daughter of yours’ to him. Sometimes I swear he’s on the brink of snapping something back at them but he reins it in and merely nods. He shows no affection to me but to Edward instead,” I hesitated slightly, “I could swear he hates me,” I concluded quietly.
Grampy absorbed that, processing it as only he and I could, before nodding as if he expected nothing else as my answer.
“Willow, I could sit here and feed you lies after lies about your family but that would be wrong, to take advantage of the innocence of a young girl. I will only tell you this, you’re very special, Willow, my dear, unique even and it’s not a bad thing if you don’t want it to be, you always have a choice. Always. Now I ask my final question: has anything strange happened to you? Anything peculiar that your instincts have told you are not just a strange fluke but a true strange occurrence?” This panicked me. I had had a strange experience, at first I thought it was just a dream as I did see it when I was asleep but after going over it again and again I had decided it was a vision. I think I had a premonition. However, I was scared Grampy wouldn’t believe me, or would laugh, but I couldn’t lie to him either.
“I’d rather not talk about it specifically as it scares me, Grampy, at first I thought it was a dream maybe it was but I don’t think so” Grampy looked at me for a long time.
“Very well, Willow, my dear,” he said eventually, “you are within your rights not to speak of it but should you wish to talk to me or Edward, as you seem to trust him explicitly, but not your Mother or Father. They would most likely worry about it, and the extra stress is not what you want as it will be difficult for you anyway. Now off you trot I must have a look at my papers. I will see you later on at dinner.” Grampy turned to his important papers so I rose to leave. As I reached the door, though, I stopped and turned back to face Grampy. He looked up after a moment when I didn’t move.
“Anything else you want to say to me, Willow?”
“Just promise me you’ll be extra careful when you travel back home, Grampy, maybe you should even stay here and not go home at all at least not on Sunday”
Grampy chuckled, “That eager to have me stay, eh Willow? Sorry, my dear, I’ve got to go home then”
“Please, Grampy, think about what I said” I looked at him with a very hard and serious face and Grampy looked startled as I got my warning through to him.
“Alright, Willow,” he eventually replied, “I will consider your words thoroughly since it seems important to you now, pip, pip.”
I stood there for a second more absorbing everything about him before walking away, fearing that when he left our home this time: I might not see him again.