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Black Death This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , New London, NH
Virginia, Madeline and I were inseparable.  We grew up as neighbors, our friendship quickly flourished, and eventually we considered one another to be a sister. We knew everything about each other, from our greatest ambitions to our darkest of secrets. We strolled the streets of Baltimore as if we ruled the world. The world was our playing ground, and nothing could bring us down. The small talk of war and slavery barely fazed us; why should we care? Slavery or no slavery, it did not make a difference to us, we were merely children. We were also only children the day Madeline and I found out Virginia was getting married. Young marriage was nothing out of the norm; only in Virginia’s case she was marrying her cousin, Edgar. Edgar had recently moved in with them, and once Virginia’s father moved out he took control of the family. I was only a child the day I met Edgar Allen Poe. Madeline and I did not approve of the marriage, but who were we to question our best friend, our sister? So on September 22nd, 1835, when Virginia was only thirteen, we watched as he bestowed the ring upon her innocent finger. It shimmered under the sunlight as if it were its own light show. However, this ring was different. Instead of the usual silver diamond set in the middle, the diamond was black. It had an ominous feel whenever you looked at it, and I could have sworn that all of the happiness was drained out of me whenever I stared at it for too long. Regardless, Virginia said yes, and was married ‘til death due her and Edgar part.
                 The buzz of war was among us. My parents would rant for hours about slavery. Father was a strong believer in a war to end slavery, but Mother grew up as a wealthy woman from Georgia, slavery was a common thing to her; they would constantly bicker back and forth about this. It drove me crazy; I could barely stay in my own house. Madeline and Virginia were neighbors, so it was always very easy for us to be together. The nicest part of going to Virginia’s house was being able to escape the war talk. The downfall of it was Edgar. He had this presence to him that could stop anyone from smiling. He walked through the house with an eerie shadow that never seemed to leave. Some of his facial expressions could make babies cry; they could even make me cry. Despite his gloomy expression, Virginia admired him. One could tell by the way she looked at him that she was in love; I could never fathom why she would feel that way. Madeline and I shared similar feelings towards Edgar, regarding his dark presence. But she always seemed to be more understanding, she felt sympathetic for the man who dropped out of West Point to become a “writer”. As time progressed, the war became more and more spoken of, and I therefore spent more and more time with Virginia and Madeline. Despite my feelings towards Edgar. 
                The summer of 1838 horror stuck. Madeline was only sixteen the day she died. Words cannot describe how shattered my life became at that moment. Virginia and I stood side by side at her funeral on August 13th, 1838, and slowly watched our best friend be buried into the ground, never to be seen again. Tuberculosis was spreading like the black plague, taking out more and more people each day. Why Madeline? Her death never left my conscious, and after that I was more of a broken person, always feeling empty. My only saving grace was Virginia, however, she had to deal with Edgar. Edgar, surprisingly, was devastated about Madeline's death. They were never close, or so I thought, but her death may have affected him as badly as it affected his wife. Edgar would go days in his rooms, writing away. Virginia and I would sit in silence and every few minutes we would hear a groan or yell coming from the room above. 
        “It’s interesting Virginia, I never knew Madeline had such an impact on Edgar,” I finally said. 
         “ To be honest, I’m not all too sure it was Madeline that set him off like this. I believe it was the way she died that caused this mayhem,” she retorted.            
           That was the day I found out why Edgar was so glum and displeased all the time—almost everyone in his family died of tuberculosis. I finally began to feel sympathy for him, how Madeline had. Later that year Edgar published his first story. It was about the most horrid things, and made me wonder what was going on in that head of his. His work never seemed to catch anyone’s eye, and he could not supply Virginia with the life she and I used to dream of having as children. Although I could still see the love in her eyes, I noticed that her feelings were slowly altering. Edgar would continue to write in his room, meanwhile Virginia and I tried to continue to live our lives as easily as we could. Then, the day finally came when Virginia came to the realization that Edgar was not supporting her, or even himself.
           “YOU SPEND MORE MONEY ON DRINKS THAN FOOD!” It sounded as if people from around the world could hear her scream.  
            “These are troubling times, I just need a way to calm myself and continue writing,” Edgar responded.
             “All you do is sit in that room of yours and write stories that will never bring us money. They are stories of dark evil times, how could one man think of such dark images?” She asked.
              “My dearest Virginia, you are the only thing in this world of darkness that brings me light. I have seen more people die than I have seen live. I write stories of the dreams that haunt me each time I close my eyes, but then I remember I have you to live for. Do not worry about the future or the money; that is for me to worry about and for you to forget. I never meant to cause you this pain, you are everything I live for,” Edgar keenly answered.
                “Edgar, you are everything I live for. Together we will live forever, and don’t ever doubt that. I will always be here for you,” Virginia said this with an added smile, and the dissatisfaction that once clouded her eyes was returned back to love. 
               Virginia was very multifarious. She could draw, sing, but her greatest talent was with music. She could play almost every instrument, and the sound she produced was breathtaking. Ever since circumstances between her and Edgar became better, everyone would all stop what they were doing and they would gather in the living courters to listen to Virginia play the piano. Out of all the instruments, the piano was Virginia’s most preferred. Her fingers effortlessly swept across the keys as if they were feather dusters, hitting each key lightly yet effectively. Edgar and I would take in each note, each one more melodic than the next. Virginia looks happy as can be, until she starts coughing. All of a sudden she starts having a coughing fit, and does not stop. She suddenly began to cough blood everywhere. The whole piano was covered in her blood, and she could not stop the coughing. Eventually she stopped, only to fall back and faint.
              “Broken blood vessel,” that is what the doctor called it, as if it was nothing short of average. I knew better though, I knew what was happening to my best friend, my last best friend. The signs were uncanny; there was no broken blood vessel. I kept my suspicions to myself, in hope that if I ignored them, they would disappear. Virginia was seemingly fine; despite her pale face, she looked happy as could be. Her relationship with Edgar was far better than ever before, and this gave me hope. I spent the next couple of weeks simply watching her, making sure everything was going well. Weeks turned into months, and almost when the one year anniversary of the piano accident arrived, the exact coughing fit occurred once more. There was no mistaking it this time, no way around it, Virginia had tuberculosis. 
                 Everyone knew what was to happen next; Virginia had the same fate as Madeline. This drove Edgar to insanity. In his eyes there was a new type of fire, a new level of angst that I had never seen before. Edgar did whatever it took to make my friend better, but tuberculosis was a serious illness that in most cases imminently took its victim’s life. Months went by and I could see the fight draining out of Virginia, but Edgar was persistent. He got angrier and angrier each day if something happened to Virginia. I knew her time was coming, and I did my best to console her, but all she cared about was Edgar. As I watched the two lovers try their hardest to survive, I thought back to the day they got married. Virginia was only thirteen, thirteen being the unluckiest of numbers, and held the unluckiest of fates. 
                  The following week Virginia Clemm Poe passed away. “Beloved daughter, beloved friend and beloved wife” is what her tombstone read. That day the clouds were darker than I had ever seen them before. They were black, giving the day a gloomier feel than it already had. After that, I only saw Edgar once. I knew he had been continuing his writing, which were gradually becoming more famous. Unfortunately, when I saw him he was on the streets of Baltimore, he was not ruling them like my friends and I once had, but he was walking down as a drunkard. When we made eye contract I tried to give him the littlest hint of a smile. He turned to me, showed me his hand, and walked away in a drunken manner. Virginia’s black ring, the one that always seemed so odd to me, was resting upon her broken husbands hand. And there it stayed until the day he died. 





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