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Miss Anna

Why am I here? I don’t remember walking to this porch. In fact, I don’t remember this porch at all. I look at the door behind me. It’s partway open, as if someone just came out of the house. I step forward softly, not sure what’s inside. I peer in the small window next to the door. I can’t see anything, mostly due to the sharp glare of the sun behind me. From what I can see, the house seems empty. I turn around again and look towards the houses opposite. None of them look familiar.
Slightly worried now, I step down off the porch to the path, hoping there is a familiar house down the street. Something sharp jabs into my foot and I look down, my eyes welling with tears of pain. I impatiently brush them away and lift up my foot to examine the injury. There is a bit of stone stuck in my foot. I pick it out with my fingernails and blood starts to leak out. I lick a finger and press it against the wound, trying to stop the blood. It slows down, almost stopping, so I put my foot back down and limp farther down the walk. At the end of the path, I look down the street, shading my eyes with one hand.
None of those houses look familiar either, and I start to get very nervous as I look in vain down the other side of the street. I go back to the porch, and, hoping someone who can help me will be inside, open the door. It’s quiet as a tomb in the entrance hall, which is large, filled with flowers, many of them roses, and works of art. The floor is soft on my bare feet, and I look down to see a white rug in front of the door. I think how hard it must be to keep clean, and at that moment, I hear quiet humming nearby. My head jerks up and I hurry toward the sound. It’s coming from what seems to be a living room, filled with couches and more paintings than even the entrance hall has. I move to one side of the doorway and knock quietly on the wood frame to get the humming woman’s attention. Her head snaps up and she smiles, looking surprised.
“Miss Anna!” she exclaims. Miss Anna? Who is Miss Anna? I glance over my shoulder, but there’s no one there. Perhaps she thinks I’m Miss Anna. And who knows, it’s possible. I don’t know who else I should be. “I didn’t expect you home so soon,” the woman continues. “I thought you would stay visiting at Miss Caroline’s for longer. No,” she muses. “I suppose that if young Mr. Henry was there, you would just stay the required time. They are a bit much to be around, aren’t they?” I had never heard of Miss Caroline or young Mr. Henry before, so I said nothing. The woman kept babbling on. “Maybe we should get you a young man too, Miss Anna. Heaven knows, you are certainly old enough. I’m sure your mother would approve. Next time you write to her, be sure to mention it… we need some form of guidance in this house. God bless your brother, but he simply isn’t old enough to run the family…”
I tune out as she blathers. Who cares what this woman has to say? The only thing that was slightly interesting were her mentions of Miss Anna’s (whoever that may be) family. I ponder the girl’s life, and sway a bit, feeling a little woozy. I’m not sure why, maybe because of the role this woman expected me to fill. I blink, trying to block a headache that’s approaching fast. I almost don’t open my eyes again, but I do, trying to listen to the woman to find out more about Miss Anna, only to hear her voice rising and falling as if someone is changing the volume. I can’t make out all her words, so instead I watch her lips move, nodding dumbly every once in a while. The woman walks towards me, reaching out her hand and taking my arm. She spins me around, still talking about something or other, and starts to lead me to the stairs. She gasps and points at the floor, then at my foot. I catch snatches of sentences, only able to make out the odd word here and there. “…blood… carpet… foot…” I lift my foot and look at it. It’s the one I cut with a stone. The wound has opened and is bleeding out onto the pristine white carpet. She pushes my foot back down to the floor, apparently not worried about the blood staining the carpet, and helps me upstairs, saying something like, “…hot bath… very relaxing… heal…”
She takes me to a room with a tub and starts running water into it. She turns me around and undoes the back of my dress, helping me out of it, then into the bathtub. She pours a soapy liquid into her hands and rubs them together, then lathers my hair with the stuff, running her fingers gently through my tangled curls. I lean my head back and close my eyes, her voice fading in and out comfortingly in the background. She gets up after a while, and says, “…towel… rinse hair…”
She leaves the room and I duck my head under the water, assuming that she meant for me to rinse my hair out. I run my fingers through my hair like she had done, and feel that it is already softer. My middle finger gets caught in a tangle and I jerk at it, only succeeding in getting it even more tangled. I panic and pull harder, almost yanking out my hair. I try to take a breath, forgetting that I’m underwater, and inhale a mouthful of soapy water, which chokes me further. My vision goes blurry, perhaps from keeping my eyes open underwater, perhaps from the lack of oxygen to my brain. My whole body jerks involuntarily, and for a split second my face is above water. I get a small breath in at that moment, by coincidence, and it gives me just enough energy to turn my head to the side, so my nose is above the water level. I blink slowly, not sure whether I’m breathing in air or water, and a hand grasps my hair and pulls up my head.
The woman’s face is up against mine, and she says something. I squint at her, not able to hear anything come out of her mouth, and put up my hand, touching her mouth, to feel if it is really moving. It is. So why can’t I hear? I shake my head from side to side, as much as I can with the hand holding it upright. I close my eyes again and hear, from a distance, “Miss Anna… Miss Anna… Miss Anna…”





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