Two Women Seated by a Woodland Stream

April 26, 2012
By , West Chester, PA
A woodland stream greeted Alice and Julia each morning for their reading lesson. The environment was calm and passive: an alleviating area to study. Alice was sixteen with luscious red hair, hazel eyes, and a will to learn. Julia was seventeen with golden blonde hair, sea green eyes, and a selfish personality. For numerous years, Alice worked as a servant for Julia’s unyielding family. She was never taught how to read and write as a child and considered useless to Julia. A friendship with Alice was something Julia never considered.

The lessons started with Alice and Julia lying in the high grass gazing through the pines. The sky looked as if it were a pastel painting in a museum. Colors ranging from orange, pink, yellow and red. The sound of the stream against rocks was soothing, and Julia could hear the slight movement of petals flowing off the trees onto the grass. The woodland stream opened the two young girl’s minds to new ideas. It was a great place to begin a lesson.

Alice studied the water moving swiftly through the rocks, down the river as Julia read Romeo and Juliet, her favorite Shakespeare play. The loyal servant knew each character and line, but was never able to read the story herself. Julia tries to read many times, but is always distracted by a pain in her head, an aching pain she has no control over. Alice frequently asked Julia for help, but was shown no sympathy. Julia continued to read Romeo and Juliet to Alice, but she didn’t care to listen. The pain grew increasingly by the minute. “The pain is intolerable. I need rest and aid,” Alice stated with fear. Julia examined Alice and stated three ineffectual words: “You’ll be fine.”
Alice laid in the high grass and closed her eyes as the Capulets and Montagues fought. She couldn’t think straight. The moment the innocent servant was about to scream, the shut of the book startled her, and the pain was gone. Another hopeless lesson had gone by and it was time to go back to Julia’s flamboyant home.

Each starry night, Julia thought nothing of Alice. She believed Alice was a servant, not a friend. She thought Alice’s finite supply of clothes and inability to learn was common for people of her status. “Only the wealthy are capable of living a luxurious, smart life,” Julia thought.

The following morning Julia had breakfast with her opulent family. Pancakes, eggs, and a scrumptious ham covered the table. A magnificent feast for breakfast was normal for Julia’s family, whereas their servants had nothing to feast upon.
Following breakfast, Julia arrived at the woodland stream. Alice was lying in the high, pale green grass. She enjoyed looking through the pines and musing about the adventures of Romeo and Juliet. It took the pain from her mind and soothed her. Julia laid next to Alice and scrutinized the colors of the sky as she did every day. Leaves rustled and the sound of a cardinal singing filled the air. Julia could hear the slight buzz of the bees landing on the numerous sunflowers and rose bushes surrounding her. A gentle touch of the high grass on Julia’s arm woke her from a pleasant sleep. “Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream?” Julia asked Alice.
It was time to begin the lesson.

Julia turned to Alice and gave her a gentle push. She didn’t open her eyes. A harder push to the arm did no better. Panicked, Julia fled through the woods to her prestigious home in the village. Her parents owned a vineyard and were away for a crucial business meeting. She screamed for Peter, her family butler, who immediately ran to assist her. They both ran to the woodland stream and found Alice lying in the same spot: in the high grass staring through the pines. Peter put his cold hand on her chest. “There is not a single heartbeat,” Peter whispered to Julia.

The following morning, Julia learned the reason of the angelic Alice’s death. Doctor Fritoyd, leading physician of the town’s hospital, had located a sizable tumor on Alice’s brain. Alice had died from brain cancer.

“The pain…Ali frequently complained about the agonizing pain, but I never showed consideration,” Julia desperately thought. She was given the chance to help, but she was supercilious by only thinking in herself. Julia plodded home as dusk crept on the earth, and the pastel colors filled the sky once again. She began to think about Alice. "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night," Julia whispered to the sun as she walked up to her room and fell into a deep sleep.
The following day, Julia sat beside the woodland stream alone with Romeo and Juliet in her hand. The golden girl had no one but the natural environment to read it to. The vast pines swayed and the high grasses blew with the wind around her. Julia lay down and looked through the branches of the pines and weeping willows. The sun rose and clouds and colors began to enliven the sky. She had nowhere to go, no one to talk to or teach each morning. Her only “friend” was gone.

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