Through the Thorns
A SolutionDrunk though he was, Mr. O’Reilly was aware that something major had happened, and that Bethany had caused it. Luckily, he was feeling too lethargic to act on his thoughts and he fell asleep, not long after Bethany stormed upstairs. Lillian finished serving dinner and got the whole crowd ready for bed. After the last dish had been washed, Lillian walked to the room she and Bethany shared and knocked quietly. “Beth? Would you open the door? Beth? Bethany!” At hearing no response, Lillian pushed the door open and walked in. “Bethany? Are you here?” Lillian could see at a glance that she wasn’t. With a shaking breath, she left the room and closed the door quietly behind her. Lillian was eleven, but she wasn’t a babyish eleven. She knew that Bethany’s absence was not good. Quietly, Lillian crept down the stairs and walked a little around the living room. Bethany was still nowhere to be found. Lillian knew that her father could not be counted on, that left her only one option.
The knock on Jonathan’s door was so faint that he thought he had imagined it. He wasn’t about to even try to go to sleep so he went back to pacing. The second knock was louder and it made Jonathan stare at the door ponderously. “Who could that be?” He wondered. Finally remembering himself, he opened the door. Lillian let out a breath. “Jonathan!” She said. Jonathan looked around. “What is it Lillian?” Lillian turned her head to look around before speaking. “Bethany’s gone, I can’t find her anywhere!” Lillian’s blue eyes were large and worried. Panic was rising inside of Jonathan as well. “Do you have any idea where she might have gone?” He asked. Lillian shook her head. “Anything she’s ever done like this has been when she’s gone in the afternoon.” Jonathan nodded. “Do you have any idea where she goes?” Lillian shook her head again. “She’s always gone to a friend’s house, or just a walk, but it’s always around the same time.” Jonathan nodded and thought for a moment. “I’ll go look for her. No telling where she is now. Go on up and get in bed. If I’m not back in the morning, cover as usual, okay?” Lillian nodded and promptly turned back and went upstairs. Jonathan put on his coat and picked up the flashlight that was lying by the front door. As he opened the door, he saw that it had begun to rain. Jonathan turned on the flashlight and moved the beam around the front yard. Bethany was nowhere to be seen. Jonathan pulled his coat closer around him and stepped onto the porch. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and Jonathan Grover was in love.
Bethany took a deep breath and pushed the heavy wooden door open. She had started out as a simple walk to clear her head and think, but eventually she knew what needed to be done. Edward, she knew, was a spoiled boy on the verge of becoming a powerful man, and those were the most dangerous. While Bethany knew she couldn’t marry him, no matter how much Edward thought he loved her, she knew that she might be able to make his parents see reason. So Bethany made her way through the dark woods to the Cosgrove plantation, not even guessing the concern her disappearance was causing to a certain person. Slowly, she stepped through the doorway into the vestibule of the large house. Bethany knew it was too early for the Howell’s to be actually asleep, but she didn’t know if they had retired to their rooms as of yet. Bethany managed to close the door and hang her cloak quietly before moving towards the location where a good deal of light seemed to be emanating from. No sooner had Bethany stepped through the doorway to the parlor than she realized her mistake. Not only was Edward himself sitting in a large stuffed chair, but his parents and younger sister were standing or sitting at various places around the room. Mrs. Howell was the first to notice Bethany. “Ah! There you are dear! Edward has just been telling us the good news!” Bethany could only stare at her employer, mortified. “The…the good news?” Mrs. Howell nodded enthusiastically. “I’ve known that Edward liked you for a while now, but I didn’t ever dream that it would come to this!” Bethany swallowed. “Mrs. Howell, I…” Edward interrupted. “Oh, mother she couldn’t be happier! Right darling?” He said, shooting her a withering, as well as triumphant, glance. That was all Bethany needed. “ Mr. Edward Howell, I will not have anyone speak for me! I have very clearly refused your hasty proposal and I have a multitude of witnesses willing to testify my case! Mrs. Howell,” Bethany continued, turning from son to mother. “I am sorry to have caused any confusion or dissatisfaction but I do not love Edward! I barely like Edward! No offense.” Bethany added to Edward. Mrs. Howell looked offended. “And what, may I ask, makes you believe that my son is at all unlovable? Or even unlikeable! My word!” Bethany was horrified. “Oh no ma’am! It’s not like that at all!” Mrs. Howell had by this time become unreasonably angry. “Then what is it? He is not handsome enough? His sister? The girls he’s seen from town? What is it? And don’t think for a moment that we don’t know about the young man your father hired! The disgraceful news has been all over town! The thought of an unmarried man and woman living in the same house, shameful! You should be honored that my son chooses to look past your poverty and disgrace!” Bethany’s face was red and she was angrier than ever before at the mention of Jonathan and herself in such a degrading manner. “Mrs. Howell. Jonathan Grover is the quintessence of gentlemanlike behavior. I would sooner marry him than a twenty year old man that needs his mother to plead his case! Now if you will kindly pay me the wages due to me, I will be gone and will not cause any more trouble.” Mrs. Howell was so shocked at Bethany’s sudden outburst that she could think of no reply. She simply pulled some money from her pocketbook. Bethany accepted it without a word, dipped a curtsey and left.
Jonathan was completely convinced that something terrible had happened to keep Bethany out for so long, to make her leave period. It had been nearly three hours since Lillian had alerted him and sunlight was just cresting when he saw a small figure walking in one of the meadows. Jonathan’s frustration suddenly surfaced. “There she is,” He thought. “Totally absorbed in her own little world!” The steps he took to meet Bethany halfway across the field were large and quick. Once Bethany saw him, she stopped a little and stared before picking up the pace. When they were standing eye to eye, Jonathan got a good look at her face. She had obviously not been to sleep that night, which disproved some of the theories he had entertained, but there was a look of wonderment and worry on her face which unsettled him. Standing there in the field, an idea began to grow in Jonathan’s mind. He tried to do away with it, but it continued to make its presence known until Jonathan knew he had to act on it. The moment Bethany was within an arm’s reach of him, Jonathan reached out, pulled her close, and kissed her. Bethany stood still, in shock at first, then in the knowledge that this kiss was not the same as the one in front of the schoolhouse. Somehow, before the kiss was even halfway over, Bethany knew three things. That she loved that awful Jonathan Grover, that she wasn’t about to right hook him after this kiss was over, and that she didn’t ever want to kiss another person in her life. Still, even as Jonathan drew back, Bethany knew that some things needed to be settled. She opened her eyes and looked into his, and all was silent for a moment before she spoke. “What was that?” Jonathan looked down and then glanced back up at her. “I guess I was just happy to see that you were all right.” He said. That was not the answer he wanted to give, but he didn’t know that the answer he wanted to give, Bethany wanted to hear. Bethany shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Is that all? Because I was just…out for a walk.” She said, averting her eyes from his face during the last part. Jonathan couldn’t take it anymore. “Look, I love you, okay? I guess I’ve loved you since you clobbered me in front of the entire school. The thought that something had happened to you almost tore me apart! I’ve been out all night looking for you because I knew that if anything had happened to you, I would never be the same again.” The joy that had filled Bethany’s heart at these words was indescribable. No sooner had Jonathan stopped talking, than he found himself caught up in another kiss. This one, if possible, even more passionate than the first, and he returned it gladly.
Bethany had told Lillian about her kiss. The two girls were almost eight years apart but they had been each other’s confidant since that day three years ago when Lillian had found Mrs. O’Reilly by the side of the road. As Lillian now prepared supper, it dawned on her, not for the first time, that she really had no one to talk to now that Bethany was gone. The night after Bethany and Jonathan had discovered that they had feelings for one another was counted as one of the best in Lillian’s life. All the two did was stay up and talk about random things, giggling and being sober in turn. Lillian would always remember that one night, because it was that one morning after that thing began to go wrong.
Things were awkward around the O’Reilly household the next day. Jonathan and Bethany tried to avoid each other as much as possible, each knowing that any more than five minutes could not be spent without thinking of the other. Lillian tried as best she could to deflect the attention of her father, and the kids that were old enough to understand what was going on, but everyone knew that something was up. Mr. O’Reilly, knowing the feelings of his elder daughter as to the hired boy, decided to speak with her before leaving that morning. His money had run out sooner than usual at the ale-house the night before, so he had only drunk enough to get him slightly bleary-eyed and wobbly, a drunk that was slept off peacefully. As soon as the school- kids were out the door, Bethany began collecting dishes. Jonathan stood, took the dishes she had previously picked up, gathered the rest of the dishes, and walked to the kitchen. Bethany was still trying to figure out what had happened. She stood with her arms still in the position for holding the dishes and her mouth was gaped. Mr. O’Reilly chuckled a bit at the sight. “Poor girl can’t even do dishes without interference!” “Come and sit down girl.” He said. Bethany walked to the chair closest to him and sat down, a look of confusion still on her face. Mr. O’Reilly took that as a sign of anger and began to act on it. “Now look here, I hired that boy to help out and as far as I can tell he has. You look healthier, happier, and your shoulders have straightened out.” Bethany looked down at her hands and smiled at her secret. “I know it may take some getting used to, but you need to step down a bit and give the boy a chance. Goodness knows what gives him such a passion for housekeeping, but he does it well and I have no complaints.” It was all Bethany could do to keep herself from giggling. “Being happy feels good.” She thought. “People that don’t have some happiness in their lives must be awful people. Happiness of others must bring the good out in their peers. That makes sense.” Mr. O’Reilly continued to talk for fifteen minutes about “household equality” before heading out to try to find more money. After he had closed the door behind him, Bethany could hardly stop laughing. Jonathan was still working in the kitchen when the sound of her laughter made him stop and smile a bit himself. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard her laugh!” He thought. “That’s a bit sad isn’t it? I’m in love with the girl and I’ve never heard her laugh!” Jonathan walked to the doorway and leaned against the frame. Bethany was reclining in her chair, laughing and holding her stomach. She finally stopped after a minute and wiped her eyes while she stood up. The sight of Jonathan made her begin to chuckle again and she shook her head. “What?” Jonathan asked laughingly, taking in her flushed face and sparkling eyes. “Oh,” Bethany said, still wiping tears from her eyes. “My father just told me to try to be nicer to you and to try to endure the agony of having you here.” They both shared a small laugh over this before cleaning the rest of the house. As it grew nearer to two o’clock, Jonathan expected Bethany to fly out of the house as usual. To his surprise, however, two o’clock came and went, then two thirty, and all Bethany did was pick up a book and begin to read voraciously. Jonathan glanced several times at the clock before walking over to stand in front of Bethany. For a few minutes Bethany continued reading, then she looked up and saw Jonathan’s puzzled expression. She chuckled a bit. “Do you know, that expression has been on your face a lot lately?” Jonathan smiled quickly. “I know, it’s just, aren’t you late for, something?” Bethany knew what he meant and faintly blushed. “No, not today, or ever again.” Jonathan sat down in a chair across from her, the puzzled expression still on his face. Bethany gave him a long look before heaving a sigh and setting her book down. She leaned forward and began to speak. “Jonathan, for the past year I’ve had a secret that no one knew. This secret is also the reason Edward Howell showed up here the other night.” Jonathan straightened as he began to realize that what Bethany had to say, he may not want to hear. Bethany smiled. “It’s not, bad, just a well-kept secret!” She said. Jonathan relaxed a bit. Bethany looked at him. “I’ve been working as a maid at the Cosgrove place for almost a year and a half now. I quit yesterday, that’s where I was while you were looking for me.” Jonathan was dumbfounded. “But…but…why?” This is where Bethany began to be nervous. She stood up and walked around the room before turning to look at Jonathan. “Do you see yourself living here in Bartow for the rest of your life? I mean, don’t you want to go places and see things?” Jonathan began to understand, not only the situation, but Bethany O’Reilly herself. Jonathan stood as well, and moved closer to Bethany. “I’ve never really thought about it before.” He said. “I mean, I’ve always assumed I was going to live here, but that’s just because no one’s ever asked me before!” Bethany nodded and took a deep breath. “I’ve been saving money for a ticket to Atlanta. I finally have just enough. I thought I would be able to leave immediately, but then,” Bethany’s face clouded over. “But then you happened and, Jonathan, I don’t think I could be happy anywhere you weren’t. That isn’t like me at all, but I somehow know that if we ever separate, I’ll feel torn in half.” Jonathan smiled and hugged her for a moment before pulling back to look into her warm, brown eyes. “That’s called love, Bethany, and I’ve felt that way since the day a girl gave me my first black eye. I just didn’t realize it until recently; I’m that dumb I guess.” He added the last part smilingly. Bethany smiled back. The kiss they shared settled it all.