Through the Thorns
JonathanBethany never allowed herself to wallow in self-pity after one of her father’s episodes. She knew it would do no good, as he would return even more drunk than before. As soon as she felt that she could speak without choking the words out, Bethany wiped her eyes, stiffened her back, and stalked up the stairs to her room. She had not forgotten the newest member of the household, but Bethany was most certainly not going to go to any extra trouble for a man she hated. Realizing too late that Jonathan had been doing all of the housework since breakfast, Bethany hurried to dress. As she raced down the stairs, she caught a glimpse of her cheek in the mirror. A purplish hue had spread down the line of her jaw, and a cut on her cheek was still bleeding. Bethany only shook her head and continued down the stairs. The sight below stopped her short. The dining room had been tidied, washed, and swept, as had the kitchen and small living area. Jonathan was sitting in a small armchair with his feet propped on the coffee table. At her step, he looked up from the book he had picked up, and Bethany couldn’t help noticing that his gaze lingered on her swollen jaw. “Are you okay?” He asked. “I’m perfectly fine.” She retorted. “Thank you for cleaning, but please know that not every morning will pass in this manner. If your help is at all necessary, I will let you know. Do you understand?” Jonathan was staring at her strangely. “What?” Bethany asked. “Well,” Jonathan began. “I’ve never heard anyone talk as funny as you just did.” Bethany’s expression darkened. “Again with the way I speak.” She thought. “Yes, well, I am going for a walk and I should be back around three forty five. You can handle things around here I’m sure?” Jonathan nodded and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “You’re going to walk for seven hours by yourself? Would you like me to go with you?” “No!” Was the alarmed reply that surprised Jonathan greatly. Bethany blushed faintly. “I mean, I won’t be alone, I’m going to see a, a friend, a very good friend. If I’m not home by two, or if my pa gets back before me, don’t worry.” With that, she picked up her jacket and a sizeable carpetbag, and walked out of the door. Leaving a very bored, and puzzled, Jonathan Grover behind.
Bethany fumed to herself as she walked through the woods to her job. “Who does he think he is? Coming into my house and cleaning and moving things. And again with the way I speak? Just because he never learned proper English, does that give him the right to make fun of those that have?” Bethany passed her walking time in much of this way, until she reached the grove just outside of the Cosgrove plantation. There, Bethany changed into her maid’s uniform and hid her carpetbag in a, conveniently, nearby hollow tree. Giving a sigh of relief that she could now work off her frustration, she squared her shoulders and walked to the back door.
Six hours later, Bethany was on her way back to the house. Tired from the activities that had been required of her throughout the day; she walked more slowly than usual. Bethany had forgotten about her unwanted houseguest and, realizing that the house would be empty until five, she wandered through the meadows of Bartow, G.A. Bartow was not a large town, but it was the biggest within a five hundred mile radius. Many residents were elderly or handicapped because of the war, and spending more than an hour with one of them was sure to get one’s ear talked off. The O’Reilly girls, the Clarkson kids, and Jonathan Grover were the only ones under the age of thirty in the area, and being so pressed to help around the houses, they didn’t socialize much. Not many people knew the O’Reilly girls personally, except the older women at church, but almost everyone had heard about their looks. The older girls, Louise and Bethany, were considered exceptionally beautiful, and Lillian on her way to being the same. It was too early to tell for the younger girls, Patricia, Irene, and Elspeth, but it was certain that they would be just as beautiful. The O’Reilly’s, of course, never heard these discussions. Everyone knew better than to discuss it within earshot of the girl’s pa, and it would be considered bad manners to tell the girls themselves. Louise knew somewhat that she and her sisters held a place of respect in the small community, but the younger ones were never told. Bethany grew up believing that the only hope for happiness was to leave Bartow. She was absolutely convinced that her auburn hair, freckles, and long limbs made an unseemly sight. Bethany was the independent one. Louise was a good natured girl, with long black hair and green eyes. Lillian was much like her eldest sister, the same build and black hair, but Lillian had Bethany’s eyes. Her looks were uncommon and caused a great stir among people who saw her.
Bethany often sat at a mirror in her mother’s parlor and imagined herself with different looks. When she had first become aware of how she looked to other people, Bethany tried everything from wearing a full-time clothespin on her nose to a gypsy’s freckle lotion. The clothes pin only left a red mark, and the freckle lotion caused a rather severe breakout. Bethany had long since accepted the fact that she was ugly and sentenced herself to a life of learning. She did not detest pink, but decided rather quickly that it was not her best color. Bethany had quit school when Louise married so that she could take charge of the house. The move had pained her greatly, but she had been glad to be out of the clutches of Jonathan Grover. Jonathan had tormented her to no end about her looks, her brains, her voice, her manner of speaking, etc. Bethany did not envy Jane Clarkson a bit when the girl related to the small group of female students that Jonathan Grover had kissed her behind the outhouse. The other girls had giggled, in what Bethany thought a stupid way, and Bethany had snorted and made some snide remark about not letting Jonathan Grover touch her with a ten foot metal telephone pole, (The telephone pole being the newest obsession in Bartow.) Somehow, her remark made it’s way back to Jonathan and, being the conceited little boy that he was, deemed it necessary to follow Bethany around the schoolyard, and even around town, at exactly ten feet. Bethany was not injured in the least and made quite a show of it, exclaiming to other girls that “Jonathan Grover just couldn’t get enough of her.” Finally, one fateful day, he did it. That awful Jonathan Grover marched right up to Bethany O’Reilly and kissed her full on the mouth right in front of the school. Fourteen pairs of eyes saw the kiss, and fourteen pairs of eyes saw the exact moment Bethany’s arm caught Jonathan’s face. The entire school, even Miss. Harrison, stood in shock. Bethany strode into the schoolhouse, put on her hat and coat, picked up her lunch pail, and with her shoulders back and her chin up, Bethany walked home. She heard later that Jonathan had been dazed, but had told Charlie Clarkson that he admired her right hook. Nothing had ever made Bethany feel prouder.
Bethany suddenly started and looked at the sky. “Four thirty! I’ve got to get home!” She raced through the woods, leaping over rocks and small streams. Just as she turned the corner to her house, Bethany collided with a large object. She fell backwards onto her bottom, but almost as quickly jumped up and ran the little ways down the road, up the walkway, and into the front door. Closing the door quickly behind her, she leaned against it breathing heavily. Glancing around, Bethany saw that the house was as clean as it was just hours ago and that nothing had moved. Finally having caught her breath, Bethany moved towards the wash basin. She wasn’t sweaty, just dirty. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she gave a little laugh. Her auburn hair had all but completely come undone, the wildflowers she had meticulously place in her hair were askew, and, under the layer of dirt on her skin, her cheeks were flushed. All Bethany had time to do was wash her face and hands and change her clothes before she fixed dinner. She did so quickly, combing the flowers out of her hair while she washed. Walking into the kitchen, Bethany got the feeling that she was supposed to do something. Bethany stopped suddenly and walked out of the kitchen. The house was clean. “I don’t remember cleaning this morning. Oh no!” Bethany suddenly remembered who had cleaned that morning. “Jonathan? Jonathan! Are you here?” Bethany walked towards the back of the house calling his name. About the time she reached the back door, a knock sounded at the front. Puzzled as to who would be stopping by at this hour, Bethany went to open the door. There she found a very disheveled looking Jonathan Grover. “What on earth happened?” She cried. Jonathan gave a half grin. “Well, it seems that someone was in a hurry, and I was in the way.” Bethany covered her mouth with her hands, half from embarrassment and half to cover the smile that was spreading across her face. “I am so sorry!” Jonathan nodded. “It’s all right, I was on my way to look for you. Can I, come in and sit down?” Bethany opened the door wider. “Of course! Of course.” Jonathan grimaced and limped his way to the living area, plopping down on the chair nearest the coffee table. Bethany hurried to the kitchen and chipped some ice to put in a dishcloth. Once this task was complete, she gave it to Jonathan to apply to his injury. “Does it hurt much?” She asked, grimacing for him. Jonathan turned to look at her and grinned. “No more than a right hook to the face.” Bethany rolled her eyes and walked away. “Why does he have to be so impertinent? Hateful man, if he can be called a man.” Jonathan’s thoughts, to his near dismay, were a good deal more pleasant.