Today I didn’t really have time to write anything at all, because I’ve got a week full of exams ahead of me. So it’s not gonna be a huge intro. I just hope you’re all doing well and having a great Pre-Christmas time. To read the beginning of the chapter just click here. So let’s get started:
A lot had changed in that year. Jason and I didn’t get married. He couldn’t wait for it that long. But we stayed good friends for the whole time. We were still lovers he still drank coffee with me and we went on walks. Late-night talks. Sunrises. Goodnight kisses. But it was different. There was a crack between us and it was widening every day. I worked more and finished more articles in my free time.
One afternoon Rachel was helping me with fixing up the kids’ room. They had made a chaos. Rachel turned to me and said: “Have you ever missed them? Your family at home, life in Germany. The people. Your siblings? It seems to me you have been keeping feelings to yourself and trying to deal with it on your own. Why is that?” I was surprised by that question; how did she think of this now? “In the beginning, yes, a lot of the time. Some days it was harder than others. The feeling of leaving them behind seven years ago, it almost broke my heart. Family traditions like Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve would make me sad in the beginning. It was a completely new world, Americans and their traditions, their culture. Their eating habits. But now, it feels like I’ve got two homes. And my home in Germany seems distant. Like a slowly fading memory. It feels like I’m losing a part of me. And that scares me. But since my sister has been sick, I am constantly reminded that a part of my soul still belongs there. Always will. On the other hand, I would not want to leave here, I feel home. It’s where my heart feels home. And if I had to leave you I would miss you like my own family. You’ve won a big place in my heart, you all have. Don’t worry about me dealing with things on my own, I’ve learned that a long time ago. And I am capable of doing so without having to depend on others. But thank you for your concerns. I really appreciate it. Why did you want to know that now?” She smiled: “It just crossed my mind. And I want you to know that you have become a big part of our lives, too, and that there would be something missing without you. You don’t always have to deal with your worries and sorrows alone you know? It’s not a sign of weakness if you let yourself get helped. If you can’t solve a problem alone or if you’re not keeping your feelings to yourself. It only means you’re human. I want you to know that.” I didn’t quite know what to say but it made my eyes fill with tears. I didn’t remember when the last time had been when words like that had touched me so deeply. I forced a bitter smile and said: “Thank you, Rachel. I know that now and I will keep it close.”
The next two years that followed were hard. One of my sisters back home tried to emigrate, too, but she got sick on the ship and was sent back. William and I had to provide for her treatment. And try to get her out of isolation on Ellis Island. We didn’t succeed. People were rather tense around the beginning of the new century. They were scared, not knowing what the future might bring. Trying to make predictions about the things that would happen. And I, as a part-time journalist was privileged to tell the world. Or at least all of Baywood. There was a lot of fear, industry made a big step forward, people were afraid that they’d lose their jobs. Machines became more important than workers. Working hours never stopped for construction workers. Jason had been called back to his old Job. Almost no breaks, hard work. But we never stopped seeing each other. And I still loved him. But we couldn’t make it work, no matter how hard we tried.
April 16th, 1900
I am sorry to give you the bad news this way. The cancer has returned. Worse than before. They say it’s everywhere. And now, the chances that I will survive another two years are next to nothing. There is something I am begging you to do. I want you to take care of my boys. When I’m gone they’ll need someone to care for them, someone they can trust. And someone who can help them through the pain. At least the two older ones Henry and Paul. George will be too young to really remember me. But I am begging you to take care of them as if they were yours. I know you can do this. And I trust you most of all. I am so sorry. I tried. But I just can’t win this fight. Not this time. My strength is leaving me daily. I can barely hold the feather I am writing this with. The doctors say they’re trying everything they can. They’re telling me to be strong, strong for my children. For my husband. Otto is trying his best to act strong in front of me, but I know he is having a very hard time dealing with it. I don’t know what to do. And I am scared that I might never see you again. If that happens to be the case, please know I love you. I love you so much my dearest sister. Please be there for my kids. I cannot leave them behind in peace. Cannot die in peace if I don’t know them to be safe. I am so sorry to have to tell you. But you’re the only one I trust most with them. Please don’t stop hoping. Don’t stop loving. I don’t want you to do that. I really hope to see you again.
It was like a kick to the stomach. A scenario of her lying there in a hospital bed, dying. I was drenched in pain. It was a sunny day. No clouds, less windy than usual. It was almost quiet even. I looked out the window to the beach and I knew I’d have to go. Have to leave Rachel and David, have to leave the kids. Amy was now 14 and Nancy would be 18 in a month. Nancy had grown to be an adult. Working and getting paid. Amy would be ready to pick a job and start an apprenticeship somewhere soon. And Nancy would fall in love and probably get married in five years. And I wouldn’t get to see it. In my thoughts I was with my dying sister. But also, with my family here. With Jason, who I would have to leave behind. And it broke my heart to admit it, but I’d have to make sacrifices for my sister and her children. I had a promise to keep and I would have to leave him. Leave my life, again.
February 15th, 1901
When the time had come, I packed my suitcases and my belongings. Looking back at those ten years I had spent here, I felt a deep sadness. Because these ten years had been the best in my life. Leaving a part of me behind. Saying goodbye to Rachel, David, Nancy and Amy. “Farewell Henriette. You’ll always be a big part of our lives and have a place in our hearts. Thank you for those years you spent with us, we will never forget you. Now go, live your life and remember you’ll always have a place to come home to, should you go to America again. We’ll miss you.” Rachel smiled at me. “I have to thank you for letting me stay, for taking care of me when I was sick, for letting me be a part of your family. I will never forget you. You shaped me in a way that I now know to appreciate. Goodbye.” Then I went to Ellis Island. Before I left I saw Jason. “You’re leaving, is it true?”, he sighed “You were the love of my life. Please don’t forget me. But move on, too. I am sure you will find someone and love again. I wish you that, and the strength to care for your sister. I will never forget you, Henriette Meier. You changed my life. We can still write letters. Farewell, my love.” his eyes were glassy. I smiled “Don’t worry. I could never forget you. You showed me what love feels like. And that is one of the things I am so thankful for. I am sorry to have to leave you but there is no other way. And of course, I will write you when I get there. I hope you find someone, too. Someone who won’t break your heart. Goodbye Jason. Farewell.” And so, we went our separate ways. I went on the ship and I didn’t turn back. Not once. And when I looked at the ocean I knew that a very different part of my journey was yet to come. And I felt ready because I knew that sometimes you had to sacrifice yourself in order to find peace in life.
So, I really wanted to end this in a meaningful, life-lesson way. And yeah, that’s it with Henriette and Jason. Or is it? Guess you’ll have to wait till next week to find out.
Goodnight, Morning or whatever time it is, wherever you’re reading this from.