Monday, September 3, 1838 3:00 in the a.m.
I awoke to the sound of sobs coming from the room next to me. Relief flooded my heart when I realized they were not my own; they must have dried up somewhere deep inside my heart. Unfortunately, the pain has not thought to make itself scarce. Odd.
I do wish she would keep quiet. At least when my sobs attack me in the middle of the night I have the decency to silently soothe myself back to sleep. But then again, how can I blame Elizabeth? She has every right to be sad and lonely, whereas I brought my suffering on myself.
Nights like these I miss my dear Alfred. He would know the perfect way to comfort Lizzie, a trait I was never good at. It seems like only yesterday he was consoling me after Frederick left for Paris. “ I am going away to study art in the great European capitals of the world,” he told me his eyes refusing to look directly into mine. Instead, he looked over my head as if I wouldn’t notice. “My tour will take me two years. I will see you upon my return. I will miss you, my love. But know that every day I am in Paris, my heart will long for you.”
“Stay safe and write often,” I whispered to him still trying to get him to look at me. My passion for him was highest in the moments before he left. He gave me a kiss that seemed too brief and too long at the same time. Then, he boarded the ship out of the Hudson and into the Atlantic.
Fred ventured across the ocean to France, then he made his way to Italy. Over the course of two years, Fred studied architecture, art, and life in the hopes of developing his God-given gift and growing as a teacher. As sad as I was for him to leave, I knew he needed to go. Not only for me but also for all of his students, including Alfred his beloved younger brother. Thankfully, Alfred took it upon himself to ensure my safety and comfort in the absence of my husband.
Alas, Lizzie’s sobs have quieted, and I can drift off again to sleep with memories of Al’s kindness soothing my soul.
Monday, September 3 1838 12:00 in the afternoon
The pounding in my head has failed to cease for the entirety of the day. Therefore, I told Lizzie I must retire to my room and draw the drapes. I fear it is becoming too difficult to be around her. It is one thing to sin against God and lie, but it is another thing entirely to live out that lie in the same house as your oldest and dearest friend. “Are you sure you are alright?” Lizzie asked me when I told her I needed to lie down.
“Yes.” It is just the pounding in my head. I am afraid I did not sleep too well last night.”
“Oh dear,” she replied as she swept the kitchen floors. “I feel I caused you this pain. I could not control my sorrow last night. I am afraid I miss Al too much.” At this her eyes welled with tears. She quickly tried to blink them away, but her efforts failed as they fell carelessly down her cheek. “He wrote me a letter, you know. At night, when I miss him, I re-read it. His words help lull me to sleep. But, I will try to get a better handle on myself.” I silently scoffed at Al’s affection toward her. I couldn’t tell her the only comfort I had at the end of the day was the bottle of whisky I hid underneath my mattress. Like a good friend I kept my mouth shut, smiled weakly, and let her rambles continue. “I guess I am just not used to having guests in the house. Speaking of which, have you heard from Fred?”
“No, I haven’t.” I lied. “He hasn’t spoken to me since Al left. I am afraid he has another woman he fell for.” Again, another effortless lie. “I am ever so grateful for you Lizzie, I don’t know what I would do without your hospitality.”
“What are best friends for, dear, if not to help one another through their toughest moments? I promise we will see each other through the valley of our heartache into our mountaintop of joy.”
Unfortunately, I know we will never reach our mountaintop together. My head continues to pound incessantly through every miserable second I am here, through every miserable second I am with Lizzie, and through every miserable second I am without the love of my life.
Wednesday, September 5 1838 5:00 in the evening
I spoke with Fred today. Or rather, he spoke with me. He came by and asked if we could go on a walk and talk. I tried to fain sleeping when he knocked on the door, but Lizzie insisted that I wake up. She believed it in my best interest to talk to him. In keeping up pretenses, I dared not say no. Plus, I’m pretty sure she would be listening from the kitchen if we stayed inside. I swear that girl has the most useless skill for eavesdropping. If she could only channel that skill into something more productive, like cooking, then maybe Al would not have been in such a hurry to leave on his expedition of America. Worthless. Worthless. Worthless. If only he knew my love for him grew vastly every day. Then, maybe he would have stayed. Maybe he would have left Lizzie, and maybe he would have become mine.
However, I digress. Fred and I went out for a walk in the park. And although my head continued to thud in my head, I enjoyed the scenery. The beautiful fall weather caused me to wish fervently that Al were the one walking beside me. The brown and orange leaves fell softly to the ground as my world crumbled around me. Lost in thought, I almost didn’t hear Fred’s pleads. He said he forgave me for loving Al; he said he couldn’t blame me after going abroad for so long. Fred pulled me to a stop and sat on my favorite bench near the duck pond. Pulling me down next to him, he begged me to move away with him and never speak to his brother again. His pleas became more urgent with each passing second. He told me he would love me more passionately than ever before. Fred took me by the hands and looked into my eyes in a way that made me feel uneasy. Instead of answering, I turned away and commented on the weather. “Fall is my favorite season.” But it really is true.. The nip in the air, the promise of winter, the smell of fresh-baked apple pies, and the sound of children happily scurrying around full of excitement. With fall comes hope; a hope that the New Year will bring happiness and, for me, a hope that the New Year will bring me Alfred and maybe an end to these blasted headaches.
Seeing I was not swayed, Fred chose this precise moment to mention some gregarious fact; I can’t believe I never realized it before. “Have you thought about what Lizzie would do?” He asked, whipping my face around to look at him directly. I admitted I had not. “She is your only friend. Would you really throw away your only friend and your husband for a man who doesn’t even know you love him let alone love you back? Finding out your secret lust would kill her.” I could see the anger rising with the red on his face, his eyes pierced into my soul. Yet, I knew he didn’t understand. Fred cannot possibly understand. When you love someone as passionately as I love Al, there is no way humanly possible for him to not love back. There just isn’t. Losing Lizzie’s friendship would be a loss, yes. But, it would also be a gain. A gain of love, a gain of passion, and a gain of a future I desired so badly. Even my body wanted him. Why else would these headaches plague me so? I believe it is withdraw from true love that causes my head to hurt this way.
Yet, I know I need to make a choice. Throw away my old life for the hope of tomorrow, or return to my old life and keep my friends, family, and social graces. Damn you Fred.
Saturday, September 8 1838 7:00 in the evening
I almost told Lizzie today, I really almost did! I should have. I know I should have; aren’t friendships all about honesty? But as the words were working their way up, they caught in my throat. We were cleaning dishes, Lizzie and I, and talking about our husbands. She was attempting to console me about Fred, I say attempting because you cannot console a person who isn’t sad, and she was telling to forgive him. I blankly stared at her, which she took as a prompt to continue talking. Unfortunately, she began talking about Al. “I remember when Al first started courting me. It was a magical time. I was so shy, and he was so persistent. Even if he had an affair I think I would still stay with him.” At that, I snorted and almost blurted out that he loved me more and that, to me at least, we were having an affair! However, I didn’t want to be thrown out on the street penniless and forced to live with Fred again. Instead, I redirected my thoughts to the dishes; I dried them, nodded my head, and comforted her when the sobs began. She sobs almost daily now. She loves him more than she loves me. That much I know to be true. And as much as I love him, I couldn’t bear to lose her as a friend. Sometimes I just wish one of them would die to make this easier on me.
Sunday, September 9 1938 2:00 in the afternoon
How is it that Fred always seems to ruin things? First, he asks me to marry him before I can make Al fall in love with me. And now, he is threatening to out me to the entire church! Thankfully, with some quick thinking on my part, I told him that by telling on me to the church, he would be admitting that his marriage is a disgrace too. Then our marriage would become the topic of discussion for weeks on end, and I knew he wouldn’t want that. No one enjoys being gossiped about.
In church we sat through an insufferable service about the fires of hell. The whole time my thoughts drifted to Al. I know he loves me. He has to. When Fred left he was so nice, so welcoming, so charming. He always made sure I had enough eggs and milk, he always took the care to make sure I arrived at the church each Sunday promptly, and when he found my empty bottles of whisky he didn’t criticize me like the others would, for it is unacceptable for women to drink alcohol. Instead, he gave me the most loving and sexual hug I have ever experienced. Thinking about the hug now gives me chills. Or is it the thought of whisky in church? I have not had any since I finished my last bottle on Tuesday. I need at least four glasses every night now to drown out the voices in my head telling me to free myself, tell everyone the truth, and run away to go find Al on his expedition. The only thing stopping me is the whisky. When I drink enough, I can forget about him and fall into a dreamless sleep.
I wish I knew where Al was. All I know is he went west and is painting for the government. Even Lizzie has no exact idea where Al is. His letters come sporadically, if at all. I know if he knew how much I loved him his letters would be addressed to me, they would arrive daily, and he would be begging me to come to him.
Lizzie is testing my patience. Her cries have begun yet again. Tomorrow, I will travel to the back alleys and find a nice homeless fellow to fetch me some more bottles of whisky. I better get a few just in case the insufferable crier cant control herself.
Tuesday, September 11 1838 4:00 in the afternoon
That is it. I have had it. I am telling Lizzie. I have to. I cannot take it anymore. Her “Oh Alfred” this and “I miss Al” that. It is driving me to the bottle at noon now! Ha! If only the girls in the Sunday club could see me now. I am telling her tonight, after I finish this glass.
Thursday, September 13, 1838 11:00 in the morning
A letter! A letter! Al wrote me a letter! I shall write it here for you to see! It is proof that he loves me! Oh, I am so glad I decided to stay a little while longer. Now I know where he is!
My Dear Sister Sara,
I have heard through my wife and brother that you are living with Lizzie. I am pleased she has you for company while I am gone. Today we are in Utah, and I have it on good faith that I should return home within the year. However, I must implore you to keep a good head on your shoulders. Lizzie tells me you are suffering from headaches almost daily, that you mutter to yourself, and rarely leave your room. She believes these are signs of depression (she says you believe Fred has a lover?) However, I think we both know the root of the issue. If you are still seeing the man in the ally for your supplies (I say supplies in case one of our curious partners reads this) then I must beg of you to stop at once. Not only is it improper, but also it is most unhealthy and I do wish for you to be in one piece when I return. Lizzie needs you most now too. I would hate to think what would happen to her if you were to go off the deep end. She cares about you deeply, it is almost as if you two were blood-sisters and not merely sisters by marriage. Send Fred my best.
I shall read this letter every night before I sleep. He cares about me! Nothing could bring a bigger smile to my face than the thought of his cares! Ugh, that blasted headache again. I better turn in before the demons come out.
Friday, September 14 1838 5:00 in the evening
I am in the park on my favorite bench near the pond. It is almost dark, and I have no plans on returning home tonight. Elizabeth knows. I told her. My blasted mouth could not keep shut. There we were, walking home from the store. She kept crooning over the couple walking in front of us. They were a lovely couple, the kind of couple that even looks similar in the face from the amount of time they spend together. Anyway, there they were, walking in front of us and she kept commenting on the way he held her hand, the way he leaned to kiss her cheek, and the way he ran after her hat when the wind blew it away. The lady giggled and looked affectionately up at him, the way I look at Al. Lizzie turned to me and sighed, “I cannot wait for my Al to come home. I want to grow together like that couple. I miss seeing him. I miss the way he makes me feel. Ooh don’t you wish having a man look at you like that, Sara?” I immediately frowned for she interrupted my fantasy. I also silently cursed her for bringing up Al, my Al, like that. The thought of her with Al is the root of my insomnia I just know it. It takes me five glasses of whisky now to soothe my soul to sleep. And with every passing day, my headaches increase while my body mourns separation from its soul mate.
“What’s wrong Sara? Are you still suffering from headaches?” I told her it was more of a heartache that troubled me. I didn’t want to admit that my head was continuing to hurt for she might make me go to the doctor, and he would see through my lies effortlessly. He would see how my heart is broken, how my mind is lost, and how I am plagued with sleepless night after sleepless night all in the name of love. We had paused on the street to admire a new, white hat in a shop window. Eventually, she turned away and continued walking. I guess she assumed white was not my color, and I must agree.
“I am sure you and Fred will work this out, it is just a bump in the road.” At that, my last straw of patience snapped. I turned to her and yelled, “IT IS NOT FREDERICK WHO I AM SAD ABOUT IT IS ALFRED. I LOVE HIM, AND I KNOW HE LOVES ME TOO. WHEN HE COMES BACK WE ARE GOING AWAY TOGETHER!” Then I turned and fled. I didn’t even wait to see her reaction. I left her standing there on the street corner near the white hat. The dumb look on her face stood out against the blur of activity on the street. I pushed the thought from my head and ran as fast as I could.
I came straight to the park, to the bench where Al first comforted me after Frederick left for those two miserable years. Well, first I stopped by my secret ally to acquire another bottle, but that is to be expected in these circumstances. I know Alfred loves me. I know he will leave Elizabeth. I just need to wait on his return. Thankfully I have all that I need right here on this bench: my journal and a fresh bottle of whisky. I haven’t any money, but I am sure some kind stranger will have pity on me. After all, I am a lovely young woman sitting properly on a bench journaling. With one glass down and one on the way, I am beginning to feel a bit drowsy. I would love to fall asleep out here. There is nothing more peaceful than sleeping surrounded by memories of love. I might just sleep here until my Al returns. I refuse to go home to Fred, and I now Lizzie would not have me in her house. So here I shall stay. What is the worst that could happen?