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This piece was entered for the topic "Black Sheep of the Family" in October 2013. It did not place.
Mourning or not, Emily refused to wear black. Instead she chose for her trip a pretty periwinkle traveling suit with a white lacy blouse and a cameo.
The train chugged along the misnamed Santa Fe Railway. The trains didn’t even go to Santa Fe. But it didn’t matter because her cousin would meet her at Lamy where she lived at a nearby ranch.
For all of her sixteen years Emily had felt a shadow hanging over any mention of her father’s older brother. Jeremiah Endicott sounded the epitome of a proper Boston Brahmin name. But Jerry had gone and disgraced the family by marrying a slattern named Molly O’Meara.
Lucky that the Homestead Act opened up new land in the West. Jerry and Molly headed for New Mexico where they’d heard it was no disgrace to be Catholic.
Emily never learned from her parents what happened next. But Molly corresponded with the Endicott’s housekeeper, Mary Mulcreevy.
“In 1881, five years before you were born, they had a wee one named Anne.” Mary told her. “Then a year after that Jerry---God be good to him---died.”
“What did Molly do?” asked Emily.
“She remarried and had six more children. But Anne is the only one who’s your true kin.”
“Was Molly really a slattern?”
“She was not. Sweet as springtime. No wonder your Uncle Jerry adored her. And if the truth be known---God forgive me---your Da fancied her himself.”
One day not long after Emily’s fifteenth birthday, Mary came rushing into her room.
“Saints be praised! A letter from Anne! For you!”
“My dearest Cousin,
“Though we have never met I think
of you often and pray for the day
when you will come to New Mexico………”
“I recently married a wonderful man
named Peter MacDonald…..”
Anne enclosed her photograph.
“Sure and as lovely as her mother,” Mary said.
“Mary if I write her back, can she mail her reply to you?”
“She can. Your Da and Ma’d have a fit if they knew.”
So the two corresponded and Emily dreamed of the day when she could go to New Mexico.
Meanwhile her parents went on with their Beacon Hill clubs and committees and charity fundraisers, hardly noticing their daughter.
Anne announced that she was expecting. “The baby is your kin too, Emily,” she wrote.
A few weeks later, Emily’s parents were killed in a carriage accident.
Mary wired Anne who wrote back insisting that Emily come to live with her.
The relatives were relieved to have Emily off their hands. “Suitable place for her--- heathenish country with her papist cousin.”
So she’d boarded the train at South Station, changed trains in New York, and again in Chicago.
After three days she arrived at the Lamy station. She’d read about New Mexico in the Boston Public Library so she was prepared for the Pueblos and the pińon and the ponderosa pines.
She looked about for Anne.
A young man approached her. “Cousin Endicott?” he asked, removing his ten gallon hat.
He was like no one she had ever seen. Tall with coppery skin and straight black hair, he was dressed like cowboys in pictures only he seemed all turquoise and silver.
“I’m Emily Endicott. Where’s Anne?”
“I am Anne’s husband. Come with me.”
He helped her onto the buckboard drawn by a white horse. As they drove she tried not to stare at him.
If my family thought Uncle Jerry was a black sheep, they should’ve seen this one. She smiled to herself.
But why are his eyes so sad? Maybe he’s sorry I came
They stopped at an adobe with the sign “Judge Henry A. Condon.”
“Good afternoon, Peter. Miss Endicott” An elderly lady greeted them. “The Judge will be here shortly. Some tea perhaps?”
Judge Condon joined them. “Miss Endicott I offer you my deepest sympathy upon the deaths of your parents.
“And now I must give you more bad news.
“Shortly after Anne wrote you, she took sick and died.”
The room swam in front of Emily’s eyes. She slumped sideways in her chair.
After they revived her the Judge showed her Anne’s written instructions:
“Should I die before my dear cousin Emily comes of age I request that my husband Peter be her guardian.”
Emily stared at the rancher. “You?”
A tiny silver crucifix twinkled from below his turquoise bandana. “Do you enjoy horseback riding, Cousin Emily?”
They both managed a smile.
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