TITLE: Hattie's Diary
By Kaye Petts
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Hattie shuffled down the empty street, shoulders slumped as though her burden heavy, trudging though the snow, straining for every step. Her thoughts slipped back to The Belleveau Home For Girls, her place of residence for the last 15 years. She couldn’t seem to recall one thing during the last years that brought her any sense of true joy or peace, except, of course, her books.
Books came to Hattie’s rescue many times, allowing her to escape reality and giving her the ability to face the harshness that life sometimes held for her.
Miss Belleveau, the house mistress and better known as Lady VonDragon, leaned heavy on the negative, consistently breathing fire on any ideas that may differ from her own. Bess, the head cook and baker, had no thoughts about anything, never caring or willing to get involved and Gretta, the house tutor, had a rule book for every aspect of life, from how to walk correctly, to the proper protocol for eating a pancake.
Belleveau, to say the least, had never seemed like home to Hattie, more like one step above homeless. Nevertheless, she had no choice, but to accept her circumstances, hardly liking them, just accepting.
Hattie continued down Purdy Avenue, feeling quite sorry for herself, fabricating every possible excuse for not turning back toward Belleveau. The afternoon sun hung solemnly on the horizon, anticipating it’s daily rest, while the wintry wind drove on any lingering warmth.
Chilled, weary and penniless, Hattie gave in to the fact that she had no choice but to turn back. That’s when she noticed the open sign in the window of Dawson’s Used Books. She anxiously crossed the street hoping that Millie Dawson would welcome her with open arms, as always. The familiar song of the brass bells on the shop door gave Hattie an instant sense of relief.
“Whatcha need this fine afternoon, Hattie?”, Millie’s voice was the first real warmth Hattie had experienced all day.
“Nothing really, Mrs. Dawson”, Hattie replied as she sat down at the counter. “I’ve been exploring town and truth is, I need to warm up.”
“How about a nice, hot cup of broth and a good book? That should warm you to your soul.”
Within minutes, Hattie had a large mug of steaming broth in front of her and a box of books Millie had pulled out from behind the counter. “You pick any book you’d like, Hattie, and it’s yours to keep.”
“But Mrs. Dawson”, Hattie began, “ I just couldn’t…”
“I insist! These books are worn so, that I’m unable to find them worthy enough to shelve. I’m certain you’ll be giving one of ’em a good home.
Hattie smiled, holding back laughter, managed a “thank you so much Mrs. Dawson”, and excitedly began searching though the box. She carefully picked up each book, gently brushing off the dust, examining, listening, waiting for one to speak to her.
In the very bottom of the box, she discovered a small, brown, leather bound book tied with silk ribbon. This one caught her eye. As she opened it, she could see the pages were all handwritten. She had never seen another like it. She began reading the first page… Given to Miss Louisa Mae Quinnlan, December 25th, 1898, by Martha Anne Quinnlan.
Hattie read on… My darling Louisa, may you record all your secrets and the hidden desires of your heart on these pages. Merry Christmas, Your loving mother.
Hattie heard this book speaking to her loud and clear. She just had to have it. She was thrilled at the thought of becoming completely encompassed in the life of Louisa Mae Quinnlan. She glanced up at Mrs. Dawson with questioning eyes.
“ Take it child”, Millie answered.
Hattie hurriedly downed her mug of broth, knowing that the sooner she reached her room at Belleveau, the sooner she could be alone with her new friend, Louisa.
“Thank you so much , Mrs. Dawson, you have no idea what this means to me.”
“Oh, I think I have a good idea, Hattie”, Millie replied. “Now you get yourself on home and don’t you forget to come back and visit ole’ Millie.”
“You can count on it,” Hattie said as she tightened her wool scarf up around her neck.
She stepped out into the street. Clouds has stifled any sun there may have been and snow was softly falling. The subtle glow of the street lanterns almost reflected a warmth of their own. Hattie somehow felt better about her day. She picked up the pace as she moved toward Belleveau.
As Hattie neared the house, apprehension began creeping in. She pulled her new book under her coat, as though protecting it from the fire of Lady VonDragon’s fury. She reached the front door stepping out of the cold and into what seemed and even icier atmosphere.
“Miss Hattie Morgan, I demand a full explanation of your whereabouts today and why you thought it plausible to miss supper?” Garneth Belleveau asked as she lunged directly into Hattie’s path.
“Miss Von… I mean Miss Belleveau, to be perfectly honest, I spent all afternoon walking around town and time just seemed to slip away. I appologize for any disruption I may have caused”, Hattie lied.
“This is the third time this week that you have managed to disappear without permission. This, my dear, is unacceptable! You may go to your room with out supper and I would like you to think about decisions and consequences.”
With out a word, Hattie left Miss Beleveau basking in her own anger and retreated to the solace of her room. Upon careful consideration of decisions and consequences, she made the deduction that not all consequences meant to be hurtful, are.
Within minutes of latching her bedroom door, Hattie plopped on her bed, opened the diary and began the most wonderful journey along side Lousia Mae Quinnlan. With each turn of the page, she loved Lousia more and more.
She determined that Lousia was fifteen at the time of the diary, the same age as Hattie, herself. She had lived in a grand house with her father, mother and a brother named Garrett, a maid and a nanny. She had a special love for animals, especially horses, although living in the city prevented her from actually owning one. She hated proper schooling and her mother’s social teas. She loved peppermint sticks and her best friend of all friends was a girl named Megan, sometimes called Meg.
Hattie read on embracing and absorbing. She came to know that Louisa and Megan were inseparable, spending as much time together as allowed, for Mrs. Quinnlan was not always accepting of Megan. Megan’s family was poor, to say the least, and lived in an undesirable neighborhood, at least to the Quinnlans.
Louisa did not care one bit about Megan’s lack of money. She loved Megan, with all her heart, for the person she was inside. Lousia and Megan were truly best friends, real friends. Hattie couldn’t help but envy the two of them. Oh, what she would have given for a friendship like theirs.
Hattie was about half way through the diary, when she came across a disturbing entry.
April 2nd, 1899 - Dearest diary, Megan is just not herself these days. She has taken to avoidance. I have noticed her with puffy eyes more than once, which only brings me to believe her to have been crying. I am truly worried and will make my best attempt at uncovering the truth, come tomorrow. Until then, I shall pray for the situation at hand.
Hattie’s eyes could no longer remain open. Although she greatly desired to continue, sleep prevailed.
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