The early spring wind howled outside the Symington household. Though it was afternoon, the sky resembled nightfall. The darkness mirrored the feelings within young Sophie’s heart.
She walked unsteadily to the parlor where Father had summoned her. Her hands and forehead were clammy; the dread she felt added to her already queasy stomach. She knew Father discovered her secret: she was with child—and unmarried.
She had seen the signs weeks before—the nausea, the tightening of her corset, the lack of her menses. She’d tried to hide it, but her constant absence from the breakfast table raised suspicion.
Oh, God in heaven, what am I to do? Only He could help her now.
She stopped at the entrance of the parlor. Father stood at the far end of the room, looking out at the streets of Yokohama.
“Father? You…you asked for me?”
“I believe you know the reason I called you here this morning.” He turned from the window, his dark green eyes conveying the fire that Sophie knew burned within him.
She remained silent, averting her eyes from his imposing form.
“Throughout your seventeen years, I’ve given you everything--money, connections, lessons from the finest tutors.” His heavy footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor. “I’ve given you a comfortable life.” He stopped in front of her, inches from her face. “Look at me now, Sophia.”
She moved her eyes to meet his. Every part of her shook in his shadow.
“Tell me: How have you shown your gratitude? By getting pregnant by an Oriental!” He roared.
His hand hit her right cheek, the force of the slap sending her to the floor.
“That indecent affair with the Iesada fellow wasn’t enough for you.” He kicked her, sending a shot of pain throughout her body. “You disgraced me further by conceiving his child!” He grabbed a handful of her auburn hair and picked her up. “You will shame this family no more!” He let go of her hair, thrusting her head down in the process.
Sophie whimpered. “Father…I’m sorry…”
He ignored her plea. “I am calling a doctor today to rid us of your…problem.”
“No!” She clutched her stomach to protect her unborn child from such a fate. “I won’t let you!”
“You made your choice the moment you shared your bed!” He grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her upstairs to her room, throwing her inside. “Expect the doctor in three hours time.” He slammed the door, locking it behind him.
God, please don’t let him do this! He can’t kill my child…
“Miss Sophie.” She turned to the quiet voice of her maid, Miyu.
“Miyu-san! How did…”
Miyu held a finger to her lips and held up a key. “We leave tonight, Miss Sophie.” She looked behind her and locked the door again, handing Sophie a simple well-worn dress. “I hear everything.”
“I don’t understand…”
“No time, no time,” Miyu spoke quickly, her English heavily accented. “We leave now for family in north Tokyo.” She began to undo the buttons on the back of Sophie’s dress.
“Why, Miyu-san? Why are you doing this for me?”
Miyu stopped and looked at her. “You are like sister to me. And now I help my sister.”
“But you’ll never be able to come back…”
“You need help more than I need job.” She smiled sadly. “Turn.”
Sophie nodded, amazed at the sudden turn of events. Miyu helped her dress quickly and unlocked the door. “We go this way, “she said pointing towards the back staircase.
“But won’t the other servants see us?”
“Yes, but they love Miss Sophie as much as I do. They will let no bad thing happen to you. Come.” She grabbed her hand and led her down the hall.
Time seemed to stop as Miyu led her from her house through the busy streets of Yokohama and Tokyo. The sun had nearly set by the time Miyu had pointed out her family’s house at the end of the street.
A sudden sense of apprehension came over Sophie. “Miyu-san…Miyu-san, what makes me fit to live with you and your family? I’m just a strange foreigner to them.”
Miyu squeezed her hand. “You have no need for fear any more. You and baby will be safe.”
Sophie smiled for the first time in months. “You’re right, Miyu-san. There’s no need to fear now.” She squeezed Miyu’s hand and went forward, the promise of a new life a few steps in the distance.
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