Amy Leaves Pithole
My mother tells me that I awoke screaming but I have no memory of waking up. The air is warm from the hearth. The Reverend 's wife is busy getting herself and her children dressed. My mother and father have asked me to come with them to church as well. The idea of walking amongst the people of this town even in a church fills me with fear. My mother assures me that the Steadman’s are good folk, that if it weren't for him I'd never been saved. But it is so hard to trust anything here. My parents are outside, minding the children. My father doesn't even look like himself. He is beaten so badly. I know it was the man, the dark, tall man who treated me like an animal who beat my father. But, I have no words yet to share. Neither for comfort or fear. Instead, I curl around myself and sit here at the hearth watching the flames curl and eat one another. They spell destruction, then escape. Each flame, an eager hot tongue.
The air in the church seems stifled and pale. I sit upright in the front pew next to my mother and my poor, hunched father. I pleaded with the Reverend not to mention we were there. Fear licks my veins. Reverend Steadman agreed not to mention our presence, but he said, word has already traveled fast and many who will be in attendance will have already heard about my imprisonment and subsequent escape.
The church is small, much smaller than our church at home in New York. When his words begin they are loud and firm. He fills the wooden space with sharp spokes of thoughts that weave between those seated in the pews. My mind is drifting out of the window with the light layers of white clouds that seem spread across the sky.
After the sermon, we walk together slowly back to the depot. We will catch the 2:00 PM coach out of town. Then, we’ll take a train back to Pittsburgh, New York City and finally return to Millerton. What will it be like to be there again in this, my new self? I haven't had a chance to see myself in the mirror but I know without looking that I am changed. I am like another girl. A part of me has been buried somewhere underneath. I don't know if I'll ever know myself again.
As we walk to the train station, my mother is thanking Reverend Steadman profusely. But I am still mute. Words seem wrong. Like they don't fit my thoughts. My father looks deep into Steadman's eyes when we depart and offers his words, "I'll never be able to thank you enough for what you have done."
As we board the coach I can't help but watch who gets off before us -- the new residents of Pithole and sure enough out step several young girls doe-eyed and unknowing what sort of snake den they are about to walk into. Just as we are about to board the coach, just as my father is lifting me up, I turn around quickly and follow one of the girls. I have to know where she is going. I can't let another girl go through what I have just gone through.
When I catch her and grab her arm she looks at me strangely. I'm sure I look like a ghost of a girl. I washed up last night, but my hair is still wild and my eyes are still tangled in the fear I just left yesterday.
“I just need to know where you are going. Are you coming here for a job? Where were you hired?” I ask desperately.
“Excuse me? Who are you?” The girl says.
I say, grabbing her arm with more pressure. “ I said, where are you going?”
The girl looks at me hard and strange as if she can't quite understand what I am doing. “ I just got a job at the Dew Drop Inn. I'm to be the new girl to work in the hotel. It's all been arranged.”
When I heard these words I went pale. “It's not what you think.” I say. “I know you won't believe me, but I beg of you not to go there. I can understand you not believing me. So if you don’t then don’t take my word for it, take the Reverend s’. You see that church up on the hill? It’s the Methodist church. Please go there first. There is a Reverend there named Steadman. Tell him Amy sent you. Tell him you came to town to start a job just like me. Just promise me you’ll do this.” I say, looking her straight in the eye.
She looks at me real scared because I know I seem crazy. “Okay,” she says. “I will. I'll go see him first. Now, can you let my arm go?”
It will be weeks before I will hear from the girl. Hear how she did go to see Steadman first, hear how he stopped her from going to see Kate and Ben. Hear she took the next coach out of town and was saved. I just hope none of the other girls who got off that coach were going to the same place. I just hope someone stopped the same thing from happening again and again.