Chapter 1 Bleamy's Corner wc-887
Happiness is hard to hold on to.
Baldrich Bleamy, my father, was bedridden with typhus the week before my eleventh birthday. It was the end of November, 1802, only one month after our family journeyed from our failed farm in Kilmarnock, Scotland, to London, the “City of Hope.”
I had never heard of such a sickness, but mother said it was a common illness that came from bad air, of which the crowded city was filled. It began with heavy coughing. Then came the fevers. Slowly, painfully, he left this world. It crushed everything I believed in to watch my father leave me.
Mother kept me away from him as best she could. “Jeremy. Let your father rest. Please don't get so close to him. We can't fall ill, too.”
It was an awful way to wait for death. If it killed a strong person such as my father, then what chance had I?
A clean snowfall smothered the streets the morning before Christmas. It was on that day, when my father passed from my life, that my mother began to cry. His death not only broke her heart, but stole her will to carry on. She stopped talking, eating, and sleeping. Then, as if the world was not cruel enough, she too began to cough. I often saw blood on her handkerchief. I could not bear the thought of her choking to death as my father had.
As we mourned him, my mother's cough got worse. I was frightened. By retreating to my bed, and trying to sleep away the fear, I prayed I would awaken from the nightmare.
I don't know if grief or her sickness caused my mother to ignore me, but it was at a time I needed her the most. Her color faded with each passing day, the sadness heavy in her hollow eyes. When she looked at me, it was as though I were not there. I shuddered, knowing her sunken eyes would haunt me.
Later that week, as I lay in bed, my mother came to me and kissed me softly on my forehead. Her first affection since my father's death. I drifted into my best sleep in weeks. Just before dawn, a strange silence woke me.
Something was wrong. I could not place my mind upon it, and it itched at me. When my mother kissed me, a tear fell upon my cheek. I could still feel the spot where the salt tightened my skin. I arose and looked about the two rooms of our flat; she was not there. I put on my wool coat, shoes, knitted hat and went out to look for her.
The moon shone hazily through the snowfall, creating a large and saintly halo. The creeping morning tinted the horizon odd shades of red. By the front steps of our building I could see a set of fresh footprints, so very lonely, barely filled with new snow. My foot fit perfectly in the holes—my mother and I shared the same size shoes.
My stomach felt queasy as I followed the tracks down Tooley Street—there was not a soul in sight. I had never, in my two months in the city, seen London Bridge so empty. Nothing stirred in any direction. It was as if the world had quietly come to an end and I, Jeremy Bleamy, was the only person left.
I followed the prints down to the center of the bridge. They led in a small circle, then turned to the bridge's east side. Atop the bridge, the fall to the deadly waters below was only blocked by brick columns spaced about four paces apart. They might stop a wagon from going over, but not my mother. My heart beat hard in my throat, as I stood frozen in the quiet.
On shaky legs, I forced my way to the edge where the footprints ended. The snow was packed as if she had paced about for a time. I searched frantically for signs that she had walked away. Seeing none, I peered over the edge into the icy, swift waters of the River Thames. My mind screamed, “No!” My father gone, and now my mother. What chance did I have in this cold city? I stood unsteadily, and saw only one direction for myself—to follow my mother.
It would take little effort; falling would be easy. The cold water would do the rest.
I crumpled down in the snow and stared down into the black river. Its gentle sound belied that it had just swallowed my her.
The snowflakes shimmered in the rising sun as they fell, only to have the water also take their lives. The thick snow muffled all sound, save the soft gurgle of the river as it flowed against the legs of the bridge. Inside my head, my breathing was heavy, as was my pounding heart. Tears came slowly, then became a flood.
The snow steadily covered me and somehow felt warm—a blanket protecting me from the horrors I had seen.
A sign of life interrupted my thoughts—a barking dog—far off and familiar. My mind floated to the past, in Kilmarnock and of Gulliver, back on the farm, and the first hint of a smile parted my lips in weeks.