Bleamy's Corner Chapter 1 WC-891
Happiness is hard to hold on to.
Baldrich Bleamy, my father, lay bedridden with typhus. The weather was horribly cold this November, 1802, a week before my eleventh birthday. Only a month had passed since our family journeyed from our failed farm in Kilmarnock, Scotland, to London, the “City of Hope.”
I have never heard of such a sickness, but mother says it was common and came from bad air, of which the crowded city was filled. It began with heavy coughing. Then came the fevers.
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 not have you fall ill, too.”
It was an awful way to wait for death. Slowly, painfully, he left this world the day before Christmas. It crushed everything I believed in to watch my father leave me. If it killed a strong person such as my father, what chance had I?
My mother began to cry most of the time. 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. Three days later I saw blood on her handkerchief. I could not bare the thought of her choking to death as my father had.
By the middle of January my mother's cough had gotten worse. I was frightened. I retreated to my bed, and tried to sleep away the fear, wishing I would awaken from the nightmare.
I do not know if grief or her sickness caused mother to ignore me, but it was at the time I needed her 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 was not there. I shuddered, knowing her sunken eyes would always haunt me.
A week later, 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. But 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 had fallen 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. Why would she leave in the middle of the night? I put on my wool coat, shoes, knitted hat and hurried 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.