"In the summer of 1918, in Chicago, rumors of an epidemic are causing panic. Everything I hold dear with fall away... my family, friends... even my own life. Only Edward and Carlisle remember my struggles... why? My name is Eleanor Elizabeth Masen, and this is the tragedy that befell me."
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*~ Daylight Moon ~*
I always felt as though I had never made a lasting impression with my life. That I had never done anything of worth... anything that would be remembered after me. That I would simply vanish from the minds of the people that I cared about.
Sure, I had played baseball with my brother and his friends every Friday after school. Yes, I had made my mother smile with every report card I brought home. Of course, I would never have thought of marriage until well after school, and I never wore any skirts above the knees. And I'd even helped old lady Mary Palmer down the street with her laundry on Wednesdays.
I did all these things with my life, but nothing more. This, I regret more than anything. But it's too late for that now... because my life has ended.
Chapter 1: Summer
Chicago was on the decline during the time of my youth. My parents had moved there long before I was born, to escape disapproving families. However, the corrupt politicians and the city gangs did not affect my humble life, largely due to the fact that my parents sheltered me from that harsh world. My only troubles were things like how many blankets I could sew that week to send to the war effort, and what I would say to Danny Williams to get his attention before the weekend.
I never understood why my father would introduce me to his friends before my brother, even though he was older. "This is my wife, Elizabeth," he would say, "and this is our daughter, Eleanor Elizabeth." Then he would say Edward's name, and Edward would scowl when the person chuckled. You see, my brother was named for my father, and Father had the habit of calling him "small Edward." Since it was uncustomary for the girl to be named for the mother, "Elizabeth" became my middle name.
Though my brother and I were born on the same day in the same month, we vary by several years. In 1904, when my brother turned three years of age, I was born. We were nothing but playmates until I became aware of myself at nine, then we were best friends.
I remember that summer clearly – I had turned fourteen during the school year, and that was a very "grown up" age, as my few friends told me. It was also the same summer that my brother grew inexplicably close to a certain infatuation of mine: Danny Williams. Before, the two had never favored each other, even though they were in many of the same classes in school. But all of a sudden, whatever it was that had happened between them, they were as thick as thieves. I blushed a lot around Danny Williams, even though we had gone to the same school our whole lives, and I was always nervous when he spoke to me. Which wasn't often. Even though he was the same age as my brother, I couldn't help but swoon at his handsome face and expensive clothes.
I guess I had missed the call to play that day, as well as the call to bat. Because it just happened to be that specific day that Jerry Thomson from next-door decided to hit the ball way out to left field, where I stood in my regular position. It was at least the fiftieth game we were playing that summer, but it was the first that Danny had come to. He was at second, waiting for the batter to make a run, and waiting for me to catch the fly.
But I wasn't watching the fly. I was watching Danny Williams watching me.
The sun was high up in the cloudless sky, shinning relentlessly on our already-sunburnt skin. There was quite a crowd at the old field that day: my brother at the pitcher's mound, Richy Dodge at first, Danny Williams at second, Timmy Butler at third, and Jimmy Wheeler in right field. Johnny Dodge (Richy's older brother), George Cooper, Tom Judge, and Willy and Billy Johnson were waiting to bat while Jerry Thomson whacked that ball. The burning sun scorched across my freckled face as I squinted through the brightness at Danny Williams. My glove hung uselessly at my side as the ball arced high against the blue sky.
"Left! It's going left!" called Richy Dodge.
"Ella! Ella, that's you!" Timmy Butler cried.
"Hey! Hey, it's coming!" yelled Jimmy Wheeler.
"Catch it, Eleanor!" my brother shouted.
Before all the yelling even registered in my mind, the ball struck the ground ten feet away, and bounced twice in the grass softly.
Jerry, quite overweight for being just thirteen, hobbled across the field to first base. It was that moment that I came back to myself, only because Danny had turned his attention to Jerry's slow, steady advance.
Timmy, at third, who had always had too high of a voice, screamed, "Ellie, GET THE BALL!"
Coming out of my daze, I stumbled into a run for the ball, and scooped it up with my gloveless hand, wishing I could throw it to Danny Williams. But, when I straightened up to throw, I found that Jerry had already rounded second, and was bouncing off to third. All the boys in the in-field were shouting and yelling him on.
"To third, Ella! To third!" Richy Dodge hollered from first, waving his glove in the right direction.
Crestfallen, I threw the ball to third with all my might. Timmy jumped two feet off the ground to catch it, and promptly threw it home. Edward was there, and he tagged the base before Jerry was even halfway there.
If it had been anyone else but Jerry, my team would've been down one run for sure.
"Don't feel bad, Ella. It's just a game, and it wasn't even your fault that we lost."
I crossed my arms angrily, and turned my head away from my brother's words of reason. I was perched on the termite-riddled bench in the long-abandoned dugout, fuming over my team's loss.
"Yes it was, and you know it," I snapped aggressively. "I've never struck out three times in a row before." Had it only been because Danny Williams was waiting at third to make his run when I hit the ball?
Incidentally, Edward glanced over at Danny – who was waiting by a row of bikes with some other boys – before fixing a stern, father-like look upon me. "Ella, come home with me. You're just tired from the heat."
I sighed and stood from my seat, wiping the sweat from my brow. Edward took my hand, and I followed him out of the dugout and across the field to the bike-rack. The field was right off an old neighborhood road, with houses here and there. Whatever baseball games had been held there had obviously taken place in the last century, and yet, it was our dearest hang-out.
Danny Williams was laughing at a joke Tom Judge had told when Edward and I reached them. My brother squeezed my hand before letting it go. Billy and Willy Johnson were still there, along with Danny and Tom. Everyone else had already left.
"Sorry we called you a girl, Eleanor," said 16-year-old Billy.
"Yeah, sorry," added his 14-year-old brother, Willy, looking down.
I shrugged, glancing out from under my baseball cap for only half a second, and said nothing. I had always known Billy and Willy to be poor-sports, but they were never gloaters for very long. Our families had dinner together sometimes, as they lived just one street over.
"I should get home," Danny was saying to my brother. "I said that I'd be home by six to take care of David." He lived across town in a neighborhood much nicer than our own.
"Sure, Danny. I should get Eleanor home anyway."
At my name, Danny glanced down at me. I looked at my feet, curling my toes in shyness.
But his eyes weren't on me for very long. "All right, then. Seeya, Edward."
I watched his brand-new red bike peddle away until it disappeared around a corner. "What's wrong with David?" I asked. David was Danny's younger brother, in the third grade.
Edward shrugged. "I think he's sick."
Billy and Willy said goodbye and left with Tom, who was their next-door neighbor. By the sun, it was just about an hour before dinner. I stood watching Billy, Willy, and Tom walk away down the street as Edward pulled his bike out onto the road.
"Come on, Ella," he said impatiently.
Silently, I hiked up the steep shoulder of the road, and stood beside my brother's bike. He lifted me up by the arms, and set me in the basket mounted on the front side of the handlebars. Even though I wore knickers under my skirt, I pulled the material down over my knees to be ladylike.
Edward pushed off the curb, and peddled slowly down the road. The warm breeze felt cool on my sweaty face and neck, so I took of my hat, and shook my damp hair loose.
We were only two miles from home, so we'd defiantly be well early for dinner.
"Ella?" said Edward, once we were out of the old neighborhood on Vancouver Road.
"What, Edward?" I mumbled, scraping at a grass stain on my knee.
"What's wrong? I mean… you just haven't been yourself lately." He waited for a car to pass before crossing the street to 5th and Pine.
I shrugged wordlessly.
"Really, Ella," he pressed. "Don't lie."
I shrugged again, but this time, I said, "Maybe it's just because school's starting soon."
He shook his head at my poor excuse. "School doesn't start for a whole month. Try something else." He could always tell when I lied.
Then I spotted Jerry Thomson, wobbling along across the street on the sidewalk, waving to us enthusiastically. I waved back, since Edward was driving. It was amazing how slowly that kid walked – he had left before everyone else had and he lived just next-door to us.
"I don't wanna talk about it, Edward," I sighed, staring off at the faded add-sign of the supermarket we were passing.
"It's that Danny Williams kid, isn't it?" Edward guessed, right on the mark as usual.
I scowled. "He's not a kid. He's seventeen, Edward – your age."
"Sure he is, Ella. And you're fourteen."
"So?" I snapped, irritated. Was I so transparent to everybody, or just my brother?
"Don't be upset just because you're so obvious about it… it's just…" He sighed. "You know, Billy's brother really likes you. Willy's his name."
"Willy Johnson?" I gasped, giggling. "That's not funny, Edward." I tried not to shake the bike too much with my laughter.
Edward smiled lightly as he crossed the street to our block, N. Huckleberry Drive. "Don't be too facetious – you'll break his heart."
I stopped laughing almost immediately. "What does 'fash-shtious' mean?" I slurred.
It was his turn to laugh. "It's facetious. Ms. Brooks said it meant 'silly.' Or 'flippant.'"
"Oh," I said, pausing. "What does 'flippant' mean?"
"Edwaaaard! Eleannoooor! Yooooo-hooooo!" The shout came from the house we were passing.
"Mrs. Brigs," we both said, exchanging looks. We would recognize the scruff, droning voice anywhere.
Edward slowed the bike and pulled off the road onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Brigs stood behind her whitewashed picket fence, on her green lawn, in front of her yellow house, waving her hands over her head. Her dark blue apron was just about as faded as her haywire, white hair. Her skin was dark and wrinkled, and hung from the bones of her face and her elbows.
Edward leaned the bike against Mrs. Brigs' fence, and lifted me out of the basket. He set me down on the sidewalk, and gave me the don't-be-rude look. "Hello, Mrs. Brigs. How are –?"
"You tell that mama of yours to come over for lunch one o' these days, son," she rasped, leaning over the fence to pat Edward's shoulder. I found that odd, as she usually patted our heads. However, I guessed that she didn't remember where his head was, as he had grown at least a foot so far that summer. My mother often said that Mrs. Brigs was almost blind. "We'll have some lemonade together like we used to. Oh, I remember those days were you's was just a wee boy, crawling 'cross the ol' lawn here. Yes, we used to –" I tried not to listen anymore.
It was about ten minutes later that Mrs. Brigs gave Edward a plate of cookies and a pitcher of tea, and told him to say "Hello, how-de-do" to our mother.
I pulled Edward's bike along, because I couldn't ride in a skirt, as Edward walked with the food. Nearly every summer day was very much like this, so neither of us bothered to complain again about walking the rest of the way home.
Jerry Thomson waved to us again when he finally made it home, at the very same time that we did. House number 700, the Masen residence. I leaned Edward's bike up against the house, right next to the driveway. My father's black Ford wasn't there.
"Dad must be working again tonight," I noted to Edward as we trudged up the steps of the small porch.
"Don't remind Mother that it's the fifth day in a row, all right?" he said, handing me the cookies so he could open the door.
Timmy Butler, who lived in the brown house across the street, had a father who got home a four every day. But I wasn't a jealous person. "Yeah, right." I walked through the door Edward held open.
The clock in the hall said it was a quarter 'til six. We usually had dinner at six, but we'd probably wait for my father to get home before eating. The night before, we hadn't eaten until seven-thirty.
"Mother? We're home!" I called, walking past the living room to the kitchen. I expected to see my mother there, working over a boiling pot or kneading some fresh bread… but she wasn't there. I set the cookies on the table while Edward set the tea on the counter space by the stove.
"Is she here?" Edward wondered, stepping back into the living room.
"Maybe she's at old lady Palmer's… or the Thomson's," I suggested.
I slumped down onto the couch as Edward checked the two bedrooms down the hallway. Besides the small basement storm shelter, that was the extent of our home. A kitchen – big enough to fit a dinner table – a living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom at the end of the hall. I slept on the trundle mattress under Edward's bed.
"Mother? Wake up, Mother, the sun's still out." I heard Edward's voice from our parent's room.
I made my way down the hallway, and peeked into the door on the right. My mother was lying on top of the quilt of her bed, fully dressed. Concerned, I stepped inside and watched as she slowly sat up.
"Oh, Edward… you're home. Is Eleanor –?"
"I'm here, Mother." I stepped into her line of vision, and got a good look at her face. It was pale and flushed all at the same time, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She looked how my father always did when he came home very late from work. "…Mother?"
Edward put a hand on her back as she stood up slowly, but she stumbled anyway. My brother caught her elbow and steadied her. "What's wrong, Mother?" he asked, anxious.
"Nothing, of course, dear. I just… I just needed to lie down before dinner." She smiled, but it looked like a grimace.
We followed my mother down the hallway as she slowly made her way to the kitchen. It was obvious that something was wrong, but Edward and I knew not to press it.
"Mrs. Brigs gave us some cookies and tea. She says 'hello.'"
"Oh," my mother said, pleased, but her voice was faint. "She's always so sweet. We should invite her to dinner soon." She smiled weakly.
Edward and I exchanged worried looks as we entered the kitchen behind my mother. Immediately, she sat down at the table and held her chin in the palm of her hand, with her elbow on the edge of the table. My eyes widened. My mother never put her elbow on the table, even when there wasn't any food on it.
"Mother," I began, sitting in the seat next to her, "won't you let us make dinner tonight? You look really tired and I don't know when…" I trailed off, remembering Edward's warning.
"No, Eleanor, I'll make dinner. Your father will be home soon, I'm sure." But her eyebrows pulled together in doubt.
I frowned, but I knew not to argue. I never argued with my mother. Especially when she wasn't feeling well.