Jessica took the tray upstairs, pushed open the bedroom door, and set the tray on top of the trunk. Ursula sat on the edge of her bed, towel drying her hair. Jessica saw that her eyes were red and swollen, but the anger had died out.
“Your hair smells of lavender,” Jessica said with a smile. “It always reminds me of summer. It’s been two years since we’ve made any lavender oil or soap. I’m going to make some next summer, come what may.”
Ursula smiled at her sister. “The world is falling apart, and you’re worried about lavender soap.”
“We might as well smell nice while everything else is so awful. We need some beauty in our lives.”
“You’re right. In some odd way, that makes perfect sense.”
“The same reason you wear your earrings all the time – even to bed.”
“They help, somehow.” Ursula’s hand went up to her earrings. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, pulling her hair back to see the tiny glints coming off the faceted stones. “They’re a reminder – ”
“I know, I know – they’re going with you to college. But still, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, in the meantime.”
Ursula laughed. “There’s not much point in that.”
Jessica went into the adjoining room that she had fixed up as her own private bower, with yellow calico curtains and dried flowers. She claimed that Ursula’s reading light kept her awake, but Ursula knew that she just liked the idea of having her own room.
Jessica washed up and soon returned to Ursula’s room, wearing her nightgown with the embroidered yoke.
“Ursula,” she said gently, “you’re not the only one who loved Francis. We all loved him. And miss him. But you can’t change what happened.”
Ursula turned away and began brushing out her hair.
“I hate the Germans, too, Ursula. And I’m so afraid that one of the others will get hurt. But think of Mom. She lost Dad years ago – and now Francis. I don’t think she could bear to lose the farm. It’s her only connection to them all. It’s what keeps her going – believing that the farm will be waiting for them when they return. We have to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”
Ursula studied her little sister. “When did you become so wise?”
Jessica smiled at the rare compliment. “I think when Francis died. We all changed. I’ll never forget Mom’s face when the car brought the telegram. The way she stood on the porch, eyes fixed on that car. She knew. She knew. And she just stood there, waiting, tall and straight. But I saw her. She was shaking. Wondering which one it was. Mom loves us all, but Francis had a special place in her heart. In all our hearts.”
Ursula took the towel and returned to the bathroom, not wanting to cry in front of her sister. The pain was still too raw. She couldn’t bear to talk about Francis. She loved all her siblings, terribly – but Francis – well, he was the best human being that God had ever created.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish