Papa was beside himself with worry. When the boys asked where Willie was, he told them that she would be along shortly. They were far too young to understand that he was half out of his mind with fear. He was pacing back and forth like a caged animal, interrupted only by pleas from the boys for attention.
Later, he and the boys walked down to the shipyard. Papa had never missed a day of work until today. His boss was a kind, understanding man. He knew there had to be a good reason for Papa to be late, so he told him to take as much time off as he needed. As they continued to talk, Papa asked the boys to move a crate twice their size. It gave him a welcomed moment of distraction, and a chuckle as he watched them struggle while saying, “we can do it, Papa. Don’t worry. We can do it.”
He knew he needed to talk to Enez. Along the short walk to the cemetery, he picked a dandelion and watched as the boys laughed and chased each other, as if they had not a care in the world.
Hoping to find Willie resting next to her mother, his hopes were soon dashed. For an instant, he wished he was once again a child. A child who didn’t have the understanding of anything other than which rocks made the biggest splash in the pond, or which tree limb could bear the weight of a swing.
He always found consolation and what he believed to be guidance when he talked to Enez, but today as he knelt beside her grave, he could find no words. He placed the dandelion against her headstone and said, “I’ll talk to you later, sweetheart.”
Papa was hoping that Willie would be there when they got home, but he would be disappointed.
One of the boys said, “papa, has it been shortly yet?” Trying to pretend nothing was wrong, Papa asked what he meant. The little boy said, “you said Willie would be here shortly. Has it been shortly yet?”
“No, child. Not yet,” said Papa. “Run along now.” He was in a daze as he sat down in the rocking chair, and felt as if his heart was about to burst.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. When Papa answered, he felt light-headed when he saw Constable Green standing before him. “Mr. Prescott?”
“Yes,” Papa answered. Constable Green took off his hat and said, “would you come with me, sir?” Papa said, “I can’t leave my boys. My daughter isn’t home yet, and she looks after them.”
“Perhaps a neighbor could look after them for you.” Green said.
Refusing to acknowledge the possibility of unbearable news, he said, “If you could just wait a bit longer, my daughter will be home and…”
Constable Green interrupted him and said, “your daughter will not be coming home, Mr. Prescott, and I will tell you what I know. I’m very sorry, but your daughter was found laying on the floor at the Middleton Factory, in a pool of blood. It looks as if she tried to hang herself, but the ribbon she used gave way, and when she fell, she struck her head on the corner of a sewing table. The ribbon was tied around her neck and a broken pipe was a few feet away.”
Papa knew that Albert Middleton had died many, many years ago, and he was beginning to believe the stories he had heard since he himself was a child. It was believed, but whispered, that Albert still walked the floors of Middleton Factory, feeling that he had yet not accomplished enough in his short life.
One Monday afternoon, Albert Middleton suffered a fatal injury at the factory, when he slipped on a pair of scissors and struck his head on the corner of a sewing table.
It was also whispered that the other nighttime girls saw him, were terrified, and never returned. Willie was not frightened, but she came to understand where he wanted her to go when he asked her to come to his world. She also understood that the only way she and Albert could be together, was in death.
Two weeks later, Flossie Malone, the new nighttime girl arrived at the factory. Mr. Digby once again, explained that the overnight hours might prove to be too demanding. “Just recently, four other girls have tried and failed,” he said.
Flossie assured him that she wouldn’t fail, and was given a consideration.
Her first shift was on Monday. Mr. Digby met her, showed her where the cleaning supplies were kept, then left and locked the door.
Several hours went by, and as she was dusting the sewing machines, she was startled when she looked up and saw a smartly dressed man walking through the middle of the room. He was devilishly handsome, she thought.
His crisp black linen suit, complimented by a bright red bow tie, had not a wrinkle in it other than the perfectly sharp creases in the center of each pant leg.
His face was flawless and his full lips were accented by a pencil thin mustache. His jet black hair was parted down the middle and his piercing blue eyes were mesmerizing.
On his arm was a beautiful, petite, small-waisted young girl with thick black hair, tied with a bright red ribbon. Her eyes were the color of rich, dark chocolate and her porcelain skin and delicate features almost gave her a doll-like appearance. She carried a single dandelion in her hand.
Seemingly oblivious to her, Flossie watched the couple walk all the way down the long dark hallway, and disappear.
As the sun rose, thinking she had finished her chores, Flossie was troubled when she noticed two large dark stains on the floor. “Goodness,” she thought to herself. “I wonder what caused these, and how did I miss them?”