Chapter I

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CHAPTER I


Packing before leaving. My father saying goodbye. The train ride all the way to the north-most edge of the continent. I don't remember any of it.

The only thing that remains in my mind is the sound of a heavy rain. The memory is forever stuck there, at the edge of my consciousness, like dried paint on a palette.

It rained so much on the way to Jaycetown that for a while, I thought the sky was crying for me.

When I was young I wanted to travel across the world like my uncle, but I found no joy in the days I lost between crowded cabins and train stations. By the time I got into the second train, I thought I had no tears left in me - and I hoped that the sadness would go away - but I was wrong.

I cried all the way to the last train station, and to Jaycetown, and to the Mayor's home.

When the old man and his assistant led me to their carriage, I stopped crying. My tears disappeared like rainclouds blown away by winds of shame. All that I carried about me was a silent gloom. I was sad in the same way abandoned toys must feel sad. There was no way to fix my pain, and I had no courage to express my grief to the strangers around me.

So instead, I kept my mouth closed. Deep down, I was afraid that if I opened it even just to breathe, the sadness stirring inside of me would spill out and drown the world.

Or, at least, drown me.

"Miss Spencer, could I get your signature one last time? If you'd be so kind," the Mayor's assistant, a tall man with thinning silver hair, said as he held yet another document to my face.

But I wasn't looking at him. I was looking at something unreal.

I stepped out of the carriage and into the rain, not caring that my shoes would grow damp from the mud and wet stones. Before me was something I'd never seen before.

It was a mansion; big, tall, with glass windows, stone steps, and many stories.

This is... his mansion? I thought to myself. The idea of such a thing was ridiculous, like a single pebble stopping the flow of a river. My uncle, the man who slept under bridges and atop trees, owned not only a home- but a mansion. It was bigger than any house I'd ever seen. Even the Mayor of Jaycetown had a house with only two stories. My uncle's had three, and there seemed to be an attic atop it all. Not only that, but beyond the fence and the overgrown yard, I could see a fountain covered in ivy and a path leading to a garden.

My uncle, the man without a home, had not only owned a mansion... but he'd left it to me. Of all people in the world, he'd left it to me.

I felt that I was looking at a rainbow, but the rain was still pouring.

Even then, as I walked towards the steps of the mansion, the Mayor's assistant followed, holding the papers in one hand and an umbrella in the other. I don't know if he was more concerned with keeping me or the documents dry.

"Miss Spencer... if you could sign one last time, please?" the Mayor's assistant asked, as he followed behind me.

I didn't pay much attention to him, to the documents, or to the voice that came next.

"No need to pressure the girl, Charles," the Mayor said, following a few feet behind under the shelter of his own umbrella. Mayor Silvester was a short man with a gray beard and a fancy top-hat to cover his balding head. "She has only traveled all the way from... heaven knows where. Down south, right miss?"

I nodded, although my eyes were set on the countless windows and the stonework pillars on the sides of the steps. It was all too wonderful- and that was why it felt so wrong. Every crawling second that passed by was one where I felt conflicted.

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