Halves Of A Whole
by Marian Allen
Rosamund and Violet smothered their giggles as their governess’ head drooped and her snores began. Papa was right to suspect Barrington, the butler, of appropriating brandy, but the girls knew more: Barrington shared his takings with Miss Edgings, who kept her share in medicine bottles and added it to her tea.
“Let’s go!” Violet stopped writing in mid-sentence, but Rosamund made their special be a statue sound, and Violet froze in place.
“Finish the assignment,” said Rosamund. She was a year older than her sister, and carried her responsibility with all the gravity an eleven-year-old could muster, which was a great deal of gravity, indeed.
“She might wake up!”
“She always sleeps for fifteen minutes after luncheon, and I slipped some extra ‘medicine’ into her cup today, while she was helping you with your sums.”
Violet never really doubted that Rosamund had done it, but her sister’s enterprise and fearlessness never ceased to astound her. She dipped her pen into the ink again, and finished copying the text she had been set, managing only slightly more than her usual number of blots.
When Violet had finished, Rosamund breathed, “Cork the ink bottle, wipe your pen, and straighten your paper. If she wakes while we’re gone, we want it to look orderly. If it looks as if we bolted, she’ll raise the alarm.”
It was a shame, Violet thought, that women weren’t allowed in the army. Rosamund would make short work of any enemies of the British Empire.
Hand in hand, with Rosamund leading the way and Violet checking for pursuit, the girls crept along the hall from their top-floor schoolroom to the workroom of Standish, Mama’s lady’s maid. There, they found the object of their foray: Discarded trimmings, purchased by Mama and then discarded on further consideration. Standish kept these discards in a cabinet, her Scottish thrift forbidding her to do anything else.
The girls could have requested the materials they wanted and would have been given them, for Papa and Mama were indulgent (though not overindulgent) parents, but this was a secret project.
After a delightful inspection and discussion, during which the girls felt the giddy, greedy joy their mother must feel at having her choice of visual sweets one could consume and yet still have, they selected a length of ivory velvet ribbon and a ball of blue embroidery thread.
They carried off their prizes and stowed them under Rosamund’s summer hat in their shared closet. They were back at their desks before Miss Edgings, with a snort worthy of a carthorse, awoke.
More than a century later, in attics an ocean apart, two women who didn’t even suspect one another’s existence went through piles of old clothes. One found a length of ivory ribbon embroidered, in the childish precision of upper-class girls in the Victorian era, the word Forever. The other found, done in a slightly more childish manner, the word Friends. Each thought her ribbon looked as if it were only part of a longer sentiment. Each wondered what the whole had been, and why it had been cut.
Rosamund and Violet had been true to their project. They had never quarreled. Their lives had separated them by distance, but their project had always been two halves of a whole. It always would be.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about friendship that knows no law.