August 12, 1921 | Part II

With the urging of Theresa, Claire began to grow accustomed to Fred’s differences and see him more as someone who lived upstairs. She would loiter around the tattered barn watching him shuffle between projects. They eventually began to speak. These talks were nothing like the ones she had with her father, but it was someone to talk to all the same. Fiercely independent, Claire only allotted Fred so much time from her day, the rest being spent roaming the fields or taking a dusty walk to the town store for some penny candy.

The visits begun as the weather turned. The days were still radiantly warm, but night would dismiss the mugginess and usher in chill. Theresa and Claire did not have to share a bed as most children in that time; their father had built them a sprawling house with ample space for each girl’s unique imagination. Theresa’s room was filled of crafts made with her mother, most clearly demonstrating the ability of her 8 years, while Claire’s was sparse yet fitting. Straight up the stairs, she had her mother’s quilt on her double bed, which barely touched the copper metal frame, her walls decorated with a couple of her grandmother’s doilies and a round mirror above a stone-top vanity. Fred began to appear more invested in the family with the change of season. He would spend added time indoors and began to keep up the house projects for Anne. Claire entered her 6th year.

Claire was a project.

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Claire was lost without any notice. If anything was to break her doll-like image, it was her own naivety and innocence…a sardonic twist of fate. Time passed as if each year attempted to erase the last, and Claire progressed into young adulthood; her reserved beauty transformed into exquisiteness. She began to see this as a benefit and advantage above her sister and most everyone else. Fred continued his visits, although sparse and only on nights when Anne denied him. Sending years of letters to her father, he would profess his affection for her but his inability to correct the present situation. Claire’s only comfort was Gerald, cousin and second half. He kept her hermetic secret for years, inactive upon it only due to Claire’s great desire for it to be so.

~~ * ~~

Theresa remained the obedient picturesque daughter Anne always yearned for in Claire. Many evenings were spent on the front-wrapped porch in curiosity of Claire’s whereabouts or behavior, leading Anne to skepticism of her daughter’s word. Most of these late afternoons and evenings were spent at Tom Orr’s house with Gerald, where she felt safest, yet she knew if she told her mother or Fred this, there would be retribution. Since Anne and Claire’s father separated, his side of the family was distant in everything but location. Anne remained faithful to her common-law marriage with Fred, never doubting his quiet nature or tireless work ethic. She felt she could not have passed the last 10 years without him, although her true feelings never rekindled toward anyone after her first marriage.

~~ * ~~

Their crops projected well that year, and the tertiary fallow field was ready to be planted. With their spare money and savings, Anne and Fred determined it was time to invest in Mr. Ford’s newest invention…the automobile. They had already purchased the latest farm equipment and new yolks for the horses, convinced this was the cause for their newfound pecuniary comfort. Arrangements were made for the automobile’s arrival and the family’s social standing slowly began to improve.

To be continued …

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