The Plague - Part One
By: Kristina Garant

San Francisco 1909

Thunder crashes! The rain falls heavily against the roof. The sounds are loud above Charlotte's head. She is hiding in the attic and has grown accustomed to the sounds of the storm, as it has been hours since it began. She sits in a rocking chair and slowly rocks back and forth as she writes in her journal. Charlotte is a beautiful woman. She is always dressed to the nines and her hair and makeup are usually polished, however, today her makeup was smudged from crying. Her long brown hair is curled and falls in front of her face. Tears fall down her cheek as she lets out a sigh and reads over her entry.

Every day grows harder and harder. I mourn the deaths of Bethany, William, Thomas and Elizabeth. The loss doesn't get easier. If anything as time passes it's harder. When Mary and Charles announced they were having a baby it was such a joyous moment. Wilson and I thought ‘this is the answer to our prayers'. Our family can begin to grow again, and we can move on. But Mary's pregnancy has been rough. I don't know what to do. I love my baby girl so much, and I cannot stomach the thought of losing her. Mary and my sweet baby Elijah are the only two who survived the plague. I am terrified of losing them. I can't lose either of them. I will stop at nothing to save them. NOTHING!

As Charlotte finished reading her journal entry, she begins to cry harder. After a few moments she takes a deep breath and tries to compose herself. She stands up, straightens out her dress and runs her fingers through her long brown hair. She hides her journal in a nearby box marked miscellaneous items and walks towards the door to exit the attic.

***

Mary is tossing and turning in her bed. She just cannot seem to find a position that is comfortable; her huge pregnant stomach gets in the way every time she moves. Her long brown hair is in a ponytail and she is wearing a pink cotton night gown, however, she is still sweating profusely. Her complexion is pale; her frame is slim besides the pregnant belly. Charlotte enters Mary's room frantically. Mary lets out a sigh and rolls her eyes at her mother.

"Mary, this cannot be happening" Charlotte blurts out as she walks towards her daughters' bed. "I can't lose you". She is in a panic and clumsily bumping into every object that she passes on the way to the bed.

"I don't want to do this right now mother", she rolls away from her mom and closes her eyes. "I am so tired". Mary grabs a towel off of her bedside table and wipes sweat away from her face.

"I thought we were in the clear. It has been two years since the plague ended". Mary doesn't respond to her mother. Charlotte starts to rub her daughters back. "Mary?"

"Things happen", she rolls over and grabs her mom's hand. "This is out of our control"

"I only have you and Elijah left".

"I won't allow you to do anything that could harm my baby" Mary says sternly as she glares at her mother.

"When I found out you were pregnant, I was so happy. I was positive that things were going to get better".

"Mother promise me you won't do anything", her glares intensify.

"Mary, the doctor just left and told you if you continue this pregnancy you could die".

"No mother. He said the baby may have to be delivered soon if my conditions don't improve".

"Mary you have been bleeding heavily and he said the risk is higher if you wait too long".

"Mother this is my baby. I will not let anything happen to Amelia. Promise you won't do anything?"

"Mary you have to stop calling the baby Amelia. You don't know if it's a girl".

"I do!" She stares at her mom for a moment. "I want to be alone. This is my choice to make, not yours!"

Charlotte leaves the room distraught. Mary smiles and looks down at her stomach, she begins to rub her belly.

"Don't worry Amelia I won't let anything happen to you, only one more month until you are here." Mary continues to rub her belly and she happily hums to Amelia.

***

Furlong Apothecary is dimly lit. The lighting is giving off a bit of a creepy ambiance. The Apothecary has been in the Furlong family for over 100 years. Camilla was standing behind a long counter organizing bottles of herbs. She is a pretty woman with long blonde hair that is placed neatly in an up do. Her black dress hugs her body tightly in all the right places. The door opens and Camilla smiles as she turns around. When she sees Charlotte entering her smile quickly fades.

"What do you want Charlotte?" she asks irritated. She is angry by Charlotte's presence at her store. Camilla wants nothing to do with Charlotte or her family. She often goes out of her way to avoid the Edwards family.

"I need a favor" Charlotte looks at Camilla as worry fills her beautiful face.

"Why should I do a favor for you?"

"It's not for me. It's for Mary".

"I don't see Mary here". She clearly looks around the store making it obvious that Charlotte is the one in need of the favor.

"Please Camilla!" In a begging fashion as she approaches the counter. "She is very ill. Her pregnancy isn't going well".

Camilla turns her back to Charlotte and examines items on the counter.

"I have already lost four children to the plague. I am begging you for your help. I cannot lose Mary".

The door opens Camilla turns to see who is entering the store. When she realizes it is her daughter she smiles and turns back around. Victoria is a beautiful girl she has long blond hair just like her mother and the most beautiful blue eyes. She dresses in the loveliest clothing she can afford. Victoria is 18 years old and works at the store with her mother, she has been helping her mother for as long as she can remember. Victoria heads over to the bookshelf and begins leafing through a book. She stands in a position that allows her to hear what Camilla and Charlotte are talking about.

"Camilla, please!" Camilla turns to face Charlotte. The two women stare at each other in silence for a moment.

"What's wrong with her?" she asks not showing any emotion.

"Her pregnancy is not going well. Please I need a protection spell" Charlotte pleads.

"There is no spell that can protect both Mary and her baby".

"Please save Mary". Charlotte is rubbing her eyes fighting to hold back tears. Victoria walks over to Charlotte and Camilla.

"I know Mary will be upset by this. She will do anything for her baby", Victoria states as she walks towards her mom and Charlotte. As she approaches Charlotte, she grabs her arm. "Charlotte please don't do anything. Mary will never forgive you"

"If she goes into labor, she could lose the baby anyways". Charlotte's eyes fill up with tears and a few fall down her cheek.

"Let me see what I can find". Camilla walks over to a spell book and begins gazing through it. Once she has found the page, she was looking for she grabs a piece of paper and starts writing out the spell. She then slowly walks towards a shelf. She examines the bottles and carefully selects three of them. She then reaches under the counter where she locates a fourth bottle. She takes a bag and places all of the items inside and hands the bag carefully to Charlotte. Charlotte smiles and her body relaxes, the tension vanishes as if she just lost 50 pounds.

"Thank you, Camilla. What do I owe you?"

"Just go".

"Please don't do this Charlotte". Victoria said assertively.

"I have no choice".

Charlotte rushes out of the store before anyone could say another word to her. Victoria walks towards her mother. Camilla does not want Victoria to see the page, so she quickly closes the book. This raises a lot of concern for Victoria. She rushes to grab the book and starts flipping through the pages in a panic.

"Mother what have you done?"

Camilla looks at her daughter smiles and then walks away. Victoria continues to frantically leaf through the book trying to determine which spell her mother gave to Charlotte. She knew from her mother's evil smile that Charlotte was in for more than she bargained for.

***

Mary is standing in the kitchen making a tea. She is very weak and holds the counter for support. Charlotte walks into the kitchen. She sees Mary and frantically puts her bag down out of Mary's sight.

"Mary what are you doing out of bed?" Charlotte rushes over to help.

"I wanted a tea, and no one was around". Mary looks at her mother curiously. "Where were you?"

"Go to bed I will bring you tea." Charlotte replies ignoring the question she was asked. She knew she had to do whatever it took to avoid Mary asking again. She would not like the answer. Charlotte did not want Mary to know what she had planned.

"It's fine. Where were you?" Mary asks more persistently.

"You and Charles moved in here so you would have someone to take care of you. Please go to bed I will bring you your tea."

"I am going" She grabs her tea and starts to walk away. After a few steps she pauses turns around to look at her mother and once again asks. "Where were you?"

"I just needed some fresh air"

"Mother, this is my choice. I do not consent to what you are planning".

"I am not planning anything. I just want what is best for you Mary".

Mary begins to shake with anger. She places the tea down on the counter. Her body is trembling as she is weak and now consumed with rage. She grasps the counter to help support her frail body.

"Mary" Charlotte tries to embrace her daughter, but she is pushed away.

"This is not your choice. I am the mother to Amelia, and I will not let you harm her."

"Mary, I just - "

"NO! Charles and I will leave."

"Please Mary, let me help."

"As soon as Charles gets in from work we are leaving. I can't stay here".

"If you go back to your house no one will be around. Charles is at school all day and then works evenings helping your father".

"But Amelia and I will be safe. This is my baby and my choice. Charles supports what I want."

Charlotte looks at her daughter speechless. Charlotte feels that Mary is being very reckless with the pregnancy. Mary is having difficulty standing even gripping the counter her body starts to give out below her. Charlotte is close enough to Mary that she catches her before she hits the floor.

"Let me help you to your room".

"Leave me alone".

Mary pushes her way past Charlotte; she refuses to accept any help from her mother even though she desperately needs it. She slowly makes her way out of the kitchen. Charlotte follows at a distance to make sure that she makes it to her room safely.

***

Mary is sitting on her bed singing a lullaby and rubbing her belly; she is happy and has the biggest smile on her face. Mary grabs a picture of her and Charles off the bedside table. She holds the picture close to her stomach.

"I know you cannot see this Amelia, but this is a picture of me and your father. We are so excited to meet you".

Mary hums a few more bars of the song. She sits quietly for a few moments looking at the picture as she imagines what life will be like for the 3 of them when Amelia arrives. After several moments she reposition herself on the bed, she is so tired and hopes she will be able to take a nap without any more interruptions from her mother.

"I love you more than words can describe Amelia. Everything will work out. I promise I won't let anything happen to you".

***

Charlotte is standing by a table in the attic. She has it set up to look like a witch's altar. There are several news articles about the plague cut out and placed on the table, some candles and a few portraits of her children. She reaches down to the floor where the bag from Camilla sits. She takes out the spell and bottles and starts to organize everything the way Camilla has instructed. Charlotte picks up a portrait of her children and a tear runs down her cheek as she examines it. She smiles as she remembers the day it was taken. It was a beautiful day and the children were all so happy. They were running around the yard giggling and playing. It was a moment she thought of fondly. She wished for more moments like that in her future. She slowly and quietly walks over to a box labelled miscellaneous; she opens it and takes out her journal. She clutches the journal tightly in her hands as she sits in her rocking chair. She sits rocking ensuring the chair is not making any noise. She begins to profusely write in her journal. This would be the last entry before performing the spell.

Mary's condition is getting worse. Dr. Hunter was here this morning. He said that Mary needs to have the baby soon and even if she does, she could pass away. She is bleeding a lot; I have never seen so much blood in my life. He believes that this is caused by a rare condition called Placenta Previa. He explained that sometimes the placenta can get wrapped around the baby making it difficult for the baby to breathe. I of course want both Mary and the baby to survive, but I cannot lose Mary. She is my number one concern right now. Because Mary is bleeding so much, he recommended that she considers delivering the baby early. I have been pleading with her to follow his instructions. She does not want to, that girl is as stubborn as a bull. I am so nervous and scared. I went to Camilla and asked for a protection spell. Never in a million years would I have thought I would resort to witchcraft or asking Camilla for help. Just writing this it feels like I am in a horrible nightmare. Me, Charlotte Edwards doing witchcraft. What is happening? What's happening is I am fighting for my daughter. I know this is the answer to my question, but I am constantly asking myself what I am doing. This is so surreal; it feels like I am asleep having a horrible nightmare. If Wilson knew what I was up to he would not be happy and of course Mary will be furious. I know they both love me and will forgive me in time because I am doing what is best for our family. When I started setting up my witch's altar, I questioned myself. Why am I doing this? What will the family think? What is best for the family? And now I know this is best and now I have the spell. I am moments away from casting this protection spell on my eldest daughter. I often wonder to myself "Have I gone mad? Is this really happening?" after a lot of deliberation I have come to the conclusion this is what the family needs. A mother knows when her children need help. I hope this works. It needs to work. I don't know what I will do without Mary in my life. Our family will forever be changed after today.

"Mary this is for you. I love you so much!" she begins to cry. She prays that this spell will work. She cannot bear the thought of losing anymore of her children. She takes a deep breath and collects herself. She reads over the spell a few times in her head. Once she feels she has a grasp on it she recites the spell out loud. Once she is finished, she sits on the floor and begins to cry. Charlotte holds the family portrait tightly in her hands. "Please work" she sobs.

To Be Continued…

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