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these new fears that carry me through

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i.

Meeting Mary Whitney reminds Grace of what it was like to step onto dry land after months of being at sea—except this time, the newness of it fades until it’s a lot like feeling the warmth of the sun on her face after waking up cold from a terrible, lingering dream.

The cold dream of leaving home, the death of her mother, and the drunken—and sober—degeneracy of her father seems very far, far away as Mary gives her the tour of the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ii.

When she throws the peeled apple skin over her shoulder, Mary tells her the peel spells out a J. Grace still can’t quite see it; she supposes the shape suggests a J from a certain angle, but who is she to say which side is up and which is down? And if she tilts her head just right, as Mary’s mind races to locate a man whose name begins with the letter she saw in the peeled skin, it isn’t a J at all: it is an M.

And the first person Grace thinks of is Mary. Mary Whitney.

There’s a pain in her chest that resembles the sound of frail bones creaking as Mary’s face lights up as she proclaims that Grace will marry a peddler named Jeremiah. She does not know him, or care to know him—but she indulges Mary’s wide smile and bright eyes all the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iii.

That first night, when Mary tells Grace she’s done a stupid thing, Grace holds her until the older girl falls asleep. Sadness is welling deep within the cavern of her heart, for there is little she can do for Mary except to do all that she can for her—and the heart God gave her cries out, because it does not feel like enough.