Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Four

Here we are again, Wil mouthed to her friend. The pale, dark-haired girl in the waiting room window spoke the same words, without sound. Wil shifted on the floor. Crinkling paper noises from her left fist warned her to be careful in her movements; she glanced at them and remembered.

Returning to her friend, she whispered, “I’m adopted.” Her friend frowned and furrowed her brow in confusion.

How is that possible? she replied.

They shrugged.

Wil extracted the birth certificate and read through its official type once more. A few, lingering last-hopes evaporated from her imagination as she found each line filled out with correct name, date, father, location, and features. “I was a small baby,” she said.

They nodded, seriously.

“Of course you were, Minnie Mouse,” Jakob called, from his slouched recline a few feet away. He moved deeper into his chair and adjusted his feet on the table.

Wil and her friend shared a look. What did he know?

“You were a preemie.”

They blinked. Wil turned away from the window wall. “A what?

“Preemie, dummy.” He rubbed his back inside his slouch. “Means you were early. Rob told me.” Closing his eyes, he tilted his head against the chair back. “Said you were lucky to be born and that he didn’t even know.”

She shared a stupefied look with her friend. Thinking over this new information, she asked, “How did he know?”

“‘Bout you?”

Wil nodded. “Yeah.”

Jakob groaned and tried to crouch into a side-lay within the small seat. From a yawn, he answered, “Not sure.”

A few more seconds told Wil her brother -her stepbrother- was unlikely to tell her more. The conversation had already run longer than any of his had in the last five years. She was about to resume the more satisfying exchange at the dark glass before her when Jakob stirred enough to add, “Ask Rob.”

Her friend tilted her head, considering. Not a bad idea, she told Wil.

They were all interrupted by a click, a creak, and a cheery, “Well, here we are!” Nurse Bea entered the waiting room, and then turned to hold the door for Rob. Just behind him came Cynthia.

Jakob stopped pretending to sleep and Wil waved goodbye to the window. Both rose and walked to their favorite mother.

“They’re releasing you?!” Wil asked. Jakob snickered and put his hands in his coat pockets.

Nurse Bea laughed outright. As expected, hers was the sort that came from deep in her stomach and affected her entire body upon its release. A moment of breathlessness later and she wiped her eyes. “That’s right, darlin’.” She smiled, though she already had been, and wagged a stern finger to Wil. “Now, you jus’ make sure you take care o’ your mom. She’s an angel.”

Wil’s pleasant return smile slipped off her face.

“Thanks, Nurse Bea,” Cynthia enthused; her smile radiating as usual. Supported by Rob and trailed by her anxious children, she walked out the waiting room doors.

If Wil had not been so preoccupied, she’d have caught the sparkling tear on the cheek of Nurse Bea.

 

Continued from Sixty-Three.
Keep reading to Sixty-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Eight

Wil looked up, startled. Sure enough, there stood her beloved step-brother. His mouth was turned up in its characteristic jeer. From where her mind had just been, she immediately wondered if Jakob knew the content and meaning of the papers an inch beyond her reaching hands. Instinctively, she snatched them and brought them to her chest.

She sniffed, raised her head, and turned to look back at the windows. Jakob laughed a bit, though not as deeply as any of them had for years. Looking around the room once, he dropped into a chair near the table and put his feet up. His imitation down coat exhaled against the imitation leather backing as his worn boots clunked onto the imitation wood tabletop. If Wil hadn’t moved her things, his feet would have landed on them.

She carefully backed into a chair that was still upright. Lifting her required reading for English class in her left hand, she pretended to be absorbed in it. As Jakob snorted, tilted his head onto the back of the chair, and closed his eyes, Wil slid the sensitive papers to her side with her right hand. She winced as they crinkled audibly, and hurriedly shoved them under her thigh.

Jakob snorted again, and turned his angled head to look at Wil. “Is Mom in the back?”

Wil nodded. Aloud, she added, “She was coughing a lot and said we needed to come to the hospital.”

Regular sterile hospital sounds filled the quiet after she spoke: distant footsteps, muted beeping and paging, and the rush of the heated air warming the room from floor vents.

Jakob cleared his throat, then swallowed. Though he tried to hide it, his voice sounded huskier as he asked, “Is she okay?”

Wil looked over the top of the page and met his eyes. They were blue like Cynthia’s, but more serious than his stepmother’s ever were. As much as Jakob teased Wil, it was this seriousness that stopped Wil from teasing as much as he did.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, “but I don’t think she’s dying yet.” She attempted a weak smile, and Jakob’s mouth resisted the urge to complete one of his own. He rolled his eyes and breathed in deeply.

“Nice, Minnie,” he said sarcastically, and closed his eyes again.

Between his pretended napping and Wil’s pretended reading, they only jumped a bit at the door suddenly opening and admitting a plump nurse into the room just a few minutes later.

“Well, hello again!” her ever-cheery voice enthused. It was Nurse Bea, forever full of glee.

 

Continued from Fifty-Seven.
Keep reading to Fifty-Nine.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Seven

“However does a woman of my station get into such fixes?” sighed Wilhelmina Winters, heiress of Tara, and belle of East Dixie. The dainty, shadowed face she spoke to could not respond, but did return her wistful look exactly. In fact, her companion returned all Ms. Winters’ expressions and movements. She was limited only by the edge of the window, where the wall began.

Ms. Winters leaned against the cool glass, touching her cheek sadly to that of her mute friend. She breathed deeply, rustling the deep satin of her long, ruffled dress. She contemplated on how frequently she had the misfortune to return to this lonely room, to this forsaken institution.

Her father, the well-known army general, owner of the prosperous Winters Manufacturing Co-Op, and current master of Tara, had thoughtfully left his daughter enlightening materials with which to properly divert herself. But, Ms. Winters hadn’t the heart to read her school-book at present. She felt only the desire to brood; or, perhaps, to commiserate with the outside-elements-filled version of her own self she saw reflected back.

A door opened; a nurse came hurriedly out. He did not come to Ms. Winters, nor acknowledge her presence. The happy flurry Ms. Winters’ heart had felt now settled down deeply in disappointment. The return of the same distracted nurse a minute later settled her spirits further still.

He entered the door he had previously exited, leaving only the memory of teal-green behind. The air disturbed by his actions blew slightly at the book Ms. Winters was to read whilst waiting, resting unobtrusively upon a table nearer to the room’s exit. Her eye, drawn by the action, finally saw a most important thing she had missed at first glance: her book sat upon the papers she had been reading when her mother first realized their need to come hurriedly to this institution.

In short, an important letter that Ms. Winters had been curious to continue reading was sitting there within her reach! Forgetting her window friend immediately, she strode briskly across the low-pile floor. Her grand black boots stepped solidly as her wide, full skirt shushed silkily atop its stiffened crinoline.

Forgetting decorum, she excitedly reached both hands toward her things, upsetting a few periodicals and a neighboring chair.

“Hel on wheels,” a sarcastic voice said from the room’s entrance. Jakob had arrived; just in time to witness Wil’s graceful rush to the table, and just in time to use one of his favorite nicknames for her.

 

Continued from Fifty-Six.
Keep reading to Fifty-Eight.

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty

She stood, solemnly and silently. Shadows of sun clouds shrouded her views from the wall-length windows as her concerns shrouded her mind. Wilhelmina Winters, of City Hospital, sighed deeply.

She lifted the small note in her hand and glanced at its surface without seeing the writing upon it. She sighed again, the movement causing a rustling of ruffles in the satin of her dress. She adjusted her black lace scarf and subconsciously admired the affect in her muted reflection.

“Whatever shall I do?” She whispered in her slight drawl. She touched fingers with the dark glass girl.

Although distracted most terribly, Ms. Winters was pleased with the way her reflection was part her and partly the elements beyond her: gray clouds, interrupted light, and troubled winds.

A slight sound behind caused her to turn toward it. A loose curl graced her high-boned cheek at the turn, though the remaining strands stayed restrained and refined atop her head. A man in black too large for his frame had shifted upon the chaise, and his whispering cloak had alerted her.

Neither he nor his silent companion opened his darkling eyes, so Ms. Winters turned back to herself. This was not the change she anxiously anticipated. She felt the disappointment acutely as the girl opposite gave her an empathetic look of impatient sadness.

Without seeming to change composure nor expression, the older of her companions addressed her, “Come away from the window and sit down, Mina. It won’t make waiting any faster.”

Ms. Winters touched her friend a final goodbye, then slowly stepped in slithering satin to her father. Heaving an adolescent expression of restlessness, she acquiesced to his request and sat.

She tried, most dutifully, to divert herself with the room, the note, and her relative’s resting faces. Having an instinctively restless nature, however, she failed. This was her usual want, despite many tutors’ efforts to patiently instruct her away from it.

She looked round the room, furnishings, and windows for some sign of release and found none. She looked to her hand and what it held.

Drawing on some remaining curiosity, Ms. Winters again applied herself to the paper. She forced her natural mind away from waiting, and worked her hands to apply print to parchment. She would soon know precisely what her secret paramour meant to express.

She wrote dutifully as she toyed with her hair curl, as unruly as her natural spirit. She finished copying all of the letters, and prepared to separate them into meaning.

Her quick ears pricked in recognition of footfalls the instant before the door near them was opened. She and the men accompanying her sat up quickly to look toward the sound.

A nurse stood there, smiling at their expressions and the good news she would deliver.

 

Continued from Nineteen.
Keep reading to Twenty-One.

 

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