Growing up in Hoskins City proved difficult for Jael. She was the middle child of a barmaid that climbed the stairs every night with a different man after closing time.
Having a mother who was known around town for her sexual desires was not easy on Jael and her brothers, Aubin and Isaac. The whispers of the town folk never seemed to cease. When Jael turned fifteen, some of the menfolk started to eye her up, begging her for favors.
Aubin overheard some remarks of the men, and with his sister’s safety in mind, the three boarded a train for Hesston.
Hesston was a small town. Nothing at all like Hoskins City. It was wide-open spaces, cattle ranches and flowing streams in abundance. The siblings found respite with a cattle farmer and his wife who allowed them room and board in exchange for fulfilling duties around the ranch.
Jael prepared the meals, Aubin rounded up the cattle, and Isaac cleaned the stables and did ground maintenance. Even though the work was more than they were accustomed to, they enjoyed every minute and worked hard. Over time, the cattle farmer showed his appreciation with actual cash pay along with room and board. It wasn’t much, but it allowed the siblings to save little by little.
One morning while Jael was waiting for the cornbread to finish baking, Isaac entered the kitchen with a newspaper in hand. The look on his face was a mixture of sadness and relief.
“They found her dead on the floor, a baby girl crying nearby.” He handed Jael the paper and took a seat at the wooden table.
“I don’t know what to say. Despite her ways, she was our mother.”
“I hardly knew anything about her, other than her promiscuous ways,” said Isaac. “She was never there for us.”
“Has Aubin heard the news yet?” Jael asked.
“No, he is helping with the birth of a calf.” He paused in thought. “Birth. We have an infant sibling.”
“When he comes back for breakfast, we will tell him the news.”
At breakfast, Jael told Aubin about their mother’s death and about the baby. He seemed unshaken.
“Do we go back?” asked Jael.
“She never cared about us. Just pleasing those men. We will pay our respects and gather our sibling, but after the burial.”
Two weeks later, they stood over their mother’s grave. Jael was holding her baby sister, Reina and Aubin was holding a handwritten letter that he found placed on the grave. He read it aloud to his siblings.
To my daughter, Jael, and her siblings,
Life was never easy for me or your mother. We made wrong choices, mixed up our priorities. When my father died, your grandpapa, I left town to attend to my mother two-hundred miles away. I regret not being around for you, but I thought of you constantly.
Please find a key attached to this letter. It belongs to a safe deposit box in the bank of Hesston, where I heard you now reside. Within the box you will find the identities of the fathers of Aubin, Isaac and little Reina. My address is also in the box in case you wish to visit. (I’ll understand if you don’t wish to do so.) You will also find letters your mother wrote to all of you, amongst other things.
All my best, my daughter,
With tears in their eyes, they paid their respects. Later that day they boarded the train and headed back to the peacefulness of Hesston, to the new hope that lay ahead.
— Patti L. Geesey