The Anglic Gene

An orphan girl unsure of who she is or why a man wants her dead carries a secret. She will experience humanity.

Are you ready?

Join Sophia in a heart thumping adventure across England set in the 1870’s, exploring faith, doubt, love and fear. A story, quoted by the editor as “really something special”, you’ll continue to contemplate long after the journey unfolds


10. The Train

Anne sat between two ragged bales of hay and leaned against the firm shell of the freight car and felt the vibrations of the clickety-clack of the train’s wheels riding the rails through her back. “How long until we get to London?”

“I’m not sure,” Sophia replied, chewing her last mouthful of bread. “Probably an hour.”

“The sooner the better,” Anne said, rubbing across the tip of her scrunched up nose. “This carriage stinks.”

The wooden floor of the freight car was stained with oblong dark spots and the strong ammonia smell left no doubt what had painted them. Sophia was reminded of her times cleaning the bathroom at the orphanage. A group of orphaned boys had stayed with them for a few weeks while awaiting transport to an all-boys orphanage. Around the base of the toilet in the privy, the floor was stained with similar dark spots made by the boys who, too young or too careless, had missed the mark when relieving themselves. One evening at dinner Sister Catherine told the boys in front of everyone, “If you can’t aim your doodle with accuracy, please sit before peeing.” The boys’ faces lit up like overripe red tomatoes. Sophia smiled in the train as she had at the dinner table that night when the boys virtually died of embarrassment. She turned to Anne. “Yeah, I think they normally have cattle in here.”

Dash scurried over to Sophia and rested her head on Sophia’s warm lap. Her brown eyes stared up towards Sophia with a pleading, pat me, gaze. Sophia responded by gently stroking the hair on the top of Dash’s head. “Anne, do you remember your parents?”

Anne bit down on her bottom lip and said, “No. Well sort of.” She pulled at some loose strands of hay. “Sometimes I get glimpses of memory.”

“Sorry,” Sophia said, sensing Anne’s uneasiness. “I didn’t mean to bring up hurtful memories.”

“It’s okay.” She wound a strand of hay around her index finger until it formed a tightly-coiled band. “My middle name—Angela—is the same as my mum’s.” With her thumb, she spun the hay ring. “What’s yours?”

“Oh, I don’t have a middle name,” Sophia shouted over the screeching of the train’s steel wheels grinding on the tracks as the carriage veered around a sharp bend. “Well, none I know of.”

After the noise subsided, Anne said, “I was with them when they died.” She wiped a lonely tear from her eye. “Sometimes I have nightmares about the accident.”

Sophia continued to stroke Dash, staying silent as Anne recounted the incident.

* * *

On a dark rainy night, late in the year 1866, four-year-old Anne sat in the back of a bumpy horse carriage with her mother Angela. Anne peered through the window at the passing two-story upmarket buildings nestled side by side and illuminated by flickers of white light cast by the full moon threading its rays between gaps in the wispy sheets of miserable clouds. The glass fogged with each breath she exhaled. “How much longer until we get there, Dad?” Anne shouted.

Her father, seated on the driver’s bench of the carriage wearing a dark brown trench coat and broad brim hat to shelter him from a light drizzle, shouted his answer above the clopping of the horses’ trot. “Not long now, princess.”

Without warning, the carriage came to a sudden stop, throwing Anne and her mum off their seat. Anne heard the horses rearing as she reseated herself. “Are you hurt?” Angela asked, hugging the girl to her side.

“I don’t think—” Before Anne could finish her sentence the carriage accelerated. The horses galloped madly as if fearful for their lives. “What is happening, Mum?”

Her mum grabbed her hand. “I’m not sure.” Anne could hear her father shouting, “Whoooa… Calm down boys …” trying to regain control of the horses. His words were in vain, for the carriage rocked steeply to one side as the horses charged around a sharp bend.

“I’m scared,” Anne said, squeezing her mother’s hand with all her strength. The black veil of her mum’s hat covered her face. Anne wondered if, behind the darkness of the veil, she would see fear in her eyes. Another sharp turn, and this time the carriage did not right itself. The pitch violently tossed Anne into the door of the carriage, which was now its floor. Momentum propelled the carriage off the wet cobblestone street, across a short strip of grass, then over the embankment at the edge of a river. A loud splash echoed through the chilly night air as the carriage plunged into the icy waters. Water rapidly filled the carriage. Anne, her focus blurred and movements labored, pushed on the door handle. No good, the pressure of the water was too great for her effort. She turned toward her mother, trembled at the sight of a stream of blood flowing steadily from a deep gash on her head.

“Mum!” Anne yelled. No response. She grabbed her mum around her torso. Using every ounce of her might, she propped her mum upright keeping her head above the rising water. The light faded as the carriage descended deeper into the depths of the river. Engulfed in darkness, Anne shivered in a mixture of cold and fear as water claimed her final air pocket. She closed her eyes, fully expecting to meet the grim reaper. A strange pressure gripped her arm. Her nerves, numb from the freezing water, could not identify the source. She moved through the smashed window of the carriage, dragged by an unknown force. Above her, she viewed the water’s surface, so pretty, a wavy white layer of hazy light like a halo. Then her mind went dark, struggling to find oxygen.

Anne’s lungs burned as she coughed out a spurt of water. A second later, the blurred vision of a clothed man, dripping wet and soaked to the bone, formed before her eyes. As her senses returned, she realized that the swaying motion she felt was his shaking her by the shoulders. She coughed again, expelling more water. She drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs. “My mum and dad: Are they okay?”

The stranger’s lost blue eyes peered blankly into the distance. His mouth parted slightly as if he was going to say something, but he did not and instead his lips recoiled into a pained frown. He returned his gaze to her, and replied, “Come on. Let’s get you some warm clothes.” He offered his hand. Anne grabbed it and, with his help, rose. Her legs buckled, but his strength kept her from falling until they regained a shaky foundation. With his support, they sauntered together toward a gathering crowd. An elderly woman in the crowd passed the man a woolen blanket, which he draped over Anne.

Several men gathered along the side of the embankment staring into the waters that had swallowed the carriage. Anne scanned around searching frantically for her mum and dad. A few hundred yards up the road she could make out a small crowd congregating around a man lying in a dark recess of the bend. Her stomach churned as she fought to wrestle free of the notion that she was witnessing her father’s final resting place.

* * *

Sophia whispered, “I’m so sorry, Anne.”

Anne wiped her eyes with the back of her wrist and continued. “It wasn’t long until the Bobbies arrived and took me to the local station. They were nice. The sergeant gave me warm milk, while one of the officers found me some clothes. Boy clothes, but they were warm and dry.” Dash forsook Sophia’s lap and headed for Anne, where she licked at the tears wetting Anne’s cheeks. Masking her mourning, her lips curled into tiny smile. “The sergeant went on to explain that my mother had drowned in the carriage. They just couldn’t get to her in time.”

While Anne spoke, Sophia moved over to her, shoved the bale of hay to one side, and sat down beside her.

“My dad,” Anne paused, taking in a deep breath, “died from being tossed off the carriage.”

Sophia wrapped her arm around Anne’s shoulders. Dash jumped between them both and nuzzled into her own resting spot.

“That night, the sergeant took me to the orphanage where I met you for the first time.”

“I remember,” Sophia said, tightening her hold on Anne. “You did not speak for way over a year. The sisters were beginning to think you were dumb.”

Anne nodded, thinking back to the many creative ways Sophia attempted to get her to speak. The most notable effort was when Sophia suggested that cleaning her tongue with soap might work. They found out it didn’t, and for her efforts the Sisters rewarded Sophia with cleaning duties for a month. “You eventually got me to speak,” Anne said.

“Not me,” Sophia corrected. “Jesus did.”

“Well, you introduced me to Jesus. I remember you taking me by the hand and leading me to Jesus hanging on that huge crucifix in the church,” Anne said, staring out into passing countryside as if reimaging the scene. “You started praying for me, for Jesus to come into to my life, to heal my hurt. I listened, and figured to myself, ‘Hey, if this Jesus man can take away my pain, my loneliness, why not let him come into my life?’” Anne gazed directly into Sophia’s watchful eyes. “Then the strangest thing happened. A warmth engulfed me. The feeling I use to have when my mother would cradle me or when my father would kiss me on the cheek goodnight. I felt safe.” She took a moment to collect her thoughts. “I felt secure and no longer alone.”

“Of course you didn’t feel alone, silly. You had me!”

Anne gently slapped the side of Sophia’s leg as she chuckled. “You know what I mean, Sophia.”

Sophia tickled her under her ribs. “I do.” They both laughed, for a moment allowing their worries to vanish in a chorus of joy.

After the laughter subsided, Anne asked in a more serious tone, “Sophia, did you steal that bread?”

“Don’t worry. That is between me and the Big Guy to sort out.”

Anne pursed her lips, drew in a deep breath through her nose, and let her tired eyes close. She slowly exhaled one long sigh. With Dash and Sophia by her side, she experienced a sense of contentment—Love.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...