Bessie walked briskly down the hall, the cold floor against her bare feet, drove them faster. She had to get some air she needed fresh air. She made it to the stairs and looked down, it was pitch black, so black she had a hard time seeing the next step. She held onto the railing tightly and made her way down the stairs, feeling each step with her toe before committing to the step. Once down the flight of stairs her body knew which way to go. She bobbed and weaved around chairs, ottomans, and tables in order to get through the rooms and into the kitchen. The kitchen windows allowed the full moon to shed its light into the room illuminating it, and allowing her to sprint to the back door and fling herself out it.

The door swung loudly and clattered against the house, sending an alarm of ducks and geese that were hovering near the house for warmth. Startled by the sudden explosion of honks and squeals, she lost her balance on the top of the two steps and crashed into something solid. Big hands grabbed her around the tops of the arms and set her on her right. She looked up at the man and stared into the eyes with the bluest she had ever seen.

“Are you ok ma’am?” his deep voice boomed, letting the smell of tobacco and whisky blow across her face. “You seem to be in an awfully big hurry.” He smirked a little, showing her a mouth full of very white, mocking teeth.

She just stared up at him, gasping, trying to catch her breath, to regain control of herself again.

“Ma’am?” he repeated and his hands went a little tighter, as his smile faded.

Finally, she could no longer bare it and began to push the man away, fighting against the only thing keeping her standing upright. Apparently, he could sense that, because as she tried to push away from his him, he just moved his hands from her shoulders to her waist and hoisted her from the stairs to get her on solid ground beside the house. Bessie stuck out her hand, just in time to brace herself against the wall and empty her stomach on the building.

In a flash, the man was behind her gathering her loose hair in one hand and kept his other his arm around her waist catching her from falling into her dinner, as her knees buckled beneath her. She heaved and heaved until she had nothing left in her stomach. When she was finally finished, she had no strength left to hold back her tears of embarrassment. No sound was made while tears rolled down her face. There was no signs that she was truly crying, had it not been for the big elephant tears rolling down her face, and landing on the back of his hand, and leaving dark splotches on his green sleeves. When she thought that she could she pulled herself up, with his help, and stood facing the wall for a moment before turning to face him. She was wearing a thin white night gown that clung to her body in the muggy summer night. It was trimmed with lavender ribbon that weaved in and out of the sleeves and neckline. No longer caring about the nightgown that would soon be too small, she took hold of the end of one of the ribbons on her sleeve, pulled it out, and put it between her teeth. She then reached up, with deft fingers pulled her hair into a fast braid, and tied it with the ribbon from her teeth.

“I’m” Bessie started, her voice was a raspy and her throat scratch from being sick. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I’m not used to meeting strangers on my back porch this late at night and I wish I would not have had to share this moment with anyone, but I am thankful that you were her to help me.” Her lips couldn’t quite make a smile.

“You’re most welcome, but I feel that I should tell you that this is not the way I usually meet people either.” He replied with a smile. “Are you ok? Do I need to wake anyone, or perhaps fetch someone?”

“NO!” Bessie yelled, eyes big, scurrying the ducks and geese that had fled earlier even further from the house. She took a couple calming breaths, realizing how abrupt she was and tried again. “no, that’s ok, everything’s fine,” her voice calmer this time “Everything will be ok.”

He didn’t seem too taken aback by her performance instead he just introduced himself. His name was Jarred Harrison, and he was a guest of her fathers. He met him in town, taken pity on him and invited him to stay with them for a few days while his ship was docked in the harbor. There was no wonder that she did not see him earlier, she had been so busy helping with the preparations, they could have marched the whole navy through her house and not have seen a single one of them.

Every year for her mother’s birthday, her father put on a big celebration, one that takes up an entire week.. All of the county would talk about it for months after and look forward to all year. It was by far the biggest party of the season. But what most did not know, is that the night before the grand party took place, Mr. Weller, Bessie’s father, threw a poker game. The poker game served many purposes, the biggest one however, was to reward Mr. Weller for having to put up with weeks of preparation and fuss from his wife. So that’s what he told his wife every year when she would insist that last year would be the last time that he stayed out all night drinking, gambling, and smoking cigars with the neighbors before her big event. Everyone was invited to her mother’s party, but it was an honor to even know of, let alone get invited to her father’s poker game. Bessie could not help but wonder what this man, who had to be not much older than herself, had done to get invited to such an exclusive card game.

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