Rose was never an emotional woman, the birth of her first daughter Evelyn was momentous but she only shed a single tear of joy. The birth of her second, Mary, was unexpected and inconvenient. Mary was always made aware that this was the case. She understood that her birth alone caused her fathers hours labouring at the farm to increase and her mother to become aloof towards her once adored sister; just four years of age on Mary’s birth date. Contrasting their now bitter mother, Evelyn and Mary’s father was a kind-hearted man. He would often bring his daughters home personally picked flowers to press, as means of apology when he had been working away for extensive periods of time. He was not acting out of kindness the day he left. His daughters had watched him depart for work many times before, from the softly lit stairs above the doorway but never so abruptly. Today the tender goodbyes had been replaced by pandemonium.
Awoken by the commotion from underneath their shared bedroom, the sisters crept towards the top of the stairs in which they had paced to bed more nights then they could count. Crouching with their heads peeping though the banister they observed their mother chasing their father around the house, her raised voice switching from pleading cries to enraged lectures. As they watched, Mary reached towards her older sister’s hand for reassurance only for it to be ignored, a common occurrence in her life. Mary’s eyes watered as she abandoned her older sister on the stairs and started walking back towards her bedroom. Suddenly interrupted by a thunderous sound echoing through the house, Mary froze. She knew the sound well; it was the door leading to the dusty path outside slamming. This was swiftly followed by an indistinguishable blood-curdling shriek. The young girl rushed back to the stairs stopping just before she toppled over the top splintered step, peering down she could see her distraught mother on the floor cradling Evelyn, repeating four words that dripped with dread… “How will we cope?”
The months that followed their fathers’ unforeseen departure were a struggle; to simply survive and provide for her daughters Rose had to find work. As a married woman, she could not make use of her ability to teach but instead had to settle with a cleaning job that paid very little. Unfortunately, she was no warmer towards her daughters than she had been before her husband departed; spending less time with them, now that she was working throughout the day.
Every two years a travelling show came to town and every year since Mary’s sixth birthday the sisters had performed. This year was going to be no different; at least it would not have been if their father were liable to pay the entry fee. Now aged sixteen, Evelyn had been hired part-time by the same household that employed her desperate mother two years ago. Working daily as a house cleaner she had managed to put aside enough money from her monthly wage to pay her own entry fee. Evelyn had...