NYC Midnight accepted my story and I am now free to post it. It’d be amazing to advance. I’m not really expecting to advance but it was pretty fun and I enjoyed testing my writing abilities. I tend to write romantic fiction and relationship centered stories so this was definitely out of my norm.
Here it is. Enjoy!
The End of a Voyage
The story of two brothers discovering their purposes through life and death.
It was December 24, 1986 and Joshua Carter was sitting in a leather armchair in his study. He sipped his coffee as he admired an old photo album that lay across his lap. It was a special album that he rarely got the opportunity to look through. It had once belonged to his older brother Joseph and his beautiful wife Virginia. It was filled with loving photos the couple had taken in their first years together and looking through them every Christmas Eve would always remind Joshua of the greatest gift he had ever received.
– 1969 –
Joseph pushed open the door to his mother’s home and his nostrils filled with the sweet aroma of her homemade pecan pie. Oh, how it felt good to be home. Joseph missed homemade meals more than anything else, while at sea. The deck hands made the best of their situation and usually tried to cook dinner for the crew but even their most palatable creations couldn’t compare to his mother’s home cooking.
“Joey, honey, is that you?” His mother’s voice rang out from the kitchen and Joseph immediately donned a huge smile.
“Mama!” He replied as he dropped his bags and reached his mother’s small kitchen in five quick strides.
Mama Carter dropped the spoon she was holding, wiped her hands, and held her arms out. Joseph hugged her tightly and lifted her off the floor.
“I missed you so much, Mama,” he said as he released her, “Now, what’s for dinner?” He tried reaching around her to grab a piece of chicken off of a platter but she quickly swatted him away.
“Joseph Michael! Don’t you dare touch that plate! It’s rude to eat before the others,” Mama Carter scolded him as she picked up a bowl full of potato salad and pushed open the door.
“Others?” Joseph questioned.
“Yes, your brother brought a girl home. “ She smiled knowingly, “Now grab that platter and bring it outside.” Joseph did as he was told. “A girl,” he thought, “well that’s a first.”
– 1970 –
The girl Joshua had brought home that day had been a classmate of his, Virginia Walters. Joshua was 18 at the time and Virginia was 22. They met during a protest at their University. Despite their age difference they instantly formed a friendship and became inseparable. Much to everyone’s surprise they had always kept their relationship completely platonic. Good thing too, because by the end of their barbeque that day Joseph had become completely smitten by her.
Joseph captained his ship with an iron fist but when it came to women he had never been very forthright. Virginia had put him at ease though. She was so free-spirited and friendly that Joseph found himself talking to her all day. Joseph made the most of their time together.
She was scheduled to graduate with a degree in English the following month. She loved to read and write and was enamored with the outdoors. She was an only child and dreamt of having many children of her own. She had wavy chestnut hair and bright blue eyes. Her skin was naturally tan and she had freckles covering the bridge of her nose and cheeks. She was perfect in every way and Joseph never knew how he had lived his life without her.
She didn’t seem to think much of their age difference and neither did he. Before Virginia and Joshua were scheduled to leave he sat Virginia down and let her know how he felt about her. At that point they began their relationship.
Because of Joseph’s job he would leave for months at a time and fly to Alaska for his crab fishing in the Bering Sea. Ginny, as he affectionately called her, would send him letters and they would speak on the phone whenever possible. The time apart was terrible but Ginny was so gifted at writing that her letters could make him feel that he was right there in Harrisburg with her.
After his first few months away from her he decided that he needed to make her his wife. He could never love a woman more than he loved Ginny and he wanted to vow himself to her.
The 60s and 70s were a lucrative time for crab fishermen, especially when they captained a ship. After having a particularly good season, Joseph went home and bought a ring. He planned an elaborate dinner and boat ride then he proposed. It was perfect; the moonlight, the view, and Ginny’s beautiful face. She said yes and they were engaged.
Joseph had business to attend to so he had left within a few weeks. But before he left, he wrote his mother a check for a substantial amount of money and asked that she assist Ginny in planning the wedding of her dreams.
Three months later, they married and immediately began trying to conceive. Ginny wanted nothing more than to become a mother. When almost two years had passed and nothing had happened Joseph began to think perhaps they weren’t meant to be parents. And just when he had given up hope she became pregnant. They were elated.
Unfortunately, Joseph’s job meant that he would be spending many months away from Ginny. Luckily for Joseph, Joshua had agreed to keep an eye on Ginny and make sure she was well taken care of in Joseph’s absence.
Everything was great. Joseph was married to the love of his life and they were expecting their first child, when things changed. Joseph had returned to Ginny when she was seven months pregnant and one night, out of the blue, Ginny began having extreme stomach pains. Joseph rushed her to the hospital and it was a blur from there.
Doctors took her away and prepared for an emergency cesarean section. The only thing they told Joseph was that they weren’t completely sure what was happening but the baby wasn’t receiving enough oxygen and they needed to get it out as soon as possible. His mind clouded with concern for his dear sweet wife and his unborn baby. He just wanted them to be okay.
Joseph had called Joshua and Mama as soon as he had made sure Ginny was in good hands. They rushed to the hospital and were waiting with him when the doctor had come out to speak with him.
“Mr. Carter?” Joseph nodded.
The doctor smiled and said, “Congratulations, sir. You have a beautiful baby girl.” Joseph exhaled loudly. He hadn’t even realized that he was holding his breath. Behind him he could hear Mama rejoicing and Joshua clapped him on the back with congratulations.
“A girl.” Joseph smiled as he thought of her little face.
“And Ginny? How is she?” He asked eagerly. The doctor told Joseph she was just waking up and he could see her shortly.
The amount of pride and joy that Joseph felt when he saw Ginny holding their little baby girl was astronomical. He kissed Ginny on the head and told her that he loved her. She mumbled that she had chosen the name Elisabeth and then her eyes slowly closed and she fell asleep. Joseph knew she was spent so he let her sleep. Joshua and Mama came in to see them and they all cooed over Elisabeth.
Suddenly, gurgling sounds began coming from Virginia’s bed. She was violently shaking. Nurses rushed into the room and pushed them aside. Joseph didn’t know what was happening but he was terrified. He held Elisabeth close as the nurses and doctors flooded the room. Then everything went black.
Virginia died that day. The doctor told Joseph that she had a pregnancy related condition called Eclampsia. He didn’t care what she had. All he knew was that he no longer had her. The following months passed in a haze. He had fallen into a deep depression. He didn’t work. He didn’t eat, despite his mother’s best efforts. He hardly left his bed after Ginny was buried. Thankfully, Joshua and Mama had been around to take care of Elisabeth. Joshua didn’t know much about being a parent but he did his very best to alleviate some of the pressure for Joseph.
One day, Joshua become fed up with Joseph’s actions and he approached him. He told him that they all loved Ginny and no one wanted her to die but Joseph had a new responsibility and he needed to attend to his daughter. She needed a parent and he owed it to Ginny to be that person.
Joseph missed Ginny but now Elisabeth was the only piece of Ginny he would ever have. He got out of bed, refocused his life, and he never looked back.
The middle of the night feedings were enjoyable at times. He loved holding his baby and watching her precious face as she slept. She looked so much like her mother. There were nights he would cry because he wished Ginny could enjoy Elisabeth with him.
Within months, Joseph realized that if he didn’t go back to work he would be homeless and not able to take care of his daughter so, he enlisted the help of his brother.
Joshua agreed to move into Joseph’s house when he would leave for the crab season. He sent Joseph photos and updates as frequently as he could. And for years this is how they lived. Elisabeth had two father figures instead of a mother and a father.
As Elisabeth aged she inquired about her mother and every time Joseph or Joshua would recount the tale you could see her little heart breaking. It was painful to watch but she was such an inquisitive little girl and they didn’t want to lie to her.
– 1982 –
“Mr. Carter?” Joseph looked up and nodded. He was in the same hospital where Ginny died; he couldn’t help but be in a grave mood. Now his little girl was on the other side of those doors and he was on edge. The doctor sat down by Joseph. .
“Where is my daughter?” He was alarmed. Joshua, equally alarmed, put his hand on Joseph’s shoulder to keep him seated.
“Sir, there were some complications,” the doctor said solemnly.
“It was a tonsillectomy! What could have possibly gone wrong? Where is she?” Joseph stood up and towered over the doctor.
He’d aged. His brown hair grayed and his face showed the years of grief. He was only 42 but his body would make you think differently. His years in the dark cabins of “Virginia’s Voyager”, his ship, had darkened his skin. He also started having body pain and his weight had been decreasing in recent months. But he was still an intimidating man when he chose to be.
The doctor explained that when they woke Elisabeth she was extremely disoriented. She’d appeared to have lost her memory. Joseph was in disbelief. How was it possible that his family could have such bad luck? Why did his daughter have to suffer so much? It was unfair. She didn’t need another hurdle to climb. Growing up without a mother and a father who was always gone was difficult enough.
Joseph was eternally grateful for Joshua. Joshua was an amazing uncle and he knew Elisabeth better than Joseph did, at times. He was in love with her and always found a way to spend time with her, despite his busy schedule.
When Joshua graduated college he’d gotten a job with a marketing firm. He’d quickly risen to the top and became one of the executives. It provided good money but it left him with little time for other things. Even so, when he did get free time he would always spend it with Elisabeth. Joseph knew Joshua had suffered through the loss of Virginia, as well. They had been close and remained that way after Joseph and Ginny had married. Joseph never minded their relationship. He knew that the love they shared was that of siblings and nothing more.
He turned and looked at his brother. Joshua’s expression mirrored his own. He was concerned and seemed to be battling his own inner turmoil. That’s when the thought struck him. Elisabeth was no more his daughter than she was Joshua’s. Joseph finally knew what his greatest achievement in life was going to be. It wasn’t being a successful businessman or captaining a ship. It was giving Elisabeth the family she deserved.
– 1986 –
Christmas Eve 1982 brought the death of Joseph. He had developed pancreatic cancer. It took a while for doctors to diagnose and when they did he chose not to share it with anyone. That day in the waiting room when Joseph and Joshua found out about Elisabeth’s amnesia, Joseph came clean to his brother.
He told him that he had mere months to live; maybe only weeks and he hadn’t known how to tell Elisabeth. That’s when he approached Joshua with his idea. Not much needed to be said that day. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. So they did it.
When they walked into Elisabeth’s hospital room that day, they walked in as Uncle Joe and Daddy. It pained Joseph, but his pain was miniscule to the joy he felt in knowing that Elisabeth would finally have the father she always needed. Joseph had acquired a large sum of money in his many years as a captain and he willed it all to Joshua. He wanted him to have enough money that he wouldn’t need to work and he could be Elisabeth’s father full-time. As far as photos and memories that Elisabeth might come to remember, they were easy to manipulate. Josh had always been there and he even had old pictures of himself with Virginia. The only evidence that existed of the love between Joseph and Virginia was the photo album that Joshua was currently flipping through.
He always looked through it on the anniversary of his brother’s death. It reminded him of the painful times and the joyous, all the same. It was therapeutic. He sometimes wondered if he should come clean to Elisabeth and let her see the pages of the album. But he thought it would only depress her. They had a great situation. Joshua had found a wife, Lisa, two years after Joe’s death. She and Elisabeth had quickly developed a close relationship. They filled a void in each other’s life. Elisabeth was an outgoing 14 year old girl with a family as normal any others. She was happy. She had everything Joseph and Virginia would have ever wanted for her.
On the final page of the book was a photo of Ginny, Joseph, and Elisabeth taken on the day of Elisabeth’s birth and scrawled underneath it was a single message, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.”
Joshua smiled. He closed the album and watched the burning fire until only embers remained.