The Mother’s Story by Josephine W. Johnson
A story told in the voice of a mother as she watched her beautiful daughter waste away through an ordeal of heartbreak. Settings
: Sharonville – Missouri River (1909), St. Louis Characters
(main): the Mother
Julia – the beautiful sensible daughter
Hugh McGuire – the handsome city lawyer Story:
He had charmed them all, especially her pretty daughter Julia. It was love at first sight although Julia was a sensible girl to show how deeply she felt for him.
Hugh was handsome and wonderful. He was the neighbor’s cousin and a lawyer. He practiced law in the city but he always stopped by their house on his way home to his cousins. They talked and anyone could see that he adored Julia.
He became more of a lawyer each day as he spent more time in the city. Julia received notes from him everyday and she was contented. She did not even notice when he started to skip some days.
Then his letters became scarce and he visited only once or twice a month. The mother thought it did not matter as long as he was there and nothing could go wrong..
It was before Christmas that Julia began to grow quiet and distant. There was no letter from him. Christmas came and suddenly he was at the doorstep. His presence seemed to have brought back not only Julia but also everybody to life. Still, the mother noticed something different in him, like a piece that did not fit a puzzle.
He said goodbye and was gone. Few letters came. Some gave Julia hope in her waiting while some meant more waiting.
He came for the last time when Julia was alone and her parents were away. She got sick and delirious with fever. She cried out to her mother to stop the pain but the mother could only watch and comfort her.
It was during that time that Julia told her mother what happened during that last meeting. Hugh finally decided to live in the city where his beloved work was and that ‘he might not see her again’.
Julia got better but without the same zest for life that she used to portray. She never spoke his name; neither did they say it in her presence.
They saw Hugh again when mother and daughter went shopping. The mother thought, perhaps with a touch of bitterness that he looked as wonderful as ever. He did not see them and when one of his companions mentioned his name, it failed to spur a reaction from Julia.
There was no longer any recognition in her eyes.
See full story: The Best American Short Stories 1951, edited by Martha Foley p. 157. The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachussetts