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Chapter 9 Excerpt

Rosaline

I t was raining in London. Mr. Goldwin had just gotten off the phone with a world-class surgeon, and it didn’t look good. Unphased by the news, Mr. Goldwin sunk into his father’s ornate armchair and cracked open his favorite book. His golden-brown skin was covered in thick black hair. His eyes were kind and wore permanent smile lines.

The door creaked open, and Charley said, “The mulberry trees are ready for harvest, Mr. Goldwin.” Charley, a sweet peach of a woman, often delivered this kind of news. She knew everything going on at the Goldwin Estate. She wasn’t his wife or mother, but they were as close as two could get. Charley then said, “Oh, and the pearl necklace. It’s just finished. Rosaline will love it.”

One look at the mansion, and it was obvious Shepherd Goldwin was a wealthy man. His charming stone-castle sat in the middle of a richly diverse landscape—winding vineyards hugged every corner, thick walls of shrubbery fenced in cattle for miles, groves of fruit-trees scattered the grounds, raised beds housed every herb, flower-fields married plump vegetation, big pergolas shaded marble pools, walkways curved their way to hidden fountains, and a thousand more pleasantries. The upkeep required a huge host of hired hands. Every nook and cranny buzzed with chatter as the Estate’s massive crew tended their various tasks.

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Mr. Goldwin loved to pick mulberries. They were conveniently next-door to Rosaline’s small wooden cabin on the east side of the Estate. Rosaline Sparks had been Mr. Goldwin’s maidservant for ten years. Over the past year, though, her usual vibrant demeanor had been suffocated by an incurable heart condition. It was terminal, but her raw beauty still managed to shine through tired eyes.

 

After filling a bucket full of fresh berries, Mr. Goldwin made his daily stop at Rosaline’s. Perched on the corner of her bed, he said, “You’re looking lovely as always, Miss Sparks.” Rosaline blushed. He was being kind, but she could tell he really meant it. He always seemed to have gracious eyes for her. “I’ve got something special for you, Rosaline,” Mr. Goldwin said. He then unveiled the majestic pearl necklace. “Mr. Goldwin—I don’t know what to say,” Rosaline said in awe of the lavish gift.

“I wanted to celebrate the great news, Rosaline,” Mr. Goldwin said with both tenderness and heaviness. “They’ve found you a donor.” This was the news Rosaline never thought she’d hear. She responded in disbelief, “Surely, they didn’t find an exact match for me.” Mr. Goldwin replied, “They have. Your surgery is in just three days.” Rosaline’s eyes filled with tears of joy. She was to receive a brand-new heart.

Rosaline asked, “Mr. Goldwin, will you make it to the surgery?” Mr. Goldwin had been planning a trip to see his father for quite some time. From the stories Shepherd told, his father sounded like the most loving and happiest man in the world. Mr. Goldwin paused a long while and replied with a strange smirk, “Yes. I’ll be there.” His words were true but would transpire differently than Rosaline imagined.

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The rain continued to fall in London when Rosaline underwent her heart surgery. It lasted six grueling hours. Her first visitor, Charley, peered through the hospital door and squeaked, “Yoo-hoo.”

“Oh, Charley, it’s so good to see you,” Rosaline said with a smile. “Have you come with Mr. Goldwin?” Charley couldn’t bear to tell her what had happened. “It’s just me, honey. But I’ve just talked to the doctors, and they said you’ve taken the heart perfectly. Good as new, they said.” The look in Charley’s eyes communicated something was wrong. Rosaline’s brand-new heart sunk, and she pried some more, “Charley, what’s happened?”

Charley gathered herself, and said, “Mr. Goldwin passed, honey. Last night.” Rosaline couldn’t believe it. Mr. Goldwin had only treated her with the utmost honor for ten years. Everyone knew he fancied her. He asked, many times, for her hand in marriage and she deeply regretted passing on his invitations.

Rosaline’s return to the Estate was met with emptiness. All the hired hands were nowhere to be found, which made for a peculiar silence across the grounds. “Will you be alright, honey?” Charley asked. Rosaline stared distantly over vacant Goldwin Estate and blankly replied, “I can’t believe he’s gone, Charley.” Charley pulled close and sweetly consoled Rosaline. She was a great comforter. “He was pure love, Rosaline,” Charley said with honor. She then handed Rosaline a package covered in thick paper, “He told me to give this to you after your surgery. He was adamant that you have it.” Rosaline accepted the gift and hugged Charley as if it would be their last. Charley, who could sense Rosaline’s withdrawal, kindly said, “I’ll be by tomorrow to check on you, honey.”

Rosaline sulked in her cabin, put on her lovely pearls, and opened the strange gift. A dazzling picture frame housed a fancy-looking document and appeared to have Mr. Goldwin’s signature. It was an odd gift seeing that she never learned to read. She, ignorant of what it was, center-pieced Mr. Goldwin’s document above the mantle in her living room.

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Twenty years passed. Goldwin Estate had seen better days. Mr. Goldwin was the glue that held everything together. Without him, it had become run-down and vacant. Rosaline was the last tenant left on the property. Her cabin, next to the mulberry trees, was falling apart. And, so was she. Rosaline, in her despair, went cold. Charley knocked on Rosaline’s door year after year and was always met with silence. “I’ll try again tomorrow, honey.”

Rosaline often stood on the other side of her front door while Charley knocked. She had almost, many times, let her in. She had gotten used to rejecting the invitations of those who loved her. After twenty years of isolation, Rosaline finally resolved in her heart, “I’ll let Charley in tomorrow.”

Knock, knock, knock. Rosaline finally opened the door. Charley cracked the biggest smile you had ever seen and hugged Rosaline’s neck. They nestled in the living room and enjoyed a lengthy, warm conversation. Famished from all the crying, their stomachs growled. Rosaline said, “I’ll make some soup. Make yourself at home, Charley.” Rosaline’s cabin smelled like potatoes and cabbage. Knick-knacks sprawled the floor. Charley quickly noticed Mr. Goldwin’s document housed above the mantle. She walked up to it and started reading its words for the first time. Her eyes widened as big as stones and she hollered to the kitchen, “Rosaline, come here!”

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Mr. Goldwin’s gift stood perfectly prized in that living room for twenty years before Charley took Rosaline by the arm, looked at her squarely, and said, “Rosaline. My goodness. This is Mr. Goldwin’s will. He’s left you everything.”

Rosaline squinted in shock. “Charley, no. That can’t be right.” Charley began to read it aloud, “I, Shepherd Goldwin, being of competent and sound mind, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament… I hereby nominate and appoint Miss Rosaline Sparks as Executor…” As Charley read each word, Rosaline’s heart opened more and more. Charley paused on the last line of the document. “Oh, my word, honey.” Rosaline asked, “What is it, Charley? What does it say?”

Charley whispered, “He was your donor.” Mr. Goldwin had willingly given his life for his love, and in his death, left all that he had for her.

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