Pinkie’s direct gaze held my own. And it wouldn’t let go. It could feel the beat of my heart, faster and faster.
Slowly, she beckoned me in… nearer, nearer, nearer… until I stood before her, somewhat dizzy.
I shook my head in disbelief. “I’m hallucinating again,” I said to myself, aloud.
“You what?” she asked.
“You’re not real,” I said.
“It’s my mind, playing games.”
“You like games?” Her expression changed from pout to big smile.
“Yes,” I said.
“Come.” She took my hand. “I’ll show you my favorite hiding place.”
Her hand was soft. I could feel it—a tactile experience.
Wait till I tell Dr. Stendahl!
“It's not far,” she said.
A couple minutes later we stood before a tree. She let go of my hand and disappeared into the tree’s cavity. I followed her inside.
“They never find me here,” she giggled. “You mustn’t tell anyone, it’s a secret.” She put a finger to her lips.
“My name is Sarah,” she said. “Sarah Moulton.” She held out her hand and shook mine firmly. “But my brothers, Edward and Samuel, they call me Pinkie because pink is my favorite color. How do you do?”
“Charmed,” I said. “Where are we?”
“Richmond Hill. England.” Her expression turned pouty again. “And I’m very cross about it. I miss Jamaica.”
“Is that where you’re from?” I asked.
She nodded. “I hate it here. I hate the rain. That’s why I like my hiding place. It stays very dry inside this hollow tree. Do you want to know why pink is my favorite color?”
“Yes,” I said, truly enchanted by this young lady with the posh accent.
“Pink makes me remember Jamaica, especially when the sun sets there. I never see the sun here. It makes me very sad.”
“Why can’t you return?” I asked, feeling her sadness.
“I’ve been sent here for school. My grandmother was very stern about that.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Eleven,” she said.
“Only Eleven? You look older.”
“Eleven,” she repeated.
As she looked into my eyes, I realized I had become utterly and hopelessly in love with a girl aged eleven. It bothered me for a moment, until I discerned that my love was not lustful, but entirely innocent, akin to the love one might have for a sister—or an imaginary friend. Which, indeed, if I were hallucinating, would be the case.
“When were you born? I asked.
“March 22nd, 1783.”
“Yes. Little River, St. James’s and I grew up on Cinnamon Hill overlooking Montego Bay. It is so very beautiful. Life on my family plantation was most idyllic. And now it seems so far away. I long to return. I have two more years—but it seems an eternity to me.”
“When did you come here?”
“In September '92, aboard the Elizabeth.”
“School. We are taught English manners.” She scrunched up her face. “They say it is the prerogative of the wealthy and privileged and that we must be grateful for an English education.”
“Mrs. Fenwick’s school, in Greenwich.” She coughed. “I’m supposed to be there now.”
“Why aren’t you?”
“My other grandmother in Jamaica misses me. She commissioned a fancy artist to paint my portrait because she cannot have the original—me.” She patted her chest with mock importance. “I have the letter she wrote. Would you like me to read it aloud to you?”
I absorbed every nuance of everything this young lady said, partly because I was so utterly taken by her, but also as data for Dr. Stendahl.
Pinkie pulled a neatly folded parchment from inside her sash. “I carry it with me everywhere.” She sniffed it. “Because it smells of home. Here we go: I become every day more desirous to see my dear little Pinky.” She looked up at me and smiled. “That’s me. But as I cannot gratify myself with the original, I must beg the favor of you to have a picture drawn at full length by one of the best masters, in an easy careless attitude. As your taste and judgment cannot be excelled, I leave the dress to you.” Pinky looked up. “Do you think she will be pleased with the result?”
I nodded. “Very.”
“Maybe the painting can stay with Mrs. Fenwick and I can return early,” she laughed.
I suddenly felt a mad urge to rescue her, to abscond with Pinky and return her to Jamaica, where she preferred to be. I had a strange sense that she could not survive in this environment. Nor that she would ever see another Montego Bay sunset.
“Why don’t you tell them how you feel?” I said. “If your grandmother misses you so much, perhaps they’ll let you return early?”
“It’s no use.” She shook her head sadly. “All the privileged English children in Jamaica come to Mrs. Fenwick, and none leave early. It’s just not done. But let’s not dwell on me,” she said sweetly. “Tell me about you?”
“I come from the United States,” I said.
“Ah, the colonies,” she said. “Mrs. Fenwick believes your revolution a nonsense and a travesty.”
I chuckled. “Mrs. Fenwick would."
“She says the colonies will soon beg King George to take them back.”
I shook my head. “Don’t count on it.”
“Perhaps,” said Pinkie, brightening, “I will be able to return home sooner if the French invade.”
I felt suddenly overwhelmed by tiredness. I tried to stave it off, as I knew, from my last into art experiences, what would happen next—and I was quite enjoying my exchange with young Pinkie.
But blackness consumed me.