Reggie wasn't usually one to stare at little people; she thought it rude. But each time she thought she was being stared at, she'd turn around only to find another little person around. Oh! Not staring at her, just going about their work, nevertheless, they were always there. Always there, watching Reggie felt. And sometimes as she went about her business in town. She could almost ascertain that there always was a pair of eyes in the oncoming crowd, facing her.
Perhaps she was becoming just as paranoid as her mother...or maybe it was the effects of her mother's paranoia affecting Reggie's intuition and better judgement. She was afraid at times that she was becoming insane. This whole week there had been a caravan of gypsies camped outside their street which caused Reggie's mother to forbid her from leaving the house, not that Reggie minded.
Their home was in the center at the end of a cull de sac. The once white boards of their house looked cream and frayed by the sun in the unpardonable summer heat. Aside from its beaten look, a certain charm remained with the way they had managed to maintain it, adding a few improvements on the porch, the shingles, whenever time and money permitted it. She had learned to prefer her humble dwelling with sparse furniture that were chipped on all corners and spruced with lacy white doilies. The worn out wooden floors had dents in some spaces where heavy furniture once stood in place.
Reggie's preferred place of reclining was in their only room for entertainment which was the parlor. It lay right underneath the window which looked outside towards their broad street. In the winter, the warmth from the blazing fireplace in front of her kept her warm and sufficient light to continue with her sewing.
Beneath her beloved chaise was a rug that she had made herself from twisting pieces of scraps of colorful material. There were times when she had no real need to leave her home. Her mother's business was backed up with orders, enough to keep both of them busy as well as the other two maids who they had in their employ.
With a pear in hand, Reggie now nibbled on her snack while staring out at the gypsies from their parlor. Gypsies had were always seen as a sign of bad luck in her town. It was said that wherever the gypsies were, bad luck would soon follow. People were always suspicious of them and the mischief that they were usually believed to bring.
They made merry every night on the cobble stone street in front of her home, serenating the surrounding houses with exotic music and danced amongst themselves with the splendors of many colors in their dress. The women's skirts swirled around. Men and women never touching, yet their looks brought them closer than anything. The nights seemed magical to Reggie from where she watched atop the second floor of her home in her bedroom. It was the beginning of summer already and the heat caused Reggie to sleep with her windows open which caused her to observe the people below. The music and their movements seemed to mesmerize her in place as she leaned by her windowsill at night. Blowing out her lamp, she didn't need light as the gypsies little bonfire caused her room to glow in its' light, allowing her to see her wardrobe and its great shadow cast across her ceiling. Each night she would leave her window and seek peace beneath her thin sheets.
The music that sounded so fair in the evenings however became eery in her sleep. Many a time throughout that week Reggie found herself waking from nightmares. She would look out towards her window, but no light was seen. The streets were quiet by then during the early hours of dawn. The slight breeze caused her lace curtains to billow slightly. Nothing could seem to cool her fear except the cold water from the basin on her bedside table. Reggie didn't care in the slightest if at the moment she'd drench the front of her thin nightgown. Her body would then sink back into her bed, her old mattress squeaking in protest as she sat alone in the dark, trying to overcome her tormenting dreams. They are only that, dreams, Reggie would tell herself. She was being foolish. But she couldn't seem to shake them off as other nightmares before.
So it wasn't surprising when after a week of their constant presence, Reggie began to feel as if she were being watched from within their home. She began to unconsciously check the locks twice at night before going to bed.
"Mother, I think I am going insane!" she finally confessed one day.
"Nonsense" her mother laughed, "You seem perfectly fine to me."
"I feel as if they are watching us!" she said while pointing to what lay outside their parlor window.
"The gypsies?" Rosa looked as if she were contemplating her daughter's accusation for a while, "It is possible, but they don't have much to watch," she teased. "Darling, they are poor stragglers looking for help wherever they can find it. Don't think about them too much. In fact, I believe what you need is to get out of this stuffy little house. Tomorrow, you shall run an errand for me. I need you to personally deliver Lady Nicholas her package. I would much rather you deliver it than have one of the girls do it. Her gown is finally completed!" her mother gushed, content to have that order out of her way. "It will bring us a hefty some," and turning her back, she climbed the stairs, halting momentarily, "Be a dear and turn out the lights?" She had not taken Reggie seriously. Perhaps it was good she hadn't also blurted about her strange and continuous encounters on the streets with the little people.
Breathe. Reggie was trying to calm own as her left hand twisted the brass knob of her front door. Marching down the streets, she made her way towards Sarah's house. She didn't want to walk all the way to Lady Nicholas' house by herself. She had grown up together with Sarah Hays who was a year younger. Her father was Moses Hays, a local and talented watchmaker. Sarah's parents had emigrated from Europe, fleeing from persecution. As Jews, Sarah had related that her people were unwelcomed everywhere. In Reggie's mind, some people stupidly hated people like her friend, yet no one complained when their crafts or business increased the wealth of their towns. It was because the Hays knew what prejudice was and were always careful with Sarah that Rosa had completely entrusted Reggie whenever she was at their home. Reggie definitely looked exotic to the eyes of the Bostonians, but she also looked enough like her mother. She highly suspected that the whispers of her being a mixed breed was true. Neither Sarah nor Reggie seemed to have problems because of this as children. Together with the other girls: Sally, Dorcas, Phoebe and Grace, they would play house, with their dolls, make tea parties or all three. It was more difficult for the neighborhood boys to pick on them if they were always together. However, as they grew older, one by one, their friends drifted away, the poison of their parent's prejudices having seeped within, killing their friendships. In the end, Reggie and Sarah remained together and that seemed to be enough for them. They still received an occasional nod or even polite greetings were exchanged whenever they passed one another on the streets. Not all Boston was like that though as Sarah's social life at the dances proved.
As soon as she closed the door behind her, Reggie began to feel the eyes on her, but kept her gaze forward on the ground. Walking past the gypsies camping on the sides of the cobble stone street, she tried to keep her breathing normal and her wits about her, to become invisible. But no matter how much she tried, she could still feel the gypsy beneath the round and faded red wagon acting as if he were asleep, peering at her through tiny slits. Despite the mysterious observations, no one disturbed her. Maybe it was all in her head.
Rushing up the front steps of her friend's home, she knocked fervently. Sarah answered it in mid knock. "This better be good Reggie, my mother said you were knocking as if a banshee were after you. What has gotten into you? And where are we going?" she asked eyeing the substantial parcel underneath her friend's arm.
"To Lady Nicholas'" Sarah's eyes brightened, her smile brought out the identical dimples on each side of her cheeks. "Lady Nicholas? Have you ever met her before? Oh! Wait for me, let me get my good shawl! I can't possibly let her see me in this..." already facing the door, she turned back and observed her friend's pathetic wardrobe, "Is that how you are going?"
Reggie frowned, looking down at her simple dress. It was a mustard tartan which surprisingly, didn't make her look horrid. "Well, there isn't much I can do about it. All I own is much of the same."
"Would you like to borrow something of mine?"
"I would really like to, but at the moment I just want to be done with this errand and be back home before it gets dark. Sarah gave her friend a perplexed look.
"Why? We haven't gone anywhere or done anything in a whole week!" to young Sarah, time seemed to pass by to slow in their Boston town. "Let's pass by the pastry shop on our way back...and buy ourselves a raisin treat to share!"
"We'll see." That was all Sarah needed to scamper back indoors to retrieve her 'good shawl'. In the meantime Reggie stood apprehensively on the front doorsteps looking out of place. She was feeling it again. Sarah's childlike nature had taken away Reggie's nerves if only temporarily.
At fifteen, her younger friend thought she was all grown up and although she had been to a few dance at the town hall and at private parties, it seemed the young men also saw her mirth and playfulness as a sign that she still had some growing up to do. They wouldn't take her seriously yet. How many times had Sarah begged Reggie to accompany her? It isn't that she hadn't wanted to, but rather, her mother hardly approved of such conduct for young ladies to spend their evenings, dancing with men they hardly knew. Although Mrs. Hays, Sarah's mother claimed that it was quite an innocent proceeding. Reggie's mother would not change her mind. She didn't like her daughter to be seen so often in public which Reggie accounted as part of her paranoia, for which it seemed most out of character for her to have dismissed her worries the night before and top of that, send her on this errand! Why only the last week she had to beg her to meet up Sarah to go buy some supplies in the market. Reggie shook her head, things were becoming strange indeed.