Today we welcome Em, a character from The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham.
Name: Growing up my parents and sister called me Emmy but that seems like a very long time ago. For seven years I’ve been simply Em.
Parents: My parents were John and Viviette. I say were but even with them both dead I still think of them as my parents. I’ve missed them so much. It hurts sometimes just thinking of them and how things used to be.
Siblings: For many years my whole world was my sister. We rode the orphan train together. I helped her not be afraid by telling her stories. I never thought we’d be separated. It’s been seven years now since perfect Lucy found a home and I was put back on the train. Dreaming of being reunited with her is what kept me going all those hard and lonely years.
Places lived: I was born in New York. I moved with my parents from shared tenements to a little apartment and then with their passing I lived on the streets. I don’t like talking about that though. Those were dark days. After the orphan train ride I lived with George until being rescued and taken to Azure Springs.
Jobs: The only job worth mentioning is what I’m doing now. I work for Margaret Anders at her boarding house. She’s an eccentric woman but I adore her. She’s a dear friend.
Friends: Margaret Anders and all of the Howell family. I’ve also gotten to know Caleb Reynolds the sheriff. I like to think of him as a friend.
Enemies: I came into Azure Springs with a wound in my side. I suppose it’s safe to say I have enemies. I’d love to put a name to them but I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on.
Dating, marriage: I stood on train platforms as an orphan. No one ever wanted me. I was too plain as a child and even now with food in my belly and a little meat on my bones I’m still not much too look at. I can’t imagine that a man would ever want to marry me. But there was a time when I hoped. Perhaps someday, no, it’s foolish to hope.
Children: I’ve always adored children but I’ve none of my own.
What person do you most admire? That’s a hard question to answer. I’ll always admire my mother. Now living in Azure Springs I find myself wondering if I could ever be like Abigail Howell or Margaret Anders. It’s strange I’d pick those too. They are both very different, but they are both so good and kind. Only one is quiet about it and the other loud. Their kindness has changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful.
Overall outlook on life: At first I was living only to survive but the longer I’m in Azure Springs the more I believe and hope for brighter things ahead. I’m not one to wallow in my miseries. I aim to make the most of what I’m given.
Do you like yourself? I like that I’ve a body that I can use to work hard but I’ve never cared much for the way I look. There are days when I feel weighed down with regrets and I can’t help but blame myself. But I keep trying and I think that counts for something.
What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I’d change so much. But most of all I wish I could have found a way to stay with Lucy.
How are you viewed by others? When I lived at George’s I don’t think anyone thought much of me. In Azure Springs I think those that have sat by my bed and spoken to me consider me a friend. Some take pity on me. There are others though that judge my appearance or gossip about my history. I wonder how the Sheriff would describe me. He looks at me sometimes like he is trying to decide what he thinks of me.
Physical appearance: I was frail and skinny when I first arrived. I hadn’t eaten enough for a very long time. I also have burns on my arm that I try to hide. Some call me waifish or plain. But one of my little seven-year-old friends told me I was beautiful and for a moment I felt I was.
Hair: Dull yellow
Voice: Often quiet
Right- or left-handed? Right
Characteristics: Hard working, loyal, forgiving, gentle, kind and loving
Strongest/weakest character traits: self- worth
How much self-control do you have? I’d say this is one of my stronger traits. I could ration my food for weeks or months even when I was so hungry at George’s place. I can wait when I must. I can also teach myself things even when it means doing something over and over again.
Fears: Never seeing Lucy again, being hungry or cold and failing to keep my promise to my mother.
When are you happy? I was happy the other day when I was racing Caleb up a tree. It sounds so childish telling you about it, but it was a beautiful escape from reality. For a moment it was just us and the vast sky. I could almost forget about the threats and unknowns that were in my path.
What makes you sad? I’ve been alone so much I often dreamed of friendships and family. I overheard girls my age gossiping about my past. It was lies and it hurt. I wondered in that moment if I was worth befriending. Why me? I didn’t understand, and it hurt.
What makes you laugh? I share a room with two seven-year-olds so laughter is easy to come by. They are always telling me the most adorable things. The other day they suggested that Caleb was the Prince of Azure Springs. We all laughed but the title stuck, and they’ve referred to him as such often since. I laughed with them but the more I think about it the more I think he is rather princely.
What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I told Lucy I’d always be there for her. I remember looking into her round little face and telling her that I’d always take care of her. Days later we were torn apart and I’ve regretted it since. I blame myself.
Do you have a secret? Everyone keeps trying to put together the clues of my past and why I arrived with a wound in my side. Poor Caleb is forever pestering me to remember more. I try to tell him that I lived in the barn and I don’t understand it myself. I do have secrets, but the ones people are after I can’t seem to figure out myself.
Thanks for letting us get to know you, Em!
Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing, and she hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.