Bridget sat on the bench and cried. Not three hours earlier, she waved goodbye to her parents and grandparents as the ship left County Cork. She didn’t know what to expect when she arrived in America. Had no clue whether the photos her aunt and uncle sent were accurate representations. She was going to care for her young cousins, be their nurse and caretaker. Her aunt recently got involved in societal organizations while her uncle worked very long hours.
It didn’t take much convincing for her parents to agree to their daughter emigrating to America. In fact, they’d have one less mouth to feed, body to clothe, and person to house. She’d miss them and they her, but this was best for all involved. Didn’t mean she wasn’t terrified of the choice she’d made. As she sat alone on the massive ship and stared out at the water, she wondered if she’d chosen correctly.
The brash male voice stumbled over a last name that was common in Ireland. It will take some getting used to, she realized. She clutched tight to her woven satchel and walked toward the stairway.
“It’s Kelly,” she explained.
“What?” the man replied, clearly uninterested.
“Kelly. It’s pronounce Kell-ey. Not Keel-ey.”
He merely looked at her over the rim of his glasses and jotted down a note on his pad of paper. “This way,” he said.
Bridget noticed every detail of the damp, cramped stairwell. Dark and dreary, the light faded more and more with every descent. The wooden stairs creaked and the boat swayed, causing the young emigrant to grab hold of the cold, metal banister.
“In here,” he instructed. He pointed towards a stark, white room filled with cots and medical equipment. “Hand the woman at the door this,” he said as he put a folded paper in her hand. “Then, wait your turn until the doctor calls for you. When you’re done, someone will direct you where to find your luggage and then your room. Safe travels.”
And with that he was gone, as distant a sight as the homeland now so far away. Bridget sensed the emotions building inside of her and shook them away. She was seventeen years old. Old enough to get married, according to her grandmother. Definitely old enough to travel by herself to an unknown land. “You’re pretty enough,” her grandmother told her before she left. “You’ll marry someone decent. Just don’t ruin your reputation before then.”
Bridget laughed at her grandmother’s “advice”. “Marry someone decent,” she repeated with a shake of her head. She walked towards the door and slammed right into a handsome doctor.