The Afterlife Journals: The Blue Ribbon
Coming of Age
“Sarah, you may be a young girl now, but soon it will be time for you to take a husband. When this time
comes you will want to be known as graceful and obedient, not as the heathen child. Your past transgressions
will haunt you.”
“Yes, Mother. I know, but must I always put on this ridiculous kirtle? It bunches up under my gown.” She
frowned at me and shoved her arm forward at me with my kirtle in hand. I took it from her reluctantly and
began to dress myself for the occasion.
Today was the Sabbath. This was typically a good day for me as I did not have to do any chores. However, I
was always reluctant to put on the appropriate attire for mass. Still my mother was right; in this day and age
appearance was everything. Today was particularly important because my cousin’s engagement was to be
announced. Elizabeth was to marry a gentleman usher in the house of the Earl of Shrewsbury. His name was
Edward Annesley and he was a good man.
Elizabeth’s parents had both died from the sweating sickness, so she was now my father’s ward. We were
practically sisters and yet distinctly not. Still I always referred to her as my sister and continue to do so even
now. Elizabeth was twenty-three and I the precocious age of eighteen. She was a far better lady than I could
have ever hoped to be. Such a marriage would elevate her and our family greatly. Yet I wondered if she even
wanted to marry Edward and if she had ever even been asked. Though it made no real difference, I took it upon
myself to ask her. “Elizabeth, do you really want to marry Edward? He is so much older than you and you
barely even know him.”
“O f course, I do. You may not fully understand this now, but his status will greatly help our family. Besides
he is kind to me, and to you I might add.”
“I understand what he can do for our family. That is what I’m afraid of. Once you are married, all focus will
shift to me, and with our new elevated status, it will only mean that I have to put this dammed kirtle on more
“SARAH! That is not the language of a cultured young lady.”
“Forgive me, Mother.” To this day I could never understand how mother seemed to be in more than one
place at a time. Nonetheless, she always made sure that I acted appropriately.
If you can picture a thin, short girl with long strawberry blonde hair who typically had a smudge on her face,
then you can picture me. I was co nsidered pretty or at least I was told that by houseguests. My father referred to
me as his little jewel. My mother was convinced that with a little refinement I would be the prize of our
household. Not that there were many other options being that I was the only child. Though I tested my parents’
patience often, they never gave up hope in me. After some of the stunts I pulled, most parents would have
shipped me off to boarding school never to be heard of again. Yet, my parents, even when boarding school was
our last option, never allowed me to feel like a burden. Most families wanted men to carry on the name. My
parents however seemed happy that God had blessed them with a child at all.
My father, though a very kind man, was often absent during my childhood. He was a steward for the Earl of
Shrewsbury. This meant that he would often run errands for the earl. In all, my family was well positioned. I
knew it was only a matter of time before I would be forced into some kind of obligatory position in the king’s
court. At present I was saved from holding position, but Mother and Father were already making arrangements.
Today, however, it was most important that the family be seen together. Even Father, who always seemed to
be very busy, accompanied us to the churc h on this day. This was a rare event in itself, as he would typically
meet us there. O n the way to mass that day, I can recall that my mother held my hand particularly tight. She did
not want me running off and getting into mischief, as I was prone to do. As we arrived at the church, Edward
and his family also arrived.
Mass was always a grand affair. Everyone was dressed in their best. I never understood as a child why it was
so important to dress up. Now, I know that Mass was not just about worshiping God. The entire event was
fashion show of sorts. Who could afford the newest fashions? Who was invited to sit by whom? Most
importantly, who was seen giving the most at offering each week? I don’t think that much has changed over the
years. Although I do think churchgoers have gotten better at hiding their competition.
Elizabeth was given a new gown for this occasion. The gown was a rich coral color with a square neckline.
It had a split front that revealed the silk kirtle decorated with a floral embroidery pattern. The sleeves were fitted