Mail order mama, p.1

Mail Order Mama, page 1

 part  #2 of  Brides of Beckham Series

 

Mail Order Mama
 


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Mail Order Mama


  Mail Order Mama

  Book Two in the Brides of Beckham

  By Kirsten Osbourne

  Copyright 2012 Kirsten Osbourne

  Nook Edition, License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to barnesandnoble.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  When Emily’s mother decides to marry, her fiancé says that twenty year old Emily needs to find a new place to live before the wedding. Emily has always been exceedingly shy and has no idea what to do. She runs across an advertisement for mail order brides and responds, hoping to find a good situation. Benjamin lost the love of his life just months before. He and his girls need a new mama in their house. Will Emily be the mama they need?

  Kirsten Osbourne’s website is at: http://kirstenosbourne.com

  Chapter One

  Minnesota, August 1883

  Benjamin carefully pulled weeds out of the ground surrounding his wife’s grave. “I miss you every day. The girls miss you, and are starting to make noise about wanting a new mom.” He traced her name on the tombstone. “Anna, the world was a good place when you were by my side, but now I feel like I’m surrounded by darkness. How could I ever find someone to be a new mom for our precious girls?”

  He looked up at the sky, still angry with God for taking away his beautiful wife. “I think I’m going to send for a mail order bride. There’s an agency out East that will send a woman out to me. I have to pay them, but I don’t care. I don’t really want a wife, but I do need a new mama for the girls. Abbie starts school in just a year, and she’s already telling me that she needs more grown up dresses. I don’t know how to dress a little girl. Mor helps, but she doesn’t live with us, and I couldn’t pull her away from Far. I need a woman who will live with us to be a mother to the children. I guess I don’t really need a bride. I need a mail order mama to take care of our girls.”

  He knew he was rambling and anyone walking past the small cemetery would think he was crazy. “I feel like I’m betraying you by even considering finding a new wife, but the girls need someone.” He couldn’t lie to Anna, even after she was dead. “I need someone to keep me warm at night, but I won’t fall in love with her, Anna. I promise you.”

  He laid the flowers he and the girls had picked on her grave, and walked the short distance back to the home he shared with his daughters above the mercantile he owned.

  He’d gone out after work, but before he’d started supper. Abbie did a good job of watching Georgie while he worked, but she was only six, and he couldn’t make himself leave them any longer, even though he could see their home from the cemetery. He had to worry twice as much now that Anna couldn’t share the worries with him.

  He went to the table and called the girls to him. Once they were there, he told them about his decision. “I’ve decided to send away for a mail order bride, so you girls can have a mama again.”

  Georgie hugged her father, and Abbie just nodded solemnly. Both girls resembled their parents a great deal. Benjamin and Anna were both children of Norwegian immigrants, and had the typical Norwegian build and coloring. Both had the same blond hair and blue eyes of their parents and their parents before them. Everyone had stopped and stared as he and Anna had walked along the street together. Now the girls both reminded him a great deal of his Anna. Every time he looked at them, she was on his mind.

  “May we help you write the letter, Papa?” The girls didn’t use the Norwegian words for mother and father, Mor and Far, like he and Anna had. They knew only a few words in the old language, and that suited Benjamin fine. He’d had to learn to speak English when he’d started school, and it had been hard for him. He wanted his girls to speak the language of their new country. They would know the Norwegian words they needed to keep his mother happy, but no more. Now his parents used English more than Norwegian at home anyway.

  Benjamin nodded. “After supper, we’ll write the best letter a bride has ever seen.” He stood up to go into the kitchen, wondering what he’d do for supper. His mother had brought over some fresh bread just that morning. Maybe he could make some sandwiches. The girls hated them, but he knew very little about cooking and even less about cleaning. If Mor didn’t clean his house every week and do his family’s laundry, he didn’t know how he’d manage.

  He quickly sliced the bread and fried some bacon, one of the few things he knew how to cook. He carried the bread and bacon to the table on plates along with some of his Mor’s fresh butter. The girls came in to see what he’d set out to eat. “Bacon sandwiches again?” Georgie asked.

  Abbie shook her head at her sister. “Remember, he’s getting us a mama to cook for us,” she whispered.

  Georgie sat down at the table and buttered her bread, adding the bacon. “Thanks for cooking, Papa.” The words were said begrudgingly, but they were polite, and Benjamin couldn’t ask for more. He was getting tired of bacon sandwiches himself.

  Abbie took her seat and made her sandwich, and then they all bowed their heads to pray. Once Benjamin was finished, Abbie started telling him all she wanted him to put in the letter. “Tell her she needs to love little girls and know how to sew a dress.”

  Georgie looked up at that. “Tell her she needs to like to bake and cook things other than bacon sandwiches.”

  “And reading stories out loud. She needs to read us stories.” Abbie loved stories and couldn’t wait to learn to read them for herself.

  “She needs to like picnics and walking in the woods.”

  Benjamin laughed softly. “Why don’t you girls save your ideas, and we’ll write the letter just as soon as I finish up the supper dishes.” He was happy the girls were so excited to have a new mama. It would help them to adjust to having a woman around.

  *****

  Massachusetts September 1883

  Emily sat in the parlor of the small house she shared with her mother, reading through the newspaper. She needed a new job. She was a cook for a well-to-do family in town, but they’d begun having her cook, clean and watch the children for no extra pay. She loved children, and she didn’t mind cleaning up the messes she made, but she was still earning her very small salary. If she was going to do extra work, her pay needed to be higher commensurate with that work.

  She spotted an advertisement for mail order brides and wrinkled her nose. She wanted to marry, but wasn’t sure she could agree to something like that. She was glad she didn’t have to. With as shy as she was, she may never find a man to marry, though. One day, she may find herself wanting to marry badly enough she’d answer an ad like that. She was glad that day wasn’t today. Her eyes moved on quickly to the next ad.

  She heard the front door open and close and looked up as her mother joined her in their parlor. It was after nine at night. Her mother had never stayed out that late, but she had gradually stayed out later and later during the time she’d been seeing her new beau, William.

  “How was your evening?” she asked, noting the sparkle in her mother’s eyes.

  Jane held out her hand to show something to Emily. A ring. “It’s beautiful, Mother.” William was her mother’s first beau since her father was killed in Hendersonville, North Carolina during the war. “From William?” Of course it was from William. Who else would be buying her mother rings?

  Jane nodded her face pink with happiness. “He asked me to marry him.”

  Emily jumped to her feet and hugged her mother. “I’m so happy for you!” Emily and her mother had b
een everything to one another since her father had died. She was thrilled her mother had finally found a man to make her happy.

  “I was a little worried you’d think he was trying to take your father’s place.” Jane’s face was serious as she searched her daughter’s.

  Emily shrugged. “I don’t have any memories of my father at all, so I don’t mind. I’m just glad you’re happy.”

  Jane sat down next to Emily on the small pink sofa. “There is one thing, though.” Jane looked worried about whatever it was. They’d always been completely honest with one another, so Emily was surprised.

  “What is it?” Emily took Jane’s hand in hers to give her courage to tell her about whatever was troubling her.

  Jane took a deep breath, staring down at her hands. “William wants us to be alone. He thinks it could hurt our marriage to have you living in the house with us.”

  Emily’s eyes widened. At twenty, she’d never even had a beau. It hadn’t occurred to her she would need to find a place to live anytime soon. Her heart jumped into her throat and she wanted to protest, but she looked at her mother’s face and knew her happiness came first. She’d been twenty with a two year old child when her husband died, and she’d found a job and supported them both for years. “I understand. When will the wedding take place?”

  “In two months. I hope it will give you enough time.” Jane was obviously worried about sending her daughter away, but she wanted to marry William, and it was time she did something for herself for a change.

  “I’ll figure something out.” Emily’s mind frantically reviewed what she’d just seen in the paper. Not only would she need a better paying job, but a place to live as well. She took the paper, and stood up. “I’m going to bed. Tomorrow’s a work day.”

  As she climbed the stairs, Emily knew she wouldn’t be blowing out the light anytime soon. She’d spend the night searching for something, anything, she could do to support herself.

  She went into her room and quickly changed into her nightgown and braided her long brunette hair before lying down on the bed with the newspaper. She quickly read through the rest of the want ads, but there were very few jobs for a woman in Beckham. It was a mid-sized town, but most of the women stayed home with their families.

  Her eyes landed once again on the advertisement for a mail order bride. She read it over carefully. “Mail Order Bride agency needs women who are looking for the adventure of their lives. Men out West need women to marry. Reply in person at 300 Rock Creek Road. See Mrs. Harriett Long.”

  Emily bit her lip. Could she really do such a thing? It would solve a lot of her problems. She wouldn’t need to get a job, and she’d have a place to live. Of course, she’d also be married to a man she’d never met. Did she really have another option, though?

  *****

  Emily spent the day cooking with Mary and Sally, the children of the Walters, the family she worked for. The girls wanted to learn how to bake cakes, so she was once again teaching them. She couldn’t help but wonder if their mother told them to ask her how to cook various things so she could get some time away and not have to hire a nurse for them.

  She enjoyed having the children with her, but it did make her day harder. She fixed three meals per day for the family of four, and when the girls were with her, she tended to have to clean up more messes and do extra baking. The girls were three and five, and made more messes than she had ever dreamed possible. She would put the youngest in a chair at the table and have to help her do everything. The older girl was a little better but not by much.

  At one point, halfway through the day, she looked up to see Mary, the three year old, throwing eggs on the floor. “Where did she get eggs from?” Emily asked her pointed gaze fixed on Sally.

  Sally smiled and shrugged her shoulders trying to look innocent. Because Emily had no true authority over the girls, she couldn’t punish them for their misdeeds, so she let it go and patiently cleaned up the mess.

  Before the day was out, she’d mopped the kitchen floor six times. She was exhausted. She was also determined to stop by the address on Rock Creek Road on her way home. Being a mail order bride couldn’t possibly compare to the hassle of working with the two Walters daughters. How could having her own home be worse than working with the two destructive girls?

  At the end of the day, she stood in the spotless kitchen, and thanked Mrs. Walters for her wages. She was always paid on Saturdays, but her money went straight to her mother for the household expenses. How could she save up enough money to move out on her own when she had to give all her money to her mother simply to make ends meet?

  On her way home, she stopped at the address on Rock Creek Road. She knew where the road was, of course, but had never been on it. The house named in the address was large and intimidating. Emily had grown up in a small home, but her mother talked about the grand house she’d lived in with her parents before the war. They’d both died during the war, but Emily had frequently daydreamed about living in their beautiful home with them.

  For a moment, looking up at the house, she lost her nerve and started to walk away. She’d taken ten steps before she caught herself and turned back around, marching straight up to the door and knocking.

  The door was answered by a tall dark man in a butler’s uniform. “Yes?”

  “I’m here to see Mrs. Harriett Long, please.” She made sure her voice was strong as she asked, but it would have been so much easier to mumble. Emily hated having to speak with strangers more than just about anything in the world. She’d stayed at a bad job for two years rather than interview for something else, because she was so nervous about meeting strangers.

  The man nodded and stepped aside to allow her into the home. She stared around her in awe, never having been in a home so beautiful. “Right this way, Miss?”

  Emily tore her gaze from a painting on the wall to follow the butler. “Hughes. Emily Hughes.” She needed to stop gawking instead of looking like she’d never seen a affluent house before, so she forced her eyes on the butler’s back as she followed him through the house.

  He led her down a long hallway and stopped at a doorway on the left. “Ma’am? There’s a Miss Emily Hughes to see you.”

  Emily’s first impression of Harriett was surprise a woman so young, and so obviously wealthy, would have an agency for mail order brides. Harriett couldn’t be more than twenty-eight and had her blond hair pulled back in a neat bun. Her petite form was encased in a blue silk dress that Emily was sure would have cost six weeks’ worth of her wages.

  Harriett stood and moved across the room to where Emily stood in the hall. Emily noted her movements were graceful despite a pronounced limp. She held her hand out. “It’s nice to meet you, Emily. I’m Harriett Long.”

  “I came about your advertisement in the paper,” Emily blurted out quickly as she shook Harriett’s hand.

  Harriett’s smile brightened her entire face and made her eyes twinkle with laughter. “I presumed as much.” She turned to the butler. “Would you bring some tea and cookies, Higgins?”

  “Right away, Ma’am.” He left them alone, quietly closing the door behind him.

  “Come and sit with me. We’ll talk, and I’ll see if I can find a man who would suit you.” Harriett waited until Emily was seated before continuing. “What made you decide to come to me?”

  Emily let out a heavy sigh. “It was never my plan to be a mail order bride.” She looked into Harriett’s green eyes as she spoke, finding them warm and full of laughter. “I’ve lived with my mother my entire life. My father was killed in the war.” At Harriett’s nod, she continued, determined to get the full story out. “My mother and I are extremely close, and as she never remarried, I’ve been working and contributing to the household income for the last three years since I finished my schooling.”

  “How old are you now?” Harriett pulled out a piece of paper to jot down notes on what Emily told her.

  “I’m twenty.” She waited until Harriett wrote something down a
nd returned her attention to her before adding, “My mother has been seeing a man for the last several months. He’s her first beau since my father died.” Emily rubbed the back of her neck, the strain of the last day obvious in her stature. “Last night she came home and told me he’d asked her to marry him. I’m thrilled for her, of course. She deserves to be loved.”

  “Of course.” Harriett watched her carefully as if she were waiting to hear why she was stating the obvious.

  “But her fiancé doesn’t wish to have me living in the home with them once they’re married. He feels there wouldn’t be enough privacy if I were there, which I understand completely, but it does leave me out in the cold.” Emily tried her best not to sound hurt by the situation, but she realized she was in a way. She didn’t want her mother to choose her over William, but she did want her to think she was important enough to consider.

  Harriett nodded. “Yes, that’s more than a bit of a bind they’re leaving you in. You said you’ve worked for the past three years? What do you do?” Harriett seemed to be genuinely interested in Emily’s answers for more than just business reasons which made her much easier to talk to than most people.

  Emily let out a half laugh. “I work as a cook, but often I’m expected to clean and take care of the children of the household as well.”

  Harriett raised an eyebrow. “And you’re paid extra for those tasks?”

  “Of course not. I’m paid as a cook, nothing more.”

  “I see. Do you enjoy working with the children?”

  Emily nodded. “I do enjoy them, but they make my job a great deal harder.” She explained the messes they’d made during the long day and how many times she’d had to mop the floor. “If all I had to do was mind the children, I wouldn’t mind so much, but my employer enjoys giving dinner parties. She gave one tonight, in fact. So while I was cooking for her party, I was minding the children who were destroying the kitchen.”

 
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