Mail Order Bride: Christy (Orphan Brides Go West Book 1), page 1
© 2016 by Vivi Holt
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This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form or by any other means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without written permission from the publisher.
By Vivi Holt
Orphan Brides Go West: Book 1
“Christy, please move your head away from the window. And stop that daydreaming!”
The words of Christy Hancock’s mother, in her broad Irish lilt, broke through into the world where Christy was currently immersed, a smile drifting across her parted lips. The train may have been heading west, from Pennsylvania to California, but in her mind Christy was still in Philadelphia, playing her piano by the bay windows in the front room of their red, brick house. She loved that view, overlooking the busy street. She could sit there for hours practicing Bach and watching the neighbors scurry up and down Maple Avenue as they carried on with their busy lives.
Christy had never wanted to leave Philadelphia, and at aged nineteen, could have stayed there on her own since she was old enough to be independent in the eyes of the law. But law and heart are very different things, and Christy was still girl-like and innocent in many ways. Besides, the only family Christy had in this land was her Ma and Pa — the remainder of her extended family were still across the ocean in Ireland and she barely remembered anything about them. She couldn’t bear to watch her parents leave her behind. So, with great reluctance, Christy found herself on the transcontinental railway.
“Sorry, Ma,” Christy said.
Her Ma sighed, “Christy, instead of daydreaming it would serve you better to use your time to focus on your studies. If you’re to be accepted to the teacher’s college when we get to California, you will have to set your mind to studying for the entry examination. You know you will have to make a living for yourself when we get there. At the very least, I think you should try to learn to focus on what is real and in front of you right here and now. I raised you to be sensible, and I can assure you that being so will get you much further in life than daydreaming will.”
Christy nodded. She shook herself and sat up straight, trying to focus on what was in front of her. Across from Christy in the carriage sat her mother, a stern but kind-hearted woman, and her father, a quiet man with a greying beard who allowed Mrs. Hancock to make the bulk of the decisions. It was Christy’s Ma who had decided, when Christy was only six years of age, that the family should cross the ocean and leave Ireland behind to make new lives in America. And it was Christy’s Ma who had decided that the family ought to join the trail of pioneers heading west.
That journey across the sea seemed like an eternity ago, another lifetime, Christy thought. This rail journey was a new experience for her, and for hours she had relished watching the fields and woods flashing by the window beside her as the train sped across the country. A green hollow filled with brilliantly colored flowers filled her vision for a second and she longed to be outside romping through them, their sweet scent filling her nostrils. At the very least it would be nice to stretch her legs after hours spent on the train. A herd of deer shied away from the noise of the train, and bounded across the hollow, their soft, wet noses raised high in the air.
Christy sighed and leaned back in her seat. They’d left Philadelphia on a large, black steam train ten hours ago and Christy was feeling the lethargy that only utter boredom and the restrictions of a confined space for an extended amount of time could bring. At first she had been overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery they flew past. There had been large, still lakes, covered with water fowl. Then, they chugged past deep, dark, woods holding unknown secrets and tall trees with trunks thicker than a dozen men standing together. She had seen birds of every kind, lithe brown deer, white-tailed rabbits, and once a black bear foraging along the edge of the woods beside the train tracks. But now, even the scenery was becoming tiresome, making her dizzy if she watched it flying past for too long.
“Ma, how long until we reach Topeka?” Christy knew, having already asked her mother half a dozen times, that Topeka would be the next stop where they would have a chance to get out of the train and take a good walk.
“About four hours or so, I believe. We should be in Missouri by now,” answered her mother, who had taken a half-finished sweater out of a bag at her feet and was carefully knitting a row of green pearl stitches across the top of it, her needles flying.
Just then, the engine slowed and Christy heard the screech of brakes as the locomotion pulled hard to a stop. Christy looked up with joy.
“Oh, are we stopping here?” she asked, looking out the window at the dense woods beyond.
Christy’s Ma glanced out the window, trying to see toward the front of the train. She looked stern.
“Sit down Christy,” she whispered, her brow furrowed with deep lines. She placed her knitting carefully back into the bag, and leaned over to whisper something to Mr. Hancock who nodded and after a few seconds replied, “I’ll go and check it out.” He stood up and straightened his suit vest, a frown forming above his bushy, dark eyebrows.
He looked over at Christy. “You stay here Christy, you hear me?”
Christy nodded. It was unlike her Pa to speak to her with such a firm manner.
“What’s happening, Ma?” Christy whispered.
Worry and dread replaced her feeling of joy.
“Why have we pulled to a stop here in the middle of nowhere? I can’t see a station platform anywhere. Is there something wrong?”
Christy’s Ma reached over and placed a hand on her arm. “I'm not sure. Just stay quiet.” But after a few minutes had passed with no sign of Mr. Hancock's return, Mrs. Hancock had had enough of sitting still. She was a fierce, determined woman who was rarely content to sit back and wait for matters to play out.
“I’m going to see what’s happened to your Pa. Promise me you won’t move from this spot my child.”
Christy sat still, nodding, her hands pressed together in her lap. She waited patiently, craning her neck to scan up and down the side of the train as her Ma disappeared from sight.
What is happening out there? The rest of the carriage was now very quiet and Christy sat as still and silent as everybody else, waiting. She peered again through the window, straining to discover anything about what was going on outside, but all she could see was a thicket of fir trees about twenty yards from the train tracks running parallel to the rails. Beyond the tree line, there was only darkness in the shadows of the closely bunched trees. Christy stood for a moment to gaze out the windows on the opposite side of the train, but again all she saw were the stout, unmoving fir trees lined up squarely one beside the other.
Suddenly gunshots rang out. They echoed back from the surrounding hills, filling the carriage with their sound.
People cried out to their loved ones as they ducked for cover.
But Christy didn’t duck. Instead, she leapt out of her seat and ran to the front of the carriage, following the path Ma and Pa had taken, ignoring their directive that she sit still.
The conductor was crouched down behind the back of a seat. He reached up his hand and grabbed Christy by the arm.
“Where in tarnation do you think you’re going?” he asked, pulling her away from the door. “There’s train robbers out there! They’ll shoot you as soon as look at ya! They already shot tw
“Let me go,” Christy said, desperately trying to wriggle her way out of the man’s clutches. “My Ma and Pa are out there!” she screamed.
A grave look came over the man’s face. He loosened his grip on Christy.
“Child you can’t go out there,” the man whispered.
“I need to make sure they’re okay.” Christy wailed. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. It was as though she already knew the truth before she heard it.
The man placed a gentle hand on Christy’s shoulder. “I don’t think you want to see what’s out there, child.”
Christy dropped to her knees. “Noooo,” she wailed in a long cry. “Those gunshots. It couldn’t be - Ma! Pa!”
The man knelt down besides Christy. “I’m so sorry my girl.”
Meredith Poke hurried down the train platform in Topeka, Kansas, calling out for the train to stop. She drew her hat off her head and waved it frantically at the brakeman, hoping to catch his attention, but it was too late. The engine edged forward, chugging and chuffing loudly, and soon it was on its way. Meredith ground to a halt and let out an exclamation as she realized she’d missed the train and would need to wait until the following day to visit her sister in Kansas City.
“Darn it!” she said, catching her breath.
Now in her late-forties, Meredith wasn’t used to exerting herself in such a way. It took her a few minutes to get her breathing back to normal and she fanned her reddened face with a hand-held fan as she gazed around the platform.
“Well, I suppose I just wasn’t meant to get on that train today,” she said to herself. “At least Morty will be pleased to see me home again, knowing I can make him a hot dinner rather than the cold cuts and bread I had left out for him.”
She was about to trot down the steps at the end of the platform and head back into town when she heard a wailing noise behind her.
Why, what kind of creature is making such a wretched sound?
Meredith turned to see a young woman, with a head of glossy red curls, doubled over on the train platform, weeping as though she had just lost everything in the world.
Meredith hurried over to the girl. “Whatever’s happened my dear?”
Christy was barely able to stand up straight, even with Meredith’s arm to help her. With her entire body shaking she recounted the whole sorry story to Meredith, who listened with growing alarm.
“And what are you doing here in Topeka?” Meredith asked. “Do you know people here?”
Christy burst into tears again. Meredith handed Christy a handkerchief to dry her eyes as she shook her head. “No. I don’t know anyone, anywhere! That’s the heart of the problem! My living relatives are all in Ireland. Only Ma, Pa and I came across to start a new life here!” Christy let out another wail, before she blew her nose.
“All I have left of them now is a letter that my Ma sent me some months back when I was staying with a friend. It was stashed in my luggage. I keep it tucked into my sleeve so I can read it whenever I miss them. So you see, Topeka is as good a place as any for me to be. I’ve been on that miserable train for more than fifteen hours - five since Ma and Pa were killed - and I couldn’t bear to stay on board for one moment longer!”
“Of course,” Meredith said, wrapping her arm around the girl. “So you’ve nowhere to go, no warm bed to spend the night in?”
Christy shook her head. “I’ve got no one and nowhere to go. I’ve barely anything in the world to call my own, just a few things from Ma and Pa’s luggage. The robbers stole their pocket books, but thankfully they had a little money hidden in their bags. We gave up our home in Pennsylvania to move to California, and now I’ve nowhere to go!”
“Well my dear, you must come home with me.”
Christy looked up, still sniffling. “Oh, do you really mean that? That’s awful kind of you. But I don’t want to be a burden on you.”
“Nonsense. The only burden on me would be worrying about you out here on the street! Come now, and I’ll show you my home and settle you in. My name’s Meredith,” the woman said kindly. “And my husband Morty will be pleased to have you as well!”
Meredith and Morty had a lovely home, and they did their best to welcome her, offering her cake and sweet tea on her first evening there. But Christy knew she couldn’t stay in their home forever. Somehow she would need to figure out what the rest of her life might look like now she was on her own. She had gathered what valuables she could carry from her parents’ luggage before leaving the train, and she knew she had some funds available to her in the First Bank of Philadelphia. At some stage she would have to retrieve the money via wire transfer or visit Philadelphia herself to get it. She had a little cash with her for now, though, enough to live off for a short time. Meredith had told Christy that she could stay as long as she needed to, but Christy, though naive in some ways, knew that didn’t mean indefinitely. I’ve a few days here at most, Christy thought that night as she crawled into bed. And after that I’ve no idea what I will do!
The following morning Meredith and Morty greeted Christy warmly as she descended the stairs and sat at the table for breakfast. Though the food smelled delicious Christy had no appetite. Morty sat at the dining table in their small kitchen, a smile on his face and a handlebar moustache, twirled tightly at the ends, drooping across his wide mouth. His thinning hair was combed evening across his scalp, and his grey eyes twinkled happily.
“Come on now my dear, you’ll fade away,” he said, handing her some toasted bread.
“I just can't seem to eat much,” Christy said, but she thanked Morty for his kindness and tried to nibble on the bread.
Meredith and Morty looked at each other. Meredith’s hair was curled into a tight bun at the back of her head, and she wore a plain brown dress and a white pinafore with small red rose buds splashed across it. She nodded before she spoke up.
“You know, we’d like you to stay here with us, Christy. Our own children are now grown with children of their own, and our house has been awful quiet ever since they left.”
Christy stopped her nibbling. “I would love to stay here. Your house is very warm and welcoming.” Christy smiled at the couple, who both looked at each other before Meredith continued her talking.
“But you’re a young woman Christy, and just like our own children, you should be out in the world, starting a family of your own.”
Christy looked down at her plate. Now her appetite had entirely left her. “Oh,” Christy said.
“Dear, we don’t mean to offend you,” Meredith said quickly, reaching over to pat Christy’s arm. “Of course you can stay here as long as you need. We just don’t want you to be stuck here, all on your lonesome,” Meredith said gently. “Tell you what, why don’t I help you to write letters to your family and friends. You can reach out to them, to people who know and love you, and see if any of them might offer you money or lodging. Morty and I run the local post office, so sending the letters won’t be any trouble. And we can give them this address to write back to. You won’t need to leave until you’ve at least heard word back.”
Christy nodded. “That sounds like a good idea Meredith, thank you. I wonder if you would help me get a bank account set up here in Topeka as well. My parents had a little money in their bank account back home, and I would like to set up a wire transfer."
"Of course my dear," said Morty. "Happy to help."
"Thank you," Christy whispered, a wave of grief and loneliness filling her heart. She pushed her plate away, her plate still untouched.
The weeks passed quickly and Christy's heart began its healing process. She enjoyed her time with Meredith and Morty, and had slipped quite seamlessly into sharing their comfortable life with them. Morty
Still Christy hadn't heard anything from the relatives in Ireland she had written to when she first arrived in Topeka.
“I’m beginning to think no one cares at all!” Christy said one morning to Meredith while making her bed. “Another day without a single letter!”
“Give it some more time my dear,” Meredith said. “It can take a long time for letters to reach from here to Ireland and back again.”
Christy shoved the sheet underneath her mattress and straightened it despondently. “It’s as though no one cares that I have been left all alone here in this country. They don’t even write to express their sorrow at Ma and Pa’s passing.” Christy thought she might cry just thinking about it. She straightened her back and smoothed her dress.
“Just wait a little longer,” Meredith said gently. “It hasn’t been so very long.”
But Meredith ran the post office and she knew the usual time that such correspondence took. And it had been a rather long time, plenty of time for a response from Ireland. Though she didn’t want to say so to Christy, Meredith was beginning to believe that no letters were coming. Christy would need to make other plans for her life; she wouldn't be able to rely on her family to help her.
“Come on my dear ― it’s my day off. Why don’t you come to the store with me? You can help me pick out the ingredients for dessert tonight?”
Christy brightened a little. Nodding, she said, “That would be wonderful. I need something to take my mind off my troubles!”
The Topeka General Store was a bright and cheerful place. Its shelves were lined with groceries, linens, fabrics, shoes, and farming supplies. A person could find anything he or she might need somewhere within its hewn timber walls. At the entrance to the store was a noticeboard where people could pin up flyers about various happenings around town, or missing or lost items. One particular stack of cream colored flyers with strong black lettering caught Meredith’s eye.
VIVI HOLT SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Cheyenne ReckoningHome Is Where The Heart Is: A Christian Romance (Heartstone Book 1)The Billionaire's Email-Order WifeMake-Believe MarriageOrphan Brides Go West: The Complete SeriesMake-Believe WeddingThe Billionaire's Email-Order DateMake-Believe Proposal
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