Authors: Lena Dooley Nelson
Tags: #Romance, #Christian, #Fiction
is not your average romance, but then again, Lena Nelson Dooley is not your average author. With meticulously researched details, she brings to life the hardships of the Oregon Trail, the elegance of a Seattle mansion, the rigors of train travel, and the quiet gentility of Little Rock, all the while crafting a memorable story of the sometimes difficult relationship between a mother and daughter as the daughter embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Engaging, inspiring, and romantic. From the first to the last page, Lena Nelson Dooley never disappoints.
Author of the Surrender to Destiny Series
Lena Nelson Dooley’s stories always satisfy, and
is certainly no exception! She’ll grab you on page one with characters and events that reflect real-life joys and heartaches that change the characters forever and won’t let go until you’ve read “The End.” Make room on your “keepers” shelf for this first title in the MeKenna’s Daughters series!
Best-Selling Author of Eighty Award-Winning
From Ashes to Honor
Book 1 in the First Responders Series
Lena Nelson Dooley has once again penned an impossible-to-forget novel filled with love, faith, and the real meaning of what it is to be a family. Filled with characters so real they practically leap off the page,
is a treat that is not to be missed!
Author of Beloved Counterfeit and
The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper
is the beautifully written story of a young woman on a journey to discover both her past . . . and her future. Lena Nelson Dooley’s sensory tale will pull readers in and make them glad they’ve taken the time to travel alongside Maggie.
—Janice Hanna Thompson
Author ofLove Finds You in Groom, Texas
Most Charisma House Book Group products are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchase for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, and educational needs. For details, write Charisma House Book Group, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746, or telephone (407) 333-0600.
by Lena Nelson Dooley
Published by Realms
Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group
600 Rinehart Road; Lake Mary, Florida 32746
This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.
All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
The characters in this book are fictitious unless they are historical figures explicitly named. Otherwise, any resemblance to actual people, whether living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Lena Nelson Dooley
All rights reserved
Cover design by Rachel Lopez; Design Director: Bill Johnson
Visit the author’s website at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Dooley, Lena Nelson.
Maggie’s journey / Lena Nelson Dooley.
ISBN 978-1-61638-358-9 (trade paper) -- ISBN 978-1-61638-580-4 (e-book) 1. Self-realization in women--Fiction. 2. Family secrets--Fiction. I. Title.
11 12 13 14 15 — 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America
Thank you to my agent, Joyce Hart, and Realms editor Debbie Marrie for believing in this series and bringing about this special deal. And thanks to Lori Vanden Bosch, my special editor, for your insight in making my book stronger. Every author needs an editor like you. I look forward to working with everyone at Realms on all aspects of the McKenna’s Daughters series.
I praise the Lord for my wonderful family—my daughters, my sons-in-law, my grandsons, my granddaughters, and my great-grandson. Eric, I borrowed your name but used the Scandinavian spelling Erik. But most of all, for my precious husband, James, who understands the gifts God poured into my life and supports me in all the important ways—spiritual, physical, emotional, financial. I am who I am because you are who you are to me.
And every book I write is dedicated to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who loved me before I really knew Him and had greater plans for me than I could ever have imagined.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.
On the Oregon Trail
Florence Caine huddled near the campfire outside their wagon, one of over thirty that were circled for the night. Winter rode the winds that had been blasting them for the last few days. Their destination couldn’t come soon enough to suit her.
She brushed her skirt with the palms of both hands trying to get rid of the ever-present dirt.
Why did I ever agree to Joshua’s plan?
If she’d known all the dangers they would face along the way, he would have had to make this journey without her . . . if he kept insisting on going. Her husband’s adventurous spirit had first drawn her to him, but she would have been happy to stay in Little Rock, Arkansas, until they were old and gray. Instead, she finally yielded to his fairy-tale vision—a new start in the West. The words had sounded romantic at the time, but their brilliance had dulled in her memory.
Florence rubbed her chapped hands, trying to help the warmth to go deeper. Her bones ached with the cold. After months of traveling the plains through scorching heat and choking clouds of dust, she had welcomed the cooler temperatures when they crossed the Rocky Mountains. That respite was the only thing she liked about the treacherous route they had to take. Because of the steep trail that often disappeared among the rocks and tree roots, they had dumped many items the men thought weren’t essential.
As if men understood the desires of a woman’s heart and what brought her comfort. The tinkling and crashing of her precious bone china from England breaking into a million pieces as the crate tumbled down the hill still haunted her dreams.
Florence kept many of her favorite things when they traveled from Little Rock to Independence, Missouri, where the wagon trains started their journeys. She had struggled with what to sell to lighten the load before they left. The one piece of furniture she’d been allowed to keep, her grandmother’s small rosewood secretary desk, had probably been used as wood to stoke some other traveler’s fire out there on the prairie where trees were so widely scattered. When they had to dump the treasure, a piece of her heart went with it. She’d twisted on the wagon seat and gazed at the forlorn piece until it was just a speck on the empty horizon. Joshua had promised there would be other secretaries, but that didn’t matter anymore. She squeezed her eyes tight, trying to force the pictures out of her mind. Regrets attacked her like the plague.
More than the journey sapped her strength. She doubted there would be the proverbial pot of gold at the end of their travels. No promised land for her, because what she really wanted, a child of her own, wouldn’t be found in the greener pastures of the untamed wilderness.
Clutching her arms tightly across her chest, she forced her thoughts even farther back, all the way to Arkansas. Their white house with the green shutters nestled between tall trees that sheltered them from the summer heat and kept the cold winds at bay. She remembered the times the two of them had sat before the fire—she knitting or sewing while Joshua read aloud to her from one of their favorite books. Or he might be poring over one of the many newspapers he often brought home after work. Now for so many months, they hadn’t heard any news except whatever they could glean at the infrequent stops along the Oregon Trail or from the few riders who passed the wagon train. Sometimes the men stopped to share a meal and spin yarns for the ones on the journey.
She had no idea how much of their information was even true. But the men hung on to their every word. Loneliness for family and the desire to know what was going on back East ate at her.
A shiver swept from the top of Florence’s head and didn’t miss a single part of her body on its way to her feet. Even with multiple layers of woolen hosiery, her toes felt like ice. She’d often worried that one of them would break off if she stubbed it. She yearned for the snug house where never a single cold breeze seeped inside. Would she ever feel warm again?
She glanced around the clearing, hoping Joshua would soon return to their campsite. If not, dinner would be overcooked or cold. Sick of stew that had been made from rabbits or squirrels these last two weeks, she longed for fried chicken or a good pot roast with plenty of fresh vegetables. At least the wagon master assured them they were no more than a three-day journey from Oregon City. Taking a deep breath, she decided she could last three more days. But not one minute more.
Strong arms slid around her waist. Florence jumped, then leaned back against her husband’s solid chest. His warmth surrounded her, and she breathed deeply of his unique musky scent mixed with the freshness of the outdoors.
“What were you thinking about?” Joshua’s breath gave her neck a delicious tickle.
“That our journey will soon be over.”
She could hardly wait to be in a real house with privacy. She had never felt comfortable knowing that people in nearby wagons could hear most of what went on in theirs, and she knew more than she ever wanted to know about some of the families on the train. She moved slightly away from him but missed the warmth he exuded. Suddenly an inexplicable sense of oppression or impending disaster gave her more of a chill than the cold wind. This time the shivers shook her whole body.
He turned her in his arms, gently held her against his chest, then propped his chin on top of her head. “I know how hard this has been on you, Flory.”
He didn’t often use the pet name he gave her while they courted. The familiarity warmed her heart for a moment.
“You’re just skin and bones, but soon we’ll be in the promised land, and I’ll make sure you have everything you’ve ever wanted.”
Words spoken with such conviction that they almost melted her heart . . . almost, but the strange cold dread wouldn’t depart.
She pulled away and stared up into his eyes, basking in the intense love shining in them. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted.” That wasn’t exactly true, but she wouldn’t mention their inability to conceive a child. No use bringing that hurt to his eyes. “So what did Overton have to say to the men tonight?”
“Not all the men were there. Angus McKenna wasn’t. Neither was the doctor.”
A stab of jealousy jolted through her as she realized this could mean only one thing. Lenora McKenna was in labor. Florence stuffed her feelings of inadequacy and envy deep inside and tried to replace them with concern for Lenora. The poor woman had ridden on a pallet in the back of the McKenna wagon for about three weeks. She was actually the reason they took the easier, but longer, Barlow Cutoff instead of crossing the Dalles. The wagon train wouldn’t continue on to Fort Vancouver as originally planned. But the wagon master assured them plenty of land awaited near Oregon City. No one but Florence minded the change. At least, no one complained, and she didn’t voice her feelings about prolonging her time on the hard wagon seat. No use letting anyone else know how she really felt. No one would care.
“Should I go see if I can help?” Florence really didn’t want to, but she didn’t want Joshua to see the ugly side of her personality. She didn’t want him to think less of her.
Thunder’s deep rumble in the clouds hovering low above the wagon bounced against the surrounding mountains and back. Lightning shot jagged fingers above them, raising the hairs on her arms. She had never liked storms, even from the inside of their house. Out here in the open was far worse.
Joshua hugged her close again. “I think a couple of the women who’ve . . . had children . . . are there with the doctor.” He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “No need for you to go. The wagon would be too crowded.”
He didn’t mean the words to hurt her, but her greatest shame was her inability to give him children. She had watched Joshua as he enjoyed interacting with the various youngsters on the wagon train. He really had a way with them, and they often gathered around him when they were camped, listening intently while he regaled them with wild tales.
He had told her it didn’t matter to him that they didn’t have children, but that inability mattered to her . . . more than anything else in the world.
What kind of woman am I?
Eight years of marriage should have brought several babies into their family. Every other couple they knew had several by the time they had been married as long as she and Joshua.
She slid from his arms and bent to stir the bubbling stew, hoping he wouldn’t notice how his words bothered her. Without turning her head, she gritted her teeth. “Hungry?”
His melodious laughter, which always stirred her heart, bounced across the clearing, and some of their neighbors glanced toward them. “That’s a foolish question, woman. When have I ever turned away from food . . . especially yours?” He patted his flat stomach for emphasis.
Florence went to the back of their wagon and withdrew two spoons and crockery bowls before ladling the hot soup into them. She had already cut the hot-water cornbread she baked in her cast-iron skillet over the coals, so she grabbed a couple of pieces. They sat on the split log bench they carried in their wagon and set out at each campsite.
Joshua took her hand and bowed his head. “Lord, we thank You for Your provision during this journey and especially for tonight’s meal. Bless these hands that prepared this food for us.” He lifted her hand and pressed a soft kiss to the back of it. “And Lord, please be with the McKennas tonight.”
His words brought a picture into her mind of him caring for her while she was in labor with their child. She needed his tenderness, but that was one kind she’d never have. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and blinked back the tears.
Since the McKenna wagon was at the far side of the circled wagons, Florence hadn’t heard many of the sounds of the labor. Occasionally, a high shrill cry rose above the cacophony that divided them, announcing Mrs. McKenna’s agony. Just that faint sound made Florence’s stomach muscles clench. She wouldn’t relish going through that kind of pain, but the reward . . . oh, yes, she would welcome it to have a child.
Her stomach growled and twisted. Hunger had dogged her the last few weeks as the food dwindled. They dove into their bowls, and she savored the stew which contained the remnants of the shriveled carrots and potatoes they’d bought at Fort Hall, the last place they had stopped that sold food to the wagon train. She wasn’t sure what she would cook when this pot of stew was gone, but they should have enough to eat for a couple of days, maybe three if they were careful. At least the cold air would keep it from spoiling. Hopefully by then they’d be at the settlement.
Joshua cleared his throat. “By the way, Overton mentioned that the impending birth might delay our departure tomorrow.” Then he shoveled another spoonful of stew into his mouth, grinning as he closed his eyes and relished the taste, a habit he’d formed soon after they married.
Florence’s food turned bitter in her mouth. She rubbed her hand across her barren belly where her empty womb mocked her. A few tears leaked from her eyes. Why had God chosen not to fulfill her desire to be a mother? And this news was most unwelcome. She might go mad with the delay.
Another flash of lightning, followed by a loud burst of thunder, opened the brooding clouds. Cold rain sprinkled down on them, then gradually grew in intensity. They scrambled to gather their belongings and thrust them into the wagon. Last she covered the stew pot and hung it at the edge of the wagon bed. Then they clambered under the protection of their canvas roof. At least the rain kept Joshua from seeing the tears, which would upset him. He tried so hard to make her happy through their arduous journey.
Long after her husband’s comforting snores filled the enclosure, Florence lay awake, listening to the storm and imagining how she would feel holding her child to her breast. Lullabies filled these daydreams, and her fingers could almost feel the velvety softness of a sweet cheek and silky curls. She wondered if her babies would have blonde hair like hers or the rich brown of Joshua’s.
Once again, tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. She carefully brushed them away and willed herself to fall asleep and squash the thoughts that plagued her. Just before her eyes closed, a light appeared at the opening of the wagon. Florence slid their Wedding Ring quilt up to her chin and sat up, but Joshua didn’t stir.
Reverend Knowles stood in the glow of the lantern, water dripping from the brim of his floppy felt hat. “I’m sorry to bother you folks, but I’m asking everyone to pray for the McKennas. She’s having a hard time, and it’s difficult for him too.”