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Authors: Kirsten Osbourne

Tags: #Historical Romance, #Westerns, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Victorian, #Western

Mail Order Meddler (10 page)

BOOK: Mail Order Meddler
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Chapter Seven

 

 

There was a quick knock on the door before Andy came into the room.  He sat beside her on the bed, stroking her arm for a moment.  “I don’t even know what to say to you.”

Tracy smiled through her tears.  “Not much to say, is there?”

He shook his head.  “I’ve never met anyone so selfish in my entire life.  I’m so glad she didn’t raise you.”  He couldn’t imagine how his wife would have turned out if she’d been raised by the harridan who had just left their home.

Tracy nodded, sniffling.  “I’m coming to believe that she really did do the best thing for me by leaving me at the orphanage.”
  All of her dreams about her mother had been well and truly shattered.  If she never saw the woman again, it would be too soon.

“There’s no doubt in my mind she did the best thing.”  He sighed heavily.  “I told her she wasn’t welcome back here and that the invitation for Thanksgiving has been rescinded.”

Tracy sat up and threw herself into Andy’s arms.  “Thank you!  I don’t know if I could have told my mother I never wanted to see her again, but I don’t.”  Andy was so good at taking care of her and doing what she needed him to do.  If only he would give her the words of love she needed as well.

Andy sighed.  “At least now you don’t have to wonder what she’s like anymore.  You know.”

“Oh, I know.”  Tracy looked at the wall for a moment.  “She looked down on us and everything we have.  Nothing here was ever good enough for her.  We are not…of her class.”  How could a woman who put riches above all else have left her only child to be raised in an orphanage?  It just made no sense.

“I know.  It was obvious.”  He put his forefinger under her chin and lifted it up for a soft kiss.  “I think you made the right decision staying here, by the way.”

Tracy smiled.  “I know I did.”  She rested her cheek against his shoulder.  “Is Mattie all right?  How upset is she?”  She worried the little girl would be off crying.   She needed to go and calm her down.

Andy bit his lip.  “I forgot to tell you that part…”

Tracy raised an eyebrow.  “What part?”  What had happened while she’d been in her room crying?

“Mattie kicked Cecelia and told her she was an evil witch.”

Tracy felt the laughter rolling up inside her.  “She didn’t!”  Oh, how she loved that little girl!

“She said that anyone that doesn’t love you is evil and she doesn’t ever want to have to look at her again.”

Tracy brushed the tears out of her eyes.  “I need to go out there.”  Tracy got to her feet and headed toward the door, obviously in a hurry now.

“She’s fine!  I promise.”

“No, it’s going to take me a while to fix dinner.  We need to have beef stew and fresh bread.”

Andy smiled as he watched her get go.  She was going to fix Mattie’s favorite meal.  His wife was an amazing woman.

 

*****

 

The next time Tracy went
into town, George shared all the latest gossip.  “That woman that looked like you?  She left.  She came into town on Sunday spitting mad, and demanded I open up my store.  Bought a few things and left.”  He was leaned forward on the counter, the top of his head shining.

Tracy nodded.  “I didn’t think she’d still be around.”  She smiled
happy her mother was gone from her life for good.  “How was your Thanksgiving, George?”  She didn’t want to keep talking about her mother.  It made her sad.

“It was good.  My son
, Amos, got us a turkey, and we had a good feast.  How ‘bout you?  Good one?”  Tracy was convinced that George had opened a store so he could talk to people all day.  His wife was quiet and shy, and Tracy doubted she had a whole lot to say.

“Arthur got a turkey for us, and Mattie and I made stuffing for it.  It turned out really well.”  She smiled, leaning forward.  “Don’t tell Andy, but it was the first turkey I ever cooked.  I thought it came out really moist.”
  She was proud of how well it had turned out.  She’d been almost afraid of trying to cook a turkey.  For some reason, it seemed like it was the hardest thing in the world to cook when you talked to other women about it.

“From what I hear from that family of yours, if you cook it, it comes out better than the way anyone else would ever make it.”
  He winked at her with a smile.

Tracy laughed.  “
Don’t  listen to them.  They just want me to keep cooking for them.”  She watched as he added up the items she’d chosen, including some white linen for baby clothes.  She knew it was early yet, but she couldn’t wait to start cutting them out and sewing them.

“You starting to sew for the baby already?”  George peered at her stomach.  “When are you due?”

Tracy nodded, her face lit up with excitement.  “In about three and a half or four months.”  She patted her huge belly, happy to think about the time her baby would be there.

“That gives you plenty of time to get the sewing done.  I’d have thought you’d still be rushing to finish Christmas presents, though.”

“I got those finished last week.  It was easy to do all the men’s gifts, but I had to pretend to take a nap every day to get Mattie’s done.”  Tracy grinned as she thought about the gifts she’d carefully handmade for her family.  She knew they’d be excited to see them.

Mattie came up behind her then.  “To get my
what done?”

Tracy laughed down into the girl’s smiling face.  “Would you like to know?”
  She dropped her voice conspiratorially like she was going to tell the girl a secret, leaning forward to put her lips against her ear.

“Yes, I would.  Please tell me!”
  Mattie’s voice was so excited, Tracy almost felt bad.

“I made you…a Christmas present!”

They were still laughing as they walked out to the wagon.  Andy sat on the seat smiling down at them.  “You done?  Ready for me to carry everything out?”  Andy had decided to accompany them to town for a while, worried that her mother would cause trouble.  This was the first time they’d been in since the woman had been out to their house, and they had no way of knowing if she’d left town or stayed to cause problems.  Andy wanted to talk to George for a moment when Tracy wasn’t around anyway.

“Did we have any letters?” he asked.

Tracy made a face.  “I didn’t think to ask, but I’m sure George would have told me if we did.”  She rubbed her belly.  “I’m getting hungry.”

Andy kissed the top of her head.  “I’ll get the wagon loaded then.  We can’t have Junior starving to death.”
  He always referred to the baby as ‘Junior’ as if he knew it would be a boy.  Tracy didn’t mind.  Boy or girl, she’d love it just the same.

“With as much as I eat, I don’t think there’s any danger of that.”  Her appetite had been voracious since she’d been pregnant.  The first month or two she’d thrown up constantly, but since, she’d just been hungry.  She had no other real symptoms besides the hunger, though, so she counted herself fortunate.

Andy hurried into the store and stopped in front of the counter at the front.  “Tracy’s mother is really gone?  You’re sure?”

“I watched her get on the train with my own two eyes.”  George patted Andy’s arm in a fatherly way.  “I promise, I’ll send Amos out the second I see her or anyone else looking for Tracy.”

Andy breathed a sigh of relief.  “Good.  I don’t want to have to worry.   I appreciate it.”  He shook the older man’s hand as he carried the first of the packages to his wagon.

 

 

*****

 

Tracy spent the next month planning for Christmas.  She had read about people who had
pine trees in their house that they decorated with popcorn, so she had Andy chop down a pine tree and drag it into the house, building a stand for it.  She and Mattie made popcorn and spent hours stringing it carefully.  The five of them together trimmed the tree singing their favorite Christmas carols.  When it was finished, Tracy felt tears pouring down her face.  She loved starting traditions with her new family.

All Tracy’s life she’d dreamed of what it would be like to be part of a family for Christmas, and this year she was going to make the most of her new family. 

Tracy sat down with Mattie at the kitchen table one day, and the two of them spent hours with watercolors from the mercantile painting Christmas scenes on the plain brown paper she’d purchased to wrap gifts in. 

The only thing that bothered her was that there was no snow.  She wasn’t a huge fan of snow, because she hated being cold, but it just didn’t feel like Christmas without the ground covering.
She was sure she’d eventually get used to it, but it was going to take a few years. The church was having a big Christmas service on the evening of Christmas Eve, and when Tracy asked if they could go, Andy sighed.  He wouldn’t tell her ‘no’ with as excited as she was about the holiday.  He’d always attended the service as a child, but since his parents had died, he hadn’t had the desire to.

They made the drive into town just as it was getting dark
.  Tracy had made a covered dish that Mattie was holding on her lap in the back of the wagon.  They would have the service, and then there would be a potluck and time to fellowship.  Everyone in the church had drawn someone else’s name to buy or make a gift for as well, so everyone would leave with something special.  Tracy had no idea who had her name, but she had her friend Abigail’s, and she was practically bouncing with excitement.

The previous week when she’d gone to
town she’d run into her friend and tried to feel her out about what she wanted for Christmas that she didn’t think she’d get.  She didn’t want her to know she had her name, though, so she skirted around the subject.  Just when she’d given up on getting an idea from Abigail, the other woman had complimented her on her hat. Tracy had crocheted it herself imitating one she’d seen in Massachusetts.  Not many people in Texas wore winter hats, but Tracy had liked wearing it when she was in the wagon for a long time in the forty degree weather.

She had gone to the mercantile immediately after seeing Abigail and picked out a beautiful sky blue yarn that would be
pretty with her friend’s eyes.  She’d had to work quickly, but it was done and wrapped.  No one was allowed to tell who they had, even to family members, so she didn’t know what the others had done, but she was excited to be part of it all.

Andy helped her down from the wagon before the service, and all of them had rushed to put their gifts on the table where the others were.  Tracy set the scalloped potato dish she’d made on the other table where all the food was before taking her seat.  She was practically bouncing in her seat, enjoying a real Christmas for the first time in her life.

As an orphan, there had always been presents, but they were usually used clothes or other cast-offs from the townspeople.  These were real presents, and she was able to give something special to others for the first time.  She didn’t know why the orphanage hadn’t organized something like this where each of them could make something for one of the others.  She considered writing a letter to Mrs. Spivey to suggest she do it in the future.

The pastor told the Christmas story as some of the children from town acted out the story.  Francis had said he’d been asked to be part of it, but he hadn’t wanted to make the two hour round-trip drive every day for a week
of rehearsals.

After the service, they all helped themselves to heaping plates of food and desserts.  Tracy was proud to see that her dish was gone before she even had a chance to get a bit herself.  They moved all the pews and everyone sat at the
tables people had carried in.  Tracy sat between Andy and Mattie, so proud to be part of the Harvey family.

After dinner, Tracy hurried to help with the cleanup.  Three different basins full of hot water had been carried in to wash the dishes, and another three were carried in for rinsing.  The work was done quickly and efficiently, with all the women chattering about how excited their children were for Christmas.  Tracy had told Mattie to go ahead and play with the other kids, knowing that there would be more than enough hands to get the job done.

Finally, after the dishes were washed, everyone sat around the tables once again, and a group of girls, all around Mattie’s age were given the task of passing out the presents.  “They do it that way to reinforce the new readers,” Andy whispered to Tracy.  “The kids have to read words they don’t know, and match them up with the people that are here.”

“How long has this been a tradition here?” she asked in a whisper.
  With the way he’d balked at going, she thought it was the first year, before he said that.

Andy smiled.  “For as long as I can remember.  Some of my first memories are of Christmas celebrated right here in this church.”

When Tracy’s present appeared before her, she looked at the label.  Everyone was supposed to put who it was to and from on the package, but hers just said, “To: Tracy Harvey.”  She frowned.  Who could it be from?  And why didn’t they want her to know?

She waited until all the presents were set out and Mattie was once again beside her before opening her gift carefully.  Inside was a pretty carved wooden box.  She opened the box and there was a beautiful necklace inside.  She let out a gasp and held it up in front of her.

BOOK: Mail Order Meddler
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