Read Mail Order Meddler Online

Authors: Kirsten Osbourne

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

Mail Order Meddler (9 page)

BOOK: Mail Order Meddler
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Before she could stop herself, Tracy said, “I’ve already made Sunday dinner, but you’re welcome to join us.”

Andy stiffened a bit at her words, but immediately echoed the invitation.  “Yes, you’re welcome to eat with us.”

“I’d like that.”  Cecelia smiled happily.  “I have a buggy that I’ve borrowed for the duration of my stay.  You’ll just need to give me directions.”

“You can follow us out after church,” Andy suggested.  He knew he should have just drawn the woman a map, but he didn’t want to waste that much time on her.  There was something about her that he just couldn’t trust.

“I’ll do that.”  Cecelia looked around for Mattie.  “Where’s your little sister-in-law.  She was so…charming that day I met her.”

Tracy stifled a laugh.  Mattie had dismissed her mother out of hand.  She’d not thought she was worth her time and attention, and it showed.  “She’s playing with the other little girls.  She’ll be along before church starts.”

Tracy was surprised to see the older woman slide into the pew beside her.  Mattie usually sat at her side, and wouldn’t be happy for the intrusion.  When Mattie saw Cecelia in her usual spot,
she squeezed in between Tracy and Andy.  Tracy obediently slid closer to her mother to give Mattie a little more room, smiling at the girl’s solution.

After the sermon, everyone crowded around to meet Tracy’s “sister.”  When Tracy introduced the other woman as her mother, there were some very surprised faces.  “You don’t look young enough to have a child Tracy’s age!”

Cecelia took the comments in stride.  “Thank you…She does age me a bit, doesn’t she?”  She was obviously thrilled with the comments about how young she looked.  Cecelia was a vain woman.

Tracy didn’t like admitting the woman was her mother, which surprised her.  She’d always dreamed of having a mother for people to meet, but now that she did, she didn’t like it.  She didn’t feel like the older woman had really done anything to deserve being called her mother.

On the way home, Tracy asked, “So what did you think of her?”

Andy made a face.  “She seemed as if she thought we weren’t good enough for her daughter.”
  He hated the idea that Tracy might actually be better off with the woman.  She certainly wouldn’t have to work so hard while she was carrying his child.

Tracy nodded.  “I got the same impression.  You are, though.”
  She clung to Andy’s arm as he drove.  “I’m where I want to be.”

He smiled.  “Well, I certainly hope so.  Now that you’re pregnant, you’re kind of stuck with me.”
  He winked at her, pleased that she was echoing his thoughts.

“Good.  I want to be stuck with you.” 

Once they were inside the house, Mattie put on the apron she and Tracy had made together, and helped Tracy put lunch on the table.  It wasn’t a fancy meal, but Tracy knew that she was a good cook, and she wasn’t ashamed to serve the simple meal to her mother.  After everyone was seated, Andy prayed for them all.

When her mother took her first bite of lunch, Tracy held her breath.  She so badly wanted her mother to approve of her, even after her brave words and their years apart.  “Well, I don’t usually like chicken and dumplings, but this is quite good, Tracy.  Who taught you to cook?”

Tracy shrugged.  “Mrs. Spivey has been running the orphanage for as long as I can remember.  She insists that all the girls know how to cook, clean, and sew.  If they learn nothing else from her, they learn those three things.”

“Was it a good place?” Cecelia asked, seeming upset at having to ask the question. 

Tracy nodded.  “It was.  We weren’t mistreated.  All of us were given plenty of food.  We had warm clothes.  They were usually old and patched, but they were clean.  We learned how to be good people there.  Whether we wanted to learn it or not, we did.”  She sighed.  “For me the biggest problem was people moving in and out.  Most children are either adopted as babies or they are adopted as soon as they’re old enough to be helpful.  I couldn’t be adopted, so I had to stay there and watch friends come and go.  It got to the point where I wouldn’t let myself make friends with the other orphans.  It was too hard to lose them.”  She’d been lonely her entire life until she’d come to Texas.  Of course she didn’t want to leave.

“Why couldn’t you be adopted?” Cecelia asked.

Tracy stared at her mother in disbelief.  “You left a note saying you’d be back soon.  If there had been no note at all, I’d have been adopted out immediately. With the note, they had to wait until I was eighteen to let me go.”  She shrugged.  “I couldn’t go until I turned eighteen, but I couldn’t stay beyond the age of eighteen because of overcrowding.  I had to become a mail order bride so that I could time it just right.”

Cecelia stared at her daughter in shock.  “You were a mail order bride?  That’s how you ended up here?”

Tracy nodded.  “Why did you think I was here?”

“Why won’t you leave then?  These people are nothing to you.”

Tracy shook her head, simply unable to believe that the woman was talking so openly about the people she loved right in front of them.  “They’re everything to me.  They’re the first people in the whole world who ever loved me.  They want me to stay.  I’m family to them.”

Cecelia looked offended by those words.  “I loved you!”

Tracy laughed softly.  “You left me.”

Mattie looked at Cecelia.  “You’re not tak
ing Tracy anywhere.  I’ll cut you if I have to.”

Tracy stared at Mattie in shock.  “You won’t cut anyone.  What a thing to say!”

Mattie looked down at the table, embarrassed by her words.  “You have to stay with us, Tracy.”  Her voice was soft, but Tracy could hear the anguish in it.

Tracy reached over to take Mattie’s hand.  “I’m not going anywhere, sweetie.”  Tracy had never noticed any trace of violence or negativity from Mattie, so she was stunned that the girl would say such a thing.

Cecelia looked at Tracy.  “They do seem to want you around.”

Tracy grinned.  “I’ve never felt wanted by anyone in my entire life before I came here.  My new family is just amazing.”
  She smiled at Andy, making sure he knew that she was staying.

Cecelia looked around her.  “You’re living in poverty here, though.  You could have so much more with me.”
  She obviously believed it was better to be rich and unloved than to have all the love in the world with no riches.

“I don’t want or need more.  I have people here who love me.  If your whole purpose in being here is just to get me to leave, then you might as well go back to Boston
now.”  Tracy ate her last bite and walked to put her dish in the basin.  She removed the cover from the cake she’d made for dessert and carried the cake to the table, along with a stack of plates.  “Are you all ready for dessert?”

She carefully cut the cake
and handed out the pieces.  They ate the dessert in silence, her mother obviously offended by her words.  When they were all finished, Tracy got up to clear the table watching as Mattie jumped up to help.  They had become a good team in the past months, and Tracy no longer needed to ask Mattie for anything.  The younger girl just did it with her.

Every other guest they’d had in their home had helped clear the table, and Tracy was annoyed her mother sat where she was and watched as she did it all.  She’d said she was once a maid, but Tracy couldn’t imagine her mother helping anyone with anything.

When she and Mattie were finished, Tracy sat back down at the table.  “So when did you get married?” she asked.

Cecelia smiled.  “Bert and I married five years ago.”  She had a dreamy look on her face that made Tracy think she was missing her husband.
  Maybe she had the ability to love after all.

Tracy looked down at her hands, afraid any words she s
aid would be rude.  Why had her mother been married for five years and never come for her?  She’d only left the orphanage six months before, so how could she possibly rationalize that.  “I see.”

Andy had no qualms about asking the question that was burning in Tracy’s brain.  “Why didn’t you go get Tracy then?  She was close to you and you knew exactly where she was.”

Cecelia glared at Andy as if she hadn’t expected that question to be asked and considered it terribly rude.  “My new husband wanted us to take time to get to know one another first.”

Andy blinked a few times.  “Yes, I can see why starting a marriage with a child would be difficult.”  He looked over at Mattie and Arthur, who were sitting together in the corner of the room, talking in low voices
and occasionally glancing their way.

“Exactly.  It’s difficult to get used to a marriage even without children.  I’m glad you understand.”

Andy looked at the woman in shock, clearly unable to say anything else.

Tracy lifted her head, her eyes spitting fire.  “I don’t understand.  I came out here knowing there would be three children when I got here.  I never thought about not doing it because it would be harder.  Did you have no maternal feelings at all?”
  She knew her words were rude, but she simply couldn’t hold them back any longer.

Cecelia blinked a couple of times at the animosity in Tracy’s voice.  “Of course, I did.  I’ve spent my years wishing I hadn’t had to give you up, but I had no choice.”

Tracy lifted her head, breathing deeply.  “You honestly believe that, don’t you?  You don’t think you had a choice other than to leave me at an orphanage?  What was your childhood like?”

“It was a normal childhood
, I guess.  I lived in Virginia with my parents and two brothers.  My parents were good people, but my mother died when I was fifteen, and my father and both brothers died in the war.”  Cecelia didn’t have to say what war.  The Civil War was the only war she could possibly be talking about.

“Virginia?  They fought for the south?” Tracy asked.  It hadn’t occurred to her that her mother could have been from the So
uth.  She didn’t have an accent, but she’d lived in Massachusetts for years.

Cecelia nodded.  “Yes, we were slave holders, so they joined the confederate army.”

“Slave holders?” Tracy asked.  “So you had a lot of money?”

Cecelia shrugged.  “Oh, I wouldn’t say a lot of money, but we were well off, the same way most plantation owners in the South were at that time.”  She had a faraway look on her face.  “The war changed everything for me.”

Tracy nodded.  “How did you meet my father?”

“Oh, Thomas was a Northern soldier.  He was marching through town and they stayed at my family’s plantation.  I was still living there with my grandparents.  I met Thomas when he came through and we married right off.  He looked so dashing in his uniform.”

“I’ll bet it was hard for you to become a maid after I was born.”

Cecelia nodded.  “It was very hard.  Thomas’s family was poor, like yours, and I had to learn to cook and clean.  I don’t think we ate a meal that wasn’t burnt the entire year of our marriage.” 
She laughed softly, obviously not ashamed of the memory.  “I still can’t cook to save my life.  Thank God I have servants again.”

“How long were you a maid?” Tracy asked. 

“Oh, I was a maid right up until I met my Bert, but I wasn’t a maid who cleaned.”  She gave a delicate shudder.  “Oh, no, I was a personal maid to a young lady in Boston.  She and I had been friends in Virginia before the war, and she’d made a better choice of husbands than I had.”

Tracy felt sorry for Thomas, wondering if Cecelia had been so blunt with him about his lack of wealth.  “Were you happy with Thomas?”

Cecelia shrugged.  “I was as happy as any woman could be while she’s cooking and cleaning.  I certainly was happy when I found out I was carrying you.”  She smiled at Tracy, leaning over to take her hand.  “I loved being pregnant. I loved the feel of you kicking inside me.”

“You’ve been married for five years now.  You don’t have any other children?”

Cecelia shook her head.  “I haven’t been able to have another for some reason.  Bert wants a child badly.”  Her eyes were drawn to Tracy’s stomach.  “I know you don’t want to come home with us, but we’d happily adopt yours and raise it like you were meant to be raised.”

Tracy covered her stomach with her hands, her eyes filled with horror.  “You’re not taking my baby!  Go to an orphanage and find one.  I assure you, there are plenty of unwanted children in every orphanage in the country.  This child is wanted desperately by his parents.”

Tracy stood, saying nothing else as she left the room and went into her bedroom, closing the door with a snap.  She leaned against the bedroom window and allowed her tears to fall.  Despite her words, her mother’s actions showed she had never wanted her.  She’d never met a person who was so selfish in her life.

She heard raised voices from the kitchen, but she didn’t go out to see what was happening.  She truly didn’t care what was being said.  All of her beliefs about the world were shattered.  Her mother, the woman she’d waited for, was a truly selfish woman. 

She watched as her mother ran from the house and to her borrowed buggy.  She hoped she would never see her again.  Tracy sank onto the bed, lying on her side and holding her belly.  “I promise you, no matter what, I will not be like she was.”

BOOK: Mail Order Meddler
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