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Authors: Ruth Ann Nordin

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wasn’t as thin as other women, you said something about that being good because it meant the

wind wouldn’t blow me away from your land.”

He nodded. “That’s right. You laughed. You can always tel a marriage wil be good if the

woman can laugh at your jokes.” After she stood up, he slipped her arm around his and led her

toward the platform. “You have a wonderful laugh.”

“I can’t get married alone,” she said, recal ing another glimpse from the past. “We were about

to get married, and it’s what I told you.”

With a wide smile, he asked, “Do you remember anything else?”

Yes, she did, but this went back to the pil ow she sewed for him on their wedding night, and in

her mind, she caught images of being in bed with him and how gentle he’d been with her. She

cleared her throat, sure her cheeks were a wild shade of pink. “I do, but I don’t wish to say it

in a public setting.”

Looking intrigued, he whispered into her ear, “Then I’l have to let you show me when we’re


She giggled again. “You’re most definitely a horrible man, Mr. Larson.”

“That only depends on the situation. I assure you I can be good when I need to be.” He

wiggled his eyebrows.

“I don’t know. It seems to me you’re a wicked man al the time.”

They reached the platform and he gave her a hurt look. “Oh, come on, Mary. I am good most

of the time.”

“I suppose,” she began and playful y added in a low voice, “but that’s only during the day.”

A train whistle blew, directing their attention to the train as it pul ed into the station. She had

enjoyed the temporary reprieve from her anxiety over seeing her family. She was sure she had

nothing to worry about. She grew up with them, after al . They were bound to be nice people

and would welcome her and Dave with open arms. They were probably just as nice as his


But no matter how much she kept tel ing herself these things, she couldn’t shake off her

apprehension. She reasoned it was because she didn’t remember them. At least, she hoped

that was why. The train came to a stop and she tightened her hold on Dave’s arm.

He gave her a reassuring smile. “You won’t get lost in the crowd. I promise.”

Though he misunderstood her tension, she returned his smile. “I’m glad you’re coming with


“I haven’t met your family yet, and now is probably the only time I’l get the chance.”

“It was nice of your family to help us buy the tickets.”

“Yes, it was.” As the doors opened and the people filed onto the platform, he stepped closer to

her. “I think this wil be a good trip.”

She hoped he was right. Taking a deep breath, she waited until they were cal ed to board and

went on the train with him.


When they arrived at the smal train station in Maine, Mary and Dave stepped onto the

platform. She scanned the area, wondering if anything there would spur a memory of her life

here, but nothing came to mind.

Dave pul ed out the brass tags for their luggage and waited as a young man placed their carpet

bags on the platform before he gave the man the tags and picked up the bags. He returned to

her and smiled. “What do you think? Is any of this familiar?”

She shook her head. “No. Are we in the right town?”

“Yes. You told me you’re from here.”

“Did I tel you anything else about my past?”

“Not much. You’re the youngest of five sisters and six brothers. Your sister Grace is one of

your dearest friends. Of course, now you say that about Sal y, Jenny, and April.”

She frowned. “Is that it? Didn’t I tel you anything else?”

“No. You let me see a couple of letters over the years, but those contained information about

who had a baby. I wish I could say I remember the birthdays and names, but I don’t.”

“Did I get letters often?”

“Mostly from Grace, but the ones from your mother come about twice a year.”

“But doesn’t Grace say more than who is born and when?”

“She mostly writes about what her two children are doing and comments on what you told her

about Isaac and Rachel.”

Mary sighed. That wasn’t much to go on. “Do you know my parents’ address?”

“No. You end up throwing the letters out.”

None of this was making sense to her. “Why do I throw them out?”

“Wel , there was one letter you didn’t throw out. It was written shortly after we were married,

and you said your father paid you a compliment that meant a lot to you. But we don’t have the

envelope for that one because Isaac ripped it up when he was two. I reckon the other letters

didn’t mean that much to you because you threw them out.”

“Do I throw Grace’s letters out?” she wondered, trying to piece together the situation because

so little of it made sense to her.

“No, but her return address is from New Jersey so that doesn’t help us.”

Frowning, she reluctantly joined him in leaving the train station. Something was wrong. The

trouble was that she couldn’t figure out what or why, and she had no discernible feeling to help

answer her questions.

He nodded toward the street. “Let’s go to the post office. They’l know where your parents


Adjusting her bonnet to shield her eyes from the sun, her gaze traveled the length of the smal

business district. “This is a lot different from Omaha. Barely anyone’s here.”

He chuckled. “When you first came to Omaha, you were startled by al the people, and now

you’re startled by the lack of them.”

Amused, she grinned. “It depends on what you’re used to, I suppose.”

“It looks like the post office is over there.”

She fol owed the direction of his gaze and saw it. Turning her attention to the few people who

lingered around the businesses, she tried to dig up something familiar about the place.

Releasing her breath, she decided to stop trying so hard. She hadn’t forced the memories

back in Nebraska, and they were coming back to her. Trying to force them now was probably

a mistake.

Giving her an encouraging smile, he led her to the post office. Reluctant, she walked with him,

knowing there was a good reason she hesitated but not able to figure out why. When they

entered the smal building, they approached the smal desk.

The post master looked up and smiled. “Wel , aren’t you a sight for sore eyes! Mary Peters, I

didn’t think we’d ever see you again. Is this the man you went to marry?”

Mary was surprised the man remembered her, but she figured in a smal town, it was easy to

remember people, as long as someone didn’t get amnesia.

Before she could answer the man’s question, Dave put one of the carpet bags down and shook

the man’s hand. “Yes, I’m her husband. Name’s Dave Larson.”

“Walter Smith. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. Mary had an accident earlier this month, and she has amnesia. We

got a letter from her sister saying her pa has taken il . Anyway, we were wondering if you

could tel us where her parents live.”

“Sure. Just go down the street for three blocks and take a right. Their house is the one with

the large oak tree in the front yard. Can’t miss it.”


“Welcome. And it’s nice to see you did so wel , Mary.”

She wondered at the subtle suggestion in his tone, as if it surprised him but decided to leave

the matter alone. As they walked down the street, she continued to inspect the buildings. At

one time, she used to go in them to do business. The post office, the mercantile, the bakery,

the butcher… Surely, she had gone to those places. She paused at the restaurant.

“Dave, didn’t you say I worked at a restaurant when I was here?”

He stopped beside her and nodded. “You worked for Mrs. Jones. You said the customers

couldn’t get enough of your pies. I know why you said that. You make them better than

anyone else, and I’m lucky enough to be guaranteed a slice even if there’s a bunch of people

you’re cooking for.”

“Don’t you think it’s strange that I can remember how to cook and sew—things I learned here,

but I can’t remember the people?”

“I haven’t thought about it.”

He started walking down the street again, and she joined him. “Is it possible that there’s a

reason for it? Maybe there’s something I’m better off not remembering.”

“You didn’t mention anything that upset you about being here. Wel , you were upset when

Grace moved to New Jersey. You said that’s why you became a mail-order bride, but it wasn’t

because you had a bad life here. You said there weren’t any men here you could marry. I

assume that means al of them were already married.”

Probably. Maybe. She took a deep breath and proceeded forward. They reached the third

block and took the right. Her steps slowed, but she didn’t realize it until he turned and waited

for her to catch up to him. Why was this so hard? She’d been afraid right after she lost her

memory. But she was afraid of not remembering her husband and children. She hadn’t been

afraid of them. And she hadn’t been afraid to meet his family again, either. But she was afraid

to meet hers.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he assured her. “I know there’s going to be a lot of them.

You came from a larger family than I did, but you’l remember their names soon enough.”

It wasn’t the size of her family that worried her. Swal owing the lump in her throat, she trudged

forward, trying her best to hide her apprehension.

Chapter Nine

The house was easy to find since it had the biggest tree in the yard. In the fal , it was probably

a beautiful sight as the leaves changed colors. The tree shaded the whole yard and part of the

two-story brick house. The brick path leading to the house was narrow, so she opted to walk

behind Dave, though he offered to let her go first. The front door was open, but the storm door

prevented bugs from going inside. The windows were open, and she heard a couple of people

laughing. Her stomach tightened in nervous dread, so she didn’t fol ow Dave up the stairs.

He set their luggage down when he reached the front door and did a double-take at the spot

where she was supposed to be, which was next to him. Turning to her, he shot her a

questioning look. She shrugged. If she knew why she wanted to bolt for the train station, she’d

tel him.

He opened his mouth to speak, but the storm door opened and an attractive brunette let out a

delighted shriek and ran down the porch steps. “Mary!” She wrapped Mary in a warm


Startled, it took Mary a moment to hug her in return.

The woman pul ed back from her and clasped her hands in hers. “I didn’t think you’d come

when I wrote the letter, but I’m so glad you did. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each

other, and yet, it feels like it was yesterday.” Glancing over her shoulder at Dave, she asked,

“Is he your husband?”

“Yes,” Mary replied, stil not sure what to make of the woman looking at her as if they were the

best of friends. As Dave made his way over to them, she asked, “Are you Grace?” Grace was

the one who wrote the letter so it made sense, but Mary didn’t want to assume she was in

case she was wrong.

Laughing, she shook her head. “Have I changed that much?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you. In fact, I don’t remember anyone from here.”

“It’s true,” Dave said. “She hit her head and got amnesia. She’s getting her memories back in

pieces, but it’s taking a while.”

Grace glanced from one to the other. “That’s awful. When did this happen?”

“Earlier this month,” he replied. “We read your letter and thought that coming here would help

bring the memories back quicker. Plus, it’d be nice for Mary to see her father before he

passes away.”

“I’m terribly sorry, Mary,” Grace said with a heavy sigh. “I wish you remembered everyone,

especial y me. We were as close as two sisters can be.”

Unsure of what to say, Mary nodded. She had no doubt that she and Grace were close,

especial y considering she kept Grace’s letters. She struggled for something to remind her of

Grace, but her mind drew a blank. She didn’t even have a feeling associated with her sister.

Letting go of Mary’s hands, Grace motioned to the door. “Come on in. Calvin and I are staying

in one of the bedrooms, but there are two more that are vacant. You didn’t bring your children

with you?”

As they walked forward, Mary said, “No. We didn’t think they’d do wel on the trip, being as

young as they are.”

“I suppose that’s true,” she replied, her arm wrapped around Mary’s. “Our trip was shorter,

BOOK: To Have and To Hold
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