Excerpt for A Promise Of Love (Four Historical Romances) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

A Promise Of Love (Four Historical Romances)


Vanessa Carvo

Copyright 2017 Quietly Blessed & Loved Press

Let The Past Die With Him

Turning an Arrangement Into Love

Harriet & Gavin’s Story

Claimed By The Cowboy

Let The Past Die With Him

Synopsis: Let The Past Die With Him - An abused woman and her mentally challenged adult brother flee their home when she finally manages to escape, and she takes the train to Montana. Lucky to find a job immediately, their life starts to turn around, especially when the woman meets and begins to fall in love with a kind stranger who is well off and owns a ranch outside of town. Some secrets about her past start to emerge and she fears that their new life will be blown apart.

Marie shut the window so she would no longer hear her brother hollering from the back yard where he had planted himself for the morning. She felt sure it did it to irritate her and the neighbors who constantly complained about him and his doings. If it wasn’t yelling like this, it was turning over garbage cans, or pulling up people’s flowers or, in general, making an ass of himself in anyway his garbled mind could invent.

Years wise, he was seventeen, but mentally, he was only about seven or so. Things would never change for Bob, either, lost as he was in a world of childhood, make-believe, and anything that he could manage to invent to entertain himself. The one thing Marie knew for sure, though, was that Bob loved her to the highest standard the word could reach.

She had helped their mother care for him since he was born, and she had cared for him alone since their parents died three years before. When she married her husband, it was only a few months when Bob had come to live with them.

Today, she was in no mood for his antics as she had other problems to deal with. Namely, an abusive husband who had taken his anger out on her the evening before. Commonplace and daily, the hits just kept on coming.

She strolled across the kitchen and into the hallway, taking another look at her black eye and puffed lip, markings of the recent blows he had landed because he was angry at his boss. No fault of Marie’s, but her fault in his mind, just the same. She had to get herself away from him, but that would mean taking Bob, the crazy brother, with her. A rock and a hard place - the phrase fit her life perfectly. She often wished her husband would just disappear and give her peace.

Marie went to the back door to quiet Bob down some.

“Bob, please don’t holler so loud. The neighbors can hear you easy enough.”

He turned to face her and smiled that lost smile of his.

“Can they?” he asked with his mindless innocence. “I can holler louder.”

“No, no, don’t do that. You want to come in for some lemonade?”

He rose from the rickety yard chair that he had claimed years before as his own and headed toward Marie, smiling the same smile. He came inside and went to the kitchen where he stood until she joined him.

“Go ahead, you can get your own.” With that permission, he got a glass from the cabinet and poured it full from the pitcher on the counter. Then, he joined her at the small table.

“You eye is black,” he said in a matter of fact voice. “Did you bump that door again?”

“Yes,” she answered, almost proud that he continued that association between her bruises and the door story she had told him long ago when the hits first started coming. He thought her face was always showing those same door signs.

“Does it hurt?” Poor Bob. The only thing he could imagine was that pain that comes from a boo-boo or slight falling down injury. He had no concept of what she went through, or that anyone would actually hit another person. He didn’t know that many of her bruises came because Bob lived with them, a sore spot with her husband and the one thing that Marie would always defend with her life. The brother would stay with her, no matter what grief it brought to her.

They talked for a little bit about whatever subject came to Bob’s mind. Then, she heard the front door close and her husband walked into the kitchen. Home early - that wasn’t a good sign at all.

“Well, I’ve been fired,” he said, throwing his lunchbox onto the wooden counter. “Now, there’s no job.”

“What happened?” Marie asked, sure that his temper had finally done him in with the boss.

“Don’t matter. I don’t have a job. Don’t ask stupid questions.” He poured himself a glass of lemonade and drank it straight down. Bob turned to face him.

“What does fired mean?” It was an innocent question and one that Bob would never understand, but he asked anyway.

For the rest of her life, Marie would remember what happened next, but it would always come to her mind in slow motion, and the quickness of the actual event only brought her the shame that she could never have stopped it.

From out of nowhere, her husband drew back his fist and slammed into the side of Bob’s head. A nasty hit that sent his lemonade glass flying and pushed a look of such shock into his face that his eyes bulged from their sockets. Her hand went out, but the blow struck, and hell flew into her body.

Marie was out of her chair and swinging at her husband before she knew what came over her. Bob was the one thing in the world that he wouldn’t maim and maul the way he had done her over the years and months they had been married. She would kill him before he would hurt Bob.

However, it had happened, and she didn’t stop it.

Bob screamed like bloody murder as the pain of the hit registered with him. He grabbed the side of his face and rolled out of his chair onto the floor, shielding himself under the table as Marie did her best to kill her husband with bare hands.

But, she was no match for the tall man with factory hands and an evil mind. He swatted her to the floor like he would have done a fly and she fell close to Bob. Her brother laid on top on her and protected her.

“Stop,” he said to his brother in law. “Don’t you hit her no more!” He was like a little child playing with a doll, but there was a resolve in his voice that made the older man stop, turn and leave the room. The brother and sister listened as the front door slammed shut and the house got quiet again.

The two of them lay there for a few minutes before Marie spoke.

“I have got to get rid of him,” she whispered, more to herself than to Bob, but he heard and he listened and he understood.

She helped him up, led him to the bathroom and cleaned the small wound that was on his cheek. “Keep this wet cloth on it for a few minutes, honey,” she said. “You’re going to have a bruise there, but it will go away if we cool it down now.”

He held the cloth against his cheek and smiled his slow smile. Marie wondered if he saw that mark as a badge of courage or a medal of honor. She just hoped he didn’t see it as a preface to what may come later.

They had their dinner and finally went to bed. Sometime in the late night or early morning, Marie heard her husband stagger into the house. She knew he was drunk and wouldn’t come to bother her. Navigating the stairs while drunk was not an easy task for him, so he usually would just pass out on the sofa. She liked it that way and never tried to change it. She fell back asleep with relief knowing he wouldn’t be pawing at her.

The next morning, Marie went through the living room on her way to the kitchen. He was lying on the sofa, arms stretched in either direction, one foot on the sofa, the other rested on the floor, bracing his body from falling completely off the couch. She left him like that, knowing that he would awaken shortly and ruin her whole day.

Marie made her coffee and drank a cup sitting alone in the quiet at the little table. An hour or so passed and neither Bob nor her husband came to join her. Thinking that was strange, she tiptoed upstairs, again past her husband, to check on Bob. She opened his door just a tad and heard him snoring away, telling herself that he was resting from the medicine she had given him to ease the pain she knew he would feel in his jaw that morning.

She closed the door tightly and went back downstairs.

At her husband, she stepped closer to him, the smell of liquor almost stifling her. It was then that she saw a black handle between his side and the couch, it was coated in drying blood, her husband’s blood.

Marie’s heart beat wildly in her chest as she leaned her ear against his mouth from which she heard no breath. She moved down to his chest, but there was no heartbeat either. He was dead.

She knew who put the knife in him and killed him.

At first, she panicked, not knowing what to do. She knew what she should do, but Marie had no intention of calling out for help and certainly, she would not go to the police. The blame would only fall on her or her brother for this crime, and there was no one to save either of them, no one to look after either of them. She had to do what she had to do.

Marie back to the kitchen, dug through the jars and boxes where she had been hiding money over a long period of time, and knew instinctively that this day would eventually come; a day when she would take her brother and steal away from this miserable life and the man who was causing it.

She counted the money and was completely surprised at the sum of it. A hundred dollars in all, comprised of coins and bills, large and small, and even a little gold piece that someone had given Bob at some point in time. She had thrown it in as his contribution to a life of peace - if they ever found one.

Marie was thrilled. She had no idea it would all add up to that. It would be enough for the two of them to get out of town and away from their nightmare life. It would be their salvation, or at least she prayed it would be.

She went upstairs and carefully packed herself a bag of necessary clothing, sticking some personal mementos into the bag along with them. Particularly, she pulled the advertisement for a mail order bride from underneath old clothing that filled her bottom drawer. Marie had taken the flyer from the general store just a week before, but then, she didn’t know why she was moved to do it. Now, she understood that reflexive action and knew that God had planted the solution there for her to grab onto.

Come to Montana,” the ad read, “and find a husband. Women wanted for all types of

men and locations. You will be put onto a list from which men select the woman of their


Marie felt sure that she would fit the bill for someone, somewhere in Montana. It obviously didn’t matter which town she went to as the shortage of women there upped the ante in her favor. Plus, she had faith that happiness was going to find her. Finally.

Next, she went to Bob’s room and found him up and dressing.

“Want to take a little trip with me?” she asked, pulling clothes from his closet and dresser.

Although he wasn’t fully awake, he answered her with delight. “Yes!” he said, and clapped his hands together. To Bob, anything was a trip because he had no perception of travel. A trip to the corner market was a trip to him.

“We’re gonna ride on a train. Think you’d like that?”

His hands clapped harder and he began to help her fold his clothes and put them in a small suitcase Marie had pulled from the closet.

“We have to hurry, and I need for you to be quiet when we leave, okay? He’s still sleeping downstairs and we don’t want to wake him up, now, do we?”

“He is sleeping?” Bob asked, furrows of skin wrinkling up on his forehead as he processed conflicting thoughts.

“Yes, Bob, he is sleeping.” Marie didn’t want Bob to know he had surely killed the man. If he thought the husband was sleeping, that is all that he would ever say. Just that. And Marie would probably need for him to say it, long into the future. But she prayed his muddled mind would gradually forget.

They gathered the two suitcases and made their way to the train station through a back way that Marie often used to go to town, and a shortcut in the long journey on which she was now embarking.

When they reached the ticket counter and the man asked, ‘Where to?’ she calmly and firmly said, ‘Montana.’

“I’ll give you and open ticket to Montana,” the dispatcher said, and neatly printed out a form. “You can get off the train anywhere you like there.”

“Thank you,” Marie said as she paid the money and took the two tickets to a new life. She and Bob boarded the train within a half hour. As it chugged out of the station, Marie left her mind there and started a new life, which was as clear as the water that ran through the stream. Things had taken a new turn and she was riding the winding road for whatever would come with it - along with her crazy brother. And in her heart, Marie felt that a new husband would come her way, bringing a new hope for happiness with him.

It took seven days of hard travel to get to Montana; hard because the train weaved back and forth on the tracks, stopped at every station they passed and because Bob was quite unruly with excitement and anticipation, both emotions he didn’t know how to control.

After the first day, many of the passengers in their car pretended sleep or changed cars or just rudely shunned him away when he tried to talk to them. His constant banter and babble was also about to drive Marie crazy. She discovered that taking him off the train for a little stroll every few stations seemed to quiet his anxiety, so she did that as well.

When they finally got to the first stop in Montana, which was Butte, she gathered their bags and got off the train. It seemed as good a place as any to start over.

Marie got a room for them at the local hotel and paid for two nights, enough time, she thought, to secure a job and a more permanent place to live. They had a light meal and took a long nap. When they woke up, it was early afternoon and she was ready to take a look at where their ship had landed.

They walked together, holding hands, through the main street and wandered down a couple of smaller streets where the businesses gave way to houses where people lived. It was a quiet town and seemed peaceful.

She saw the mail order bride agency in a small, brown building and pulled Bob in that direction. First things first, she thought. Fifteen minutes later, she walked back out the same door, registered as a woman interested in marriage to a local man. The list of women she signed her name on was long, but hopefully the wait wouldn’t be. Marie took Bob’s hand, walked out the door and continued her self-tour of Butte.

They turned one corner to find a large, two storied house with a wide veranda porch furnished with rocking chairs. On the porch column was a handwritten sign that read: Help Wanted. Ask Inside. Marie led Bob onto the porch and through the large screen door that kept out the ever-present summer flies.

Inside, she went straight to the small counter that was placed critically in front of the door where no one could get past it unless they should. A male clerk was writing into a long journal.

“May I help you?” he asked, rising from his chair.

“Ah, I wanted to inquire about the help wanted sign out front,” Marie said softly.

The clerk’s eyes traveled to Bob, his hand tightly clutched in Marie’s and his eyes wandering around this new place.

“Yes. We need a chambermaid,” he said. “Do you have any experience?”

“Yes,” Marie lied in a manner of speaking. “I am a good cleaner and I work very hard.”

“Are you new to Butte? I don’t recall seeing you around here.”

“Yes. We just came in from the East. Relocating, sort of. Do I have to be from Butte to get the job?”

The clerk chuckled. “No, no you certainly don’t.” He produced a couple of forms and a pencil. “Here, fill these out. I keep very good records of people who work here, so that would be the first order of business. You can sit at the desk by the window.”

Marie took the form and led Bob over to the designated place. He took the chair opposite her as she filled out the form.

“This is pretty,” he said, still looking around him.

Marie looked up and saw what Bob was enthralled with. The large room was filled with upholstered couches and nice tables. Lamps with silk shades donned the tables and the mantle was covered with greenery. Off in one corner was a nice mahogany bar, bottles of liquor on a table behind it. In another corner were two or three tables for four, probably where the guests had dinner or drinks or played cards. Altogether, it was a beautiful room.

She finished with the paperwork and took it and Bob back to the front desk. She handed them to the clerk. He looked them over and stuck out his hand for her to shake.

“Welcome aboard, Marie. You’ve got the job.”

She was so startled that she almost fainted. “I do?” she asked. “I got your job?”

The clerk chuckled again. “Not my job, Marie. Your job. You are hired. When can you start?”

She stammered a minute. “Well, we have two days at the hotel which I already paid for, and I have to find a place for us to live,” she nodded her head toward Bob. “Ah, I guess in two days? Will that be okay?”

“I really need someone today,” Mark said. “I don’t have anyone to clean two rooms that left this morning and some more guests are coming in later this evening. Could you work to do them? It would be a big favor to me.”

Marie was very used to thinking on her feet. “Well, I can try,” she said. “But Bob will have to stay with me. I don’t know anyone here so he has to stay with me.”

“That’s fine. He can help you if you like. I don’t have any problem at all with that. My name is Luke, by the way. I own the place.”

Marie was dumbfounded at the niceness of Luke. Not only had he given her a job, but he had also accommodated her brother. What more could she want or expect? Nothing.

“Well, okay, Luke. Show me what to do.”

Luke placed the ‘Back in a few…’ sign on the desk and led the two new employees to the back of the boarding house. He showed her where all the cleaning supplies and linen were located and helped her gather what she would need to clean the two rooms.

From there, Luke too her up two flights of back stairs to the rooms, Bob bringing along the stack of linen with a smile on his face.

When Luke opened the first door, Marie was surprised at how well appointed the room was, complete with a washstand and fine porcelain pitcher and bowl. Luke explained all that she was to do, handed her a master key and left her to do the cleaning.

She and Bob made a great team, Marie quickly assessed. Her brother was very adept at gathering the soiled linen and taking it down the stairs to the laundry area where two older women washed and ironed it, readying it for the next use. All in all, it wasn’t a hard job at all. Marie was beside herself with happiness. Life had finally taken a good turn for her. Finally.

When she was through with the two rooms, she went back to tell Luke.

“Wait here,” he said, and off he went up the main staircase to check her work. He returned shortly, smiling broadly.

“I sensed you were the right one,” he said, “and you certainly didn’t let me down. They are perfect.”

“Good,” Marie said with a sigh of relief. “I do love to clean and take care of a house.”

“Then this job is made for you. Look, I was thinking. Out back I have a one-room building that is fully furnished. It even has a small stove and two beds. Would you be interested in that? I could give it to you as part of your pay.”

“How much will it cost us?” she asked, knowing that her money was dwindling quickly and she had to buy food for the two of them.

“Nothing,” Luke said. “I’ll consider it as part of your pay. You won’t pay anything extra for it. But you’re responsible for food and other personal things.”

“Done,” Marie said, offering her hand to shake on the deal.

“Good. Can you work tomorrow and move into the room before work?”

“We can. I’ll be over first thing tomorrow morning, right after we eat breakfast.”

“Oh, your meals are included here, Marie. Two per day for each of you. Come early and I’ll introduce you to the cooks and show you how and where your meals are taken.”

Marie couldn’t believe her ears.

Promptly at seven the next morning, Marie and Bob came to the boardinghouse where Luke led them to the kitchen and saw that their breakfast and lunch were accounted for. From there, he showed them the room out back and she was thrilled with it. Cute as a button and large enough for what they needed.

They unpacked their bags and headed back into the boardinghouse to do their jobs, which were finished by early afternoon. She went to the desk to tell Luke they were through if he wanted to check behind her.

“I’m sure they are as perfect as the rooms yesterday,” he told her.

A man was standing by the desk, listening to the conversation.

“Meet Randy,” Luke said. “He stays with us when he is in Butte, but he lives quite a ways out in the country. Got a big beef ranch out there. Randy, this is Marie, my new housekeeper.”

Randy took her extended hand and kissed it like a gentleman. “Nice to meet you,” he said in a soft voice. “And who is this fine looking young man?”

Marie didn’t miss the tingle that shot through her as their hands met.

“He’s Bob,” Marie said, a warm smile on her face. “My brother. He is a little challenged, so he stays close with me.”

Randy offered his hand to Bob, who squeezed it, then hugged the man as if that was his standard greeting.

“Bob likes people,” Marie said. “Please don’t be offended by his hug.”

“Oh, quite the contrary,” Randy said. “I loved it.” He hugged Bob again just to make his point.

“Okay, then,” Marie said. “We’re going to leave. If you need us, you know where we are.” Luke nodded as she and Bob walked back through the hallway and to their new place.

Two days later, as she and Bob sat in their little private palace, a knock sounded on the door. She answered it, completely surprised to find Randy standing on her doorstep.

“Oh, what pleasant surprise,” Marie said. “Please, come into our humble little house.” She stepped aside and Randy comfortably came into the room. Bob’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. He ran to the man and hugged him.

“How’s my buddy doing today?” Randy asked him, holding a small bag in his hand.

“Good,” Bob answered in his childlike voice, and kept holding onto him.

“Let go,” Marie said, a laugh in her voice. “Let Randy sit down.”

Reluctantly, Bob released him and pulled out one of the two chairs for him to sit, after which Bob promptly took the other one. Randy handed Bob the bag.

“I brought something for you.”

Bob’s face was aglow as he opened the bag and pulled out several licorice sticks and pieces of hard ribbon candy.

“Candy,” he said, delighted but clearly showing that it was a very rare treat for him.

“Thank Randy,” Marie said, encouraging manners on her brother.

“Thank you,” he said, putting a piece of the striped ribbon candy into his mouth. “I love candy,” came the muffled voice around the delicate treat.

“Thank you for doing that,” Marie said. “It is a very rare treat for him. And your attention to him is even more rare.” She almost said that her husband couldn’t stand him and she almost launched into everything else that had been bottled up inside her for years. Randy made her so comfortable that she just wanted to talk.

“I like him,” Randy said, as if reading her thoughts. “Where are you from?” he asked, turning his attention to Marie.

“Back East,” it was all she would say because she was cautious. She knew what had been left on that couch the morning they had run away.

“Oh really? I have some businesses there. What part?”

This wasn’t going to be easy, Marie realized. “In Virginia,” she lied. “What kind of businesses?”

“Gold, mostly. I buy it from prospectors who pass through here, and then resell it for a higher price. Don’t make a lot of money off it, but it gives me something to do rather than just clean up beef crap all the time.”

Bob laughed at the word that he knew Marie wouldn’t let him say.

“That’s interesting. How many head of beef do you have on your ranch?” she asked, wanting to steer the conversation well away from herself.

“Gosh, I don’t even know, but a lot. Probably close to a thousand, and several pregnant ones that will give birth in the winter. I sell them every week, but they multiply as fast as I sell them.” He chucked and it sounded very pleasant to Marie just to hear a happy man.

“Are you married?” she asked out of nowhere, not even understanding where the question came from.

“No. Was, but she got a bad case of pneumonia a couple of years ago. Passed away and I just haven’t taken the time to look for someone else. How about you?”

“No,” Marie lied, hoping that Randy would put two and two together and assume that Bob would be the reason why she was single.

“That’s too bad,” Randy said. “I believe you’d make a wonderful wife and mother.”

The statement was innocent enough, but it was a clear path to what Randy would eventually lay out for consideration. He had a keen interest in the young woman and her challenged brother.

It became a ritual that Randy visited them every time he was in town. Once or twice, he took Bob and Marie to dinner at the local café, bringing stares from those around them. Marie mentioned it one time.

“People stare at us being with you,” she whispered to Randy across the table.

“Who cares?” he answered her. “I could buy this whole town with one check. They’ve always whispered about me, no matter what I’m doing. But, I figure, as long as they are talking about me, they are giving someone else a rest.”

Marie laughed aloud at his comment. She liked Randy for many things, but this show of his frankness without anger was one of the best traits she had found in him. They all three fit well together, and Marie felt very comfortable with letting Bob go fishing or just walking with Randy. Over the weeks, they became almost inseparable.

One day, he knocked on their door when both of them were off for a day.

“Get ready,” he said. “I’m taking you two out to the ranch. It’s time you saw how I lived and meet some of my people.”

Quickly, Marie got Bob ready and they set off with Randy in his nice buckboard wagon. The ride to the ranch was wonderful in the sunshine and a soft Montana breeze. It took almost an hour to make their way there because Randy stopped to let Bob pick some blackberries, his first time ever doing so. He gathered quite a large basket of them.

“I’ll have Wilma make you a cobbler with those,” Randy promised. “She’s the best cook in the whole state.”

Sure enough, as soon as Wilma saw them, Randy handed her the berries and told her to make it. Then, he took them on a tour of his house, his garden and his stables. Bob was beside himself and Marie was enchanted with all of it. She had never been in a rich person’s house before, and she strained to keep her eyes from bulging out of her head.

Finally, the settled into large rockers on the front porch and Wilma brought lemonade and crumpets out to the three of them.

“You like it here?” Randy asked Bob, who was stuffing his third crumpet into his mouth.

“Yes,” he managed to say around the pile of delicate pastry he was trying to chew.

“Do you?” he pointedly turned to Marie.

“Yes, it is beautiful and so relaxing. I can see why you live here and not in Butte where it is so busy all the time.”

“I would never be able to live there,” Randy said. “I like my peace and quiet. When I come back here from being in Butte overnight, it takes me two days to get calmed down. This is heaven on earth to me.”

“I agree with you about all that, including the heaven on earth part, and I don’t even live here,” she answered him, taking a long swallow of the cool lemonade.

“You could be,” he said. His comment was slow, calm and reassuring. So much so, that Marie had to ask.

“What did you say?”

“I said ‘you could be.’”

“I could be living here?” she asked, pressuring him for more.

“Yes. That was what I said and what I meant.”

Marie blushed without being able to stop it. She knew what he meant and she knew the baggage she brought with her was an obstacle to what Randy hinted for. So, she said nothing. Finally, she broke the spell of silence during which Randy wanted her to say what he wanted to hear and Marie tried to sort out her lies, wishes and her heart’s message.

“I guess we really should be getting back to Butte. It’s getting on in time, and Bob needs his rest. He is often hard to manage when he doesn’t get enough of it.”

“I was hoping you’d stay for dinner,” Randy said. “You’ll miss some good food. Home cooking!”

“I know, but really we should get back.” She got up from her rocker and went to get their things.

The ride back to Butte was nice, but very subdued. Something about Randy’s comments had stirred things in Marie that she had never felt before, and other things that she wanted desperately to forget.

When they were back at their little house, Bob hugged Randy goodbye and went inside.

Marie felt awkward as if she should say something to him, but words escaped her. He made it easier.

“About what I said out there,” Randy began. “I apologize for springing it on you like that, but please, think about it, Marie. You’ve got a big responsibility on your hands with Bob and I believe I can help you with him. He’d be happy there and I think you would be, too.”

“Okay, I’ll think about it. I know you’re right, Randy, but there are so many things to consider.”

“Like what?”

“Well, just things. Things I need to sort out, that’s all.”

“Take your time and think about it. That’s all I ask, Marie. I’m not going anywhere.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and left. Marie stood outside watching him walk away while her heart turned over in her body. She went inside, her hand on the spot where he had kissed her. It was the first kiss she had gotten from a man in many moons. Many, many moons.

And, it was planted on the spot where her husband had last hit her.

Marie went through the motions of her evening the same as she always did, but her mind whirled away with thoughts, good and bad. She could envision living in the beautiful home with Randy, Bob neatly tucked into their lives like a baby. He would love having the freedom of the wide open spaces, the horses to love and help with, the cattle to watch give birth.

And she, Marie would love the touch and comfort of Randy, a man who already cared for her and would love and respect her. Why did life give so many questions and not enough answers? But she had a past and she was very, very afraid of that past.

Marie believed in ghosts.

By the time she got up the next morning, Marie had a plan.

The next afternoon when their work was done, Marie led Bob down the street to the local dispensary and bought a newspaper, a handwritten two-page bit of news from back East, much of it local to her own previous world. She scanned it for anything about her husband as the news was always months old.

There was nothing.

Once a week, she would walk into town and buy another paper that had been dropped off by the train, but the dated news hadn’t even caught up with when she had left there on this journey. Consequently, she did not find out anything about her husband. But, Marie decided to take her chance and accept Randy’s implied offer of marriage. She owed it to herself, and most of all, to Bob.

True to his word, he came by to see them at the end of the week. The three of them went to dinner as had become their habit, then returned to the little house in the twilight of evening.

“You go inside and get ready for bed,” Marie said to Bob. “I want to talk to Randy for a minute.”

Bob hugged Randy bye and did as he was told.

She felt awkward and bashful, not sure how to broach the subject with him, so he did it for her.

“Is this about my comment to you last week?” he asked her in a quiet voice.

“Yes, yes it is,” she began. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Okay.” He led her to a table and chairs placed on the brick patio area of the boarding house. “Let’s sit down over here and talk.”

She loved his gentleness and his open air; Marie thought she could tell him anything in the world.

Marie cleared her throat.

“You asked me if I was married, and I said that I wasn’t. Well, that is a lie. I was married to a man who was very abusive.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “You deserve better in life. All women do. I don’t hit women. Never have and never will. Marie, I promise you that will not be a concern for you with me.”

She realized that he was clearing up her doubts; doubts about him that she didn’t even have.

“I believe you,” she said softly, letting him think that was what she was leading up to, but it wasn’t.

“And I don’t blame you for lying about it either. I would do that myself.”

“You would?” she asked, very puzzled by that, but feeling even better.

“Absolutely! I would never want anyone to know that I was in such a relationship with the person I married. It is an embarrassment and nothing to be talked about. In fact, it happens around here all the time, but you won’t hear anything about it. I see the women, I see the bruises and scars and the fear in their eyes. It is obvious. Trust me, you are not alone, Marie.”

Marie felt even better, courage building inside her with every word he spoke. She felt so comfortable with the man who had simply walked into her life unexpectedly and quickly, too. She would never have guessed this would happen when her husband hit Bob in the face. She remembered him suddenly.

“I’m sorry, but I need to check on Bob. He often forgets what I send him to do. Or doesn’t want to remember is more like it. I’ll be right back.”

She quickly walked over to the room door and opened it. Just as she expected, Bob was sitting at the table eating a piece of his candy that Randy bought him, still completely dressed. He smiled broadly at her.

“Candy,” he said very simply. “Want some?”

“Bob. I told you to get ready for bed while I talked to Randy. Look at you. Still in your clothes, never washed up and eating candy! What will I ever do with you?”

His answer was short, simple and heartfelt.

“Move me to Randy’s house.”

She couldn’t believe her ears! In his own world, Bob had figured out what Marie could only suspect. And that was that God had sent Randy to her, to her world for a reason. That reason was to take care of her and Bob for the rest of their lives. It all fit together miraculously and sensibly! Of course that was it. She had prayed for an answer and God had given it to her - and Bob had put it into words.

“We’ll see about that,” she said. “Now get yourself ready for bed when you finish that one piece of candy. Okay?”

“Okay,” he said, his seven-year-old mind sorting it all out into that one word.

Marie went back outside and joined Randy.

“It is such a beautiful evening,” he said softly. “Really makes you think about all our blessings, even through the hardships and disappointments of life, the sun shines, the flowers still bloom and the morning always comes. A new day dawns every twenty four hours, and we take all that for granted.”

She understood what he was saying behind the words all of which brought a new realization to Marie and to her life. He was right.

“You are so right about that, Randy. I am one who fails to see. I realize that now.”

Randy turned to face her, taking both her hands in his.

“Marie, I know I’m older than you by several years. And I know you see Bob as your responsibility and no one else’s. I can also see that you have reservations about becoming involved with anyone else in your lifetime, and I certainly don’t blame you there. But all men aren’t like your husband. Some actually take care of their responsibilities, whatever that might be or mean.

“I am one of those men.”

Randy couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he had found her name midway down the list of women who were mail order bride hopefuls. Thankfully, her place of residence was relisted as the boardinghouse owned by his good friend, Luke. Just in Marie’s neat handwriting, Randy saw something more in her besides the need or want for a husband. She was genuine and kind and perfect. Marie would love.

“I don’t doubt that for one second,” she said, feeling the warmth projecting from his hands into hers and running through her body. Instinctively, she knew that this would be the story of her life if she married him.

“Then, please, marry me and come to live at the ranch. Bob needs it and I believe you need it even more than he does.”

She looked deep into his eyes and saw his heart floating there and she knew that he meant every word he said.

“I will,” she whispered. “I certainly will.”

Two weeks later, Randy and Marie were married in a simple little ceremony at the boardinghouse with only them, Bob and Luke attending. Afterwards, Luke produced a cake and some punch as a little celebration for them. It was probably the happiest day of Bob’s life as he hugged Randy again, not as a friend, but as the father figure he had long missed. It was a good day.

But, their move to the ranch would be delayed for a week in order for Luke to hire Marie’s replacement and for her to train the person. She promised Luke and told Randy that she wouldn’t leave until that was taken care of. After all, she owed her new life to Luke who had saved her from hardship and introduced her to Randy. Marie paid her debt in respect to her job and to her dear friend, Luke.

The day of their move was an exciting one. Bob was up earlier than Marie and pestered her until she got up, too.

“Hurry up, Marie. Randy is coming to get us today!” He was busy packing, such as that was, his clothes and things into his one suitcase.

Marie rubbed her eyes awake since she hadn’t slept much either. She had too much on her mind, not the least of which was her dead husband. She knew that if anything legal ever came up about it, her marriage to Randy would be okay since the other piece of garbage who had said ‘I Do’ to her was dead. But that didn’t leave open the fact that she had no way of knowing that fact unless she was there when it happened.

It was one thing to run away from him, and she was okay with saying that, but how would she ever explain knowing that he was dead? The problem bothered her, and she would be restless and worried over it until there was some proof that would save her. It had probably been wrong to marry Randy under those circumstances, but her heart wouldn’t rob her of happiness a day longer than it took her to say her vows to Randy.

Nonetheless, she got up and began to sort out the mess that Bob was making in his suitcase.

“Let’s refold these,” she said. “Then I’ll get my things together. Randy won’t be here for another hour. We have plenty of time.”

“He will come early,” Bob said. “I know he wants us to get there fast.”

She loved his small mind and the way Bob could add the little bits of pleasure to almost anything. It was all so different now. He was more relaxed and very much more happy than she had ever seen him, or at least since their parents had died. Marie also knew that Randy was going to be an important part of the young man’s life because Bob loved him unconditionally, and the feeling was mutual.

Yes, it was a good day.

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