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Authors: Ann Shorey

The Dawn of a Dream

BOOK: The Dawn of a Dream
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© 2011 by Ann Shorey

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

www.revellbooks.com

E-book edition created 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-1425-6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Scripture used in this book, whether quoted or paraphrased by the characters, is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

This book is dedicated with love to my brother,

Joe Matot.

You’re the best!

1

Beldon Grove, Illinois
August 14, 1857

Luellen O’Connell aligned the edge of a flower-bordered tablecloth and stepped back to admire her handiwork. She wondered if Brendan would remember what day it was.

Whether her husband remembered or not, she still had tasks to complete before he came home. She hurried into their bedroom and gathered an accumulation of papers from the top of a bookshelf. For a moment, her eyes rested on an envelope from Allenwood Normal School. Luellen shook her head. Life was full of choices. She’d made hers. She dropped the papers behind a row of books.

A breeze lifted the curtains. Luellen removed her glasses and wiped perspiration that collected across the bridge of her nose. The past week had been unbearably hot. She hoped the evening would bring a cooling thundershower. Brendan returned home after each day’s work out of sorts and silent. She could hardly blame him—hauling freight in the blazing sun day after day would tire anybody.

After sweeping dust out the front door, she returned to the bedroom and opened her bridal chest. Her white dimity petticoat, trimmed with blue tatting, lay folded inside. Luellen smiled and slipped the garment on under her skirt. It was too hot to wear petticoats, but the memory of Brendan removing it on their wedding night sent an anticipatory tingle through her.

One more thing to do. In the kitchen she tested a cooling loaf cake with her fingertip, checking whether it was ready for frosting. The fragrance of cinnamon filled her senses while she beat sugar into egg whites. Humming, she spread the sweetened mixture over the cake and placed the decorated treat in the center of the table.

At the sound of jingling harnesses, she dashed to the door in time to see Brendan drive his freight wagon toward the barn. Luellen slipped her glasses into her apron pocket. She wanted to look especially pretty for him this evening.

Brendan shoved the last bite of cake into his mouth. From the time he stomped through the door, red-faced and sweating, he’d said less than two words. Now he pushed his chair away from the table and slapped the armrests. Thick cinnamon-colored hair matting his forearms made him look bearlike.

Tears swam in Luellen’s eyes. She couldn’t read his expression, but the tension of an unspoken message simmered between them. “What is it?” She fought to keep her voice from trembling.

“Got something to tell you.” He leaned back and folded his arms.

Luellen took a breath and held it for a moment. “It must be terrible. Did you lose your job?”

“Still got the job.” He took a swallow of tea. “I’m going to Chicago. Tomorrow. Boss says he can use me there. More freight coming in on the railroads. More business.”

Luellen’s jaw dropped. “Is that what’s bothering you? I’m sure Papa will help me pack our household so I can join you.” She moved behind him and slid her arms around his neck, kissing the top of his head.

Brendan reached up and disengaged her hold. “Your father won’t be helping you go no place. I already got a wife waiting there.”

The room turned gray, then red. Luellen pivoted to face him. “You can’t be serious. You married me! A month ago today, in case you’ve forgotten.” She yanked her glasses from her pocket and put them on with shaking hands.

He stood, smirking. “’Twas no other way to get you into my bed, lass. You and those glasses—you should be happy you had this much time with a man.” He reached behind her head and jerked the silk net from her hair, spilling the long dark waves over her shoulders. “This hair is the only thing I’ll miss. ’Tis truly lovely.”

She slapped the net from his hands. Grabbing the rest of the cake, she dumped it over his head. “Get out! Now!”

Brendan wiped frosting out of his beard and glared at her. “I’ll get my things.” He turned toward the bedroom.

“You have two minutes. I want you out of this house, out of Beldon Grove.” Her voice shook with anger. “You’re a filthy, lying—” She sputtered to a stop, unable to think of a vile enough insult.

He banged into the bedroom, snatched his valise from under the bed, and stuffed in handfuls of clothing. On his way out the door, he picked up his razor and strop from the washstand and dropped them into the open bag.

“Time’s up. Go on with you.” Luellen’s hands clenched into fists.

He sent her his easy grin. “With your hair blowing wild like that and the roses in your cheeks, you’re a fetching sight. Maybe the day will come you can find some other man.” Brendan turned on his heel and strode toward the stable.

She grabbed his shaving mug and threw it after him. It shattered on the ground. For the first time, she was glad their cottage sat far from the center of town. No one would notice when he drove away.

Thunder cracked. Wind flapped the bedroom curtains and the scent of rain filled the air. Luellen had no idea how much time had passed since Brendan left. She’d been too busy removing all traces of his presence from the cottage. Bedding lay in a heap on the floor, waiting for the wash kettle to heat. The kitchen felt stifling, but the bolted door represented safety. Nothing could hurt her as long as she stayed inside.

Jaw clenched, she opened the firebox on the stove, lifted her skirt, and jerked off the dimity petticoat, shoving the garment into the fire. Flames caught the lace tatting, then burst through the white skirt. Luellen stalked to the bedroom and snatched her ruffled nightdress from its peg on the wall. It followed the petticoat into the stove.

Her eyes landed on the Rose of Sharon quilt she and her mother had stitched for her bridal chest. What a great joke. No husband, but she still had the quilt. She gathered the red and green flowered coverlet into her arms, trying to roll it small enough to fit through the firebox door. The flames had subsided, smothered by the weight of her voluminous nightgown. By poking and shoving, she forced one end of the quilt over the gown. As she did, her eyes rested on the embroidered message her mother had stitched onto one corner. “
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil . . .

“Oh, Mama.” Luellen pulled the quilt free of the firebox and slumped to the floor. A brown singe had eaten its way onto one of the roses, but the rest of the design was unharmed. “How can this be thoughts of peace and not evil?” Shattered, she buried her face in the soft folds and screamed her pain into the deserted room.

“Luellen?” Her younger sister Lily’s voice sounded outside. “Are you ill? Why is the door bolted?”

Luellen glanced around the cottage. Broken dishes swept up, bed remade with clean linens, stovetop shining with fresh polish. Everything looked normal . . . except no Brendan. She’d wondered how long it would take for her family to check on her. Usually she visited their house every day, especially with Lily’s wedding so near.

Feeling a hundred years old, she slid back the bolt and opened the door. Lily burst inside and hugged her.

“Thank the Lord. When you and Brendan didn’t come to church yesterday, Papa wanted to come see you, but Mama said you were probably enjoying each other’s company.” Lily blushed. “In another week, Edmund and I will be together too. I can’t wait.”

Luellen said nothing. Her sister’s happiness seemed to mock her own feelings of desolation and betrayal.

Lily stepped back. “You look terrible. What’s happened?” She glanced around the cottage, pausing at the open bedroom doorway. “Where’s your Rose of Sharon quilt?” Her gaze landed on the table standing against the kitchen wall. “And the embroidered tablecloth I made for you? Your new dishes—what did you do with them?” She placed a hand to her throat. “Something’s dreadfully wrong.” She took Luellen’s hand and drew her to one of the chairs next to the table. “Tell me.”

It seemed odd to her that Lily should be offering comfort. Luellen had always been the one to give advice and guidance. She clasped her hands in her lap and stared into Lily’s brown eyes. “Brendan is gone.” As she said the words, cold, hard shame stiffened her body. She’d given herself to a man who already had a wife. She was no longer pure. When word got out, she’d be humiliated in the eyes of the town.

Marry in haste, repent at leisure.
Wasn’t that what Mama said when she and Brendan told her they’d eloped? Repent at leisure was one thing. Being ridiculed was quite another.

Lily’s voice drew her out of her thoughts. “What do you mean, gone? He hauls freight for the railroad every week. He’s always gone.”

“Gone for good. Back to Chicago.” Luellen’s voice cracked. “Lily, he already has a wife.” She covered her face with her hands. “He just married me to have a woman to bed while he jobbed in our county.”

“No. It can’t be true.”

“I wish it weren’t.” Tears slid down her cheeks. “How will I ever face Mama and Papa?” Her voice turned mocking. “I thought my job serving meals at the hotel made me a good judge of people. After all, we fed dozens of men a week. I could tell which ones were up to no good—or so I believed.”

Lily knelt in front of her. “They’ll understand. He fooled them too, with that handsome face and his charming ways. He fooled all of us.”

Love for her sister filled her heart. Lily’s wedding was days away. Luellen couldn’t let her troubles spoil the event. She drew Lily to her feet. “Let’s go home. I’m sure Mama has things for me to do.” She squared her shoulders. “I need to tell them sooner or later. Might as well be now.”

BOOK: The Dawn of a Dream
6.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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