Disclaimer: There isn’t one. These characters and this mini story are
mine and are part of a much larger in-progress story. They have been
excerpted specially for the Academy Valentine’s Invitational. The mini
story is complete in and of itself.
There is a narrator’s voice that speaks in the first person. It is
a key part to the larger story, and provides insight into this one.
Special Thanks: To Phil, who had to read this line for line to pick
up all the letters I dropped along the way.
The Industrial Revolution
changed so many things in the surrounding world. Progress became a watch
word and though it would take decades to reach fruition, many alterations
within society took root during this era.
In 1890, Faith returned home
after two years in a finishing school for young ladies. Though the oldest
of the Sanders’ girls, she was the only one without a beau and she had
been sent in the hopes that would find a husband in the interim. It didn’t
happen, and at the age of twenty she returned home to take her place
helping her parents in what had evolved into an
Things were different when
Faith came home. Hope and Charity were both newly married and settled into
nearby towns. Sam and Nora were redoing both upstairs floors and an ice
cream counter had been added downstairs. Faith spent the first few weeks
settling in... Sam and Nora turned the third floor over to their eldest
daughter, and took over the second floor for
They established a
comfortable routine between them, and Sam found he liked having his
afternoons free to spend with Nora, and he slowly turned more and more
responsibility over to Faith. Then six months after Faith came home a set
of events took place that changed everything. ************
Faith was downstairs in the apothecary waiting on the kids who
stopped by for ice cream on their way home from school. She enjoyed this
time of day, though she tried not to let on too much. She heard all the
gossip and rumors, and helped with broken hearts and the like. It was fun,
both for her and the youngsters, and they all knew that ‘Miss Faith’ could
keep a secret with the best of them. It didn’t hurt that she made a great
banana split either. And even the cooler weather didn’t keep the kids
On this particular day in late fall, she was trying to console
eleven-year-old Suzy, who was lamenting the fact that twelve-year-old
Billy had found himself a new girlfriend. Faith listened sympathetically,
then reminded the girl that there were plenty of
boys to choose from, discretely pointing out one or two who were casually
observing her. Suzy smiled through her tears and Faith patted her hand and
smiled back, then moved down to serve two boys who were having an animated
discussion on the possibilities of motorized vehicles.
Faith shook her head. It was so interesting to listen to the ideas that
children could come up with. But having seen the changes that had already
occurred in just the last few years, Faith had learned not to discount
anything, no matter how bizarre the original idea seemed at first.
When the first rush was over, Faith stepped back and fixed herself a
sarsaparilla. She took her first swallow just as the phone rang. It was a
very new gadget, and everyone in the room jumped and fell silent.
She moved to the tiny closet that housed the instrument and stepped
inside, leaving the door open. She knew most of the children were good
kids, but she felt better knowing they knew she was still in the room
watching. Besides, she was going to have to yell to be heard anyway... it
wasn’t like privacy was a big factor to figure into the conversation.
“HELLO?” Static answered her and Faith tried again.
“HELLO? WHO IS THIS PLEASE?”
The entire building was silent, listening to Faith’s side of the
“YES, THIS IS FAITH SANDERS. YES, OPERATOR, I CAN HOLD.”
Faith could hear crackling and static before a voice came on the line.
Then she nearly dropped the telephone in shock.
“CHRISTIAN?” A pause.
“I’M GOOD... BETTER FOR HEARING YOUR VOICE. HOW ARE YOU?”
There was a long bit of silence and Faith’s empty hand flew to her now
“YES!!! WHEN??” Her excitement was clear to everyone in the room.
“OKAY... WIRE ME THE TIME AND I’LL MEET YOU AT... HELLO?? HELLO??
OPERATOR, I THINK WE WERE CUT OFF.”
“THANK YOU, OPERATOR. GOODBYE.”
Faith stepped from the tiny closet well aware of her flushed cheeks and
the fact that everyone in the room was watching her. She calmly stepped
behind the counter and resumed her duties, pleased when the buzz of
conversation overrode the silence that had been. She couldn’t help the
tiny grin that crossed her face or the twinkle that sparkled in her eyes
for the remainder of the day, though.
The following day found Faith just coming downstairs from her morning
cleaning when a knock on the door caught her attention. She flew down the
last few steps, then took a deep breath before
calmly opening the door for the delivery boy.
“Hiya, Miz Faith. Got a telegram for ya.”
“Thank you, Charlie.” She signed his paper and took the slip of paper
from him with trembling hands. “Wait right here.” Faith closed the door
and took a deep breath, then retrieved her purse and handed the youth out
a coin. She fully expected to see him in the store later spending it.
Faith took a moment to collect herself then
made her way upstairs as swiftly as she could manage without running. When
she reached the third floor, she locked the door behind herself and moved
into her bedroom, locking that door as well.
She sat down on the edge of her bed and took another deep breath before
opening the envelope and sliding the missive out. She smiled through the
tears as she saw the words on the paper.
TO: FAITH SANDERS FROM: CW LOVE THE
WEATHER. <STOP> YOU WERE RIGHT. <STOP> NEVERENDING TRIP OVER
NOON TUESDAY. <STOP> CHRISTIAN
Faith was amazed at Christian’s brazenness in sending such a
private message so openly, then realized no one aside from herself would
see what Christian had written. Smiles wreathed her face as she made her
way downstairs and into the kitchen where her mother was preparing
Nora wondered about the glow that surrounded Faith, but chalked it up
to the quickly approaching holidays. When she started humming, though,
Nora called her on it.
“Faith, girl... what has gotten into you today? You are positively
Faith swung around and kissed her mother on the cheek before resuming
her table setting. “I’m happy, Mama. It is a beautiful day, Thanksgiving
will be here soon, and I have a friend coming to visit me. Life is good
Nora immediately picked up on the pertinent part of the conversation.
“A friend, hmm?” she asked with a sly smile. “I don’t remember you talking
about a friend before. Is this someone you met while away, dear?”
Faith’s eyes dropped and she blushed. “Yes, Mama.”
Nora waited, but when nothing else was forthcoming, she prompted.
“WELL? Don’t keep me in suspense, girl. Tell me about him.”
“I’d rather you met Christian in person, Mama.”
“Christian, hmm? Well, I like his name well enough. I’ll try not to be
nosey until he arrives. When does he arrive, Faith?”
“Christian will be on the train Tuesday, but Mama... I’d like to meet the
Nora’s eyes widened. “You care for this Christian, then?”
Faith nodded, but did not meet Nora’s gaze. “Yes, Mama, I do.”
“All right, girl. But I’ll expect to meet him first thing, and I will
expect exemplary behavior at all times from both of you. I won’t have the
neighbor’s tongues wagging any more than necessary because of his presence
“We’ll behave, Mama.”
Nora cupped Faith’s face gently, and peered into her eyes, surprised to
see tears there. “I know you will, Faith. You’ve never been a
disappointment to your father and me. Now c’mon,” Nora chided, placing a
kiss on Faith’s cheek before releasing it. “We’ve still got work to do,”
and she bustled back to the stove.
“I hope I never disappoint you, Mama, but I don’t think you’re gonna
understand this,” Faith whispered, then wiped her
face surreptitiously before moving to complete her task.
Nora watched Faith and noted as Tuesday drew near, she was both excited
and nervous, thought to all outward appearances she was completely calm
and in control. Only Nora’s knowledge of her daughter allowed her to see
past the tranquil facade and in to the tension in her very bearing.
Faith, for her part, spent her days being busy, willing the time to
pass swiftly. She cleaned her living area until it shone and the floor was
almost unsafe to walk on. Twice Nora scolded her for waxing it so hard
that she slid.
“Honey-girl, Christian is coming here to see you. I highly doubt he is
gonna be conscious of the state of the floor.”
Faith accepted the rightness of Nora’s words, knowing them for the
truth. “I know, Mama. I just....”
Her words trailed off and Nora took her eldest daughter in her arms. “I
know, girl. I was the same way when your father and I were courting.
Everything had to be just perfect.”
Faith hugged her mother tightly and chuckled. “Mama, you’re still that
Nora looked around and had to chuckle. “I guess you come by it honestly
“I guess so.” But the talk had its desired effect, and allowed Faith to
settle down until Tuesday arrived.
************ The next bit
I had to piece together from both events that took place here within my
walls and the old biddies who came to gossip with Nora. Had I been able, I
would have cast them all out into the street, but it wasn’t an option for
me. Instead, I had to watch things play out as Faith’s life slowly
Tuesday dawned overcast and rainy, and Faith sighed fearing she
would be soaking wet before Christian’s train pulled into the station. The
rain couldn’t dampen her spirits, though, and she was up before dawn with
last minute preparations.
Nora and Sam chuckled as they heard water running in the newly
installed bathing room just as the cock in the backyard crowed his morning
salutations. The five days since Christian’s telephone call had been a
whirlwind of activity, and they found themselves anxious to meet the
friend who seemed to mean so much to their eldest child.
It was shortly before twelve when she finally came downstairs into her
parents living area. Nora gave her a once-over,
eyebrows going up over her neat but plain appearance. Faith wore a simple
blouse and skirt neatly pressed with a pin Nora didn’t recall ever having
seen her wear before. It was a gold panther with tiny sapphire chips for
“That’s a beautiful pin, Faith. Is it new?”
“No, ma’am, thank you.”
Nora waited for Faith to add a bit more information, but when she
remained quiet, Nora asked. “Was it a gift from Christian?”
“Yes, mama,” but when she didn’t say anything else, Nora sighed and
gave into defeat gracefully.
“You look lovely, honey girl. Even allowing the plain clothes for the
weather, I’m betting Christian will be bowled over enough by your beauty
to propose marriage!” She said it with a smile, shocked when Faith turned
away from her with a sharp exclamation and tears in her eyes.
Nora misunderstood, and took Faith into her arms. “It’s okay to be
nervous, Faith. Love and marriage is a big step for everyone. It’ll be
okay.” Faith returned the hug and nodded, though not for the reasons Nora
assumed. “Now get along with ya to the station. You don’t want to keep
your young man waiting.”
Faith nodded again, accepting her mother’s kiss on the cheek. She
wanted to savor the moment, because she knew when she came home again,
everything would be changed.
The rain became a downpour as people began to crowd beneath the small
overhang at the station. Faith hid against the building, protected from
the onslaught by the crowd that threatened to overwhelm her. She wasn’t
sure whether to be grateful or sorry as she was almost suffocating from
the press of people.
Then the train whistled from down the tracks and she forgot to worry
about it as everyone pressed forward instinctively to catch their first
glimpse of the massive iron horse. Faith concentrated on breathing,
becoming dizzy when she felt the butterflies stir in her stomach. She knew
a lot of it was due to her excitement at seeing Christian again, but she
was honest enough to admit that a great deal of it was also due to fear at
the reaction her family would have to Christian. She let her mind move
back to the day more than two years prior that she had first set eyes on
Christian, and the friendship that had gradually developed between
The city was so different
than her own town and Faith was inundated by the
sights, sounds and smells that surrounded her as she stepped off the train
into the unknown. She looked around, searching for the buggy that the
school had sent to pick her up, still angry that her parents had shipped
her off to find a husband. Not that any mention was ever made of that, of
course, but she knew.
A tall statuesque young woman
approached her dressed in a neat suit with a straw hat perched on top of
the blonde hair twisted up on her head. She extended a hand towards Faith
eyebrow raised in mute question.
“Miss Sanders?” She waited
politely for Faith to nod and accept her hand, then she smiled and gestured to the surrey set just to
one side of the station. “I am Miss Morton, teacher at Mrs. Nottingham’s
School for Young Ladies. Your trunk arrived yesterday and is already at
the school. Come along. Sam is waiting for us. It is a relatively short
ride to the school grounds and then you can meet Mrs. Nottingham and get
settled in today.”
Faith nodded, not sure what to
say. Miss Morton pointed out a few of the sights along their route and
Faith nodded with polite interest. The eighteen-year-old was still fuming
over her parent’s insistence that she attend this institution. Her manners
and deportment were impeccable, thank you very much. Just because she was
not particularly interested in marriage yet was no reason to ship her off
to school for two more years.
Faith shook herself internally
and brought her attention back to her surroundings just as they turned
into the gate. She noted absently that the grounds were beautiful and
well-kept, and she saw several other young ladies working among the
plants. She smiled for the first time since leaving home. She might
actually learn to like it here.
screech of the train whistle brought Faith out of her reverie and she
noted with a bit of joyful trepidation that she could actually see the
slowing engine approach. She smiled to herself again and turned her
attention back to the past, and her introduction to
Miss Morton led Faith
through the wide hallway of the finishing school, winding up in front of a
set of double wooden doors. She knocked lightly, waiting for the command
to enter before opening the doors and motioning Faith to step into the
room in front of her.
Faith waited until Miss Morton
entered and closed the door behind her before following the counselor to
stand in front of a woman about her mother’s age sitting behind a
The schoolmistress looked up and
Faith was surprised to see a twinkle of mischief dancing in the back of
her brown eyes. The woman directed her attention to Miss Morton, who was
quick to perform introductions.
“Mrs. Nottingham, allow me to
present Faith Sanders. Miss Sanders, this is our headmistress, Marie
“Welcome, Miss Sanders. It is a
pleasure to have you join us.” Marie extended her hand and waited for
Faith to accept it.
She did so graciously, though
all she said was, “Thank you, Mrs. Nottingham.”
Marie paused, then turned her attention to Miss Morton when it became
clear Faith had nothing else to say. “Thank you, Miss Morton. I will see
you at the evening meal.”
Miss Morton acknowledged the
dismissal with a nod of her head, then stopped
short when Faith extended her hand. “Thank you, Miss Morton,” she offered
quietly. “I appreciate your escort.”
Miss Morton shook her hand
briefly and left the room without another word. Marie gestured to a seat,
and waited until Faith was comfortable before she sat back and regarded
the young woman sitting in front of her. She could still see the sparks of
anger and resentment that her good manners couldn’t
“I think it is time to let you
in on the real reason you are here, Faith.” A question was clear in the
green eyes, but Faith didn’t interrupt. “I know you think that your folks
sent you here in the hopes that you would find a suitable man, but that is
not entirely true.”
“Isn’t it?” Faith retorted
bitterly. “I have heard about nothing else since Mama decided I needed to
come here. ‘We’ve decided to send you to the city, Faith. Marie Nottingham
is an old friend and I am sure she can introduce you to some suitable,
eligible young men.’ I’d say she made her intentions pretty
Marie rubbed her eyes and
pinched the bridge of her nose before putting on her glasses and folding
her hands on the desk in front of her. “Well, I certainly can if that is
what you want, but I get the distinct impression you’re not interested in
“You would be correct in that
observation,” Faith answered curtly.
Marie sighed. “I had asked your
mother to let me explain why I asked for you to be here. I didn’t realize
she was going to give you that kind of justification
ÊShe lifted her clasped hands to her lips
and sighed. “I love Nora... she has been one of my best friends since we
were in primary together, but sometimes....”
“Excuse me a moment. Did you say
you asked my mother to send me here?”
Marie sighed again and nodded.
“Yes, I did. I was hoping you could help me.”
“I’m listening... please
Marie blew out a breath and
rose, walking over to look out over the gardens. “I had a sister who
married and headed west when she was still very young. She kept in touch
as she was able, but letters were few and far between. I was younger than
she was and didn’t really understand the dangers and difficulties of her
life in the west until I was much older.”
“Josephine and Matthew had what
my mother referred to as a brood... seven children in five years. Three
sets of twin boys and one little girl, who was the apple of their eye.
Even her brothers doted on her.”
Marie turned back to face Faith,
noting that her attention was riveted on the story she was telling. She
walked back to her desk and sat down, clasping her hands tightly together
to keep them from shaking.
“John and I had just married
when we received word that Josey and Matt lost
three children... the youngest set of twins and their daughter. They were
seven and just five at the time.”
and Matt spent years searching in vain... hoping beyond hope that their
children would somehow miraculously be returned to
Faith interrupted then. “Wait,”
she said, holding up a hand. “Why were they searching? I thought you said
the children were lost to them.”
Marie nodded. “They were. For
the longest time, Josey and Matt didn’t know
what happened, then about eight years after they
disappeared, Matt spotted them in an Indian encampment. We still don’t
know if they were abducted or wandered off. But when Matt found them, they
were full members of the tribe, and obviously well-loved and taken care
of. He couldn’t convince them to come home, and Josey had to settle for the knowledge that her
children were indeed alive and well.”
“Another almost six years passed
before Matt saw the children again. The boys had become strong warriors,
but his daughter... I never asked exactly what happened. I continue to
hope that one day she will share it with me.” Marie sighed in frustration
and she wiped savagely at the tears in her eyes.
“The boys brought her back to
Josey and Matt carefully wrapped in a blanket
and left as quietly as they had come. For more than a year she tried
living with them, never speaking, never happy. She actually ran away
twice, and was returned to them both times.”
“Finally, Josey wrote to me, asking if I would try to help her
daughter. So six months ago they shipped her here, and we have been
struggling ever since.”
Faith nodded thoughtfully,
carefully considering the story she’d been told and her own words. Then
she turned to face Marie Nottingham and asked seriously, “What exactly is
it you need from me, Mrs. Nottingham?”
“Faith, I brought you here
hoping you could make friends with my niece, and perhaps become her
mentor. She is twenty-two years old and cannot read and write English. Her
knowledge of manners and etiquette is nonexistent, and she insists on
sleeping on the floor. I have tried everything I know to try. I don’t know
of anything else to do if this doesn’t work.”
“Why me? I’m only eighteen and
you don’t even know me.”
“But I do know you. Your mother
and I have kept in touch over the years, and I have watched you grow up
through her eyes. I probably know more about you than you do about
yourself. As for you age, well, you are close enough to her physical age,
and your maturity level is well above that. I am confident you could help
“Mrs. Nottingham, did you ever
consider she might not want the help?”
Marie nodded unhappily. “Yes,
but I have to try. There is something bothering her... something deep, and
if I could just... I don’t know, Faith. Maybe you can reach her, because
more than anything, she needs a friend.”
Faith got out of her chair then
and walked to the far window. She stared unseeingly out at the vista that
lay just out of reach, and noted the solidarity of one young woman. Just
then a bell rang and groups of two or three began moving into the
Faith’s eyes focused on the
solitary figure whose shoulders seemed to drop with defeat. She glanced up
at the sky as though mourning the loss of sunshine she was soon to
encounter, then shuffled her way indoors behind
the others. Faith noted that the instructor was waiting patiently enough,
though she grimaced before shutting the door behind them
Faith remained at the window
even after the yard was empty, contemplating the story she had been told,
and the innate sadness that seemed to shroud the young woman she knew
instinctively was Marie Nottingham’s niece. So much more than her age gave
her away, though that was a big clue. Finally, she turned back to the room
to find Marie’s eyes focused on her, patiently waiting for her
Faith resumed her seat and said
calmly, “I’ll do it Mrs. Nottingham, but you have to let me do things my
“Anything, Faith. If you could
only make a little headway with her, I’d be more than grateful to you. I’d
be indebted to you.”
Faith nodded and rose as Marie
stood. “Come along, then. I’ll show you to the room you will be sharing
and introduce you to my niece. Then you can refresh yourself before the
Faith picked up her valise and
followed Marie up the stairs and down the hall. Marie paused and knocked,
before opening the door. She looked around,
spotting her niece on the pallet she’d made for herself on the floor by
the fireplace. She waited to be acknowledged, and when the young woman
turned around, Faith gasped at the intensity and the pain facing
Marie seemed oblivious to
Faith’s reaction, though something imperceptible flashed in the bright
blue eyes. She started to introduce the two. “Faith, this is my nie....”
But she swallowed her words when
the young woman rose from her spot in front of the fire. It was the first
active participation Marie had seen from her since her arrival. She stood
back to watch the interaction unfold.
Faith stood still, eyes locked
on those of the other woman. She watched in fascination as a sun-darkened
hand slowly rose to her face and a touch as soft as down traced her fair
hair and features. Faith could feel the older woman trembling, and clasped
the larger hand in her own.
With her free hand, Faith patted
her own chest and said softly, “Faith.” Then she touched the taller woman,
who flinched at the initial touch, then relaxed when Faith didn’t make any
She stood mute for a long minute
just staring into Faith’s green eyes, then said
in such a bare whisper that Faith had to concentrate to hear it,
shrill train whistle and a screech of brakes brought Faith out of her
reverie and back to the present. She was happy to see the rain had abated,
though it was still very cloudy. Faith waited patiently for the brakeman
and the conductor to set the steps. The she waited even longer for the
passengers to begin disembarking.
One by one people descended the stairs and were quickly claimed by a
friend or loved one. Finally, the crowd thinned, and Faith looked up to
see the bright smile and flashing blue eyes she had come to love. With a
little cry, she ran to embrace the taller woman, and found it returned in
“Oh God, Christian! How I have missed you!!” She pulled back just
enough to see Christian’s answer in her eyes. Then she took her hand and
led her to a small buggy that now stood alone. “C’mon. Let’s make
arrangements for your luggage, then find a quiet
spot. We’ve got a lot to talk about.” ************
As luck would have it, the
storm returned and forced them back here to talk. Nora and Sam were both
in the store so they didn’t see them arrive and did not find out til much
later that Faith and Christian had been upstairs for hours before their
introduction to their daughter’s friend. Not that I expect it would have
made much of a difference in anything. There are just some things some
people can’t seem to accept, no matter what.
I have often wondered what made
the human race so judgmental. Hatred of the most mundane runs rampant in
society, and punishment for the slightest infraction of a perceived moral
code can be harsh and cruel.
Now don’t misunderstand me -
humans need rules. Builders above know that humans cannot function
properly without some sort of structure. But nothing can convince me that
humans are superior enough to segregate themselves because of race,
religion, creed or (taking from a word I learned from my present humans)
However, don’t let me get on
THAT soapbox, or we will never finish this story, and I think it is
important for you to hear what happened to Faith and Christian. Maybe it
will make you think a little harder before judging the next time something
or someone different from you crosses your path.
The rain had started again before they were properly settled into
the buggy, and it became a race to go the short block between the railroad
station and the corner building at Franklyn and Rhodes. Faith idly noted
that the store was crowded with folks trying to get in out of the weather.
Then her attention was forced to corralling the horse into the small shed
they kept the animal in.
Christian hopped down as soon as Faith pulled to a stop and she unharnessed the animal with expert ease. Working
together, it didn’t take them long to finish the chores. Then they dashed
through the rain and into the back entrance, not pausing til they reached
the third floor landing.
Faith opened the door and ushered Christian into her home,
self-conscious in a way she’d never been before. Christian looked around
interestedly, seeing Faith’s personality stamped all over. Faith waited
quietly, letting Christian become comfortable with her surroundings. When
the blue eyes tracked to hers, she smiled and took Christian’s hands,
giving her a tour.
Faith had worked hard to establish a home for herself, and it showed in
her surroundings. The parlor area was the first room off the foyer area
where they stood, and its fireplace butted onto what was Faith’s bedroom.
The large bathroom ran along the back of the third floor and the rest of
the space was committed to the kitchen, dining and pantry and storage
Christian nodded approvingly as she noted several things they’d shared
during their time together at the school. Faith led her back to the
bathroom and opened the door.
“I thought you might want a chance to freshen up.”
Christian leaned forward and brushed a soft kiss on Faith’s cheek. “I
would. I am not fond of trains.”
Faith cupped the soft face above her own. “I know. Thank you.” She
smiled and Christian smiled in response.
“Where will you be?”
“I need to change, then I’ll be in the
kitchen. I think something hot to eat is probably a good idea right
Christian nodded and walked into the bathroom. She looked longingly at
the claw-footed tub, having grown accustomed to the luxury of taking a hot
bath. She noted the shower head with interest and smiled again. That will
do nicely, she thought before turning on the water and stripping out of
her traveling clothes.
Faith changed into a warm sweater and a woolen skirt, then pulled thick wool socks on her feet. They didn’t
really do much for her outfit, but she figured Christian would be more
concerned with her not getting sick than with how the socks looked.
She stepped into the kitchen and stoked the stove, pushing the soup
she’d left warming towards the middle of the stove where the heat was
centered. Faith was in the midst of mixing a batch of biscuits when a pair
of warm arms slid around her waist, and she relaxed into the hug.
Christian didn’t speak, but simply stood absorbing the sensations she’d
missed for the almost seven months she and Faith had been separated. She
hoped that Faith would be open to the proposition she had come to make. It
could be the beginning or the end of everything for them both.
Faith felt the shiver that coursed through Christian’s frame, and she
stepped out of the embrace long enough to turn in the arms that cradled
her and face the taller woman. The blue eyes that gazed back at her held
love, confusion, and more than a hint of fear.
Christian sighed and held out a hand. She wanted the worst over with
quickly. “Come. Let’s sit down and talk.”
Faith slid the biscuits into the oven and grasped the extended hand.
She led Christian into the parlor where a fire had already been built.
Christian had to smile when she saw the small nest Faith had made for them
on the floor in front of the fireplace. Sharing that spot had been a
favorite past time, and Christian was glad to see that Faith had
apparently missed that intimacy as much as she had.
Faith sat down and pulled Christian down beside her, and Christian was
quick to claim her place. She laid her head in Faith’s lap and closed her
eyes in bliss as the small hands began gently massaging her scalp. Long
moments passed as they both reveled in the renewed connection between
Finally, Christian took a deep breath and opened her eyes, finding
green looking back at her with love. Faith spoke softly. “Are you ready to
talk to me now? I know something is going on with you.”
Christian had to smile. Faith had always been nothing if not direct.
She decided to bite the bullet and return the courtesy.
“I’m going home, and I want you to come with me.”
The words fell into stunned silence, and Christian waited patiently for
Faith to process them. Her first indication that her words had sunken in
was a widening of Faith’s eyes. Her mouth opened, and she raised a hand to
cover it. Then she closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing. When she
felt she had a handle on what Christian had said, she opened her eyes and
returned her now trembling hand to resume its tender stroking of
Christian felt relief flood her at the renewed touch. It meant there
was a chance for them to be together.
Faith let the thoughts swirl around in her head a while longer before
giving voice to any of them. “When? Where? And why now? I thought you were
happy living with Marie at the school.” It was not an accusation.
Christian could hear the honest confusion in Faith’s voice, and
considering their last conversations before Faith had come back home, she
could certainly understand her bewilderment. She started with the obvious
“I gave civilization without you a chance like I promised you I would.”
Tears welled up unexpectedly in the blue eyes and Faith gently wiped them
away. “I hated it. I want to go home, and I want you to go with me,”
Christian reiterated fiercely. “We can make a life together out west
without drawing much attention to ourselves. Marie gave me her blessing
and a little money to get started with. Please say you’ll go with me.”
Christian knew she was pleading, but was past caring.
“Do you know where you want us to go, and when you want to leave?”
Christian’s heart soared at the promise those words held. She took
Faith’s hand in her own and held it against her chest, knowing Faith could
feel the pounding beat beneath her fingers. Green eyes widened.
“You doubted so much?” almost hurt by Christian’s lack of faith.
”NO. I wished so hard. I have very little to offer you, Faith.”
“You are everything to me, Christian.” Then the conversation was over
for the duration.
It was the smell of burning biscuits that brought them out of the
light doze they had fallen into. Quickly they moved into the kitchen and
rescued the black lumps from the oven. Faith looked at Christian sadly.
“I guess we’ll be eating our soup without bread.”
“It was worth it,” Christian replied with a dazzling smile. She ran a
hand up Faith’s side and chuckled when the smaller woman squealed as she
Faith turned around with her back to the stove and shook a spoon at
Christian. “No tickling. That’s not fair.”
“Sure it is,” Christian answered, beginning a slow, methodical stalking
of Faith. “Just because I’m not ticklish.... Besides, haven’t you ever
heard that all is fair in love and war?” She continued to pursue Faith,
gently moving her into a corner. When Faith realized she had nowhere to
go, she lifted her hands in surrender.
“I should know better, shouldn’t I?” she asked, putting her hands on
“Yes, you should.” Whatever else she was going to add was disrupted by
the growling of two stomachs in tandem. They looked at each other
surprised for a moment then burst into laughter.
“C’mon,” said Faith. “Let’s feed the beasts before folks send a posse
out looking for the monster.”
The time after lunch was spent in quiet conversation making plans
and sharing dreams about the future. They didn’t even notice the passing
of time until they heard the slam of a door on the floor beneath them.
This time, it was Christian who felt the shiver pass through Faith’s small
frame, and she turned concerned eyes to see a tendril of fear shadow
Faith’s face. She tilted Faith’s chin up until she could look directly
into green eyes.
“Faith?” Christian questioned softly.
For an answer, Faith burrowed herself into Christian’s embrace, simply
breathing in the comfort Christian so ably provided. After a few minutes,
Faith looked up to find blue eyes pinned to hers filled with love and
concern. It was nearly her undoing, but she took a deep, shuddering breath
and spoke softly.
“My folks have closed up the shop and come upstairs for the night.” She
paused and took another deep breath. “They expect to meet you
Christian nodded, understanding so far, but unable to see the
“They don’t know you’re a woman, Christian. They know that I care
deeply for you, though I have not shared with them how much.” She reached
out and stroked the smooth face above her own. “But my mother assumed you
were a young man, and I did not see fit to correct her.”
“You think that it will cause a problem for us then?”
“I think if they knew how much I loved you they would lock me up in my
room for the remainder of my natural life. I dread to think what they
would do to you.”
“Then we will not let them see what we are to each other.” Faith closed
her eyes in pain at that statement. She and Christian had been hiding all
their lives together it seemed, and the unfairness of that situation hit
her squarely in the chest. She knew that what both she and Christian had
said was the truth, and was resigned to it.
“I hate that!! It is so unfair!!”
“Yes, it is, but we will manage, and we will leave here and make our
own home together as quickly as we can.”
“Whither thou goest, I will
go. Whither thou lodgest, I will
lodge. Thy people shall be my people.”
“You mean that,” Christian stated, not questioning the words or the
intent behind them.
“With everything that I am.”
“Then we have nothing to worry about. Let’s go meet the parents.”
Nora and Sam were exceedingly gracious to Christian, once they got
over the shock of finding out she was a woman and not the male suitor
they’d imagined her to be. Nora couldn’t help but be a little
disappointed... she had been certain from Faith’s attitude that Christian
was a man.
The next few days passed fairly routinely for everyone. Nora and Sam
continued to work in the shop while Faith and Christian spent time
together doing what, Nora had no real idea. Something about their
interaction caused a tingle to run up her spine, and she watched them
together as much as possible. Twice in the week, they came down in the
afternoon and shooed the older couple out to enjoy some time off, and Nora
and Sam were quick to accept.
Six days after Christian arrived, it occurred to Nora just what was
niggling at the back of her mind, and she decided to confront Faith about
it privately. Little did she know that Christian had no intention of
letting Faith be subjugated to any sort of interrogation alone. Nor did she realize how prepared they were to
”Faith, I need to speak to you.” Nora couldn’t help the censored
tone that came out of her mouth and it sent the hair standing up on the
back of Faith’s neck. Christian moved to stand behind her, a silent
sentinel, and Nora shivered as she was caught in a deep blue regard. She
managed not to show her suspicions, but her adding, “Alone, please,”
confirmed to them that she was aware of what was between them.
“Mama, Christian is my friend. You can say whatever you need to say in
front of her.”
Nora could tell by her stance that Faith was not going to give on this
point and sighed. She was glad she had caught them alone on their way out,
so Sam wouldn’t become involved in what she was sure was going to be a
“Very well, Faith. I think Christian needs to leave. I know it is too
late for her to catch the train out today, but I want to see her heading
out of town on the train
“I see,” Faith replied coldly. “And do I get an explanation for your
request, or do you expect simple, blind obedience?”
Now Nora’s ire rose, and her eyes flashed. “Don’t you speak to me in
that tone, young lady. I am still your mother.”
She paused and took a breath to reign in her temper. “I feel that your
friendship is inappropriate, and will not allow such an abomination to
continue under my roof.”
“I see,” Faith answered again, in an even icier voice than before. “And
what *abomination* do you think is taking place here?”
Nora found herself unexpectedly on the defensive from the anger Faith
was clearly emitting. Then she remembered the evidence that she’d
witnessed with her own eyes, and took the moral high ground she felt was
hers in this situation.
“I’ve seen the way you two look at each other, the way you act
“And how is that exactly?” Faith pushed. She wanted to hear her mother
say whatever she had to say outright.
Nora flushed in both embarrassment and anger at having to spell it out
“You act like a married couple, Faith! You’ve tried, but you can’t hide
it. The looks, the touches... everything. It’s wrong... perverted. God
said it is an abomination, and I will not permit that sort of behavior in
“I see,” Faith said one final time. “So the fact that we love each
other doesn’t matter.”
“No, because it’s not real love. It’s...”
“That’s enough,” Christian finally broke into the argument. “I will
leave, but you will not discount what we feel for one another. Do you
For the first time, Nora felt real fear from the sheer intensity
Christian was directing towards her. “I....”
“DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND??”
“Very well. Now if you will excuse us....” Christian took Faith’s hand
and the two younger women passed in front of Nora on their way out the
door. Nora flinched back reflexively at the open affection between them,
and Faith’s breath caught. Christian gently squeezed the small hand
clasped in hers for support, and led Faith into the bright sunshine.
************ That was
almost the last time I saw them. I know from some of the local building
gossip at the time that they spent the remainder of the day at the park a
block over from here. I’ve been told it is a lovely place, and apparently
there is a solitude there that humans crave. Even now, that park is held
in high regard by the humans who live around here as a place to find
Faith cried in Christian’s
arms, then they spent the remainder of the day in
quiet conversation. Along toward sunset, they made their way back here and
upstairs to the sanctuary of Faith’s room for their final night together
within these walls. ************
Nora, for her part was angry and confused. She never made it down
to the store, causing Sam to come up during a slow period to check on her.
She couldn’t explain to him what had happened without bursting into tears,
so he simply held her while she wept before returning to the shop to
finish out the day.
Nora heard Faith and Christian come in and quietly go upstairs. She
thought briefly about confronting them again, then decided against it. There had already been more
words spoken in anger than she’d ever wanted to speak or hear. She’d leave
them alone together for the night, then when Christian was gone she and
Faith would sit down and talk like two rational adults.
If that didn’t work, well, there were places to put Faith to help her
overcome the madness she seemed to have contracted. Nora wiped her eyes.
She hoped it didn’t come to that. She really loved her eldest daughter.
She just couldn’t accept what her eyes and heart told her were true. It
was a shame, too, because she actually liked Christian as a person... just
not as Faith’s suitor.
When morning came, Sam noticed a distinct change in Nora’s bearing, as
though she had come to a momentous decision sometime in the night.
Whatever had upset her seemed to have passed, and for that he was
grateful. She accompanied him to the store with an almost cheerful
The day passed swiftly, and Nora waited patiently for Faith to come
downstairs. She knew that Faith was furious with her, but figured that if
given enough time to calm down, they would be able to have a sensible
Faith didn’t make an appearance that day or the next. By the morning of
the third day following Christian’s departure, Nora was becoming very
concerned. Faith still hadn’t ventured downstairs, and Nora was beginning
to fear the worst... that her pushing had cause Faith to do something
With a heart full of trepidation, she slowly mounted the stairs,
fearing the worst, but hoping that Faith had simply locked herself away to
mourn. Nora knocked softly and waited, then knocked again when no one
answered. Hesitantly, she turned the knob, surprised when it turned
She stepped into the foyer and called out softly, not getting an
answer. She slowly moved through Faith’s home, looking in each room. Only
silence greeted her.
The fireplace was cold and the bedroom was vacant. The bathroom door
stood wide open, indicating its emptiness. When Nora reached the kitchen,
her confusion was clear. She saw a note propped up against the empty fruit
bowl, and she crossed the room to pick it up. Her hands shook as she saw
her name written across the front firmly in Faith’s distinct
Dear Mama, (it read)
By the time you read this,
Christian and I should be more than halfway to our new home. I respect
your beliefs Mama, but I will not give up Christian because of them. I
love her, and you would see why if you could see past her gender into her
heart the way that I do. She is a beautiful person, Mama, and she loves me
in a way that I never imagined.
I know you will never accept
Christian and me, but I hope someday you will be able to be happy with the
fact that with her I am happiest. With her I am complete. Much love to
you and Papa. I love you both very much.
Nora crumpled the paper in her hands and sank to the table, sobbing.
She knew she had well and truly lost her daughter, and she cried for what
was gone and for what would never be. Finally, Nora cried herself out and
she smoothed the paper, raising it to her lips and kissing it in place of
her absent child. Then she moved towards the door, shutting it firmly
behind her before heading down the stairs to tell Sam about what had
************ Nora did
come to terms with the fact that Faith was happy where she was. I think it
is the only way she could deal with the fact that Faith had left so
abruptly. We went a very long time before we heard from Faith again,
but she did send one more letter after she left. Nora was so excited
when the letter arrived that she called her family together to hear it. I
particularly was glad for that fact as it allowed me to hear it
Hope and Charity hadn’t seen their mother this animated since Faith
had left home unexpectedly more than five years previously. So when her
telephone call came, they bundled their families up and rushed over to
find out what all the excitement was about. It took a while for
everyone to get settled. There were six children between them, though the
oldest one wasn’t even old enough to remember Faith clearly. Nora put them
in the play room, knowing they wouldn’t understand the importance of what
she had to share. Charity seated herself carefully on the couch since
being eight months pregnant made her a little slower than normal to do
much of anything. Hope sat down next to her and their husbands took up
posts on either side of them.
The pleasure in Nora’s face was clear, and the girls found themselves
anticipating the news.
“I know you girls have always wondered about Faith and why she left so
Nora drew a deep breath and wiped her eyes. “For a long time, I
couldn’t accept the life she’d chosen or the person she’d chosen to spend
it with. I think the time has come to share some of those things with
She took a folded envelope from her pocket and slid the contents from
it. She opened the letter and began to read aloud.
Dear Mama, (it read) I hope time
and distance has softened you towards Christian and me. I still think of
you and papa daily and offer up a prayer for the family every
Mama, you should know that
writing you again was Christian’s idea. She knew how badly our rift had
bothered me, and she encouraged me to take this first step. So think
kindly of her Mama. She loves me enough to look out for me, even when it
hurts her. And knowing that you think poorly of her does hurt. She is a
very sensitive soul.
Life here in the west has been
very good to us. We have a small spread with a few cattle, a couple milk
cows, some chickens and a garden. It is a completely different life than I
ever expected to lead, but I am so happy in it.
We have a few neighbors, most of
whom are friendly and don’t really question our relationship too
intensely. I have learned that most folks will see what they want to see
and ignore the rest if it bothers them to look too
It is very beautiful out here. I
wish I had words adequate enough to convey the true majesty of this land.
From the living room window where I sit writing this missive, I can see
the mountains as a backdrop to the valley where we live. There’s a waft of
apples from the orchard, and the scent of rain in the distance. The colors
here are bold and vibrant, and the air is fresh and
I can just make out Christian’s
form on the range driving the cattle towards the upper pasture. She has
just blossomed here. And I have to admit to loving the life we have here
Our house is good sized... more
than plenty for the two of us. It is made of stone, mostly, with a little
bit of the native wood. All in all we are very secure.
There really isn’t much more I
can share with you without making this letter go on for pages and pages.
Besides, I don’t know how much you’d be comfortable knowing about us and
our life together here.
Rest assured that I am happy,
though I continue to miss you all everyday. I hope you think well of us,
as we do of you.
Much love to
Still your loving
Nora finished reading
and folded the paper back up, tucking it away in her pocket before looking
up to meet her other two daughters’ eyes.
Charity scooted to the edge of the couch, her husband offering her a
hand for leverage as she stood. She walked the two steps to her mother and
took the older woman in her arms as much as her bulging belly would allow.
The baby between them kicked its unhappiness at being sandwiched, and the
two women chuckled as they separated.
“Thank you, Mama. I know it was hard for you when she left, and knowing
why, I guess I can understand. But Faith is still my big sister, and I
love her no matter what. So thank you for sharing her letter with us.”
The rest of the family gathered round then and rejoiced that the one
they had thought lost to them was lost to them no more.