Amy tugged the large basket of freshly washed clothes out to the line. She enjoyed hanging clothes. Putting up all the little shirts, pants, and dresses in the wind so they could dry was a calming activity. She didn’t take as long as she might have liked to get everything pinned up and then it was time to go back inside.
Amy loved her job at the orphanage. It was where she grew up, and it was the only home she knew and had. However, there were moments when things got a bit overwhelming, and she just needed a moment. As soon as she stepped inside, she was nearly run over by two of the newer arrivals, twin boys Matt and Timmy.
“Give it to me! I saw it first!” Timmy yelled.
“No, it’s mine!” Matt held a beaten ball out of Timmy’s reach. Amy scooped the ball out of both their grasps and held it above her head.
“Boys, boys. Calm down and tell me what is going on.” She knelt so she was at their level. They were both redheads, with a smattering of freckles over their sharp cheekbones. They had big brown eyes and mischievous faces, as did many boys of eight or nine years old.
“I found the ball, and then Matt just took it. I wanted to play.” Timmy crossed his arms over his ratty overalls.
“Now, listen here, both of you. This ball belongs to all the children who live here. Right now, you can use it, but you need to share, all right?”
The two boys exchanged glances, as if they were considering the offer, but not quite convinced.
“All right, if you can’t share, I can’t give it back.” Amy reined in any impatience that she might be tempted to show. These boys were adjusting to a new place. She had no idea what sort of background they came from, and it was her job to make them feel loved and cared for, just as Hazel had done for her once. Sadness washed through her at the thought of Hazel.
“Okay, we’ll share,” Timmy said at last.
“Matt?” Amy asked, trying to make sure both parties agreed to the new decision.
“Fine.” Matt didn’t look happy, but at least they both looked agreeable.
“There you go then. If I hear any other problems, I will have to get that ball back.” Amy gave them what she hoped was a stern look, then watched as they ran back down the hall and disappeared out the back door. She loved the children of the orphanage and having the opportunity to give them the same thing that Hazel had given her.
She missed the old caretaker of the orphanage. Hazel had always known what to say and do to make anyone feel better. Amy turned into the kitchen, where Debbie, one of the cooks, was preparing dinner. Hazel’s mother was the one who had started the orphanage. Growing up an orphan herself, she decided that she wanted to ease that pain for other children. It had then been passed to Hazel when her mother passed, and now to Hazel’s niece.
“Do you need help? You look a bit flustered,” Amy asked Debbie. One of the normal cooks hadn’t come in today, and the meal for over twenty people still had to be prepared.
“Help would be great, here, why don’t you start on these carrots?” Debbie passed her a huge bunch of carrots. “Have you met Matt and Timmy?” Debbie asked.
“Yes. They are a handful, aren’t they?” Amy smiled.
“They are, they remind me of my little brothers.” Debbie came from a family of six children. She lived in town and worked in the orphanage for a small salary to help her family. She and Amy had become friends over the past few months since she started.
“How is your family?” Amy asked. It had been a while since they had a chance to talk.
“They are good, my sister just got married. Of course, my parents were hoping for it to be a banker, or a business owner, or someone with money, but she married a farmer.” Debbie shook her head as if it were a terrible thing.
“As long as they are in love, right? That is what makes a marriage last, or at least that is what Hazel used to say.”
“Yes, as long as they love each other.” Debbie looked doubtful. “Sometimes I wonder if love really holds people together. I mean, marriage is so much more. I have seen it with my own parents.”
Amy thought of her different experiences with attention from young men, and how she always managed to turn them down. She had never felt love, as far as she knew, and she hadn’t been brave enough to start something off of the simple feeling of attraction. She felt more interested in setting up her future life and creating a future for herself.
“Well, looks like those are ready. Let’s get these in this stew. The children are going to come in here starving soon.” Debbie grabbed the carrots and put them in the stew with a bunch of satisfying little plops.
“I need to go and change the sheets. They should be dry by now.” Amy headed toward the door. “Do you have everything handled here?”
“Yes, I think that I do. Go ahead, I know you have your fair share of things to manage.” Debbie shooed her away with a comical expression. Amy left with a smile. She loved the comradery between everyone at the orphanage. If it wasn’t for the cloud of sadness that Hazel’s passing had left behind, things would be perfect.
Amy stood with a satisfied sigh as she finished tending the last little bed. Every week, all of the bedding was washed. It was Hazel’s rule and they continued to do it, without fail. She headed down the stairs, hearing the sounds of all the children gathering in the dining room. There was a huge wooden table where they ate all of their meals together.
Just as she was about to go in to join the others, she heard a knock at the door. She wondered who would be coming to call so late in the afternoon. It was nearly half-past five, and it would be getting dark soon. She decided not to bother Debbie with it and open it herself. She ignored the exhaustion that was weighing her down and put a smile on her face before pulling the door back.
Her smile froze on her face when she saw who was standing there. It was Marvin.
“Marvin, what are you doing here?” she asked.
He grinned, then looked over his shoulder. He hadn’t changed much since the last time she’d seen him. His blonde hair reached just past his ears, his green eyes jumped back and forth, picking up everything. Amy always felt like he noticed every detail.
“There’s been an emergency. I need your help.”
“With what?” Amy fidgeted. Marvin had changed a couple of years back. When that happened, Hazel started to help her deal with him whenever he came by the orphanage.
“I can’t talk about it here, but I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t important. Please come, Amy.” Marvin’s eyes pleaded with her as much as his words.
Amy swallowed. There was a time when she would do anything for Marvin, but because of some things he had done in the past, she wasn’t sure she could trust him anymore. There were things that he said and did that made her uncomfortable, and she couldn’t tell if this was one of them.
“Amy, I’ve always been there for you.”
“When did you come back to town?” Marvin had left Chicago and gone to New York for the past two years. It made Amy feel safe for some reason, a reason she wasn’t sure she understood completely. They had shared letters on and off during that time, but it was so different to see him in person.
“I came back today and something terrible happened. Please, Amy. I really need your help. Think of all the times that I was there for you.”
Amy nodded. “All right. Let me talk to Debbie. I can’t just leave without letting anyone know. I’ll be right back.”
Marvin looked reluctant to agree, but seeing as he didn’t have much choice, he stuffed his hands into his pockets and took a step back. Amy wracked her brain, trying to think of what the emergency could be. She hadn’t seen him in so long, he hadn’t written for almost two months.
Debbie came over to her as soon as she stepped into the dining room. “Is everything okay? You look worried.” e
“Yes… Marvin is here.”
“What?” The worry she was feeling filled Debbie’s eyes. Debbie didn’t know all of her feelings about Marvin, but she knew enough. “What does he want?”
“He says that he needs my help and that it is an emergency. I think I need to go you.”
Debbie bit her lower lip. “Are you sure you should go alone? What if he’s up to no good?”
“It is going to be fine. Marvin would never do anything that would put me in harm, or at least I don’t think he would. I have to go. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“All right, be careful.” Debbie reached out and squeezed her arm. Amy grabbed her shawl and headed out to the front of the orphanage. Marvin had a little carriage with a team of horses. He helped her up beside him and turned toward the city.
“What is the emergency, Marvin? Is someone hurt?” Amy was starting to feel a bit fidgety.
“You’ll have to wait and see when we get there.” It seemed that whatever this emergency was, it hadn’t made Marvin any more forthcoming than he had been in their earlier years. Amy thought back to the first time she’d seen him. She felt so special to have someone take notice of her.
Amy looked up at the large, formidable house. She could hardly remember the last hour of rushing through the streets of Chicago. Her parents were gone, she was all alone. This felt like such a nightmare. The young man beside her gave her a bright smile.
“Hazel is going to come out here any moment and she’ll make you feel right at home. You will be happy and safe here.” The man was the minister from her parents’ church. Amy forced herself to nod, though she didn’t know who Hazel was and she wished she didn’t have to be made to feel safe or happy. She wanted her parents back. She wanted to go home to their tiny little house nestled between many others on the busy streets of Chicago. She had no idea how to get back to her house, even if this man or whoever Hazel was, let her out of their sight.
The door to the large house opened and a woman was standing there. She had wild black hair with wisps of grey in it and grey eyes, like a storm brewing on the horizon.
“Mr. Henderson, is this her?” Hazel looked down at her, pity and care emanating from her face.
“This is her. I’m sorry, but her parents… didn’t make it.”
Amy swallowed hard. She’d just turned six last week. Her mother said she was old enough to go to school. She had been so excited about it then, but now she regretted not being with them. Maybe they would all be together now instead of her parents somewhere in the big city and her here, wondering what this woman was going to do with her.
“Come here, child. You will be safe here.” Hazel motioned for her to come inside.
There was that word again, “safe.” Amy didn’t know that it would ever be possible to feel safe without her parents. She walked past the woman and stood in the hall. She couldn’t hear the words that the woman shared with the minister before the door was closed and she was left behind.
“So, come along then. I will show you where the girls sleep. Then we can get you a nice bath and some supper. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? You can call me Hazel.” The woman put her hand on Amy’s shoulder. Her touch was soft and caring and reminded Amy of her mother’s touch.
Amy fought tears. It was always difficult to think of her mother without becoming emotional. No one knew what void losing her had left in her life.
“This is the room where you will be staying.” Hazel opened a door. It was a spacious room with around eight beds, all made up of similar quilts. While one of the girls gets a bath ready, why don’t you go into the yard and get to know some of the children?”
Hazel took her hand and led her down the rest of the hall to the back door. It opened into a small yard where more than a dozen children were playing. Amy didn’t say a word as Hazel left her there and went back into the house. She stood off to the side, trying to figure out where she could fit into this crowd.
A tap on her shoulder made her jump. She turned to find a young boy looking at her. He was a good head taller, with blonde hair and green eyes. He had a crooked, mischievous grin. She expected him to say something mean, but instead, he put his hand out.
“Hey, I’m Marvin. You’re the new girl?”
Amy nodded, reluctantly.
“It’s not so bad here. You can play with me and my friends if you want.” The boy pointed towards a small group of kids who were watching her with curious eyes.
“Thank you.” Those were the first words Amy had said since her parents hadn’t come home. Marvin reached out his hand again and this time she took it. He led her over to the group with a big grin on his face.
Amy smiled softly at the memory. It was one of the good ones. No matter what their relationship had turned into, those first moments at the orphanage had been made bearable by Marvin. She couldn’t imagine what emergency was so urgent for him now, but she hoped she hadn’t made a mistake in trusting him once more.
The streets of Chicago were quite busy this evening, despite the late hour. Even so, no one seemed to notice Amy and Marvin, riding between them.
“So, how have you been?” Marvin asked softly, pulling Amy back to her current situation.
“I’ve been good.” Amy frowned. She didn’t know why Marvin would be asking her how she was if there was an emergency he was worried about. He took another turn and then stopped in front of a building she knew well. It was the catholic church. She’d seen it many times when passing through town but never gone inside. Hazel was a protestant Christian and had taken Amy to her little church on the edge of the city for as long as Amy could remember. “Marvin, what are we doing here?” Amy asked.
She thought back to Debbie’s worried look. Maybe she had underestimated Marvin.
“You will see. It’s very important.” Marvin jumped down from the carriage and went around to her side, offering her his hand. It reminded her so much of the time they had met. She hoped that she could trust him now as much as she did then. He led her to the front of the church and stepped inside with confidence. The place was beautiful. Stained glass windows let a bath of colored light filter onto the floor. Wooden benches were set up on both sides, leading up to the front of the church. It was a much bigger version of the little chapel that she attended with Hazel.
At the front of the church, was a vicar. He was tending to the candles and turned as they approached. Amy stopped short of the front, feeling as if something was wrong. The emergency that Marvin had spoken so passionately about was nowhere to be seen. She couldn’t imagine that this scene in the church was anything resembling an emergency.
“Marvin, I need to know what is going on. You said there was an emergency and you needed my help.” Amy frowned. He was making her feel extremely uncomfortable. She wished she was back at the orphanage talking with Debbie, or with the children. That had felt right.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have worried you so, but I was afraid it was the only way to get you here.” As he said the words, Amy’s heart plummeted. She saw how the Vicar’s reluctant expression turned even more worried.
“What do you mean? Why would you want to get me here? You know I go to church. I have ever since I was little.”
“It’s not about that, Amy. Don’t you see? We are here to get married. The vicar will do the ceremony and everything. It’s all very proper. Don’t worry.”
“No. What? Married?” Amy’s head spun as she tried to comprehend what was happening. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course. It’s a bit sudden, I know. I was off in New York and I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I kept wondering what you were doing and what you were thinking. Our letters were not enough. Then I realized that I didn’t want to exchange letters with you while you were somewhere else. I wanted you there with me in New York. So I came back, and I prepared everything for us to be married.” Marvin took a breath. “It will be perfect. You will come to New York with me, and I have already found us a little home for us to live in. You can stay there, and I am sure you will find something to keep yourself busy with until we have our first child…”
Amy held her hand up to stop him. “Wait…You didn’t even ask me about any of this.”
“I know, but of course you will say yes. I know you. You aren’t happy at that orphanage without me. We were always together. We have always loved each other. It was just a matter of time before you got old enough to marry me.”
Amy bit her lower lip, tunning out the rest of what Marvin said. she couldn’t think about any of that right now. She could hardly believe he had gone this far. She had never done anything to make him think they were in love in a romantic way. They were friends, yes, but that was all. Nothing more.
“I…Marvin…” Amy put her hand out and touched his arm, bringing his hasty speech to an end. “I can’t marry you.”
“What? Of course, you can. When we were children, you promised you would never abandon me.”
“And I haven’t abandoned you. I will always be your friend and am willing to do whatever I can to help you with almost anything, but I can’t be your wife and move away. I love the orphanage and the children. I love working there. I can’t leave that behind, and I’m sorry, but I am not the woman for you. One day, you will find her and everything will work out right. You will be able to plan your special day together. Marriage is something that is forever and both parties need to be interested.”
Amy could see the hurt and anger on Marvin’s face. She wished that she could have done this in some other way that would have caused less hurt, but she had to be honest. She had no intention of moving to New York. The thought had never even crossed her mind. She had considered marriage on occasion but hadn’t met anyone who would make her consider it enough to actually follow through with it. And when she had contemplated marriage, it had never been with Marvin in mind.
Marvin grabbed her hand and pulled her to the front of the church. “Look, the vicar thinks this is a good idea. He has agreed to marry us. I knew you would want to be married in the church so I arranged everything.”
The vicar appeared to be caught off guard. His eyes widened and he opened and closed his mouth a few times before any sound came out.
“I…I did say I would marry you and your intended, but I did assume she would be willing and knowing in the matter. I don’t know that I can marry the two of you if one is not in agreement.”
Amy turned her eyes to the vicar, hoping for more help than his simple statement, but he offered none. Instead, he went back to tending the candles as if he preferred they handle the matter themselves.
“Amy, I can’t be happy without you. Don’t you want me to be happy? You told me when I left for New York that you wished me to be happy. This is the only way I can do that. You said you would never abandon me, that we would be together forever. That means that two people will get married to preserve that bond. You promised!”
Amy shook her head. She remembered all the words that Marvin was saying. She had said that she would never abandon him. Of course, she wanted Marvin to be happy, and when she was eight, she hadn’t imagined a life without him, but as his friend. When she was six and came to the orphanage, he was her lifeline, the one person who helped bring stability into her life again. That didn’t mean that she was going to marry him out of nowhere now that she was grown.
“I can’t marry you, Marvin. I don’t want to hurt you, or for you to get the wrong idea. I meant that we would be friends forever. I want you to be happy but not like this.”
“You can’t do this to me! What do you mean? That is not what you said!” Marvin’s voice rose, echoing around the empty church.
Amy pulled her hand out of his. The place where they had touched felt like it was on fire. She took a few steps back and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Marvin. I can’t do this.”
She turned and ran from the church. She could hear Marvin calling her name from behind. It was clear that he wanted to hear no rational argument. He didn’t want to know what she felt, or why she felt she couldn’t go with him. He wanted her to marry him right then and there in the church. Amy wanted to be horrified or surprised, but she couldn’t be. Hazel had warned her that Marvin had become obsessed with her in an unhealthy fashion.
She hadn’t wanted to believe it. She wanted to keep the image of Marvin that she had from a little girl. She wanted to remember him as her friend and protector. Now that this had happened, she started thinking of all the instances that Hazel had stepped in and taken over conversations. She remembered how Hazel had always been there to protect her. Maybe she had been protecting her more than she ever imagined.
Amy ducked down one road, then another. She slipped into an alley beside the hotel, then went around and kept going. She didn’t know where she was headed, and sometimes she felt as if she was lost, losing all sense of direction. Then she would come across a little road or a building that she recognized. Every time she did, she would adjust her direction so she was headed toward the orphanage. She didn’t want to be caught out here in the middle of the coming night by Marvin.
For all she knew, he would drag her back to the church and continue to tell her things until she listened and surrendered to the marriage. Seeing how the vicar had acted, he would go ahead with the union, no matter how she felt about it. Women weren’t always able to make decisions for themselves and an orphan even less.
Amy quickened her pace, shivering in the evening air. Her dress was the simple one that she wore every day for tending the children. She was not dressed warmly for this sort of weather. At last, she reached the last of the buildings. She could see the orphanage. There was a small stretch of ground between her and the building that signified safety. She was afraid for a moment. What if Marvin knew that was where she was headed and was waiting for her only to take her by force?
She forced herself to laugh. That would be ridiculous. Marvin was her friend. He cared about her. He always had. Maybe he had taken those feelings between them out of context and thought a friendship was something more, which it wasn’t. That didn’t mean that he would force her to do something she had clearly said she didn’t want to do, did it?
The words in her head were hollow and meant little. She had seen how determined Marvin was for her to marry him. Would he leave her alone? Would he accept her answer? She had never felt afraid of him before but something had changed.
Amy took a deep breath. Whatever was going to happen, it started with getting back to the orphanage. She took a deep breath and picked up her skirts. She wasn’t accustomed to running, but tonight, she made an exception. She sprinted across the small space of land between her and the orphanage. She didn’t let her guard down until she was safely inside the door. Her heart pounded against her chest, and she gasped for breath.
How had things gotten to this point? She remembered when Marvin was her friend, her confidant, and the one she would go to when she needed help with anything. He would protect her, and make sure she was happy. She wondered if something could have happened to change him in such a way.
She thought back to when Hazel had been there. She always stuck around when Marvin came to visit, and mentioned to Amy that Marvin seemed to think of her as more than just a friend. Amy wondered what it would be like to care for Marvin in a way that was deeper than friendship, but she couldn’t fathom it. He was her brother in a way, a person she cared deeply for, but not in the way he wanted.
She wondered if she had done something wrong, something to give him any indication that she also thought of him in a romantic light.
She couldn’t think of a single thing, but kept wondering about his words, how he claimed she said she would never abandon him and they would be together forever. She had said she would always be there for him, but that did not mean marriage. She listened for a moment, half expecting Marvin to come knocking on the door, demanding she let him in so he could take her back to the church. There was silence, which helped set her more at ease.
She was safe. Marvin would not come here to find her right away. Amy smiled wryly as she had the thought. It turned out the minister had been right so long ago. She had come to feel safe and loved in the orphanage. When she thought of home, this is where she came. She had people here who cared for her and would protect her from anything. But now that feeling of safety was being taken away by the most unlikely of people.
“To Discover Her Heart’s Longing” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Amy Richardson never imagined that staying at the orphanage she called home would put her at such risk. When she realizes that someone from her past isn’t ready to let her go, her future suddenly becomes uncertain. Forced to flee west in hopes of starting over, little does she know that things are about to get even more complicated. Arriving in a new town to meet her husband-to-be, she is shocked to find that he has no idea of her existence…
Will Amy ever find the safety she longs for in this new place?
After his father’s death, Peter McKelvey never intended to get married. So when his mother shows up with Amy as a mail-order bride arranged on his behalf, he is stunned. Seeing Amy’s dismay at his reaction though, he can’t bring himself to turn her away and hires her as a cook on his ranch. Yet as he begins to realize that she could be in very real danger, keeping his distance from Amy may not be possible if he wants to keep her safe…
Will Peter allow himself to care for Amy and even open up his heart to love?
With an unexpected bond between Peter and Amy growing, so do the challenges that face them. As they try to deal with the threats coming their way, Amy is still keeping secrets… Will Peter and Amy manage to trust each other and their budding feelings? Or will they lose everything to ghosts from the past?
“To Discover Her Heart’s Longing” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.