Emilia gave a glance around her, trying to see if anyone was watching or listening to them. She felt anxious that someone would approach them, asking them where they had been all week.
“I love days like today, don’t you? Maybe we’ll run into someone interesting on our way home.” Mary was as bubbly and talkative as ever.
Emilia sometimes wished that her sister would draw a little less attention to them. It was almost as if she could physically feel it when people looked their way.
Maybe it was because she was the older sister that she noticed those things. Shopping day was her least favorite day, just like it was her sister’s favorite day.
“Did we get everything?” Emilia leaned over to check into the basket.
“I think so. I wonder why ma never comes with us to shop?” Mary tucked the cloth back over the basket.
“I don’t know, maybe she just enjoys a little time at home by herself.” Emilia could relate to that. She didn’t mind some alone time herself.
She enjoyed reading a good book while sitting alone in the parlor. She loved spending her day cooking and cleaning the house while her mother and sister worked outside of the home.
It worked for all of them. Her sister loved her job helping a family with their children and their mother also enjoyed working. They all appreciated coming home to everything already done.
“How were your piano classes?” Emilia asked Mary. The piano was just one of many things that Mary was opposite of Emilia in. Despite their mother’s insistence, Emilia had refused to learn the piano.
“They were good. I got to meet the teacher’s son today. He is the most handsome man you’ve ever seen and he’s also quite wealthy I’ve heard.”
Emilia gave her a tight smile. She knew that her sister was eager to impress and marry a man. She herself wasn’t eager to try it and she was unconvinced it was a good idea for Mary either.
What if the man that Mary made her husband decided that he no longer was happy with the match? Emilia had heard of men leaving their wives for silly reasons and she would hate to see something like that happen to her sweet sister.
“Are you even listening to me?” Mary was giving her an annoyed look.
Emilia tried to remember what her sister had been saying, but she couldn’t think of anything. “I’m sorry, I was distracted.”
“I was telling you how my piano teacher invited us all to brunch this Saturday. Both of her sons will be there. Her older son is your age. Maybe you’ll like him.”
“I don’t know about that.” Emilia didn’t want to ruin Mary’s enthusiasm, but she had run into the piano teacher’s son on more than one occasion and had never thought she would like to get to know him better.
“You know, if you keep being so set apart, you’re going to end up an old maid.”
“Would that be a bad thing?” Emilia shrugged her shoulders.
Mary’s mouth opened wide and she looked as if someone had just informed her the world was going to end at any moment. “Emilia, of course, it would be a bad thing! What would you do for money? Where would you live? How would you survive?”
“I don’t know. There are jobs for women sometimes. Look at you. You’re earning some money on your own.”
“Well, it’s not something I would like to do forever. Someday I’ll find myself a handsome rich husband who will keep me very happy in a large home with lots of help around the place.” Mary’s eyes sparkled as she talked.
Something that Emilia admired about her sister was her optimism. Mary hadn’t experienced the things that Emilia had, and when she had been dealt with bad experiences, she had just brushed them off and moved on with her life.
It was something that Emilia had tried to do, she wanted to do, but it proved harder than Mary made it look.
“You know, if ma would have married a rich man instead of pa, maybe we’d both have rich men knocking on our doors, begging to get to know us about now.”
“Mary! Don’t you ever talk about ma and pa like that.”
Mary looked taken aback to be scolded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you cared so much. I heard the women talking about him at church the other day. They say he was a terrible man. Do you think that’s true?”
“Of course, it wasn’t true. You remember pa. He was a good man. He had some episodes, and that’s why he was taken away, but he never meant anything by it. He couldn’t help it. Remember the doctor said he had a sickness. Above all, he loved us more than anything.”
Mary nodded but didn’t look very convinced. She had only been nine years old when their father had been taken to the asylum. According to their mother, she hadn’t been the one to admit him. It had been their grandfather and uncle who had finally taken him to the hospital during one of his fits of rage.
By the time that Emilia’s mother found out, there was nothing she could do. They said he would have to stay for at least a year before they would consider letting him back out. And then not six months later they had sent a man to tell her that he had an unfortunate reaction to one of the treatments and had passed away.
Her mother never had been able to forgive her grandfather before he died, and only recently had she begun to speak to Emilia’s uncle once more.
“I remember that he used to read us stories by the fireplace.”
Emilia nodded, “He used to make up the funniest stories.”
“Remember the one about the bear who wanted some sugar?” Mary giggled.
“Yes, he was funny.”
“Why did uncle Greg have them take him away?”
Emilia shrugged. “I’m not sure really, some people like to say that he didn’t get along with him and he hated that he was with ma. He claimed that pa was dangerous. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that he wasn’t completely crazy. He just got mad sometimes and threw things and screamed.”
“Emilia? Are we going to go crazy too when we get older?”
Emilia reached over and gave her sister’s hand a squeeze, “Don’t ever think that. I know lots of people think that craziness is hereditary, but I don’t believe for a moment that you or I will ever go crazy. And if anyone does take us to the crazy house, I will be there to help you escape.” As Emilia finished what she was saying she burst into a fit of coughing. The wind had hit her just right, causing her to start the coughing and she couldn’t stop for several minutes.
It took several moments before she was able to catch her breath again. She clung to the back of a chair and tried to steady her breathing again. Mary was staring at her with concern all over her face. “Emilia, are you okay? Are you getting sick again?”
Emilia shook her head. She had just gotten over a sickness, or so everyone thought. The truth was that Emilia hadn’t completely gotten over it. She didn’t want anyone to know because she didn’t want her mother to know.
Her mother would only worry and insist that she stay inside in bed. While she enjoyed being in the house the most, she still didn’t like being confined to bed, unable to do anything or get anything for herself.
“Mary, you can’t tell ma. It was nothing. It was just the wind.”
Mary shook her head, “You can’t hide it if you’re not better yet. What if you get worse and… well, you know that you always have a hard time getting better again.”
“I’m fine. I promise. I am getting better. I know myself, Mary.”
Emilia’s eyes were starting to ache just a little again and her head was pounding but Mary didn’t need to know that.
She had managed to hide her fits of coughing and her headaches from her mother for the past couple of days and had convinced everyone that she was on the steady road to recovery from her most recent bout of sickness.
She hated being sick all the time, but she had no control over it.
Her mother said that she’d been sickly since she was a baby, and there had always been someone to remind her of it as long as she could remember.
As they stepped into the small townhouse that they shared with their mother, delicious smells hit them with a force.
Emilia walked into the kitchen to find her mother stirring a pot of what looked like soup. There was something baking as well.
This was the one day that her mother prepared the meals while she and Mary went to get the shopping done.
Emilia loved coming home to her mother working in the kitchen. It reminded her of better days. Like the days when she had been young and come home to her mother humming as she prepared dinner.
Her father had always come home a little later and would always swing her around in circles while she giggled.
A sad smile played on Emilia’s lips while she thought of it. The familiar ache filled her chest. She missed her father every single day, and yet, she couldn’t really be honest about it with anyone.
The only person she ever talked about him with was Mary. When she talked with her mother, she couldn’t say much. She knew that thinking of him and what had happened made her mother feel sad and be overwhelmed with guilt.
“Girls, I’m glad you’re back. Dinner is almost done.”
Emilia hurried across the kitchen and gave her mother a quick hug. “I think we got everything.”
“Okay, that’s enough,” her mother pulled back with a flustered look. Emilia’s mother had never really been one for lots of hugs or things like that. And yet, Emilia knew that she did like them. “Mary, you cut some bread and Emilia, you get the cheese and the butter.”
When Mary and Emilia had gotten the things requested of them, there was a large pot of soup sitting on the table. There were two golden brown loaves of freshly baked bread that their mother had just pulled from the oven sitting on the cutting board next to the soup.
Emilia rubbed her hands together and sat down, “I’m starved.”
Her mother served up steaming bowls of soup and set them in front of Emilia and Mary.
“Let’s pray.” Her mother extended her hands and both girls took them.
It was a tradition that they all took turns praying for the food since their father wasn’t there to do it like they had before he had been taken away.
“Amen,” they all said together as Mary finished her prayer.
Emilia looked around at her family, it was small, but it was everything she needed and more.
“I’m going off to bed,” Mary announced as she leaned in and gave Emilia a kiss on the cheek. Emilia gave her sister a half hug, trying not to get her wet because of her wet soapy hands. Their mother had said to not worry about the dishes, but Emilia hated to leave them undone overnight.
She was one to always insist on having them done. She loved the feel of the soap, gliding through her fingers.
Emilia watched as Mary kissed their mother and then disappeared down the hall. Emilia was feeling pretty tired too. She rinsed the last dish and then turned to go.
“Emilia, wait. I want to talk to you before you go to bed.” Her mother’s voice sounded worried.
“What about?” Emilia dried her hands on a linen towel that was hanging nearby.
“Come to the parlor. Let’s sit and talk for a few moments.”
Emilia nodded and followed her mother feeling that something was wrong. She wondered what her mother wanted to talk about.
Emilia fidgeted nervously. Her mother had disappeared back into the kitchen for a cup of tea. The longer she waited the more anxious she felt.
She could tell something was wrong. Her mother didn’t often ask to talk to her alone.
“I know it’s late and you’re probably tired, but we really need to talk about something.” Her mother’s voice startled her as she came back into the parlor.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen? Why isn’t Mary here? Why can’t she hear what you are going to say?” Emilia asked with growing concern.
“Nothing’s really wrong,” her mother answered, but she didn’t look convinced and Emilia was surer than ever that something really was wrong. Her mother paused for a moment stirring her tea thoughtfully and sighed. “It’s just that I know you’re not really getting better.”
Emilia’s breath was whooshed out of her. She wasn’t sure her mother could have possibly said anything worse.
“What are you talking about? Of course, I’ve been getting better.”
“No, you haven’t. I know you’re trying to hide it, but I’ve seen you coughing. I’ve seen the way you try to do it so I can’t see. But it’s dangerous, Emilia. I don’t want to make your life miserable. I’m just trying to keep you safe.”
Tears filled Emilia’s eyes. She wasn’t sure if she was more upset over what her mother was saying or over the fact that she’d been found out.
She had worked so hard to keep it a secret that she wasn’t better yet, but she had to admit it had been getting a lot harder lately. It was hard to keep the cough quiet and once it started sometimes it took her breath away with the violence of it.
“I know why you do it, but it’s not okay, Emilia. I never wanted it to come to this, but I’m sending you to Texas, to live with my sister.”
“What?” Emilia’s head pounded with confusion and pain at the same time. If only her headache would leave her in peace for a few moments maybe she could think a little straighter. “Are you punishing me? I promise I won’t lie about it again.”
“No, I’m not punishing you. I had a talk with the doctor again. He says that your lungs… well, they will probably never be strong enough to really be okay here in the north. It’s too cold and damp here. You need to live where there’s warmer weather.”
“But what about you and Mary? Will you come?”
Before her mother could answer, Emilia knew what she would say. The sadness in her eyes told everything.
“We can’t leave, Emilia. You know we both have jobs here. It isn’t easy for a woman without a husband to find a reliable job. You know that. I can’t expect Carolyn to take care of all of us.”
“I know, but then let me stay. I’ll do better, I’ll stay inside. I won’t get worse. I promise.”
A tear ran down her mother’s cheek. “Emilia dear, you can’t possibly promise something like that.” Her mother reached out and pressed a hand against her forehead. “You are getting a fever again. I just can’t watch you almost lose your life again. At least I’ll know you’re safe in Texas and we can write to each other.”
“Please, ma. Don’t send me away. It will be all right. I am always alright after a few weeks.”
“You don’t know that you’ll be alright. You think that you will be, but what happens when the fever is too high? What happens when you get pneumonia again? Last time you almost died. It is too serious for us to take a chance. And each time you get that ill it damages your lungs even more.”
“The doctor will give me medicine again. I’ll stay inside and you can make me hot soup.” Emilia was trying to lighten the mood, but it wasn’t working. She couldn’t believe her mother actually wanted to send her away.
“Look, Emilia. I don’t want to do this. The only thing I want is to be with both you and Mary, but almost losing you almost kills me every time. I can’t go through it again. I just can’t.”
“But I’ve never even met Aunt Carolyn. I’ve never been to Texas. What am I going to do there? What if I get sick there too?”
“You won’t, and if you do, you’ll get better much faster. Aunt Carolyn would love to have you. She wrote and told me so herself. Your cousin, Lily is around your age as well. She will be there to help you. We will be able to visit you maybe once a year. You will be okay.”
“Don’t argue with me anymore, Emilia. You know deep down that this is the right thing. You’ll see that it’s the right thing.”
Emilia nodded numbly. What was happening right now? How had her entire life imploded with one single conversation?
“Come on, you need to get some rest. Your uncle is going to take you most of the way there on the train. You’ll see that it won’t seem so bad once it happens. Just think of it as an adventure.”
Emilia stood and let her mother lead her down the hall. “You know I hate adventures,” she mumbled under her breath.
Her mother left her at the doorway of the room that Emilia shared with Mary. Emilia leaned over and gave her mother a quick kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight, ma.”
“Don’t worry, Emilia. It’s all going to be all right.” Her mother reached out and gave her arm a squeeze before disappearing into her own room across the hall.
Emilia closed her bedroom door against the cool breeze drifting down the hall. She padded softly across the floor and changed quickly and deftly into her nightdress. She wrapped the hot rock from the fireplace in a sheet and placed it at the foot of the bed where her feet went.
When she slid under the bedclothes, Mary stirred. “What did ma want to talk to you about?”
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I was until your cold feet woke me up,” Mary giggled.
“Oh, sorry,” Emilia pulled her feet back to her side of the bed and searched with them for the hot spot. The warmth of the rock penetrated the sheets and Mary put her feet next to it too. A wave of sadness washed over her. What was it going to be like not sharing a room with Mary any longer? Maybe she and her sister were like two opposites, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t love her sister more than anyone in the world. She had never slept a single night without her.
She felt as if she were about to lose her family and there was nothing that she could do about it. It seemed like her body had betrayed her.
“So, what did ma say?”
Emilia had been hoping that her sister had forgotten about her line of questioning. “She found out I’m still sick.”
“I didn’t say a thing, I promise.” Emilia could see Mary’s worried look in the dim light from the moon filtering through the window.
“It wasn’t you. Apparently, she saw me hiding my cough.” Emilia pulled the blanket around herself. She felt colder than she had when she laid down.
“Your forehead is warm. You have a fever again,” Mary observed with concern. Mary was pressing her hand against Emilia’s forehead similar to the way her mother had before.
“I know. Hopefully, it won’t get too bad. Anyway, ma is sending me away to Texas to live with Aunt Carolyn.”
“What? We’re moving to Texas? What about my piano teacher? And our jobs? Can we even find jobs in Texas? I wonder if a family would hire me to watch their children. There have to be people in Texas who need help I bet.”
“Mary, you aren’t coming, and neither is ma. She’s just sending me.”
Mary looked stunned and opened and closed her mouth repeatedly like a gaping fish as if trying to find something to say. “But- But you can’t just go alone. I mean… we have to talk to ma. You can’t leave me here alone.”
“I already did talk to ma. She said that I keep getting sick here and she can’t take it anymore. She says that the warm weather will help me.”
“Do you think it will? I’m going to miss you terribly but if it will make you better, then I’ll be okay.”
“I don’t know what to think. I don’t want to go to Texas. You know how I feel about new people. I won’t know anyone there. Apparently, Uncle Ted is going to take me most of the way there on the train.”
“If only I could go with you, but I can’t leave ma here in the city alone.” Mary reached over and took Emilia’s hand.
Emilia gave Mary’s hand a tight squeeze. “I know you would come, but you’re right. Ma needs us to be strong. I just… You know, I never thought I would leave you two.”
“Maybe this will be a good thing for you. Maybe you’ll like it.” Mary propped herself up on her elbow.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, everyone in town kind of knows you, and you know them. Maybe if you go somewhere where no one knows you, you can be a new person. You can get out and make friends.”
“I don’t know, Mary. I don’t do well with new people.”
“That’s just because everyone in town knows about pa and has always treated you badly. You’ve just got to be outgoing and show people who you really are. Leave the past here.”
Emilia forced a smile. Her sister had a naturally outgoing personality. Emilia wasn’t like that, no matter how much she wanted to be. “I’d like to, I really would, but it’s not that easy for me.”
“It is easy. You just have to believe it. You just have to be brave.”
“I’ll try,” she answered doubtfully. Emilia really did plan on trying, but she was doubtful it would work. Even before her father had been admitted to the asylum, she hadn’t exactly had a lot of friends. She had never participated in the running or ball games with children at school and then after school ended she just never had been a person to go out and spend time with others.
Having her father be taken away had only made it worse. Everyone started to treat her as if she was going to become crazy next.
As the years went by, Emilia had retracted more to staying home and not interacting much with those around her.
By the time that Mary had grown and started making friends, people didn’t seem to worry so much about their father having been put in an asylum. Or at least they didn’t connect it to Mary as much as they had done with Emilia.
While Emilia was happy her younger sister could have a good childhood, pretty much free of teasing and bad feelings, she also envied that sometimes.
“We should get some rest. Don’t give up, Emilia. Maybe I can talk with ma tomorrow.”
Emilia nodded, but she wasn’t going to count on it. Her mother had seemed pretty determined and Emilia had a feeling that changing her mind would not be easy, if at all possible.
“Goodnight,” Mary turned over and snuggled into the bed beside Emilia.
Emilia checked to make sure that her sister was covered well and then snuggled in next to her.
She closed her eyes and the face of her father materialized against the black. She missed him. She realized with sadness that the face wasn’t clear anymore. It was fuzzy, like someone a little too far to see exactly what they looked like.
She tried to recall his voice and his laugh, but they were distant, like memories that were on the edge of being forgotten. A tear ran down her face.
She was forgetting him. How could she be forgetting him? Eight years had passed. It was a long time, but how could she forget her own father’s face no matter how much time had passed?
She sat up in the bed and slid her legs out onto the floor. She walked softly across the room, shivering a bit at the chill that crept up underneath her nightdress.
When she reached the window, she made sure it was closed and then stared down at the street below.
Everyone had gone to bed or at least gone home because the street was empty and dark, the moon casting strange silvery shadows over it.
She wondered what it would have been like to walk down the street at this time of night. But she would probably never know. Soon she wouldn’t be able to walk down the street at all.
Maybe if she went to Texas and got better really fast, her mother would let her come back to the city.
Soft raindrops began to pelt the roof, and Emilia shivered. Another rainy night. She knew deep down that her mother was right, but she was going to do her best to pretend that the trip was as far away as possible. She would try to spend extra time with Mary. She wondered how long she would remember her face.
She shivered and tiptoed back to the bed and crawled back in the covers. The rock wasn’t so warm anymore. It felt like only a soft glow of what it had been.
She listened to the even breathing of her sister and a tear ran down her cheek. Life would never be the same again. It was always changing. She wondered if she would ever return to her family in Ohio.
“An Enduring Love to Heal Her” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Emilia Johnson has always had a tough life. When her father is taken to a mental asylum, everyone turns their back on her. She is constantly being teased and treated cruelly by people who fear contracting insanity from her family. On top of it all, she has always been suffering from an illness and her health is getting worse day by day. Her mother can’t bear to see Emilia getting sick anymore, and she decides to send her out west, hoping that the warm weather will help her regain her health, as well as her confidence. Will Emilia seize this great opportunity and start her life over?
Derek Stevens is a thoughtful rancher in Texas. He is running away from a painful past and a family that he is embarrassed to be a part of. When he first meets Emilia, he is completely uninterested in pursuing a relationship with any woman. Being truly wounded, he does not believe in true love. The unforeseen circumstances, though, will bring them closer together. Will they manage to overcome the obstacles and learn the whole truth about each other?
While Emilia and Derek build a closer relationship, Derek’s evil twin brother tries to ruin things between them. Will they be able to clear up the misunderstandings and build a common future? Or will they continue to be emotionally distant for the rest of their lives?
“An Enduring Love to Heal Her” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.