Summer pulled up another bucket of water. The sun was barely peeking up over the horizon. She took a minute to enjoy the fresh smell of the morning. It was one of the only times in her day where she could enjoy the quietness of being alone. She grabbed her pail of water and headed to the chicken house—she’d already taken care of the milking, and the other chores, now she needed to tend to the chickens.
The chores moved quickly. After years of handling them herself, she’d come up with a sort of routine. She finished everything in time to make it inside and have breakfast ready for when her grandmother woke up.
The house was still silent when Summer stepped inside. When she was a child, her grandmother would be up and moving before the sun was up. She rarely woke to a silent home. Now that her grandmother was older and slept longer, she woke to silence every morning.
Summer started some porridge on the stove. She stirred it slowly as it heated, putting on a pot of coffee at the same time. When everything was ready, she went down to her grandmother’s room and knocked softly on the door.
“Come in!” her grandmother called from inside.
Summer opened the door slowly. Her grandmother looked so frail sitting on the bed wrapped up in quilts. She’d changed so much since Summer was a child. It was scary to think about sometimes. Her grey, almost white hair was pulled into one braid at the back of her head. Summer brushed it out once in the morning and once at night.
“Good morning, Mamie. How are you feeling today?” Summer moved to the side of the bed and propped her up gently.
“Fine, Summer. Just fine.” Her grandmother smiled. “What about you?”
“Just fine. I just finished the chores. Breakfast is ready. Do you want to come to the kitchen with me, or do you want me to bring your porridge here for you?”
“I will come to the kitchen if you’ll give me a hand. It is important to keep these old bones moving occasionally.” Her grandmother chuckled as she pushed the blankets away.
Summer helped her to her feet and got her dressed. It was a long process, but they managed to finish in good time by working together. The dress that they chose was a gray one that had once fit her grandmother snugly, but now it hung off her shoulders at an odd angle. Summer knew that she wasn’t eating as much as she should, but it was hard for her. Summer tried to make her lots of little meals to try and keep her healthy, but there were days when it felt like a losing battle. Once her grandmother was dressed, Summer sat her down on a chair and sat on the bed behind her.
She took out the brush that she used every day and started working it through her gray hair.
“I used to comb your hair just like this when you were just a little girl.” Her grandmother’s voice was rough, but the tone was soothing, just like Summer remembered it. “Do you know why I named you Summer?”
“Because my mother didn’t leave me with even a name?” Summer knew it wasn’t fair to bring her mother up in a bitter way. After all, it wasn’t her grandmother’s fault that her mother had left and never looked back when Summer was but a few days old.
“No. I named you that because summer was my favorite time of the year. I knew the day that I picked you up in my arms that you would be the favorite part of my life from then on. I thought it was fitting.”
“For my sister. She died when she was young. Much younger than you. Nearly broke my mother’s heart. We were best friends. I always meant to name one of my children after her, and never did. When I saw your tiny, perfect little face staring up at me, I knew it was the perfect name for you. Summer Marie.”
“Thank you, Mamie. For everything you did for me.”
“I did what I could, but I hope that I’ve taught you what you need to know. You can only trust yourself, my dear. I will be gone in a few short years, if not sooner. Don’t depend on anyone! Do you understand?”
Summer nodded. She didn’t know if the lesson was one that her grandmother simply felt the need to repeat a lot, or if her Mamie forgot that she’d already told her that advice more times than she could count.
“I know, I won’t forget it.” Even though Summer always told her grandmother that she knew, she was still depending on her grandmother in a way, even if it was just emotionally. When everyone else in her life failed her from the moment she was born, her grandmother had been there for her. Because of her grandparents, she had some idea of what a normal life would have looked like.
“Come on—our porridge is getting cold.” Summer helped her grandmother down the hall and to a kitchen chair. Once she was seated, Summer dished up two bowls of porridge and set one in front of her grandmother.
“Thank you,” her grandmother said with a broad smile.
Summer took her own bowl, then sat down and took her grandmother’s hands and said grace. Her grandparents had taught her that no matter what was happening in their life, there was always something to be grateful for. Summer knew that to be true. She had seen it over and over in her life.
Even though things seemed hard sometimes, they always managed to pull through one way or another. After breakfast was over, Summer washed the dishes, then helped her grandmother out to her chair on the porch. It was a rocking chair that her grandfather had crafted. When he passed away on their way out west, it was the one piece of furniture that they had managed to bring all the way to Texas.
“Are you going to be all right, Mamie? I have to get to town.” Summer worked at the hotel and diner in town. It was a busy place, where everyone passing through would stop to either eat or rest for the night. Summer didn’t necessarily enjoy the long days and hard work, but she did need something to help her sustain both her and her grandmother and the job gave her the ability to do that.
“I’ll be fine, Summer. You go on ahead. You ask me this every day.” Her grandmother pulled her shawl tighter around her arms. “I much prefer to be outside than stuck inside the whole day waiting for you to come home.”
“Okay then. If it starts to get windy or chilly, make sure to go inside. I’ve left some bread and cheese out for you in case you get hungry.” Summer leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Summer grabbed her own shawl and the small bag where she always carried a bit of money, just in case she needed it, and hurried down the path toward the town. The path was a deserted and lonely one. Not many people traveled on it. Ranches and farms were few and far between each other, and it was rare that two people would be going from the same direction to town at the same time. Summer didn’t mind the long walk. She felt like it gave her time to reflect and plan her day out before arriving at the hotel.
Today, she was running behind. She could tell by how low the sun was in the sky. She hoped that Abigail was already there, getting started for the day. The two of them managed almost everything in the hotel and diner on their own. There was a cook who managed to make most of the food, Mr. Earl, but mostly, the duties of the place depended on them.
When Summer finally spotted the hotel in the distance, she breathed a sigh of relief and quickened her pace. She looked to the sky. There were a couple of clouds on the horizon. Hopefully, they would stay there and not cause a storm. She always worried that her grandmother would hurt herself trying to get back in the house if it rained or got cold. Summer went around the back of the hotel and let herself through the back entrance. She was ready for the day of work ahead of her.
“There you are.” Abigail was busy setting out cloth napkins and arranging the glass vases in the dining area when Summer walked in.
“I’m sorry, I took a little longer than normal getting ready this morning. What do you need help with?”
“Everything. I just opened the doors, so we will have our first visitors for breakfast any minute.” Abigail paused her hurried work for a moment. “How is your grandmother doing?”
“Acceptably well, I suppose. She is weaker than she used to be. I hate to see her like that.” Summer swallowed hard. She kept a strong spirit and a collected face at home. When she was talking to Abigail, her one friend, she felt more vulnerable and closer to breaking down than she thought possible.
“I’m sorry. If there is anything I can do…” Abigail trailed off.
“What about you, how have you been?” Summer placed a hand on her friend’s arm. After losing her husband six months ago, Abigail was struggling. Summer could see the sadness and the despair in her eyes. Her normal cheerful personality would occasionally show through, but it soon disappeared as quickly as it came.
“I’m fine. The nightmares keep me from sleeping some nights though.”
“I’m sorry.” Summer didn’t know what else to say. She couldn’t erase what Abigail was going through, or make it better with her words. All she could do was try to be there for her friend when she needed her.
The little bell above the doorway rang as two customers walked into the diner. Summer left Abigail and guided them to a table. The morning rush was about to start. After taking their order, Summer went back to the kitchen to give it to Mr. Earl. The more customers filled the dining area, the more hectic things got. There was no longer time to talk or even time to think. They were busy rushing back and forth to the kitchen with stacks of dirty dishes, plates of food, and fresh cups of coffee that they could hardly keep up.
The entire place smelled of biscuits, eggs, gravy, coffee, and other breakfast foods that the people were enjoying. Mr. Earl was a great cook, and everyone knew that eating at the diner guaranteed them a mouth-watering meal. Eventually, breakfast was over, and the dining area slowly cleared. Summer headed out and gathered up all of the dirty dishes left behind, then filled a basin with water and soap to wash them. She sighed and leaned over the sink stretching her back.
“Sometimes I feel like the busy hours will never end,” Summer said as she tucked the dishes into the wash water.
“I like the busyness. It helps me be distracted.” Abigail smiled softly. “What are you going to do when you don’t have your grandmother around anymore?”
Summer’s heart constricted. This was a conversation she and Abigail had broached before. “I don’t know. I suppose I keep working and moving forward.”
“You could find someone and get married.” Abigail paused, holding a wet dish in her hands.
“I don’t think I am ready for that.” Whenever Summer was tempted to listen to her friend’s advice, she was reminded of her past, and all of the hurt she saw people who were married go through. “I think I’ll be fine on my own.”
Abigail turned toward her. “Being on your own isn’t easy, Summer. I mean, truly being on your own. I miss Andrew every day, and the pain of losing him will never leave me, but I wouldn’t change any of it. Every minute of those two years that we spent together was worth it. It’s not so bad to depend on someone every once in a while. He made me very happy while he was alive.”
“I can never depend on anyone.” Summer said the words more to herself than to Abigail. The first person that she should have been able to depend on, her father, had left a month before she was born. The second person she should have been able to depend on abandoned her one night on her grandparents’ doorstep. Her grandmother had used those two people as a lesson for Summer over the years, and it wasn’t a lesson that she was about to forget.
“Sometimes we need others in our lives. Not everyone is bad and not everyone will abandon you.”
“I know. The problem is that you can never tell who is bad and who isn’t.” Summer shook her head. “Never mind. My grandmother isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
“All right. I’m just saying, if you change your mind, maybe you should try talking to the doctor sometime. I’ve seen him in here three times this week, including today.” Abigail motioned to the dining area and Summer’s heart picked up its pace.
There, by the window, in his normal seat was Dr. Terrence Swanson. He was the town doctor, and even though he was pretty young to be a doctor, he had earned the town’s respect. Summer had never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He was also a known bachelor of the town, and it wasn’t a rare occasion to hear young women gossiping about how they hoped to gain his attention.
“The doctor just likes Mr. Earl’s food.” Even as she said the words, Summer could feel her cheeks blushing.
“We both know that is only part of it. He knows that you usually wait on that table. I’m just saying, he seems like a good man, and he seems interested in you. Good men who are interested don’t stick around forever. Don’t lose your chance with a good man because of what-ifs.”
Summer shook her head as she carried a stack of clean dishes to the back of the kitchen to be filled with food once again. As she headed back, she allowed herself to pause at the entrance to the dining area for a second. Dr. Swanson was staring down at a newspaper he had probably picked up from the little table by the door.
His sandy blonde hair fell over his forehead making her think of a wild colt. She stood and studied him for a moment. He didn’t seem to notice she was there. Summer wondered if what Abigail said was true; maybe the doctor did come around to see her. But then again, she thought that was ridiculous—she had never had any interest in the men in town, especially not the doctor. He probably was a good man, and he intrigued her, but her fears held her back. The lessons that had been pounded into her head throughout her childhood by her grandmother seemed to be working.
Summer shook herself from her thoughts and crossed the dining area.
“Hello, what can I get for you today? You are a little late for breakfast, and it will be about ten minutes before lunch is ready.” Summer felt self-conscious standing in the dining area all alone with these new-found thoughts troubling her. Currently, she and Dr. Swanson were the only ones there.
“Is it too late to get a coffee? I’m okay with waiting for lunch after that.” Dr. Swanson grinned. He always acted friendly, though he had never crossed that line for as long as Summer had known him. Other men in town had been a bit pushy and made Summer uncomfortable from time to time, but Dr. Swanson had always been the perfect gentleman.
“Sure, I can get you a coffee. I’ll be right back.” Summer hurried from the dining room back to the kitchen. She was relieved to see there was still some fresh coffee in the pot. She liked having some on hand for the whole day. It kept her energy up and helped her stay focused. She poured Dr. Swanson a cup and took it back to the dining area.
“Thank you.” Dr. Swanson offered her another smile before she left.
Abigail had a triumphant look on her face when Summer got back. “See? I told you he was interested.”
“I am pretty sure he just wanted coffee.” Summer shook her head. She forced herself not to look back to the dining area. She needed to keep her head focused on her grandmother and her future. Her grandmother was right: she couldn’t depend on anyone but herself, and the more she lived by that, the more success she would have in life.
The sun was low in the sky. It would be dark in a couple of hours. Summer quickened her pace. When she thought of the list of things she had to do when she got home, she felt the weight of the tiredness that accompanied her home from the hotel every day. The clouds from that morning had disappeared without a rainstorm. Summer spotted her grandmother on the porch in the same place she had left her. She wondered if her grandmother had gone in at all since she had left for work.
When Summer walked up the porch, she noticed the empty plate by her grandmother’s chair. At least she had eaten something during her absence.
“There you are. I was wondering if you were staying late today.” Her grandmother’s face lit up with a smile. “Did you have a good day at work?”
“Yes. We served a lot of different people. How were things here?”
“Good, good. A stray dog came by earlier. He looked lonely but we had a good chat and I made him some toast. I saw some birds in the trees, and it’s been the nicest weather.” Her grandmother’s eyes glistened with joy. “You know, I love being outside because of that. You never know what is going to happen each day and what you will see.”
“I’m glad you had a nice day, Mamie. Do you want to go inside, or wait out here for me while I do the chores? I can get you something to eat in the meantime if you’d like.” Summer stood there, waiting for her grandmother to decide. Summer had found that her grandmother didn’t like it when decisions were made for her. Sometimes, Summer forgot, and she would get a little scolding about her grandmother being elderly, not incapable.
“I will wait for you out here. There’s no need to get me something to eat right now. I’m not really hungry. I just ate a while ago.”
“All right, I’ll try to hurry back from chores.” Summer started in the garden. There was still enough light left to get some weeding done and to water the plants. It hadn’t been raining lately, so Summer was putting water on the plants with a bucket from the well to keep them alive. Once she was satisfied with her progress in the garden, she tended to the chickens and then did the milking. All in all, it took a couple of hours. When she was younger, there used to be more chores, which she would share the duty of with her grandmother.
By the time she was heading inside, the sun was sinking behind the trees and it was getting dark. Summer made a vegetable stew for supper. She smiled across the table as her grandmother finished her first bowl of stew. Today had been one of the good days in a sea of bad ones. Today there were no emergencies, her grandmother felt all right, work had gone well, and everything had gotten done on time. Summer hoped that future days would be like today.
“Guided by a Shared Miracle” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Summer Mclean is a busy, independent woman and this suits her just fine. Between looking after her grandmother, their farm, and working at the diner in town, she has no time to spare for thoughts of marriage. Then, one night, Summer finds a baby on her doorstep. Bewildered and overwhelmed, she’s suddenly faced with choices she never expected. When the handsome town doctor starts visiting her farm to help out though, she’s torn…
Will she open her heart, or shut him out the way she has most people her entire life?
Terrence Swanson moved to Texas knowing that all he wants is to help people as a doctor. He’s noticed Summer for quite some time now, but respects that she isn’t looking for romance. When she comes to him for help with caring for an abandoned baby, he can’t turn her down. Yet the more he helps her, the deeper he falls in love with both her and the baby. Will Terrence be able to overcome Summer’s walls and show her that letting others in isn’t always a bad thing?
When a new arrival in town threatens everything they hold dear, Summer and Terrence will be tested in ways they never imagined. Will their fragile connection withstand the most difficult of times ahead and blossom into life-changing love? Or could they end up losing everything they care about?
“Guided by a Shared Miracle” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.