“A new house. You know, I have heard that others would love a new house. I just wish I could get excited about it,” Elena said with a sigh.
Anika hardly heard her sister. She was too busy looking at the new home with a trace of disdain. She hated moving, and yet it seemed to always be a part of her life.
She often wondered if there would be a day when they would just be able to settle down for longer than a few months.
“I hope that we stay here longer than we did in the last place.” Anika trudged up the steps with her satchel in hand.
“Me too, three months was a really short amount of time, even for Pa.” Elena shrugged. “Let’s look at the bright side. Instead of moving into different houses all the time, we could not have any house at all. There are people out there that don’t even have a home, you know.
Anika nodded. “I do know. I am well aware of the fact that I am probably terrible and selfish for wanting to stay in a single house for at least a year, but I can’t help it.”
Elena stopped at the top of the porch steps and turned to Anika, her hand at the door. “Here we go. I hope it looks nice on the inside.”
“If it doesn’t, we’ll be moving sooner rather than later anyway so it won’t matter so much.”
“Don’t say that. You don’t know that yet. Maybe we won’t move so soon this time.” Elena sounded as hopeful as Anika felt.
Anika walked inside their new home. It seemed to be a cozy townhouse. Their furniture had already been put into the parlor. It wasn’t organized the way it should be, but it still had a touch of home because of the familiar furnishings.
It was funny because Anika related the furniture more with her home than any one place. It had been the one consistent element of moving besides her family.
“Anika, Elena! How do you like the house?” Her father’s booming voice startled her. He had come up the stairs so quietly, she hadn’t noticed him there until he spoke.
“It’s a little more spacious than the last place. I haven’t seen all of it though,” Anika responded tentatively.
“It is more spacious. In fact, both you and Elena get your own rooms this time around instead of having to share.” Her father’s eyes sparkled with something resembling excitement and he was grinning as if the place was a palace that he was presenting to the queen.
Anika walked skeptically up the winding stairs. At the top, there were five doors. By opening them, she found that four of them were bedrooms and one of them was a study; for her father, she presumed. It had tall bookshelves and a large immoveable wooden desk built into the room. There was room for more furniture, but the desk was the center of attention. The windows were high and arched and the sunlight burst into the house brightly from the outdoors.
“It’s very nice, pa,” she said softly to her father who had followed her up and looked at the room approvingly.
“Yes, this will do nicely,” he said entering the room and caressing the smooth desktop briefly as he walked to the windows and looked down to the yard below.
Even though Anika didn’t necessarily feel attached to it yet, she knew how important it was to her father to find places his family would like.
“How did everything get here so fast?” Anika had never seen anyone move so quickly. It wasn’t as if their last home had exactly been that close to Winfield.
“I know how much you girls were tired of staying in the hotel in town, so I paid some men to make the move extra quickly. They took some extra wagons and got the furniture here in half the time it would have taken.”
“How long are we staying this time?” Elena interrupted them.
“Well, I- I don’t know.” Their father sounded sheepish.
“Oh well, I suppose this place is nice enough anyway. It has a nice view from upstairs. You can see everything.” Elena let out a long sigh. She looked out the window with a longing expression.
Anika could identify with her frustration. In fact, they both hated moving equally if she was asked. They could never allow themselves to really get attached to any of the homes they lived in or it would just cause more sadness when they moved on again.
“Come along girls, let’s get your rooms ready,” Their mother bustled up the stairs to the bedrooms with a crate filled full. Anika wasn’t surprised.
Her mother was always the one to start making the new house into an actual home. Even though Anika didn’t agree with everything that her mother did, she loved the way that she helped them come together to make something nice out of a bad situation.
“I’m going out, I have a few more things to set up, but I’ll be in for dinner,” her father said as he slipped out the door and down the staircase. Tom will help you move things while I’m gone.
Anika stared out the window for a moment before turning to her mother. “He’s always going to work, isn’t he?”
“That’s how it is. He’s the one who provides for us. Don’t question him. If he doesn’t plan the bridges and get them built before the track layers get here progress will be stopped. You know that.”
Anika nodded, “I know it’s important. I know he has to work. But why is it all the time? He’s never home. He never sticks around for hardly any time.”
“Your father is doing the best he can. He has a lot to think about.”
Anika walked out to the top of the stairs and leaned against the railing looking down at the front door he had just closed as he left. “I know, I just miss him. I’d like to spend more time with him.”
“I know my dear, we just need to be patient. Your pa says that in a couple of years he probably won’t have to work as much. Won’t that be nice?”
Anika nodded again, hoping that it was actually true and not yet another empty promise.
“Come on, enough time standing around having a pity party. We have cleaning to do in the bedrooms. We need to get all the dust and webs out and get the beds set up before dark. Let’s make the best of things, girls.”
Anika and Elena followed their mother down and brought up the cleaning supplies to the bedrooms. It was true that this home was much larger than their last one.
They started at one side of the top floor and swept, dusted and mopped everything in each room in turn. They wiped the furniture down and then arranged it in the places where it belonged when they were done with the cleaning of the rooms.
Soon, each room began to take shape. When Anika walked into her own room, she realized it looked rather bare. In their last home, they had always been searching for an extra inch of space. Here there wasn’t enough to fill it with to make it look nice.
She sat down on her bed. Her mother had made it, taking care of the smallest of details. Anika couldn’t spot a single wrinkle on the bedcover.
She laid back on her bed for a moment. She knew that her mother would be calling for her to come and help with the rest of the cleaning and organizing any moment, but she needed a second to herself.
The roof was bare, but was intriguing with the way the wood intertwined to hold itself up. Anika wondered how they had built the place and how long ago it was. It was obvious they had used green wood, as there was bowing which was causing the ceiling to have a rippled effect. She wondered if that had been intentional or only because that was the only wood they had available at the time.
“Anika! Help us with this mattress!” Elena’s voice interrupted her thoughts. Despite her body’s protests, she got up and hurried back to where Elena and her older brother, Tom, were dragging a mattress between the two of them into her sister’s room.
Anika quickly joined in and the three of them managed to get it up on the bed frame where it belonged. It seemed way too heavy to just be filled with straw and was very floppy and uncooperative.
“Wow, that was harder to get up here than I expected,” Tom exclaimed. “Maybe I put too much straw in it. Just a few more to go. I think I’ll put less in the others.” He headed back down the stairs, leaving the girls to put the sheets and blankets on the bare mattress.
“It’s pretty nice, isn’t it?” Anika’s mother joined them and sat down on the mattress and motioned to the wide-open room around them.
“I like it. It feels a little bare, but that might get better. We are so used to being crowded together into one tiny room. We will get used to it.” Elena shrugged and sat down next to her mother on the mattress that would be her bed. “Do you think that we’ll stay here for long this time?”
Anika didn’t expect her mother to know. She never had much to do with their father’s decisions. Her mother was the perfect wife. She was always quiet, following her husband wherever he wanted to go. Making a home in every house he rented.
Cooking meals for him and her daughters and being supportive. Her father was always telling her that one day she would be someone’s wife and she should learn from her mother how to be a virtuous woman and good wife.
While Anika had learned many life skills that she was sure she would use as a wife from her mother, she wasn’t sure that it was the type of life she wanted to have, or that she wanted to marry at all. She had never met a man that she wanted to give her heart to.
For some reason, she thought about having a little say in marriage. Where they might live or how their children were raised. She knew that it wasn’t something that was common in marriage and she tried to keep her views to herself. But she knew that one day, she might have to stand up for herself.
“Girls, I know that the two of you want to settle down, but until your father has a change of jobs, we might be moving pretty often. Or unless you get married to a man who gets settled down.”
Elena leaned forward and Anika hated how excited she looked. She almost felt that Elena wanted to marry just any man to escape this lifestyle and not because she actually wanted to marry for love.
“Do you think Pa would let us be called upon by someone?” Elena’s eyes were sparkling, and she was clutching her mother’s hands.
“I am sure that your father might be open to the idea sometime soon. He might have some rules or conditions, but even though it doesn’t seem like it all the time, your father does want the best for you and you both are coming to the age of marriage.”
Anika bit her lower lip. She loved her father more than anyone in the whole world; besides her mother, of course. But there were times when she didn’t know who he wanted the best for.
“I do so want to marry. I’d not have to move anymore. I could have a house and a garden, maybe a farm. I could raise chickens and help milk the cows.” Elena gave a little giggle.
“That’s not a good reason to get married. We shouldn’t marry just to stay in the same place. Don’t you want to fall in love?” Anika hadn’t meant to say anything, but now that she had, she couldn’t take it back.
“Of course I want to fall in love. I am just saying that the sooner that we can find someone to love, the better. I’m almost nineteen and you’re twenty – one, we aren’t getting any younger. You don’t want to end up an old maid, do you?”
“No, I know. We should be careful though. Marriage is forever.” The idea of it being forever scared Anika, frankly. Committing to one person for the rest of her life was such a big decision. He would have to be a man she desperately loved.
“Both of you, I am sure you will find good husbands who you love and who love you back, but all in good time. You should try to work with your father and respect his wishes for now. Husbands will come in their own time when you least expect it. Everything will work out, you’ll see.”
“Thank you, ma.” Anika wasn’t sure exactly what she was thanking her mother for, but she knew that her mother was right. Because if she didn’t find a good man that she really trusted and loved, she would never give her consent to marry.
“Come on, girls. We have no time to be thinking of marriage and gentlemen calling. We have the downstairs, kitchen, and parlor to clean first. We could have guests at any moment and right now it’s a sight.”
Elena and Anika giggled. Anika loved the way that her mother did her best to make things fun. She needed that humor in her life. It made everything just a little bit better.
Before Anika could discern who was calling her name, Elena burst into her room. They’d been sleeping in their new home for two nights now.
“What is going on?” Anika rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
“I have the most marvelous news!” Elena’s eyes were sparkling, and her cheeks were pinker than Anika had seen them in she didn’t know how long.
“What? What is it?” There had to be a good reason for Elena to be waking her up this early in the morning. Usually, Elena was the late riser.
“Tom was in town this morning and he found out that there is going to be a dance at the end of this week for the county fair.”
“What does that have to do with us and why you are so excited?” Anika wasn’t sure if it was the sleep that was still making her brain fuzzy or if there was a bit of information missing.
“We might be able to go to the dance.” Elena stopped and squeezed her hands together. “Think of what fun it would be, and maybe we could meet some people from town there.”
“Papa is never going to let us go. You know he doesn’t like us going to things like that. He barely let us go to school.”
“I know, I know. But I was talking with Tom and he gave me an idea.”
“You know that our brother, Tom, is often way too optimistic.” Anika reminded herself that she needed to give her brother a stern talking to about getting Elena’s hopes up. She knew that Elena was his favorite sister since she was the smallest, but that didn’t mean that he needed to be cruel and make her think something would happen that clearly wasn’t going to.
“No, hear me out,” Elena gushed. Elena rushed over and sat on the edge of Anika’s bed. “It’s my birthday next week. Tom is going to talk to papa about taking us to the dance as a sort of present.”
“Well, that might work if Tom asks him…” Tom was two years older than Anika and of the three, he was definitely the one who their father seemed to sway to the most to when it came to extravagant or unique requests.
“He is going to ask him. I can’t wait. There will be girls from the town in nice dresses and we could dance for hours and maybe even meet some handsome young men. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”
Anika did her best not to seem to down about the idea. She knew that it hurt Elena’s feelings when she rejected her ideas without giving them a chance.
“I don’t know. You know I don’t really dance a lot.” It wasn’t that Anika didn’t know how to dance, she just didn’t enjoy it a whole lot. Her mother had asked their father for private dancing lessons a few years back when she and Elena had continually complained about having no friends.
“Come on, promise you will go if Tom gets permission. I couldn’t go without you and it would make my birthday perfect.”
“If it is for you, I will give it a chance, but I am still not convinced that we will be going.”
A tapping sound on the door made both of them turn. Elena opened the door before Anika could stop her. There in the doorway was Tom.
He had a smug look on his face as he leaned up against the door frame in that casual way of his. “You’ll never guess what Pa said.”
“Oh, just tell me. I can’t bear the suspense,” Elena squealed.
“Really? What will happen if I don’t tell you? Hmmm?” Tom had his typical playful smirk in place. Sometimes Anika wasn’t sure what they would do for entertainment if it wasn’t for her brother Tom.
He was certainly the clown of the family. She wasn’t sure what he had been so busy doing the day before they had moved. Her father had said that it was something important.
They worked together. Anika had asked if she might work along with them, but her father had said there was no possible position for a lady.
“Please, Tom, don’t play now. You have important news. You know how important this dance is for me.” Elena put out her lip in a pout.
“Fine, he said that you two could go as long as I went along to chaperone. He doesn’t want you getting too close to any strange people.”
“You mean it? We really can go?” Elena rushed across the room and threw herself into Tom’s arms. “You’re the best brother in the world. I will owe you for the rest of my life. You are going to take us, right?”
“Well, I don’t know. Stop all that mushy hugging and kissing! What is in it for me?” Tom gave a sly grin and Anika knew he was just messing with Elena.
“My eternal gratitude is what’s in it for you. Won’t that be enough?” Elena was looking at him hopefully.
“I suppose it will have to do for now until I think of something else. I should go downstairs now. Pa needs some help with work. He said that the two of you could get dresses made for the occasion by the seamstress next to the general store.” Before Elena or Anika could say anything about the last bit of information, he disappeared out the door and down the stairs.
Anika wasn’t sure whether to feel glad or disappointed that their father had given them permission. On one hand, the prospect of going out to the town and meeting some of the girls their age was very tempting.
But judging by their past, their father wouldn’t let them pursue close friendships with anyone they met anyway. So, what was the point?
“Isn’t it wonderful? We are going to the county fair dance!” Elena was standing up again doing a funny little jig around the room.
“I suppose so. We will have to think about the dresses we will have made.”
“Oh, I already have them all thought out. You should go in blue. It does wonders for your eyes. I will wear a shade of light green. I am told that it is the most flattering color on me.”
“Fine, I will try to be excited about this for you,” Anika giggled.
“Why wouldn’t you be excited about it?” Elena looked horrified.
“You know how pa is about friends and stuff. What if we meet someone really nice that we would like to be friends with, but we can’t because pa won’t let us? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be disappointed.”
Elena shook her head. “I think that papa might let us have some friends in this town. If he wasn’t going to, why would he let us go to the dance anyway? You heard what mother said about us being older now and maybe being allowed to court a young man. Besides, Tom will be there with us. He will be able to attest to anyone’s character with whom we spend time with.” Elena flipped her blonde curls over her shoulder. “I, for one, am going to enjoy myself. I hope you will too.”
Anika sighed and looked up at her sister. “I am going to try and enjoy it too.” She stood and took Elena’s hands. “I am sorry if I sounded like I wasn’t excited. Let me get dressed and I’ll be right out so we can see about going to see the seamstress to talk about making our dresses.”
Elena’s face filled back up with joy and she gave a little yelp of happiness. “Okay, I will wait for you right outside. Don’t delay a moment.”
Anika shook her head in wonder as her sister went out. She loved seeing Elena happy, even if she herself was uncomfortable in order for it to happen.
“Love in Times of Injustice” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Anika Kinsley has led a very sheltered life, as her father has always tried to protect her from his true identity; that of a ruthless criminal. One eventful night, Anika and her sister Elena will meet Marty and Darcy, two brothers that will help them escape their misery for good. Although Elena will soon be encharmed by Marty, Anika has the feeling that Darcy keeps a tremendous secret… Will she follow her instinct and unravel this enigmatic mystery?
Darcy Stuart is a courageous sheriff who has been on the trail of the most atrocious gang in Texas for over a year. When his investigation leads him to Anika and her family, lying seems to be the only way in. Aiming to get all the insights about the criminal business of her father, he will do whatever it takes to earn her trust. The future, however, holds many unforeseen surprises, as he will soon fall badly for Anika… How will his growing feelings affect his risky mission?
While Anika and Darcy grow closer together, the dreadful truth remains still well hidden. Will secrets eventually come out and tear them apart forever? Is there any chance for them to find the path to happiness and leave their dishonest past behind?
“Love in Times of Injustice” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.