Katherine Ross furtively checked the street behind her. It was late afternoon, and the Boston sidewalks were beginning to fill with people wending their way home. In all that foot traffic, it was difficult to see if she had lost the man following her in the crowd.
She couldn’t be certain if she’d given Uncle George’s goon the slip unless she waited here in the street for him to either catch up or not. If she did that, she would miss her chance. It was a quick visit to the agency today. She would pop in and see if it had come. It would only take a few minutes and so the goon only needed be lost for a short time.
With a hand that trembled slightly, she pushed the door open to the tinkle of bells and stepped inside. The name in gold lettering on the door read, Happily Ever After: Let us find your true love.
Inside she found the owner Mr. Kinder, a large man with greying hair and small dark eyes magnified by thick-rimmed spectacles, sitting behind his desk. He looked up from some paperwork.
“Ah, welcome back Miss Ross,” he said. Indicating one of the chairs in front of his desk, he invited her to sit. “Something came for you in the post only yesterday. I was going to send a boy around to you this afternoon if you didn’t come in. I know how challenging it is for you to come here.”
Kate smiled, taking the seat as she folded her hands in her lap to hide excited tremors. Was this the letter she’d been waiting for?
“I’ll get it for you,” Mr. Kinder said.
“Thank you,” Kate nodded, shifting to stop herself from fidgeting with impatience.
It could only be a letter from Clinton Campbell in Arizona, the man she’d been exchanging letters with for the last seven months. It had been chance, her finding Clinton’s advertisement in Mr. Kinder’s window. She’d been walking by on her way home from the laundry she worked at part time, and she’d stumbled over a piece of uneven paving. Grabbing the window for balance she’d put her hand right next to his advertisement. Before she knew what she was doing, she’d found herself reading the page. The man asking for a woman willing to be his wife had intrigued her and she’d entered the agency, mostly out of curiosity.
What had followed was a chain of events she still found hard to believe. Mr. Kinder had been kind and let her fill out an application in spite of her needing to pay him his fee in installments. Then he’d told her to pen a letter to Clinton and see if he responded favorably. Well, he had, and the rest was history.
At least, she hoped it was. She had been writing consistently to Clinton and she couldn’t wait for his replies. Especially this one. Things had been going well between them and Mr. Kinder said he had a good feeling about her and Clinton. She did too. In fact, she had a feeling that he was about to propose.
Mr. Kinder seemed to be having trouble finding her letter. He lifted papers and put them down, opened and rummaged in his desk drawers and even began to pat his waistcoat pockets. Not that Kate could imagine he’d put her letter there.
“It is here somewhere,” Mr. Kinder said with an exasperated sigh.
“I’m certain it’ll turn up,” Kate replied, trying hard to hide the note of impatience in her voice. If this took too long, she’d need a valid excuse to be here that wasn’t trying to find a husband. Her thoughts turned frantically to excuses she could use.
“Perhaps I should just find it and send it with a boy,” Mr. Kinder said, now up at one of the filing cabinets against the wall, pulling the drawers open one by one to search. “I can see this is causing you distress. Was one of Uncle George’s men following you?”
“They’re always following me,” Kate said a little harshly.
Mr. Kinder turned to her, his expression one of deep sympathy. “I’m so sorry your mother did this to you,” he said, and his tone was so sad that Kate almost burst into tears. “She had no right to transfer her debt to you.”
“Well, we can’t change the past,” Kate said abruptly. It was the mantra she was currently living by. If she stopped and began to dwell in how unfair and horrible her life had become four months ago when her mother died and her debt transferred to Kate, she would fall into a deep, dark hole and never be able to drag herself back up.
Mr. Kinder seemed unaware of how this topic affected Kate and he continued. “Are you making your regular payments to Uncle George?”
Kate nodded. “I pay him every second week.”
“Well, not for much longer,” Mr. Kinder said. He’d given up on the filing cabinets and was on his way back to his desk. Still, he had no letter for her.
Kate began to fidget. Her right leg started bouncing up and down on her toe as she chewed the inside of her cheek. This was taking too long. The goon was bound to catch up to her now. They’d caught her here before and she’d scrambled for an excuse. Luckily, Mr. Kinder had been on the ball that day and said he’d hired her to help him sort his filing.
The large shop window was to her right and Kate found her eyes darting there, waiting to see the goon peering in. So far, all she’d seen was people passing by on their way home, not even looking at the advertisements in the window. Perhaps she was alright for a couple more minutes.
Mr. Kinder was back at his desk and this time searching more methodically. He picked things up and piled them on one side of his desk, clearing a small space here and there.
Mr. Kinder was still searching.
Katherine waited impatiently, knowing that each second that passed was one she couldn’t afford to lose. Her eyes darted to the window again and this time she saw a man stop and peer in.
She froze and the hairs on her arms stood on end. Who was it? Was it one of Uncle George’s men? She couldn’t be certain. The spaces between the advertisements of people out west looking for their true loves were stuck close together. Still, she got the feeling that she was being scrutinized.
Turning away quickly, she hoped the man hadn’t seen her face. And if he had? She didn’t know what she would do. Come up with a story to cover for herself. Kate had never been a good liar, not until now. If only Mr. Kinder would hurry up and find her letter. She could leave and perhaps she wouldn’t be in trouble.
She risked a look at the window again. The man’s eye was at the gap between pictures. He seemed quite interested in the interior of Happily Ever After. Darn!
“Any luck?” Kate asked. The jiggle was back in her right leg. She put her hands on her knee to stop it.
Mr. Kinder regarded her. “I’m certain it’s in this pile.”
“Perhaps, you’ll have to send it to me,” she said, getting ready to leave but not wanting to. She wanted that letter so badly. Perhaps she could wait a moment or two more. To hold it and know that Clint had written to her would make her day.
“Oh dear,” he said. “I am sorry about this.
Kate rose reluctantly.
In apparent exasperation Mr. Kinder picked up a folder on his desk and shook it vigorously. Something fell out from between the pages. “Ah, here it is,” he said, holding the envelope up victoriously. “I really need to do some filing.”
Kate sank back into the chair, her eyes glued to the envelope as though some sort of magic had been performed on her so she could see nothing else.
“It would appear I could use your organizational skills in here again my dear Miss Ross,” he said. “Before you disappear into the great beyond.”
Kate blinked; the spell of the envelope broken.
“Pardon?” she asked.
“I asked if you would help me out with the filing again? I seem to be messing it up,” Mr. Kinder asked.
A smile spread on Kate’s lips. “Sure. I’d be delighted. Although perhaps I should show you how to do it this time, so you can keep it going when I’m gone?”
“You think that little of my administration skills?” he asked, with what she hoped wasn’t real hurt on his face.
“Well, the evidence is stacked against you,” she said with an apologetic grin.
He sighed. “You’re right. Okay, let’s call this time you teaching me. How about that?”
“That sounds good. How about I come back on Saturday after my shift at Mrs. Kepler’s haberdashery?” Kate asked, feeling a wave of relief crash over her. Her alibi was ready. She was getting work.
He smiled and held the envelope out to her. “I thought you worked at the laundry?”
“And the haberdashery,” Kate said.
“My word!” Mr. Kinder declared. “Then I’d be delighted to have you work for me too. Now here you go.”
Kate accepted the letter in slightly sweaty hands. It carried an Arizona postmark, and she was powerless to stop her excited sharp inhale. Soon, she would be reading Clint’s words and it would be like he was here with her. She couldn’t wait.
Tucking a loose strand of her brown hair behind her ear, Kate gently put the envelope in her bag and stood. “Well, thank you again. I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Indeed, you will,” he said. Then, seeming to have an idea pop into his head, he added, “Would you like to read it here? I can step out for a moment. In case there is an answer you need to pen.” His dark eyes, magnified to being owlishly large by his spectacles, seemed to glint with excitement. “If it’s the letter we’ve been waiting for…”
It was worth consideration. Reading Clint’s letter here would save having to come back. As it was, she was pushing her luck. All Uncle George would need was one whiff of her plans and he could derail the entire enterprise.
Kate shuddered. She could almost feel his clammy hand closing around her neck and giving a good squeeze.
Yet, reading something as personal as this letter while sitting in Mr. Kinder’s office felt wrong, like hanging one’s bloomers in the window to dry. It just wasn’t done. And letters that came from Arizona, from the potential love of her life, should be read at home in private where she could smile and laugh and cry with blissful abandon.
“I think I’ll take it home,” she said. “If needs be, I’ll come by tomorrow. You have a job for me, so that’s a legitimate reason.”
Mr. Kinder smiled. “The sooner we get you away from your uncle, the better.” He took her hands in his and gave them a friendly squeeze. “The alternative is just too awful…it makes my skin crawl.” He shuddered. “But we won’t speak of that horror. We will only think of the wonderful tidings I am certain are in your letter. Hurry home and read it. And then be sure to come by and tell me, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Kate said. “You’ve been so kind through all this. I think your fee is far too little. Not that I’m offering to pay more because frankly, I can’t afford it, but…you’re a good friend.”
“Oh stop, I’m liable to blush and that’s most unbecoming for a gentleman,” Mr. Kinder said. “Now run along. Before one of his goons stops by.”
Kate smiled and, patting her bag with her letter safely inside it, she walked to the door. “See you Saturday,” she said. Opening the door, she stepped out into the Boston spring air.
It had been a warm clear day with the breeze coming in off the wharf. The salt tang that came with it carried a hint of fish. It was the smell of home, and Kate thought she might miss it. Arizona was far from the sea. Of course, that was only if Clint Campbell proposed. If he didn’t, she might be here for the rest of her life, and the fish smells would be the least of her worries.
“Katie, Katie, Katie,” a voice said behind her.
Kate stopped walking and turned. A man leaned against the wall beside Happily Ever After’s door. He was tall, lanky, and dressed in a cheap suit. Was he the man who had looked in at the window? Probably. The eye looked about right. Sadly, she knew him all too well. He was one of Uncle George’s men, and he had found her. He tipped his bowler hat, displaying a head full of thin, violently red hair. His smile was also thin, as were the rest of his features, making Kate think of a redhaired ferret.
“Ozzy,” she said. “What do you want?”
“Now is that any way to speak to your own friend and personal escort?” he asked, walking towards her.
She shook her head and, turning, resumed her walk. “You’re not anything to me. So, leave me alone.”
“Oh, come now!” Ozzy said walking beside her. “Your dear Uncle George is only worried for your safety. You know how dangerous the streets can be.”
“Only the ones you people are on,” she said curtly. “Please, Ozzy. I have things to do that my uncle doesn’t need to know of. Frankly, he’s made my life hard enough. I don’t need him poking his nose in everywhere. It’s hard enough to get work to pay him without one of you people looming over me.”
“You know this could all end,” Ozzy said. He sucked a tooth. “All you have to do is come work for him and all this searching for extra pennies here and there is over.” He eyed her. “Unless, of course, if you’re planning a little trip out west…?”
That sentence hung in the air like a noose and Kate shook her head. How she acted now, what she said, would mean the difference between her escaping to the west and being stuck here with Uncle George locking her up in one of his horrible brothels for the rest of her days.
“What would I want out west?” she asked. “I live here. I work here, and you can tell my good uncle that I appreciate his concern, but I’m doing fine on my own. So, he doesn’t need to watch my every step.”
“Then tell me, what you were at the agency for?” Ozzy asked. His ferrety features looked sly.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” Kate said, walking off at speed. “Leave me alone!”
“Oh, but your Uncle George believes different, and I only take orders from him,” Ozzy said. He took a couple of long strides on his thin legs and caught up with her. “So, what were you doing there, at that agency? The sooner you tell me, the sooner I leave you alone.”
“None of your business,” she said, her heart flying into her throat. Giving up an answer too easily always made them fish around for more. If she gave them trouble, they seemed to assume she was telling the truth. It had taken her some years to learn to play this game her uncle liked. And she thought she was quite good at it. However, one wrong step and all her hopes and dreams for the future, to have a future, would be snuffed out like a candle.
“Oh, come on!” Ozzy said turning and walking backward slightly in front of her so he could see her face. “You know I’ll just go and find out anyway. Why make me do the extra work? Or…here’s an idea…I could tell your uncle where you were and see what he says.”
Sighing, she let her expression take on a defeated look. “Ozzy, if you must know, I was getting a little extra work from Mr. Kinder,” she said. “He’s messed up his filing again and wants me to come and fix it up on Saturday. There. Are you finally happy? Will you please leave me alone now?”
Ozzy considered this and nodded. “Sure.”
They walked on in silence for a little way.
“You’re a mighty fine woman,” Ozzy said.
They were nearing the tenement where Kate had a room. Sadly, she knew Uncle George had the landlord in his pocket, but Mr. Roach was no problem once her door was shut and bolted. She was almost free of them all. Just a little further.
“Hey! I’m talking to you!” Ozzy yelled.
Kate regarded him coolly. “What is it now? Don’t you have other debtors to go shake down?”
“I said I think you’re fine,” Ozzy said.
“Just leave me alone, okay?” Kate said her lips pulling in an expression of disgust she couldn’t hide.
Ozzy fell silent. He had an odd expression on his face. He looked as though thoughts were warring in his head. Well, what did she care if he was having inner strife? He should have strife considering who he worked for.
They turned into the alleyway that led to the front door of the tenement. Kate thought she was home free and turned to Ozzy to say goodbye but suddenly he grabbed her and slammed her against the brick wall of a building.
“Ozzy!” she cried in fright, her heart thumping against her ribs like a bird in a cage wanting to escape. “Let me go!”
“I’ve been watching you for ages now, and I think you’d make a mighty fine…” he began.
What he thought she’d make was never known. Kate hadn’t survived this long without picking up a thing or two. With strength born out of pure fear, she lifted her knee with accuracy and speed and slammed it between his legs.
Ozzy’s eyes crossed and his mouth opened in a silent cry as he slid down to the ground. Kate gave him a kick in the stomach to make sure he stayed down for a while and then, grabbing her skirts, she ran for the front door.
April into May 1881
Never had Kate run so fast to get up the three flights of stairs to her apartment. With her pulse racing like a freight train, she charged up each step expecting to feel Ozzy’s hands on her, his breath on her ear causing the hairs on the back of her neck to rise. When she reached her door, she pulled her keys out of her pocket, and trying to get the right one in the lock, she dropped them on the wooden floor. Bending to pick them up, she heard someone behind her on the stairs. No! If he got her now, it would all be over. There was no way she would be able to fight him off again. Her fingers were numb and her mind racing. She grabbed her keys and fumbled them again, panic threatening to overcome her.
Somehow, she held fast and slid the key into the lock. She turned it, wrenched the door open, and rushed inside pulling it closed behind her. As it slammed, she slid the deadbolt home and finally breathed. For a horrible time, she waited at the door for the knock, the yell when he realized she wasn’t going to open it. Fetching her breadknife from the little kitchenette she held it in her right hand and waited. How long she stood there trying not to cry or scream, she had no idea. It felt like a lifetime. She was about to move away when a knock came.
Kate clutched the knife with renewed fear. Was this him? Next, he’d try to break the door down, but she had had this one installed especially. It had cost, but it was also solid. There was no kicking this door in.
That wasn’t Ozzy’s voice.
“Ellie?” she asked.
“Yeah, who else would it be?” came the reply.
Kate breathed out and slid the bolt back. She opened the door a crack and saw the familiar bright green eyes and relaxed a little.
“I passed a suspicious looking man on the way in and I just wanted to check you were okay,” Ellie said. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. He’s Ozzy, one of George’s men,” Kate said, amazed at how calm and steady she was keeping her voice. “He walked me home. I guess he’s making sure I stay here.”
Ellie laughed. “Where else are you going to go?” She eyed Kate through the crack in the door. “You sure you’re okay? You want some company?”
“No thanks,” Kate said. “I’ve got some things to be getting on with. Maybe later?”
“Alright,” Ellie said. “I should check in on my little sister anyway. She’s been alone all afternoon.” Kate opened the door a little wider and watched Ellie move off to the next door and slip her key in the lock. “Well, see you later.”
“See you later,” Kate said and closed the door.
Usually, she was thrilled to see Ellie and have her and her little sister over. Company was hard to come by lately, and she wasn’t sure who she could trust. She’d met the sisters before her mother’s passing, which had turned her life into what felt like a prison sentence, and she was relatively certain she could trust them. Still, she kept Clint and his letters to herself. It wouldn’t do even for idle gossip with another tenant to get back to Uncle George.
Alone once again, Kate bolted the door and this time found she was able to walk to the little kitchenette and place the knife on the table. Freed from her weapon, and some of her fear, she went to her bed and sat on it.
Her room was sparse. She’d left almost everything in the apartment she and her mother had shared before being forced to move into this place at Uncle George’s insistence.
Her bed springs chimed as she moved and got herself comfortable. There was a lantern on her bedside table, and she lit it. It cast a warm yellow glow over everything, lighting the room and lifting her spirits at the same time. Kate took several beep breaths before pulling the letter from Clint from her bag.
With trembling fingers, she opened the envelope. She unfolded the paper. It was the usual plain paper he always used and on it, his open handwriting covered the page. Her heart leapt and thudded in her chest like a bird wanting to escape as she drank in his words.
I’m so glad you said you were well in your last letter. Boston is so far, it sounds like it’s a world away, but I’m glad it’s treating you okay. Although I don’t like the sound of this Uncle George. I know he’s still on your case…just thinking about everything he puts you through and all to pay back a debt that ain’t even yours. It makes my blood boil.
You mentioned a clause in the contract your mother signed with him. Is that why he’s only keeping an eye on you and he hasn’t kidnapped you for his brothels yet? I’m sorry to ask, but surely the sheriff or whatever passes for the law there could get you out of this? I’m just asking because it sounds like he’s losing patience with this arrangement and I don’t want to lose you to him before things can be done properly.
Kate sighed. If only Clint understood that Uncle George had most of the police officers in this area in his pocket. She wouldn’t last the night if she tried anything like going to them.
Oh my! I am sorry I started this letter in such a way. Let’s get onto happier topics.
Things are getting on here. The mares have each had a foal now and we have six little ones cantering around the pasture. I truly wish I had the means to send you a picture. I think the sight of them would tickle your heart and possibly your funny bone. I’ll just bet you have a great laugh.
Abbot just stopped by and told me I’m doing these letters all wrong. He said I should be writing poetry to you and not a whole lot of horses this and horses that.
This did make Kate laugh. She hated to think what kind of poetry Clint would come up with. He simply didn’t seem the type to spend his evenings sitting by the fire with a glass of brandy in one hand and a book of poetry by Wordsworth or Keats or even Shakespeare in his other hand. He seemed more like the kind of man who would have a mug of coffee in one hand and a stick to whittle in the other.
Turning back to the letter she read on. Clint went on about Abbot and his wife Angie, who had been a mail order bride herself, and told of their antics on the farm. From the sound of it, although he employed them to help him, they were more like his best friends and all his notes about them were tinged with humor.
…anyway, Angie says I’m not getting any younger or prettier (her word not mine) and that I’d better stop chewing the cud.
Kate frowned. What did that mean?
I wanted to take Abbot up on his advice about the poetry, but I feel it would be wrong to promise undying love when we’ve not even met one another face to face yet. So, with that in mind, let me ask you something else. Would you come to Arizona? Would you take the risk of traveling to another world to see if this seed of love that I believe we’ve kindled will sprout? We’ve come as far as two people can with the written word, so please, give it a thought and let me know if this is something you could do.
And I found something by Walt Whitman that fits. At least I think it does. “Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”
Kate sat back, the letter lying limply in her hands. It was not a declaration of love, but then Clint was a levelheaded man and not a romantic fool. That much was clear from his letters and yet he’d tried to find her poetry. How many books had he read to find that little snippet? Probably a great many. That showed he was committed and asking her to come to Arizona was a big step. It was a huge step forward. He must see some hope for them in the future.
No, it wasn’t the proposal she’d hoped for, but it was a proposal, nonetheless. Should she take Clint up on it and go to Arizona?
A knock sounded on her door and Kate jumped.
The knocking came again, a frightened voice accompanied it.
“Kate? Kate? Are you in there?”
It was Ellie.
Stuffing the letter under her mattress Kate went to her door and opened it to find her neighbor, pale and looking terrified.
“I can’t find Trudy!” Ellie wailed. She was visibly shaking and about a second from flying into a panic.
“Okay,” Kate said, taking Ellie by the shoulders. “Take a breath. Where was she last?”
“At work,” Ellie said, her eyes filling with tears. “I left her at the docks this morning.” Trudy had a job gutting fish at a canning factory.
“Alright, do we know if she came home?” Kate asked.
Ellie nodded. “Mr. Daws downstairs said he saw her come in.”
So, Trudy was in the building. “We should go door to door then,” Kate said. “She has to be here.”
Ellie turned eyes shimmering with unshed tears on her. “What if he’s got her? What if my stupid father has gone so far in the hole in one of George’s gambling dens that he’s come to take her?”
Kate swallowed. Had everyone in this building signed some sort of horrible agreement with her uncle? She suspected that was the case, and should they default on their repayment of their loan, he would claim his terrible prize.
Ice ran through her veins. Had he come to collect on Ellie and Trudy’s father’s agreement? No! He couldn’t have. Could he?
“Have you made your payment?” Kate asked as they walked down the corridor and began to knock on doors.
Ellie nodded. “It was a little late though.”
“Then she’s probably here,” Kate said.
They moved down the hallway, knocking on door after door. Some opened a crack, others not at all. The only thing they had in common was a lack of Trudy. Ellie became more and more jittery as they moved along. She began to chew her nails and eventually only Kate was able to speak coherently to their neighbors.
Trudy wasn’t on their floor. They went up a flight of stairs and tried all the doors on that floor. Nothing. And then they went up to the top floor. They went from one end to the other with no luck. Kate was about to begin panicking herself, thinking of the horror that certainly had befallen the poor girl, when she knocked on the last door and it opened.
“Trudy!” Ellie yelled. She shoved the door away and flung herself at her sister.
Trudy, wide eyed, hugged Ellie. She turned a frown on Kate.
“She didn’t know where you were,” Kate said relief washing over her.
“But I left a note tacked on the door,” Trudy said.
“Well, it must have fallen off,” Ellie said. “What are you doing up here anyway?”
Ellie stepped into the hallway and half closed the door behind her. From inside came the sounds of children playing. “Mrs. McMahon is behind on her husband’s loan,” Trudy said softly. “She got a job this afternoon at a factory. I’m not sure which one. She was so excited. With that money, she can keep her kids safe.” Her expression told them all they needed to know.
They were all in the same pot and Uncle George was just waiting for them to cook nicely before he devoured them all.
Kate and Ellie went back downstairs. Some neighbors were waiting on the landing, wanting to know what, if anything, had happened. They looked relieved to hear Trudy was upstairs babysitting.
“Well, thanks for the help,” Ellie said.
“Anytime,” Kate said before slipping into her apartment and locking the door.
A sudden urge came over her. She ran to her bed and pulled up the mattress. She would take Clint up on his offer. She’d do it today, tonight, and to hell with Uncle George and his stupid contracts.
She took pen and paper and leaning on her night table, she replied to Clint’s letter. No matter how risky, she’d give it to Mr. Kinder in the morning and be done with all this.
“Taking A Leap of Faith” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Kate Ross’s life has been unbearable since she inherited her mother’s gambling debts. Tired of living in fear of the man her mother owed money to, she decides to take charge of her own life. She responds to an ad for a mail-order bride from Arizona, and heads off to be with the man she desperately hopes will be her one true love. When he turns out to be distant and hard to get to know, Kate fears she may have been too hasty in making such a life-altering decision. The revelation of a tragic secret from his past, though, results in Kate seeing him in an entirely new light…. Will she end up being the one to nurse his shattered heart back to health, while also making her deepest dreams come true?
Clint Campbell has been struggling to keep his ranch operating after the heartbreaking loss of his beloved brother. Without his brother’s help and on the brink of financial ruin, it will take patience and faith to get back on his feet. Clinton hopes that having a wife and children will help fill the void, but when he meets Kate old wounds resurface. Finding it hard to let her in, he keeps her out of his plan to seek revenge for his brother’s death. When Kate’s determined ways begin to slowly melt his frozen heart though, the magnitude of what he feels scares him… Will he ever manage to open up his heart to love and fully devote himself to Kate?
Kate and Clinton feel a precious connection between them forming and growing stronger, while past hurts bring them closer than ever. With trouble brewing in town, however, their fragile hearts are not prepared for the storm that’s about to hit them. As life tests their resolve, will the power of their blossoming love be enough to hold them together? With unexpected forces seeming determined to tear them apart forever, will hard-fought love win out in the end?
“Taking A Leap of Faith” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.