Andrea practically ran down the hallway. Dr. Elrich needed her. She’d seen the man they had brought in. His injury was bad. She rushed around the corner, trying to temper her heavy breathing and pounding heart. The hospital where she worked was small compared to the one she had worked at in Chicago. It only had one large room, about fifty feet wide by twenty-five feet long, with a small kitchen and bathroom on the far end. Half of the large room was divided into curtained sections to give each patient a little privacy.
She hurried to the bed where the new patient was. He was a young man with sandy-colored hair and eyes she couldn’t see the color of because he kept moving his head and howling in pain. His pant leg was bright red, and he looked like he was enduring the worst pain of his entire life. Andrea felt sorry for him. There was nothing she could do but lift the lamp high, casting shadowy light over the injury so that Dr. Elrich could work.
Dr. Elrich was one of the three doctors who worked at the biggest hospital in Dallas. He was also one of the best doctors, and because of this, he was always very busy.
“Hand me the clean bandages, Emily. Andrea, lift that lamp a little higher.”
Andrea did what he said, trying her best to give him good light, even though the little lamp in the room did very little with the deepening gloom.
The young man let out another scream, reaching out for the bedsheet and scrunching it in his hand as the doctor started working on the leg. It didn’t take long before the doctor stepped aside.
“All right then, clean it, bandage it, and put him in the other patient area. I’m going to get a bit of rest before the next one comes in.”
Andrea moved in beside Emily as Dr. Elrich left them alone. She and Emily did a lot in the hospital. They ensured the patients were fed, bathed, and bandaged, and they would get the doctors to check on them if there was any issue they couldn’t deal with.
The young man was no longer awake. He had passed out from the pain. Andrea was glad he had. He looked peaceful now, as if he didn’t mind being stretched out on the hospital bed, his leg injured with no guarantee that it would recuperate. He reminded Andrea of her brother, Owen. He was two years younger than her and only nineteen when she’d left home last year. Of her many siblings, he was one of the ones who kept life light. He loved to joke and make fun of every situation he could, making things feel less tedious or dull whenever possible.
He looked so similar to this young man on the hospital cot that if the lighting was a little worse, Andrea might have mistaken the man for Owen.
“Everything all right?” Emily asked as she finished wrapping the leg.
“It’s fine. I wonder how he got hurt and… I just…was thinking of my brother back home.”
“I’ve seen him around town. I think he works at the mercantile. Maybe he was hurt doing something there.” Emily shrugged. “You don’t do much after work, do you?”
“I don’t.” Andrea rarely did anything after work. She would sometimes go to the market on Thursdays or take a little walk into the woods, which stretched behind the boarding house where she was renting a room if she needed a break. She spent so much of her time at the hospital, taking care of patients, and volunteering for extra time, that she didn’t have time to be bored or explore. She didn’t regret it, though. She enjoyed being useful.
Emily seemed fairly uninterested in Andrea, like always. The two of them worked together a lot, yet they couldn’t have been more opposite. Emily was outgoing and chatty and seemed to know every single person who stepped foot in the hospital or around it. On the other hand, Andrea liked to keep to herself, didn’t like conversing with people she didn’t know, and would be happy if she didn’t have to make a new friend for the rest of her life. There were moments where they almost had a friendship start to form, but then it would taper off, and they would just be coworkers again who said hello as they passed each other in between the rows of patients in the hospital.
“Well then, I am assuming you’re going home. I’ll come and check on him in a bit.” Emily slipped away to do other tasks leaving Andrea alone with the young man for a moment. She felt sad for him, wondering where his family was and if they worried about him or if they knew he was hurt and here in the hospital.
She touched his hand for a split second, then headed to the little room off the side of the kitchen where the nurses and doctors left their things. She needed to go home and get some rest. Tomorrow it was her turn to stay late and take care of the patients and do the cleaning during the night. They took turns. The six nurses, including her, would spend one long night in the hospital with the patients. There was a doctor who would be in the small house two buildings down from the hospital in case of emergencies, but most things could be taken care of by one person.
When it was Andrea’s turn, she usually spent the night monitoring fevers when she wasn’t washing sheets, cleaning, and keeping an eye out for anything that needed the doctor’s attention. Dr. Elrich was usually the one who was on call for emergencies.
Andrea gathered up her things and left the hospital, heading home. The sun was starting to set, casting a glowing orange tint over the sky. The hospital was central to Dallas, Texas, but not as central as other things. It was off a bit from the beaten path, and this kept Andrea from having to walk through the chaos of town if she didn’t want to. She could as it was a bit shorter, but she preferred to go the long way back to the boarding house. She enjoyed the long moments where she was just by herself to think about what she’d done in the day.
She was tired. Her shoulders ached, and her back hurt. She’d been up since dawn, caring for different people one after another. When she arrived at the boarding house, she let herself in and wandered down the hall, then up the stairs. She was staying on the second floor, in a tiny room toward the back of the place. Even though the space was tiny, it was large compared to what she’d grown up with. Being a family of nine children, no one had much space back when she lived in New York City. She was the sixth child of the family. She and her three younger siblings always shared a room.
She closed the door and pulled out a piece of bread and a bit of jerky for her supper. The boarding house served a meal for breakfast early in the morning and would serve supper too. If Andrea went to the kitchen, there was most likely a bit of supper waiting for her, but she didn’t have the energy. Instead, she sat down on her bed and looked at the letter she’d started to her sister the day before. The charcoal pencil was sitting by her unfinished sentences. She didn’t write her siblings often. Sometimes she would pen a letter to the family, and her parents would read it before passing it to her brothers and sisters so they could read about her life.
The one sibling she did keep up with was Lilith, her older sister by two years. She was married and had a daughter Andrea had barely met before coming west. She and Lilith were always close, and Andrea missed her terribly. She often thought of Lilith and wished she could go back to those days when they would spend all evening and late into the night talking about everything under the sun.
She missed hearing Lilith’s opinion or what her advice was. They wrote to each other every single week, sometimes twice. Andrea smiled as she sat down and picked up her pencil. She started her letter right after her greeting.
I had a normal day at the hospital today. I know you always expect me to write about some sort of exciting event, how I saved a person’s life or did something wonderful, but that isn’t who I am. Days at the hospital are often all the same and run together.
I helped many people today, including a young man who reminded me of Owen. Emily still doesn’t like me. She never says it out loud, but I can tell she doesn’t like me. She always avoids me and never says anything very friendly. I know I have only been in this town for a year, but I suppose I expected to make new friends by now, or at least someone in my life to be interested in getting to know me.
At least I still have you. How is Susan? Is she still growing fast every single day? I would guess she doesn’t remember me and would be very frightened if she ever saw me again. Hopefully, the two of you and Michael will visit sometime.
I do admit that sometimes I am very lonely. I think about your family and the bond you all share. I am scared that one day, I will wake up and realize I am destined to be alone forever. I don’t want that to happen. I am too much of a coward to do anything about it, though. I don’t want to risk trusting my heart to someone who will break it, so I keep myself away from anything that would mean something.
I am sure this is all quite a bore to you. How are things in New York? Are you and Michael expecting yet? I know you have always talked about wanting at least five children.
I am urgently awaiting your reply because you are my only friend or view of the outside world, even though I have moved halfway across it.
With much love, your sister, Andrea.
Andrea placed her pencil on the table, folded the letter, and placed it in an envelope. She scrawled the address before putting it to the side to take with her in the morning. She would deliver it so it would leave with the next train.
She missed her sister and her family, and she especially felt that ache when sitting alone, tired, and in pain from standing all day. She missed the boisterous noise of her siblings arguing and laughing and telling jokes and talking about their day over one another. She missed the sound of her mother telling everyone to calm down and help her get supper on the table. She wished she could have all that back, but it wasn’t possible. She was in Dallas now, and that was her home, whether she liked it or not.
The next morning was muggy and drippy, and every other word that Andrea would associate with the bad wet weather that came with the rain. There was a chill in the air that always seemed to come whenever it was going to rain. She hated cold days. She hated the heat too, but she preferred the burning sun and the long hot days over the cold muggy ones that left her boots soaked and the hem of her dress covered in mud.
She gathered the things she would need to use to work for the day and wrapped her shawl around her shoulders. When she left her room, the smell of breakfast being prepared made her stomach rumble. She was starving, and breakfast was exactly what she needed.
When she arrived at the kitchen, Inez was dishing up a huge plate of food by the stove. Inez’s eyes lit up with a smile as Andrea sat at the table.
“There you are. You didn’t come by the kitchen for supper last night.”
“I know.” Andrea didn’t mean to disappoint Inez, but there were times when she didn’t feel like going through the extra effort of getting food. She felt as if her energy was better spent getting some proper rest and a few words written to her sister. “It was a long day, and I didn’t want to bother.”
Inez shook her head. “I don’t know how you do it, working in the hospital day in and day out. Surely it must get terribly sad in there, dealing with so many ill people.”
Andrea shrugged. “I like what I do.” Even though it was hard for others to understand, it was true. Whether it was one of those weeks with three patients or a week where the entire hospital was full from wall to wall, she enjoyed every minute of her work. It was tedious and hard, and she hated to see so many people in pain, but she lived for those moments when she felt as if she had relieved that pain somehow. “How have you been?” Andrea asked. She’d been so busy these past few weeks that moments to talk to Inez or anyone else had been rare.
Inez was friendly, and if Andrea had more time, perhaps the two could be friends. She was the daughter of the woman who owned the boarding house and was around much more often than her mother was. She took responsibility for all the cooking. Whenever she saw Andrea, she was always kind and thoughtful, just like Andrea thought a real friend would be. Sometimes she had to wonder if Inez treated everyone like that or just her.
She looked different than Andrea. Where Andrea had simple brown hair that was mostly straight, Inez had black curly hair that possessed such a tight curl that she had difficulty containing it. Her deep brown eyes were two shades darker than Andrea’s light brown ones, and they were always sparkling as if she had some sort of mysterious secret she hadn’t yet shared with the world.
Inez set down a plate filled with eggs, beans, roast and vegetables from the day before, and biscuits. Andrea was about to say she’d been given much too much food, but her stomach growled again, telling her that she’d have no trouble finishing it. She smiled her thanks, bowed her head for prayer, and then dug into the delicious meal.
She couldn’t take the time to savor the food because she was going to be late for work. By the time she finished her plate, the other boarders had already arrived. They were enjoying their breakfasts as Andrea thanked Inez once more and hurried out the door to work.
The hospital wasn’t as packed as it was sometimes. Still, it was full enough to warrant everyone rushing around and being busy. Andrea hurried to her first patient of the day as she saw Emily rush out the side door, heading home after spending the night. Andrea made her rounds to one patient after another, offering water before getting their breakfasts from the kitchen, where a cook was already preparing them.
When she made it to the bedside of the young man from the day before, she smiled. He was sitting up and looked much better than he had the day before. As she walked up to him, his boyish face lit up with a grin.
“Good morning. Are you feeling better?” Andrea asked.
“I am. I fell off of a ladder at the store, stocking the higher shelves. Some crates were underneath me, and one had a nail sticking out. Well…it didn’t end well for my leg.”
Andrea nodded. “I know. I was here yesterday when you came in. I am glad to see you awake and feeling better. Are you hungry?”
“I’m famished. My name is Lee, by the way.”
“It’s nice to meet you. I have a brother about your age. You made me think of him.” Andrea didn’t know his exact age, but she did know it was probably close to Owen’s. “I’ll be right back with something to eat.” Andrea left him there and returned with a plate of breakfast a few minutes later. So far, today was a good day, and she was hoping it would stay that way.
There seemed to be a pattern when it came to patients at the hospital. When there were a few weeks where things were calm, and there weren’t many patients to care for, then suddenly, something would happen, and they would have every single bed filled in the entire place.
Andrea had a feeling that this was going to be one of those days when Dr. Elrich came rushing toward her while three different patients were brought in and put on cots in an hour.
“Is everything all right?” Andrea asked.
“I think so. Those two came from the same family, and they’re coughing. It could be something simple that will clear up with some care in a couple of days, or it could get worse, and we could have a couple of cases of consumption. Be careful when you treat them. Wear gloves and a mask.” Dr. Elrich’s frown deepened. “You remember the illness that swept through this town when you first arrived?”
“I do.” Andrea swallowed hard. She hoped that wasn’t the case. Dallas was a big place, and the illness had already gone through most of the town when she’d arrived. She’d only gotten to experience a bit of the panic that came with the terrible illness, and it had been anything but enjoyable. “You don’t think everyone will get sick again, do you?”
“I hope not. We better all hope not.” Dr. Elrich shook his head. “Don’t worry, it will be fine. I have to get back to work.”
Andrea watched him go. For the rest of the day, whenever a patient walked through the door, she was terrified it would be someone coughing, but no one else was. There was a little boy with a broken arm, a young woman who cut her hand terribly while cooking, and an older man with bad chest pain.
By the end of the day, half of the beds were full. Andrea was already exhausted and dreading the night she would spend alone taking care of basic needs so the doctors and other nurses could get some rest. She knew that if too many patients came in, she would have to get help because she couldn’t manage it alone.
When she was younger, she didn’t know what being a nurse would be like. She just knew that growing up, she did so much that pertained to caring for people. She was always the one who made meals with her mother and helped her siblings if they ever fell, got injured, or needed healing or bandaging. When she first went to a doctor in New York, she knew that was what she wanted to be. Her mother immediately told her that women being doctors was not to be heard of, but being a nurse was doable.
From that day forward, Andrea enjoyed learning about nursing, tending to wounds, and helping others. She still thought she might become a doctor someday or at least learn about it. She also thought sometimes that she would eventually get married, and the only good her knowledge about nursing and caring for wounds would do her was with her children once she married and settled down.
Both of those things turned out not to be true. She wouldn’t become a doctor because being a woman doctor was harder than she might have ever imagined. Everyone said that was a man’s job, and nursing was young women’s only proper medical job. Andrea had come to accept that. The second thing she learned in New York was that as wonderful as romantic relationships seemed, they would only crush her, break her heart, and make her feel as if no one would ever love her or treat her right again.
She’d been so naïve when she’d met Lance. She’d fallen head over heels for him, and then everything had changed overnight, and he had broken her heart. Andrea sighed. Those memories wouldn’t help her do a good job. The only thing that could help her do that was focusing on the task at hand. She had a long afternoon ahead of her and an even longer night.
“An Innocent Soul to Care for” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Aiming for a fresh start, Andrea moves West to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Her life is turned upside down, though, the day a stranger brings an abandoned baby to the hospital. When Andrea suddenly finds herself suspected of kidnapping the baby, she turns for help to Daryl, the local sheriff, only to find that he is not what she expected.
Will she learn to trust Daryl, even when she faces far greater danger than she had bargained for?
Following the tragic loss of his brother, Daryl has sought to become the best sheriff he can be. Yet, despite the fact that love is not in the cards for him, he begins to wonder if keeping his heart forever shut was the right decision. Although he struggles with expressing his feelings to anyone, Andrea captivates him unexpectedly…
Will Daryl give a chance to love while unraveling the mystery of the kidnapped baby?
Andrea and Daryl grow closer as they become entangled in a plot far more complex than they could have imagined. While the baby’s parents are not present, the kidnappers do not intend to let their prize go. Will Andrea and Daryl manage to lean on each other’s strengths through their journey and get the baby back home safely? Ultimately, will they give their love a chance or will their future be loveless?
“An Innocent Soul to Care for” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.