Cassie rushed around the kitchen, pulling pots and pans from the stove to serve up two large bowls of porridge. She was running behind today, which wasn’t uncommon for her. Whenever she got up extra early, she felt as if she had all the time in the world and would often get distracted with different little jobs around the house, making her late to work.
Of course, late for her was still five to ten minutes earlier than all her students arrived, so it still worked out.
“Grandpa, breakfast is ready!” she called. She hurried into the parlor a second later to help him. As always, he shooed her away.
“I can make it to the kitchen, Cassie. You worry too much.” He shook his head and grumbled as he leaned heavily against his cane. Despite his declaration, Cassie stuck close. She didn’t want him falling on her watch. He was frail and not doing very well lately. A bad fall could set him back by days as far as his health went. She was grateful that the owner of the wood mill built him the cane that he used to get around now. It had made things so much easier for both of them.
When they got to the kitchen, Cassie pulled out his chair for him, then set his porridge a bit closer as well as two fresh biscuits and the bowl of jam. She went back to the counter and got some sugar, then took her seat across from him. She closed her eyes as he said grace.
She loved the little routines they had together. They were the last thing that each other had and it felt as if they were two survivors, helping each other bear the loneliness.
“You look awfully excited. Is something big happening at the schoolhouse?” her grandfather asked as he took the first big bite of his porridge.
“No, nothing really. Well, one of my students, Lena, finally learned the alphabet. She is the youngest and has really been struggling, so it was a big achievement last class. I can’t wait to see what I can teach her today.”
Her grandfather chuckled. “That is what I love about you. You have such a joy for life and find something to be excited about in the simplest of things. That’s how I knew you would make a wonderful teacher. You have been that way since you were a little girl.”
Cassie blushed at her grandfather’s praise. He always had nice things to say about her. In fact, it was something he’d done from the day she had come to live with him and her grandmother—both kind, encouraging people who made her feel loved and cherished. She still missed her parents, and there would always be an ache in her chest which she would never be able to fill properly, but her grandparents had come so close to doing just that.
“What are you going to be up to today? I hate it that you have to be here all alone while I am away teaching.” Cassie frowned. Her grandfather had loved to socialize before he’d fallen ill almost a month ago. He would go into town and spend the day at the barber shop, or he would walk around the farm and do little projects. Last month, he’d come down with a cough and a fever, and while it had now gone away, he still wasn’t the same. He was easily tired out, and he had a hard time walking long distances or doing much at all.
Cassie was doing everything she could to help him improve his health, but nothing seemed to be working.
“I don’t mind sitting on the porch and watching the world pass around me. It’s quite peaceful. I also have plenty of time to think about your grandmother, and you and your parents, and so much more. It’s a nice way to spend the day. Don’t you worry a bit about me. You have worked so hard to become a teacher. You should enjoy every second of it.”
Cassie stood and cleared away her dishes. She then took her grandfather’s empty bowl and set it in the wash basin. She would take care of the dishes later.
“Even so, I still worry about you. Make sure you go very slow if you decide to walk anywhere, and if you need anything, ring the bell; the Bartleys will hear it.” They’d never had to use the lunch bell for that purpose, but it made Cassie a little more relaxed knowing that they could.
“Don’t worry, Cassie. You always make yourself too anxious about my health. I may be old, but I’m going to be fine. When my day comes, it comes—and there is nothing either of us can do about it.”
Cassie shook her head. “Your day will not come for a long time.” Cassie couldn’t bear to think about losing her grandfather. She needed him there, she needed him as a part of her life. She didn’t know what she would do if she were all alone in the world.
“Go on, you are going to be late.”
Cassie nodded and kissed her grandfather’s forehead, then hurried down the porch steps with her pail in her hand. She always packed an apple as well as her books into the pail and took it with her to the schoolhouse. As she walked, she thought back to the conversation with her grandfather. She used to think that her grandparents would be there for her forever. Then she’d lost her grandmother. It had been yet another loss in a string of them. Each one hurt worse than the last. She needed to prepare to say goodbye to her grandfather. His health was failing more and more and one day he wouldn’t be able to get up or get over a new ailment.
She swallowed hard. She was trying her best to help him be healthy and recuperate his strength, but it wasn’t going as well as she thought it would.
She quickened her pace. The sun was already high in the sky, shining down brightly. It was a typical heat for Texas. She hoped she hadn’t miscalculated the time and was going to find a bunch of students waiting for her.
When she got to the schoolhouse, she was relieved to see she was the first one there. As soon as she entered the building, she opened the door and all the windows to get some fresh air in the room. While she waited for her students to arrive, she started writing out some of the material she would be teaching on the board. She had twelve students. Lake View, Texas was a small town, but there were lots of children. If every parent sent all their kids to school, she would most likely have double or triple that. Unfortunately, many parents thought that school was a waste of time and was only good for taking their children away from their real work on the farms or ranches.
Whenever she got the chance, Cassie tried to tell parents how important it was for their children to have a good education. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and other subjects could be invaluable for the rest of their lives and the jobs they might one day have. Some of them listened, and some of them simply shook their heads and scoffed.
Cassie smiled as she heard a shuffle at the door. She turned to find Lena standing on the doorstep of the schoolhouse. Lena was seven years old and was her youngest student. She was shy and didn’t often speak her mind. It was something that Cassie had been working on with her.
“Good morning, Lena. How was your afternoon yesterday?”
“Very nice, ma’am. I showed my ma how I know the alphabet now. She was very happy. She sent you this.” Lena pulled out a square-shaped package wrapped in brown paper. “It’s bread. She made it this morning.”
Cassie accepted the gift with a grateful smile. She then knelt to Lena’s level. “Why thank you, Lena. Make sure to tell your mother thank you for me. I really appreciate this. Let’s sit down and we will review your letters before everyone else gets here. I also brought you something today.” Cassie went back to her desk, put the loaf of bread beside her things, then pulled out what she’d brought for Lena.
“This was my first reader. My mother bought it for me, so it is very special. I know that you will enjoy looking at it and learning to read with it and when you are done with it, you can give it back to me.”
Lena’s eyes sparkled as she reached out and touched the reader. “I can use it? Really?”
“You really can. Come on, let’s look at the first story together.” Cassie opened the reader to the first story and began to sound out the words with Lena. Having the book in front of her and helping the little girl learn to read in the same way her mother had was a very thought-provoking experience. Her mother would have been very happy to know that the reader was still being used. As the other students filed into the schoolhouse and Cassie got them situated, she had to leave Lena to continue discovering the reader on her own. She could tell from a distance that she had impacted Lena just as much as she meant to, and she was already starting her love of reading. There was nothing that Cassie enjoyed more than seeing young ones pick up their desire to learn and explore the new world that was opened with knowledge.
It was what kept her excited about teaching. She couldn’t wait until the day that Lena learned to read. Then she imagined the day that Lena discovered what it was that she wanted to do with her life. Perhaps one day, she would be a school teacher, or she would simply teach her own children how to read and write.
Cassie liked that idea. Even if she decided that she wanted nothing to do with being a school teacher, the things she was learning in school would be invaluable for the rest of her life. It made Cassie so happy to know that she would be a part of that journey.
Cassie almost shrieked as she felt someone grab her shoulders from behind. It was only her friend’s giggles that set her at ease. She turned and put on her best stern face. “Sabrina, don’t sneak up on me like that.”
Sabrina shrugged, her black hair bouncing along with her shoulders. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. But I have to admit it was very funny.”
“I know you did.” Cassie shook her head, but couldn’t help smiling. She loved her best friend. She was the one person in her life who wasn’t family and who hadn’t abandoned her. Sabrina had been her best friend since the moment that her family moved to Lake View, Texas, and they’d met at school.
After everything that had happened in Cassie’s life to everyone she cared about, she had tried to push Sabrina away. Sometimes her efforts were conscious, other times they were not. Either way, Sabrina never let it get to her and had remained by her side in every single situation until Cassie had come to accept that they were stuck with each other forever. Her best friend made her feel a little less alone in the world. They were like sisters even though they weren’t really related to each other in any way.
“So, what brings you all the way over here?” Cassie asked. The schoolhouse wasn’t exactly right in town. It was outside of town, a fifteen-minute walk more or less. It was a short distance from the church. Her grandfather’s farm was a good twenty-minute walk further up the hill and past the small woods and shallow river that were both a part of his property.
“Do I need a reason to come and spend some time with my best friend?” Sabrina looked at her innocently.
“No, I suppose not. Is that really the only reason you stopped by?”
Sabrina shrugged. “Sort of. The truth is my mother sent me down to get some meat from the butcher’s. I figured the walk out here wasn’t too much further since I knew that you would be going home around now. It has been much too long since I saw you, so I had to come by.”
“I’m glad you did.” Cassie missed the days when she and Sabrina would spend hours on end talking with one another and sharing fun stories from their life. Now that she had a job as the school teacher and Sabrina worked in town, they couldn’t spend as much time together.
“Me too. I’ll walk with you part of the way home.” Sabrina looped her arm with Cassie’s and pulled her toward the path.
“How is your family these days? It’s been so long since I have been by to visit.”
“They are fine. Everything is pretty normal. Lots of work on the farm. Harvest is coming up, so I know they are stressed about that. All of us are ready to help out, so I think it is going to work out well.”
“It must be fun, working with all of your siblings to help your parents,” Cassie spoke wistfully. She often wondered what her life would have been like if she’d grown up with two parents and lots of siblings like Sabrina did. Sabrina always complained about her siblings. She was the only girl in a family of six children. Apparently, her brothers liked to make mischief and bother her as the only girl. Despite the way that Sabrina spoke of her large family, Cassie still felt like she would enjoy being part of one.
“It is fun, at least until my brothers start fooling around. You are lucky, in a way.” Sabrina slowed their pace. “I have to head back soon. I wish I could go to your house, but Ma would be upset if I didn’t get back with the meat for dinner.”
“That’s all right. How is Noah?”
Sabrina blushed. Noah was the young man at church who always went out of his way to talk to Sabrina. It was clear to everyone that he had some interest in her.
“There are no things with Noah. It is all in your imagination.” Sabrina shook her head and laughed.
“Are you sure about that? I heard that he was going to ask you to accompany him on a carriage ride.”
“That is just a rumor. I have heard of no such thing.” Sabrina was blushing. “Okay, this is as far as I go. I need to get home. We can talk at church on Sunday.”
“All right. Thanks for coming by.” Cassie watched Sabrina leave before she continued toward the house. She felt anxious whenever she was on her way home. She was always worried about how she would find her grandfather. When she spotted him sitting in his normal spot on the porch, she felt a wave of relief. He was always there or resting in the house, but she knew that one day, he might not be.
He jolted awake as she walked up the porch steps and the top board creaked.
“Oh, you startled me. I didn’t realize I’d dozed off.” Her grandfather looked embarrassed and straightened up in his chair.
“I’m sorry for startling you. I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I’m glad that you got some rest.” Cassie heard that rest could be one of the biggest things to help someone regain their strength.
“Rest is for old people. I’m not old yet.”
Cassie giggled. She loved her grandfather’s good humor. He had taken all his challenges in stride so far. She had met some older people who became bitter and resentful the older they got and the harder things became for them. That was not the case with her grandfather. He always tried to make the best of things. He had a joke to make her smile or some story to cheer her up. It made their life a bit easier and made her notice the problems less and less.
“I am going to get started on dinner. Do you want me to help you inside, or do you want to stay out here?” Cassie always left an afternoon meal for her grandfather when she set out for the schoolhouse. Then she started on dinner as soon as she arrived home. She liked to have dinner at an early hour so that her grandfather could get plenty of rest and go to sleep right after sunset.
“I’ll stay out here. I like the afternoon breeze. It’s a nice break from the heat.”
Cassie nodded in understanding. “All right. If you need anything, let me know.”
“Maybe we could eat out here and watch the sunset?” Her grandfather’s request was sudden. Cassie was a bit caught off guard by it, but she didn’t mind. Eating outside on the porch actually sounded nice.
“Of course, why not?” She went into the kitchen and started preparing things. It didn’t take her long. Once things were cooking on the stove, she set about the afternoon chores she always took care of. She started with tidying the cabin, washing the dishes, and setting the kitchen straight.
Then while she waited for dinner to finish cooking, she planned out her lessons for the next day. She loved taking some time to prepare her lessons for her students the next day. When dinner was done, she set her notepads aside, then dished up two bowls of stew.
She carried them outside and handed one to her grandfather.
“Careful, it’s hot.”
He nodded and pulled the bowl up against him. The sun was just starting to sink. The colors were beginning to show, filling the sky with a soft orange color.
“It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”
“It really is.” Cassie took a bite of her stew and settled into the long bench chair beside her grandfather. She reminded herself that they should eat outside more often when possible.
“It always reminds me of your grandmother. She used to love the sunset. She used to tell me that it looked like a window up into heaven and that one day she would watch the sunset from that side. Whenever I watch it, I always imagine her watching from the other side and admiring the colors.”
Cassie swallowed, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. That was something that her grandmother would definitely say. It wasn’t that hard to imagine her watching from heaven with a smile on her sweet, wrinkled face.
“It won’t be long until I am watching with her, you know. That will be nice, to sit together again.”
“I am sure it will be wonderful, but you won’t be going to be there with her that soon. You have years left with me here on the farm.”
Her grandfather shook his head, and his look of resignation made Cassie worry. What exactly was he trying to say?
“I know that we both hope for that, Cassie, but I feel myself slowing down. I know that you don’t want to hear it, but the truth is that my time here is running out. What makes me feel better is knowing what sort of woman you’ve become. I know how strong you are, and I know how well you will manage after I am gone.”
“I’m not going to manage after you are gone. I can’t do this alone, Grandpa. I need you here.” Cassie heard the wobble in her voice. She couldn’t begin to explain how much she needed her grandfather or how suffocated it made her feel to think of losing him.
Her grandfather gave her a stern look. “Cassie, you need to be prepared to go on alone. I know that it is hard to think about and hard to consider. I had to go through that when I realized I was going to lose your grandmother. Life just didn’t seem like it was going to make sense without her in it. She told me something that I’ll never forget.”
“What was that?” Cassie thought back to those times when they lost her grandmother. They had been some of the hardest she had gone through, close to or even harder than when she’d lost her parents.
“She said that there was no need to feel bad for her, that she was the one who would be happy. She told me that the happier that I tried to be without her, the faster the days would pass until I saw her again. I’ve tried to do that every day since. Of course, it isn’t easy; it is hard every single minute of every single day.”
“I know that one day the time will come when you are going to leave me here all alone, but I hate thinking about it. I don’t even know what I will do with myself.”
“You will figure it out. You will learn how to build a life for yourself alone. I just want you to be prepare for it instead of dreading it and being blindsided by it. Having it come unexpected is much worse.”
Cassie nodded. She knew that he was referring to her parents. They were alive one day, then gone the next and everyone’s lives had changed. She’d come to live with her grandparents. She had just lost the two most important people in her life. Her grandfather lost his only son, who he hadn’t seen in years.
“I will keep that in mind, Grandpa. For now, why don’t we enjoy our stew?”
“That’s a great idea.” Her grandfather took a heaping spoonful of stew up to his mouth. Cassie watched him lovingly. She certainly hoped that she had plenty of time left to spend with her grandfather. She was starting to fear that she didn’t.
She needed to try and make more of an effort to take advantage of every single second. Maybe she would be able to sit with her grandfather, have more conversations, and write down the things she wanted to remember. There were so many stories that her grandfather still had to tell her, and so much about her grandmother that she still wanted to learn, that only he knew.
She prayed a quick prayer to God that he would give her more time. She needed so much more time with him, but knew that it was running out even as she was thinking about that.
She looked over at the older man and felt gratefulness wash through her. Both he and her grandmother had given up so much to raise her and give her a good life. She had never even let the thought of bitterness cross her mind when it came to all the work she did to keep the farm and her grandfather well taken care of. She enjoyed every minute of it.
She turned back to her stew. She was going to find as many opportunities as she could to show that.
“A Love Against the World” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Cassie Bishop has lost a lot in life. After her grandfather’s passing, she is left all alone, without anyone in the world to lean on. The town’s saloon owner has always had an interest in her, but he is not the type of man Cassie wants anything to do with. When he tries to proposition her again at her grandfather’s funeral, his mysterious cousin is there with him. This intriguing man is new in town and straight away Cassie is certain he is nothing but trouble…
Even so, could she end up finding everything she has always wanted in his eyes?
Jack Mathews was sent to Lake View Texas by his aunt to check on his cousin, only to witness him trying to approach a young woman at her grandfather’s funeral. When he discovers his cousin’s ulterior motives with Cassie, he feels compelled to help her. As the two of them spend more time together, Jack begins to realize that maybe there are more reasons for him to stick around town than he originally thought…
Will he be able to get past Cassie’s walls and help her stand up against his cousin?
When Cassie and Jack get caught up in a plot much more complicated than they ever imagined, will they find a way to overcome entrenched corruption and crime? Will they manage to accept their feelings for one another before it’s too late?
“A Love Against the World” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.