Courage to Forgive Chapters 8 and 9


            Tears streamed down Cara’s cheeks as the train moved down the tracks, leaving Adam and her home behind. She didn’t want to be apart from him. She loved him, and she had been so looking forward to their wedding. His love had transformed her life, giving her hope that things would be different.

            Doc’s death had disproved that thought. The humiliation she had felt when people passed her by had made her realize more than ever that she was never going to be accepted as part of the community. Besides Doc, Adam and his mother, and the Ackerbys, were the only people she felt truly cared about her and her children. Others were polite, but they did not really know her, nor did they seem to want to get to know her. She had been accepted as Adam’s fiancé, more for his sake and his mother’s sake than for her own. Knowing that was painful.

            “Mama, why are you crying?” Charity asked.

Rose reached up and patted Cara’s cheeks, as though comforting her.

Remmie’s eyes were wet with tears, and his lower lip trembled. Cara wrapped her arm around his thin shoulders. “It’s hard to leave Adam behind, isn’t it?” He burst into sobs then.

“I want Adam to be our pa.”

“He will be, Remmie. We’re only going for a short time.”

            “Do you promise?”

            Adam had asked the same question. “I promise, Remmie.”

            He wiped his eyes and nose with the handkerchief she gave him. She patted his head gently.

            “It will be a good experience for us, Remmie, to see the city.”

            “Have you ever been there before?” His tears were under control now.

            Cara shook her head. “No, I haven’t, Remmie.”

            “What’s a city, Ma?” Charity’s innocent question made Cara smile.

            “It’s kind of like our town. There are buildings all over, close together. Only it’s a lot bigger than our town, and a lot more buildings.”

            “Where will we stay?”

            “Mrs. Warner has invited us to stay in her house.”

            “Is it a nice house?”

            Could it be no less? Cara mused. She imagined that Margaret’s house was extravagantly furnished, if the way Margaret dressed was anything to go by. Margaret was a wealthy woman, and she had confided that her house was very large.

            “Very large and empty,” she had lamented.

            Cara encouraged the children to look out the windows at the passing scenery. Rose complained of being hungry, and she fed her a cookie from the basket that Dinah had sent. She was thankful for her mother-in-law’s thoughtfulness. Taking the four children to the dining car would be quite an ordeal, more than she could handle.

            It was late in the afternoon when they arrived at their destination. A porter came to assist Cara and the children from the train. She was relieved to see Margaret waiting for her. Dressed elegantly in black silk and wearing a wide-brimmed hat with plumes, it was not hard to miss Margaret. Beside her stood a colored man, very large and intimidating. It took Cara by surprise, until Margaret explained that the man and his wife were paid servants who took care of her house and gardens.

            The children were wide awake, having napped on the train. They looked around at the buildings, and Remmie asked many questions. Margaret was pleasant and answered every question. Rose took a liking to Margaret and climbed onto the seat beside her. She reached out and touched the plumes on the hat.

            “Rose,” Cara said in a reprimanding tone.

            “She’s all right,” Margaret said with a smile. She took off her hat and put it on Rose’s head. The large hat fell forward and covered her eyes. Rose giggled. Cara was embarrassed. Then Rose took the hat and set it back on Margaret’s head, knocking her glasses askew. The expression on Margaret’s face was almost comical.

            “I’ve aired out the upstairs rooms for you and the children,” Margaret explained. “There is a bedroom downstairs, next to mine, but I thought you would be more comfortable if you could sleep near the children.”

            “Yes, thank you.”

            “There is a room just right for the girls, and one for Remmie, also.” Margaret looked thoughtful. “Have you thought any more about changing the boy’s nickname?”

            Margaret had suggested last summer, during her disastrous visit. Cara had been reluctant to do as Margaret suggested.

            “I haven’t given it much thought.”

            “I think you should consider calling him ‘Tony.’ It sounds much less babyish than ‘Remmie’ and I think it will help him fit in better at school.”

            Cara certainly did not want Remmie to have problems fitting in at school. It had been hard enough for her to attend school when she first came to live with Gran. “Carabel the Dunce” still ran through her thoughts at times, causing painful memories.

            Margaret’s house was all that Cara expected and more. Set high on a hill in the city, it had a vast front yard and was palatial in appearance.

            “Is this your house?” Remmie asked in awe.

            “Yes, it is. Do you like it?”

            “It’s really big.”

            “It’s pretty,” Charity spoke up.

            “Thank you. I’ve worked hard to make it beautiful.”

            Or her caretakers did, Cara thought with a smile.

            The inside of the house was just as lovely as the outside. Cara looked around at the expensive cut-glass bowls and china vases set ornately about. How would she keep her children from breaking them?

            “What do you think, Cara?” Margaret was saying.

            Cara realized she had missed part of the conversation. “I’m sorry, Margaret. I was looking around and not paying attention for a moment.”

            Margaret laughed. “I was asking if you want to take the children up to their rooms now. They might like to change and freshen up before dinner.”

            Their clothes did look dusty, and their hair was mussed. Cara feared that her appearance was no better.

            “That is a fine idea.”

            “We dress for dinner here,” Margaret said.

            “I’ve had new clothes made up for the children and myself. I hope they will be appropriate.”

            “Wear what you have, and if need be, we’ll see the dressmaker tomorrow.”

            Cara followed the servant upstairs. He showed her three spacious bedrooms, all decorated lavishly with silk draperies and embroidered pillows. One room was a little larger than the others, and she presumed it to be her bedroom while she was here.  It had a fireplace and a stone hearth. There were two beds in one of the other rooms, and a large bed in the third. Since the girls were used to sleeping together, she decided to put them in the room with the larger bed. That left Remmie with the room with two beds.

“Maybe Adam can sleep in here with me when he comes to visit.”

Cara did not want to upset him, but she thought it was best to be honest. “Adam won’t be coming here, son.”

His lip trembled. “Why not?”

“Because his place is to stay on the farm and take care of the animals.”

“I want Adam.”

“Want Adam!” Rose demanded. Charity looked ready to cry. Cara was going to have her hands full with the children if they did not adjust to their new surroundings right away.

She washed the children’s hands and faces at the basin in her room. She combed Remmie’s hair, adding a little water to make it lay down. She curled Charity’s hair around her finger into ringlets, and tied a new ribbon in both Charity and Rose’s hair.

She knew what Margaret meant by dressing for dinner. Gran had not been formal. When she went to live with her great-aunt in Charleston, she had learned something of the nature of high society. The evening meal was elegant with several courses served on the best china. Evening attire was expected, even of the guests.

Her choices in fabric for the children’s clothes, and her own, had been very practical. The fabric was sturdy, and pleasant in appearance, but she had a feeling that it would not be formal enough to please Margaret.

Dinah had made two dresses for each of the girls, matching sets. One of the sets was pink gingham, with a ruffled hem and puffy sleeves. The other set was blue calico, with tiny rosebuds patterned throughout. Dinah had also sewn pinafores with gathered pockets to wear over the dresses. Cara put them in the blue, and tied their pinafores around their waists.

For Remmie, Dinah had sewn two pair of knickers, two shirts, and one jacket.

“The jacket scratches,” he complained when Cara buttoned him into it.

By the time the children were dressed, Hope was awake and crying to be fed. Cara took the children’s toys out of the trunk, the girls’ dolls and Remmie’s farm animals. They played in front of the fireplace while Cara nursed the baby. Then she changed Hope and put her in the new little gown that Dinah had stitched for her.

She was unsure if Margaret expected her to wear black, and decided it was best to err on the side of wearing mourning clothes. She put on the hoops, and then slipped into her black dress. She combed out her hair smoothed it into a bun, fastening it with pins.

“It’s time to go downstairs.” The children looked up from their play.

“I don’t want to. It’s a strange house.” Remmie was quick to complain.

“We’ll soon learn our way around. Mrs. Warner is expecting us for dinner.”

Rose jumped up from her play. “I hungry.”

Cara gathered the baby in her arms and led the way downstairs. Unsure of where she should go, she opted for the sitting room. It looked very elegant and formal. She worried that her children would break something.

“Come sit down with me,” she said gently. “We’ll wait here for Mrs. Warner.”

Margaret came in momentarily. “You’re wearing black.”

“I wasn’t sure if it is appropriate.”

“I don’t see why you need to dress in mourning. Doc wasn’t related to you.” Cara felt a twinge of pain at Margaret’s blunt words. “Of course, if you want to wear black, that’s all right,” Margaret hastened to add.

“I have other dresses with me.” Cara’s voice was quiet, unsure of herself.

“You see, Cara, I have told people that a young friend of mine has come to visit me. I haven’t told them anything about your connection to Erich. I have told them that you’re a widow, and just come out of your mourning period. It wouldn’t be right, then, for you to wear black.”

“Have you told everyone that I am coming?” Cara was surprised.

“Oh, yes. I’ve planned to take you and the children visiting, so my friends and neighbors can have the opportunity to meet you.”

“Why would you want to do this?”

“You meant a lot to Doc, and it means a lot to me to have you here. Naturally I will want to introduce you to my circle of friends.”

Remembering what it was like to be introduced into high society back in Charleston, Cara worried. Back then, she had felt uncomfortable and out of place. Now, with four children in tow, she would feel even more awkward.

Margaret’s colored house servant appeared in the archway. “Dinner is served, Ma’am.”

“Thank you, Lettie. Shall we go into the dining room, children?”

The dining room table was large enough to seat twelve. Cara noticed that Margaret was seated at the head of the table, with Remmie to her left. She had placed the two little girls on the right, with Cara between them. There was a basket on the floor just the right size for Hope, so she laid the sleeping baby in it.

The meal was extravagant and made up of several courses. Some of the foods were familiar to the children, but most of them were not. Several times, Remmie made a face when he tried the food on his plate. Charity only picked at her food. Rose tried everything, but made a terrible mess trying to use her utensils. Cara was embarrassed.

“I’m sorry my children don’t have proper manners.”

Margaret was more understanding than she had anticipated. “They will do all right, with some practice. How do you children like pudding?”

“I like pudding,” Remmie said.

            While the children ate their dessert, Margaret looked them all over. Cara could see that Margaret found their attire lacking.

“Now, I’m thinking that tomorrow we’ll visit my dressmaker.”

            Cara felt disheartened. “The clothes we have aren’t presentable enough?”

“They are certainly sturdy and stylish enough, for the farm. I’d like to have some dresses made up for you and the girls, and some suits for Remmie, that are more fashionable.”

Meaning expensive, Cara thought dismally. She had the money from Doc’s estate, but she did not want to spend it frivolously. Why buy clothes that were not practical for small town life?

“Do you play piano?” Margaret asked when dinner was over.

“I never learned. Gran had a piano, but we sold it.”

“I have a fine piano, and I’d like to play for you and the children. Would you join me in the parlor?”

Cara and the children sat on the uncomfortable, stiff chairs in the parlor. Margaret sat down on the piano bench and began to play. The songs were not the hymns in the church that were becoming familiar to Cara. Instead, she guessed that they were classical pieces. Margaret’s hands flew over the keys and she never made a mistake that Cara could tell.

The children grew restless. “Sing, Mama,” Rose said.

“This isn’t a time for singing, Rose,” Cara said in a hushed voice.

“We sing.” Rose’s voice was demanding, and Cara could see that Margaret heard it by the frown on the older woman’s face.

“Not now, Rose.”

Margaret finished the song she was playing and slid the cover back down over the keys. “I think that is enough for this evening.”

“You play very well, Margaret. Thank you for playing for us.”

“Perhaps while you are here, I can give young Charity some lessons. Would you like to learn to play piano, dear?”

Charity’s eyes widened in awe. She nodded.

How long did Margaret think they were staying? Cara wondered.

Later, she tucked the children into their new beds. Before she settled into the big bed in her room, she heard little footsteps across the room. Charity and Rose stood beside the bed, looking sad.

“What’s the matter, girls?”

“I don’t like our new bed, Mama. It feels strange.”

“You’ll get used to it, Charity. Now go back to bed, you and Rose both.”

Charity’s eyes welled up with tears. “May we sleep in here with you, Mama?”

“Stay with you, Mama.” Rose added her request.


Cara could not say no to the plea in Charity’s voice. She smiled and drew back the covers.

“It’s all right, just for tonight. Once you get used to the new place, you’ll be able to sleep in your own bed.”


In the morning, Cara rose early, before the baby awakened. For a moment, she wondered where she was, and then reality set in. She was away from the farm. The luxurious bed that she was sleeping in belonged to Margaret. She wondered why the other woman had invited them here. She said she had done it because she was lonely, and Cara guessed that could be true. But the feelings that Margaret had raised during her visit last summer pursued.

Margaret had turned down her nose at the meal Cara prepared. She had made it clear that she thought Cara’s home was old and unfashionable. Now, the clothes Cara had made for herself and the children weren’t good enough for Margaret. She wanted them to have new things.

“I’m hungry, Mama,” Rose said, sitting up.

“We’ll have breakfast after I feed the baby.” Cara’s voice was reassuring. Rose chattered to her doll, but she was patient. Cara fed the baby and dressed the children. Remmie came into the room, looking shy.

“How did you sleep, son?”

“I slept good. The bed is soft.”

“Yes, ours is soft, too. Do you like it here?”

It was the wrong question to ask. “I miss Adam.”

“Adam,” Rose cried.

“We’ll see Adam soon. Now, let’s get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast.”

Cara did not see Margaret downstairs, so she made her way to the kitchen. The servant, Lettie, smiled when she saw her.

“Are you and the children ready for breakfast, Mrs. Bancroft?”

“Yes, we are. Is Mrs. Warner going to eat with us?”

Lettie chuckled. “Mrs. Warner doesn’t get up until nine.”

Nine o’clock was late for Cara. By then, she had breakfast dishes and half of her morning’s work done. Having no one else in the house made it easy for Margaret to sleep in, she realized, and did not begrudge her hostess her sleeping time.

After breakfast, she was at loose ends. The children were, too. She took them into the sitting room, which was only slightly less formal than the parlor. There was a bookcase, with some children’s books on it. Remmie chose a book, and they passed the time reading.

Margaret came into the room about nine o’clock. “I see you are up and around early.”

“Yes, we get up rather early, I’m afraid.”

“I guess you would have to, on the farm. I haven’t had anyone to take care of for so long that I guess I’m rather spoiled. Are you dressed for leaving the house?”

Cara looked at the dove-gray dress she was wearing. It was the latest fashion, Agnes Morrow had assured her. She wore her new hoops, uncomfortable as they were. “Yes, we are.”

“Well, then. I’ll have Miles bring the carriage around, and we’ll make our way to the dressmaker’s shop.”

Cara cringed at the thought of the children getting fitted. They would surely be impatient, especially Remmie, who hadn’t liked it when Dinah measured him for his suits.

“Why do we need new clothes, Ma?” he complained when the dressmaker was measuring him.

“You’ll be going to new places, and meeting new people,” Margaret answered. “You’ll want to look your best.”

“I don’t want to meet new people.”

“Remmie, that isn’t polite. You need to apologize to Mrs. Warner.”

“Mrs. Warner is a mouthful for the children, don’t you think? I’ve been thinking that perhaps they might call me ‘Aunt Margaret.”

“I suppose that would be all right. If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Margaret said with a smile.

After the fittings, the dressmaker showed them a variety of fabrics and patterns. The materials were expensive silks and satins. Cara protested.

“I don’t think the children need such fancy clothes. Silk will tear easily, and doesn’t wash as well.”

“But, my dear, they need to be in fashion.”

“Maybe one dress in silk, then, and the others in something sturdier.”

Margaret looked upset. “I want them to look their best.”

“I can make some wonderful dresses out of this,” the dressmaker said, holding up a pink lawn fabric. “It washes more easily as silk, and is equally pleasing to the eye.”

“Very well, then,” Margaret agreed reluctantly.

            With Margaret’s input, Cara chose material and a suit pattern for Remmie, who frowned. “I don’t like that.”

            “It will look very handsome on you,” Margaret said. But he was not appeased.

            Cara tried to calculate the costs, but not knowing how much the fabric cost made it difficult. When the dressmaker showed her an array of silk fabrics for her own costumes, she realized it was going to be a costly affair.

            “I don’t want to be too extravagant.”

            “Don’t worry about the cost, Cara. This will be my treat, the clothes for you and the children.”

            “I can’t let you do that, Margaret. I have money now.”

            Margaret laughed. “I know how my brother felt about fashion. He wore suits that were hopelessly outdated, because they still had some wear in them. He would not be pleased if I allowed you to spend your inheritance on new clothes.”

            Cara smiled. It was true that Doc had not put much stock in what he wore. But she could not let Margaret finance her new wardrobe.

            “I’ll pay for it.”

            Margaret glanced at the dressmaker. “Just put it on my account, Lydia. We’ll settle up later.”

            There seemed to be no point in arguing the matter, not right now. Cara finished choosing the material and patterns for her own outfits, and then it was time to leave.

            “I’ll have Miles take us around the city, to show you some of the interesting sights.”

            Margaret’s guided tour of the city lasted about one hour. Remmie was hopelessly bored, and Rose fell asleep. Hope started to cry. “I’ll need to feed her.”

            “We’re almost back at the house.”

            It was a noisy ride the rest of the way to Margaret’s house. The baby’s crying woke up Rose, who howled in protest that she was hungry.

            “My, my. The children certainly are restless this morning.”

            Cara wanted to tell Margaret that her children were used to playing, not spending all morning in a dressmaker’s shop and riding around in a buggy. But she held her tongue, and was relieved when the house came into view.

            “Why don’t you nurse the baby in the downstairs bedroom?” Margaret suggested. “I’ve some things that I want to show the children.”

            After Hope was satisfied, and sound asleep, Cara left her in the bedroom. She found Margaret and the children in the sitting room. Remmie played with a train set on the floor. Rose was holding a new doll, and Charity and Margaret were working on a puzzle.

            “I bought a few toys for the children to play with while they are here. I’ve never had little children around, so I wasn’t sure what to get. I think they are happy with what I chose.”

            “They look very pleased. It was thoughtful of you to think of them.”

            “Are you ready to put the toys away and eat?” Margaret asked.

            “Eat!” Rose was happy to put down the doll and make her way into the dining room.

Cara could not say whether she enjoyed her visit with Margaret or not. During the first few days, Margaret was kind and patient with the children. When they began to bicker among themselves and complain, she showed her impatience.

“I don’t think you’ve done much for discipline, Cara.”

“They are quite well-disciplined, but they are away from home, and everything is new to them.”

“I hope they will adjust soon. We can’t possibly take them calling with us if they are unruly.”

When their new clothes were ready, Margaret announced her plans for the children. She introduced Cara to a young colored girl, maybe sixteen at the most. “This is Miriam, Lettie’s oldest daughter.”

“Hello, Miriam.” Cara was polite but curious.

“I’ve hired Miriam to sit with the children while I take you calling.”

Cara’s face turned white with anger. “I don’t need someone to watch the children.”

“You said yourself that when they are away from home, they are unruly.”

That wasn’t what Cara had meant by her words. “If they can’t go with us, then I don’t want to go.”

“Nonsense, Cara. What fun could it possibly be for the children to get all dolled up and visit strangers?”

What fun could it possibly be for herself? Cara wondered.

“I’m sure they will do fine.”

“Miriam is a sister to seven brothers and sisters. She is used to watching them when Lettie is working. I think she will be quite able to handle your children.”

“I don’t doubt that she is, but I wouldn’t like to leave them with a stranger.”

In the end, Margaret won the argument. Cara left her children in the care of the young girl, taking the baby with her while she and Margaret went calling.

So began one of many days in which she dressed in her new silk gowns, put on the uncomfortable hoops and high-heeled boots, and rode with Margaret to the wealthy neighborhoods of the city. Margaret poured out the details of Doc’s life and death to her friends, all of whom were sympathetic to her loss. Their hostesses served them tea and fancy cakes, and little sandwiches such as Cara was not familiar with.

They were all curious about Cara. “How do you know Margaret?” many of the ladies asked.

“Cara’s grandmother was a dear friend of Patsy’s,” Margaret would always tell them. Cara cringed inside at the half-truth, but short of embarrassing her hostess, she did not correct her. Margaret always brought out up Cara’s southern heritage, and Cara had to tell about her social season in Charleston.

Margaret did not realize how painful it was for Cara to recall those days. She had been homesick for her grandmother, and grieving the loss of her parents. Then she had met Lem, and their secret courtship had thrown her into confusion and guilt. Much of what had happened in Charleston was a private matter, and she was careful what she told Margaret’s friends. Yes, she had met her husband there. She had returned to the farm, and he followed her there and married her. The women thought it was so romantic, just as Margaret had.

If they could have known the truth, about the letters Cara had found, they would have been disappointed in her, and judgmental. Yet hiding the truth, and pretending that her marriage had been wonderful, was hard for her to do.

The days passed by much too slowly. Cara missed Adam. She was delighted when she received a letter from him.

His penmanship was neat and legible, much better than her own. And he had a way with words that made her feel as if he were really talking to her.

“Dearest Cara,

You’ve been gone only a few days, but already it seems like a long time. The house is quiet without you and the children. I’m used to having all of you greet me when I come in the house. Now when I bring the milk in it’s to an empty kitchen.

I’ve been working with the new team, and they are well-trained. We invested our money wisely. With the pace at which they work, I believe we can get more crops planted this spring.

The cows are producing more milk than I can churn, so my ma has taken over that task. I take the milk to her each day at noon, and she is taking care of it. She is feeding me well, too. But I am missing your cooking, and the smile that always accompanies the meal.

I don’t know what your plans are, but I hope you will see your way to coming home soon. I miss you, and all of the children. It isn’t the same without you here.

            The letter was signed, with all my love, Adam. Recalling his tender kisses and warm smile, her eyes filled up with tears. She missed him, too. So did the children. She was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to go home.

            She started to write Adam a letter, but after a few words, she gave up trying. It was not easy to put her thoughts down on paper. Spelling and grammar had not been her strong points. She did not want to send a letter that showed her lack of formal education. So the letter sat on the little secretary desk in her guest room, unfinished.

            When he took her to the train station, Adam had asked her if she was escaping to the city. In a sense, she had thought of her visit with Margaret as an escape from the prying eyes and gossiping tongues of the community. She had wanted to walk down the street or sit in church, and not be judged for her past. Yet she found that living a lie, or rather, half-truths, as she was doing with Margaret’s social circle, felt just as uncomfortable. Margaret showed indifference when Cara expressed her doubts.

“I’m not going to have them know the whole truth about you, my dear. They will sit in judgment on you just as I have done. Here, you have a chance at a fresh start.”

“My stay here is only temporary,” Cara reminded her hostess. “I’m planning to return home and marry Adam.”

“Are you certain of that? Now that you have had a taste of the city life, and an elegant lifestyle, why would you want to return to the farm, and all of that hard work?”

“It’s my home,” Cara said with a hint of stubbornness. “And it’s the children’s home. I know they want to go back.”

“I think they’re adjusting very well.”

Margaret thought that because she did not spend much time with the children. Cara saw their sad looks, even Rose, who was usually so good-natured. They were homesick. Remmie, especially, voiced his thoughts to Cara every evening as she tucked him in.

“When are we going home, Ma?”

“We’ll go home when our visit with Aunt Margaret is done.”

“Why can’t that be now?”

Cara wondered that herself. She knew she could leave at any time, but she did not want to hurt Margaret. Doc’s sister seemed to enjoy her company so much. Margaret often lamented that she would be feel so lonely and sad if Cara were not here to visit with her. Cara felt guilty, so she put off her plans to return home.

Courage to Forgive Chapter Five


Adam moved back to his parents’ house. He had to bunk in with John, who was accepting of the situation. Seth liked to give him a hard time, though.

“She loves you so much that she doesn’t want to marry you,” he joked when Adam first moved back home.

“She does love me, and we are getting married. Just not as soon as I would like.”

“Maybe she’s putting you off for a reason.”

“What reason would that be?” Adam asked, feeling concerned.

“Maybe she’s hoping you’ll get better looking.” At Seth’s teasing, Adam reached out and lightly punched his brother on the shoulder.

“I hear Louisa is waiting until October to marry you.”

“Yes, she is. Her ma wants her to have a nice big wedding. Personally I’d just as soon get married before the planting season starts, like you are, instead of waiting until after harvest.”

“Maybe she’s hoping you’ll get better looking, too.”

“You’re both fine-looking men,” Dinah said proudly. “Those girls are lucky to be marrying you.”

Their ma did not praise them much, so Adam felt good about her comment. He felt like the lucky one, though. Cara was all he could hope for in a wife, and he was glad to be marrying her.

            Their lives took on a pattern in the weeks leading up to their wedding. Since the wedding was simple and already well-planned, their conversations focused on the farm. Cara listened to Adam’s ideas for what to plant and how much of each crop he expected to seed.

            “We really need a new team,” he said one afternoon.

“I don’t know how we can afford it.”

“I would use the money I earned from Taylor’s farm.”

“That is your nest egg,” Cara reminded him.

He reached across the table and took her hands in his. “It is our nest egg.”

She started to shake her head, but his eyes held hers steady. She relaxed. “It is up to you, how you spend it.”

“Then I think we should put it towards a new team. Simon is growing lame, and even if he weren’t, they are not able to keep up with the amount of land that we need to plant.”

Adam talked with his pa and brothers about purchasing a new team, then reluctantly told Cara what he had found out. “I hate to agree with my pa, but I think the team Luke Potter has trained is the best to be had.”

            “I don’t want anything to do with him.”

            “Neither do I, but he’s a good horse trainer, and he’s asking a fair price.”

            “It sounds like you’ve already checked into it.”

            “My pa did. He was considering buying the team for himself, but he doesn’t really need another team right now.”

            “I don’t know, Adam. It seems that talking to Luke will be borrowing trouble.”

            Adam let the subject drop, but a few days later, he brought it up again. “I’m thinking I should talk to Luke.”

            Cara had done some thinking over the past few days, and to Adam’s surprise, she agreed with him. “If you feel that is the best choice.”

            “What made you change your mind?” he asked curiously.

            “I’ve been praying about it.”

            “About Luke?”

            Cara nodded. “I’ve been praying that God would help me forgive Luke for the way he treated me last fall.”

            “And has the prayer helped?”

            “Yes, it has,” Cara said with a smile. “I realize that Luke was only acting in the way he was accustomed to. He thought I was a different type of person than what I am, unfortunately, because of Lem’s lies.” She felt the pang of sorrow for a moment at her husband’s betrayal. “I don’t know if he would have acted the same way had I had a godly reputation.”

            “I don’t know, either. I don’t know why he acts the way he does, Cara. He used to go to church all of the time, when he was younger.”

            “But his pa never did, right?”

            “He used to, but he drank a lot, and the church frowned on it. He eventually quit going.”

            “And I’ve been thinking with that kind of influence, it’s no wonder that Luke turned out the way he did.”

            “I guess you have a point there, Cara.” Adam reached out and took her hand in his. “And now you’ve forgiven him?”

            She smiled. “I’m working on it. I haven’t seen him since the incident, so I’m not sure how I will feel when I come face-to-face with him.”

            “I’m hoping to keep him out of your way entirely.”

Luke was most surprised when Adam approached him about buying the team.

            “You’re not serious, are you, Kenley?”

            “I am dead serious. I’ve heard that they’re well-trained, and that you’re asking a fair price.”

            “If I’d known you were interested, I would have put a higher price on them.” Luke grinned as he said it, but Adam did not doubt that it was true.

            “Do you want me to pay more than what you’re asking?” If it would help heal the wound between them, Adam would be willing to do it.

            “Nah. My price is fixed, no matter who the buyer is.”

            “Well, we’ll take the team, then.”

            “Why don’t I deliver them tomorrow, and you can pay me then,” Luke suggested.

            Adam dreaded having Luke come to the farm. Cara did, also. She kept the children in the house the whole day, while Adam stayed outside. He aimed to see Luke coming so he wouldn’t have to go to the house.

            Luke hadn’t come yet when it was time for the noon meal, and Adam sat down to dinner with Cara and the children.

            “Maybe he changed his mind,” Cara said.

            Adam shrugged. “Maybe he did. If so, we’ll find someone else with a team for sale.”

            There was a knock on the front door, and Adam opened it. He found Luke Potter and his pa standing outside on the porch.

            “I’ve brought the team,” Luke said, indicating the horses behind him. They were a beautiful pair of horses, tall and sleek.

            “I see that. I’ve got the money here for you.”

            “Do you mind if we come in the house and get it?”

            Adam could not smell alcohol on Luke’s breath, so he stepped aside and let the two men in the house.

            Luke took off his hat, and his pa did the same. Adam went to the bedroom and brought out a roll of bills. He counted them out to Luke, and they signed a bill of sale.

            “Is Miz Bancroft around?” Luke asked in a gruff tone.

            Adam was immediately alert. “What do you want with her?”

            “I want to apologize, for my behavior last fall.”

            Luke looked humble and apologetic, but Adam still did not trust him.

            “I’m not armed, if that’s what you’re afraid of,” Luke said with a sneer.

            Adam saw the anger in Luke’s eyes, and he wondered how sincere his apology was. He didn’t want to cause Cara more grief. “I think it’s best if you go. I’ll pass on your apology to her.”

            “If you’re going to be that way, then I’ll go. But don’t expect me to come to your wedding.”

            “I didn’t think you would want to do that, anyway.”

            “I hope you aren’t making the wrong choice, getting tied up with that kind of woman.”

            “I thought you came here to apologize.”

            “Yeah, well, maybe I’ll renege on my word.”

            “I’ve got the bill of sale right here, and you’ve got my money. I think our business is done.”

            “Let’s go, Luke,” Luke’s pa said calmly.

            “All right, then.”

            Once the two men were gone, Adam breathed a sigh of relief. He returned to the kitchen, where Cara had taken the children when the knock sounded on the door.

            “Luke wanted to see you,” Adam told her.

            She looked surprised, and nervous. “Why?”

            “He said he wanted to apologize.”

            “Well, that’s a good thing, I guess. What did you tell him?”
            “I told him I’d pass along the apology to you.”

            “You could have let him tell me himself.”

            “I wasn’t sure how sincere his apology was.”

            Cara breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad, then, that you didn’t call me out there. I couldn’t have stood any more of his snide remarks.”

            The team of horses proved to be well worth the price Adam had paid for them. He worked with them, so they grew accustomed to his voice and commands. Remmie was in awe of them.

            “They’re pretty horses, Adam.”

            Cara and Adam had agreed that they would wait until after they were married for the children to call him “Pa.” It didn’t seem right to do it yet.

            “Yes, they are. But they’re dangerous, Remmie.”


            “They’re not used to children. They’re not gentle like Diamond and Simon. They’re young and fast, and they could easily kick or step on a child that gets in their way.”

            “I’ll stay out of their way,” Remmie promised. “I don’t want to get stepped on or kicked.”

            “Someday, when they’re a few years older, and you’re a few years older, I’ll teach you how to drive them, behind the plow. You can help me work the fields, and we can grow even more crops.”

            “You’ll teach me how to be a farmer, like you?”

            “Sure will,” Adam said with a grin. “You’re the only boy, so you’ll have to help me out a lot. The girls will learn to help your ma.” It was obvious that Remmie liked the idea, and was mulling it over in his head. Adam laughed and ruffled the straw-colored hair. Remmie was a good boy, and he had come out of his shy and somber shell. He liked the idea of having a son.

            Of course, if he and Cara had more children, it was likely that they would have another boy, or two. He hoped they would, anyway, because he aimed to add more stock and land to his farm as time went on. If he had his way, one day they would outgrow the land they sat on, and he would have to acquire more. Plans for the future of the farm were always on his mind, taking second place only to thoughts of Cara becoming his wife.

            He was still sleeping at his parents’ home, bunking in the same room as John. His brothers picked on him, especially Seth.

            “You sure she’s going to want you living there after you’re married? You snore something awful.”

            “You should talk,” Adam retorted. “How is Louisa going to put up with you?”

            “She adores me. She’ll put up with anything I say or do.”

            “I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” Adam told him. “You can be a right handful. I’m not sure she knows what she’s getting into.”

            “I haven’t tried to win her over with lies,” Seth admitted. “I like to tease her, and most of the time she laughs. Sometimes she gets mad, but she gets over it. Then we kiss and make up,” he added, grinning.

            Cara’s kisses were what made Adam get through those long days before the wedding. They were careful not to kiss in front of the children, not after Remmie had seen them the one day and asked about it. It wasn’t that they didn’t want the children to know they loved each other. They just wanted to keep their affection private, away from curious eyes.

Cara had her own concerns as their wedding day approached. Her wedding dress and trousseau were complete and ready. Dinah was finishing up the girls’ dresses. She had made a new suit for Remmie that matched one of Adam’s, so he would look like his new pa. That would please both of them, she was certain.

Doc had promised to give her away.

“I would like nothing better than to see you married to Adam,” he said, when she asked him after church.

The rumors about Doc looking for a new partner had been true. He hired a young man who had grown up in a neighboring town. He had been educated back east, but he had hoped to return to his community to work as a doctor. Since there was already a doctor in his home town, he had taken the position with Doc. Doctor Byford, as he was called, went with Doc on house calls with Doc for a few weeks. Then he took over all of the house calls, while Doc stayed in town and kept the clinic open.

Cara missed the times when Doc used to visit at the house, or have Sunday dinner with them. Now her Sunday afternoons were spent at the Kenleys’ house, where Dinah prepared the noon meal. She was becoming acquainted with Bertha, who was still sickly even though she was five months along in her pregnancy. Eliza was still tactless to the point of being rude. Mostly, Eliza complained about how much work it was to care for her baby and do all of her housework and outdoor chores as well. Cara listened without much sympathy. She had a baby nearly the same age as Eliza’s, and three older children to care for, also.

Adam helped out as much as he could, but he was working with the team as well as doing the outdoor chores. They had three spring calves. Only one was a heifer, which Adam thought was all right.

“It will be a few years before she is old enough to produce a calf. By then I hope to have a bigger barn built, and we can add on to our livestock.”

The other two calves were bulls, and Adam sold one to help pay for seed. The other one they would raise for beef.

It was frustrating to Adam to be living at home in the process of planning his crops. His pa had always told him what to do, and now Adam was starting to farm on his own, with Cara’s farm, to be sure, but she allowed him the say in all of their decisions. His pa wanted to know every step of what his plans were, and no matter what Adam told him, his pa tended to tell him to do the opposite. Sometimes it caused the anger to rise up in Adam to the point that he was nearly boiling over with resentment.

It was worse, because he went home every night, as he was still staying with his parents. Cara had not agreed to move the wedding up, so he accepted his fate that he would have to live at his parents’ home until their wedding. That meant that his parents were still up in the evenings when he left Cara’s and headed home. His pa took advantage of that time to quiz Adam on how the farm plans were going.

It came to the point where Adam would say simply, “I haven’t made a decision on that yet.” Then his pa would tell him his opinion. Adam found himself wanting to do the opposite of what his pa suggested, but it went without saying that Evan Kenley was a successful farmer. He decided to put into practice some of his pa’s suggestions, but held to the belief that he knew Cara’s land better, and had different dreams for the farm than what Evan had. Evan had built up his farm by buying more land and working his sons harder.

When they were alone one evening, Adam said to Cara, “I don’t want to raise Remmie the way I was raised.”

“You didn’t turn out to badly,” Cara told him with a smile.

“No, but that was because of my ma’s intervention,” he admitted. “Pa was all about the land and working hard. I want Remmie to learn to work hard, but it is important to me that we take time out to spend days at the creek with you and the girls, fishing. Or if we want to take a trip into town on a nice day and visit with the Ackerbys, we can do so without worrying that something won’t get done that day.”’

“In other words, you want to put the family first,” she said, admiring his decisions.

“I guess that’s what I am saying. And I don’t plan to spend our money buying more acreage. Your grandfather made good decisions when he added the forty acres to the original one hundred-twenty. This farm is big enough to not only sustain itself, but to produce a profit.”

“Which you did, last year,” Cara reminded him.

“Yes, and that was with the old team. We ought to do even more this year.”

Their time together was not all spent talking about the farm. Both of them were busy after breakfast, Cara with all of her work, and Adam with his. Remmie wanted to tag along after Adam in everything he did, but Adam made him stay behind in the mornings to help out Cara. Hope was crawling around now. Cara left her in Charity’s care as much as she dared, but it was difficult to do much of the outdoor work. Remmie took over feeding the chickens, and Cara sent Charity along with him to gather the eggs. He also helped churn, as there was almost more milk from their three cows than Cara could handle. They would have butter and eggs to trade at the general store as she had before.

Adam came into the house at noon and they ate a big dinner. Then Remmie was allowed to go out with Adam and follow him around, helping as much as he was able. Adam remembered being exhausted as a young boy and doing work that was almost more than his young shoulders could handle, so he was careful not to overwork Remmie. He tried to make sure working together was enjoyable. And working together was the key, not just standing over him telling him what to do.

Remmie stayed out with Adam until after the evening chores were done. Cara put the younger girls down for a nap after dinner, and spent this time with Charity, teaching her to cook and bake and manage a household. After Rose woke up from her nap, Cara sent the two girls outside, where they played in the yard, or if Adam was working nearby, they would tag along after him and Remmie.

After supper, Adam helped Cara clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes. Then they sat in front of the fireplace, where they continued with the Family Altar that Philip had encouraged them to start. Cara was still not comfortable reading aloud, or praying. But she was learning the hymns, enough so that she and Adam could sing one during their altar time. The children learned them this way, also. Cara tucked the children into bed, and fixed a cup of coffee for herself and Adam. Sometimes, they talked about the farm, and their hopes and dreams for their family.

They were a family in every way, except for one. Adam left the house at eight o’clock every evening, and walked down the road to his parents’ farm, where he slept in his own bed.

As their wedding approached, he found it more difficult to tear himself away from Cara in the evenings. And she had a harder time letting him go.
            “It’s a good thing the cabin roof fell in,” he said one evening, when it was especially difficult to walk away. “Going to my parents’ house every evening holds us accountable.”

It was for the reason that Adam had moved back home before the wedding that the reverend had agreed to marry them in the church.

“I don’t want to disappoint your ma,” Cara said. “She was so pleased when the reverend told us we could hold our wedding in the church.”

“I admit, I am looking forward to standing before the reverend, and before God, and saying our vows.”

She tried not to show her nervousness, but Adam understood. “I know it will be hard for you, Cara. But I want to watch you walk down the aisle, on Doc’s arm, while the wedding march is played.”

“I want that, too,” she said softly. “I worry that Doc will not be well enough to walk me down the aisle.”

Doc’s strength was failing. He tried not to show it, but last Sunday he had not been in church. His young partner had tried to reassure Cara that he was merely resting. She and Adam stopped by Doc’s rooms after church, and he was in bed. He looked quite pale.

“Don’t worry, Cara,” Doc had said. “I will be up and around enough to give you away on your big day.”

Courage to Forgive Chapter Three

Chapter Three

On Saturday morning, Philip brought up the subject of finishing the upstairs.

            “I thought you were going to cut and sell some firewood first,” Cara said. She did not have the money to continue with the project.

            “I don’t think we need to worry about that now,” Adam said. “I have some money, between what you paid at harvest and the time I spent working with Dan Taylor.”

            “Do you think you should spend that on the house?” Cara asked.

            “Well, I thought—” Adam looked at Remmie’s curious eyes and stopped. He had thought the house would soon be his as well, when he married Cara and moved in. Putting some of his money into it instead of waiting to cut and sell firewood seemed like the obvious choice, as Philip would be moving in a couple of weeks.

            After the children were in bed, Adam sat in the front room with Cara, greasing his boots.

            “Philip thought we should talk things through,” Adam said.

            “I think so, too. I don’t expect you to pay for the repairs to the house. That is your money.”

            “Will I be living here after we are married?” he asked.

            “Of course you will, but that doesn’t mean—”

            “Doesn’t that mean the house will be mine, too? I thought we would make it our home, together.”

            “I haven’t really given it any thought,” she admitted. “But you are right. It will be your house, too. And your farm.”

            “I know the farm is being held in trust until Remmie turns twenty-one. I don’t expect you to change that.”

            “We will want to have the will changed, if we can, and put the land in your name instead.”

            It was practical, but not the best choice. Adam had already given it some thought. “I think you should keep it the way it is, Cara. If anything should happen to me—”

            “Adam, don’t even say it!”

            “I don’t expect anything to happen, but the farm would be secure. Let’s just leave it like it is, for now.”

            A smile turned up the corners of her mouth. “You’re not thinking of walking out if things don’t go right, are you?”

            “No, of course not!” Then he saw her smile, but he remained serious. “No, I won’t do that. I can’t imagine things ever getting to the point where I would even want to. I think we are going to have a good marriage.”
            “I do too,” she said, blushing as he rose and kissed her.

            “So will you let me put some of the money from harvest into finishing the upstairs into bedrooms?”

            “Yes, whatever you think is needed,” she agreed.

            “Now, what kind of wedding ceremony do you have in mind?” he asked.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” she said. “With Lem, the preacher came and married us here. Doc and Gran stood as witnesses.”

“I think my ma is hoping we could get married in the church,” he said.

“I don’t think the preacher would marry us,” she said.

“I could ask him. That is, if you want me to.”

“Philip has mentioned a couple of times that he would marry us,” Cara said, “Of course, that was when he thought we ought to marry right away.”

“I think he still thinks that. That is why I did not want to ask him to marry us. It may go against his conscience.”

“I would hope not, after seeing how things really are between us. I doubt that Reverend Mathers will be any less judgmental.”

“If you don’t want me to ask him, I won’t.”’

Cara thought about it. “If you would like to talk to Reverend Mathers, I don’t have a problem with it.”

“We’ll find someone who will marry us in March,” Adam said. “Now, my ma mentioned that she would like to have you over for dinner after church tomorrow.”

            “Then we will go.” Cara did not sound very happy, though.

            “You don’t really want to go.” It was a statement, not a question.

            “I like your family.”

            “But – you don’t want to spend time with Eliza and Bertha, am I right?” Without giving her a chance to respond, Adam said, “Eliza has a hard time holding her tongue. I’ll warn you that whatever you say to her, she will tell her ma, and word will get around.”

            After Adam greased his boots, he put them on and stood up. “I think it’s time I was heading out to the cabin for the night.”

            “All right, then.” Cara rose, also.

            “We’ll be going to church together tomorrow, right?”

            “Yes, I suppose so.” She tried to smile.

            “I plan to sit with you and the children, just so you know.”

            “All right.”

            Adam wrapped his arms around Cara and drew her close. As she snuggled against his chest, he said, “I’m not ashamed of marrying you, Cara. I want the whole world to know.”

            “If you’re sure – “

            “I’m sure. Are you?”

            When Adam held her, everything felt like it was going to be all right. “Yes, I am sure.”

            “Good night, then.”

            In the morning, Cara dressed in the blue dress she had worn on her trip into Cooper. It felt so good to be out of the black mourning dress. She shaped her hair into a smooth bun and fastened it with hairpins. A quick glance into the looking glass gave a satisfactory result, and she went about her morning tasks.

            The children were happy about going to church. “I like church, Ma,” Remmie told her.

            “I like church, Mama,” Rose repeated. “We sing.”

            “Yes, we sing at church,” Cara said.

            “You don’t sing, Ma. Why don’t you?” Remmie asked.

            Cara’s cheeks felt warm with embarrassment. “I don’t know the songs.”

            “I don’t know the words, either. When will I know how to read them?”

            “When you go to school.”

            Adam talked as he drove the buggy to church, but Cara did not say much. She was worried about how people would respond to their engagement. People already talked about her and Adam. Now, they would have even more to talk about.

            When they arrived at the church, Adam helped them down from the buggy. Cara saw his parents near the door of the church. She thought they looked grim as Adam approached, carrying Hope.

            “Good morning, Ma, Pa,” he said.

            “Good morning, Adam, Cara,” Dinah replied. She fussed over the baby. “She’s growing more every day, I believe.”

            “She’s healthy, thankfully,” Cara said.

            “Are you coming to our house for dinner?” Dinah asked.

            “Yes, we are. If that’s all right.”

            Adam glanced at Evan, who nodded, although his smile did not reach his eyes.

            “Did you have a nice birthday?”

            Cara was surprised by Dinah’s question. She looked askance at Adam. His face flushed red. “Did you have a birthday?”

            “I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want you to make a fuss over it.”

            “I would like to have known,” she said, feeling more than a little hurt.

            “You would have wanted to buy something for me, and I didn’t want you to go to that expense.”

            He was right, but still, Cara felt disappointed that he had not told her. “What day was it?”

            “It was on Friday.”

            “What are you now, twenty-two?” Evan said, making it sound as if Adam were still a child.

            “Yes, Pa.” Adam’s response was quiet. Cara could tell he was upset.

            A glance at Dinah showed that she sensed the tension, also. “Shall we go in?”

            “Do you mind if we sit with you?” Adam asked as they made their way up the steps.

            “No, of course not. We have enjoyed having Cara and the children sit with us and, well, you’re welcome, too.” Cara saw that Dinah didn’t look as though she meant what she said. She sensed that Adam’s ma was worried about how it would look to others.

            It seemed that all eyes were on them when they walked towards the front of the church and sat down. Evan sat at one end of the pew, and then Dinah, then Charity sat next to her. Cara sat down with Rose, and Remmie sat next to her, leaving the end seat for Adam.

Doc came in with the new doctor, Dr. Byford. There was not enough room in the pew for them. Doc greeted them all heartily, and they sat in the row behind them.

            “Doc!” Rose exclaimed, turning around in the seat. Cara shushed her. He reached into his pocket and drew out three peppermints, which he handed to Cara. She gave one to each of the children, and Rose quieted down.

            Agnes Morrow, the dressmaker and a friend of Dinah’s, came up to them. She looked surprised to see Adam sitting with Cara and the Kenleys, but she recovered quickly. She greeted the Kenleys, and then smiled at Cara. “Mrs. Bancroft, it’s nice to see you in church again this morning.”

            “Thank you. I understand you are the person to thank for the ladies’ generous donations.”

            “Well, I don’t know about that. Some of us were talking about what we could do for the missionaries, and I guess I’m the one who suggested it. Everyone else readily agreed.”

            “We certainly appreciated the gesture, and it came at a good time for us.”

            Agnes moved forward to the piano and began to play the opening music. Cara rose with the rest of the congregation. She did not recognize the song, however. She tried to listen to the words. Dinah had a pretty soprano voice. She already knew she liked Adam’s singing voice, but it was pleasurable to hear him. Once, she looked over at him, and caught his eye. He grinned at her, with a warm look in his eyes, and he missed a few words of the song.

            The preacher spoke about letting go of past sins and beginning again. It was an appropriate message for the start of a new year, and Cara listened with interest. She could relate to some of the message. There had been many changes for her this past year. It had started off on a dreary note, alone with the three children in the house. Doc’s visits had made the winter bearable, and when Adam came in the spring, he had brought laughter back into her home. His help over the summer had given her hope. The harvest had been plentiful, so she could keep her farm.

Dinah had been there to help after Hope was born, and later, when Rose cut her leg, the Kenleys had stepped in and helped. Through some misfortune, Cara had discovered that she could trust in God, and accepted salvation. Now, Adam wanted to marry her. The preacher said that the New Year was a fresh start, and full of wonderful promise. Cara silently agreed with him.

There was joy in her heart when the preacher closed his message. After the benediction, Adam turned to Cara. “That was an uplifting message.”

“Yes, it was. A fresh start to the New Year sounds wonderful.”

Rose had fallen asleep in Adam’s arms, and he carried her out to the buggy. Hope awakened and cried as they left the church, so Cara fed her on the way to the Kenleys’ farm. She almost dreaded the visit with Adam’s family. Dinah was kind enough, and his brothers were pleasant. But Evan was obviously uncomfortable with her relationship with Adam. His sisters-in-law were not friendly towards her. She did not look forward to spending any time at all with the sharp-tongued Eliza.

She had worried needlessly. As they took off their wraps inside the warm house, Dinah was there. “Eliza and Obed went to dinner at her ma’s house today.”

Cara hoped her relief was not too evident. A quick glance at Adam showed that he, too, looked glad.

While Adam visited with his pa and his brothers, Remmie and Rose stayed with him, playing with the blocks. Charity followed Cara into the kitchen. Cara helped put the meal on the table. Bertha was polite as she greeted her.

“We have some good news,” Dinah said. “Bertha and Reuben are expecting a little one.”

Cara was surprised, but she was very happy for the couple. “That’s wonderful,” she said sincerely.

Bertha seemed pleased by Cara’s response.

The first time Cara had dinner with Adam’s family, he sat at the opposite end of the table from her. Today, his ma seated him close by. He felt that this was a sign that his ma accepted his relationship with Cara. Remmie sat on one side of him, and Rose sat between him and Cara. Charity was seated next to Cara, and there wasn’t anyone beside her on the other side of her. Still, Charity seemed to be looking around the table more than she was eating her food. Her eyes looked wide and scared, like a doe in the woods when he came upon one. He couldn’t help but notice that Cara had the same look in her eyes. He knew she was uncomfortable with his family, and wished he could say something that would put her at ease.

For the most part, the women were quiet while the men conversed. Adam listened as Reuben and his pa discussed their plans for spring. After a little while, Reuben turned to him.

“How are things looking for the farm this spring, Adam?” Reuben asked.

“I think we’re going to buy a new team. Cara’s horses are getting old and slow.”

“Ophelia worked them for ten years or more before she passed away. It’s no wonder they’re slowing down,” Evan said.

“Have you been looking for a team?” Reuben said.

“Not yet. Do you know of any?”

“Rumor has it that Luke Potter bought a team to train. You probably wouldn’t want anything to do with that, would you?”

Adam glanced over at Cara. She looked a little pale. “Not really. We aren’t exactly on speaking terms.”

“He’s a good horse trainer, despite his personal life,” Evan said. “You might want to ask him about it.”

Adam caught his ma’s eye, and she gently shook her head. He was surprised. She didn’t usually contradict his pa. It must be something she felt strongly about.

“It might bring more trouble on us than what it’s worth.”

“Rose is almost falling asleep in her plate,” Cara said quietly.

Adam looked and saw that she was right. “I guess it’s about time for us to go, so she can take a nap.”

“She’ll be all right for a little while yet. I want to help your ma and Bertha in the kitchen.”

As Cara started to help with the dishes, Hope awakened and began to cry. Adam went into the bedroom where she had been sleeping, and carried her into the front room. He held her while he visited with his pa and his brothers. When she began to cry in earnest, he took her into the kitchen.

“I think she wants her ma,” he said with a grin.

“I suppose it’s time we go,” Cara said in an apologetic tone.

“Bertha and I can finish the dishes, Cara,” Dinah said. Bertha looked a little cross.

“If you’re sure,” Cara said, looking at Dinah.

It was obvious his ma cared about Cara, as she smiled at her in a maternal fashion. “We’ll be fine,” she said reassuringly.

“All right, then.”

“I’ll get the buggy hitched while you dress the children,” Adam suggested.

By the time he had the buggy at the door, Cara and the children were bundled in their winter wraps. He saw them standing on the porch, and he felt a sense of pride as he realized they would soon be his family.

Two more Sundays passed before Doc declared that Ayla was well enough to be moved into his house in town. The featherbed that had gone to the upstairs bedroom was moved back into the Ackerbys’ wagon, and Ayla was laid carefully on it, and covered with quilts. Cara felt tears as she told her friend goodbye.

“I am not moving far,” Ayla said, but her eyes too were filled with tears. “You will have to stop by and visit us when you make it to town.”

Life settled into a quiet routine after the Ackerbys left. In the mornings, Cara fed the baby, then rose and prepared breakfast. By the time Adam came in from the barn, the food was hot. Instead of eating after he left, as she had done since last summer, Adam insisted that she sit down and eat with him and the children.

            “We are a family now,” he said one morning.

            “Are we a family, Adam?” Remmie asked innocently.

            Cara looked thoughtful for a long moment. Adam wondered how she would answer her son. He wisely kept his thoughts to himself. “Adam is a very special part of our family, Remmie,” she said.

            This seemed to satisfy the youngster without going into a detailed explanation. Adam wished Cara would tell the children about the upcoming wedding, but he would not contradict her wishes.

            Seth and John came to help Adam cut down some trees for firewood. It was too dangerous for Remmie to accompany him. Once the trees were felled, and if it wasn’t bitterly cold, Adam took Remmie along with him while he dragged the logs to the barnyard behind Raider. Then he sawed them into chunks the right size for the stove and split them. It was back-breaking work, and he came in at noon for a hot meal, tired.

In the afternoons, Adam had odd jobs to do in the barn, and Remmie followed him. The two were nearly inseparable, but Cara no longer worried about their closeness. Instead of leaving in the spring, Adam would become a permanent part of their family. It was good that Remmie would have a pa to look up to.

Without Ayla and Philip to visit with, Cara felt lonely sometimes when Adam and Remmie were gone. She did her housework diligently, and baked something nearly every day. Baking gave her something to do with her hands, and the girls liked to help her. It also kept the kitchen warm and cozy. Yet she missed the adult conversation, and looked forward to Adam’s return for the evening meal.

One day, it was especially sunny with a mild temperature. Adam took the children sledding down the big hill. Cara and the baby watched them from the porch, until it was too cold for the children to play. Then they came inside the house for hot cocoa and cookies, with red cheeks and much laughter.

The following morning, Cara awoke to a blizzard. She worried about Adam, down in the barn, and wondered if he would find his way up the hill to the house. Chores must be done, in spite of the bad weather. During the last few winters, she had tied rope from the porch to the door of the barn. The rope guided her, and she had always found her way to the house.

She was relieved when Adam came in, with only his eyes showing between his warm hat and knit muffler. There was ice on his eyelashes.

“You made it,” she said with relief.

“Did you think I might get lost?” In spite of the lightness of his voice, he looked grim.

“I wondered – “

“I learned long ago to tie rope between the house and the barn. I had a feeling last night that we might get snow, so I tied the rope to the porch before I returned to the cabin. It guided me this morning.”

“I’m so glad.”

Adam came forward and embraced her. “I was never so happy to see the light in the kitchen as I was this morning.”

She felt her heart lift as he kissed her and held her in the circle of his arms. Practicality won out, and she stepped away. Adam let her go reluctantly.

“Breakfast is ready. I’ll pour a cup of coffee for you.”

            Perhaps because the air was so cold, the children slept longer than usual. Hope awakened first, and Adam held her on his lap as he drank a second cup of coffee.

“She is a pretty thing.”

 “Pretty is as pretty does.”

  “She is such a happy baby. How can she be anything but a pleasant child?”

  “We’ll see how her temperament is as she grows older.”

 “All of the children are different in temperament, aren’t they?” Adam said.

 “Yes, they are. Remmie is an obedient child, but he is starting to question why he has to obey. I hope he won’t become difficult to discipline.”

 “I can’t imagine that he will. Rose, on the other hand—”

“She is a handful. So opposite of Charity, who is meek and obedient.”

“I think you must have been an obedient child.”

Cara laughed. “I remember when I was little, and my ma and I lived in Charleston. I had fits of temper if I did not get my way, and my great-aunt was forever accusing my ma of spoiling me.”

“I can’t quite believe that you would have a temper.”

“I outgrew it, especially after my parents remarried and we moved west. My ma was sick most of the time, and I think that tamed my temper. Then there was not a lot of money, so I got used to not having what I wanted.”

“I was obedient most of the time,” Adam admitted. “Of course, I knew what would happen if I sassed Ma or failed to do my chores. Seth never learned to shape up, though. He would rather get the switch than do what he was told.”

“I think your ma had her hands full, raising five boys.”

“Did you know there was a little girl, born between Obed and myself?”

Cara was surprised. “No, I did not know that.”

“She took a fever in her sixth month, and died within a few hours. Ma never said much about her, but I always wondered what it would be like to have had a sister.”

“That would have been nice for your ma, to have had a daughter. She likes to do things with Charity and Rose.”

The children came into the kitchen for breakfast, and Cara and Adam drank a second cup of coffee while the children ate.

“What will we do today, Adam?” Remmie asked.

“We’ll have to stay indoors, Remmie. The wind and snow are blinding, and we can’t go outside.” Remmie looked disappointed. Adam said, “I have some idea how to pass the time. Do you think Remmie is too young to play checkers?”

“I don’t think so,” Cara said with a smile. “In fact, I think checkers sounds like a fun idea.”

“Do you play?” Adam was surprised.

“My pa taught me, and we played when he was home, which wasn’t very often. I haven’t played in a long time.”

“Do you have a checkerboard and checkers?”

            Cara found the game in a cabinet in the parlor, and dusted it off. Adam and Cara played a few games to show Remmie how it was played.

“You are quite the competitor,” Adam said as Cara won a second game.

“You are letting me win,” she scolded him.

“I’m not letting you win. You are beating me.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but anyway, it felt good to do something so carefree. Adam won another game, and then Cara said it was time for Remmie to play. Rose wanted to play, too, so Adam held her on his lap and showed her where to move the checkers.

Remmie caught on quickly, but he was no match for Adam. Adam won a game, and then he let Remmie win. Cara questioned even more whether she had won her games fair and square, but either way, it was a delightful way to pass the time.

As the weeks went by, they attended church together. Cara felt uncomfortable at first, convinced that everyone was looking at her and Adam. Slowly, she grew more confident in her relationship with Adam, and began to worry less about what other people thought.

His ma continued to show kindness towards her, accepting that she would soon become her daughter-in-law. Evan was still gruff, but he was kind to the children and civil to Cara.

After church on Sundays, Adam and Cara always went to his parents’ house for dinner. She was becoming better acquainted with Bertha, who seemed to soften towards her now that she was going to become a mother, also.

Often, Eliza was gone to her parents’ home, and Cara enjoyed those days more. However, sometimes she and Obed joined them for dinner, and she was very unpleasant to Cara.

“I don’t know if she will ever accept me as part of the family,” Cara said one afternoon when they were heading home.

“She will have to accept you, sooner or later.”

Cara wasn’t too sure. “She may always resent me.”

Adam put his arm around her shoulders. “That won’t make me change my mind,” he said reassuringly.

Cara smiled, but at the back of her mind was the fact that Eliza, and many others in the community, were against her marriage to Adam.

The reverend was concerned when Adam approached him about marrying them in the church.

“I am not sure the congregation will approve of you marrying the widow Bancroft in the church.” When Adam frowned, the reverend added, “Philip Ackerby has assured me that the rumors about her past are false. And he has also given the assurance that you and Cara are not involved in a relationship.”

“But you don’t believe it, do you?” Adam asked.

The reverend could not quite meet his eyes. “It is hard to reconcile what he says with what I have heard spoken of. And even if I am convinced that nothing is untowardly in your relationship with Cara, there are many in the congregation who still hold that opinion.”

“Does it matter what the congregation thinks?” Adam asked. “We will only be inviting relatives and close friends.”

“If that is the case, then I don’t think you need to hold it in the church,” the reverend stated. “A simple ceremony in your parents’ home will do.”

Adam was hesitant to tell Cara what the reverend told him. She had known he was going to speak to the reverend, so that evening, when she had put the children to bed, she asked about their conversation.

“I am afraid he is against the idea of performing the wedding in the church,” Adam said, although he did not go into details about the reasons.

To his surprise, she looked relieved. “I do want to keep the ceremony simple,” she admitted. “It’s my second wedding, after all.”

“But it’s my first one,” he reminded her. “And I know my ma was hoping we could get married in the church.”

“I would need a new dress, and the children will need new things, if we were to stand up in front of the church.”

“I would like you to have a new dress made, anyway,” Adam said.

She frowned. “My dresses are perfectly fine. The one your ma made me for Christmas is beautiful. And you chose the pattern yourself.”

He chose to reply with tact when he saw the stubborn lift of her chin. “You are beautiful in that dress. But it is a calico dress, appropriate for working around the house.”

“I have my blue one,” she said. “I wear it to church.”

Again, he chose tact. “My ma mentioned to me that you asked the dressmaker about new dresses, before Christmas.”

Cara felt a guilty flush spread through her cheeks. She was not sure why Dinah had told Adam that, but she recalled mentioning to the dressmaker that she wanted to see her about having new dresses made. Her time of mourning was over, and she only had the blue dress to wear to church. She had hoped to have new ones made, but the cost of having the upstairs bedroom completed, before Christmas, as well as feeding and housing their guests, had drained her financially.

“I know you don’t have a lot of money left,” Adam broached the subject carefully, as she did not like to discuss finances with him. “I can pay for your wedding dress, and something for the children.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to argue, but she conceded. “I don’t want you to be ashamed of us, and I don’t have anything nice enough.”

“I can never be ashamed of you,” he said. “But my ma would expect you to wear something nice.”

“Do you think she would go with me to visit the dressmaker?” Cara asked. “She is acquainted with Mrs. Morrow and would have some idea what is appropriate for a wedding.”

Dinah agreed to go into town with her. Evan offered to take them, and the children, except for Hope, stayed home with Adam.

Cara was nervous about appearing in town with her future mother-in-law. She noticed that no one looked the other way when they saw her coming, as they used to do. Now, they spoke to Dinah, and some even had a smile or a kind word for Cara. She felt her confidence growing as she walked into the dress shop.

To her dismay, Belinda and her mother were in the dress shop, looking at fabrics and talking with Agnes. They all looked up as Cara and Dinah entered the shop. There was a look of cold disdain on the faces of Belinda and her mother. Cara felt the coldness in their looks clear down to her toes. It was obvious that they did not like her, nor approve of her upcoming marriage.

Agnes had a warm smile for them, however.

“Well, Dinah and Mrs. Bancroft, how may I help you?”

“You might as well get used to calling her ‘Cara’ now, Agnes,” Dinah said with a smile. “She won’t be ‘Mrs. Bancroft’ much longer.”

Cara thought she saw tears in Belinda’s eyes, before she looked away. Was she still in love with Adam, she wondered?

“I think I’ve seen everything I want to see, Mother,” Belinda said loudly.

“Yes, dear, I think it’s time we left.” Mrs. Bishop glared at Cara as she walked by. When they were almost to the door, Mrs. Bishop could be heard saying, “I’m surprised that she will be seen in public with that woman.”

“I think they are talking about me,” Dinah said with a tight smile, when they were gone.

“So it seems. How are you doing with all of this?” Agnes asked, as an old friend would.

Dinah laid a hand on Cara’s shoulder. “I love Cara like my own daughter, Agnes. I don’t think I could ask for a better person to be marrying my son.”

Cara’s cheeks flamed with embarrassment, but the words warmed her heart.

“Well, now, that’s the way it ought to be,” Agnes said in a practical manner. “What can I help you with? Shopping for a wedding dress?”

Agnes showed Cara some of the fabrics that would be “perfect” for a wedding. “Maybe you should buy a set of these hoops.” She held up a wire contraption. “These are all the rage now.”

Cara eyed the apparatus with some misgivings. She understood the concept – the hoops went under a skirt to make it billow out. It didn’t look very comfortable, and it wasn’t very practical.

“How much would it cost?” she asked.

Agnes named the cost of the hoops. Cara hesitated. Agnes said, “Of course, you can get almost the same effect using a number of petticoats.”

Cara glanced at Dinah, feeling somewhat hopeless. Adam had offered to pay for her wedding dress, but she did not know if he would approve of all the items that would go along with it. She thought it would be quite expensive.

“I think this color is especially becoming for you,” Agnes said, holding a light blue silk against Cara’s cheek.

“It is beautiful,” Dinah agreed.

Cara’s face flamed red at the attention the two women were paying to her. Her quiet response was polite but noncommittal. “They are all very lovely, but I will need some time to think about it.”

“It will take some time for me to make up the dress,” Dinah said.

“Why don’t you let me do it?” Agnes suggested. “You can buy the materials, and I won’t charge you for the sewing. It will be my wedding gift to you.”

“You don’t have to go to all of that trouble, Agnes. I’m sure Cara and I can manage.”

“It would be my pleasure.” There was sincerity in the dressmaker’s eyes that Cara found believable. Still, she hesitated.

“Thank you for offering. I will let you know soon.” She smiled, hoping that Agnes would not be offended.

It did not appear that Agnes was offended. She smiled in response. “That will be fine. You can let me know as soon as you make a decision.”

When they left the store, Dinah said, “That is a most generous offer that Agnes made. She is a very talented seamstress.”

“I know. Do you think she meant it sincerely?”

“She would not offer if it were not something she wanted to do.”

“I just hate to have her do it because she feels sorry for me.”

“I think she feels guilty for not reaching out to you sooner. It might do her some good to do this for you.”

“I’ll think about it.”

They saw Doc coming out of his office. He looked glad to see them. “Dinah, Cara, what brings you to town today?”

“We’re dress-shopping,” Dinah said.

“Dress shopping for the wedding?”

“Yes.” Dinah smiled.

“Did you find anything, Cara?” Doc’s eyes warm and kind.

“I saw some things I liked.”

“You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the wedding, Cara,” Doc said. “I know you don’t have parents to put on a wedding for you.”

“It’s not going to be a fancy wedding, Doc, just a simple wedding in the Kenleys’ home.”

“Be that as it may, I’d like to pay the bill for the wedding.”

Cara felt herself blushing. “That won’t be necessary.”

“It is necessary.” Doc put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You’re the closest thing to a daughter I’ve had, Cara. You and I are like family, aren’t we?”

Tears stung Cara’s eyes as she met Doc’s earnest gaze. “Yes, we are.”

“Then you’ll let me do this for you?”

Cara hesitated. She hated to take money for anything, from anyone. It had been hard enough to allow Adam to pay for her wedding dress. And she did not want to burden him with additional costs of a wedding.

“I think it’s the right choice, Cara,” Dinah said quietly. “If you had parents, they would pay for your wedding. Doc is like a father to you.”

“And I can afford it,” Doc said. “You don’t have to worry about expenses, Cara.”

“I don’t like to accept charity.”

“It isn’t charity. You and the children – you are my family.”

Cara smiled through her tears. “All right, then.”

“Now, let’s go into the dress shop and have a talk with Agnes. Then I want you to get everything you need for the wedding, and some new clothes besides. What is it called when a bride gets a new wardrobe, Dinah?”

Dinah smiled. “A trousseau.”

“Well, then, that’s what I want you to do, Cara.” Doc took Cara’s elbow and led her to the dress shop. Dinah followed.

Inside, Agnes looked surprised to see Dinah and Cara returned, especially when she saw Doc. “How can I help you?” she asked in a stammering voice.

“I’d like to pay for Cara’s wedding dress, Agnes, and anything else she needs. Do you think you could set her up with a trousseau?”

Agnes’ smile was pleasant. “Of course, we can do that, Doc. I’ve already told Cara I will make her wedding dress, as a gift.”

“Only if you want to, Agnes. I’ll pay for everything else.” Doc stepped towards the door. “Now, I’ll leave you ladies to your shopping.”

When Doc left, Cara looked at the dressmaker, embarrassed. “Doc is like a father to me.”

“I know, my dear. I think it’s a wonderful thing he is doing.”

“Do you think you could keep it among us? I wouldn’t want everyone to know what he is doing.”

Agnes smiled her reassurance. “Of course. Now, what material did you particularly like?”

Cara liked many of them, but the one that caught her eye was the blue silk. “I think I like this one the best,” she said.

“That is a beautiful choice,” Agnes said. She brought forth a Godey’s Lady’s Book. “Now let’s look at some ideas for a dress.”

Cara looked through the book with all of its lovely dresses. They were all elegant, but most of them were too fancy for what she wanted. She had worn fancy dresses for her season in Charleston. At the time, it had been wonderful to be in the height of fashion.

Her eye caught one dress that had an understated elegance. The bodice was light blue. It had a high neckline, with a collar of lace fastened with a cameo brooch. The sleeves were long and puffed out, gathered at the wrist with lace trim. The skirt, made of dark blue silk, had two tiers, one dark and one light blue.

“I like this one the best,” she said.

She saw the look that passed between the two women. She saw their surprise, and their pleased expressions. “I think that is a very good choice,” Dinah said.

Agnes nodded her agreement. “Very good, indeed. It has an understated elegance, not a lot of lace and ruffles, but beautiful in its simplicity.”

“Will it be too much trouble to make up?” Cara asked doubtfully.

“Not at all. I will have it done in time. We will need to take your measurements, of course.”

When Cara realized she would have to take off her dress to be measured, she stopped short. Her undergarments were the ones her grandmother had sewn for her before her marriage. She could not show them to the women, who might not understand why they were so ragged and patched.

She was saved from having to do so when Hope started to fuss. “I will come another time to be measured,” she said. She would have some new undergarments made up first. Doc wanted her to have a trousseau, and he would not want her to be embarrassed by her old things.

“I think we perhaps have made Evan wait long enough today,” Dinah said.

Evan did not let on that they had been too long at the dress shop, but he also did not talk on the way home, so Dinah and Cara did not talk, either.

When Evan drove into the yard, Adam came out of the house, followed by Rose and Remmie.

“Did you find everything you need?” he asked.

“And then some,” she said, giggling.

“We will leave now,” Dinah said.

“Thank you for going with me, Dinah.”

“Don’t you think it’s time you called me, Mother?” Dinah asked with a smile.

Cara felt tears sting her eyes. “That would be very nice, Mother Kenley,” she said, trying out the new phrase. She saw the tears in Dinah’s eyes, and knew that she was moved, also.

“Well, then, we’ll be seeing you on Sunday,” Dinah said, before Evan turned the horses around and started back to their farm.

When Dinah was driving away down the hill, Adam put his arm around Cara’s waist. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel wonderful, and strange, all at once. I can hardly believe life can be so good.”

“Yes, it is, isn’t it?”

“Doc said he wants to pay for everything for the wedding. Do you think it will be all right?”

Adam didn’t look surprised. “I think that will be very good. He’s like a father to you, and he must feel like it’s his place to provide for you.”

“If the dress is anything to go by, it might prove to be expensive,” Cara said in concern.

“Doc can afford it. From what I hear, he has a hefty bank account that he hardly ever touches.”

“Is that so?” Cara was surprised. “I’m surprised people know that.”

“He and his wife purchased the land where the town is, and sold the lots. They were quite wealthy, from what I understand. But after his wife died, Doc never spent much of the money. At least that’s what I’ve heard.”

Cara rested her head against Adam’s shoulder, and he squeezed her shoulders. Hope started to wail, and Cara sighed. “It’s time I got back to the real world of caring for my children.”

“I think that stew you put on the stove this morning is ready to eat. After you’ve fed Hope, we’ll sit down and have some lunch.”

Adam scooped Rose up into his arms, and they all traipsed into the house. If anyone could have seen them walking together, they would have understood how all of them belonged together as a family.

            That evening, they decided to tell the children that they were getting married. They had agreed that Adam would bring up the subject.

“Remmie, I would very much like to marry your ma.”

Remmie’s eyes got big and his mouth stretched into a broad smile. “Yes!”

“But the wedding won’t be until March.”

“How long is March?” Remmie asked.

“It is two months’ time.”

“That is a long time.”

“There are many things we have to do before we can be married, Remmie,” Cara said.

“What kind of things?”

Adam met Cara’s eyes, and she shook her head. There was no good way to explain their reasons for waiting.

“Grown up things,” Cara said.

Remmie did not look happy, but his enthusiasm returned when Adam asked,

“So, Remmie, do I have permission to marry your ma?”

Remmie’s enthusiasm was contagious. “Yes, you do!”

Author Interview: Lisa Dunn

My guest today is Lisa Dunn, author of the YA Fantasy series, The Chasmaria Chronicles.

Lisa, thank you for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born in Michigan, raised in Florida, reside in South Carolina, and dream of settling down in a remote cottage on a wild, windswept shore where I can soak up vast beauty and pour it into stories that move readers’ souls. A great-aunt referred to my grandmother as “a rare mix of mystic and common sense,” and I may have inherited more than my fair share of that. Even I can’t predict whether I’ll meet a tragic situation with tears, philosophy, or bizarre humor. Truthfully, it’s usually a socially awkward combination of all three.

What is your series about?

THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES is a trilogy that follows Grit of Berth and Stone from a village that puts self above all to a kingdom where truth, goodness, and beauty reign. In the sequel to the series, HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG, readers journey into a monster-infested land with two of the trilogy’s supporting characters taking the lead. HEARKEN is all about holding onto hope despite our failures and devastating circumstances.

What is the inspiration behind your books?

THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES sought to answer the questions of what a world without love would look like and what would happen if love crashed into it.

HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG addresses deserts of faith—the fears, regrets, guilts, and sorrows we bury deep in our hearts and that stand in the way of hope. The bulk of the book was written during the isolation and uncertainty of the early phase of the pandemic, and I think that helped me get a little deeper into the mindset of Clan Crowley, as well as to understand Slate’s frustration with them and Bard’s love for them—in short, to grasp the reality that most of us, even if we disagree, are just doing the best we can with where we are and what we have.

Now for some questions that readers want to know the answers to:

What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?

I grew up surrounded by books. My father tucked my sisters and me into bed with impromptu tales peopled with characters from C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald and characters of his own imagining. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing with stories in my head. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when one actually made it onto paper, but it was a big, wonderful surprise when one, two, three, and now four made it into the hands of readers I’ve never even met.

Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story? 

Always. I tend to have a relatively decent idea of where a story is headed before I start, but I never fail to discover something I hadn’t anticipated in a character, whether it be a motivation, a fear, or a facet of their background or nature that changes everything. For example, when I first conceived the plot for HEARKEN, I imagined Slate as an upbeat, ambitious young man, but when I started writing in earnest, the events of the trilogy hit hard, and I realized that Slate had a lot of baggage to deal with. The same applies to Bard. I thought he was a sweet, lighthearted poet, but the boy has some serious issues. Getting to the truth of who each of these characters is was a challenge, but one I hope paid off in the end.

How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?

I get this question a lot, probably because I was very intentional in naming the characters in the trilogy. You’ll have to read the books to find out the significance of individual names, but I’ll say this much: Grit’s community waits until a baby’s first birthday to bestow a name, which the dame (mother) bases upon characteristics she’s observed in the infant. The names aren’t necessarily complimentary. In fact, some of them are downright rude. But each name winds up having a deeper meaning that offers a sense of  hope and redemption to the one carrying the name.

What does your family think of your writing?

It’s a mixed bag, actually, but I’m okay with that. I don’t expect everyone I know to read my work, and some of them haven’t. Nor do I expect everyone to enjoy my work. Most, but not all, have enjoyed my books, but I don’t take it personally if they don’t, knowing we all have our own preferences. My daughter, for example, wasn’t a fan of my Fantasy, but she is THE BIGGEST FAN of an unpublished Contemporary Young Adult story for which I’m currently seeking publication. The important thing is that every single one of my family members—husband, children, siblings, mother, in-laws, and beyond—have been supportive in different ways, granting me time to write, listening to me untangle plot and character development knots and challenging me in the process, buying books, recommending them to others, and gushing, gushing, gushing.

Who was the first person you allowed to read your completed book?

My sister has been the first reader of most of my books, chapter by chapter in the beginning. She has a knack for pointing out weaknesses and nudging me deeper into the heart of whatever story I’m writing. After having her at my side all the way through the Chasmaria trilogy, it was actually kind of terrifying to send HEARKEN into the world without  her feedback. I was enormously relieved when she remarked that it was the best book yet.

Do you have a favorite author or book?

That award is going to have to go to A SEPARATE PEACE. John Knowles has a gift for writing deep, complex, incredibly human characters, characters who tell us so much about the human condition, and each time I’ve read A SEPARATE PEACE, Knowles digs deeper into my heart.

Thank you for joining us today, Lisa.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently seeking a literary agent to represent the Contemporary YA novel that turned my daughter into a fan.  After that, I have a completed epistolary YA novel that deals with who we are and how we and others perceive ourselves. Finally, I’m working on a coming of age, twisted fairy tale that fans of ONCE UPON A TIME and INTO THE WOODS will love.

Before we go, where can readers find you online?

Christmas Novella Spotlight

Author’s Inspiration:

            After my first book was published and family and friends read Christmas Confusion, they wanted the other sisters’ stories. So, I hurried, wrote Sweet Summer, and submitted it to the publisher. The publisher liked the book, but they didn’t have room on the schedule to release a full novel that year. I didn’t want to wait two years for my next book, so I looked around and visited my sister’s vacation home on Hatteras Island. We visited the December after Hurricane Dorian devastated Ocracoke Island. We took the ferry and drove around the island. I wanted to write a story that highlighted the island and its people and all their needs—and courage. Christmas on Ocracoke resulted.

About the Book:

Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband, because more than anything, she wants to get her son away from his father’s partying and neglectful ways. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.

When their parents died in a tragic car accident, Trey Kingsley dropped out of college to raise his sister. Now that she’s grown and moved away, it’s his turn to find a life of his own. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, it surprises no one when he offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke?


What a way to make a fresh start.

Annie Hanahan glanced back via the rearview mirror and said a quick prayer of gratitude that her baby boy was too young to know what was going on right now. She’d die in shame, or eternal pre-teenaged mockery if he was, say, a decade older. Instead, her two-year old son waved his hands in the air and grabbed a toy Brontosaurus from the diaper bag propped open next to his car seat. 

The police officer drew even, and she lowered the driver’s side window. Up till now, she’d gone her whole life without a ticket.

“Good morning, ma’am. I’d ask if you knew how fast you were driving, but I’m guessing you figured that out by now.”

Annie concentrated on her breathing and not crying. “Yes, sir. I was going 80 in a 65.” So was every good ole’ boy along this stretch of the road, but if she’d been the low hanging fruit, so be it. “I’m sorry.”

The state trooper started to smile but must have remembered who he was and squashed any close-to-human expression from his face. “Well, ma’am, sorry is a good thing. Can I see your license and registration?”

This morning’s almond milk soured in her gut. “I can give you my license, but I bought this car yesterday and only have a temporary registration. My proof of insurance is for the old car.”

“Just give me what you have, and we’ll go from there.” Cars raced past them, behind his back, undoubtedly confident in their own speed now that one of their own had been sacrificed for the cause. 

She located her license and handed the card to the officer. 

“Annie Hanahan?” Officer–she squinted against the morning sun–Parker, looked from the license to her. “Any kin to Coach Hanahan?”

            Annie grimaced. Switching names was difficult, but leaving behind her well-known family might be impossible.

About the Author:

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and the American Title IV Contest where she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include Christmas Confusion, Sweet Summer, Christmas on Ocracoke, and Why They Call It Falling. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the LowCountry of South Carolina with her husband, two children and her crazy cat Chessie Mae.

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Social Networking Sites:

Twitter: @ChristinaSinisi


Instagram: @csinisi123





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