Amy tucked the corner of the sheet underneath the bed and took a step back. She swept her eyes over the room, making sure that she had cleaned everything properly. Cleaning rooms, helping at the hotel, serving guests… it was nothing she really enjoyed. Unfortunately, the necessities of life were something that couldn’t be ignored.
The air smelled musty and a slight twinge of whiskey wafted up from below.
Amy hated that the saloon was right next door to the hotel. She hated the constant noise and the drunk men who came to eat in the dining area of the hotel, and every other thing that was caused by the saloon being so close.
She rolled her shoulders, wincing at the ache in them. She had been at the hotel since early that morning and she still had to go home, make dinner for her sisters and then fall into bed and prepare to do it all over again.
It was a dismal life, one she wanted to change as soon as she could, but so far, she hadn’t had much luck in changing anything.
Amy took the basket with the dirtied bedclothes and turned toward the hall. She closed the hotel room door gently behind her and walked down the stairs to the dining area below. She took the time to drop off the laundry in the wash area and then put on her shawl. While the weather in Texas was rarely cold enough to warrant a coat or a shawl, she still liked to have it on to protect her from the occasional breeze.
As she stepped out of the wash room, she nearly ran into Liz: the owner of the hotel. Well, technically she and her husband Alan were owners, but everyone knew it was Liz who kept the place running smoothly.
“Are you headed home then?” Liz asked. She was a bubbly woman who always had a smile. Amy had the highest respect for her. As long as her workers were in the hotel, Liz was always there a bit later. She was working hard beside them from sun up to sun down.
She always had a kind word and an understanding smile. Her round cheeks were a bright pink from whatever she had been doing before she found Amy.
“Yes, I need to get back. I’m sorry I can’t stay late today. I know you could use the help.” Amy wished sometimes that she could stay longer hours at the hotel. Liz and Alan had made it clear that anytime she wanted more hours, she was free to work more, and they would compensate her at her normal rate. But Amy had responsibilities at home.
“Don’t worry, Amy. I’ll see you tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day.”
“When is it not a busy day?” Amy asked.
“Always. You’re right. It always is a busy day.” Liz shook her head as if she couldn’t quite believe it.
Liz’s hotel had a huge advantage in that it was practically a glorified boarding house. They were the only place to stay in town if you didn’t have a ranch or relative, and lately that seemed to be the case more and more. Most of the rooms in the hotel were filled with men who had purchased a room for a couple months at a time while they started their ranches or other small businesses.
As the town grew, the business in the hotel seemed to expand. Lately, the hotel population seemed to grow daily.
“Goodnight, then. I will see you tomorrow.” Amy forced a smile and then turned and walked out the door. She paused a second, savoring the fresh smell of the air. Sometimes working in the hotel all day long was suffocating in a way.
It was evening and the sun was already falling down to the horizon. The soft glow of warm colors tinted everything, making it seem magical. Amy almost felt like crying taking in the beauty of it. It was rare when she was able to see the sunset and take a moment to enjoy it.
It was so beautiful that she found it overwhelming.
She forced herself to start walking. The walk home was a decent distance and she didn’t want to wait until it was dark to start. As she went, she nodded politely to people she passed, whether she knew them or not. Even though the town was growing, she knew most of the people in the town. There was sense of community, even though Amy felt little in common with anyone that she knew.
When the cabin came into view, Amy paused again. The ranch always struck her as smaller than it was before. Their ranch had ceased growing in any way a long time ago. There had been a day when her parents had spoken of how they would grow the place, make it profitable and create a home. But those words were lies just like most of what came out of her father’s mouth.
Amy hated that she had to call him that; father. But she hadn’t been given a choice on her parents. She took a deep breath and prepared herself before opening the door to the cabin. Immediately she could tell that it was one of those bad days.
Sophia and Mae were nowhere to be seen. Her sisters were good indicators of what sort of a day it was. Even at thirteen, Sophia was smart like that. Mae was the older one, but she often followed Sophia’s lead when it came to their father.
Amy set her things on one of the simple benches in the parlor, and headed toward the kitchen. She could hear her parents’ voices. They weren’t yelling, but they were discussing something quite passionately.
“I’m back,” Amy announced as she stepped into the kitchen. She wasn’t sure if they had even heard her walk through the front door.
“There you are. I was wondering if you would come back today. You know, if I had a son, he would come back at a decent hour,” Her father’s critical words came tumbling toward her as if he couldn’t help himself.
There would have been a time when Amy would have felt terrible at hearing his words. She would have wanted to cry, or talk to her mother about it. But not any longer. She had built up armor around her heart and her feelings a long time ago. Now the angry words simply bounced off of that shell and fell on the floor.
The familiar smell of whiskey wafted off of his breath. Her father’s eyes were red and he looked angry. It was one of those night’s that he’d drunk enough to be a terrible person, and yet, not enough to where he went straight to his room and slept.
Amy met her mother’s gaze. It was apologetic and full of sympathy. Amy had learned a long time ago that her mother’s sympathy was nothing that could help her. Her mother lived in fear and tried to keep her father happy; although that was an impossible feat.
“I had to work a few extra hours. Are the girls already in bed?” Amy addressed her mother. It was already a known fact that she ignored her father most of the time. Most days, he accepted that. There were some days, though, where he demanded that she pay attention to what he had to say.
Amy knew she could leave at any time. She was twenty-two, plenty old enough to seek her own fortune and find a way for herself. But she wasn’t willing to leave Mae and Sophia. They were the two reasons that she was here. Amy loved her mother, but she had chosen the life that she had with Amy’s father.
“That’s no excuse,” her father grumbled.
“Ma, are the girls in bed?” Amy repeated the question, ignoring her father bluntly.
“They are. They have already had their supper. Would you like something to eat?”
“Thank you,” Amy sank into the chair at the kitchen table and watched her mother serve her a plate of food.
Her mother set the plate in front of her with a soft smile and reached out, touching Amy’s shoulder. “We’ll be in the other room.”
“Is everything all right, ma?” Amy asked, glancing toward her father who was far away enough that he couldn’t hear her.
“It is. Don’t worry. It’s just a bad night.”
“Okay.” There was nothing that Amy could do if her mother didn’t ask for help. She felt forlorn. Amy despised her father for what he had turned their family into. But she was almost equally as angry at her mother on some days. Her weakness was what refused to defend her and her sisters from her father’s words and actions.
If Amy didn’t have her job at the hotel, they wouldn’t have food to eat and her sisters would most likely not have the books they needed for school, clothes to wear, shoes or anything else.
Most nights, Amy came home to make supper because her parents would be too busy talking or arguing. Sometimes her mother was just zoned out as if she were trying to come to terms with what her life was. But Amy was determined to change things. She already had a plan in motion. Soon, she would take her sisters and she would give them a proper family and a happy home.
She knew that one day, things would get better for her mother too, but when that would be was a mystery. For now, she needed to work hard and be patient. Then she would be able to change everything for her sisters and her family.
Once she married Carlyle things would change. She would be able to run her own house. She would make sure her sisters had three proper meals. Maybe she could even work less at the hotel with Carlyle’s income beside hers. She had discussed with him that she wanted to bring her sisters to live with them once they were married.
He had agreed. They didn’t love each other, or at least Amy didn’t love him. There were times when Amy was certain that Carlyle did love her. He had been kind considerate and extra thoughtful most every time she had spoken to him.
They didn’t get a lot of time together because the both worked, but Amy was hopeful that she would get more time to get to know him once they were married. She still wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But marrying for convenience was something she had come to terms with a long time ago.
Amy set the huge stack of dishes down in the wash area of the hotel. The familiar ache in her shoulders was back, even though she hadn’t worked as long as she had in the past. She only had an hour left before she was getting off from work and she would be meeting Carlyle. It had been a few days since they had spoken to each other. She knew it was long overdue and she wanted to see him. It was a strange feeling to have for someone who she didn’t love. She liked him fine. He was like a good friend who she could rely on. Maybe she was excited because it was something different in her day and a symbol of the life that she was closer to building for her sisters.
The last hour seemed to fly by. When Amy was ready to leave, she went into the back to find Liz.
“I’m heading out. Have you seen Carlyle? He told me he’d meet me in the dining area, but I didn’t see him out there. Did I miss him?” Amy had introduced Carlyle to Amy a few weeks after they had started officially courting.
Liz had never been supportive of their relationship, but she would never say why.
“You were supposed to meet him tonight?” Liz looked surprised.
“Yes. I thought I mentioned that a couple days ago.”
“No, you didn’t – but he’s not here.”
“You say that like you know where he is.” Amy’s heart fell. She suddenly had the feeling that she wasn’t going to like the place that Carlyle was.
“I do. He’s over at the saloon. Alan went to drop some things off over there a few hours ago and said that he saw Carlyle there. You know I haven’t said much about Carlyle or how the two of you have decided to be together. I should have said this a long time ago, but he isn’t a good man.” Concern lined Liz’s eyes.
“What do you mean? I’ve been seeing him for almost five months now. Why wouldn’t you say something before? He’s always treated me right. Are we talking about the same Carlyle?”
“Yes. The blacksmith. I didn’t want to say anything because I figured that you’d noticed his habits and it really is none of my business.”
“What did you not want to say anything about?” A sick feeling was filling Amy’s stomach.
“Nothing, dear. Just be careful. He’s over at the saloon.” Liz pulled out the money that Amy was due for the week. She tucked it into Amy’s hand with a weak smile. “Here’s your pay, Amy, I’ll see you on Monday.” Liz turned away and began taking care of the dishes.
Amy wanted to ask more, but she figured that she would have to ask Carlyle. She had never seen him act badly. But she only saw him once a week, sometimes once every other week. Could it be he had been hiding a side to him that was bad?
Her father came into mind. He was often perceived as a good man in town. He always tried to protect his reputation, or at least he used to. Lately, he’d not cared who saw him drunk or yelling. Was she about to repeat the mistake her mother had made? She hoped not.
Amy hurried over toward the saloon. She didn’t want to go into the saloon, but she wanted to find Carlyle. He knew exactly when she got off of work and he had said that he would meet her in the dining area.
Amy hesitated outside the saloon. The smell of smoke and whiskey was accompanied by loud music that made Amy’s head throb and the raucous laughter of drunk men.
She knew that women like her didn’t go into saloons. Women in saloons were seen in a different light. She decided she would just go in, get Carlyle, and get out. Maybe he had come by here for something else and gotten distracted talking with someone he knew.
As far as Amy knew, he did not even drink. He had never mentioned that he visited the saloon or that he enjoyed drinking. As soon as Amy pushed her way through the swinging doors of the saloon, she could sense eyes on her.
It made her uncomfortable. Her dress was modest. Her hair was put up. Everything about her was done up right. But she still felt as if she were vulnerable and in a bad position the moment she stepped through the swinging doors.
It didn’t take her long to spot Carlyle. He was toward the back at a table with two other men. The three of them had drinks in front of them and cards spread across the table. They were gambling.
As Amy drew closer, she recognized the signs she had seen her whole childhood of a drunk man. Carlyle’s focus was off, his eyes were red, his movements were uncoordinated.
“Carlyle?” Amy asked. She didn’t want to believe the scene that was in front of her. The one reason that she had accepted marrying Carlyle was that she thought she was getting away from this type of person forever. She thought she would never have to deal with a man who came home drunk, after spending all of his money and having nothing to contribute to the family needs.
When Carlyle saw her, he first looked worried. But whatever he had drunk seemed to numb his feelings and senses and his worry melted away to happiness.
“Amy! Thank goodness you’re here.”
“What?” Amy couldn’t fathom why he was happy she was there. “You were supposed to meet me in the hotel dining area.”
“I know, I know. But I promised them I’d play one game, and I lost. I had to win my money back.” Carlyle’s voice was almost whiny, as if he were a child explaining why he had stayed out late to play.
“You haven’t won a single thing all night.” One of the men who was playing laughed, a gloating smirk on his face.
“One more game, I can earn it all back with one more game.”
“You don’t have any money left.” The man who had mocked Carlyle the first time started to pick up the cards.
Amy watched as if she were in a trance. She wanted to turn and leave, never come back and forget that she ever knew Carlyle. But now that she was hear, she needed to deal with what was in front of her.
“She has money,” Carlyle turned to Amy, “Don’t you Amy? You get paid at the end of the week.”
The men around the table laughed, as if seeing Carlyle ask his girl for money was comical.
“No, I do not have money for these sorts of habits. I have money for food and to pay the expenses this week.” Amy’s voice sounded strange to her ears, as if she had something in her throat.
“What sort of habits? Come on, Amy. I am just trying to earn a little extra money for us.” Carlyle stood and took a step toward Amy.
As he did so, he stumbled. Amy hurried forward to help him as if it was a reaction. She didn’t know why she was helping him. She should have let him fall to the floor right there in front of her.
Once he was steady and she was sure he wouldn’t topple over, she took a step back.
“Amy, I need that money. I’ve lost everything today, I need to earn it back.” Carlyle’s voice had lost its soft pleading. It was sharp, demanding, and making Amy’s head spin.
“I am not giving you any money. You know how hard I work for the money I earn. That is how I feed my sisters and my family.”
“I’m going to win it back. I’ll give it back right here. Why did you even come here if it wasn’t to help me? Come on, baby. Just give me a chance and I’ll win us a bunch of money.” Carlyle was nothing like the kind man that Amy had gotten to know. His kind considerate nature was gone. It was replaced by anger and demands and a personality that Amy never could have guessed that he possessed. She suddenly had new understanding for her mother, and how she could have been so fooled by her father.
“You won’t win it back! You’ve already lost everything you had. I will not be giving you a single penny. Do you understand me?” Amy glanced around through tear filled eyes. They were standing toward the back of the saloon and most of the people were a good distance away. but everyone was looking toward them. Some were pointing and most were whispering.
How had she allowed herself to fall into this position? In as many years as her father had come to the saloon to drink, she had never come into the saloon to get him. She’d always waited for him to come out. But here she had been caught off guard. She hadn’t expected Carlyle to be gambling or drinking. She clearly didn’t know him as well as she thought she did.
“Amy, I’m not asking you again. Give me the money now.”
“No.” Amy kept her voice even.
“You are going to be my wife. It is practically my money already anyway. Don’t you see that? You will be giving me money in the future when I need it. I am not going to be taking this sort of thing once we are married.” Carlyle reached out and grabbed her wrist.
“Stop!” Amy pulled her wrist from his grasp. “I am giving you nothing, and you are wrong. I will no longer marry you. I thought… I thought you were different.”
Amy struggled to breathe. She didn’t know why it was affecting her so much. She had never tricked herself into thinking that she would be in love with Carlyle or that they would have a perfect relationship. But she did trust him. She had built all of the hopes for her future around him. Her plans for her sisters rested on him.
Why had she given in to that perfect dream? She should have known that it was impossible.
“Amy, you can’t just call off our agreement like that. This is just… it’s a mistake.” Carlyle suddenly seemed to realize what he had done. Hearing her say that she was no longer going to marry him must have made him shake himself from his delusion.
“I am calling it off right this minute. The only reason I wanted to marry you was because I thought you were different from my father, different from so many people – but I can see that you are exactly the same!”
Amy glanced at the men who were at the table a few feet away. She didn’t know if they could hear what they were saying or not. If they could, it did not appear as if they were paying much attention.
They were laughing among themselves and dealing out a new group of cards for a game.
“Amy, we can talk about this. Let’s meet tomorrow when I’m sober. I can fix this.” Carlyle had flipped from angry to sad. Amy knew that this sort of trick would work on some, but she’d had too much experience with men like Carlyle. She had been treated like this by her father. She had seen others be treated like this. It wasn’t true. He would say what she wanted to hear if he thought it would keep her from going.
“Goodbye, Carlyle.” Amy turned on her heels and walked away. The tears in her eyes wanted out. They were begging to be let free. But Amy was determined not to cry in front of Carlyle. He was a terrible man. He had deceived her. He had made her trust in a man who didn’t exist. She would never forget or forgive him for that.
“This isn’t over!” Carlyle’s slurred voice called out behind her, his anger rising once more.
As she made it to the entrance of the saloon, she glanced back to see him talking with the men at the table. They were laughing, looking her way. For a second, she wondered what they were saying about her, but then she convinced herself she didn’t care.
She didn’t want to know what lies he was making up. There was a good chance he was making up plenty. But knowing what it was wouldn’t help her.
She could see all of the plans and security she had dreamed of in the last few months melting away. She had nothing. She had her job, a meager savings under her bed and hopes in her heart. But there was nothing behind those hopes anymore.
There was no hope at the end of the nightmare. She stumbled as she hurried home. It was already dark, and a cruel breeze was whistling around her causing goosebumps to raise on her arms. The road was blurry because of the tears that had begun to stream down her cheeks.
Sadness and despair crashed over her in waves. The feeling of helplessness and knowing that every bit of work to change things rested on her shoulders alone enveloped her.
When she arrived home, her sisters were eating something at the table. It appeared that Mae must have cooked something. Amy hurried past them to the room the three of them shared. She laid down on the bed and let the rest of her feelings pour out.
When Mae and Sophia came in, she had calmed some, but the deep sadness was still there.
“What happened?” Mae asked, sitting down on the bed beside her.
“It was Carlyle. He was at the saloon.”
“He drinks,” Mae said with understanding. “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry. I thought he was going to change things for us. He was supposed to be our second chance.”
“We don’t need him. We just need each other. You have always taken care of us. We can be there for you too.”
“I know but I just feel like I’ve let you down.”
“You haven’t let us down.” Sophia spoke for the first time. For thirteen, she’d grown up too much already.
“I will find another solution. Right now, things are just… hard,” Amy said with determination. Amy accepted Mae and Sophia’s hugs. They were right. as long as they had each other, it would work out. But Amy knew that she needed to find someone else. She couldn’t do it on her own. As much as Mae and Sophia thought they could, it would be nearly impossible. A woman alone with no man to back her was disadvantaged in this world.
Mark opened his eyes to a bright hot sun streaming through the window. That was one thing in Texas that was fairly consistent, although, there were times when terrible cold or stormy days would take everyone by surprise.
Mark couldn’t get up to look out the window. He couldn’t even turn over in his bed. It hurt to breathe. His side felt as if one hundred tiny knives were cutting into him.
Cracked ribs were nothing to be fooled with. He had never thought that the simple trip to get wood would result in him being useless for the next month or two. He hadn’t seen the rattlesnake in the road until it was too late.
The wagon was loaded tightly. It had been done properly. But when the rattlesnake spooked the horses, they had run off, not willing to listen to his instructions. When they left the road there had been a tree in the way which caught the wagon wheel and tipped both him and the logs out.
It would have been fine, and he probably would have escaped with a few minor scrapes and bruises if he hadn’t been trapped under some of the logs he had been hauling.
A knock at the front door of the cabin and then the sound of someone opening it and walking inside made Mark try to turn his head and upper body to see who it was but the sharp pain arrested his movement.
“Richard? Is that you?” he gasped. Richard was his best friend and so far, the one person who had helped him the most during his ordeal.
“Yes, it’s me. Do you really think that anyone would steal from you in the condition you’re in? They would have to be heartless.”
“It isn’t unheard of.” Mark cringed and clutched his side as he made the mistake of trying to adjust his position again.
“Come on now,” Richard helped him get up and between the two of them, they managed to get Mark through his morning routine and then back into bed. He couldn’t walk by himself, even if his ribs weren’t as painful as they were because he had also broken his leg. The heavy cast was hard to maneuver and using the crutches with his cracked ribs was like torture. Mark had done it a few times when he had some extreme need, but he had regretted it every time and felt like he had nearly not survived.
“So, the big day is almost here.” Richard sounded proud of himself.
“Don’t remind me.” Mark groaned. He hated to think of what he had agreed to.
“Come on, she is sure to be nice. She was nice in the letters, was she not?” Richard asked.
“Yes. But she is a mail order bride from New York. First of all, there’s no way to tell what she is really like. Secondly, New York isn’t exactly ranching territory. What are the chances she knows how to do the things that need doing around here?” Mark had decided to get a mail order bride when Richard had convinced him it would be a perfect opportunity to have someone take care of him and help him full time. But more than that, he would be able to marry someone who truly wanted him and didn’t care about the fact that he had a decent amount of money in savings, a working ranch, and was on his way to being one of the biggest and most successful ranchers in his town and those surrounding it.
“Well, you’ll just have to meet her now and see if she is what you expected. Besides, it’s not like you exactly wanted to hire a nurse.” Richard shrugged as if he weren’t to blame, even though it was him who had insisted that Mark should get a mail order bride.
“I didn’t want a nurse because I like my privacy. Who knows what a nurse would say about me after she left and was done with the job?”
“I know. You have a good point, which is why I still stand by what I originally said, mail order bride was the best solution for you.”
“That remains to be seen. I still have to meet her. And she’s not coming for another two days.”
“I know, but that will pass in no time.”
“Are you going to be able to manage the ranch hands today?” Mark asked. He didn’t like his workers seeing him this way. It felt like he was useless now that he was so injured. He knew that they didn’t hold it against him, especially since he was injured while working, but he still felt like they saw him differently.
Whenever Richard could, he managed the ranch hands, telling them what to do and inspecting their work. But there were days when Richard had things to manage on his own ranch and Mark had to do it. He dreaded those days.
“I have time today, but tomorrow you’re on your own.”
Mark nodded. He wasn’t about to ask Richard for more than he could do. “Do you really think this whole business of getting married is a good idea?”
“Of course, I do. You need the help. Besides, she can probably even manage some of the stuff with the ranch hands. The simple stuff anyway.” Richard looked uncertain and Mark shared that sentiment. He wasn’t sure that a woman from New York with no experience on ranches would be able to handle overseeing ranch hands.
“Anyway, you can’t send her back now. She is coming and hopefully she will be the right one for you.”
Mark nodded, he hoped so most certainly.
He had never thought he would marry someone he had never met before. But no one in town seemed like someone he could imagine living with. The women in town were either already married, or they were only interested in him because of what he might be able to offer them one day. And lots of men got their wives through the mail these days.
He certainly wasn’t what you could call the wealthiest man alive, but he had enough to live by. The way that his ranch was growing, he knew that it was very much a possibility that his ranch might grow to be one of the biggest in the west. That was one of the things that Mark dreamed about.
He worked long days with full hours, always using his time to the fullest. He was doing his best to make his dream come true. He had agreed with Richard that if he managed to get a mail order bride, she could marry him without knowing his reputation. She could love him for him.
But Vivian, the young woman who had responded to his ad looking for a mail order bride, there was no telling what she was expecting. In her letters she sounded fit for the job, but one never knew until they really met one another whether the chemistry would be right.
Richard was right, the only thing he could do was wait and meet her and then he would know.
“Her Glimmer of Hope” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Amy has always had a hard life as from a very young and innocent age, she was the main caretaker for both of her sisters. Her cruel father drinks away his money and her mother is kept busy with his many unreasonable demands. The only thing that matters to Amy is to create a better life for her sisters. Out of nowhere, an exciting opportunity presents itself, when a letter with an interesting proposal arrives. Amy jumps at the chance to become a mail-order bride and promises to return once she is settled to take her sisters away too. Although a bit reserved and reluctant at first, Amy can’t deny the respect and admiration she feels for her future husband. Could these emotions turn into something deeper and stronger that will heal Amy’s tormented soul?
Mark has fallen on hard times since he suffered a terrible accident that incapacitated him and put him in need of someone to nurse him back to health. With prompting from his best friend, he realizes that a mail-order bride is the solution he is looking for. To his disappointment, the woman who shows up at his doorstep is only interested in materialistic things, so Mark knows she is not the right option for him. He longs for a loving and loyal wife who is willing to stick with him for the rough times as well as the good ones. His wish comes true, when Amy appears after her cousin’s invitation and Mark can tell that she is the one his heart has been waiting for. Will he manage to break her walls and earn her trust, before it is too late?
When Mark and Amy meet each other, there is an instant spark between them. However, as their fragile relationship grows, secrets from the past arise, threatening to tear them apart. When everything is exposed about both of them, can they fight for one another until they find love? Or will they give up and lose each other forever?
“Her Glimmer of Hope” is an intriguing cozy mystery novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, just pure captivating mystery.