For personal use and select distribution only (c) March 2000 by J B Williams
Where the Heart Is
Written by J. B. Williams
She looked out the window of the train lost in thought yet she was still alert. She could never let her guard down again. If she did they might find her. Could she ever feel safe again? She looked across aisle to see a young couple that obviously had just recently married. They could not take their eyes off each other. She remembered that feeling and was almost jealous of the young couple. She must have been staring at the couple because the young woman introduced herself.
“My name is Colleen Cook and this is my husband Andrew. Are you going to Denver?”
“Actually I am headed for Colorado Springs.”
“That is where we are going too.” “I grew up there.”
“I was not aware that anyone from Colorado Springs ever left town.”
“Well not many people do, but since the railroad came to town it makes it easier to travel.”
Andrew then asked, “Are you just visiting Colorado Springs or are you relocating Ms…..?”
“Oh I am terribly sorry my name is Beth Parker. I am the new teacher in Colorado Springs.”
“Oh yeah, my ma told me Mrs. Slicker decided to stay home with her new baby.” Colleen said.
“Where are you from?” Colleen asked.
She had to think for a second “Uh… I am from back east.” She had been practicing her story in her mind for several days but her new identity was still foreign to her.
Andrew said “Really! I am from Boston and Colleen’s mother is originally from Boston as well.”
What were the chances of someone living in the Colorado territory being from Boston? Now she would have to change her story.
“Oh well, I uh… am from Hartford, Connecticut.”
“Well, speaking for Colorado Springs, welcome.” Colleen said
“Do you still live in Colorado Springs?” Beth asked
“Yes, well for the time being. We are returning from our honeymoon.” Colleen and Andrew smiled at each other and both blushed. “I am a doctor at the Springs Chateau, we will stay through the summer. Then Colleen will start medical school in Philadelphia and I will start a new practice there.” Andrew said
and wife team, how exciting!” The idea of a husband and wife team was
no new concept for Beth. She
once again felt a sharp pain in her heart. She just smiled and wished them luck. She and the young couple visited for the remaining hour of the trip.
As the train pulled into the station Beth took a deep breath. She hoped she would be safe here. As she got off the train and started looking for her luggage she saw that Andrew and Colleen were greeted by a group that she assumed was their family. She knew that she would never be able to experience the same homecoming. Which made her feel more alone than ever. Colleen must have noticed the look in her eyes because she quickly came over to Beth and asked if she would like to meet her family. “Ma, Pa, Matthew, Brian this is Beth Parker. Beth this is my mother Dr. Quinn, my Pa Sully, my two brothers, and this beautiful little lady is my little sister Katie.” Colleen said as she tickled Katie. “Beth is going to take Mrs. Slicker’s place at the school.”
“Well Ms. Parker we have been anxiously awaiting your arrival.” Michaela said with a smile. “My son Brian is one of Mrs. Slickers top students.” Michaela said proudly.
Brian lowered his head and blushed. “I like learnin is what she means.” Brian said with his head still down.
What a nice family Beth thought. Oh how she missed her family. “I am sure he will do fine, Mrs…. Uh… Dr. Quinn is it? I have heard of woman doctors back east but I never thought I would meet one here in the Colorado territory.” Beth said.
“Well, I honestly never thought I would be practicing in the west but here I am. It was probably the best thing I ever did.” Michaela said as she smiled at Sully.
“Where ya from Ms. Parker?” Sully asked.
“Oh I am from Connecticut. Hartford to be exact.”
“I am originally from Boston myself.” Michaela said.
“Yes, I know Colleen told me. Well I will let you get back to your reunion. If someone could just point me to Mayor Slicker’s office I would appreciate it.”
Matthew said, “I’ll walk ya there it is right next to my office. I’ll meet ya’ll at Grace’s later Dr. Mike”
“It was nice to have made your acquaintance Dr. Mike, Mr. Sully”
“You can leave your luggage here and we can get it later.” Matthew said
“Thank you Mr….?”
“Matthew is just fine. In Colorado Springs everyone is pretty laid back.”
“Thank you Mr… uh… Matthew.” Beth said.
“What sort of business are you in Matthew?”
“I just started my own law practice.” Matthew said proudly.
“Really, where did you go to school?”
“Well, I ain’t exactly a real lawyer but I have defended a few people. I even defended a man who was accused of murder.” Matthew boasted.
“Did you win?”
“Well then I would say you are an excellent lawyer. Murder is a hard charge to defend. Especially if the prosecutor has credible witnesses who are willing to testify. Most people who are on trial for murder are usually not acquitted.”
“You sound as if ya know a lot about law. Do ya have any lawyers in your family?” Matthew asked.
“Uh … no… I uh… like reading about court cases.”
“Well here we are; Mayor Slickers office.”
Beth looked at the small building and read the sign: JAKE’S BARBER SHOP.
“Is his office in the back?” She asked somewhat confused.
“No” Matthew smiled. “He is also the town barber.”
“Oh, I guess I am not well versed in the small town political system.”
“You’ll learn soon enough.” Matthew said with a smile.
She thanked him again before he left to meet his family at Graces’. She walked up the steps and knocked on the door. No one answered so she knocked again this time she peaked through the window to see if anyone was inside. It wasn’t until she was about to knock again that she saw the small sign hanging in the window that said: OUT TO LUNCH. She decided that she would just simply wait. She sat down on the bench in front of his store. As she sat she watched the people go by each heading for a different destination. She thought the town seemed very peaceful nothing like she was accustomed to. The people here dressed quite differently. She looked down at her expensive dress and was glad she had bought more “rustic” clothing on her travels. The town probably had less than 200 people. She had that many people on her street alone back home. Home. It seemed so far away. She wondered if she would ever find a place to call home again. Each time she found a place in which she felt safe she was forced to sneak away in the night to avoid being caught. She hoped this time they would not track her down.
When Matthew arrived at Grace’s Sully was just about to toast the newlyweds. The whole family was there as well as Dorothy, Mr. Bray, Grace and Robert E.
“To Colleen and Andrew may you be as happy as Michaela and I are.”
Everyone raised their glasses of lemonade and said cheers.
“Did Ms. Parker speak with Jake?” Michaela asked.
“I am not sure. I left before she went inside.” Matthew said.
“Who is Ms. Parker?” Dorothy asked.
“She is the young woman who is going to take Mrs. Slicker’s place at the school.” Michaela said.
“What is she like?” Dorothy asked.
“She is from back east.” Colleen said.
“Is she married?” Dorothy asked.
“No” Matthew said.
Everyone turned to look at Matthew.
“I mean, she was not wearing a ring so I assume she is single.”
The whole group just smiled a mischievous smile at Matthew.
“Now don’t try going and fixing me up again. I ain’t interested. We just got a Cooper married off, that should cover our family for a few years.” Matthew said.
“Its good to have you kids home. I have to finish my article but I am sure I will see around.” Dorothy said.
The Sullys and the Cooks finished their reunion lunch and all went their separate ways.
“Can help you with something miss?” Jake asked.
Beth had been in deep thought and had not seen Jake and Teresa coming up beside her.
“Oh I am just waiting for Mayor Slicker.” She said politely.
“Well ya found him. What can I do for ya?” Jake said.
“I am Beth Parker. I am the new teacher. The telegram I received said I should meet with you as soon as I arrived.”
“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Parker. This is my wife Teresa and our baby Angelina.” Jake said proudly.
“You are here earlier than we expected.” Teresa said.
“Well I thought I would arrive early and establish a residence before I began teaching.” Beth said.
“Actually I am pleased. It has been difficult for Reverend Johnson who has been teaching and preparing his lessons for Sundays.” Teresa said as she looked down at her baby.
“Well I must say that if I had a beautiful baby girl like that I too would be tempted to stay home.” Beth said with a smile.
“Thank you Ms. Parker.”
“Well let’s go inside and we can discuss your new job and its requirements.” Jake said.
When they walked in Teresa excused herself so that she could feed the baby. Jake offered her a seat at his desk.
“Ms. Parker, as you know our school is a one room school house and has kids from all ages in it.”
“Yes, I am aware of that. I will simply modify my instruction for each age level.”
“Are you married Ms. Parker?”
“Well I guess I need to go over a few rules we have for our unmarried teachers.” “Rules?”
“Yes, rules. You are not allowed to go to the saloon, you must be in church every Sunday and you must let the town council know before you start courtin someone.”
“Well Mr. Slicker, I never go to saloons, I am always in church on Sunday, however, I do not believe it is any of the town council’s busy who I associate with. If I choose to have a gentleman escort me somewhere that is my decision not the town councils. Now having said that, I will say that I am here to teach not to find a husband so I doubt I will be “courting” anyone.” Beth said angrily.
“I didn’t mean to upset Ms. Parker, but you are teaching the town children and folks here want to know their kids are being taught by a proper lady.”
“I can assure you I am “proper” Mr. Slicker. Is there anything else I need to know Mr. Slicker?”
“Just that you start Monday, if that’s alright with you.”
“Yes that will be fine. Now Mr. Slicker can you tell me who I must speak with to purchase suitable lodgings.”
“Well you can go to Bray’s Mercantile and look for an advertisement but I don’t think anyone is selling any land.”
“Thank you and good day Mr. Slicker.”
“Your welcome Ms. Parker.”
When she arrived at Bray’s Mercantile she was disappointed. There were no advertisements for homes or even land.
“Is there something I can help ya with Miss.” Mr. Bray said.
“Yes, I am the new teacher and I need to establish a residence. Do you know of anyone wanting to sell some land.”
Mr. Bray had noticed how well Beth was dressed and how proper her language was and figured she must be wealthy. Loren always looking to make money asked what type of home she was looking for.
“Well nothing too fancy, just some place clean and in good condition.”
“Well I have a small homestead just outside of town. It is small but it’s in fairly good condition.”
“How much are you selling it for?”
“Well how about $4.00 a month?”
“Mr. Bray I may be a woman but I am not stupid, $4.00 is a little too high don’t you think, especially with the way the economy is right now.”
Mr. Bray was taken by surprise. Beth was right, he had assumed because she was a woman she would not know anything about money.
“A man’s gotta make a profit don’t he?” Mr. Bray said defensively.
“That is some profit Mr. Bray. Why don’t you tell me what the total cost is and let me see it and then we can come to an agreement.” Beth said.
“Fair enough. But you will have to wait until I close before I can show you.”
“When will that be”
“In another hour.”
“Well in the meantime I would like to purchase some supplies. Is it alright if I leave a list and you can give them to me when I return?”
“Alright Mr. Bray, I will be back in hour. In the mean time can you tell me where I might get something to eat?”
“Over at Grace’s Café near the meadow.”
“Thank you Mr. Bray, I will see you in one hour.”
“You’re welcome Ms……?”
“Ms. Parker. I am the new teacher.”
“Well then in an hour Ms. Parker.” As she left Mr. Bray said to himself, “Just what this town needs another pushy female!”
Beth found the meadow and began looking for a Café but all she saw was several tables and a couple of stoves. There was a black woman who was moving quickly from each table delivering food as well as a smile. Beth found a table and seated herself. She did not see a menu and as she looked around she saw that everyone was eating the same thing. Meatloaf. It wasn’t her favorite but she was starving and even meatloaf smelled good.
“Can I help you Miss.” Grace asked.
“Yes, I will have the daily special I guess.”
“Well I ain’t so sure its special but you’re welcome to try it.” Grace said with a smile.
“What would you like to drink?”
“Coffee will suffice. Thank you.”
“Coming right up.”
While she waited
Beth took in the scenery. The meadow was beautiful. She watched as children
were playing with a ball and chasing each other. She was not used to seeing
meadows and wild flowers growing or children playing outdoors. Everyone was
in such a hurry back home no one had the time to “smell the flowers.”
Everyone in Colorado Springs seemed nice and walked as if they had all the time
in the world. She could tell they were all hard working people by the way they
dressed. Although there was one man who was dressed in a nice suit. He was arguing
with the man she had recognized as the saloonkeeper who she had seen while waiting
for Mr. Slicker. She wondered what a man dressed like that was doing in Colorado
Springs. Grace brought her food. “I hope you enjoy it. I will be right
back with your coffee. Grace set a cup down in front of Beth and as she was
about to pour her some fresh coffee a small ball flew the air and hit
the coffee pitcher spilling the hot coffee on Beth’s arm. She let out a small yelp. Everyone turned to see what caused the commotion. Two young boys came running and stopped dead in their tracks when they saw what their ball had done. One of the boy’s mothers grabbed the boys arm and dragged him over to Beth.
“I real sorry ma’am. Apologize Henry.”
“I am sorry ma’am, we wuz trying to see who could throw the ball the furthest.”
“That’s alright, I know it was an accident.” Beth said.
“That’s a bad burn Miss maybe you should go see Dr. Mike.” Grace said.
“Preston why don’t ya take her to Dr. Mikes.”
After noticing that Beth was wearing an expensive dress Preston said “It would be my pleasure Ms..”
“Ms. Parker, but this really is not necessary.”
“I insist.” Preston said holding his arm out to escort her.
When they arrived at Dr. Mikes, she and Dorothy were standing outside visiting.
“Michaela this woman has been injured.”
“Ms. Parker, what happened?”
“It’s nothing really. Some coffee was spilled on me. I doubt it requires any medical attention. It probably isn’t even a second-degree burn. ”
“Well I beg to differ, Ms. Parker your arm is already starting to blister. Let’s go inside.” Michaela ushered her inside.
“Thank you Preston for bringing her.”
“My pleasure as always Michaela.” Once inside she began examining the burn.
“Well, Ms. Parker it is definitely a second degree burn.”
After she had cleaned and dressed the burn she walked over to her medicine cabinets and removed a small metal container.
“Put this salve on it twice a day and keep it wrapped up. It will be tender for a week or so but I do not believe it will scar you.”
“Thank you Dr. Mike I appreciate it. I am sorry I took up some of your time.”
“That’s all right Ms. Parker it is a part of my job. By the way how is it that you know about burns, Ms. Parker?”
“I had a friend once who was burned and I remembered the doctor using those words.”
Beth hoped she would buy that story. She would have to be careful about what she said about medicine or someone might get suspicious.
“Well, I am sorry your first day turned out like this Ms. Parker. I hope it does not make you change your opinion about Colorado Springs.” Michaela said.
“Oh no, Dr. Quinn, on the contrary I think you have a wonderful town here. I feel very safe here, uh I mean I am sure this was a one-time incident. Good day Dr. Quinn.”
“Good day Ms. Parker.”
As she left Michaela could not help but wonder why Beth would say she felt safe here. Most people do not say they feel safe in a place unless they were afraid of something. She looked at her clock on the wall and decided she would close early today so she put up her files and locked up for the day.
Beth pulled her
watch from her purse and saw that she still had thirty minutes until she was
to meet with Mr. Bray. She stared at the watch for a few minutes. It brought
back happy memories but then sadness set in again. She decided she should find
the local blacksmith so that she could purchase a horse and buggy. As she approached
Robert E’s she saw
Grace walk over to Robert E and give him a glass of lemonade and a kiss on the cheek. She missed even those small displays of affection.
“Oh I see Dr. Mike took care of you. I never did catch your name.” Grace said with a smile.
“Beth Parker, I am the new teacher.”
“Well what can I do for ya Ms. Parker.” Robert E said.
“I need to purchase a horse and buggy.”
“Well all I have is that old buggy over there but I have a nice selection of horses.”
She knew she did not have any options so she decided to buy the old buggy. She knew she might need a fast horse someday so she bought the best horse he had. Robert E thought it was a bit strange that she paid for both items with cash and still had a large roll of cash left over. He rigged the horse to the buggy for her. She thanked him and headed for Mr. Bray’s mercantile. Mr. Bray was already saddled and ready to go. He had a wooden box with her supplies in waiting beside him.
“Its just a few miles outside of town. Are you ready?” Mr. Bray asked.
“Not quite. Do you mind if we go to the telegraph office so that I might get my belongings?”
“I guess as long as it don’t take too long I got things I need to do.”
“Thank you for helping me Mr. Bray, I need a strong man to help me.” Beth said with a smile
“Ah don’t mention it. Lets go.”
Mr. Bray and Beth loaded her luggage on the wagon and headed out of town. When they arrived Beth was somewhat shocked. The homestead was not as bad as she thought it was going to be. Loren knew he could get a good price for the homestead. He had bought it cheap from the family who lost their son from the faulty baby bottles he had sold in his store. They had wanted to leave town right away and surprisingly they took his first offer.
“Well Ms. Parker, what do you think?”
“It is very lovely Mr. Bray. Do you mind if I see the inside?”
“Sure. Let me unlock it for ya.”
As Beth walked inside she looked around the small homestead. The furniture was simple but nice. She noticed a baby cradle next to the fireplace. She wondered if things had been different if she would have had a child now. Her heart ached once again for the experiences she had lost.
“I am surprised they did not take their cradle. It is beautiful.” She said sadly.
“Well, I guess they was too sad. Their baby died from a sickness that it got from some bad milk. Dr. Mike did everything she could to save the baby but it still died. They tried to sue Dr. Mike for mal… malprentice….” Loren stumbled over the word.
“Do you mean malpractice?” Beth said with a small smile.
“That’s what I said , malpractice. Anyway Dr. Mike was able to prove that the bottles was what caused the infection.”
“Then why did they leave in such a hurry?” Beth asked.
“I think he was going after the company that made the bottles.”
It had suddenly occurred to her why the story sounded familiar. She remembered when the case went to trial back home.
“Well Mr. Bray I believe I would like to purchase the homestead, but I will not pay more than $2.00 a month.”
She was not about to pay cash for the homestead. She had seen the look in the blacksmith’s eyes when she paid for everything with cash and as she put the rest of the cash back in her purse. She hated to put any in a bank in case she had to leave in the middle of the night again.
“Well, I guess that’s fair, seein as how you are single and teachins your only income. I still think you should pay for two months up front though.”
“Fair enough, Mr. Bray. Here is $4.00.”
“Uh and the supplies are another $3.00”
“Oh yes of course I almost forgot.”
She turned her back to him as she withdrew the money so he would not see the large amount of cash she had with her. Mr. Bray helped unload all of her belongings and then left. After he left Beth found a broom and started sweeping and cleaning. She unpacked her things and then made herself some dinner. As always before she lay down to go to sleep she put her pistol under her pillow.
Back at the Sully house Michaela was washing the dishes and Brian and Sully were designing some new shelves for Katie’s room. As Michaela washed the dishes she thought about her encounter with Beth. She seemed very knowledgeable about medicine yet she refused medical attention. Later when she was having coffee at Grace’s Grace had told her that she and Robert E had noticed that Ms. Parker had a great deal of money with her and paid for everything in cash while most people paid on credit. Loren had also mentioned that she paid cash for all of the supplies she bought from him. Well maybe she came from a wealthy family she thought. She also thought it was strange when she said she felt safe here. Why would you say you feel safe unless maybe you are used to feeling unsafe. Michaela was lost in thought when Sully came up behind her.
“I think you have scrubbed that plate about a hundred times. Is something botherin ya?” Sully asked concerned.
Michaela had not even noticed that Brian had gone upstairs to go to bed.
“Uh.. no.. I mean I was just thinking about one of my patients.”
“Anybody I know.”
“Well yes and no. It was Ms. Parker the new teacher. She was burned today at Grace’s but she did not want me to help her. Grace and Robert E said she was carrying a large amount of money with her.” “
It ain’t a crime to have a lot of money is it?”
“Well no but it just seems strange. She also said she felt safe here.”
“Well why would you say you feel safe unless you really didn’t.”
“She did not look like someone who would be in any kind of trouble.” Sully said.
“There is something about her that does not feel right.” Michaela said.
“Does your head ever take a break?” Sully said with a smile. “I am sure it’s nothin Michaela, and whatever it is it is her business.”
“I guess your right. It is probably nothing.”
She finished washing up and then she and Sully prepared for bed.
“It feels strange knowing that Colleen will not be sleeping here anymore.”
“Well she didn’t sleep here when she was away at college. What’s the difference?” Sully asked.
“I guess because now she will be sleeping at, I mean with Andrew.” Michaela said.
“Remember our first night back home?” Sully said with a smile.
“Yes, I made a fool of myself in front of Colleen and Brian when Brian said you were sleeping with me now and I dropped the dishes.” Michaela said blushing.
“Well its just going to take some getting used to just like it did when we got back from our honeymoon.” Sully said.
“I know, its just I can not get used to the idea that Colleen is a married woman now.”
“You’re happy for her aren’t ya?”
“Well yes of course. I am very happy for her. I hope all of our children will find someone they want to spend the rest of their lives with. I hope they are as happy as you and I. I only wish Matthew could find someone.”
“Let him be Michaela he don’t wanna be with no one right now. He ain’t quite over Ingrid or Emma yet. It might take him awhile.” Sully said.
“I just want him to be happy.” Michaela said.
“I know but right now he is happy bein alone.”
“I guess you’re right Sully. I will back off for a while.” Michaela said with a yawn.
The sun shining in the window woke Beth up. Not that she had really slept. It had been over a year since she had slept through the night. The dreams never stopped. She always felt like she was trapped in a cave running from a beast yet the cave never ended and the beast never slowed. In each dream the beast got closer and closer. She would wake up tangled in the sheets drenched with sweat. Some nights she had dreams of days long ago, when life was happy; the days when she was safe and secure. She wondered if she would ever see those days again. She assumed she would never have happy days again but she hoped that one day she would feel safe. Today was Sunday, a day that she always enjoyed except today would be her first day at the church in town. She had forgotten o ask when the service started. She washed up and changed her bandage. She put the salve on the burn and was thankful that she had let Dr. Quinn help her. As she got dressed she made sure she chose one of her simpler dresses. She had hid in simple communities before and she learned the hard way that most women in small communities did not have the funds to purchase some of the dresses she owned. She chose one of her favorite dresses. It was a blue print with small yellow flowers. As she pulled her hair up into a bun she looked at herself in the mirror. She could not help but notice the dark circles under her eyes. She looked much older than her 26 years. Running ages a person very quickly, and running coupled with sadness adds even more years. She fixed herself some eggs and then hitched the wagon and headed in to town.
Michaela and Sully stood on their porch drinking coffee and enjoying the view.
“You really did choose a beautiful spot to build the homestead Sully.”
“Why thank ya. I thought it was pretty nice. I just wish everyone would take the time to notice the beauty this territory offers.”
“They will someday Sully you’ll see.”
“Well we better get Katie up and ready for church. We don’t want to be late.” Sully said.
“Do you think we should invite Colleen and Andrew to eat with us? I mean they may want to eat by themselves.” Michaela asked.
“Just cuz their married don’t mean they don’t want to be with their family. We can ask them and if they don’t then that’s fine too.”
“I will get Katie ready while you and Brian hitch the wagon.”
When Beth arrived in town she noticed that most people were still inside. She must be too early. She decided to go inside the church anyway. It was the one place she ever felt safe. When she walked in the small church she noticed Reverend Johnson standing at the podium practicing his sermon.
“Can I help you ma’am? Services do not start for another half hour.”
“Oh I am sorry I am new to town and I was not sure what time church services started.” Beth said.
“I did not mean to disturb you. Please continue.”
“That’s alright. Since I regained my sight I have started getting here early again to practice my sermon and pray.” Reverend Johnson said.
“Oh, how is it that you lost your sight? An injury? An illness?”
“Well Dr. Mike is not exactly sure but I am certainly thankful to have regained my sight. You said you were new to town, then that must mean you are Ms. Parker, the new teacher. Jake Slicker told me you had arrived. I guess we do not have to worry about you not following the church attendance rule.” He said with a smile.
“No, you will never have to worry about that. The church has always been my sanctuary.” Beth said as she looked around the church. “You have a lovely building Reverend.”
“Why thank you. We did some renovations a few years back.”
“You are welcome to stay and hear me practice if you do not mind hearing the sermon twice.”
“Sometimes people need to hear sermons twice to fully understand the message. Besides I have always enjoyed the story of Joseph.” Beth said.
“It has always been one of my favorites too. Which part do you enjoy most?”
“I like the message the story provides. God delivered Joseph several times for adversity and never let any harm come to him. He did this because he loved Joseph and Joseph always followed his commands. Just as he protected Daniel from harm because he too followed all of his decrees and commands. We could all only hope he will do the same for us.” Beth said.
“Well it sounds to me like you know the scriptures well.”
“Sometimes the Bible is the only place I have to turn when I feel lost.”
Just as the Reverend was about to respond Michaela walked in. She had arrived early to check up on the Reverend’s eyes.
“Oh good morning Ms. Parker. Am I interrupting anything?”
“Oh no I just arrived early and was getting aquatinted with Reverend…”
“Oh I am sorry, I am Reverend Johnson.”
“Well it was a pleasure to meet you Reverend. I am sure I will enjoy your lesson the second time too.” She said with a smile.
She then found her seat on one of the middle benches. Beth did enjoy the lesson a second time. She enjoyed small town ministers because they spoke from their heart while ministers in the city spoke to impress the congregation. Reverend Johnson introduced her before the service started. She hated being the center of attention but the townspeople seemed friendly as they all smiled and nodded their heads. However, the students were disappointed because they enjoyed having the Reverend as a teacher. He had not fully regained his sight so they were able to get away with several things while at school.
After church she noticed that the townspeople laid out quilts, pulled large picnic baskets from their buggies and all sat in the meadow for their Sunday dinner. She saw the Sully family lay their quilts out and noticed that Colleen and Andrew laid their quilt beside them. She missed being with her family. She headed for her buggy. She was used to eating alone but seeing friends and families eat together was just more than she could bear.
The Sullys started unpacking their things. “I am glad you and Andrew decided to eat with us Colleen.” Michaela said.
“Its nice to be home again. It won’t be too long until we leave for Philadelphia. I am really going to miss having Sunday lunch with the family. It is going to be lonely eating by ourselves.” Colleen said.
“We will have each other Colleen.” Andrew said.
“Oh I know its just I am going to miss sharing time with our family. I am glad Andrew and I decided to get married before I went to Medical School otherwise I would be all by myself. I do not know if I could do that.”
Just as Colleen finished her sentence she noticed that Beth was getting in her buggy and was about to leave.
“That must be how Beth is feeling right now.” Colleen said.
“Ma, Sully do you mind if I ask Beth to eat with us. She is all alone here.”
“I think that would be a nice idea Colleen. Why don’t ya ask her?” Sully said.
“Ma can I go eat with my friends?” Brian asked.
“Why? Don’t you want to eat with the family? You know Colleen and Andrew will be leaving in a few months.”
“I know, I just don’t want the kids thinkin I am the teacher’s pet.”
“You're old enough to make your own decision Brian so it’s up to you.” Sully said looking at Michaela for approval.
“Alright Brian you can go.” Michaela said.
Just as Beth was about to ride away Colleen walked up to her buggy.
“Would you like to eat with us Beth? We have plenty of food.”
“No, that’s alright I do not want to intrude on your family lunch.”
“You will not be intruding. I would hate for you to eat by yourself.”
Beth thought about it for a moment and decided she could use the company so she agreed.
“Afternoon Ms. Parker” Sully said.
“Good afternoon everyone. I hope I am not intruding.”
“Not at all Ms. Parker, besides I needed to check your wound later today anyway. We will just do it after lunch.”
“Well thank you Dr. Quinn but I can assure you I am fine.”
Just as she was about to sit she noticed there was not much room on the quilts. Sully noticed her looking down at the quilts and said “We have another quilt in the wagon let me get it for you.”
“Thank you Mr. Sully.”
When Sully returned he had Matthew with him who had been discussing a case with one of his clients.
“Well it is good to see you taking time to eat Matthew. I was beginning to think you never stopped to eat.” Michaela said in her motherly tone.
“I do eat Dr. Mike just ask Grace. I have become her best customer.
“Speaking of Grace’s, how is your arm Ms. Parker?” Sully asked.
“Oh fine thank you.”
“What happened?” Matthew asked.
“Nothing really I just had some hot coffee spilled on me. I am fine. Dr. Quinn gave me some ointment to put on it.” Beth answered.
“Well are you ready for your first day?” Matthew asked.
“I suppose, but I would really like to see the school room before I begin teaching tomorrow.”
“I am sure the reverend would be glad to show the school house.” Michaela said.
“I saw him earlier and he said he was going out to visit old Mr. Alister. I don’t think he has much time left.” Matthew said.
“I do not think so either. I am supposed to go out there today too. He will not even let me give him something for the pain.” Michaela said.
“That’s fine I can see it tomorrow morning when I arrive.” Beth said disappointed.
“Well I can show you Ms. Parker, I am finished for the day.” Matthew said.
“Oh no that is alright Mr.Cooper I do not want to be any trouble.”
“Well first of all its Matthew, not Mr. Cooper, and I don’t mind showin ya.”
Michaela glanced at Sully with a smile. Sully shook his head to remind Michaela not to interfere with Matthew’s life. As they finished their lunch they told Beth about the town and the townspeople. Michaela warned her that the townspeople were very friendly but they tended to scrutinize single professional women. She had learned the hard way and did not want anyone else to suffer the same scrutiny.
After they had finished eating Matthew walked with Beth to the schoolhouse. With a hard shove he opened the door.
“The door sticks sometimes so you will have to push real hard.” Matthew said.
She walked in and looked around the tiny schoolroom. It was just as she had pictured it. The desks were old and needed repairs and the chalkboard had definitely seen better days. She was glad to see that the windows had curtains. Open windows always had a way of distracting children. At the front of the room she saw a desk and assumed it was her desk. It too was old but it looked as if it would serve its purpose. She noticed the words “Judicial Branch” written on the board. At least she would be able to start off with something she enjoyed.
“I guess it ain’t as nice as the school rooms back east is it?” Matthew said.
“No it certainly
isn’t but the school room itself is not what is important it is was goes
on it that is.” Beth said still eyeing the
room. “Thank you for showing me Matthew.”
“Don’t mention it. Well would you like to stay a little longer or are you ready to leave?”
“Oh I finished thank you.”
As they were walking out Matthew held the door for her. After they had both left the schoolhouse Beth reached to close the door and pulled the door hard to close it but the handle broke and she fell backward. Matthew had only gone down a few steps and was able to catch her but he lost his footing and they both tumbled to the ground and landed in an awkward and somewhat inappropriate position.. They both quickly stood up and began dusting themselves off.
“Oh I am sorry Matthew I did not know the handle was loose.” Beth said still blushing.
“It was my fault I forgot to tell you the handle was loose.” Matthew said still not able to look her in the eye.
He walked her back to her carriage and they said a quick goodbye both still too embarrassed to say anything to each other.
When Beth arrived home she began preparing for her class the next day. She was glad they were on a subject that she enjoyed. She loved teaching but as she prepared for the lesson she missed they preparation she used to do get her ready for her old job. She wondered if she would ever be able to use her skills again. She fixed herself a light supper and then prepared for bed. As she was choosing her dress for tomorrow she noticed the photo at the bottom of her trunk. It still brought tears to her eyes every time she saw it. She didn’t dare leave the picture out for fear that someone might see it. Having it hidden in her trunk also helped her deal with the pain. As she laid down to go to sleep she checked the gun under her pillow and said her prayers. They were the same every night. She prayed for safety and to one day lead a normal life again. She liked Colorado Springs and she hoped she would be safe here, yet she knew she would always be on the run and could never let her guard down.
She arrived at the schoolhouse early and remembered what Matthew had said about pushing on the door hard and so with a hard shove the door flew open. She also remembered what happened when she closed the door and she blushed again. Matthew was a true gentleman. The minute she landed on him he quickly stood up made sure she was alright. The only thing they had hurt was their pride. At precisely 8:00 she began ringing the school bell. All of the students came running in the door and took their seats. Before class began she introduced herself again. Then Brian stood up and welcomed her for the entire class. She liked Brian from the beginning. The entire day he did his best to answer all of her questions and during lunch he helped her learn all of the student’s names while they were playing. The day went better than she had expected. The students were quiet with a few exceptions but she had handled the situation quickly and sternly and the students calmed down. As the students left she told each one of them goodbye and how happy she was they were in her class. That evening while she was leaving she gathered her things and was about to close the door, carefully this time when she heard someone behind her.
“I just thought I should be here in case the handle fell off again.” Matthew said with a smile.
“Oh, you startled me Matthew. Well I think I have the hang of it now, but thank you.” She said with a smile.
“You are working kind of late aren’t you?” Matthew asked.
“Well I just wanted to get everything ready for tomorrow. I guess I just lost track of time.”
“How about yourself? Aren’t you working kind of late?” Beth said.
“Well since I am the only lawyer in town I sometimes have to work kinda late. I was just about to leave when I saw the schoolhouse light on. I thought I would come by and see if you were alright.”
“Well thank you, but you need not worry about me I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, well I’m sorry I just thought I would check. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“I am sorry Matthew I did not mean it the way it sounded. I believe in self-reliance and I have had to take care of myself for a while now so I am used to it. I did not mean to insult you. It is nice to know someone is watching out for me.”
“Have you eaten supper?” Matthew asked.
“Yes, I was too busy with your brother at lunch learning the student’s names I did not get to eat lunch so I ate it a few moments ago.”
“Oh well, I was going to see if you would like to join me at Grace’s.”
“Maybe some other time, but thank you. I really need to be getting home.”
“At least let me help you into your carriage.” Matthew said.
“Oh, why thank you.”
As Beth rode out of town Matthew noticed Dr. Mike’s light was still on as well and she was out on the balcony. He went inside and met her on the balcony.
“You’re working kinda late aren’t ya, Dr. Mike?”
“Well Mr. Alister took a turn for the worse when the Reverend went to visit him so he brought him back to the clinic. I will probably be here all night. I just stepped out to get a breath of fresh air. I saw you talking to Ms. Parker. The two of you have become quite friendly.” Michaela said with a hopeful smile.
“Don’t start Dr. Mike. We’re just friends.”
“I wasn’t, I was just stating my observation.” Michaela said with a mischievous smile.
“Well don’t start getting any ideas. I am happy with the way things are. You just married off one child. Why are ya in such a hurry to marry the other one off?”
“It is not that I am trying to marry you off; I just want you to be happy.”
“I am happy. Believe me you and Sully will be the first to know when I am ready to start courtin someone."”
They stayed on the balcony for another half-hour talking before Matthew left and Michaela went to check on her patient.