I realize that these ‘teasers’ are disjointed—a bit here and a bit there, a little like a preview, or a trailer. You don’t get the entire picture all at once. In my case, it’s because these tidbits are still very much in the ‘swirling around my head’ stage. I’ve punched them into the computer so I wouldn’t forget, but they still need to be fleshed-out. Today’s ‘teaser’ is from—
Hope wrapped a brown woolen scarf around her face and tucked the ends behind her neck. She would have preferred a blue plaid muffler, like her best friend Addie Belle’s, but Papa said that was foolish. It ain’t the color that matters. Brown will keep you as warm as blue. She supposed he was right. Not only would it keep her warm on this colder-than-Chance-Manning’s-heart kind of day, it would also keep her out of a whole lot of trouble. She had a bad habit of letting her thoughts run wild out of her mouth straight into Papa’s ears. Surely winding something around her lips would help.
“Can you see where you’re going, Daughter? Face all wound up like that people might mistake you for a robber.” Papa squeezed her shoulders.
She nodded. No need to let him know she could still talk, although it would mean a mouth full of itchy yarn. And he was the robber—making her move out so Chance Manning could move in robbed her of her very own home. And Addie Belle agreed.
“You take care now. Do what Miss Olive asks and mind your manners. It’s a good thing Mr. Hazlett has agreed to let you stay on to care for his sister-in-law. You won’t have to go to your Aunt Esther’s after all, but heaven knows you need a woman to guide you. Miss Olive seems reasonable enough, her being an old schoolmarm and all.”
She rolled her eyes, and Papa’s scowl signaled he’d seen her. He turned her shoulders to him and bent so he’d be eyeball to eyeball. This couldn’t be good, but she didn’t dare look away.
“Don’t do this, Hope. I don’t have a choice. We need the money and I can’t pass up the opportunity of being in on building the railroad through Kansas. It’s making history and I’ll get paid in the making.”
Hope plopped down on the nearest chair and pulled the scarf from her face. “Papa, I know we need the money, but there has to be a better way than for you to traipse clear across Kansas. It’s dangerous. I need you, Papa. What will I do if something happens to you?”
“That’s why I was a hopin’ you’d find someone to take care of ya, or at least agree to go to your Aunt Esther’s without putting up a fuss worser’n a injured wildcat. You’re not makin’ this easy. Mr. Hazlett is downright generous to offer you a place with Miss Olive. And then he up and agreed to let that Manning cowboy of his look after our place while I’m gone. The minute the last spike is drove in that track, I’ll collect my pay and head right back here to you.”
Hope pulled the scarf back onto her face before her lips gave her away. Papa didn’t know Miss Olive, and wouldn’t take to hearing anything unkind about her. She’d never told anyone, except Addie Belle, all she knew about Mr. Hazlett’s old maid sister-in-law. What would Papa say if he knew the old woman put Applejack in the spice cake she took to every church dinner? And as far as Chance Manning looking after their farm? Well, she’d see to that. Addie Belle said she’d help her come up with a plot to run him off, and Addie was very good at schemes. She stood and waved her mitten-covered hand. Talking was futile, but Chance Manning was not going to inhabit one square inch of this house for long. No, siree. Not for long.
Her papa opened the door, then bent and planted a kiss on the spot between her eyes. “I put your trunk in the buggy and Lady is hitched, ready to go. Be sure to put her in Miss Olive’s barn when you get there and—”
“I know what to do, Papa,” she mumbled through the scarf. “I’ll see you before you leave, won’t I?”
He nodded. “That Manning fella is movin his stuff over here tomorrow. Best if you aren’t here. I’ll stop by Miss Olive’s before the stage leaves.”
“You don’t want me to the stage with you? But Papa—”
“Don’t argue.” He wiped his hand across his mouth and Hope couldn’t tell if he was trying to hold words in, or get them to come out. “Too cold for you to go standin’ outside waitin’ for me to drive away. Guess I don’t hanker to have to wave goodbye to you, either. I’d rather know you was happy and warm inside with Miss Olive.”
“But what if I need things?”
“I put what little money I could spare in the bank for you. You ask Mr. Simmons if you need anything. I’ll send him my pay so you’ll have plenty.”
I don’t want, plenty, Papa. I just want you to stay home.
One last look around the familiar kitchen would only cause a delay. Besides, she knew it by heart. Mama’s blue calico curtains still hung at the window and covered the shelves under the bottom cupboards. A big round oak table occupied the middle of the room and held the lamp with the roses painted on it. “Too fancy for a kitchen, if you ask me,” Papa always said. But nobody ever asked him, and mama loved that lamp. If Chance Manning broke it he’d have to answer to…to…well to God, that’s who. She almost hoped he would break it. She’d ask God to forgive her such an evil thought, but she’d never forgive Chance Manning if he broke Mama’s lamp.
“Girl, you gonna stand there and let all this warm air out? It can’t follow you, I hope you know.”
Hope turned and threw her arms around her papa’s skinny waist, embarrassed that she’d noticed his slimness and ashamed she’d never noticed, until now, how much weight he’d lost since mama died.
He returned her awkward embrace with one of his own, then gave her a gentle shove. “Don’t make this hard, girl. Remember your name—Hope—that’s what your mama would want you to do. Picked that name out herself and wouldn’t hear to no other. I was partial to Beatrice–after my ma, but…”
She couldn’t bring herself to look at him. She’d heard the story of her name all too often and was grateful mama had overruled Grandma Sanders’ name. But this was the first time Papa couldn’t finish the story with a tweak of her nose. She wished now her nose wasn’t covered. She could live without the tweaking, but would she remember how papa smelled? Mama always carried the aroma of cinnamon and sugar and all things sweet. But Papa always smelled like…like…she shut her eyes and took a deep breath inhaling through her nose as best she could. Papa smelled like all things safe. Warm hay and sunshine after he came in from the fields. Cows and horses and milk from the barn. Lye soap after he washed before coming into the house. Papa smelled just like—heat rushed to her face and slithered down her shins to her toes—Chance Manning! Papa wouldn’t take kindly to knowing his daughter harbored such memories.
She stood on tiptoe, uncovered her face long enough to plant a kiss on her papa’s cheek, then hurried through the still open door. Three quick steps got her off the porch and onto the dampened grass before she dared to stomp her foot. Of all things. It was bad enough to think of Chance Manning living in their house, sleeping in…oh, it just got worse. At least she was taking mama’s quilts with her, and they could always burn the mattresses when Papa got home again.
Just you wait, Mr. Manning. You might invade my thoughts and sleep under my papa’s roof, but not for long. I’ll come up with some way to get you out. Just you wait.