Lavada Marvin - Sweet Romance in America's Past - Excerpt


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 - Excerpt -

In the following excerpt from my novella set in 1912, an estranged wife challenges the adage, “you can never go home again.”
 


Maggie Miller strained to see through the swirling snow. The two-story house, set off a distance from the road, loomed like a bare shadow, but she recognized the maple and post that marked each side of the entry.

“This is it. To the left.” She wrapped her arm around her two children, protecting them from the jostling wagon as the driver, Mr. Erickson, turned the team, and the horses trudged over the track obliterated by the heavy, slippery drifts.

She pulled in a deep, fortifying breath of the snow-drenched country air. They’d arrived safe and sound. She’d timed their arrival with hopes to delay confronting her husband. She needed time to prepare, but even so, she wouldn’t have risked bringing her children out had she anticipated this storm. They’d left Green Bay, Wisconsin in sunshine. Several miles out the sky clouded, and lazy flakes drifted down before picking up steam and turning the road treacherous. At least she’d clothed Robbie and Josie in their heaviest coats, mittens, and boots. Too bad she hadn’t done the same for herself. Her full-length woolen coat was warm enough, but the fancy, feathered hat, light-weight gloves, and Kid-slippers left much to be desired.

Her stomach twisted, fear of facing Joseph so intense, she almost ordered the driver to take them back to town. No. She must carry this through. She must get the children inside out of this weather as soon as possible.

Josie, her poor little body shivering, clutched her mother’s waist in a death-grip. Robbie, appearing oblivious to the weather, pulled from Maggie’s grasp. His dark eyes alight, he gazed around at the outbuildings and pasture. She doubted he could see much, but she knew flatlands marked with a few hillocks stretched out over acres of fields beyond the farmyard.

“Is my Pa home?” He glanced at her, his pert, little nose red from the cold.

“I don’t know, Rob. My guess is either he or your Granddad are at the barn, milking the cows.”

“I wanna go to the barn.”

“No, we need to get in where it’s warm.”

“But Mama.”

“I said no.” Robbie’s stubbornness added another layer to her frazzled nerves.

The burly driver chuckled. “Your boy reminds me of one of mine, Ma’am.”

“Determined?”

“All of that.” The man’s voice held a smile. He stopped the rig, hopped down, and circled around the team to help her and the children dismount.

Calf-deep snow seeped through her shoes and stockings. Wind whipped her coat against her legs. Legs trembling from fear more than cold. She reached out, gathered Josie from the man’s arms into her own, and grasped Robbie’s hand before turning to stare at the old farmhouse.

It appeared the same as she remembered it. The brown siding stark against the thick snow, an enclosed porch jutted out at the end facing the road, a raw-wood sided shed clung to the opposite end like an afterthought. Forbidding. Not because of the building, but because of all the disappointments and pain she’d endured within its walls. Not a single light glimmered from the windows, but she smelled a faint scent of smoke. That, a good sign. The range should be stoked, making it easier to carry out her plan. She had much to do. She could only hope the activity would keep her mind off Joseph’s reaction to the return of his family after five, long year’s separation. To the news he now had a daughter added to that family. She didn’t fear physical abuse, but would he allow them to stay? Would she be forced to endure his detached tolerance of the woman who’d never measured up to be the wife he needed?

She squashed the panic rising in her breast, hurried with the children to the open porch in front of them, and lowered Josie next to the door. “Stay here where there’s less wind.”

Robbie wrapped his arms around Josie. She huddled against him, holding on as though she’d never let go.

Maggie swallowed the lump in her throat. This, another drastic change in her daughter’s life. This, another layer of worry. She gave her head a shake, stepped off the porch, and slogged through the snow to the wagon in shoes now thoroughly soaked, her feet now numb.

Mr. Erikson pulled their satchels from the bed, handed them to her, and reached in for the trunk.

On the porch, she dropped the luggage next to the children. “You can set the chest here. I’ll pull it inside later.”

“You sure, Ma’am? It’s mighty heavy for a lady your size.”

“I’m sure. You need to get back to town.” Her fingers fumbling, she withdrew his fee plus a healthy bonus from the interior pocket of her handbag. Nibbling her lower lip, she held it out. She preferred to face Joseph without a stranger present, but her own needs didn’t warrant endangering another person. “Perhaps you should wait until the storm lets up.”

“I’d be snow-bound by then. Don’t worry, if worst comes to worst, I’ll take shelter at one of the farms nearer town. I know many of the owners.” He stuffed the bills into an interior pocket and buttoned his coat back up to his neck. A heavy fur-lined cap with ear flaps covered his head. He had gloves somewhere. He’d worn them on the way out.

“All right then. Thank you. Do take care going back.”

“Yes, Ma’am. I will.”

She turned toward the door, her heart thundering in her ears. Her legs shook, rooting her in place. Ghosts waited on the other side. Ghosts she must face. She dragged in gulps of air and forced herself forward.

“Come children. Let’s get inside.”


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