The Final Goodbye By: J.L. Jacobs © 2015 (Full Length Book)

Out of sheer desperation, Sophia Lancaster flees her small town of Wellington, Ohio in order to become a mail-order-bride. Naive and full of hope, her world is shattered once again as she is quickly wed to Travis Ewing who seems to despise her from the moment they meet.

Over time, they fall madly in love with each other but Fate has other plans in store for them. This is a suspenseful and very emotional love story that is set in the 1890's where history comes alive. You will laugh and cry over Sophia's journey through hell and back as she fights for the only thing she truly believes in: Love.

*I love to hear your comments and feedback but please DO NOT POST ANY SPOILER ALERTS OR GIVE AWAY STORY INFO. This ruins the reading experience for others.* This is a rough draft version. This book is for mature readers over the age of 17 only. It does contain some profanity and a few graphic love scenes. The synopsis will be re-written, and I will be updating the book with edits.

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3. Chapter Three: Confrontations and Preparations

Chapter Three: Confrontations and Preparations

 

 

     "You're doing WHAT?" Sophia's father roared as his face turned a mottled shade of reddish-purple. There was a large blue vein at his left temple that was very pronounced and Sophia could see it throbbing to the beat of his heart which must have been racing because the vein was throbbing really fast. Sophia felt awful. She hated disappointing her parents and rarely did so in the twenty-two years she had been alive, but this was probably the hardest thing she ever had to tell them. She knew her family would not take the news of her leaving home to become a mail order bride well, but this was actually a little worse than she had imagined. Normally her father kept his temper under control but in this moment he was the angriest she had ever seen him. "I'm sorry Father." she said in a meek voice. Her mother sat ramrod straight in her dining chair as she scraped her breakfast food around the plate of barely eaten food and she was visibly trying really hard to not lose control of her feelings like Louis had. However, Sophia couldn't help but notice that her mother looked as if she was ready to burst into tears at any moment. Rachel, and Rachel's husband Joseph, both sat there in complete shock. Rachel and Lucinda both had tears in their eyes now and this upset Sophia greatly. Louis stood up from his chair with such force that the chair toppled over behind him causing everyone in the room to jolt a little in fright. "What in the HELL do you mean you're getting married?" he roared again. This time, both Rachel and Lucinda finally burst into tears. Joseph got up from his own chair and walked over to where Rachel was sitting where he immediately began rubbing her back in order to soothe her. Rachel was already hormonal due to her new pregnancy and it didn't take much make her to cry these days, but this was a situation where her tears were actually warranted. Sophia couldn't help but to think of how good of a husband Joseph was to Rachel. She was happy that her sister was treated so well by him. A pain in Sophia's lower abdomen had picked it's opportunity to return with gusto, causing her to lay her head in her folded hands in order to conceal the pain from everyone in the room. To her family, it appeared as though she was just upset after her having just shared her future plans with them. Sophia had been completely honest with them about everything from how she found the advertisement to the point where she received Mr. Ewing's letter that he had chosen her as his new bride. She confessed her feelings over the whole ordeal emphasizing the fact that she was miserable being here knowing full well that she could run into Jeremy at any given point in time. When her father had questioned her about Travis, Sophia could only tell him what she knew about him which was next to nothing. Well, not precisely next to nothing; she did know he had two small children. She also knew he owned his own ranch. That was the point of the conversation where her father started to become livid. Sophia tried to defend her actions by pointing out that it was fairly common for women her age (and even younger) to be married off to men they did not know as arranged marriages happened all the time. She knew her argument was weak. After that her father became enraged and that's when she shrank down in her chair as she listened to his tirade that seemed to go on for such a long time. Sophia honestly didn't mean to make everyone so upset. She felt like this was the perfect opportunity to announce her news while Rachel and Joseph were there to have breakfast as a family. There really was no other opportunity as time was quickly running out before she would be leaving. She still had so much get done in order to prepare for her trip and the start of her new life. "Sophia Ann Lancaster, I want a better explanation THIS INSTANT!" Louis yelled from the top of his lungs. He never got this upset before so hearing him scream at her like that was pretty scary. Even though she was still experiencing that bothersome pain in her abdomen, she picked picked up her head from her hands while subtly shaking it from side to side to help get rid of the sudden dizzy spell that came over her. She had barely had a chance to eat her breakfast so her stomach was not only in pain, but she was positively famished! If she had been smarter, she would have given everyone, including herself, the chance to finish breakfast before making her big announcement. "Lesson learned." she thought bitterly to herself. Her father was now pacing the room, all the while glaring his oldest daughter down. It took a minute for her to compose herself enough to be able to speak. Emotions were running high for everyone in that dining room; each and every one of them showing it in different ways. Except, of course, for her father who was being uncommonly volatile about how he felt. "Father," Sophia said in a tremulous voice, "I didn't mean to upset you. Please allow me explain." "Oh you WILL be giving me an explanation!" he shouted back. As even more tears began to pour out from Sophia's eyes and her lips took on a noticeable quiver, he seemed to soften his demeanor. Just a little bit. Sophia knew that tears were his weakness so she shamelessly played the only card in her hand at that moment that she knew would work on him; a woman's tears. That tactic had always worked for the Lancaster women in the past when they wanted to get their way with something. Sophia felt no shame in using her quite-genuine tears even though it did make her feel a tiny bit guilty. But her tears weren't just for show this time. She was equally upset from hurting her family with the news and from the persistent pain in her lower abdomen that had been plaguing her for well over a month now. "Please Father, sit down so I can explain. You're scaring me!" she cried out. Louis huffed and puffed some more for another minute or so before he finally picked his chair up from the floor and sat back down in it. "I saw an advertisement in the Wellington Enterprise a few weeks ago from a gentleman looking for a mail-order bride." she started explaining again, "He was in search of a bride to marry who would help raise his two children and run his household. I cannot stand the thought of staying here in this town any longer while Jeremy and his new wife are here as a constant reminder of what he did to me. I NEED to do this! I am positively desperate to get out of this town if you must know! You have no idea what this feels like for me!" Her father glared at her while saying, "Have you lost your gosh darned mind woman?!?" Once again his naturally booming voice started to rise in its pitch and intensity. His face was still an alarming shade of red and that pronounced vein in his temple continued thumping fast. Sophia's mother interjected herself into the conversation, "Oh let her finish her story Louis!" she admonished him, even though she was still quite upset with Sophia herself. Sophia drew in a shaky breath. She, herself, had no reasonable explanation as to why she was making such a bold decision like this. Even to her own ears the idea sounded ridiculous and made no sense. Something just compelled her to want to do it. There was no rhyme or reason and it wasn't something she felt she could adequately explain even though she had these last few weeks to do nothing but think about all of this. Being honest she said, "I don't know what else I can say. I was heartbroken after what Jeremy had done. I saw the advertisement in the paper about a week after my...my almost-wedding and it just seemed like something I really needed to do. There is no going back. I made my decision and the train ticket has already been purchased. I am going. I refuse to stay here in this town while watching the love of my life with another woman. Without a chaperon and being unmarried it's not like I can just pick up and move somewhere else on my own. Don't you understand that this is my only way out? I put this matter into Fate's hands and it has brought me to this choice. I don't expect a blessing as I am fully aware you will never give me one, however, I do hope that you will not be mad from here on out. I want the rest of my time here before I leave to be pleasant and spent together." Even to her own ears the explanation seemed paltry with very little merit to give it any weight or expandable substance. Sophia didn't need anyone to tell her that the art of finesse was not her forte. The room was suddenly utterly silent. No one said anything for several minutes until Lucinda finally spoke up, "Sophia, I cannot pretend to understand what you are going through or trying to do." she said levelly while her tears were still streaming down her face, "But your are old enough to make your own choices. I know you don't typically make decisions lightly and I am confident you gave this matter much thought and contemplation. I do not agree that you are making the right decision though. I think you are making more of a rash choice because of what Jeremy did to you. I know it's been hard on you having to deal with it and all so I urge you to reconsider your decision. The pain might hurt something fierce right now but it will fade in time. I promise you that it will. If you go to Texas to marry a man you know nothing about, you might just end up being even more miserable than you are now. If you give it more time I feel that these feelings you have now will change. I have no doubt in my mind that someday you will fall in love again. That's just how our hearts work. But whatever you decide I want you to know that I am always here for you when you need me." Sophia was visibly shocked by what her mother had to say. She didn't quite expect that. "Thank you Mother but my mind has been made up and I will be going. I am not going to wait here in agony and watch Jeremy make a life with another woman. I'm sorry but that's just the way it is." Sophia responded while looking deeply into her mother's eyes. Louis stood up roughly, once again causing hair to topple over backwards for the second time in as many minutes. "Like hell you're doing this!" he shouted at Sophia, "You're not going anywhere! I expressly forbid it! You might as well rip up that train ticket because it sure as hell will not be used! You're acting like a child! A child that I should put over my knees and spank right now!" Sophia cried for real this time as dewy tears poured down on both sides of her cheeks in earnest. But despite her tears, a rebellious part of her almost laughed when her Father had threatened to put her over his knees. Somehow the picture in her head of him doing just that was silly. Never once in her existence had he ever done such a thing. She also wasn't upset at her Father's harsh words. She was upset with herself. She was acting like a child perhaps but what else was she to do? Rachel looked at her with sad eyes that were reddened and puffy from crying, "I don't want you to do this either." she said, "You don't even know this man. What if he turns out to be horrible to you? There has to be a reason why he's looking for a mail-order bride instead of wedding up with someone in his own town." she said reasonably. Sophia sighed, feeling so deflated. Her family was right. She knew nothing about this man. What if he did beat her like many men out there in the world beat their own wives? Her father was not that type of a man, but she has heard plenty of stories from gals in town of how their own fathers acted. Or some who had husbands that did that, and those women were miserable and trapped. What if Travis turned out to be a drunkard? Those thoughts gave her tiny shivers that ran down her spine and up the back of her neck. "Father, you cannot possibly try to forbid Soph in any way. She's is a grown woman." Rachel said in Sophia's defense. She then began eating what was left of her breakfast and Joseph went back to his own seat to sit back down. He kept his thoughts to himself. This was not his place to interject how he felt about the situation. Instead, he would just be supportive towards his wife and finish eating his now cold breakfast, glad that Rachel was back to eating hers. Louis looked about ready to have an apoplectic fit. "Like hell I can't!" he yelled towards Rachel, "She lives in my home and will obey my rules!" and with that, he slammed down his napkin on the table and stormed out of the dining room. Her mother cried out, "Louis! Come back here and finish this discussion!" He ignored her. Everyone could hear him grumbling loudly from the foyer and seconds later, they heard the front door slam hard enough to rattle the windows all the way in the dining room. The four of them who remained in the room remained quiet as they all sat there not knowing what to say next. The pain in Sophia's abdomen was still hurting pretty bad so she stood up from the table and quietly excused herself, making sure to give them all a quick hug before she went up the stairs to her room where she threw herself down on the bed and gave away to a fit of tears. "Damn you Jeremy for putting me in this position!" she yelled at her ceiling with vehemence, "You stupid and thoughtless sonofabitch! I hope you get what you deserve someday for all the upheaval you have done to my life! I wish I had never met you!"

#

 

     Two days later Sophia, along with Rachel and Maybelle, went into town to do some shopping for Sophia's trip. Since it was already so hot that day, their first stop was to the grocer's to get some icee's. Then they went back outside and crossed the dusty dirt road to head over towards the beautifully designed town hall where there were near-by benches for them to sit on so they could enjoy their ice cold treats. Rachel, being pregnant, especially relished her icee. In between licks she confessed, "I cannot get enough of these!" With a small laugh she continued by saying, "I make Joseph stop and get me one every day after he gets off of work now." Sophia and Maybelle chuckled. "I think I would do the same if I were expecting too." Maybelle chimed in, "Heck, I'm not even pregnant and I am contemplating making Hank get me one when he gets off work from now on. What a wonderful idea Rachel!" Sophia smiled; she sure would miss these two women dearly. When she arrived in Texas she would know no one and that thought scared her. More than she would ever openly admit to anyone. It was hard enough trying to stay strong when she, herself, wasn't even sure she was making the right choice by going to Texas. If she were being brutally honest, she knew this decision was not a sane one and that she was doing it for all the wrong reasons. However, she just could not be in this town any longer and if it meant that by getting married to this Travis Ewing person was the way to do it, then marry him she would! So long as it meant that she would be far away from here and all the constant reminders of her lost love. Even from the bench she was currently sitting on she could see the church where her and Jeremy was supposed to have been married in. It sat right next to the town hall where they were all enjoying their icee's. As a matter of fact, it didn't matter where she was at in town; the church was so large that it could be seen from any given point in that immediate area. Sophia surmised that she couldn't get away from this place soon enough so that she could leave behind all these daily reminders of the love she once had and lost in the blink of an eye. Just then, she spotted Angelique who was walking with Jeremy not even five hundred feet away from where Maybelle, Rachel, and herself was sitting. Sophia felt her face flame as her heart began to race wildly. It seemed as if Angelique and Jeremy were headed towards the town hall which was really close to where she was sitting. Sophia sat there rooted to the spot wishing fervently that her body would get up and run but it felt as though it were weighed down by a large boulder. Jeremy happened to glance in their direction and quickly spotted Sophia. The two of them locked eyes for a brief moment, and in that brief moment she could see the look of sorrow in his eyes which made her ache from the loss of him. Without realizing it, Sophia's empty hand grabbed a hold of Rachel's dress as it clenched the fabric tightly within it's grasp. Angelique had also spotted Sophia, and being the jealous woman she was, she possessively took hold of Jeremy's hand and held it within her own, almost as if she were trying to goad Sophia. Sophia's emotions were instantly in an uproar. She was finally able to force herself to stand up from the bench. Not even aware she was doing it, Sophia yelled towards Angelique, "You won! You have him now so stop acting like a--!" but her sentence was cut off as Rachel grabbed her arm and yanked her hurriedly away from where Jeremy and Angelique were now standing. Maybelle, seeing the look of pain in Sophia's eyes, also got up from the bench. Fraught with protectiveness towards her best friend, Maybelle walked with determination over to Jeremy and his new wife. In a voice loud enough for both Rachel and Sophia to hear as they were quickly walking away from the village green, Maybelle said to Jeremy, "How dare you parade your new wife around town like this! Have neither of you any shame? It's because of YOU that Sophia is leaving for Texas next week to marry some guy she's never even met! How can you two even show your faces around town like this, especially after what you have done?" Jeremy looked visibly shaken up; his tanned complexion turning white with the shock of Maybelle's news while his pregnant wife stood there looking overly smug. Jeremy abruptly let go of his wife's hand with a jerk and said to Maybelle, "What in the hell are you even talking about Maybelle Shaw?" Maybelle, looking directly at his wife Angelique with eyes full of scorn continued on by saying, "Oh, didn't you hear the news? Sophia is to be a mail order bride and leaves for Texas soon, all thanks to YOU, you heart-breaker!" Then Maybelle turned her venomous attention towards Angelique, "And YOU, you home wrecker, you think you're so high and mighty by getting yourself knocked up by another woman's man? I don't even know how you even dare to show your face around town. Everyone here thinks you're nothing but a hussy! Congratulations. Bravo! You married a man who will always love another woman. Everyone knows that he only married you because of your baby! He isn't in love with you and don't even pretend for one second he will ever be either! You're just a conniving little witch Angelique! I can see right through you. I wouldn't doubt it for one second if you made up the whole pregnancy to begin with! Frankly, you two deserve each other. I used to think Jeremy was perfect for Sophia but now I have come to realize that she deserves so much better than a man who would cheat on her then leave her at the alter because he's too worried about the reputation of the woman he doesn't love instead of being worried about the reputation and heart of the one he does love! Knocked up or not, he should have stood by Sophia and said to the hell with you! " Angelique's face blanched white and the smug look on her face was quickly replaced by one of horror as she stood there with her mouth wide open in shock. Maybelle was quite worked up by this time from all the anger over the last few weeks that she had been feeling towards the two of them and what they had done to Sophia. She had decided it was high time that they both heard exactly how she felt about the matter!

 

     As Rachel and Sophia were still walking away towards Herrick Street where many of the local businesses were located, Sophia was uncontrollably sobbing by that point. They could still hear Maybelle off in the distance yelling at Jeremy and Angelique. Rachel couldn't help but giggle a few times, especially after she heard Maybelle scream "Harlot!" at Angelique. The two sisters stopped once they reached the road they needed to cross as there were a few carriages passing by along with one team of oxen pulling a sled with some sort of a large metal object on it. "THIS, this is exactly why I am doing what I am doing!" Sophia cried out loud to her sister. "I CANNOT see him ever again! I do not want to see him ever again! Even more so regarding Angelique! I absolutely despise that woman!" At once Rachel finally understood her sister's seemingly selfish and irrational decision to leave Wellington. The scene that had just played out hit her in the gut like a ton of bricks and she felt positively awful that Sophia was hurting so badly. Now Rachel could see the whole picture clearly whereas before she was looking at it with blind eyes.The road was finally safe to cross and the two women headed towards Dreama's, a popular dressmaker's shop there in town that always had the best fabrics, the latest fashion designs, and ready to wear garments available in most sizes. Lucinda had been a faithful patron of the store ever since it had opened up over ten years ago. Unbeknownst to Sophia, Jeremy had been staring at her since she fled the village green, not concentrating one bit to what Maybelle was yelling at him. Once the two sisters were safely inside the shop, Rachel realized that both of their icee's were melting pretty badly and Sophia's was all over the sleeve of her pretty peach dress already creating a dark pink stain on it. Rachel thoughtfully took the melted icee from Sophia's stiffened hand and walked over to the counter. Sophia could hear her sister ask Dreama, the store owner, if she had a garbage receptacle she could use and a couple wet cloths. Dreama said, "Yes I do." as she looked towards Sophia who was still sobbing. "Is everything alright with your sister? She looks quite upset." Dreama asked Rachel out of concern while wetting down some dry squares of cloths for her. Rachel looked over at her sister with worry. Maybe she was right to leave. It wasn't the best way to do so but it was ultimately Sophia's choice. She could see how hard this whole thing was on her sister and it broke a part of her heart to see Sophia so torn up like that. Dreama promptly handed Rachel the wet cloths and commented, "Well whatever it is, I sure hope she will be alright. We all worry about her you know, the townsfolk and myself." At that point, Sophia drew in a deep breath, then turned around and headed over to the counter where Rachel was still at. Sophia pasted a faux smile on her face and before Rachel had the time to answer Dreama's question, Sophia had already begun to do so. "Everything is just fine." Sophia told Dreama, "But I do need to purchase some new dresses and personal undergarments for my trousseau." Dreama's eyes lit up from this new bit of information. She was used to Sophia's mother, Lucinda, coming in for new dresses fairly often but having Sophia do so herself was quite a treat indeed! And ordering items for a trousseau? That was intriguing news. "A trousseau, eh?" Dreama questioned, "Don't you still have the things you ordered a few months ago? But I thought well, er, that is, why do you still even need one? Aren't you and Jeremy...." she let that part of her sentence die off, not really knowing how to say what she wanted to without causing Sophia further pain. The whole town was well aware of how Sophia was left at the altar only weeks before. Sophia just smiled and confirmed the question by saying, "I'm going to Texas here soon to marry a ranch owner there and I will need some new items to take with me. I burned all the items from my last trousseau in my fireplace. I am sure you can help me as you are always so wonderful with helping my mother all the time." After today, news like this would spread like wildfire among the townspeople of Wellington. The little brass bell that hung over the door of the shop gave a little jingle as Maybelle walked in. Dreama was utterly shocked by this new turn of events but smiled in return and eagerly helped Sophia pick out all the items that she would need. Sophia, Rachel and Maybelle spent over three hours in the shop going over patterns and fabrics until it made Sophia's head spin. This was the second time in months that she was having to do this process but after she burned all the other stuff, Sophia had no other choice but to put herself through the torture of fittings and fabric selections all over again, and hopefully, this time would be the last!

 

#

     When they were finished at the dressmaker's shop, the three women headed back outside where it was still very warm and humid. By that time, dark clouds were looming over the sky as they passed overhead at a very quick pace. There was a heavy wind that brought with it some refreshingly cool air which felt wonderful. However, Sophia saw this type of weather pattern before. Many times over the course of her life in fact. There was a thunderstorm quickly approaching which meant they all needed to get back to their respective homes fast! "Since we only have my father's carriage," Sophia began, "we will first take home Maybelle since she lives the farthest. After that, we will get Rachel home since it's on the way back." The other two women got into the carriage and settled themselves in while Sophia gave directions to the carriage driver, Stevens, on where he needed to take them. Then she, too, got into the carriage just as the first few heavy droplets of rain fell down from the sky. "I hate storms!" Rachel said anxiously. Sophia was just the opposite of her younger sister; she absolutely loved thunderstorms. There was just something about them that seemed so majestic and magical to her. "We'll get you home safely, don't worry." Sophia laughed. The carriage took off at a fast clip by heading south down the main road which was lined with lots of very old trees that had been there longer than the town itself. Maybelle's house was only a ten minute carriage ride away, so by the time they got there, they were all surprised at how quickly the storm had fully came upon them. Maybelle offered for them to come inside and wait for the storm to pass but the women politely declined Maybelle by insisting they would get back to their homes before it got too bad out there. Little did they know that they would come to regret their decision in just a few short minutes. The winds were very strong and it blew poor Maybelle's hat right off the top of her head the second she stepped out of the carriage. Instead of running after it, Maybelle rushed towards the entrance to her home that she shared with her husband and elderly Grandmother. She had difficulty reaching the porch steps though... the winds seemed as if they were trying to blow her straight away! If she had weighed any less than she did, it may very well have done just that! But Maybelle made it into her house just fine, albeit soaking wet. "Soph," Rachel whined, "what if it's a tornado?" Sophia chuckled at her sister and patted her hand as a gesture of reassurance. By the conditions outside she wouldn't be surprised if there was a tornado somewhere out there in the vicinity but there was no way in hells fire she would say that to her sister! They could hear the rapid droplets of heavy rain hitting the roof of the carriage. Poor Stevens was sitting outside in this mess trying to get them both safely home. Sophia decided that once they got to Rachel's house, she and Stevens would wait inside until the storm passed. It didn't seem right that he had to sit out in conditions like this but they had to at least get to Rachel's house first considering they were already moving at a quick pace down the road away from Maybelle's house. It would be too hard to turn the carriage around to go back with the winds being so strong like they currently were. Sophia looked over at her sister, noticing the visible look of fright over the sudden storm on her pale face. She chuckled as she noticed that Rachel's hair pinned hair, with her dainty little hat, was already a mess from the winds blowing through the carriage windows even through the shades were drawn and latched shut. It looked as if a mini tornado had invaded her hair. Rachel's light ginger colored curly hair was not only wet but also in such a disarray that it made Sophia burst out in laughter. "What's so funny?" Rachel said with narrowed eyes. She knew her sister well enough to discern her different types of laughter and this was the one she used when she was poking fun at her, as she sometimes had while they were growing up together. Sophia had a mischievous look in her eyes as she said to Rachel, "Your hair is positively frightful looking right now!" Rachel rolled her silver colored eyes and grimaced. "Well, yours isn't faring so well either!" she said brusquely to Sophia. That made Sophia laugh even harder. A few minutes later they were getting fairly close to where Rachel lived when a really strong gust of wind hit the carriage with such a strong force that the carriage skivvied sideways, pulling the two horses with it. One of the horses had lost its balance from the weight of the carriage which caused its one leg to buckle. The poor horse fell over and neighed in pain. The winds were so much stronger now that even a latch couldn't keep the window shades in place so they flapped wildly about. One of them smacked Sophia right in the face. "Ouch!" Sophia cried out in surprise from the suddenness of the assault. The carriage was now unable to move and it began to hail quite profusely outside. Sophia went to open the door to her side of the carriage when Rachel reached out and gripped her arm saying frantically, "What are you doing?" Sophia began to worry over her sister's distress for the sake of the baby. She used her hand to unwrap her sister's vice-like grip from her arm and said to Rachel, "I have to check on the horse. Something is wrong with it, and as you can see, the carriage isn't going anywhere!" Rachel proceeded to grab her sister's arm once more which sort of irritated Sophia because the storm was only getting worse. "You can't go out there! Don't leave me alone!" Rachel shrieked like a mad woman. Sophia once again pried herself loose from her sister's strong grip. "Stop it Rachel!" she yelled, "I HAVE to check on Stevens and the horse!" With that, she was finally able to open the carriage door which took all her strength as the winds were blowing against that side of the carriage. Rain and hail made its way into the carriage and it didn't take long for both sisters to become completely drenched. Sophia had an easier time closing the door than she did opening it. It actually slammed shut from the force of the wind. She walked over to where the horses were and it was just as she had thought; one of the horses was on its side whinnying in such pain that it broke her heart seeing it like that. Stevens was standing near it and he was completely soaked to the bone. His top hat was missing and his clothing clung to his somewhat portly frame. He looked beyond irritated over the entire situation feeling as if they should have waited the storm out when they had the chance after dropping Maybelle off. The sky was very dark by this time. Hail, falling from the sky that inter-mixed with the fierce winds, had hit Sophia so hard that each piece that pelted against her felt like they would leave dozens of welts. "I have to put down the horse Miss Sophia!" Stevens yelled. "Why?" Sophia yelled back as another gust of wind blew her into the front of the carriage. The carriage itself had almost completely toppled over from that gust and Sophia began to worry for her sister's safety. "The horse has a broken leg." Stevens yelled, "Can't fix it. I need to put him down." Sophia turned around as he pulled out a small pistol from the holster attached to his leather belt. Seconds later a shot rang out and Sophia knew that the poor horse was dead. She felt a pang of remorse in the pit of her stomach and would have cried for the poor animal had it not been for the bad storm going on. The dirt road was very muddy by this time and she pushed herself against the wind and through the sloppy mud to get back to the door where her sister was sitting by. Tree branches were being blown all over the place both large and small. She needed to get Rachel to safety and quick! Sophia surveyed their whereabouts. They were not close enough yet to be near Rachel's house. The closest building to them was... oh gawd... the medical clinic that Jeremy was part owner of. Sophia prayed that perhaps luck was would be on her side knowing that Jeremy had been in town with his wife earlier, so there was a slight chance they both had the day off and would not even be there. She looked over at Stevens and pointed towards the clinic. "We need to get my sister out of the carriage and then we can seek shelter over there!" she shouted to him. Stevens tried to unharness the other horse but it proved to be too difficult a task as the horse was beyond spooked at this point.

 

     Sophia went back inside the carriage. "We have to get out of here." she told her sister while feeling the carriage rock violently, "The clinic is just over there. We'll go there until the weather passes." Sophia made a gesture of pointing in the general direction where the clinic was located. Rachel nodded her head in agreement but was sobbing from fright. "You need to calm yourself down for the sake of the baby." Sophia told her sister. Rachel nodded in understanding and they both proceeded to make their way out of the carriage. The storm was very fierce and the dirt road was caked in mud from the torrential rain, making it very hard for them to walk; especially in the dressy thick heeled shoes they were both wearing. Stevens helped Rachel by taking her arm and leading her towards the clinic while acting as a sort of human shield against the falling hail and tree branches. Sophia followed closely behind them praying that Jeremy wasn't inside. There were a couple of other carriages that were also stopped at various points on the road because the wheels were stuck in the mud. A few other people must have had the same idea to seek shelter in the clinic as they, too, were heading there. Rachel, Stevens, and Sophia were the last people to arrive. They were soaking wet and their shoes caked in mud. When they walked in, the first person they encountered besides the people who were also seeking shelter, was Angelique. "Of course." Sophia thought bitterly to herself, "That's just my luck!"  Angelique was telling everyone to take off their muddy shoes while offering towels for people to wipe the mud off of their clothing and legs as best as they could. When Angelique finally noticed Sophia, she gave her a scathing look, but offered her a towel anyway. Sophia was grateful even if it was from Angelique. But her anger did begin to boil. That woman was very much aware of the fact that when she had slept with Jeremy, Sophia and Jeremy were not only a couple, but due to get married when she had done so! That jezebel had no right to be angry with her! Hells fire, Sophia was getting angrier by the second at that woman. SHE was the reason why Sophia was leaving town in the first place! If it hadn't been for THAT woman, she and Jeremy would be happily married and life would have been just great. But it wasn't and it was all THAT woman's fault! To make matters much worse, Angelique's father, Dr. John Milton, walked into the clinic's waiting room where everyone that got caught in the storm were assembled. A big crack of booming thunder sounded at just that exact moment and Sophia was temporarily distracted by the loud noise. She heard Rachel's shriek which had sounded more like a church mouse that just got itself stuck in a mousetrap. The thunder was immediately followed by several bolts of lightning that lit up the late afternoon sky and the light made its way into the clinic through its many windows. Rain and hail continued to pelt the building at a fast rate. If circumstances had been different, Sophia would have been in her element. She loved the fierceness of thunderstorms but it was usually enjoyed from the safety of her home. When things got this bad out, her family would usually go down into their root cellar until the storm passed. Tornadoes were a somewhat rare thing in Ohio but they did happen from time to time. Thankfully she had never experienced one first hand during her lifetime. Perhaps this would be the first time if that was what was happening out there right now. It wouldn't have surprised her one bit if it was a twister considering the nature of the storm right now. The clinic had a metal roof so the sound of the rain and hail hitting it at a constant rate sounded weird to Sophia's ears but in a weird way it was also somewhat comforting. She looked over at her sister who was physically trembling with fright. Rachel was breathing quite fast which worried her. Sophia sat down on the bench she was sitting on in order to put her arm around her in a show of comfort. "Shhhh......" Sophia said quietly to Rachel, "We're safe now. You have to try to calm yourself down. Please. I am worried about you and the baby." The wind took on a savage howling sound and poor Rachel began to tremble even harder as she seemed to be struggling to breathe right. Dr. Milton saw Rachel and came right over to her. Sophia looked up at him as said, "She's pregnant. This cannot be good for the baby." Dr. Milton seemed concerned, "How far along is she?" he asked softly. Sophia looked at Rachel hoping she would answer but Rachel was too worked up to mutter so much as a word. "I think she's about 6 weeks along." Sophia answered to the best of her knowledge. Dr. Milton sat on the bench on the other side of Rachel while taking the stethoscope that was wrapped around his neck to place the round metal portion of it on Rachel's chest. He listened to her heartbeat for a few moments. From the look on his face, it must have been more rapid than normal. "She's hyperventilating." he told Sophia simply, "I need to get a couple things. I will be right back." He walked out of the waiting room and disappeared behind the main door leading to the examination rooms and offices. In the meantime, Angelique was now passing out blankets to everyone since they were all soaking wet. Being inside now, the wetness from their clothing only made everyone really cold. Angelique handed the last of her stack of blankets to Sophia and Rachel to share. Sophia took the blanket and quickly wrapped it around Rachel's shoulders. Sophia looked over at Angelique and whispered "Thank you." Angelique just turned around and ignored her, disappearing through the same door that her father had just went through only a minute before. It didn't take long for Dr. Milton to re-appear. He had a paper bag, a needle, and a small amber colored vial containing some sort of liquid in it. He once again sat back down on the bench next to Rachel who continued to hyperventilate and said in a calm and soothing voice, "I am going to give you a shot which will have medicine in it to help calm down your nerves. It's just a tiny bit of laudanum. It will take a few minutes fully get into your system so in the meantime, I will have to breathe into this paper bag for me." Rachel looked at Sophia with even more of a panicked look in her eyes. The one other thing that frightened Rachel the most besides thunderstorms were needles. Rachel was beyond scared out of her mind so Sophia was actually grateful that they were at the clinic instead of somewhere else, or she feared her sister would have caused herself to miscarry her baby from all the stress she was causing her body. Sophia was also thankful it was Dr. Milton that was here helping Rachel instead of Jeremy. THAT she would not have been able to handle! If she had seen him she would have walked right back out that door and gladly waited outside, twister or no twister! Dr. Milton took a small pair of scissors out of the front pocket of his shirt and cut away a small portion of the dress covering Rachel's left arm. When there was a wide enough of an opening, he took the needle and placed the sharp part of it into the vial of liquid and carefully measured a certain amount of the liquid into the needle's chamber. The whole time Rachel was sobbing and gripping Sophia's hands so tightly that her hands actually went numb. Dr. Milton proceeded to administer the shot into the upper part of Rachel's left arm and Rachel screamed out quite loudly. Everyone in the waiting room looked over at her. Some people had concerned looks on their faces while others seemed annoyed. One of them who looked annoyed, Sophia noticed, was their carriage driver Stevens. She glared at him hard and he quickly looked away in shame. When the shot was done and over with, Dr. Milton took the brown paper bag and showed Rachel how to breathe in and out of it. Once Rachel took over the bag and began to as Dr. Milton had showed her, she eventually began to calm down. Either that, or the medicine was starting to kick in. Sophia was glad to see that something was helping her sister. By that point, the storm outside sounded like it was starting to subside. Less than an hour later Dr. Milton kindly offered to take them all home.

 

     The ride took forever because of the muddy roads even though Rachel lived less than a mile away. They could have walked to her house quicker than the carriage ride had taken which was pretty awkward for Sophia to say the least. Dr. Milton was a kind enough man but he was also Angelique's father. Jeremy's new father-in-law. Awkward didn't even begin to cover how she felt. She stayed unusually quiet and didn't so much as say nary a word to him. When the carriage stopped outside Rachel's house, Sophia walked her sister to the front door and gave her a big hug. Rachel smiled but was loopy and tired from the medicine so she went straight up to her bedroom where she promptly fell asleep. Her husband Joseph, upon hearing front door open, ran from his study to greet them. But by the time he reached the foyer, Rachel was already upstairs and Sophia was shutting the front door when Joseph opened it back up. Sophia gave him a rundown of what happened when the storm hit. He hugged her then thanked her for taking such good care of Rachel. Sophia smiled at him saying, "That's what family is for. Now make sure she takes it easy for the next day or two. Please." He nodded his head in agreement and gave a little wave of goodbye when Sophia walked back towards Dr. Milton's carriage.

 

     The sun was back out and the birds were once again chirping peacefully as if nothing had ever happened. The town looked so beautiful despite the muddy roads and the fact that there were branches and debris everywhere, but she looked around her in appreciation of the beauty that surrounded her. The aftermath of a thunderstorm had always left a quiet and serene calm among the small town. The occasional left over raindrop could be seen as it fell from the deep green leaves of nearby trees. Sophia took her time walking back to the carriage. She was absolutely filled with dread upon having to be alone with Dr. Milton. His driver opened the door to the carriage as she approached, and held out a hand of support while she climbed back in. Her dress was still wet and heavy and there was mud all over the bottom of it that had already begun to dry. Dr. Milton, now that he had Sophia alone, spoke to her in a solemn voice, "I hope you don't think too ill of me for what I did to ruin your nuptials with Jeremy." He was certainly direct and got straight to the point which made Sophia instantly tense up. The situation was already very awkward to deal with, and now here he was sitting there trying to explain himself. She looked him in the eyes with tears forming in her own as he continued on, "I had to protect my daughter. I know you will most likely not understand why I did what I did now, but one day when you have children of your own, you will. I can only say I am sorry. If truth be told, I know he loves and misses you very much. Angelique is my daughter and even I agree that she made a poor choice by doing what she did with him out of wedlock. But I felt like that baby needed a real chance at life instead of being branded as a bastard. I cannot say enough how sorry I am for everything. I know it's been hard on you. I can only pray that you find happiness again someday, and will one day maybe even forgive my Ang and Jeremy for what they did to cause you so much pain." It was hard to direct her anger towards this man who had been so kind to her and her sister today but Sophia did have something to say back to him, "I do not know if I will ever forgive either of them. Sir, what your daughter did was despicable and cruel. As a well-bred woman she knew it was wrong to lay with a man before she was married and yet she did so anyway. Not to mention that it was a man who was soon to be married! She stole away all of my hopes and dreams along with the future I had with Jeremy. I do not think that is ever something even worth forgiveness! To make matters worse, since that day she has been most unkind towards me as if it were I who had done something so awful towards her! Not once as she bothered to apologize for her actions. She has not even one ounce of remorse for her actions and that's not something I can forgive her for." Dr. Milton's face took on a reddish tint as he bent his head down in defeat. He knew that what she said was nothing but the truth, and he was ashamed over his daughter's actions. He also hadn't realized that Angelique had been acting so unkind towards Sophia. For that, he felt awful. He surely didn't raise her to act like that. Sophia, seeing how distressed Dr. Milton looked, felt sorry for him in that moment. Surely he must have felt betrayed in his own way after having raised a daughter who was capable of such reprehensible behavior. They sat there in silence until the carriage stopped in front of her own home. "Thank you Dr. Milton for your kindness today." Sophia said as she hustled out of the carriage as quickly as she could. He looked up at her with a tremulous smile filled with guilt and watched as she ran towards the front door as fast as her feet would take her.

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