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.


4. Chapter Four: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Chapter Four: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow



     The day started off like any normal day; Sophia woke up, bathed, got dressed, and went down for breakfast with her family. Breakfast was always served exactly at eight o'clock in the morning and it was expected that all household members be in attendance. This had been the family tradition since the day after her parents were married and it was a tradition that Sophia hoped she would instill in her new family. "Perhaps they already have that tradition," Sophia mused to herself. Knowing next to nothing about them, she would have to learn pretty much everything about them including their current daily routines. Heck, Sophia didn't even know the ages of her soon-to-be husband or his children! She didn't even know if the children were boys or girls. Wow. That was a lot for her to process especially when she would be leaving tomorrow. She was feeling especially anxious this morning as it would be the last full day she would actually be here. Her emotions were raw from lack of sleep; the last week she had been arduously preparing for her move which also included packing up most of her belongings. Some things she was keeping behind. Others she had given to her sister, Maybelle, and Nellie. Items like old clothing that the former didn't want, she had instructed Nellie to have them donated to the Church's charity box. Lucinda, Rachel, and Maybelle had all been wonderful to offer her some much needed help with all her tasks and preparations, as well as Nellie when she wasn't busy doing her own tasks around the house. Her father refused to help her get ready for the trip by saying that he was "In no way, shape, or form doing anything to make it easier for Sophia to leave!" When he had said that, there were tears in his eyes even though he was using his gruff tone of voice. 


     Sophia couldn't help but feel awful. One night it had occurred to her how terrible she felt when Jeremy had left her life almost one month ago. Now she was leaving the lives of her most cherished friends and family behind just to selfishly run away from her own pain. So when it came to her father not wanting to help her she actually understood. If she were in his shoes she wouldn't want to help her either. They all wanted to spend as much time together as possible before Sophia left tomorrow morning so Rachel and Joseph had spent the night there last night just trying to make the most of every second they possibly could have with Sophia. 


     The two sisters had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning while they finished up Sophia's packing, all the while talking about anything and everything. Rachel had confessed late last night after Joseph had gone to bed that her pregnancy hormones were in overdrive and that her sexual desire had been very much increased. The two sisters were alone in Sophia's bedroom sitting on the bed, exhausted but unable to sleep even after all the hours of final preparations for the trip tomorrow. So while eating Nellie's delicious chocolate cake and drinking warm chamomile tea while the rest of the household was asleep, the two sisters talked. Rachel giggled when saying Joseph was enjoying their time in the bedroom immensely which made the two sisters laugh quite loudly. "Ssssshhhh!" Rachel warned Sophia while trying to calm down her own laughter, "We'll wake everyone up. You know how mad Father gets when he is woken up in the middle of the night." Sophia laughed at that, albeit a little quieter this time, which brought back so many memories of the two of them over the years while they were growing up when they had spent countless nights sitting on one of their beds, talking late into the night or telling silly stories. There had been plenty of times their laughter had woken up their father in the past and he would come pounding down the hallway into whichever room they were in, in order to admonish them to be quiet. 


     So many great memories were created in this house. In this town. Sophia was starting to really panic over her decision to leave. By this time the next day, she would be getting ready to board the train. Sophia then confessed to Rachel about how scared she truly was about her decision to marry Travis Ewing. With Jeremy she had been excited and very much in love. But with Travis, she didn't even know him let alone love him, so her level of trepidation was pretty high. Sophia had often wondered what he looked like. Did he have dark or light colored hair? Was he portly or trim? Was he young or old? Would he treat her kindly or be abusive? Would he expect her to perform his marital rights with her on the very first night she was there? More than likely, she suspected. After all, it was his right to do so once they were legally wed and she would essentially become his property. Goodness, could she actually go through with this? She didn't know a lick about him, so doing such a.... a personal act like performing her marital duty started to really freak her out. She shared those thoughts with Rachel. Rachel sighed. "I have to be honest. I am so worried about this whole situation for you. I hadn't even thought about you and him having relations yet. Ugh." Rachel remained quiet for a few more minutes, seemingly pondering the situation further, then continued by saying, "Once you both are married, it's his legal right to ask that of you and it's your duty. The best piece of advice I can give you is to just remember what I told you about my first time. I was scared too, remember?" Sophia nodded as Rachel went on, " I was also very much in love with Joseph. But the unknown is always scary. However, it ended up being better than I had thought. Yes, it will be painful the first time, especially after he, uh, um... you know... enters you in the beginning. For me, it felt like Joseph was tearing my insides up. But after that first initial time it does gets better. I actually love the intimacy now and look forward to those moments with Joseph. It brings you to such a closer emotional level that only you and he will share with each other. Unless, of course, he is a like some men who have a mistress on the side or visits brothels. It's hard to explain about intimacy Soph, but that's one thing you are going to have to expect. Hopefully he is gentle enough with you the first time so it's not so bad for you. Oh, and don't freak out about what I am going to say next. After it's... um, over and he spills his, uh, you know... seed into you, there will be some blood on the sheets that comes from you. Almost like you have your monthly flow but not nearly as bad. That's perfectly normal. If you get really scared over the act you could buy yourself a week of time by saying you just got your monthly flow. That should keep him off of you." The two sisters laughed. Leave it to Rachel to find some humor to interject into the conversation. Rachel gave her big sister a hug of reassurance. Yes, Sophia was very scared of what to expect when her and Travis had their first night of intimacy.


     Setting aside the memories from her conversation with Rachel only a few short hours ago, Sophia sat in her chair at the dining room table waiting for the rest of her family to come down for the meal. During breakfast Sophia's father had been unusually quiet and somber. Her mother wasn't her normal cheery and talkative self either. Only Sophia, Rachel, and Joseph bothered to converse over breakfast while her parents just listened while they ate. They were having a discussion about the upcoming Wellington's Annual Fourth of July parade and festival that was happening in a couple of days on the fourth of July. Poor Rachel was stuck working the lemonade booth this year which was always the busiest one if it was super hot and muggy outside. Joseph and Louis were both on parade duty and had even made their own dressed up carriage with a flatbed cart attached to the back of it that was for the bank that they both worked at. The same bank that Sophia's father happened to own. Every year since Sophia could remember from an early age, Louis would have Rachel and her help him decorate the carriage with colorful decorations in red, white, and blue. The two sisters had always enjoyed doing that with him. Usually they would also ride in it with him (sometimes even their mother would join them if she was able to) and they would throw out some special ordered salt water taffy candies down the parade route for all the assembled children. But this year it would only be Louis and Joseph participating in the parade itself. Sophia felt a pang of regret that she would miss the annual event that she had been going to her whole life. 


     After becoming lost in her train of thought, Sophia snapped out of it to listen to what Joseph was saying. "...and just think, next year little Joseph Jr. or Josephine can ride in the parade too! There will be three generations by that point!" he was saying excitedly. Rachel rolled her eyes as she laughed, "Joseph or Josephine? Don't I get a say in the name of this child? After all, I am the one who is going to be carrying him or her for nine months." Sophia piped in her thoughts on the subject, "I think little Sophie would love riding in the parade float next year." Rachel rolled her eyes again and quipped back, "You're so full of yourself if you think I would ever name this child after you!" They all laughed at that, her parents included. "Well, stranger things have happened." Sophia giggled. "Well not that strange!" Rachel shot back with a saucy little wink of her eye. Joseph inserted himself into the exchange of words by saying, "Doesn't even matter. Like I said before, little Joseph or Josephine will be on that float by this time next year." Rachel threw her cream colored cloth napkin at him playfully.


     Their father stood up from the table at that point, his food now long gone. "I have to get to the bank. It's getting to be that time. Friday's are always our busiest time at the bank. I really need to get going." He walked over to his daughters to give them both a hug and a kiss on their cheek, then proceeded to walk out of the room. Lucinda also got up from the table and followed Louis to the front door to see him off as was her custom on the days he worked. She came back into the room a few minutes  later. "So what do you all say to a trip to the beach today?" she inquired. Lucinda was never much of a beach person herself but her daughters both loved it and it had been quite a while since any of them had gone to Lake Erie. Both Sophia and Rachel perked up at the idea and even Joseph seemed inclined to go. Louis had thoughtfully given Joseph the day off from the bank so he could spend the day with the ladies. "I can have Nellie prepare us a picnic basket while we get ready to go." Lucinda commented. Then Rachel said, "Oh darn, we'd have to stop at my house to pick up our bathing clothes if that's all right with you Mother." That made Sophia realize that all her own clothing, minus her traveling clothes for tomorrow, was packed up already including her bathing outfits. "Maybe the beach isn't such a good idea," Sophia said, "my bathing clothes are packed and I really don't feel like digging around my suitcases to find them." "Oh, I'm positive I have something you could wear." Lucinda said smiling, "Let me go tell Nellie to get started on that picnic basket and then I will find something suitable for you to wear Soph. Rachel, we can head to your house before going to the lake so you and Joseph can get your bathing clothes and anything else you might want to bring." Lucinda left the room humming a little song to herself while she went on to do as she had said. "This will be fun!" Rachel beamed, "We haven't gone to Lake Erie in such a long time." Sophia agreed; it had been at least two summers since she had gone there herself and one last trip to the lake sounded like such a pleasant way to spend her final day here.



     It was three hours later when they all had finally arrived at the beach and Lake Erie was a gorgeous shade of dark blue that absolutely sparkled like jewels from the suns bright light. Being that it was such a hot day, swimming in the cool water of the lake sounded positively refreshing. Sophia and Rachel had always enjoyed swimming very much. The beach was pretty crowded so finding a large enough spot to lay out their blanket was tough, but they finally found a suitable location and Lucinda spread out the blanket while Joseph set down the heavily packed picnic basket that Nellie had lovingly prepared for them. 


     While they spent the day at the beach, Nellie herself was at the house preparing a veritable feast for tonight's dinner. The whole family would be there including Maybelle and Hank as they planned to celebrate Sophia's last night home. After taking off her dress that had her bathing clothes underneath it, Sophia was quick to run into the water while Rachel and Joseph followed quickly behind her. Lucinda laid herself out on the blanket with her large brimmed hat on to help keep the bright sun out of her eyes. She never enjoyed swimming, even as a child, so she gladly watched as her two daughters and her son-in-law frolicked in the water, splashing each other like they used to do as children. She fought the tears that threatened to spill over at the thought that as of tomorrow, family outings like this wouldn't be the same without Sophia there. Oh, how she would miss Sophia something awful! Hopefully her daughter would be able to come back and visit at least once a year with her new family. Lucinda decided then and there to make plans of her own to go visit Sophia in Texas along with Louis at some point in the not-too-distant future. Louis was never one to take time off of work except for the major holidays and on the weekends when the bank was closed. But she was more than positive that if it meant visiting Sophia and her new family, he would gladly do so. Joseph was more than capable of managing the bank which would make Louis more comfortable with taking some time off. Lucinda then began to worry about what Sophia's new life would be like; would her new husband be kind and gentle? What were his children like? They were going to be her new grandchildren once Sophia got married to him. Wowwhat a thought that was! How in the world would Sophia adjust to being both a new wife and mother while running a household of her own? From what Sophia had told her, she would be required to run the household while her husband ran his ranch. That alone was worrisome as Sophia had never cooked, cleaned, done laundry, or managed any type of household duties a day in her life. Nor did Sophia have any experience with children even though she knew Sophia had always wanted to be a mother. Because of Louis's hard work and determination in life by becoming the owner of his own bank, their family always enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, and Nellie had been with them for ages as their housekeeper and cook. Even Lucinda, herself, had very little experience with doing those types of things. Sophia was in for a real challenge. Part of Lucinda selfishly hoped that the marriage wouldn't work out so that Sophia could come back home. After all, while divorce was really rare, it could be done under the right circumstances. But if something like that did happen, it would also ruin Sophia's reputation which Lucinda obviously didn't want. Perhaps Sophia will get down there and not marry this Travis Ewing man after meeting him. As quickly as those thoughts popped into Lucinda's head, she instantly felt guilty. No, she needed to pray on this matter to make sure this marriage worked out for Sophia. That was the best thing anyone could hope for at this point.



     Later that evening the family gathered around the dining  table in the formal dining room which also included Maybelle and Hank. Nellie had really outdone herself this time! There was a splendid display of a prime rib roast complete with an au ju sauce, asparagus drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with a touch of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. There was buttery whipped potatoes that had not one lump to be found in them, accompanied by a brown gravy that had been prepared with some of the prime rib drippings. Next was the buttermilk biscuits that was drizzled with her deliciously divine homemade butter which was the envy of many a chef and cook in all of Lorain County. Nellie always joked that her famous butter was "often duplicated but never perfected" when others had tried to re-create it. Lastly, for dessert, Nellie had specially made a pecan pie with a caramel sauce that was to die for. Everyone happily dug into their supper with delight. 


     Nellie sat alone in the kitchen, which wasn't too far from the family dining room, with her own plate of food before her but she found herself unable to eat it. She was silently crying while over-hearing the others talk animatedly over their own suppers. She didn't have a real family of her own for a very long time now. After her parents had both tragically died in a carriage accident well over twenty years ago, back then Nellie had been forced to look for work in order to support herself. Wellington was a small town and she knew many of it's residents, but finding gainful employment wasn't easy as there was next to no jobs to be had. Back in those days, there were less people living here and even fewer businesses. One day, while inside the Bowlby & Hall grocer's store asking if there was an available position, the then newly-wed Mrs. Lucinda Lancaster had overheard a much younger Mr. Hall telling Nellie that he didn't have an open position in the store for her, especially since it had been a newer business in town. Like everyone else in Wellington, Mrs. Lancaster had been well aware of Nellie's parents dying in the carriage accident only one week prior and had walked over to her saying, "Why pardon me Nellie,  but as it just so happens, Mr. Lancaster and I are in need of a housekeeper. I just overheard you asking Mr. Hall here for a paid position. He might not have one to offer you but I sure do!" Nellie beamed at this news. Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster were admired within the small community and generally known as both generous and kind-hearted people. "Oh Mrs. Lancaster, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I would be honored to come work for both you and Mr. Lancaster!" Nellie gushed excitedly. Mrs. Lancaster smiled kindly back at her and added, "We'd be delighted to have you then but the position requires you to live with us. We do have an attic that is all done up where your room would be if you find that acceptable? It's actually quite a nice space even though it's an attic room." Nellie laughed with joy! After her parents had died barely a week prior, the house they had been renting by Mr. Akers was too much for Nellie to afford on her own even with a paying position. Being a such a young woman who was barely eighteen years of age at the time, she knew full well that she would never be able to afford to keep living there no matter what type of job she found. Women just didn't make nearly as much money as men did, regardless of how hard they worked. Mrs. Lancaster, who was well aware of Nellie's hard-luck position in life, had taken pity on the young woman who was only a year younger than she was, and had made up the position of a housekeeper on a whim in order to help Nellie out. Nellie wasn't stupid; she had known full well that Mrs. Lancaster had only wanted to help her out, so she ended up moving in with the newly-wed couple and began to work for them as their well-paid housekeeper. However, soon after she had moved in and began her position of the Lancaster's housekeeper, Nellie quickly learned that Mrs. Lancaster had no idea how to prepare meals or cook, so Nellie then offered her services in that department as well. After all, Nellie had learned to cook from her own Ma when she was a little girl and learned she had a natural talent for it. So it didn't take long for Nellie to become both the housekeeper and the Lancaster's personal chef and she had been with them now for twenty three years. Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster had always made her feel like she was a part of their family. Nellie had been there through everything including the birth of Sophia as Mrs. Lancaster had already been newly pregnant when she offered Nellie the job. Then just a short year later, the birth of Rachel. The Lancaster's had always been so kind to her, and in return, Nellie was a loyal and faithful employee to them both. Looking back at all those years she had spent with them, she was crying now because she would truly miss Sophia. The family had insisted that Nellie eat with them but she politely declined because she was feeling overly emotional and did not wanting to burden the family with her sorrows. So Nellie sat there listening to the family laugh and jokingly bicker among themselves. Tomorrow was going to be just as hard for her as it would be for the rest of the family.



     The next morning, after a very restless night of sleep, Sophia got herself up at the crack of dawn and prepared a bath for herself. This would be the last enjoyable bath she would be able to take for at least ten days. The train trip from Wellington, Ohio to Dallas, Texas called for ten days which meant it would stop at every station or depot from here to there in order to pick up and drop off passengers on it's way down south, so bathing would not be a viable option for her. Or maybe it would be? Sophia honestly couldn't say what to expect as it would be her very first train ride that was out of Ohio. Her and her family had taken the train into Cleveland on many occasions to visit the Cleveland Playhouse for the Opera and other theater performances. There were also some occasions when she and Rachel were younger that their parents had taken them there to visit The Cleveland Zoo. Sophia had always loved the animals on display there but her favorite part of the Zoo trips was the large Carousel. It had animals in all shapes and sizes to ride on. The vibrant colors were hand painted with such fine detail that it always seemed to be an almost magical part of their visit. Her favorite animal to ride on was always the unicorn. Sophia could still recall exactly what it looked like; white with a gold colored harness that had a saddle painted in a soft pink color. The sharp horn which protruded from the animal's head was painted in gold. Her and Rachel would always fight over who got to sit on the unicorn, and Sophia, being the older sister (even if it was only by a year) always won. The unicorn was hers every time and poor Rachel was then left to pick her second favorite animal, the panda bear. Sometimes, in order to be fair, her parents would have them ride the carousel twice so that Rachel had the opportunity to ride the unicorn, which left Sophia to pick the white polar bear. She sighed as she sat in the warmth of her bath which was perfumed with a rose scented essence oil. She made a mental note to remember to put the glass bottle of it in her traveling reticule before she had to leave in just a short couple of hours. Sophia surmised that everyone must still be sleeping peacefully because the house was so quiet except for the faint sounds of Nellie who could be heard preparing breakfast down in the kitchen. 


     Sophia jokingly wished she could kidnap Nellie and take her with her to Texas. Nellie had been living there since before she had even been born and had always been a big part of Sophia's life. There had been so many times in her life that Nellie offered to teach Sophia how to cook and every time Sophia refused thinking she would never need to learn the skill. Rachel, on the other hand, was always willing to learn something new and had taken Nellie up on her offers. Therefore, Rachel was now able to hold her own in the kitchen. Rachel may not be the best cook in the world but her husband seemed to be well fed. Now that Sophia was about to become a wife and mother, she had absolutely no skills in food preparation. How in the world would she pull it off once she arrived at her new home? Hells fire, how would she manage to pull off anything else pertaining to running the household? She had no skills whatsoever to contribute! She suddenly felt very guilty for lying to Travis Ewing about that, she truly did, but was so desperate to leave this town that she figured she could learn it all once she got there. But what if she couldn't manage it? Sophia did purchase and pack a few books on the various subjects of homemaking which she planned to read on her train ride, but it would only scratch the surface. Oh why didn't she think to ask Nellie to teach her these things before she left? Sophia realized in that moment that she was in over her head and deep! She wouldn't doubt it for one moment if Travis Ewing sent her packing before the first week of their marriage was complete. If he did end up sending her back here, she would return a ruined woman and be an utter embarrassment in this town! With one man who already left her at the alter and another who would find her out to be the liar that she was... no.... it was too much to even contemplate! She had to make this marriage work out, she just had to! That was her only feasible option. 


     Sophia proceeded to wash her hair and finish up her bathing in order to get dressed and head down for breakfast which was being served extra early due to her scheduled train departure. Everyone else would be getting up very soon, if they weren't already, so she needed to be presentable very quickly. After they all broke their fast it would be time for her to leave. That thought gave her a very queer feeling in the pit of her stomach. Sophia made sure to wear something as light and comfortable as possible considering the heat of the summer day and the fact that the train car she was assigned to would be quite small and compact. It would be very stuffy and hot in there according to Maybelle who had done her own fair share of travelling with Hank to visit her parents who lived in California. 


     After Sophia was completely dressed and ready, she proceeded to head downstairs to break her fast with everyone else. Approximately halfway down the steps, she was overcome by a fierce pain in her lower abdomen that came on suddenly. The same damn pain that had started many weeks ago and had been persistently getting worse. She was still on the steps, leaning up against the heavy wooden railing for support, when Hank and Maybelle came walking down. Upon seeing her, Maybelle rushed the rest of the way down towards Sophia out of concern for her best friend. "Sophia, are you okay?" Maybelle asked with obvious concern edging her voice. Sophia's pain was so intense that she couldn't even respond. She crumpled down into a seated position on the steps while still bent over in agonizing pain. Panicking, Maybelle cried out to her husband, "Hank, go get Mrs. Lancaster, quick!" Sophia could hear Hank begin to turn around and head back upstairs when she forced herself to yell out at him, "Wait Hank, stop! I'm fine. Don't get my mother please! It's just my, my monthly pains." She had lied, which she felt awful about, but she didn't want her mother involved. Sophia absolutely did not want to be forced into going to the clinic to be checked out, which she knew full well her mother would insist upon. That would cause her to miss the train and Sophia already knew that there wasn't another passenger train heading down south for another week. No, she couldn't miss this train. If she did, she might end up chickening out. She had to leave while she still possessed the resolve to go. Sophia had to assure them that she was fine even if it meant that she was knowingly lying to them. Hank turned around and looked at Maybelle questioningly but Maybelle wasn't paying him any attention; she was still focused on Sophia who sucked in a deep breath and forced herself to stand back up despite the horrific pain. She could feel sweat beading itself on her forehead from the it, but she pasted a false smile on her face and assured them once again that she was fine. "Come on you guys, I can smell coffee, and I if I know Nellie, she is about to bring the breakfast in to be served." Sophia said. Hank and Maybelle exchanged a look of worry between them but decided to trust that what Sophia said was true. With that, Sophia led the way as they followed her to the dining room to break their morning fast.



     The train depot was located right in town not too far away from the village green and town hall which was very convenient for Sophia. Once everyone arrived there in their own carriages, the men helped unload the Lancaster's carriage which contained all of Sophia's luggage onto the wooden platform where the passengers would be boarding. Josh Jenkins, a depot worker who Sophia had knew somewhat well because her mother was good friends with his mother Joycie, kindly began to load her luggage into the train's storage compartment. 


     The pain that had darn near crippled Sophia earlier that morning was completely gone now and she looked over at her family and friends with tears in her eyes. Her throat was uncomfortably tight from repressed emotion. Her heart was aching badly. It was time to say her goodbyes and it was actually more painful than she had imagined it would be. Lucinda grabbed Sophia into an embrace to hug her tightly and they stood there like that for a few moments while Lucinda whispered some words of encouragement into her ears by saying, "I want you to wire us at your earliest possible convenience to let us know you have arrived safely. I also want to know what your impressions of Travis Ewing is. I mean it Sophia! I'm going to be a basket case until I know that you are okay. In fact, send us telegraphs as much as you can since I will get them quicker than the post. I will do the same. Please write me at least once a month, and if possible, send photographs of your new husband and stepchildren. Oh Sophia, I love you so very, very, much and I hope you find your new life to be everything you've hoped for. I only want your happiness and if for any reason you are not happy, then you get your little heiny back on a train and come back home. I will miss you more than you can possibly realize. Remember that you are going to be taking care of a household now and it's not easy work, along with being married and having young stepchildren to help raise. A marriage in itself if a great deal of work. When you are able to, please come back for a visit and bring your new family with you. I am most eager and honestly curious to meet them. Take good care of them as well as yourself. You are doing such a brave thing. I don't think that I possess that type of courage and I am actually in awe of your bravery. You must get that from you're father as he's always been so very brave. Oh Sophia! I don't want you to go! Twenty-two years of having you here with me hasn't been enough time. I love you so very much. Oh God am I going to miss you!" "Oh Mother," Sophia whispered, "I love you so much as well! I will miss you greatly, especially since I will no longer have you to do all my shopping for me. Thank you for everything you have done for me my whole life and I will make sure to come back and visit at least one a year with my new family even if I have to drag them with me!" They were both laughing and crying at the same time as Lucinda hesitantly let go of Sophia so she could say goodbye to her father. 


     Never being a man who was known for displaying his emotions, Louis Lancaster tugged his oldest daughter into a fierce hug and clapped his hand on her  back a few times. When they parted, Sophia gazed into his teary eyes. "Father, I am really going to miss you. Make sure you keep Mother from going crazy. She's likely to go on a major shopping spree once I am gone. I am afraid for your pocketbook." She joked as tears streamed down her face. "Psshhawww," he said with a hoarse voice, "I have been keeping that woman in line for over twenty-four years now since the day we met. Your leaving us won't stop that!" He tried really hard not to show his emotions, as was his style, but Sophia could tell he was hurting very much on the inside. It was more than obvious just from the look in his eyes. Louis gave out a booming laugh and said, "Don't make a mess of things down there in Texas and watch out for those rattlers. They are everywhere down there." "Oh Father!" Sophia replied with a laugh of her own, "You always know just what to say to make a woman feel so loved." Her father then slipped something into her hands. Looking down, she saw it was a small leather coin purse. "No woman should trek off into the unknown without some pocket money. There's two-hundred dollars in cash and ten dollars in change. It may come in handy, especially if that new husband of yours ends up being a no good lout." He said to her while looking into her eyes. The look of worry in his own tugged at her heart. "Father," she said while trying to push the coin purse back into his hands, "this is much too generous of you but I don't feel right taking it." Louis firmly placed the coin purse back into her hands then smiled and gave her a little wink, "Take it. This is non-negotiable." "Thank you." came her weak reply. Sophia immediately put the coin purse of money in her traveling reticule for safe keeping. 


     Next, she walked over to Hank and Maybelle. Hank gave her a brief hug and wished her all the best. Maybelle had been crying her eyes out since they arrived at the train station so they were pretty red and swollen. She gave Sophia such a tight hug that it was almost hard for her to breathe. "Goodness," Maybelle said through all her tears, "when we were little girls I had always pictured us growing up together, getting married, and raising our children here. Now that you are leaving, a part of my dream is dying. I don't know what I am going to do with myself once you're gone. I suppose Rachel is just going to have to put up with me more than usual. I promise to write you often and I want you to remember to do the same for me! Promise me Sophia!" Maybelle urged desperately. She was now holding her dearest friend in the entire world at arm's length with both of her hands clenched tightly on each of Sophia's shoulders. Maybelle was looking directly into Sophia's eyes, silently giving her a look to make sure that she was understood to keep that one promise. "I promise May." Sophia said in a choked up voice. The tears were coming down so hard from her face that Sophia had to keep brushing them away with the sleeve of her dress. Hank was quick to offer Sophia his handkerchief, "Keep it." he said simply with a smile of reassurance. Sophia was grateful for his thoughtfulness and took it from his outstretched hand where she proceeded to wipe the moisture from her face. "I think I might need another one," she laughed out loud, "my nose seems to be running now." Her father quickly offered her his hanky which she used to blow her nose with. She tried to offer it back to him afterwards but her father just laughed and said, "You can use it on your trip. You might end up needing it some more." She would learn the hard way all too soon how true those words would end up being. 


     "Oh come here!" Sophia smiled while looking at her brother-in-law Joseph. By this time, more passengers were assembled on the wooden platform, ready to embark on journeys of their own. She enveloped Joseph in a warm hug then looked at him directly in the eyes saying, "You promise to take good care of my sister now you hear me? I want you to cater to her every little whim. She is carrying your child and deserves to be able to relax and be pampered." He laughed at her and said jokingly, "Since when did her getting pregnant change that?" Rachel playfully smacked at his arm. "In all seriousness though, good luck Sophia. I'm going to miss you. You've been like a sister to me." Joseph said as he was then was overcome with sadness himself, which made Rachel and Sophia cry even harder because Joseph never cried. His display of tears was very much unexpected. The whistle on the train sounded two times to indicate that passengers should now begin boarding. 


     Nellie was the next in line and she eagerly gave Sophia a quick and friendly hug saying, "Not long after I started working for your parents, I was there when your mother found out she was expecting you and I was also there when your mother gave birth to you in her bed. I have watched you grow up into such an exceptional woman! Go find your destiny Sophia and the rest of us will all be okay in time." Sophia smiled at Nellie with such fondness. "You have been such a big part of my life Nellie." Sophia said, "I am now sorry I didn't take up your offers on all those cooking lessons. I should have. Perhaps had I done so, I wouldn't be so woefully unprepared for my new life. I regret not taking the time to do that with you. But I shall write. You ARE a part of this family like it or not. I am so thankful you were there for me over the years. The best choice my mother ever made in her life was to hire you." Tears poured down from both their faces. "Um, excuse me," Louis interjected, "but I have to disagree on that one. Your mother marrying me was the best decision she has ever made." Everyone had a good laugh over her father's attempts at making such a solemn occasion more lighthearted.


     Finally, Sophia looked over at her sister. Rachel. The one person in this world she was actually the closest to with Maybelle in a short second. The two sisters locked teary eyes on one another and it was Rachel who pulled Sophia into the hug this time. Like her mother had done, Rachel whispered into Sophia's ear saying, "You are the best big sister I could have ever hoped for. But you are more than just that to me. You are also my best friend. I am so sorry to see you go. I really hope you are able to make it back home in late December before this baby comes. I cannot imagine giving birth without you there." Sophia kissed her sister on the cheek and whispered in return, "Rachel, I will miss you dearly. I don't know how I will be able to do this without you there. It will be so hard. I love you so much and take care of Mother and Father for me. I will do everything in my power to be there when little Sophie is born." Rachel playfully smacked her sister on the shoulder. "I have done told you that no child of mine will ever bear your name!" she said with a merry little twinkle in her watery eyes. A train worker yelled in a loud voice "ALL ABOARD!" Then the whistle on the train sounded three times. It was time to go and Sophia found herself not wanting to move a single inch towards that train.


     With two hankies and her train ticket in one hand and her traveling reticule in the other, Sophia forced herself to walk towards the passenger entrance of the train. She turned around and waved one last time to all her loved ones. Nellie, Lucinda, Rachel, and Maybelle were all crying in earnest now which only made Sophia cry harder herself. Looking at the men, they tried hard to remain stoic but she saw a few tears escape her father's eyes. Seeing how emotional her father had suddenly become almost undid her completely, causing her to want to run back towards them at that moment and say the hell with it! Instead, she kept her determination in line while she turned around and boarded the train, never again turning around to look back at them. For if she did, and witnessed when Rachel collapsed from hysterically crying over her departure, there would have been no way she could have kept her already thin and wavering resolve. Sophia was asked for her ticket by a train attendant and with a shaky hand, she handed it over to him with a small amount of reluctance. "Thank you Miss Lancaster. If you'll please follow me." He then directed her to a private compartment that would be hers alone for the ten day journey. She thanked him graciously then shut the door so she could have some much needed privacy as she broke down into a fit of tears that bordered on hysteria. A few minutes later the train whistle blew again and it began to leave the depot where her family and friends all stood there watching as it left. Little did Sophia know that Jeremy stood nearby in order witness for himself that she really was leaving. It wasn't some cruel joke after all. With a heavy heart full of remorse and regret, he too, had tears streaming down his face and was crying in choked sobs as he watched the love of his life leave. "I love you Sophia!" he screamed out in anguish, not caring one bit who had seen or heard him. 


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