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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10. Chapter Ten: Concessions

Chapter Ten: Concessions

 

 

July 13, 1890

I awoke this morning so tired and sore from yesterday's work. My body is not used to it but I refuse to back down! I will be doing everything I can to show Travis that I can be a good wife, mother, and homemaker. I had a terrible dream last night about that poor chicken who appears to want to haunt me now. It was covered in blood with its missing eyeballs and the huge gash in the middle of its small head. It came running frantically after me, finally pecking me into a bloody pulp with its sharp beak in order to seek its revenge. I died out here all alone with no family to speak of. The only person at my funeral service was Dr. May who said to the priest that "If the chicken didn't get me, I was bound to die relatively soon anyway." I woke up in a panicked sweat, screaming out. Travis must have heard me because he woke up seconds later and held me close as I cried my heart out. I believe that my homesickness is really affecting my emotional state of mind. Well, that and the gosh darned chicken incident! Travis laughed at me so often yesterday evening and throughout the day today, and now the ranch hands have nicknamed me "Little Chicken." I have never been so embarrassed in my entire life!

 On a good note though, I did learn how to pluck out the feathers of that chicken, clean it up, and then cut it into pieces per Mrs. Cox's instructions. It was just as gruesome of a task as killing the chicken had been. I almost retched a few times. The smell was awful! I didn't think I would be able to do it, but I did. I have to say that I am somewhat proud of myself. After that was done, Mrs. Cox showed me how to make whipped potatoes and buttered corn still on the cob, as well as her delicious buttermilk biscuits. She served a cherry pie that she had made that morning while I was still at the hotel in Dallas. Everyone ate the late supper with much delight and they really seemed to be appreciative of my hard work, Travis included. There is a certain sense of satisfaction in being able to create an entire meal like that but I had no idea how much work went into it until I did it myself. Mother would have been so proud of me! She has not even learned to cook yet herself! 

This morning I wrote letters to Mother and Father, Rachel, then finally Maybelle. After that, I worked alongside with Mrs. Cox who taught me how to use the left over biscuits we made last night into a breakfast dish called biscuits and sausage gravy. I have never had it before and it was simply delicious! When I write to Nellie, I must make sure to tell her about this dish so she can make it for Mother and Father. Life out here is so different from back home. I am not used to working so hard nor being covered all the time in sweat and dirt. I am going to make a nightly ritual of taking baths before bed. Perhaps I will use some of the money Father gave to me and splurge on bathing bubbles to use with my scented oils. After the breakfast meal was finished earlier today, Mrs. Cox supervised me as I washed up all the dishes. She even showed me an easier way of doing them which took much less time. My hands are red and raw from the harsh soaping bubbles, especially after doing the wash yesterday. Then she showed me how to keep inventory of the larder that is in the root cellar below the house, and the pantry contents, in order to make a weekly shopping list. She said Travis has an account with the grocer's store in town if I ever had to go into town myself to get supplies or anything else for that matter. 

I spent some time using the wheeled chair to take Hope to the pond where her and I sat there and made up silly stories. That little girl may not have liked me when she first met me a few days ago but she is seeming to like me more now. Her feet haven't hurt her yet today so she hasn't needed any laudanum, for which I am grateful. When it was nearing lunch time, I had to carry her back to the house and when I sat her down in the kitchen chair she gave me a hug! Mikey, on the other hand, still isn't coming around yet. Other than the chicken fiasco yesterday that made him crack up with laughter, he won't allow me to talk to him even though I tried. From what I have observed, he likes helping Travis around the ranch. He's even doing Hope's chores while she is unable to. That little boy works harder in one day than I have in my entire life. I really admire that about him. Today after lunch was served he went out to the barn to help Travis and some of the other men breed cattle. While they were doing that, Mrs. Cox showed me how to do various things around the house that a rancher's wife need to know how to do. I am so happy she has agreed to help me learn all these things. Even if Travis doesn't want me as his wife, I will still do everything I can to make his life easier. Just as a wife of his should be doing.

 

     There was a knock at the bedroom door just as Sophia was about to finish her journal entry. Sophia set down her quill and closed the ink bottle up, then opened the door to see Mikey standing there. "You have a visitor waiting for you in my Pa's office Ma'am." he said quickly. Before Sophia could even inquire as to who the visitor was, Mikey had already ran back down the steps. The only visitor she could think of that it could possibly be was Elsie which excited her, even though it was after eight o'clock pm. Sophia walked herself briskly down the steps even being as sore and tired as she was. She couldn't wait to get into that bathing tub as soon as possible to ease her body! She opened the door to Travis's study with a bright smile on her face and walked in expecting to see Elsie, but instead, she saw an older man who was only a couple inches taller than herself standing there. He looked to be around her Father's age. He had brown hair flecked with gray and he held his black derby hat in his hands. "You must be the new Mrs. Ewing." he said by way of introduction. "My name is Mr. Hartley. I am Travis's lawyer Ma'am." She looked at him in shock, wondering what this man could possibly want with her. "Welcome." she said skeptically, "Please, take a seat. Can I offer you any refreshments such as sweet tea, coffee, or water?" He shook his head no. "I am actually on my way to the Exall Lake Resorts here in Turtle Creek with my wife. She is waiting for me in our carriage." This bit of information seemed odd; why would he make her wait in the carriage like that? Especially at night time? Sophia sat down in one of the two chairs sitting in front of Travis's desk and turned herself to face the man. "Forgive my appearance," she said to him, "it's been a long day and I must look frightful." "Nonsense!" Mr. Hartley smiled, "You look just as beautiful as I have heard." Mr. Hartley had genuinely meant that compliment too. While making inquiries about her at the hotel yesterday after she had checked out, the hotel manager told him she was a beauty and he was right. Her simple pale blue dress was smudged with dirt and so was her face. But she still looked ravishing. 

 

     "Mr. Hartley, I do hate to keep your wife waiting. How can I help you?" Sophia said frankly which interrupted his train of thought. He then took on a look of someone who was about to give out some bad news. He sat himself up even straighter in the chair and looked directly into her eyes. Sophia couldn't help but grow uncomfortable at his very direct gaze. He went from being pleasant to business-minded in the matter of seconds. "Well Mrs. Ewing, to be honest, I met with your husband Travis early yesterday morning and he is requesting that the marriage be, well... dissolved Ma'am." Sophia sat there in utter shock. She did overhear Travis telling Mike yesterday that he had to bring her back to the ranch for the sake of propriety, but this news still caused her to feel somewhat discombobulated. Why hadn't Travis told her himself that he had met with his lawyer? He promised to have a talk with her but he hadn't thus far. Sophia felt sheer disappointment in the pit of her stomach having learned this news from a man she didn't even know. At the very least Travis could have discussed it with her himself. Why send his lawyer all the way out here to tell her this? It just seemed so peculiar to her. She couldn't help but feel like her heart had broken just a tiny bit. She had assumed that he was wanting to work things out with her. "I-I'm awfully sorry to bring you such bad news. I can see from the look on your face that it wasn't something you were aware of yet." His kind eyes looked visibly shamed at having to be the bearer of such news. She sat there silently for a few moments not knowing exactly what to say. Finally, she spoke up, "I guess I was aware that Travis was wanting this marriage dissolved. He told me so the morning after we were married. I am just surprised that he had met with you so quickly is all. He hadn't told me that part yet." "Well," the lawyer replied, "I am actually here to get some questions answered. You see, in the State of Texas, it's difficult to get a marriage dissolved and it's not commonly done. I wanted to find out some information ahead of time before we can proceed further. As I had warned Mr. Ewing during our meeting, if he proceeds with it, well, your reputation will be quite tarnished. This process will go through the court system and of course, once the newspapers hear of it, they will want to report it." She sat there in shock; getting this marriage dissolved was one thing but having it become public knowledge and reported in the newspapers was a whole other issue entirely! Tears welled up in her eyes. "I don't even know what to say to that." she said being truthful, "I am not a bad person. Why does my reputation have to be ruined just because my husband doesn't want to be married to me anymore?" 

 

     Travis, after Mikey had told him of the lawyer's visit, made haste to get back to the house and opened to the door of his study, walking right in. Mr. Hartley stood up from his chair and the two men shook hands. "Mr. Ewing," Mr. Hartley said amicably, "it's good to see you again so soon." Travis looked over at Sophia who refused to meet his gaze. He could see that she was quite shaken up and appeared to be crying. Travis felt truly awful in that moment; he had seen how hard she was working to learn her wifely duties around the house, and even though he did want the marriage dissolved, he felt genuinely terrible about it. "I was expecting you last night." Travis said to Mr. Hartley in a somewhat surly tone of voice. Travis went over to the chair that sat behind his over-sized mahogany desk and took a seat. "Mr. Ewing, pardon my tardiness. I had an urgent matter that popped up last night so I had to delay our trip by a day. I was hoping to meet with Mrs. Ewing alone to question her about, well, what we had discussed." Travis took note of the fact that Mr. Hartley looked visibly uncomfortable over the matter. "I would like to be a part of this conversation." Travis said simply, but his tone of voice implied that he wasn't going anywhere. Sophia looked over at her husband while glaring her eyes, "Mr. Hartley asked to speak with me in private. Surely your manners are better than that to want to stay uninvited." He glared back at her in return, his light green eyes not leaving hers for one second. He said to Mr. Hartley, "Please, continue with what you planned on discussing with my wife." Sophia closed her eyes and rubbed her fingers at her temples as a headache was beginning to emerge. "Go on." Sophia said to the lawyer brusquely, "I do not wish to displease my husband any further than I already have." The room sat in a deadly silence for a few moments until Mr. Hartley decided to speak up once again. "As I mentioned Mrs. Ewing, your husband came to see me regarding having your union dissolved. With it having to go through the court system, I was worried for your reputation. Once word of this gets out, I fear for how others in polite society will begin to treat you." "I never did understand that about polite society." Sophia muttered, "Why is it that women always have to worry about their precious reputations being ruined and the men do not? I guess it's one of those things that I will never get an answer to. I understand what you are saying Mr. Hartley, however, as I do not have much say in this matter, I suppose that I will have to deal with the repercussions of this on my own. There is no way I can return back to my old home now after becoming a ruined woman. It would only bring shame down upon my family who doesn't deserve it. After all, they didn't even want me to come out here in the first place. I should have listened to them. Instead, I went against their wishes only to have this happen. Shame on me for actually thinking that I could make a happy life and marriage out here! I learned my lesson though. Trust me." Mr. Hartley was taking notes down in his leather bound book as she was talking. "I would also like to point out that once the process is finished and the marriage has been officially dissolved, not only can I not go back to my family, but I won't even be able to obtain a respectable paying position elsewhere. I guess in believing that I could start a new life here, I had never thought about this marriage being dissolved or anything of the like." Travis remained quiet but continued to stare intensely at her. She paid him no attention any further. "Tell me about yourself. Your age, family, where you are from, and your reasons why you wanted to become Mr. Ewing's mail-order-bride." Mr. Hartley asked. Sophia stood up and began pacing the room. She was not comfortable talking about any of this with two people she barely knew. But she really had no other choice but to comply with the lawyer so she said, "My name was Sophia Ann Lancaster. Obviously it's Ewing now for the time being. I am twenty-two years of age, born on March eleventh in 1868. I came here from a small town in Wellington, Ohio. I was born and raised there along with my younger sister Rachel. She is one year younger than I am and we are very close. My parents are Louis and Lucinda Lancaster. My father owns one of the banks in town so I grew up in a nice home with many comforts afforded to us. The reason why I answered Travis's advertisement was because I felt I needed to escape that town very quickly. I could no longer stand to be there." She paused for a moment noticing the look on Travis's face. He stared at her as if she were a criminal or something. "Just so you are aware," she said pointedly while narrowing her eyes at Travis, "I didn't do anything wrong like I am guessing you are thinking right now. It was actually something that was done to me that made me want to leave so badly. On June first of this year I was to marry the love of my life. Minutes before our wedding ceremony was set to begin, Jeremy, er, my fiancé at that time, came to tell me that he had cheated on me and impregnated another woman one night a couple months before the wedding was to take place after having too much to drink. The woman whom he got pregnant decided to wait until the morning of the wedding to tell Jeremy she was having his baby. Her father is the co-owner of the medical clinic in town that he and my former fiancé both own, and he made demands on Jeremy to marry her that night to make an honest woman out of her." 

 

     Just saying the whole dreaded story out loud made Sophia cry again as the memories of that horrible time in her life were once again being replayed in her mind. She went back over to her empty chair and crumpled down into it while heaving sobs wracked her whole body. She hated having to talk about this and had wanted nothing more than to forget the past as best as she could! "I am sorry if this memory is hard for you to discuss." Mr. Hartley said to her compassionately. "It's j-just so hard t-talk about. I l-loved him and he b-broke my heart! I couldn't s-stand the thought of living t-there anymore. It's a really small town. I'd h-have t-to see them all the time. I didn't want that! It's not like I wanted to leave m-my family either." she cried out despondently. Travis was a little taken aback. He had no idea that such a thing had happened to her and that was the reason why she had wanted to leave her town. If truth be told, he actually felt like quite an ass in that moment as he looked at how torn up she was. It was more than evident to him that her heart had been badly broken and here he had just assumed she was some bamboozler looking for a meal ticket. She left her family and friends behind to flee such a heartbreaking time in her life, then married himself thinking that perhaps she wouldn't ever have to worry about being hurt again and he's done nothing but hurt her from the moment they met. He really was a jerk. "So how did you come across my advertisement then?" he asked Sophia curiously. Sophia looked up at him with red rimmed eyes. Travis couldn't help but notice how bright her blue-green eyes became when she cried. They were actually very pretty. How hadn't he noticed that about her before? Sophia wiped her tears away with the sleeve of her dress, and as she did so, the pain in her lower abdomen started back up. She took a deep breath in order to be able to talk through the sudden pain and said weakly to Travis, "About a week after my wedding was cancelled, I was reading my father's paper at our breakfast table. I had just seen the marriage announcement in there for Jeremy and Angelique and it broke my heart all over again. There it was, in black and white, another reminder of what had happened. I then realized it would be much too painful to remain there in that town knowing that I would be running into them fairly often. The town is small enough that I know just about everyone who lives there. I literally sat there and wished for a sign or something that could take me out of there so I wouldn't have to be constantly reminded of how that man broke my heart and shattered my dreams. A few minutes later is when I saw the advertisement you had placed looking for a mail-order bride. It had mentioned that the bride would be needing the skills to properly run a household and take care of young children. I have always wanted to get married and be a mother. It was my dream. When I saw the advertisement it seemed like it was Fate answering my prayers to get me out of that town. Plus, I knew I could get married and be a mother so I replied to the ad." "When replying to the advertisement, what did you say to Travis?" the lawyer questioned. Sophia drew in a deep breath as her pain got worse. Her face turned white but both of the men figured it was because she was about to expose herself as a liar. "I told him that I felt I met all his requirements. I did fudge the truth and that part I take full responsibility of. I never should have told him that I met all his requirements knowing I had zero experience with homemaking and children. But in my defense, I didn't do so maliciously or to hurt Travis in any way. I really do love and adore children and I honestly believed that getting married, running a household and being a mother would be easy enough. I guess I just thought I could figure it all out after I got here but sadly, I was wrong." "So what you are saying is that you are not actually qualified to be his wife?" Mr. Hartley asked. Sophia shook her head no, "I feel I am qualified to be a good wife and mother but what I lied about was being able to run the household. The truth is, we always had a housekeeper who was also our cook, so I never had to do anything domestic in my life. Our housekeeper, Nellie, had tried many times over the years to teach me and my sister how to cook. I never had the desire to learn but my sister Rachel did and she learned from Nellie. Now that my sister is married, she is way more domesticated than I am. Looking back at it all, I wished I had taken the time to learn but I didn't. When I was supposed to marry Jeremy, I didn't possess those skills either but everyone has to learn sometime. I thought I could learn once I got here. I did read plenty of books on homemaking while on my train ride down here but reading books and applying that knowledge is hard when you've never done it before. But at least I was willing to try, and I have been trying really hard! Travis found out about my lack of knowledge the morning after we got married and he called me a fraud. I suppose I am. But please believe me when I say that it was not my intention to be deceitful towards Travis in anyway. I was just so torn up over what had happened with my former fiancé that running into him or his new wife around town was too painful for me to bear. I figured the ad was the sign I was sign I had been looking for so that I could leave my town. Leave my family, my friends, and my life there behind to start anew." 

 

     Neither of the men said anything as each was lost in his own thoughts over what she had just confessed to them. Sophia said in a quiet voice, "Even though I obtained books about how to cook and run a household that I read during my train ride here, it was silly of me to think that I could learn all those skills before arriving here." Travis sat there silently in deep contemplation. He could understand her wanting to leave but it was still no excuse as to why she had lied to him. "Why didn't you just tell me all of that from the start?" he asked her pointedly. She lowered her head in shame, "Because if I had, would you still have wanted me? Honestly?" That question had taken him off guard a little bit but he decided to be truthful in his reply, "No, I suppose I would not have." Sophia looked up at him with sorrowful eyes just then and said, "I am really so very sorry for being untruthful with you. I understand your reasoning for wanting our marriage dissolved. I will write to my father first thing in the morning and ask him to send me some funds so I can find a small cottage somewhere else. In some other city where I can try to make a life for myself. After our dissolution is final I will never be able to stay here and I can never go back home only to bring shame down upon my family. They are good, respectable people who don't deserve that even if they love me and would take me back. Once I have enough funds to move somewhere else, then I can look for gainful employment and hopefully live in peace. I cannot go back there to my hometown. I cannot see Jeremy married to some other woman who is having his baby. A baby and marriage that was stolen from me unfairly. Especially being a ruined woman. His new wife would eat that up and make my life a living hell. She's not exactly the nicest person on the planet." Once again Sophia dissolved into a fit of tears. The two men couldn't help but exchange looks with each other that showed how awful they felt about her situation. Mr. Hartley had only one more question left to ask and it made him very uncomfortable having to do so, "Mrs. Ewing, I need to know. Were you untouched upon your arrival here and did you and Travis, well, um, consummate your marriage?" A deep blush stained her cheeks, "No Mr. Hartley, we have not done so and I did arrived here as an untouched virgin and I remain an untouched virgin. So there is nothing to prevent Travis from getting this marriage dissolved. Not when I did knowingly commit fraud on this union and against him. Again, I am so very sorry!" With that, she raced out of the room, running down the hallway and through the kitchen and out the back door. She grabbed a lantern sitting on a wall hook that was still lit and ran towards the pond where she collapsed onto the ground crying her little heart out. Yet again a man didn't want her, but this time she would be left a ruined woman no matter how good of a person she was inside. Why was her life damned so unfair sometimes?

 

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     "I beg you to reconsider your request to have your marriage dissolved!" Mr. Hartley said adamantly to Travis. "It's getting late," Travis said without emotion, "and your wife has been more than patiently waiting on you. You best be going now. I will see you out and say hello to your Missus while I am at it." The two men headed out the front door and Travis followed his lawyer as they walked over to where the carriage was parked. Mr. Hartley opened the door, got in, and sat down next to his wife. "Good evening Mrs. Hartley." Travis said to the woman sitting inside. It was just starting to get dark outside and she had a lantern lit while she read the penny romance novel she had brought with her. "And a good evening to you as well Mr. Ewing." she smiled cheerfully. Travis closed the door to the carriage and waved them goodbye as their driver turned the carriage around and headed for their destination at Exall Lake. Once the carriage was out of site, Travis went back into the house and drew himself a hot bath. He had many things to think about and consider now. Maybe Sophia's reasons for becoming his wife made more sense to him now but it was still no excuse for her deceiving him like that. He did appreciate her truthful responses though. She could have easily lied about everything and made up some falsehood instead. Regardless of how honest she had been during Mr. Hartley's interview, Travis's proprieties demanded of him that he dissolve the marriage. She was a fraud even if her intentions were not purposefully harmful. He laid in the hot water and soaped himself up while thoughts ran rampant in his mind.

 

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     Sophia stayed at the pond for a couple of hours pondering what had happened while Travis's lawyer had been there. She had no idea what she was to do now. The crickets were chirping unseen in the tall grass all around her and the bull frogs croaked out their own calls as she sat with her back against the tree feeling both physically and mentally drained. No more tears came. Her eyes were all dried up. She just sat out there feeling so alone and pathetic. She knew Travis was inside and she just couldn't make herself go to bed just yet. She didn't feel right sleeping in Travis's bed any longer and had nowhere else to lay her head down at. How would she even begin to explain this situation to her parents? She couldn't even bear the thought of doing so. There had to be a way around it... somehow. Then there was that darned pain in her lower abdomen and it was pretty awful. If she was being honest with herself, she really did not want to leave. Even in the few days time she had been there, she felt a strange bond with her new family despite how they may feel towards her. She almost felt as if she belonged here. When Travis had brought her back to the ranch, she had stupidly thought he had decided to have her stay. If Travis really wanted the marriage dissolved then why did he come and get her from the hotel? Why not just keep her there? Oh, that's right. She remembered overhearing him telling Mikey it was for the sake of propriety. She just didn't understand any of it. Then there was those kisses. Was she really that dumb to believe that he seemed to actually be forming an attachment for her? Looking up into the nighttime sky, Sophia saw a plethora of stars that splattered across the inky darkness. The ranch was utterly so peaceful in that moment and she wanted to savor it for just a little bit more before she headed back inside even though it was beginning to get chilly out there. After a short while, she walked back into the quiet house feeling quite deflated. The children must have been put to bed by Mrs. Cox or even Travis perhaps. She stood in the kitchen unsure of what to do. Was she supposed to sleep in Travis's bed after knowing he was dissolving their marriage? She really did not want to do that anymore but what other choice did she really have? There were no other empty beds in the house and she would have to manage to get some sleep. After all, she would still be getting up at dawn to resume her duties until further notice. Sophia took the lantern with her up the darkened stair case, walking quietly as to not make a sound. Would Travis still be awake? She sincerely hoped not. Opening the door to their bedroom, she saw he was in bed fast asleep. She decided she would grab a pillow off the bed and her journal, then draw herself a bath to clean up, which she did. Afterwards, she put on a simple cotton nightgown and went down to the kitchen with her pillow and journal. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she began to finish her entry from earlier. The one she had been working on when Mikey informed her that she had a visitor. The visitor who turned out to be Mr. Hartley.

 

As of a little bit ago, I had met with Mr. Hartley and Travis and I learned that Travis really did want our marriage dissolved. I cannot blame him, for his reasons are sound. But I cannot help but to feel a little heartsick over it all. Now I must get myself off to bed as I have to get up at the crack of dawn to begin the day a new. I will continue on performing my duties as a wife and step-mother until I am asked to leave. At that point, I have no idea what I shall do. But for now, at least I have a home even if it's only temporary. 

 

She closed the journal then took the lantern and her pillow to the family room where she laid down upon the settee. It wasn't a very comfortable way to sleep but she finally managed to do so with thoughts of Travis plaguing her dreams.

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