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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13. Chapter Thirteen: Secrets

Chapter Thirteen: Secrets

 

     Elsie sat there in shock and utter disbelief. How could this have happened to Sophia? Elsie was fully aware of the fact that she was the only person besides Dr. May who knew what had happened during that surgery, and now she was torn up on the inside as her grief was overwhelming her. Part of her was mad at Sophia for making her keep such a secret and the other part of her grieved for her new friend. The doctor handed her his own personal handkerchief so she could dry her eyes and blow her runny nose. "This wasn't supposed to happen this way!" she lamented to herself. But when the doctor came out to the waiting room and had asked to see her, she looked at his grave face and knew instantly that the news was bad. "Now what do I do?" Elsie asked Dr. May. He shook his head as if he didn't have an answer. "Remember, Sophia also made me promise not to tell her husband. As her doctor, I feel honor bound to keep to her wishes but I also feel that Mr. Ewing has a right to know what has happened to his wife. I understand she has family up in Ohio somewhere. Do you know if any of them are aware of her situation or why she needed to come see me to begin with? Does she have another doctor up there to your knowledge?" Elsie shook her head no, "Not that I am aware of but I don't know for certain." That was the truth as best as she knew it. The doctor looked very concerned. Neither of them knew how to proceed at this point. Elsie continued to sit there in silence for several more minutes before she woodenly got up from the chair and walked out of the doctor's office, leaving his hanky behind as a forgotten memento of her visit that day. She made her way outside and was temporarily blinded by the overly bright sunshine. Should she keep her promise? Or did Travis deserve to know the truth? Could he even handle the truth? He had already lost one wife; how could she possibly be the one to tell him this news? She was fully aware that he wanted to sue Sophia for marital fraud to dissolve their marriage, so perhaps keeping this secret was in the best interest of her new friend whom she already felt a close bond with. There was her answer! She would not tell him. With a heavy heart, she made her way to her carriage and headed home with Sophia's reticule still safely by her side. There was nothing more she could do for Sophia today.

 

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     Travis had plenty of work waiting on him when he finally got back to the ranch. There was a telegraph waiting for him that Mrs. Cox was quick to hand over. It was news from his foreman who was in charge of the cattle drive that was currently in process. Skimming through the short message, the news was fairly good. Thus far, only twenty-three cattle were either dead or had wandered off. They were getting closer to Kansas and would be there within the next week or so. Next spring, Travis had already decided he would utilize the railroad system to transport his cattle. These drives took way too long to complete and using the railroad seemed like a quicker and easier option. It would save him money on labor costs by eliminating a good portion of the hired hands he needed in order to do the cattle drives. Sure, it would cost more money up front to use the cargo trains but then he would have more cattle at the time of the auctions, thus recouping the cost of using the railroads. He had heard of another cattle rancher who used this method this very season and that gentleman had been pleased with the results as he had gained additional revenue in the long run. Travis took the telegraph to his office in order to file it away. He then sat down in the chair at his desk to catch up on his ledgers, paperwork, and paying bills. Before he knew it, it was ten o'clock at night! Ever since Sophia had arrived, his life had been turned upside down. He was spending less time getting work done and more time focusing on this new marriage of his. But despite all the upsets, he found himself smiling and the memory of their lovemaking the other night made him warm with desire. He was determined to create a fresh start for them both and to hell with her former fiancé if that man thought he'd come all this way just to steal her away from him! That man had his chance before and he had mucked it up. Sophia was his now and it would stay that way come hell or high water! 

 

     There was a slight knock at the door, interrupting Travis's thoughts. "Come in." he called out expecting to see Mrs. Cox. The door opened and there was his daughter looking back at him. She had tears in her eyes and she came running to him, jumping up onto his lap as she wrapped her tiny little arms around him. "What's the matter little darlin'?" he said lovingly, hugging her close to him. She began to cry in earnest now. "I ha-had a bad dream Papa!" she declared sobbing. He sat there holding her for a couple of minutes allowing her to cry it out then said, "Would you like to talk about it?" She pulled away from him just far enough in order to be able to look him in the eyes. She looked so much like her mother in that moment that Travis felt a distinct ache in his heart. "I don't want anything bad to happen to Sophia!" she cried out. "Please Papa, don't let anything bad happen to her!" "Sweetheart, you had a bad dream. Sophia is just fine. She's coming back home tomorrow. I promise." She looked at him with those big watery eyes of hers and said, "You promise?" "Yes sweet pea. I promise. Now let's get you back to bed. Would you like me to tell you a story?" She solemnly nodded her head yes and he carried her back upstairs to her bedroom, gently setting her down on her bed so she could scramble back inside her covers. He handed her Ollie, the teddy bear that her mother had made for her after she was born, and sat himself down on the small bed to brush his fingers lightly through her silky hair just as her mother used to do. "Once upon a time...." he began, telling her a story about a princess who fell in love with a prince while at a grand ball. Within minutes, her eyes fluttered shut as she fell fast asleep. He bent over to kiss her forehead then quietly walked out of the room, silently shutting the door behind him. It was time he got himself off to bed as well. Tomorrow he was bringing his wife back home. Again. "But this time," he thought to himself with a small smile on his face, "it's for good." Travis then headed to the bathing room to take a bath. His body was stiff from being hunched over his desk for hours. He needed a good long soak and a full night's worth of sleep. Then come tomorrow, he would be bringing his bride back home for good!

 

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     Travis was woken up quite abruptly, just before dawn the next morning, by both Mikey and Hope clambering into his bed. He instantly knew why after he was awake enough to hear the sounds of hail and rain that was ferociously pelting the roof and side of the house. There were frequent flashes of lightning accompanied by the deep rumble of thunder. His kids had always been terrified of thunderstorms. He, on the other hand, had always enjoyed them for some odd reason. "It's just a thunderstorm guys. Snuggle up with me and try to go back to sleep for a little while." he said groggily. Hope was sucking her thumb while her other arm was wrapped around his waist, her wrist tightly clenching his shirt. Mikey tried to act brave but Travis knew well enough that it was just that: an act. His wide blue eyes told a whole different story. Both the children snuggled themselves inside the blanket on each side of him and with each deep boom of thunder Hope would whimper softly. "Papa? Is it true that when it thunderstorms outside that the angels up in Heaven are lawn bowling?" Hope quietly asked. "Who told you that?" Travis inquired curiously. "Sophia told me that one time when we were by the pond talking about stuff. She said her mother told her that when she was my age and that's why she isn't afraid of storms anymore." Travis sat there thinking about what Hope had just told him. That was actually a really sweet story to comfort a young child even if it weren't true. Travis then tried to picture Sophia when she was Hope's age but had a hard time conjuring up an image. "Yes little darlin', that's what I believe as well." Travis answered as he ran his fingers through Hope's hair as a soothing gesture while his other hand was rubbing Mikey's arm. "Well the angels must be winning 'cause it's quite a storm out there." Hope said innocently. Travis smiled; there was nothing more important on this earth than his children and their happiness. As the children lay there with him, he began to recall the dream he was having just before they had woken him up out of a sound sleep. Thinking back on it, he remembered images of being at Rebecca's grave site. It was just after her funeral ceremony had taken place. He was alone with her glossy mahogany casket that was covered in flowers as it was being lowered into the ground. Before it reached its final destination, he heard her gentle voice. "Travis? Travis? I am so sorry I let you down. I know we may not have been madly in love with each other but you were a good man to me and our children. I did love you in my own special way. I will never forget you." "Rebecca?" he found himself crying out to her in a choked up sob. He tried to reach down but there was an invisible barrier that prevented him from doing so. "Travis. It's time for us both to move on. I am where I need to be and you are finally where you need to be. Never forget that. You are where you need to be." Then the caretakers began to fill in her grave with dirt just as the sunny skies turned a menacing shade of grey. The sun disappeared and the rain began to fall down hard. Thunder cracked. That was when he was woken up by the children. Chills ran up his spine just remembering the dream. It had seemed so real. What did she mean by he was finally where he needed to be?

 

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     Elsie couldn't sleep a wink the entire night. She lay there in her plush bed tossing and turning as the hours crept by ever so slowly. She had been plagued with thoughts of Sophia ever since yesterday. Even after making the decision to not tell Travis what had occurred, she still wrestled with that decision. Just before dawn, a vicious thunderstorm rolled in blanketing the house with rain and hail. Even if she were able to sleep, there was no way she would have once the storm hit. It sounded pretty bad out there. She was never a big fan of weather conditions like this, so sleep continued to elude her as the rain and hail pounded against her windows. Her curtains danced to their own tune as the high winds blew inside. At one point she had to climb out of bed to close the window because rain was getting inside, not only soaking her curtains, but the flooring as well. She lit the lantern sitting on the table next to her bed and carried it with her to the bathroom to use the chamber pot and to draw herself a soothing bath. Once the water was at the desired level, she poured in some Epsom salts to help ease her cramped up muscles. But even during her bath, Sophia was never far from her mind. She wondered if her family from Ohio knew anything about the pains she was having before she left her home to come down here to Texas. If so, perhaps she wouldn't be out of line by sending a telegraph to them? Her thoughts continued to conflict her. They surely deserved to know what had happened? After all, if she wasn't the one to tell them then Dr. May would have to. There was just no way of getting around it. There was no other choice left at this point. By the time she finally got herself out of the tub, her fingers and toes were heavily wrinkled and the water was lukewarm at best. The thunderstorm was still raging on. After she got herself dressed, she glanced at the window and saw that the sun was beginning to rise. It was officially a new day. Still feeling somber, Elsie sat down at her vanity and brushed out her long, dark hair until it was tangle-free. Then she grabbed a few bobby pins from the tray that was sitting on the top of her vanity table and proceeded to style her hair into a simple twist, pinning it into place. Giving a big sigh, she forced herself to head downstairs. She really needed a hot cup of tea. 

 

     Rosa, her family's cook, was already down there preparing the breakfast meal. "Well you look positively awful!" Rosa declared upon seeing Elsie enter the large kitchen. Elsie gave a little half-hearted chuckle, "I didn't get any sleep." As if reading her thoughts, Rosa began pouring a piping cup of hot tea into a dainty little teacup that used to belong to Elsie's mother who had passed away only a few short years ago. She set the teacup down onto it's matching saucer dish and walked over to place it on the table where Elsie was now sitting at. She then walked back over to the counter and grabbed a small silver serving tray which had a small spoon and a sugar dish on it. Once the tray was on the table, Elsie took the spoon and scooped out two spoonful's of sugar into her tea, gently stirring it. Rosa was already back at the stove flipping the sides of ham that were sizzling in the frying pan. "A penny for your thoughts." she said flippantly over her shoulder to Elsie. She startled Elsie out of her reverie. "Oh, come on Rosa." Elsie smiled, "You know my thoughts are worth at least a half dollar piece." Both women chuckled. It was then that Elsie finally decided to confide into someone, so she shared her thoughts with the family's head cook. Afterwards, Rosa had just finished up the eggs and began to put the breakfast foods onto the plates. "If I were you Miss Elsie, I would tell Mr. Ewing. She's hitched to him now and he's her lawfully wedded husband. That man deserves to know what happened to his wife!" Elsie sat there knowing that what Rosa said made sense but some nagging voice in the back of her head disagreed. "Oh Rosa!" Elsie cried out in dismay, "Why did this have to happen to Sophia? She's such a tender-hearted person and this just isn't fair! With so many bad people in this world, why does it always seem like the good ones have things like that happen to them? Why can it not happen to the awful people instead?" Rosa took the liberty of sitting down in a chair next to Elsie. She gently grabbed one of Elsie's small hands into her own and patted it a few times. "Now Elsie May Prescott, you know full well that we don't always get what's fair outta life. Sometimes things happen for a reason even though we don't understand why. Right now you just need to stop feeling so guilty over all of this. It's out of your hands. God does what he needs to do and that's just the way it is. I am sorry your heart is a hurtin' though. I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better. This Sophia Ewing must be one special lady for you to think so highly of her the way that you do." Elsie's eyes began to water, "I haven't known her very long to be truthful, but from the moment her and I became acquainted, there was just this instant bond between us. Almost as if we were kindred spirits." Rosa smiled knowingly; that was the sign of a true friendship right there. A large crack of thunder hit that scared the two women and made them both jump in their seats. They couldn't help but giggle at each other's frightened reactions. "I will sure be glad when that there storm is done!" Rosa exclaimed, fanning herself with both hands to calm down her nerves. She got back up and loaded the plated dishes of food onto her big serving tray. "Let's go get you some food in your belly." Rosa said as she left the room. Elsie stood up and followed closely behind. Her Pa would already be sitting at his usual spot in the dining room reading his paper. Perhaps she would get his opinion on the matter of Sophia from a male's perspective. After all, didn't men and women tend to think differently? Perhaps her Pa's sage advice was just what she needed. 

 

     Elsie entered the formal dining room and took a seat. She had guessed correctly; her Pa was, indeed, sitting in his chair sipping his hot coffee, smoking a pipe of tobacco, and reading the Dallas news. Rosa placed the breakfast plates out and then filled a cup of coffee for Elsie. Once she left the room, Elsie took the opportunity to talk with her Pa. "Anything interesting in the paper this morning?" she asked him pleasantly. He distractedly looked up from the paper to look at her, "Nothing of real importance. Mainly talk about the rebuild project from the T & P fires. That's hitting my bank account pretty hard until the insurance company pays up after the investigation is finalized." Elsie knew her Pa would be grumbling about the fire for quite a while. As one of the main investors in the Texas and Pacific Railway company, the fire had caused so much damage that it was negatively impacting the Dallas location. Especially since it was the main headquarters. Between the loss of important files, records, and paperwork, combined with the need to completely re-build the location, the impact of the fire had been devastating. She could tell her Pa wasn't in the mood for polite conversation. Heck, he rarely was. She sighed. It was times like this when she missed her Ma something terrible. The two of them had always been so close and Elsie could talk to her about anything. She loved her Pa but he kept himself pretty guarded ever since his wife had died. Things just weren't the same for their household since and it made her heart ache. She forced herself to eat her food. As always, Rosa's cooking was delicious. It was just too bad that Elsie had no real desire to enjoy her food like she usually did. The thunderstorm continued to rage on outside which only made matters worse. Elsie longed to saddle up her mare and take a long ride but the torrential rains were making that thought impossible.

 

    After she finished eating, she stood up from the table and quietly left the room so as to not disrupt her Pa's reading time. He said nothing to her just like she knew he would. She wandered into the library and pulled out a book without checking to see which one it was. It really didn't matter at this point as her thoughts were too jumbled to give the book a good read. Sitting herself down on the settee, she opened it up and stared blankly at the pages. Once again the situation with Sophia continued to plague her thoughts. Suppose she did tell Travis Ewing about his wife. Would he even care? After all, he was dissolving his union with Sophia. Perhaps it would mean nothing to him. Then again, maybe if he was kept in the dark and found out, it was entirely possible that he would be furious for not being told. If she did tell him then there would also be the promise she had made to Sophia that would be broken, even if her intentions were good. UGH! She hated this! Perhaps she didn't need to do anything. Maybe Dr. May would tell Travis the bad news himself. Surely if that happened then she wouldn't have to stress over possibly breaking her promise. Oh why did she even make such a promise like that?  Elsie closed the book and threw it down on the oval shaped table sitting in front of her. She stood up and began to restlessly pace the room. 

 

     Eventually her Pa had walked by the doorway of the room and with one glance he knew something was wrong. "What's worrying that pretty little head of yours?" he asked while walking fully into the room. Elsie looked over at him with tears in her blue eyes, "Oh Pa, I just don't know what to do!" He crossed the room and sat down on the settee, patting an empty spot on the settee as a gesture for her to sit down next to him. She did so, surprised that her Pa was actually concerned about her well-being. "Okay," he said, "out with it." She looked over at him and sat there wondering just what to say. Talks between them like this was pretty rare, at least, ever since her Ma had died. "I have this friend. Her name is Sophia Ewing." "Ewing?" her Pa questioned, "I know of a Travis Ewing. Any relation?" Elsie shook her head yes. "She's actually his new wife. I met her on my train ride home from Abilene." Her Pa's eyes lit up, "I never thought he'd get hitched again. He seemed so broken up after the death of this other wife. So what's this problem with your friend then?" Elsie sighed, this wasn't going to be as easy to talk to him about as she had pictured in her mind. "I took her to get some exploratory surgery done yesterday. The doctor came to get me after he was finished and it wasn't good news. Now I am conflicted as to whether or not to tell Travis Ewing about it." Her Pa watched her carefully, not quite sure what the issue was exactly. "It sounds like a pretty clear cut issue to me. He's her husband so you need to tell him whatever the news is." "That's not as easy as it sounds." Elsie remarked a tad bit bitterly, "She swore me to secrecy. She doesn't want him to know. He doesn't even know she had the surgery let alone the results." "Well why in the hell would she not tell him that? That's the thing I don't understand about you women folk! Always keeping secrets and the like. He's her husband! He needs to know what is going on with his wife. It's just that simple!" The room was eerily quiet as neither of them said a word. Elsie could tell that her Pa was worked up. Not because of what she was discussing with him but because her own Ma had kept a very large secret from him herself and he was being reminded of that. Elsie now wished she had just kept her big mouth shut. She didn't mean to drudge up the past for him like that; it just simply hadn't occurred to her. She decided to continue with her explanation considering the worst of it was already out. "You see Pa, Travis Ewing decided to dissolve their marriage. Well, at least, he's in the process of doing that. Sophia didn't feel it was right he should know what's going on with her but I think he might care to know. Especially now given the current circumstances with her and all." Her Pa hastily got up from his seat and looked down at her incredulously, "He's doing what? What in hells name is so wrong with that friend of yours that Travis Ewing would decide to dissolve his marriage? He's as loyal as they come!" Elsie sat there nervously fidgeting with her dress. Yes, it had been a big mistake talking to him about this. She should have known better. With anger of her own beginning to brew, she looked up at him defiantly, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with her! You should be wondering what is wrong with him! He's the one who's going to ruin her reputation and all! Why do you always assume that it's something wrong with the woman like that? Sophia isn't Ma!" Her Pa stood there feeling dumbfounded. This was the first time Elsie had openly brought up what her Ma had done and it left him reeling in shock. Without another word, he left the room and slammed the door shut behind him. Elsie couldn't help but to dissolve into a fit of tears. Why did he hold such a grudge against all women now just because of the secret her Ma had kept from him? It wasn't fair! She missed her old Pa, the one who used to be jolly and loving. Now he was just a grumpy old man who absorbed himself in work. There was no longer the open affection between the two of them like before. Elsie remembered how she could talk to him about anything and now the littlest thing would set him off. There were some rare moments where she saw her old Pa start to emerge and then it would disappear just as quickly as it came. As upset with him as she was now, she was also equally concerned for his well-being. She looked up at the ceiling and began to shout, "Lord, why in the world do you do what you do? Enough is enough already!"

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