Maggie arrives at her new teaching job, planning to board with a family she’s prepared to like. What she isn’t ready for is her landlady’s brother, Marshall, who seems to hate her on sight. She is captivated by Ellen’s six-year-old daughter Emma who is having identity problems facing the arrival of a new baby in the family. When Ellen goes into labor in the middle of a storm, Maggie must face her fears for Ellen’s sake. Along the way, she helps a family grow closer, but what about her hopes for the future? Can she get past the wall Marshall has set up? Does she really have a future here amongst the people she has grown to care for?
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~~Maggie Lawrence pushed a curling tendril of dark brown hair from her face. She looked around the empty train platform, considering her next move. The train was strangely on time, a possibility her greeter might not have considered. She picked up a suitcase in each hand and sat down on a bench facing the tracks. The day was warm and sunny with a slight breeze to keep things comfortable, a typical late August morning in a 1949 prairie town.
She had nearly dozed off in the sunshine when she heard a deep voice beside her.
She jumped up quickly, knocking one suitcase on its side as she did. “Yes.” It was then she looked up into a set of piercing blue eyes surrounded by a well-tanned face that was set, maybe not in disapproval, but certainly not in welcome.
Maggie had just barely arrived and already she was on the wrong foot. I wonder what I’ve done now? It was a question she often asked her older sister, Dora, who was usually quick to set her straight on her transgressions.
“Sorry I’m late. I had a stop to make at the hardware store first.” At least she knew where she ranked in priority. “Is this all?”
She nodded and he picked up the biggest case. She followed quickly with the smaller one.
“Mr. Thornhill...” she began.
“Matthews, actually,” he said. “I’m just standing in.”
She waited for an explanation that never came. Oh, well. She gave a shrug. At least once she got there she wouldn’t have to cope with him. She hoped the Thornhills were more communicative.
In the parking area stood a green wagon hitched to a pair of huge black horses. A dark blue sedan sat a few yards farther. I certainly hope he belongs to the car.
He stared at her with an expression of slight contempt. Was her fear of horses that obvious? Maggie felt great relief as he led her to the car and pushed her cases into the back seat. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, he opened the passenger door for her.
After one or two comments about the weather, which he answered monosyllabically, she gave up and spent the rest of the ten-mile ride looking at the passing countryside. They turned left on the highway and slowed on the gravel road. She managed a covert sideways glance at her driver, who was concentrating on keeping the car straight on fresh gravel.
Good-looking, definitely. Even features, a strong, straight nose, sun wrinkles around those striking blue eyes, and a mouth that could have been described as generous, even though its firm set was not. She wondered what had caused those unforgiving lines in such a young man. He couldn’t have been long out of his twenties, perhaps not much older than her own twenty-five years. Perhaps he’d been in the war. That would account for the care lines.
The road was narrow and sided by grassy ditches that now held water. There must have been a heavy rain recently. The ditches were broken up on both sides by lanes leading into farmyards, each fronted by a mailbox on a post. She felt a sudden tingle and glanced to the side just in time to see her driver’s glance slide away.
So, Mr. Matthews might disapprove, but he was interested enough in his passenger to give her the once-over when he thought she wasn’t looking.
They turned a corner and he slowed at the next mailbox. The lane was blocked by a barbed-wire fence with a gate, and he jumped out to open it. He moved smoothly, a man whose muscles did his bidding effortlessly. At the end of the lane, they rounded a corner and came to a stop in front of a two-story, white farmhouse. To the right was a grey, unpainted barn. Dotted around the yard were a garage, a couple of granaries, a clothesline filled with white sheets, and a large woodpile. A red tractor, hitched to a set of harrows, stood beside the garage.
This was going to be Maggie’s home for the next year.