Hope Anew, Part 2

Fiction By Jackie West // 5/4/2011

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                Four days passing found Mariah on a train heading west with a trusted friend of her mother and father as a chaperone.

                Mariah sighed as she looked out the window.  “I sure can’t wait to get there,” she said to herself.  “Settle down, maybe get a nice hot bath-and finally get to see Breanna!”

                “We’ll be there soon,” said her chaperone, Mrs. Johnson.  “Just relax.  If you brought a book or magazine, read it, or take a nap, if you can.”

                Mariah smiled at her ruefully.  “I think a nap is out of the question, don’t you?” she asked.

                “I’ve done it before on a train,” Mrs. Johnson replied, smiling.  “I’m not going to make you, though.”

                Mariah reached down and pulled a magazine out of her small travel bag.  Settling down, she started to read…..

 

                “Mariah!”

                Mariah felt someone shaking her, and suddenly she realized that she had fallen asleep.  “Are we there?”

                “Not for another couple hours, but it’s time for dinner.”

                Mariah sat up and rubbed her eyes.  “How long was I asleep?”

                “You were sleep for about three hours,” answered Mrs. Johnson, pulling a basket out from under their seat and uncovering it. “What is there in here?” she muttered to herself.  “Ah-there’s ham and cheese and bread in here, with fresh peaches and apples and some cookies. How does that sound?”

                Mariah rubbed her growling stomach.  “At this point, I think almost anything would taste good!”

                Mrs. Johnson prayed over the food, and then they feasted on peaches, cookies, and ham and cheese sandwiches.

                Afterwards, they packed away the remains of the food.

                Soon, a steward came through and lit the lamps in the coach so that passengers who wanted to stay awake for part of the night could read or write or do whatever they wanted to do.

                Mariah finished reading her magazine and was in the middle of a book when the call came.

                “Greenston, Kansas, coming up!”

                Mariah hurriedly packed up her travel bag and was ready to go before the train screeched to a stop.

                As they stepped off, a porter hurried up.

                “Take your bags, ma’am, miss?” he asked politely.

                Mrs. Johnson nodded. “Yes, thank you.”

                The porter picked up their bags and followed them as they wove their way to the station entrance.

                “Mariah!”

                Mariah whirled around.  “Breanna!” she cried.  

                A freckled fourteen-year old girl wrapped her in a hug.  “”I’ve missed you so much!”

                “I have too!” Mariah responded, returning the hug.

                Two adults had followed Breanna at a more sedate pace.

                “Hello, Mariah,” said the lady.

                Mariah looked at her.  “Hello, Mrs. Freeman,” she said shyly.  “Hello, Mr. Freeman.”

                “Welcome to Greenston!” boomed Mr. Freeman.  “I trust you had a good trip?”

                “Yes, thank you,” Mrs. Johnson answered.  She turned to the porter, thanked him for his help, and paid him before taking the bags.

                “I’ll go get the luggage,” Mr. Freeman said, tipping his hat before hurrying off.  

                “Come along to the wagon,” Mrs. Freeman said.  “You look tired.  We’d best be getting to the house quickly.”  She glanced at Mrs. Johnson.  “I trust you will be staying the night before traveling back?”

                “I-suppose….” replied Mrs. Johnson rather hesitantly.  Then she straightened up.  “Yes, I will, to make sure that Mariah gets settled in well.  Thank you very much for your hospitality.”                

                “You’re more than welcome,” Mrs. Freeman answered sweetly as she started walking.

                Mariah and Breanna fell in line behind the two women.

                “So, do you have any new siblings since I moved?  Your mother was pregnant when I left,” Breanna said eagerly.

                “Yes,” Mariah said.  “She had a girl, and she was named Joyce.  When Joyce was almost two, Mom got pregnant again and had a boy named Martin.”

                “That is so exciting!” Breanna exclaimed.

                Mariah smiled.  Her friend, not having many siblings of her own, was extremely happy to have a friend who did, because she loved babies.  Mariah couldn’t say she was overly fond of them, but she had to admit that they were kind of cute.  “How is the family?” she asked.

                “Let’s see.” Breanna thought for a moment.  “Jackson and Mark got married within the last two years, and Jackson’s wife is expecting a baby soon.  Parker went to help out on a farm in the grasslands and won’t be back ‘til spring, and little sister Becca just gets into a lot of trouble these days.”  She sighed.  “What more could you expect from a five year old?”

                “Not much,” Mariah said, rolling her eyes.  “I should know.  Sara and Peter were just like that a couple of years ago.”

                They arrived at the Freeman wagon and climbed in, still talking.

                “So, where’s Sara?  You didn’t leave her at home, did you?”

                “Yes, we did…with a neighbor!” Breanna giggled.

                Mariah grinned.  “Still your silly old self, I see,” she said mock sternly.  “Well, you need to stop acting like that right now!”

                The two girls burst into helpless giggles just as Mr. Freeman arrived carrying Mariah’s big suitcase and another small bag.

                He stared at them oddly.  “What’s so funny?”

                They kept on laughing and he gave up trying to figure out what was so funny as he loaded the baggage into the wagon, climbed onto the front seat, and got the horses moving at a slow trot.

 

                The Freeman house, a small, white clapboard house several miles away from Greenston, was set back from the road by a long driveway bordered by oaks and sycamores. 

                Mr. Freeman turned the wagon onto the driveway.

                “It would be more picturesque if it was spring, but…” Mrs. Freeman shrugged...”We’ll just have to suffer, seeing as it is late summer.”

                “I don’t mind,” Mrs. Johnson said quickly.  “I like late summer better than spring.  The weather tends to be cooler, and I enjoy starting to bring in the harvest with my family.”

                “It’s harder for us, considering that all we have are our two little girls,” Mr. Freeman said, glancing fondly at Breanna.

                “If you want another boy-“Mrs. Freeman began.

                “I didn’t say that!” her husband interrupted.  “I was just making an observation.”

                “-then you might have to wait about seven months,” Mrs. Freeman finished.

                Mr. Freeman nearly dropped his reigns in shock.  “Y’mean-you’re saying-what’s going on?” he said, to surprised to say something that made sense.  “You’re-“

                “Yes.” She smiled at him.  “I’m surprised it took you so long to notice.  Breanna knew before you did without me telling her.”

                Behind them, Mariah and Breanna put their hands over their mouths in a failed attempt to smother their giggles.

                “Is it really true that you knew before your dad did?” Mariah asked through her laughter.

                “Yes.”  Breanna nodded.  “Even with just one younger sibling, I knew something was up.”

                “I could tell when Mom was pregnant with Martin, but not when she was expecting Joyce, or Sara and Peter, or Adah!” Mariah exclaimed.

                They lapsed into silence, and Mariah was suddenly filled with homesickness.  She missed hanging out with her many siblings and being amused at her parent’s gentle teasing, like Breanna’s parents were doing.  She sighed, almost mournfully.

                “What’s wrong?” Breanna asked.  She looked concerned.

                “I’m just homesick.  I’ve never gone anywhere without my family before.” Mariah looked at her lap and twisted her skirt.  “Your parents teasing each other reminded me of my parents.  They do the exact same thing.”

                Breanna put her arm around Mariah’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry,” she said comfortingly.  “This time will fly by so fast that you’ll wonder where it went.  On the trip home, you’ll say to yourself, ‘It seems like only yesterday that I was traveling to see Breanna!’  Don’t worry.  You can write to them or telephone them, if you need to.  And there’s a telegram station in town.  You can keep in contact with them.”

                Mariah looked up and smiled.  “Thanks, Breanna.”

                “Anything for a friend,” Breanna said, smiling at her.

                “We’re here!” Mr. Freeman announced, leaping out of the wagon and helping down his wife and Mrs. Johnson.

                Mariah climbed out of the wagon behind Breanna, holding her travel bag tightly.  She looked around.

                “It sure is pretty out here,” she said.  “When I get home, I bet it will look just like this.”  She smiled.

                Breanna took her arm and led her to the house.  “Let’s see if Sarah remembers you,” she said, her eyes twinkling.

                She slowly pushed the door open.  “Rebekah! Mrs. Smith! We’re home!”

                A five-year old girl bounded down the front hallway.  “Breanna!” she exclaimed enthusiastically.  She wrapped her older sister in a hug.  Then she noticed Mariah.  “Who’s that?” she asked fearfully.  “Why did you bring a stranger home, Breanna?”

                “This is my friend, Mariah,” Breanna explained gently.  “She’ll be visiting for a while.”

                Rebekah watched Mariah warily.  “Will I have to share my room with her?”

                “No, no,” Rebekah,” Breanna answered, chuckling.  “No, she’ll be sleeping in my room.”

                “Oh, okay!” Rebekah hurried back down the hall.  “Come to the kitchen and see the cake we made, Breanna!  It’s all chocolate, just the way you like it.”

                “Sounds irresistible,” Breanna said, shrugging and looking at Mariah.  “Care to have a peek?  We’ll probably have it for dinner, and you can see it then, if you want to.”

                “I’ll look now,” Mariah said.  “It sounds delicious.”

                They went to the kitchen, admired the cake that their neighbor and Rebekah had made, and then went to Breanna’s second floor room.

                “Wow, this is big!” Mariah observed in wonder.

                “Your room is about the same size, isn’t it?” Breanna said.

                “Well, it seems smaller because I share it with three sisters,” Mariah said, shrugging helplessly.  “You don’t have to share a room with anyone.”

                There were two single-person beds, and each had a dresser and a bedside table.  There was a twin desk on one side of the room, and at the other was a closet.

                Breanna went over to one of the beds.  “This one is yours.  Do you need help unpacking?”

                “I don’t think so, but thank you,” Mariah replied, walking over to the bed and setting her travel bag on it.

                There was a knock on the door, and they heard the voice of Breanna’s father.  “Can I come in?  I come bearing Mariah’s suitcase.”

                Mariah and Breanna laughed as Breanna said, “You can come in, Dad.  We’re not talking about anything that private.”

                Mr. Freeman opened the door and came in.  He plopped the suitcase on the bed, tipped his hat to Mariah, and left, saying, “Have fun.  Dinner’s in an hour.”

                Mariah opened her suitcase and began taking out shirts, skirts, and dresses.  “So, what do you think about your mother being pregnant.”

                “What do you think?  I’m excited, of course! I hope it’s another girl.  We need another.”

                “From what your father said on the way here, I think you should have a boy,” Mariah disagreed.

                “Maybe she’ll have twins, a boy and a girl,” Breanna suggested hopefully.  “That would be even better.”

                “Maybe, but remember, our family already has a boy and girl in a twin set,” Mariah reminded her.

                “Who says we can’t?” Breanna retorted playfully.

                They spent the next hour catching up on everything that had happened since they had last seen each other.  Mariah wanted to know everything about Breanna’s farm, and Breanna wanted to hear about Mariah’s homeschooling experiences and the activities she had done.

                The time passed quickly, and soon it was time for dinner.

                Breanna and Mariah sat and ate quietly as they listened to Mr. and Mrs. Freeman discuss events on the farm, and Mrs. Johnson give them advice about some things that they could do to improve the farm’s condition.

                When they were finished, Mariah helped clear off and then went outside on the porch to talk to Breanna some more before bed.

                Bedtime came all too quickly, and the girls realized how tired they were.  They were asleep in minutes.

 

                Five enjoyable days passed.  Mariah participated in Freeman family activities, and gradually her homesickness faded-mostly.

               

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