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Book 1 Excerpt- Finding Her Way

Book 2 of the series is at the editors, but I wanted to remind people about book 1 if they haven't read it. 

Finding Her Way
by Leah Banicki

  Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2013 Leah Banicki

Wildflowers Book 1 ~

Corinne ~ like a lavender blossom.
A simple pretty flower to the eye but inside it
hides strength and healing.

Part One:

* * * * *

Chapter One

Feb 22 1848 – Boston, Massachusetts

Today she married a stranger. Corinne Temple had accepted and wholeheartedly agreed to marry a man she did not know as an arranged marriage, of sorts. So far Corinne did not like him much. 
Her new husband, Andrew Temple, was a good friend of her father but a stranger to her. He had recently graduated from Harvard Veterinary Medical School. His tall blond good looks were a front, though. After one brief visit and a letter of introduction from her father, which was the extent of their acquaintance, it still wasn’t enough to clue her in to his attitude. Corinne was clueless how to handle him. Her inner fire was snuffed out when he stood near, she was not sure if her immature wit could stand up against his ill-tempered condescension.
 His facial expressions were still unreadable and his demeanor a bit chilly, if Corinne allowed herself an opinion. She had always heard glowing accounts of the Temple family from her father. But he had only mentioned the parents in his conversations. Corinne was going off of old conversations and her remembrance was way off, she mused. No matter what her opinion, she had little choice.  Andrew was her ticket to Oregon so she packed her objections in her satchel and focused on reuniting with her father. He waited for her in Oregon City.
Corinne waited in her Aunt's fashionable 12th street Boston home. The walls gilded in pinks and golds, great drops of crystal cascaded from the chandeliers, the grand staircase wrapped elegantly around the back and majestically descended into the great hall. Halfway down the stairs there was a great view of the parlor on one side and the ballroom on the other. Artisans from Italy and France laid the exquisite marble floor. The fireplaces designed by a famous stonemason, the iron grates, and tools imported from the best artists and craftsmen from around the world. Few houses in Boston could boast of finer rooms or impressive displays of wealth. It had been a long while since it even fazed Corinne. This place did not look like a prison, but Corinne had lost her freedom a few years ago when she tied her first whalebone corset around her petite frame. The grandeur came at a price.
The servants scurried around her as she followed the strict orders of her Auntie Rose.  Corinne's secret name for her was the General as she threw orders at her and the servants, as well as any military men. Corinne grew impatient with waiting and tried to help a few hours earlier. She was reprimanded instantly.
"Corinne, you dishonor the place I have given you in my home, when you insist on acting like the common scullery." Her Aunt said in her usual volume ... Loud!
Corinne stopped helping with the bag organization and resumed her brainless position by the door, and watched her Aunt belittle the help with a feeling of helplessness. She looked about for her lady’s maid, Angela Fahey, for encouragement. She found disappointment; her Aunt had put her lady’s maid to work. Within the hour she was leaving her temporary Boston home and heading out toward the great West with this stranger that was her husband. The Oregon Trail would be months of grueling travel, far removed from her momentary comfort. Corinne was eager to start.
She held her mother's book of psalms and though she did not dare read them in front of her Aunt, she felt a comfort in knowing their words in her heart. The wisdom she gained, daily, helped her. She said a prayer of thanks again and again, that her father had forgiven her outburst from three years before, and was willing to make arrangements for their reunion, it was a miracle to Corinne. She reread the short message she received in September from her father; it was between the pages of her psalms.
Arranged for travel to Oregon. Andrew Temple can marry and escort you. He will contact you.
Andrew sent his calling card the third week of September 1847.  He arrived with a long letter from her father. It proposed a plan of his marrying Corinne and bringing her West. His parents were there already and Andrew was going to work with her father, John Harpole on his ranch.
There were mundane details about breeding stock and ranch issues that did not interest Corinne, but seeing her father’s strong bold handwriting was a comfort. She missed him and would go to impossible lengths to see him again. She would deal with her husband to make amends. I am sure Andrew’s attitude will improve once he gets to know me.
Andrew was a man of few words and unreadable facial expressions. He agreed to see to her safety and marry her in February before they left. He claimed to have classes to attend and was gone after the short meeting. After five months of no word, he sent a telegram saying the wedding was arranged for February 22, at nine a.m. 
The General had been outraged to have a wedding with no fuss, but Corinne stood up to her Aunt and made her realize that this was not a 'social event' but a simple ceremony. Corinne boldly told her it did not concern her.  'Their train would be leaving at two in the afternoon. There was no time for wedding nonsense.' Words had been strained between her and her Auntie the entire week.
She glanced his way a few times during the short ceremony. His height reaching well over six foot and it made her feel tiny. His dark blond curls were peppered with light blond highlights. His lips pressed firmly in a tight line through the entire morning. He barely spoke a word beyond what was necessary.
 The judge came to her Aunt's home and did the service with efficiency. Corinne wore her traveling clothes and Andrew was in a common tweed suit. There was no kiss-the-bride moment.
Corinne was certain it was her wild imagination, but Andrew seemed agitated with her already. She had no idea what he would be so annoyed about in such a short acquaintance. Certainly not the joy of a groom on his wedding day. She nearly laughed but kept her face composed as her Aunt and Husband were glaring at her. It was very disconcerting.
Corinne pulled herself back to the present and began to watch the repacking of her precious medicinal plant oils. She had several small wooden boxes holding her medicines and healing balms to take on the journey and her lady’s maid, Angie, clearly expressed Corinne's desire, to the footmen, that they be packed well. They doubled-checked the packing, when suddenly a small vial of peppermint was dropped and broke, by a servant who would remain nameless, for his protection from my Aunt.  It immediately soaked into the Oriental rug in the grand foyer. Within minutes the smell of peppermint was strong. It made Corinne's eyes water a little but it wasn’t too unpleasant.
Auntie Rose was instantly mortified and declared the stench was giving her fits and a migraine, her goodbyes were brief and she rushed her well-corseted frame up the stairs and into her wing of the house.
If Corinne wasn't leaving today she was confident she would have seen Auntie Rose in a shrieking rage. Auntie would stir the staff into a flurry of activity to get her away to her country home for a stay of a week or more. She was certain to never know but the scene played out humorously in Corinne's imagination.
With a glance at the hall mirror Corinne made sure she was put together. When she looked over her young face she could hear Auntie's voice in her head. "You look like a child with a woman's body." Auntie had a way of saying things that could keep you guessing whether it was an insult or not. Corinne shrugged at her own reflection. Her long brown hair was swept back neatly and her bonnet was simple but fashionable. She would not embarrass herself but cared little for being elaborate for traveling.
Corinne clutched her green silk satchel close to her. "It's the latest fashion!" Auntie Rose would say in her high-pitched voice. Corinne learned long ago to hide her expressions from her Aunt. So many times she wanted to smirk, or roll her eyes at the ridiculous pursuit of what others deemed fashionable. She may look the part of the fashion plate right now but she was still a rancher's daughter at heart. She knew how to ride horses well, tie knots, and break a horse if necessary. She wasn’t a tomboy but had her rough and tumble moments in life. She knew the calluses had faded away over the last three years but the knowledge was still there. Corinne actually enjoyed dressing up sometimes and feeling pretty was always pleasant, but she didn’t care for fashion the way the Boston crowd did. It made her head swim keeping up with 12th Street crowd. They were all parties, flirting, smoking cigarettes and gossipmongers. She allowed them their pursuits but she had her own goals. 
Corinne's true passion was botany. She learned from her mother and she loved it still. Her three years in Boston she spent as much as possible, in the greenhouses learning and volunteering with the experts. Her mother’s and grandmother’s journals were coming with her; they were her most prized possessions.  Her grandmother, Trudie, studied with the Indian women of the Smoky Mountains and learned many secrets of healing from their women, after earning their trust.  Corinne secretly hoped to do that in the West, finding plants and ointments to help future generations.  Maybe even publish her journals.  Corinne smiled to herself. It was a lovely dream.
"Miss Fahey," Corinne spotted her companion. Despite their cultural and social differences they were the dearest of friends but kept it behind closed doors for the sake of 'house rules' and the taboos of polite society. Auntie was quite stern over any endearments between the two girls. Corinne knew she would never do anything intentional to cause Angela Fahey to lose her good position in the household staff.  Corinne secretly hoped the propriety barrier would lift once they left Boston. She was certain that the road west held many different types of freedom. 
"Is everything at the ready Miss Fahey?" Corinne smiled and reached for the fair-skinned maid. They shared the same excitement, after so many hours together hidden in her room. Months of dreams and hopes for freedom were shared between them.
"It is Mrs. Temple." The new title made Corinne squirm a little. "At this moment the trunks and surplus supplies are being loaded on your travel car, your personal items and trunks are to be packed into our coach.  I have called for it twice. I shall send a footman to see about the delay." Angela's voice was firm with only the slightest hint of her Irish birth.  She was desperate to finish her duties well today.  She knew her own life would forever change once she left this grand home behind.
* * * * *
Angela's own expectations and need for perfection pushed her hard this week with a wedding this morning and all the packing for the trip needed for today, as well. Angela was nearly at her end. Her nerves were weary to the breaking point. The last three days the household had to be run as usual without the head housekeeper, not forgetting the trip planning which was put under Angela's leadership. Corinne's Aunt was a little unmerciful expecting her to handle the packing, wedding, and daily chores. Angela should have anticipated it though. The head housekeeper had a delightful habit of catching her death-of-something when huge events came around. Angela was certain that the housekeeper would rally from her illness just in time for the afternoon train departure. Twenty-hour days put the fifteen-year-old Angela into an emotional daze. Last night after a quick prayer and a long cry she slept like a baby for a few hours, before she was up and going again. She had a beautiful vision of herself on the train, taking a long nap, on a cot. Surely a blanket and the floor would work for her at this point.
Angela took a quick moment to secure her bonnet over her red hair and headed out the front door when she heard the crunch of the carriage wheels as they traveled up the stone road, close to the door. She joined Corinne in the seat of the carriage and let the footmen do their job of loading everything. Angela and Corinne shared a hand squeeze when the carriage finally moved forward toward their future.
* * * * *
The train station was crowded and the footmen struggled to get through the crowds with her luggage. After several minutes of jockeying around the station they found Corinne's husband and they joined him. His cowboy hat sat on his brow and he looked ready to take on the world. Corinne tried to appear friendly when she made eye contact but he looked away. It seemed like he changed his mind and then he spoke.
"Hello wife." A bright smile greeted Corinne as she led her footmen forward. Andrew was truly handsome with dark blond curls and a cowboy hat. His green eyes had a look in them that she just didn’t understand. He was intimidating and confident and he did not seem to be interested in her at all. Corinne told herself to stop being fearful and just to keep thinking about making a good impression.
She smiled but did not know what to say, her mind empty. A thin man with short brown hair and a serious face walked up silently and stood next to Andrew. Corinne wondered why he was there.
Andrew noticed her perusal. "This is my man, Reggie. If you need me and can't find me tell him, he will always know where I am."  He gave Reggie's shoulder a tap and pointed and Reggie took the satchels sitting on the ground, and headed into the traveling car next to them. Corinne wondered if his job was also to be mute.
Corinne's luggage was loaded and she checked inside her handbag with a sweep of her hand. Everything was there, money, mints, small brown bottle of lavender, a pocket watch and a small sewing kit. She had plenty of money sewn into her clothing, hidden in her luggage, and stuffed into book pages. Andrew insisted that she needed for nothing and should not buy anything. Her mother taught her that a woman should always be prepared for the worst. A girl should have the means to support herself in case there was trouble.
Corinne thought about the long days ahead. She longed to see her father again but almost dreaded it too. Three years was a long separation and she had changed a lot since her days on the ranch in Kentucky. His letter said he wanted to meet her in Oregon but would the disappointment still linger between us?  It would be months before she would know.  I should focus on getting the first part of the trip traveled successfully. Corinne told herself.
It would take four weeks or more of train and coach rides to reach the Missouri river. Four weeks with a stranger. Corinne had no idea what she would discuss with Andrew but she would work on being friendly. I should try to stop being intimidated. Foolish girl!
* * * * *
Corinne stopped her inner dialogue and let the golden-haired Andrew lead her up the stairs in the traveling car. With a great blast the train whistle blew and the conductor yelled for the passengers to board. Andrew had her arm and helped her up the steps. She was very aware of his hand on her arm. She glanced his way briefly and he was looking at her distractedly. Maybe he was nervous about spending the long ride with a stranger, also. Do men get nervous too? She looked back at her feet but her grin was hard to hide.
The train car was comfortable, with soft seats, a dining car and two separate rooms with beds. He arranged everything. He obviously got what he wanted. He acted like a force to be reckoned with. She tried not to think about the wifely expectations but was ready to face that reality if need be. She was secretly hoping to get to know him a little better first. She whispered a prayer for strength inside her head and stared out the window seeing nothing for a while.
The newly married couple sat quietly for nearly an hour watching the train leave the station and then the city rushing by.  Andrew rang the bell and within a moment he ordered tea.
The tea was served a few minutes later and Corinne desperately searched her mind for something to discuss with Andrew. The landscape out the window was unremarkable and with their own private car, they were not able to see the other passengers. Corinne absently wondered if reading a book during tea was rude. Her manners finally kicked in and she did what had to be done. She stopped avoiding her husband and thought of a question to ask.
"Andrew, I was wondering if you have any hobbies." Corinne sipped her tea and put on her bravest smile. It sounded silly to her once it was said but there was no taking it back. She just tilted her head and looked him in the eye.
Andrew met her gaze and smiled. "Well, I do believe college was my hobby I suppose." He laughed and his green eyes looked bright for a second. "I still feel a little strange after three months to be actually finished. Six years of my life was spent at Harvard." He paused and stopped smiling.  "Well child, I suppose you can't understand. Six years ago you were eleven." He took a sip of tea himself and reached for a pastry.
Corinne blinked... wondering what happened. She tried again. "Do you plan on opening a vet clinic in Oregon City?" Corinne felt good for making a second effort toward conversation.
"I will help your father with his breeding stock and perhaps head to California to see what the competition is up too. I know you have your 'prodigal daughter' plans but some of us have to work. I may or may not settle in Oregon at all."
She had to work hard at not rolling her eyes. She felt like a stranger was scolding her and she was trying not to resent it. He wasn’t playing nice. She thought.
"I want you to be clear on my intentions. I have married you as a favor to your Father. His influence over my getting into Harvard was the best gift anyone ever gave me. I will gladly help you re-unite with him in Oregon, but,” He took a breath. “I will be getting an annulment when we arrive. I have no intentions of us being in a marriage in any other way than in name only. I have no need for marriage now in my life. I do not mean to be impertinent. "Halfway through the speech he stopped looking at her, opened a newspaper, and began idly flipping through pages.
An annulment… Corinne’s mind was jumbled with the implications. No long-term plan, no stuck in a loveless marriage. She was trying to keep her face impassive but she wanted to cheer. She almost laughed.
Andrew was staring at her trying to gauge her reaction. He seemed so grumpy. Perhaps he wanted a response.
“I understand, once we are across you will file for an annulment.” Corinne stated simply, hoping her voice wouldn’t crack.
“Good girl.” Andrew said and opened his paper.
Corinne realized just then she couldn’t be insecure with this man or he would run over her. He was a General, too. As my mother would say...Out of the frying pan then eaten by the dog!
* * * * *
In the next room Angela was busily preparing the sleeping car. It had two beds and would be her and Corinne's quarters for two weeks.  Angela would find out whether Corinne preferred the top bunk or bottom bunk. Angela put three traveling suits in the tiny wardrobe and then hung the rest of her dresses in the next car where the luggage, trunks, and supplies were stored. There were hanging racks and space for a washtub and all the cleaning supplies, Angela would need these on this trip. Traveling and keeping Corinne's clothes clean was her duty. She did not intend to let her mistress be shamed in front of her new husband.

* * * * * * 

You can find the rest of Finding Her Way on ebook and print book on Amazon.

Book 2 - 
Angela's Hope is coming in Fall 2013

To find out more about my books 

1 comment:

Charity Scott said...

I will be sharing this link. Hopefully it will draw more people to your books. They are so wonderful!
I just finished Finding Her Way. When I first started reading it I read as much as I could in the time I had. Then when I realized it would be the end all too soon I slowed down and took my time. It was hard cause I wanted to read it so much everyday! I finished it just this morning. Kind of sad about being done. I really enjoyed every bit of this book! It is well written with lots of loveable characters that draw you in and keep you interested and entertained. I truly loved this book. I really can't wait for Angela's Hope to be available! I think I have decided to reread it to help me wait for the next one. ;) Thank you for sharing you great God given talent with us readers. I am blessed by it. :)