Waiting on God for answers isn’t always easy! Will she spread out her hands to Him to direct her Heart?
Audrey Chapman’s life has never been a bed of roses. Tragically orphaned at a tender age and with a visible limp, she decides to respond to a mail-order bride ad and go west to create her own family. Upon meeting Shawn and his ranch, she realizes that her difficulty in walking may prove to be an important obstacle in running the household she wants. How can she shake off the idea that she’s simply not enough and give in to her heart’s calling?
Shawn Gallagher is a self-made rancher and a man of action. His biggest secret is that he can’t read. When he meets the distant and reluctant Audrey, he realizes that this woman is way more than he could ever imagine his ideal wife to be—resilient and patient, with God’s word safely kept in heart. Shawn slowly realizes that Audrey is meant to be the best choice in his life but how can he protect her from his past that has come to haunt him?
For Audrey and Shawn to overcome any difficulties, trust is the key word. Not only do they have to trust themselves and each other but they should also trust in God’s plan. Will they finally let go of their past to find their place in each other’s hearts?
Cold, wet snow seeped into her clothing and the long brown hair that she kept in a bun that was probably just a mess now. The chill spread until it found her skin and then crept beneath it. She expected the shivering to begin any moment. But, then again, maybe she was already shivering. She couldn’t tell.
At just ten years of age, Audrey wondered what this night would mean for her future. Was she going to die? The pain in her legs, the fact that she still hadn’t caught her breath, all of it was overwhelming.
But the vision before her of the home in which she had lived for those ten years was real. Real enough to keep her grounded. Real enough to make her see that she was alive.
The heat of the flames had not yet reached her, had not yet spread their warmth to counteract the cold. But Audrey could see that the fire was filling up the room that she had just leapt from, licking the walls of her house from within. She had barely made it.
Where were her sisters? Had they jumped, as well? Were they lying beside her, also injured and breathless? Were they wondering where Audrey was, in too much pain to turn their necks and search for her?
Yes, Audrey told herself. They were lying beside her petite frame. They had jumped and were waiting for someone to tell them that everything was going to be okay.
“Audrey? Audrey? She’s alive. Come, help me,” said the voice of a woman whose face was a black silhouette before the brightness of the flames.
Audrey could not make out her features, but the voice was familiar enough. It reminded Audrey of a lady from the church. What was her name? A Mrs. Kingston? Yes, that was it. Mrs. Kingston was the one who gasped when she touched Audrey’s leg with just the faintest hint of pressure.
Audrey cried out in pain.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Kingston said. “Audrey, you have to listen to me. Your legs are broken. It is going to be very difficult for you to move, but we have called for the doctor and he is coming.”
Audrey’s startling green eyes stared up at Mrs. Kingston, whose features were finally distinguishing from one another.
She wasn’t quite sure when or how, but suddenly Audrey was no longer lying in the snow. She no longer had the face of Mrs. Kingston staring down at her.
Instead, Audrey was lying on what felt like a cot and it was unseasonably warm. Her bleary eyes looked to the left and then to the right.
She was beside a fire. And there were voices. Voices coming from the faint figures that she was straining to see.
“Is she going to be all right?” one voice whispered.
“She has been very badly injured, but her legs will heal eventually. I don’t know that she will ever manage to walk again, but the breaks will heal,” said a man.
“I’m not talking about her legs,” said the first voice.
“As for that, I cannot say. There is nothing so grave in all the world as what she has lost,” the man replied.
Audrey tried to listen, but it was hard to hear and she did not know what they were speaking of. Were they even talking about her? The pain was still excruciating, although it was dulled somewhat. She must have been given medicine.
“Her eyes. They’re open. She’s awake,” whispered the first voice, which Audrey was realizing was Mrs. Kingston’s all over again.
“Audrey?” came the man’s voice.
As he drew nearer, Audrey could see that it was Doctor Mellis. She should have known that it was him. He had just been at their house last week, when her mother had a terrible flu and was shaking from her fever. But she had recovered, and for the last three days, she had been regaining her strength.
“Audrey, can you hear me?” Doctor Mellis asked.
“Yes,” she replied through a throat that scratched. It felt as though she was still choking on smoke, and Audrey coughed.
All in an instant, the fire beside her became a thing to fear and Audrey’s body jolted from the rush of adrenaline.
“Shh, shh, it’s going to be okay,” Doctor Mellis said in a rush.
“No, no! The fire. The fire! You have to put it out. I want to go home!” she screamed.
“It’s okay, Audrey. You’re okay. Don’t worry, you’re safe here. The fire isn’t going to reach you here. See? It is perfectly under control,” Mrs. Kingston said, soothingly.
As Audrey was about to protest, a few men entered the room. She recognized them as being elders from the church.
“What is the matter?” one of them asked.
“I want to go home! Please, take me back home. I want to be with my family. Where are they?” she begged and pleaded. They had to be nearby. Were they in another room? Had she been brought here because her injuries were the worst and she needed treatment?
“Audrey, it’s okay,” another elder said.
But it was too late. Audrey could not hold herself back and she began to scream to be taken home. It took all of her strength and her legs ached from the tension of the effort, but she would not let them keep her here.
“Take me home! Take me home!” she cried again and again.
“Doctor,” Mrs. Kingston said, insistently, as if an unspoken instruction was all that he needed.
Audrey felt the doctor’s hand, but before she could know what he was doing, she slipped into the black that clouded her vision and, soon, there was nothing left of the world around her to keep her grounded.
She did not dream. She did not see the faces of the ones that she loved, nor did she see flashes of the fire that haunted her in her waking.
But even through the exhaustion and the chloroform, Audrey was haunted by the sense that something was not quite right.
Would things ever be right again?
Audrey blinked and stared out of the window nearest her. The snow appeared to be melting.
But the window was unfamiliar, as was the scene outside of it.
This was not her home.
The memory of the previous night came back to her and Audrey wondered when her family would come in to see her.
The door to the room opened and Mrs. Kingston came in, humming, not noticing her.
“M-Mrs…” Audrey tried to speak. Her throat was still terribly dry, and Mrs. Kingston rushed over with a cup of water.
“Here, drink this. You must be so thirsty. Finish it and I will get you some more,” she said.
“Th-thank you,” Audrey said, once she had finished the first cup.
Mrs. Kingston went to the other side of the room and filled another cup and brought it back. Audrey drank it just as greedily.
“How are you feeling this morning?” Mrs. Kingston asked.
“My legs hurt,” Audrey said.
“I know. I’m so sorry, hen. The doctor should be here in about half an hour. He will give you something more for it, something to help with the pain,” Mrs. Kingston said.
“Thank you. Where are my sisters? My parents? Are they not allowed to see me until I am well?” Audrey asked.
Mrs. Kingston looked at her with a hesitant dread. Audrey wondered if she was not going to get to see them until she was much better.
“The Elders will come and talk to you about that,” Mrs. Kingston finally said, patting the top of Audrey’s hand.
Audrey nodded and bit her lower lip. She missed her mother and father. She missed her older sisters, even if Bessie didn’t always want to play with her and Julia sometimes stole her dolls.
Mrs. Kingston made some strange mixture of herbs for Audrey to drink that she said would help ease the pain, but Audrey mostly just thought that it tasted bad.
By the time the elders came into the room, Audrey could not ignore how grave their faces appeared.
“Audrey, how are you feeling?” Mr. Kingston asked.
“It hurts,” she said.
“I’m sure that Doctor Mellis will be here any minute,” he replied with a smile that covered some deeper, sadder emotion that Audrey could not ignore.
She swallowed against the scratch of her throat.
“Where is my family?” she asked.
She looked from Mr. Kingston to Mr. Hobbs and then to Reverend Thomas and Reverend Hawkins. There were a few other men sprinkled behind them that she knew from the church, but they all looked more or less the same and she could never remember which old, balding man was which.
Reverend Thomas, the one amongst them with the most authority in the church, was the next one to speak up.
“Audrey, I am sorry to have to tell you this, but the fire was very perilous. You were the only one that survived,” he said.
The cold knowledge of something that she had chosen to deny all along began creeping through her veins, more frigid than any snowy ground or cutting wind.
“I don’t understand,” she said through a labored breathing that betrayed the very understanding she denied.
“I am so sorry, Audrey. We all are,” Reverend Thomas said.
“M-my family?” she asked in a squeaking voice. She could not accept what she was hearing.
Audrey knew that she should weep and sob, but she was not able to believe the words. It was not possible. She had played with Julia the evening before. Bessie had said that she was too young to join her friends, but promised that she would brush her hair this morning.
Her mother had been planning to bake fresh bread for lunch that day, and her father was stressed that the factory he was trying to get up and running had faced some setbacks when one of the most important machines had broken.
How could all of those feelings, all of those emotions, all of that life, suddenly just be gone?
The shock pricked at her skin. Of course, she was not crying. It was not real. It could not be real.
“Audrey?” Mr. Hobbs asked.
“Wh-what am I supposed to do now?” she asked, wondering how she was meant to accept what she had just been told.
“Well, your family did not leave anything in terms of wealth. Actually, your father owed money that he had borrowed to fix some of the factory machinery, and now all of that property is going to pay off that debt,” Mr. Kingston told her.
That wasn’t what she had been asking. She didn’t care about money. She didn’t know anything much about it anyway, except when her mother would give her a couple of coins to buy a cake once every month.
“Audrey, I am afraid that there is more. More difficulty that you are going to face,” Reverend Thomas said.
“I-I don’t understand,” she said, not knowing what could be worse than losing her family.
“It is about your legs,” Mr. Kingston said.
“They’re broken, right?” she asked.
“Yes, they are,” he replied.
“But the breaks are going to heal. I know it. Bessie broke her arm once when she fell out of a tree that Mama told her not to climb. But she said she wanted an apple and she climbed it anyway,” Audrey said.
It felt good to tell the story. It was a story filled with Bessie’s life and energy, the way she was always so bold even when it got her into trouble. It reminded her that Bessie was the one that Mama and Papa would always scold, but Audrey was always a good girl.
“Yes, Audrey, the breaks will heal,” Reverend Thomas said with a gentle sigh. “But that does not mean that you will be able to walk again. The damage to your legs is very bad and we can’t say that you are going to fully recover.”
Audrey didn’t understand how this was any worse than losing her family. But she nodded anyway, because they had told her that it was going to be difficult and she did not want to be rude and tell them that she didn’t care about her legs.
Her mama and papa told her to always nod politely when an elder said something, even if she disagreed with it. She could talk to them later about her opinion and they would look at the two options and figure out which was more reasonable. But, for the elders, she had to smile and nod.
Except that she would not be able to talk to Mama and Papa later.
“There is no one in the community who can afford to take you in, Audrey. But we have figured out an option for you for now, which we hope will be agreeable to you,” Reverend Thomas said.
The other men continued to look somber, but Audrey just stared at the reverend, waiting for him to tell her whatever it was that he thought was best. If she disagreed, she would ask if she could talk to Mrs. Kingston about her differing opinion.
“We have decided that our new cleric, Reverend Hawkins, is the right person under whose care you will flourish,” Reverend Thomas said.
Audrey looked to the young man, Reverend Jonathan Hawkins. Her mama and papa had liked him, they had said that he was a good man. They had told her that he was very patient and quite mature for his youth.
But Audrey didn’t understand what that had to do with her.
Reverend Hawkins knelt down beside the bed and took her hand. Audrey looked up at him with uncertainty, her green eyes wide with wonder.
“You are going to be all right,” he said, his voice desperate to make it true.
“I-I will be all right,” she repeated.
He smiled then and nodded.
“Yes, you are going to be all right. And I will do all that I can to ensure that you walk again someday,” he assured her.
Audrey looked at his hand, holding hers.
It should have been her father giving her reassurances.
In that moment, with her eyes upon that hand and the men surrounding her, the warmth returned to Audrey’s body. As the shock began to wear off, the truth began to settle in and reality struck.
Through gasping, labored breathing, mournful cries escaped Audrey’s lips. They raised in pitch and desperation until she could not stop from crying out, begging the Lord to give her back her family. But instead, her question remained.
What am I supposed to do now?
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