1 Shocking News
When 12 year old Rachel Nordstrom woke up, the sun was not yet in sight. She pulled on her worn overalls and braided her thick blonde hair. As the sun peeped over the mountains, Rachel walked across the cool yard. Her brother, Matthew, was sitting on a stout stool milking their dairy cow, Hazel. Matthew was fairly tall, strong, and kind-hearted. He had blonde hair like his sister, and was fourteen years old. “Good morning, Matthew.” Rachel said, leaning against the wall of the stall. “Good morning.” Matthew replied. “Did you sleep well?” Rachel asked as she gave hay to their horses. “Not really. Jacob kept on coughing all night.” Matthew said with a deep yawn. “Should Papa send for a Dr. Benjamin? ” Rachel asked, pouring grain into the feeding trough. “If Mama was still alive we wouldn't need to send for Dr. Benjamin.” said Matthew, a little defensively. Mrs. Nordstrom had died from a horse accident two and a half years before. Before the accident, she had been an assistant to Dr. Benjamin. They finished doing their chores, along with Jacob’s, and went into the house. Rachel was whisking eggs for breakfast when Jacob walked into the kitchen rubbing his eyes. “How are you feeling today Jacob?” Rachel asked, without glancing up. “I feel better than I did, just tired.” He replied, flopping into a chair. “Well even though you feel better, you should stay in bed and get your rest.” Rachel said, trying to sound like her Mother. “Okay. Is breakfast almost ready?” “Yes. Will you get David? I’ll get Papa and Matthew.” Jacob nodded with a yawn, and headed back upstairs to wake up his four year old brother, while Rachel went out front. Rachel could hear Papa and Matthew’s hushed voices in the barn as she approached. When they saw her, they stopped talking abruptly. “Breakfast is ready.” She said, glancing at Matthew. His face was expressionless. “We’ll be there in a moment, Rachel.” Papa said, brushing his hand over her shoulder. Rachel nodded, and took her leave.
After breakfast Matthew and Rachel walked to school, “What were you and dad talking about?” Rachel asked, skipping alongside her brother to keep up with his long strides. “Something.” Matthew replied, walking faster. “Like what?” Rachael asked, breaking into a jog. “Something I can’t tell you.” “Fine! You and dad can keep your secret. I don’t care!” Rachel said, flipping her braid over her shoulder. “Rachel, I’m sorry that I can’t tell. Papa will tell you when the time is right. Here; I'll take your books.” Matthew sticking out an arm for Rachel to plop her books on. but Rachel ignored it and ran over to a group of girls clustered around the swing. With a sigh, Matthew trotted over to the boys, who were playing a game of baseball. The group of girls were Sarah and Rebecca Roland, who were twelve and nine, and good friends to Rachel, Edla, and Karina both ten, and not so friendly to Rachel. With one last glance at Matthew, Rachel joined in the gossip.
All throughout school, Rachel’s mind kept turning to the secret. Could it be Jacob? She wondered. Maybe dad thinks he’s really sick. No, Jacob himself said that he was feeling better. Oh, what could it be? “Rachel Nordstrom, will you read Page forty five in your history book?” the plump man at the front of the room said gruffly, rousing Rachel from her thoughts. “Oh, yes Mr. Hanson. Page…” “Forty five, Miss Nordstrom. Oh, and could you please clean the chalkboards after class, if it’s not to much trouble.” “Yes sir.” Inside, Rachel trembled. Whenever a student was in trouble, he or she had to stay and ‘clean the chalkboard’, which meant hear a lecture from Mr. Hanson. Rachel shook away these thoughts and opened her book to Page forty five. “In 1789…”
When school let out, all the children collected their books and ran out the door into the brisk February afternoon. Rachel watched longingly as they skipped over the hill, exchanged candy, and chattered with their friends.
“Miss Nordstrom.” Mr. Hanson said, clearing his throat, which was something he was forever doing. Rachel timidly walked up to the desk.
“Y-yes Mr. Hanson?”
“Are you having trouble with your school?”
“Then why may I ask are you having so much trouble concentrating on your work?”
Rachel remained silent.
“I-I don’t know sir.”
Mr. Hanson opened the drawer of his desk and pulled out a long, thin rod. Rachel knew this rod well. Her hand tingled as Mr. Hanson pulled it to the desired position.
“Does this tell you anything?” an indignant reply was right on the tip of Rachel’s tongue, but she held it back and replied, “I was just…thinking.”
“I…I…ow!” the rod came down on her palm.
“Stop it!” another sharp crack. “Stop it! I’ll tell my Papa, and he’ll get you in trouble!” “Are threaten me?” Mr. Hanson gasped. “I think that I shall have the honor of speaking to your father, Miss Nordstrom!”
As Rachel winced against the pain, she thought, not for the first time, how the thin rod didn’t break, no matter how often it was used. Tears threatened to fall down her cheeks as Mr. Hanson whacked her hand again and again. Finally the tears escaped, flowing down her cheeks. Satisfied to see those shining tears, Mr. Hanson cleared his throat and laid the rod back in the drawer.
“Now clean those chalkboards,” With one last glare, Rachel stalked over to the chalkboards. “Hurry it up Miss Nordstrom, I don't have all day.”
“Do you think I have all the time in the world?” Rachel mumbled under her breath.
By the time Rachel got home it was half past four and the sun was almost about to set. Matthew sat at the table, bent over his arithmetic. Her dad sat at the head of the table, writing a letter. He signaled with his hand for her to sit down across from him. “Mr. Hanson asked you to stay?” he asked, looking up. “Yes, Papa.” “Why?” “I wasn't paying attention in class,” “Why weren't you paying attention?” Rachel looked down under her father’s piercing gaze. “Answer me, Rachel.” She just couldn’t tell him the truth. “I-I don't...” “Go to your room.” He said with a sigh. Rachel turned and went into her bedroom. The next hour she spent in solitude. She did her studies and read some of Oliver Twist, which she had a book report on. She went out for supper. No one spoke to her. Rachel only managed to eat half of her soup. After supper, Rachel got ready for bed. As she slipped between the warm blankets, she heard wheels approaching out front. Rachel sat up on her bed and looked out the window into the dark night. Rachel moaned inside when she saw it was Mr. Hanson’s rig was out front.
The next morning Rachel was pulled aside by her father, “Mr. Hanson came by last night,” Papa said with a sigh, “An hour in your room, for the rest of the week,” “Yes Papa.” said Rachel. That day Jacob was worse, so Matthew and Rachel went to school without him again, Mr. Hanson paid no attention to Rachel, which she didn't mind.
Three days past by quickly and it was Saturday when Rachel was off restriction. Mr. Nordstrom went to town with Jacob and David, leaving Matthew and Rachel to cook dinner, which was corn bread and soup. When Papa, Jacob and David came home they were just in time for dinner.
“I have some news, for the family.” Papa said at the head of the table. “Mathew, Rachel, do you two remember Alice Overton, she's a sister to Isaac Overton.”
Mathew nodded, but Rachel shook her head, Isaac Overton was Karina's father and he owned the biggest house in Trade Lake, but she couldn't remember who his sister was.
“Well she got married when Jacob was a baby, she and her husband moved to Minneapolis. Then her husband...” Papa was saying, Why is Papa talking about this lady, we don't really know? Rachel thought as her father talked, unless maybe she's moving back with her husba...
“...and I just asked her to marry me.” was cut into Rachel's thoughts with a knife.
Papa is going to marry this woman? How could he do this to us? To forget Mama, and run off and marry some woman. Rachel vision was getting blurry.
“I know this is a shock to...”
Rachel didn't want to hear anymore. She got up and ran to her room. Threw herself on her bed, and cried herself to sleep.
That night Rachel dreamed that she and mother where riding together she was teaching Rachel to ride,
“I think you can ride by yourself now, dear.” Mama said, dismounting the horse Rachel was on.
“But I thought we were going to ride to the meadow and have a picnic?” Rachel whined.
“We're going to as soon as I get on Flame.” Mama said walking over to a saddled red dun stallion. She mounted up and lead Rachel on a trail.
They were almost to the meadow, when a rabbit jump out of the bushes and dashed across the trail. Flame was easy to scare. He reared and pawed at the air. Mama fell to the ground. Flame reared again, then turned around and ran back towards home.
Mama gave a load groan,
“Mama! Mama are you all right?” Rachel said dismounting,
Blood was trickling down her face from her head, gasping for breathe, Her golden hair wasn't gold anymore with dirt and blood on it.
“Mama! Mama!” Rachel jerked up from her bed screaming. Her whole body soaked in sweat, and was trembling.
That was only a dream, But it really happened! screamed Rachel's thoughts, Oh why did I want to learn to ride! Because Mama could.
A quiet knock was at the door, then papa's head appeared.
“Are you all right?” He said as he walked in and sat down next to Rachel.
She nodded so he would leave her alone, but he didn't.
“You left dinner before I said when the wedding is.” Papa said, “It's going to be March second.”
“What?” Rachel said, jerking her head up. “That's only a little over two weeks away!” Plus week before my birthday! Rachel held the last part in.
“I know this is a shock and I didn't give you much warning.” Papa said, rapping an arm around Rachel's shoulders. “I can't blame you for being up set, but I felt like it was something god wanted me to do, the thought of her having a baby with no husband to help her...”
“She's pregnant!” Rachel said, interrupting her father.
“Yes, weren't you listening?”
“Well, she pregnant, and she's going to have the baby around may.”
Rachel was silent.
“You should go back to sleep,” Papa said, getting up and kissing her forehead. “I love you.”
For some reason those three words didn't rap around her heart like a warm blanket as it usually did.
The two weeks went by quickly, and Papa was riding with Matthew and David in their wagon to the train station as Rachel and Jacob began their walk to school. Rachel where is Matthew?” asked Mr. Hanson, with the inevitable clearing of the throat. “He’s taking my Pa to the train station.” Rachel replied.“Oh...I see.” When Rachel got home, Matthew was walking out of the barn with David at his side, “You just get home?” asked Rachel, “Matt got the wagon stuck, it took so long.” David said. “Where's Jacob?” Matthew asked, hoping that Rachel wouldn’t ask questions. “Jacob got in trouble with Mr. Hanson.” Rachel replied as they entered the house “Poor Jacob. His first year at school and he has the teacher on his back half the time!” Matthew said sympathetically. Rachel nodded sadly and put her books on the table.
That evening there was a knock at the kitchen door. Rachel opened the door and was surprised to see Sarah and her older brother, Derrick. “Hi Sarah, Derrick. Come on in. What are you both doing here?” “Our Mother sent us to give you this.” Sarah replied, closing the door. Derrick handed Rachel a jar of canned berries. “Oh! Tell your Mother thank you.” “I will. She thought maybe you could have pie when your new Mother arrives.” Sarah said, looking at Rachel sadly. “Hey, Derrick! How are you?” Matthew said, giving Derrick a slap on the back. “Good. Anything I can help with?” “Yeah. I was just going to go and milk the cows.” “Okay, I can help with that. I'm sure that the girls can think of something to talk about. Girls always do.” When the boys left, there was a moment of silence. “Do you know what your new Mother is like?” Sarah asked timidly. “She’s probably some lazy woman who needs someone to do everything for her!” “Is that what your Pa said?” “No. He says she’s nice!” “What are you going to wear when you meet her?” Sarah loved clothes, and always wanted to know what people were going to wear for special occasions. “Papa wants us to wear our church clothes.” “You're going to wear your dress?” “Yes, but just because my Papa said to.” Rachel replied duly, Rachel didn't have a love for clothes as Sarah did. “Do you what me to help you clean the house?” “If you what to and if it's fine with your Mama.” “I'll ask her, but I think it will be okay.” “You can come by when it is a good time for you.” After a little more chat, Sarah stood up. “Well I think me and Derrick should go. I don't want Mama getting worried.” “Alright. Thank you for coming!” “No problem! I’ll see you tomorrow!” Rachel walked out front with Sarah, and stood beside Matthew as they watched their friends walk down the road. “Can we go riding, Matthew?” Rachel begged as the Roland’s disappeared from sight. “No.” Matthew replied, heading back to the barn. “Why not?” “We'd have to take David and Jacob, and it's almost their bed time.” “We can lock up the house after there in bed. Come on, Matthew, it’s the last night before we have a new Mother! She probably won’t approve of girls riding, or some such nonsense.” Rachel pleaded, “Well....alright, but just ten minutes.” “Ten! Matthew, that's not even enough time to go around Pine Lake. Twenty five minutes.” “Fifteen.” “Twenty.” “Seventeen, and not a minute more.” “Okay! I'll get the boys in bed!” Rachel said, running to the house.
Rachel slipped out of the house and locked the door. Ducking in the shadows, Rachel made her way to the barn. She saddled Mathew's chestnut gelding, Penny, while Matthew saddled Papa’s black stallion, Lightning. “Where are we going?” Matthew asked as they set off at a brisk trot. “Just follow me and you'll know.” Rachel replied with a toss of her frizzled braid. “You're taking me to our secret fishing spot!” Matthew exclaimed. Ahead of them was Pine Lake. Their fishing spot was a little cove by the lake. A rotting log lay there, and it was the perfect place to sit while fishing. “Oh Matthew, it’s even prettier at night!” Rachel gasped. The moon reflected brightly off the rippling water. Rachel closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the strong pine air. The siblings dismounted, tied their horses to a tree, and sat down on the dewy grass. “I wish we could sleep out here.” said Rachel, “Yeah, but we’d be in big trouble for leaving David and Jacob at home.” “We should make a hideout by that tree!” Rachel said pointing to the tree they had the horses tied to, “Maybe. But we need to get home before David or Jacob finds out what we’ve been doing.” Matthew said practically. “Oh, don’t rush!” Rachel exclaimed. “I like it here.” “So do I, but we’ve already been gone almost ten minutes.” “Alright.” Rachel replied reluctantly. Placing her toe in the stirrup, Rachel swung onto Penny’s back and grinned down at Matthew. “Race you home!” Rachel cried, digging her heels into Penny’s sides. Matthew leaped onto Lightning and galloped after his sister. Lightning lived up to his name, and was soon caught up with Penny. The thunder of hoof beats was all that Rachel could hear. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a broken fence that was about two feet high. Penny can jump that easily, and we’ll cut across the Welsh’s property, and then I’ll win! Veering sharply to the right, Rachel urged Penny towards the fence. “Rachel, no!” Matthew screamed, but he was to late. There was a thin wire above the broken Part of the fence, which Rachel had not seen. Luckily it wasn’t barbed, but it was enough to send horse and rider to the ground. Without stopping, Matthew leaped from Lightning’s back and knelt beside Rachel. “Are you okay?” he asked. His face had gone deathly Pale. For a moment, Rachel didn’t answer. The breath had been knocked out of her, and she felt like she couldn’t breathe. But all in a rush, she could and she took huge gulps of air. “I…I think that – ow! My wrist!” Rachel tried to hold back her tears as Matthew tenderly examined her wrist. “Hmm, it's not broken, but might be a sprain. Anywho, I think that I ought to take you to Dr. Benjamin.” “No, Matthew, I’ll be fine.” Rachel replied, standing up. Ever since her Mother’s death, Rachel had loathed the sight of Dr. Benjamin, who hadn’t been able to save Mama. “Alright. I’ll take care of the horses, and you go on to the house. Make sure and wrap your wrist.” Rachel nodded, but first went over to poor Penny who stood with wide, frightened eyes. Her back twitched as if shooing away flies, but Rachel knew that it was because of the electric wire. Rachel was relieved to find that Penny, except for a scratch on her belly, had been uninjured, and using her left hand, Rachel led her home.
The throbbing of her wrist was the first thing that Rachel felt in the morning. Dragging herself from bed, she discovered that she had a few bruises in various places. After getting dressed, Rachel went into the barn, where Matthew was at his usual post milking.
“How are you this morning?” He asked, looking up from his work.
“Alright. I have a few bruises, but I’ll be fine. Squirt?” Matthew smiled, and Rachel squatted on the hay strewn ground. Lifting up a teat, Matthew squirted a stream of warm milk into Rachel’s mouth.
“And for that, I’ll kindly ask you to climb into the loft and throw down some hay.”
“I don’t know if I can with my hand…” Rachel began doubtfully. Matthew shrugged and continued milking.
“Whatever.” He said in a tone that Rachel knew meant he didn’t believe her.
Tossing her hair over her shoulder, Rachel stalked towards the ladder and began to climb. She heard the steady milking stop. Rachel could feel Matthew's eyes on her, but she didn’t look at him. In the loft, Rachel managed to throw down a few pitchfork’s worth. Her wrist was throbbing Painfully, as she scooped the last bit, But as she lifted it over the edge, she lost her grip with her right hand and the pitchfork pulled her down from the loft. Thud!
“Rachel! Are you okay?” Mathew said rushing over to her. Rachel sat up on the mound of hay she landed on, with a groan.
“I…I will be. Oh, ow!” Rachel held her wrist but wasn’t able to hold her tears. After an awkward moment of silence, a voice said. “What are you doing to Rachel now, Matt? Got her crying.” Rachel groaned inwardly. Jacob was only seven, but he thought very highly of himself, and let the world know it. “Good morning, Rachel. Are you okay?” Jacob asked. Rachel stood up and hastily wiped her eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. What are you doing out here?” “Oh, chores. Hmm, where did Penny get this scratch?” Rachel was immediately suspicious. You couldn’t see the scratch unless you knelt down beside Penny. That could only mean…Jacob knew.
Matthew left the house at about two in the afternoon, leaving Rachel to babysit the children. Jacob was exasperating, threatening to tell Papa about her ride last night, and conveniently bumping into her injured wrist. Sarah came, and the two friends had fun cleaning the house together. Once they finished, Sarah helped wrap Rachel’s wrist properly and make dinner. At four thirty, Sarah left, saying that she looked forward to meeting Rachel's new Mother. Rachel slid the berry pie into the oven, Glancing at the clock, Rachel laid out Jacob and David white shirts and black breeches, and ran to her bedroom to get herself ready. She slipped into her Sunday best, which was a pick dress that touched the floor since it used to be her mothers, and brushed her hair. She quickly braided her hair. She then washed her face and hands, and ran downstairs. “Jacob! David!” She cried, wanting to burst into tears. The living room was torn apart. Books lay strewn over the ground, lamps were knocked over, garbage lay in little heaps, and they were going to be back any minute! “Jacob!” Rachel nearly screamed, turning on her brother. Jacob smile, stuck out his tongue, and ran. Rachel was able to rope David into helping her, and together they quickly began to clean up. Just as it seemed like they might make it, there was a loud squawk and as Rachel turned to look, a feathery body was shoved in her face. That did it. “Jacob!” she screamed, grabbing the boy by his shoulders and shaking him hard. “How could you? Papa and Mrs. Morgan are going to be here any minute, and-“ But Rachel stopped her scolding, because at that moment, the front door opened.
2 TroubleIn the doorway stood Matthew and behind him was Papa holding the hand of the most beautiful woman Rachel had ever seen. Her silky, milk-chocolate brown hair was pinned up on her head, with a couple of thin curls dangling on the sides of her ears. She had a smooth complexion, and rosy cheeks. Her white teeth sparkled almost as much as her shining emerald eyes. Her dress was long and full, the bodice very slender and form-fitting. Below that, the green skirt billowed out like an ocean, her bulged pregnant stomach right at the top of it. Lace lined the low collar and the edge of the long skirt. Her hands had several rings on them, and two on her ring finger. When the door opened, she was right in the middle of saying something, but when she saw the chickens she stopped in mid-sentence, and stared as if she had never seen such creatures before. Rachel timidly glanced at her father. His eyebrows nearly covered his dark eyes. Rachel’s sought the carpet. “Rachel,” Papa asked, clearing his throat. “What, are the, um, chickens, doing in the house?” “Well, uh-“ Rachel’s cheeks burned. “You see, Jacob-“ “Never mind. Jacob!” Jacob burst into the room, his hair sticking up in every direction. Papa licked his lips and closed his eyes. “Take the chickens out.” He said, every word very distinct. Jacob meekly obeyed. While he did that, Matthew knelt down and picked all the feathers up off the floor, while Rachel finished picking up the room. Alice Nordstrom sat on a clean chair, and took clean, tidy little David on her lap. From then on, he was her pet. After the room was clean, Rachel was sent away to make herself presentable. When she stood in front of her tall mirror, she gasped. Her beautiful red dress was soiled with dust and chicken feathers. Her once smooth, shining hair was also dusty and very messy. Rachel cleaned her hair as well as she could, and changed to a yellow checked dress, and went back downstairs. Alice Nordstrom was now having a tour of the house, and Rachel almost ran into her at the bottom of the stairs. “Oh, hello!” she said, her voice quiet, crisp, and musical. Rachel was stunned. “Rachel, this is your new Mother.” “H-hello.” Rachel said, sticking out an awkward ruddy callused hand. Mother looked at it for a moment, before shaking it with her delicate white hand. “Alright Rachel. Go on up to bed.” Papa instructed. With a hurried kiss, Rachel retreated upstairs.
The next day was like every over day except with a mother. When Jacob, Rachel and Matthew, came in from chores. She gasped and then said, “You better not think your going to church dress like that,” she frowned at there overalls, then went on. “Because I will not allow any child in this house going anywhere dressed like the way you three are.”“Don't worry, Alice.” Papa said, “I wouldn't either. Children go wash up and get dressed.”All three of them rushed up stairs to their rooms.“She just got here and she acting like she's in charge of us!” Rachel said,“She is, Rachel.” that came from Jacob, “Papa said once she got here we have to obey her, or suffer the con-see-quen-says”Then Jacob smirked,“All though you two will already be suffering con-see-quen-says.”Rachel narrowed her eyes at him.“Come on we need to get ready.” Matthew said, “There will be even more consequences if we get to church late.”Jacob took that for his escape route out of the hall to get away, before Rachel reminded him he was in trouble for messing up the house.“Hurry up kids, breakfast is ready.” Papa call from down stairs.Rachel quickly change into her yellow dress she wore the night before, neatly braided her hair, splashed some water on her face and arms, then ran down the stair, and into the kitchen.“I see that our daughter needs to help on being a lady.” Mother said coldly.Rachel glared at her.“You wore that last night.” said Mother, nodding to her dress“So?”“Alice, would you like some eggs?” Papa said before she could say anything ells, then gave Rachel the warning look.
During the ride in the wagon Papa and Mathew talked up in front in hushed tone, but Rachel caught some words, and knew they were talking about the night ride Matthew and her did.“Rachel you most know my niece Karina she about your age.” said Mother,Rachel nodded,“Your father and I have invited them to come over today.” Mother said, “We'll be having them over a lot since they are family.”No! Rachel wanted to scream.“How is everyone back there?” Papa said, over his shoulder.“Just fine, dear.” Mother replied with honey in her voice.During the church service Rachel tried to listen, but the topic was quite boring. Rachel did hear,“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”Well I don't have much choice, either I do it or I get punished.As soon as church let out Rachel rushed over to Sarah.“Is she nice? She looks beautiful in that blue dress! Did she sew that dress?” Sarah said rambling off questions,“How should I know?” Rachel said dully,“I was just asking.” Sarah said slowly, “Could you maybe introduce me to her?”“I guess.” Rachel said, tossing her braid, then walked over to were her Papa and Alice where talking to the preacher. Probably about the wedding they had in Minneapolis.“Oh, Rachel I was about to get you.” said Papa “We need to get going if we want to get home before the Overtons.”Sarah glanced over at Rachel with a question mark on her face.“Who's this Rachel?” asked Mother, giving Sarah look over.“Sarah this is Mrs. Nordstrom, Alice this is Sarah Roland.” Rachel said, she couldn't yet call her mother.“It's nice to meet you Sarah. Your mother is Elizabeth Roland, right?” said Mother,“Yes she is, Mrs. Nordstrom.” Sarah said with a smile,“We were friends growing up, although her last name was Fletcher then.”“Matthew has the wagon waiting, dear.” said Papa.“It was nice to meat you, Mrs. Nordstrom, bye Rachel.” said Sarah, as they walked to the wagon. Papa helped Mother into the back of the wagon, Rachel started to climb back there, but Papa grabbed her wrist,“Ow!” Rachel shrieked,“What's wrong Rachel?” asked Papa,“I hurt my wrist,”“Sorry. I want you to ride up front with me.”Rachel nodded as she climbed up front, Papa got up after her, and started the horses towards home.“Matthew told me what happened with that ride you two took.”Rachel nodded,“Why'd you want to go so bad Rachel?” asked Papa,“I don't know.”“You know exactly why you wanted to go, Rachel. So just tell me.”“I wanted to ride because I knew she wouldn't let me ride, because I'm a girl.”“Rachel, I won't let her take that from you.” Papa said quietly, “I won't let her take away anything Mama left you.”Rachel look at her Papa with tears in her eyes.“I think I should take you to the Dr. Benjamin tomorrow.” said Papa,“It's fine Papa.”“Right, I just lightly grab it and you start to shriek, and that means it's fine.” Papa said, his eye twinkling.“Alright, I'll see Dr. Benjamin.”There was a pause, that Papa broke.“I've made a decision,” said Papa, “I'm not going to punish you by sending you to your room. I'm putting you in charge of the horses, anything that happens to them is you responsibility.”“I can do that Papa.”“That means you have to feed them, make sure their groomed, and exercised properly, and you'll have to get them ready when we're going somewhere.”Rachel nodded,“I know you'll take this responsibility seriously.” Papa said smiling down at his daughter, “That's why I'm giving you it. Oh, and one more thing no riding at night ever.”
The family had just gotten out of the wagon when the Overtons rolled up in front of the house.“It so nice you could come.” said Alice,“I couldn't refuse my sister.” said Mr. Overton, smiling down at Alice.“Good afternoon, Isaac.” Papa said, putting out his hand.Mr. Overton shook it.“And good afternoon to you, Charlotte.” Papa said, nodding to Mrs. Overton, She gave a faint smile back. “Mathew and Rachel have to do some chores, but everyone else please come inside.”Rachel and Matthew went back to the barn, and started unhitching the horses.“What are you doing?” asked a high pitched voice,Rachel almost groaned to see Karina and her brother Thomas standing in the door way of the barn, Karina had was a smart girl for her age, chin up, sharp blue eyes, light brown hair in a loose bun at the nap of her neck, pail blue dress spotless, and shining black shoes“Unhitching these horses.” Matthew said impatiently.“I can see that,” Karina rolled her eyes dramatically, “but why is she doing it?” Karina said, jabbing a finger toward Rachel.“Because she can.” Mathew said gritting his teeth.“If you don't mind, we have work to do, so can you stop asking questions?” Rachel said, guiding Penny over to her stall.“We don't mind.” Karina said, walking over to toward Hazel's stall. “This cow is kind of pretty since she has brown makings in stead of black.”“Her name's Hazel.” Matthew said, has he followed Rachel with Lightning.“Hazel is an alright name,” Karina said, “I would have named her Chocolate or Cinnamon,”Matthew rolled his eyes at Rachel, she smiled and rolled back.“Since when did you start naming cows?” Matthew asked, grinning at Rachel.“I didn't, I was just saying if I named your cow, that's what I'd name her.”“We didn't ask you to name her.” Rachel replied,The rest of the afternoon was like that, Karina saying what she'd have done. Rachel and Matthew finally stopped trying to tell her they didn't care.
Rachel had her books in hand as she and her brothers walked to the front door, Just as she was about to exit the house, Alice, which was in the main room, called her book.“Yes Ma'am?” Rachel held in a sigh as she walked back to the parlor.“I thought I had it very clear that I don't want you to going in public dressed in that fashion.” Alice folded her fan and set it in her lap, staring disdainfully at Rachel's clothes.“Like what?” Rachel looked down at her overalls. “They aren't dirty.”“Not-” Alice sighed, “I must not been clear enough. Rachel, I do not want you wearing overalls to school. They're dirty and unfeminine. Only boys wear such.”“But I can't hike through the woods in a dress!” Rachel exclaimed.“Hike-” Alice seemed to like stopping in mid-sentence. “How far of a walk is it to school?”“It's about two miles.” Rachel replied.“Two miles!” Alice gasped, “You walk that every day?” She began fanning herself again as though she had just finished that feat.“Yup.” Rachel glanced over her shoulder at the door. Because of this woman, she already had to walk by herself – Mathew was a great brother, but he wouldn't want to get in trouble with Mr. Hanson. And now she was going to be late for school. “I really need to go...”“There's no other way for you to get to school?” Alice asked. “It's unladylike to hike through woods.”“Not unless I rode a horse.” Rachel said, almost hopefully.Alice gasped in horror. “You are never to ride a horses in a dress, do you hear me?” she paused and waited for Rachel to nod. “Good. Now go on upstairs and get changed. You're going to be late for school.”Because of you. “But it'll get ripped! The woods are full of thorns!”“I'll take my chances.” Alice said, putting her hands on her hips. “Now go get changed.”Rachel tossed her braid over her shoulder and marched up the stairs. She put on a pail green dress, – the ugliest dress she owned – and went back downstairs.“Hmm...” Alice looked her over.Before she could tell her to change again, Rachel regathered her books and raced out the front door.
Rachel was panting by the time she reached the deserted schoolyard. She flung open the door, dropped her lunch pail on the bench, and hurried to her seat next to Sarah. She could feel everybody's eyes watching her; some regarding her change of outfit, others sympathetically, fearing her punishment, and still others with smirks, feeling that this dawdler rightly deserved the disgraceful punishment she was sure to receive. Mr. Hanson himself was worst of all. His face twisted into a cruel scowl, his mean eyes glittering.“I hope you have a good reason for why your late, and disrupting the class.” He said.Rachel was silent.“Tell me or I'll have you writing on the chalkboard the rest of the day.”Rachel was silent again.“Alright then come up here.” Mr. Hanson said, getting his rod.Rachel slowly walked up in front of the class. Mr. Hanson roughly grabbed Rachel's wrist, it began to throb intensely.“Let me go!” Rachel screamed, with her left hand she slapped him across the cheek.“Fine if that's how you want it!” growled Mr. Hanson, cracking the rod down on Rachel's palm. Each time Mr. Hanson hit harder, and each time Rachel let a tear escape Mr. Hanson show less mercy. Rachel let out a cry of pain, when the rod landed on her bruised wrist. shocked by the scream Mr. Hanson let go.“Now go over to the chalkboard and write Rachel Nordstrom all over it; you will do this until school is over.” he said stiffly.Rachel glared at Mr. Hanson and marched over to the chalkboard, but not before she saw Karina's face, which made Rachel gulped; she knew what was coming.
“Recess.” Mr. Hanson said, “You may go out for a break Rachel.”Rachel almost would rather stay in the schoolhouse instead of going out, but she followed the kids out into the school yard.“What's the dress for, Rachel? So Mr. Hanson will think your a girl and go easy?” asked Karina, in front of all the girls.“No. I don't like dresses enough to do that.”“Then way are you wearing one?”“None of your business.”“Why can't you tell your cousin? We're family.” Karina said, grinning broadly.“Why do you need to know even if your family? My brother doesn't ask me question like why I'm wearing a dress.”Karina could see she failed to embarrass Rachel, and sulked over to the tree swing. Rachel smiled to herself. You can't get the better of me Karina Overton!“Hey Rachel! Can you come play some baseball, so the teams are even?” hollered Simon Roland, who was Jacob's age.“Yeah I'll play!” replied Rachel,“How are you going to do that?” asked Sarah quietly.“I'll be fine, I've played in a dress before.”“Alright,” Sarah said doubtfully. “be careful about that wrist tho.”Rachel ran over to the boys.“Which team am I on?”“Derrick's.” said Simon.Matthew was on the other team like usual, the two oldest boys were always captain which was Derrick and Matthew.“Alright, Matt's team is pitching.” said Derrick. “Christian you're batting first.”Christian Fletcher was short for a twelve year old, but he was fast. He went up to bat and hit the ball on the first try. He made it to second base.“I'm going up next. Can you bat after me?” Derrick asked Rachel.“Sure.” Rachel said.Derrick pick up the bat and got ready for the pitch. He got to first base and Christian got to third. Rachel walked over to where Derrick had thrown the bat off to the side. Rachel heard one boy on Mathew's team say.“Rachel's...a dress, this...our chance...them out.”The boys on Matthew's team started to move forward, except for Matthew and Jacob. Matthew was pitching, Rachel lifted the bat over her shoulder. The other boys think that I can't run in a dress, but Matt and Jacob know I won't. Mathew threw the ball like he normal did for all the boys, Rachel swung the bat with all her strength, Crack! Rachel wrist immediately began to hurt, ignoring the pain Rachel started to run to first base, then second, then third. she looked to see were the ball was, and saw Jacob just picking it up over by were the girls where on the swing. Rachel made a mad dash for home plate. the ball was flying through the air Rachel dove for the base.“Safe!” shouted someone.A hand grabbed Rachel's and pulled her up, when Rachel looked she saw it was Derrick, He grinned shyly at Rachel.“Nice shoot!” He said.“Thanks.”A bell rang, and everyone rushed towards the schoolhouse, Matthew walked next to Rachel.“What are you going to do about you dress?” He asked.For the first time since recess Rachel looked down at her dress, it was covered with dirt and grass stains. Rachel groaned,“One more thing she'll say I can't do,” Rachel said, more to herself.“Just don't tell her you played baseball.” Matthew whispered as they entered the class room.
“Rachel Nordstrom! What in the world did you do to your dress!” was the first thing that came out of Alice's mouth.
“What I normally do at school.” Rachel said plainly.
“I don't think you can get a dress that dirty by reading books.” she said, planting her hands on her hips. “Now tell me what you really did.”
“I played a game at recess.” Rachel said, mimicking her Mother's stance.
“I guess I'll have to...
“Alice can you come here?” interrupted Papa from the living room.
Alice gave a impatient sigh and left the kitchen. Their muffled voices came through the closed door, Rachel walked to the door slowly and place her ear to it.
“...go to school in them, I couldn't let her go like that, knowing she's under my influences, so I told her to change into a dress.” said Alice, sighing angrily.
“She's been going to school like that, ever since her mama died. This is hard for her to have you replacing her mama. could you please go easy on on her.” Papa said gently.
There was a silence, so Rachel thought it best to stop listening. She left through the back door, and the started to head for the barn when someone called her name, Rachel stopped and looked back to see Alice standing in the entrance of the back door.
“Come here, Rachel” called Alice.
Rachel sighed and walked back.
“Your father wants to talk to you.” she said, when Rachel came back in.
Rachel went to the living room, her papa was sitting in the rocking chair, news paper folded in his lap.
“Come over here.” Papa said,
Rachel walked over and sat down at his feet.
“What's bothering you, Rachel?” Papa asked, as he rocked.
“Everything! First she come and bosses me around. I'm not allowed to do anything, she thinks everything I do is absurd, she keeps making me do absurd things like wearing a dress to school, and because she made me change I got to school late. You should have seen the kids faces when they saw I was in a dress, it was so humiliating!” Rachel said, getting choked up til she was crying.
“I know. Alice isn't use to being a mother yet, and she never had a Mother herself. So this is all new to her. Try not to harass her please.” Papa said gently, like he was talking to a frightened lamb.
“I'll try, Papa.” Rachel said,
“Good, Now go get changed into some overalls, and lets go check that wrist out at Dr. Benjamin's place.” Papa said,
“Yes sir.” Rachel said getting up, “Oh and papa?”
“Do I have to wear a dress to school?”
“I'll think about that and tell you when I've decided.” he said, “Now get going!”
The wagon rolled to a stop in front of Dr. Benjamin's house, it was a small and dreary place, weeds grew in the yard unnoticed, a sickly oak hung over the path to the door, the only thing pleasant was the light that came through the foggy windows. Papa knocked on the door, which was almost instantly opened by a skinny man with a bald head, almost gray eye that stared through spectacles, and a line for a mouth.
“What is it Martin?” asked the man, in a raspy voice.
“Rachel has hurt her wrist, I was wondering if you may look at it.” Papa said politely.
“Come in.” said Dr. Benjamin, opening the door wider.
Rachel followed her Papa into a room with medicine that covered shelves on the far wall, an other wall was books, a small fire was going in the fireplace, there was two chairs and a rocker. Papa took the rocking chair, Dr. Benjamin motioned Rachel to sit in the chair closest to the fire, Rachel took it and Dr. Benjamin squatted down in front of her.
“Which wrist is it?” He asked.
“Hmm.” Dr. Benjamin hummed while he gently examined Rachel's wrist, every now and then he'd put pressure on her wrist.
“What where you doing that made you hurt your wrist?” He finally asked,
“I was riding and me and the horse fell.”
Dr. Benjamin nodded and examined her wrist over again.
“It seems you have slightly fractured the bone in your arm right at your wrist.” He said taking off his spectacles.
“What can you do for it?” asked Papa.
“I'm going to make a splint at her wrist so she can't move it.” Dr. Benjamin said, getting up. “Will you excuse me while I get some supplies?”
Dr. Benjamin was gone a minute, then came back with two thin boards and a long bandage rap.
“I don't want you to remove this at all.” He instructed, as he situated one board underneath Rachel's wrist, and the other on top, then he rapped the bandage around several time to hold the boards in place.
“You won't be able to pick anything up with that hand, and also I don't think you'll be able to write either.” Dr. Benjamin turn to Papa, “I want you to bring her back in a week.”
“Thanks Andrew.” Papa said shaking Dr. Benjamin hand.
The next morning Alice wasn't feeling well, so Rachel had to make breakfast. While she was trying to slice some bread, Papa come in.
“You need some help?” Papa asked,
“No, I'm doing fine.”
“No your not,” Papa said. “look at that slice of bread it's twice the size it should be.”
“Pa-pa!” Rachel said giggling.
“I came in here to tell you that; Your mother and I would like you to wear a dress to school, but we're only going to make you wear one twice a week. So if you'd prefer to play baseball, I'd say play it when you're not in a dress.” Papa said.
“How'd you know I was playing baseball?” Rachel asked,
“No girl can get only the front of her dress dirty, except if she fell face first or was diving for home base.”
“You didn't tell Alice did you?”
Papa shock his head,
“Thanks Papa.” Rachel said, hugging him.
The days past by. Mr. Hanson didn't like it that Rachel couldn't write with her right hand, so Rachel had to use her left. Alice was in her and papa's bedroom most afternoon's, which Rachel didn't mind, except that she had to make dinner. Since the snow had melted so fast that year and rained earlier then usual, Papa was able to help Rachel with dinners and chores, instead of getting the field ready for planting. It was a Friday the day before Rachel turned thirteen. Rachel skipped outside to find Matthew and tell him to get ready for school, but he wasn't in the barn. Rachel walked around to the back of the barn to the wood shed, still no sign of Matthew. Rachel went back to the front of the barn.
“Looking for something?” asked Papa's voice,
Rachel turned around to see Papa stroking Penny's neck.
“I'm looking for Matthew...” Rachel stopped midsentence, She looked around the barn, Papa's big black horse was no where to be seen. “Where's Lightning?”
“Matthew took him out for a ride, he said he had something to do and asked if he could ride Lighting to school, so he wouldn't be late.”
Rachel was stunned, Matthew never went riding without her, and for him to go without even telling her.
“You better get Jacob and get going to school.” Papa said,
Rachel nodded, How come Matthew just up and left me! Rachel thought as she walked to the house. He never does anything without me! He probably doesn't like me anymore! Rachel was nearly in tears when she entered the house through the back door.
“Jacob, it's time to go!” Rachel yelled, as she gathered up her books.
“Rachel, a young lady doesn't yell indoors.” said Alice, from the main room.
“That's great, but as you can see I'm not a lady.” Rachel said, pushing her emotion down.
“Yet.” Alice said, more to herself.
“Jacob, hurry up!” Rachel call up stairs.
“I'm coming.” Jacob said, running down the stairs.
“Alright lets go.” Rachel said, marching to the door.
“Where's Matthew?” Jacob asked, when they were outside on their way.
“He left on Lighting to go do something and then his riding to school.” Rachel said.
“What?” whined Jacob. “Why does Matthew get to ride to school?”
“How should I know? He didn't tell me!” Rachel said, losing her temper.
Jacob look down at the ground, kick a rock, and didn't say anything.
“I'm sorry Jacob, I didn't mean to yell at you.” Rachel said, “Race you to the big oak.”
Jacob grinned and dashed off ahead of Rachel.
“No far! You got a head start.” Rachel laughed as she ran after her brother.
School started and Matthew hadn't arrived on Lighting yet. Rachel wasn't angry at Matthew anymore, it had been replaced by nervousness. She glanced at the door, hoping her brother would burst though it.
“Is Matthew doing some errand for your father?” Mr. Hanson asked when he had came to Rachel's desk as he walked the aisles.
Rachel nodded, so she could save her brother the humiliation she had to go through a few days back. It wasn't totally true since Papa hadn't said whatever Matthew was doing was for him, so she added some truth.
“He was going to be here on time, but I guess he was delayed.”
“I see.” Mr. Hanson said, continuing down the aisle.
Hurry up Matthew! Rachel wanted to cry.
Mr. Hanson had just moved on to History, when there was hoof beats of a trotting horse that was approaching the schoolhouse, they stopped and moments later Matthew came in, and went to Mr. Hanson.
“Sorry, I'm later sir.” Matthew said respectfully.
“We'll talk after class.” Mr. Hanson said calmly. “Go to your desk.”
When Rachel and Jacob got home Alice was mending one of David's shirts, she glanced up from her work, noticing that Matthew wasn't present.
“Is Matthew already starting his chores?” she asked,
“No, he's still at school.” Jacob said, before he ran outside.
“Why's he still there?” Alice asked Rachel.
“Mr. Hanson wanted to talk to him.” Rachel said,
“Is he in trouble?” asked David, who had been sitting quietly on the floor by Alice.
“I need to do my school.” Rachel said, changing the subject.
“You just got back, don't you do your school after supper?”
“Yes, but I have a lot to do, and I want to get it done today.” that was a lie, Rachel didn't have a lot to do, she was almost done with it.
“Alright, I guess you should then.” Alice said, “I didn't know you had a lot to do, I'll make sure no one bothers you.”
Rachel went to her room, she finished her school work in less the an hour. Matthew had already came home and was starting on his chores. Rachel got out of the house without Alice seeing her. Matthew was doing the evening milking when Rachel came in.
“What did Mr. Hanson talk to you about?”
“He told me, that if I came late again even if I was doing something Pa that he'd lick me good.” Matthew said, “Did you tell him I was doing something for Pa?”
“That was a good idea,” Matthew said, shaking his head. “He said I need to be an example for the younger kids.”
“Have you gone in the house yet?” Rachel asked,
“Alice knows you had to stay after school, but I didn't tell her why, she'll probably ask you a hundred questions.”
“Great!” Matthew said, in a sarcastic voice.
Rachel waited for Matthew to finish his chores, then they went in the house for supper.
“Matthew may I have a word with you?” Alice asked calmly, as she wiped her hand on her apron. “Rachel will you watch the food on the stove while I talk to Matthew?”
Without an answer from either of us, she steered Matthew into the main room and closed the door. It was silent, no muffled voices floated through the door. Rachel quietly crept other to the door, she just had to know what was going on.
“....what did...Mr Hanson...after class for?” was what Rachel heard from Alice hushed voice.
“Why do we need to whisper? It's no secret, he wanted to talk to me that's all.” Mathew's voice came clear through the door.
“That's all?” Alice said, a bit annoyed.
“Fine you may go.”
Rachel then realized that something was burning, she dashed over to the stove to the smoking pan of chili, or what was chili. She coughed as she breathed in the smoke, looking for water to put it out with.
“My chili!” Alice yelled, as she rushed over to Rachel.
Alice grabbed the pan and rush it outside to the pump, where she started to pump water on it until there wasn't anymore smoke emerging.
“Can't you do anything right?” Alice yelled at Rachel, as she walked back in the house. “Now I'm going to have to make something ells!”
“It's not my fault! You should have had more water in it.” Rachel said. loosing her temper.
“You were the one I left to watch it.”
“You asked me, I didn't say I would!”
“Go to your room!” Alice said pointing a finger towards the stairs. “While your at it how about finishing all that homework you said you had.”
“Fine!” Rachel said, glaring at Alice. “Don't bother making me supper, I'm not hungry.”
Rachel stormed up to her room, flung herself across her bed, and sobbed into her pillow.