Ann Laurel / History & Fiction / Western
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Judith, Rose Creek Ranch Mail Order Bride, by Ann Laurel
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Ann Laurel. All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Ann Laurel. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher/author.

This is a work of fiction. Therefore, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance whatsoever to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve

Chapter One
Judith Stillwater peered up the road searching as she reached up and swiped the hair from her eyes as the wind blew. Ma and Pa had left hours ago to go to town while she watched her younger siblings, four brothers, and two sisters. The seventeen-year-old girl turned and went back into the one room dirt floor cabin called her home. She had brought in the dried laundry from the clothes line and proceeded to fold the linens. Her mother had acted strangely for several weeks. She and Pa took many long talks while looking back at the house and in particular while looking at Judith.
Fannie Stillwater walked through the door looking bedraggled, her long brown hair hung lifelessly down her back. She didn't have time this morning to roll it into a bun. Her sunken eyes framed by the dark circles underneath showed her lack of enough sleep and proper nutrition. She looked around the small cabin until she spotted her oldest daughter in the corner folding the linens on the bed.
“There you are; I have to tell you something. Because you're about to turn eighteen and there's more for you than this life,” Fannie said to Judith.
Hugh Stillwater walked through the door carrying a large bucket of lard and set it down heavily on the floor. “You kids behave?” He asked as he started to the other side of the cabin where three of the boys played quietly.
“Yes sir,” Simon said as he looked up from his play with the carved horses.
“Judith?” Pa asked as he looked at his oldest child. Pa ruled the home with an iron fist. If any child were out of line, he would pull out of the leather strap and give them the beating they deserved. Judith learned long ago that to keep the peace she had to make sure she took care of things as best she could on her own. Her own beatings came when she was just a child and didn't know any better. Her mother kept having babies and being in her small stature was unable to be the strong woman she needed to be against Pa.
“Yes sir, everyone is fine,” Judith answered as she kept folding the towels. Her eyes darted over to her mother who looked tentatively at her father. Something was on her mind and she needed to tell her daughter and it seemed to be pretty important. Judith kept her mouth shut and stayed tight-lipped until her father left the house. He didn't have to go into work today for he got one day a week off from the coal mines.
Fannie came into the room and looked over at the children playing in the corner. “You youngins run outside and play with your little sisters and oldest brother. I need to speak with Judith here,” Fannie said to her children.
Judith finished folding the laundry and looked up at her mother as a pit formed in her stomach. She wondered what was so important that her mother would show the children out the door.
Fannie walked to the old wooden table, pulled out a seat and sat down, and pulled out another chair and patted it as she looked up at her daughter. “Come, sit. I need to talk to you,” Fannie said as she nodded to the seat.
Judith picked up the folded linens and set them carefully on the shelf next to the kitchen. She had a feeling she wasn't going to like what her mother had to say. For the woman hardly ever had anything nice to say and certainly never had a happy day in her life.
Fannie reached up and brushed a piece of Judith’s hair from her face. “You are a right pretty girl. You deserve so much better than what you can get by saying around here in these parts,” Fannie said. At thirty-three years old Ma looked a lot older as the years have been hard on her being a coal miner’s wife and having babies and living in such poverty she never had a chance to take proper care of herself. But Fannie certainly knew beauty and when her eyes fell upon her first baby, a little girl who received the name Judith knowing Judith would be destined for great things. She often told her daughter that as she grew up. Judith thought it was just something her mother said just to hear herself say it. Because girls in these parts married coal miners and coal miners, were dirt poor people.
“What is it, Ma?” Judith asked as she looked into her mother's eyes.
“I don't want you staying around here. You're going to turn eighteen soon and for your birthday your Pa and I are going to send you away. There's a better life for you out West than there is here. You need to find your way to get away from this part,” Fannie said.
“But Ma, I figure I would marry somebody from here. Maybe one of the Jackson boys up the road,” Judith said.
“Absolutely not. I'm sure those boys would be more than lucky to have you for a wife. But I'm not going to stand for it. It's bad enough that I've given birth to four boys that I have no way of getting out of this place. This kind of life is hard. If there's ever a chance for me to help any of my children escape I'm going to take that chance. And Judith, you have that chance. I’m like a mama bird that pushes the baby bird out of the nest so the baby bird can go and find a better life to live. I'm going to do that to you,” Fannie said as her face lit up as she talked to her daughter.
Judith wasn't sure what to make of this as her mother was talking nonsense. She knew her parents didn't have enough money to send her anywhere so she didn't know how she was going to leave. Unless they intended Judith to leave on foot. She knew that the West was a long way off with no way of getting there. Judith had resigned herself to life just like her mother had and figured someday she would be a wife to a coal miner and she would have many babies, too.
“It's okay. It's good to dream but it's nonsense. You and Pa don't have the money to send me anywhere. I'm glad that you can dream for me, though, but I'm happy where I am. And when I get married and have babies I'll bring them over to see you. You'll be their grandmamma. Don't you want that?” Judith asked as she looked at her mother with hope in her eyes.
Fannie gathered Judith’s hands into hers. “Don't you see, baby? I want so much more for you than this kind of life. I saw a chance to help you to have it and I took the chance. I didn't tell you what I was doing because I didn't think you would do it. So I did it for you,” Fannie said.
“Did what, Ma? What did you do for me?” Judith asked as she felt a growing apprehension in her heart.
“I got you a husband, a man that is a cattleman and he's waiting for you to come West. He's going to marry you and he's going to give you a much better life than what you could find around here. I do not want you to marry a coal miner. I want you to marry a rancher. He can provide for you so much more than your Pa and I ever could. He can give you so much more than any coal miner can. This is your chance, baby. You can go and you can spread your wings and you can fly off. Your Pa and I are going to help you,” Fannie said with a big smile on her face.

Chapter Two
Judith made up her mind she wouldn’t leave Ma and Pa behind. She wouldn’t leave her four brothers and two baby sisters behind. Even if it meant marriage to some old coal miner and having the same kind of life her mother had. She approached Ma the next day as her mother was scrubbing the laundry out by the creek behind their house. The girls, Alva and Nettie, played nearby while the boys played somewhere in the front woods screaming and running and fussing.
“Ma? I've decided I'm not going to go. I'm not going to leave you here,” Judith said.
Fannie finished what she was doing and looked up at her daughter as she tilted her head to the side. “Do you see how I look? Do you know what I have to do? Do you enjoy living in a one room house hearing everything that goes on every night with no privacy? That is not the kind of life I want my child to have. And if I have any say so in the matter I'm going to force my hand. This is not up for discussion. You are going to leave here you're going to go West. You are going to go all the way to Colorado and you're going to meet a man named Victor. Victor has answered the mail order ad and has chosen you out of all the others he had. So he is
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