Mail Order Bride: The Irish Runaway, p.1Catherine Harper
Mail Order Bride - The Irish Runaway
Copyright © 2016 by Catherine Harper
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Love On the Line - Chapter 1
“I’m sorry Shannon. They tried everything they could to save him.”
Shannon looked at the lips that were still moving, but couldn’t hear anything else that Sean told her. Feeling like she was in a bubble that was out of sync with the world, she watched as her neighbour from the old country tried his best to example what had happened to her brother. Hearing that Connor was dead, she didn’t need to know any more of the details. He wouldn’t be coming for her now. Picturing the last time she’d seen him with that boyish grin on his face, she thought back to the last conversation they’d had. He’d promised to find her a great husband out West, someone who could give a life she’d never have in Ireland.
“I thought it best if I came to tell you the news,” Sean said.
Gripping the handle of the broom in her hand, Shannon concentrated on the grain of the wood that lay under her fingers. Right now it was the only thing that felt real to her. Picking at a small splinter that had annoyed her earlier, she smiled as it came free. Looking it over and wondering how something so small could cause her pain, she held it out and smiled weakly at him.
“Damn thing’s been pestering me all morning.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to call someone?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for coming Sean,” Shannon said, waving away his comment. Hearing the room as if for the first time, she listened to some of the patrons at the bar cheer and laugh. Looking at them, she thought it strange that the closest friend she’d ever had in the world was gone. Gone, and no one seemed to care about it.
“Maybe you should sit down?”
Seeing him reach out and touch her shoulder, Shannon found his contact bring her back to the real world. Feeling embarrassed about how she must look to him, she grabbed onto the first thing that came to her mind.
“Sorry, Sean, I didn’t ask, how are you? Forgive my manners, how long has it been?”
“Too long, but that’s not important right now I-”
“What was I thinking?” Shannon said, looking around her. “You must be thirsty after your long journey. What can I get you--whiskey?”
“Eh, whiskey would be fine.”
“Tom.” Shannon waved her hand at the barkeeper. “Two whiskeys please.”
Getting a nod in return, she turned her attention back to Sean. Picking a table where they could talk in peace, she pointed him in that direction. Getting there, she sat on her seat and watched as Sean looked her over once more.
“Thought it was better than you getting a telegram,” He said, pulling up his chair. “I know how close you two were.”
Seeing Tom come their way, Shannon said nothing in reply until he’d left their drinks and gone back to the bar. Picking up her shot glass, she toasted her brother and downed it in one gulp. Grimacing at the burning sensation of the spirit on the way to her stomach, she smiled weakly as Sean did the same. Now with it inside her and a sturdy chair to keep her upright, Shannon felt the courage to ask what had happened.
“You probably already know that he’d joined up with a mining company.”
Hearing those words Shannon nodded. He’d written only two weeks ago with news of his new venture. Sending her a portion of his money with the letter, he’d told her that life away from laying railroad tracks would give him a better life. They’d been promised a share of everything that came out of the ground, he’d reported.
“He said that this was the one,” Shannon said, remembering the excitement in his letter.
“Sometimes what’s promised and what happens can be two different things,” Sean said. “From what I’d heard, they worked them hard. Connor volunteered to join the demolition crew, a week ago. They promised everyone that if the workload went up they’d all be in for a big payday. I don’t know what happened, but I can only imagine between long hours and tiredness, someone made a mistake. They tried digging them out, but it was no use, by the time they got to them, well…”
She watched him try to find the right words and nodded that she understood.
“I thought you might want these.”
Reaching down for a leather satchel, he lifted it off the floor and put it on his lap. Flipping the lid open, she watched him rummage about inside it. Taking out a small bundle of letters, he placed them delicately on the table. Looking to the pile and afraid to touch them, she watched as he placed a small cross and chain beside them.
“That’s all he had, Shannon. I’m sorry.”
Ignoring Sean’s apology, she stared at the cross and picked it up. Running her fingers over the small links in its chain, she remembered back to the day she’d bought it for him. Coming off the boat from Ireland, she’d seen it at a small market stall and bought it for him. She knew he wasn’t the religious type, but he’d taken it anyway. Remembering how he’d laughed at her for mothering him, she was happy to see that he’d still kept it.
“I know it’s none of my business and all-” Sean apologized.
“Well, I suppose you’ll be going home now.”
“To Ireland? Not a chance.”
“I don’t mean to pry, but I know he was sending you some of his money-”
“I know you’re in shock and all, but you’ll have to consider how you’ll take care of yourself with Connor gone. I mean life in the city; well you must have been supplementing your wage with what he gave you.”
Hearing the words Shannon felt another blow. She hadn’t thought of what the consequences of losing her brother would mean to her own life.
“Look, I’ll be staying in town for a few more days, got a few things to clear up. But I’ll be back when you’ve taken it all in--I’ve also sent word home to your parents.”
Giving her a hand another squeeze, he left without another word. Still staring at the door long after it had closed, Shannon gripped the bundle of letters to her chest and cried for all she was worth.
Although hard to forget him after his last appearance, Shannon looked at Sean with surprise. Throwing herself into her work and refusing to take time off, she’d tried everything in the last two days to keep Connor’s death out of her mind. Now like before, he was bringing her back there again.
“How are you?”
Shannon tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “OK, I suppose, much as I can be.”
“I’m sorry,” Sean said, looking to his feet. “That was stupid. I was looking for the right thing to say all the way over here.”
“It’s alright. You’re not the only one that’s been tip toeing around me.” Shannon nodded to the patrons at the bar. “So, how are you?”
“Fine, fine. Is there somewhere we can talk
Looking toward the table, they’d been at before, Shannon led the way. Getting there before him, she watched Sean walk toward her with a strong limp. Waiting for him to make himself comfortable, she compared his appearance to the last time she’d seen him. Getting to America six months before them, it was his letters home that had spurned her and Tom to make the voyage here. Now sitting across from her it looked like those words didn’t paint a true picture of his life. Looking a little more than his twenty-eight years, his once black hair bore more than a flicker of grey at the temples.
“What happened to you?”
“Laying rail. Well, I should say it tried to lay me,” Sean smiled. “A few lengths of it landed on my leg, my own fault I suppose. Anyway, busted my knee. Doc said I was lucky not to lose it. So, I guess I can’t grumble.”
“I didn’t know, sorry to hear that.”
“Hey, these things happen. What can you do about it?”
Seeing him uncomfortable talking about his condition, she tried to get the conversation back on track.
“So--you said you’d be here for a few days?”
“I’m going home-”
“Well, as you can see, life out West isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Having a dodgy leg kinda puts a limit on what you can do. Plus, I’m homesick. Looking at miles upon miles of open prairie might suit some, but I’d swap it for greens fields with stone walls any day.”
Shannon smiled, remembering where they’d grown up. Coming from a small rural village in west Cork, her past life had seemed so quaint and small now.
“It’s funny I was just thinking there-” Sean smiled.
“You remember that time, the time that cow walked in in the middle of mass?”
Shannon smiled, remembering back to the scene of it having to be pushed out during Sunday morning mass. “I’ll never forget the look on Father Flaherty’s face-”
“That was Connor and I that did that.”
“Connor? You’re kidding me?”
“Well, it was my idea,” he replied, with a look of pride on his face. “Although he’ll probably have said that it was his.”
“He never said a word, not even after all those years. I remember the throttling father gave him, but he always denied it.”
“He was one of the good ones.”
Shannon nodded her head. “Yes, he was.”
“Speaking of your dad, I got word from him yesterday.”
Hearing her father mentioned, Shannon held her breath and froze.
“He wants you to come home.” Reaching into his pocket and pulling out a piece of paper, Sean flattened it out and slipped it across the table.
Reaching for the telegram, Shannon picked it up and careful read the message.
“Sorry to hear about Connor. Bring Shannon home.”
Picturing the man behind the words, she was instantly brought back to the life she’d run from and dropped the telegram with disgust.
“You don’t look happy.”
“You know why we ran away, don’t you? You know what he was like? Domineering, controlling. America’s not far enough away from that man.”
“Maybe he’s changed, Shannon. People do-”
“Really? So, that ‘Sorry to hear about Connor,’ it’s just dripping with sentiment, isn’t it? Five words, fives words to sum up his only son’s death. You know I bet a part of him is glad that Connor’s dead, just to prove that he was right and we were wrong…”
“I think you’re being hard on him Shannon.”
Shannon leaned in toward him, “You know the last thing he said to us?” Not waiting for an answer, she continued, “He said he had no children anymore. Once we stepped on that boat we could forget about any inheritance. As if that could keep us there. As always using money to keep people in line.”
“But that was two years ago, Shannon. A lot’s happened since then. Remember he did lose his son. And what about your mother don’t you think she’d be happy to see you again?”
“The less said about her the better,” Shannon said and flopped back in her chair. “I’d use the word ‘mother’ very loosely to sum up that woman.” Looking at his face and seeing him remain silent; she tried to work out what was going on in his head. Then it came to her. Picking up the telegram, she waved at him. “That’s what all this is about. And here I was thinking you were doing the neighborly thing and checking up on me.” Seeing him shift uncomfortably in his seat, she knew she was right. “He bought you. Half way around the world and he’s still using his money to control people.”
“You don’t understand.”
Folding her arms across her chest, she stared at him. “Try me.”
“He’s promised me some land and a few other things to bring you home.”
“So, he bought you.”
“Bought, is a strong word-”
“It’s the only one I’d use here,” Shannon said and watched him reach in his pocket. “What’s that?”
Taking out two pieces of small rectangular card, he fanned them out for her to see better. “It’s two tickets for the next sailing to Ireland. I’m sorry Shannon, but I’m taking you home.”
Collecting the empty glass and wiping down the counter, Shannon smiled at the old man. “Can I get you another, Thomas?” Holding the glass and giving it a little shaking motion, he smiled back at her.
“Suppose a swift one won’t hurt, although if my wife comes in-”
“I know, it’s your first.” Shannon smiled and placed a full shot glass in front of him.
“You know I was sorry to hear about your brother.” Thomas toasted and downed his drink. “Damn shame if you ask me, young lad like that trying to make a life for himself.”
Taking his glass away, she replied, “Thanks. I won’t be around for much longer myself.”
Collecting his flat cap off the bar and placing it on his head, he asked “How so?”
“Not if my father has anything to do with it. He wants me to go home.”
“You can’t stay on?”
Feeling her cheeks flush a little at the thought of speaking about her finances, she answered, “Not on the wages I make around here.”
“Sorry to hear that,” he said. Looking over his shoulder to see if their conversation was private, he continued, “You ask for a bit more?”
“Tried that I’m afraid. They can’t give me any more hours and my rents paid up until the end of the month, after that…”
“Sorry to hear that, Shannon. If I was ten years younger and looking for an attractive girl around the house, I’d snap you up myself.”
Shannon smiled at the old man’s suggestion. “Thanks, Thomas. If I’m ever looking for a sweet man, I’ll keep you in mind.”
Watching him climb slowly off his stool and steady himself, he paused for a moment. “You know--you ever consider becoming a mail order bride?”
“Why not? An attractive red-headed girl like you, and with those green eyes, you’d be taken in a moment. Heck, I could see them all fighting over ya.”
Shannon thought over what he’d said. “I don’t know Thomas; it’s not something I ever considered before.”
“Well, if I was in your shoes and not wanting to go home, it’s something worth considering. Although, I’ll miss your sweet smile around here.”
“Good job your wife’s not here to hear that.” Shannon smiled and watched him wave the comment away. “Well, if you’re not here the next time I’m in, the best of luck to ya, Shannon.” Picking up her hand from the bar, he put it to his mouth and kissed the back of it.
“Go on you old charmer you,” she chuckled. “Quick, before your wife catches you.”
Watching him leave and try his best to fight against his stagger, Shannon thought over what Thomas had said. Maybe he was right. Maybe becoming a mail order bride was just what she needed.
Pushing the door open tentatively, Shannon jumped at the bell that jangled loudly above her head. Wondering if she was doing the right thing, she found any possible escape out of the question. Taking a step backwards, she was met by an enthusiastic middle aged lady who pulled her inward.
“Good day, my dear.”
“Eh, good day,” Shannon replied, trying to come up with a suitable excuse to leave.
“Thinking of becoming a mail order bride?”
“Well actually, I, I, I think I’ve taken a wrong turn.”
“Are you sure? A fine looking girl like you would make any man proud having you on his arm.”
“Erm, I don’t know.” Shannon looked out the main window at the street outside. Shocked to see Sean coming up on the opposite side it, she pushed against the door with her back. Holding it there, and covering her face with her hand, she waited until enough time had passed before looking out the window again.
“That man you’re trying to avoid. You’re not married, are you?”
“What? No,” Shannon replied, trying to see which direction he’d gone.
“Engaged then? Because if you are, I’m sorry, but that’s frowned upon here. Ladies coming in that have already been promised to someone else…”
Happy that the coast was clear, Shannon turned around. “What? No, no. I think I’ve made a mistake coming here.”
“You alright, child? You’re shaking. You know that man? You want me to call for help?”
“No, no. I’m OK. Just trying to keep out of his way.”
“Why don’t you come through,” she beckoned. “At least until you get your nerve back. Give him a few minutes to lose himself.”
On the verge of arguing, Shannon found herself being taken further into the office. Going from a small desk and reception area, she found herself escorted into a small back room. Looking a picture of chaos, she found folders lying haphazardly on the floor and an untidy desk in front of her. The walls she just as busy, with a notice board covered with letters and small posters.
Shuffling some space clear on the floor, and lifting a cardboard box off a chair, the woman apologized and held a hand to the seat. “I’m sorry, I have to apologize about the mess. Please sit down.”
Still getting over her shock of seeing Sean, and her new surroundings, Shannon found her hold out a hand to shake. Seeing her pause as if on the verge of asking a question, Shannon realized she was looking for a name. “Oh sorry, it’s Shannon, Shannon.”
Mail Order Bride: The Irish Runaway by Catherine Harper / Romance & Love / Western have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes