1)A Letter From Ambrose
I was expecting my weekly letter from Ambrose, so I hovered around the hotel check-in desk, whisking my feather duster over knickknacks and sneaking looks at my sister Cordelia while she sorted the mail. Slowly, methodically, she organized the letters in stacks—the regular boarders’, Grandma’s, Aunt Hannah’s, and business mail addressed to the hotel—and slid them into the row of cubbyholes behind the desk. Cordelia was being her usual spiteful self, making me wait because our brother addressed his letters to me instead of her, the older sister.
She frowned and studied the address on a small, letter-sized package about an inch thick. “For you,” she said, holding out the parcel.
I dropped the duster, grabbed the package from her hand, and glanced at the return address. “It’s from Ambrose!”
My fingernails clawed at the sealed wrapping. When at last I worked through the outer layer, something thudded to the floor. I picked up the hard, flat object and unfolded the paper around it.
“A twenty dollar gold piece!” I scanned the letter. “Ambrose says Pa wants me home. I’m to go on the next stage. This money is for my fare and whatever else I need.” My deepest wish had at last come true. “I’m going home!”
My little sisters, Jennie and Ella, rushed in, their braids bouncing, and looked up at me, their brown eyes shining with excitement.
“What about us?” Ella, the nine-year-old, asked. “Do we get to go home, too?”
“Not now, but Ambrose says if I do a good job and prove I can take care of the house and you, too, Pa will send for you.”
Ella ducked her head and squeezed seven-year-old Jennie’s hand. “We’ll never get to go. Pa thinks we’re too much trouble.”
“That’s not it. He just wants to make sure I can take proper care of the house and you girls.” I smiled and patted Ella’s shoulder. “It won’t take long for me to show Pa how much I’ve learned in the past four years about doing woman’s work.” Unable to contain my excitement, I waved my hands, shooing my little sisters from the room. “You girls go find Aunt Hannah. I have to tell her I’m leaving and start packing.”
“We’ll get her,” Jennie said.
The two girls whirled and ran from the room, shouting, “Aunt Hannah, Aunt Hannah, come hear the news.”
Cordelia’s mouth was a straight line of disapproval as she fiddled with the pen, ink bottle and ledger on the check-in desk. “No need to hurry with the packing. There’s not a stage heading west for two days.”
Irritated by the implied criticism, I snapped, “I’m not a last-minute person. I plan what I do.”
Cordelia was impulsive, changing from one minute to the next, acting on whims without thinking of how she affected others. Running away and leaving me, only nine years old at the time, alone to care for our sick mother was one of those actions I could never forgive. Maybe Ma would have lived if Cordelia hadn’t taken off when she did.
Aunt Hannah’s voice mingled with my little sisters’ as they emerged from the hallway. Stopping in front of me, she tilted her head and frowned, her eyes narrowing. “What’s this about you going home?”
I held up the letter and gold coin. “Ambrose said to come on the next stage. Pa sent twenty dollars to pay my way.” I cast Cordelia a sour look before continuing to speak to Aunt Hannah. “I know you don’t like Pa. He doesn’t like you, either. But he’s my pa, and I’m going, so there’s no sense in you trying to argue me out of it.” I headed for the door. “Ella. Jennie. Want to help me pack?”
My little sisters raced after me as I stamped up the stairs, leaving my sister and my aunt to mull over their misgivings without my presence.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish