Authors: Trinity Ford
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Victorian Era, #Western, #Twenty-Eightth In Series, #Saga, #Fifty-Books, #Forty-Five Authors, #Newspaper Ad, #Short Story, #American Mail-Order Bride, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Marriage Of Convenience, #Christian, #Religious, #Faith, #Inspirational, #Factory Burned, #Pioneer, #Texas, #Matchmaker, #Fort Worth, #Cowboys, #Community, #Banker, #Store Owner, #Trouble Maker, #Heartache
Della: Bride of Texas
American Mail-Order Bride Series
All rights reserved.
To my three angel babies who supported me and believed in me during this journey.
To my Mom for her influence, contribution and motivation.
To my fellow American Mail-Order Brides author friends who believed in me enough to include me in this project.
To our Heavenly Father for guiding me on the right path.
Della didn’t know how long she’d been sitting at the park watching the fog rising from the water, slowly obscuring her view of the Merrimack River. The anger inside her rose with the ascending fog, lifting the happiness she felt a week ago, before the fire ravaged the sewing factory she’d just begun working at. That happiness and security had been replaced with a dim future of despair and frustration.
She clutched her copy of the Grooms’ Gazette—a matchmaking publication intended to help all of the single women who were left jobless find prospective husbands around the country. That type of change may come easy to some women, but it infuriated Della to think that once again, her well laid plans were falling through. She hugged the thin shawl around her shoulders, bracing herself for a spur of the moment decision that was foreign to her.
Della hadn't even gotten to know most of the women at the sewing factory. She'd moved to town and started work just a week earlier, sharing a small apartment with Dacey, Josephine, Michelle, Chevonne, and India—the ones who shared her space on the same shift.
"What do you think?" Della asked as Chevonne walked up beside her, thumbing through the publication. It had been Chevonne whom Della had formed a fast friendship with when she welcomed Della into their group. Della was supposed to be living with her sister, but those living arrangements were spoiled thanks to her sister’s rude husband refusing to share their living quarters.
Chevonne shrugged, looking defeated. "Can't be worse than what we're facing now," she said. "You coming back to the apartment? You’ve been down here quite a while."
"In a bit," Della said. She still had to look through the paper that held what was potentially her dream come true or her worst nightmare. "Why must everything I plan so carefully go so wrong?" she muttered under her breath.
It wasn't that she couldn't handle adversity. In fact, strength came easy to Della—but so did stubbornness and anger when things didn't go her way—and that's just the way she liked it. She never
fond of people who gave in to change too easily. Where was their sense of loyalty to an idea? To a dream?
First her parents had sold the family farm in Florida, after twenty years of promising that it would be hers someday. All they told Della was that they needed a change of pace, then up and moved to Savannah, leaving Della and her sister alone. They expected them to find husbands, and that’s just what her older sister, Charlotte, did—a whirlwind romance that resulted in her marrying a man named Charles who lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts and was in town on business.
"Massachusetts?" Della had said when Charlotte told her she was leaving the day after her wedding. "But it's cold there!"
"It's where he wants to go," Charlotte said meekly. Della couldn't stand it when someone had no spine—especially when it was her own sister and it meant breaking up what little family they had left.
"Well I'm coming with you!" Della stated, determined not to be left without any kin in her life. She quickly followed Charlotte and Charles to Massachusetts, but after she was there a few days, Charlotte confided in Della that her new husband didn’t want Della to live with them.
It was true that all their relationships were strained during the days Della was there. She had an unapologetic mouth on her, but she reserved it only for those she felt deserved it, and Charles Hillman certainly did. He was loud and rude, bossing Charlotte around like a servant. It drove Della mad, and because her sister wouldn’t speak up, Della felt she had to.
After a tearful goodbye with her sister, Charles dropped Della off at Mason’s Hotel. The manager agreed to let her stay for three days until she could find somewhere else to go, and the bill had to be paid within a week. If Della didn’t find something soon, she’d be out on the unfamiliar and unwelcoming streets of Lawrence.
The hotel was located in the financial district of Lawrence and was one of the first establishments of its kind that offered electric lights. Her room was small, but well-appointed, and there were two dining rooms—one for gentlemen and the other for ladies. Della knew she wouldn’t be able to afford anything quite this nice even when she found a job. But, first things first—she had to find a job.
Later in the evening of the day Charles dropped her off, Della wandered into the lobby of the hotel. She had just eaten a light dinner in the ladies’ dining room—a long, narrow room dotted with tables and leading off into other dining areas. There was even a billiards room and lunch and oyster eating areas.
Della noticed a newspaper left on one of the tables and sat down to read the work ads. One, in particular, caught her eye. It was a local factory looking for seamstresses to hire. She knew how to hand stitch and also knew the basics of machine sewing.
Della applied the very next morning and was hired the second the owner, Bob Brown, laid eyes on her. "Aren't you a pretty little thing?" Mr. Brown said, placing his hand on the small of her back as he guided her to the chair in his office.
pretty little things," Della replied bluntly, "if that's what you mean." It wasn't the first time a man had acted unlike a gentleman toward her. Her whole life she’d found certain men putting ample importance on her appearance—outwardly discussing her beautiful, long, blonde hair that contrasted with her startling blue eyes. Della felt it was rude to focus on her looks instead of her worth as a person, and she not only refused to take the offhand compliments well—but she felt it was almost her duty to correct their boorish behavior.
Bob Brown didn’t seem like the kind of man who would learn his lesson, though, so Della didn’t waste time showing him the errors of his ways. She was given the job and introduced to the women she would be working with on that shift.
All of the ladies seemed to be pretty much in the same situation as Della. Sharing lunch with one of her new friends, Chevonne, the next day, Della discussed her current living arrangements and admitted that she had to find another place to stay.
Chevonne empathized with Della. “I’m living with a few other women in a two-bedroom apartment, but the rent is still above what we’re comfortable paying,” said Chevonne. “If you don’t mind sleeping in the sitting room, I’m sure the other girls wouldn’t mind sharing if it meant they all had more money at the end of the week!”
“Oh, Chevonne!” Della exclaimed. “I would love that—but I have to find a way to pay the hotel before I can make a move.”
Later that evening, Della answered a knock at her door to find Chevonne and some of her other coworkers grinning from ear to ear. “Your balance is paid,” Chevonne said. “Now, let’s get you out of here and into your new home.”
Della couldn’t believe her good fortune and the generosity of her new friends. She would pay them back out of the first of her work money—and it would be much less than paying for another few days at Mason’s Hotel.
Chevonne, India, Dacey, Michelle and Josephine helped Della bring her meager belongings to the apartment as their new roommate. These girls were hard workers and fun—and she could see a good life for them as long as they were together. The settee wasn’t much, but it was a beginning—and suddenly, Della was excited about her future.
She had just begun to see potential in her new life, when the factory fire demolished those dreams. Now, sitting by the river, Della opened the Grooms’ Gazette and began reading the ads.
Why, these men are looking for nothing more than a servant
, she thought—disgusted with the blunt manner in which the ads were written.
Della pondered some more about the ads. “If I’m going to
someone, there sure better be something besides hard work involved,” she said to herself. “And what about security? I want to work
him—and create a life together.” Her dedication to a well thought out future with careful planning wouldn’t let her think differently. Any other scenario just wouldn’t do.
On the back page of the publication, something caught her eye.
Fort Worth, Texas
Local pastor seeks educated, God-fearing Christian women ages 18-29 to become part of our congregation’s family and help settle a new frontier town with one of our distinguished bachelors. Come to the Chisholm Trail and work for a minimum of six months as you live with a Christian couple who can chaperone your stay. Small weekly stipend provided. Please include recent photograph. Contact: Pastor Stanley Littlejohn.
"Now that sounds like my kind of future—not rushed—enough time to make a meticulous plan for my future," Della said out loud.
Family. A town where everyone was just settling in, not packing up to leave
, she thought. The only thing that made her uneasy was that there were no guarantees. She would be going into the situation blindly, hoping that something came of it. She’d be leaving Charlotte behind, but Della knew there was no future for her in Massachusetts.
Within seconds, doubt began to creep in.
What if I hate the town of Fort Worth?
What if there are no men that I find suitable for a commitment? What if my train is robbed on the way there?
It was in her nature to wonder and worry about such things, but she decided to go ahead and respond to the ad, knowing deep down that she could handle whatever came her way.
Della returned to the apartment right away and started work on her correspondence to Elizabeth Miller, the matchmaker her boss, Roberta had told them about. The sooner she had her future mapped out, the sooner her worries would subside.
Dear Ms. Miller,
Roberta McDaniel has informed the ladies of the Brown Textile Mill that you might be amenable to helping us find suitable matches for matrimony. I am not your typical prospective bride hoping for just any match. I want to build a stable life with someone who has strong family ties in a community. I’ve discovered an ad placed in the Grooms’ Gazette on the back page by Pastor Stanley Littlejohn and wonder if you might see if there’s an opportunity for me there?
All she could do now was wait. The girls had pooled their money to survive until they got a response on their mail order bride letters. Della hated the fact that she only had a week’s worth of pay to chip in, but the girls didn’t seem to mind. “Everything’s going to be just fine, you’ll see,” Chevonne reassured her.
“But what if…?” Della started, her mind churning with worst case scenarios.
“Della Owens,” Chevonne scolded lovingly. “If I hear those three words come out of your mouth one more time, I swear I’ll never speak to you again!”
Della smiled and took a deep breath. Chevonne was right and Della knew it. Worrying got her nowhere. But if she knew what was coming, she could prepare better for it, that’s all. It felt nice having someone to turn to in all the chaos, and for the first time ever, Della realized that true family wasn’t determined by blood, but by common threads such as likes and dislikes, need to survive, the desire to enjoy life and be happy and an innate need to bond with others. Chevonne may be leaving, but she would always be family in Della’s heart and she knew that she’d move Heaven and Earth to help Chevonne—no matter where she ended up in the coming days.
As the days passed, the girls began leaving one by one to embark on their own adventures until a couple of weeks had passed. Chevonne and Della were the last two remaining, and both were living on the money Chevonne had set aside. Della still hadn’t heard back from Ms. Miller.
What if she hadn’t found a suitable prospect for Della? What if there were no more husbands to go ‘round? The job situation was bleak for women in Lawrence, and she had no money to travel elsewhere. The sick feeling in the pit of Della’s stomach made it easy for her to skip meals and keep spending to a minimum. She sought out odd jobs for a few small payments, but nothing ever materialized into longer employment.
The day came when it was Chevonne’s turn to leave, and this hit Della hard. She and Chevonne had a lot in common. They both had to start over on their own. “You let me know where you end up, you hear?” said Chevonne, trying to cheer up her friend with lively chatter.
Della’s chin quivered as she shook her head in agreement and wrapped her arms around her friend for one last hug. The door closed behind Chevonne, and once again, Della was left floundering on her own without a clear sense of direction.
The apartment felt so empty now. Gone was Della’s last vestige of people she could count on and seek advice from. She grabbed her shawl and left the apartment, spending the entire day wandering around the city of Lawrence. She hardly noticed the impressive monuments and architecture because she was trying desperately to think of what her next move would be. Chevonne had left her a few dollars, but it wouldn’t last long. As she walked back into the apartment building, Della stopped to check the mailbox. There was one letter inside, addressed to her. She bounded up the stairs and hurried into the apartment, ripping the letter open before she even sat down.