Ripples Along the Shore
Garrett straightened the stack of knives in the tray on the table. “My only brother is married with children and living in Florida.” Well, he was, last word Garrett had from the postmaster. Garrett was nearly ready to tell her why he didn’t know this for himself—and why he wasn’t present when his folks died. But instead, he just stared at his empty fork.
    “Wide open spaces can only do so much for you, son. Don’t you want a wife and children?”
    “I did.”
    “Not any longer?”
    “I was married.”
    Compassion softened the line that framed her mouth. “Did she pass?”
    He shook his head. “It wasn’t like that.”
    “The war?”
    He scraped the rest of the apple filling into a pile. “Mostly me.” He never did measure up. Not in his father’s eyes, nor where his former wife was concerned. He’d also let Caroline Milburn down. On more than one occasion.
    No, he was better off alone.
    “War can surely divide a family. And in many different ways.”
    Giving in to resignation, he lifted his shoulders and let them fall.
    “I’m sorry.”
    He drew comfort from the compassion he saw on her kind face. “Thank you. I haven’t told Rutherford.”
    “You will. When you’re ready.”
    Her way of saying it was their secret until then. He couldn’t believe he’d told her and not his best friend. But the widow had a way about her. A mother’s way that his own mother hadn’t possessed, not in his lifetime.
    If she’d ever had it before that, his father no doubt squelched it.

Fifteen
    C aroline had lain awake much of the night. When rain wasn’t tapping the roof, she listened to Cora and Mary’s sleep-breathing, a chorus of soft snores and gentle whistles.
    Her mind no less active than the night’s sounds, Caroline considered the events of the past several months. Her stagecoach ride to Saint Charles from Philadelphia. Her first tentative ride to the farm to join the quilting circle. Garrett Cowlishaw delivering the news of Phillip’s death in Mrs. Brantenberg’s kitchen. Coffee-time conversations with Jewell, Mrs. Brantenberg, Maren, Emilie, Hattie, and Anna. The children’s laughter. Her vigil at Aunt Inez’s bedside. Gilbert’s suggestion that she go west with the caravan. Mr. Cowlishaw’s resounding “no.” Hearing the same man recite the prayer of confession in the church service. Lewis G. Whibley’s disdain when she’d caught him preying on another widow. Her job …
    So many thoughts swirling with the raindrops.
    She’d completed her first week of work for Johann Heinrich. Emptied crates of new shoes and boots. Filled out vouchers for folks bartering with eggs and milk. She’d even managed to play a couple of games of checkers with her employer. All in all, a good job for her until she could teach again.
    When sleep still refused to pay Caroline a visit, she lit a candle lantern and propped herself on the bed. After reading the fourth chapter of James, she finished her square for the friendship quilt that would travel with those leaving Saint Charles come April.
    Thankfully, Thursday morning dawned without clouds. Emilie didn’t have classes and had chosen to work with her father, which meant Caroline was free to go to the farm today for the quilting circle.
    First, she needed to fetch the sorrels from the livery. Two curled lead ropes swung at her side as sunlight and shadow guided her steps around water puddles and pools of mud. Thanks to heavy wagon traffic, both were plentiful on Pike Street. She waited for a freight wagon to cross in front of her and returned the driver’s wave. Emilie’s husband, Quaid McFarland, tipped his hat in a quick greeting, then pulled into line behind a couple of other wagons.
    Within twenty minutes, a gangly livery hand brought the two horses to her outside the corral gate, sparing her a mucky walk through the wet manure that coated the ground.
    “Thank you.” She took the two leads from him.
    He brushed the brim of his cap and spun toward the

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