Shadow of a Life
the hard work in the summer sun had
turned Nicholas from boy to man, and his physical appearance was
not one to go unnoticed. She knew a few of the girls her age
because she had attended almost a year of school at the little red
brick schoolhouse after her family moved to town. Jealousy crept in
when these same girls looked at Nick. It was all she could do to
stop herself from putting a possessive hand on his arm. He must
have sensed something was amiss because he reached down and took
her hand, placing it on his arm just below the elbow as any
gentleman would do when escorting a lady through town. Her heart
fluttered and she sincerely hoped that her palm wouldn’t start
sweating through the sleeve of his shirt. That would be
mortifying.
    The young pair finished their errands
and returned to the wagon. The journey back to the Goodwin home was
filled with pleasant conversation about nothing of great
importance, but something had changed in the air, and there was
longing in every word they spoke to each other. The trip came to a
close too quickly in both of their minds. Nick reached up to help
Sophia down from the wagon and let her hand linger in his longer
than necessary, giving it a little squeeze before he released it.
From that moment on she knew that her heart could never belong to
anyone else as long as she lived.

CHAPTER 9
    Winter of 1887-1888
    Virginia
     
    T he day of the Mist Seeker’s departure was upon them and Sophia held back tears
as they prepared to say their goodbyes. It would be at least a few
months before she saw Nick or her father again. Even though the
goodbyes were imminent, the morning chores still had to be done and
Sophia found herself down at the family well once again filling the
water buckets. The air was crisp and she could see her breath as
she worked to haul the buckets up from the icy trough, trying
desperately to keep her shawl from falling off her shoulders as she
did so.
    “ You really should let me do
that for you.”
    Surprised, she turned to find Nick
standing behind her at the well. Even though she was used to his
startling beauty, the sight of him there made her breath catch in
her throat. He took a step toward her and took her hand in his. Her
legs wobbled and she didn’t know if she would be able to remain
standing.
    “ Sophia,” he said in the
gentlest of ways. “I wanted you to have something. I know your
birthday will be next week after we are gone, so I have no choice
but to give you your present early.”
    He reached into his pocket and pulled
out a beautiful gold chain with a small rose-shaped pendant. Her
heart fluttered as his fingers slowly glided around her neck to
fasten the necklace in back.
    “ This was my mother’s and I
want you to have it, Sophia.”
    “ Oh, Nick. I can’t accept
this. You should keep it. I’m sure you don’t have many mementos of
your mother left.”
    “ Maybe, but I want to give
you something that will assure you will still be here when I get
back.”
    Sophia couldn’t believe her ears. Even
in her wildest dreams she hadn’t dared to believe that Nick might
feel the way about her that she did about him. He cupped his hands
around her face, caressing her cheeks, and slowly lowered his head
nearer to hers. She could feel his warm breath on her and just when
she thought she couldn’t stand it any longer, he softly touched his
lips to hers for the briefest of seconds. Then he turned, picked up
the water yoke, and quickly walked away. It was a long time before
Sophia could compose herself. She couldn’t seem to stop the silent
tears of joy from streaming down her face.
     
    *****
     
    Just as Sophia had expected,
her mother kept her busy with chores while the Mist Seeker was at sea. She usually
would have dreaded not having time to herself, but Sophia was
actually a little grateful. She was afraid if she didn’t stay busy
she would fall apart from the pain of missing Nick. Her birthday
came and went and she found that being seventeen

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