The School Marm – Chapter 20 by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

The School Marm – Chapter 20 by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

The School Marm – Chapter 20

by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

 

How the School Marm Came to Be…

 

 

In 2021 Joan Myles answered the call of fellow Behind Our Eyes member Winslow Parker to write a chain story. They emailed chapters back and forth for nearly a year, each twisting the plot and creating new characters without much discussion. Once completed, the story needed only a bit of tweaking and a reader. They appreciate any who find it enjoyable.

 

Chapter 20

 

Even inside the stagecoach, Lucy could not escape the oppressive summer heat of Furnace Wells. Instinctively she pulled the brim of her travel hat down to shield her eyes, but she found no refuge against the harsh afternoon sunlight and no comfort for her broken heart. The coach would be pulling away any minute now, and she would be carried away from Furnace Wells and all it had come to mean to her.

 

“You’ve won the hearts of this town you know,” Aunt Birdie had told her again as they said their final good-byes. “No one can ever take that away from you…or from us.”

 

But the tears exchanged by the two women held more than regret for separation. They had grown very close over the last two years. They had endured a devastating yet heroic chapter in the town’s history. They had witnessed Furnace Wells reclaiming itself as a unified community, its citizens asserting their loyalty to the law and to one another. By coming together to protect the young kidnapped women of their town—regardless of their heritage or social standing—they were declaring Furnace Wells to be a place of safety, a home to them all.

 

“You’ll always have a place here,” the older woman wept, “in the town…with me…like my own girl you are now…”

 

“Oh, Aunty…like your own girl,” she sighed. “And you are like my own mother.”

 

She became aware of the coachman calling out some final remarks to a livery worker, then felt the thud of her trunk as he heaved it into place.

 

“Ready to depart, Ma’am,” he announced more quietly as he neared the coach.

 

“I’m ready,” she called back.

 

But he was already in his place, already slapping the reins to signal the team forward.

 

But am I ready? she asked herself. Am I ready to forget Billy and his father and the other children at the school—Rosa and Philip—and the women who were learning so much from our sessions? The town which has finally gotten past everything? Will I ever see any of them again?

 

And just as quickly, her thoughts turned to Oregon.

 

Oh, Dan…my dear brother, gone. What will I do…? She felt the tears beginning. What will Sally and his children do without him?

 

Without thinking, she drew the tear-stained telegram from her pocket. Once more she read the tragic lines, folded it methodically, and slipped it back into place. Then she searched in the overstuffed satchel for her handkerchief.

 

It must be here somewhere, she was already overcome and unable to fully focus.

 

At length, both hands were in the bag searching. They found no handkerchief, but kept returning to the tooled journal Dan had given her, tracing his handiwork, caressing his memory. Slowly she brought the volume out, her very breath eased by its presence.

 

Again she sighed. For a long moment, she sat transfixed, smoothing its cover. At last she opened the journal. Her own face peered back at her. The face of a new teacher as seen through the eyes of a young boy.

 

“How long till we get there?” she called out to the coachman in a sudden rush.

 

The stagecoach lurched violently with a sudden jolting creak as its wheels crossed a deeply rutted spot on the road,  and whatever the coachman had intended to say was swallowed up in curses. But as Lucy strained to keep her seat, her gaze caught sight of the horizon, the vast cloudless sky, and the road stretching into the distance.

 

And she smiled to herself.

 

No matter how long, she thought as her fingers traced the pencil lines on the page, we’re moving. We’re all moving  forward.

 

*jm*

 

The End

 

How the School Marm Came to Be…

 

 

In 2021 Joan Myles answered the call of fellow Behind Our Eyes member Winslow Parker to write a chain story. They emailed chapters back and forth for nearly a year, each twisting the plot and creating new characters without much discussion. Once completed, the story needed only a bit of tweaking and a reader. They appreciate any who find it enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Ah, the final chapter, thank you dear Patty for sharing this fictional journey with Winslo and me! Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated!

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