Perfectly Matched – Ruth Ann Nordin

“I can’t wait to get married,” Patricia Larson said as she picked up the ribbon from the top of her bedroom dresser. She used to share the room with her older sister, Nelly, but when Nelly moved out to her own homestead, she got the room all to herself. Her younger sisters, Erin and Daisy, on the other hand, still shared a bedroom. Patricia glanced at Erin who was sitting on Nelly’s old bed and added, “I didn’t feel right marrying someone as long as Nelly was single. Now that she has a husband, I can give serious effort to being courted.” Erin crossed her arms and smirked at her. “Is that how you explain the fact that no one offered to court you?” With a gasp, Patricia hurried to her bed and flung her pillow at her sister, who, unfortunately, managed to dodge it just in time. Erin laughed. “Your aim is as bad as Pa’s when he’s nervous.” Patricia shot her a pointed look before returning to the mirror above the dresser. “I could have had an offer if I’d wanted one.” Then, just because she knew it would bother her sister, she continued, “If you’d marry Alex, you’d finally put that poor boy out of his misery.” As she expected, Erin grimaced. “You better not say anything to encourage him. I don’t want to end up with him.

I wish Daisy was older. Then I’d arrange for them to get together like we did with Nelly and Val.” “You would have Daisy write a mail order husband ad and convince Alex to answer it?” Patricia mused as she pulled her blonde hair into a ponytail. She secured the ponytail with a ribbon. “I would figure out something like that, yes,” Erin said. “Alex would never marry her. He doesn’t want anyone but you.” “Well, he’s not going to have me. I’m waiting for someone better to come along.” Erin claimed that he was annoying because he’d been following after her since they were children.

Sometimes Patricia thought it was sweet that he had followed her sister around the schoolyard and was there to carry her books to the wagon every day when their father or mother came to pick them up from school. But she could also understand why Erin didn’t like it. Alex was a little too eager. “You’re lucky,” Erin said. “You can dance with anyone you want without Alex hovering nearby. Standing there and watching you.” She shivered. “Sometimes it gives me nightmares.” “Just tell him no if you don’t want to dance with him. Besides, you can dance with anyone you want.

” Patricia brushed her ponytail then checked her plaid red and white dress in the mirror. She turned around and glanced at her backside. “Do I look alright?” “You look fine.” Erin stood up and adjusted the pretty green dress she’d chosen for the evening. Unlike Patricia, her blonde hair was hanging in soft waves down past her shoulders. Daisy ran into the room and spun around in her yellow dress. “What do you think? Do I look pretty?” “You look beautiful,” Patricia said. “Just like Ma must have looked when Pa met her.” “He says we all look like Ma,” Erin replied. “He fell in love with her the night they met,” Daisy said.

“He thought he had ruined things when he ruined her hair.” “Ma said it wasn’t as bad as he makes it sound,” Patricia corrected. “All she had to do was cut her hair just past her shoulders. It wasn’t like he made her bald or anything. Besides, hair grows back.” “Yes, but I like mine long.” Daisy touched her ponytail. “I have mine up just in case some young man who is clumsy like Pa asks me to dance.” Patricia laughed. “He’s not clumsy all the time.

It’s only when he’s nervous.” “That’s her point,” Erin said. “If the young man is nervous because he’s smitten with her, she wants to protect her hair.” “What about you?” Patricia asked Erin. “Aren’t you worried about your hair?” Erin shook her head. “Most young men aren’t clumsy when they’re nervous.” “If they are, then it’s easy to tell if they like you,” Daisy said. “Otherwise, you have to guess.” “You’re only sixteen,” Erin replied. “You have plenty of time to figure out if someone likes you or not.

” Unable to resist the urge to tease Erin, Patricia told Daisy, “Unless you have someone like Alex following you all over the place.” Erin rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything. Daisy, on the other hand, scrunched her nose up in distaste. “I’d hate to have someone like Alex following me everywhere. He’s annoying. I’d rather have someone ruin some of my hair.” Maybe it was wrong, but Patricia giggled. “Well, Daisy, you’re too young to marry anyway,” Erin said. “Consider yourself lucky. Alex won’t be bothering you this evening.

” “I do consider myself lucky,” Daisy replied, her eyes wide and tone serious. “I’d rather be single forever than be married to him.” “Oh, I’m sure there’s someone out there for him,” Patricia said. “There’s someone out there for everyone. Nelly didn’t think so, but we found someone for her.” Inspired, she turned her gaze to Erin. “We should find someone for Alex! Then you won’t have to worry about him anymore.” “I don’t know,” Daisy replied. “Alex’s been wanting to marry her since they were eight. Do you think he’ll consider anyone else now that they’re nineteen?” Patricia shrugged.

“Why not? Erin’s done nothing to encourage him all of these years. Ma thought she was going to marry Peter when she met Pa.” “Yeah, but Ma wasn’t really in love with Peter,” Daisy said. “I’ve seen the way Alex looks at Erin, and he loves her.” “Or he’s fooled himself into thinking he loves her,” Patricia pointed out. “If the right woman came along, he might forget all about her.” “That would only work if the right woman fell in love with him, too,” Daisy replied. “There’s bound to be someone who’ll find him suitable for marriage,” Patricia said. “If we can pair up Nelly with Val, we can pair someone up with Alex. There are plenty of young women in Omaha who are looking to get married.

” “I like the way you think.” Erin patted Patricia on the shoulder. “But the only two marriageable women who’ll be at this dance tonight are you and me.” “Well, let’s hope there are some marriageable men to choose from,” Patricia said. “That’s what really matters anyway.” “That’s not true,” Daisy argued. “It’ll be fun to dance, eat, and talk with our friends.” Excited by what the evening would bring, Patricia nodded her agreement and followed her sisters out of the room. *** Jim Griffin turned to look at the man who’d taken him out to a farm with a small cabin and barn on it. The man had agreed to take him from the train station to his friend’s homestead.

And now that they were in front of the little cabin, he just couldn’t believe they were in the right place. Jim shifted on the wagon seat and pulled out the letter his friend had written to him. “Maybe I got the address wrong.” Jim showed him the letter. “I asked to be taken to Valentine Silverton’s residence.” The man nodded. “Val lives here.” “Are you sure?” “Yes. Val married a Larson girl.” The man rubbed his jaw.

“Let me think. She’s Tom and Jessica’s oldest.” He snapped his fingers. “Nelly. That’s her name. It is Nelly Larson’s homestead you were asking me to take you to, wasn’t it?” “Yes, but this isn’t a homestead.” Jim gestured to the property. Where was the large house? Where was the large barn? Where were the buildings to house the workers who grew the crops and took care of the animals? Where was the nice carriage and stables? “Go on to the door,” the man said. “I’ll bring your trunks in for you.” The house was so small that Jim wondered if his trunks would fit in there.

From the outside, the entire house looked like it was as big as his bedroom back East. The front door opened, and Jim’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw Valentine Silverton, the friend he’d had since childhood, wearing a green shirt and a pair of denims. Since when did Val wear anything but a suit? Val saw him and stiffened in surprise. For a moment, neither one spoke. Then a pretty young woman, wearing the kind of dress Jim’s mother wouldn’t have been caught dead in even if she stayed at home all day, asked, “May we help you, sir?” Sir? Was she talking to him? Jim glanced back at the man who was getting down from the wagon. The man glanced her way as he went to the back of the wagon. “Hi, Nelly! I brought out a friend of your husband’s. His name is Jim Griffin.” That seemed to break Val from his trance. He hurried down the porch steps and ran over to Jim.

“What are you doing here?” Val asked. After a moment, Jim got down from the wagon so he could speak directly with his friend. “I came out here to help you with the homestead. I thought about what you said about Carla and decided not to marry her. I figured you’d have a position here where I could work. You know,” he glanced around the property, “to see if I could help get word out about the homestead so you’d get more business.” He finally turned his gaze to his friend. “Is there a business here?” Val winced. “There is, but it’s not the kind we thought it was going to be.” “What kind is it?” “It’s a small farm that has enough to feed one family.

” “Only one family?” Val winced. “I know I didn’t explain that in the letter I sent you. I was too embarrassed to let you know that this piece of land is all Nelly had. Her family isn’t among the wealthy like we both thought.” Jim wished he had known that before he came out here. He had walked away from his family’s business. When he left, his father had told him that if he went to Nebraska, he’d be cut out of the will. That left him with only the things in his trunk and the money in his pocket, which, though it’d been more than enough for the trip, wasn’t enough for making a life out here. “Hi, there,” Nelly said. The two friends jerked.

“Sorry,” she continued. “I thought you heard me approach. I’m so excited to meet you, Jim. Val said you two were good friends. Did you come by for a visit?” “Not quite,” Jim replied. “He didn’t marry Carla like we thought,” Val told her. “He came to live here.” As if on cue, the man passed by them with a large trunk. Her eyes grew wide. “Where is he going to live? There’s not enough room for him here.

” That was a good point. All this time, Jim had entertained this fantasy where he was going to be a guest in a large bedroom in a large house. He hadn’t planned to be a guest for long. He would just need enough time to earn up the money to buy his own house. He figured that such a thing wouldn’t take too long. But from the looks of it, he realized that fantasy wasn’t going to happen. “Maybe there might be enough room,” Val said. After a moment, he looked at Jim. “You can sleep in the parlor. You won’t fit on the couch, but we have blankets to help make the floor comfortable.

” There weren’t even two bedrooms in there? It was even smaller than it looked? Nelly’s face lit up. “He can stay with my family until he finds a place to live. They have plenty of room in their house.” They did? Jim’s gaze went to Val. “It’s a pink house, but it does have more space than we do,” Val told him. “They’re not too far from here, and they’re having a barn dance tonight. It’s the end of the harvest.” He put his arm around Nelly’s shoulders. “Thanks to her, I got through it.” She patted his chest.

“You did a great job, Val. I told you once you got used to the scythe, there would be nothing to worry about.” Harvest? Scythe? Jim had no idea what they were talking about. For all he was concerned, they were speaking a second language. Nelly turned to the man as he was taking another one of Jim’s trunks to the porch. She hurried over to him. “Will you put that on the back of our wagon instead?” “We’ll be right back,” Val promised Jim before he followed her. Jim took off his hat and ran his fingers through his dark hair. This couldn’t be happening. He had to be dreaming.

Either that, or he’d fallen into some other world similar to the one he’d been reading about on the train. The book did say the world had been a lot like the one the character was used to. Was it possible that the train went through some strange doorway into another place? Perhaps he wasn’t on Earth anymore. No. That was nonsense. That was fiction. Things like that couldn’t happen. He, unfortunately, was still awake, and he was still on Earth. Apparently, what he and Val had thought about Nelly Larson and her family were wrong. He and Val hadn’t understood what Nelly meant when she wrote about the land and animals and her role on this homestead.

They had wrongly assumed she had a huge house with a lot of crops and animals and servants to take care of things. Never once did either of them entertain the notion that she’d been talking about a very small homestead that probably didn’t earn enough to buy the suit he was wearing. Jim released a shaky breath and put his hat back on his head. Alright. He was stuck here. There was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t go back home. His family had disowned him. Carla would never marry him. But then, he didn’t want to marry her anyway, so that was no loss.

Out of all the bad things that had happened, leaving Carla at the altar wasn’t one of them. Things could be worse. Jim pulled Val’s letter from the pocket of his suit jacket and scanned it. It was as he remembered. There had been no mention of the small homestead, lack of servants, and lack of wealth. Val had just written that he was settling into the place and that he was happy with Nelly. He’d spent considerable time describing Nelly—how she looked and her sweet temperament. He had also mentioned that he had a lot to learn about running a homestead. Jim glanced up from the letter and scanned the place. Yes, there was no doubt that anyone would have a lot to learn if they were expected to run this place without help.

Even if Jim hadn’t grown crops and taken care of animals, he knew it required work. And this was work that didn’t appeal to him. He wondered if this was what he would have to do now that he was here. Even if he hadn’t cared much for the family candy business, he didn’t think he’d enjoy working outside. Even his plans of coming here had involved a nice office. A wagon emerged from the barn, and Jim was surprised to see that Nelly, rather than Val, was driving it over to the man’s wagon. Already, he could see one of his trunks in her wagon. Val wasn’t on the wagon. After a moment, Jim realized Val was jogging over in his direction. Jim tucked the letter back into his pocket.

When Val reached him, he offered him a rueful grin. “I’m sorry I didn’t explain what it was like out here when I wrote to you. I never thought you were going to come out here to see it.” “It’s alright.” Jim could understand his friend’s reluctance to tell him the truth. He watched the man load another one of his trunks into Val and Nelly’s wagon. “Is there really enough room for me at her family’s place?” “Yes, there’s room. And their house is pink. None of that is made up.” “Is that house on a homestead like this?” “It is, but there’s more crops and animals.

No servants, though. It’s her parents and her three sisters.” With a laugh, Val added, “You’re going to love being around them. Since you’re a bachelor, they’ll be all over you.” “Why? Will my wealthy suit attract them?” He glanced down at his clothes. “No, it won’t be your suit. It’ll be you. One would swear they’d never seen a man before.” “That’s silly. There are plenty of men in town.

” “Yes, but you’re a man who’s going to be at their house, and you’re not married. The older two will be especially interested in you.” He didn’t know what to make of Val snickering at him. What was so amusing about young women who wanted to get married? He had considered the possibility of marrying one of Nelly’s sisters if they weren’t horrid like Carla was. “What’s wrong with them? Are they ugly?” “No.” He patted Jim on the shoulder. “You’ll see. I’d explain it, but you’d never believe me.” That didn’t sound promising. Perhaps he should have stayed back East.

“We’re ready!” Nelly called out to them as the man secured the last of Jim’s trunk in her wagon. “I realize it’s going to be overwhelming, but her sisters are harmless,” Val said. “What’s going to be overwhelming?” Jim asked. “You’ll see when we get there,” Val replied. “This is something you have to experience for yourself to appreciate.” Appreciate? Appreciate was a word that had a positive connotation to it. That indicated he was going to like whatever those sisters were going to do, right? Val ran over to the wagon and waved for him to join them. “Come on! The festivities will start in a few minutes. We’re already late.” Jim released his breath.

Festivities sounded nice. Appreciate sounded nice. The smile Val was offering indicated that everything was going to be all right. So why was his stomach twisting into knots? Jim gave one last look at the homestead that was a lot different from how he had imagined this place was going to be. Well, he couldn’t go back. He’d left everything behind for this. Whatever this was going to be, he had no choice but to deal with it. Gathering his courage, he went to the wagon

.

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