Rhyme or Reason – Amelia C. Adams

Louisa Brown stepped off the train at the Creede station and took a long, deep breath. Thank goodness she was no longer in motion. The girls she’d roomed with in school had always teased her about her tendency to become nauseated on trains or boats, but she’d outdone even herself this time. She was sure her stomach would never feel settled again. She needed some tea. And a bed. And to stay put this time—Creede had to be her answer. She couldn’t take much more of this transient lifestyle. “Pardon me,” she asked a lady passing by on the platform. “Do you know where I might get a cup of tea?” “Hearth and Home across the way there,” the woman answered. “Thank you,” Louisa replied. She asked the stationmaster to hold her trunk for the time being and headed out, trying to walk steadily so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a drunkard. In truth, it would probably be several minutes before her knees felt strong enough to support her weight. She spotted her destination up ahead and was sure she was going to make it, but then she sagged and reached out to catch herself on the nearest solid object. That object happened to be the arm of a man who had been walking off to the side, and while he might have been startled, he immediately turned and supported her weight so she didn’t actually land in the dirt, which would have been embarrassing in dozens of different ways.

“I’m so sorry,” she told him as he lifted her back to her feet. “I didn’t mean to attack you like that.” He was a thin man with spectacles and brown hair that flopped into his face. His eyes were kind, and he looked at her with concern. “Being attacked by you is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me for weeks now,” he replied. “Are you quite all right?” “Oh, yes, perfectly.” She paused. “No, actually, I’m not. Could you possibly help me? I’m trying to get a cup of tea, and a woman at the station told me I should go to Hearth and Home, and I was on my way there when I became dizzy.” “Well, by all means, let me take you the rest of the way.

I can’t have you attacking anyone else when I’m already suited for it.” He held out his arm, and she clung to it the rest of the way. Once they were inside and she was seated, she waved at the chair across the table from her. “Please join me. Now that you’ve seen me at my worst, we’re destined to be the best of friends, and that sort of thing is settled over a pot of tea.” “I usually take my tea over at the shop down the road, but I’d be more than happy to join you.” He pulled out the chair and sat down. “There’s a tea shop in town? How nice. I wonder why the woman I asked sent me here.” He looked at the time.

“The tea shop has limited hours, while this place is open longer. I imagine that’s why. One of these days, though, you should join me over there. They have a very good selection of teas one generally only finds in England, and their cakes and pastries are really exceptional. The sisters who run the place are from England, you see.” “That sounds wonderful. What do they serve here?” “Hearty meals and good company. The family who runs this business is from Scotland.” Louisa raised an eyebrow. “Are all the businesses around here run by families from other countries?” “Not all, but it seems that way.

We’re quite a gathering place for people who want a fresh start. Including myself.” She opened her mouth to ask where he was from, but paused. “I’m so sorry. It occurs to me that I don’t know your name.” He feigned surprise. “After all we’ve been through together, after the way you just flung yourself at me, you need to know my name?” She blushed. “Well, it would be nice to know what to call you. Unless you want me to make something up. That might be fun, actually.

” He shook his head. “Chances are, whatever you chose would be far too dashing for the likes of me. My name is Tobias Redfern, and I own the bookstore down the way.” “A bookstore owner? That’s just wonderful!” Louisa glanced up as a young woman approached the table to take their order. She asked for a pot of peppermint tea and some bread and butter, and Mr. Redfern added his own request of a slice of apple pie. When they were alone again, she turned back to him. “What sorts of books do you carry? Encyclopedias and dictionaries, or pirate stories and novels?” “A bit of everything. You should stop by and browse.” “Oh, I will.

I most definitely will.” That was one of the first things Louisa always did when she came to a new town. She had to locate either a bookstore or a library, and preferably both. The waitress came back immediately with the tea and promised the bread would be out in a moment. Mr. Redfern watched as Louisa poured herself a cup, plopped two sugar cubes into it, and drank. “You haven’t told me yet why you were dizzy,” he said. “And you haven’t mentioned if you’re feeling all right now.” “I’m feeling much better, thank you,” she replied. “Just sitting down has done me a world of good.

” “And the reason for your sickness? Unless it’s something horribly contagious. In which case, I don’t want to know.” She chuckled. “I’ll tell you, but you must keep it a secret. I’m rather embarrassed about it, actually.” “I enjoy embarrassing secrets. No, that came out wrong.” He held up a hand. “I will rephrase. It would be my honor to keep your embarrassing secret for you.

” “I’ll hold you to that.” She glanced around to make sure no one was within earshot. “I get horribly sick on trains. I’ve spent the last three hours in utter agony.” “I’m very sorry to hear that. I’ve heard, though, that a tendency toward motion sickness is a sign of creativity, so you must look at the bright side.” “I’m not sure how creative I can be when I’m sure my face is some shade of green.” “You could amuse yourself by deciding just what shade of green you are.” “No, I don’t think that would be helpful.” Louisa smiled at the waitress as the bread, butter, and pie were set on the table.

“Thank you.” “You’re welcome. Let me know if I can get you anything else.” The girl had a Scottish lilt to her voice, so she must be part of the family who owned and ran the place. Louisa buttered her first slice of bread, then took a bite. “Delicious,” she said after she swallowed. “I can tell already that I’ll be back here often.” “So you’re staying in town, then? You aren’t just passing through?” “I certainly hope to stay. I’ve lived in five different places over the last two years, and I’m more than ready to put down roots somewhere.” Mr.

Redfern lifted an eyebrow. “That’s quite a lot of moving around. Were you trying to avoid some sort of legal prosecution?” She laughed. “Nothing that exciting. I’m afraid that answering your question might take a few minutes, though. Are you sure you’re up for it?” He lifted both hands into a shrug. “I have nowhere else to be.” “All right. Well, I was raised by a maiden aunt who had too much money and too little charity. I know that sounds harsh, but trust me when I say that I’m actually holding back my true feelings.

” “I trust you,” he replied. “That’s good of you.” She lifted her teacup in salute. “When my aunt died, I had just graduated from a ladies’ college in Boston, and I learned that she hadn’t left anything to me in her will. I wasn’t expecting a large bequest, but I had hoped for enough to put me to rights until I was ready to take my next step.” “Who did she leave her estate to?” Mr. Redfern asked. “My second cousin Albert. He kindly gave me twenty dollars at the funeral and asked me how soon I could remove myself from the house. I’m sorry—I’m sounding bitter again.

” “I still trust you.” “Thank you.” She plopped another sugar cube in her tea and stirred it until it nearly sloshed. “I sent a telegram to the ladies’ college and asked if I could work there for a time until I got my feet under me. They hired me for one semester, so I returned there and taught. That was the first time I moved.” “I’m keeping track,” he replied. “Once that semester was over, I accepted a position as a secretary to a lawyer. That went fairly well, but it wasn’t in line with my formal training, and he ended up wanting someone who had more experience with the law. At this time, I was living in a boarding house.

I was able to stay there while I worked my next job waiting tables at a small restaurant not too different from this.” She motioned around to indicate the Hearth and Home. “So, a new job, but not another move,” Mr. Redfern said. “I need to be sure that I’ve got this straight.” “You do. After I left the restaurant—” He held up a hand. “Why did you leave the restaurant?” She paused. “Let’s just say that the owner had an unhealthy penchant for redheads. Of which I am one.

In case you didn’t notice.” “I did. It’s quite charming. Go on.” Mr. Redfern picked up his fork and started on his pie as she continued. “From there, I moved to a different boarding house, and I got a job working as a seamstress for a ready-made dress shop. That was the third move.” He nodded. “Then I was hired to be the costume mistress at our local theater.

Oh, I loved it. It was much closer to my heart, and it gave me opportunities to meet people and expand my repertoire. But the patron of the theater died, and the funding stopped, and sadly, so did my position.” “An absolute shame,” Mr. Redfern replied. “The arts must always be funded.” “I agree more than you can even guess. The fourth move was when I came out to Wyoming to cook for the cowboys on a ranch. Sadly, I wasn’t suited—my cooking skills aren’t as good as my waitressing skills. So, now I’m here.

” Mr. Redfern held up a hand. Louisa smiled—that seemed to be a common gesture for him. “Don’t tell me why you’re here—I’d like to guess.” “All right, I won’t give it away. Would you like me to give you any clues?” “You’ve probably already given me some as we’ve been talking. You’re obviously a woman of taste and refinement—you’re educated, and you appreciate the more delicate things in life such as art and the theater.” He studied her for a moment with a gaze so frank, she almost shied away from it. She wasn’t used to being scrutinized so closely. “I was going to say that you’ve come to teach, but it’s something else.

It’s something perhaps even a bit exotic.” She laughed. “Exotic? Well, I don’t know, but that does make me sound mysterious. I like that.” He considered her for another moment. “I confess, I can’t do it. You’ll just have to tell me.” “I will, but first, I’m curious that you haven’t asked my name. We’ve been sitting here talking for over half an hour—that’s rather unusual, don’t you think?” He blinked. “I never asked your name?” “No.

” “Oh.” He seemed genuinely surprised. “I suppose that’s because I felt like I already knew you. I didn’t mean to be rude. Will you forgive me?” He felt like he already knew her? What a sweet thing to say. Her mischievous streak refused to let him off the hook that easily, though, and probably against her better judgment, she decided to have a bit more fun with him. “I’ll forgive you, but I’m not going to tell you my name. I’ve decided to let you figure it out, just like the rest of me.” She smiled at him and stood up. “Thank you again, Mr.

Redfern. You’ve been most kind, and I’m sure we’ll meet again.” As she passed the waitress on her way out, she gave her enough money for the small meal, plus a tip. Then she continued on her way, realizing that she needed some friendship and laughter just as much as she’d needed the tea and bread. Oh, yes. Mr. Redfern had been very good for her indeed.

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