The Mail Order Bride’s Eve of Hope – Etta Foster

Laughter filled the air when he stepped outside. Turning away from the door, Desmond Delaney saw his wife tickling their daughter as they ran around in the snow. Little Caroline giggled madly as she raced in circles to no avail. Her boots crunched in the snow and her eyes were sparkling. He hefted his bag higher over his shoulder. Grinning, he climbed down the steps of their home and joined them on the path. “Watch out, Carrie,” he teased. “She’s going to get you again!” “You better run,” his wife, Melody, added when she glanced at him. She offered a quick wink before turning her attention back to her children. “Come here, you.” “No!” Carrie screeched loudly. She had the strongest lungs of anyone Desmond knew. Glad that she wasn’t screaming in the house, he chuckled. Then she came running his way with her arms in the air. He immediately crouched down.

Shifting the bag to his side, he reached out to scoop his daughter up in his arms. Little Caroline clung to him happily as he lifted her up in the air. She looked up with the biggest smile on her face. It was as if nothing could spoil the happiness of this day. How could it? Desmond kissed the top of her head before turning to his wife. It was the last day of 1888. They were ready for the New Year and all that might come their way. Life in South Dakota had been good to him for the last six years. It seemed to only get better every day. “Come along, you two,” Melody sang.

She gestured toward the end of the lane before giving him a pointed look. “Don’t make me carry the two of you.” “But what if I want you to?” he asked her innocently. Then he dodged a playful slap on the arm from her. “Don’t worry, dear. I can carry you as well. One of my ladies for each arm, hm? What do you say?” She squirmed when he wrapped an arm around her. “I say that you’ll probably make us fall over. Just because I want to be outside doesn’t mean I want a handful of snow falling down my dress. Again,” she added with a pointed expression.

It could have something to do with their Christmas Day snowball fight. But probably not. Desmond put up his hand in defence before adjusting it around his daughter. “All right,” he assured his wife, “No snowballs today. I promise.” “Mhm,” she said skeptically, clearly not believing it. “Well, you had best keep it. Even if I don’t make the same promise.” “What?” His mouth dropped open. “But you have to!” But Melody laughed, shaking her head.

She took the bag off his shoulder and adjusted it on her own along with the basket in one hand. Now, she was carrying all the supplies for their picnic. Though the day was cold, the two of them couldn’t help but want to spend some time outside. The skies were clear, and the sun was shining above them. He supposed the snow wouldn’t melt much, but it felt warmer than it had for a few weeks now. Their small farm was colder than his time in Ohio. That was not something he had expected. But fortunately, he’d had six years to get used to the chill. It still bothered him, but he didn’t let it stop him from getting his work done. This was his home, and he was committed to it.

Free land was hard to refuse, after all. The Homestead Act had immediately drawn his attention when he was hardly twenty years old. Working in a factory, Desmond had always wondered what it would be like to live out of the city. So, he grabbed the opportunity when he could. Everything had quickly changed after his arrival. He had settled in the northeastern territory of the Dakotas where he met Melody on his first day in town. Part of him felt certain it was one of the reasons why he had chosen the land nearby. Even then, he couldn’t bear to part with her. The farm was doing well, though small, and he had learned how to work with the particular sod that so many folks still struggled to understand. It was bone-weary work, but he liked working with his own hands and bringing something into fruition.

Melody enjoyed the work as well, so the two of them spent their days outside with their few animals. Except for today. Desmond couldn’t remember finding so many excuses to celebrate life until his wife came into the picture. She liked to work hard, but also believed in having fun in other forms. “A picnic,” she had proclaimed that morning. “That’s what we should do!” He had glanced up from where he sat at the table while feeding little Carrie. “A picnic? There’s snow everywhere, dear. I would think you’d want to stay inside by the fire. We could read books, or you can make another wood carving.” Melody had simply beamed at him.

“A picnic, Desmond. Last one of the year.” There was no way for him to resist her. Chuckling, he had accepted their plans. “A picnic it is. We can go out by the lake and enjoy the view.” Now he looked around to see the world around him. The Dakota territories were rather flat. A few trees stood up in the distance. Behind his house, he had planted a dozen of them just a year ago.

But those were all the trees he could see in the plains before him. Instead, it was a world of blanketed white. The ground sparkled beneath them. Desmond fixed his grip on his daughter who had begun to squirm. She was four years old and was always looking for a way to show them just how independent she was. But only if she knew she was safe. “Down,” she decided. “Papa? Down!” “All right,” he assured her as he stopped. “Walk carefully, Carrie. I don’t want you slipping, do you understand? No running.

” The moment he set her down, however, she stopped listening. The child took off running ahead. Her hands waved up in the air as she went. Desmond turned to his wife who simply shrugged. “She’ll learn,” Melody said after she laced his fingers with hers. “One way or another, she’ll learn.” “To listen or not to run?” Her lips twitched. Giving his hand a squeeze, Melody inhaled deeply as she turned back to the path before them. It wasn’t much of one since the snow had begun to fall for the season. But there was a slight indentation that could be seen if one knew where to look.

He had cleared the path for them, along with a few others, years ago. It was covered in stones that led down to the lake that sat just beyond a mile from their home. The stones melted away some ice, so the pathway always had a little less snow. They crunched through the snow hand in hand. Carrie ran ahead of them, still squealing excitedly. She loved going on adventures out of the house. She was very easy to please. He liked to think they all were. They were simple folks just looking for a way to lead a quiet life, finding happiness wherever they could manage. He wasn’t sure his heart could grow any fuller before bursting.

“Here is a wonderful spot. Right there. By that bush,” Melody said as she pointed off the past as they arrived at the lake. “That one.” It was just a simple spot near the lake with no shade. Desmond couldn’t quite tell why this particular spot was better than any other, but he didn’t mind following after his wife. The two of them laid out the first blanket from the bag carefully before them on the ground. He noticed the blanket was the one that his wife had quilted while pregnant with their daughter. That warmed his heart. He glanced at the two beautiful girls in his life before studying the nearby terrain.

It had changed since leaving their home. Only by the lake were there hills and trees. The shoreline was just a few yards away with the ice reflecting the sunlight their way. The blanket of snow made everything sparkle around them. He paused to admire the view before him while his wife pulled out a few snacks from the bag. “Don’t go too far,” Melody called when she looked up at Carrie. He turned to see his daughter dancing in crooked circles as she stared up at the sky. Snow was beginning to fall, and she was grabbing at the snowflakes. Desmond glanced up and wondered about the clouds. There were very few still above them.

Hopefully they would not grow any heavier. “That girl is most assuredly your daughter,” Melody murmured as she stood up and walked around the blanket to her husband. She gave him a knowing smirk before shaking her head. “She never listens.” “What?” he protested. “I listen. I listen all the time.” “Oh really?” She giggled and then gave him a flirtatious look with her raised eyebrow. “What about this morning when I was telling you where your boots were? Or what about last night when I was asking you to bring in more water from the well? Or—” Wrapping his arms around her, Desmond gave her a kiss. “I swear I was listening.

” “Right. Listening just as well as I can ride a horse,” Melody said. She had always been afraid of horses. Her father had been in an incident when she was a child, and she had never overcome her fear. Though Desmond was working with her on that, she was still a while from riding a horse. “You’re ridiculous, dear.” He tutted and gave her a playful pinch on the elbow. A wicked idea came to mind as he smirked at her. “Oh really? You think I’m ridiculous?” She squealed, jumping away from him. “Don’t you dare.

” A laugh escaped his lips as he reached out to tickle her around her ribs. Melody screeched, stumbling back. She stuck her tongue out at him as she reached over to poke him in the stomach and then took off running. “What?” Desmond laughed and ran after her. The two of them started a game of playful tag, laughing and tickling one another as they raced about. His heartbeat sped up with exhilaration. It was a beautiful day and would be the perfect note to end the year on. Chasing his wife to the water’s edge, he finally caught her, and they tumbled onto the ground. He had been careful to make sure she didn’t get hurt. Now he was the one on the ground with his arms wrapped around her to keep her safe.

They looked at one another breathlessly with wild grins on their faces. Her blonde hair fell over her shoulders all around him. For a minute, neither of them said anything. “I’m really wet now,” Desmond finally broke the silence. Melody’s eyes widened in confusion and she started to laugh. Pulling herself up and off of him, she shook her head. “You always know how to kill a moment.” That was not true. He sat up to give her a tender kiss before leaning back to wink at her. “You were saying?” She rolled her eyes, but there was a wide smile on her face.

Desmond chuckled as he stood up. Then he helped his wife up, and the two of them held hands on their way back to their blanket. “Oh bother,” Melody confessed. “I’m damp all the way through as well. Maybe we shouldn’t have. I’m freezing.” Desmond glanced over to see her shivering. He pulled out the second blanket for her. Then he started to pat the snow off his clothes. It was indeed freezing since the snow had soaked through his layers.

“Perhaps we should go. Let’s grab Carrie and… Where did she go?” His wife paused to look around. “She has to be around here somewhere,” Melody said. “There’s no one around for miles. And her chubby little legs won’t let her get too far.” That made him chuckle. “All right. Well, let’s make sure she’s not freezing, too, hm?” He raised his voice. “Carrie? Caroline!” Desmond’s smile wavered slightly when there was no response. He looked around through the lumps of snow.

There were a few indentations to show that his daughter had been wandering nearby just a little while ago. But some of the snow had already been melted and it was hard to see where she might have gone. “I’ll go look for her,” he said after a minute. There was an uneasy feeling in his stomach, but he pushed it aside. Carrie had to be close by, so there was no reason to worry. He made his way around one of the small hills he had seen their daughter nearby when they last looked. But she wasn’t there. Scratching his head, he started back to his wife who had put the quilt down. She saw he didn’t have their girl and frowned. “She has to be here somewhere,” Melody said tersely.

“I’ll find her, don’t worry,” Desmond assured her. He crossed to the next hill, but there was no sign of her. He walked around it and shook his head when he saw Melody watching him. It was then that he realized he couldn’t ignore the tightness in his gut. He didn’t want them to panic, but something felt wrong. There was no trace of Carrie anywhere. “Carrie!” He shouted. His throat grew tight, but he didn’t stop calling her name. “Carrie!” Melody gasped. “The lake! Check the lake!” They shared a fearful look as they realized that she might have fallen in.

“Go look over there,” he pointed to one end and then started down as well. They scrambled through the snow, scanning for footprints or any sign of their daughter. His wife called out with her voice breaking. Though he tried to remain calm for them, it was growing more difficult by the moment. “Carrie!” he shouted. His voice echoed off the surrounding peaks. He looked for footsteps and any other sign of his precious child. But there was nothing. There was nothing that he could see. The white wonderland before him had been beautiful just a mere hour before.

But now, all Desmond could see was despair. It was a thick blanket that had hidden their child away. He spun in circles before running off down the lake. She had to be somewhere around there. Carrie would come back to them. She had to. As he ran, Desmond prayed, Lord, help me find my daughter.

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