Tumbleweed Dreams: Part 7
Much to her disappointment the train did not arrive to take Daisy back as she had expected. Her time on the ranch grew to two weeks and later four weeks. The train apparently didn't make stops as often as she had believed. In her time of waiting she had learned nearly everything possible. Thanks to Jenny she had become skilled in the kitchen as well as with a bucket of suds and a pile of washing. In return she had given Jenny a few bits of what life in the city had taught her. Dancing, simple sketching skills, how to walk in a manner that allowed one to balance a book atop their head, which silverware to use in finer restaurants, what to wearing to parties, and most importantly- how to catch the eye of the one she fancied. The latter was not a skill Jenny required, she already possessed those skills quite well. However; she had insisted on learning everything she could. Sitting in front of the fire one night she tried to remember the few basic things about sewing that she had learned over the past days. In an attempt to pass time, Daisy had agreed to make Polly a dress. The little girl was simply adorable and a dress was the first thing Daisy had thought of when Jenny offered to teach her. With a rocker pulled up close to the small fire that had been set in the chimney, she stitched away. The others had long since retired for the evening, but she had wanted to finish and couldn't see going to rest until she was through. "You could go blind working like that." She jumped at the deep voice, looking over her shoulder to find Mr. Miller had found his way into the room. Their conversations had been brief in the last weeks, only speaking when needed. She spent most of her time with Jenny hoping she wouldn't run into him. She felt it best not to cause conflict when they obviously didn't care for each other. Lighting a lantern that sat on the dining table, he brought it over and set it on a little wooden stool that sat beside her. "Thank you." Without a reply, or even an acknowledgement that she had spoken, he took a seat on the other side of the room. The soft glow from the lantern and the light of the small flickering flames of the fire danced across his face and the lower part of his arms that had been exposed due to his rolled up sleeves. After she noticed him catching her lingering gaze Daisy ducked her head and attacked her sewing, pricking her finger in the process. "Ouch!" She heard a chuckle and looked up to see Mr. Miller had relaxed in his seat, watching her.
"I told you that you would go blind. You're already trying to sew up yourself instead of that.. whatever you call it." He motioned to the dress as he spoke.
Slightly shocked she held up the nearly finished project, "I call it what everyone calls it, a dress for Polly." There was a few moments of silence between them before she asked the one question she had been pondering over since her being here. "What happened to Mrs. Miller?"
His eyes shifted in her direction and then back to the fire. "Never was a Mrs. Miller."
"Then where did the child-"
"Orphan train. 2 years ago."
Bradley sat back in the seat, staring at the glowing embers of the fire. In the weeks that had passed Daisy had proved herself to be a help. Jenny had been allowed a few precious moments of her own, something that he could not have given her, but Daisy had. He had avoided Daisy in her time on the ranch, he had felt it best as she obviously had no interest in him. The few conversations they had between those moments of avoidance had been brief and never involved personal questions. He had assumed the question would come to surface, it always did when visitors stayed. "The train brought in over twenty children. Many of them were too young to work, townspeople couldn't afford to take them all in." He paused remember the looks on the faces of all those children. Young and hungry they had stood there, most of them knowing they wouldn't stay. "I couldn't just let them all get back on that train and continue to circle around until they realized they would never get off of it." A silence settled in between them as his words filled the space
"So you took them all in?"
Her voice was soft and gently and he dared a glance in her direction. Her eyes focused on him, no sign of dislike in them. Maybe he had read Miss Mason all wrong. Maybe she wasn't as bad as he thought. "As many as I could. A few of the older ones had to go back. They had a better chance of getting off than the young ones did."
She continued to watch him with kind eyes as he continued his story. "Jenny was like a mother to Pepper and Polly, she was the best option and willing to help if given the chance."
"You adopted all of them?"
"In a way. The town didn't have anywhere for them to stay, so the ranch became an orphanage. Good crops and a steady job ensured the needed supplies. The older boy were able to help out with odd jobs, so things stayed on track. After a few months some of the towns folk were able to take a few of them in. We went from having 12 kids to 8."
"And you never gave thought to marrying? To give them a mother figure?"
Bradley shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Never found one who seemed right." In truth the only one who seemed right was Daisy. Over the last few weeks she had proved herself to be a capable woman, and had somehow managed to work her way under his skin and into her heart. He wasn't about to let her know that. She had settled down a bit in her city ways, given that kind of knowledge she might flare up again. She would be leaving soon anyway, no sense in bringing up something that held no positive outcome. Clearing his throat he changed the subject before she could ask anything more. "So the train may be coming in tomorrow. You going into town?"
Daisy nodded her response, "Yes, I think I might. I'll ride Baxter into town tomorrow and see if it shows up." The last few times the train was supposed to appear it managed to avoid stopping altogether. The one time that it did stop to deliver supplies, Daisy had been too late to catch it. It wasn't exactly her fault, it had been a misunderstanding with the horse. She had been learning to ride and thought she had been capable of saddling the horse herself. On the day the train was to arrive she woke up extra early, prepared breakfast and proceeded to saddle the gentle animal. It wasn't until she tried to get into the saddle that she realized something was wrong. Upon hooking her foot in the stir-up she tried to pull herself up, only to quickly land back on the ground. In her haste to catch the train she had forgotten to cinch the saddle, resulting in a bruised pride as well as a bruised backside. By the time she had finally managed to work up the courage to ask for help and make it into town, the train had come and gone. According to the schedule, it would be arriving the next day on another supply run before disappearing for another two weeks. Quickly stitching away at the little dress in her lap she thought about the things she needed to do before sunrise. She would make that train. She had to.
-To Be Continued-
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