Free on Kindle Unlimited, $2.99, and $8.60 paperback
by Mara Gold
Publisher Mara Gold
Free on Kindle Unlimited, $2.99, and $8.60 paperback
Christian Historical Romance with Mystery, England
Abigail, Bridget & Cassandra Darby are sisters fallen on hard times. Their mother has worked hard to support them and now it is their turn to earn a living.
The three sisters end up in different situations. In the end, will all three live happily ever after? Or will deception, deceit, hate, and even death come and steal their happiness away?
I stretched my arms above my head in an effort to ward of the chill that surrounded me. Mother saw no need to heat our home while we slept, and circumstances being what they were, I agreed. It was a waste of resources. Time to rise, as work would not wait.
Slowly, I put two feet on the wood floor and felt the cold seep into them. I rose quickly and ran to the corner and undressed. After putting on my everyday winter gown, I splashed water on my face in hopes of revitalizing my mind against the day to come.
I shivered as the water was ice cold.
I turned and looked at the sleeping forms of my sisters Bridget and Cassie. I decided to let them sleep in because they would be aroused soon enough by one of our little brothers.
I went into my mother’s small room to wake her because she had to go into work early.
I went to the head of her bed and stopped. She looked so peaceful surrounded by a pile of blankets to ward off the chill.
I remembered mother as she was when I was a small girl. She was so beautiful and carefree. Father had taken her out and about showing her proudly off to all his friends. But that was long ago. Life events had changed and there was no turning back time.
Life was difficult and mother had found that out the hard way.
I looked at her with compassion and thought of all she had been through.
Mother would be late if I continued to fritter away time.
I gently shook my mother’s shoulder.
“It is time to wake mother. I will fix you something to break your fast.”
Mother groaned. I knew that she had not crawled into her bed until well past midnight.
“I will need some hot water to wash my dear.”
“Of course, I will heat some up.”
I went out to put the pan on to boil and after some time, I took it to mother.
I went back out and proceeded to make gruel. I happily added salt and a little butter to the end result.
I thought of how blessed we were to have mother employed in such a harsh time. Every day we saw many around us begging for bread with no hope of employment.
Mother was very good with her needle. She worked in a back room of a milliner making made to order hats twelve hours a day six days a week. She was happy to get such employment and it was unlikely she would have gotten it if she had not written to my father’s family asking for financial help after his death. There was very little employment, especially for women.
My grandmother, whom I had never met, refused for years to help us until my mother revealed the secret we had been keeping. She had given birth to two more children after father’s death. Mother put the blame on her and said that we were starving to death.
Grandmother must have been shocked that mother was forced into prostitution because within two weeks we had a response back from her that she had recommended mother to a milliner in London.
We gratefully moved as close to the place as we could afford. Fortunately, London had housing to fit most budgets.
Mother was pleased by the terms of the arrangement as working twelve hours every day was considered to be light. She was also required to bring home piece work to make up for this because the shop had a side business of making ready to wear dresses.
My sisters performed the sewing of the piece work, unbeknownst to mother’s employer, and it was a happy arrangement for all.
We lived at subsistence level and had few luxuries. We ate food that we could afford and I was told that I had magic fingers for I could whip up scrumptious meals with a small amount of ingredients.
My job was to care for my two sisters and two brothers and this was somewhat difficult because our living situation required much cleaning. It was difficult to get clean water for washing and soot from the air around us seemed to settle everywhere.
Mother came in and sat at our worn table. I put her gruel in front of her and she ate quickly.
“Do you know Abigail that very few women that work with me get one hot meal a day let alone two? I do not know how you cook on that open-fire. By the way, what shall we have for dinner?”
“I will make a potato pie with fresh bread.”
“That will give me something to look forward to. How you flavor the pie, I have no idea. You don’t have extra to spend on that sort of thing.”
“I want the food to be not only sustaining, but flavorful.”
Mother smiled at me.
“I know you do dear. You have had a love for cooking ever since you were a small girl.”
She went on, her face crumpling, “Of course it was required of you as the oldest after your father’s death.”
“I am so happy to see the back of those days. What I had to do to put food on the table,” mother said as she covered her face with her hands.
I went to her and sat down. “It could not be helped and look what came of it. My two brothers,” I said smiling.
“You always look at the bright side Abigail. Well, I am off then. I should not have to work late like I did last night, which is a relief. Have a good day and wake your sisters up to start working on those pieces. I will need them tomorrow.”
Mother departed in a hurry and I carefully dished breakfast up as I did not want to waste a drop of precious food.
I would need to go out later and see what I could do to barter for the food I would need today.
I cooked two meals a day as we did not have enough money for luncheon. I learned that I could only trust in myself to feed my family.
My brothers John and Ben came in and declared they were hungry.
I gave them their gruel and they ate fast, demanding more.
I sighed. They were growing fast and were always hungry.
“What shall we have for dinner Abby?”
“We will have a potato pie with some fresh bread.”
“What do you need to make it?” asked Ben.
He was always helping me obtain ingredients. He was amazingly good at it and bartered work for what I required.
“I shall need some flavoring. Perhaps some pork fat. Whatever you can find. I shall go out and try to obtain some bones that I will make into a soup.”
“Well, we are off then,” said John as he and Ben stood up.
“Not so fast boys. Let me comb your hair.”
I checked them over and washed their faces with mother’s left over warm water.
They squirmed under my care and I gave up on making them presentable.
They ran out the door and into the street.
The boys were high energy and boisterous. They were difficult to control and I had given up trying last year as they were determined to do what they wanted.
Father had stooped down socially when he had married my mother who had come to make my grandmother dresses. My mother was a well-known needlewoman in Chelmsford and often went to make dresses for father’s mother.
They had fallen in love and married against the will of father’s parents.
Father was told to leave and never return. He had taken on various jobs to support his family through the years.
He never held down a job for long and my mother made excuses for him saying he never had expected to be anything but a gentleman.
I remember all the happy times when my father was alive and mother was truly happy. She had no worries and took pride in making frocks for her three girls.
When times were hard, father would take us to one of his friends’ homes to stay for a while. Mother, Bridget, Cassie and I would stay in the background while father played cards and entertained his cronies.
We learned to dance at these homes and even had a bit of education. We could read and write and could perform simple sums.
Ten years ago, when I was just nine years old, everything changed and our lives were greatly altered.
Father died in a riding accident and mother was left with very little to raise us.
She had a couple offers of being kept by my father’s friends as she was very beautiful, but since the offers came with strings attached, she proudly refused them. Later she told me she regretted that because we were so desperate.
After begging my father’s parents for money and being refused, we moved to London where mother thought she could get good employment and life went on from there.
Not too long after our move to London, mother decided feeding us was more important than her dignity. A year after our move, Ben was born and another year after that, John was born.
Mother told me that we were in a vicious cycle because her occupation caused her another mouth to feed every year. I encouraged her to write grandmother and tell her what was going on. Surely she would have compassion.
Our lives changed for the better after she provided the job at the millinery for mother.
We moved to a different location in London where no one knew that the boys had been born out of wedlock. We put about that our mother was a respectable, hardworking widow and we were treated as such.
I heard noises from our bedroom and went to check on Bridget and Cassie.
They were splashing one another with the cold water for washing.
They came to me and we held hands, as we did every morning chanting solemnly:
A for Abby
B for Bridget
C for Cassie
And D for the delightful times which are just ahead
We had made up the rhyme years back when times were bad and food was scarce. Mother was working hard and her beauty had just begun to fade. She had no prospects after my father’s death as he had left us penniless.
Mother dearly loved to hear the rhyme because she said it gave her hope.
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Mara Gold has had a love of writing for decades and has written six books. She has a passion for writing Christian historical romance with a bit of mystery. Mara has a thirst for knowledge and has earned a BBA degree with a minor in psychology along with an MBA degree with concentrations in international business and science. She has enjoyed reviewing papers and essays for college and high school students, and giving tips to tighten them up while covering the areas required for a top grade. She and her husband have fostered children for over 12 years, and have three beautiful children who keep them on their toes. Mara enjoys reading in her down time, spending time snow skiing, playing the piano, and attending church.