Sweet Forever

Free Sweet Forever by Ramona K. Cecil

Book: Sweet Forever by Ramona K. Cecil Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ramona K. Cecil
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Christian
her face. Her useless struggles. Then there were the others—those Bill had sent to her in order to curry their favor. And those times he had forced her to steal what he hadn’t taken from them at the gambling table.
    Shame that no amount of tears could extinguish burned her face and twisted through her like a hot poker. Her heart crumbled beneath the weight of the disgusting memories, and she gave way to sobs.
    Why had she ever allowed the thought to flit across her mind that Jacob Hale might ever care for her? She felt like a dirty rag beside Sophie Schuler’s spotless purity.
    Collapsing to the straw mattress, she pressed the Bible against her broken heart.
    Oh Jesus, help me.

Nine
    The surprising aroma of baking bread met Rosaleen as she descended the stairs. Her curiosity growing, she glanced at the transom window above the front door. The first faint rays of dawn stained the glass pink. This was Tuesday. They always baked on Wednesday, but even then, they never began this early.
    Since her arrival at the boardinghouse, one of Rosaleen’s jobs had been to start the cookstove each morning. Confused, she quickened her steps, worried that Mrs. Buchanan might consider her negligent in her duties.
    Just outside the kitchen door, she stopped short, her bewilderment compounding when she saw Patsey Chapman, who never came before seven in the morning.
    “Patsey, what are you doing here so early?” Rosaleen snatched her apron off the peg behind the door, deciding Opal must have forgotten to mention to her they’d be baking early this morning.
    At Rosaleen’s exclamation, Patsey turned from the open oven door and pressed her finger to her lips. “Shh. Don’t want to wake up the whole house yet.”
    Rosaleen lowered her voice to just above a whisper. “Why are we making bread on Tuesday, and so early? Opal never said anything to me about it.”
    Hampered by her expanded middle, Patsey groaned as she bent over and pulled another loaf of freshly baked bread from the oven. “Gonna have more mouths to feed in a day or two—lots more.”
    Still confused, Rosaleen shook her head. “Mrs. Buchanan never mentioned anything about more boarders.”
    Patsey lowered her voice, her bright eyes darting about as if concerned that someone else might be listening. “Not for here. For Georgetown.” She shoved another loaf of bread dough into the oven. “Andrew jis got word yesterday. There’s a train a-comin’.”
    “Runaways?” Rosaleen blurted, forgetting to whisper.
    “Shh!” Patsey’s brow furrowed, and she shot a nervous glance through the kitchen window into the half-lit, dewy garden. Even the mention of the word aloud infused her face with fear. She supplied further information in a quick, staccato whisper. “Andrew got word. Don’t know when. Jis got to be ready.”
    “Good morning, Patsey. Rosaleen.” Smiling, Opal walked into the kitchen tying on her apron. Her demeanor gave no indication that she found anything at all odd about baking bread at the crack of dawn on a Tuesday. She dipped water from the bucket by the door into the teakettle and set it on top of the stove.
    “Patsey, you know that big ham hanging near the door of the smokehouse?” At Patsey’s nod, Opal continued in a conversational tone. “Well, I’m afraid it might go bad in this heat, so if you know people who could use it, have Andrew take it to your place this evening, would you?”
    “Yes’m.”
    Rosaleen listened to Patsey’s muted reply and scooped flour into a large crockery bowl from a muslin sack. Suddenly, she realized Opal, too, knew about the expected arrival of the runaways. Feeling a kinship with those running from oppression, Rosaleen turned to Mrs. Buchanan. “Is there anything I can do to help, Opal?”
    Opal pinned her with a knowing stare, but her tone remained light and unconcerned. “Why, of course, Rosaleen. This is a boardinghouse,” she said with a little chuckle. “There’s always something to do.”
    Nodding,

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