“Amy! Thank goodness you are already up.” Amy’s father came rushing into the room as she was setting their breakfast plates on the table.
“Of course I am. I know the train comes in this morning, and we have to go get the mail. We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, Pa. I wouldn’t forget.” Amy sat across from him and waited for him to wash his hands and sit down, then say grace.
They both ate in silence for a few moments, which Amy didn’t mind. It had just been her and her father for five years now. She tried not to let it bother her too much, but sometimes it was harder than others, especially on days like today and at mealtimes.
Her mother would have been at the table, putting food out and asking them about their plans for the day. Amy brushed the thought away.
“Do you think we’ll get there late?”
“I hope not. They hate it when we take forever to get the mail, not to mention the line of people at the post office waiting to see if someone wrote them a letter.”
Amy nodded in agreement. Her father had been working at the post office in New York for a long time now. It had taken her quite a while to convince him she could help him. At first, he thought it was not the best place for a young woman.
She’d helped him see that she was not doing anyone any favors by staying home and doing nothing, and she could help him finish more work, and they could spend more time together if they worked together. That was two years ago, and she was thankful to be able to work with her father every day. She loved the post office, working with the letters, and being around her father.
When they were done with breakfast, Amy finished collecting and washing the dishes while her father got what they would need for the day. Amy followed him out the door and down the little path that led to town and the train station.
They were usually at the train station just as the train arrived. The men would unload the mail, and her father would take it to the post office with a wagon and team of horses. They would go to the stables to get the horses and wagon first.
Amy already knew exactly what they would do and every step they would take. She had done the mail with her father for so long now, sometimes it felt like her job.
“Are you sure you want to come with me?” her father asked, breaking her from her thoughts.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” Amy eyed him sideways. He was thinking about something. The way the wrinkles bunched up on his forehead and he was biting the inside of his lip told her that. She didn’t know what he was worried about, but she intended to find out.
“I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot, and I just want to make sure that you are doing something you love. Sometimes I wonder if this is the best environment for a nineteen-year-old girl.”
“You’ve been talking with Mrs. Kanen again, haven’t you?” Amy narrowed her eyes. Mrs. Kanen was the butcher’s wife. Their shop was right next to the post office, and Mrs. Kanen liked giving her advice, whether solicited or not.
She liked to think that she knew everything there was to know about raising children, even though she had never raised a daughter but only had three boys, who were now grown, and three of the most disliked adults in town. That was saying something since New York was a big place.
“Maybe, but she might have a point. How will you find a husband, settle down and have a family, or find your future when you are constantly cooped up with me, dealing with letters?”
“Pa, you don’t have to worry about any of that.”
“Don’t I?” Amy shook her head. “I feel like I do have to worry about it.”
“You don’t. I tried my hand at love, it went awfully, and I already have a future with you. We are together forever, Pa. We need each other because we are family, and we are the only thing each other has left. Don’t you think that means something?”
“Of course it does, but I worry that you will end up without anyone in the future and regret your choices. I am an old man. I will not live forever or be here for your whole life. The idea of you being alone and not having anyone to share your life with devastates me. What would your mother say? She always knew how to deal with stuff like this.”
“She would say stop talking with Mrs. Kanen. She likes to think she knows everything, but she wants to control us. She enjoys telling people what to do. Don’t let her advice come between us. You are a great father, and I have a great life. We have a home, food on our table, and a job, and we have each other for conversation. I don’t know if there’s a much better life than that.” Amy forced a smile. She was not as happy as she was letting on, but that was because of things that her father couldn’t control.
She never did tell him why she and Anderson didn’t work out. As far as he knew, they’d changed their minds about marriage and had grown apart. Amy hadn’t wanted to hurt him or make him think she had failed at her relationship with Anderson. That was the reason she’d told herself for a long time. One of the real reasons was that she was embarrassed. She always thought that love was easy to find. It would be easy to make a man fall in love with her, and they would share their life together as they faced the world. She’d discovered that easy was nowhere close to what she had experienced.
“Fine, I’ll stop listening to Mrs. Kanen, or at least try. Just think about it, all right? Maybe if you have a chance to make a few friends or get to know someone, then take it.”
Amy nodded. “I’ll definitely think about it.” They were almost to the stables. The scream of the train’s whistle carried through town and echoed off the far hills, reminding them that soon, they would be late. When they got to the stables, their wagon and horses were already waiting for them. Amy’s father helped her up into the wagon, and they were off toward the train.
Amy loved the train. It was such a huge machine. It was so powerful and felt uncontrollable. She wondered what it would be like to get on that train and go traveling the world, to see all the new sights it had to offer. She wondered how it would feel to explore all those places that were only a faraway distant part of her imagination right now.
The men didn’t take long to load the mail, and then they were off to the post office. Amy loved delivery day for the mail. Some of it was collected by people at the post office. She would take a small bundle of letters to deliver to the homes in town. They mostly belonged to very wealthy people who paid her father to have their mail delivered or belonged to elderly people who couldn’t get to the post office as easily. Unloading the mail into the post office was a bit more challenging than picking it up. She helped her father carry crate after crate, lining them up in the post office against the wall.
Then she started sorting. When she gathered four different letters to be delivered, she stood. She knew where these letters went. She did most of her father’s deliveries. He did a couple of longer walks that were a bit more dangerous for her to travel alone.
“I’ve got four to deliver on the south side of town. Should I go while you keep sorting?” Amy asked.
“Sure, that sounds like a good idea. I can go if you prefer to do the sorting.”
Amy wrinkled her nose. “I’d rather deliver these. I’ll be right back.”
She hurried out of the post office before her father could say anything. She knew one of the addresses on the envelopes from Joston, Alabama. It came every single time the mail arrived with the train. It was to the same house. She always wondered who it was that sent such a regular letter. It was the only person who ever sent mail to that house.
She quickened her pace. She would deliver the other three letters first and do that one last. She enjoyed the walks she took when delivering mail. The fresh air and the long paths that led her to different homes full of other people made her feel happy.
When she was out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the woods and her thoughts, she could forget at least a little bit of what she’d been through and why she was there. She was tired of carrying the burdens of the past.
After delivering the first three letters, Amy finally reached the last house. She paused a moment before walking up. The huge house looked rather still and unusually silent. Usually, Caroline was out front tending to her flowers. She was an older woman who was presumably quite wealthy. Everyone knew she had a large amount of money. She lived alone ever since her husband passed away eight years ago.
Amy walked up to the imposing front door. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually had to walk up to the front door of this home. Caroline would take the letters from her directly.
Amy knocked firmly on the door at the top of the stairs. At first, she thought no one would answer. The plants by the porch blew in the wind, waving softly as if they were sad they weren’t being tended to that morning. It had only been a couple of days ago that Amy had passed by the house and waved to Caroline on her way down the street.
The door creaked open. “Hello?” A man with grey hair and a black suit greeted her.
“Hello. I’m sorry, I’m looking for Caroline Stafford. I have a letter for her.”
“Oh.” The man’s expression turned to a troubled one. “I’m afraid she’s passed away.”
“What?” Amy forgot her manners. Passed away? How could that have happened?
“It happened rather suddenly. Her maid found her this morning. It appears she slipped away in her sleep. I’m her lawyer and will be taking care of her possessions and estate.”
“Oh. I saw her here just a couple of days ago. This is rather sudden. Will you take the letter?” Amy was sad. She hadn’t expected anything to happen to Caroline. She was always so cheerful and happy, tending to her flowers and waving at everyone who passed. And now she was just gone.
“No, what would I do with it? I don’t know of any relatives who live in this area. Most of them live out west. It is going to be a challenge to distribute her testament.”
“What should I do with it?” Amy had never had to take care of mail for someone who passed away.
“I don’t know. That is up to you. I suppose you just return it. I have a lot of things to finish up, so I have to bid you farewell.” The man gave a half bow, then disappeared into the house and closed the door.
Amy stood on the porch for several long moments, wondering what she should do with the letter, which was suddenly heavy in her hand. She didn’t want the responsibility of dealing with it, but it seemed there was no one else. She turned and headed back to the post office. Her father would know what to do.
Her heart was heavy, and she felt gloomy. She hadn’t known Caroline well, but someone had. She had a family and, apparently, one family member who would be missing her. She looked down at the letter in her hand. She was going to miss delivering this letter like clockwork every time the train came into town.
Amy ignored the little bell above the door as she entered the post office. Her father looked up from where he was sorting through bins of mail. The lines of people to pick up their mail were gone.
“Hey, how did it go? You look upset.” Her father stopped his work and turned toward her.
“Caroline Stafford passed away this morning.”
“Well, in the night, I don’t know. They found her this morning.” Amy sat on a stool by the counter. “I didn’t expect that. I mean, she’s always been there. She was one of the oldest people in this whole city.”
“I know.” Her father shook his head. “That’s a bit of a shock. I’m sorry. I should have done deliveries this morning.”
“What should I do with her letter?”
“I don’t know. I suppose you could just put it in the bin.” Her father motioned to the bin where they would put letters that never got picked up after weeks of being in the post office. When the bin filled up and had been around for a few months, they would toss the letters, burning them behind the post office. The bin rarely filled up or was burned.
“More will just keep coming.” Amy didn’t know much about whoever sent the letters, besides the fact that they sent a letter consistently whenever the train came with the mail.
“You could write to them if you want. Or I can do it if you prefer.”
“No, I’ll do it.”
“Are you sure?” Her father watched for her reaction.
Amy nodded. That was what she should do. She needed to tell whoever the letter belonged to that Caroline could no longer receive letters. If she hurried, she could get it back to the train with the rest of the mail going out today.
She opened the letter. It felt as if she were doing something wrong. It wasn’t easy to get past the feeling of opening a letter not meant for her. More than that, the person who was supposed to receive it would never get it.
She didn’t want to read all of it; she just wanted to learn the name of the person who sent it.
She read to the end of the page and found what she was looking for.
With love, your nephew, Tristan.
Amy wondered how old Tristan was. He could be as old as her father, or he might be her age.
She pulled out a clean sheet of paper and began to write. It was strange writing to a person she’d never met, but she tried not to think about it. She let the charcoal pencil flow across the page.
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I work with my father at the post office in New York. I take your letters to your aunt, Caroline. I didn’t read your previous letter but read your name from it so I could write you.
I don’t know how to deliver news like this, as it is not something I have ever done before. When I went to your aunt’s home today, I was informed that she had passed away last night.
I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this. I only know that you live in Joston, Alabama, and you frequently send letters to your aunt. I’m not sure how old you are, what you do, or what background you come from. Regardless of the answers above, I just wanted to say I am very sorry about this news and how painful it must be to lose someone you care deeply about.
I send my deepest regards,
When Amy was done, she folded the piece of paper, tucked it into an envelope, and put it into the crate of letters to be sent.
“Are you ready to go, Amy?”
“I’m ready.” Amy grabbed her crate and took it out to the wagon. They climbed into the wagon and headed back to the train to deliver the mail, which would arrive back in Alabama in a few days. She could already imagine Tristan, whoever he was, reading her words. Were they enough? Had they been understanding enough, or had they been too forward? Would he think it was rude that she’d opened his letter to see his name?
She watched as her father loaded the letters into the train. Now all she had to do was wait. She didn’t expect him to write back. She just expected him to receive her letter, tell his family, and eventually, he might hear from the man she’d seen that morning handling Caroline’s estate.
She didn’t know why she wanted him to respond. She had no idea who he was. He might be an old man for all she knew. Either way, part of her wanted to know that he had received her news. She may never know, though. There were some things in life that it was impossible to know.
“You’re awfully quiet,” her father said as they headed back to the post office.
“I just keep thinking about Caroline and what it was like for her to live all alone all these years. It must be a terrible existence.”
“She had friends. There were a lot of people in this town who cared deeply for her.”
“I know. It’s just … I mean, not having any family, it’s different than having friends. Family is stronger than that. I wonder if the man who wrote her the letters was her family. She had a letter every single time the train came in.”
Her father looked over at her. “I am sure she is in a better place. I didn’t know much about Caroline, but I do know that she had wealth. She could go anywhere and do anything she wanted. Her choice to be here in New York was what she wanted. This was where she wanted to grow old, and eventually, pass away. That is how life works. We choose where we spend our time. There’s no one forcing us.”
“Why don’t we live by family?” Amy knew they had family in some places. Her mother had a couple of siblings, and her father had a brother who lived in Alabama. It was one of the reasons the address in Caroline’s letter gave her so much curiosity every time she saw it. It was as if there was some sort of connection to Joston, Alabama, even if she didn’t know what that was.
“I don’t know. I guess I have a lot of memories here with your mother and you. I’ve been working with the letters for quite some time. It’s hard to give up old habits. It is hard to say goodbye to security. I am sure one day, we’ll move away from this city, but right now, this is what we have. It’s where our home and all our belongings are.”
“I know. Sometimes I just wonder what it would be like to have more people in our family, to know more about your family or mama’s.” Amy looked over at her father, trying to gauge what sort of humor he was in. He didn’t talk about her mother often. It was an unspoken topic between them. They rarely brought it up unless they absolutely needed to.
Amy knew it was because her father carried as much pain and guilt about her mother as she did. It was hard to talk about without remembering the things that led to her death. They both thought they could have done something more to save her. If Amy was thinking logically, it would have been impossible for them to save her and know what would happen. Even so, her mind liked to play tricks on her, telling her that more could have been done.
“Family is important, but we have each other, Amy. We will never leave each other.”
Amy nodded. She knew that to be true. They did have one another, and it was important. She wished there was more family for them to be involved with. Sometimes it felt like they were all alone. One day, perhaps they would live with family.
“Her Courage To Love Again” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Amy Westbrook has always lived a simple life, working alongside her father in bustling New York. However, when a letter arrives for a woman long gone, she finds herself drawn into a correspondence that will change her life forever. As she is forced to leave her comfort zone, she finds herself in a quaint town where she finally meets the man she has fallen in love with through their letter exchanges – Tristan.
With her world turned upside down, will she have the courage to trust him, or will she let the uncertainty of a new life keep her from realizing her heart’s deepest desires?
Tristan is a man of contradictions – a deputy by day and a romantic at heart, he dreams of leaving his responsibilities behind and becoming a sea captain. When a letter arrives informing him of a loss, he finds solace in his exchanges with Amy. While their connection ignites a spark in his heart that cannot be quenched, Tristan realizes he must finally reveal his true self…
Will he find a way to conquer her guarded heart?
As fate brings Amy and Tristan together, a sinister figure from Amy’s past threatens to tear them apart. In a world full of uncertainty and heartache, can their love endure or will it crumble under the weight of adversity?
“Her Courage To Love Again” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.