Small View, Tennessee
“Do you promise to write to us every day?” Olivia asked. Adrian and Carrie shared a smile.
“You know I can’t make that promise,” Adrian replied, reaching forward with his free hand to ruffle Olivia’s already unruly mop of reddish-blonde hair. Carrie had painstakingly braided her younger sister’s hair that morning, but as the air was crisp that morning and it blew in at an odd angle, many of her fine locks escaped the ribbons that were supposed to hold them in place.
“I’m sure he’ll try his best though,” Carrie added, trying to comfort her youngest sister the best she could. “The important thing is that he uses his head and stays safe.”
Adrian took a step toward her and whispered, “You know I can’t make that kind of promise either, Carrie Berry.”
Tears stung the backs of Carrie’s eyes, but she did her best to keep them at bay. Today was going to be difficult enough without becoming overcome with sadness. Carrie and her younger sisters, Tina and Olivia, were all standing at the train station, seeing their brother off on his journey. Adrian, who just turned twenty-four years old, was answering the call and heading to serve in Colonel Millford’s regiment. Slung over one shoulder, he had a sack of essentials, including some venison jerky, a portion of cornbread, and a large sheaf of papers he was supposed to use for all his letter writing. On the other shoulder, he carried the rifle his father had owned for more than a dozen years. He had been given the gun by his own father, Papaw Greene, but he’d only ever used it for hunting deer.
Carrie thought she would be able to handle watching her older brother leave but hearing him use the nickname he’d given her when they were just little kids made her heart ache. Carrie, like all the members of the Greene family, had long, reddish-blonde hair. Even Adrian wore his hair long. It fell just down to his chin, and he tucked the longest portions around his ears. Like her siblings, Carrie had green eyes. Her father liked to say they were the color of the green apples that grew the highest up on the trees. Her skin was very fair, even when she spent ages out in the sun, and small freckles dotted her face. Glancing at Adrian now, Carrie remembered how her mother used to stroke their tiny faces and say there were more freckles on Carrie’s and Adrian’s nose, cheeks, and chin than there were stars in the sky.
My parents…always coming up with something adorable.
Carrie wished her pa was by her side right now to say something comforting. He had a knack for doing things like that. He could take a look at a situation and say exactly what someone needed to hear to soothe their soul. But Pa was running late today. Not that today was any different than any other day. Ever since their ma passed two years ago, Pa spent all day, every day, working on the railway line. That meant he was somewhere in the vicinity of the station, but even when Carrie stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck, she still didn’t see him. That was part of the reason Adrian felt obligated to leave now. He wanted to do something to make their father proud and that meant he needed to join the army and go off to war.
“Yoo-hoo!” Tina called, waving a dainty white handkerchief in the air. She was wearing a lovely pale green dress with white lace around the hem and at the collar. She looked much older than her sixteen years and as she called out to the soldiers, she almost seemed like she might be waving goodbye to her own husband.
“Who is she talking to?” Adrian asked as he narrowed his eyes at their younger sister.
Carrie shrugged. “You never can tell. These days, Tina will flirt with anyone who walks her way.”
“Keep an eye on her, will ya?” Adrian said. He arched his eyebrow meaningfully at Carrie. “We both know Pa can’t do it because he’s working all the time. I don’t want to get a letter telling me my sixteen-year-old sister ran off and got married.”
“You worry too much,” Carrie replied. “Tina’s not about to get married. She doesn’t know the first thing about running her own household…yet.”
Adrian scoffed, “I’m sure she’d say it’d be easy to learn.”
Carrie turned then to survey her younger sister. At sixteen years old, Tina was just coming into her most beautiful years. She looked very much like Carrie, except her womanly shape was already filling in nicely. Even though she was a full five years older than Tina, Carrie had no curves whatsoever. But Tina filled out her dresses nicely and when she waved her handkerchief at the other young soldiers who were boarding the train, they turned to smile at her. As Carrie watched, Tina began blowing kisses at the men and that made her roll her eyes in despair.
“I’ll watch out for her,” Carrie promised, “but I wish I didn’t have to. I wish you were staying here with us.”
“You know I can’t,” Adrian whispered, and Carrie could see the heartbreak in his eyes. It was identical to the looks some of the other young men were giving their family members. They all wanted to go because they knew it was the brave thing to do. They understood fighting in this war was expected of them. But most, almost all, wanted nothing to do with the war. They would much prefer to stay at home and flirt with young ladies like Tina.
Olivia surged forward then and threw her arms around Adrian’s waist. She was ten years old, but as the baby of the family, she’d always seemed younger. She whimpered, “I’m going to miss you so much. Who’s going to read to me every day if you’re not here?”
Adrian gave Carrie a pleading look, and she nodded sharply to let him know she would take on that responsibility, too. “Carrie will do it,” he whispered. Then, he wriggled free from Olivia’s hold and knelt so he could look her fully in the face. “She’ll read to you for our family Bible every night. You learn those stories by heart and when I come home, you can read them all to me.” He hugged Olivia closely and whispered, “You just do whatever Carrie tells you to do from now on.”
“Hello, boys!” Tina called prettily, still blowing kisses and waving her handkerchief in the air. Her voice carried to where they were standing and now Carrie marched over to her and grabbed her by the hand.
As she began to tow her over to where Adrian was kneeling next to Olivia, giving her some last-minutes words of advice, Carrie hissed, “Have a little self-respect, please. Our brother is scared and nervous. The least you could do is give him a proper goodbye.”
Tina sighed heavily. “Do you think all these men don’t need a proper goodbye, too?” She batted her heavy eyelashes and Carrie couldn’t tell if she was making a joke or not.
“These men are not your big brother,” Carrie commented, tugging on Tina’s hand to make her turn away from the train full of soldiers and toward Adrian.
“Adrian already knows how much I want him to return safely. Don’t you, big brother?” Tina asked as they came upon their family members. Adrian patted Olivia on the shoulder. Then he stood and gave Tina a knowing look.
“Just behave yourself,” he said. “I don’t want to hear about you causing Carrie or Pa any trouble. You hear me?”
“Uh-huh,” Tina demurred. “You know I would never cause any trouble intentionally.”
Adrian gave Carrie another long look. She knew precisely what he was thinking.
That’s what they all say just before they do something with irrevocable consequences.
Woot! Woot! The train whistle blasted twice, signaling that it was time for all passengers to finish boarding.
Adrian cast one more quick glance around at his sisters and his smile turned sad. Carrie wanted to lunge forward, just as Olivia had done, and wrap her arms around Adrian’s shoulders so she could pull him into a tight hug, but she refrained.
I must be strong for my sisters. I have to show them that there is nothing to fear.
“Take care of yourselves,” Adrian murmured as he headed toward the train.
“And you do the same,” Carrie whispered. She turned to watch him board. As soon as his tall frame ducked out of sight, she felt her mouth go dry. It was as if she had so many more things to tell him, but they had all dissolved.
Moments later, the train began chugging down the tracks, heading away from town. Carrie reached out to take Olivia’s hand, but the little girl broke into a run. She sprinted alongside the tracks, long strands of reddish-blonde hair billowing behind her in the breeze as they escaped the braid altogether. “Be safe!” she shouted. “Be safe!”
Carrie watched Olivia for a full minute, then she hung her head and uttered a silent prayer.
Keep him safe.
She took a few steps toward Olivia, thinking it was best if she went after her before she ran too far alongside the train, but before she could, she turned to see Tina shooting winks at a young man who was standing next to his parents. The man couldn’t have been much older than Tina herself, but he gave her a sly smile in return. Carrie dropped her head again and added on a bit more to her prayer.
Lord, help me. I think we’re all going to need Your guiding hand to take care of us.
“Who’s the foreman?” one of the Confederate officers asked, and Jackson turned to see who wanted his attention.
Three years ago, back in 1859, after his father was injured while working on the line, Jackson was given his father’s post as the foreman for the Tennessee Route Railway Company. They didn’t usually give such prestigious jobs to young men like Jackson, but he’d been working for the TRRC since he was sixteen years old, and they respected him enough to give him a shot filling his father’s shoes. Jackson did the work with ease and most of his employees reported that he was just as good a boss, if not better, than his father before him had been. But, these last few months, ever since the Union Army and the Confederates began fighting over the railway lines, Jackson’s job had become very burdensome.
His usual duties included handling the shipping and unloading of goods. He made sure the telegraph office was well-staffed and messages were being reported accurately. He was responsible for all the hiring and firing that went on for both of those divisions. But since the war began, his biggest concern was how to keep the entire business up and running. At least once a week, one side or the other had taken to destroying chunks of railroad tracks. So now, on top of everything else, Jackson had to send crews of men out to repair the line. He was dealing with one such bit of work at the moment, and hearing an officer ask for him didn’t exactly put him in a good mood.
I don’t have time for any more nonsense today.
Jackson turned to confront the Confederate officer and found himself face-to-face with a boy who could not have been more than eighteen years old. His face was tanned, and on his chin, he only had a few whiskers.
“I’m the foreman,” Jackson said, suddenly feeling sorry for the poor kid. “Jackson Doherty,” he said, introducing himself. “What can I do for you, soldier?”
“I’m Private Baker,” the young man replied. “I’ve been sent by Captain Epperson to discuss our current situation with you.”
“I’m aware of your current situation,” Jackson replied crisply. He saw, at once, that his prickly attitude wounded the young man, as he scrunched his eyes and his cheek twitched.
“I don’t think you are, sir,” Private Baker responded. He cleared his throat before continuing. “In the wee hours of the morning, Fort Donelson was taken by the enemy. I’ve been sent by Captain Epperson because it is now imperative that our leaders, their family members, and a large number of soldiers be on the very next train out of here. We need to get to Virginia as soon as possible.”
“Fort Donelson,” Jackson breathed. He knew men who had been fighting there and immediately he wondered if they were able to make it out of the battle alive. At twenty-six years old, Jackson knew his fair share of soldiers as he probably should have been among their number. Had his father not gotten injured when he did and had Jackson not moved into his position at the railroad, he would have gone off to fight already. But the situation being as it was, the army determined it was wiser for Jackson to stay here and help the war effort by keeping things running smoothly for the TRRC.
“Yes, sir,” Private Baker responded, nodding as he did. “Now, to the transport. Will there be room on this train? We need to get these troops mobilized as soon as possible.”
Jackson walked toward his desk which sat prominently in the center of his office. It was made from the bark of a cypress tree, and it gleamed because he always spent a small portion of time polishing it, whenever he could clean off the papers that were stacked upon it. The desk lacked a little luster today as it had been ages since the smattering of papers were cleared away completely. The war just kept everyone too busy to attend to normal, everyday tasks. He picked up the stack of papers detailing the shipments and travel arrangements already in place for today. Jackson leafed through the documents.
“I…” he paused as he read over a few of the notations. “It looks like the passenger cars are already heading to Virginia. You’ve got some new recruits going to join the regiment there.”
“Yes,” Private Baker confirmed. “We’d like to have the officers join the new recruits.”
“I think that’ll be possible,” Jackson returned with a deep sigh. He ran a hand through his long brown hair, sweeping a lock off his forehead as he spoke. “It’ll be a tight fit in some of the cars, but if it’s a matter of safety…”
“It is,” Private Baker interrupted. His eyes shifted from one corner of the room to another, as if he were worried someone was spying on them. Then, he took a step toward Jackson and lowered his voice, “It is critical that our officers leave today. We cannot stay here, and risk being captured by the Union Army.”
Jackson scowled. “If it’s so dangerous around here, maybe you should be warning the people of this town. Or maybe you and your officers ought to stick around here and fight to protect the innocent.”
Private Baker shook his head, giving Jackson a grim frown. “We can’t stay here. The people of Small View will be fine, so long as they don’t try to fight back. But we’ve got to get out of here.”
“Fine,” Jackson huffed. “Tell your officers to be ready to move out.” He produced a gold pocket watch that once belonged to his father when he held this post. He checked the time. “They’ll have less than an hour to get on board. I can’t hold up the departure schedule…not for anyone.”
“Thank you for your service,” Private Baker said sharply. Then, he turned on his heel and exited the office.
Jackson returned the sheaf of papers to his desk and eyed the comfortable matching chair that sat behind it.
I don’t even remember the last time I had a free minute to sit in that chair.
His office, which had of course been his father’s office before, had been built so that it had multiple windows. One, which was a rather large square-shape, sat behind the desk and it looked out on the train tracks. Right now, a colossal scarlet and gold steam engine rested there, being loading by a dozen of his workers. The other window was the same size and shape, but it was to the right of the door. From Jackson’s current vantage point, he could see both the work being done to get the train ready for travel as well as the families who were gathering to see their beloved brothers, cousins, or sons off to the war.
Jackson moved toward the doorway as his eyes drifted over the familiar faces of the families that were clustered together. He recognized Paul Richardson, who couldn’t be much older than twenty-one years old. He wore a threadbare jacket but a new pair of boots. Jackson thought that showed good judgement as he’d heard horrible stories about men who went into battle wearing no shoes at all or wearing tattered boots and how that led to even more troubles.
Then, he spotted Adrian Greene. He didn’t know the Greene family well, but as their father worked for the railroad, Jackson knew of them. He glanced at the siblings who all looked so very much alike with their reddish-blonde hair and their freckle-covered faces and Jackson felt sorry for them. They looked downcast.
Where’s Mr. Greene? He should be here to wish his son well.
Jackson closed his eyes and tried to remember what assignment had been given to the team Mr. Greene served on today. It came to him quickly.
Mr. Greene’s out repairing one of the busted railway lines. He probably didn’t think he could ask for time off.
Jackson felt guilty over the matter. He’d have given Mr. Greene a few hours so he could be here to say goodbye to his son. He wouldn’t have even docked the man any pay. But Mr. Greene hadn’t asked for permission.
I wonder if that says more about his work ethic or my management style.
Jackson didn’t want his employees to think he was so cold and domineering they couldn’t ask for time when they needed it, but he also recognized that he worked them hard because it was necessary. There were just too many tasks that needed to be done and not enough people to do them.
I’ve got to hire more people. Starting tomorrow. But there goes another whole crop of young men. They’re fighting in the war instead of working on the railroad.
Jackson took a step toward the Greene family. He wanted to join them, for just a moment, so he could tell Adrian how courageous he was being. What he really wanted was to drop everything and hop aboard the train with Adrian.
I could go…I could join the Union forces…except for my dad. I can’t leave him all alone.
And that was the truth of the matter. Regardless of what the owners of the TRRC told him about the important role he was playing by keeping the railway operating, he knew the real reason he didn’t go to war was because he couldn’t abandon his father. The old man had already lost too much. His wife, his eldest son—they’d both died from a nasty illness that took them five years ago. Now, his dad couldn’t even do his work anymore because he was incapable of walking around all day long.
My place is here.
Even though Jackson was able to come to that logical conclusion, his heart still hurt for families like the Richardsons and the Greenes.
If there’s some way I can help those people, I will. I’ll have a talk with Mr. Greene sometime in the next couple of days. We’ll work something out so he can spend more time with his daughters.
Jackson eyed the young ladies who were clustered around Adrian once more. The eldest looked truly upset, so much so, he turned away from her.
Poor girl…her whole life is about to change.
“Tender Glances in Disguise” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
In the wake of the tragic death of her father, Carrie Greene must find a way to take care of her younger siblings. When she is left with no other option but to make a life-changing decision in order to survive, she comes up with a last-ditch plan; to go to the train station disguised and get a job as a young man.
While Carrie struggles to secure her spot at the station, she finds herself swept off her feet by an unexpected -yet charming- encounter…
Jackson Doherty spends his days busily bustling about the railway yard, ensuring goods and telegrams can be delivered nationwide since the railroad is vital to the war effort. There was no way he could have imagined how his life would change after hiring a young man. Right away, he knows something is different about him.
Jackson’s compassion will be challenged when he discovers Carrie’s lie…
While Carrie desperately needs the job, Jackson must keep everything running smoothly at the train station. However, to earn each other’s trust, they must overcome their rocky start. With secrets and confusion swirling around them, will they weather the storm by each other’s side, or will the two of them become victims of lost love?
“Tender Glances in Disguise” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.