Somewhere to Call Home (Love Inspired Historical) (3 page)

BOOK: Somewhere to Call Home (Love Inspired Historical)
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“Oh, so am I.” The very thought of Harlan sickened her.

“Do you think he’ll come after you?”

Violet’s heart plummeted to her stomach at Mrs. Heaton’s question. Thus far, she’d not let herself think along those lines, but now she realized that same question had been lying at the back of her mind just waiting to torment her. “I don’t know. I certainly hope not.”

Mrs. Heaton placed a hand on her ample chest. “I am so sorry, Violet. I didn’t mean to bring up unpleasant thoughts for you.”

“It’s all right, Mrs. Heaton. I’m just glad to be out of Ashland and away from him.” She shivered again thinking of the last time she’d seen him.

“Well, never you worry, dear. He won’t bother you here.” Mrs. Heaton waved her hand as if to dispel the thought of Harlan. “Enough of this depressing talk. I’ll let you have some time to yourself. Breakfast is from six to nine. It’s set out on the sideboard in the dining room. We’ll take a look at the classifieds and see if we can find some positions for you to apply for tomorrow. Good night, dear.”

“Good night.”

Violet heard the sound of the piano being played and voices singing “The Sidewalks of New York” as Mrs. Heaton went back downstairs. For a moment she wished she’d stayed with everyone. Then she reminded herself that there would be other nights and much more time to get to know the others. For now, she needed some quiet time.

Violet finished her unpacking and then took a long soak in the big tub in the bathroom. Once she was back in her room, she settled herself into the chair by the window and listened to the singing from downstairs. She loved to sing and would be happy to join them around the piano one day.

The music faded and she heard footsteps on the stairs, doors opening and closing down the hall and the sound of water running in the bathroom she shared with Elizabeth. She found she liked the sounds of life around her and knowing she wasn’t alone.

As the house quieted, Violet opened her Bible and read several of her favorite Psalms. Then she said her prayers before turning in, thanking the Lord for giving her safe travel and for Mrs. Heaton and her offer. Exhausted as she was, Violet felt certain she would drift right off to sleep.

Instead, she remembered the conversation with Mrs. Heaton earlier and before long, her thoughts were in such turmoil wondering what Harlan would do when he found she’d left town that she couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned for what seemed like hours before flinging back the covers. Violet got out of bed and paced around her bed and back again.

Harlan was not going to be happy, that was for sure. But would he try to find her? She prayed not. Still, afraid that he might look for her, she’d bought a ticket as far as Baltimore, then bought another one from there to New York City. She hoped it would be impossible for him to locate her, should he decide he must.

Violet stopped and pulled the curtain away from the window. Lights were still shining in some of the homes nearby and she could even see a light or two in the next street over. Somehow the light in the darkness comforted her, knowing others were up at this hour. Back home there wouldn’t be a light shining anywhere this time of night, except for the taverns and the small police station. But this city was so large—surely Harlan would never find her here if he did decide to look for her.

She dropped the curtain and went back to bed. It wasn’t going to do any good to worry about him. He’d either track her down or not. But he couldn’t make her marry him. Worrying about him would serve no purpose; she’d just turn it over to the Lord and leave it in His hands.

* * *

The next morning Violet awakened to the sounds of doors opening and closing once more. She looked at the small clock on her bedside table. Six-thirty. She was used to sleeping a bit later than that on a Saturday, but she was eager to start the day.

Throwing back the covers, she hopped out of bed and hurried to the windows. The sun was up and it looked as if it were going to be a beautiful spring day.

Violet started to walk to the bathroom, but she heard water running. Elizabeth would be getting ready for work. She’d said she worked a half day today, and Violet was glad she hadn’t hurried to the bathroom right away. It seemed everyone had a job or somewhere to go except her, and she certainly didn’t want to hold Elizabeth up.

The water stopped running, but Violet waited until she heard the bathroom door shut from the other side, signaling that Elizabeth had finished washing up. Even then she knocked just to make sure the bathroom was empty before entering.

Once she’d finished freshening up, she went back to her room to dress in a burgundy skirt and ivory shirtwaist. She put her hair up, twisting it up into a knot on top of her head in one of the current styles, and made her bed before leaving the room. By the time she arrived downstairs, some of the boarders she’d met the evening before were heading out the door and they wished her well in her search for employment.

“Thank you,” she called as she waved goodbye and entered the empty dining room. She took a plate and began to fill it from the sideboard, choosing a couple of slices of bacon, some scrambled eggs and a biscuit. Just as Violet took a seat at the table, Maida, or maybe it was Gretchen, came in the room. On closer inspection, Violet decided it was Maida. She was a little taller and her hair was a darker shade of blond.

“Good morning, Miss Burton.”

“Good morning, Maida.” Violet knew she got it right when she was rewarded with a smile.

“Did you sleep well last night?” the maid asked.

“I did.”

“Would you like tea or coffee this morning?”

“Tea, please.”

Maida poured her a steaming cup from the silver pot on the sideboard. “Mrs. Heaton asked me to let her know when you came down. She’ll be joining you soon.”

“Wonderful. Maida, do you know where the morning paper might be? I’d like to look over the classifieds.”

Mrs. Heaton walked into the room just then, the newspaper in her hand. “It’s right here, dear. I’ve been looking over them for you.”

Maida poured Mrs. Heaton a cup of tea and set it at her place at the table. “Would you like me to prepare you anything, ma’am?”

Mrs. Heaton glanced at the offerings on the sideboard. “No, thank you, Maida. There is still plenty here to choose from.”

After Maida replaced the pot on the sideboard and left the room, Mrs. Heaton handed Violet the paper. “There are several positions you might be interested in, dear. If you see anything you want to apply for, I’ll be glad to accompany you on Monday to put in applications. However, I hope you will let yourself rest this weekend. Besides, some of the other boarders might come back with news about openings in their companies this evening.”

“That would be wonderful.” Violet took the folded
New York Tribune
Mrs. Heaton handed her. “I’m sure I will take you up on the offer to go with me on Monday. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea on where anything is located.”

“I thought you might enjoy a ride around town today so that I can show you several of the places you might want to apply at on Monday—if you see anything that appeals to you.”

Remembering the terrible traffic of the day before, Violet didn’t exactly look forward to getting out in it again, but she did want to see the city. While Mrs. Heaton filled her plate, Violet looked at some of the circled entries. There were several requests for shopkeeper positions, a straw-hat presser—whatever that was—and an opening for a correspondent. Those were the only ones Mrs. Heaton had circled, but Violet’s gaze skimmed the rest. A lady wanted a person to do writing for her at home; another wanted a companion, but that meant living at the residence, and Violet knew she wouldn’t want to do that.

She liked being right here. When she’d awakened this morning, it’d been quite comforting to know that she was in the home of someone she was acquainted with, someone she could call a friend.

“What do you think? Do any of those positions sound good to you?” Mrs. Heaton took her seat at the table.

“I’m not sure appealing to me is the important thing,” Violet said. “I need work, so most likely I’ll accept any decent position I’m offered.”

“Don’t feel you must rush into employment, Violet. I’d prefer you take your time and find something you believe you’ll be happy at. One good thing about the Butterick position is that you’d know someone who works there, and you’d have company for the trips to and from work.”

“But we don’t know if that is still open, do we?”

“You didn’t see it?” Mrs. Heaton jumped up and came over to her. “Oh, dear, it’s on the top of the next page.”

She took the paper from Violet and turned the page. There, at the top, was circled: “Pattern cutter/Pattern folder wanted. No experience necessary. Will train. Apply at 555 Broadway Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.”

Violet looked up at Mrs. Heaton. “Oh, yes, I would like to apply there. They’re willing to train me and that is exactly what I need.”

“And once you are established here and meet more people, if this position isn’t one you like, it will be easier to find another one. You’ll know your way around the city and you’ll have a résumé.”

Violet couldn’t help but chuckle. “You speak as if I already have this position. It may be filled by Monday.”

“I don’t think so. But we won’t know until then. In the meantime, I’ll show you around so that you can see where some of these places are. We’ll be on our way as soon as we finish breakfast.”

“Where is it you are off to so early in the day, Mother?”

Violet’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of Michael striding into the room.

Even Mrs. Heaton seemed surprised to see her son. “Michael, I thought you left for work over an hour ago. What are you doing back home?”

* * *

“Good morning, Mother.” Michael gave his mother a kiss on the cheek and grinned at Violet. “Good morning to you, too, Violet. I hope you slept well.”

“I did, thank you.”

“Michael, you haven’t answered my question.”

“I’m sorry, Mother. I did go to the office and I telephoned Butterick from there and found that they are indeed hiring, but they only take applications Monday through—”

“Friday.” His mother laughed. “Well, I could have told you that!”

“How could you have known?”

“I read the paper this morning,” she answered, waving it at him.

“So that is where it was!” He laughed. “I looked all over for it.”

His mother grinned. “It was in my study. I’m sorry. It appears we’re both anxious to find something for Violet.”

Michael poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot Maida had left on the sideboard. He took his seat at the table and smiled at Violet. “Now that Mother has you here, she wants to make sure you stay.”

“I have no plans to go anywhere other than out to find work,” Violet said. “And I am very grateful to your mother for coming up with a solution for me.”

“I thought we could take a ride around the city this morning so that Violet could get a look at some of the places she might want to apply at on Monday,” his mother said.

“If you don’t mind the company, I’ll escort the two of you.”

“I hate to take you away from your work—”

“We’d love to have your company,” his mother interrupted. “I’ll feel better if you are the one explaining the El and the trolley to Violet.”

“Good. And there is no need to worry about taking me away from my work, Violet. I am fortunate in that I get to set my own work schedule.”

“Then I thank you both. I’ll just go freshen up and be ready when you are,” Violet said.

Michael pulled out her chair for her. Although she’d given in gracefully, he couldn’t really tell if she was pleased or not that he’d be going with them.

“And I will talk to Maida about our dinner tonight,” his mother said.

He pulled out her chair, as well. “All right. But there is no need to rush, ladies. I’ll sit here and have another one of Maida’s biscuits while I wait for you.”

Although Michael could set his own hours, it wasn’t often he took a day off from work, and he was going to enjoy it. He buttered a biscuit, plopped a spoonful of apple jelly in the middle and took a bite. Delicious.

He wasn’t sure exactly why he’d decided to come back home this early. He’d telephoned Butterick when he got to his office because, for some reason, he didn’t quite trust that Lila would ask about openings at the company. Still, he could have waited until this evening to tell Violet about it; she couldn’t apply there until Monday, anyway.

However, knowing his mother as he did, he was sure that she and Violet would be out and about today. He really was a little concerned about Violet learning her way around the city—after all, it was his mother’s suggestion that brought her here and there was no denying that made him feel personally responsible for her safety. He couldn’t let anything happen to her.

“I’m ready, dear, and I’m sure Violet will be coming down the stairs any moment now. I do appreciate you checking into the Butterick position for her. I’m praying she gets it.”

“So am I.” For his mother’s sake, if not for Violet’s. “You like having her here, don’t you?”

“I do,” his mother answered. “Don’t you?”

Michael hadn’t expected that question, and he wasn’t really sure he could answer it right now. After all, Violet had only been here one night and her presence meant more responsibility for him. But his mother looked so happy this morning, he wasn’t about to tell her any of that. So he chose to be as truthful as he could at the moment. “I want you to be happy, Mother.”

“Thank you, dear. I want the same for you, don’t you know?”

“I—” Footsteps could be heard crossing the foyer and Michael was glad. He took one last sip of coffee and stood just as Violet entered the room.

“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long,” Violet said, pulling her gloves on and smiling at them.

She did have a beautiful smile. Michael couldn’t help but smile back. “Not at all. Are you ready to see the city?”

“I am.”

“Then, I’m at your service, ladies.”

Chapter Three

V
iolet thought it was a beautiful day as they sauntered down the street to Third Avenue, where she assumed they’d find a hack to take them around the city. She couldn’t help but be pleased that Michael had come home to tell her about the Butterick opening and wanted to accompany them today. But she didn’t want to be a burden to either of the Heatons. She hoped she got the job at Butterick. At least that way, she’d have Lila to help her learn her way to work and back, and Michael and his mother wouldn’t be worrying about her.

“Is it a long walk to the Butterick Company from here?” she asked.

“It could be done in around a half hour. But it would be much quicker to take the El or another mode of transportation,” Mrs. Heaton said.

“We’ll be traveling by the El today.” Michael smiled down at her. “I want you to get familiar with the stops and comfortable with getting on and off at the right places.”

While the sound of the traffic she’d witnessed the day before couldn’t be heard from Mrs. Heaton’s boardinghouse, as they got closer to the avenue, the sounds of horses’ hooves and drivers yelling became more and more noticeable. When they reached the corner, Violet pulled up short and inhaled sharply. Somehow the traffic seemed even worse when one was on foot.

“What is it? Is something wrong?” Michael asked, his hand at her back.

Violet put her hand to her throat and expelled a deep breath. She shook her head, but there were no words for what she was seeing or feeling as she watched people from all walks of life hurrying along the busy thoroughfare, some even crossing the street, dodging the horse-drawn vehicles as best they could. And that had to be taking their lives in their own hands, because there seemed to be every kind of vehicle imaginable, and some Violet had never seen before, racing up and down the street. Then she heard a train and had to look up to see it. There, high above the traffic down below, was the El. Mrs. Heaton had pointed it out to her the day before. She didn’t know whether to laugh or exclaim.

“It’s the traffic, Michael,” Mrs. Heaton said, grasping her hand.

“Of course it is. I’m sorry, Violet. I didn’t realize—it is quite a change from Ashland, isn’t it? But don’t worry. One day you’ll know your way around and the traffic will just seem normal to you.”

Violet hoped so, as she tried to get her breathing back to normal. But she had to admit that as much as it all frightened her, there was something about all the hustle and bustle of this place that exhilarated her and had her heart pounding to keep pace with all the sounds around them.

Michael led her and his mother up to what she supposed was an entry to get on the train, which had stopped only a block away. He handed the man a coin for a ticket, then gave a coin to her and his mother and they did the same. Then they were allowed to go through a turnstile into an area where they waited in front of doors with glass windows until they were allowed to enter the train on the other side.

“Take a window seat, Violet. You’ll see more that way,” Mrs. Heaton said.

Violet sat down and Mrs. Heaton took the seat across from her. Michael sat down beside Violet. A conductor collected their tickets and, as the train took off, Violet couldn’t keep an excited giggle from escaping as she looked down on the street below.

“It is quite something, isn’t it?” Michael asked. “Seeing your reaction reminds us of our own just a few years ago. Mother and I were just as amazed as you are.”

His words made Violet feel better, but she didn’t have time to say so, as he leaned across her and pointed. “Look, there’s City Hall on your left.”

The train stopped just then for some of the passengers to get out and others to get on, and Violet got a good look at where the city government was conducted. Then the train was on its way again. They made a sudden turn and Violet slid closer to Michael. His nearness and the scent of his cologne were hard to ignore as she tried to right herself. Trying to compose herself, she pointed to the tallest building she’d ever seen. “What is that?”

“That is the Tower Building over on Broadway. It’s thirteen stories high and is one of the tallest buildings in the city at present.”

Violet was certain she wouldn’t want to be on the top floor looking down. She shuddered at the mere thought of it.

“We’re on Sixth Avenue now and we’ll get off at the next stop,” Michael explained. “Butterick isn’t far from here.”

“If we have time, I’d love for Violet to at least get a glimpse of the Ladies’ Mile,” his mother suggested.

“The Ladies’ Mile? What is that?” Violet asked as the train came to a stop once more and Michael and his mother both stood. Violet scooted out of her seat, shook her skirts and stood beside Mrs. Heaton in the aisle.

“Oh, my dear, the Ladies’ Mile is blocks and blocks of the most wonderful shops and department stores. Some weekends the girls and I come down just to window-shop. Even if one doesn’t buy anything, it’s the place to go to know what is in style. Besides, several of the shops that need help are there, so it will be helpful if you know where they’re located,” Mrs. Heaton said.

Violet followed them out of the train and down to ground level again. Michael hired a hack and off they went once more.

“Aren’t we going to show her Central Park, Michael? We’ve come this far.”

“Perhaps we can go there tomorrow after Sunday dinner?”

“That is a wonderful idea. She can’t see New York City all in a day, that is for certain.”

As the Heatons talked over her, Violet began to believe she could live here the rest of her life and never see it all. Back on street level, in the traffic of a Saturday morning, Violet once again found herself closing her eyes from time to time as one or another vehicle seemed bound to run into them.

Michael was right. It wasn’t far to Butterick on Broadway. Violet looked up at the building with the signs that said E. Butterick and Company. Ornate molding framed the windows and doors. The building was very nice, and Violet didn’t think she would mind working there, but in her present circumstance she’d be glad to find any respectable position.

Michael pointed out all the El stops, but Violet had a feeling it would take a while before she knew exactly which one to take. He promised to draw her a map to keep with her, to make it easier for her to remember.

Mrs. Heaton pointed out Brooks Brothers, Tiffany’s Jewelry and Lord & Taylor along with other stores on Broadway. Michael had the driver turn up and down several different blocks and, new as she was to the city, even Violet could tell when they got close to the Ladies’ Mile.

Traffic slowed and became more congested. Carriages of all kinds, landaus, rockaways and phaetons moved slowly, giving them a glimpse of the ladies inside. That these women belonged to society was evident by the gowns they wore and the fact that many had liveried men driving them.

But there were others—everyday women dressed much like Violet and Mrs. Heaton—who were there, too. They were lined up, looking in the shop windows of Macy’s, Le Boutellier Brothers, Hearns Department Store and Orbach’s on Fourteenth Street. Violet remembered that Macy’s and Hearns both had ads in the classifieds. She’d apply at them on Monday as well as Butterick.

Part of Violet wanted to be looking in the windows along with all of those other women, and the other part of her could not have been more relieved when Michael told the driver to take them back to the boardinghouse.

If anything, traffic was even more frenzied than earlier in the day, and Violet closed her eyes at more than one intersection. When Michael chuckled, she opened them to find him looking at her with a smile on his face.

“I’m sorry, Violet, it is just so entertaining to watch you try
not
to watch the traffic.”

“I can’t seem to help it. I fear a calamity is bound to happen at any moment, and I don’t want to see it or be part of it.”

“Oh, accidents do happen, and frequently. But most times they aren’t all that serious.” He grinned at her. “However, it might be best if you try
not
to shut your eyes, or pray that our driver doesn’t shut his, as well.”

Violet laughed with him. “Yes, I can see how that might help. I’ll try, but I can’t promise.”

Just then, an omnibus careened around a corner and seemed to be heading straight for them. Violet scrunched her eyes shut tight and screamed.

* * *

After a much-needed nap, Violet woke refreshed and looking forward to dinner, in spite of feeling horrible about screaming in Mrs. Heaton’s ear. When that omnibus had come straight toward their hack, she’d been certain it was going to topple them over. Thankfully, the Lord had been with them and, just in the nick of time, their driver had avoided the calamity.

The Heatons had assured her, over and over again, that they understood, and told her that if not for her scream, their driver might not have acted so quickly. Still, she felt a bit silly and embarrassed about it all. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be a topic of conversation at dinner.

She chose a gown of purple moiré that was several years old, but still in style. At least it had been back home. She only hoped it wasn’t terribly outdated here in New York City.

After dressing her hair into a psyche knot, Violet turned this way and that in front of the standing mirror in the corner. The dress had an ivory lace inset in the bodice and a high collar and waistband of a darker shade of purple. It showed little wear, and, well, it would have to do. Even if she chose another gown, it would not be new.

After Mama had her stroke there’d been no money for new clothes, not even homemade ones, and Violet had no interest in them anyway. All she’d wanted was for her mother to get well. But that wasn’t to be and, oh, how she missed her. Grief, sudden and sharp, threatened to engulf Violet, until she remembered the promise she’d made to her mother just before she had passed away.

Mama had been so alert for just those few moments as she’d grasped her hand and said, “Violet, now don’t you give yourself over to grief once I’m gone. You’ve been a blessing to me and I don’t know what I would have done without you. I want you to get on with your life. The Lord has great plans for you. I know you’ll miss me, but I pray your days will be full of life and joy and living according to the Lord’s will. When you start to give in to the grief, think of me in Heaven. Promise me, Violet, for I’m ready to go.”

“I promise, Mama,” Violet had said. Her mother had squeezed her hand, closed her eyes and slipped away. Remembering how peaceful her mother had looked, Violet let one last sob escape before she wiped at her tears. They wouldn’t bring her mother back, and Violet wouldn’t have wanted her to suffer just to stay here for her sake.

She let out a huge sigh and nodded to herself. Enough of this—it wasn’t what Mama would want. She would honor her mother’s wishes and her promise to her. But, oh, how she wished she’d been with her today to see all the sights and hubbub of this city. It comforted her to think that maybe she saw it all from Heaven.

Hearing the sounds of the other boarders begin to make their way downstairs, Violet hurried into the bathroom to splash water on her face, trying to get rid of the telltale tears. She pinched her cheeks to give them color and took a deep breath before stepping out into the hall.

Violet hoped she wasn’t overdressed, or underdressed, as she headed down to the parlor to join everyone. She was relieved to see that Elizabeth was dressed much as she was in a pale blue gown, and she put her worries about how she looked away.

“Violet, did you have a good day?” Elizabeth asked as she led the way downstairs. “I asked my friend about openings at Tiffany Glass, and as I suspected, there aren’t any at present. Still, she said she’d let me know when one comes up. Evidently it’s fairly often.”

“Thank you for asking about it, Elizabeth. I did have a good day. I rode on the El for the first time and I know where several companies are that I’ll apply at on Monday, including Butterick.”

Elizabeth chuckled. “Riding on the El for the first time is an experience, but you get used to it very quickly. I’m so glad there is an opening at Butterick. I’ll be praying you get that position and then we can be coworkers, too.”

They were both laughing when they joined the others in the parlor just as Mrs. Heaton called them to the dining room. Again, Violet found herself sitting adjacent to Michael and across from Lila.

After Michael said the blessing and began carving the large ham Gretchen had set before him, Mrs. Heaton introduced a new man at the table as John Talbot, a reporter for the
New York Tribune
. He’d been covering a charity ball the night before.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Burton,” he said. He was about her age and clean-shaven, with rust-colored hair and greenish-blue eyes. He didn’t have the rough demeanor she’d thought a seasoned reporter might possess; instead, he looked like someone she could have gone to school with.

“Thank you, Mr. Talbot. I’m pleased to meet you, as well.”

“How are you enjoying our city?”

“With her eyes closed.” Michael chuckled and winked at Violet as he handed her a plate with a slice of ham.

His wink sent her heart into a little dive and dip and she felt color flood her cheeks, but she couldn’t help but join in his laughter as she passed the plate down. “I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the traffic.”

That brought laughter from all at the table and several nods of agreement.

“Oh...yes, well, that can take some getting used to. But it is easier with your eyes open,” John said. “Did you apply for any positions today?”

“Not today, but I found several I’ll apply for come Monday.”

“Oh!” Lila put a hand over her mouth, then removed it to say, “I am so sorry. I forgot to ask if there are any open positions at Butterick today. We were very busy and it totally slipped my mind. But, I’ll be sure to ask on Monday.” She ladled a spoonful of scalloped potatoes onto her plate.

“No need to worry, Lila. There was an ad in the classifieds today,” Mrs. Heaton said. “Violet is going to apply there first thing.”

“Oh...” Lila nearly dropped the casserole dish she was passing down the table. “That’s good. Maybe we’ll be coworkers after all.”

BOOK: Somewhere to Call Home (Love Inspired Historical)
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