Authors: A Place to Belong
Copyright © 1993 by Tracie Peterson. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Published by Barbour Books, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box
719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683, www.barbourbooks.com
Printed in the United States of America.
he Kansas heat was enough to wilt the sturdiest flower. Humid air hung thick and heavy, but certainly no heavier than the atmosphere inside the Intissar parlor on that June day.
“I won’t go!” Magdelena Intissar announced at the top of her lungs. She stamped her small foot, just in case her words weren’t enough to make her decision clear.
“Maggie, lower your voice,” Sophia Intissar said patiently. The stately old woman was used to her granddaughter’s temper. The only other person in the parlor was the subject of Maggie’s displeasure.
“I won’t go with that man, Grandmother. And that’s final!” Maggie’s blue eyes blazed at Garrett Lucas. He shifted uncomfortably.
Sophia smiled sympathetically at the young man. He had appeared on her doorstep only hours earlier, and with him had come the news that Maggie’s father was sending for his daughter.
With a swish of her English afternoon dress, Sophia moved gracefully to a chair and took her place. “I suggest you sit, Magdelena,” she said, pointing to a brocade parlor chair. “This issue will not be easily dismissed. We must talk.”
Maggie never took her eyes off Garrett Lucas as she followed her grandmother’s instructions and sat down.
“Please continue, Mr. Lucas,” Sophia requested.
“As I said, Ma’am,” Garrett began. “Your son, Jason Intissar, instructed me to come to Topeka and return to New Mexico with his daughter. I have two train tickets.” He pulled the tickets from his vest pocket and held them up for both women to see.
“So what! You have two train tickets,” Maggie interrupted, enraged at the presumption that this should make any difference.
“Grandmother,” she said, turning to Sophia Intissar. “You can’t trust him. Anybody can buy train tickets. He’s probably some kidnapper who thinks Father will pay a high price for my return.”
Garrett chuckled, but Maggie ignored him.
“Grandmother, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to travel unchaperoned with this man. What would our friends say?” Maggie knew she was grasping at straws. Neither she nor her grandmother had ever given much thought to neighborhood gossip.
Sophia took the tickets, reviewed them, and returned them to Garrett Lucas’s well-tanned hand.
“I also have this letter,” Garrett said. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a sealed envelope.
Sophia took the letter and used it to fan herself for a moment. The high collar of her gown framed her thin, aged face. Signs of quality were evident from her gleaming white hair to the sweep of her elegantly tailored gown. Lifting her chin slightly, she drew a deep breath.
“I believe you are who you say you are, Mr. Lucas. I believe this letter will explain that my son has sent you to retrieve his daughter. We all know he’s tried many times before. What I don’t understand is why you must leave today on the four o’clock train.”
“The letter will explain, Ma’am. Mr. Intissar was afraid his daughter might react as she had before and run off.”
“How dare you!” Maggie could take no more. “How dare you talk about me as if I weren’t even here! You don’t know me. My father doesn’t know me. He deserted me to my grandmother’s care when my mother died. I was eight years old, and I’ve only seen him twice since then!” The bitterness in Maggie’s voice was not lost on her listeners.
“Maggie, remember your manners,” Sophia interjected firmly, but not without gentleness. She’d known the pain of that eight-year-old girl as she knew the pain of the young woman who sat angrily before her. “Mr. Lucas does have a point,” she continued.
Maggie knew her grandmother was right. Her father had sent for her on a dozen other occasions, but Maggie had always managed to be away from Topeka or hiding out with friends when he had arrived to take her home. She’d never been able to get past the pain of being left behind, and in her heart, Maggie had held an anger toward her father that seemed to grow each year.
Now, Garrett Lucas had arrived. If she were forced to leave with him, Maggie knew it would not be easy to escape and return to her grandmother. But no matter how difficult flight might prove to be, Maggie was determined to defy her father’s wishes. She had no desire to face him or the wounds that stood between them.
“It seems your father has outwitted you, my dear,” Sophia was saying. Maggie jerked her head up.
“You’ll have to drag my dead body to that train!” she shouted, jumping to her feet. Garrett’s lips drew back in a wide grin. The girl had spunk, and he had to admire her ability to stand up to people.
Maggie noticed the smile and felt her heart skip a beat. Garrett Lucas was quite handsome, especially when he smiled. His skin was tanned from many years spent outdoors, and Maggie lost herself in his intense blue eyes. Just then she remembered he was grinning because of her.
Maggie raised herself to her full height. “I mean it. Go back and tell my father I refuse to come to New Mexico. I have friends and family here, and that’s enough for me. Furthermore, in less than two months I will be eighteen years old. I think I am more than mature enough to make my own decisions, and my decision is to remain here.”
As Maggie’s tantrum played out, silence fell over the parlor. Sophia quietly read her son’s letter. From time to time, a faint breeze fluttered the lace parlor curtains, bringing with it the sweet scent of honeysuckle.
Maggie refused to look at Garrett, but she was well aware that he studied her intently. How she wished she could run from the room.
Sophia let the letter fall to her lap. It confirmed that her son was determined to form a relationship with his child. Pity he’d allowed Maggie to have her way for so many years. There were so many miles and scars to overcome. But Maggie must face her father’s decision. Scars or no scars, it was time for her to go home.
Sophia broke the silence. “Maggie, I have no choice. You will go with Mr. Lucas.”
“What? You can’t be serious, Grandmother. You would trust this man, this. . .this devil?”
“Magdelena!” Sophia admonished, and Garrett Lucas broke into a hearty laugh, causing both women to look at him.
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” Garrett said to Sophia. “I meant no disrespect.”
“I apologize for my granddaughter, Mr. Lucas. She doesn’t yet understand that being grown up often means making unpopular and unwanted decisions.”
Maggie came to stand in front of Sophia. “Grandmother, what are you saying? Will you really let him take me away?”
“Maggie, I must. Your father has made it very clear in this letter. He has his reasons, and now I have mine. Run upstairs and pack your things.”
“She doesn’t need to take too much,” Garrett offered. “Jason’s bought her quite a bit already. She’ll have enough clothes to be the envy of any woman in the territory.”
“Clothes? Pack my clothes? Has everyone lost their minds?” Maggie questioned, her voice nearing hysteria. “What’s in that letter? How could you send me off with a stranger to a man who cares nothing about me. He walked out on me, remember? He left me when I needed him.”
“Maggie,” Sophia took her granddaughter’s youthful hand in her own weathered one and patted it gently. “You must be brave, my dear. You must listen to me and do as I say. I am an old woman, and I don’t have many years left in this world. God is in this change.”
“Don’t say that,” Maggie interrupted curtly. “God can’t possibly care about me, or He’d have kept Garrett Lucas in New Mexico. God has never cared about me, or He would have given me a father. One that would stay and do the job, rather than leave it to someone else to do.”
“Maggie, that’s not fair. Please hear me out,” Sophia pleaded, and Maggie grew frightened. It wasn’t at all like her grandmother to take on an air of frailty. Maggie’s eyes darted in the direction of Garrett Lucas, but she could see he was fidgeting with his coat button, trying to leave the two women some privacy.
“I don’t want you thinking I don’t love you anymore. Nor do I wish for you to believe me cruel and heartless in this matter. You’re seventeen years old, and your father feels it’s time for you to consider marriage and settling down to your own family.”
Sophia stopped to see the impact her words were having on Maggie. She could see tears brimming in her granddaughter’s eyes and knew her own weren’t far behind. “Your father has found a husband for you, Child. He has that privilege and right.”
“A husband? I guess I could’ve guessed he didn’t want a daughter. He just wants a son to replace the one he lost.” Maggie’s bitterness was clear.
“Now, Child, be fair,” Sophia implored.
“What would I want with one of Father’s old cronies? He probably has some ancient man lined up. I won’t do it. I can’t!” Maggie sobbed the words. She fell to her knees, hating herself for breaking down in front of Mr. Lucas.
“Child, you must understand. Your father is not a well man. The letter makes this clear. He wishes to leave his estate to you. And,” Sophia added most reluctantly, “he wants to have a say in who will share that responsibility with you.”
“Let him find someone to give his empire to. I don’t want it. I want to stay here with you, Grandmother. I don’t want to leave Topeka.”
Just then the hall clock chimed two. Maggie turned terror-stricken eyes first to her grandmother, then unwillingly to Garrett Lucas.
Garrett hated being the cause of the fear he saw in Maggie’s eyes. She was easier to handle when she was defiant. He wished he could assure her that he was only here as a favor to Jason, but he knew she’d never listen to him. No, it was best that he let the two women work through this together.
“If God loves me so much, why is He allowing this to happen? Better yet, why are you?” Maggie knew her words tortured her grandmother, but she had to make her grandmother see her pain.
“Maggie, I have little choice. I would love to have you here for the remainder of my life, but your father has set his mind.”
“He doesn’t care about me, Grandmother. It’s just his land and his business ventures. Don’t you see? If he cared about me, he would have come home to Topeka. He wouldn’t have jeopardized my security by forcing me away from all I know and love. He wants a land baron, not a daughter. He’s always hated me for what happened to mother!”
“Nonsense, Child. You listen to me and listen well. I was there when your mother died. She struggled to give birth to your brother, but we all knew neither one of them was going to make it.” Sophia’s eyes clouded with tears.
“Typhoid fever had been fierce in town. Your mother was well into her pregnancy when you came down with the fever yourself. Before I knew what had happened, your mother was sick as well.”
Maggie felt tears fall hot upon her cheeks. She buried her face in her grandmother’s lap. Sophia gently stroked the long auburn curls. “Your father always blamed himself. He couldn’t live with his grief nor with the child that reminded him so much of his wife. You were a constant reminder of what he had lost. I love my son, Maggie. I never faulted him for leaving you in my care. I saw the necessity of it then, just as I see the necessity of this now. God has always been here for us.”
“Father left because he blamed me for Mother’s death. He hates me, and I don’t care!” Maggie exploded.
“That is absurd, Maggie. You didn’t give your mother typhoid, and your father didn’t blame you then or now.” Sophia lifted the letter to fan herself, succumbing to the heat and stress. Her face paled.
“Grandmother!” Maggie cried, reaching out to steady her. Garrett was beside Sophia in a moment.
“Get her some water,” he commanded. Maggie raced to the kitchen and returned with a glass.
“It’s not very cold,” she said apologetically.
“It will be fine, Child,” Sophia assured her. “I’m feeling better now. It’s just this insufferable heat. If this is any indication of what the rest of the summer will bring, I’m not sure how I’ll stand up under it.”
“See, you need me,” Maggie said pleadingly. Then she whirled to face Garrett. “You can’t expect me to leave her here alone!”
Garrett was standing close to Maggie. Close enough she could smell the cologne he wore, musky, yet sweet. He looked down at her with soft eyes and opened his mouth to speak.
“It isn’t my decision, Miss Intissar. I’m only doing what I promised your father I’d do.”
“I’m fine, Maggie,” Sophia insisted.
She did look better, Maggie decided, but the girl feared that neither of them would be able to bear the separation.
“I don’t want to leave you.” Maggie threw herself to her knees again and hugged her grandmother tightly.
Sophia brushed the damp hair away from Maggie’s forehead. “I don’t want to see you go. I love you, Child. But you must do this for me.” Sophia raised Maggie’s face to meet her own. “You must go with Mr. Lucas. Promise me you will go upstairs right now and pack your things.”
Suddenly, there was no room for further discussion. Maggie stared intent
ly at her grandmother’s wearied face and then looked up at the towering stranger. She lowered her head and with a voice of complete dejection whispered, “Yes, Grandmother.”
“And Maggie, remember God will always see you through the storms,” Sophia added. “He’s there for you Maggie, but you must come willingly. Don’t put God off simply because you fear He will desert you. He won’t.” Sophia had prayed so often that her granddaughter would turn from her bitterness to accept Jesus as her Savior.
Maggie got to her feet and brushed off the skirt of her gown. “I will take my leave now, if I may,” she said ignoring Garrett’s closeness. Sophia nodded, and Maggie moved from the room.
As Maggie reached the oak staircase, she turned and made the mistake of meeting Garrett’s unyielding eyes. Maggie sighed and began to climb the
stairs, when a thought came to her.
Lillie! I’ll sneak out of my room, down
the trellis, and run to Lillie’s house.
Maggie hiked her skirts and fairly flew up the remaining stairs. She was safely behind her bedroom door when Sophia Intissar rose slowly to her feet in the parlor below.
“If I know my granddaughter, Mr. Lucas, and I believe I do, I can count on her trying to leave this house without your knowledge. I would suggest you keep your eyes open. We have a staircase in back as well as the one in front.”