Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 2: A Far Horizon (Paperback)

by Anita Stansfield

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Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 2: A Far Horizon Audio Book Anita Stansfield (Author) BUY $17.99

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The journey had been long and difficult and full of mishaps— even deadly ones. But the words in Ian’s mind seemed . . . as if they encompassed all they’d endured and experienced; all their losses and sorrows. . . . You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, Ian. It was true. He knew it was true. He was exactly where God wanted him to be, and so were those who constituted his family. . . . They were where God wanted them to be; they were on the right path, in the right place at the right time, and they would soon achieve their goal and be united with God’s people.

In volume two of her compelling new Shadows of Brierley series, renowned LDS author Anita Stansfield once again weaves a rich narrative her readers can savor. Remarkably poignant and magnificently moving, this is the story of a family whose lives are anything but ordinary . . . a family whose journey takes them from the luxuries and comforts of a privileged Scottish heritage to the raw realities of a fledgling American frontier and a people who are true to their God and their faith despite relentless persecution.

With characters that leave an indelible impression on the reader’s heart, and a series of misfortunes that threatens to break spirits and extinguish faith, A Far Horizon will prove to be a spiritually significant destination well worth the journey.

    Contents:
  1. Leaving Brierley
  2. Seeing Bethia
  3. Embarking
  4. Crossing Forever
  5. America
  6. The Winter Wind
  7. Waiting for Spring
  8. Testing Faith
  9. The Letter
  10. Toward the Horizon
  11. The City on the River
  12. Visions
  13. Horizon to Horizon

Book on CD read by Jason Tatom

Product Details

  • Size:  6x9
  • Pages:  224
  • Published:  05/2011
  • Book on CD:  Unabridged
  • Number of discs:  7
  • Run Time:  Approx. 480 minutes

About the Author

Anita Stansfield began writing at the age of sixteen, and her first novel was published sixteen years later. Her novels range from historical to contemporary and cover a wide gamut of social and emotional issues that explore the human experience through memorable characters and unpredictable plots. She has received many awards, including a special award for pioneering new ground in LDS fiction, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Whitney Academy for LDS Literature. Anita is the mother of five, and has two adorable grandsons. Her husband, Vince, is her greatest hero.

For more information visit Anita Stansfield’s fan page on Facebook.

Chapter One

Leaving Brierley
Scotland – 1839

Ian MacBrier helped strap the final piece of luggage onto the top
of the carriage and jumped down. Heavy skies were growing heavier;
dark clouds were getting darker. Ian wondered for a moment if they
should postpone their journey another day with the hope of better
weather. But he knew that rain could persist for days, and prolonging
the inevitable would only prolong the heartbreak of unavoidable
good-byes. He gave the servants some instructions and went inside
the magnificent house called Brierley, trying not to think of how he
would likely never see it again after today.

Ian hurried up the stairs where he found his wife and her sister
rechecking the last few items they were packing into satchels they
would carry with them throughout the journey. His sister-in-law
Bethia didn’t acknowledge his entrance into the room, but that was
normal. For the majority of the time, Bethia existed more inside of her
own mind than she did in the real world where most people existed.
Ian had helped care for Bethia enough that he was accustomed to
her strangeness, and he could generally calm her down if the people
existing only in her imagination did something to upset her. But it was
Wren who could handle Bethia better than anyone. The sisters were
inseparable. Ian had been well aware when he’d married Wren that he
would also take on the responsibility of her sister. And he was fine with
that. There was no woman in the world like Wren. He would have
done anything—would do anything—to have her in his life. And today,
Wren was willing to leave everything behind to begin an unpredictable and likely harrowing journey to unknown places for reasons that were
based far more in faith than on any rationale of practicality.

Wren smiled at Ian and set aside her packing to embrace him,
as if she sensed his unrest and hoped to buffer it. When it proved
successful, he held her tighter, then longer when he didn’t want to
let go. With the exception of his knowledge of God’s place in his
life, Wren was his life. She was his strength, as vital as the blood that
coursed through his veins. They were utterly inseparable. He felt
certain if they even attempted to exist apart from one another, they
would both be too heartbroken to function. And now they would
be leaving here together for reasons that were complicated at best,
and far from easy in any respect. But they both knew it was the right
thing to do. They’d both experienced an undeniable, personal witness
that this was the course God wanted them to take. Their experiences
had been completely independent of each other, but the path before
them had been made equally clear. There were reasons they needed
to remove Bethia from this place; with her fragile mental condition
and in her present circumstances, it would be impossible to keep
her in this community and keep her safe. But Ian’s need to protect
Bethia was only a portion of his motivation for leaving the home of
his youth. He’d been born with a bizarre sense of wanderlust that had
brought much grief to him and his loved ones. Only recently had he
come to understand that God had planted such feelings in his heart
in order to prepare him for this step in his life. Leaving was the only
thing he could do in order to remain at peace with himself.

“We should go,” he said to Wren, forcing himself away from the
sanctity of her embrace. Rain started pelting the windows with a
startling intensity. A quick glance at his wife revealed the concern in her
expression.

“A little while longer won’t hurt,” she said as if she could fully sense
his reluctance to take this final step. “Perhaps if we wait, the weather
will clear, or—”

“You know as well as I that the rain is more likely to persist than
not,” he said. “We just need to go. It will hurt to put it off. Every hour
we delay will only make it more painful.” He cleared his throat as if
it could clear away the hovering fear he had of the doors of Brierley
closing behind him.

“Are ye worried, Ian,” Wren asked, “about leaving all of this behind?”

He looked at his wife and chuckled, glad to find that the question
contained some humor that somewhat abated his present emotions.
“If you’re implying that I can’t live without the comforts of Brierley,
then you have a very short memory, my love. I lived very well without
them while I wandered the streets of London.”

“I know, Ian. And ye lived very well without them when ye married
me and lived in our tiny house behind the tailor shop. I know all of
that, and that’s not what I mean.” She touched his face with gentle
fingers. “I mean leaving yer family, the safety and security of yer home.”

Ian looked down and blinked hard to hold back the burning in
his eyes. “I will miss my family very much,” he said, “as I know you
will. But delaying the inevitable will not help the matter. Tell me
what I can do to help you so that we can be on our way.”

“There’s nothing more t’ do, Ian,” she said and glanced discreetly
at her sister. In a softer voice she added, “She’ll keep refolding her
things for as long as we’re here. We can be ready in a few minutes.”

“And Shona?” he asked in reference to the sweet little maid who had
taken so thoroughly to Bethia—and Bethia to her—that they couldn’t
even consider leaving without at least asking Shona to go with them.
She had been so eager to come along that it had strengthened Ian’s
resolve in believing this was their destiny. Shona had no family to speak
of, no life in Scotland that she would regret leaving behind. And her
being with Ian and his family as they traveled would make everything
easier for Bethia and for Wren—which of course would make the
journey easier for him. What did he know about seeing to a woman’s
needs? But Shona was gifted about such things. She was reliable and
devoted, and Ian had thanked God more than once for making it
possible for her to join them as they embarked into an unknown future.

“She’s ready and waiting,” Wren said.

“Let’s go then,” Ian said with firm resolve.

Wren touched his face and smiled; courage filled her countenance.
“We know this is the right thing, my love. God will be with us. He will
surely comfort our sorrow.”

Ian nodded but couldn’t speak.

Ten minutes later they were standing in the hall near the door,
surrounded by family members with whom they’d already shared multiple good-byes. The last few days had been laced with mention of
the last time they would all be together for this or for that. At times
they’d been able to make jokes about the pending departure of Ian
and his family, and the way Ian’s brother Donnan would remain at
Brierley and become the Earl of Brierley at whatever point their father
left this world. At other times, tears couldn’t be held back, especially
by Ian’s parents. Ian had done well at holding back his own tears,
although he felt certain that a good cry would be in order over such
an event. It was little different from a death, he believed. He’d lost his
brother James and his best friend Greer to death. Both events had been
tragic, and he’d grieved deeply. Leaving Brierley felt akin to that in
some ways. But his grief over leaving did not negate even slightly the
absolute faith he had in his charted course. Just as he knew that Greer
and James were gone, he knew that this journey to America with his
wife and his sister-in-law was in God’s hands, not his own, and there
was nothing he could do or say to change it.

Unable to bear the agony, Ian opened the door and stepped out,
urging the women closer to the carriage. Because of the rain, the family
all followed under the shelter of umbrellas, and he watched through a
haze while final good-byes were shared. He helped Bethia, Wren, and
Shona into the carriage and watched his brother guide his own family
back into the house. Donnan glanced back once to share a final, steady
gaze with Ian before he disappeared, then Ian turned to face his parents.

“Ian.” Anya took his face into her hands. “Oh, my sweet Ian.” He
knew his mother’s reluctance to let him go was understandable, but
it was still making this harder. “How I wish there was something I
could say to make you change your mind.”

“We’ve already talked about this, Mother, and—”

“I know,” she said, fresh tears accumulating in her eyes. “I
understand, Ian; I do. I respect you for this decision . . . even though it
breaks my heart. I just want you to know that . . . you will always be in
my heart. And God willing, we may yet see each other again before this
life is done.”

“God willing,” Ian repeated, knowing it was the best answer he
could give. He was putting his life into God’s hands, and it would only
be by His will that such a reunion might take place one day. For all
he knew, for all that any of them knew, he would never again return to the shores of Scotland. America was so very far away, and the land
itself so enormous. The future was completely uncertain and subject to
circumstances that Ian could never imagine.

Anya took hold of Ian for one last embrace. They held to each
other tightly until he feared she would never let go; he had to initiate
the separation or stand there forever. He gently did so and heard
her sob. He looked into her eyes once more and glanced toward
his father, recalling with clarity the firm, emotional embrace they’d
shared only moments ago. Then he stepped into the carriage before
he could have even a moment longer to think about what this meant
or to prolong this agony any further.

Once inside the carriage, Ian took a deep breath. He exchanged a
long, steady gaze with Wren, who was sitting next to him. He glanced
across the way at his sister-in-law, who was sitting next to Shona. She
was a little more tall and plump than either Bethia or Wren, who
were both of average height and build for a woman. Shona’s hair was
a medium brown, a shade somewhere between Bethia’s blonde and
Wren’s nearly black tresses. All three women wore their hair up and
pinned to the back of their heads in a similar fashion.

Bethia was absently gazing out the window in a way that was
typical for her. She unconsciously rubbed her hand over her rounded
belly, and Ian felt a pang of fear in wondering how he would manage
such a journey with two pregnant women. He reminded himself for
the thousandth time that he knew God would be with them, and
the carriage jolted forward. Ian turned abruptly to look out the back
window of the carriage, catching a glimpse of his parents huddled
close together beneath an umbrella. He watched them, expecting
to see them go inside, but they didn’t. As the carriage rolled farther
away, the view of the splendid structure called Brierley broadened.
He absorbed it into his memory until the carriage took a turn and
he could no longer see the house or his parents. He turned to look at
Wren and held her gaze until they both felt compelled to look out the
windows at their sides, taking in the beauty of the lush, green Scottish
countryside as it was being bathed in a continual downpour.

When they had traveled far enough to get beyond the familiar
landscape of the valley where they’d both been raised, Ian lost his
fascination with the scenery. Wren continued to take in the view. She’d never traveled more than a few miles from her home. But Ian had
seen it all before, and the memories associated with leaving his home
previously were not necessarily pleasant. He’d come back with the firm
declaration and belief that his wanderlust had been cured. He’d married
Wren and made every effort to settle down and be content. But the
compelling need to leave his home, strengthened by the undeniable
witness that God had a greater plan for him and his family, had
gradually integrated into the necessity of removing his family from this
place for the sake of keeping Bethia safe.

They traveled steadily through the day, stopping only when
absolutely necessary. The darkness of late evening had completely
overtaken them before they stopped for the night. The driver would get
a good night’s sleep and go back to Brierley where he was employed.
From here, Ian would arrange for their travel to continue to Liverpool
in a hired coach. The inn where they stayed was less than adequate
in his opinion, but it was the only place available in the middle of
nowhere. He had stayed in far worse places in the past during his years
of wandering, but he wanted the women to be completely comfortable
and safe. They had a hearty meal, which they opted to eat in their rooms
when it became obvious that Bethia seemed unsettled by the noisy
crowd. Her reluctance to be left alone at all in such strange surroundings
enhanced Ian’s gratitude for Shona being with them. This way, one of
the women could always be with Bethia, and Ian could have time alone
with his wife without worrying about the well-being of his sister-in-law.

Rain battered the roof of the inn all through the night; however,
Ian slept tolerably well in spite of it and was pleased to discover
at breakfast that the women had also slept well. Bethia was more
calm than on the previous evening and seemed more engaged in the
adventure of going to America.

Once they were on their way again, Bethia said, “I think Greer
would have very much liked t’ be with us on our journey.”

“Perhaps he is,” Wren said, and Ian cast a subtle glare at her. He
knew she meant that Greer might well be with them in spirit; since
they both believed that spirits lived on after death, it was not difficult to
imagine. But he also knew that Bethia often suffered severe delusions,
and he didn’t want to encourage her to think that her deceased husband
might actually be among them.

“He’s dead, Wren,” Bethia said firmly, as if her sister might not have
known.

Ian felt relief over Bethia’s clear perception of reality in that
regard, but the comment still rankled him. Greer had not been dead
very many months, and the means by which they’d lost him were
shrouded by a mist of horror in Ian’s memory. The strangeness of his
tragic death was overshadowed by the fact that prior to the unlikely
accident that had left him with an infected wound that took his life,
everyone who knew him had believed he’d died years earlier in a fire.
Everyone except for Bethia. Greer had been secretly living in the
cellar of their home, interacting with his wife, relying on the illness
of her mind to make everyone else believe that her talking about him
was just a product of her imagination. Now they knew that Greer had
been alive during that time. But since there were people existing only
in Bethia’s mind, it was difficult even now for Ian to sort out Bethia’s
perceptions from what was real. Mentally he knew the difference,
but sometimes an emotional part of him had trouble with the fact
that he’d lost his best friend to death—twice. And the deception and
strangeness surrounding the memories always left him uneasy. The
one thing he knew for certain was that Greer was indeed dead. Ian
himself had helped bury Greer’s body secretly in the woods. With
the community already believing he was dead, there could be no
public explanation of his dying again without bringing to light the
reality of Bethia’s state of mind. Wren had feared for years that people
might not understand, and that Bethia might be forced to live in
some horrible asylum. That fear had not come to fruition. But when
Bethia’s pregnancy had become obvious, and no one knew that her
husband had actually been alive, it had quickly become evident that
she could never live peacefully in the community. She was surrounded
by people who didn’t understand, and some who were spewing out
harsh judgment and shunning her to the point of even forbidding her
to attend church. Ian had already known in his heart that leaving his
home and taking his family with him was the right thing to do. The
need to protect Bethia and Wren had simply facilitated making that
decision quickly and precisely. Now there was no turning back.

“Of course I know Greer is dead,” Wren said to her sister, startling
Ian back to the conversation. “I only meant that he surely lives on in spirit, and I’d like t’ think of him being with us. Perhaps he’s looking
out for us.”

“A pleasant thought,” Ian said. Bethia smiled and looked out the
window.

The rain continued with unfaltering consistency through the
remainder of their journey to Liverpool. The coach wedged its way into
the bowels of the dirty city just as the rain decreased to a colorless
drizzle. Ian could see the shock of city life on the faces of the three
women as they silently took in the noise and chaos reaching through
the carriage windows. Wren said nothing, but she squeezed his hand
tightly, and he detected a slight tremor in her fingers. Bethia and
Shona held to each other as if they were suppressing great fear.

“You mustn’t worry,” Ian said, sounding more sure of himself than
he felt. “I know it’s all very strange and different from the Highlands,
but that’s the very reason we will have adventures we’ve never had
before.”

Bethia smiled at him, as if his words immediately soothed her. The
other women just continued staring out the windows, having nothing
to say.

The first order of business was to find rooms at a decent hotel
so the women could rest and be comfortable, especially given the
fact that Wren and Bethia were both pregnant. Ian wanted to make
certain through every step of the journey that their needs were met
first and foremost. Now that he’d actually gotten past the painful
severing of himself from Brierley, he was prepared to take as much
time as necessary to achieve their destination. The health and safety
of those in his care were far more important than his keen desire to
get to America and to find people who shared his beliefs—people
like the two missionaries he’d encountered in London not yet a year
and a half ago. The things he’d heard them preaching, and the book
they had put into his hands, had changed his life irrevocably. Wren
too had read the book and knew of its truth, and God had made it
clear to both of them that their destiny was to find these people and
become a part of the religion they lived.

Ian often wondered how it would be when they did find them.
He imagined a golden city, full of peace and light radiating from the
goodness of the people gathered there together. But he knew that he had a tendency toward a vivid imagination, and the imaginings
of his youth in believing that a better world existed away from his
own home had left him sorely disappointed. This was different,
however. Still, he had no idea what to expect and very little to go on
in knowing where and how to find these people. The book had been
printed in New York, and that’s where they would begin. But they
had a long journey to simply get there, and they needed to take it
slowly.

With the kind help of the coach driver who was very familiar
with Liverpool, Ian was able to efficiently find adequate rooms for
his family at a moderately priced hotel with enough amenities for
comfort without being too lavish. While the inheritance he’d brought
with him was more than adequate to meet their needs for many years
to come, he was determined to be frugal and not waste it away. The
one thing that was certain was that the future could be unpredictable.

Ian gave a little extra money to the driver in appreciation for his
help, and it was accepted with gracious gratitude and a mention of
the man’s large family. Ian felt a small pang at the mention of family,
imagining his own lost in some measure of grief over his departure. It
occurred to him that there would not be such grief if he were not so
well loved. He had been blessed to come from a good family, and he
was grateful for that privilege. Even in this separation, the memory
of his life at Brierley and the lessons of love and living, and right and
wrong, would always be with him. In that instant, Ian shifted his
pain of parting from his family to thoughts of gratitude and pressed
forward with getting his family settled into their temporary lodgings;
they would remain here until they could get passage to New York.
Since Ian had never traveled beyond his native island at the east edge
of the Atlantic, he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. He was
glad to have the night to ponder the next step when it was far too late
to do anything about it.

By the time they were settled into their rooms, it was past the
time when they should have eaten supper, and they were all very
hungry. There was a little restaurant on the main floor of the hotel,
and they were glad to be able to conveniently acquire a good meal.
Bethia took well to the hotel and decided that she would like to eat
in the restaurant. She seemed to enjoy taking in the newness of the experience, and she kept very quiet—which was good considering
how prone she was to erupting into strange outbursts as a result of the
imaginary people talking in her head.

When they’d finished eating, they went upstairs to their rented
rooms: two bedrooms that adjoined through a little parlor that was
comfortable for visiting and eating meals. Wren made certain that
Bethia was settled in, and she left her sister and Shona sitting on
their bed, taking turns reading aloud to each other from The Pickwick
Papers. Wren returned to the room they shared and closed the door,
leaning against it a long moment in a way that was typical for her, as
if she were breathing in the relief of knowing that her sister was calm
and she could now relax. Wren’s life had been considerably wrapped
up in caring for Bethia ever since her strange mental condition had
manifested itself. Ian was only glad that he was also a significant
part of Wren’s life, and that he could help her carry these burdens.
Their eyes met across the room, and he too felt the relief of being
alone with her, and being safe and secure in this place, with this first
portion of the journey—however brief—behind them. He kissed her
in greeting, as if they’d not seen each other for hours—or days—then
he held her close and took advantage of such precious time with his
beloved wife, renewing the love they shared and finding a peace and
serenity that he could find nowhere else.

While they held each other in peaceful silence, neither speaking
but not prone to sleep, Ian prayed silently that he would be guided in
the unknown journey that lay before them, that he could keep those
in his care safe and well, and that they would be led to be joined
with God’s people in a faraway land. He prayed for his family back at
Brierley, and imagined them happy and laughing together around the
dinner table. Then he thanked God for all he had been blessed with
before he tightened his hold on Wren and kissed her good night.


The following morning, the rain had stopped, but the city had
a grayness that was only enhanced by an overcast sky. Ian went out
early to take inventory of their surroundings and make some inquiries.
He returned to find the three women sitting on the bed in the other
bedroom, giggling like little girls. But their laughter made him smile.

It was typical for them, and he loved hearing it. He hoped they kept
giggling through the months ahead. They’d had breakfast brought up
to the room and had already eaten. Ian ate the portion they’d saved for
him while he read a local newspaper and listened to the laughter of the
women occasionally wafting from the other room.

Ian went out again, leaving the women still engaged in that
seemingly endless stream of female conversation. He felt firm in his
mind on purchasing passage to New York, and returned to the hotel
with the arrangements made for his family to depart in six days time.
He concluded that in the time between now and then, he would
research traveling tips from the people who inhabited this shipping
community, and they would do everything they could to be as
prepared as possible for a smooth crossing.

Upon his return, the women informed him that they would all
be having lunch in a tea shop down the street that had come highly
recommended by one of the hotel maids, and then they would like to
wander about the city on foot and do a little shopping. They teased
Ian about coming along to protect them and carry their packages.
He graciously accepted the challenge, and they walked down the
street away from the hotel. Wren had her hand over his arm, and he
exchanged a smile with her. He loved to see her taking in these new
experiences with more joy than fear. Bethia and Shona walked ahead
of them, with Shona on the lookout for the recommended tea shop.

“Oh, there it is!” she declared excitedly, and Bethia let out a
delighted laugh that was contagious among the others.

The tea shop was somewhat crowded, but it had a jovial atmosphere
and it was filled with pleasant aromas. They were guided to a table
by the window that was actually set up to seat six, but it was the only
available table that would seat more than two people. The view of the
busy city street wasn’t necessarily pleasant, but it was undoubtedly
interesting—especially for these three women who had never traveled
beyond the valley of their birth. Being in Liverpool reminded Ian far
too much of his time in London, which held no pleasant memories
for him at all. The cities had a different feel to them, as if they each
had their own character and personality, but the essence of busy
city life did not suit his taste. He focused instead on the women
chattering as they took in all that was new and different around them.

While they were enjoying a simple lunch and tea in pretty china
cups, the shop quickly filled up, and every seat was taken except for the
two extra chairs at their own table. A moment after Ian had glanced
around and become aware of this fact, he noticed a man and woman
coming through the shop’s door together. A serving maid approached
them to explain that they would have to wait for a table. Ian saw
their disappointment and the obvious fatigue in the expression of
the woman, who was near the age of Ian’s mother. The man with her
appeared to be her son; they had similar features, although the man’s
hair color was darker than his mother’s light brown, graying hair. The
man was thin with very dark hair, not unlike Ian’s—although his own
was curly, and this man’s hair was decidedly straight, but was cut long
enough over his ears and neck to show it to its best advantage. Ian
figured they were close to the same age, but this man was nearly a head
shorter, which made him more of an average height.

Before Ian even realized what he was doing, he stood and
approached these strangers, saying to the maid while he motioned
toward the table, “They are welcome to sit with us if they would like.”

The maid looked startled by this uncustomary solution to the
problem. Ian looked directly at the man and woman and said, “We
are new to the city and would enjoy your company. Please join us.”

Only then did Ian realize the man was blind. His eyes didn’t look at
all disfigured or strange, except for the way they gazed off toward nothing.

“That’s very kind of you, sir,” the woman said. “We’re always open to
making new friends.”

“I’ll bring more dishes straightaway,” the maid said and went to the
kitchen. Ian motioned the newcomers toward the table. He noticed
that the man held casually to the woman’s arm in a manner that
would not bring attention to his blindness, but she was clearly adept at
guiding him when they moved about.

“My name is Ian MacBrier,” Ian said as the woman guided the
man’s hand to the back of a chair. He found the edge of the table with
his other hand, and managed with little difficulty to sit down. Ian
helped the woman with her chair and motioned toward his own family.
“This is my wife Wren, her sister Bethia, and our friend Shona.”

“How very pleasant to meet you all,” the woman said, beaming with
pleasure and displaying not the slightest hint of awkwardness at joining
strangers for lunch. Ian took his seat again, and she returned the introductions. “My name is Millicent Mickellini. The first name doesn’t
match the last, I know. I’m British, born and bred, but I married a fine
Italian man. His life was brief, may he rest in peace, but he left me a
fine son who is very much like him.” She put a gentle hand over her
son’s arm. “This is my son, Howard, although he prefers to go by Ward.
He was never fond of the name Howard, but we named him after my
father, may he rest in peace.”

“I never knew my grandfather,” Ward said, “but I choose to
assume that he’d not mind my shortening his name for my own use.”

“It’s a pleasure t’ meet ye, Mrs. Mickellini,” Wren said, “and you as
well—”

“Please, call me Millie,” she interrupted firmly. “It was never in
our nature to stand on formality. My dear husband, may he rest in
peace, came from one of the best-known families in Italy when it
comes to wine making. Anyone in the country who knows fine wine
knows the name, that’s for certain. He left us plenty well off when
he died . . . may he rest in peace. But I was raised a simple woman,
myself, and we certainly don’t stand on formality, now, do we, Ward?”

“No, Mother,” Ward said with a kind smile in the direction of his
mother’s voice, as if he were humoring her eccentricity; but he did it
respectfully. “We certainly don’t stand on formality.” He turned more
toward where Ian was sitting and added, “Please call me Ward, and
understand that . . . as new friends, we will gladly respect your wish
to be called whatever you choose.”

“The use of given names is definitely our preference,” Ian said.
“By all means.”

“That’s a lovely accent you have,” Millie said. “Ian, is it?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I assume you’re from Scotland with a name like MacBrier,” Millie
added. “The name certainly declares its heritage right off, doesn’t it; the
same with ours. You can’t say Mickellini without people immediately
knowing that it’s Italian. So you’re from Scotland?”

“We are,” Ian said.

“From a different area than your wife?” Millie asked. “I detect a
difference in the accents.”

Ian caught a subtle smile from his wife and was glad to know she
would never take offense from such a comment. The difference in
their speech was the difference between his being raised as the son of an earl, and her being raised the daughter of a tailor. Those differences
had never mattered to them. They’d been friends long before they were
married, and they had always been equals in every respect. But Millie
was obviously very sharp, and curious—and bold—to pick up on the
difference in the few words they had exchanged—and to comment on it.

“No, we grew up in the same valley,” Ian said and changed the
subject. “What brings you to Liverpool?”

“You can’t get to America without finding a ship to take you there,”
Ward said.

His mother quickly backed up the comment with a zealous,
“We’re going to become Americans!”

Ian felt as if time stopped for a long moment, while seconds
stretched out to allow him to take in a powerful feeling and a great
deal of information in the amount of time it would take to sneeze.
He could likely never put the experience to words, but he knew the
feeling. It was the same way he’d felt when his prayers had finally
been answered and he’d known beyond any doubt that he needed to
take his family to America. And now, he looked across the table at
Ward Mickellini and felt as if they’d known each other far longer than
a few minutes. He knew this was no coincidental meeting. He knew
their lives had been destined to cross. He knew their being together
through this journey was necessary and meant to be. Ian took a deep
breath in an attempt to take it all in, and to convince himself that he
was not crazy for acknowledging such feelings. Then he felt his wife’s
hand take hold of his beneath the table with an extra-tight squeeze
that alerted his attention to the expression on her face, one that surely
mirrored his own. Without a word spoken, he knew that she’d felt
it too. They’d always been like that, sensing each other’s thoughts.
Only recently had he come to understand that it was God who had
connected them that way. They kept each other from doubting the
things they both knew that were true and right. He smiled at her,
and she smiled back before she said to their new friends, “How very
marvelous! That is the very reason that we’ve come t’ Liverpool, as
well.”

“Truly?” Millie asked in a histrionic tone that made Ian chuckle.
“What port are you sailing to? We just purchased passage yesterday to
New York City; the ship sails in six days.”

Ian shared another smile with his wife, then nodded toward Millie.
“The very same,” Ian said, and everyone at the table laughed at the
remarkable coincidence, or perhaps more so from the warm chill of
destiny that seemed to rush over the group of six gathered in the tea
shop.

The newcomers told the serving maid what they would like, and
it was brought to the table promptly. Light conversation and more
laughter continued while they shared their meal.

The laughter stopped when Bethia spoke with direct soberness to
Ward. “You’re blind, aren’t you?”

Ian was stunned but not surprised by Bethia’s blunt approach. He
was hoping Ward—or his mother—wouldn’t take offense when Wren
said, “Bethia dear, it’s not polite t’—”

“I don’t consider it impolite,” Ward said, his face turned toward
the sound of Bethia’s voice. “In fact, I prefer having the matter
addressed, as opposed to people pretending it’s not true or trying to
avoid it. Yes, Bethia,” he said as he leaned slightly more toward her
even though he couldn’t see her, “I am blind. I wasn’t born this way,
so I do have memories of what the world looks like. The blindness
came on slowly when I was a child. By the time I was ten, I could see
nothing except that I have a vague sense of daylight, as opposed to
darkness.”

“It seems as though ye’re looking at me,” Bethia said to him.

“I’m looking at the sound of your voice,” he said, and Bethia smiled.

“How do ye know I’m not very homely and repulsive?” she asked.

Ward chuckled comfortably, and his mother said, “Ward can
teach us all a thing or two about seeing a person’s heart.”

“Can ye see my heart?” Bethia asked as if she were a child. If she
were a child, the situation might not have been so awkward.

“I can only say that I hope to get to know you well enough to do
so,” Ward said, apparently unaware of any awkwardness.

“How do ye know what a person looks like?” Bethia asked him.

“You sound very beautiful,” he said, and Bethia laughed softly.
“But I must rely on my hands to see what my eyes cannot.”

Bethia immediately took Ward’s hand from where it rested on
the table and put it to her face. Ian heard Wren gasp over her sister’s
boldness, but again Ward didn’t seem put off or discomfited by it at all. Ward gently explored Bethia’s face with his fingers while Millie
just watched the exchange with a pleasant smile.

“You are beautiful,” Ward said to Bethia, and again she laughed
softly.

Ian realized what neither Ward nor his mother could know while
they were all seated around a table. As Bethia’s only protector in this
world, he felt the need to point out the situation before any more
flirting took place. Bringing it up couldn’t possibly make the situation
any more strange or awkward than it already was. Ward’s hand was
back on the table, but he seemed to be staring at Bethia as if he were
thoroughly smitten. Bethia was looking back at him the same way.
Millie looked utterly pleased, and Ian wanted to blurt out that these
people had no idea of the dark secrets carried by this woman they
were admiring.

“Bethia’s husband passed away recently,” Ian said, “and she’s
going to have a baby.” He didn’t add that she was also very mentally
unstable, and possibly even dangerous when the personalities in her
mind took over.

Ward’s expression hardly changed. Millie said, “Oh, you poor
darling. Of course we’ll do anything we can to help. You can’t have
too many friends when life deals you a difficult hand. I too lost my
husband when I was young, may he rest in peace. Perhaps we can give
each other solace.”

“Perhaps we can,” Bethia said, smiling at Millie.

“Perhaps we can,” Ward repeated, still gazing blankly toward the
sound of Bethia’s voice.

Ian wasn’t sure what to make of the situation, but he reminded
himself that only minutes ago he’d been overwhelmed with strong
feelings of affinity toward this man. Surely the matter was in God’s
hands, and there was no need for concern. For the moment, he
was content to lean back in his chair and enjoy the conversation
as it bounced around the table and involved everyone. He became
distracted by watching his wife. He thought of how beautiful she was,
and how glad he was that he could see her. She turned to smile at
him, and he was very glad to be able to see her!

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