Faith Blum

Just a Closer Walk

Chance brought them together

Katie and Joanna meet on a train headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They start talking and find out they are both headed there to become mail order brides. They quickly become good friends. When they get on a stagecoach with three other young women, Katie becomes suspicious. What is going to happen to them? Or is it really possible that nothing untoward is happening?

Chapter 1

Katie took a deep breath to calm herself. There was really no reason to be quite so nervous. She had been on her own for more than ten years now and done quite well for herself. Naturally, she would be a little nervous as she left her hometown for the first time to go all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne was a wild place, but if Katie knew anything about herself, it was that she could handle wild people and wild places.

She stepped inside the dark train car and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. In the back corner sat a young woman all alone. The woman fidgeted like a cat scared of its own shadow. Perhaps she could help calm her own nervousness by helping someone else.

Katie strode up the narrow aisle to the seat where the young woman sat. “May I sit next to you?”

The young woman looked up at her. Her blue eyes were full of fear. “Yes, if you’d like.”

Katie smiled. “Thank you. I’ve never traveled outside the city before and wouldn’t mind a little company.”

The young woman bit her lip. “I don’t know how good of company I’ll be, but you’re welcome to try.”

Katie chuckled. “My name is Katie. What’s yours?”

“Joanna.”

The train whistle blew and the train jolted as it started on its way. Katie watched the city fade away into the distance and decided conversation probably wasn’t the best idea at the moment.

The train clacked on and the murmur of voices surrounded them. Katie wasn’t sure what to talk about with this stranger and the motion of the train lulled her into a fitful nap.

She woke with a start sometime later and looked around. A piece of paper in Joanna’s hand caught her eye. “What is that?”

Joanna looked up at her. “A letter.”

Katie smiled. “Do you have a sweetheart waiting for you?”

“Not really.”

Katie’s smile faded. “What do you mean?”

Joanna’s eyes darted around as she tried to decide what to say.

Katie put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“I’d like to tell someone.”

“But you aren’t sure you can trust me?”

Joanna met her eyes for the first time since they’d met. “Yes.”

“Your secrets are safe with me.”

Joanna smiled shyly. “Thank you. This letter isn’t actually written to me. My friend Mildred wrote to a man in Cheyenne who was looking for a wife. He wrote back and sent her the tickets to go out there. She panicked because she suddenly wasn’t sure she wanted to become a wife on the frontier.” Joanna clenched her hands together and fell silent.

“How did you get the letter and tickets?” Katie asked softly.

“My parents died a couple months ago. Ever since they died, a man no one would dream of marrying, and who is known to be cruel to all living things, has been giving me unwanted attention. I told him ‘no’ many times, but he kept asking anyway.

“One day, I attended a social with Mildred. He was there and tried to get me alone. Finally, he got me away from Mildred and tried kissing me. I fought him off, but by then it was too late. Someone came in and found us. She demanded we get married or my reputation would be in tatters.

“Mildred could tell it had all been set up and we left immediately. Then she got the letter with the tickets. She thought of me at once. It was a way for me to get away from the man.”

Katie took a deep breath. “And I thought I was leaving for a good reason. It sounds like you needed it more than I did.”