“Come on in and sit down, Mandy,” Herb said. He leaned back in the chair behind his desk, the wood creaking under the weight of him. With a pen in his hand and the ink and paper on the table, he looked as if he had been working through some bookkeeping.
But Mandy Jane looked at Herb Tennyson with cautious, pale blue eyes. It was clear that he had something important to tell her, but Mandy had the strangest feeling that she wasn’t going to like it.
“Is everything all right?” she asked him, taking a deep breath.
“Yes, yes, everything is fine. Great, actually. I think you’re really going to like the news I have for you,” Herb said.
“News? What sort of news?” she asked, not having expected anything more than a lecture on how she needed to keep a closer eye on all the children, not just her sister, Sophie.
Herb had owned and run the orphanage longer than Mandy had been alive. Whenever there were older children, like her, it fell to them to help with all the younger ones. But Mandy was eighteen now and she also realized that it was just a matter of time before Herb sent her away.
When she remembered that fact, this meeting suddenly became a good deal more frightening. What if Herb was going to kick her out? What if she was going to have to make her own way, finding work and a place to live? What if she was separated from Sophie?
“It’s good news, I promise,” Herb said, rubbing his bald head. “I think you know that, at your age, it’s about time for you to get out from within these walls.”
“B-but you need help, don’t you? With the children, I mean. Isn’t it important that I assist you in taking care of them? Surely you can’t mean that it’s best for everyone if I leave,” Mandy said, nervously trying to come up with excuses.
“Now, now, Mandy,” Herb said, holding up a hand to quiet her. “You don’t need to get all upset like this. Your sister is going to be here to help me with all of that. You, on the other hand, will be perfectly fine. As it happens, I found you a husband.”
Mandy froze, staring at Herb in complete surprise.
A husband? What did she need a husband for? Sure, she wanted one someday, but now? Wasn’t that only going to get in the way of everything else she had to handle?
“What do you mean? Why did you find me a husband?” she asked.
“Mandy, surely you knew that this was the next step, didn’t you? This is very important. You ladies, beautiful young girls such as yourself, it’s so important for you to find a man in your life. I found you a great one. His name is Stanley Hawkins. You’ll like him, don’t you worry,” Herb said.
“But—but I don’t even know him,” she said, still clinging to any rebuttal she could think of.
“That’s why he’s here, waiting to meet you. Don’t you worry, Mandy. This is going to be a very good thing, all right?”
Herb stood before she could respond and led Mandy out of the office and into a small sitting room. There, she saw him.
“Stanley, this is Mandy,” Herb said.
Stanley Hawkins had a greasy mustache over his thin upper lip. His jowls sagged as if he had once been a similar size to Herb, but had gotten sick and lost all of his padding. His hair was thin, laying in long strips across the top of his head to create the illusion of more hair than he had.
“Mandy, nice to meet you,” Stanley said, his voice gravelly and deep.
“And you,” she replied, trying to smile.
The last thing Mandy wanted was to judge Stanley based on his appearance. She couldn’t imagine being married to a man she didn’t find attractive, but she hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to marriage anyway. It hardly mattered.
What she truly had not wanted was to end up in this place. Here she was, having to leave the orphanage. And worse? She was being sent off to marry this man she didn’t know or care for. Whatever difficulties she may have expected from life, this was something else entirely.
“Please, join me. Have a seat. You really are a pretty little thing, aren’t you?” Stanley commented with a gruff laugh.
“Thank you, Mr. Hawkins,” she said in a quiet, shy manner.
“No, thank you. I’m glad that I get to marry someone like you. Now, are you looking forward to being the wife of a rancher?” he asked.
“Oh…a rancher? Well, I am sure that is a very nice life,” she said, trying to remain optimistic.
“That it is. Busy, but good. You’ll like it, that’s for sure. You get to handle the woman’s work of course—the cooking and cleaning, mainly—but also some of the other things, like handling the chickens. Well, that and plenty of other chores,” he said, the same gruff laugh reminding Mandy that this was not the sort of man she would have expected.
Without a word, Herb departed from the room, leaving Mandy and Stanley alone. Panic washed over her, but she maintained her polite smile, not wanting to offend this man.
“So, I must ask you, Mr. Hawkins—”
“Stanley. Just call me Stanley. You’re going to be my wife now,” he said.
“Yes, of course, thank you, Stanley. I must ask you if my sister is coming to live with us,” Mandy said, deeply curious to know what plan lay ahead for Sophie.
But Stanley scoffed and shook his head.
“I don’t know what gave you that idea. Herb told me she’s got a leg all messed up and that just ain’t gonna cut it on a ranch. Besides, I don’t want anyone around who I have to explain every time I’m with important people,” Stanley said.
Mandy was shocked by these callous words. She didn’t understand how he could speak about her beloved sister that way. Who did he think he was? Why would he talk about Sophie as if she was something to be ashamed of?
“Her leg is not messed up. It is just a little bit twisted. There is nothing wrong with her and no reason you should be frightened to be seen with her in your home,” Mandy said.
Stanley sighed in sarcastic irritation and looked at Mandy without the faintest bit of care.
“That’s what you think. You’re her sister so you just want to be with her. You don’t have the slightest bit of care for someone like me and the reputation I need to keep,” he said.
“I think you are being utterly disrespectful,” Mandy shot back.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t beg. If you dislike what I am telling you, it is best that you simply forget the marriage. I honestly cannot understand why you would be sitting there, trying to marry someone whose family you cannot respect,” she hissed.
Mandy was furious at Stanley. She had only just met him, but she was quickly coming to see that even if she could push aside her feelings about his outward appearance, there was nothing that could possibly mend the dark chasm of his heart.
“How dare you speak to me that way? I’m going to be your husband and you think that’s all right? I’ll tell you right now, little missy, it ain’t gonna fly. You had best accept the fact that I don’t take too kindly to that kind of speech. You oughta know that I am a man with a whole lot of clout to my name. I expect you to treat me the way I oughta be treated,” he said.
“And I expect you to treat my sister in the way she deserves. She is a person, Stanley. She is a human being with dignity and strength and purpose. She has value. What makes you think you can speak about her like this?” Mandy asked.
“I can say whatever I please. You are just the girl I am doing a favor by marrying and getting out of this place. You think you can start making demands of me before we are even married? Really?” he scoffed.
“All I want is for you to treat my sister with respect. I would love it if you would consider allowing her to live at your ranch. I expect there is plenty of space. And she may have this slight cosmetic difference from others, but there is still so much she is able to do,” she said.
“Able to do? Ain’t she deformed?”
“No, Stanley. She’s not deformed. She is still perfectly capable of doing many things. She cooks, cleans, helps teach the children here at the orphanage. She does many things. You have no reason to look down on her. Honestly, how would you feel if everyone went around judging you for your imperfections?” Mandy asked.
He looked at her as if she had just made an impossible claim. Underneath his shock, however, Mandy saw anger. She had not been overly respectful of her new, soon-to-be husband and he was furious at her because of it.
However, Mandy had only said what she believed fully in her heart. She was not the sort of woman to go out of her way to be disrespectful. But when there was an injustice that needed to be addressed, she was going to take whatever step she deemed necessary to right his wrong.
“You mean to say that you see all manner of imperfections in me, then? Well, I’ll be. I wouldn’t have thought that a little girl like you would be going around and complaining about the sort of man that I am. Tell me, Mandy, do you really think that you have the right to say I’m not worthy of respect? You think I have problems that people should have the right to discuss? That I’m flawed?” he asked.
“I believe everyone has flaws,” she replied.
“Well, you had best let go of that belief. You and me are supposed to be married soon. You think it’s gonna fly for you to speak to me this way? It ain’t, darlin’. I’ll have you know that I’m a man who deserves to be respected. I’ve earned it. I’ve done a whole lot in this town to make certain that I get it. You and your sister ain’t gonna ruin that for me,” he insisted.
Stanley’s speech was growing farther and farther away from proper English as he was getting upset and Mandy believed that he was letting his frustration show who he really was. But she also recognized that he was a man of great pride, determined to believe that he was worthy of her admiration.
Mandy had to hold herself back from mocking him further, from letting him know just how unimpressed she was by his antics.
This man was anything but the sort of fella she belonged with. Nevertheless, he had to remind her of the painful reality.
“Listen here, missy, you and me, we’re getting married in two days. You hear that? Two days,” he said.
“You and I,” she corrected.
“Yes, exactly. The two of us.”
“No, I mean, you said it incorrectly. It’s not ‘you and me’, it’s ‘you and I’. You and I are getting married,” she said, feeling strangely satisfied by pointing out this mistake.
But Stanley was clearly still angry about it and there was nothing at all Mandy expected from him aside from his fury at this point. He stuck a finger in her face and pointed in a scolding manner.
“Enough of that, you hear? It’s not going to continue after we say our vows. There is nothing you can do about all this. Your little antics here, trying to get me back for acknowledging your sister is worthless to me? They’ll get you nowhere. You had best rest assured that I ain’t gonna let you get away with any of this,” he said.
“You don’t need to let me get away with anything. I’m not someone who is going to fight just for the sake of fighting. But you should be prepared for the fact that I do fight on behalf of others. If you continue speaking about my sister in the way you have already, I am not going to be pleased with you and you will be made aware of it,” Mandy warned.
He stared at her in shock all over again. Mandy clenched her fists and her jaw at the same time. She didn’t want to marry this man, but she also didn’t want to make an enemy of him. All she really wanted was to have a happy life, free of this nonsense.
And what she wanted more than that was to take good care of her sister, to help her be prosperous in life and experience all the wonders of the world around her.
There had to be more than this. There had to be something better.
Mandy only had to find it.
Abram Wilkins threw the rest of the hay into the stall where Mary the Mare, his favorite horse, kicked and let out a huff. She hadn’t been very comfortable of late, as she was getting pretty near to delivering her foal.
Just then, the stable door swung open and Gary entered, a smile on his face and a hand running through his short, white-blonde hair.
“Well, I’ll be, I thought you were on fence duty today,” Gary said.
“Me? Nope. Not today. I get to spend some time with my girl here,” Abram said, nodding to Mary.
“That’s nice enough, I suppose. She certainly does get calm when you’re around. I think she’s looking forward to getting that little one on the outside, huh?” Gary asked, eyeing Mary’s belly from outside the stall.
“She sure is. I bet she’ll be a great mother. She’s got the right temperament for it. And look at that shiny, brown coat of hers. If her baby is half so beautiful, everyone’s going to be amazed by them,” Abram said.
“She’s that shiny because you’re always brushing her, making her look good,” Gary said.
“I don’t know about that.”
“It’s true. You take good care of her. Kinda makes me wonder how’d you be with a wife. I mean, if you take care of a horse with that kind of attention, you would be a pretty swell husband to any woman out there who is lucky enough to marry you,” Gary said.
Abram didn’t reply at once. He didn’t want to share all of his own thoughts on the matter with his friend.
After all, Abram really did want to get married. He wasn’t pining for it, but he had been thinking about it quite a bit lately. The idea of having someone by his side, of having little ones of his own, it was all a pretty great thing to think about.
His shaggy brown hair fell in his face as he reached into the stall to clear a few cobwebs. The sleeves on his white, cotton shirt were rolled up to the elbow, but he still managed to catch some dirt along the back of his bicep.
“Well, I can’t think of a woman who wants to marry a man who’s always covered in dirt and muck,” he said.
“Really? I’ll bet there’s plenty of them. And, if nothing else, I just heard that Stanley Hawkins found a wife from the orphanage. Can you imagine? Poor girl. They’re supposed to get married tomorrow. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but, if nothing else, maybe they have another girl available?” Gary suggested.
Abram’s hazel eyes filled with concern. He didn’t like the sound of all that. Stanley was not a good man. He might not have been a criminal, necessarily, but he was rough and arrogant, selfish, and judgmental.
There wasn’t much about him that Abram considered worthy of a wife.
“I know,” Gary said.
“Huh? Know what?”
“I can see it in your eyes. You’re wondering how on earth a man like that could find a bride. I was just saying that I know what you mean. I understand,” Gary replied.
“Oh, right. Yeah, well, it’s not a great thought. I do feel bad for the girl,” Abram remarked, really wishing that things could be different.
“Me too. But if you’re really wanting to get married, you could always go and talk to him about how he found her. Maybe he can give you some advice for finding a wife that way,” Gary said.
Abram wasn’t entirely sure that was how he wanted to find a wife, but he recognized that he didn’t have a whole lot of choices. If he did want to get married—that desire which had truly been growing—this could be the way to make it happen.
After he finished his work for the day, Abram saddled Bruce, a gelding that he had brought with him from home when he came to work at the ranch. From there, he made his way into town and just a little way east, out where Stanley lived. When he came upon Stanley’s home, a sudden wave of regret washed over Abram.
Why was he doing this? Did he reply want to follow in Stanley’s steps for finding a wife? And what about the rest of it? He didn’t even want to talk to Stanley, a man he didn’t like and didn’t respect.
But he really had been wanting to get married soon and this could just be a starting point, couldn’t it? There was nothing wrong with trying to gather information about marrying a young woman from the orphanage.
Abram knocked on Stanley’s front door and it opened to reveal the man himself. Gruff, unpleasant, generally unkempt. There was very little about him which would attract a wife who was not being forced out of a position where she was probably taking up too much space when younger children needed to move in.
“Abram Wilkins? You’re not a face I would expect to see here. What’s going on? Something wrong?” he asked.
“Uh…sorry, Stanley. I just…um…do you have a minute? I have a couple questions I’d really like to ask you,” Abram said.
“Right, well, sure. I guess. What’s going on?” Stanley asked, coming out onto the porch and sitting in one rocker while gesturing for Abram to sit in the other. He did so and took a deep breath.
“I heard that you found yourself a woman to marry. Is that so?” he asked.
“Sure is. Not sure I’m happy about it though,” Stanley grumbled.
“Oh? Why not?”
“Nothing much. Why’s that?” Stanley asked.
“I…I would really like to marry, actually. I wonder if you know of any other young women from the orphanage who may be about that age? Or…if not…I understand that this may be something big to ask, but I didn’t figure you for a man looking to marry any time soon. I would be happy to…” Abram trailed off, not knowing how he was supposed to ask Stanley to simply hand over the wife he had just committed to marrying.
“Abram, are you trying to ask for the woman I’m supposed to marry?” Stanley asked.
Abram closed his eyes and sighed against his own stupidity for actually thinking this was a wise idea. He didn’t want that poor girl to have to marry Stanley and he thought he had to be at least a little bit better of a match.
“You know, it’s a bit strange, but I suppose this is something for me to think about,” Stanley said.
Abram perked up at once, looking at Stanley with a new hope in his eyes.
“What exactly are you thinking about?” he asked.“This woman. I don’t know that she’s quite the one I want. I agreed to the marriage because she is the only one old enough, but if you would really like to marry her instead, I suppose I could support that. You could go in my place. Is that what you really want?”
Shocked and delighted, Abram nodded with enthusiasm.
“You really mean that? You would let me marry her?” he asked, a myriad of emotions washing over him.
He had come to see Stanley in the hopes that he might learn some information about finding a wife, but in his realization that no woman should be subject to a husband like Stanley, he had taken a chance and asked for this rather dramatic exchange.
The last thing Abram had anticipated was that Stanley would actually agree to it.
“I have to say that it’s a bit of a relief. I probably wouldn’t have allowed myself to step back from the commitment out of fear of my reputation, but I didn’t really want to proceed with the marriage,” he said.
“Why not?” Abram asked, wondering if the young woman wasn’t the sort of girl he should look for in a wife.
“Oh, it was really just my own preference. I think I’m not quite happy with the idea of settling down to be a husband right now, like you said. I’m just…I’m just not in the right place for it,” he said.
Something about the response didn’t quite sit with Abram, but he tried to ignore it. After all, he had just received some wonderful news and the last thing he wanted was to start worrying about things that didn’t matter. If he was going to get to marry the young woman, he was just going to celebrate that fact.
“So, what can you tell me about her? What’s her name?” he asked.
There was no emotion or affection in Stanley’s tone and that relieved Abram. It meant that there was no connection the two had felt. Mandy was completely available for a different husband than someone like Stanley.
“That’s a lovely name. And…well, I know that it hardly matters, but is she, you know, beautiful and all that?” he asked, somewhat embarrassed by his own question.
“Oh, that she is,” Stanley replied. “She’s got lovely blue eyes and the cutest dimples you’ve ever seen. She’s a pretty one. If I was still excited about marrying, I’d be happy to marry a woman who looked like that.”
“Well, that’s nice to know. Thank you, Stanley. So, what do I do now? Should I go and speak with Mr. Tennyson at the orphanage?” he asked.
“No, no, no,” Stanley said, quickly. “Nothing like that. You don’t need to do a thing. Just let me get it all sorted out. All you need to do is show up tomorrow for the wedding at the church. Eleven in the morning. You can let some of your friends know, of course, make sure that they attend. Like that Gary Brown fella that you’re always spending time with.”
“I will. I will certainly tell Gary,” he replied.
“Right. Well, I ain’t got all day,” Stanley said, standing from the rocker. “You had best get back to work also. You’re going to be a married man tomorrow and that means you need to get some work done today and a good bit of rest tonight. Don’t you worry though. I’ll handle all the other stuff.”
“Thank you so much, Stanley. I really am grateful. I think this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I really hope she cares for me as much as I’m sure I’ll care for her,” Abram said.
“Oh, I have no doubt of it. Now, you just run along,” Stanley said, clearly trying to get rid of him.
Abram decided to go ahead and do as he was told. He didn’t need to worry, not really. He just wanted to enjoy his life and live it to the fullest. A part of that, he believed, was taking advantage of the opportunities God placed in his life. That included opportunities like finding a good wife.
If the right woman was out there, what did he have to fear? She would be able to bring him all kinds of happiness. And this woman just had to be the right one. None of this could fall into place so easily if she was not, right?
Abram stood from the rocker and went on his way, eager to tell all of his friends that he was going to be married the next day, against every expectation and plan. This was something to celebrate and he wanted all of them joining him in that celebration. Surely they would be happy for him!
When he got back to the ranch, he was already prepared to tell Gary everything that had taken place. As Abram approached, Gary looked up at him with a strange expression.
“You look…different. I don’t think I’ve seen you smile this much in a very long time. What’s going on with you?” Gary asked.
“That, my friend, is an excellent question. To tell you the truth, I have had an afternoon unlike any other,” he replied.
“So, I take it you went to see Stanley Hawkins?”
“I did. And things took a bit of a turn. You see, Stanley realized that he’s not quite mature enough to handle a woman in his life just now. Because of that, he told me that I can marry the girl,” Abram announced with a goofy grin on his face.
Gary’s jaw slackened and his brows knit together.
“You…you plan on marrying the girl he was supposed to marry?”
“Yep! Tomorrow morning. You’ll come, of course, won’t you?” Abram asked.
“Abram, did you actually meet the girl? Did you ensure that you like her? Do you really believe that committing to take his place is the right thing? Why would he go to the trouble of finding a wife and then pass her off?” Gary asked.
Abram had been trying to push that thought aside. As much as he wanted to believe that he had simply talked reason into Stanley, he somehow doubted that to truly be the case.
“Oh, you know how men like Stanley are. Changeable,” he said.
This was what Abram chose to believe. If it turned out to be anything different, he would handle it in time. For now, all he wanted was to wake up the next day and meet and marry Mandy.
“It’s all going to be fine,” Herb said as Mandy rode in the cart with him and Sophie beside her.
Sophie grasped Mandy’s hand. She knew every bit of worry that Mandy felt, having had to stay up late and listen to Mandy cry the night before.
“But I could leave and find work. I could take Sophie with me. You wouldn’t have to worry about us anymore,” Mandy said, trying to plead with Herb one last time.
“Enough, Mandy. You have found a perfectly good husband. Many young women would be grateful for something like that. It’s best if you try to be as well,” he said.
They reached the church and Mandy took a deep breath, trying to prepare for what lay ahead of her. As they climbed out and she took hesitant steps toward the door, Sophie continued to hold her hand. She gave it a comforting squeeze as they stepped into the church.
At the end of the aisle, Mandy saw someone rather different from the man she had expected to see. She couldn’t see him clearly in the dim light of the church after coming in from outside, but she saw that this outline did not match the man she had met a few days earlier. She looked at Herb with a question in her eyes, but saw that his own lips were parted, his eyes searching, his confusion evident.
“Herb? Who’s that?” Mandy asked.
“That’s some fella I’ve seen in town before. I don’t know his name,” Herb replied, awkwardly.
“And where’s Stanley?”
“That’s a very good question,” Herb said.
But before anything more could be said, Mandy spotted Stanley sitting in one of the pews as no more than a guest.
Once her eyes had fully adjusted, she looked back to the altar and took in the sight of a man far younger and more handsome. He smiled at her with a look of excitement, even giddiness, on his face. He was clearly more prepared for this than she was.
Unsure what was to be expected of her, Mandy stood still, frozen in place.
“What in all of heaven is going on here?” Herb asked under his breath, evidently confused and angry. Mandy didn’t have an answer for him, but she was worried by his sudden change in demeanor. It was clear that he was far from pleased.
She looked up at him and he was glaring at Stanley over where he sat. Stanley shrugged and nodded to the young man at the front.
“So…I’m not marrying Stanley?” she asked.
“I don’t rightly know what’s happening at the moment. It would be best if you don’t bother asking me until I’ve had a moment to figure this out myself,” Herb said.
“Yes, of course. I understand,” she said.
Herb stood for a moment, apparently analyzing the situation. Mandy stayed silent, just watching him, hoping for answers regarding her future, and what she was supposed to do at that moment.
“I think you had best start walking, Mandy,” Herb said at last.
She did as instructed, with Sophie at her side. Thinking that this must be the beginning of the ceremony, Mandy tried to walk calmly and elegantly, hoping that no one would notice that her sister could not quite do the same.
But as Mandy reached the front of the church, the man leaned to the minister and whispered something. The minister nodded.
“Dearly beloved,” he began. “I ask that you give our couple just a moment to meet with one another.”
Mandy followed without question as the minister led her and the man to the study behind the sanctuary.
“You should take about five minutes to introduce yourselves and I will come back,” he said, before departing.
At last, Mandy was alone with the man. She took in his ruggedly handsome face, with a sharp jaw, brown hair that hung around his face in a casual fashion, and stunningly green-brown eyes.
“Good morning,” he said, gently, holding out a hand to shake hers.
Mandy took it and smiled.
“Good morning. My name’s Mandy Jane,” she said.
“Abram Wilkins. I hope you don’t mind. I know it’s a bit of a shock. You came here planning to marry Stanley Hawkins, didn’t you?” he asked.
“I did. I had no idea that the situation had changed. I don’t think Herb knew either,” she said.
“Herb? The fella from the orphanage? Oh, surely he knew. Stanley said he would work it all out,” Abram told her.
Mandy wasn’t so sure. Based on the expression she had seen on Herb’s face, there was no possibility that he had been aware of this turn of events.
“Well, that’s interesting. I could have sworn he didn’t know.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind too much. Stanley isn’t the kindest man out there and I really wanted to see if there was something I could do to help. I was also pretty excited when I learned that I might be able to find the right sort of wife through this and I…I just wanted to see if this might be a good option,” he said, cautiously.
Mandy grinned at his gentle nature. This man really did seem to be different. He wasn’t anything like Stanley, but her expectations even after seeing him had not been this high. A part of her assumed he would just be another version of Stanley, repackaged in a more handsome form.
“Oh, and don’t you worry, I’m going to speak with Herb about your sister also. Stanley mentioned this morning that you have a sister and wanted her to come live with the two of you. He said he wasn’t able to make that kind of a commitment, but I’m more than happy to. We will have pretty tight quarters, but I trust that we can make it work,” he said.
“Y-you mean that?” Mandy asked, astonished by this turn of events.
“Absolutely. I could never separate you from a sibling like that if you really want her to live with us. I saw the way you two looked at each other with care. Leaving her in an orphanage just doesn’t make sense. She’s family,” Abram told her.
“Thank you so much. Nothing would make me happier than that,” Mandy said.
“Certainly. I, myself, live far away from my siblings and the rest of my family. I miss them and I wish that I could be closer to them. If I’m able to provide you with that privilege, I will do so, happily,” he said.
“Where does your family live?” she asked.
“They all up and moved to Boston about ten years ago. My uncle needed help with his farm and I stayed.
Then he passed away and his son sold it to a rancher. I still work there,” Abram said.
He seemed like a nice enough man and Mandy was grateful that things had turned out this way. She really believed that he was going to be a good husband—or at least a better one than Stanley.
It astonished her to think that, just two days ago, she had been sitting with her sister and the other children when Herb had called her into his office. He had told her that she would be getting married, that she would be leaving the orphanage. She’d then met an awful man with whom she would never want to spend her life.
But she had accepted it nevertheless. She didn’t think she had any other choice.
And now? Now, she was finding out that she would be marrying someone else entirely and he was actually a decent man. It was a long string of strange circumstances, but it had ended up with something that actually held promise. She believed that there really could be something good to come from this now, something she hadn’t seen before.
Abram took a deep breath, clearly a bit nervous, but in a charming way.
“I hope you don’t mind how this all turned out. I know you expected something very different, but I’m praying that the two of us will make a good team, a good couple,” he said.
“That’s what I’m praying for as well. I can’t pretend that I’m not surprised about showing up here today to find someone other than Stanley, but I also can’t pretend to be disappointed. He really isn’t the sort of man I had pictured marrying. I…well, I probably shouldn’t say anything more about that,” she said, not wanting to come across as a gossiper or complainer.
The fact was, she had been dreading the marriage to Stanley so badly that she thought she might have to run away. But it still would have left her with the dilemma of worrying about Sophie. She couldn’t bear to leave Sophie behind and that was even one of the main reasons she was so upset about having to marry someone as awful as Stanley. He had no respect for her at all.
But she was still confused by the fact that Stanley was even present at the wedding. Why had he come if he was not going to marry her? Did he really want to attend as a guest? It made no sense at all to her mind. She couldn’t imagine going to the wedding of someone she was supposed to marry but backed out of.
And Herb had appeared upset. Although Abram seemed to believe that Herb had been made aware of the changes, she didn’t think that could be possible. He would not have been so irritated if it was the case.
There was clearly something going on and she didn’t know what it could possibly be. Regardless of Herb’s understanding or Stanley’s plans, Mandy couldn’t help but feel happy and relieved that it had come to this instead. When she looked at her soon-to-be husband, she was full of joy.
Was it possible that God had heard her prayers? Was he giving her the grace to escape a marriage which would have been absolutely dreadful for her? It certainly appeared as though he was opening the door to something new and wonderful in her life, that he was giving her an opportunity to be free of all the misfortunes she had believed to be rising up against her.
“I hope we have a whole lot of wonderful opportunities ahead, Mandy. I know that it’s difficult at times, trying to understand the routes life takes us along, but I know that for my part anyway, the Lord has done a really good thing. He has opened the door for me to meet you and get to be here with you. I’m thankful for that. I hope you are too,” he said.
“I was just thinking the very same thing. It’s so strange, wondering what his plans and purposes are when we believe that one thing will happen and then he takes us down a completely different path. But I really am glad that things took this particular change,” she said.
“When I went and spoke with Stanley, I really didn’t expect it to go this way. I mean, there was a part of me that considered asking him if he was really ready to be married because I felt so awful for the woman he was going to marry, but I never did think that he would agree to let me marry you instead. Anyway, it’s just one of those things, I suppose,” he said with a shrug.
Just then, the minister came back into the room and looked between the two of them.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
Mandy and Abram smiled at one another and nodded.
“I believe we are,” he said.
“Very well. In that case, let’s make our way into the sanctuary,” he said.
They followed and the ceremony began quickly. The minister spoke of the importance of unity and he called upon Abram and Mandy both to make their own vows.
“Abram Wilkins, do you commit to love, honor, and cherish Mandy Jane? Do you commit to being by her side for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Abram replied, looking at her with hope in his eyes.
“And Mandy Jane, do you commit to love, honor, and respect Abram Wilkins? Do you commit to being by his side for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, for as long as you both shall live?” he asked.
“I do,” Mandy replied, still wondering how all of this had taken place in such a short period of time.
“And the Lord has declared that what he has joined together, no man may separate. Because of this, we, the church, intend to support the two of you as you continue in marriage, in love, in hope, and prayer together,” the minister said.
“Now, as you have declared your commitment to one another, I pronounce you to be man and wife.”
“A Hopeful Answer to her Prayers” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
When the orphanage’s owner informs Mandy Jane that she’s being married off, her greatest concern is her younger sister’s safety and future. Taken aback by the grim news, she cannot believe how her life took a turn for the worst in a single day. To make the situation even more unbearable, her husband-to-be turns out to be anything but the sort of man Mandy would want to share her life with. However, as if her prayers were answered, when she shows up for her wedding, a different man awaits her at the altar. Full of renewed hope, she starts thinking that the true love she craves may be within reach. Should she trust that he is saving her from one evil or will she soon be pulled into another?
Abram doesn’t dare to admit it, but he secretly longs for a wife to care for and protect. When he finds out that an inadequate man intends to marry a helpless young woman, he steps in and manages to take his place. Unfortunately, sometimes, even the best of intentions tend to go all awry and Abram ends up questioning his spontaneous decision. Confused but enchanted by Mandy’s kindness and beauty, he makes an effort to make things work. Is he ready to face every single doubt he has and replace it with faith?
As Abram and Mandy try to understand one another and build a marriage that honors their values, they find themselves confronted with secrets, misunderstandings, and threats. Inevitably, they begin to wonder if it’s possible to find love in dark places. Will they survive the challenging storm and cherish the sunshine of their blooming feelings?
“A Hopeful Answer to her Prayers” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.