A Mail-Order Dream

By: Janelle Daniels

They finally nodded, but they both were so glum that her heart ached. “But,” she said, drawing out the word, “just because we follow your father’s schedule, doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun.”

Thomas pursed his lips, clearly not believing her. “How would we do that?”

“Well, why don’t we sneak a few of Mrs. Farnsworth’s jam cookies and take them with us outside while we do our lessons?”

“But Father said—”

“That you needed to follow the schedule and do your lessons. The paper doesn’t say anything about not eating or being outside while doing them. Your father wants you to learn and grow, but he also wants you to be happy.” At least, she assumed he did. He did say he loved them. And parents should always want their children to be happy.

Both their faces lit up, and she stood and took their hands in hers. “Come on. I think we’re going to have a wonderful day.”

When Cam arrived home that night, he hung up his hat and sighed in relief. It had been an especially trying day. He’d had to turn away two people asking for loans, a scuffle had broken out in the bank’s lobby over some perceived slight, and he still hadn’t received a wire from Mr. Smythe about the land Cam was looking to acquire. How long did it take someone to make up their mind, anyway? It should’ve been an easy sale. He’d offered well above market, and besides that, he knew Mr. Smythe had only purchased the property as an investment, and had no intention of heading west and settling the land.

Laughter trickled from the dining room and he checked his watch. They hadn’t started the meal without him, had they?

More laughter flowed down the hall, and the sound eased some of the tension in his shoulders. His children were happy. They might not always behave as he would like them to, but he wanted them to have a good life. He wanted the best for them. It was the only reason he pushed them so hard.

He heard his son’s voice as he walked down the hall. “And then, Miss McKinnon swatted her shoe through the air and screamed that it was going to sting her!” Thomas said, laughing hysterically as he recounted a story.

Mrs. Farnsworth was laughing as Cam rounded the corner, and the domestic scene in front of him surprised him. Thomas and Phoebe sat patiently at the table, while Mrs. Farnsworth placed a heaping bowl full of potatoes on the glossy surface, laughing at his children’s words. But what startled him most, was that Miss McKinnon herself was there, seated next to the head of the table.

“Father, you’re home!” Phoebe jumped from her chair and raced to him, before wrapping her arms around his legs.

He chuckled and patted his daughter’s back. “It’s good to see you, Phoebe.” He nodded to his son. “And you too, Thomas.”

His son stood from his seat, the gesture both mature and calm. “Welcome home, Father. I hope you don’t mind, but we invited Miss McKinnon to dinner.”

The formality in his young son’s voice pleased, but also disturbed, Cam. Thomas sounded like an adult. But isn’t that what Cam wanted? For his children to grow up faster and behave themselves? He wasn’t so sure anymore.

He pushed the thought away. “That is just fine. Thank you for joining us, Miss McKinnon.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

He didn’t know how much truth there was to her polite words. He couldn’t imagine she would want to spend any more time with him than she needed to after their conversation yesterday.

He walked to the head of the table and seated himself, and the children settled back in their own chairs. They said grace and began serving themselves from the different dishes around the table.

“What did you do today?” he asked, once they were all served.

Thomas and Phoebe looked to Aria, but didn’t speak, so she cleared her throat and answered, “We followed the schedule you provided. The children found the topic of insects rather fascinating.”

Thomas and Phoebe stifled more laughter.

He looked between the two children, trying to figure out what was so funny, but neither of them gave any hints.

Aria sighed. “I’m afraid they’re still laughing about an incident we had earlier.”

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