Lorabeth Holdridge longed for life and experience! Cloistered by her strict father, her world was confined to chores and prayer. Her chance of escape came when she took a job as housekeeper to a boisterous family. Lorabeth reveled in her newfound freedom. And when Benjamin Chaney visited, she felt the stirrings of her first crush.
Jaded and cynical, Ben found it hard to trust, though Lorabeth's sweetness soothed his battered soul and taught him joy. But he would have to face the demons of his past to find a glorious future in Lorabeth's arms!
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May 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Preacher's Daughter by Cheryl St. John
Newton, Kansas, 1894
Her mother had died of boredom. Tedium. Monotony. Lorabeth Holdridge looked up from the worn Bible on her lap to her father, sitting with his eyes closed in prayer. She was convinced that no one could spend every night of their life in this manner without a little piece of their dreams drying up and dying week by week, month by month, until finally there was nothing left alive and their spirit simply left their body.
Beneath her backside, the hard wooden chair deliberately kept her from being too comfortable or allowing her mind to wander. Her father would consider it sinful, but her imagination had been her escape to alluring places ever since she'd been old enough to know there was more to life than this.
She glanced at her seventeen-year-old brother. She'd been waiting to make waves until she was sure he could take care of himself without her here. Until she knew he'd be okay. Simon stifled a yawn behind his hand and raised dark eyes, dull from boredom, to hers.
She crossed her eyes.
The corner of his mouth twitched in an effort to keep a smile from forming.
Ambrose Holdridge reached over and thumped Simon on the knee. He gave Lorabeth a stern look that told her he knew she was the instigator of this disruption.
A knock sounded on the back door. It wasn't unusual for a caller to arrive of an evening, a parishioner needing prayer or a bit of advice.
"Continue in my absence," their father said, and left the room.
As soon as Lorabeth heard voices in the kitchen, she whispered, "I'm dying here, Simon."
"You'll meet a man," he began.
"Where? Where will I meet a man when I stay at the Chaneys' all week, then obey Father's demands and come home on Friday evening so I can clean, do laundry and tend the garden all weekend? Sundays I play the piano for church, prepare your dinner, bake and iron. Monday morning I head back to the Chaneys' until the next Friday night. My only moments to myself are late at night after the Chaney children are asleep."
"You convinced Father to let you take that job," he said.
"And I love it. I do," she said earnestly. "I'm not complaining about the work. It takes me away from... from this." But she'd been functioning at this frantic pace for nearly two years. Now that she'd seen how other people lived and the freedom they enjoyed, she could no longer wait.
Only three chairs remained around the hearth. Her older sister Ruthann had married and now lived in Florence with her husband and new son. Her younger brother Jubal had married and was farming a few miles away.
"I've prayed hard for that husband, Simon." She curled one hand into a frustrated fist. Though Lorabeth slept very little, when she did, she often dreamed of a man with a wild untamed spirit like hers. Someone handsome, Lord, she constantly entreated, but not taken with himself. Someone filled with life and vitality who would slash open new horizons and show her the world she craved.
"I know how badly you wanted to attend university," Simon said with regret in his eyes.
Her father had staunchly refused. University was too worldly for a pure young woman, held too many risks and offered far too much exposure to unseemly conduct. She had responsibilities to the family and to the work of the church.
"I'd be happy for you if you got to go," she assured him. She'd always gone through the motions and done what was expected, but she'd never really felt alive or content until she'd worked in the Chaneys' home, until she'd lived in the midst of their family. But glimpses weren't enough. Hearing their laughter and watching her employers with their children exposed the aching emptiness that had existed hidden inside Lorabeth her entire life. The memory of her mother, thin and pale on her sick bed, begging Lorabeth not to settle for less than her dreams had been nagging at her every waking moment.