The plan seemed simple enough. But Jillian Danvers soon finds that assuming the identity of her identical twin sister is anything but easy. Not only are her attempts to perform her sister's job routines amid the strict regulations of the Harvey House feeble at best--she also must fend off her mother's well-meaning attempts at matchmaking.
Inadvertently stumbling upon her secret, Dr. MacCallister is drawn to Jillian and her sweet innocence. When he discovers their common interest in the plight of the Navajo people, Mac wonders if it is time to set aside the pain of his past. But when the ruse of Jillian's identity causes her to seek his aid, Mac creates a plan of his own.
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Baker Publishing Group
July 31, 2005
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Excerpt from A Veiled Reflection by Tracie Peterson
FROM THE MOMENT JILLIAN nervously stepped off the train in Pintan, Arizona, it became clear that things were not going to be as easy as Judith had planned. The Harvey House, clearly marked and situated beside the depot, beckoned her in a brick and adobe welcome. Judith had explained that there were two floors, the upper one being devoted to housing the girls who worked there and the bottom floor containing the dining room, kitchen, and gathering rooms for off-duty activities and entertaining.
With an appearance of confidence that she herself did not feel, Jillian boldly braved her new world. Suitcase in hand, she entered the Harvey House with the other passengers, only to be inundated with questions and greetings.
"Miss Danvers, it's good to have you back with us," a rather plain-looking woman said as Jillian moved out of the rush of passengers. Jillian studied the woman and decided that this had to be the housemother, Gwen Carson. She opened her mouth to acknowledge the woman's words when a vivacious young woman with a wet apron appeared.
"Miss Carson, I'm off to be changin' me apron. Oh, Judith!" she said, spying Jillian. "It's really yarself come back to work. I wasn't at all sure ya'd be gracin' our halls again."
Jillian smiled weakly. "Well, here I am."
Miss Carson nodded. "Go on and change, Kate, before all the passengers get seated. Hurry now."
Jillian sighed with relief. She'd managed to meet Kate and Gwen without any mishaps or misunderstandings, but that was to be her last moment of ease.
"Look, Judith, we're shorthanded," Gwen stated rather quietly. "I've had two girls quit since you left, and you know we were already two girls short at that time. So I need you to go right upstairs and get changed. I'll need you to work this shift."
Jillian felt her mouth go cottony. "Very well, Miss Carson."
"Thank you, Judith. I knew I could count on you!"
Gwen hurried off to see to the passengers now being seated in the dining room. Jillian picked up her case and cautiously moved down the hall to where she'd seen Kate disappear. Judith had informed her that the front stairs were normally quartered off, and sure enough, there was a red velvet rope, much like the Kansas City Opera House used, barring the way upstairs. The back stairs, Judith had explained, were down the hall from the front entrance and past the last of two parlors.
Jillian hurried to make her way through the house. She knew her mother would disapprove of her unladylike conduct, but she supposed there would soon be much that her mother would disapprove. Juggling suitcase and skirts, she mounted the stairs quickly. Perhaps she would catch Kate in the process of changing her apron and then ask any questions that came to mind. But Kate was rushing out of the room just as Jillian topped the stairs.
"So yar to be put to work, are ya?" Kate called out as she raced past Jillian.
"Yes, I suppose what with being shorthanded, it's to be expected."
"Aye. Lana and Betsy left inside of two days of each other. Yarself wasn't gone an hour before Lana came bounding down the stairs announcing her intentions of marriage. Betsy showed up a day and a half later and said nearly the same thing. Miss Carson was fit to be tied."
By this time Kate was already halfway down the stairs. "Go on with ya now, I'll cover yar station until ya get there."
Jillian could only nod, but Kate didn't see her. The tiny black-haired woman was already on her way to the dining room. Jillian glanced down the hall and drew a deep breath. There were four doors on each side of the hall, two sets on either side of the stairs. Judith had said that the first door to the right was the bathing room. The door after that was Miss Carson's, and the room across from hers was the one Judith shared with Kate McGee and Louisa Upton.
Timidly, as if intruding on a stranger's privacy, Jillian opened the door to this room and stepped inside. Three beds were positioned in dormitory fashion with a chest at the foot of each one. This was where they were to keep any personal articles.
The bed nearest the door was Judith's. The sides of the simple brown wool cover had been tucked neatly under the mattress, and the iron frame of the headrail and footboard stood soaking in jars of water. This, Judith told her, was to discourage scorpions and any other manner of pest from climbing into bed with you while you slept. It was also the reason that covers were tucked in tight and not allowed to drape along the floor.
Putting the suitcase down on the bed, Jillian tried to remember all of Judith's admonitions about life in the desert. There was much to remember, for it seemed that danger and harm could come at nearly every turn.
With this in mind, Jillian went to the closet and opened the door cautiously. She easily found the iron poker that Judith had directed her to use for the purpose of beating her clothes before taking them out of the closet. Again, this would lower the risk of sharing her uniform with the strange desert vermin that had a tendency to be poisonous.
Judith's uniforms were neatly hanging to the right. They were positioned just as the beds were with Judith's, then Kate's in the middle, and Louisa's on the left. Licking her lips, Jillian picked up the poker and began pounding it against the first of Judith's starched and ironed aprons. She felt quite silly doing so. What kind of life was it where a person had to beat at their clothing as a ceremonial routine?
Convinced that she'd adequately abused the apron, Jillian pulled it from its hanger and moved on to the rest of her uniform. Within moments she had stripped from her forest green traveling suit and donned the regulation Harvey Girl attire. The uniform fit her a little loosely. Judith had always carried a bit more weight on her hourglass figure, but not enough that it should matter. Folks would merely believe her to have cut back on desserts or perhaps even think she had simply laced her corset a bit tighter.
Checking her hair, Jillian made a few brief adjustments, then decided it would suffice for service in Mr. Harvey's dining room. Now all that was left was to trade her cream-colored heels for the regulation black shoes.
Shoes! Where did Judith say her black shoes were kept? Jillian searched the room but couldn't find them. She shook her head and strained to remember. Where were her shoes?
Deciding there was nothing to be done about it, Jillian prayed that her skirt would cover her feet and keep the others from noticing the obvious deviation from the prescribed uniform. Realizing the time, Jillian hurried back downstairs to face her new job.
The dining room was utter chaos, as far as Jillian was concerned. Black-and-white clad Harvey Girls bounced back and forth from the kitchen to tables, their hands full of a variety of articles. Some held pitchers, others carried plates teeming with mouth-watering food. It dawned on Jillian as a whiff of succulent roast beef assailed her nose that she was quite hungry.
"Miss Danvers, is there a problem?" Gwen questioned, coming up from behind Jillian.
"I guess I've just been away too long," Jillian said, in awe of the entire operation. The scene that had appeared chaotic only moments ago now proved to be neatly ordered. Each girl held a specific task and knew without a second thought exactly what was required of her. Every girl with exception to Jillian.
"Well, get over there and help Kate with the coffee," Gwen suggested with a chuckle, "and I'm sure it will all come back to you." Jillian nodded and hurried to join Kate.
"I'm sorry I took so long," she apologized as Kate swept by her.
"Don't be frettin', just grab up the pot. Some of the passengers are ready for a second cup."
Jillian went to the sideboard where an artfully crafted silver coffeepot awaited her attention. She picked it up, surprised at the weight, and headed out across the dining room floor.
It wasn't long before any remaining semblance of her sanity fled. Jillian was confused by the questions asked of her by the passengers, as well as frustrated by the whispered comments of greeting offered her by the other Harvey servers.
I was crazy to ever consider this, she thought. Leaning over, she poured a cup of coffee, only to hear a woman shriek at her.
"I was drinking tea!"
"Oh," Jillian said, noting the slice of lemon that now floated rather strangely atop the black liquid. "I'll get you another cup of tea right away."
She said it without thinking, then glanced up to see what was to be done about the situation.
"Take the cup and saucer, Miss Danvers," Gwen told her as she approached the table, "and bring this woman another cup of tea immediately."
Just then a gong rang out amid the clatter of noise. A dark-skinned man in an immaculate white coat announced, "No need to rush now, folks. This be the fifteen-minute warning. Enjoy your meal."
Jillian felt her hand shake as she picked up the cup and saucer and headed toward the kitchen. Before she made it that far, however, Kate popped out the door with a white china cup and saucer.
"Here's yar tea. I'll take that coffee."
Jillian nodded and headed back to the table feeling rather breathless. What else could go wrong?
It was not a question she should have contemplated. Before the passengers exited the dining room for their final boarding call, Jillian had managed to break two dishes, spill coffee on three tablecloths, and burn her own fingers. It was only as the train was chugging out of Pintan that Gwen made her way to Jillian's side.
"I'm sure Cook will spare a little butter for those burned fingers. Are you sure you're all right? You don't seem quite yourself. In fact, if I didn't know better, I would think you to be an entirely different Judith than the woman I sent back to Kansas City."
Jillian swallowed hard. "I'm afraid my grandmother's death has left me feeling out of sorts," she replied honestly. In truth, Grandmother Danvers' death had left her quite shaken and upset, but that was hardly the reason for her poor performance that afternoon.
"Well, I'm sure we can all understand that," Gwen replied sweetly. "I've lost dear loved ones myself."
Jillian nodded and felt a sense of relief when Kate led her to the kitchen and helped her to butter her burns.
"Ya've not burned them bad," she informed Jillian after inspection. "For sure not as bad as that time ya spilled the hot water on yar arm." She smiled and gave Jillian a strange wink. "But had that man not pinched yar backside, ya might not have upset that pot on yarself."
Jillian had no idea what Kate was talking about. Hot water? Burned arm? Judith had said nothing about this.
"There," Kate said satisfactorily. "Ya'll be as good as new in the morning. Now, we'd best get out there and see who's come to be dining with us."
Jillian tried to remember what Judith had said about the dining room and what took place after the train had pulled out. She remembered there were stations to be cleaned and such, but she now feared she had grossly misunderstood the things required of her.
The dining room held only a handful of new customers. Most were railroad workers, sweaty and greasy from their hard labor. One man, a tall, beefy sort of fellow, stood for a moment listening intently to Miss Carson before finally taking his seat.
"Miss Danvers, please bring Mr. Matthews some coffee."
Jillian nodded and went to where the silver serving pots were lined up on the sideboard. She lifted one pot and found it nearly empty. Bypassing that one, she found the next one to be nearly full. Feeling more confident with fewer people to demand her attention, Jillian moved across the room at a quick pace. She had nearly reached the table where Gwen remained in conversation with Mr. Matthews when her heel caught the edge of the chair and she stumbled forward.
The pot surged forward, barely remaining in Jillian's grasp, while the lid popped up to allow the contents to pour out and rain down on the seated man.
Gasping an apology as the man leaped to his feet, Jillian felt a complete sense of horror as she realized she'd emptied nearly half the pot on Mr. Matthews' jean-clad legs.
"I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" she kept repeating even as the man assured her he was all right.
"Judith! What has gotten into you!" Gwen declared. "I've never seen you so incompetent."
"It's all right, Miss Carson," the man soothed. "I'm no worse for the wear."
Jillian wanted to crawl in a hole and never be seen again. She couldn't begin to explain her clumsiness, and it was only after allowing herself to look upward again that she noticed the badge on Mr. Matthews' shirt. Great, she thought, not only do I assault this man, but he's a lawman as well.
The man seemed to notice her fixed gaze and laughed. Jillian felt even more embarrassed at his response.
"Zack Matthews," the man announced, holding out his hand for her to shake. "I'm the new sheriff."
"Oh my," Jillian managed to say as she put the coffeepot on the table before greeting him properly. "Jil ... Judith Danvers," she said, stumbling over the introduction.
"Miss Danvers has generally been one of my better workers," Gwen added. "Today, however, she is greatly preoccupied. No doubt she's just tired from her trip. Are you certain you're not seriously burned, Mr. Matthews?"
"Nah, I'm fine. Don't go worryin' about it." He smiled at Jillian and Gwen, then sniffed the air. "I'm too hungry to think about anything else."
Gwen smiled and Jillian picked up the coffeepot. "We'll have you served in a quick minute," Gwen stated and reached out to take the coffeepot away from Jillian. "Miss Danvers, you must go change your uniform. You know what Mr. Harvey says about stains and spills."
Jillian looked down to see that her once white apron was dotted and marred with coffee. "Yes, Miss Carson. I'll see to it right away."
She left the dining room feeling a great amount of relief. I wonder when the next train comes through? She mulled the idea of giving up Judith's job and returning to Kansas City. She had a little bit of money saved up. Maybe she could pay back whatever amount of forfeited wages Mr. Harvey required. Judith said it could be as high as half her wages for all the months she'd actually worked. Doing mental calculations, Jillian headed down the hall.
Before she could reach the back stairs, however, a couple of Harvey Girls grabbed her and gave her an endearing embrace.
"Oh, Judith, it's so good to have you back. The place just isn't the same without you!"
"I thought I would die of boredom without you here to keep us entertained," the other one stated after giving Jillian a quick peck on the cheek. "Sorry you had such a bad day."
Jillian tried to laugh off her earlier mishaps. They were all so sweet, and she didn't know when she'd felt more welcomed or cared for. Too bad those feelings were really reserved for her sister.
"It's good to be here," she lied. "I suppose none of us shall be bored any longer."