Cupid. What a pain this guy can be. Especially for the parents of girls.
My work-in-progress, The Great Central Fair, focuses on cupid’s activity with Maggie’s daughters, Lydia and Frankie, and their relationships with the young men in their lives. It is a story about falling in love, being in love, and making decisions. Its secondary and much smaller story line focuses on the impact this activity has upon Maggie and stepfather Eli. Because although two people may fall in love, their relationship will have an impact on family and friends.
And yet the issues above have been threaded throughout the Saint Maggie series. Maggie, as a mother, worries about her daughters regardless of their age. What mother doesn’t? At the same time, she cannot afford to be suspect the worst of their young men, as Eli does. When Maggie was 19, she eloped with John Blaine, the son of a competing carriage manufacturer. So, she remembers what it was like to be young and in love – and to break the rules. And this is a good thing because Frankie is the one most likely to break the rules. But love causes even the logical, cautious Lydia to veer off her normal course, as is evidenced in Saint Maggie when she and Edgar Lape decide to get married when the Civil War breaks out.
Unlike Eli, who takes his job as stepfather way too seriously and secretly would like to lock both young woman (especially Frankie) into chastity belts, Maggie has a different approach when issues regarding men and love arise. She tries to be loving and logical as her girls travel the road to womanhood. But what she does and says on the outside does not always match what is going on in her heart. We get a glimpse of this in the scene below from A Time to Heal.
Maggie was caught off guard when a tearful Frankie, covered with hay, burst in the kitchen door and threw herself into her mother’s arms. Emily and Maggie exchanged a brief, concerned glance.
“Best take her into the parlor,” Emily murmured. “The child’s crying like it’s the end of the world.”
Maggie maneuvered the weeping Frankie out of the kitchen and down the hall. When they finally got settled on the sofa, Maggie cooed, “There, there. Catch your breath and tell me about it.” She pulled a handkerchief out of the bosom of her dress and handed it to Frankie.
The young woman mopped her face, comforted by the trace of her mother’s scent on the hankie. She blew her nose. Eyes watery and red, she looked up. “I did a bad thing.”
“What?” Maggie plucked a piece of hay from Frankie’s wild red hair and paused. What was hay doing in her daughter’s hair?
“Patrick was walking me home last night and – and he got tired by the barn, so we went in to sit down and – and …” Tears began to flow afresh.
Maggie worked to stay calm. “All right, settle down. I will not love you any less, no matter what you have done.” Although her mind added, I might be extremely perturbed with you. And as for Patrick …
Blubbering, Frankie wiped her wet face and nose again and drew a deep, shaky breath. “Well, we – we started talking and, I don’t know – we were both so tired. We fell asleep on the hay. And – and when I woke up it was dawn.” She began to cry again. “And Papa found us! He’s so angry! Mama, he could hurt Pat!”
“Shh.” Maggie gathered her daughter up in her arms and fought the urge to demand every detail of what had happened with Patrick. “Papa can assume a frightening countenance, but he will not harm Patrick. Now tell me what happened.”
“Nothing happened, Mama. I wouldn’t let it. And Pat didn’t even try. We know we need to wait until we’re married.”
“Wise girl.” Maggie stroked Frankie’s hair and then looked her daughter in the face. “The feelings between a man and a woman in love are very, very strong. You might be tempted to do more than perhaps hold hands or kiss. But you cannot, and you should not, because ...” Maggie patted her belly. “You could end up in the family way.”
“There is no reliable way to keep from getting with child, Frances, save by practicing self-control. You do not want to be unmarried and expecting a baby. Goodness knows it is hard enough to raise a child with a husband.”
“But Pat would marry me.”
“And what would happen to his plans to become a doctor? Or to yours to do what God has called you to do?”
Frankie swiped at her nose.
“Do not put yourselves in a situation where you will be tempted. Oh, it is all right perhaps to sit in the parlor alone, but certainly do not be together in the barn at night, or in the woods, or anywhere without a chaperone.”
“Oh, Mama,” Frankie’s eyes blurred up again, “we’ve already spent a night together!”
Maggie almost fainted. “What?”
“We just slept, Mama. We were on the way home and the train stopped in York, and Pat looked so tired. The telegrapher said his mother had a guest house, so we stayed there. She thought we were married and put us in a room with one bed.”
“We slept in our clothes and he didn’t lay a hand on me.”
Maggie heaved a relieved sigh. “You’re fortunate Patrick is an honorable man.” The conversation reminded Maggie of what had happened at camp meeting one night three years earlier. She and Eli were courting. They had been alone in a field. They were in love, and she wanted him so badly. But he had been honorable even when she would not have been. Maggie took a breath. “I think it may be best not to divulge this story to Papa. Nor should Patrick.”
Frankie nodded. “I know. Not if he wants to live.”
Maggie laughed and hugged her daughter. “My dear, please promise that you will learn to think before you act.”
Good luck with that, Maggie.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at how Eli handled the above-mentioned discretion.