Friday Sampler: Indignities: The Arrangement by N. E. Brown
October 9, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Indignities: The Arrangement, historical fiction from N. E. Brown.
As one reviewer said: The story delves into the, at the time, quickly growing industry of child abduction for the purpose of selling them to parents who cannot have children of their own. It tells the story of both sides of the coin and is, at times, heart-wrenching. New inventions of the time, such as the telephone and automobiles, play major roles in the story flow and final outcome.
The epic journey of Catherine Merit Mathews continues in N. E. Brown’s fifth book of her Galveston, 1900, Indignities series. Twenty-six year old Catherine Merit Mathews is beautiful, confident, newly married, and mother to four children. Although life appears to be perfect, old memories and scars from the past continue to haunt her. Her new husband, Trent Mathews, knows she is hiding shocking secrets from her past, and is greatly concerned now that she is pregnant with their first biological child.
Coping with the everyday struggles of life in the early 1900’s is not easy, especially since Trent’s job as an oil scout causes him to travel often gone weeks at a time. Catherine, the only doctor in the small town of Rosenberg, hires a French couple to assist in caring for her family. But all is not as it should be.
Without warning, two trusted friends turn their backs on Catherine’s family and even her husband cannot protect her from these unscrupulous people. Three months after their son is born, a tragedy surfaces when he is taken during the night while she and Trent are celebrating their first wedding anniversary in Galveston. As Trent joins forces with the Texas Rangers in the pursuit of their son, it cracks open a vast baby-selling scheme that will impact the lives of many people. Catherine’s faith is sorely tested. Will she find her baby? Alive?
The barn was dank and smelled of wet decaying hay. Catherine’s arms were tied tightly above her head. The foul odor of whiskey exhaled through her abductor’s clenched teeth as he continued to rape her. She was screaming and sobbing. Her nightmares were taking her deeper, deeper, into a cavern of pain and sorrow.
“Catherine, Catherine! Wake up.” Her husband, Trent, was shaking her. “You’re having a nightmare.”
Catherine pushed Trent away from her without waking. A loud clap of thunder followed by blazing flashes of lightning blasted through the curtains in their bedroom. Startled by the sounds, she woke and fell languishing into Trent’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably as he stroked her hair and coddled her.
This wasn’t the first time these nightmares interrupted their sleep. In the eight months they had been married their nights were frequently interrupted with crying and screaming. Trent had the patience of a saint and never demanded that Catherine tell him what the dreams were about. He’d told her, when they were first married, her past was inconsequential, and unless she really wanted to share the details with him, it wasn’t necessary.
This time was different and Trent decided it was time for Catherine to tell him who her demons were.
After a while Catherine finally settled down as she relaxed in her husband’s loving arms.
“Would you like to talk about it, Catherine?”
She stiffened and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her linen nightgown. Fully awake now, she released her hold from around his neck, sat up in their bed, and rested her hands on her pregnant belly. She was six months pregnant, but the baby was a mere bump in her delicate small-shaped figure.
Swallowing the huge lump that had settled in her throat, she took a deep breath trying to think of how she could tell him about the indignities of her past life. Would he still love her if she told him the truth? She wondered. Having to relive the pain she’d endured when she was captured by David Brooks several years ago and taken to Beaumont as his mail-order bride was unthinkable and appalling. It frightened her that the emotional trauma she’d suffered would be too much for Trent to understand. Maybe that was why she was having the nightmares again.
Catherine had been pregnant with Daniel when Brooks captured her. During the year and a half he kept her, she gave birth to his son, Adam. The thought of having to confess these sins she bore was overwhelming, and she put her arms around Trent’s wide shoulders and clung to him, shutting her eyes tightly.
As Trent softly rubbed her back, she tried to compose herself as she listened to his soft words.
“I know I told you I never needed to know anything about your past, but it is having a terrible effect on you and now our unborn child. Perhaps if you shared some of it with me, it would make you feel better.”
“I’m afraid you won’t understand and will leave me. I couldn’t bear that, Trent. I love you too much.”
Biting his lower lip, he pressed on. “Nothing you could tell me would ever make me love you less. I know you’ve had a really difficult time since you arrived in America, but maybe if I could share some of that burden with you, it might ease your pain. It grieves me that you won’t let me help you. What’s done is done and you can’t go back and change anything. Perhaps sharing some of it with me will help release the guilt and hurt that you’re feeling. If you won’t talk to me, perhaps you could talk to one of your doctor friends.”
Catherine reached over, turned on the light, and gave Trent an incredulous look. “Do you think I am crazy?”
Trent took a deep breath and released it.
“You are anything but crazy, Catherine. These dreams are causing you an insurmountable amount of stress. Don’t you think your stress affects our child?”
Catherine was at a loss for words. It was the first time since their marriage that a disagreement of this magnitude had interrupted their life, and she hated to admit he was right. Even though she was a doctor, it had not occurred to her that her nightmares and insomnia would affect their unborn child.
“You’re right.” She barely whispered. “I do know someone who could help me and I’ll make an appointment.”
Trent pulled her closer and held her. He lifted her hair back over her shoulder and bent down gently kissing her neck. “You are everything to me, Catherine. Your pain is my pain and I want more than anything to make you happy.”
She leaned back and gazed at him. “Oh, Trent, I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy. I don’t think about my past anymore and I’m sorry I can’t control what I dream about, but I will get some help. I know it’s important to you and it is to me, too.”
Trent kissed her on her forehead and looked at his timepiece, which he kept beside the bed. It was 2:25 in the morning. He laid it back on the table and reached over Catherine to turn out the light. “We both need to get some sleep,” he said, pulling the covers up over Catherine and then himself.
A monumental clap of thunder made them both jump. A cry from the children’s room echoed down the hall. “I’ll go see who it is,” Trent insisted.
Catherine rolled to her side and stared out the window. The clouds finally relieved their gut-wrenching bowels of heavy rain, and the pounding on the roof made it impossible to hear anything. She turned over and fixed her eyes on the open door to the hallway watching for Trent and thinking back to the time of their first meeting.