Chapter 6

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October 10, 1870

"I cannot believe you've done this." I whisper harshly to Catherine after Jonah drops me off with her and disappears into the kitchen to handle the delivery. "You said there wasn't going to be any party." I look around the room stunned to see at least ten other women from town here all chit-chatting around the table. Catherine looks at the group and snorts. 

"This? This isn't a party. This is tea." She explains as if I should know the difference.  

"But I'm not dressed for this." I look down at my plain dress and back over to the other ladies all dressed in their finest garments to visit the Akenbrand's home. I could kill Catherine right now.  

"Oh Ellie don't be silly! You look beautiful as always. Besides, who is there to impress in this group?" I look around and see mostly the older ladies from town and sigh with relief. Most of them pity me; they don't find me as threatening as some of their daughters seem to. I guess it's better than spending the rest of my birthday alone, day dreaming about Jackson.  

"Fine Catherine, I'll stay. I just wanted to see you anyway. Is there somewhere we can talk?"  

She nods excitedly at the prospect of some interesting conversation and drags me into the empty library next door. I'm dying to gush to somebody about Jackson and who better than Catherine? We sit down together on the cold oxblood loveseat.  

"I've met someone. Oh Catherine, he's perfect, everything I ever dreamed of." I sigh remembering every detail of his new face. Catherine squeals with delight and pulls me closer. 

"Tell me everything! And so help me Eleanor Blackwell, if you leave out one detail..." I grin at her enthusiasm and start describing Jackson leaving out the most important part: that I already know and love him. But the story is good enough for Catherine who sighs when I finish describing my few moments with him.  

"Speaking of good-looking gentlemen, you should see the man father is doing business with right now!" She uses her hand to fan herself and pretends to swoon. "He's divine Ellie. His name is Marcus Hart and he's been around the house quite a bit. I've been a nervous wreck the whole time!" Her blond curls bounce as she giggles girlishly. I'm suddenly alert. This all just feels too coincidental. Another stranger? Today? I quickly scan the room, expecting to see his familiar leer. Please don't let it be Martin Cissell! Please tell me that he hasn't followed me into this lifetime as well! Personally, I had enough of his tormenting the first go around. I turn my attention back to Catherine with a frown.  

"Where is he now?" 

"Harrison is giving him a tour of the land." She seems upset that Harrison has gotten this honor and not her. I'm secretly glad though. If I'm right, this Marcus Hart is no good for Catherine. She's giggling as she grabs my hand and pulls me up with her. 

"Come; my mother will kill us if we dawdle any longer. Besides, we have a lot to celebrate, your birthday, turning seventeen," she squeezes me against her, "this town finally having some decent men!" I can't help burst into laughter with her as she drags me off to have tea with some of the snottiest old ladies in town.

The tea ended up being awful. I have never been to a stiffer affair. The ladies sat around displaying their best posture as they literally talked about nothing for two hours. I have never seen time wasted with so many words about so little. Catherine's mother, Amelia, did her best to exclude me but it was all very inconspicuous being that there was company around. I wonder how much of a scene Catherine had to create to get me to be allowed here today. It's one thing for me to associate with Catherine in private, but mingling with some of the town's finest ladies in such an intimate setting; I have a hard time imagining Amelia Akenbrand willfully agreed to this. Catherine must have gone to her father or maybe her brother Harrison. Those would be the only two people with the power to sway Amelia's stubbornness.  

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