Authors: Carolyn Faulkner,Alta Hensley
Captured by Time
Alta Hensley & Carolyn Faulkner
©2015 by Blushing Books® and Alta Hensley & Carolyn Faulkner
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Table of Contents:
"Looking back in the past won't help you with the future." Those were the words spoken by Cimmy Monroe's mother on a fairly regular basis when she had still been alive. Wise words, to be sure. But regardless, Cimmy still couldn't help her love for antiquity and nostalgia. She most likely would have gone to school to study history, or possibly even literature, if it hadn't been for her recently deceased mother constantly encouraging Cimmy to get her medical degree.
Her cousin, who knew what an avid fan she was of anything that smacked of the old West, had paid for her to spend a weekend in a real, authentic, Wild West town as a graduation gift. Cimmy Monroe was now officially Dr. Monroe.
The town was just as she'd imagined, and her neck began to grow stiff as her head swiveled back and forth, trying to drink in every detail, breathing deeply in order to fill her senses with the experience—even the decidedly pungent scent of horse manure.
"Why don't you come with me? It will be fun for the two of us to spend some time together." Cimmy had suggested the idea to her cousin Eva. She didn't see her often, but since Eva was about the only surviving family she had, she truly wanted to reconnect. The graduation gift really had been thoughtful.
"I wish I could, but I can't get away. But please, relax and have a great time. You've worked so hard and deserve a break. I'm proud of you. I have a doctor in the family now," Eva had replied proudly.
"I'm looking forward to it. I need the peace and quiet to figure out my next step."
"Well, you could always open a practice here. I know you said Chicago is too big a city for you, but it would be nice to see you more than once every couple of years."
"I'm not too sure where I will end up. But thank you so much for the gift. A trip to Twain Ridge is just what I need right now."
So there she was… standing on the old dusty road that ran down the middle of Twain Ridge, about to experience a mini vacation of a lifetime. It wasn't a fake Hollywood set like a lot of the ones she'd read about—some of which she'd been to, only to be disappointed. This town had an authentic charm about it.
As she walked, she noticed that all of the buildings were strangely monochromatic from the effects of so many years of both neglect and weather. The town was eerily empty, although Cimmy knew that civilization existed in at least one point there—the Granville Arms Hotel, which was a renovated version of the one that had existed in town during the 1800s. There were two—no, three—saloons, a mercantile, a milliner, an undertaker, and a jail. There were also what looked like a few rooming houses—one or more of which could well have been of ill repute—as well as some private residences that must have been quite nice during their heyday; the façades of which were all left carefully untouched, so as not to ruin their stark appearance.
There were no cars to be seen or heard. Guests were bussed in but once a day from Settler's Bluff, which was the nearest town, and Cimmy alone had disembarked half an hour or so previously. But then, it was the tail end of the season, when it was much cheaper to stay, she imagined.
There wasn't a soul in sight, and just for a split second, she tried to imagine what it might have been like to live in such a town in its heyday. She felt a chill that had her nipples peaking painfully beneath the uncomfortable new fabric of the prim and proper white blouse she was wearing, its mutton sleeves and lacy frills making her feel more feminine than she had in years. The skirt, though, was another matter entirely—she felt much too exposed in it and longed for the comfort of her well-worn jeans, although it did look like something a schoolmarm would wear, as opposed to a lady of loose morals. But she'd indulged herself over the years, buying the appropriate clothing for the era she was so intrigued by, and she figured that, if she was going to wear them at any time, it would be on this trip. Not to mention the fact that it was encouraged by all who visited Twain Ridge to participate in the fantasy of stepping back in time.
This was not an experience she was likely going to be able to repeat any time soon—unless she won the lottery—and Cimmy was determined to make the most of it. This was her chance to open herself up to everything the town had to offer. Having just graduated from medical school, she knew she was going to be paying off those student loans well into her dotage. She'd never known what had triggered her interest in this area and time period, but it had been with her ever since she could remember. She'd seen every western she could get her hands on, most of John Wayne's movies five or more times, easily, even the Irish one her mother had favored.
The color rose in her cheeks as she admitted to herself that the Wayne films which involved him spanking the heroine she'd seen quite a few more times than the others—at least, those particular bits, anyway. They were the first ones she'd actually bought. But that particular aspect wasn't something she was willing to dwell on when thinking about her obsession with the era.
It wasn't solely John Wayne. In the old west, men were men, and tended to take what they wanted and made no excuse for it. A woman in this era would be expected to be submissive to her man. Oh no. That wasn't the reason for her interest at all, she told herself—as well as anyone else who brought it up. She just liked the idea of living in a time with fewer gadgets—which she detested. A time when life was simpler and slower and not dictated by the clock or the incessant pinging of one's iPhone, laptop, desktop, or tablet. She had a cell phone, but it was the cheapest, most basic one she could get. She didn't even think it could text, and although she always kept it charged and in her pocketbook for emergencies, she only turned it on when she was driving a long distance. Heck, she was so averse to the thing on general principle that she'd never even bothered to set up the voice mail on it.
As Cimmy passed the livery, she was heartened to see a corral full of horses behind it and longed to stop and make their acquaintance. But she also didn't want to miss any of the activities that were being offered by the hotel. So she continued on past them, promising herself that she'd stop by at another time to pat some muzzles and maybe bring some carrots or apples as treats, and she sincerely hoped she'd be able to find the time to do so. Although it was in the middle of nowhere, the Granville had plenty for its guests to do. Some of the offerings leaned more towards what might be considered 'dude ranchish'—campfires and sing-alongs—but it also offered informative lectures and a living history version of what the town might have been like, with its historical reenactors portraying merchants and townspeople of the time.
There were candle making classes, and carpenters not only selling wares they'd made by hand with only the tools of the era, but lessons available on how to do the same. There were also trail rides around the surrounding area, a real life cattle drive right through the middle of town that guests could assist with if they liked, and of course, lots of shopping. The mercantile displayed items for sale that would have been of interest to the lady of the house, a cowboy, or a prospector. There was a confectioner in the mercantile who made homemade candies, and the milliner sold the hats he made as the guests watched. There was even a class on how to pan for gold. Cimmy was much more interested in the lectures and seeing how people actually lived—or as close as one could get in the twenty-first century.
In the spirit of the trip, she had left her computer and her cell phone in her car, which was back in Settler's Bluff, despite her cousin's warning against doing so. But Cimmy was the first to admit that she was such an idiot when it came to technology—she could barely figure out how to answer a phone call—that she didn't want to suffer the embarrassment of having the blasted thing go off when she was supposed to be immersed in the atmosphere of the later nineteenth century.
She could have brought her laptop, she supposed, and the hotel—in a move which she thought was an unnecessary concession to today's Internet addicted guests—did offer free Wi-Fi. But she'd decided to eschew it, preferring to spend her time living as close to how she had wanted to all her life as she could.
The only thing she'd retained that was modern was her doctor's bag, and even that really wasn't used as such by her. She kept it more as a kind of emergency kit than anything else. But it had been her grandfather's, and he had used it as it was intended, as his father had before him. So it was an antique of sorts. Frankly, it was pretty impractical for nowadays, but she would have felt lost without it even though it didn't see much use anymore. And you never knew when bandages or triple antibiotic cream would come in handy.
Although she'd spotted the hotel out of the corner of her eye, she ambled past it to walk to the edge of town so she could get the lay of the land before returning to check in. The hotel wasn't above a saloon, as some might assume it would be. Instead, it was much like the hotels of today, albeit with a lot fewer amenities and quite a bit more sparsely decorated; with a front desk, a small lobby, and a small restaurant on the bottom floor, and some rooms—but not many—on the next level. The fact that there were so few places to actually stay in Twain Ridge made it that much more expensive to do so, which was one of the reasons why Cimmy hadn't been able to afford to go there herself. Her cousin was several years younger and much more adept at everything techie than Cimmy was, and she hadn't had to spend all those years in school. As a result of that and the fact that she had fallen in love with someone who had at least as much talent in regards to software as she did, Eva Rivera was quite comfortable financially, and enjoyed taking the opportunity to spoil her hard-working, nose to the grindstone cousin.
It made Cimmy happy to see several people in the restaurant. Everyone dressed and acted appropriately. The men inclined their heads to her and tipped their hats, murmuring, "Ma'am." It was the first time in her life she wasn't unhappy to have been called that.
A young bellhop showed her to her room. "Welcome to the Granville Arms Hotel. You are lucky enough to be staying in the exact same room that Mark Twain stayed in when he visited the hotel," he said.
"Oh, I had no idea. That's nice to know. Thank you for telling me."
He nodded as he set down her luggage. "They say the room is haunted, but I wouldn't worry none. I hear the ghost is friendly. This whole town has its fair share of spirits." He winked and gave a huge Cheshire grin. "It's what makes Twain Ridge special."
"I would have to agree with you. This town does have a certain magic about it. I can't quite put my finger on what, exactly, but I really like it so far."
Cimmy tipped him nicely before looking around her room. It was just as she'd imagined, with floor to ceiling windows, bracketed by heavy velvet curtains with delicate Irish lace inserts. A pitcher and washbasin sat on top of the antique bureau—which she could see had a discreet price tag hanging from the mirror. A small Governor Winthrop writing desk with a finger oil lamp sat against one wall, and a chifforobe stood in one corner and a full length mirror in the other—one of the obviously antique kinds that swiveled, done ornately in a very nice mahogany. In the center of the room sat a very plain bed with an iron headboard, although she would have bet that the quilt it was made up with had been handmade.
Cimmy's happiness almost deflated when she looked in the desk and found information about the room itself, including prices for everything else she'd missed the price tags on, including the quilt, which, considering it was barely a double bed, especially by today's standards, was extravagantly priced at nearly four hundred dollars.
It was pretty though, done in pinks and blues in a pattern she recognized as the pinwheel style. But her pocketbook, as well as her lips, puckered just at the thought of paying that much money for a bedspread, no matter whose hands had made it.
She dutifully put everything away in the gorgeous armoire, admiring the obvious craftsmanship as she did so. The bed was surprisingly enticing, and she had a hard time avoiding the temptation to stretch out and fall asleep. She'd been in Arizona two days now—this being the second—but the jet lag had yet to ease up, probably because she'd been so sleep deprived to start with, although she refused to acknowledge that fact. Just as she was in danger of nodding off, the banjo clock on the wall chimed five o'clock, reminding her that there were things she wanted to do other than dally in her room. By scurrying down the stairs, she barely made the orientation lecture, but only barely.
The talk was given in the dining room, which was convenient for the authentic dinner that was served right afterwards. It was very simple fare, typical of the time; baked ham and boiled cabbage, which she wanted to avoid like the plague but forced herself to partake of for nostalgia's sake alone. But the flaky rolls and the butter were… heavenly. She rarely allowed herself to eat either of those things, but they were absolutely amazing.
The waiter, who was also the innkeeper, since there were only a few other guests, mentioned that the butter was hand-churned fresh every day in small batches. The rolls were baked from scratch every morning as well. It made sense, since there was no refrigeration beyond the old icehouses; nothing that would have been as convenient as having a fridge in one's house.
Cimmy indulged herself in a carb overload which she knew she was going to regret later, and secretly hoped that she didn't eat herself out of her clothes while she was here. It was going to be a temptation that was all too great, she could tell. Dessert was a simple apple pie, with very runny ice cream. But it, too, was pure Heaven.