For Mystery Monday I decided to share with you a chapter of my book, Mineral Creek. Each Monday I will post a new chapter for you to enjoy. If the waiting is too hard then click here to visit my book on Amazon.
She was all alone. As dirt slowly covered the last of her family, Ella Mattox felt a deep despair and loneliness. In the last ten years, she had lost her only sister, her mother, and now her father. The funeral had been a dismal affair. Since her sister’s death, her family had moved from their home town and kept to themselves so there were no friends to share in her sorrow. No shoulder she could weep on, her grief was hers alone.
Sighing deeply, she left the cemetery and headed back to the boarding house she called home. It was a small apartment but that was all her meager teacher’s salary could afford. Her father had been unable to work the past two years so the burden of paying the bills and keeping them fed had fallen on her shoulders. In truth, when her mother had passed away she had lost her father too. All the losses had been too much for him to handle and his mind had slowly begun to slip away.
Once in her room she removed her bonnet and walked over to her small desk she used for writing. When her sister Anna was alive she had always kept journals to write down her deepest yearnings and secrets. Ella used to think that was silly. If you wrote down your secrets surely someone would read them and they would be secrets no more but after Anna’s death she had felt a need to confide in someone and her parents were in no condition to talk about her feelings so she had begun her own journal. It brought her a peace to write down the things she couldn’t speak to anyone about and it also made it feel as if she was closer to her sister.
She began writing and as usual got lost in her thoughts and minutes turned to hours. A knock on the door finally pulled her from her writings and she noticed that the sun was beginning to set. Stretching her shoulders she went to the door.
“May I help you?” A well dressed man stood on the threshold.
“Are you Miss Ella Mattox?”
“I am, and you are?”
“My name is Percival Andrews. I met with your father a few years ago when he drew up his will. That is what I am here to discuss with you. May I please come in?”
Ella stepped aside, “Of course, Mr. Andrews. You must forgive me but I hadn’t realized that my father had a will or to be perfectly frank, that he had anything worth leaving.”
Ella motioned for the lawyer to have a seat at a small table and sat on the other side. “First of all, let me offer you my sincere condolences on the loss of your father. He was a good man and will be missed.” She nodded her thank you and he continued, “Your father wasn’t a rich man, Miss Mattox, but he did own property which, of course, now belongs to you. There are also some funds available at your disposal but as I said, your father wasn’t a rich man but it will surely help you out in your circumstances.”
She couldn’t help but notice how he looked at her meager furnishings as he mentioned her ‘circumstances’ but she chose to ignore him. Her mind was riveted to the fact that her father had left her something. That she wasn’t in such dire straights as she thought only hours ago. Mr. Andrews pulled some papers out of the attache case he was carrying. She thought he was making quite a fuss in producing the papers but she let him put on his show.
“Shall I read you the will in it’s entirety, Miss Mattox, or just skip to the parts pertaining to you?”
“There is no need to read the entire will, Mr. Andrews, just what pertains to me will suffice.”
He looked disappointed but he thumbed through the pages until he came to the bequeathing. Clearing his throat in a most annoying way Ella thought, he began to read, “To my daughter and only living family member, Ella, I leave to her our property on Mattox Street in Mineral Creek, Oklahoma and all it entails as well as the small amount of funds left in the Mineral Creek bank for her to use as she sees fit. To Ella, it is my fondest hope that you will find what you seek in Mineral Creek.”
“That last part was a bit odd wasn’t it Mr. Andrews?”
“Not at all, people always put in a few words for their loved ones. Here is the deed to your property Miss Mattox,” he said, handing her some papers. ” As well as the papers you will need to take to the bank to receive the funds your father left for you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Andrews, you’ve given me a lot to think about.”
“I completely understand,” the lawyer said, gathering up his papers. “I will leave you to your planning and if there is anything that I can do for you, don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“Thank you again, Mr. Andrews,” she said, as she showed him to the door.
Ella sat down to read the will at length and then look at the papers for the bank. Everything looked to be in order. Now the question was what was she going to do with it? The bank papers showed enough money for her to live meagerly on for a few months. That would give her enough time to go back to Mineral Creek and her old home place.
It had been years since she had been there. The last time she had seen it was the day of Anna’s funeral. After they had laid her sister to rest, they had packed only what they could carry and left. She had only been nine at the time and so stricken with grief over the loss of her sister she hadn’t thought much on why they were packing up and moving. Over the years, she had tried asking her mother and father about her sister but they had refused to talk about her. In truth, her death was a mystery. No one ever spoke of what happened or why they had to leave town so suddenly.
Perhaps if she went back to Mineral Creek, she could learn what happened to Anna and finally feel at peace about her loss as well as being able to establish some roots in her home town. She didn’t want to live in boarding houses all her life. She wanted to live in her own house and be in command of her own life.
Perhaps today was the first day of the rest of her life. Freedom began today. There was no one to tell her what she could say or do. She was her own person now. Alone in the world yes, but free. Feeling a sense of wonder and excitement that she hadn’t felt in ages she extracted a piece of paper and began writing the letter she planned on turning into her school first thing in the morning. It was probably against her better interest to quit a perfectly respectable, steady employment but she felt this was something she had to do. After her letter was written, she readied herself for bed because she knew tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
She needed to pack all her belongings and tell her landlady, Mrs. Wetherby, that she would be leaving. Then she needed to find out if the train went all the way to Mineral Creek or if she needed to find other transport. She dreaded giving her letter of termination to Mr. Hallifax, the superintendent of the school where she taught. He hadn’t wanted to give her a chance. He thought teachers should be males and all women should be raising kids and cleaning house.
She had taught at the school for the last two years and he always had a snide remark. She didn’t want him to think she was quitting because she couldn’t handle the pressures of the classroom. She would make it clear to him that her life had taken a sudden, unexpected turn and she would be leaving Tulsa altogether.
With all that decided, she laid back on her pillow and smiled as she drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow began life anew.
The next morning Ella woke up before dawn and quickly got dressed. Her first order of business was going to the school to turn in her resignation. As she suspected Mr. Hallifax assumed her inability to cope with the pressures of working in a man’s world was her reason for quitting but even his foul mood couldn’t dampen her spirits. She gave him a happy smile as she parted ways with him and she knew, without a doubt, he thought she had completely lost her senses after the death of her father.
After the unhappy chore of quitting her job was over Ella went to the train station and was excited to learn that there was indeed a train that went straight to Mineral Creek. With her ticket purchased she hurried back to her room and began packing. The hardest part was packing her father’s clothes. Good reasoning told her to get rid of the clothes so she wouldn’t be burdened by them but her heart was still heavy from his passing and couldn’t bear to get rid of his things just yet. Packing took her most of the day and her train was due to leave at six that evening giving her hardly any time to explain to her landlady that she would be leaving. She was unhappy to lose a tenant that paid regularly but being a widow and alone as well, she understood Ella’s need to find herself some roots in her hometown.
At five minutes to six, Ella found herself at the train station having her baggage loaded as she stood in a bit of a daze. Things were happening so fast. Yesterday she was burying her father, then learned that she owned a house and a small amount of money to sustain her for a few months and today she was getting on a train to her hometown. She didn’t know what awaited her there but she felt that there was a reason for her to go home.
With a deep, fortifying breath, she stepped onto the train and found her seat. As the train slowly started rolling down the tracks, she couldn’t help but feel that it was taking her closer to her destiny. She knew that was fanciful of her but her heart beat almost out of her chest at the anticipation of what was to come. Her future awaits.