* * *
“But I can’t leave without it, Lola,” Millie said. “I know I had it last night when I took a bath.” Retracing every step she’d taken, she rounded the bathtub, searching for the bride’s necklace. “I laid it here on the bench so it wouldn’t get wet.”
“I’m sorry, honey,” Lola said, pulling her head in the window. “I laid the towel over the edge of the sill to dry. The necklace must have flown out. I searched the rooftop and the ground, but the wind might have carried it off.”
Frustration made Millie’s insides sting. It was just a necklace, and probably wouldn’t sway Seth either way.
“I’ll keep looking,” Lola said, “and when I find it, I’ll send it to you. I promise.”
“See that you do,” Millie said, leading the way out of the room and down the stairs. She had to leave now or she’d miss her train to Washington, and then the one to Tulsa.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Lola asked yet again.
“I’m sure. If he won’t talk to me on the train, I’ll rent a horse and follow him all the way to the fort, where I’ll sit on the front stoop, making him step over me day after day.”
Lola laughed. “You’ve become one determined woman.”
“I have to be. I’ve never before wanted anything like I do this.” Millie stopped at the front door, and saw the carriage waiting at the end of the walkway. The driver had already loaded her luggage. “I’m going to miss you very, very much.”
“Well, don’t. I’ll be here, keeping this place in order for whenever you return.”
“Visit,” Millie corrected. “With my husband and children.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Lola said, as they hugged.
Millie held on tight for a moment, wishing she didn’t have any doubts. She did, but she wouldn’t focus on them. And she wasn’t being selfish, either; she was being true to herself. There was a difference. A big difference. Stepping back, she nodded toward the house. “I told Mr. Wells if you need anything he’s to see to it, and an account has been set up in your name for household expenses and such. And Nadine will be bringing little Louie over for you to visit. Give him a kiss for me. Oh, and be sure to tell Mr. Evans I say hello.”
“Yes, Lola, don’t try to fool me,” Millie said, grinning. It was amazing how easy it was to see other people were in love when you knew how it felt. “I know you’ve been sweet on that man for years, but wouldn’t leave me and Rosemary. This is your time now. The two of you can get married and live right here. He can keep working at the mill while you take care of Papa’s house. Waiting for me and my husband and our children to come visit.”
Lola’s dark cheeks turned rosy. “Oh, you little scamp.”
Millie laughed and skipped down the porch steps. “I’ll write. Tell you what happens.”
“You do that!”
Millie ran the rest of the way to the awaiting carriage, but little good it did, hurrying so. The train to Washington had barely left Richmond when it screeched to a stop. After a few minutes the porter came along, explaining that a train ahead of them had troubles and they’d have to wait for repairs. In the end, Millie sat on that train for six hours before it started chugging north, and once she arrived in Washington, the train she’d hoped to catch, the one she knew Seth had arranged for their return trip, had already left.
Thwarted, but not enough to give up, she made arrangements for a private car—the train depot in Washington had several to choose from—to be part of the next train headed west, with connections to Tulsa. She was comforted to learn one was leaving the following day, with no layovers and no switching trains. It was a relief after all the delays during her first journey west, and Millie’s excitement started to build again. She might still arrive before Seth and the wagons left for Fort Sill.
It was risky. He certainly could tell her to leave. But she’d never know if she didn’t try. The cost of the private car was a bit outlandish, but recalling her other rides, including the one with Seth, she figured it would be worth every dime. Especially since it would be five days before she arrived in Tulsa, and she wanted the private space to make sure she looked her best when she met Seth again, and to rehearse exactly what she’d say.
After paying the man for the car rental, which took a goodly amount of the money she’d withdrawn from her account at the bank, she asked, “When can I board?”