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The Fiction Works Bell Ringers Series - Romance Collection - currently in preparation - details from Publishers.
Opening extract from short story ... The Farmer's Daughter

Plain Jane—some people called her.

Jane was a farmer's daughter. She wore plain, dark dresses and she was not what people called pretty. She always brushed her sandy brown hair back into a tight twist that made her look quite severe.

      When she walked into town to buy supplies the menfolk nodded politely or tipped their hats. Then they moved on quickly to do what they had to do. She always smiled. It really didn't bother her if they didn't want to stop and talk.

      "What are we going to do with Jane?" asked Mrs. Jones one morning.

      Her husband had just come in from milking and the two them were sitting down to breakfast.

      "You keep asking that," he said. "There's nothing much we can do. I keep telling you that!"  He was very tired and really didn't want to start another conversation about Jane.

      "I know, Frank; but she's twenty-five now and still unmarried."

Anna Jones worried all the time about her daughter. Most of the local girls were married by the time they were twenty! Hardly a week went by without Anna asking Jane if she'd met this man or that in town. In fact, Jane was sure her mother sent her into town to fetch supplies just so she could meet some young man to marry.

      "I'll be married this year, Ma," Jane always said. "The right man is out there somewhere!"

      One afternoon, Jane ran an errand for her father. Then she stopped off at Maggie Beere's shop to pick up some lace for a dress she was making.

Maggie Beere and Jane had been in the same class at school. Now Maggie ran her own shop, was married and had two bouncing boys to care for as well.

Jane noticed how Maggie always seemed tired and depressed. No, Jane thought, if that's what being married and having children does, I don't want anything to do with it.

      There was a horse tied up outside. She patted it. She blew gently into its nostrils and then let it nuzzle her empty hand. A gentle horse, she decided. No doubt it belonged to a gentle man.

She patted it one last time, then walked up the steps. She was about to go inside Maggie’s shop when a tall, well-dressed young man came out. Jane lowered her head and stood back to let him pass, but he stopped and held the door open instead.

She looked up. The first thing she noticed was his smile. Then she saw his eyes. They were bright and green, and they seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. His hair was a ginger red color. It fell in long, curly ringlets from underneath a broad-brimmed hat. The hat was perched on the back of his head.

Jane smiled awkwardly, thanked him and passed inside, feeling a bit flustered.

      She was so busy trying not to look back at the doorway that she didn't notice her shawl slip off her shoulders. As she got to the counter and rang the bell, she was surprised by a voice behind her.

      "You dropped this, ma'am."

      It was the stranger, holding her shawl in his outstretched hand.

      She gave a little cry and felt her shoulder where the shawl should have been.

      "Oh! I must have caught it on the door."

      "No, ma'am, it just slipped off your shoulders, all by itself."

The man winked and then wrapped the shawl around her.

 Just then Maggie came in with a roll of material and dropped it on the counter. She smiled weakly at Jane and straightened her hair.

      "I see you've met Nathan then," she said. "Nathan, this is Jane Jones."

      "So it is!" he replied. "I remember well."

      Jane looked at Maggie. Remember? What did this Nathan remember? She had never seen him before in her life.

"Your hair's longer than it used to be, Jane," the man laughed.

Jane caught her breath and became defensive. "Miss Jones, sir, if you don't mind."

      "You don't remember," said Maggie. She smiled teasingly at the stranger. Clearly Jane was getting more and more embarrassed and this was rather fun.

For her part, Jane became aware of the color rising in her cheeks. How could she remember something or someone when there was nothing to remember?

The entire story may be found in The Fiction Works (USA) - Bell Ringers Series - Romance Collection - currently in preparation.
2002 David Drew-Smythe - all rights reserved.