Well, friends, we’ve arrived. It’s the finale for both our wonderful shows.  Can you believe it??? But the Hallmarkies Podcast Heart to Heart Hearties have some surprises coming up for you so you won’t get too blue. (Although, you #TeamNathan fans probably wouldn’t mind a bit of blue, given Kevin’s eye color, and the costumes he wears to make those peepers sparkle. 🙂 ) It’ll be hard to get through, but we can make it, right?  It WILL be much harder without new episodes to look forward to.  Thank heavens for DVR recordings and Edify Films enabling us to pre-order Season 7. Thank you Elliott and Tiffany Wallach! And even though we don’t know exactly when they’ll start filming, we know that an 8th season of WCTH is secured. #Season8WouldBeGreat! Now all we need to feel complete is an announcement for season 2 of When Hope Calls. #MeAndYou4Season2

Well, I have a few treats for you today too, just to start you off. The WHC recap is below. As with all these, please remember that we recorded this in October…hence my Halloween scarf 😉 We also talk about Hallmark television as a whole, since October is the end of the TV season, and the reign of Christmas movies began. Reflect on the very first season of When Hope Calls as a whole, and relive those feelings you had at the end of season 6 of WCTH; especially the awe you felt at the amazing job they all did on the editing.  And you’ll see my little girl make an appearance; the ladies were kind enough to invite her on so she could give a child fan perspective on both shows.  Funny thing, she says which team she’s on, kind of, and it’s the EXACT OPPOSITE of where she stands now.  Apparently turning 9 changes a person drastically! 😀

Then, a very special conversation: I got to chat with Hanneke Talbot, the feisty Nurse Maggie Parsons, and hear her side of the story of When Hope Calls. The fact that she’s actually British makes her doubly delightful!

Okay, everyone. I’ll be back on Friday with our very last #FaceOffFriday of the season.  See you then!  Be safe, be sane! 🙂 This is Hooked Heartie, signing off. May your heart let your hope blossom! 

 

Well, #Hearties, we have arrived! This is the final Friday post before our final episode premieres! What will we DO without our show??? We’ll survive this…SOMEHOW! Don’t worry, part of the “survival” includes lots of post-finale content. We’ll see what kind of fodder the finale gives me, and what kind of time I have; maybe I can compose a new story!

But for tonight, we’re doing things a little differently. For your audio pleasure, I’m giving you the episode recap first. Then when you’ve listened to THAT, you can read my other Faith and Carson story. Just a disclaimer: this story was written before Romance Quarantined.

 

Did you like that? Now cozy up with a warm blanket, and read A Secret Too Well Kept, by Sarah Nitsch and myself.

 

A Secret Too Well Kept:

The bell on the door of Dottie’s Fine Apparel rang as Faith slipped inside. She almost called out, but then she heard Rosemary in the back. “I’ll go, Clara. You keep hemming. We’ll be here most of the night as it is,” she instructed just before appearing from behind the curtain. “Oh, Faith!” Rosemary pleasantly greeted her. “What can I do for you?”

Faith squeezed her hands together, and rocked back onto her heels with a moment’s uncertainty before admitting, “Well…I’d like to buy a dress.”

Rosemary gave a single clap of delight. “Oh, that’s wonderful! Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place.” She held up a finger, signaling Faith to wait there a moment, then flew into action removing a gown from a mannequin. “Let me just…” she mumbled to herself as she unfastened the last button, and lifted the cloud of fabric off the frame.

“How do you like this one?” she asked. “I actually thought of you when I was working on it.” Rosemary held the gown to Faith’s shoulders from behind so she could see herself in the full-length mirror.

“I, uh…I heard you talking to Clara,” Faith stalled, not wanting to make a decision. “What did you mean you’ll be ‘hemming all night’?”

“Oh! It’s actually very exciting. We’ve been getting several orders for alterations to make hemlines shorter on existing dresses, as well as making new ones with higher skirts. Apparently, Fiona has started a trend!” Rosemary almost squeaked the last few words in her enthusiasm, but then shook her head to get back to business. “Faith, you’re digressing. What about the dress?”

Faith sighed, and tilted her head to the side. “I don’t know, Rosemary. The hemline might be a little too daring for me.”

“Oh pish posh! It’s fine. And, if it really means that much too you, I can let it out an inch or two. Now, what about the dress?”

Faith squinted slightly to study her appearance with a critical eye. The sleeves went to the elbow with a slight puff, the lines were simple but tasteful, and the skirt was ruffled all along the edge. It was a very attractive dress, with just one little problem…

“It’s quite nice…” Faith said hesitantly.

“‘Quite nice’?” Rosemary tried not to sound offended. “You don’t like it? But it matches your eyes.”

“Oh, yes, it does, and it’s very pretty. It’s just that…Well, I wear blue everyday.”

Rosemary made a sound of enlightenment. “Ah! Well, yes, that’s true. I know that for myself, if I had to wear that same tired, plain, drab uniform…” Faith raised her eyebrows, indicating Rosemary might have used a few too many adjectives. “Oh! Not you, you still look…lovely. The point is, if I had to wear it all day, everyday, I would tire of blue as well. So, let’s just take this…” Rosemary swept the blue gown away, and went to put it back. She then gestured to the other dresses on the mannequins, all standing at attention for their Corporal Coulter. “Do any of these strike your fancy?”

Before Faith could think to stop herself, her gaze fell upon one in particular, and her eyes began to glow. Rosemary was quick to notice. “Which one is it?” Rosemary smiled.

“Oh, Rosemary, I don’t want to trouble you. You have so much work already…”

“Faith, these are the dresses we are going to hem anyway so we have some to put in the window. So…” Rosemary drawled, “which one should I alter first?”

“Well…” Faith said in the same tone as she reached a hand toward her favorite, “this one is quite lovely. I’ve always been partial to all shades of purple, but especially light purple. I guess that’s because my favorite flower is lavender. Although, lavender is technically an herb, not a flower…”

Rosemary held up a hand. Obviously, she was the only one allowed to give a monologue on a subject. “Uh, Faith? Let’s save the medical lesson for another time, shall we? Now, this color is a shade or two darker than the color lavender, but it will look lovely against your blonde hair. And, the pattern is the same as the blue, so it will be very flattering on your figure.”

Faith blushed, and Rosemary giggled. “So, do you need a new dress for something special? A certain…occasion, perhaps?” she asked with a knowing look in her eyes.

Faith’s pretty blush was instantly replaced with the red flush of nervous guilt. “Oh! No. No, no special occasion. Just your average, everyday…” her tone took on one of utter discouragement, “ordinary purchase.”

“What are you talking about, dear?” Rosemary demanded.

Faith sighed heavily. “There don’t seem to be any special occasions to prepare for,” she declared glumly. “Not a one,” she added, looking away.

Rosemary was mortified, and started stammering in a panicked whine. “But, but, but last week, you said…you told me you two had a picnic that went so well. Well, ‘very nicely’, I think was the phrase you used; but I couldn’t have wiped that smile off your face with chloroform! What on earth happened?!”

Faith sighed another heavy sigh, but with more sadness. “Rosemary, what I’m about to tell you, it cannot become public knowledge.”

Rosemary gasped. “Oh, Faith! Of course I wouldn’t…”

Faith’s stare became unwavering. “No, Rosemary! I mean it! You can’t say this to any of the ladies; you can’t even tell Lee!”

Rosemary was a little taken aback, and shockingly, slightly intimidated by Faith’s sudden intensity. Her face took on an unusually solemn expression, filled with sympathy. She took Faith’s hand, leaned forward slightly, and looked straight back in her eyes. “I give you my word, I will be the soul of discretion. Why don’t we sit down?”

Faith took a relieved breath, then moved to sit in one of the waiting chairs in the corner, trying not to cry. Rosemary turned the “Open” sign on the door to “Closed”, then took the seat next to her. “Now, what’s happened?”

“Nothing…” Rosemary looked at her, puzzled. “No, I mean, nothing’s happened. Everyday I go to work, and Carson is ‘business as usual’. Actually, he’s worse than usual.”

“‘Worse than usual’? How can that be? Has he been unkind to you?”

“Oh no! He’s very kind and…polite. But he only talks about the patients or the supplies we need, that sort of thing.

“That’s peculiar. What on earth could have gotten into that man?”

Faith wiped a stray tear as she tried to explain, knowing she’d never hear the end of it until she did. “At our picnic, we both managed to say how we feel about each other. We even…kissed,” she added timidly. Rosemary gasped again, this time with glee. Faith raised both her hands to stay any outbursts. “But…we didn’t want the town putting us under a microscope…scrutinizing us,” Faith clarified at Rosemary’s confused look. “We wanted to move at our own pace without all the speculations. So, we decided to keep it a secret. The first few days,” Faith’s voice began to get wistful, “were so wonderful! He’d kiss my cheek or my forehead after making sure no one was around, or take my hand when he was walking me home. But then, people were around us more and more…I guess he just got…out of the habit? Because now, it’s as if nothing happened at all. He probably changed his mind, but doesn’t know how to tell me.” Faith grew more and more emotional. “I’ll just have to swallow my own feelings, and move on!”

Rosemary was distressed! Her perfect plan, and Faith’s heart, were unraveling before her eyes. “But, Faith!” she protested.

Faith stood, and headed for the door. “No Rosemary! If I push him, it could ruin our relationship; it could ruin my career! I can’t give up nursing, and I don’t want to give up Hope Valley. I need to go. The gowns are beautiful.” With that, Faith rushed out of the dress shop, leaving Rosemary sitting there looking very perplexed. But not for long. “Well! We’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?”

Rosemary was walking arm in arm with Lee a few days later, still trying to figure out a way to remedy Faith’s situation. The poor girl looked more downtrodden than someone thrown from a saddle.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Lee asked. “We just passed Elizabeth by the mercantile, and you didn’t even say hello.”

“What? Oh! I’m sorry, Lee, my mind is just very occup…Oh, Carson! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

Lee rolled his eyes as Rosemary dropped his arm to run and catch up with the good doctor. “Apparently, her mind isn’t too occupied for Carson,” he mumbled, and hurried to join them.

“What’s wrong, Rosemary?” Carson asked. “You’re not feeling sick, are you?”

Rosemary gave him a baffled look. “Why would I be talking to you if I was sick? No, the reason is quite simple, really. I ordered a roast, but two got delivered by mistake. They said I could keep the extra. Well, we can’t eat that much…” Lee cleared his throat, suggesting he could, and Rosemary nudged him into silence, “…and I hate to waste good food. I thought maybe you’d like to take it, and make a delicious dinner…for someone?” Nothing. “Faith, perhaps?”

Carson tried to cover his surprise, but failed miserably. “Oh! Um…well, I’m not sure I should…wait! How did you…?” His eyes shifted back and forth between the Coulters, searching for the answer to his unasked question.

Lee just shrugged. “I stopped asking how she knows things a long time ago; saves me a lot of time.”

Carson sighed, frustrated at Lee’s lack of advice when he’d been so helpful in the past. Then he pasted his “cheerfully polite” expression on his face, and turned to Rosemary. “Thank you, very much, for the thought, Rosemary, but I don’t know that dinner is the right…the right…” The “right” words were escaping him, along with his calm composure, not to mention his pride.

It didn’t matter, though, as Rosemary just waved her hand to dismiss his comments anyway. “Oh, nonsense! Of course it’s ‘right’. Now as far as timing being right, well that all depends, now doesn’t it?”

“Depends on what?” Carson and Lee asked simultaneously, both completely lost in Rosemary’s web of words.

“Oh, men!” Rosemary groaned in exasperation. “It depends on what you want for your future, of course! Do you want to maintain a professional relationship with your lovely nurse, and remain alone for the rest of your life? Or do you want to take the chance that you might just find a little happiness with her, which is more important than any job.” Nothing again. “If you decide on the latter, you know where to find me. I’ll arrange everything!” And with that, Rosemary sauntered away, rubbing her hands together, and looking very pleased with herself. One would think she’d solved the world’s problems in one fell swoop.

Carson and Lee could only stand in the middle of the street and stare at each other, both completely confounded. Finally, Lee clapped Carson twice on the shoulder, and said, “Just something to think about,” Then caught up to his wife.

Carson was left alone, feeling rather stunned. That’s usually what happens after an encounter with Rosemary, he thought, and chuckled to himself. I think I need to sit down. He looked up to see that he was close to the infirmary, and figured his desk was as good a place as any for some contemplation. Once seated, he picked up some paperwork to look busy; but truthfully, he just stared out the open door. What was his dilemma? What was stopping him? It’s true neither one of them wanted the town staring and speculating, but their friends and neighbors were bound to find out sooner or later; especially if Rosemary had anything to do with it. Part of it had to be that things had been progressing so gradually between them for so long; and then in the past few weeks, the wave of romance came crashing in, throwing them together, and changing practically everything. That certainly was reason enough to question the situation, he reasoned.

Then there was the matter of giving Faith the space she needed to process this change. She had been so scared to risk her job and her heart; she seemed to need that. Carson shook his head. Even in his head, he was stalling, avoiding the true heart of the challenge. What he really didn’t want to admit, even to himself, was how much Faith’s job was impacting his feelings for her. The fact that she was a nurse, just like Amber had been…it frightened him. A horrible vision of history repeating itself flashed before Carson’s eyes. Losing his wife had nearly broken him! How could he possibly live through losing Faith too?

Just then, Carson caught sight of Faith walking hand in hand with Opal. Her whole face lit up when she laughed, her head tilted to the sky in her delight. Carson couldn’t help but smile. Elizabeth told him once that Faith didn’t consider herself good with children. Well, she had obviously acquired the talent over time. His smile widened as he watched Faith bend down to Opal’s level, talking to her with big eyes, and tapping her playfully on the nose.

As Carson continued to observe her discreetly, Molly approached, and Faith pleasantly greeted her . He was struck with the beauty of her smile and her genuine care for others when she gingerly touched Molly’s left arm, obviously asking about the gash they’d treated her for a few days ago. He heard his name mentioned; Molly must have asked how he was doing. A brief, but obvious look of disappointment crossed Faith’s lovely complexion, but she was quick to cover it. The pain in her face, as short-lived as it was, made Carson wince. Look at her, he marveled. I’ve practically been ignoring her, and she’s still trying to protect my reputation! What an amazing woman!

Then suddenly, he knew. There were no fireworks, no lightning bolts, although his heart was certainly thundering in his chest. But he just knew. He knew Faith was the one who had patched the hole in his heart that losing Amber had left behind. He knew the petty little worries of society and careers were nothing in the grand scheme of things. He knew that she loved him as he loved her. Most of all, he knew what he had to do, and he knew how he had to do it.

That evening, Faith glumly ambled along the sidewalk, knowing she should go home, but lacking the motivation. She’d gone to the Queen of Hearts saloon to try the new menu for dinner, but ended up only having the stomach for a cup of coffee; and even that had taken a full twenty minutes to consume. Things were just not looking up at the infirmary, and Faith was just about ready to give up. The thought saddened her even more.

She was passing the dress shop, chin on chest, when the door flew open. “Oh, Faith!” Rosemary stopped her dead in her tracks. “I’m so glad I saw you! I need your help. Do you have a moment?”

“Well, I suppose I do. I was just going to…”

“Wonderful! Come with me.” Rosemary reached for Faith’s hand.

“Rosemary, I really should…Oh!” Rosemary made the decision for her, and yanked Faith inside. “Oh! Okay…”

Rosemary closed the door behind them, then stood to face her, hands up, and itching to work. “Now as you know, I was hemming all those gowns I showed you a few days ago, and now, more have come in for alterations. All the mannequins are in use, and Clara’s working at the saloon tonight. The fact of the matter is, that dress you…almost tried on is not even half finished, and I can’t bear leaving a dress unfinished if I can help it. I need a woman to wear it so I can get the proper measurement; I’m not used to this modern styling yet. Will you please try it on so I can finish it? Please?”

Faith got so lost in Rosemary’s speech moving as fast as a train that she was surprised to realize Rosemary had stopped, and was waiting for a response. “Oh! Um…well…alright. I guess I can spare a few minutes.

Rosemary seized the dress Faith had admired, (it was awfully close at hand, and looked almost done. How odd.), and shoved it into her arms. “You can use the back to change. Let me know if you need any assistance,” she reminded, and shooed her away.

When Faith emerged, she looked radiant; as pretty as the flower…herb, itself. “Oh, Faith!” Rosemary exclaimed in admiration, “that dress definitely belongs on you.” Rosemary let out a small, delighted laugh, and added, “Oh, I do such marvelous work!”

Faith rolled her eyes good naturedly, and stood very still in front of the mirror while the very determined seamstress began to fuss with the material. Faith noticed that when Rosemary stood behind her, she was doing plenty of tugging and tucking, but it didn’t feel like she was doing any pinning, even though there were plenty of pins in her mouth.

“Aren’t you going to…” Faith began, but she was interrupted when Mike Hickam burst into the shop, doubling over, and heaving for breath. Both women whirled around, emitting startled gasps.

“Nurse Carter!” Mike huffed. “Come quick!” Breath. “It’s…emergency! Four men…the mill…with the head saw.” Breath. “Dr. Shepherd needs you at the infirmary now!”

“Of course! Right away!” Faith hurried to the door, then spun around, her hands frantically trying to unfasten the buttons at her back. “Oh! The dress!”

Rosemary shooed her away again, this time out the door. “Never mind the dress! Go! Go!”

Faith fled toward the infirmary as fast as she could. As soon as she was out of earshot, Mike straightened up, and gave a shy smile.

“Well done, Hickam,” Rosemary smiled in return.

“Thank you, Miss Rosemary.”

Faith ran the whole way, and pushed open the door, already asking, “Carson! What’s the big emergen…cy?” Faith’s breath caught in her chest, but not from running. There stood Carson in his best suit, definitely not prepping for a medical procedure. “Hello, Faith.”

“H-Hi,” Faith stammered. Tears sprang to her eyes, and her bottom lip got caught under her teeth. She tried to brush the tears away as she took in the room, and how different it looked. The electric lights were off. Instead, there were several candles on the shelves that usually just held tonics and bandages, cotton balls and tongue depressors. The flames danced around the room, casting shadows, and illuminating a glowing reflection on the Victrola that was playing soft music in the corner. Her eyes fell on the beautiful table set for two, complete with a bouquet of lavender, then they finally returned to Carson’s gentle and handsome smile. “What’s all this?” she asked emotionally.

“Well,” he moved in closer, and tenderly took her by the hands. “I think I made a very big mistake.”

Faith stiffened, and her smile faltered. “A mistake? About me? Oh, Rosemary! You promised you wouldn’t…” She grumbled, and started to pull away, but Carson tightened his hold.

“Faith, no. Please wait. This is difficult to explain. First of all,” he smiled to lighten the mood. “Rosemary wanted me to tell you that she did keep her promise of discretion. She didn’t breathe a word to any of those busybodies, and frankly, I think Lee knows less about us now than he did before. And she didn’t tell him; she told me!” he chuckled, and Faith laughed ruefully. Then Carson took a sobering breath, and pressed on. “This is the hard part. My late wife, Amber, was the only woman I ever really courted; and I did it so poorly, I sometimes wonder why she said ‘yes’ when I proposed. I was so young and foolish. Now, well…well, now I guess I’m just being foolish.” He chuckled a little more self-consciously, and Faith encouraged him on with a small smile. “I know I’ve said some…ridiculous things.” Faith smile widened, and he interjected, “Not my finest moment.” Then he continued. “And I know I’ve said and done several confusing things that make you question my feelings. Well, that ends now!” Faith’s eyes grew large as she realized the direction this was going. “No more secrets. You deserve to know. When we decided to keep this whole thing quiet, I thought you needed some space and time to let all this sink in. I was so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing…of making a mistake, that I made the mistake of pushing you away. That’s not what I want.”

“What do you want, Carson?” Faith asked meekly. Carson shifted her hands to his chest, and gazed deeply in her eyes. “I want to greet you with a kiss every morning when you come into work. I want to sit in the open air, and talk and laugh with you when we’re at lunch. I want to hold your hand as often as possible, and take long walks with you beside me.” He brushed a stray hair from her face, and tucked it behind her ear. “And I want to brush the hair away from your eyes so I can see them sparkle as they look up into mine.”

Faith’s eyes sparkled alright, but with tears. One escaped, trailing down her cheek. Carson took a deep breath and one step back, but kept hold of her hands. “I’ve said my piece, but I want to know what you want. So, Faith,” he squeezed her fingers warmly,” my beautiful Faith, what do you want?”

Faith had to take a moment to know where to begin. Then the words came, and she looked straight into Carson’s eyes. “When Peter demanded I give up nursing to marry him, and completely degraded who I am, I was so afraid of that happening again someday. But you have always respected my decisions and my career. That was one of the many reasons I said ‘yes to scary’ on our picnic.” She smiled nostalgically as all the times Carson had showed how he valued her raced through her mind. “I have never felt any pressure to be anything but what I am with you. So…I want everything you want; and I want it with a man who appreciates, supports, and cares for me. I want you, Carson.”

Carson cradled her face in his hands, caressing her cheek with his thumb. “You have me,” he murmured. And then he bent to kiss her. She responded with such energy that he enveloped her in his arms, letting the floodgate of unspoken words and suppressed feelings finally unlatch and swing wide open. He released her lips, and they both smiled with pure joy as their foreheads met. “You have me.”

 

 

Well, that wraps it up! Have a wonderful weekend, you wonderful people! And enjoy the finale. This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom! 

Hi, everyone. I know it’s a little late, but here is the When Hope Calls recap I promised for episode 9. It’s funny because when this premiered on Hallmark Movies Now, we were in October at this point. So don’t be thrown off when you hear me say “Happy Almost Halloween!” 😉 Can you believe we only have one episode of each show? How will we possibly live through the rest of the quarantine?! Thank heavens for reruns on Netflix and recordings on our DVR’s. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Friday! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

Well, #Hearties, as hard and discouraging as this quarantined lifestyle has proven to be, I must admit to there being some silver linings with the COVID-19 invasion. One prominent, and perhaps the most relevant one, is that because all the Hallmark stars have schedules that “have come to a screeching halt,” (a direct quote from Andrea Brooks herself,) they are also looking for ways to fill the time. They are much more able to chat in podcast interviews without those pesky filming hours getting in the way. 😉

So I have a treat for you today! It’s another double dose, yes, but not of recaps. It’s a double dose of interviews with some of our beloved WCTH actors. The two lovely ladies are Andrea Brooks, the much-loved Faith Carter, and Gracyn Shinyei, the not-so-little-anymore Emily Montgomery. But she’s still adorable and delightful as ever! Did you see this awesome picture she sent me?!

 

 

The interviews dropped today, so I wanted to post them while they were hot. That being the case, we’re going to shuffle the schedule around a bit. Today is the interviews, then Wednesday we’ll have the WHC recap. Friday I’ll post another #FanFictionFriday story and the recap for last night’s episode. I know we’re due for another #FaceOffFriday, but since there’s only one episode remaining, I thought we’d have a repeat of the beginning of the season, and include three episodes. So look at that! We actually get three days this week! Hopefully everything sails smoothly for those posts. Fingers crossed! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

 

 

Happy Friday, #Hearties! How are you? I know this ordeal seems to drag on forever, and it’s hard to keep spirits up sometimes. Well, I have a little something for you that might help.

I wish I could say this is a brand new story, but I think this might be even better. As you can tell from the title, this story is very appropriate for our current time. But this story was written a year ago. It’s a tale my friend Sarah Nitsch and I spun during the Season 6 hiatus to stay positive and keep our hopes high. Who would have thought we’d need it now even more. So for your reading pleasure and time passage 😉 , I present Romance Quarantined. Then after that, you can listen or watch the episode recap for “Into the Woods”.

ROMANCE QUARANTINED

Carson peered into the dark abyss that was Old Man Bartlett’s mouth, trying to deduce the reason for his ailing throat and fevered brow. It was definitely enflamed. And what was that right…

A cough erupted out of nowhere from the older gentleman’s throat. Carson squinted his eyes shut, and snapped his head back, but too late. Well, it wasn’t the first time he’d been coughed on; it certainly wouldn’t be the last. He made a mental note to give his face a thorough washing later.

“Sorry, Doc. Didn’t feel that one coming.”

“That’s quite alright, Mr. Bartlett. Just part of the job.” Carson reached for his clipboard, and started making notes in the old man’s already-full file. “Well, you certainly have a sore throat,” Carson observed lightly. “When did this start?”

“ ‘Bout two days ago,” was the answer.

Too early for any diagnosis, Carson thought, but he nodded. “We’ll give you something to help bring that fever down, and some tablets to ease your throat. Nurse Carter, would you bundle those up please?”

Faith immediately scooted her chair back from her paperwork, and cheerfully began collecting the medication. Carson smiled, and stopped to watch her a moment, then shook himself back to the present with Mr. Bartlett. “Careful not to take more than one tablet a day for your throat,” he warned, “or you might start to crave it. I also saw some phlegm. With your history of weak lungs, we’ll want to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t build up, and obstruct your breathing.”

Faith appeared beside him with the package, and held them out with her signature smile. “That will be $0.45 for both. And that includes the visit too,” she said as she handed it over.

Old Man Bartlett’s face became drawn with worry. He dug through his pockets, and studied its contents. “Would it be alright for me to give you $0.20 now, and the rest later?”

Carson gave an understanding smile, and held out his hand for the coins. “Of course.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Mr. Bartlett said, and dropped the money into Carson’s waiting hand. With that, he got to his feet, a little unsteady, and made his way out the door. “See ya soon,” he called, without turning his head.

Faith closed the door behind him, then turned with an admiring smile. “Well done,” she complimented as she coyly approached Carson.

“Well, I do have a way with the elderly,” he playfully responded. Faith reached up on tiptoe to kiss him. He gently pushed her shoulder back down, but his eyes glowed with her attempt. “You may not want to. Old Man Bartlett just coughed all over my face. I need to wash up.”

“Oh. Well, we can’t be responsible for starting an epidemic now, can we?” she smoothed the arms of his white coat. “It’ll be worth the wait.” She smiled again, and went back to her paperwork, her eyes not leaving his until the last possible moment.

Carson sighed happily, and went to clean his face. Life couldn’t get any better!

FIVE DAYS LATER
Could things be any worse?! Carson and Faith scurried from patient to patient, administering quinine to keep their fevers down, and trying to make everyone comfortable. Carson rubbed at the soreness in his throat, and wiped the sweat from his brow as he knelt and tried to look down Maggie Lawson’s throat, despite her feverish tossing and turning. “I’m fine,” he insisted to himself. He sorrowfully looked at Maggie’s pained face. He’d saved this little angel from being trampled by a runaway wagon when he’d first come to town. He couldn’t let her die now!

What was this illness? Carson tried to concentrate, but his head ached, and his brain felt addled. In the last five days, fourteen people had been reported sick. The school had been closed, and Lucas Bouchard had generously offered the saloon as a makeshift hospital with the number of invalids continuing to rise. Carson accepted instantly, and quarantined the place, hoping to stop it spreading.

He looked around to see Opal, Emily, Cody, Robert, Ned Yost, Mr. Bartlett, and Mrs. McCormick among so many others. Opal had come two days ago with an enflamed throat. Mrs. McCormick had been here four; she had the same gray spot he’d seen in Mr. Bartlett before he…Carson’s eyes grew wide as he slowly stood up. Before he’d coughed on him! Now there was a gray film coating his entire mouth. And most of the ill were either children, or getting on in years.

He knew! He knew what it was! He also knew how to cure it. They had to act fast! Carson almost turned to go tell Faith what was plaguing everyone, but stopped cold. His hand went to his throat as the pain flared. The room swam before his eyes, his breath was short, and he tasted filmy residue in his mouth. Faith’s voice echoed in his ears, asking if he was alright. He took a shallow breath to answer her, then collapsed.
————————————————————–
Faith hastily exchanged little Dorothy’s old blanket for a fresh one, then dropped it in the large laundry hamper on her way to grab the quinine from the bar. It was time to administer another dose to everyone. Rosemary grabbed the other bottle to help out. Faith saw that that bottle was already half empty, and the bottle she herself held was past that. She was worried. She tried to think as she started giving everyone the quinine. If I don’t figure out what this disease is, and fast, I’m going to run out of medication. Fiona had informed her that some of the surrounding towns had gotten wind of some kind of epidemic in Hope Valley. They’d stopped all trains and stagecoaches, so Faith couldn’t order more medicine and expect delivery. What do I do?!

Breathe, she ordered herself, as she gave Carson his portion of quinine. He took it, but by reflex only. He’d gone in and out of a fevered sleep since he’d collapsed that morning, and he’d been unresponsive to anything Faith said. She lingered just a moment longer to dab his sweaty brow with a cool cloth. “I will figure this out!” she whispered determinedly as she tenderly traced his cheek with her finger. “I’ll make you and everyone else here well. I promise!”

His only reply was a shallow inhale and exhale. Faith blinked several times to keep from crying, then tore herself away from his side. Florence was there. She looked very sympathetic for her situation. “Why don’t you sit with him for a few minutes. We can handle things.”

Faith gazed longingly at the face of the man she cared for so deeply, but stubbornly shook her head, and insisted, “My patients need me.”

She stood in the center of the room where she could have a good view of all said patients, and concentrated on each in turn. She wasn’t a doctor, but she’d certainly been studying. Surely she could discern what sickness this was if she just stopped moving for a few moments and focused. Alright, her mind told her as she threw herself into the thought process, everyone has a high fever. Everyone has a sore throat, but not the same kind. Opal’s and Dorothy’s are red and enflamed; Maggie, Emily, and Mrs. McCormick have gray spots in their throats; Ned has gray spots, and gray film is starting to form; Cody’s and Robert’s film is starting to coat their throats…so is Carson’s. And Mr. Bartlett is the worst: his entire throat is so coated, he can hardly breathe. Everyone else is either at these stages, or somewhere in between.

Faith put her fist to her mouth, thinking hard. “Sore throat, high fever, gray film, shallow breath…” Faith’s hands flew up, and her eyes bulged with sudden enlightenment. That had to be it! She frantically scanned the room, and found Rosemary giving quinine to Benjamin Davis. “Rosemary! Can you ladies handle things here for just a moment? Mr. Bartlett and Robert are my only two left who need quinine.”

Yes, of course…” Rosemary assured her, but Faith was already racing out the door.

“Don’t forget to scrub your hands well if one of you does laundry!” she called over her shoulder.

Faith was running to the infirmary as fast as her legs would carry her when she heard Elizabeth calling to her. “Faith!” They were both gasping for breath as Elizabeth approached. “How is everyone in there? It breaks my heart that so many of my students are ill! Is there anything I can do to…?”

“Don’t come any closer, Elizabeth!” Faith warned. “I know you want to help, and I’m truly grateful; but we can’t risk you getting exposed, and taking this home to Jack Jr. I don’t know that he’d live through it, and I can’t bear the thought of you losing him too. Please, go home. I’ll let you know if you can help in any way.” Then she kept running.

“But what…” Elizabeth started to yell, but Faith had disappeared inside, “…is it?” she finished to herself. Well, she’d find out soon enough. Right now, Elizabeth gave into the sudden urge to go home, and hold her son close.

Faith closed the door to the infirmary, reached for the medical encyclopedia, and tore through the pages until she found what she was looking for. “I was right!” She slammed the book down, and reached for the telephone, frantically jiggling the switch hook, and hoping Fiona wasn’t taking a break.

“Hope Valley Central. Number, please?” came the voice. Faith had never been so happy to hear someone speak.

“Fiona! This is Faith Carter. Please connect me to Dr. Burns at the Union City Hospital.”

“Of course, Faith. Did you figure it out?”

“Feel free to listen in, and find out.”

“Alright. Trying that number now.”

The line seemed to ring endlessly, but someone finally picked up on the 5th ring. “Dr. Burns’s office, this is Nurse Everston. May I help you?”

“I have a call for Dr. Burns from Hope Valley.”

“Oh, please put it through.”

“Melinda? Is that you?” Faith asked.

“Faith! Hello! I certainly do miss you here! How are things in Hope Valley?”

“Not so good at the moment, Melinda,” Faith answered impatiently. “I need to speak to Dr. Burns right away.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Faith, but he’s making his rounds right now.”

“Right now?” Tears sprang to Faith’s eyes, and panic seized her heart. “But this is an emergency! Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“I’m sorry, but you know there’s no way I can reach him when he’s on rounds.”

“Oh!” Faith whimpered. The walls of her composure were cracking. Every moment ticking away was precious time wasted. What could she do?

“Oh, wait a moment, Faith! He just arrived back.” Faith wanted to sob with relief, but she held her ground, and strained to hear the exchange in the background. “For you, Doctor. It’s Nurse Carter.” Then some noisy feedback as he picked up the receiver.

“Nurse Carter! Faith! How are you faring with Doctor Shepherd?”

“Doctor, I…”

“You know, we had a new arrival from your dear little town not too long ago: Mrs. Ramsey and her lovely dress shop. My wife frequents it quite often.”

“Dr. Burns! I’m in a huge predicament, and I need your help.”

Dr. Burns’s tone immediately sobered. “What’s the matter, Faith?”

Her lip quivered, knowing she was about to admit it out loud. “We have an epidemic…of diphtheria.”

Faith heard a female gasp on the line. She’d almost forgotten that Fiona was listening. She would talk to her later. Right now, she had work to do. “Doctor, I need to know what the latest and most effective treatment is, because it’s been around too long already. I don’t know how much longer my patients can last.”

“What do you mean, ‘your’ patients? What’s happened to Dr. Shepherd?”

“He caught it as well. One of the patients coughed directly in his face then his resistance was low when he was trying to care for everyone.” Faith bit her lip to control her tears before she added, “He’s quite ill, actually.”

“Oh, Faith, I’m so sorry! If I could, I would come help, but I’m afraid I just can’t get away right…”

“No, Doctor, I wouldn’t dream of asking. The town is pulling together. I just need to know the treatment. Has something new been found in the last three years or so?” Faith rolled her eyes at the insanity of her question. That was highly unlikely.

“ Actually, there is,” he revealed, and Faith wanted to scream in delight. She allowed herself a little silent hop instead.

“As you know, there’s been an anti-toxin since the 1890’s using the blood of horses, but it’s always been so expensive to get into Canada.”

“Of course, I remember! We couldn’t even keep it stocked in Hamilton.”

“Well in May of 1914, a Dr. John Fitzgerald created a kind of ‘Anti-toxin Laboratory’ at the University of Toronto, in a stable of all places! Can you send someone to Toronto to retrieve some for you?”

“I will find someone. Thank you, Dr. Burns. Oh, and the next time you see Dottie, please tell her not to come home for a visit until this is all over.”

“I will. Good luck, Nurse Carter. Faith…you’re very good at what you do. You’ll get through this.”

“Thank you, Doctor. That means more than I can say. Goodbye. “

He hung up after giving her one more well wish. “Fiona?” Faith asked. “Are you still there?”

“I’m here,” Fiona’s voice was shaking. “Diphtheria?”

“It’s alright, we’re going to make it through. Will you please call Sheriff Avery and tell him to meet me in front of the saloon?”

“Of course! Anything else I can do?”

“Stay by the telephone. We need to make sure we don’t miss any calls, and we need you to stay healthy. And Fiona? Pray!”

Fiona was quiet a moment, as if considering the concept for the first time. “Sure thing.”

Faith hung up, and scurried back to the saloon. She found Rosemary bathing Mr. Bartlett’s face. “Rosemary, where’s Lee?”

Rosemary looked a little confused. “He’s on a traveling business trip for the mill. He’s been gone for a week.”

“Where?”

“I won’t know where he is until he calls to check in. I told you all this four days ago. Remember?”

Faith dug her knuckles into her forehead. She did now. One more thing in the way. “I need someone with an automobile,” she muttered.

“Did you say ‘automobile’, Faith? Henry Gowen has one. What do you need it for?”

Faith opened her mouth to explain, but saw Bill through the window. “I’ll explain later,” she said, and headed out the door.

“Sheriff! Thank you for coming so quickly. Don’t come any closer. We don’t want you exposed.”

Bill stopped just short of the steps, and put his hands on his hips. “Did you figure out what it is?”

“Yes, it’s diphtheria; which is why I need your help. Do you think Mr. Gowen is willing to drive you somewhere?”

“And where might that be, young lady?” Henry Gowen appeared only a few yards to her right. She hadn’t heard him approach.

“Oh! Mr. Gowen! Stay back please. Thank you. There’s an anti-toxin for diphtheria at the University of Toronto that we need right away. There are no trains or stages coming or going from Hope Valley, and I thought the safest way to pick it up would be with a law enforcement officer. And neither of you have been exposed. You could drive to Hamilton, then take a train to Toronto, maybe?”

“I can drive myself. I’m not going on a road trip with Henry,” Bill insisted.

“If my automobile is involved, Sheriff, there’s no way I’m staying behind,” Henry fired back.

Faith watched the interchange, wondering if maybe she made a mistake. Fortunately, at that moment, Rosemary opened the door, and stood beside her. “I couldn’t help but overhear. I telephoned Hickam, and he should be right over.”

“What for?” But just then, the door to Lee’s office opened, and Mike made his way across the street.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “How is everyone in there?”

“Everyone is very ill, actually,” Faith answered. “But that’s going to change very soon. Sheriff Avery has kindly agreed to go get a diphtheria anti-toxin from the University of Toronto, and Mr. Gowen has graciously offered to drive him.” She was careful to not have her tone turn too skeptical. She needed them to do this, and as quickly as possible. “And Mike, you’re going to…?” Faith didn’t know that part, so she looked at Rosemary.

“You’re going to make sure these two don’t kill each other,” Rosemary finished. Both men turned to her in protest. “Oh, don’t look at me like that! You know perfectly well you two need a chaperone, and who better?”

That’s when Mike inquired, “How much do we need to get?”

Faith thought a moment, then said, “Better get enough for twenty-five. We have fifteen sick now, and it might go up. I can see how much money is in the infirmary…”

“We can settle that when we get back,” Bill grumbled, still not excited to travel with Henry.

Mike looked very hesitant, but dutifully said, “Well, alright! When should we go?” He clapped his hands together, trying to look certain.

“The sooner, the better,” Faith said. Rosemary took it a step further, and actually shooed them away, flicking her hand at them. “Go on now, get going.” The men dispersed to get ready to leave.

Then Florence opened the door, and shot her head out. “Faith,” she urgently beckoned, “we need you in here.”

Florence led them back inside, and over to Old Man Bartlett’s cot. He was lying still…deathly still. Florence began to stammer nervously. “I…I….I…I don’t understand. I was giving him a sip of water, and he started choking. That’s when I came to get you.”

Faith felt his neck for a pulse. She closed her eyes, and shook her head. “He’s gone,” she whispered. “I lost him.” A wave of fear overcame her. Now what would she do?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you trying to hit every hole in the road? I think my backside has bounced into my throat by now!” Bill complained.

“Well, you and your backside had better become accustomed to a few bumps, Bill, because there is no way I’m letting you get behind this wheel,” Henry grumbled.

Bill still wasn’t the least bit pleased with the prospect of countless hours in the same vehicle as Henry Gowen. It had already been eight, and he was exhausted! He didn’t like the feeling of not being in control of a dire situation, so to cover, he had to think of a way to fire back. “You let Rosemary Coulter in that driver’s seat at Christmas.”

Henry grimaced, and inwardly cursed himself. He knew that decision would come back to bite him. He’d had his reasons, but they weren’t for Bill’s ears. He had to retaliate, but he crafted his words carefully. “Would you have had me deny a pregnant woman a pram, and the whole town their Christmas dinner entrée?”

Mike sat in the back seat shaking his head and sighing. He rubbed a hand over his worn out face, then switched to massage his sore neck. He’d tried to refrain from looking back and forth between the two bulls locking horns, but to no avail; and it was beginning to take its toll. After the first two hours, he’d tried breaking things up by talking about how great the weather was for the drive, and that they hadn’t gotten stuck in any mud, not even once. That had been fruitless; Bill had just waved a lazy hand in his general direction, and plunged right back into whatever they’d been arguing about. Maybe he should try again. Well, no time like the present!

Mike put a smile on his face, and scooted up in his seat, trying to put some distance between the two, hoping to get a word in edgewise. “Bill!” he began cheerfully, clapping him on the shoulder.

Bill turned his glare to Mike, then Mike’s hand on his shoulder, then Mike’s face again. Mike timidly cleared his throat, and slid his fingers down the back of the seat until they met with his other hand, and clutched both together for dear life. He continued, but in a much more subdued tone. “Um…did you hear about…the new head saw Mr. Coulter ordered? It came in just before we left.”

“Is that a fact?” Bill asked unenthusiastically.

“Yes, it did,” Henry proclaimed. “I installed it with a team myself, and it runs twice as fast. We’ll be able to double our production,”

“It’s a miracle the engine didn’t burn out before we left!” Bill quipped snidely.

“And you think the town won’t burn down with a brand new Mountie left in charge?” Henry retorted.

Mike blew his breath out his silent lips, realizing how futile his attempts were. He sat back in the seat, trying to get comfortable, resigned to tuning out the two carrying on. His head rested on his hand, and he groaned softly as he watched the scenery passing. “I should have brought a book!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Faith sat beside Dorothy’s cot, holding her little hand in her left, and wiping at tears with the back of her right. Gently and reverently, she let go of Dorothy’s tiny fingers, laid them at her side, then covered her face with the sheet. The back of her hand returned to her face, this time to muffle the sound of her crying. She was careful not to let her fingers touch her skin and spread germs, but felt she would explode if some of this emotion wasn’t released!

Faith felt another hand ease onto her shoulder and instinctively grasped it tightly. “She’s gone,” she said, more clarifying it out loud for herself. She couldn’t believe it! A soft whimper escaped with the declaration.

“You did everything you could,” came Molly’s soothing reply.

But Faith wasn’t soothed. “And yet, I still lost her!” Her voice was tinged with anger. In her entire career, she had only lost a handful of patients; certainly none of them were as young as four years old! Her hands balled into fists, and smacked her thighs. “If only I had figured it out sooner!”

“Faith, calm down,” Florence advised somewhat sternly. She and Rosemary had joined them. “You won’t do your other patients any good by making yourself upset.”

Rosemary piped up, but a little softer. “Faith, you can’t do that to yourself. You’ll go crazy, and you know it.” She knelt to be closer to eye level with Faith, so she could make sure she was heard. “You are a smart, capable, wonderful nurse, and you are doing an incredible job of caring for everyone, especially with Carson sick too.”

Faith emitted a small moan at the mention of Carson’s name, and let her eyes wander to his still and weakened form. All three women followed her gaze.

“Faith, go!” Molly urged. Faith looked up at her. “Really, it’s alright. We know you want to so badly. Go sit with him, even just for a little while.” Molly looked to Rosemary and Florence to make sure that was agreeable with them, and both nodded eagerly.

Faith looked longingly at Carson, and even took a step in his direction. But she shook her head, shaking herself from that dream. “I’ll give him his medication, but then I need to get back to work. We all should do the same.”

A brief look of concern passed between the other three. They recognized the signs of a woman staying busy to keep herself from worrying. At this point, however, it was better not to stop her.

“I’ll have Jesse and Constable Grant take care of little Dorothy,” Rosemary volunteered.

“I’ll go inform her parents…poor things,” Florence chimed in.

“And I’ll help you administer the medication to everyone,” Molly said on her way to the bar. She came back with the two bottles of quinine, and Faith was shocked to see how little was left. “It’s almost gone,” Molly noted nervously.

“I know,” Faith said with just as much concern. “We’ll be lucky if we make it two more days.” As long as no one else gets sick, her mind added.
Everyone dispersed, leaving her standing there, anxiously rubbing the bottle in her hands. She only hoped the men would come back soon…before she lost anyone else.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Henry asked skeptically. He, Bill, and Mike dodged their way in and out of people’s paths as they made their way down the streets of Toronto.

“Of course I am,” Bill said indignantly. “The grocer said it was a right turn at the church, then straight down the street a ways. WE just needs to keep walking.” The three men were exhausted from the long train ride, but the adrenaline of being so close to the cure kept their feet moving.

Still, Henry continued his interrogation. “I just think we should be able to see it by now.”

Bill’s blood was starting to boil. He was just about to take a swing at Henry on a public street when Mike said from behind them, “Well, what man hasn’t gotten lost in a big city a time…” Bill and Henry stared him into submissive silence, but not before he finished with, “or two”.

They forged ahead about twenty more minutes before arriving at a large stone marquee that read “University of Toronto”.

“Aha!” Bill gloated. “I knew we’d find it. Now all we need is to find the stables.” He started charging at the first person he saw, which happened to be a young female student.

Henry caught him by the arm, and smiled smugly. “You’ll frighten the poor girl off. Allow me.” Henry made his way over to the young woman.

Bill and Mike watched Henry tip his hat politely, and engage her in conversation. Bill huffed. “We don’t have time for niceties.” He watched Henry a moment longer, then scoffed. “He thinks he’s such a charmer.”

“Well…” Mike began, but Bill gave him the look that could freeze fire. “Never mind.”

Henry tipped his hat to the young lady again, then rejoined the other two. “It’s just around this way,” he pointed with a smug smile.

They walked around the campus until they came to a large, weather-beaten, two-door barn. Bill heaved one of the doors open, and stepped inside to find several people in aprons and lab coats, as well as many horses. Henry and Mike entered behind him.

“Excuse me!” Bill called out, and everyone looked up. “We’re looking for Dr. John FitzGerald.”

A man came out of a stall in the middle of the barn, wiping his hands on a yellowed cloth. “I’m Dr. FitzGerald. How may I help you?”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The late evening sun shone in through the windows of the Queen of Hearts saloon, a cheery contrast to the gloomy atmosphere inside. The light rested on Faith’s hands as she doused her rag in the bowl of water next to her, then wrung it out, and returned it to Mrs. McCormick’s forehead. She quickly took the bowl over to Cody’s cot, and did the same. But when she approached Emily, the young girl was sweating, so Faith sat down sat down to bathe her face and arms. Faith rubbed her weary eyes on her right shoulder. With their supply of quinine used up, and no way to get more, she had to use every remedy she could think of to keep everyone’s fevers down.

She stood, and Florence was right there to take the bowl, and fetch some fresh water. Before she walked away, Florence nodded her head in Carson’s direction, thinking maybe nonverbal cues would be better received. Faith just sighed, and shook her head. Then she washed her hands, and went to the supply table in the middle of the room to crush more herbs.

Rosemary was already working on grinding up the chamomile, so Faith picked up the remaining pile, and made quick work of mashing it into a fine powder for Molly to brew a relaxing tea. Faith turned, and gratefully handed over the chamomile to Molly. When she turned back, a large stack of lavender had appeared, courtesy of Rosemary.

Faith actually had asked Rosemary to gather it since it helped reduce fevers, but the sudden sight of it made tears spring to her eyes. She thought of the beautiful lavender dress hanging abandoned in her closet. She thought of the bouquet of lavender Carson had presented to her so gallantly, the same one that still hung by her window at home to preserve the memory. Slowly, Faith slid her mortar and pestle across the table, and moved to the other side so she could look at Carson while she labored over shredding the herbs. How she wished she could spend all her time sitting by him, nursing him, holding his hand. How she longed to tell him that she…

Just then, the telephone rang. Faith was so thankful for the distraction from her thoughts, and she was even more thankful that Molly went to answer it so she could keep working…and watching.

“Oh, just a moment. She’s right here.” Molly put down the receiver, and walked over to Faith so as not to wake the patients. “It’s Dr. Burns. He’d like to speak to you.”

“Thank you,” Faith smiled gratefully to Molly as she handed her the pestle. She glanced back at Carson once more before walking around the bar, washing her hands, and going to pick up the receiver. Thank goodness Lucas Bouchard’s “deep pockets”, (as Henry Gowen had put it,) had prompted the purchase of the new-fangled machine in the saloon. Faith didn’t know what she would have done without it. “Dr. Burns?” she started.

“How are you holding up, Nurse Carter?” he asked with the perfect empathy of a fellow medical professional.

But Faith didn’t feel very professional when she answered. Her calm composure began to crack as her lip quivered, and her voice quavered. “Thank you so much for calling to ask. I’m just sorry it’s not better news. The truth is…uh…we’re not faring very well.”

“How so?”

Faith sniffled slightly. “We ran out of quinine.”

Dr. Burns jumped to a solution. “I’ll send you a replacement supply on the morning train. It’ll be there by…:

“The stages and trains have stopped coming since the nearby towns heard about the diphtheria.”

“Then I’ll bring it to you myself. My schedule has opened up now. I can leave just…”

Suddenly, the saloon doors burst open, and three men hurriedly stumbled in. Faith gasped, then interrupted Dr. Burns with a hasty, “Just a moment, Doctor.” She put the receiver down, then rushed back around the bar to see who would possibly come in here like that. Then her eyes filled with hope.

“We got it!” Bill announced.

TWO DAYS LATER

Faith finally leaned back to relax a moment in her chair, and wiped the sweat from her brow with the corner of her once-white apron. She’d just finished sterilizing the anti-toxin syringes…again. After making sure all thirteen patients got a big enough dose to kill the diphtheria, she’d injected a small dose into herself and anyone else who’d been exposed to the disease. People were still coming in every so often, and Faith felt very blessed indeed that there was enough for everyone. Because Bill, Henry, and Mike weren’t representatives of a provincial health department, Dr. FitzGerald had asked for a small fee for the anti-toxin, but then he’d handed over more than twice the amount they’d paid for. Faith closed her eyes, and said a silent prayer, filled with relief and gratitude.

She raised her eyelids slowly to take in her surroundings. Rosemary had gathered all the sheets and blankets into one large sheet, and was taking them out back to be burned; Florence sat between Cody and Robert, talking to them, and alternately spoon feeding them chicken broth; Mrs. McCormick was propped up with pillows, and Molly was visiting with the elderly woman while she tucked a clean blanket around her. Ned was actually sitting up on his cot, holding hands with his daughter Katie, reassuring her how much better he felt. He’d probably be going home tomorrow. Opal’s father had arrived to take her home, she was just saying goodbye to everyone; and Emily had already gone home with the other five. And Elizabeth! Bless her! Since everyone was no longer contagious, Elizabeth had left Baby Jack with Laura to come help. She had just finished giving Maggie a sponge bath, and was helping her into a fresh nightgown.

Faith felt like she could almost smile…until she looked at the window. There stood Dorothy’s mother, sorrowfully looking in at Dorothy’s empty cot, and shedding a few tears. Faith felt so guilty, asking Dorothy’s parents to keep their distance. But she’d done so because they had twin babies at home, and they never would have lived through multiple exposures. Faith knew she’d made the right decision, but she still felt awful that she’d lost the little girl.

Those mournful thoughts caused her to remember the other sad case she was dealing with, and her eyes fell on Carson. He was just lying there, all alone, and still very ill. He wasn’t responding to the anti-toxin the way the others were, and she was worried. Why wasn’t he getting better?

Elizabeth finished with Maggie, and helped her lie back down. When she looked up to see what else needed to be done, she saw Faith looking more forlorn than she’d ever seen her. She followed Faith’s sightline to Carson, and immediately understood. She crossed the room, and stood beside the exhausted nurse. “You’re looking awfully glum for someone who just saved a town,” Elizabeth commented.

Faith heard something, but it was hazy. She looked up to see Elizabeth. When did she get there? “What? Oh…no, I’m not. I’m just trying to keep track of everything that needs to be done.” She slapped her thighs, and stood, fearing she’d been caught.

“Faith?”

“Yes?”

“How is Carson responding to the anti-toxin?”

Faith sighed, flustered. She had been caught. But she answered her as objectively as she could. “His breathing seems to have improved, but his fever is still pretty high. And he hasn’t regained full consciousness like the others.” Objectivity was going out the window.

Elizabeth put a hand on Faith’s arm. “That must be frustrating.” Nothing. “How are you?”

Faith firmly pressed her lips together a moment, as if to physically hold in her emotions. “There’s still so much to do. I need to get fresh water for drinking and bathing, I need to make sure we have clean bedding for those that aren’t ready to go home yet, oh the food! I need to check on the food before…”

“Faith!” Elizabeth interrupted as she grasped her by the shoulders.

“Yes?”

“How are YOU?” Elizabeth emphasized.

Faith finally looked Elizabeth in the eye. Something about looking straight into the face of a woman who had also lost so much pushed everything forward, and she finally cracked. “I’ve been…better,” she whispered, as her eyes filled with distress and tears.

Elizabeth pulled Faith to her shoulder, and Faith finally let the floodgate open as she quietly heaved several sobs. Elizabeth caught her breath as memories suddenly overcame her. She knew that look in Faith’s eyes all too well, the look of utter despair and hopelessness. As a Mountie’s fiancée, wife, and now widow, Elizabeth had lived through more than her fair share of moments fearing for the man she loved. Her heart went out to Faith, knowing the agony she was experiencing, just waiting and watching, desperately hoping for any signs of improvement. Elizabeth decided to help Faith keep her mind occupied with her field of expertise.

“What do you think the difference is with Carson? Were his symptoms worse than the others? Was he sick longer before getting the anti-toxin? Why do you think everyone else has responded to the anti-toxin faster?

Faith analyzed the facts. “Many patients were children, so their symptoms seemed worse: more labored breathing, higher fevers, extreme dehydration. While Carson is older than most, the two others his age are fine, and have gone home now. Of the four patients who are much older, three have been showing tremendous improvement over the past thirty-six hours.” Faith’s face fell again. “But Dorothy…and Mr. Bartlett…”

“Dorothy was the smallest child here. You know better than I that her little body just couldn’t handle it. And I know for a fact that Mr. Bartlett has had weak lungs for several years now. You can’t blame yourself. For goodness sake, you didn’t even know what you were trying to treat until after he died.”

Faith stared at the empty cot that had once been Old Man Bartlett’s, then Dorothy’s. “He didn’t have anyone. Nobody to sit beside him and hold his hand, nobody to pray for him and tell him they care…and poor Dorothy! Her parents had no choice but to stay away because of the twin babies at home. They couldn’t be here to give her the strength to fight.”

Elizabeth slowly looked around the saloon, her gaze traveling from bed to bed, each patient having at least one family member or friend with them. “So, everyone here…has someone?”

They both raised their eyebrows.

“Oh, Elizabeth! Do you think…?”

Elizabeth turned Faith toward her, looked her square in the eye, and answered with firm resolve. “You know what I think? I think prayer and positive thoughts can work wonders, especially for the people holding them in their hearts. Now! I’m going to ask Clara to check on lunches, Florence and Molly can take care of the bedding, and Rosemary and I will get the fresh water, and make tea and compresses. You have done so much for everyone else, now you need to do it for Carson.” Faith still looked hesitant. “GO! Go hold his hand. Pray for him. Tell him you…care. Share your amazing strength with him. I promise to come get you if anyone needs anything we can’t handle.”

Faith almost tiptoed to Carson’s cot, a little unsure of what to do. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d just sat with someone, and not actively been a nurse. She took Carson’s hand into both of hers, and squeezed it tight.

“Carson, you have to come back. This town can’t do without you; I can’t do without you.” Faith raised her eyes to the ceiling a moment, and gave a deep, emotional exhale. “There’s so much I haven’t said to you…so many things I want to say to you…important things. So you need to hurry and come back to me…please,” she finished in a whisper. She bowed her head over their hands, and started to pray.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carson’s eyelids felt like lead covered in sandpaper, but he was determined to get them open. He forced them up; everything was so blurry, but then he made out a figure sitting near him.

“Faith?”

“No,” came Elizabeth’s cheerful voice, “but she’s close by. She’ll be so happy you’re awake!” Carson tried to sit up, but his head was swimming. “No you don’t,” Elizabeth instructed him like one of her students. “You’ve been very sick with diphtheria, and you need to get better.”

“Diphtheria???” Then he remembered. He’d figured it out right before everything went black. “How is everyone, Elizabeth?”

“Don’t worry, Carson, everyone here is out of danger. I’ll let Faith tell you the whole story, but I have to say: you would have been so pleased with the way she stepped up, and took care of everyone. She did you proud!”

Carson gave a weak smile. “I’d expect nothing less.”

“I’ll get her.” Elizabeth stood to go tell Faith the good news. Several people in the room noticed he was awake, but even Rosemary sensed the need for a private reunion.

Then suddenly, there she was; looking more beautiful and angelic than ever, even with the smudged uniform, mussed hair, and slightly crooked cap. “You’re awake!” she said breathlessly.

“So it would seem,” Carson chuckled feebly. He held out a hand to her. “And I’m told I have you to thank for that.”

“Faith sat, and took his hand, blushing the whole time. “Just doing my job.”

“No, it was more than that. You brought me back.” Faith looked slightly confused, so he tried to explain. “I was dreaming…I was surrounded by blackness; I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, I heard a voice, very far away with lots of echo. I couldn’t understand it, but I knew I had to go toward it. Then I felt you with me, and I knew it was your voice. Then I knew what I had to do.” Carson gazed adoringly at Faith, and squeezed her forearm with his free hand. “You were my guiding light. You told me I needed to hurry and come back to you.”

Faith gasped in disbelief. “Oh my goodness! I did say that! I can’t believe you heard me!”

“I did. Your voice is what made me want to come back. There was something else…you said something about ‘important things you haven’t said’?” He looked at her inquisitively.

“Oh yes…that.” Faith was suddenly nervous. Then she realized something. “Wait, you heard that too?”

“Mm hmm,” Carson murmured with a gleam in his eye. Then he waited expectantly.

Faith looked away, cleared her throat, inched a little closer, and took a deep breath. “Normally, I wouldn’t be this bold, but…” she looked into his now lively eyes, and all her qualms drained away. “But after almost losing you, I can’t leave it unsaid. Carson…I…I love you.”

Carson’s smile broadened, and he took her other hand, lacing their fingers together. “Now, those are words worth waking up for.”

Faith gave a one-syllable laugh, both relieved and self-conscious. She was about to turn away when Carson gently touched her cheek with the back of his hand. “I love you, Faith. I love you more than life itself.”

That’s when the tears fell for both of them. Carson picked up her hand, and pressed a gentle kiss there. “Can’t have you getting sick now,” he said lightly, “but when I’m well…”

Faith smiled wistfully, the memory of his kiss still fresh in her mind, even after such a long time. “It’ll be worth the wait.”

 

 

And now, enjoy Kaycee’s and my very boisterous opinions on “Into the Woods”. I even sing a little for you. This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom…especially now!