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! 

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