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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar

Chapter 1

September 1835

Bram Armstrong wandered the dirty side streets of King’s Port for over two hours before finally giving up and going into a tavern for a drink. As a pastor of a small congregation, Bram thought twice before entering the tavern doors but here in King’s Port, over two hours from his home in Littleton, no one needed to know that there was a “Rev.” before his name. It was hot, unseasonably so for late September. He wished he had not worn his best brown greatcoat because it was much too hot for this weather. Too late now, he thought as he drank his apple cider and looked around the darkened room. Not many customers at noon on a Monday.

Even in the emptiness of the saloon Bram had no fear of being recognized. He was used to not being noticed, at five feet nine inches and on the skinny side he had no distinguishing physical characteristics at all, nothing but a heart of gold, at least that’s what his wife liked to tell him. According to Thea she fell in love with him the first day they met eight years ago when he came to Littleton as a twenty-one year old awkward pastor, fresh out of seminary. To his shame, he never even saw Thea that first day at Littleton Church. It wasn’t until a month later at a church social when she offered him a piece of blueberry pie that his brown eyes met her blue ones. “I made it myself especially for you,” she told him as she handed him a plate. Now that day Bram remembered clearly. The first time he had looked into her eyes, as blue and as round as the blueberries on his plate, he was smitten. Not that he could do anything about it then. She was only sixteen and also the daughter of the wealthiest man in the area. It would have been unthinkable for the village pastor to even dream of marrying a girl like Thea. But try as he might he couldn’t stop thinking about her.

She was kind and she was beautiful. He longed to touch her shining blond hair, to feel it between his fingers as it fell in soft waves out of her gathered cap and down her back. Although he wasn’t a tall man she came right up to the bottom of his chin, and he could imagine that she’d fit perfectly in his arms. Now, after all those years of longing, it was still hard to comprehend that she was his wife.

Finishing his drink and feeling refreshed, Bram paid his bill and asked the man behind the counter where he could find Harper’s Iron Works. The tavern owner, ignoring Bram’s query for a moment, slipped the coin that Bram had given him in to his mouth and bit down. Satisfied that the fip was authentic, the dark gray tired eyes of the tavern owner, half hidden by greasy locks of steely gray hair, bored into Bram. He had the look of a man who knew of everyone and everything in town. However, either his looks were deceiving or Harper’s Iron Works didn’t exist because Bram left the tavern as lost as when he had entered it thirty minutes before.
I wish Abel would have come, Bram thought as he passed yet another tannery, a coach builder and...

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