The Substitute Bride

The Substitute Bride by Janet Dean Read Free Book Online

Book: The Substitute Bride by Janet Dean Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Dean
faster than Martha’s Saturday pancakes. “No, I—”
    “We’re here to buy a few things,” Ted interrupted.
    He must not want people to know she was a mail-order bride, and not the original bride at that. Did he believe they’d think she popped up under a rosebush?
    Mr. Sorenson waved a hand. “What can I get you folks?”
    Ted motioned to the stack of bolts Elizabeth had selected. “She needs enough fabric to make a dress from each of these.”
    Mrs. Sorenson stepped forward, her gaze running up and down Elizabeth’s frame, muttering gibberish about yardage and seam allowances. She grabbed up the three bolts Elizabeth indicated and lugged them to the long counter.
    Elizabeth and Ted followed, watching as Mrs. Sorenson unrolled the blue gingham, sending the bolt thumping across the counter. Soon she’d cut and stacked all the fabrics in a neat pile. “Will you need thread, needles?”
    Elizabeth glanced at Ted.
    “Plenty of thread at home, needles, too.” He glanced away. “But Elizabeth does need…a…few other things.”
    Mrs. Sorenson nodded. “Like what?”
    Ted tugged at his collar, squirming like a liar on a witness stand. He may have been married, but as a gentleman, he couldn’t speak of a woman’s unmentionables. “Get her two of whatever she requires.”
    “Of course.” Mrs. Sorenson grinned. “Right this way, Mrs. Logan.”
    As Elizabeth followed the older woman to a table at the back of the store, she wondered if she’d ever get used to hearing herself referred to as Mrs. Logan.
    Ted stayed behind, talking grain with Mr. Sorenson. Grateful not to have to select undergarments with her new husband looking on, Elizabeth unfolded a pretty white nightgown, a sheer, lacy thing.
    “Oh, your husband will love that,” Mrs. Sorenson whispered, her voice warm with approval.
    Glancing back at Ted, she found him watching her. She dropped the gown like a hot biscuit and grabbed a long-sleeved, plain, high-necked nightgown. Not exactly body armor, but close.
    “It’s hot around here in the summer,” Mrs. Sorenson put in.
    Heeding the hint, Elizabeth selected a sleeveless square-necked gown with no trim. Ugly and plain. Perfect.
    “That’s serviceable, but this is beautiful.” Mrs. Sorenson pointed to the sheer, lacy gown.
    “It’s too…too…” Elizabeth grabbed up the tag. “Pricey. You know new husbands.”
    “Yes, I do,” the older woman said with a wink, “which is why I suggested this one.”
    Elizabeth quickly gathered up two pairs of drawers, an underskirt and two chemise tops in cotton, all simple and unadorned, whether Mrs. Sorenson approved or not.
    At the counter, the shop owner totaled the purchases. When Elizabeth heard the number, she gasped. A sudden image of herfather harassed by creditors popped into her mind. Had she and Mama spent too much money on clothes? Jewelry? Had mounting bills forced Papa to gamble? If so, why hadn’t he gotten a job like most men?
    “Add that to my account,” Ted said, his voice thick and gruff as if saying the words hurt.
    Was she to witness yet another man’s financial ruin? She vowed to watch her pennies. Well, when she had pennies to watch.
    Mr. Sorenson opened a book, the pages smudged and crammed with names and numbers; cross outs and additions. Elizabeth couldn’t imagine how he kept track of who owed him what in such a messy ledger.
    Mrs. Sorenson wrapped the purchases, then handed two bundles to Elizabeth. “I look forward to seeing you again, Mrs. Logan.”
    Elizabeth blinked.
    Mrs. Sorenson chuckled. “Why, Hubert, she forgot her name.”
    “Oh. Yes.” She gave a weak laugh. “Thanks for your help, Mrs. Sorenson.”
    “Anytime! Enjoy the sewing.”
    Ted took her elbow. If she could find an excuse to linger, Elizabeth could ask Mrs. Sorenson’s advice about dressmaking.
    The store’s proprietor turned to Ted. “Are the children at the Harpers’?”
    Ted grabbed up the seed. “Yes, Anna loves their new

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