Spring of 1852, St. Charles, Missouri
Crossing his arms over his wide chest, Patrick O’Brien leaned against the log wall in his older brother’s workshop. Watching John pull the drawing knife over the raw piece of maple, he toed the shavings that littered the floor. The smell of fresh cut wood was intoxicating. Pat envied his brother’s woodworking talent, especially since he had trouble nailing up a sign.
John was a gifted man who turned timber into beautiful pieces of furniture. He bent his thin five foot eleven inch over his worktable. Strands of bright red wavy hair straggled across his forehead covered his freckled face.
“You make that look so easy,” said Patrick. Moving away from the wall, he ambled over to the shaving horse and ran his fingers over the smooth surface.
“With a little more training, you’d be able to do this.” John stood up and stretched his arms over his head.
Patrick laughed. “I don‘t think so. Don’t you remember what happened when you asked me to help with that chest top a couple of months ago? Never saw so many grooves and waves except in the Mississippi River.”
John nodded. “You could be right. On the other hand, you have a sure hand with horses.”
“Yes. Your wood smells better and the shavings are easier to clean up.”
John chuckled. “There are times I believe you take after Da more than I do with your gift of gab.” Then he grew serious. “Are you still thinking about heading west?”
“Yes.” Patrick sauntered to the open door and watched the wagons making their way, heading for the Boonslick Road. “I have to try to find Sarah. She’s out there somewhere and my only hope is she hasn’t found someone to turn her head.”
“Do you think you can find the Andersons? They’ve been gone three years.”
Patrick turned to face his brother. “I don’t know, but I’ve got to try. They were headed to California.”
“That’s a lot of territory to cover.”
“I know.” He paused for a moment. “I can’t get her out of my mind. All I do is think about her, remembering that beautiful face, the auburn hair, and her wonderful smile. When I left her the day of Da’s funeral, my heart hurt and my stomach lurched.” He kicked at the shavings on the floor, feeling a bit foolish. “I gave her a cross that day made out of grass, promising someday to find her. I plan on keeping my promise.”
John arched one eyebrow and grinned. “I didn’t realize you were smitten with her.”
Dismissing his brother’s remark, Patrick continued. “I wonder if she still has the cross I made for her.”
John put down his drawing knife. “I remember Sarah watching us leave the inn that terrible day.” He gazed at his brother. “Well, maybe it’s supposed to happen for you two. Maybe you’ll find her waiting for you.”
“I’ll find her, come hell or high water.”
“If you don’t, remember you can always come home. You can stay with me.”
“I know that,” said Patrick. “I’m just not suited for this city life. Hell, by the time I’d get back, it’ll be us, what with the attentions you’re paying Charlotte Sue Evans.”
John looked down at the floor, his face flushed. “You’re probably right.”
The two brothers stood in deep thought, reflecting the changes in their lives over the past few years.
Finally, John spoke. “You know, Ma’s gonna be upset with your leaving.”
“Why? She has Mr. Blackwell sitting in the parlor this very minute, drinking tea. From the looks of things, they’ll be married before the year’s up.”
John laughed. “I guess you’re right about that, too. How do you feel about having a step-father?”
“It’s all right by me. Ma needs someone. Soon Elizabeth and Joshua will be leaving and then she’d be alone.”
“Look after Elizabeth and Joshua while I’m gone. Especially our little brother. He keeps getting into all kinds of trouble.”
“You know I will.” John grasped Patrick by the shoulders. “Take care of yourself.” Then he threw his arms around his younger brother and hugged him.
Embarrassed by the unexpected show of affection, all Patrick could do was clear his throat.
John stepped back. “Remember, it’s wicked and hard out there.”
“I’ll be okay. I’m traveling with a wagon train. Got most of my stuff packed and ready to go.”
“You want to take my black stallion?”
Patrick shook his head. “No, but thanks for the offer. My Bay will get me there. Besides, I’d hate to part with Sparrow. She's kinda like family.”
“Well, at least drop us a letter when you get a chance.”
Patrick smiled. “I’ll do that.”
“Do you need money?"
"No, I have enough."
"So, how long have you been planning this trip?"
Patrick grinned. "Oh, a couple of months, give or take a few."
John laughed as he slapped his brother's back. "And you didn't even tell me about this little scheme? When are you gonna leave?”
“Tomorrow morning.” Patrick hesitated for a moment. “I gotta get going. Still have things to finish up.”
John reached over and hugged his brother. “Take care of yourself and bring Sarah back here, at least for a visit before you settle somewhere.”
As his younger brother strolled out into the street, John watched him cross the road and head south. He’d miss Patrick, but he knew his brother had to travel down a different road. God be with you. Hope you find Sarah Anderson.