A Stranger in Boysenberry Falls

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Start your story with the arrival of a strange visitor in a small town.... view prompt


Historical Fiction Speculative American

Boysenberry Falls was a small town. Well, more of a spot in the road than a town. There was the blacksmith, the stable, the inn, the diner, six houses, and the general store. A few years ago that was plenty. But now more of the families were having children. Children who needed a teacher.

Thomas glanced down at the catalog he had been studying. Primers were easy enough to come by. But someone would have to teach them to use their primers. Their parents were busy enough with their own work and they wouldn’t have the time, energy, or knowledge that a teacher would. What Boysenberry Falls needed was a teacher but how could they find one willing to come to a small town and accept what would be meager pay?

“Excuse me?” An unfamiliar woman stepped inside the store. “Do you mind if I wait here?” She wore a dark blue traveling outfit, and was carrying a carpet bag. Through the doorway, he spotted the stagecoach leaving town.

Thomas shook his head. “Not at all Miss…?” He fished for her name.

“Sarah Raspberry-Brandon.” She supplied as she fiddled with the clasp on her bag Thomas stilled at her name. She was a Raspberry? Her brow furrowed as she met his gaze. “I…I can wait outside.” She pointed behind her and took a step backwards.

“No. I’m sorry. What can I do for you?” No matter who she was Thomas had a duty to be nice. She could be a future customer and that was always good for his family’s general store.

“Oh. I’m just waiting. My aunt said she would meet me in town. She’s usually quite punctual. Perhaps the stagecoach ran fast or the children needed her for something.” The words fell quickly from her lips. “Truly, I can wait outside.”

“No. It’s fine. I just wasn’t expecting you to be a Raspberry.” She looked normal. Then again Miss Raspberry had seemed the same when she had arrived six months earlier.  That impression hadn’t lasted long when her arrival was followed by mysterious, hairy builders and a stagecoach full of children who called her aunt but didn’t seem to actually be related.

“Utterly insane aren’t they?” Miss Raspberry-Brandon grinned as if they were sharing a joke.

“I was going to say strange.” Very strange. Especially the orders Miss Raspberry placed with him. Who needed two hundred pounds of honey even if she was feeding two dozen children?

“Oh they’re that too.”

A chuckle escaped him at her candidness. “My apologies.”

“Oh, it’s perfectly fine. I’m quite used to people’s reactions. Yours is actually very mild Mister…?” She lifted a pale brown eyebrow as she used the same tactic he had.

 “Thomas Boysenberry, Miss Raspberry.”

“Raspberry-Brandon. Can’t forget my father.”

“Oh. So your mother is Miss Raspberry’s older sister?” That made sense. It wasn’t that uncommon in large families for the oldest of children to be having their first child as their parents had their last and that would explain why she had called Miss Raspberry aunt.

“Oh no. Aunt Raz raised my mother.”

Thomas blinked at her. How was that possible? Miss Raspberry looked to be the same age as Sarah- with so many Raspberrys it was simply easier to think of her by her given name. And Sarah seemed to be around the same age as he was and he was only in his late-twenties.

Sarah gave him a knowing look. “I know. It helps to just think of it as a Raspberry oddness.”

He nodded, still staring at her.

“Sarah!” Young voices called out with excitement. An answering smile appeared on Sarah’s face as she turned. Three children aging in range from seven to twelve rushed into the store, throwing themselves at Sarah’s waist. She quickly wrapped them in an answering hug.

“We’ve missed you.” One of the boys said.

“And I you.” She touched each of their faces, looking utterly delighted. Thomas smiled at the sight.

“Sarah.” Miss Raspberry, wearing the same pinkish dress she had arrived in months ago, came in, holding an additional child’s hand- this one seeming to be the youngest at around five years old. She wrapped an arm around Sarah’s shoulder, pulling her in for a hug. “How are you?”

“Wonderful. Especially now that I’m here.” Sarah said. “I was just getting to know Mr. Boysenberry.” She gestured towards him.

Miss Raspberry glanced at him and then looked back at Sarah. “Regular fruit stand aren’t we?”

Sarah laughed. Thomas glanced down at the counter, working to hide his smile at the sound.

“Well come on, Lunk wants your thoughts on the school room.”

Thomas looked up. A school room?

“Lunk’s here?” Excitement filled her voice. “I haven’t seen him in forever. “

“Of course Lunk’s here.” Miss Raspberry said as Thomas asked, “Are you a teacher?” It couldn’t be that easy could it?

 “I am.” Sarah said.

The little girl holding Miss Raspberry’s hand tugged on it and said in a loud whisper, “Mrs. Grant said not to dawdle.”

“Well then,” Sarah took two of the children’s hands. “We best be going. We can’t in good conscious keep Mrs. Grant waiting.” Sarah turned her head towards him. “Good day Mr. Boysenberry. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”

“Of course you will,” Miss Raspberry said. “His family owns the only General Store in the area.”

He nodded, half-distracted by the idea he was having. Could it work? She was brand new to town, a stranger, but if she was already teaching the Raspberry children….

Sarah gave him a strange look as her family left the store and he solidified his plan. Would she be agreeable? There was only way to find out but first he had to catch up with her. “Millie,” He called to his sister-in-law. A moment later, there were footsteps on the stairs as she appeared. “Did you call Thomas?”

“Yes. Could you watch the store for a moment? There’s someone I need to talk too.”

Millie’s brow furrowed but she nodded. “Of course.”

“Thank you. I’ll be back in a moment.” Thomas hurried for the door. The Raspberrys weren’t in sight. But they couldn’t be too far ahead. He ran.

Miss Raspberry always came from the forest’s edge so that’s the direction he headed. It didn’t take him long to start hearing the chatter of children and then to catch sight of Miss Raspberry’s pink dress and then Sarah’s more demure dark blue ensemble.

“Miss Sarah!” He called out.

The group paused. Sarah turned. “Mr. Boysenberry, this is sooner than I expected.”

He took a deep breath. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize when there’s nothing to be sorry about.” Miss Raspberry grumped.

“I have a proposition for you, if you’re amiable Miss Sarah.”

“She’s not going to marry you.” A little girl said, popping her hand on her hip. “You just met.”

“Lacey!” Sarah scolded. “That’s not what Mr. Boysenberry is talking about.” She gave him a look. “That’s not what you’re talking about right?”

“What? No! I wanted to talk to you about teaching.”

“Oh!” Her eyes brightened. “Of course. I’m always happy to talk about that.”

Miss Raspberry rolled her eyes. “Lacey, you’re the chaperone. Everyone else, let’s get back before Mrs. Grant says we can’t have dessert.” She flared her eyes wide in horror.

The children’s looks of horror had them hot-footing it deeper into the forest. Lacey crossed her arms and gave him a look that clearly said she was watching him. Sarah pressed her lips together as if she were trying not to laugh. “What about teaching Mr. Boysenberry?”

“I was wondering…it’s just that.” His words tripped over one another. He took a deep breath. “There are some children in town, including my niece and nephew who don’t have a proper teacher. And I was wondering if…” He trailed off. He couldn’t imagine her saying no but the Rapsberrys did have a lot of children- he’d been cleaning the boardwalk outside of the store when they had arrived in Boysenberry Falls. The number of children that had emerged from the stagecoach had seemed impossible.

“If?” Sarah prompted him.

“If you would be willing to teach them as well. I could arrange for a salary of course. We’re a small town as I know you’ve probably realized so it wouldn’t be much, but a little is better than nothing. Right?” He looked at her, feeling as if he had rambled on and on.

She smiled and he wanted to smile back. “I would love to teach them. The more the merrier right Lacey?” She glanced down at the girl who didn’t look away from him. Sarah looked back up at him. “And you don’t have to pay me.”

“I can’t just let you do it for free.” Thomas protested.

Sarah smiled, this one feeling a little mysterious. It reminded him of the one Miss Raspberry often wore. “Money isn’t an object. Besides, you shouldn’t have to pay to learn.”

Lacey nodded her agreement. Sarah continued. “My only concern is will the children join us, or is there a place for us to meet in town?”

“They should just join us. We’ve already got the space. Lunk and his men have been working really hard.” Lacey said. “Mrs. Grant would pick them up or Uncle Charles when he arrives.”

“Is Uncle Charles coming?” Sarah asked, her eyebrows popping up in surprise.

“Aunt Raz got a letter yesterday.”

Thomas frowned. How had she gotten a letter yesterday? The post office was inside the General Store and she hadn’t been in yesterday.

 “I would have to speak with their parents.” Not everyone might be comfortable with their children journeying out into the forest even if Mrs. Grant or the mysterious Uncle Charles escorted them.

“Of course.” Sarah said. “Why don’t you talk to them and I’ll walk into town in a couple of days?”

“All right.” Thomas nodded. “Um, thank you.”

“Of course. Every child deserves an education.”

“Well, still, I’m grateful.”

Lacey cleared her throat. “Mrs. Grant is expecting us and I don’t want to miss out on dessert.”

“Yes.” Sarah chuckled. “We should be going. See you in a few days Mr. Boysenberry?”

“A few days, Miss Sarah.” Thomas nodded.

Sarah took Lacey’s hand and they continued on into the forest. Thomas watched until they were gone. He smiled, shaking his head a little as he headed back towards the town. Boysenberry Falls in need of a teacher and a stranger arrives who is a teacher. What were the odds?

With the Raspberrys now in residence, he had a feeling the odds were very good.

Maybe he should mention they were also in need of a doctor.

June 04, 2021 20:15

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Iris Orona
18:34 Jun 10, 2021



Lyn Carstone
19:25 Jun 11, 2021

Hi Iris! I'm glad you enjoyed it! ~Lyn :)


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