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Maggie’s Betrayal

A gripping story of family betrayal, deep despair, and a courageous girl’s triumph.

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Maggie Sharrod is betrayed by her own father and forced into marriage to a powerful, ruthless business man 31 years older. Set in the depression era of Fort Worth in 1936, she is pulled into the fun-time crowd and debauchery of the Highway to Hell, a stretch of casinos and dance halls on the Jacksboro Highway.   Hopeless and resigned to accept her lot in life, the situation suddenly  turns unbearable when she becomes the pawn in a business deal gone bad.  If Maggie has the courage to change her fate, the price could be her life.

MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL is also in print as part of the anthology  OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66, a collection of short stories in a wide variety of genres to suit a variety of readers. Produced by the writing critique group, WordsmithSix, it is the first book of a continuing anthology series featuring stories set on historic Route 66 Highway. Click here to buy the Anthology.

 

MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL by Natalie Bright

Edited by Denise McAllister

Formated by Carpe Diem Publishing

Cover Design and Photography by Kirsti Kasch

CHAPTER 1

Fort Worth, Texas, January 1936

Mama had cried, but not in front of me. I could see the tracks of tears on her cheeks under red-rimmed eyes.

Pa told me it was time to leave. “Put on your best dress, Maggie,” he said. The deal was final. There would be no argument.

Mama followed me into the room I shared with my younger sisters to help me pack. If you could say my measly belongings were worth taking anywhere.  Several blouses, undergarments, a thin nightgown, one pair of pants, and my loafers. They barely filled up half of a cloth flour sack. I left the brush and mirror for my sisters. Stuffing my feet into the black strap shoes that I had worn every Sunday since a neighbor had left them on our front porch, I pointed to a faded blue dress. Mama slipped the favorite of the only two I owned over my head and then she stuffed the beige one into the sack.

My feelings that day are difficult to describe. Hopeless. Angry. Heartbroken. The thought that my own father would do such a thing is something my mind could not, would not, comprehend. I felt numb. Too mad and shocked to cry. Betrayal is a horrible thing to face at nineteen.

Pa had told Mama over breakfast that morning that a deal had been made. I did not realize it involved me until later that morning when Mama told me. “It’s really for the best, Maggie. Your father thinks you’re too old to be living at home anyway. You need to get away from here and find your own life.”

My protests went unheard. With a weary voice my mother repeated the same answer she has for me anytime I express an opinion. “Just do as you’re told, Maggie.”

It was the best decision for all involved, except for me. How could this be the best thing for me?

We drove to the Tarrant County courthouse in silence. Mama sat in the middle of the pickup truck seat with clenched jaw and pursed lips. I refused to think about what waited for me. Instead I gazed out of the window and watched grey clouds roll over a January sky. It was going to rain later in the evening. I wondered if anyone would remember to put food in the shed for the cats, and to close the chicken coop tonight before the storm. It was almost time to turn the beds and pull weeds for the spring garden. I already had seedlings started for potatoes and sugar beets. Someone better remember to refill the dog’s water bowl.

Judge Phillips looked as depressed as I felt. Pa took a seat on the bench that extended the length of one wall just inside the room. Mama and I slid in beside him. The judge’s wife peered at us from behind a piano that filled one corner. She suddenly disappeared into the next room and returned with a bouquet of dusty, plastic flowers which she placed in my hands.

A gentleman arrived and my father rushed to close the distance to greet him at the door. They shook hands. “Mr. Brown,” Pa said as he extended his hand.

“Mr. Harrod.”

“This covers everything then. Are we agreed?” my father asked, and Mr. Brown nodded his head in agreement.

“All is cleared,” Mr. Brown said with a nod of his head. He didn’t offer a greeting to Mama, but he walked over to me and took my hand. “Maggie, it’s a pleasure to see you again, my dear. Do you remember meeting me? You have grown into a beautiful young lady.” He towered over me. His hand was fat and clammy, and the smile on his face did not reach his cold eyes.

I did remember seeing him once at our house several years ago. I had been pulling weeds in the front flower bed. A fancy car came to a stop in what little front yard we had, and a man had gotten out and asked my name. Pa had come out of the house before I could answer. They had both gotten in the car and drove away.

Pa gripped my arm and guided me to a spot facing the judge at Mr. Brown’s side. “Judge Phillips, let’s get on with it,” Mr. Brown said. Mama remained on the bench in stony silence, pale-faced, with hands clenched in her lap.

The judge’s wife began to play the traditional bridal notes, and stopped when my almost-husband demanded she cease that “head splitting nonsense.” I couldn’t even begin to recall what was said after that. When Mr. Brown elbowed me in the ribs, none too gently, I mumbled, “I do.”

My heart beat inside my chest and I dared not look at the man’s face. This stranger was now my husband. At that very moment I hated my mother for not having a backbone to say something, anything, on my behalf. I hated my father even more. There was no one on my side. No one that could see the madness in what was taking place.

This emotion was new to me. I’d never felt hatred towards my family.

The judge pronounced us Mr. and Mrs.

Mama did manage an emotionless peck on my cheek, without looking me in the eyes. My father never looked in my direction. When he turned to leave, I stared daggers into his back. My new husband walked behind my parents and I followed. Just before I passed through the doorway into my new life, I turned to see the judge wipe his cheek and his wife dab a tissue to her eyes.

It was official. I became Mrs. Clarence T. Brown and my father’s gambling debt was paid in full.