The second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series is the tale of one of the orphans lost in the shuffle in Okatibbee Creek, Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, simply known as Ellen. In An Orphan’s Heart, nine-year-old Ellen’s family has been decimated by the civil war and a typhoid epidemic that swept through the county. She and her siblings are now forced to live with other family members, and Ellen finds herself longing for the love of her mother. She is relocated from Mississippi to Alabama, and upon reaching maturity, she decides to go back to Mississippi. Things are certainly not the same as they were in her childhood. She eventually travels to the great plains of Texas to visit her brothers, and immediately upon her arrival, she meets the man of her dreams and plans for a bright future – but has everything torn from her in a shattering turn of events.
An Orphan’s Heart is based on a true story. The names are real. The events are real. The story is told in first person, present tense. The photo at the bottom of this page is the real Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, taken sometime around 1880.
Below is a snippet of when Ellen met handsome Sam Meek. The electricity was evident from the first moment.
The inside of the house is as charming as the outside. A blazing fire warms the room, and the air smells of freshly made coffee. Mollie introduces me to their daughters: Minnie, who is five, and Willie Jo, who is two. What cute little girls! Judging by their nightdresses, they were about to go to bed. They both run up and wrap their arms around my neck as I bend down to say hello.
“Aunt Ellen, how long did it take you to get here?” Minnie asks.
“A couple of days. I traveled on three different trains.”
“Did you bring us any presents?” Willie Jo asks.
I laugh. I didn’t even consider doing so, but I pull two pieces of candy from my bag and they’re happy with that.
I’m so wrapped up in the little girls, I don’t even notice him sitting quietly at the table.
“Ellen, I’d like to introduce you to my brother. This is Sam Meek.”
The man rises from the table to greet me, and I’m immediately taken aback by his rugged good looks and warm smile. Our eyes meet and lock. Suddenly I feel as if I’m drowning in a pool of green—the richest green of a mountainside, the darkest green of the deepest water. Everyone and everything else disappears.
He offers me his hand as I rise from the floor. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
“And you, sir.” I take his hand and feel electricity flow through every vein in my body. I pull my hand away, and just as quickly regret the action. I wish to feel that sensation again, but there is no way to touch him again now. I glance down and admire his tan forearm, half covered by his rolled-up sleeve. “I am very sorry about the loss of your mother,” I offer as I try to compose myself.
He doesn’t respond for a moment, and stares deeply into my eyes. “Thank you. It’s very sad for all of us.” He doesn’t pull his eyes away.
Mollie brings some coffee to the table, breaking the spell Sam Meek has created, and she motions for us to have a seat.
“Would you like something to eat?” she asks.
“No, thank you.” I shake my head, finding it hard to look away from the exquisite creature in front of me.
“No, I’m fine, but thank you,” he says, not breaking our gaze. “I’ll have to get to sleep in a little bit. I’m exhausted.”
I sink into the chair but have no idea if I’m actually sitting. The thought of him leaving the room is disheartening, and I’m surprised a man I just met is having this kind of effect on me.
“So, how was your trip?” He turns toward his coffee cup as Mollie fills it.
“It was amazing. When I was younger, I traveled through a small town in Alabama that had a train station. I was so enchanted by the women in their fancy hats coming and going, I vowed to myself I would someday travel on a train to a distant place.” I smile. “And here I am.”
“Sounds nice.” He takes a sip of his coffee, watching me over the brim of his steaming cup. His voice sounds like silk.
I watch the way he sips. I watch his strong, callused hands place the cup back down on the table. I watch his tongue lick a stray drop from his lips. I watch his tanned throat as he swallows.
“Did you sleep on the train or did you stop somewhere?”
“I spent the night in Mobile and New Orleans, but the rest of the trip was on a sleeper train that had bunks. The rocking motion of the train was actually very soothing.” I sip the strong, bitter coffee, then glance at him as I place the cup back on the table.
“Well, I’m glad you had a good journey.” He stands. “I’m sorry to interrupt our coffee and conversation, but I really need to get some sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow with the funeral and all.” He grabs his hat from the side table. “Relatives have been coming into town all day.” He nods to me. “It was a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. I’d love to speak with you more about your journey, and I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Meek.” His movements are like a stallion running through a field, like an eagle catching its prey, like a…
“Please, call me Sam.” He grins, showing the slightest dimple under his dark stubble. His eyes sparkle in the firelight.
I nod and smile. I can’t stop staring at him.
He bids a good evening to Mollie and Willie, and just as instantly as he appeared, he is gone.
My heart is pounding in my ears. My palms are sweating. I can’t seem to catch my breath. I wish I could follow him. I look down at my coffee cup and shake my head. When I look up, Mollie and Willie are both staring at me, and I blush.
An Orphan’s Heart is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.
An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. The cover was also named a top-ten finalist in the 2013 Authorsdb Book Cover Contest. It was also awarded a Five-Star Review at Readers’ Favorite. It is the second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series. The first book is Okatibbee Creek. The third is Elly Hays.