Less than an hour later, ensconced in the only available room of the hotel, she stepped behind a screen, untied her corset, and groaned with relief as it dropped to the floor, money pouch and all. She threw a nightgown over her head and climbed into bed between her slumbering boys. In the narrow bed an arm's length away, Belle's head protruded from one end of the sheet, while Miss Kate's open mouth sent up a snore from the other.
Fanny leaned against the headboard, eyes open. It had been a harrowing monthlong journey to get to this bed. Twelve days' travel on one rock-hard train seat after another from California to Indianapolis. A few days' respite at her parents' house, followed by a mad dash by wagon across flooded rivers to catch the train to New York before their tickets expired.
Six thousand miles lay between Fanny and her husband. Whether he would send her money, as he had promised, was uncertain. Tomorrow she would think about that. Tomorrow she would enroll herself and Belle at the art academy and wangle a ride on a dogcart for the boys. Tomorrow she would find a cheap apartment and begin a new life.
She got out of bed and went to the window. Across the square, Notre Dame Cathedral soared above the other night shapes of Antwerp. The rain had stopped, and the unclouded moon poured white light through the lacy stone cutwork of the church spire. When the cathedral bells rang out midnight, she caught her breath. She had believed in signs since she was a girl. The clanging, loud and joyful as Christmas matins, hit her marrow and set loose a month's worth of tears.
If that isn't a good omen, she thought, I don't know what is.
She climbed back into bed, slid down between her boys, and slept at last.
Excerpted from Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. Copyright © 2014 by Nancy Horan. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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