“You’ll marry him, Serenity. You have to.”
The words reverberated in Serenity Bishop’s mind, the crisp tones of her father’s demand still fresh and hurtful even after so much time had passed.
“He’s a good man. You’ll learn to appreciate him, the security he offers you,” her mother had added, her worried gaze belying the staid words she spoke, backing up her father.
Her heart hadn’t stopped pounding until she’d crossed the state line out of New York. She’d felt its beat against her ribs, and it had felt like she couldn’t quite catch her breath. They were nearly an hour out of the station now, and she could still feel the panic at every little noise, like her mother and father were going to come storming into the car looking for her. Or worse, that they’d be waiting already in Boston, absurd as the idea may be.
The steady rhythm of the train helped pull her out of her own thoughts, and she closed her eyes for a few moments, letting the rocking motion of the train car calm her nerves. She listened to the click-clack of the rails. They sound energetic and enthusiastic like the train was happy to run free and fast. She was running too, and for a brief moment, she understood that feeling. She’d done it! She’d escaped.
The wave of fresh tears that the thought brought to her eyes was ruthlessly pushed aside. She’d had a year of tears, and they’d changed nothing. It was far too late for her to turn back now. The only thing she could do was move forward, like this train. Forward, onward, to better things.
The past, her past, was behind her. There was nothing she could do to change that, no matter how much she might like to.
Determination renewed, she looked around the car she found herself in for the first time since they’d left the station. As per the tickets tucked carefully into her purse, the passenger train she was on would take her overnight to Boston. From there, she’d get a sleeper car to herself while she headed west. The trip would take over two weeks, but every mile further west was a mile away from a life she couldn’t live. A gilded cage her parents were only too happy to trap her in.
She felt restless. At home, she would turn to her knitting or needlepoint, but those materials were packed away in trunks she had quietly sent ahead. They may even be in Arizona by now. Perhaps her new husband had already gathered them.
It wouldn’t keep her from worrying, but she found her hands seeking out her journal. Serenity had always been an avid writer, a pastime her parents had encouraged from her early childhood to help her practice her penmanship. She’d sent most of her journals ahead, keeping only two with her. One was full, almost to bursting, with papers and notes. The other was barely touched. A new journal to start this new life of hers. She let her hand trace over empty, clean pages. There’s something deeply peaceful about the possibilities held in blank paper. She placed it to the side, however, knowing she was too restless to write.
Instead, she opened the first journal, careful to untie the ribbon that held it closed. She had started this journal just over a year ago. In it, she detailed her plan for escape. The first entry was actually cut from a different journal. Her fingers traced the angry slash of her pen across the page. She could remember the fire in her stomach as she wrote, stopping periodically to wipe her eyes. She rubbed a smudge on the page, a preserved tear. Earlier that day, her parents had informed her of their plan. She would be married to Winston Lucas, the parson’s son. A good man.
Her stomach rolled at the thought, as it had then. She hadn’t been able to say much besides, “Of course.”
It was the same thing she always said. She felt intense feelings but, out of habit, she kept her thoughts to herself. Inside, she had been angry, frustrated, trapped. But on the exterior, she’d been a picture of calm. She had nodded and smiled, inside screaming with the want to rebel and tell them simply, no.
Instead, she’d asked, “I have projects at the orphanage to finish. I can’t be devoting my time to that and planning a wedding. Can I have a year to finish those up before I marry Winston?”
“Yes, of course,” her mother had answered.
“You may have a year. For the children, and…all that,” her father had offered, unsurprised by Serenity’s propensity for good and her volunteer work.
That year had been everything she’d needed to plan her escape.
It was a good match, in theory. The parson’s family was well off, a match for her own family’s wealth. She worked closely with a number of the parson’s projects, especially the orphanage. The parson himself was a kindly man. They often spoke and ate together. She was happy to help around his house after the passing of his wife. She even served at his side at a number of church functions. It made sense that the family would be keen to attach themselves to a girl like her, who so clearly held to the family values.
The problem was, of course, that she wasn’t marrying the parson, who was much too old for her. She would be marrying his son. Where age, humility, and a loving wife had softened the parson, his son was disagreeable and almost violently pious. More than once she’s comforted a small child from the orphanage who had been severely punished at his hand for even the most minor infractions. They disagreed on a number of points, and she often found herself seeking out the parson to deal with his son. She had known in her heart that seeking the parson’s help wouldn’t work if they were married. This was especially true considering Winston’s opinions on her volunteering.
She recalled one conversation they’d had. His voice had been angry and holier-than-thou when he’d stated clearly, “Woman have no role outside of the home. That is their job, their work, their life.”
After that, she’d known she would never have a happy life by his side. She knew that instead, any marriage between them would be unhappy and unfulfilling for them both. She wouldn’t have permission to work through her charities. She wouldn’t have permission to school her own children. She would live and die in a gilded cage of her husband’s making.
She flipped the page, feeling ill. She still felt the motions of that night.
In the wake of that sleepless ranting night, she had hatched a plan. The next day, she had bought a pamphlet from one of the local agencies and scoured it. The paper had long since faded from constant wear and worrying, and she could barely read the words where she’d folded it hundreds of times in the last year, but one ad still stood out very clear, that of Josiah Jacobs, her soon to be husband. His ad, plain and neat had drawn her attention immediately, though why she couldn’t really explain.
She’d written to him the next day, including with her letter a picture.
She turned another page in her journal; his first response taped delicately inside. They had corresponded for the past year in this way. Their letters had very little to do with one another at first, mail delivery being what it was, but soon they had a system in place.
Josiah’s first letter was smudged. She’d cried as she read it, finally feeling the briefest flutters of hope in her stomach at his kind words. She remembered sitting in her room, muffling her sobs with a handkerchief while her fingers traced his words: My dearest Serenity. She had wondered then what type of man he may be. If his words were to be believed, and she thought now that they were, he was nearly perfect. He wasn’t as polished as the boys back home in New York, but he spoke with real open and honest affection for his land and his family and maybe one day, for her.
In their letters, they’d laid out their plans. Josiah was looking for a partner, someone that could work by his side. He wanted to marry a woman who was easy-going, like him, but who wasn’t afraid of the hard work that came with the life of a rancher.
She was quick to admit that she had no knowledge of farming or ranching. As far as Josiah knew, she was an orphan, without a mother and father. She wasn’t afraid of work, though, and had detailed her work at the orphanage as evidence. He had reassured her that he could teach her the things she would need to know, and that warmed her to her core.
She continued to flip pages, rereading letters from her future husband. He’d written her often, perhaps in response to her own veritable flurry of letters. At first, they had been very short and formal, like those at the beginning of their courtship, where they were both still so unsure. She could read the awkward pauses and hesitations at a glance. Slowly though they had evolved to long, sometimes rambling missives. They told each other stories of their days, interesting things that happened, hers carefully edited, of course, to avoid mentioning her parents. They were friendly if nothing else, something she had barely hoped could one day happen.
Josiah had even started to include questions from his sister, who he apparently shared her letters with. The promise of female companionship was a comfort. Less often, Josiah mentioned his identical twin Jonas, who was apparently “an irritable sort, but sweet enough to family.”
Feeling much more relaxed, she held the book tight in her hand as she stared out the window. New York was behind her. Ahead of her was an adventure and, maybe, if she was very lucky, true love.
If Serenity was beinghonest, the most exciting part about getting to Arizona was getting off the train. While Josiah had helped her to buy passage on a sleeper train that had a decent number of amenities, it was still nice to stand on solid ground. Nearly two weeks of constant movement had more than fulfilled her desire to travel. As she disembarked, a steward helped her to unload her bags, though to be honest, she wasn’t much help at all.
Cottonwood was large enough to have a station for the train to stop at, but it was very different than New York. There were no tall stone buildings and trees like she was used too. Instead, flat empty land spread out around her as far as she could see and in town, most of the buildings were two storeys, maybe three, at most. In fact, the tallest building in the whole town was probably the church, its spire and bell rising high enough to be seen from the station, though the church proper was blocked from view. The buildings that she could see were made predominantly of wood or an odd clay-like stone she’d never seen before. The train station was at the end of what appeared to be the town’s main road. To her right, there was a saloon which also sold rooms, according to the signage. To her left was a general store. She watched as a number of men offloaded supplies, moving them quickly through the crowd in that direction.
She had actually met the general store owner’s daughter on the train. The young girl was coming back home for a visit. She worked as a governess for a wealthy family in Tucson. Serenity hoped that they might see each other at community events. It would be nice to have some friends outside of her new family.
Speaking of new family…
Her eyes swept the crowd as people rushed to and from the train, which was still expelling luggage in several large piles along the station platform. While she had sent a picture to Josiah, he had not sent a return picture, and she had always been too shy to ask. She didn’t want to seem forward or bossy; her parents had taught her better than that.
Now, however, she was regretting that hesitance. How was she supposed to find him?Panic started to stir in her stomach, and her heart started to beat more rapidly as she suddenly realized the flaw in her plan.
Then she caught a flash of a familiar paper. A man standing a few feet down the platform was waving the same mail-order pamphlet she had carefully tucked away in her journal. Josiah. She took a moment to look as she approached. He was taller than she expected, at least as tall as her father, and he was nearly six feet. He looked strong and capable, large muscles moving beneath his shirt. His clothes were clean, probably the nicest clothes he owned, and she couldn’t help smiling at the idea that he had dressed up for her. He was smiling, bright eyes scanning the crowd even as he grinned down at the young woman next to him. Relief filled her, and she finally took a few steps toward them, drawing their attention.
It’s wasn’t a question, but a statement, and she found herself grinning at him helplessly, caught in that warm smile. They stared at each other, only slightly awkward. A kiss would be too intimate. For all their letters, they were practically strangers, and he finally reached out with a hand, which she took. She expected a kiss on her knuckles, the way that young men might grovel back east. He surprised her instead with a firm shake that nearly made her laugh aloud.
Katrina obviously felt no such compunction against sudden intimacy, because her hug, when it came, was like the embrace of an old friend. Serenity found herself feeling at home for the first time in over a year. For the first time since her parents’ betrayal, she felt like she might actually belong somewhere. Katrina squeezed her tightly. “Oh, aren’t you just a pretty thing? You’re even prettier than the pictures.”
She was surprised when Katrina didn’t let go, instead rocking her back and forth, and it took Serenity a moment to realize she was weeping openly, quiet gasping sobs against Katrina’s shoulder.
She felt a large hand on her back and turned to look at Josiah.
“Are you all right?” he asked quietly, shielding her from the rest of the platform. A surge of absolute joy shot through her that she now had this, a new family, one that could care for her. Her sobs came harder, and she nodded.
Relieved, though still very confused, her husband-to-be smiled hesitantly.
“It’s just…” she tried, then swallowed. “I’m just so happy to be here.”
“And we are so happy to have you here,” Katrina assured her, still holding her close. “I’m sure it must have been an exhausting journey, but you’re here now.”
Katrina’s accent, soft and different from the New York patter she’d been used to, caught her attention enough to allow her to calm. She wiped her eyes, feeling more than a little embarrassed that her new family should be met with such an emotional display. “I’m so sorry.This isn’t like me.”
Katrina made a shushing noise and started to easily herd her off of the station platform. Josiah was still separating them from the crowd that was unobtrusively watching. “Don’t you even start. I’m sure it’s been such a stressful time. And you coming to marry alone, not knowing what you’d find.” She waved her hand to encompass the town or perhaps their small cluster. “No, you’re more than fine. We are so lucky to have you.”
The few pieces of luggage she had travelled with were quickly hoisted up into a cart already partly filled with packages from the general store. Josiah lifted them easily, quietly making quick work of them and getting the horses hitched back up. Katrina ushered her up, and they settled in for a short drive. Their ranch was one of the closest to town, but even then, it was almost a 30-minute ride, longer in bad weather. She couldn’t help grinning at them both, their calm, capable demeanours putting her at ease.
“How was the trip?” Katrina asked as they pulled out of the town proper onto the beaten track that, according to a posted sign, led to a number of farmsteads.
“It was comfortable,” she answered. As comfortable as it could be, at least. “Thank you again for sending me the wire so that I could come. I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise.”Josiah thought her an orphan after all, and orphans typically had little to their names. The odds and ends she’d sent ahead were already suspicious enough, though she already hated having to lie.
“It was nothin’,” Josiah reassured her. “The least I could do, considering you were the one comin’ all this way.”He paused, leading the horses around some apparent obstacle in the road.“All of your luggage arrived a week or so ago. I put it in the guesthouse where Katrina lives. Thought you might like to stay there till we get to know each other a bit better.”
He didn’t look at her, for which she was entirely grateful, her face heating in a blush. “Thank you,” she murmured, placing her hand on his arm momentarily. She’d been unsure how to discuss the living arrangements herself. “I appreciate you letting me stay with you, Ms Jacobs.”
“None of that,” Katrina said with a sniff. “I’ll not have you calling me Ms Jacobs like I’m better than you. You’re family, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s that. I’m Katrina, or sometimes Jonas calls me Kat.”
“Kitty Kat,” Josiah added from the front seat.
Katrina made a face, and Serenity couldn’t help giggling. “My father used to call me Itty Bitty when I was little,” Serenity admitted. “I hated it then, but…” she trailed off, thinking of her mother and father back home.
“How did you lose them?” Katrina asked, hesitantly.
“Katrina,” her brother chided her, but she waved him away.
“If she doesn’t want to say, she won’t say, will she?”
Serenity offered Katrina a watery smile. “They were taken by a fever.” Choosing the cause of her parents’ death had been easy. It was suitably vague enough that she didn’t need to get herself wrapped up in specifics, and she had nursed several children at the orphanage through fevers of one kind or another. She knew the symptoms.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Katrina offered. “Our folks too, a few years ago.”
Guilt roiled in her stomach, but Serenity only offered a comforting hand. She hoped that her face gave no indication of her guilt. Still, as she relaxed into the roll of the wagon, settling in to talk with her new family, she reaffirmed her promise to herself. She refused to lie, outside of her parents’ deaths. Even that small lie felt like lead, weighing her down. She would be the perfect wife and sister-in-law.
Serenity was up early the next morning, hoping to treat her new family to a few of her signature recipes. Yesterday, once they had gotten in, Josiah had shown her around the ranch house. Katrina had been close by to serve as an appropriate chaperone, preparing dinner for the small family. To say that the ranch was familiar would be a lie, but she could see how such a place might be called beautiful like her home back east. The farmhouse proper was to the right of the long driveway.
It was large for a farmhouse, she thought, but she’d imagined something like the small dairy farm near the orphanage. This was not a small farm. In fact, when she’d asked Josiah how much land he owned, she’d been surprised to hear that there were a few hundred acres to the family name, including smaller farms used to herd cattle when they needed new pasture.
To the left of the road, across from the farmhouse that would one day be her home, was the guesthouse. This was Katrina’s domain, at least until she married. And, according to Katrina at least, once she married, her husband would be coming to live with her, not the other way around.
“I already have more than enough work for a husband to do around here. I don’t need him trying to add more to it. Besides,” Katrina had confided after Josiah had walked them home and bid them goodnight, “my brothers wouldn’t be able to keep this place running without me. They might be the brawn, but I am definitely the brains.”
Watching Katrina with her brother was probably the most calming influence. If Katrina was allowed to be so outspoken, encouraged even, maybe Serenity would be allowed to speak up as well. For now, though, she fell back on what she knew, and she knew her cook’s biscuit recipe like the back of her hand.
She slipped out of the guesthouse and walked across the track, surprised at how cool the air was, considering the heat of yesterday’s sun. Josiah had warned her about the rapid temperature shifts in his letters, but it was disquieting to experience it in real life.
In the distance, she could see the hulking shadowy shapes of some large barns, like giants resting in the distance. Josiah had promised to show them to her in a few days after she settled in, though he made her promise not to investigate alone until she knew what she was doing and where she was going. She had easily agreed, knowing that getting lost and causing a fuss would hardly endear her to her new family. Still, she was excited to learn about her new life.
She stoked the fire with a practiced hand. While her parents had servants for such things, she’d often helped perform such tasks at the orphanage. In a bowl, she quickly threw together her batter, kneading the dough as she tended to the fire. She had little experience cooking on the sort of open range that was now available to her, but after some experimentation, a small batch of biscuits turned out all right, if not as shapely as the ones from home. She found freshly churned butter in the larder and tried some of it on a biscuit while she worked. It melted in her mouth, and she hummed quietly to herself in contentment as she found some sausage to cook up for breakfast.
Josiah and Katrina both had been quick to reassure her that there was no need to ration supplies here, something she had feared considering the descriptions of the west that existed back east. In fact, she was quickly finding that life in the west was very different from what she’d been told. While both Josiah and Katrina were quick to warn her that there were real dangers in the Arizona wilds, they were also swift to reassure her that there was almost nothing to worry about on the farm.
“Save snakes,” Katrina warned her very seriously. “If you see a snake, you get away as fast as you can. We’ve lost more than one soul in town to the devils.”
“This smells delicious.”
She spun around, heart pounding to find Josiah in the doorway, smiling. “You scared me,” she scolded quietly. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”
“You don’t have to apologize for that. Especially,” he added, walking to the table, “if there is food. Have you already said grace?”
She hadn’t, so she sat with him. He reached out slowly to take her small hand in his. “Father, we thank you for this food. Please let it nourish our bodies and strengthen us to do your will. Amen.”
“Amen,” Serenity echoed, eyes coming up to meet Josiah’s. “I hope you like it. When you said that it would be alright for me to use whatever I liked, I–”
“I’m sure it will be delicious. Thank you.”
She smiled as he took his first few bites then she stood to get the coffee. She bustled for a few moments while he ate, feeling comfortable with the silence between them. They were still nearly strangers; it would take them time to learn to talk.
Josiah was nearly finished when Katrina walked in, dressed and ready for the day. “I’m so happy to have you here,” she cooed to her morning coffee, though Serenity assumed it was directed to her. “I haven’t had someone cook me breakfast since Momma passed.” Katrina grinned widely.
“It’s the least I can do,” Serenity assured her quickly, suddenly uncomfortable. What if she was stepping in where she wasn’t wanted?
Katrina was quick to put an end to that line of thought. “Don’t you dare apologize. I couldn’t take it, I swear. She cooks, and she’s polite? Brother, the wilds of Arizona are going to eat this poor girl alive. Especially with all that white-blonde hair and pretty blue eyes.”
Josiah grinned a handsome smile around his last sip of coffee, already standing. “I have to go start chores. I’ll be back for lunch, and then I was wondering if you’d like to see some of the farm?” The last bit was directed at her.
Serenity nodded happily.“I’d love to.”
He was gone soon after, and Katrina settled into his empty chair. “Have you eaten?”
“I snacked,” Serenity answered, thinking of what she’d really had to eat so far.
“That will not do, not while you are a member of this family.” Katrina was on her feet again in an instant, moving around the room like a whirlwind until Serenity was seated with a plate of food in front of her. “Now…” Katrina said, easing back into her chair. “How did you sleep?”
“Surprisingly well. It was quite odd to have my bed stay still. I had grown rather used to the train.”
“I’m sure. I can’t imagine that was much fun at all. I hate trains.” Katrina looked at the plate of food before her as though considering, finally relinquishing the mug of coffee for the biscuit. “Mmm,” she hummed after the first few bites. “These are good.”
“Thank you. I tried to learn all of the recipes I could before coming. The orphanage didn’t always have much to work with, but I have a few skills,” Serenity admitted quietly, hating that the lie had to keep coming out of her mouth.
“You’ll do fine. My brothers will eat anything. I think Josiah barely noticed he was eating at all. He’s been so excited about your coming. Worked himself like crazy to make sure he’d have some time to spend with you, especially before Jonas and the ranch hands get back with the main herd.”
Ah. That answered one question at least. “Your other brother isn’t here?”
“Jonas? No, he took the herd out to the other ranch. It’s a few days from here, nearly a hundred miles.” Katrina continued to munch on her breakfast.
“Will he be back soon?” Serenity found it hard to believe that there was another family member that would be staying here with them. She was used to the peace and quiet of being an only child, even though she hadn’t wanted it. There was a part of her that was looking forward to being a part of a big, boisterous family and all the chaos that would ensue.
“Probably not. I think Josiah planned it that way. Jonas is a little suspicious by nature. I think he hoped you two would get to know each other before Jonas could scare you away.”
“I’m sure he’s not that intimidating,” Serenity offered, not really sure what other answer she could give since she didn’t know Jonas. Josiah hadn’t talked about him much in his letters.
“You’d be surprised,” Katrina warned. Serenity grinned into her cup as Katrina took a second biscuit, not seeming to realize she’d done so and used it to motion as she spoke. “Jonas can be a bit much. Mom used to call him a thundercloud.”
“I look forward to meeting him all the same.” Serenity leaned forward before Katrina could start off on some other topic. “Will you tell me about Josiah? I know that it’s forward of me to ask, but I would love to hear about him from someone who knows him.”
“Of course!” Katrina grinned. “I have so many stories to tell you! Let me see…Well, one time,” she leaned closer conspiratorially, “Dad had just trapped a new horse. A wild one. He wanted to tame it for my mom. Well, Josiah and Jonas got it into their heads that they were old enough to try their hands at horse taming. It did not go as they expected, let me tell you…”
Over the course of the next several days, they fell into an easy sort of routine. Every morning, Serenity woke first to make breakfast. Katrina had offered to take alternating days with her, but when Serenity insisted, she was quick to relinquish the job. After breakfast, Josiah went to do chores, feeding the pigs and the sows and their calves, the only cows left at the ranch during the drive to the other pasture. Serenity and Katrina had their own duties in the morning, house chores and minding the chicken coop especially. Serenity was enamoured with the baby chicks immediately, though Katrina was quick to warn her about getting too attached.
“We eat chicken, just remember that. Everything on this farm is fair game.”
After lunch, the two girls helped Josiah around the farm. That would change soon when the herd came back in a few weeks, but for now, it allowed Serenity the chance to learn the farm. She was surprised by the peace she felt on the farm. She had worried that it would be too foreign for her to adapt to, but she found the work relaxing. She liked taking care of the animals, especially. Even the barn cats that Josiah and Katrina ignored flocked to Serenity, who kept small treats for them in her pockets. Katrina scolded her, telling her that the cats should be hunting mice for their food, but she looked the other way when the treats continued.
It had been two full weeks at the farm. Serenity grinned to herself as she opened the farmhouse door, finding her way easily to the kitchen. Two weeks, and she couldn’t be happier. Josiah was a perfect gentleman. He was kind and calm. He was still very timid around her, but she found that she didn’t mind. Surely the timidity was a sign of good manners. And Katrina was quickly becoming the sister she had always wanted. The two spent the evening hours in the guesthouse quilting and laughing. They shared stories of their childhoods easily, and Katrina was always helpful, especially as she was learning her place on this ranch.
She hummed as she unwrapped a rasher of bacon, laying it in a hot pan with a small spot of lard from last night’s ham. Today, Katrina was taking her into town. There was apparently going to be some get-together soon, and Katrina was insistent that she wanted to make a new dress for it. Serenity had offered to let her borrow a dress. The fashions that she had brought from New York certainly hadn’t made it this far west yet, but Katrina wouldn’t be swayed. Privately, Serenity wondered if there was a surprise being planned, but that was neither here nor there.
She saw Josiah out of the corner of her eye as she was pulling buns out of the coals. “Good morning,” she murmured. “The coffee is almost finished; I’ll get you a cup when I–”
She turned to look at her husband-to-be and stopped short. One of the rolls toppled out of her hand as she startled. Standing in the door was not her husband.
“Who are you?” she asked. Her voice sounded quiet and terrified, even to her own ears, and she felt her heart throb violently in her chest. She should scream; she knew she should. Josiah was only a few rooms away, he would come to her, but she couldn’t. She felt like she couldn’t get enough air, and the room seemed to spin around her. The man took a menacing step forward, but she couldn’t move as the world slowly went black around the edges. She heard voices yelling as she dropped to the floor in a faint.
“For Serenity’s Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Serenity ran from her past and a man she could not love. She felt her only choice was in an ad for a bride that led her to Arizona and a ranch where she met Josiah, a kind man who was everything that Serenity felt she should need or want in a husband.
Yet, from the moment that Josiah’s brother Jonas showed back up after a cattle drive, Serenity is plagued by dreams and feelings that she can scarcely bring herself to acknowledge.
Jonas has never been so certain about anything in all his life. Josiah and his sister Katrina may be fooled by the sweet, demure ways of the city girl, but Jonas knows there is something about her that just doesn’t fit. No one is that sweet or that perfect.
Now Jonas just has to prove it or risk losing his mind to this strangely ethereal creature that his brother will soon marry.
“For Serenity’s Heart” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.