Meet Agnes Pratt from Rachel Fordham's A Life Once Dreamed

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Will you introduce yourself? 

Of course, thank you for asking. My names is Agnes Pratt and I am the only school teacher in all of Penance. Teaching has been my life since I left Buffalo, New York, six years ago. I find great satisfaction from working with my school children but there are days when I wish there was more…

 Why did you leave Buffalo?

 Oh, um…I came here to teach. I wanted a fresh start. 

I feel like there’s more to your story than you are sharing. I’ve heard you were well to-do back east. Weren’t there schools there you could have taught at?

You are correct. My family was well to-do and they were so good and kind to me. I love them and miss them dearly. But…well, I couldn’t stay. I have a secret that I can’t share right now and maybe never but it forced me to leave the city, family and man I loved. 

A man? 

His name is James Harris. He was my dearest friend when we were little and then one day we realized we were in love. I don’t want to talk about him. It’s been so long but even now it hurts my heart to think of him and all I left behind. Wondering what might have been is too painful.

Very well, we’ll talk about other things. Do you have friends in Penance? 

Yes! I have such dear friends. The children of course but also the townspeople. I have a loud and obnoxious friend named Minnie. She says the most outrageous things but I love her and I know that if I were ever in a pinch she’d be there for me. I have a gentle friend too. Her name is Hannah. She suffered a great loss recently but is still so full of hope. I do wish you could meet her. I think you’d find her as amiable as I do. 

Penance is a small town and we’re so isolated in the Black Hills that we’ve all grown close and despite our differences we care for each other. 

I know you have a lot to do so I’ll only ask one more question. What are you most afraid of?

That’s a difficult question. When I was young, I would have said I was most afraid of living a life without James but now that is my reality. I’m much braver here in Penance than I was before, perhaps, because I have to be. There are still nights when I find myself afraid that this is all there is. That I’ll never see my family again, that I’ll never have a child of my own or feel the rush of emotion that comes from love. 

That’s a silly fear. Forget I said it. I don’t have time for fears or daydreams anymore. My life is full and for that I’m grateful. 

I thought we were done but I have one more question. If James were to walk back in your life what would you do? 

James…I, well, I would tell him that the same reasons I ran still exist and then I’d lock myself in my room and hide my tears from him. Some things can never be. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! I hope you get to be more than just the teacher and that somehow your broken heart can heal. 

When Agnes Pratt discovered a shocking secret, she fled her hometown in search of a new life. Now six years later, she has made a predictable life for herself as the lone school teacher in the rugged Dakota Territory town of Penance—one devoid of romance but filled with work and friendship. But when her childhood sweetheart, James, arrives on the scene, her life threatens to be upended by a man who must never know her secret.  

James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor with an ulterior motive—to finally get answers from the girl who left him behind. Undeniably still carrying a torch for “Aggie,” James can tell she’s desperate to keep her distance even if he doesn’t know why. Can James convince Aggie that her secret—and her heart—are safe in his hands?

A Life Once Dreamed is a beautiful story of love and healing that affirms that where you come from matters far less than where you are going.

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs. She started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally, she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing and hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

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