The Next Step…
Chapter 36 - The Gifts
Written by Deanne Bertram
Christmas was fast approaching, only a few days away. Hope announced to Milly that she needed to go into town to pick up Mark’s Christmas present. She saddled Two-Bits and headed to town.
She stopped in front of Doc Burrage’s and entered.
“Doc, I’m not sure, but I thought enough time had passed from… but the headaches are sort of coming back and I wake up and feel nauseated. Could the concussion I suffered still be affecting me?
“Hope, up on the table and let me look,” Thaddeus stated. After examining Hope he told her, “Hope, I don’t think that it’s the concussion. That was six, almost seven weeks ago and you’ve not experienced any problems since you came home. Describe the headaches.”
“Well, they’re not quite headaches, but I get real light headed and feel like I’m going to faint. There are times when I get light headed and my vision fades and if I close my eyes for a while, then when I opened my eyes, I can see again and I’ve got my balance back,” Hope informed Doc.
“And the nausea, is it only in the morning and does it lessen after you eat something?” Doc asked.
“Hope, after you returned from Texas and I gave you a clean bill of health, that was what, six, seven weeks ago?”
“I presume that afterwards you and Mark, um, uh, you’ve been intimate with each other?”
Doc Burrage asked a few more questions before stating, “Hope, what you have is extremely common for women in your condition.”
“My condition?” Hope asked.
“Hope, in my professional opinion, I say that you and Mark are expecting your first child.”
“I’m with child?”
“Yes, and I’d like to be the first to offer my Congratulations!”
Johnny Drako returned to the Marshal’s office, after having lunch with Lou. As he entered, he told Mark he’d seen Two-Bits tied in front of Doc’s.
Mark ran from the office over to Doc’s. As he entered, he saw Hope coming from behind the room partition, his face showed the concern he felt.
“Mark, I’ll let you and Hope be alone for a few minutes.” Doc walked out the door and waited.
“Hope, what’s…” Mark started to ask.
“Mark, Doc says I’ll be fine.”
“But why are you here, what happened? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m perfectly healthy. I thought the headaches and all from the concussion were coming back. But…”
Hope took Mark’s hand and held it in place over her belly, then said, “I’ve wonderful news, I’m carrying a new life inside me. God’s given us a child.”
Mark looked at his and Hope’s hands and then into her eyes. “A child? I’m going to be a father?”
Hope smiled and nodded. Mark pulled her into an embrace and smothered her in kisses before he let her go.
“Oh, how do we tell Ma and Pa?” Mark asked.
“Well, seeing as how Christmas is only a few days away, I thought maybe, it would be a wonderful Christmas present for them. Doc said he wouldn’t tell anyone. As for your parents, I mean, let them celebrate their wedding anniversary before we tell them they’re going to be grandparents.”
“Hope, I want you to take it easy riding back to the ranch or should I asked Johnny for some time off so I can get you home?”
“Mark, I was pregnant when I rode in here, I think I can manage to ride home. But I promise, I will take it easy,” Hope stated as she smiled and ran her hand over her belly. “Besides, if you asked Johnny for time to get me home, you’d end up telling him why and I want this to be our secret, at least until after we tell Ma and Pa. Then, I’ll send a wire to my father and one to Ethan and Annie.”
Mark help Hope get in the saddle, “You promise you’ll take it slow and easy?”
“I promise, love.”
Thaddeus Burrage looked up from his desk as he was greeted by his uncle’s arrival.
Thaddeus stated, “Uncle, I think we will need to make a house call to the McCain Ranch Christmas afternoon. Once Lucas hears of his gifts, I think he’s going to need a good tonic.”
Thaddeus then told his uncle of the news.
Mark returned to the Marshal’s office where Johnny inquired about Hope.
“She’ll be fine, said Doc wanted to make sure she had no lasting effects from what happened…” Mark quieted and prayed he could finally tell a lie without everyone knowing he wasn’t telling the truth.
“Makes sense, with winter weather due anytime and we know there’ve been times where you and your Pa, and other ranchers around here, were snowbound for quite a while. Glad to hear everything is okay.”
Mark finished his duty that night and returned home, Christmas Eve morning. He arrived at the ranch to find Hope cooking breakfast as his parents weren’t yet up. He stopped behind her and wrapped his arms around her belly.
“Hope, this miracle of life; promise me you’ll take it easy until the baby is born,” he quietly whispered into her ear.
“Mark, I promise,” she stated as she turned around and wrapped her arms around his neck and lovingly kissed him. Their moment was broken when they heard a bedroom door open and Lucas laughingly call, “Don’t burn my breakfast!” They parted and smiled, each knowing the secret they were keeping.
“I’ll head out and tend to the horses, be back shortly,” Mark called as he walked to the back door from the kitchen.
When Mark returned to the house, Milly had Myra up and in the front room. Mark bent down and scooped up his sister as she was running towards him as he closed the door. She laughed as she squealed in happiness.
“How’s my Gabby this morning?” he asked.
“Me fine. ‘elp you wif ‘orses?” she asked as she pulled his hat off his head and placed it on her’s.
“No, the horses are taken care of for the morning,” Mark answered as he pulled his hat off his sister and walked over to place it on the hat rack.
“Me ‘elp Ope?”
“No, but you can help me pull out the chairs so I can set the table for breakfast,” Mark answered as he placed Myra down and led her to the table and helped her pull out the chairs. Then, she held onto his hand and she toddled along in her walk to the cabinet where Mark pulled out the dishes.
“’Elp, me ‘Elp.” Myra squealed.
“Gabby, one of these days you need to learn your H’s. The word is HHHelp, hhhhelp.”
“H-h-help. Me H-h-help!”
“Gabby, you did it. You said help! Now, can you say Hope?” Mark asked as he picked his sister up and carried her as he set the plates and silverware around the table.
“Ope. H-h-hope.” Myra called, then leaning backwards, holding her arms out as Hope approached from the kitchen, carrying breakfast.
Lucas smiled as he watched the interaction of his children as he finished tending to the fire. Milly smiled as she finished pouring coffee and milk for their breakfast.
Milly announced that she and Hope needed to head to town to finish purchasing things they needed for their Christmas dinner. Lucas hitched up the team for them.
Lucas returned to the house to find Mark sitting at the table working on something, with Myra sitting on his knee. After looking over Mark’s should, he questioned him, when he saw a drawing for a floor plan.
“Pa, Hope and I can’t live here forever. As much as you and Ma would love for us to, you’re going to need a room for Myra soon. A child shouldn’t sleep in their parent’s bedroom until they’re married. I mean, it was different when I was growing up, it was just the two of us and…”
“Mark, I understand and you’re right, about a child needing their own room. But I don’t want you and Hope to feel you have to leave this house. We can always build on again.”
“I know, but someday, we’re going to want to have children of our own and it just makes sense for us to have our own home, but I want it to be close by.” Mark stopped talking and picked up a clean sheet of paper, he sketched their current homestead and buildings, then indicated the rise, then drew where he thought their home should be. “Pa, you told me once of your dream when we left Enid. You wanted a home that would be just like what we had, so that when you sat on the front porch and looked out over the horizon it was just the same. Well, I’ve had a dream and so far, everything in my dream has come true. You married Ma, I’ve a wife I love, and I pray that one of these days, God is going to bless us with children,” Mark smiled as he knew that God had already granted his prayer.
“I hope so, son.”
“And I want you to be a part of our children’s lives, you and Ma, both. Pa, there were parts of my life that I wish hadn’t happened, now I know I can’t change the past, but…” a tear escaped the corner of Mark’s eye. “I love the life I have now and to reflect back and see how our family has grown.”
Lucas placed a hand on his son’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze of understanding.
Mark cooked dinner for his parents in celebration of their third wedding anniversary. The five sat around the table, Lucas laughing as Myra wasn’t wanting Milly to help her eat, she wanted Mark’s help. Squealing with laughter at her brother.
Mark was helping her with her food, yet allowing her to feed herself. Much to his surprise, she threw a spoon full of mashed potatoes at him. “Gabby!” Mark yelled and everyone broke out in laughter.
After dishes we done, Mark walked into his parents room and pulled Myra’s cradle out and placed it in his and Hope’s room.
“Mark?” Lucas questioned.
“Let Hope and I take care of Gabby tonight. It’s your wedding anniversary!”
Christmas Day dawned with a light covering of snow on the ground outside. After tending to the barn chores, Lucas and Mark returned to join their family for breakfast. Afterwards, the family sat around the front room, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace and listened as Lucas read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible, the Books of Matthew and Luke. Later, with Myra sitting in his lap and playing with the doll Hope and Mark had given her as a present, Mark started quietly singing “What Child is This?” in his light tenor voice,
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!
At the start of the second verse, Hope joined Mark, singing in a sweet alto voice.
Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross he borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary
Lucas and Milly were quite surprised at their harmony. Both had known that Mark could sing, but had never heard Hope sing.
“That was beautiful. Hope, I’ve never heard you sing before,” Milly stated.
“I remember singing that song from long ago, when my mother was alive.” Hope was quiet for a few moments before continuing, “Ma, Mark and I do have one more gift for you and Pa, unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait a while before you can actually hold our gift,” Hope stated.
“Hope, the gifts you and Mark have given us are more than enough. You didn’t have to order anything more,” Milly stated.
“We didn’t exactly order it,” Hope replied.
“Well, we did pray for this, so I guess you could say we did place an order, but you’re going to have to share your present once it arrives,” Mark answered.
“Mark, Hope?” Lucas stated with a questioning look on his face.
“Pa, Ma, God has granted Mark and I with a child. Our gift to you is that you’re going to be grandparents. The baby should be due the latter part of July.” Hope quietly told Lucas and Milly. Milly, a little taken back, started laughing.
“Milly?” Lucas asked, surprised at his wife’s reaction.
“Well, I… uh… Oh, Lucas, you’re going to be a grandfather,” she stated as she covered her mouth with her hand, trying to stop laughing.
“What’s so funny about that? It also means you’re going to be a grandmother.” Lucas replied a little perturbed.
“Lucas,” Milly started laughing harder. “I know this means I’m going to be a grandmother, but Lucas…” She seriously tried to stop laughing as she stood and walked to Lucas and then sat down in his lap. She placed one arm around Lucas’ shoulders and then picked up his hand and placed it over her belly, “Oh my, Lucas, I found out three days ago, I’m pregnant. I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be your Christmas present.”
“You’re pregnant?” Lucas asked as he sat back in his chair.
Mark looked to Milly and said, “You’re pregnant!”
Milly nodded. “Seems I’m due the latter part of July as well... Lucas?”
As a smile of disbelief spread across Lucas’ face, a knock was heard at the door. Mark opened it to find Jay, Thaddeus, and Abigail Burrage outside.
“We’re here to make a house call. Has Lucas received news of both his gifts?” Jay asked has they held out a bottle of brandy.
“Perfect timing. Please come on in, I think we all could use a spot. Especially Pa. I’m not quite sure how he’s taking the news that he’s going to be a grandfather and Milly just told him about him becoming a father again,” Mark said as he took their coats.
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