The Next Step…
Chapter 19 - Turning 18
Written by Deanne Bertram
Mark had heard nothing from Lou about their upcoming birthdays and he hoped that maybe, just maybe, she had forgotten to mark it on her calendar. He was looking forward to sharing a quiet celebration with just Hope and his parents.
Hope and Hattie met Mark and Micah at the Marshal’s and they shared the walk to the church for services. As they arrived, Lucas was assisting Milly down from the buckboard. Mark and Hope hurried to catch up with his parents as they entered the church. Today’s sermon was of growing up and taking that first step towards being an adult. Mark and Hope both felt the sermon was directed straight towards them. They sat a little straighter and scooted a little bit further apart. Both averted their eyes and tried to hide their smiles.
Reverend McCafferty concluded his sermon, “Today’s sermon isn’t directed towards any one in particular, except for all those who are about to leave their childhood behind and take another step towards being adults. It’s a long road and though sometimes our children wish to grow up too fast, once that day arrives, we, as parents, ask, where did time go? We remember the first day we held a newborn in our arms and now…
“Now ladies and gentlemen, everyone is graciously invited over to the Mallory House Hotel to celebrate the birthdays of Mark McCain and Hope Lane, as they turn eighteen today.”
A round of applause and happy birthday wishes came from the congregation, as Mark sunk down in the pew and Hope buried her head in his shoulder. Eventually, the other parishioners had left the church and it was only Hope and the McCain’s.
“Come on son,” Lucas stated as he placed a hand under Mark’s arm and lifted him to his feet. “Seems Lou’s been wanting to really celebrate your birthday for a long time and now, she’s got her wish.”
“Pa why can’t it be just family, like it used to be?” Mark asked.
“Mark, our family will never be, like it used to be, but I know how you feel. But you need to understand, that our family, it’s not just the two of us and your Ma, and some day Hope. Our family is this town. Come on, before they burn the hotel down with all your candles.”
Mark offered his arm to Hope as they started to leave the church. They had just arrived at the door when Hope squealed, “Father! Ethan!” and ran towards them. The McCain’s came up behind smiling as they watch the family hug. Mark waited a short distance away and was pulled in the embrace.
“Lucas,” Seth stated as he offered to shake Lucas’ hand. “I’m sorry we didn’t send word again. We received a wire that this was going to be a surprise party. I see congratulations are in order. Mrs. McCain,” as both officers removed their hats.
The McCain’s and the Lane’s walked into the hotel together. Lou and Johnny escorted Mark and Hope to their seats of honor as Micah lit the candles on their cakes.
The celebration wound down and Lou felt satisfaction. She finally was able to hold the birthday party for Mark that she had wanted.
It was just a few friends that remained with the families in the restaurant. Seth and Ethan were stating that they had permission for their visit to last through the New Year, before they had to return. The conversation drifted to what all the letters meant as the town kept them informed of Hope’s progress in school and her life in general in North Fork.
“Lucas, from what we’ve read in the letters I know I placed my daughter in good hands when she stayed in North Fork.”
Milly excused herself, it had been a long afternoon and she felt she wanted to lie down before making the ride home. Hope escorted Milly upstairs.
Mark let his eyes drift up the staircase as he watched Hope help his Ma. Lou came in to say arrangements had been made for the Major and Lieutenant to stay at the hotel as long as they could.
Next Step —