The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years

Chapter 18 - A Delayed Thanksgiving
Written by Michelle Palmer

A knock sounded on the door. Margaret wiped her hands on her apron and went to answer it. She smiled when she saw her brother standing there. “Scott!” Margaret practically leaped into his arms. Scott hugged her tight and kissed her forehead. “Scott, what are you doing here?”
 
“I suppose I came to see my little sister,” Scott answered. Margaret hurried back to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee for her brother. “Mother’s worried about you.”
 
“Oh?” Margaret turned and handed him the cup of coffee. She motioned for him to sit at the table as she grabbed the fresh loaf of bread and the butter from the counter. “Why is Ma worried about me?”
 
Scott wrapped his fingers around his coffee cup. “She hasn’t seen you in quite some time. You haven’t even been to town…or church.”
 
“I know.” Margaret smiled. “We’ve been worshiping here since the incident. Luke and I…We feel Abe needed that.” Margaret handed him the freshly buttered bread. “How are things?”
 
“Alright.” Scott nodded.
 
“Pa? How’s Pa?”
 
“The same. He’s been home now for a week. I don’t think it’ll last too much longer though. He’s starting to get edgy.”
 
“The McCain’s? How are they?”
 
Scott took a bite of his bread. “Not so good, Margaret. Has Luke told you how they are?”
 
Margaret sighed as she leaned back in her chair. “Not directly. I can tell things are still strained when he comes from town or seeing his family. I’m worried, but Luke doesn’t want to talk about it.”
 
“Well…I think a lot of the problem is Jeremiah and Peter having to be gone so much. When they’re home, they have to see to the winter wheat and the other farm chores. I go and help out as much as I can, but with this leg…”
 
“Julie?”
 
“She’s fine. But it’s a strain for Tiffany and Em having to stay with her. They’re all still pretty edgy.”
 
Margaret stood and walked to the window. “I don’t understand, Scott! I just don’t understand! Luke’s family has always been so solid…nothing could shake them!” She turned to look at Scott as he stood from his chair. “What’s happened?”
 
Scott stood and hurried over to his sister. “Tragedy, honey. Abe almost died. That shook them up a lot. And the men haven’t been able to be there for the family…to help them deal with all this…” Scott lifted his eyebrows as he turned to look out the window. “Not celebrating Thanksgiving has really gotten them down.”
 
Margaret sucked in her breath. “Thanks…” She turned and hurried to the calendar. “Scott, I’ve no idea what today even is!”
 
“It’s Saturday,” Scott answered. “It’s December 1.”
 
Margaret’s eyes grew wide as she turned and stared at her brother. “December…” She turned from the calendar. “I guess I really had no idea…”
 
“You have been busy.”
 
“Yes.” Margaret hurried back into the kitchen and opened the oven. “Abe’s in bed resting right now. He sat up most of the morning. Jason will be here in a bit to check on his progress. Lucas made Laura ride with him out onto the range. We think she’s spending too much time with Abe…”
 
“And you?” Scott worriedly stepped forward and rested his hands on her shoulders. “How are you?”
 
“I’m trying to hold everything together,” Margaret answered honestly. “I can tell Luke’s upset about things…I feel it’s his family, but he doesn’t want to talk about it.” Margaret smiled. “I’m…sorry I missed Thanksgiving with the family.”
 
Scott turned from her as he toyed with his hat. “We didn’t have Thanksgiving either, Margaret.”
 
“What?”
 
“Thanksgiving has always been something the McCain’s and Gibbs did together. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. Mother thought about insisting on all of us having Thanksgiving, but with Abe here and all…she supposed it wouldn’t go over too well…”
 
“Well…” Margaret folded her arms together and stuck out her chin. “We’re going to just have to do something about that!”
 
Scott heard that familiar determination in her voice, and saw the determined look on his face. “Oh boy…What does THAT mean?”
 
“It means, Scott Gibbs, that next Thursday, we’re having our Thanksgiving!”
 
“We are? In December?” Margaret nodded her head. “Where?”
 
“Here.”
 
“Here?” Scott pointed toward the floor. Margaret nodded again. Scott plopped his hat on his head and tipped it way back. “Boy howdy, Sis…And just HOW do you plan on pulling THAT off?”
 
“It’ll happen!” Margaret declared. “I’ll make it happen.”
 
“And uh…how are you going to convince Luke of that?”
 
Margaret folded her arms. “Oh, don’t you worry about Lucas McCain…” She smiled as Scott started toward the door. “I can handle him just fine…”
 
***
“Luke, tomorrow I’m going to walk.” The announcement came just a few hours later while they were eating supper. Lucas paused, a spoonful of mashed potatoes on his spoon. He raised an eyebrow and stared at his brother.
 
“You’re what?”
 
“I’m going to walk.”
 
Lucas turned and looked at Margaret, then at Laura. He turned his attention back to his brother. Abe had been doing well. Jason was indeed satisfied with the progress he was making, but Lucas could tell sitting up was still painful for Abe. Each day he was getting stronger. Each day he could sit up for longer periods of time. But he wasn’t there yet. Lucas slowly sat down his spoon. “Have you gone loco, Abe?”
 
“No Luke…” Abe coughed as he tried to swallow a small piece of hash. “I’m very serious.”
 
“No. You ARE crazy!” Lucas shook his head. “Abe, you are still in a great deal of pain. You can’t sit up for very long and…”
 
“Luke…” Margaret said his name as gently as she could, but she held warning in her voice. Lucas sighed as he again lifted an eyebrow. “Jason told Abe he could push himself if he felt he was ready.”
 
“Yeah.” Lucas sat back in his chair. “But he’s NOT ready! He’s still in a great deal of pain!”
 
Abe turned his head sideways. “Laura…would you go uh…gather the eggs?”
 
“I want to stay!” Abe cleared his throat. Laura stood. “Yes sir.”
 
After the door closed behind her, Abe cleared his throat. “Now listen, Luke…I’m tired of laying in that bed. It’s time I started walking.”
 
Lucas stood from his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “Luke, what’s the problem?” Margaret asked from her place at the table.
 
“I’m just afraid of Abe doing too much too fast and hurting himself more.”
 
“I’m not a child, Luke.” Abe pushed his wheelchair out from the table and started toward his younger brother. “Luke, I’m ready to be a man again…to take care of my family…be the provider like I should be. Surely you can understand that!”
 
Lucas heard the tears in Abe’s voice. He turned and gave his brother a small smile. “Yes…” Lucas sighed. “Yes, Abe. I can understand that.” Lucas stooped down in front of Abe and put his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “But I’m enjoying you having to look up at me, I guess.” A smile played at Abe’s mouth. “Just let me go talk to Jason first.”
 
“Luke…”
 
“He is your doctor, after all.”
 
Abe chuckled. “Very well, Luke. We’ll talk to Jason.”
 
“Good.” Lucas went back to sit down. “I’ll take care of it right after supper.”
 
“No. There’s something else I want you and Margaret to take care of right after supper.” Margaret and Lucas both looked at Abe. “I want you to take care of the bed.”
 
“The bed?” Margaret questioned.
 
Abe nodded. “Laura and I are the guests here. Therefore you will put us on those cots you two have been using.” Lucas started to protest, but Abe held up his hand. “You are a young married couple. I appreciate the use of your bed, but the cot will be fine.”
 
Margaret sat down her cup and shook her head. “Now it’s my turn to protest, Abe. The fact is that you are still in a lot of pain and…”
 
“The fact is that YOU and LUKE need the bed. You shouldn’t be sleeping on separate cots in the guest room in your own home.”
 
“Oh but…” Margaret tried again.
 
Abe held up his hand and shook his head. “I’ve spoken. It’s impolite to refuse a guest.”
 
“The cot won’t be too comfortable, and with the pain you’re in…” Lucas watched his brothers eyes narrow. “That’s what’s wrong with us. Pa raised four sons…all stubborn and bull-headed!”
 
“And impossible to live with!” Margaret declared with a firm nod of her head.
 
“Look who’s talking…” Abe nodded toward Margaret. “She’s a McCain through and through!” Abe leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chest. “I’ve had enough to eat. I think I’m ready to lay down…need to get a good rest.”
 
“You haven’t eaten much.”
 
Abe nodded. “I know. In time, Luke…In time.”
 
***
 
Margaret stood from her dressing table that night. She had been so busy getting the room cleaned and back in order that she hadn’t had time to talk to Lucas since he returned from town. Lucas sat in bed reading a book and smiled as Margaret lifted the covers and climbed in beside him. Lucas closed the book and laid down, taking her in his arms. The lantern cast a glow on the ceiling. “Did you talk to Jason?” Margaret asked as she snuggled her head down on his chest and laid a soft hand on his skin.
 
“Mm hm.” Lucas kissed her hair. “He said if Abe feels he’s ready then he should do it…but not overdo it.”
 
Margaret heard the hesitation in his voice. “Almost losing your brother…it scared you pretty bad.” Lucas said nothing, but softly stroked her hair. Margaret moved her head to his shoulder and looked up into his face. “As long as he’s here, you know he’s safe.”
 
Lucas frowned. “What are you talking about?”
 
“I’m talking about you.” Lucas shifted his eyes away from her, suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable. She sat up and looked down at him. “Look at me, Luke.” Lucas shifted his eyes back toward her. “I’m not trying to hurt you…But I’m right, aren’t I?” Lucas still said nothing. “You worry about Laura having trouble letting Abe out of her sight. You make Laura get out of the house and help me with the chores to try and distract her from being so clingy to Abe. But the truth is…you’re feeling the same way.”
 
“Honey, I’m hardly here all day!” Lucas protested.
 
“Oh, but you know he’s here…And in your heart you know he’s safe. But Luke, it’s not fair for you to want to keep Abe in that bed where he’s safe! He needs to get back to his family…To be a man again like he said.”
 
Lucas sat up a bit and smiled at her. “I guess I have been trying to protect him a bit. But it’s only because he’s my brother and I…I thought we had lost him.” Lucas suddenly stood from the bed and hurried to the window. “I mean…I really thought he was going to die. I didn’t think…”
 
Margaret stood and walked up behind him. She gave him a backwards hug. “I know, Luke. I know.”
 
He turned in her arms. “I don’t deserve you.” He bent down and kissed her softly. Their kiss deepened. After their lips parted, Lucas laid a hand on each of her cheeks and rubbed her soft skin with his thumbs. “I love you, Mrs. McCain. I guess I haven’t told you that in a while.”
 
“No you haven’t. But I know you do.”
 
Lucas looked toward the door. “I’ll try to let go. I promise.” Margaret smiled and nodded her head slightly. “But tonight…I think I want to show you I love you.”
 
Margaret pressed a hand against his bare chest to keep him from coming towards her and taking her in his arms. She knew that once he started kissing her that way she couldn’t bear to tell him what she needed to tell him. “There’s something we should talk about first, Luke.”
 
“Didn’t we already do that?”
 
Margaret went to sit on the bed. Lucas motioned for her to crawl in and they were once again snuggling. “Scott stopped by today.”
 
“Oh? I’m sorry I missed him.”
 
“He uh…told me some things.” Margaret nervously began running her finger through his chest hairs.
 
“Uh huh?”
 
“He told me your family isn’t doing too well.”
 
“He what?” Lucas raised his voice as he pushed her away. “He had no right…”
 
“Luke, I already knew things weren’t going so well! Your family has been through a lot.”
 
Lucas sat up on the side of the bed, his back towards her. “Ma and Pa would be disappointed in us right now.”
 
“Don’t say that, Luke!” Margaret cried as she sat up behind him and wrapped her arms around his middle. “They would be proud of you!”
 
“We never fell apart like this when they were alive.”
 
“They never had a son who was shot in the chest and almost died. They never had a son who was separated from his pregnant wife and kids for weeks on end. They never had two sons who were forced to neglect their family because no other man in this town has the backbone to marshal. You should have seen my family after Andy’s death…when pa got so bad…”
 
“You never got like this.” Lucas sighed. “Peter and Tiffany aren’t getting along right now. Did Scott tell you that?”
 
“No.” Margaret pulled him back down into the bed. “That’s why….I think it’s important to start putting the family back together…yours…and mine.”
 
Lucas heard the hesitation in Margaret’s voice. He turned and looked at her. “What are you trying to tell me, Margaret?”
 
“Luke…Do you even know what today is?”
 
“Sure. It’s Saturday,” Lucas answered. “Oh! Do you want to go to church tomorrow? I can arrange…”
 
“That’s not it, Luke…” Margaret sighed. “I do want to go to church tomorrow. Perhaps Laura and I can go and leave you here with Abe. Luke, today is December 1.”
 
“What?”
 
“Yes, Luke…” Margaret pulled her legs up to her chest. “You know…We are certainly not having very good luck with our anniversary…It seems like every month…something…”
 
“Oh now, you stop that!” Lucas rested his chin on her shoulder. “So…what are you getting at my cranky wife?”
 
“We missed Thanksgiving, Luke. Neither of our families celebrated it this year.” Margaret turned in the bed and looked at him. “We’ve never missed a Thanksgiving! Our folks would be ashamed if they knew…”
 
“Your family didn’t?”
 
Margaret shook her head. “They couldn’t without your family, and Scott said they felt your family wasn’t ready for quite an event.”
 
“So…”
 
“So…We’re having a late Thanksgiving.” Margaret laid down and turned on her side.
 
Lucas laid back down beside her and took her in his arms. “And where…my love…are we going to have this Thanksgiving?”
 
“Here.”
 
“WHAT???”
 
Margaret cringed when she heard his protest. “Luke…don’t wake up our guests!”
 
“Honey, I don’t think having it here is a good idea. You’ve been so busy with taking care of all of us…You’ve hardly had time for yourself and…”
 
Margaret turned in bed and rested a hand on his cheek. “And have I complained?” Lucas said nothing. “The fact is, Luke, that nothing would give me greater pleasure then to have a Thanksgiving here this year. Our family needs it, Luke…and you know it!”
 
“Oh, but there’s so much work…So much planning that needs done…”
 
“And I intend on getting started on the planning after church tomorrow.” Margaret kissed him soundly on the lips. She allowed her fingers to trace up and down his spine as the kiss deepened. “Please, Luke?”
 
Lucas moaned. “That’s not fair…Kissing me like that and…” Margaret hushed him with another kiss. Lucas moaned again as their lips parted. “I don’t want you doing it all yourself.”
 
“I won’t. If you’ll let me, I’ll ride the buckboard into church tomorrow and talk to the family. We’ll decide who’s to do what and when exactly to have it. I’ll talk to your family and my family. Then on Monday we’ll go to town and get the things we’ll need.”
 
“I still think…”
 
“I know, Darling…But I promise you that we’ll be fine.”
 
Lucas sighed as he ran the back of his fingers across her cheek. “I just worry about you, Honey. I’m worried you’re working too hard…”
 
“I’m a rancher’s wife, aren’t I?” Margaret questioned. “Aren’t we supposed to work hard?”
 
Lucas pressed a finger against her lips and drew her against him. He pressed his lips hard against her mouth and kissed her long and passionately. Then as he traced kisses down her throat and slid his hand down her body, he whispered, “For now…Let’s celebrate our belated third month anniversary.”
 
The discussions of the day were forgotten as Margaret melted in her husband’s arms.
 
***
 
Margaret turned from the stove where she was hurrying with breakfast and shook the spatula at Laura. “Now, you hurry and get that breakfast into Abe. Luke will get him up after while. Then sit yourself down at the table while I finish breakfast.”
 
“Why are you hurrying, Margaret?” Laura asked.
 
“You and I are going to church.” Margaret didn’t realize until that moment just how excited she was about that. She hadn’t been to church since before the shooting. She and Lucas had gone together. The whole family had been there. Marshal Williams and his family had been there. Margaret sighed as she sprinkled a bit of salt on her omelet. It would be strange walking in and finding the newly widowed Mrs. Williams there with her son.
 
But no, she wouldn’t be there. She had left suddenly, deciding to go back East. She never wanted to set her sights on the West again. And she announced that if she had any control over it, she’d never allow her son to come West either.
 
But Laura was speaking to her. Margaret forced her mind to come back from where her thoughts had taken her. “But I don’t want to go!” Laura argued. “I want to stay here and help care for Papa!”
 
“Your brother will be here,” Margaret declared. “You should go to church. I’m sure the rest of the family would love to…”
 
“NO!” Laura protested as she stomped her foot. “I will not…”
 
Margaret whirled around as she sat down the spatula. As the front door opened, Margaret rushed over to Laura. Without saying one word, she grabbed the girl by her arm and walked her into the kitchen. Lucas watched, his eyes wide, as Margaret proceeded to wash the girl’s mouth out with soap. After the ordeal was done, Margaret spoke. “You do not EVER talk back, young lady. I told you we were going to church. If you want to voice your argument, you will do so in a polite, lady-like way.”
 
“Yes ma’am,” Laura spoke softly.
 
Lucas watched Laura go to set the table. He walked up to Margaret and folded his hands. “Well…I’m glad I’m your husband and not your child!”
 
“Oh, I’ll wash your mouth out if it’s needed as well!” Margaret declared. “Now, get washed up for breakfast.”
 
Margaret brought the food over to the table. Lucas led them in prayer, then they started eating. Lucas could tell Laura was still sulking from earlier. He started to speak, but Margaret rested a hand on his arm and shook her head. She cleared her throat then spoke. “Laura…Abe’s going to try and learn to walk today. He’ll need Luke for that, and I’ll need your help getting things ready for Thanksgiving. Besides that, you haven’t seen the family in so long…I was sort of hoping I could depend on you to help.”
 
“I’m sorry I talked back like I did.” Laura lifted her head. “I just don’t want to leave Abe.”
 
Margaret smiled. “I know you don’t, and I understand. I would have explained it to you had you given me the chance.”
 
Laura looked at Lucas. “You may need my help.”
 
“It’s better this way, honey.”
 
“Why?”
 
Lucas didn’t answer right away. He tried to decide on what to tell her as he took a few bites of his food. Finally, he looked up at his youngest sister and answered. “Laura…Abe’s had a lot of trouble. It took him several days just to sit up…Now he can sit up for longer periods of time, but he’s having to learn some things all over again. The bullets…they did a lot of damage. He may fall a few times. He’ll get frustrated and he’s requested neither you nor Margaret see that..”
 
Margaret knew there was something else that Luke wasn’t saying, he didn’t want Laura to hear the cussing that would probably follow.
 
“I don’t understand.”
 
Lucas nodded. “I know. Just know that once Abe is up and walking, he’ll want to show off how good he’s become. He just doesn’t want you to see him fail, the first few times.” He wished he could make her understand, but he knew they both had to accept the fact that some things just couldn’t be understood. “Now...hurry and eat your breakfast. You can help me get Abe in his chair.”
 
***
 
Laura watched as Lucas hitched up the team. “Luke…”
 
“Hm?”
 
“You reckon I’ll ever grow up to be a lady?”
 
Lucas chuckled as he tightened the harness on the horse. Then he turned and kneeled down in front of her. “Why do you ask that?”
 
“Well…Papa Abe says I’m high strung. He said I need to act more like a lady.”
 
“Oh. Laura…You’re a McCain. We’re all high-strung.”
 
“What’s that mean?”
 
Lucas chuckled again. “Stubborn, Rose Bud. We’re stubborn.” Lucas patted her shoulder. “As for being a lady…Well, you’re as much a lady as Margaret was at your age.”
 
“I bet Margaret didn’t talk back to her folks.”
 
“No.” Lucas smiled. “Margaret was always pretty sweet and did as she was told.” Lucas turned and looked at Laura. “But Margaret has always known her own mind. If she wants something done, she makes sure it’s done. The difference is…She goes about it in such a way that…” Lucas stood and folded his arms as he looked toward the house. “Sometimes you don’t realize you’re giving in until you are too far gone.”
 
Laura lowered her head. “Luke?” Lucas looked down at her. “I’m…sorry for how I behaved that day…You know…When you came to get me. You think I should apologize to the family?”
 
Lucas smiled. “I think they would like that very much, Laura Rose.” Lucas kissed her forehead. “And do you know something else?” Laura shrugged. “I think you already are a fine lady…for a McCain.”
 
“Luke…I love you.” Laura hugged him.
 
“I love you too, Rosebud.” He picked her up in his arms. “Now, let’s see what’s keeping Margaret.”
 
***
 
Abe looked around the yard. The weather was quite mild today. He wore a coat but knew he would be working up a sweat quickly. “Luke…You know what I was thinking on last night?” Abe turned his head toward his brother. “I was thinking on how I’d like to chop some wood. I want to be there come spring to harvest the winter wheat. I want to ride my horse out into the pasture and check on the few cows we have. I want to take my sons fishing.”
 
“You will.”
 
Abe rubbed his chest. “Sometimes I wonder if this pain will ever go away. Will I ever be able to be the man I was before?”
 
Lucas sighed. “Abe…I’m sorry.”
 
“Sorry?”
 
“Well…After all, it was my life you were coming to save. I feel it’s…”
 
Abe held up a hand to stop Luke. “No, Luke. I shouldn’t have gone in half-cocked. I still don’t understand why I did. I knew better.” Abe sighed. “When I think about all the heartache and pain my stupidity has put my family through…”
 
“Margaret told me last night that we’re having Thanksgiving here Thursday,” Lucas announced. “So what do you say we get to work and give our family a surprise?”
 
“Sounds good,” Abe nodded.
 
Lucas had rigged up a contraption so Abe could put the pressure of his hands on bars while trying to take his first step. Lucas pulled his chair as close as he could. Abe rested his hands on the bars while flattening his feet on the ground. “Ready?” Lucas asked.
 
Abe closed his eyes and said a quick prayer. “Ready.”
 
Lucas pulled on his arm. Abe cried out in pain as hot air burned through his chest. He slowly stood to his feet. The pain was almost unbearable, but Abe stayed on his feet. Tears filled his eyes and he grunted. “We can stop if…”
 
“NO!” Abe shouted. He bit his lip and groaned through the pain. “I’m going to…to…do…this…”
 
Abe simply stood still, forcing his feet to stay firm on the ground. The pain shot through his chest, down his gut, and into his legs. “OH…” Abe groaned, but he continued standing.
 
“Just a few more moments, then you sit and rest, brother. We have all day.” Abe finally gave out and slowly lowered himself back to the chair. Lucas bent down in front of the chair. “Margaret kept some of that morphine just in case.”
 
“No!” Abe shook his head. “No…I don’t want anything. I want to feel the pain…I want to learn to work through it.” Abe shook his head. “When I go home to my family, I don’t want them seeing pain in my eyes. I don’t want to see worry in theirs.”
 
“I understand.” Lucas nodded. “You just rest, then we’ll go at it again.”
 
All morning, Lucas worked with Abe to stand. Abe was getting tired and was experiencing a great deal of pain. Lucas began to fear Abe was pushing himself too hard. He begged Abe to take it slow and easy, but Abe shook his head. He wouldn’t stop. He’d fight like mad to get his legs moving again. It was nearly eleven o’clock when Abe finally collapsed on the ground. His body just simply couldn’t take anymore.
 
“Damnit!” Abe shouted as he punched his fist on the ground. “Damnit…Damnit…Damnit!”
 
Lucas dropped down beside him and put his arms around his brother. “It’s okay…” Lucas held Abe while he cried. “You’ll get there…You’ll get there…”
 
Lucas helped Abe back in his chair. “I think you should go in and take a rest for a bit.” Abe studied Lucas’ face, thinking Luke was calling it a day. Lucas knew that pushing Abe was now the only way to help his brother. So with a forced grin, he said, “Then we’ll try again.”
 
***
Everyone gathered around the buckboard as Margaret pulled into the church yard. There were many happy cheers from those who had not seen her in over a month. Margaret jumped down and hugged her mother close. “Oh baby…I’ve worried about you!” Jennifer declared as she kissed her daughter. “How are things?”
 
Margaret smiled. “Abe’s getting better every day.”
 
Laura anxiously looked around for Julie. Tiffany came to hug her. “Julie wasn’t feeling too well. The baby gave her all sorts of fits last night. Jason just left to go check on her.” Nobody missed the disappointment mixed with relief in Laura’s eyes.
 
Everyone went into the church. Margaret sat beside her mother and grasped her mother’s hand. She suddenly felt she wanted to be alone with her mother so she could cry. Margaret stood and sang every hymn and prayed with the worshipers. She listened as the Reverend delivered another fiery sermon. Then at the end of the service, she hurried to the altar and fell on her knees before God. Her mother joined her. Margaret cried out to God, her face bowed in humble prayer.
 
Then the service was over. Scott came forward and helped Margaret to her feet. He hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’m alright now.” Margaret smiled as she wiped her tears. “I’ve prayed every day, but the altar…it opened something deep inside me. There’s something about it…”
 
“I know.” Scott put his arm around Margaret. As they walked out to the waiting wagons and buckboards, Peter hurried up to the group.
 
“Jason’s back. He said Julie’s doing fine. Tiffany’s asked everyone to come to the house. She put a roast in the oven this morning and says there’s plenty for everyone!”
 
Laura decided to ride in Peter’s wagon so she could talk with her nieces and nephews who all rode in the back. Jeremiah, who had ridden in with Peter and Tiffany, drove Margaret’s wagon to the McCain farm. Em turned from the stove and squealed when she saw Margaret. She threw her arms around her sister-in-law. “Julie’s fine…She’s resting in the bedroom.” Em’s face was flushed from being near the stove all morning. “Peter moved her and the children down here yesterday…She was looking so pale. We wanted her close where we could keep an eye on her.”
 
Margaret took Laura’s hand and walked toward the bedroom. Julie was sitting up in bed, her braided hair slung over one shoulder. Her hand rested on her belly. “Mama Julie!” Laura ran to her and clung to her. They both cried while Margaret stood back and watched. “Oh Mama…I’m sorry…I’m sorry I was so bad!”
 
“Sh…” Julie smoothed Laura’s hair. “Hush now. It’s all over. It’s in the past.”
 
“Oh, but I was awful! I was just awful!” Laura cried some more.
 
“There there, now child…” Julie took Laura’s face in her hands. “I told you it’s all over. It’s water under the bridge, so to speak. I knew you were hurting.” They hugged again. “You taking good care of Papa Abe for me?”
 
“Yes ma’am. I wanted to stay and help today, but Luke and Margaret wanted me to go to church.” Laura had tears streaming down her cheeks. “I want to stay and take care of you. Oh, but I want to take care of Papa too!”
 
“You take care of your Papa. I want our family back together by Christmas.”
 
Margaret smiled as she watched the reunion from the door. Then quietly, she slipped out to help the family get dinner ready.
 
***
 
“Dear Lord…Thank you for bringing us together on this day. Thank you for allowing Margaret and Laura to come to church today. Now, Lord…as we partake of this wonderful food our women have prepared for us, may we fellowship with each other. And Lord, be with Abe. Help him in his healing so that our family can once again be complete. In your Son’s name…Amen.”
 
Peter motioned for the women to fix the children’s plates. He and Jeremiah had prepared the table so that all the adults could sit around it. When deciding on where to seat everyone, Margaret had stated she had a small announcement to make. Margaret sat beside her mother, who sat beside her mother. Beth and Johnny, still home for the Thanksgiving Holiday, sat beside their grandmother. Scott and Amanda sat next. Tiffany and Peter, Em and Jeremiah, Emily and Jason, and Julie sat at the table also. All the children were given a lower table, where Peter strictly ordered they behave themselves.
 
After all the plates were filled, Peter cleared his throat. “I’m sure, Margaret, that we are all anxious to hear how Abe’s doing.”
 
Margaret swallowed the food in her mouth and nodded. “I’m sure.” She smiled. “Well, I’m happy to announce that Abe is beginning to get around better and better. He’s improving more and more each day.”
 
Julie couldn’t keep a tear from falling down her cheek. “Oh, I miss him so! Jason won’t allow me to go visit him.”
 
“No.” Jason shook a finger at her. “And don’t you start that again. I’m afraid that baby is having trouble obeying my orders to stay put. We want him…or her…to stay put as long as he can.”
 
“Well…” Margaret sat up straight in her chair. “Jason…do you suppose that maybe she could come Thursday?”
 
Jason sat down his coffee cup and raised an eyebrow at her. “Thursday? What’s so special about Thursday?”
 
“Well…” Margaret moved her eyes from Jason and focused on her brother.
 
Scott cleared his throat. “My dear sister has it in her head that we need Thanksgiving.”
 
“Thanks…” Tiffany threw her hands to her mouth. “Oh Good Heavens! I didn’t even think about…”
 
“We did.” Peter nodded. “But you’ve been working so hard lately that we didn’t figure…”
 
Tiffany blushed. “I know I’ve been impossible to live with, Peter. I’m sorry.”
 
Peter reached out and touched her hand. Margaret didn’t miss the tension they shared between them. “I’m just glad we were able to get someone else to watch the office in town today so we could share the afternoon with our family.”
 
“Well…” Margaret cleared her throat. “That’s one reason I insisted on going to church today. I wanted to talk with all of you.”
 
“I just don’t see how it can happen…” Tiffany stood to go for the coffee pot. “I mean, we are pretty busy. We’re having to check the winter wheat and do a lot of the chores around the farm while our men are minding the town. Plus Julie’s not doing well.” Tiffany refilled the men’s cups. “It’s just not a good time.”
 
“Oh, but it IS a good time!” Margaret protested. “Well, it must happen! It simply MUST!”
 
“Honey, maybe…” Tiffany stood and hurried to the kitchen.
 
“We just can’t, Peter! There’s too much going…”
 
“I think you should,” Amanda declared. “Scott’s been over here almost every day checking on things and he sees how hard you are working. I think this is something that simply MUST be done!”
 
Jason cleared his throat. “I think Julie should go too. The whole family can be together. I think it’s important…especially for Julie and Abe.”
 
Tiffany turned from the stove and looked at her family. They were all looking at her. “Excuse me,” she said before hurrying from the room.
 
Margaret didn’t hesitate to hurry after her. She went into the bedroom and closed the door. “Okay…What’s the problem?”
 
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
 
“I…heard things are strained between you and Peter.”
 
“Yes.” Tiffany’s eyes filled with tears. “And I’m ashamed. I shouldn’t allow them to get…” Tiffany hurried across the room. “Oh, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just not cut out to be a farmer’s wife.”
 
“Tiffany…I remember when you and Peter married. You didn’t marry for love, as I recall.”
 
“Oh, but I DO love him! I love him so much!”
 
“I know.” Margaret smiled. “But you don’t…have the…courtship and marital bliss to look back on. You fell in love after you married.” Margaret came to stand behind Tiffany. “We love you both, and we couldn’t imagine anyone else married to Peter…But things are hard. We understand this.” Tiffany wiped a hand under her eye to rush away the tears. “That’s why I think we need this Thanksgiving…So we can get back to the basics…We can forget all about the nonsense that’s seemed to come into our lives…and we can become a family again…like the McCain’s and Gibbs’ were raised to be.”
 
Tiffany turned and smiled at Margaret. “As a matter of fact…” Margaret tapped the edge of her nose. “I think I’ll talk to Ann and see if between us, we can take the children Wednesday. That will give you and Peter some time alone.”
 
“Oh Margaret…I couldn’t…”
 
“Those children are as much our responsibility as they are yours…well…most of them. Jeremiah can work Wednesday, then you can surely find someone to work Thursday. That way…you can have that time all to yourselves…with NO children.”
 
Tiffany’s smile widened. “I honestly don’t know how Julie and Abe do it.”
 
Margaret laughed. “You sound like Luke!” The two hugged. “Now, I think you should make your dumplings…AFTER you and Peter…talk…on Wednesday.”
 
Tiffany laughed. “I would LOVE to make my dumplings! I’ll bring the chicken as well!”
 
“Oh no…”
 
Tiffany shook her head. “You’re hosting, so there’s no arguing!”
 
“Very well…” They opened the door and rejoined the group. Peter and Jeremiah soon left for town. Scott and Johnny saw to the evening chores while the women discussed among themselves just who would bring what on Thursday.
 
***
 
Abe wasn’t able to make much progress that afternoon. He had made it to standing for several minutes before having to sit, but anytime he tried to lift a foot he fell. Each time, Abe would curse and cry a bit. It was an emotional turmoil that left him feeling helpless. Lucas forced himself to be patient. It was nearing four o’clock. Abe insisted that he would not stop until he figured it out.
 
Already haven fallen twice in the last five minutes, Lucas helped Abe to his feet. Abe pressed hard on the bar and looked down at his feet. “There’s got to be something…” Abe grumbled as he stared down at the ground. “Something…”
 
“Hi there!” Hal hurried across the road. Abe lifted his head up and nodded at Hal. “I couldn’t help but to watch and I wanted to offer some help.”
 
“That’s just it!” Abe declared. “I don’t WANT help! I have to figure this out on my own!”
 
“Abe!”
 
“It’s okay, Luke…I know he’s frustrated.” Hal shook his head. “I have an idea. Maybe if you hold onto us…You can do it.”
 
“You mean like a child!” Abe shouted in anger.
 
“Abe…Jason said you’d have to learn to do some things all over again. Just let us help you.”
 
“I’d rather not!”
 
“You want to keep falling flat on your face?” Lucas grabbed Abe by the arm. “Is that what you want? What if Charlie or one of the triplets told you that they didn’t want help? What would you have done?”
 
“But I’m not a child!”
 
“NO! You’re my big brother and it’s KILLING me to see you this way! I want you better as much as anyone else!”
 
Abe slowly lowered himself back to the chair and put his face in his hands. “I think I’m through. Take me back inside.”
 
“Abe…”
 
“I said take me back inside!” Abe demanded.
 
Lucas folded his arms. “I said no. You want to give up, you’re going to do it all by yourself.” Lucas turned away. “I’ve got chores to do.”
 
“You can’t leave me out here by myself!” Abe shouted. “Help me!”
 
“You don’t want help…Remember?” Lucas turned and walked toward the barn, leaving Abe alone to watch after him.
 
He was still sitting there when Margaret came into the yard a half hour later. Laura jumped from the wagon and hurried over to him. “Papa Abe! What are you doing?”
 
“Laura…push me inside.”
 
Laura started to do as she was told. Lucas stepped from the barn at that moment. “No, Laura. He can either push himself into the house…or he can allow Hal and I to help him take a step.”
 
“Luke!”
 
“Stay out of this, Margaret.” Lucas ordered as Abe glared at him.
 
“Take Laura inside,” Abe grumbled.
 
“No, Papa!”
 
Margaret rested her hands on Laura’s shoulders. “Let’s go, honey.” Margaret firmly turned her away from the group and led her into the house.
 
“Well?”
 
“How DARE you treat me like a child in front of them!”
 
“How dare you ACT like a child!” Lucas yelled back at him.
 
“It’s you that…”
 
“NO!” Lucas placed his hands on the arms of the wheelchair and leaned in until his nose was almost touching Abe’s. “YOU want to be a man again. Well…sometimes you have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.”
 
“You didn’t even WANT me to walk yesterday!”
 
Lucas straightened up. “Well…that’s true but…Margaret showed me a few things last night.”
 
“I see.” Abe turned and looked toward the house. “Alright. If you want to see me fall on my face again…”
 
Lucas nodded. “I’ll go get Hal.” He paused. Turning back, he said…”Oh, and you might just work up a little confidence while I’m gone.”
 
Lucas was back in a few minutes with Hal. Abe grasped the bars and stood up painfully. Each man grasped his arm and positioned himself behind him. “Alright now…pick up your foot.”
 
Abe groaned as another pain shot through him. He slowly lifted his foot from the ground and cried out in pain. Leaning in the grip each man had on him, Abe forced his foot forward. “There!” Abe and Hal both rejoiced when his foot was firmly on the ground. “You did it, Abe!”
 
“A baby step..” Abe gasped as they lowered him back into the chair. “My daughter can do better than that!”
 
Lucas put his hands on his hips and opened his mouth to chastise him again, but Hal stopped him. “He’s exhausted, Luke…I think he needs to go to bed and sleep. He’ll feel better in the morning.”
 
“Right.” Lucas nodded. He took Abe inside and helped him undress and get in bed. Abe fell asleep almost immediately. Lucas sat in the chair and watched him sleep. It was hard seeing Abe this way.
 
The door opened and Margaret stepped in. “Luke…Supper’s ready.”
 
Lucas stood and walked out. Laura questioned on Abe’s missing supper. “He’s tired, Rosebud. He’s been working hard all day.”
 
After supper, Lucas told Laura to work some on her studies. Margaret would need her help that week. Lucas went out onto the porch to smoke. He sat there for a long time. Margaret watched him look out into the darkness. After sending Laura to bed, Margaret joined him on the porch.
 
“It’s cold.” Margaret said as she tightened the coat around her.
 
“Looks like it could snow,” Lucas mumbled.
 
“How are you?”
 
“I hate seeing Abe like this.”
 
“Luke…It’s okay to push him…But don’t push too hard.”
 
Lucas looked up at Margaret. “You were the one who told me to push him.”
 
“I know. It’s hard for a man like Abe though.”
 
Silence settled around them. Lucas draped an arm around Margaret’s shoulders and she laid her head on his. “Luke?”
 
“Hm?”
 
“Scott’s right. Your family is really hurting. I think Thursday will be good…for all of us.”
 
Lucas smiled. “I think you’re right, honey.”
 
“I sort of feel guilty.”
 
“Guilty?  About what?”
 
“Last night.”
 
“I thought last night was wonderful.” Lucas lifted her face and kissed her.
 
“It was. But..Why should we be so happy and in love when the others seem to be…”
 
“They’ll be okay. We’re McCain’s, aren’t we?”
 
“That we are.” Margaret smiled. “And if I have my way….we’ll be one happy family after Thursday.” Margaret cuddled close to Lucas. “Luke?”
 
“Yes honey?”
 
“We’ll have company here Wednesday. I’ll need your help in entertaining them.”
 
“Oh?” Lucas lifted from her and looked into her eyes. “What have you done, Margaret.”
 
“I decided it was time Peter and Tiffany re-discovered their love.”
 
“Yes?”
 
“Well…that would be a lot easier for them to do without children.”
 
“Go on.”
 
Margaret smiled into his eyes. “So Wednesday, we’ll have Abe’s children as well as Tiffany and Peter’s.
 
Lucas groaned and put a hand to his face.
 
***
 
Monday morning, Abe woke and sat himself up on the side of the bed. Laura came in and saw him doing it and hurried to his side. Abe declared he’d have breakfast at the table, then work on walking some more. He even apologized for his attitude the night before, blaming it on pushing himself too hard and expecting too much too soon.
 
Laura declared she wanted to be with Abe and help, but Abe firmly assured her she would not be needed, and Margaret would need her around the house. Laura started to argue, but stopped when she heard not one, but TWO throats clear. She yes sirred her brothers, then went to Margaret. Margaret announced that since they would have a house full of guests on Thursday, she wanted her house spotless. They would clean it from top to bottom!
 
Laura worried about Abe. Margaret would catch her staring out the window instead of working. She didn’t push the girl too much, but impressed on her that it was important to stay on task. After all, Abe wouldn’t want her standing around worrying when there was work to be done. Laura sighed and turned back to her task.
 
Lucas and Abe returned at lunch time. Margaret saw the pain in Abe’s eyes, but she said nothing. They blessed the food then ate quietly. Laura asked him how things had gone at one point. “Things are progressing,” Lucas answered. Laura questioned what exactly that meant, and Abe told her that’s all she needed to know for the time being.
 
The remainder of the day was spent cleaning. After supper, Laura sat to do some schoolwork at Margaret’s suggestion. She wanted Laura to do some studying tomorrow, but mid-morning, they would be taking a trip into town to meet the other ladies. Lucas lifted an eyebrow at her announcement. “I suppose I should just hand you my pocketbook right now, huh?” Margaret flashed him an annoyed expression.
 
“I won’t be asking you for much, Luke,” Margaret declared. “And I’ll need the wagon hitched so Laura and I can ride into town.”
 
 Lucas leaned toward her from the chair he was sitting in and nuzzled her neck. Then he slowly took the sewing from her hands and stood her up. “Well, since Abe and Laura are in bed, how about giving me a little attention?” Lucas pulled her down on his lap and wrapped his arms around her.
 
Margaret rolled her eyes, but soon gave in to his pleadings and kissed him. They soon went to bed.
 
***
 
When Margaret woke up Tuesday morning, she groaned at the sight of snow falling. Margaret pulled her robe and house socks on then hurried to the window and stared. A soft blanket of snow spread across the valley. She knew there was no WAY Lucas would let her ride into town in such weather. Margaret pressed fingers to her lips and started pacing, trying to figure out just what to do. The bedroom door opened and Lucas walked in. Margaret turned and smiled at him, not wanting him to see the disappointment in her face.
 
“I should get breakfast started. I’ve another busy day.” Lucas stopped her as she tried to brush past him. He put a finger under her chin and lifted her head. Then he smiled. She saw it in his eyes. He was already making plans to see that her planning went on, regardless of the weather. Margaret wasn’t sure what they were, but found herself smiling back at the silent announcement held in his eyes. “I love you.”
 
“I know you do.” Lucas wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. “And it’s my love for you that makes me yearn to do whatever it takes to make you happy.” Lucas tapped the tip of her nose. “So don’t you worry, my love.” After one final kiss, he released her to go start breakfast.
 
Laura, too, worried what the snow meant for their shopping trip. Lucas said nothing, but continued eating in silence. When Laura tried to press for an answer, Abe ordered her to eat her breakfast. Things would work out for them in the end.
 
After breakfast, Margaret was washing dishes while Laura was sent to the barn to feed the animals. Lucas leaned on the counter and smiled. “How about if I come along? Would I be imposing?”
 
Margaret turned and looked toward Abe. Abe shook his head. “I insist. I’m a big boy and can take care of myself, I assure you.”
 
Margaret smiled as she wiped another dish. “I’d love to have you along, Luke. But don’t get yourself into any trouble!”
 
Lucas chuckled. “I’ll stay out of your way! I’ll join the others at the saloon.” Margaret raised an eyebrow at Lucas. “Or…at the marshal’s office.” Margaret lifted her other eyebrow. “…or anywhere else the male members of our family may be.”
 
“You used to be right beside me carrying my packages…” Margaret playfully pointed out.
 
“Oh.” Lucas stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “That’s before we were married when I was trying to stay in your good graces. You’re stuck with me now.” He pressed his lips to her cheek. “But if you’ll leave the packages, I’ll carry them for you.”
 
Margaret giggled as he nuzzled her cheek. Then, they heard a throat clearing. They had forgotten Abe was in the room. Quickly, Lucas straightened and turned to look at his brother. “And what are you going to do while I’m gone?”
 
Abe smiled. “Don’t you worry, big brother. I’ll find something to do.”
 
Lucas called for Laura to come finish drying the dishes while he and Margaret went into the bedroom to get changed.
 
***
 
The fact that it was snowing didn’t seem to keep the citizens of Enid from carrying out their chores. Several horses were tied to various hitching posts throughout the town. Men walked up and down the streets, shoveling snow so more could pile up in its place. The snow was still coming down hard, and it was showing no signs of stopping. “I hope it doesn’t turn into a blizzard,” Margaret mumbled as Lucas helped her down from the wagon.
 
“No, I don’t think so.”
 
Lucas led Margaret into the store. Her mother and Amanda, as well as Tiffany, were already there doing some shopping of their own. Margaret hugged Tiffany and assured her that everything was fine for tomorrow. Ann had plenty of bedrooms and would put the children up there for the night. She and Margaret would see that the children were well entertained.
 
“I’m roasting a chicken for Peter and me tomorrow,” Tiffany said. “I asked him what he wanted for our honeymoon dinner, and that’s what he suggested. Margaret…” Tiffany grasped her hands. “Things are already improving. Peter and I talked last night. I mean…we REALLY talked! Jeremiah’s taking extra shifts this week. I feel bad for Em, but he said his wife knows it’s only temporary and doesn’t mind a bit.” Tiffany blushed. “Oh, I wish I was more like her.”
 
“We are all different,” Margaret smiled. “I’m glad you two talked.”
 
“A lot of misunderstandings is all it was. I was afraid that he was…” Tiffany looked around to make sure no one could overhear what she had to say. “…getting tired of me.”
 
“And I’m guessing his thinking was along the same lines?” Tiffany nodded. “You two love each other. That’s for sure.”
 
“He told me so last night. Oh, I cannot wait until tomorrow! Margaret…I know you insisted but…are you sure?” Margaret nodded. Tiffany grasped her hand. “Thank you.”
 
Margaret turned to see Peter and Lucas standing in the doorway. “We’ll be back in an hour. You ladies hurry and be ready to go.”
 
“Oh Luke, I’ll need at least two! I…” Margaret stopped when she saw him raise his eyebrows. “Yes dear.”
 
“And don’t you go down and visit Ike either!” Tiffany ordered as she shook a finger at her husband.
 
“Oh now honey…” Lucas nudged Peter and shook his head. “Alright. We’ll go visit that no-good brother of ours who claims he’s busy protecting our town.”
 
Lucas and Peter walked out onto the street. Peter looked toward the saloon. “I don’t see how one beer would hurt anything. After all, before we were married…”
 
“Well, you said ‘I do’ so there’s nothing you can do about that now. Peter, it’s not worth it.” Lucas motioned for them to go across the street. Lucas shifted his rifle in his other hand as he stepped inside. Jeremiah was walking from the back where a drunk was cussing at him. “It’s a little early in the day.”
 
“He’s still plastered from last night,” Jeremiah declared. “I arrested him after he shot some cowboy outside the saloon.” Jeremiah ran a hand through his hair. “I’m telling you, Luke…It’s getting bad. I’m no marshal and don’t have the stomach for it. I hope that sheriff Oklahoma City’s sending us gets here soon!”
 
“Any word?”
 
Jeremiah shrugged. “They told us two weeks two weeks ago.”
 
“I’m sure he’s on his way then.” Lucas poured himself a cup of coffee. “This uh…Tom King…I’ve heard tell he really cleaned up in Oklahoma City.”
 
“That he did. And he brings in a lot of wanted men. He should be rich with all the bounty he’s collected.”
 
“Marshals aren’t supposed to keep the money for themselves.”
 
Jeremiah shrugged. “No. They aren’t supposed to.”
 
Lucas wrinkled his brow. “Just what do you know about this…King fellow?”
 
“I don’t know,” Peter shrugged. “I wasn’t able to attend the council meeting.” Peter turned and looked at Jeremiah.
 
“According to the council, he’s about my age,” Jeremiah said as he folded his arms. “He came from Missouri, I believe. Didn’t fight in the war as I recall…He was too busy learning the ropes of marshaling. The Mayer of OC sent a letter and said he was coming highly recommended and would be here only until we were able to find a new marshal.”
 
Lucas rubbed a finger under his nose. It was a habit he had developed as a child. Peter and Jeremiah both recognized it as being deep in thought…mulling over the facts and trying to reach a conclusion. “Something troubling you, Luke?”
 
Lucas shook his head. “Nothing really. It’s just a…feeling.”
 
“Of what?”
 
Lucas waved a hand through the air. “Nothing.” Then he sat down at the table.  “Come on, Peter…Play me a game of checkers.”
 
The brothers played while Jeremiah went to walk the streets. He returned with two more prisoners. Lucas and Peter helped him book them and get them in the cell. They had been caught planning on robbing the bank. While Peter watched, Lucas and Jeremiah played a game. But they never got finished. The brothers got involved in telling jokes and lost all track of time.
 
The bell above the door sounded. Three brothers looked up to see Margaret and Tiffany standing in the doorway. “Well…this is a fine thing!” Margaret declared.
 
“They told us we must be ready in an hour.”
 
“So we rush away and get everything we need…”
 
“And we fretted that it would take more than an hour anyways…”
 
“Yes.” Margaret nodded her head as she folded her arms and looked at her husband. “We even had to carry our own packages to the wagon! They were taking up space on the counter.”
 
“…With a promise that our late husbands would be back to pay as soon as we tracked them down.”
 
Lucas turned and looked at Peter. “Did you hear what she called us?”
 
“Late?” Peter asked. Lucas nodded. “Yeah. I heard it. You reckon she meant it.”
 
Both brothers looked at each other. Then they grinned. “Nah!”
 
“I don’t suppose any of you McCain brothers have noticed that it’s snowing heavier.” Margaret pointed toward the window.
 
“I did when I came back,” Jeremiah answered. “I was so busy booking my two prisoners that I didn’t even think about it.”
 
“We should get home,” Margaret declared as Laura came into the room. “We shouldn’t leave Abe for too long.”
 
“Yes dear.”
 
Lucas put his hat on and grabbed his rifle. He had already buttoned his coat while being chastised. As he started out the door, Laura asked, “Did she yell at ya?”
 
“Yep,” Lucas answered.
 
“Is she gonna punish you?”
 
“Laura…I’m a grown man! Grown men don’t…”
 
“Come along, Luke!”
 
Lucas shot Laura a look when she started to giggle. “Yes dear.”
 
***
 
When Margaret woke up on Wednesday morning, the snowfall had ended. She smiled as she opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. A white blanket of snow lay across the land. The rooftops of the outbuildings were covered in a thick blanket, and every branch had thin white lines of snow. Icicles hung from low branches. A few cardinals walked in the snow, squawking that they couldn’t find any food. Margaret giggled and shivered as she pulled the coat tighter around her.
 
The barn door opened and Lucas stepped out. He waved to her as he started back toward the house. His feet dipped deeply in the snow with each firm step he took. He spoke when he was half-way across the yard. “There’s over a foot in a half of snow!” Lucas declared.
 
“Can I measure it, Luke? Oh, can I?” Laura begged as she stepped out onto the porch. Lucas chuckled and nodded his head. “I can use a broom handle! Papa Abe showed me how to measure with a broom handle.”
 
Lucas stepped up onto the porch and kissed Margaret good morning. Then he stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her as they watched Laura excitedly hurry back with the broom. She dipped it down and marked the edge that touched the snow with her finger. They watched as she started counting the inches one-by-one. She passed twelve and kept counting. “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty…Twenty-one…Luke, there’s almost twenty-two inches!”
 
“Golly!” Lucas declared. “Haven’t seen this much snow in a long time!” Lucas bent down in front of Laura. “I don’t reckon you’ve ever seen this much snow.”
 
“We had a blizzard couple years ago and we had three foot snowdrifts!” Laura announced proudly. “But I haven’t seen this much with just plain snowing.”
 
“Hello!” Lucas, Margaret, and Laura all looked up to watch Hal make his way slowly across the yard. He had on snow shoes and was slowly making his way over.
 
“Well now…” Lucas crossed his arms and smiled. “That’s what I call dressed in style!”
 
Margaret and Laura giggled.
 
Abe had managed to get himself up that morning, an accomplishment they were all proud of. He wheeled out onto the porch and watched Hal make his way across. “Ann told me to come right over and invite you all for breakfast.”
 
“That sounds wonderful!” Margaret declared. “I’m afraid, though, that I don’t have snowshoes to strap on.”
 
Hal chuckled. “I’m about to go hitch the sleigh.”
 
“That’s right!” Lucas snapped his fingers. “You DO have a sleigh! That may help me solve a dilemma I’ve been thinking on.”
 
“After breakfast, Luke, Ann’s ordered that we ride out and get those kids. I’ve plenty of furs and blankets to keep them quite comfortable. Ann was cleaning all day yesterday, getting ready for those children. She’s so excited…her being  barren like she is…some days are really hard. This will ease her worries for a few days.”
 
“Well, it looks like we should go get dressed properly, Laura Rose!” Margaret declared with a smile. “Sounds like we have some place to go after all!”
 
“Oh boy! I love Ann’s house! It’s so…” Laura stopped when she realized what she was saying. “Oh, I’m sorry, Margaret.”
 
Margaret laughed.  “I don’t mind at all, Laura. You are right. Ann DOES have a nice house. I don’t mind living in a simple house though, and neither should you.” Margaret smiled. “I knew what I was giving up long before I married your brother, and it made no difference to me!”
 
Hal delivered the family across the street. Abe grumbled a bit that they had to carry him to the sleigh, but his spirits lifted when he saw the excitement in Laura’s eyes of riding in a sleigh. Laura declared that she wanted to ride with Lucas and Hal to get the children. Lucas suggested that she’d be better off there. Margaret, after all, had a lot to do to get ready for the following day. Laura started to protest. “Laura Rose…” She heard Abe’s familiar warning and decided that he could probably give her a good spanking, even from that chair he was sitting in.
 
Breakfast was divine. At least that’s the word Margaret used in her journal later. Ann had gone all out and made all the fixings. She had it all ready and on the table by the time the McCain’s had arrived. Lucas worried about his cattle, and Hal promptly left to order his foreman to feed the McCain cattle while they were out. After breakfast, Margaret kissed Lucas good-bye as he and Hal went to fetch their overnight guests.
 
As Margaret helped Ann clean up the kitchen, Ann said, “You are looking forward to tomorrow.”
 
“Oh yes!” Margaret answered. “I can hardly wait to have the whole family together again.” She turned toward the door as if she could see Abe and Laura in the other room while Abe helped Laura with her studies. “I can’t wait for Abe to see the children.”
 
“Julie won’t be coming today?”
 
“No.” Margaret smiled. “Oh Julie fussed to come, but Jason feared she wouldn’t be able to rest like she should. She would want to jump right in and help. It’s best she stays home until tomorrow.”
 
“You think Abe will go home with them?”
 
“I wish he could.” Margaret chewed on her lip. “Oh, it would be so hard on the children to leave him. They haven’t seen their father in nearly a month! I just don’t know…With the baby being so close and all…I just don’t know.”
 
***
 
It was two hours later when they heard the sleigh pulling up outside the house. The door opened and Charlie hurried inside. “Papa! Papa!” Abe leaned over with his arms out wide. Charlie leaped on his father’s lap and threw his arms around him. “Oh Papa!” Charlie covered his face with kisses and cried.
 
“Charlie, you mustn’t…” Laura started, suddenly concerned that he’d hurt Abe. But her voice was drowned out when the triplets and Rachel all tried to climb up onto their father’s lap.
 
Abe simply laughed and picked up each of his children, giving them a great big hug and kiss. He laughed joyously, happy to have them all with him again. “Have you been taking good care of your Ma?” he asked Charlie. His voice shook with emotion and tears of joy streamed down his face. His arm remained firmly around his children.
 
“Mama has ta rest!” Adam informed his father. “We mustn’t bother her ‘cept when she’s up. Aunt Tiffany said we’re a bunch a’ tr…tr…”
 
“Trouble, dummy!” Charlie answered.
 
“Hey now…Don’t call your brother dummy!” Abe ordered sternly. The boys slid from his lap and stood looking at each other.
 
“He’s trouble, Papa!” Charlie pointed a thumb at Adam. “He got a whippin’ yesterday ‘cause he…”
 
“Hey! You got a whippin yersterweek!”
 
“That wasn’t my fault!” Charlie declared as he folded his arms.
 
“Was too!”
 
“Alright now, you boys stop this!” Abe took control of the situation. “I haven’t seen you in a month, so try to pretend like you missed me a little, and that you still love each other.”
 
“Oh, but we DID miss you, Papa!” David cried as he climbed up on his father’s lap. “I cried and cried thet Mama would let ya come home!”
 
“Your Mama wanted me to come home, David. The doctor wants to make sure I’m all better because he knows what uh…’trouble’…you are!”
 
“Me tra-ble?” Rachel asked as she stood staring up at her father.
 
“Well now…You, my little princess, are not one bit of trouble!”
 
“Oh, but she is!” Charlie nodded his head as he gave his father a very serious look. “She’s the worst kind of trouble!”
 
“Oh?” Abe lifted an eyebrow and studied his son. “And what, my dear boy, is the worst kind of trouble?”
 
“She stinks her britches and throws her food!”
 
Abe roared with laughter. His laughter tickled his throat and made him break out into a fit of coughing. Margaret and Ann hurried forward and corralled the children. Abe started rubbing his chest and quickly waved for them to take the children away so they couldn’t see the pain on his face. “I think that’s enough excitement for now,” Margaret said. “I think you all should go on and play in the back room. Ann’s got it all ready for you.”
 
“I wanta play in the snow!” Ruthie suddenly declared as she followed behind her cousins.
 
“Yes. I’m sure you do, but the snow’s too deep for little girls to play in, dear.”
 
***
 
The day flew by. Margaret enjoyed every second of entertaining the children. Abe’s spell reminded the adults of just how far he still had to go. Lucas and Hal helped Abe to a guestroom where he could rest. Abe cursed in frustration, upset that he was unable to spend time with his children, but Lucas told him it would all come to pass in time. He reminded Abe of the surprise he had waiting for his family tomorrow. Abe only went to sleep after Lucas promised they could work on his walking that afternoon.
 
The children laughed, chasing each other around the house. Margaret tried to stop them, but Ann told her to let them run. “I’m hoping, Margaret, that my house will someday be filled with laughter.” Margaret saw her press a hand to her belly. She saw the longing in Ann’s eyes. Already, Ann had lost two babies, and she knew Hal worried what losing a third would do.
 
Lucas worked with Abe in private upstairs. The children longed to spend time with their father. They were happy when Abe finally came into the living room. Lucas helped Abe sit on the couch. “We’ll go home after supper,” Lucas promised. “Until then…just enjoy the children.”
 
Lucas stood in the doorway and watched as the children again hurried toward their father. Little Ruthie even climbed up and tugged on his beard, asking him where he’d been in a while. Abe chuckled and promised he’d tell them the whole story. “Me too?” Ruthie asked as the boys and Rachel gathered around their father for the story that was sure to make them all giggle.
 
“You too, Little Ruthie!” Abe declared as he lifted her onto his knee. Margaret stepped into the doorway and smiled up at Lucas as Baby Willie slept soundly in her arms. Lucas smiled down at her and motioned for her to step out so he could close the door.
 
“Oh Luke…they are all so happy! Have you noticed the pain’s not so bad today?”
 
“I did.” Lucas nodded. He kissed her forehead, smiled down at the baby in her arms, then went to help Hal with the chores in the barn.
 
Ann fixed her famous goose for supper that evening. Margaret told her she was more than welcome to come to the McCain-Gibbs Thanksgiving the following day, but Ann waved her off, declaring that thanksgiving was for the family, and that’s the way it should be. Margaret stayed and helped Ann with the dishes. She turned and looked at Lucas and Abe sitting at the table. Charlie sat beside his Pa, clinging to him as if he would leave to never return.
 
Lucas paused in drinking his coffee and moved his eyes sideways toward Abe. “Uh…Hal said there’s plenty of room here for Abe to stay as well.”
 
“Me too?” Laura asked suddenly.
 
Lucas looked at Abe who nodded his head. “I’ll send her over in the morning…or have Hal drive her over I should say. He’ll be going for some of the family in the morning as well.”
 
Margaret nodded as she handed Ann the towel. She was so happy to see Abe and his children all back together again. She knew that after they were settled in bed that night, another talk with Lucas would be in order.
 
***
Lucas rolled on his side and pulled Margaret against him. After pressing a kiss to her hair, he spoke softly. “Abe sure looked happy tonight.”
 
“I know.”  Margaret turned to look up into her husband’s face. “Oh Luke…Did you see those children? They are so happy! Their faces shone as they just stared at their father tonight. Even Little Rachel couldn’t bear the thought of being away from her father.”
 
“The pain seemed to lessen for Abe as well.”
 
Lucas and Margaret grew quiet. Margaret tried to find a way to voice her concern. “What’s it going to do to them when they are separated tomorrow?”
 
Silence answered her. Margaret studied Lucas’ eyes and saw the same question in his eyes. “We can’t, Luke.” Margaret gasped and leaned her head against his chest. “Oh…we just can’t!”
 
“Well…” Lucas hugged her close to him and closed his eyes. “Let’s see how tomorrow goes.”
 
***
 
Margaret couldn’t sleep. She closed her eyes and laid still in Lucas’ arms, listening to his steady breathing. But the silence turned her brain on, and she started running through everything she had to do tomorrow. Foods would need to be prepared. She and Ann had worked on cookies and pies that day, but she still had several dishes she wanted to cook herself, even though she knew Lucas would disapprove of her doing so much. And she wanted to give her house another good cleaning in the morning. Everyone would be there around one, so she had to have everything perfect by then!
 
Margaret forced herself to lay still. Lucas’ arms stayed firmly around her so she couldn’t move around too much without disturbing him. It was nearly three in the morning before Lucas finally turned over, releasing her from his embrace. Margaret quietly got out of the bed and slipped into her robe. Then she went out and sat down at her desk. She pulled paper out and began writing everything down that needed done. She counted the number of people that would be arriving. Oh, how she hoped her father would be there!
 
Margaret opened her drawer to put the pen back in when she saw her journal. She smiled as she ran her hand across the front of it. So many of her thoughts had already been written on the pages, and she was willing to write a few lines in it that morning.
 
December 6, 1866
 
This is our first Thanksgiving…Luke and I. Oh, I so want it to be special. We’ve been married for such a short time, yet it seems like a lifetime. I’m so very happy. But I can’t help but wonder what I will be doing for Thanksgiving in twenty years. What will Thanksgiving of 1886 be like? Will we have children? Will our home be filled with laughter? Will Luke and I find sorrow along the way?
 
It doesn’t matter..not really…not as long as we have each other. We’ve faced some hard times since we married in August, yet I wouldn’t change a thing. Each trial we face, we face together. When I sorrow, Luke sorrows along with me. As long as we have each other we’ll be okay.
 
Oh, I so want today to be special. Luke’s family has done so much for me over the years, and I just want to do something for them. I want them to know just how much I love each and every one of them. I pray everything is perfect today.
 
Margaret closed her journal and sat it back in her drawer. Then she opened her Bible. She would spend just a few moments in it this morning before she went to start her busy day.
 
***
 
Lucas was surprised to find a bountiful breakfast on the table when he got up a couple hours later. He folded his arms as he walked into the kitchen area. Bits of Margaret’s hair hung loose around her face. Flour was on her chin, and her apron was already soiled from the dough she had been working on that morning. Without saying a word, Lucas grabbed her shoulders and turned her around. Margaret looked into his eyes. Lucas stayed silent as he searched her face for the question he had, but when he didn’t find the answer there, he parted his lips and softly asked it. “What’s wrong?”
 
“Nothing’s wrong, Luke.” Lucas lifted his eyebrows and refused to release her until he got a better answer. Margaret rolled her eyes. “I just want everything to be perfect.”
 
“What time did you get up this morning?”
 
Margaret turned from him and reached for the coffee pot. “What time?”
 
“That was the question.” Margaret said nothing as she filled his cup. She turned and handed it to him. “Now, what’s the answer?”
 
“I’ve been up for awhile,” she answered as she sat down at the table.
 
“Mm hm…” Lucas sat down in the chair beside her and continued to look at her with lifted eyebrows. “Alright…I’ve been up since about 3:30.”
 
“Did you sleep at all?”
 
“No.” She heard Lucas suck in his breath. She knew a lecture was in order, but she quickly lifted a hand. “Now Luke…this is my first Thanksgiving and I’m a bit…antsy. I just want everything perfect.”
 
“You’ve been going without sleep now for a month, Margaret. You’ve taken care of my brother and Laura as if they were your own responsibility. You’ve tolerated me and my family all this time…and now this…” Lucas waved his hand around the room. “That’s why I didn’t think…”
 
Margaret lifted her napkin and spread it on her lap. “Let’s eat. I’ve things to do before our guest arrive.” She saw that Lucas had more to say, but simply bowed her head and folded her hands. Lucas continued to look at her as she remained in her prayerful stance.
 
Finally, Lucas bowed his head. “Dear Lord…Thank you for the food I have before me. And thank you, Lord, for the unselfish…yet very bull-headed woman who prepared it. Amen.”
 
Lucas saw the disapproving look on Margaret’s face. “Luke McCain…” She shook her head. “You shouldn’t say such things in prayer!”
 
“Why not? They’re the truth!”
 
Margaret held out her plate for Lucas to fill it with sausage, fried potatoes, and eggs. “I’m not any more bull-headed than you are, Luke!”
 
Lucas chuckled as he took her hand. “Maybe not, Darling, but I try to take care of you.”
 
Margaret smiled as she squeezed his hand. “And I’m just doing the same.” She leaned over and kissed him. “Now eat your breakfast.”
 
Margaret hurried Lucas along. She wanted to get the breakfast dishes cleaned and out of the way so she could get started on her other tasks. Laura arrived as she was finishing up breakfast. Lucas ordered her to do everything Margaret asked her to do. Laura announced Abe would be staying at Ann’s until later. He was spending more time with his children.
 
Things went well most of the morning. Margaret looked at the clock on the mantle and gasped at the time. She ran to the door and out onto the porch. “Luke!” she called.
 
Lucas stepped out of the barn. “What is it?”
 
“The tables, Luke! We’ll need lots of tables for the family!”
 
“We’re working on it.”
 
Margaret didn’t ask who the ‘we’ was. “Well hurry up, Luke! They’ll be coming in an hour!”
 
Margaret tried to stay calm, but her heart began racing as she studied her list and looked at the food all over her counter. Lucas brought in a long table. Hal was on the other end helping. Margaret declared that to be the serving table, and ordered Lucas to set it under the window.
 
Margaret and Laura hurriedly began setting the food on that table so Margaret could clean her kitchen. Each dish that went on the table had to be positioned perfectly. She placed the breads and desserts on the far end and told Laura to gently stack the plates and silverware up on the other end. The kitchen smelled of sweets. The McCain women would be bringing the main dishes of Chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, and smoked ham. The Gibbs women were bringing yams, pumpkin pie, and more dishes. Amanda insisted she prepare a big dish of vegetables as well.
 
Margaret shook her head as she looked at the little room they had left on the table. Lucas stopped in the doorway and saw her chewing on her lip as she looked around the small room. “Where do you want this?” Lucas grunted as he and Hal carried another table in.
 
Margaret put a hand to her mouth as she thought. “Now let’s see…” She began counting how many adults there would be. That’s how many places they would need at the table.
 
Lucas grunted again. “Margaret, this table is heavy!” He shook his head. “There’s no way you’ll fit the whole family around the table.”
 
“Oh now, there is too, Lucas McCain!” Margaret wagged a finger at him. “We’ve plenty of old crates in the barn, don’t we?”
 
Lucas sat the table down and folded his arms. “We do.”
 
“Well, some of our guests can sit on those. You and I for sure! I’m sure Laura won’t mind sitting on one.” Margaret turned and looked at her young sister-in-law. “Will you, Laura Rose?”
 
If the truth were know, Laura would mind it very much! But with the tone in Margaret’s voice, she knew there was only one safe answer. Margaret was in no mood for her backtalk and would not hesitate to give her mouth a good washing. She knew this because Julie and Abe never hesitated either! “Oh, no ma’am!” Laura answered.
 
Lucas came to stand behind his sister. He chuckled as he put his hands on Laura’s shoulders. “Well, I think I would mind very much!” Margaret narrowed her eyes at her husband. “But I don’t suppose it’ll hurt me any.” He and Laura chuckled as Margaret told him where to put the table.
 
Hal left to help deliver the families to the ranch while Margaret and Laura worked profusely at positioning the tables and chairs. There will need to be eighteen seats around the table. When Margaret mentioned this, Laura gave her a curious look, because she had been figuring all morning and could only come up with seventeen, if Uncle Sam arrived as Margaret was hoping. “Who’s the eighteenth?”
 
“You, of course.” Margaret giggled at Laura’s surprised expression. “Well, don’t you figure you’re old enough to sit with the adults now? After all, you WILL be twelve in just a few months. “
 
“Really? I really can?” Laura asked excitedly. Margaret nodded. “Who will help the kids eat?”
 
Margaret giggled. “Well, I suppose that’s what their parents are for! The eight smallest can sit at the little table Peter’s bringing just for them. They’ll behave themselves, I’m sure.”
 
Laura looked at the table. “But how are we going to get EIGHTEEN people around this table?”
 
Margaret turned toward the door when she heard Lucas’ chuckle. Lucas carried in a long bench. “I thought you’d need this.” Lucas smiled. “Well, I needed something to fill my time while you ladies were in here trying to organize everything, and besides that, I didn’t much cotton to sitting on an old crate.”
 
Margaret smiled as she stepped up to her husband. “You’re wonderful.”
 
Lucas kissed her. “I know.” Margaret raised her eyebrows and shook her head at him. “I best go get the other one.”
 
Laura went to check on the cookies Margaret had allowed her to make. Margaret went to spread sheets over the tables. After her task was done, she brought out some beautiful centerpieces she had made from pinecones, dried up fruit, and baskets.
 
She was so busy that she didn’t hear the knock on the door, nor did she hear when the door opened. “Margaret.”
 
Margaret paused in her task and looked up. She would recognize the voice anywhere, but wouldn’t let herself believe it until she saw his face. “Papa…” Margaret ran to him and threw her arms around him. “Oh Papa! I’d hoped you would come!”
 
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Sam smiled. Margaret stepped back and looked up into his face. His eyes were red and puffy, and his face looked so aged. She hated what his drinking was doing to him. Margaret shook it off. She wouldn’t think about it today! No, today would be happy, full of memories and hope. “I couldn’t miss your first Thanksgiving as a married woman…even if I wasn’t invited to the wedding.”
 
Margaret heard the accusation in his voice. She tried to explain to him before that nobody else had made it to the wedding either, but Sam was sure his “sickness” was to blame for his not being allowed to give her away. Margaret ignored his accusation today. She didn’t want to upset Luke by becoming upset herself. Instead, she shook her head and smoothed her skirt. “Luke’s out in the…” Margaret stopped as Lucas walked in with the other bench. Her heart sank a bit when she saw the look of hesitation on Lucas’s face. She could tell her father’s presence had suddenly made him uncomfortable. She could see the question in his eyes. But she simply shook her head ever-so-slightly, warning Luke to behave, then smiled. “Luke, Pa’s come for Thanksgiving dinner.”
 
Lucas nodded. “So I see.” He sat the bench down on the other side of the table without saying another word. Then he straightened up and folded his arms. He protectively came to stand in front of Margaret and looked Samuel up and down. “You dry?”
 
“Lucas!” Margaret gasped at his rudeness. She knew Lucas was still very upset over the change in her father. He’d been a different man when Lucas had left for war. Lucas wouldn’t accept any of the excuses Margaret had made for her father. Many men had fought in the war and adjusted well. Many had lost sons and gone on living as they always had.
 
Lucas ignored Margaret’s warning. He wanted to protect her from being hurt, and if sending Samuel away because he was drunk had to be done, he would do it. In the long run, he felt it would be more harmful for Margaret if he stayed. “Well?”
 
Samuel slowly reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a whisky bottle. “I have it here…just in case. I haven’t used any, Luke.”
 
Lucas snatched the bottle from his hand and turned to look at Margaret. There, he saw her need to have her father there. Lucas looked down at the bottle and sighed. Looking straight at Samuel, he stated, “I think I could use your help in the barn.”
 
Margaret knew he wanted to lay down the ground rules for Samuel’s being there. She tried to understand why Lucas was so protective. It was hard though, since her husband was trying to protect her from her father.
 
Samuel nodded his understanding. Margaret followed them to the door and watched them slowly walk to the barn. She wondered what Lucas would say to him. She hoped he wouldn’t be too hard on her father.
 
Margaret turned back around and forced herself back to her tasks. “Luke don’t like Uncle Sam much, does he?”
 
“Doesn’t,” Margaret corrected her as she smiled. “Pa was a gentle, kind soul before the war…” Margaret looked out the window. “He still is but…I suppose his…sickness sort of bothers your brother.”
 
“Papa said I can’t go near him cause he doesn’t act right.”
 
Margaret hated hearing these things about her father. She turned away from Laura. “Let’s finish getting things ready.”
 
***
 
The first of their guests began arriving around 12:30. Margaret looked out the window when she heard the first sleigh approaching. The sleigh was full of happy voices singing Jingle Bells. Margaret gasped and hurriedly put the last of the food on the table. Then she took off her apron, smoothed her skirt, checked her hair in the mirror one last time, then went to greet her guests.
 
The McCain family hurried inside. The women held armloads of goodies they had brought as their contribution to this day. Margaret took them and set them on the serving table while Lucas took their coats, gloves, and hats.
 
The Gibbs family arrived while Margaret was busy getting Lucas’ family settled. Soon, the house was filled with happy voices, hugs, and children laughing.
 
Margaret heard Julie let out a cry as Hal delivered her family from across the street. Julie hugged and kissed her children as they hurried inside to greet Abby and Andy Jr. Abe continued to sit in the sleigh. Julie started forward to greet him, but Abe held up a hand. “No. Go on inside. I’ll be there in a minute.”
 
“Abe?” Julie breathed, disappointment in her voice. She hadn’t seen him in weeks, and now it seemed he was making her wait even longer to take her into his arms.
 
Their last guests, Jason and Emily, rode into the yard in a rented sleigh. Jason helped Emily down and into the house, then he stood beside Julie. “What’s going on?”
 
Abe winked at Julie. “Just go inside, Julie.”
 
Julie turned and looked at Margaret and Tiffany who nodded and led her back inside. Lucas motioned for Jason to go on inside with the family, then firmly closed the door as he stood out on the porch. Abe’s children all stayed close to Julie. Laura clung to her Mama and waited to see what was about to happen.  “Where’s Papa?” David asked, suddenly anxious that he had been taken from his Papa again.
 
Julie wasn’t sure what was going on. She put a hand on David’s shoulder to hush him. Concern-filled eyes turned toward Margaret.
 
Then the door opened. Lucas stepped inside. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new and improved…Abraham McCain!”
 
Lucas stepped back, and everyone in the house waited anxiously. Julie waited for Abe to be wheeled in, but that wasn’t to be. Her eyes grew wide when Abe finally appeared.
 
Julie looked up into her husband’s face as he STOOD in front of her. Her hands shot to her mouth. Tears filled her eyes and threatened to run down her cheeks. “Abe…” Julie breathed in a little more than a whisper. “Abe…” She reached out a hand to take the one he extended to her. “Abe…You’re walking!”
 
Abe took two more steps forward and took Julie in her arms. Everyone in the house started shouting, rejoicing for the surprise Abe had given on their Thanksgiving day. Nothing could have warmed their hearts better. Nothing could have given them more cause to celebrate than to watch the McCain Patriarch walk! The house was filled with laughter and rejoicing, but to Abe and Julie, there was no noise. They only had eyes and ears for each other.
 
Julie buried her face in his shoulder and cried. Her body shook with sobs of pent up emotions and relief. “I love you, Julie…I love you…” Julie continued crying as Abe whispered more terms of endearment in her ear. He kissed her soundly, not caring they had the whole McCain/Gibbs family as an audience. “Oh, I missed you, my love!” Abe had tears in his eyes as well.
 
Their children all gathered around them. Laura was sobbing and ran to hug her parents as well. Abe painfully put an arm around Laura’s shoulders as he continued to kiss Julie. The children all pulled on their parents’ clothing, demanding they be part of this celebration. Everyone grew quiet as they watched the couple with pride. The reunion was sweet.
 
Julie finally parted. She pressed her hands to his cheeks and cried. “I…I can’t leave you here…You have to come home.” Abe looked down at her middle and pressed a hand against it. “Please Abe…” Julie swallowed. “Oh, I can’t bear to leave you! My heart will break if…”
 
Abe pressed a finger to her lips. “Never again, Julie. No matter what happens…we’re going to stay together. I’m walking now…I’m slow, and I can’t be the husband I was before…at least not right now, but I’m coming home. No power on earth can stop me.”
 
Julie cried again as she fell into her husband’s arms. They seemed to have forgotten everyone else in the room as they held each other. In fact, Margaret confirmed the fact as she cleared her throat. “Well…shall we get started?”
 
Julie and Abe’s kiss broke. Their faces reddened as they suddenly remembered they weren’t alone. Lucas gave Margaret a relieved look, then clapped his hands to quiet everyone who had again started laughing. The house was filled with love and hopes. Broken dreams had been renewed. The family ties that four adults had started so long ago was renewed that day. Never again would they allow tragedy to separate their united family. Ruth and Marcus McCain, as well as Jennifer and Sam Gibbs; had joined their families together a long time ago. And today, Margaret and Lucas had seen that their parents’ wishes were kept. Lucas couldn’t speak. His eyes filled with tears. He wished his parents could be here to see this.
 
Margaret reached out and gave her husband the support that Lucas’ mother had always given his father. “Your parents would be so proud…” Margaret smiled. Lucas lifted a hand to her cheek and brushed away the tears.
 
“They ARE proud,” Lucas said. “They are proud of the woman I married…the woman who helped restore our family.” Lucas kissed her. “Oh Darling, if it weren’t for you…”
 
Margaret shook her head and smiled. They had guests to contend with. Now wasn’t the time to get all sappy.   
 
Margaret and Lucas worked at organizing the time of thanks. The Gibbs family gathered on one side of the table and held hands while the McCain’s on the other side. The older of each family finished the circle. Everyone held hands. Margaret looked at her father, for the first time since he returned from the barn, and noticed that he seemed quite ill. She turned and looked up at Lucas who was clinching his jaw. She knew he had seen it too. Somewhere, her father had gotten into more whisky.
 
After the room was quiet, Abe began the time of thanks. He stepped forward with his family. “I have so much to be thankful for this year. I don’t even know where to start.”
 
“I think you’ve…” Lucas cleared his throat. “…said…enough, big brother.”
 
“No…” Abe smiled as he put an arm around Julie. “I haven’t. I should have died in all accounts. God is giving me back my life. I know it’s a long, slow process, but He’s working on it. The process is teaching me patience.” Abe looked at his wife. “Julie, I can’t chop wood yet. I can’t even walk across the room without feeling pain and getting tired, but…I’ll get there. And I’m so thankful my family never gave up on me.” Abe’s voice broke. He couldn’t go on.
 
Julie smiled. “I’ll speak for my husband. I’m thankful to all of you…” Julie put a hand on Laura’s shoulder. “…for taking care of my family during this time. I thank you for pushing us to do what’s right. I’m thankful for the sacrifices you all made, and I know there are many. And…” Tears fell down Julie’s cheeks. She shook her head, realizing her composure was gone. “Th…thank you…”
Julie and her family stepped back into the circle. Jeremiah stepped forward. “I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful my wife and I will soon be welcoming our second child. And I’m thankful my work as a Marshal will be done as soon as that new marshal gets here!”
 
“Amen!” Em declared. Everyone laughed.
 
Peter stepped forward with his family. “Same here, brother! I’m thankful for my wife and two children.” Peter turned and put his hands on Tiffany’s shoulders. “And Tiffany, my love, I want to tell you something in front of our family. Everyone knows we’ve come through another rough spot in our marriage, but I want you to know that I love you completely. There is nothing on this earth that will EVER take my love away from you. You are my world. I’d be lost without you. No matter what happens…NEVER forget that!” Tiffany smiled into his eyes. “I NEED you.”
 
“You certainly do!” Tiffany said as she hugged him. They stepped back into the circle.
 
Lucas took Margaret’s hand and stepped forward. “And I…I’m thankful that Margaret FINALLY married me! I’m thankful Abe’s on the mend and…I’m thankful that he’ll be going home so I can have my house back!” Everyone saw the teasing in his eyes.
 
“I don’t recall giving Abe permission to return home,” Jason said as he stepped forward with his wife. Jason took Emily’s hand. “I’m thankful Emily came into my life, even though we were brought together by tragedy. I’m thankful that Emily will be giving birth to our first child.”
 
“How are you feeling?” Abe asked.
 
“Nervous!” Jason said. “I may need a doctor when the time comes.”
 
“You know where I live,” Margaret declared.
 
Everyone laughed as Jason and Emily stepped back. Everyone turned and looked at Laura. “Well, you’re turn, Sis.” Lucas waved for her to step forward.
 
Laura hung her head as she stepped forward. “I’m thankful for lots of things, but you all covered those. I…” Laura looked around at her family. “I want to apologize for the way I behaved. I…” Laura swallowed hard as her eyes filled with tears. “I said I was going to be a real McCain and stay strong, but I’m crying…” Her lips shook. “I was awful to you all. I was so worried that…that I was gonna lose my Papa!” Laura looked up at Abe. “I couldn’t bear to lose you. I love you like a Papa. I couldn’t love you more if you were my own! Oh Papa…”
 
Laura ran to Abe. Abe fell to his knees and took her in his arms. They cried a bit. After their sweet embrace, Abe said…”I’m afraid I’ll need some help.”
 
Peter and Jeremiah hurried forward and helped Abe to his feet. His weakened condition kept him from standing and they quickly lowered him to a chair. Laura sat sideways on his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck, and laid her head on his shoulder.
 
The Gibbs family took their turn. Samuel waved for the others to go on. They each stepped forward and told what they were thankful for. Jennifer was thankful that Margaret had finally married. She was thankful to be reunited with her mother, and they were closer than they’d ever been before. She was thankful for the grandchild she had, and questioned if she would receive anymore grandchildren. Both Margaret and Scott shook their heads and shrugged. Then everyone looked toward Johnny. “Hey, don’t look at me!” he shouted with a disgusted look on his face.
 
Scott gave his thanks for his wife and son, and had several thanks for the McCain family, whom he’d taken under his wing the last month or so. Then it was Beth’s turn.
 
“Well…I wanted to wait until we were all together. It’s been killing me to keep this all secret. Mother, I told you they graduated me early, but I didn’t tell you that…I won’t be returning to live in Enid.” Everyone grew quiet. Jennifer’s eyes grew wide as she stared at Beth. Beth shrugged. “I’m taking a teaching job in California.”
 
“California…” Margaret breathed. “Oh Beth…” Her eyes filled with tears. It was so far away.
 
Beth laughed. “I’ve heard about the West. It’s a big, wide-open country and I’m going to go! It’s exciting and I’ve a good friend settling out there as well.” Beth smiled. “I’m leaving the day after Christmas.”
 
No one could say a word. Everyone was in shock. Johnny stepped up to stand beside Beth. “And I…I’ll be going out West as well. I promised Beth I’d escort her to California, but then I’m going to Texas. There’s a Wild West show starting down there, and I’ve been asked to be a part of it.” Johnny laughed. “Hey, it sounds like fun!”
 
The room was very quiet. The thanks this year was bitter sweet. Abe was getting better, yet they were losing two members of their family. Johnny had left, but he hadn’t gone so far away. Beth…everyone knew the west swallowed people up and never brought them back. Margaret’s eyes filled with tears. Lucas took her in his arms and held her.
 
“I hoped you would be pleased,” Beth said.
 
“Is this what you really want?” Jennifer asked. “Do you know what the West is like?”
 
“Yes Mama. I’ve been told.” Beth shook her head. “I don’t care about that. I want to teach children who have no teacher. It’s a challenge out there, Mama. There are no teachers for these children. They…they need me.”
 
Scott cleared his throat. “I think we should talk more on this later.”
 
“Well now...I for one am very happy for you, Daughter!” Samuel burst out. His words slurred a bit and everyone turned to stare at him. Samuel ignored them and hurried forward. He shook Johnny’s hand and kissed Beth on the cheek. “I’m sure you’ll find what you are looking for.”
 
Margaret looked up at Lucas. Lucas shook his head slightly as he again worked the muscle in his jaw. “Let’s eat,” he said. “Abe…would you lead us in prayer?”
 
Everyone sobered and bowed their heads as Abe humbly stood and prayed their Thanksgiving prayer.
 
***
 
 The interaction between Abe and his family was closely observed throughout the afternoon. The discoveries were amazing. Abe managed to eat more than he had eaten since he had been shot. He cut up his meat very small and did the same for his children. Anytime Julie started to deal with one of the children, Abe would motion for her to stay seated, then slowly and painfully stand and go over to the child who needed assistance. When Abe tired, Laura would help him back to his chair.
 
Jason ate slowly, not able to pay much attention to the conversation at hand. He was amazed to see a family working so well together. Abe seemed to be in less pain and able to do more for himself with Julie and the children around. Abe had a gentle way to discourage Julie from doing too much for him or the other children. As they finished and Julie stood to help with the dishes, Abe pulled on her arm and asked her to fill the coffee cups before sitting back down. He ‘ordered’ these things in a way that came across as love and devotion to the woman he loved.
 
And the looks husband and wife shared confirmed Jason’s thoughts. Tearing them apart would halt progress the family was making. “Jason?” Jason turned and looked up at his wife as she put a hand on her hip. “I said do you want another piece of pie.”
 
“Oh…No, Beautiful. I think I’m okay.”
 
Emily bent over and took the plate in front of him. Jason took her arm and pulled her ear close to his lips. “Look at them, Emily. How can I keep them apart?”
 
Emily sat down beside him. “You can’t. They complement each other. I assure you now that Abe’s doing so much better that they can take care of their family just fine. Julie has Abe to take care of her and the baby…and Abe has Julie and Laura…and the children…to take care of him. Abe needs his strength back, Jason. He can get that through his family.”
 
Jason smiled. “You have the most amazing family.”
 
Emily smiled. “It’s your family too, Jase.” She stood and took the dishes into the small kitchen that was crowded with McCain women.
 
Jason leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. Abe felt Jason watching him and lifted his head up to look at his brother-in-law. “Something wrong?”
 
“Yes.” Jason nodded. “I hope you aren’t thinking about saying goodbye to your family tonight.”
 
Abe smiled. “No, Jason. Julie and I…” Abe reached out and took Julie’s hand. “We’re going home…to our family.”
 
“You’ll need help, of course,” Tiffany said as she stepped from the kitchen.
 
“No.” Abe smiled. “I think we have all the help we need.” Abe turned and smiled at Julie. “What do you think?”
 
“I think we can handle things just fine,” Julie answered as she leaned over and kissed her husband. “Abe…let’s go home.”
 
Abe slowly stood to his feet and held out his hands to help Julie up. Abe turned to look at Jason. “Any objections, Doc?”
 
“No.” Jason smiled. “No objections. In fact, I want to take you home and get you settled in.” Jason folded his arms. “I’ll be checking on you often, but from what I’ve seen tonight, I think you are all ready to behave yourselves and follow the orders I will strictly lay out when we arrive at your house.”
 
Margaret smiled at Lucas. “I’ll go pack your things.”
 
“No.” Julie stood. “I’ll do that.” After one more kiss, Julie hurried to the guest room to do just that.
 
***
 
December 6, 1866
Today, I built up a lot of memories. There are so many things that are so special I cannot even write about them. They are too sacred to record with a pen. Oh, I’m just rejoicing at the love and devotion I saw in Abe’s family tonight. I saw the tears in Luke’s eyes as he said goodbye to Abe. I also saw the pride. Oh, I’m just so happy!
Papa behaved himself fairly well tonight. He left in the middle of dinner, though…said he was feeling sick. I saw how upset it made Luke, and I think it was because I hurried after Papa and asked him to stay. He wouldn’t though. He said it was time to move on. Oh, how I wish Lucas would try to understand him better.
I’m so very happy. There are so many things I treasured in my heart tonight. Our first Thanksgiving together. I’m so thankful for my family and for my wonderful husband.
Tonight, our family came back together. I think the separation happened so slowly that we didn’t realize it was there. Mama said we’ll start sharing Sunday dinners again. Tiffany declared we’d have Christmas Eve at her house. Oh, I could see the joy it brought my family. I’m sure If Luke’s folks could see us now, they’d be jumping up and down with joy. Aunt Ruth told me years ago that she hoped our families would always stay close…
 
Margaret felt hands on her shoulders. She lifted her head back to see Lucas smiling down at her. “Ready to turn in?”
 
Margaret closed her journal and slipped it in her drawer. Lucas put his arms around her shoulder as they walked toward the bedroom.
 
She remembered back with a smile as she dressed for bed. Then as she laid down and closed her eyes, Margaret treasured all these things in her heart.

The Margaret Years — Our First Christmas Tree

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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