The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years
 
Chapter 9 - A Promise Kept
Written by Michelle Palmer

Margaret sat beside Lucas, her arm intertwined with his as they traveled away from Oklahoma City that morning. That first day was probably the hardest for Margaret and her Grandmother. Margaret did her best to not look back, but it was hard. She sat quietly on the seat, Lucas leaving her to her thoughts. He knew only time would help these two women through the loss they were now feeling. At times, Margaret would grow sad as she thought on her inability to forgive her aunt and the whole experience during her stay in Oklahoma City. Lucas watched her carefully, and when her eyes filled with tears, he’d take her chin in his hand, smile into her face, and give her a kiss. That would make her smile.
 
Every now and then, Margaret turned and opened the curtain of the canopy to check on her grandmother. Grandma Bertha, in her own silent way, tried to assure Margaret that she was okay. But Margaret didn’t miss the tear stains on her cheeks. Nor did she miss the deep sadness in her eyes. At one point, she turned and looked at Lucas. “She’s crying again, honey.”
 
Lucas merely nodded his head and reminded his fiancée that Grandma Bertha had to say goodbye to her daughter. “No matter how Aunt Gertrude treated her, she was still her daughter. It’s gonna hurt for awhile.”
 
“I suppose so,” Margaret agreed. “But I still wish…”
 
Lucas put a finger to her lips. “Time, honey. She just needs time.” She said nothing more, knowing Lucas was right. But she couldn’t keep herself from fretting and worrying about her grandma.
 
When the sun had risen straight up into the sky and burned down on them, Lucas suggested they pull over for lunch. He worried a bit when he saw the relief in Margaret’s eyes, but brushed it aside as being weariness from the morning. Margaret went to the back of the wagon and took out a blanket and the basket of sandwiches she had prepared that morning. Lucas took down the rocking chair he had suggested they bring for Aunt Bertha. After he had her settled comfortably, he went to draw some water from a nearby stream.
 
Margaret bit her lip as she once again looked down the road they had just traveled down. “Margaret…” Lucas bent down next to her as he took one of the sandwiches from her basket. “There’s no looking back, remember?”
 
Margaret nodded. “I remember. But…I just can’t forget what we’re leaving behind.”
 
Lucas turned and looked down the road himself. He knew this would be hard for her. “It’s not leaving Aunt Gertrude behind that’s bothering me so much as…the Lord knows she’s getting what she deservies…” Margaret bit her lip again as a tear squeezed from her eye. “…but the unforgiveness.”
 
“Yours?” Margaret nodded as she lowered her head. “We’ll get through this. You are a loving, forgiving woman, and in time you’ll forgive her.” Margaret didn’t say anything. “Hey…” Lucas touched her cheek, causing Margaret to lift her head. “You will…” He raised his eyebrows. “In time…you will forgive her. You may not even realize you have…it may come subtly, Margaret, but you are a woman of forgiveness. Nothing’s above it. Just give yourself time.”
 
“It’s just so hard…She betrayed me so…so deeply…I felt so hurt…so deceived…”
 
“Today…” Lucas put his arm around her shoulders. Margaret laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. “Today you can’t forgive her. Today the pain is still so fresh but in time you will, Darling. I know you will.” Lucas kissed her temple.
 
“Yes…Yes…” Grandma Bertha said then. “You will…”
 
Margaret slowly lifted her head and looked toward her grandmother. “Have you, Grandma Bertha?” Grandma Bertha nodded, but said nothing. “How can you forgive her so easily?” Margaret suddenly asked. She instantly regretted her words when she heard Lucas’ intake of breath beside her. “I’m sorry…”
 
“No…” Grandma Bertha shook her head. “Long ago…I was…wrong…” Grandma Bertha put a shaky hand to her chest. “Long ago…I was…her.” She smiled. “I love my family.”
 
They ate in silence. When Margaret was finished, she started to stand up to get everything cleaned up. Lucas restrained her for only a moment. He looked her straight in the eye. “Margaret…Don’t let this weigh too heavily on your heart. Just remember that your aunt’s made her own bed; now she has to sleep in it.” Lucas kissed her forehead. “Now then…can we put this behind us? We’ve a wedding to plan.”
 
After Lucas got the wagon loaded and Grandma Bertha was settled in the back of the wagon, Lucas suggested Margaret get out of the hot sun as well. Margaret opened her mouth to argue, but when she saw the stern look on Lucas’ face, she nodded her head and climbed into the back of the wagon. Lucas made frequent stops to check on Grandma Bertha. Margaret thanked him for the care he took, and she suspected that he was thinking of her health as well.
 
Lucas drove until the sun started slowly sinking in the sky. He declared it was close to seven o’clock as he tiredly climbed down from the wagon and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Margaret stepped out of the back of the wagon and stretched. After Lucas settled the rocking chair in a shade, he and Margaret helped Grandma Bertha get settled for the evening. “Are you tired, Grandma?” Lucas asked worriedly as he bent down in front of her and studied her eyes. She only nodded, not even having the strength to answer him.
 
Lucas lifted his head to look worriedly at Margaret. He slowly straightened and walked over to her. After placing concerned hands on her shoulders, he frowned into her face. “We’ll be okay, Luke.”
 
Lucas smiled. “I know. We best get her to bed as soon as supper’s through.”
 
Margaret lifted an eyebrow. “I can fry some bacon and eggs. I’ve been keeping some eggs cool to fix tonight. Then I’ll get Grandma Bertha to bed.” Lucas nodded as he went to get the bucket. He told Margaret he’d fetch some water, then stake out the horses while she fixed supper.
 
After eating supper, Lucas cleaned up the dishes while Margaret got Grandma Bertha ready for bed. She read the Bible to her by lantern light for awhile, then kissed her cheek and scooted from the wagon.
 
Margaret joined Lucas by the fire. Lucas smiled at her and handed her a cup of coffee. “How is she?”
 
“Tired and sad,” Margaret answered as she took a small sip of her coffee. “I told her the same thing you told me, but…she’s leaving her daughter behind. It’ll take some time.”
 
“I know.” Lucas took a sip of his coffee. “And uh…how are you?”
 
“Me?” Margaret tried to give him a smile. “I’m fine.”
 
Lucas could hear the weariness in her voice. She had been through so much already, and he hated to bring her more weariness. But they had a truth to face, and the sooner he told her, the sooner she’d accept his decision. “It’ll be close to the end of the month when we get back.” Lucas paused, not sure how Margaret would take his next words. “We’ll have to postpone the wedding until things are…more settled.”  Lucas’ voice broke at the end. He knew his words would hurt Margaret.
 
Margaret whirled her head around to stare at Lucas. “Postpone the wedding?” Obvious fight was in her voice.
 
“Mm hm,” Lucas answered with a nod, daring not to look at her.
 
“NO!” That one single word held so much emotion.
 
Lucas sat down his coffee cup and turned to her. He clasped her hands. “Honey, I want our wedding to be perfect. Things are a bit unsettled right now, and by the time we get back to Enid…”
 
“No, Luke! I won’t hear of it!” Margaret’s eyes pleaded with him. “I don’t care about things being perfect. I’m marrying you on August 30, and that’s final!” Margaret let a small gasp escape her throat. “Unless…you don’t want to marry me anymore.”
 
A look of irritation crossed Lucas’ face. “Margaret Ann Gibbs!” Lucas reprimanded her. “How could you even say such a thing?”
 
Margaret shrugged her shoulders and gave him an apologetic look. “Well…we’ve just been through so much lately…I…” Margaret felt instant guilt over having even ever thought such a thing. She knew it was pent up emotions…stress from the past weeks that had even led her to such a thought.
 
“Now, don’t you make me bend you over my knee!” Somehow, Margaret didn’t feel Lucas was teasing with her. She wondered if he really would carry through with his threat.
 
Margaret giggled as she tried to relieve the tension that had built up between them. And thinking on Lucas riding hard to get to her was rather…romantic. “Well, I suppose you must want to marry me. You ARE, after all, my knight in shining armor!”
 
“Left my sword at home,” Lucas grumbled.
 
“I never did get my wedding dress, but that’s okay. I don’t care.” Margaret shook her head. “I can fix up one of my old dresses…maybe put some lace around the edges and…” Margaret paused. “I was looking forward to those dishes, but I can’t accept them after Aunt Gertrude’s actions. It just wouldn’t be right…”
 
Lucas said nothing. He just kept staring into the fire. “Honey, I know you had your heart set on the 30th, but I just don’t see how…”
 
“No, Luke! Please!” Margaret shook her head. “I’ll make it work. I will!” Margaret clasped his hands. “Luke…I…”
 
“Honey, calm down!” Lucas smiled as he touched her face gently. “Just because we don’t get married on the 30th doesn’t mean...” He saw the pleading in her eyes. He rubbed his neck as he thought on it. He supposed things had been pretty tough for them. This woman had loved him since she was eight years old. For nearly 15 years, she’s been looking forward to this day. Her eyes told him what her lips couldn’t. She feared that if they didn’t marry the day they had planned it would never happen. The whole idea was ridicules, of course! Nothing short of dying would keep him from marrying Margaret. But then to a woman who waited fifteen years and had many obstacles thrown in her way, Lucas supposed he might just be able to see why she wanted that date.
 
Finally, Lucas leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Alright, honey. We’ll get married on August 30th.”
 
Margaret’s face lit up. She let out a loud cry. “Really, Luke? You really mean it?”
 
“Of course.” Lucas chuckled. “I could never say no to such a request.”
 
“You promise?” Margaret asked as she lifted her eyebrows.
 
“Margaret…” Lucas sighed. What would happen if they broke a wagon wheel and they were stuck somewhere when their wedding day approached? How could he ever keep his promise then?”
 
Margaret leaned forward and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Promise?”
 
Lucas sighed, hoping he wouldn’t regret this. God would have to direct the ceremony if they weren’t back in Enid by then. “I…I promise.”
 
Margaret squealed and threw her arms around him. “Oh, thank you, Luke! Thank you!” She kept her arms around him and stared into his eyes. Her arms tightened around him, and he could tell she wanted his kiss.
 
Lucas turned his lips and brushed her cheek, but then let out a little moan and grabbed her arms. He forced them from around his neck and quickly stood up. “I…think it’s time for you to turn in.”
 
“Oh…” Margaret blushed, realizing that what she had just done wasn’t too proper, considering they were having to share a camp together, and were not husband and wife. “I…I’m sorry. I…”
 
Lucas offered her his hand and pulled her up to stand beside him. “No need to apologize, honey. I’ll be sleeping out by the fire. I’m not going to kiss you goodnight…” Lucas looked around at the solitude. “I don’t think I should.”
 
Margaret blushed at his meaning. “I suppose I can wait for a kiss…as long as you promise to make it up to me later…when the sun’s up and Grandmother’s awake…” Margaret blushed.
 
“Oh yes.” Lucas nodded to her and watched her turn and go to the wagon. He smiled as she climbed into the wagon. “I’ll definitely be making it up to you very soon,” he mumbled as he turned to retrieve his bedroll. “And once we’re married, I’ll never let you go!”
 
***
 
The next morning, Lucas came back from getting fresh water from the creek to find Margaret already starting a fire. “Morning,” he greeted her as he bent down behind her and kissed her cheek.
 
Margaret lit a match to get the fire going. “Morning.”
 
“Honey…” Lucas tipped his hat way back on his head. “What do you think you’re doing?”
 
“Starting a fire.”
 
“Hm…” Lucas placed his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, that’s my job.”
 
“Your job?” Margaret threw another stick on the fire and brushed her hands. “How so?”
 
“Well…a man lights the fire and a woman…” Lucas paused when he saw the expression on Margaret’s uplifted face. “I mean a woman does the cooking and a man…” Lucas scratched his head and slowly stood up as she narrowed her eyes at him. “Well…” He cleared his throat. “I don’t reckon there’s any graceful way out of this?”
 
Margaret stood up and placed her hands on her hips. She smiled at him. “No. I’d say not.” She waved a hand to the fire. “Apparently I can have the job since I had no trouble lighting the fire, Lucas McCain!” Margaret declared with a nod of her head.
 
“Yes ma’am.” Lucas leaned forward and kissed her. “Mmm…” He kissed her again. “I can’t wait to make you my wife. I can kiss you every morning.” Margaret chuckled and turned to start breakfast. “Honey, I’m starved. What’s for breakfast?”
 
“Pancakes,” Margaret answered tartly. “You go ahead with your uh…manly chores. I’ll have them ready when you get back.”
 
The air was filled with a nice aroma when he returned. Margaret immediately grabbed a coffee cup and filled it for him.  “How’s Grandma?”
 
Margaret straightened up from the skillet of flapjacks. “She seems less weary today, Luke. Last night, I think it was more a sadness then physical exhaustion. I think a good sleep helped her.” Margaret groaned as she looked down at the plate. “Luke, I’m sorry…I’m not used to cooking over a camp fire.”
 
“Oh, it’s alright.” Lucas bent over and took the hot plate of flapjacks. “Let’s eat this burnt offering.”
 
“Lucas McCain!” Margaret gasped as she wagged a hand toward him. She shrugged. “Well, I suppose maybe camping is more of a man’s job. So tomorrow, you can fix the pancakes.”
 
“Did I say a burnt offering?” Lucas sat the pancakes down between them as Grandma Bertha smiled at them from her chair. “Oh…I mean a uh…uh..the best pancakes Margaret Gibbs has ever cooked over the camp fire!”
 
Margaret shook her head and reached for her Bible. She suggested Lucas read a passage from the Bible before they eat. She thought it would make the day go better. Lucas obediently opened the Bible to Exodus and read about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. After he blessed their breakfast, they ate in silence.
 
After breakfast, Lucas packed the wagon, and they were soon in motion. Their travel was slow and smooth. Lucas stopped every couple of hours to allow Grandma Bertha to have a short break. Margaret cared for her grandmother as if she were caring for her own child. Lucas watched the love Margaret showed. Margaret and Lucas sat together on the wagon seat as they traveled. They talked about their memories of the past and hopes for the future. They fell more in love with each passing day.
 
Margaret didn’t mention wanting dishes or a wedding dress anymore. He could tell she had already moved past that as something that wasn’t to be. He smiled to himself, hardly being able to contain his excitement to when he would present his surprises to her. He knew she would be thrilled. One of the items he had purchased was secretly tucked away under the wagon seat. Each evening he kept it with him to make sure Margaret didn’t find it and wonder what it was. The other present he had for her would be waiting for them in Enid. He would present them to her when they moved into their new house. Oh, he was so excited! He couldn’t wait to see her reaction.
 
Margaret did quite well adjusting to cooking their meals over the campfire. The meals were small, but tasted good with the love Margaret put in them. At one point, Lucas and Margaret discussed wagon trains going out West. Members of the Wagon Train had to live off the land and travel for months on end. Margaret shuddered at the thought and assured Lucas she was quite happy in Enid and didn’t care to travel out West to find their fortune. Lucas chuckled as he bent over and kissed her cheek.
 
On Sunday, August 26, Margaret took extra care in fixing breakfast. Today, they didn’t leave right after breakfast; instead, Margaret and Grandma Bertha listened as Lucas read from the Bible. That morning, Lucas chose to read some of the Psalms. After he closed his Bible, Margaret led the group in prayer.
 
Margaret declared that Lucas needed to rest. Sunday was, after all, a day of rest. She assured Lucas that taking the morning off from travels wouldn’t hurt them one bit. After all, there was still four days before the wedding, and Lucas told her they were making good time. “Well…we could go for our Sunday walk,” Lucas stated as he looked over at Margaret.
 
Margaret looked toward Granma Bertha and shook her head. “Luke, we can’t…Not today…”
 
“You go!” Grandma Bertha declared. Margaret and Lucas both looked at her. “Go on!” Grandma Bertha waved her hand at them.
 
“Oh Grandma, we can’t…”
 
“Go!” Grandma Bertha declared again. “I’m fine.”
 
Lucas shrugged and stood. “Grandma, let me move your chair closer to the creek. That way we can see you from there.”
 
“Oh posh!” Grandma Bertha waved her hand. “Just go!”
 
Margaret smiled as Lucas took her hand. Margaret looked at her Grandma one more time before turning and walking with Luke. As they sat down on the bank of the creek, Lucas took her hand and bent over to kiss her. Margaret smiled as their lips parted. “What day is today?” Margaret asked finally.
 
“It’s the 26th.” Lucas kissed her softly again. “The wedding will be here in four days.” Lucas touched her cheek and peered deeply into her eyes. “Are you sure you’re ready to become Mrs. Lucas McCain?”
 
“Oh yes!” Margaret’s eyes filled with tears. “I wish we could let the family know we’re okay.”
 
“Well…we should come into a town tomorrow. I’ll see about taking care of that then. There may be a hotel for you ladies to stay in tomorrow night as well.” Margaret smiled. Lucas realized then just how tired Margaret was. “Are you sleeping well?”
 
Margaret lowered her head. “I’m just worried about Grandmother. The only life she knew is behind us. I…”
 
Lucas pressed a finger to her lips. “I already told you that I would make sure she’s well taken care of.”
 
“I know…” Margaret lowered her head. She turned and looked back toward the wagon where her grandmother was still sitting and rocking. “I know you said you’d take her in if we had to, but…it would be quite a burden for you to take…just getting the ranch started and our marriage and…” Margaret bit her lip as Lucas lowered her to the bank of the creek and sat himself down against a tree. “Oh, I feel awful to worry about Grandmother being a burden. I shouldn’t, I know.”
 
Lucas’ chuckle interrupted her. He scooted back against him and took her into his arms. She leaned her head back on his shoulder and allowed Lucas to lower his lips to her. After giving her a long kiss, he said, “Now everything will work out. Like I said, when we get home, we’ll discuss this with your family. We’ll get everything sorted out.”
 
“I know…” Lucas tightened his arms around her and she laid her head against his shoulder. Silence fell over them as they just enjoyed being held. Lucas put a kiss on her temple and mumbled...”It’s been awhile since we’ve had a moment like this…” Lucas cupped her chin in his hand and turned her face up to his. They stared into each other’s eyes. “I missed you.”
 
Margaret smiled. “Did you? A lot?” Lucas nodded. “Did you worry about me?” Lucas nodded again. “Do you love me?”
 
“Oh yes.” Lucas confirmed his answer by giving her a long, breath-taking kiss that left her tingling. “In fact, I love you so much, Miss Gibbs, that I’m thinking seriously on making you my wife in four days.”
 
“Oh?” Margaret lifted an eyebrow. “You’d be stuck with me.” Margaret lowered her head and toyed with the button on his shirt. “Waking up with me every morning…eating my cooking and putting up with all my quirks…”
 
Lucas grinned down at her. “What quirks? You’re practically perfect in every way.”
 
“Well now…” Margaret accidently unbuttoned his top button. “That’s what I want you to think…But then you’ll see the real me when we’re married.”
 
“Yeah…Eating your cooking…Waking up with this beautiful face every morning…Going to bed with you every night…Coming home to the nice clean home and…” Lucas kissed her. “What say we just elope when we get into town tomorrow?”
 
“Lucas!” Margaret smiled as she kissed him again.
 
“And if you’re going to sit there and tell me unbuttoning that button was an accident…”
 
“Oh, but it was.”
 
“Uh huh…” Lucas wrapped his arms around her and kissed her again. “Next Sunday, my love…Next Sunday we’ll be married.”
 
“That’s right…” Margaret laid her head against his chest. “I guess this is the last Sunday we get to court. By next Sunday, our marriage will be old news.”
 
“Oh…I think we can keep the romance alive at least that long.”
 
“Thank you for this morning, Luke.” Margaret lifted her head up. “After lunch, we can travel some more.”
 
Lucas tightened his arms around her. “Alright, Honey. But until then…”
 
***
 
Margaret stepped out of the wagon Monday morning and found Lucas’ bedroll under the wagon empty. She breathed in the pleasant air and tried not to think about what day it was. Three days…Margaret shook her head. She wouldn’t think on it. Thinking on it would only cause her needless worry, and Lucas would worry about her worrying. That would make for a miserable day. No, she’d just have to trust that they would reach Enid within a couple days so she’d have time to put the finishing plans on her wedding.
 
She hurried to start a fire for breakfast. This morning she would simply fix oatmeal over the fire. The oatmeal from the other morning hadn’t turned out so well, and she was determined to make this batch taste just as good over the open fire as it did on the Gibbs’ stove at home!
 
While the oatmeal cooked, Margaret tidied up the camp, putting away things that they were finished with until that evening. She rolled up Lucas’s bedroll and put it inside the wagon, she gathered up the dishes they wouldn’t need for breakfast and packed them neatly away, and she straightened up the inside of the wagon, preparing a comfortable place for her grandmother to sit as they traveled.
 
When Lucas finally came back from his chores, Margaret was dishing the over-cooked oatmeal into three bowls. She handed one bowl to her mother and the other to Lucas. “I’m sorry. It didn’t turn out so well again.” She looked up at Lucas and saw the frown on his face. “Lucas, what’s wrong?”
 
Lucas studied his oatmeal as if it held the answer to his problem. “Honey, I saw the clouds back there.” He turned and looked at Margaret. “Two days…we’re only two days for Enid…From the look of those clouds, I’d say a storm’s coming.”
 
“How far from town are we?” Margaret asked then, not allowing herself to feel panicked.
 
Lucas spooned his oatmeal back and forth. “Well…we should roll into town in about four hours…” Lucas looked up at the sky. “The animals are acting awful skittish. I don’t like it.”
 
“You’re thinking a bad storm, huh?”
 
Lucas nodded. His face clouded as he focused his eyes on Margaret. “We have to face the fact that…”
 
“Well…we could ride in the rain. It would be…”
 
Lucas shook his head. “I’m not putting you and Grandma in that sort of danger, honey. We don’t know how well this canvas holds together. Besides…” Lucas paused as he looked down at his oatmeal. When he looked up at her, his eyes held worry. “Those clouds I saw…they’re storm clouds.”
 
“Luke, a storm would…” Margaret stopped. They both knew what a storm would do.
 
Lucas nodded. “I’m sorry, honey. I’ll do my best.”
 
Margaret tried to keep the tears away. She quickly stood and hurried to the fire, but Lucas caught the tears shining in her eyes. He closed his eyes as he sat his bowl of uneaten oatmeal down by the fire. “Blasted rain! Why couldn’t you wait?” Lucas took a sip of his coffee. Suddenly, a rumble of thunder sounded. He jumped up and threw the coffee into the fire. “Let’s move ‘em out!”
 
In short order, Lucas had the horses hitched to the wagon and Bullet tied to the back. He assisted Grandma Bertha into the wagon and settled her before he ordered Margaret inside with her. Margaret started to argue, but the wind was picking up and Lucas declared he didn’t have time to argue. He wanted to beat the storm to town if he could. Margaret unwillingly climbed into the back of the wagon.
 
Lucas hurried the team down the road as he kept his eye on the dark clouds that were quickly forming above them. Two hours later, the wind picked up considerably. Lucas studied the sky and clinched his jaw. “Margaret!” Margaret stuck her head out of the curtain and waited for Lucas to speak. “We’re not going to make it. You keep Grandma calm and hold on tight. I’m going to fly.”
 
“Yes Luke.”
 
It wasn’t long before bolts of lightning struck around them. Lucas clinched his teeth and prayed to God for His protection. “Yaw! Yaw!” Lucas called angrily to the horses. The thunder boomed, shaking their little wagon. The sky had made it almost completely dark. “Come on!” Lucas again called.
 
The rain had already started pouring when Lucas pulled the wagon up outside a hotel in Indian Ridge. He jumped down and raced to the back of the wagon. Thunder boomed and lightening struck around them. Margaret allowed Lucas to pluck her from the back of the wagon and hurry her inside. The hotel manager hurried forward with an armload of towels. Margaret thanked him as she began wiping the rain from her face and hair. Soon, Lucas came in carrying her grandmother and Margaret went to work on drying her out as well.
 
Lucas stood, watching Margaret hastily drying her grandmother off. He saw the pained, worried expression on her face. “Margaret…” Lucas’ voice was heavy with emotion as he said her name.
 
Margaret took the barrette from her hair and shook it free as she looked across the room at Lucas. Their eyes locked. It looked like he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise to her after all. Margaret read that in her eyes. “This is quite a storm,” Lucas declared as he went up to the desk, satisfied that Margaret knew the truth.
 
“Yes. We got a telegram from the southwest. It’s been raining there for two days.” Lucas snapped his head up and stared at the clerk. “I heard tell this storm could last for days.”
 
Lucas turned to see if Margaret had heard, but fortunately she was busy drying out her grandmother. Slowly, Margaret stepped toward Lucas and handed him a towel. “Luke, you’re soaked to the skin. Why don’t you go change?”
 
“I’ll dry,” Lucas argued as he sopped up wetness from his face. Their eyes locked. Margaret saw the worry expressed in his eyes. She quickly turned away.
 
“Perhaps…perhaps it’s just a short storm.”
 
Lucas took a couple steps toward her and turned her around. “I don’t think so, Honey.”
 
“Well…” Margaret looked down at the floor. “It’s only the 27th…Maybe…Maybe…”
 
Lucas sighed as he closed his eyes. “I’m sorry, Margaret.” Lucas turned away, unable to say anymore. His shoulders slumped in disappointment. “Two rooms, please.” Lucas signed the guest book. He turned and handed Margaret the key to her room. “It looks like your aunt managed to ruin your wedding after all.” There was a heavy bitterness in his voice as he spoke these words.
 
Margaret slowly walked toward the front door. She stepped out onto the porch and watched the rain fall. Lucas stepped up behind her, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. She felt like crying, but that would only cause Lucas more agony over the truth they both knew. “No, Luke…She didn’t.” Margaret felt his gentle hands on her shoulders. The touch was almost too much.  She quickly stepped away from him. She had to retreat to her room where she could cry in private.  “You…best take care of the team. I’ll get Grandma ready for lunch.” Margaret turned back toward him with a forced smile on her face. “We should eat an early supper. Then I’ll put Grandma Bertha to bed early and you and I can…” Margaret hurried back inside before he saw her tears, and helped her Grandma up the stairs.
 
Lucas turned and looked at the rain. He banged his fist on the door post. “Why now, God?” Lucas asked as he looked up toward the sky. “I’ve loved this woman for…so long and yet we have to wait…wait longer…And I had to break my promise.” Lucas shook his head in defeat and hurried out into the rain to tend to the team.
 
After Margaret got to the hotel room, she allowed her tears to fall as she stood at the window. She clasped a hand over her mouth so her grandmother wouldn’t hear her sobs. “Oh Luke…” She rested her head against the window pane. “Luke…”
 
After her cry, Margaret wiped her eyes and helped her grandmother freshen up. Then they made their way down the stairs and into the dining room. Lunch was quiet as the three sat and ate their food. Lucas knew Margaret was disappointed for the circumstances not allowing him to keep his promise. Margaret felt Lucas was disappointed that she had forced such a promise on him. They all listened to the dreadful storm outside as they continued to eat.
 
Nobody felt much like conversation that afternoon, so Margaret excused herself and went to her room. After laying Grandma Bertha down for a nap, Margaret sat at the window, her legs drawn up to her chest, and watched the rain fall. Somehow, she felt the rain was washing all her dreams away.
 
Lucas spent the afternoon out on the porch. He watched the rain fall and wondered how he could go about in keeping his promise. He had seen the sadness in Margaret’s eyes. Oh, he knew she was trying to be strong. After all, it’s not Lucas’ fault that the rain came. Lucas understood the fear Margaret felt, and he would do everything in his power to see that his promise was kept.
 
But how?
 
Lucas stood and walked down the long boardwalk. He took a long smoke off his cigar before placing his hand on his hip. A church could be seen, it’s long steeple pointed up at the sky as if mocking Lucas. If only it was the church in Enid!
 
Lucas stopped and turned back to look at the church again. He took another long puff off his cigar. “Why not?” he asked himself. A slow smile slowly crept across his face. Yes…Why not?
 
Lucas hurried inside and took the hotel stairs two at a time as he hurried to his hotel room. Once he was sitting on the bed, he took some paper and a pencil and began formulating a plan. After awhile, a smile spread across his face. It just may work at that!
 
***
 
The rain put the three to sleep quite early that night. Margaret woke up at some point and stood from the bed she was sharing with Grandma Bertha. After tying her robe, she went to look outside.  It was nearly 4:30 in the morning and the rain was still pouring. “Margaret…” She heard the voice from the other side of the bed. Margaret hurried back and sat down. “Margaret…You marry him!”
 
“I will, Grandma.” Margaret shook her head. “Only, it doesn’t look like the wedding will happen on the date we planned.” Margret felt tears fill her eyes. “That rain is still coming. Even if it stopped today, the roads are surely washed out…” Margaret sniffed. “It’s impossible, Grandma Bertha.”
 
Grandma Bertha patted Margaret’s hand and gave her a sympathetic smile.
 
When light came that morning, Margaret saw the dark clouds, announcing that Mother Nature had no intention of allowing the rain to leave. Margaret watched the rain for quite awhile before hearing a knock on the door. She saw Lucas standing there. He had a concerned look on his face. “Honey, I’ve some news…”
 
Margaret shook her head. “You…go send the family a telegram….” Margaret tightened her robe around her. She fought back the tears, but they fell down her cheeks. “Tell the family that…there won’t be a wedding after all.” Margaret turned from him and hurried to the window as she clinched a hand over her mouth.
 
Lucas was across the room and behind her in a moment. “Margaret, perhaps…” Lucas started as he stood directly behind her, so close he could almost feel her.
 
Margaret shot out her hand behind her to stop him. “No…Please, don’t try to sugar coat this for me, Luke.” She wiped her eyes and turned, forcing a smile on her face. “I’m sorry. I’m acting like a child who didn’t get to go to the party.”
 
Lucas laid his hands on her shoulders and gazed into her moist eyes. “No.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “You’re hurting because the one day you’ve looked forward to your whole life…” Lucas stopped. He couldn’t go on. He had planned to tell Margaret about his plan, but it was just as well he keep it secret for now. After all, something could go wrong and she’d be disappointed all over again.
 
“We’ll send that telegram after breakfast.” Lucas forced a smile on his face and looked her up and down. He forced himself to smile. “Well…I hardly think that’s appropriate attire for the dining room,” his eyes teased.
 
Margaret, suddenly realizing she was still in her bed clothes tightened the robe around her even more. “Lucas!” She stepped away from him.
 
“But it looks like Grandma Bertha’s presentable. I’ll take her with me and you can uh…join us when you’re properly dressed.” Lucas stepped back towards her and lowered his head so he could put his lips close to her ear. “But personally, my darling, I do believe that attire becomes you.” After kissing her cheek, he escorted Grandma Bertha from the room and down the stairs.
 
Lucas seated Grandma Bertha at the table and smiled at her. “Can you keep a secret?” Grandma Bertha gave him a strange look. Lucas spoke quietly to her the plan he was going to try to put into motion that day. He kept his eyes toward the door just in case Margaret came sooner than he suspected. Lucky for him, she took her time in getting dressed and primping herself. “Now Grandma, not a word to Margaret. I know she’s mighty upset and all and this would comfort her, but….I’ve decided it’s better to let her be surprised. That way she won’t be disappointed.”
 
Grandma Bertha nodded her agreement as life returned to her tired eyes. He kissed her forehead then ordered breakfast for the three of them.
 
After breakfast, Margaret wondered what they would do with themselves all day. She wondered if she could take a trip to the General Store across the way, though the store they had in this town was probably less supplied than the one they had in Enid. Lucas casually mentioned that she probably wouldn’t find much to her liking at the store, and perhaps today would be a good day for her and Grandma to sit in the lobby of the hotel and visit with others. Margaret wasn’t sure that’s exactly what she wanted, and she thought as how she would just take a little walk across the street to the store.
 
So, after much arguing Lucas escorted Margaret across the street to the General Store while Grandma Bertha sat in the lobby of the hotel and watched the people. Margaret found that Lucas was right after all, there wasn’t much to her liking in this store. Enid was much more supplied then they; of course, Indian Bend was a smaller town. “They do have a church though. I wonder if they have a preacher,” Margaret murmured casually.
 
Lucas was relieved when Margaret finally suggested they go back to the hotel. When they got there, they saw a couple in chairs talking to Grandma Bertha. Margaret hurried up to make sure everything was okay, and soon she too was engaged in conversation. The woman, Matilda Billings, suggested that she, Margaret, and Grandma Bertha join her in the hotel dining room for tea. Lucas, glad to have the two entertained so he could go and put his plans in motion, nodded a bit too anxiously at the idea.
 
Margaret immediately stood up and narrowed her eyes at her fiancé, wondering if he was growing bored of them. Lucas said he figured she and Grandma would be much more entertained at the hands of another lady than an old bachelor like him. Margaret smiled, leaving it alone and nodded goodbye to him before following Mrs. Billings into the dining room.
 
After they disappeared, Lucas turned to Mr. Billings and said,” I need your help.” Mr. Billings suddenly seemed concerned when he saw the desperate look in Lucas’ eyes. He led Lucas to the back room where a couple more men were smoking and playing cards. After getting a couple beers, they sat down to talk.
 
***
 
Margaret looked out the hotel lobby window and shook her head. “I don’t know where he could be. Why would he be wondering around out in that rain? Doesn’t he know it’s lunch time?” Her voice held worry. She didn’t need him getting sick on top of everything else!
 
Mrs. Billings tried to keep Margaret calm. She was becoming rather anxious, but assured Margaret that her fiancé was probably somewhere with her husband and had lost track of time. She suggested they should go ahead and take lunch. If their men got hungry, they knew where the food was. Margaret did as suggested, but interrupted her conversation with Mrs. Billings several times to look toward the door. Mrs. Billings understood the bride-to-be’s worrying. She had been a bride herself not too long ago, and she had been beside herself!
 
“It’s too bad you can’t do something to make it to your wedding on time,” Mrs. Billing commented as they lingered over coffee and dessert. “After all you two have been through lately, it would be nice if you could have that one day of happiness.”
 
Margaret shook her head as she finished her coffee. After sitting down her cup, she wiped her mouth. “There’s just no way around it. My wedding’s supposed to be the day after tomorrow. Why, even if the rain stopped this very moment, we couldn’t make it to the church in time.” Margaret shook her head. “No. We’ll just have to set a new date and…wait.”
 
Margaret’s eyes filled with tears again. Mrs. Billings felt Margaret needed a good cry with a woman who understood her predicament, and immediately stood and ushered Margaret from the room. They assisted Grandma Bertha up the stairs, and when Margaret came to her senses she mumbled that she had to help Grandma lay down for her nap.
 
Thirty minutes later, Margaret joined Mrs. Billings across the room where Mrs. Billings took Margaret in her arms and told her to just let it all out. Margaret clung to Mrs. Billings for a long time and wept tears for not only her wedding, but all the rotten, terrible things that had happened to her over the past few weeks. Finally spent, Margaret wiped her eyes and sniffed. “Thank you.”
 
Mrs. Billing nodded. “It’s just that…I’ve wanted to marry that man for nearly 15 years, yet here I am…still waiting to marry him. I reckon something like this just weighs on a person after a while. I can’t explain it, but I fear that if we don’t get married on our wedding day…we’ll never get married.” Margaret proceeded to tell her about the luck they had since Lucas had joined the war.
 
It was quite some time before Mrs. Billings suggested Margaret lay down, herself. The entire trip had taken it’s toll on her, and perhaps a nap would make her feel better. She even suggested that she would sit with her Grandmother that night so she and Lucas could have a nice, intimate dinner in the dining room. That suggestion was so tempting, but Margaret felt she would be abandoning her grandmother by doing so. Mrs. Billings insisted on it as she led Margaret over to the bed and ordered her to sleep.
 
Once Margaret was settled, Mrs. Billings left the hotel in search of her husband and new friend. She understood just what that poor woman was going through and would make some suggestions to that man Margaret so desperately wanted to marry. When she found them, she discovered that plans were already in motion to see that Margaret’s wish did indeed come true. She agreed to help, with pleasure.
 
***
 
Later that afternoon, Margaret woke up when she heard a gentle tapping on the door. She yawned “Just a minute” and hurried to the mirror to try and straighten her disheveled hair. When she opened the door and saw Lucas standing there, she folded her arms. “Well…”
 
Lucas saw the fight coming on and held up a hand. “I come in peace.”
 
She looked him up and down. “What sort of husband will you make abandoning me like you did?”
 
“You were having tea with two other women. You uh…expected me to hang around for that? I don’t like hanging out with a bunch of women and I don’t like tea.”
 
“So, let me guess…You went to the nearest saloon and had a few beers with your new friend.”
 
Lucas couldn’t tell Margaret the real reason he had ‘abandoned’ her, so he just grinned and declared, “Guilty as charged.” Then he held up a dress he had retrieved from her trunk. “I heard tell we have a dinner date tonight. I thought you could dress up a bit.”
 
“Oh.” Margaret smiled. “I’m afraid I’ll need more of my things than just this dress.”
 
Lucas blushed. “Yes ma’am. Mrs. Billings suggested the same thing. She went to the livery to search through the trunk and uh…find those things you’ll need.” Lucas, remembering that she was napping laid a gently hand on her cheek. “Are you feeling alright?”
 
“You know Luke, sometimes, a woman just needs a good cry with another woman. Are my eyes red?”
 
“No.” Lucas leaned in and kissed her. “I think you’re beautiful.” He took a step back when he heard Mrs. Billings on the stairs. “Well, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
 
Margaret was ready in an hour. After washing herself really good and primping, she put on the dress Lucas had retrieved for her. Mrs. Billings commented that she looked beautiful. Margaret heard the knock on her door and felt the familiar flutter in her heart like anytime Lucas came to call on her. “I believe your knight is here,” Mrs. Billings smiled.
 
She hurried to the door to let Lucas in. His eyes lit up when he saw her, and he mumbled that she looked very beautiful. Margaret nodded her head to him, thanking him for the comment. Then she turned back to Mrs. Billings. “Will you two be eating?”
 
“My husband’s bringing food up to the room. We want you two to have no distractions.” Mrs. Billings nodded at the couple. “Don’t you worry, now. I’ll help your Grandmother prepare for bed when the time comes, so you just take your time.”  Margaret hugged her Grandmother and rejoined Lucas at the door. “Now young man, remember that this here is a single woman. You make sure to get her home at a decent hour.”
 
Lucas’ eyes turned up in a laugh. “Yes ma’am.”
 
He escorted her to the dining room, which had very few guests in it. The waiter assured Lucas that there was a nice, quite table in the back all ready for them. After he seated Margaret, they silently looked over the menu. Lucas waited until they had placed their order before he spoke. “You…look beautiful tonight, Miss Gibbs.”
 
Margaret smiled. “Thank you, Mr. McCain.” She paused while the waiter filled her coffee cup. Then she leaned forward. “Luke…I know I’ve been upset over missing the wedding lately, but I want you to know that I understand.”
 
“I want to marry you, Margaret. I want it more than ever tonight.” Lucas laid his hand on top of hers. “And I will.”
 
Margaret nodded shortly. “I know you will.” She traced the rim of her coffee cup. “It’s just that….”
 
“I understand, honey. No need to explain. You’ve wanted it for so long, and deep down there’s that little part of you that fears it will never happen.” Lucas squeezed her hand. “It will. I promise you, it will.” Lucas saw the waiter coming. “Maybe sooner than you think.” This last part was mumbled before he released her hand and sat straight up. Margaret gave him a strange look, but couldn’t question his comment with the waiter there. After he left, she sensed that the conversation had come to an end.
 
Their dinner conversation was kept light. The couple lingered over dessert as they discussed different adventures of their trip thus far and how much longer the rain would possibly last. Eventually, they stood up. Lucas took her hand, paused at the desk to pay for the meal, then escorted her outside onto the boardwalk. They sat in two chairs and watched the rain. Loud laughter and saloon music could be heard across the street. Margaret commented that it amazed her how people would make it to the saloon, even when the rain was pouring like that.
 
Lucas took her hand as they sat side by side. In time, Margaret laid her hrad on his shoulder and closed her eyes. “Honey, I brought in your sewing basket and the box that had your sewing things inside it.  I figured maybe you could spend tomorrow working on some of your projects.”
 
Margaret lifted her head and studied his face. “You trying to get rid of me again?”
 
“Mr. Billings…” Lucas kept himself from flinching as he told the little white lie. “…asked me to help him with a few things tomorrow.”
 
“Oh?” Margaret lifted her eyebrow. “What things?”
 
Lucas cleared his throat. “Mrs. Billings suggested she come spend the day with you ladies again while I helped him.”
 
“Luke, what are you helping him with?”
 
Lucas studied the puddle that was forming on the edge of the boardwalk. “Oh…he’s trying to plan a surprise for his wife. Wanted me to help him. I can’t say anymore.”
 
“Oh.” Margaret smiled. “That’s so sweet. I love surprises.”
 
“I hope so,” Lucas mumbled.
 
“What?”
 
“Oh…” Lucas kissed her softly. “I said I’d hope so, because I plan on giving you lots of surprises…once we’re married.”
 
“Oh.”
 
Lucas put his arms around her and drew her close. “Well, we’re not exactly isolated here, but I doubt those drunks would mind too much if I gave my fiancée a long kiss. He lifted her face and gave her a long, lingering kiss that left her breathless. As soon as their lips parted, he stood and said, “Let’s get you inside so you can go to bed.”
 
***
The Eve of their wedding arrived. Lucas  was very thankful for the Billings. Mrs. Billings would do well to keep Margaret entertained while he spent the day putting his plan in motion. The day passed rather slowly for Margaret. She enjoyed sewing alright, but the rain was so dreary and teased her mood. She wanted to be happy she and Luke were safe and sheltered. She wanted to enjoy the extra time to spend with her grandmother, but she remembered throughout the day that tomorrow would have been her wedding day.
 
Margaret wasn’t in the mood to have any romantic rendezvous with Lucas that evening. Lucas sensed her mood and fought against himself to let her in on the plan. He saw the tears that glistened her eyes as she pushed the food back and forth on her plate as she mourned on the eve of her wedding day. Lucas didn’t try to cheer her up and promised himself that it would all be worth it to see the surprise on her face the following day.
 
Lucas waited in the lobby while Margaret took her Grandmother upstairs to get her settled. He had begged her to come back to him so he could see her once more. Margaret had given him a strange look, wondering what he had meant by once more, and Lucas brushed it off, stating that he was just in a mood to romance his girl a bit. Margaret rejoined him, but made no attempt to take his hand. Lucas sighed as they sat together on the couch. He put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. “I wish I could make things easier for you, Honey. I wish I could promise you only sunshine and flowers, but…”
 
Margaret gave him a short laugh as she laid her head against his cheek. “We can’t always have sunshine. The flowers would wilt up and die.”
 
Lucas nudged her head up. He laid a kiss softly on her lips and smiled at her. “Tomorrow will be much better my love.” He smiled at her. “I promise that tomorrow night, you’ll see this whole ordeal quite differently.”
 
The couple cuddled on the couch before finally walking up the stairs. Outside Margaret’s room, Lucas took her in his arms and gave her a goodnight kiss that would leave her dreaming of him. After she disappeared inside, he laid his hand on the door. “Tomorrow, my love. Tomorrow, you will be Mrs. Lucas McCain.”
 
***
Margaret woke up that morning again at the sound of rain. She slowly walked over to the window and looked outside. The rain seemed to have let up, but the roads were just a pit of mud. There was no way she’d even be able to get across the street today to browse the General Store .
 
Just then, a knock sounded on the door. Margaret looked down at her bedclothes. “Just a moment!” She hurried into her robe and motioned for her grandmother to stay in bed. She paused at the door to make sure she was decent and rolled her eyes when she remembered the day before yesterday. If Lucas made any cracks about her not being dressed properly this morning…on what was to be their wedding day…she would give him a good slap!
 
But Margaret was surprised when she opened the door, to find a strange man carrying a tray of food and a coffee pot. “What’s this?” She tightened her robe a little tighter.
 
“Breakfast,” the man answered. “And you should hurry. The man’s a bit impatient to get started.” He suddenly put a hand to his mouth, said ‘excuse me’ and hurried out of the room.
 
“What’s that mean?” Margaret asked as she lifted an eyebrow at her grandmother. Grandma Bertha smiled as Margaret came to help her from the bed. “You suppose Lucas ordered our breakfast up here?” Margaret didn’t wait for her grandmother to respond. “Why would he be in a hurry for us to get breakfast eaten?”
 
Margret sighed and shrugged her shoulders as she lifted the lid to the plate. “Well…an omelet!” Margaret smiled, knowing Lucas would take great pains on this day to make sure her mind was taken off of what the day was. Omelet’s happened to be her favorite sort of egg, and Lucas knew that from all the days he had shared breakfast at the Gibbs’ On Christmas morning, Margaret would make her traditional omelets with all sorts of vegetables and even cheese inside. Her family loved them!
 
Margaret and Grandma Bertha enjoyed the omelet very much. Margaret was just finishing up when she heard another knock at the door. A woman entered as soon as Margaret called ‘come in’  and announced her bath was ready down the hall. “My…my bath?” Margaret questioned. Margaret folded her arms. She knew he was going out of his way to make this day special, but ordering her a bath was a bit…personal! Only a husband should order such a thing. “Where’s my fiancé?”
 
“No ma’am!” The woman took her hand. “Ask no questions!  He ordered for me not to answer any, and I won’t! Oh, he is a romantic, he is!” Margaret cocked her head to one side as she stared at this woman in front of her. The woman threw a hand to her mouth. “Oh come…You must come! I’ll help your grandmother bathe in here while you’re down the hall!”
 
“My grandmother bathe?” Margaret folded her arms. “I DEMAND to know what’s going on.”
 
Grandma Bertha surprised her by shaking her head profusely. “No my dear! No!” She laid a shaky hand on Margaret’s arm. “Go…Go…”
 
Margaret threw up her hands. “I’ve a feeling I’m the only one in this whole hotel who has no clue as to what’s going on!” She lifted an eyebrow at her grandmother. “Do YOU know what’s going on, Grandma Bertha?”
 
Grandma Bertha gave her a stern look. “Go…now!”
 
Margaret giggled. “Very well, Grandmother. I’ll go.”
 
Margaret followed the young woman down the hall and smiled when she saw the bathtub with steaming water in it. She took off her bedclothes and sank down into the tub. She smiled as she leaned against the back of the tub. It had been a long time since she had a bath like this. She relished the warm water  and closed her eyes. Margaret just smiled as she allowed the warm water to relax her and take away her tortured reminders of the day.
 
“Madam…” A knock sounded at the door. The door opened a crack. “Shall I assist you with your hair?”
 
Margaret slowly sat up a bit. “Oh…I don’t think I should wash my hair today. I think…”
 
“No, no, no!” The lady shook her head in disagreement. “You must wash your hair! The young man ordered it!”
 
Margaret sat up straight as the woman came in and closed the door. “Luke?” She felt a bit annoyed at the ‘orders’ her fiancé were giving around here today. “Ma’am, why would my fiancé insist on my hair being washed?”
 
“Oh please...please…No questions! I assure you his orders are sincere, and he will be angry if I tell you anymore. Please…”
 
Margaret laughed in spite of herself. She dared to tell the lady that the ‘young man’s’ bark was much worse than his bite. Lucas had a way of giving looks and using a certain tone of voice to get the results he desired. She would have to give him a talking to for scaring these poor people so much. Margaret leaned against the side of the tub as she folded her arms across the edge. “Just why is it so important to…” She saw the pleading in the young lady’s eyes. “I thought you were giving my grandmother a bath.”
 
“No, no…Mrs. Billings came to take care of that.”
 
“I see…” Margaret sat back in the tub. “You know…I’ve a feeling that surprise Lucas has been working on isn’t for Mrs. Billings at all.” Margaret decided to let the woman have her fun. The woman brought in fresh under things for her to wear after she got out of the tub. After slipping back into her robe, Margaret and the young lady went back to her room.
 
She gasped when she entered the room to find her grandmother’s hair already done up in a nice bun with whisps of hair along the edge of her face. “Madam, we must do your hair quickly!” Margaret turned to the lady and raised her eyebrows. “You must be ready by eleven! There’s no time to waste! Mr. McCain declared he would be here on time, and you were to be ready!”
 
“Eleven…” Margaret mumbled. “That’s the time we were supposed to be married!” She remembered Lucas’ words from last night…Something about they would be married sooner than she thought and that today would be a much better day. This time tomorrow night…
 
“Lucas…” Margaret breathed as she came to a stunning revelation. Margaret turned and saw, for the first time, the beautiful, satin wedding dress hanging over the door.  She threw her hands to her mouth and gasped. “Oh Lucas!” she cried as her eyes filled up with tears. The dress that hung from the door was the very dress she had finally decided on in Oklahoma City. But how did he know? When had he purchased it? Oh, she couldn’t cry! Her eyes would be all red for the ceremony.
 
She hurried over and took the card tucked into the dress. Opening it, she read…
 
My Dearest Margaret,
 
Today I will take you to be my wife. I made you a promise – that you would indeed get married on August 30 – and a McCain always keeps his promise. So even though our family and friends aren’t around us today, I still want to make you my wife. Please accept these arrangements, because neither do I want to wait to become your husband.  Please be ready when I come to get you! Don’t be late, or else!
 
Love,
 
Lucas Mark McCain
 
Margaret threw a hand to her mouth and sobbed. “Oh Luke…” She cried even harder as she looked up at the young lady…Angela…who stood in front of her. “I’m getting married today!” She burst into laughter as she spun around the room. “Oh, I’m getting married today!” She hurried to the window where rain was still falling. “Go ahead, rain! Fall! I don’t care because I’m getting married today!”
 
“Yes,” Angela said as laughter boiled up inside her as well. “Now you must sit so I can do your hair!”
 
“Oh, I can’t sit still! I just want to dance!” Margaret hurried to her grandmother and kissed her cheek. “Grandmother…” Margaret clasped her hands. “Grandma Bertha, I’m going to marry Lucas McCain today!” Margaret hurried over and took down her dress. She paraded around the room.”
 
“Miss, your hair!” Angela declared.
 
“Oh, I just can’t stay still…I…”
 
“Miss...” Angela folded her arms. “Mr. McCain said if you don’t obey he’d bend you over his knee and…”
 
Margaret stopped and slowly laid the dress on the bed. She folded her arms. “He wouldn’t dare…” she started.
 
“Alright.” Angela said as she threw her arms up in the air. “He said I must get him if you give me any trouble.” She started for the door.
 
“No wait!” Margaret held out her hand to stop her. “He mustn’t see me before the wedding.” She sat down in the chair. “I’ll be good. I promise.”
 
“Well now…that’s better!” Angela declared as she picked up the brush and started to work.
 
Margaret couldn’t stop crying or laughing. Her hands were suddenly shaking and her heart racing as she realized that today…in only one hour…she would become Mrs. Lucas McCain! She laughed one minute and cried the next. “Oh, but this is crazy!” Margaret declared as Angela pulled and tugged on her hair. “Why, there’s no one to give me away! There’s no witnesses…no minister…no rings…no…” Margaret threw her hands to her mouth and turned her head quickly around to look at her grandmother. “OUCH!” Margaret suddenly shouted when she felt the tight pull.
 
“Will you hold still!?” Angela declared as she brushed and pulled and tugged on Margaret’s hair. “Hold still or I’ll spank you myself!”
 
Finally, she stood Margaret up and allowed her to gaze in the mirror. “There.” Angela stood back and smiled at her handy work. “You are a beautiful bride!”
 
Margaret blushed as she bit her lip. “This is my wedding day…This really is…” She turned and stared at Angela. “Oh, but is this right? My family’s been waiting for this day for so long! They’ll be so disappointed! Why, they’ve been working so hard and…”
 
“It is right,” Angela said softly as she smiled at Margaret. “Couldn’t your family understand? Mr. McCain seems to want this awful bad!”
 
Mrs. Billings came in just then. She smiled at Margaret. “You are so beautiful!”
 
Margaret pointed a finger at the wedding dress “Do you know that…that’s the dress I saw in…”
 
“Yes!” Matilda smiled. “In Oklahoma City!” She put her folded hands to her chest. “Oh, he is such a romantic!”
 
Margaret put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “I’d never know it!” She ran a hand down the satin of the white dress and smiled. “Well…I should get dressed. I mustn’t be late!”
 
Margaret held her arms over her head as Angela and Matilda slipped the dress over her head and let it fall onto her body. Margaret suddenly felt so delegate as she stood still and allowed Angela to button her up the back. “Oh…this is really it!” Margaret whispered. “I’m just about to become…”
 
A knock sounded at the door. Margaret gasped as she turned and stared at the door. Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, but I’m not ready!” Her heart started beating fast. She hurried to the mirror and stared at her reflection.
 
Grandma Bertha slowly walked up behind Margaret. She smiled into her granddaughter’s eyes. “You ARE ready, my dear! You ARE ready!”
 
Margaret squeezed her grandmother’s hand. Then she turned and slowly walked toward the door.
 
***
Lucas’ heart beat faster as he waited for the door to open. He wondered what was going on inside that room. Would Margaret be pleased with the surprise, or was she inside just thinking up a way to tell him she couldn’t marry him this way. No, Lucas decided, he knew Margaret well, and she would be pleased.
 
Lucas’ breath caught in his throat as he watched the door slowly open. His eyes grew wide and his heart stopped when he saw the beauty standing before him. Her cheeks were red and her eyes only half-open as she waited in anticipation for his reaction. Lucas’ mouth went dry as he allowed his eyes to travel from her beautiful face all the way down her beautiful, white satin dress.
 
He slowly smiled as he lifted his eyes back up to her face. Margaret’s eyes were shining, and her smile grew bigger as they stared in each other’s eyes. Margaret’s shaky hands fluffed out her dress. “Luke…how did you know?”
 
Lucas smiled. “I didn’t. You were sleeping at the doctor’s office when I went over there. I asked the lady about you and she told me you had narrowed your choice down to two dresses. The hard part, she said, was deciding which dress I would prefer.” Lucas reached out a hand and touched her chin. “It seems I made the right decision.”
 
“This is the dress I had made up my mind to get, Luke.” Margaret turned around so he could get the full view. “Oh Luke…I feel so…so…rich in this dress.”
 
Lucas’ lips parted a bit as he took a step forward. He tipped her face upwards and lightly brushed his lips across hers. “You are the most…beautiful bride I’ve ever seen.”
 
“I think you may be just a bit prejudiced,” Margaret commented.
 
Lucas gave her a quick peck on the lips again. “Are we REALLY getting married, Luke?”
 
“Darn right!” Lucas answered. Lucas laid his hands on her shoulders and leaned in toward her. This time his lips lingered on hers for a few moments, “You are…beautiful!” Lucas turned slightly to see Grandma Bertha. “Isn’t she, Grandma?”
 
“Yes…yes…very beautiful!” Grandma Bertha declared with a smile.
 
“Well, Miss Gibbs…are you ready?”
 
Margaret’s eyes filled with tears. She couldn’t speak, but only nodded.  Lucas took her arm. “Shall we go to the church so you can become Mrs. Lucas McCain?”
 
Margaret and Lucas slowly made their way down the stairs. Their eyes never left each others’. Angela helped Grandma Bertha descend. Then Lucas approached a man standing ready with a camera. “Margaret, I want you to meet an old war friend of mine…Abel Goss.”
 
Margaret smiled at him sweetly. “You’re a….photographer?”
 
“Yes, madam!” Able answered. “And what a picture you are! You didn’t tell me she was so beautiful, Luke!”
 
Margaret turned her head slightly to send Lucas a questioning look. “Oh, he took pictures in the different army camps during the war.” Lucas cleared his throat. “He was traveling West, but stopped here when the rain started.” Lucas leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “I was so happy when I ran into him yesterday.” Lucas led her to the place decorated with flowers in the hotel lobby. He turned and picked up a fresh bouquet. “You know, fresh, dry flowers are hard to come by right now. But I told Miss. Larson here that nothing’s impossible where my girl’s concerned.”
 
Margaret stared at the marigolds that lined the bouquet. She felt fresh tears begin to slide down her cheeks. “Now, don’t you go crying on me, young lady!” Lucas tried to be stern as he brushed away her tears, but she heard the tears in his own voice.
 
They posed for the picture. Lucas stood behind her and draped his arms around her front, clasping her against his chest. Margaret’s face glowed as the large flash snapped. Abel smiled. “That’s one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever taken, Luke.” Abel went on to assure Lucas the picture would be ready later that afternoon. Lucas nodded as he tossed Abel two bits.
 
 “Well, my love…The wedding’s down the boardwalk and across the street.” He cupped her chin. “Shall we go?” He couldn’t keep his hand from shaking, and he tried to remind himself how to breathe.
 
Margaret smiled through her tears and nodded her head, but she couldn’t do anymore than that. She took his arm and was led down the boardwalk. A steady rain continued to fall. “We may have to swim back to Enid,” Lucas grumbled as he motioned at the rain.
 
Margaret turned to make sure her grandmother was still behind her. Angela had Grandma Bertha by the arm and was carefully leading her down the boardwalk. When they got to the end of the boardwalk, Margaret noticed that someone had put boards down all the way across the street. “It wouldn’t do for my bride to get mud on her dress.” Lucas smiled down at her. He moved aside so the other wedding guest could make their way across the street and step into the church. Finally, piano music filtered outside the church, announcing the coming of the bride. “We were lucky…” Lucas swallowed as they started across the street, “…that the visiting preacher was here this week. We would have never gotten married had he not been here.” Lucas smiled down at her. “Our brothers would have lynched us, had we allowed a mere Justice of the Peace to perform the ceremony.”
 
Margaret could say nothing. She was overcome with emotion. She clung harder to his arm and held tighter to her bouquet as they slowly made their way across the street. Rain wet her hair, but she didn’t care. She was getting married!
 
They stepped  into the church. Everyone stood as the wedding march began. Margaret began crying harder when she realized the church was full of wedding guests. She could hardly believe so many strangers would come to witness such an event. Lucas led her to the front of the church and motioned to a little girl behind her who was waiting to take her bouquet. Margaret bent over and gave the girl her bouquet, then turned to Lucas.
 
Lucas took her hands. He could feel them shaking in his hands. He saw her smile shaking, and he saw the nervousness in her eyes. “I love you,” Lucas mouthed as he gave her a wink.
 
“I love you,” Margaret whispered back.
 
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered in God’s House to join this woman and this man in Holy Matrimony.” Lucas winked at Margaret, causing her to blush.
 
Oh my…I’m about to become Mrs. Lucas McCain! I dreamed of this day, but it’s finally here! I will be married to my love in only moments. Margaret smiled as she looked up into his eyes. She could hardly believe it. “I would ask who gives this woman away, but I don’t think they are-”
 
“I do!” A weak, proud voice sounded from behind them. Margaret and Lucas turned slightly to see Grandma Bertha standing beside them. She put a shaky hand on each shoulder and smiled. “You have my blessing…” Her words were unsteady and slow, but they knew they came from her heart. There was more she wanted to say, but she waved the preacher to go on.
 
“Lucas Mark McCain, do you take this woman, Margaret Ann Gibbs, to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love her and hold her…to cleave only to her…to be there for her in good times and bad…in sickness and in health…as long as you both shall live?”
 
Lucas smiled as he laid a hand on Margaret’s cheek. “I do.”
 
The preacher nodded, then turned toward Margaret. “Margaret Ann Gibbs, do you take this man, Lucas Mark McCain, to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love him and hold him…to cleave only to him…to be there for him in good times and bad…in sickness and in health…as long as you both shall live?”
 
Margaret felt her eyes fill with fresh tears as she again began crying. Her lips shook as she tried to get the answer out. Finally, she wiped the tears from her cheek. “Oh, I already have…many…many times!” Margaret laughed shortly, then answered, “So yes…I certainly do!”
 
“Then…”
 
“Wait!” Lucas dug in his pocket and removed a box. He opened it and gave it to the preacher.
 
Margaret gasped when she saw two wedding bands lying inside. “Lucas, how…”
 
Lucas shook his head. “It’s my secret.” He picked up the ring and lifted her hand. Slowly, he began sliding the ring on her finger. “With this ring…” Lucas swallowed hard. “I thee wed.” Then he slid the ring the rest of the way onto her finger.
 
Margaret lifted his ring from the box and took his hand in hers. She put the ring on the end of his finger and smiled up into his eyes. “With this ring…” She sniffed as she again cried. “I thee wed…” Then she slid the ring onto his finger.
 
“Well then.” The preacher smiled as he lifted his hands in blessing. “As a minister of the gospel, I give you God’s blessing. May he richly bless you with the treasures of the heart, bringing you joy as you begin your life together. May you be blessed with children and a long life. By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” He smiled. “You may kiss the…”
 
The preacher didn’t have to go on. Margaret, realizing this was the first kiss she would receive from Lucas as his wife, lifted her face to his. Lucas turned her, drew his arms around her and pulled her close. “Mrs. McCain, I love you,” he whispered so low that only she could hear. Then he covered her mouth with his and kissed her long and passionately, like she had never been kissed before.
 
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!” Rice began flying as they continued to kiss in front of God and the congregation. Their lips didn’t part for a long time. Cheers broke out throughout the church and rice continued to fly. The preacher cleared his throat. Finally, Lucas lifted his lips from hers, but quickly found her lips again as their arms tightened around each other.
 
“Never…in all my days!” A woman from the crowd declared as she stared at the newlyweds. “Never, have I seen a happier couple!”
 
“Or a more kissable one!” Matilda Billings declared as she turned and smiled at her husband. “My…my, but they can kiss!”
 
Cheers erupted from the crowd. Lucas and Margaret finally parted and turned toward the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Lucas McCain!” Cheers erupted. Margaret was filled with bliss as she watched complete strangers cheer for them as if they had known them all along. Everyone stood as the music played to lead the happy couple from the church. Rice continued to fly, and Margaret began to wonder just where all this rice had come from.
 
As they stepped out onto the porch, Lucas pointed up at the sky. “Look, Mrs. McCain!” Margaret gasped as she looked up. A light sprinkle was still falling, but there was a break in the clouds and the sun was trying hard to shine through. Two rainbows formed where there was a break I n the clouds, forming a perfect heart-shape in the sky. “Looks as if we have God’s blessing too.” Lucas looked down at her. Margaret smiled as they started across the street, on the boards, hand-in-hand.
 
Cheers lit out in the hotel lobby as the couple entered. It was now one o’clock in the afternoon and the hotel was crowded with people. “Well…where did all these people come from?” Margaret wondered out loud.
 
“Well, you see my love…” Lucas scratched his head. “All one has to do to get wedding guests is announce ‘free food’ and they come out of the woodwork! That ploy has been successful since the time of Adam and Eve.”
 
“Oh really?” Margaret lifted an eyebrow as she looked up at her husband. “They came out of the woodwork for Adam and Eve, did they?”
 
Lucas chuckled. “Now’s no time for a Bible lesson, my dear. We’ve a feast to attend.”
 
Lucas led Margaret into the hotel and sat her down at a table decorated for a queen. She smiled up at Lucas as he stood behind her. “This must have cost you a fortune!” Margaret declared.
 
“No ma’am.” A well-dressed man came forward. “Name’s Preston Woods, ma’am. When this young man told me of your trouble just two days ago, I declared he could have anything he wanted. He insisted on paying for everything himself, and I told him that was agreeable…as long as I could put on the feast in my hotel.” Margaret gasped when she saw the baked chicken set on the table. More and more food came until she thought the table would bulge under the weight of it all.
 
Lucas sat down beside her. “I’m sorry you couldn’t have the perfect wedding, my love. I know it’s disappointing to you and the family that you couldn’t have the wedding you always wanted, but…”
 
“The wedding I always wanted?” Margaret turned and stared into Lucas’ face. “Oh, you silly goat! All I wanted was to marry you, Luke! Nothing else matters to me…Nothing else in the whole wide world!” Margaret bit her lip. “This wedding…was more perfect than I could ever imagine!” Margaret laughed as she looked around. “You showed your love for me. You kept your promise…We were married on our wedding day!”
 
Lucas laughed. “Like I said, Mrs. McCain, a McCain always keeps his promise!” Lucas bent over and kissed her strong on the lips before they joined their wedding guest in a feast.
 
***
 
It was well past three when Lucas lifted Margaret from the chair. Grandma Bertha put her hand on Lucas’ cheeks and kissed him. “Welcome…to the…family.” Her hands shook as she clasped their hands.
 
Angela hurried forward and put a protective arm around Grandma Bertha. “I’ll keep watch over your grandmother tonight. I believe you two have a honeymoon to get to.”
 
“A honeymoon?” Margaret lifted an eyebrow to look at her husband.
 
“Yes.” Preston Woods came forward. “I’ve a cottage by the lake just two  hours away. We’ve a carriage waiting outside to take you there. You will be there until Sunday. Then you and your husband will be traveling home.”
 
Margaret threw her hands to her face and cried. “Oh, I never imagined I’d have a honeymoon!” She clasped Lucas’ hands. “I just intended to stay with Grandma Bertha until we got back to…” Suddenly, Margaret’s face reddened as she realized the whole room was listening in on her rather...delicate…conversation with her husband.
 
“I telegrammed the family yesterday to assure them we would continue our journey on Monday the 3rd. We should get home by Wednesday. I thought that since we were “stuck here” until the roads dry a bit, we could celebrate our wedding with a honeymoon.”
 
“Oh, but I can’t leave my grandmother! I…” Margaret started to protest.
 
“Nonsense!” Lucas turned and looked at Grandma Bertha. “She and I had a long talk yesterday. She and Angela got to know each other, and we agreed to allow Angela to stay with her until Sunday morning. We’ll spend our last night here at the hotel.”
 
Margaret shook her head. “Oh Luke…” She pressed her forehead against his. “I…I love you so much!”
 
“Well…then…shall we?” Lucas lifted from her and held out his arm. Margaret nodded as they walked out of the hotel, dress lifted, to their waiting carriage.
 
The wedding guests waved as the carriage disappeared down the street. Margaret turned to Lucas and smiled, her eyes shining with tears. “Thank you, Lucas. Thank you for keeping your promise!”

The Margaret Years —  The Honeymoon

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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