The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years
 
Chapter 11 - Settling In
Written by Michelle Palmer

A lonely wagon came to a fork in the road at around 3:30 in the afternoon.  One road would lead the occupants to Enid, Oklahoma where two families were anxiously waiting to see the newly married man and wife.  The other would lead them elsewhere.  Lucas laid his hand on his wife’s and smiled into her eyes.  “Well, my lovely wife, we’re almost there.  Are you ready?”

Tears filled her eyes and her heart leapt.  “I’m ready!” Margaret declared.  She laced her arms through his as he softly clucked to the horses.  They rode in silence for thirty minutes, each being left to his…or her...own thoughts.  The families would be anxious to see them, but they were all so tired.  “I hope they aren’t planning a surprise party for us today,” Margaret mumbled.  Then she put a hand to her mouth.  “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”

Lucas heard the weariness in her voice.  He too was tired and wanted nothing more than to rest.  “I’m sorry this trip’s been so hard on you, honey.”

“Don’t be sorry!”  Margaret smiled.  “A lot of good came from this trip.  My husband…er…fiancé, at the time, rescued me; my grandmother has returned home with us; and I became Mrs. Lucas McCain.”  She smiled up into her husband’s eyes.  “There’s nothing about that I would change!  I think marrying you the way I did is much more romantic then they way we had planned…” Margaret’s voice died.  “I just wish my family could have been there to see it.”

“Oh.”  Lucas grew quiet as he thought on this.  “Well…we could always have another wedding.” There was a hint of teasing in his voice.

“Another…” Margaret gasped at the mere thought.  “After all I went through the first time around?  No thank you!”

“After all you went through!?” Lucas’ voice boomed.  “What about me?  I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off for two whole days.  Why, I did ALL the work and all you had to do was show up for the wedding!”  Lucas grunted.  “The wedding’s usually planned by the bride…not the GROOM!  If anybody had a right to be tired, it’s me.  Why…”

“Lucas McCain…” Margaret started, but then she giggled.  “I would have GLADLY helped, had you let me in on your little secret!”

“Oh no you wouldn’t either…Because I would have had it no other way!”  Lucas bent over and kissed her.  “Besides that…there are advantages to a second wedding…”

“Such as?”

“Well…then we could have another honeymoon.”  Lucas grinned mischievously.  “I’m sorta regretting that our honeymoon is over.”

“Oh?”  Margaret blushed as she lowered her eyes.  “Well…I think I can accommodate you…without the second wedding.”  She sighed as she released her hold on him and straightened up.  “But, you’ll have to wait a few days for that to happen, I’m afraid.”

“Oh?”  Lucas lifted an eyebrow and looked at her.  “How’s that?”

“Well…since my husband didn’t get our house finished…”

“I done told you it ain’t my fault you went and got yourself into trouble!” Lucas retorted.  That was a real sore spot with him, and he hated the fact that Margaret was reminding him of that again.

“I didn’t say it was your fault...”  Margaret looked sideways at Lucas as she folded her arms.  “Well…I suppose I’ll just have to move back home for a few days.”

“We’re married now, my darling.  Where you go…I go.” He smiled down at her.  “We’ll find some place to lay our heads…together!”

They could see the outline of the town ahead.  The newly married couple grew quiet as they watched the town come closer and closer to them.  Lucas stopped the horses again just before they came into town.  He shifted in his seat and put an arm snuggly around Margaret’s shoulders.  “Look at it, honey.  Isn’t it beautiful?”

Margaret reached up and touched his hand on her shoulder.  “We’re home!” Margaret declared with a big smile.  She turned and opened the curtain on the wagon.  “Grandma Bertha, we’re home!”

“Yes…Yes!” Grandma Bertha responded tiredly.

Lucas clucked to the horses and moved them forward.  They were now in town, and those who knew the couple stopped and smiled as they watched the wagon stop beside the hotel.  People hurried forward to wish the couple congratulations, but Lucas jumped down and held up his hand.  “Folks, I’m sorry but my family’s awful tired tonight. Please…just go home!”

He had already decided to put his family up at the hotel for the night so Margaret and Grandma Bertha could get some much needed rest before being bombarded by family.  But as Lucas helped Grandma Bertha from the wagon, he saw the paleness of her face.  His eyes met Margaret’s.  He didn’t hesitate as he lifted Grandma Bertha into his arms and carried her toward the doctor’s clinic.

The moment they stepped inside, Emily looked up from filing some papers and gasped.  “Luke!” She was on her feet and running toward them.  “Luke, I’m so glad you’re back!”  Emily turned to Margaret.  “Oh, you must tell everything that…”

“Not now, Emily…” Lucas motioned to his grandmother.  “We must get her checked out.  I think the trip was really hard on her.”

Emily nodded and hurried to the back.  Lucas laid Grandma Bertha on the cot as Emily hurried to get her husband.  Jason hurried into the room and greeted Lucas with a handshake.  Margaret accepted the hug Emily had for her.  The McCain’s both accepted the congratulations offered to them as well.  Jason suggested the McCain’s step out while he examined the older woman.

“Have you seen the family yet?” Emily asked anxiously.  She didn’t wait for an answer.  “Oh, we’ve missed you so!  I’m sorry you couldn’t wait to marry, but I understand.  Why, if Jason had made me wait, I would have died!  Oh, did you have a big wedding?  Was it everything you…”  Her mouth was talking faster than Lucas or Margaret could process the words.

“Emily…” Lucas’s voice interrupted her babbling as he rolled his eyes.  “Uh…Margaret’s pretty tired.  Can we wait until tomorrow to start the questioning.”

“Oh Luke, it’s okay…” Margaret started, but Lucas shot the two women a look that stopped her from continuing.

“Of course.”  Emily knew better than to go against her brothers’ warning looks.

Lucas had not only heard the tiredness in his wife’s voice, but he also saw the deep weariness in her face.  The entire ordeal she had been through ever since her Aunt Gertrude had come to Enid had caught up with her.  Lucas knew that even the wedding had taken its toll on the new bride.  Lucas frowned as he took her hand and announced that as soon as Jason reported on her grandmother, he would take her to the hotel.  Margaret again started to protest, but Lucas shook his head.  His mind was made up.  She would rest.

Several minutes passed before Jason stepped out of the back room.  “She is rather tired.  I think we should keep her here tonight so we can keep a close eye on her.”

“I’ll stay,” Margaret announced without hesitation.

“No,” Jason answered firmly.  “I think you should go home and rest.  You look rather tired.  After the ordeal you’ve been through, it’s no wonder.”

“Oh, but…”

Lucas stood and put firm hands on her shoulders as he raised his eyebrows.  “You heard your doctor.”  He started her in motion toward the door.  “There will be no further discussion.”  Margaret was quiet as he led her to the hotel and signed out a room.  Folks who knew them started questioning on their adventure, but Lucas held up a hand and sternly announced that his bride would not answer any questions that evening.  She was going straight to bed, where she would stay until her husband was completely convinced she was well rested.  Only then would he allow her to visit with friends and family.

Lucas picked up the suitcase that held their essentials, and his rifle, and led her up the stairs.  The moment the door was closed, he ordered Margaret to get ready for bed as he went to the window and pulled down the blinds.  “This early in the evening?  Why Luke, it’s supper time!” Margaret argued lightly.

Lucas smiled as he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.  “Well then…while you’re getting ready for bed, I’ll go get us some food and bring it back up here.”  He walked toward the door.  His rifle was again in his hand.  He turned back to her, snapping his fingers and pointing straight at her.  “And you better be in that bed when I return.  You hear me?”  The sternness in his voice made Margaret nod her head.  She knew he was completely serious.

When Lucas returned to the room, she was in bed, propped up on pillows and reading a Bible.  Margaret sat the Bible aside and started to get up, but Lucas shook his head and sat the tray on her lap.  “It ain’t often you’ll get food in bed, so enjoy it while you can.”  Lucas grinned at her and bent over to give her a kiss on the cheek.  They ate in silence.  Margaret could tell Lucas was quite anxious about something, and he was working the muscles in his face as he struggled with his thoughts.  She started to ask him what he was thinking on, but had a feeling he wanted to be left alone to his thoughts.

After they finished eating, Lucas lifted the tray from her and ordered her to lay down.  He tucked the covers up around her and kissed her on the forehead.  “Now, you go to sleep.”

Lucas stood and started for the door.  “Luke…You need rest too.”

Lucas stopped and slowly turned.  “Well my love, I guarantee you that if I laid down next to you, neither one of us would get rest.”

Margaret swung back the covers to invite him in.  “Please?”

The pleading sound in her voice melted his heart.  Lucas slowly sat down the tray of dirty dishes and walked over to the bed.  He took off his boots.  Again, Lucas tucked the covers around his wife and lay on top of the blankets.  He rested an arm around her.  “Now, close your eyes and go to sleep.”

Margaret sighed as she felt his chest against her back.  “Can’t you kiss me goodnight?” Her voice was teasing.  Lucas chuckled as she turned her head around and waited for his lips.  Their kiss was long and deep.  His hands strayed from her back as their kiss deepened.  He could tell she wanted more, but after a few more kisses, he straightened up and pressed a finger to her lips.  “That’s it now.  You need sleep.”  He saw the disappointment in her eyes and chuckled.  “Well now…there will be plenty of time for THAT, but that won’t get you rested.”

Margaret knew he was going to be quite firm with her, and she knew he was right.  She needed a good night’s sleep, so without further arguing, she turned back as his arm tightened around her.  She soon fell into a deep sleep.

***

It had been hard to refuse Margaret what they both desired, but he saw the weariness in her eyes and it worried him.  For some reason, seeing Margaret like that really bothered Lucas.  It pierced his heart like a knife.  Lucas wanted to make sure Margaert fully recovered from the entire adventure before she lifted a finger to do any work, so he told himself the hotel would be their home until she was completely better.  Only then would he allow her family and friends to bombard her with questions.  Growing up among the McCain and Gibbs clan, Lucas knew how overwhelming they could be at times.  And with all the children that had come along lately, Lucas knew it would be even harder.

He laid in bed holding her until he was sure she was asleep.  They had only spent a few nights together at this point, but already he could tell when her sleep was deep.  When he heard her steady breathing, he released his hold on her and slowly stood up.  After picking up his boots, he tiptoed from the room.  “Jake,” Lucas called as he entered the hotel lobby.  “Jake, my wife is sleeping upstairs.  I don’t want her disturbed.”  He sat down to put his boots on.  “If anyone disturbs her…” He stood up after putting his other boot on and lifted his rifle.  “…they’ll deal with me.”

Jake understood completely.  He assured Lucas that he wouldn’t allow anybody near their room.  Lucas suggested he put a “Do not disturb” sign on the door for good measure.  Jake assured him he would.  Lucas started to leave, but again turned around. “Oh, and if she happens to wake up and come looking for me, you tell her I ORDERED her to stay in bed.  And if she doesn’t, she’ll have to contend with me when I get back.”

“Hm…” Jake shook his head.  “I’ve known that girl since she was little, and somehow I have a feeling contending with you is a challenge she can take.”  Lucas lifted his eyebrows and pressed his lips together as he leaned forward.  Jake swallowed hard.  “Uh…I mean…yes sir.”

Lucas hurried from the hotel and went back to the wagon that was still in the street.  He would take it down to the livery and bed the horses down; then he would ride his horse, still tied to the back of the wagon, out to the ranch to check on things.

***

Abraham McCain turned at his wife’s call.  “What do you think?”  Abraham smiled at the loving care she had gone to in haning the lace curtains in the window of Lucas and Margaret’s new home.  He nodded his head.  Julie, Tiffany, and Em McCain, Emily Livingston, Anne Dodd, and the Gibbs women had all put their egg money together to buy the expensive lace they would need to make real lace curtains for the windows.  Margaret had once told the women that when she had her home, she’d have real lace in her windows like her mother had, and today that was a reality.

Abe turned back to finish putting the bed together.  He and his brothers had all pitched in to make the full-sized bed for Lucas and Margaret.  The headboard was chiseled with hearts along the edge.  In the middle was a bigger heart with the newlyweds’ initials:  LMM and MAM.  Added to the wedding gift was a real mattress – not a homemade one like so many of the McCain’s had.  They all knew Margaret was special, and she deserved some of the finer things in life.

“You think we should have brought them at least a few dishes?” Tiffany asked then as she looked at the empty kitchen.  “I hate that their first meal may have to be eaten straight from the pans!”

“Lucas’ letter was very specific.  We could not give her any dishes,” Peter reminded his wife.

The children all came in from outside.  Julie and Tiffany both bolted forward and ordered every one of them back outside.  The floors were clean and they didn’t want mud all over the clean floors!  “I believe that Luke also ordered in his letter that we weren’t to do any work on the house!” Julie reminded her husband and brother-in-law.

“Yes.”  Jeremiah turned from hanging hooks on the wall.  “But we’ve Margaret to think on for that.  She has to have a  place to live!”

“Well, I just don’t know if this was such a good idea…” Julie stopped as she looked out the window.  Suddenly, she gasped. “Jason’s coming fast!  Something’s wrong!”  The adults all hurried out to the yard.  The children ran to their parents and waited for Jason to stop.

Jason pulled back on the reins to his horse and took deep breaths.  He looked around at his family.  “Luke’s back.  He just left Margaret at the hotel and is on his way here.  Were I you, I would make tracks.  I don’t know that you want to be here until he gets over the shock.”

The brothers all looked at each other.  “Get the children in the wagons!” Abe ordered.  The men hurried back to the house and removed any evidence that could trace them directly to the good deeds done.  Abe hurriedly put the remainder of his tools in the back of the wagon.  “Oh my!”  Julie lowered herself from the wagon and started toward the house.

“Julie McCain!  We’ve got to go!” Abe declared.

“I left my sewing basket!”  Julie hurried inside.  She noticed that in the scuffle, one of the curtains had been pushed away from the window.  She lovingly re-straightened it and nodded her approval.  “There.”

“Honey, come on!” Abe ordered from the doorway.  He grabbed her arm and they ran to the wagon.  Julie jumped into the back of the wagon and Abe jumped into the seat.  “Hold on!” he demanded.  He called to the horses and ran them as fast as he safely could.

***
By the time Lucas rode into the yard, there were no traces of anybody having been there.  But Lucas sat quietly on his horse and rubbed his chin as he stared at the house.  The roof had only been half-done when he had left.  Lucas shook his head in wonderment and slowly dismounted his horse.  He had specifically written to those darn brothers of his and ordered them not to continue with the work on the house.  But not surprisingly, they hadn’t listened.

Lucas pushed his hat further back onto his head and slowly walked toward the porch, which hadn’t been there before.  He again rubbed his chin as he studied.  A couple chairs rested on the perfectly built porch.  He pushed on a beam on the porch and shook his head.  It was done just as he had intended it to be done.

Something else caught his eye.  A perfectly white lace curtain fluttered gently in the breeze through the open window.  Now, seeing as how he hadn’t put the glass in the windows yet, he knew something was amiss.  Lucas stepped up onto the porch and opened the door.  He looked down at the rug just inside the door.  Margaret had been making a rug with these same colors when he had come over to visit her one evening.  Lucas smiled as he wiped his feet on the rug and stepped into the house.  A kitchen table with four chairs sat in the room.  Lucas saw that everything had been done.  Curtains hung in all the windows, his Pa’s old leather chair sat in the corner, and a rocking chair sat by the fire place.  Even Margaret’s sewing basket was there.

Lucas walked into the kitchen area and saw a frying pan hanging on the wall.  He shook his head.  “Dab burn brothers!” But he smiled as he picked up the hammer with the initials PM on the handle.  In his hurry, Peter had left his hammer.

Lucas turned and made his way to the bedroom.  Opening it, he found a freshly made bed and stared at the headboard.  A rug laid on the floor just beside the bed.  Margaret’s desk and dressing table also sat in the room, ready for her use.  Her clothes were neatly hung in the closet that still smelled of cedar.

Lucas’ heart swelled at the love his family had obviously put into the preparations of the house.  They had gone against his strict orders, wanting to make sure everything was ready for when he and Margaret returned from their honeymoon.  He shook his head again as he gently ran a hand along the new basin and pitcher sitting on a table in the bedroom.  “What am I going to do with the lot of them?”

“Luke?”  Lucas hurried from the bedroom and folded his arms as Hal Dodd stood in the doorway.  Hal grinned at the expression on Lucas’ face.  “I thought I saw you coming home.  Why, your family hadn’t been gone for…” Hal gasped.  “Uh…I mean, it’s good to have you back.”

“My family just left here, huh?”  Lucas turned and lifted an eyebrow.  “Let me guess…that brother-in-law of mine came rushing out here to announce we were back, and they didn’t want to suffer the wrath of Lucas McCain.”

“Uh…something like that.  When did you get back?”

“Around 4:30 or so.”  Lucas looked around the house again.  “Well, it looks like there’s nothing left for me to do.”

“Luke, don’t be angry with your family.  They did it all out of love.  Why, your three brothers studied your plans and notes.  They wanted to make sure they got everything to perfection, the way YOU wanted it.  The women did most of the decorating.  Margaret’s family made several purchases since they ended up saving all that money on the wedding.”

Lucas chuckled.  “I’m not angry.  I’m just…surprised.”

“Where’s Margaret?”

“In town.  I left her at the hotel to rest.  I didn’t want her bombarded by family just yet until she gets a grip on things, you know?”

Hal nodded.  “Just finished checking your stock.  You’ve two new baby calves now. That’s a right, fine heard you’re building up there, Luke.”

“Thanks for everything.”

“Oh, and the McCain boys and even Laura helped their Pa’s build the chicken coop.  So if it’s a bit uh…lop-sided, just overlook it.  You know how four and five year olds are.”  Lucas smiled again and thanked him.  “Well, you best get back to your wife.”  With that, Hal turned and left, hurrying back across the way to his own house.

Lucas stood on the porch and watched Hal hurry across the road and into his house.  Lucas looked up at the sky and watched the sun slowly lower itself behind the mountain.  He smiled, happy for the family God had blessed him with.  “Thank you, God,” Lucas whispered as he stood on his front porch.  “Thank you for my family and my wife.  We are richly blessed.”  With that, Lucas slowly walked to his horse, mounted him, and rode back to town.

***

Margaret heard the door open from her place in the bed.  Darkness surrounded her now.  She felt Lucas sit on the bed and quietly take off his boots.  She listened to the ruffling of clothing as Lucas took off his shirt and pants.  She smiled as Lucas lay down on his pillow and turned on his side to wrap his arms around her.  She felt him brush her hair to the side and kiss her neck softly.  “How’s the ranch?” Margaret mumbled without moving a muscle.

Lucas’ arms tightened around her.  “You’re supposed to be asleep.”  He heard Margaret smile as she reached down and touched his hands that were around her.  “How did you know?”

“I just knew.”

“I’m sorry, honey.  I couldn’t wait.”  Margaret snuggled down closer to her husband, enjoying the feel of his strong arms around her.  “The ranch is fine.  It was in good hands.”

Silence.

“I missed you.”

Lucas chuckled.  “I missed you too.” He turned her head around to kiss her again.  Margaret turned on her other side to face him.  Their kiss deepened, but Lucas quickly broke the kiss and hugged her to his chest.  “Now that I’m back…go to sleep.”

There wasn’t another word as the two fell asleep in each other’s arms.

***

Margaret stretched the next morning as she stood and reached for her robe.  The sun was shining bright through the single window in the hotel room.  Margaret went to stand at the window and look down onto the street.  It was Wednesday morning, and it must have been pretty late because the streets were already bustling with activity.  Margaret smiled when she saw Lucas step out of the doctor’s office.  She watched him walk back toward the hotel, a smile on his face.  He was a sweet man, to have gone to check on grandmother like that.

Margaret continued to stand at the window and watch the activities on the street.  Two boys waved goodbye to their Pa and headed off to school, books slung over their shoulders.  Further down the street, a young lady was being led down the boardwalk by a young man.  Margaret looked toward the General Store where several folks came in and out.  It was nothing like Oklahoma City; rather small, comparatively, but she didn’t care.  She loved her little town!

The door opened.  “Good morning, beautiful.”  Lucas closed the door and walked over to the window to put his arms around her from behind.  He kissed her cheek and mumbled something she didn’t quite catch.  She put her hands on his arms and leaned into his broad chest.  “How are you feeling?”

“Wonderful,” Margaret answered.  “Just wonderful.”

As if he couldn’t take her word for it, Lucas turned her around and looked her up and down.  He nodded his head as a smile played at his lips.  “Yes.  You do look wonderful, honey.”  He studied her eyes intently.  Much of the weariness from the night before was gone.  The relief in his eyes showed her that he felt better about her physique.  She had fallen asleep shortly after he returned around nine, and had still been asleep when he left to check on her grandmother.

As if she knew what he was thinking, she asked, “How’s Grandma Bertha?”

“She’s fine.  She’s ready to leave the clinic.”

“Well then, let’s go get her!” Margaret declared.

“Not so fast, honey.”  He took her hand and led her over to the bed.  Sitting her down, he folded his hands in his lap.  “I’ve been doing some thinking.”

Margaret heard the hesitation in his voice.  “Yes?”

Lucas cleared his throat.  “Your grandmother has been through so much, and I’ve seen the worry in her face about what’s going to happen to her. You, my love, have missed a lot of it, I think, because you know she’s going to be taken care of, and you’ve been a bit uh…preoccupied lately…with our getting married.”

“Yes?”

“I think that we should ride on out to your mother’s house and have a talk with the family so we can decide what to do with her before we take her anywhere.”

Margaret didn’t like the way he was talking.  “You make it sound so…cold…”

“I don’t mean that, honey.”

“She’s my grandmother, Luke.  You told me that…that we’d take her in ourselves if we need to! You said that!”

“And I mean it,” Lucas put his hands on her shoulders.  “I suspected her worry, and this morning she talked to me.”  Margaret waited for him to continue.  “Honey, she doesn’t want to live with you.”

“What?”

“She thinks you and I need this time to our selves…to get adjusted and…”

“What do you think?”

Lucas chose his words carefully.  “Honestly?  I think, my love, that your grandmother is right.  Now, you’re going to be setting up house for the first time…running the woman’s side of the ranch all by yourself.  I would rather spend the time with us getting to know each other better and…”

“Oh Luke…” Margaret didn’t mean to be so snappy, but she was really worried for her grandmother.  “We’ve known each other all our life.”

“You and I both know that being best friends is one thing…Living together as man and wife is completely different.”  Lucas lifted an eyebrow.  “You’ve never uh…dumped a pitcher full of water on my bed with me in it before.”  Lucas took her hands.  “Now don’t misunderstand me, honey, but I’m thinking your grandmother would be better off with your mother.  Your mother could use this distraction…What with your father the way he is and her having just lost her beautiful daughter to a brute like me, not to mention your brother and Amanda married and living there…And I just found out that Beth’s about to go off to school to become a teacher…I just think that this would be good for your mother.”

“I can’t ask her to do that.”

“If your mother can’t do it, then I’ll gladly take her in; but honey…we have to think about what’s best for Grandma Bertha.  She needs a lot of care, and you know that. Her health isn’t good.  Jason told me that there are some things…she’ll never be able to do for herself again.”  Lucas put a hand on his wife’s shoulder.  “I just don’t want to see you so burdened this early in the marriage.”  He lifted an eyebrow.  “Understand?”  Margaret nodded, but said nothing.  “Now honey, I promised you that I’d make sure your grandmother is always cared for, and I will.  Part of that promise is to make sure she’s getting the best care she can get.”

“Lucas!”

Lucas sighed.  “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”  He shook his head.  “All I meant was…”

Margaret held up a hand.  “I understand, darling.  When are we going to go to my…” Margaret stopped herself from saying her house.  It was no longer her house, but her family’s.

“I’m going to go get you a nice, hot breakfast.  After you’re finished, we’ll pack up and check out.”

“Check out?”

Lucas smiled as he turned to the door.  “That’s what I said.  I’ll be right back.”

***

Margaret sat beside Lucas on the wagon as they drove to her family’s house.  “I still don’t see why we couldn’t bring Grandma Bertha!” Margaret argued again.  “After all…”

“After all…” Lucas stated firmly as he turned and gave her one of his stern looks.  “it’s best to leave things the way they are until we talk to your family, Margaret.”  Lucas’ voice was quite stern.  She heard his warning to drop the matter loud and clear.  Lucas saw the annoyed expression on her face and took her hand.  “I promise I’ll do what’s best for our family.  But we’ve got to discuss it AS a family.”  He bent over to kiss her cheek for good measure.

The wagon was still loaded with all the possessions they had brought back from Oklahoma City.  Margaret would be happy when they got everything unloaded so they would return the wagon and team to the livery in town.  The next person going to Oklahoma City would make sure to get the wagon and team safely back, and Lucas wouldn’t have to pay so dearly.  She kept this to herself, however, knowing that Lucas would again firmly warn her not to worry herself about the money.

Margaret felt her heart beat faster as she saw the Gibbs’ house come into view.  “Oh, I hope Papa’s there!”  She heard Lucas’ sharp intake of breath at her words.  “Well after all, Luke, his is my father!”

Lucas whoaed the team and climbed down from the wagon.  “Margaret!”  The door opened and her mother came running out.  Her eyes were tear filled.  She clasped her hands as she waited patiently for Lucas to help her down from the seat.  The moment Margaret’s feet touched the ground, she was in her mother’s arms.  “Oh my baby!”

Margaret laughed as she cried tears of joy and sorrow at the same time.  Jennifer clasped her daughter’s arms and pushed her away.  “Let me look at you!”  She looked Margaret up and down and smiled.  “Well…I’d say marriage becomes you.”

“Oh Mama!”  Margaret rolled her eyes.  “I’ve only been married for a…” She stopped and turned to Lucas.  “It’s been a week, Luke.”

“Yes.”  Lucas hurried forward to hug his mother-in-law.  “How are you, Mother?”

“Thank you for bringing my daughter back!” Jennifer replied in an answer.  She hugged Margaret again.  “Oh, I’ve missed you so much!”  She looked around the yard, suddenly realizing someone was missing.  “Mother?  Where’s Mother?”

Amanda and Scott hurried from the house, followed closely by Beth who held tight to her nephew.  “Margaret!”  Margaret hugged the rest of the family before answering her mother’s question.

“Grandma Bertha’s in town, Mother.”  She turned and looked at Lucas.  “Luke wouldn’t…I mean…” Lucas raised a disapproving eyebrow at her.  Margaret closed her mouth.

“Let’s all go inside to talk,” Lucas suggested.

Jennifer and Amanda kept an arm firmly around Margaret as they led her inside.  Amanda poured all the adults coffee.  Only after they were settled did Lucas clear his throat and begin talking.  He explained everything to the family.  He told them about the treatment Grandma Bertha and Margaret had received at the hands of Aunt Gertrude.  He explained of Margaret’s desire to do as Grandma Bertha wished and bring her home with her.  He explained his feelings on the living situation.  Finally, he took his mother-in-law’s hand and stated, “Now I promised Margaret that I would do what was best for our whole family, and I mean that.  Margaret wants to care for her grandmother, but Grandma Bertha doesn’t want to feel like a burden and…”

“It’s out of the question!” Jennifer suddenly declared.  “Of course she’ll live with us!”

“Mother…” Margaret started.

“Now Margaret, if you think for a second that I would allow my daughter…who just married the love of her life a week ago and will have quite a burden at setting up a house for such a…” Jennifer cleared her throat.

“Thanks a lot!” Lucas retorted.

“Well…you know what I mean.”  Margaret giggled in spite of the situation and felt the playful nudge her husband gave her.  “Margaret, I already have Mother’s room all set up!  She’ll of course be staying in the guest room permanently!  I won’t hear of you taking on such a burden!”

“I wouldn’t mind!”

“She’s my mother!” Jennifer explained firmly.

“But it was my idea, Mama.  I…”

“Margaret…” Lucas warned.  He smoothed her hair as he spoke to her.  “Now, I know you love her, but you can’t take on anymore.  If you remember, we discussed this in town.”  Lucas straightened up in his chair and cleared his throat.  “Besides…like your mother said…taking care of me is going to be a full time job!”

“For sure!” Scott declared.  “I’m fearing Margaret will soon discover the burden isn’t worth the…”

“Scott Gibbs!” Amanda warned.

“See what I mean?”

Jennifer reached out and took her daughter’s hand.  “Margaret, I knew my mother loved me all these years…I longed to see her again…to be held by her…loved by her.  I need my mother now.  I want to care for her like she cared for me.  Believe it not, my mother cared for me very, very well.  She had a kind love for me…that’s what drove her to do the things she did.  Can you understand that?”

“Yes.  I think I can.”  Margaret smiled.  “Luke can bring her out this afternoon.”  Lucas nodded.  “Now on another issue…our house isn’t ready to live in yet so we’ll…”

“Uh hon…” Lucas stopped her.  “That matter’s all taken care of.”

“All taken care of?”  Margaret looked from Lucas to her mother.  “How so?”

“Well now, if Scott will help me get Grandma Bertha’s things out of the wagon, I’ll just show you how so!” Lucas declared.

“I’ll start packing up the rest of my stuff,” Margaret suggested then.

“Uh…” Amanda smiled into her coffee cup.  “That’s been taken care of also.”

“Oh.”  She looked from Beth to Amanda to Jennifer.  “Well?”

“Mum’s the word!” Beth said.  “I hope you enjoy your new home.”

Margaret smiled at Beth.  “It’s sort of strange to see all the changes coming about.  I heard tell you’re leaving also.”

Beth nodded.  “At the end of the week.  I’ll be gone for a whole year to get training.  Enid will be needing a new school teacher in a few years, and I want to be ready for the job.”

“Hm…” Margaret studied the contents of her cup intently.  “Have we heard from Johnny?”

“He sprained his ankle falling off a horse.  He’ll be laid up for a couple weeks.”  Jennifer shook her head.  “Can’t understand that boy wanting to live so dangerously!”

“I know…I worry about him, Mother.”  Margaret was quiet for a moment before she asked the next question.  “And…Pa?”

“He’s been gone now for close to a week.  He…was quite upset when he found out you got married in Indian Bend.”  Amanda stopped when Jennifer shot her a look.  “I’m sorry, Mother, but it’s best she knows the truth.”

“I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry you couldn’t see me married.  It was hard…so hard…to watch my wedding day go and…”

“Oh no, child!”  Jennifer grasped her daughter’s hand.  “Don’t you dare apologize!  I was happy to hear you kept your wedding date!  I was happy to hear you and Luke married.  That man is so romantic…so in love with you.  He’d move heaven and earth to make you happy.”  Margaret blushed.  “We’re planning a celebration of our own!”  Jennifer took a sip of her coffee.  “So…how is married life?”

The glow on Margaret’s face and the tears in her eyes was all the answer they needed.  “Oh Mother, it’s wonderful!  Why, he’s so gentle and caring…I know, who would have ever guessed Wild Lucas could be so gentle, but he was!  Oh Mother, I…” Margaret suddenly blushed.  Amanda and Jennifer chuckled.  “Well…I suppose its different just starting out.”

“It won’t always be brooks and sunshine, Margaret.  They’ll be hard times…but I think Lucas has proven that during those hard times, he’s right there with you.”  She smiled.  “When we got the telegram that you were married, I cried.  I cried because my dream of seeing you two married came true.”

Lucas and Scott grunted as they came in with the trunk.  “Margaret, what do you have in this thing?”

“Oh, I packed some of Grandma Bertha’s books,” Margaret answered.  “I thought she would want them read to her.”

“She’s trying to kill me!” Lucas declared.  “I don’t remember the trunk being this heavy when I carried it out to the wagon.”

“Oh…” Margaret shrugged.  “I packed the books AFTER you put it in the wagon.  Figured it would be too heavy any other way.”

“You didn’t tell me you were going to do that!” Lucas grunted again as they started up the stairs.

“Oh, didn’t I?”  Margaret smiled into her coffee cup.  “It must have slipped my mind.  I’ve been a bit…preoccupied, you know.”

“Women!” Lucas grumbled.

“What was that, dear?” Margaret’s warning voice sounded.

“Nothing, my love,” Lucas answered in a sweet voice.

Scott chuckled as he sat the trunk down at the top of the stairs.  “Well…you learn fast.”

“Yeah.  One pitcher full of cold water on my bed to wake me up taught me a lesson.”

Scott chuckled.  “Oh.  You didn’t wake up fast enough?”

“Nope.”

“Yeah.  I won’t tell you what Amanda did…Don’t want to scare you, but be warned…I think that while they have their “Woman Circles,” they discuss how to torture their husbands!”

Lucas chuckled as the carried the trunk into the bedroom.

***

Margaret hugged her mother goodbye, but Lucas reminded her that they would be coming back for supper that evening and bringing her grandmother with them.  Margaret nodded her head, but knew that things were different now.  She would no longer be coming home, but coming to visit.  Lucas nodded his understanding and allowed Margaret to hug her mother one more time.  Finally, Margaret stepped up into the wagon and sat quietly beside her husband as he clucked to the team.

“Lucas?”  Margaret turned her head to look at her husband.  “Luke…I know I shouldn’t ask, but…what are those two big crates in the back of the wagon?”

“Two big crates?”  Lucas smiled.  “I’ve no idea.  What makes you think there are two big crates in the back of the wagon?”

“Well, I…” Margaret paused and turned to look at her smiling husband.  “Just where did they come from?  They weren’t in there when we arrived in town yesterday.”

“Well…I don’t know…” Lucas chuckled as he called to the horses again.  He could see her curious expression from the corner of his eye, but he didn’t turn toward her.  He kept his eyes on the road and said, “Boy, aren’t you the nosy one!”

She grew quiet and leaned to the back of the seat.  They drove silently for a few minutes before Margaret again questioned him.  “Where are we going?  I thought maybe we’d be seeing your family.”

“Oh no…” Lucas chuckled.  “I don’t reckon we’ll be seeing them today.  I think your family is enough excitement for you.”

“Oh Luke…I’m not a china doll, you know.  I won’t crack.”

“I’m not saying you were, Darling.  I’m saying that you’ve been through a lot these past few weeks and I know all this is a big adjustment.”  Lucas paused as he studied the road for a bit.  “Honey, we both know just how hard it is for you to adjust to the home you grew up in no longer being your own.  I want you to take things slow.”

“Tomorrow then?”

Lucas laughed.  “I tell you what.  I’ll go see my brothers tomorrow.  Perhaps we can go for dinner there Friday night.”

“And my family can join them?” Margaret asked anxiously.

“Margaret…” Lucas warned.

Margaret leaned back on her seat once again.  Lucas chuckled a bit and put his arm around her shoulders.  “Come here.”  Margaret laid her hand in the crook of his arm as he drove the wagon down the road.

When they bypassed the road leading into town, Margaret became very curious.  She stayed silent, knowing Lucas was in a need-to-know mood, and apparently she didn’t need to know where they were going.  It didn’t take long, however, for her to discover that they were headed toward their ranch.  Margaret slowly sat up, anxious to see just how much work they still had to do on the ranch house before they could move in.  And where exactly had her things been taken?  And would Lucas, after all, allow her to stay in the shack with him until the house was finished.

Lucas pulled the wagon into their yard and stopped the horses just outside the house. From the outside, the house looked done.  Margaret didn’t realize he had progressed so far before coming to rescue her.  The roof was finished.  The windows were cut out, and even filled with glass.  The curtains…

Margaret gasped.  “Lace curtains?  Lucas?”

Lucas chuckled as he jumped down from the wagon and picked her up by her waist.  He swung her up into his arms to carry her inside.  Margaret gasped as she swung her arm around his neck.  “Lucas McCain!”

Lucas smiled.  “I have to carry my bride over the threshold,” he explained.

“But it’s not…” Lucas opened the door as they stood on the porch.  Margaret gasped when she saw the rugs she had made thrown on the floor in perfect order.  A lantern sat on a table in the middle of the room with four chairs neatly pushed in around it.  “Oh…Lucas…”

Slowly, Lucas lowered her onto the floor.  She turned to the window and ran her hand down the lace of the curtain.  “Why, that’s real lace!”  She studied the two lamps sitting on the tables in the main room.  They had both come from her own home.  Margaret turned to look at the old rocking chair, she had always sat in at home, now sitting beside the fireplace.  A table sat between that and Lucas’ father’s old leather chair.  The doilies she had made were scattered on various make-shift tables covered with hemmed material.

Margaret walked toward the kitchen where the curtain was fluttering in the breeze.  The cupboards already held the essential staples she would need for cooking.  Various pots and pans, some worn with use, yet some new, were neatly placed in her kitchen.  Everything was as she would want it.  She even found a good set of silverware in the drawer and glasses in the cupboards.  “The only thing we need is…”

She heard Lucas’ shuffling behind her.  He huffed as he sat the first of the two heavy crates on the table.  He took his hammer and lifted the lid of the crate.  Margaret came to stand beside him.  “Dishes!” Margaret cried.  “Oh…Oh Lucas!”

Lucas chuckled as he moved aside some of the packing and lifted plate after plate from the crate.  They were so beautiful – just like the blue willow dishes she had seen in the catalog when she was in Oklahoma City.  Margaret’s eyes filled with tears.  “Oh Luke…how did you know?”

“Well…” Lucas continued to lift dish after dish from the crate.  “I reckon that if dishes were important enough to you to send you to Oklahoma City, then it was something you needed.  I was so proud that you refused those dishes when Aunt Gertrude offered them to you.  I reckon this is my wedding gift to you.”

Margaret felt the tears on her face.  She had never felt so blessed in her whole life.  “They are the most beautiful dishes in the world!”  Margaret gently sat the saucer down and turned around.  “Oh, But Luke…”

“Now, if you say we can’t afford them, I’ll turn you over my knee and give you a good old fashioned spanking!” Lucas declared.  “And if you remember right, I DO know how to do that!”  Margaret blushed, remembering the ‘spanking’ he gave her on their honeymoon after she had poured water all over him.  “I’ve already told you that money’s my worry.  I still have plenty to get us through, so don’t you worry.”  Lucas kissed her softly.  “I’ve another crate full.  I’ll be right back.”

By the time all the dishes were lifted from the crates, they found that they had a setting of eight.  Various serving bowls came with the set.  “Where will we put it all?” Margaret asked.

Lucas smiled.  “Well now…I just may have a Christmas present for you before long.”  Lucas looked down at her.  “Built with my two hands, of course.”  Margaret stared down at the dishes again.  “So, are you happy?”

“Happy?”  Margaret threw her arms around Lucas and cried softly.  “The house…you…the dishes…Grandma…my family…” She cried harder.  “Oh Luke…It’s too much!  I feel so blessed!”  She straightened up.  “I didn’t give you a single thing!”

Lucas smiled as he bent down to kiss her.  “Oh, but you did, my darling.  You gave me your love.  And on our wedding night…er…morning after, I should say…you gave me yourself.  You’ll be taking care of me every day for the rest of my life.”  Lucas smiled as he ran his thumbs along her cheeks.  “And someday…you’ll give me children.  Those are things I can’t give you.”  Lucas kissed her softly again.  Their kiss deepened, and Lucas’ arms tightened around her.  “Do you like your home?”

“I do!  But when did you find time to…”

Lucas shook his head.  “I’m afraid I can’t take the credit, my dear.  My…” Lucas chuckled.  “Our families did this.”

“All of it?”

Lucas nodded.  “All…of it.”  He again bent down and kissed her.  Margaret returned his kiss as she slowly moved her hands up his chest and slowly slid her arms around his neck.  She pulled him toward her as their kiss increased with intensity.  Lucas kept his lips against her as he spoke.  “Shall we…go see the bedroom?”  Margaret didn’t miss the husky smile in his voice.

Margaret allowed Lucas to lift her into his arms as they started for the bedroom.  Margaret kept her eyes closed as he lowered her onto the bed and slowly lowered himself on top of her.  Margaret opened her eyes and looked up into his.  Slowly, his lips parted and lowered to hers.  They shared a passionate kiss.  But suddenly, Lucas let out a gasp.  “Oh…wait a minute.”

Lucas jumped up and hurried out the door.  “Luke, what are you doing?”

Lucas was gone for a few minutes.  When he returned, he closed the door to the bedroom and returned to his previous position.  His kisses drowned out any curious question, and soon they were making sweet love once again.  Margaret moaned softly in her husband’s arms.  Everything was forgotten, and the entire afternoon was spent in their new bed, enjoying the new level of love shared as husband and wife.

***
 
Ann and Hal hurried across the street to welcome their new neighbors.  Ann held a freshly baked pie in her hands.  “I’m so glad they’re finally here!”  But Hal stopped her by putting a finger to his lips as they approached the front door.  They saw a sign on the door, which caused them to pause in their steps.  Ann read the sign.  “Do not disturb…”

Hal chuckled as he read the rest of the sign hanging on their door.  “…Trespassers will be shot?”

The couple gave each other a knowing look and turned to hurry from the yard.  “My…my…” Ann declared.  “If Margaret knew about that sign, she’d be mortified!”

“You going to tell her?” Hal asked as he put an arm around his wife.

“Tell Margaret?”  Ann laughed.  “Of course not!  Lucas is a nice guy.  I’d hate to see him go like that…” She turned to look at the house one last time before they crossed the street.  “I just hope Lucas hides that sign before she sees it!

***

Lucas kissed Margaret one last time before lying down beside her exhausted.  Margaret cuddled down into the bed.  “What time is it?” she mumbled, completely content as she laid blissfully at her husband’s side.

Lucas bent over the bed to retrieve the watch from his britches.  He opened it and mumbled, “It’s 4:30.”

“Mmmm…” Margaret laid back on her pillow in bliss.  Suddenly, she sat straight up in bed, clinching the blankets around her breasts.  “4:30?”  She turned to Lucas as he slowly sat up with uplifted eyebrows.  “You mean we’ve been in bed for…”  She blushed and reached for the blanket at the end of the bed. As she jumped out of bed, she used the blanket to cover herself.  “Lucas, we’re going to be late!  We have to be there in an hour!”  Margaret bent over and hastily started picking up her clothes off the floor.

“Five thirty???”  Lucas jumped from bed and bent over to retrieve his long johns off the floor.  As he pulled them on, he shouted, “Margaret McCain!  You told them five thirty?”  There was obvious disapproval in his voice.

“Well…” Margaret hurried to the closet to find the dress she would wear.  “Oh Luke…I didn’t know you were going to…going to…”

Lucas grabbed his jeans and stepped into them.  “Going to what???” He challenged her as he hastily pulled them up and began buckling his belt.

“Going to…” Margaret poked her head out from behind the closet door to look at her husband.  She gasped.  “Lucas McCain, don’t you DARE put on those dirty pants!”  She shifted through the closet and tossed him a clean pair.  “And don’t you pretend not to know what YOU DID!”

“Well, I didn’t hear you complaining.”  He hurried up behind her.  She had allowed the blanket to slip partly from her as she stood behind the confines of the closet door and was currently shifting through her dresses to find the right one to wear.  Lucas couldn’t help putting his arms around her and squeezing her tight.  “In fact…I think I heard you…”

“And stop all this…this…” Margaret grabbed his hands and pushed him away.  “I’ve got to get dressed!”

“This what?  MAKING LOVE?”  Lucas chuckled.  “And I’m not stopping you from getting dressed.”

Margaret hurried to the bed and laid out her undergarments.  “Lucas…we’re going to be late! Oh…what will my family think…our being late like this?”

“Well honey,” Lucas answered as he buttoned up his shirt.  “They’ll probably think we’re newlyweds.”  He chuckled lightly.

Margaret blushed again as she turned and looked at Lucas.  “Well, you just go on out there so I can get dressed!”

“Why do I have to leave?”

“So I can get dressed!” Margaret exclaimed.

“I’m your husband!” Lucas argued.  Lucas sat down to put his socks on.  “Besides, I still have my socks and boots to…”

“Lucas!” Margaret pointed a finger toward the door.

“Alright…alright…” Lucas walked toward the door.  “Women!”

***

Not a word was said as Lucas and Margaret stepped into the Gibbs’ house.  Jennifer stood and went to hug her mother.  After she had her mother settled in a chair beside her, she nodded for Scott to say the blessing.  After the blessing was said, Scott cleared his throat.  “Uh…we’ve been holding supper for an hour.”  Amanda cleared her throat and shot her husband a look.  “What was the hold up?”

Margaret lowered her head and blushed deeply.  Lucas lifted his eyebrows at his brother in law.  “Scott Gibbs, you stop that this minute!” Amanda declared.  “I can give Margaret a few juicy stories of our newlywed days!”

Scott nodded and gave Lucas a wink.  “The way she says that, our honeymoon’s over.” Scott grabbed his wife around her waist and pulled her closer to him.  “Darling…we’re still on our honeymoon.”

“You stop that!” Amanda declared.  She smoothed out her shirt and returned to her eating.  “Honestly, Margaret…when they get like this, you have to take drastic measures!”

“She already has!” Scott declared as he took another bite.  “I…heard about the pitcher of water you poured on him when he was in bed.”

Lucas cleared his throat.  “I neglect to see the humor in that event.”

Just then, everyone at the table burst into laughter.  Even Grandma Bertha, who had perfect hearing, laughed.  When the group grew quiet, she pointed a finger at Scott.  “Behave!”

“You tell him, Grandma!” Lucas said.

Jennifer turned to her Mother.  “We’re so happy you decided to come live with us. They’ll be plenty of room.  Johnny’s not home that often.  Beth will be leaving soon.  Margaret…Well…It seems I’m losing my whole family.”

“You still have us,” Amanda said as she squeezed her mother-in-law’s hand.

“Yes.”  Jennifer smiled.  Suddenly, Baby Andy made his presence known.  “And my grandson!”  The group laughed.

“Samuel?” Grandma Bertha asked.

The room grew quiet.  An uncomfortable feeling came over the group.  “Grandma…” Scott cleared his throat.

“We’ll talk about later, Mother,” Jennifer said.  Margaret didn’t miss the confused, worried look on her Grandmother’s face.  She suddenly felt weariness return, and tried to hide it from Lucas.

But Lucas watched her carefully.  He knew she worried over her grandmother like she would worry over a child.  She had rescued her grandmother from a life of neglect, and it would be hard to release her care to the responsibility of her mother.  After supper, Lucas suggested they go on their way.  It had been another long day.

The family said goodnight.  Margaret wanted to stay to help her Grandmother understand the situation of her father, but she could tell Lucas was ready to get her home.  With a heavy heart, she hugged her mother and allowed Lucas to escort her to the waiting wagon.  Once they were in motion, Margaret voiced her thoughts.  “Luke, I feel you should have let me stay to help my mother.”

“With what?” Lucas questioned.

“Well…Grandma may have trouble understanding about my father.  I thought maybe my mother…”

“Honey, that’s between your mother and your grandmother.  Your mother will handle it better if it’s just her.  She needs her mother. She may express emotions that she can’t express with you.”

“Of course your right,” Margaret agreed.  She laced her arm though his.  “How’d you get to be so smart anyhow?”

Lucas chuckled.  “I’m just a mutual party.  It’s easier to see things when you aren’t so emotionally involved.”

“Hm…” Margaret laid her head on his shoulder.  “Luke?”

“Hm?”

“I love you.”

Lucas kissed the top of her head.  “I love you too.”

As they neared home, Margaret begged Lucas that they could stop by and say hello to the Dodd’s.  “After all, they are our neighbors and…”

“…Your best friend,” Lucas said.  He laughed.  “But I think you could wait until tomorrow.  After all, it’s a bit late to be calling on folks tonight.”

Margaret hadn’t really thought on the time, and she knew the time was only half of his refusal.  He was worried about her overdoing it, and she knew it.  She wished Lucas wouldn’t worry so much about her.  After all, she had just gotten married.  It’s not like she had some sort of terminal illness or anything…

“I’m pretty bushed myself,” Lucas declared as they made their way down the road.  “I think I’ll finish up the chores then go to bed.”

“I would like to do some rearranging when we get home, Luke.  I’ll come to bed when I’m done.”  Margaret felt his eyes on her.  “Well…” She lifted her chin in a stubborn stance.  “We can’t eat off of a table full of dishes!”

“Hm…” Lucas pulled the horses into the yard.  “Where are you going to put them?”

“I’ll find a place for now.  I’ll…move some things around in the cabinet.”

Margaret was still working on her project when Lucas came inside for the night.  He placed his rifle in the holder by the door and put his hat on the nail.  “Don’t be too long,” Lucas ordered as he passed her and brushed a kiss on her cheek.

Margaret blew out the lantern and headed for the bedroom thirty minutes later.  Lucas was sitting up in bed reading the newspaper. “Do you do that every night?” She asked as she sat down on the side of the bed and began undressing.

“It helps me relax a bit.”

Margaret stood up and turned as she took off her dress.  “Reading the paper…helps you relax?”

“Mm hm.”

“Land sakes, Luke…How on earth does reading a paper help you relax?  Why, it’s full of depressing stories and…”

Lucas chuckled.  “I reckon I never really thought about it, Honey.”

Margaret lifted the covers and sat on the bed.  “Luke?”

“Mm hm…”

“Do you always sleep on that side of the bed?”

Lucas folded the paper and tossed it onto the bedside table.  “I’ve never really had a ‘side’ of the bed.”

“Oh.”

“Would…you like this side of the bed?”

“No…no…” Margaret laid down.  “I never really thought about it…Seemed to sleep okay on this side of the bed as well as the other.”

Lucas scooted down in the bed.  He laid on his back and looked toward the window.  “Well, I tell you what…How about if we just switch sides tomorrow night, then we’ll decide what side we like best.”

“Okay.”  Margaret turned and kissed him goodnight.  Then she laid on her side away from Lucas.  But only a moment later, she turned on her other side to face him.  “Luke?”

“What?”  Lucas turned on his side to face her.

“What if we both like the same side?”

Lucas grinned in the darkness.  “Well then, my love…” He pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek.  “We just have to adjust to that sleeping arrangement.”

“How about if we both try this side of the bed tonight then?”

Lucas laughed as he drew her close to him and kissed her softly.  “That sounds good to me!”

They laid quietly for a few minutes.  Lucas was just about to go to sleep when Margaret said his name again.  “What is it now?” He mumbled against her neck.

“That wagon…”

“Wagon?”

“You have to pay rent on it for every day you use it.”

“Mm hm…”

“Will you please turn it in tomorrow?”

“Mm hm…”

“Luke?”

“Margaret…GO TO SLEEP!”

Margaret smiled as she cuddled closer to Lucas.  “Goodnight, Luke.”  The light snore was her only response.

***
The sun was just beginning to peak out when Lucas and Margaret woke up the next morning.  Margaret stretched out long in the bed and yawned as Lucas rubbed his eyes and kept his arm around her.  “Good morning, my love.”  Lucas kissed her softly.  Margaret smiled as she slowly drew her arms around his neck and returned his kiss.  Lucas finally released her, mumbling that he’d go start on the chores.

Margaret smiled from the bed as she watched Lucas pull on his pants and slide into a shirt.  He bent over once more and kissed her.  Margaret yawned and stretched out in the bed once more before sitting up to get dressed herself.  She heard Lucas filling the stove with wood.  “He must be hungry…” Margaret mumbled as she reached for her robe and hurried into the other room.

Lucas was bent over the container making coffee.  “Luke?  I’ll do that.”  Margaret hurried forward.

“Of course.”  Lucas smiled as he started for the door.  “I just like my coffee ready when I come back in from choring.  I’d have it as soon as I got up if that was possible.”

“Oh…you want me to get up early every morning and have your coffee ready?”  Margaret gave him a crooked smile.

“You would do that?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow.

Margaret smiled.  “If you asked me to.”

“Oh no!”  Lucas chuckled.  “You need your beauty sleep.”  Margaret lifted her eyebrows and folded her arms as she stood staring at him in the middle of the room.  Lucas hastily took more steps toward the front door.  “What I mean is…” He lifted his hat off the peg.  “Boy, I got chores to do!”

Margaret shook her head in disbelief.  He sure was a character alright!  She didn’t know what in the world she was going to do with him!  She went to get his coffee on before going to get dressed.  After dressing, she went to the chicken coop, where she had seen some chickens the day before.  “I’ve checked,” Lucas said as he carried the bucket of milk from the barn.  “Apparently, they aren’t laying.”

“Oh.”  Margaret reached for the pail of milk.  “How can I fix your breakfast without any eggs?”

“I’m sorry, honey.  We just got back…” Lucas ran a hand through his hair.  “I’ll stock up the cooler over there with meat and eggs today.  You can fix me eggs tomorrow.”

“I’m sure I can borrow some from family.  No need to buy eggs.”  Margaret looked in at the chickens.  “Remember when I used to come to your house every day and gather eggs?”

“Now, just a minute, young lady…” Lucas grabbed her shoulders and turned her around to face him.  “You are not to leave this ranch today!”

“But Luke…”

“No, Margaret.  This is your day of rest.  If you’re a good girl, I’ll try to arrange a get together with my bunch tomorrow night.”

“What about Ann?”

Lucas grinned as he turned to see Ann hurrying across the road.  “Well, I can’t stop her.  But you will not start doing any chores today!  I want you two to sit and have a nice, long talk.”  Margaret nodded her agreement and waited for Ann to come to her.  They squealed and hugged.

“How dare you not invite me to the wedding!” Ann accused lightly as she embraced her best friend.  “Now, how could you even think of getting married without me?”

Margaret giggled.  “Well, Lucas suggested we have another wedding for the benefit of our family and friends, but I told him I didn’t want to go through any of that again!”

“Well…just make sure I’m there for the birth of your first baby!” Ann folded her arms.  “I told Hal that I hoped you’d stop by last night.”

“Lucas thought I was too tired when we got home.  That man is so protective!”  She gasped.  “Oh, Luke’s coffee should be ready.  Come on inside!”

Ann followed Margaret into the house.  “That man…” Margaret shook her head in disbelief.  “He informed me that he likes his coffee ready when he gets up in the morning.”

“What?  Did he have some secret maid who did that for him all those years?”  Ann shook her head.  “Don’t you give in to him, Margaret Gibbs!  I…” Ann giggled.  “Well…I don’t guess it’s Gibbs anymore!  That will take some getting used to!”

“Yes.  It’s McCain…And don’t you forget it!”  Margaret took a cup and filled it with coffee.

“Well, that’s a nice cup!” Ann declared as she studied it.

“Luke’s wedding present to me.  These dishes are really special.  You know…Luke told me yesterday that they should be for special company, but I told him he’s pretty special, and my family will eat from them every night for as long as I have a family.”  Margaret sat the cup on the saucer.  “I should get this out to the busy rancher.”  They started out the door.  “Say, do you have some eggs I can borrow?  Lucas is starving and our chickens aren’t laying yet.”

“Oh, but they are!”  Anne giggled.  “Your brothers-in-law told us we could have all the eggs until you get back.  There’s not many, but I think Luke can get by with just a couple eggs each morning.”

In no time, Margaret was back in the kitchen cracking her eggs into the hot frying pan.  By the time Lucas came in for his second cup of coffee and his morning backwards embrace while Margaret cooked over the stove, she had breakfast almost ready.

They said a quick prayer then started eating.  Margaret laid her napkin on her lap and looked up at her husband.  “What are you doing today?”

“Well…” Lucas took a sip of coffee.  “I reckon I’ll check on my cattle this morning.  Then I’ll head on into town.  If there’s things you need, have the list ready when I get back.  I’ll go see those brothers of mine and then scoot on back here by supper time.”  Lucas took another drink of his coffee.  “What are you doing today?”

“Ann’s invited me over to talk this morning.  I have laundry to keep me busy this afternoon…and then some.”

Lucas grinned.  “Doing our laundry for the first time.”  He reached out and took her hand.  “I’ll haul up some buckets of water from the creek for you before I go,” Lucas nodded his head.  “Come spring, I’ll dig a well.”

Lucas finished his breakfast and stood up.  “Well, I should get going.  He bent over and kissed Margaret.  Margaret slowly stood and put her arms around his neck, giving him a deeper kiss.  “Mmmm….” Lucas mumbled.  “How will I ever get work done with kisses like that?”

“Well…” Margaret toyed with the button on his shirt.  “Just remember to come home to me tonight.”  She gave him a knowing look.

“Oh, yes ma’am!”  Lucas kissed her again, allowing his lips to linger, and his hands to stay low on her waist.  “I can’t wait.”  He parted from her and pinched her chin.  “Have that list ready when I get back in a couple hours.”

“Have a good day.”

Margaret hurried to clean up the dishes and wipe down the table.  Then she started going through her cabinets and writing down a list of supplies she would need.  The list was quite lengthy and she chewed her lip at how costly the supplies would be.  She labored over the list, marking out items here and there to try and get just the necessities down.  The second list was only half as long, and she worried and fretted over that list.  She wasn’t used to living on such a tight budget.  She was just putting the finishing touches on her third list when Lucas came in.

“Well, a couple of those cows are ready for market.”  Lucas saw the struggled expression on Margaret’s face.  “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” Margaret answered quickly as she took the other two lists and wadded them up.  “Here’s the list.”

Lucas sat down at the table.  “Now wait a minute here.”  He pointed to her hand.  “What’s those?”

“Luke…” Margaret swallowed as she folded her hands together.  “We need to talk.”

Lucas sat down and took her hand.  His eyes stayed focused on the two crumpled pieces of paper that sat on the table in front of her.  “Go on.”

“Luke…as you know, my family wasn’t ever in need of conserving our money…much…We could go to the General Store anytime we needed and buy the finer things.  But…You and I…we can’t do that and I’m not used to that.”  She heard Lucas sigh.  “Now…it’s okay, mind you, and I don’t care in the least, but I just need to know…What’s my budget?”

Lucas lifted his eyebrow as he picked up the two crumpled pieces of paper.  “Honey, we’re not going to go broke.  I have a ledger over in that drawer that tells me just how much money I have.  Now, I can’t go buy you fine dresses in the dress shop every week, but I’m getting income from the crops I helped my brothers plant.  We’re increasing our herd right fast, and come spring, I’ll be growing my own field of wheat.”  He studied the lists.  “Do you need everything on this list?”

“We can go without some things, Luke.”  Margaret handed him the third.  “I was able to get it down to this.”

“Setting up a home, honey, is expensive.  We won’t need to shop this way every week.  I’ll go by your first list.”  Lucas saw the concern in her eyes.  “Look…the ledger’s over in that drawer.  If you would like to study over it and help keep up with the household expenses, I’m not going to stop you.  But I don’t want you fretting over this list.”

“It’s just…I know how expensive everything is.”  Margaret lifted her head to look at him.  “I really CAN get by with little, Luke.”

“I know you can.”  He reached a hand out and nudged her cheek.  “And maybe we’ll have to.  But for now…we’ll buy the things you think we need.”  Margaret nodded.  Lucas crumpled up the third list and stuffed the first list in his pocket.  “Now then…I’ll be home by supper.”  He leaned over and kissed her.  Then he stood up, got his rifle, and hurried out the door.

***

Margaret had a good talk with Ann that morning.  She and Ann laughed and cried over Ann’s homemade chicken soup.  After lunch, Margaret regretted to inform Ann that she had to go home and do laundry.  Ann nodded her understanding and hugged her friend.  “We’re too close not to see each other every day,” Ann commented as Margaret walked onto the porch.

“We will!” Margaret promised.  Then she hurried back across the road to her house.  She boiled the buckets of water before pouring them into the wash barrels.  There wasn’t nearly enough water for rinsing, and she shook her head at her husband’s miscalculations.  “I hope he manages his money better than he figures water!” Margaret declared as she hiked back to the creek to haul more water.

By the time she had both barrels full of water, it was three o’clock.  Lucas would be hungry when he got home and would expect his supper to be ready.  After washing a few articles of clothing and hanging them on the line, she hurried inside to put the beans on.  Lucas had told her earlier that morning that there was some ham hanging in the smoke house.  She prepared that and put it in the oven before returning to her chore of laundry.

The laundry wasn’t even close to being done when Lucas rode into the yard.  He tied his horse to the hitching post and went to give Margaret a kiss.  “Supper’s almost ready,” Margaret announced as she hung another dress on the line.  The clothes would have to hang outside all night.  The remainder of the laundry would have to be finished tomorrow.  “Land sakes, but how did we get so much laundry?”

Lucas chuckled and said he’d dump the water.  Then Margaret hurried into the house to finish supper.

It wasn’t until Lucas was enjoying the apple pie Ann had sent home that Margaret brought up the subject of supper Friday night.  Lucas announced that Tiffany was willing to host the party.  Margaret rested her chin in her hand and narrowed her eyes at her husband.  “You like the pie, Luke?”

“Mm hm.  Ann’s a good cook,” Lucas commented.

“Oh?”

“Well, I mean you are the best, but…” Lucas cleared his throat.  Seemed he knew how to get himself in a mess he couldn’t get out of gracefully.

“I’ve been thinking,  honey.”  Margaret ran a finger across the back of his hand and trailed it up his wrist, teasing his sleeve.

“Mm hm?”

“Well…The family’s done a lot in getting us settled in our new home and doing the chores for you and all.  I’d sort of like to show our appreciation.”

Lucas sat his fork down and leaned back in his chair.  “What’s on your mind, Margaret?”

Margaret stood from her chair and sat down on his lap.  She put her arms around his neck.  “I was thinking that maybe we could uh…host the super?”

“NO!” Lucas answered as he kissed the tip of her nose.  “No way, no how!”

“Oh, but Luke…”

“The answer’s no, Margaret.  That’s final!”  Lucas lifted his coffee cup.  “I need more coffee.”

Margaret stood to go get it.  She brought the coffee pot back to the table and filled it.  “Lucas, I don’t see why I can’t.  It’s just cooking and…”

“It’s too soon,” Lucas declared.

“No it’s not!” Margaret argued.  “Now, I was raised on a ranch and I grew up to be stout!  Remember how I used to fish and climb trees with you boys?  Now, I’m not a ninny like those women who live in town.  I can take a lot!”

“No,” Lucas answered in a sing-song voice as he took another sip of coffee.  “Ask me in a week when you’ve adjusted.”

“Oh, but I AM adjusted Luke!”

Lucas stood up and looked down at her.  His mouth frowned.  “I said no, Margaret.  I want you to have an adjusting time.  We’ve been married for only a week and I think you just need some time to get used to taking care of me.”  He kissed her to try and melt some of her anger.  “I tell you what…If you do some resting this week and I think you’ve adjusted…you can host Sunday dinner here.”  He kissed her again.  “That’s mostly potluck anyhow.”

“Alright,” Margaret folded her arms.  “I’m willing to make that compromise.  She started to lift the dishes and slowly turned to face her husband.  “If you ask me, I’d say you just want to keep me to yourself as much as possible.”

Lucas grinned.  “I’ll go do the chores.”  He picked up his rifle and lifted a cigar from the box by the door.  “If you’re done when I get back, we’ll go for a walk in the moonlight…Mrs. McCain.”  Lucas opened the door and slid the match over the door flame.  After lighting his cigar, he said, “And you’re right.  I DO want you to myself!”

Margaret had the dishes done and the kitchen clean when Lucas returned.  She was standing at the sink peeling sweet potatoes.  Lucas walked into the kitchen and picked up a slice of it.  “Where’d that come from?”

“I found the cellar.”  Margaret pointed toward the rug that covered the cellar.  “Luke, your family went and put all sorts of vegetables and fruits down there too!”  Margaret shook her head.  “They really outdid themselves.  We must thank them somehow.”  Margaret gasped. “Hey, do you think we could have a barn dance here in a few weeks?”

Lucas chuckled as he popped another piece of sweet potato in his mouth.  “I reckon we could.  What are you doing?”

“I’m making a pie to take tomorrow night.”

“You don’t have to…” Lucas started.

“Now Luke McCain, we cannot show up to a supper and not bring food!  It’s just wrong!”

Lucas held up his hands.  “Alright, alright!  What about our walk?”

“I’ll be done in thirty minutes.”  Margaret smiled as she looked out the window.  “The moon will be high by then.”

“I’ll wait.”

Lucas sat in his chair and read the paper while she finished up her pie.  She covered it, stating she would put it in the oven in the morning.  Lucas reached for his rifle and escorted her out the door.

They walked slowly, enjoying the sound of the night animals as they made their presence known and spoke to each other.  When they got down to the creek. They sat down under a tree.  Margaret leaned against his chest and sighed.  They sat there for a long time, just listening to the night sounds.  “Well, now what do you think?” Lucas mumbled close to her ear.  “Any regrets?”

Margaret turned in his arms and kissed his lips in answer.  Lucas encircled his arms around her and pulled her body against his, their kiss deepening.  Lucas groaned as they pulled away.  “Well, one thing’s for sure…Tonight, we don’t have to hold back.”  Slowly, Lucas lowered her to the ground and covered her mouth with his.  His hands strayed as their kisses deepened.  Their only witnesses were the night bugs and frogs that ignored the couple in the grass and continued their normal activities.

***

The next morning, Lucas was already out doing chores by the time Margaret woke up.  She got up and went to start his coffee, but found that he had already started it.  She went to the kitchen window and looked outside.  Lucas was leading one of the horses from the barn, his shirt still unbuttoned.  She smiled, remembering her Aunt Gertrude’s reaction when she had seen his bare chest, and her request.  She wondered if he would remember once things settled down and opportunity would present itself.

Margaret went to check for eggs, but again found none.  Lucas leaned over the corral and questioned her on her frown.  She shook her head, declaring that apparently the chickens didn’t care for her, because they wouldn’t lay.  Lucas chuckled and declared he’d behead every last one of them if they kept treating her that way.  Margaret chuckled and waved her hand for him to go on back to his work.

When breakfast was finished and Margaret had the dishes washed, Lucas announced he was going to help Hal with his cattle branding.  Margaret said that was fine, but only AFTER he brought in some sort of shelf for her to put some of the goods he had brought home from the store the day before.  As of now, they were in the spare bedroom, which at the moment was empty and void of anything except the supplies from the day before.  Lucas mentioned politely that they were out of their way in the spare bedroom.  Margaret nodded her agreement, but stated again that there was a place for everything and everything in its place.

“I’ve married my mother!” Lucas groaned as he walked toward the door.

Margaret spun around from the stove.  Her eyes flashed a clear warning.  “And what is THAT supposed to mean, Lucas McCain?”  Lucas bolted for the door.  “There was nothing wrong with your mother!”

Lucas turned in the doorway and announced that he would look at the McCain farm and dig through the barn for some sort of shelf.  Peter and Amanda had done some cleaning after his mother had passed away and stored some furniture they didn’t have a use for out in the barn.  “I’ll just finish up the laundry until you get back,” Margaret announced as she put the pie in the oven.

“Until I get…” Lucas stopped.  “Margaret, it’s an hour’s ride there.  We’re going there tonight.  I think it can wait  until…”

Margaret straitened up and turned around.  She gave Lucas a sympathetic smile.  “Of course, my love.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to be so impatient.”

Lucas closed the distance between them and took her in his arms.  “I reckon there’s all sorts of adjustments when a couple gets marries.  We have to learn to share our likes and dislikes…Funny how different things seem now that we’re married, ain’t it?”

Margaret kissed him and agreed with him.  “Before you go, Luke…I have one little favor.”  Lucas kissed the tip of her nose and waited for her to go on.  “Could you…would you…help me bring water up for laundry?”

“How often you plan on doing laundry?” Lucas asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Only once a week.  But I had to do laundry yesterday because I was out of…” Margaret blushed.  “I mean…you were running low on…” She stopped.

Lucas chuckled.  “No need to explain, my dear.  I’ll go fetch the water for you.”

“Mind if I come along?” Margaret smiled.  “I like to spend time with my husband.”

Once they got all the water hauled up from the creek, Lucas hung around doing chores until the water was boiling in the big, iron pot.  The pot was heavy, and he had suggested Margaret use it to speed up the process of filling the wash barrel.  Once both the wash and rinse barrels were filled, Lucas left his bride with a kiss, mounted his horse, and rode across the field to help Hal Dodd.

Margaret was happy when Lucas came back for lunch.  He kissed her before sitting down to the vegetable stew and fresh bread and butter.  Margaret announced that she would make lye soap the next day.  She had never made it before, but she was sure she could learn.  Lucas asked her if there was a particular reason why she went through such trouble when she could buy it in the store.  She declared that Tiffany made lye soap for the McCain clan, so she could do the same.  Lucas advised her that Tiffany could probably make enough for them as well.  He could give her a little money if he needed too.  “There’s no sense in two of you burning your eyes with the fumes,” he pointed out.  “I’ve a barter system set up with my brothers for other things.  Perhaps we can do some sort of trade for lye soap.

Margaret nodded, saying perhaps she could think of something she was good at making to make an even trade.  Then as Lucas was standing up to go back to his branding, Margaret declared she knew what she would do.  “I could keep your family supplied with fresh flavored breads!” Margaret declared.  “I love making bread.  I make Zucchini bread and pumpkin bread…apple bread and…”

“Gingerbread…” Lucas teased her as he kissed her.  “I have to go.  We’re due at the McCain’s at six o’clock.  We shouldn’t be late!”

“After last time, I think not!” Margaret declared, blushing at the mere thought of it.

Lucas chuckled.  “Well, THAT won’t happen again because…” He kissed her one last time.  “When I get back, you’ll have my bath ready.”  He paused at the door.  “I…do have to take a bath tonight?”

Margaret nodded and turned up her nose.  “You already smell like you’ve been rolling in manure!” she declared.

Lucas winked at her.  “Spoken like a true rancher’s wife!  I’ll be back at 4:30 for my bath.”

Margaret smiled as she watched him ride across the road on his horse.  Her life was happy.  She couldn’t ask for anything more!

***

Margaret boiled one more pail of water and carried it into the bedroom.  She was half-way there when the door opened.  Lucas was filthy from head to toe.  She looked down at this boots.  Her eyes widened and she gasped.  “Lucas!”

Lucas hurried out the door.  “I’m sorry!”  He pulled his boots off and tossed them in the corner of the porch.

“You go on out back and get out of those filthy clothes!” Margaret demanded as she pointed to the back door. “Land sakes, Luke…You look like you rolled in the stuff!”

“Well…If you want the truth, I sort of had an…accident.  You see…”

“Never mind!”  Margaret turned and blushed when she saw Lucas standing in front of her with nothing but his long johns on.  “Your bath’s ready.”  She turned back to take another sheet of cookies from the oven.

Lucas took two steps toward her.  “You gonna wash my back for me, ma’am?”

“Who usually washes your back?” Margaret questioned without turning toward him.

“Well…nobody.”

“Does it get clean?”

“Yep.”

“Then I don’t think you need me.”  Margaret lifted her head and smiled.  “I wouldn’t want to be late for the party.”

“And washing my back would…make you late?”

Margaret continued removing the cookies from the cookie sheet.  “There’s quite a possibility of that.”

“Oh.”  Lucas chuckled as he went to the bedroom.

When he emerged twenty minutes later drying his hair, he went to the table and looked in the baskets.  There were batches of cookies, two cakes, a sweet potato pie, and zucchini bread.  “What is all this?”

“I’m taking it to the McCain’s,” Margaret answered as she wiped a sleeve across her brow.

“Margaret, you’re supposed to be taking it easy!”

“I am,” Margaret answered with a smile.

“Go on in there and get dressed.  I’ll…carry all this to the wagon.”

Soon, Margaret was in her dress.  Lucas came in to finish dressing and smiled as he watched Margaret brush her hair and put the sides up in a barrette.  “Margaret dear, you must put your hair up in a bun!  A twenty-two year old woman mustn’t wear it down like that!”  Lucas mocked her aunt.

“And if you say another word, I’ll throw this hairbrush at you!” Margaret teased.

Lucas walked up behind her and ran a hand through her hair.  “Don’t ever wear your hair up, my darling.  I love your hair like this.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “Now…shall we go?”

***

The sight that met Margaret’s eyes as she and Lucas pulled into the McCain farmyard that evening was enough to make her heart beat faster.  The children all ran and laughed in the yard, except for the youngest McCain’s, Julie and Abe’s two year old Scarlet, and Peter and Tiffany McCain’s four month old Willie McCain.  The three proud fathers were doing their best to teach their children a lively game of kick ball.  Charlie and his triplet brothers were figuring it out a bit, but Abby and Ruthie were a bit skeptical at joining in the fun.

The game stopped the moment they realized Lucas was in the yard.  Laura Rose McCain, who had been quite upset when her brother Abe had announced Lucas had been out to visit the day before when she was at school, hurried from her place at the base and jumped into her brother’s arms.  The men all gathered around the newlyweds and hugged them.  Even the children excitedly began asking questions.  Charlie, of course, wanted to know if Lucas had shot that bad guy.  Abe’s stern expression told Lucas not to encourage his young son, so Lucas quickly changed the subject.

The door opened.  Julie was the first to reach Margaret.  She hugged Margaret close and burst into tears, telling her how happy she was that she and Lucas were finally married.  Em pushed Julie aside to have her turn.  She tearfully announced that she was with child, not being able to hold out any longer to share the news.  Margaret hugged her tighter, wondering how long it would be before she would be able to make the same announcement.

Tiffany hurried forward and threw her arms around Margaret.  She declared that she was afraid Margaret and Lucas had eloped, but she was relieved to discover that they had a proper church wedding – something that Tiffany would always regret not having.  Finally, Emily Livingston hurried forward and hugged her sister-in-law again.

Lucas protectively took Margaret back to his side and suggested that the women retrieve their treats from the back of the wagon.

After the blessing was said, Abe ordered Laura to help the mother’s settle the children around the table that was set up outside.  She was to keep a close eye on the children while they ate.  Then the adults joined in conversation without the children.  There were many memories and fits of laugher exchanged.  Margaret smiled as she held tight to Lucas’ hand.  They discussed the fact of Lucas not wanting her to make lye soap and Tiffany declared she made plenty for the whole family.  She didn’t find the barter of lye soap necessary, but Margaret insisted that she take flavored breads from her when offered, and Tiffany couldn’t argue.  “After all,” she declared.  “Peter eats me out of house and home!”

“You’ve put on a few pounds yourself since we’ve married, my love,” Peter declared as he kissed her cheek.  The McCain’s chuckled at their teasing.

After dessert was served, Margaret started to help Tiffany and the other women gather the dirty dishes and wash them, but Tiffany firmly announced that Margaret was their guest tonight.  Lucas and Peter decided they should leave the dishes and all go outside to enjoy the evening.  After all, Peter pointed out.  The warm days would soon be coming to an end.

Margaret laughed as the family sang song after song while the children played and bickered nearby.  She clapped her hands as Peter played his harmonica and Abe his homemade instrument that he called a string bow-tie.  As the evening was coming to an end, Abe suggested the newlyweds dance a number as they played the last song.  It was a slow song, and the family was mesmerized as they watched Margaret and Lucas dance dreamingly in each other’s arms.

Margaret treasured all these things in her heart.

***
That evening, Margaret wrote in her journal:

I cannot imagine any part of my dream that hasn’t been fulfilled at this point in my life.  I’ve finally married the one man I’ve loved all my life.  Up to this point, Lucas has been nothing but gentle with me.  He’s my best friend and my lover.  Feeling his arms around me brings such comfort, and when we make love I feel so safe.  I wish this could go on forever…this eternal bliss I feel.

But I know that hard times will come.  I know there will be tears and pain.  But I also know that whatever happens…where ever I go…Luke will be right there beside me.  He’ll give me the comfort I need.  And if the storm comes for Lucas, I’ll offer him my arms and bring him comfort.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but today…today I am happy.

Margaret closed her journal and stood from her desk.  She blew out the lamp and softly walked over to the bed.  Lucas pulled back the covers and welcomed her down beside him.  As she cuddled up close to him, both again on the same side of the bed, she closed her eyes.  “Luke?”

“Hm?” Lucas mumbled as he ran his hand up and down her arm.

“I want it to always be like this.”  Lucas didn’t say anything.  “Can it?  Always be like this?”

“Like what, honey?”

Margaret smiled.  “Your arms around me, holding me close…You making me feel so safe…It was a really good night tonight.”

“Yes, honey.  Yes it was.”  Lucas pressed a kiss on top of her head.

“Promise me, Luke.  Promise me that no matter what happens…You’ll always love me.”

“I promise.”

“And promise me something else?”  Lucas waited for her to go on.  “Promise me that if someday God sees fit to take me and we have children…Promise me you’ll go on and love them.”

“Margaret…” Lucas paused, not wanting to think such things.

“Promise me.”

Lucas grew quiet.  “I promise, Baby.  But nothing will happen.  We’ll grow old together.”

“I know, but…”

“You make me the same promise.  Promise me that if something happens to me…you’ll go on, even if we have no children.”

Margaret cuddled closer to him.  “I promise, Luke.  But like you said, we’ll grow old together.”

No more words were said as they fell asleep, happy in each other’s arms.

The Margaret Years — Range War

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

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