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The Next Step…
Chapter 26 - Mark and Hope’s Wedding
Written by Deanne Bertram

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Milly helped Hope create her wedding dress. Together they had worked out the basic design, chose the material and lace, and sewed all the pieces together. The dress still needed to be taken in here and there, and the final stitching for the hem needed to be sewn. Standing in front of the mirror, Hope looked at herself, trying on the dress that she would wear to become the wife of Mark McCain.

“Miss Milly, were you scared?”

*****
Lucas and Mark were out checking the herds and riding fence, he had planned to take this opportunity to talk with Mark.

“Son, I know we had a talk a long time ago about girls, but…” Lucas paused, not sure how to proceed.

“Pa, I remember that talk and how afterwards I thought it was gross, all that kissing and stuff. Wow how naive I was back then.”

“Yes Mark, every boy goes through that phase when they first start getting interested in girls, as girls. But I wanted to talk with you about your wedding night. I know that you’ll treat Hope with the respect she’s due, but I wanted to let you know how she’ll feel. Every new bride feels this way on her wedding night. They’ll be scared and nervous. Both your Ma and Milly felt this way. A woman needs to know that you’ll understand this and accept her and be gentle with her. You’ll both be exploring something new. Allow her to grow in her role as your wife. Allow her to reveal herself and her passion for you, to you.”

“I think I understand, Pa.” Mark then asked, “Were you nervous?”

“Both times. With your Ma, it was something new. And with Milly, Mark, it had been so long since I’d had…”

“A woman in your bed?”

Lucas snuck a look to his son. If felt strange having this conversation with his son, but if it helped his son to understand…

“Yes, with Milly, it was new because it was something new with Milly. I was worried that, maybe, the memory of your Ma wouldn’t allow me to fully love Milly. But I felt Margaret approving. I felt she was happy that I had found someone to complete my life again.”

*****

While Mark and Lucas were away, Milly planned to take this time to talk with Hope.

“Hope, in a week, you will become my daughter-in-law and, well, since your mother is no longer with you, I thought that maybe we should talk. Talk about what to expect as you become a wife, more importantly your wedding night.”

“Miss Milly,” Hope started. “I’m so looking forward to becoming Mark’s wife, but I’m scared.”

“Hope, what you’re feeling, it’s natural. I felt the same way before I married Lucas. The night of your wedding will be special, if Mark is anything like his father. But as a woman, that night, you will give your husband the greatest gift, when you give yourself unto him. As you start your new life as a wife, you’ll be anxious, scared, nervous, it is a wonderful moment, it’s not just you giving yourself to your husband, but him giving himself to you. You were there when I gave birth to Myra, bringing a new life into the world is the second greatest gift you can give your husband, but its only because of your first gift.

“What you feel on your wedding night will be more than the way you felt that day at Miller’s Creek, if you truly love him. ”

“If I truly love him?” Hope asked.

“Hope, I believe in my heart that you do truly love him, for who he is and not because he saved your life.”

“Oh Miss Milly, I care for him because he saved my life, but I’ve come to realize that before I met him, he would be the one I would marry.”

Milly didn’t understand what Hope meant.

“Miss Milly, the night before I ran away from those men, I had a vision. The elders told me a stranger would come to rescue me and take me home. It hurt deep inside when Iron Heart and my brothers left me with Mark. But once I started to know him and North Fork, I realized the elders hadn’t meant he would take me back to my home with my Indian family, but that he would be my home. What I’ve felt when I’m close to Mark and just being in this house, is what I felt in my vision. This is my home.”

The two women hugged and cried in each other’s arms, until Myra woke from her nap and started crying. Milly carried Myra to the bedroom and allowed her to nurse.

*****

Milly returned to the front room to see Hope still wearing the dress and standing in front of the mirror.

“Hope?” Milly said as she came to stand behind her future daughter-in-law.

Blushing Hope replied, “I was imagining what it would be like, my wedding night.”

“Believe me, it will be something wonderful.”

Milly turned as Hope slipped from her dress, and stood there wearing only her underthings.

“Miss Milly, do men prefer women who are…” Hope stopped speaking as she hung her dress back on the hanger.

“Who are what?” Milly asked.

“Women who have more… curves.”

Milly turned and watched as Hope ran her hands from her shoulders, over her small breasts, and ultimately turned sideways to see herself in the mirror as she ran her hands across her hips.

“Hope, you are how God meant for you to be. And, if Mark wanted a woman with more curves, he wouldn’t have proposed to you.”

“It’s just that I see other men watching as women walk by and their eyes want to pop out of their heads,” Hope sighed as she turned and faced the mirror again.

“And those men don’t deserve to have someone like you to pay any attention to them. Most of those men are ruffians or saddle tramps, not decent God fearing folk. Hope, I know your transition from living with Iron Heart and the tribe took a lot of adjusting to, but don’t wish yourself different because of how you perceive other men. What matters is that Mark loves you, just the way you are.”

“Are you sure?”

“Isn’t it a little late to be asking that question? Your wedding is only a week away.”

“Miss Milly, I do love him and I don’t want to disappoint him.”

“Hope, as long as there is love in your home, you’ll never disappoint him. Now get yourself dressed before you intended arrives home and sees you in your, unmentionables.”

*****

Sunday, May 20th. Seems most everyone in the whole town turned out for the wedding of Mark and Hope. But there were several surprises in store for them that morning. Everyone worked hard to keep the two from seeing each other before Hope walked down the aisle, but when unexpected, but welcome guests arrived; they had to make sure the two knew, before hand.

Lucas was in one of the jail cells with Mark, trying to tie his tie, when Micah entered and told them they had visitors.

“Mark, Lucas, you’ve guests who want to see you.” They stepped from the cell to see Johnny and Colleen Gibbs.

“I couldn’t believe it when I received the letter from Lucas, Mark, are you really sure you want to go through with this wedding. I think you should run and spread your wings.” Johnny stated as Colleen slapped his arm.

“Mark, don’t let him fool you. He enjoys being married. We just wanted to stop by and wish you well, before you stand up in front of everyone,” Colleen stated as she placed a kiss on Mark’s cheek.

“Uncle Johnny, Aunt Colleen it’s great to see you. Thank you for coming. It means a lot.”

“I wouldn’t miss seeing my sister’s son getting married. She’s smiling at you boy, I hope you know that.”

“I do Uncle Johnny and having you here makes everything else all the more special. Have you met her?”

“I will, once she becomes my… neice-in-law?” Johnny laughed. “Once she becomes your wife, regardless of how homely she looks,” Colleen punched Johnny in the arm, “regardless of how jealous I am over the beauty you married, I’ll welcome her into the family with open arms.”

*****
Hope had unexpected visitors as well. Her father and brother knocked on the door to her changing room in the back of the church.

Miss Hattie opened the door, slightly.

“Miss Hattie, we have guests who we’d like Hope to see. I know it will mean a lot to her.”

Miss Hattie opened the door wide to allow the Major, the Lieutenant, and four others inside. They all stopped as Hope turned around, wearing her wedding gown.

She took a tentative step forward as tears fell.

“Iron Heart, you and my family, you came,” she quietly cried.

“Your father sent word, asked if we come. In our camp, we have missed you. The one you marry?” Iron Heart asked.

“Iron Heart, the one I marry is the one who saved my life. The one the elders told me, in a vision, would take me home,” Hope said as she embraced those who had been her father, her mother and her brothers.

“Red Dawn, we will not shame you by staying, but…”

“No, you will shame me by leaving. Please,” then looking to her father. “Father, I know there is tradition, but does tradition say anything against two fathers walking their daughter down the aisle?”

“Red Dawn, our God is not your God, we do not belong…”

“Iron Heart, our God is the same God, we just have different names for him. You are welcome in his house and the people of this town will welcome you too.”

*****

All eyes turned to the back of the church as Hope entered, on the arms of the two men she considered her father. A few people were surprised, but people seemed to understand.

Mark only had eyes for Hope as she slowly walked down the aisle. They listened to Reverend McCafferty perform the ceremony. As he asked, “Who gives this woman to this man?” Iron Heart and Seth Lane, stated in unison, “We do”. They then gave Hope’s hand to Mark.

Soon, Mark heard the Reverend state, “You may kiss your bride.” He took a tentative step forward, lifted her veil, and placed his hands to her back, then pulled her close to him. Lovingly he gave her their first kiss as husband and wife. The Reverend cleared his throat and Mark took a step backwards, not letting go of Hope’s hand. Finally, the Reverend turned them and announced, “People of North Fork, I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Mark McCain.”

*****

Everyone had a wonderful time at their reception. Mark and Hope danced and laughed. Many of Mark’s former school mates kept interrupting, insisting they have a chance to dance with the beautiful bride.

All too soon, it was time for the final dance. Mark escorted Hope to Iron Heart and gave her his hand. “Sir, I believe this dance should be yours.” Mark stepped aside as Hope walked back to the dance floor. Soon, Iron Heart led Hope to Seth Lane. Before the end of the song, Seth had returned Hope to Mark’s arms.

Before the end of the reception, Hope stood on the staircase in the hotel lobby and tossed her bouquet, this time it was Micah’s turn to be embarrassed, when he realized it was Hattie who had caught the bouquet.

*****

After their reception was over and just the families remained, Lucas and Milly handed the couple one last gift. As they opened the present they saw a bible, their own family bible for Hope and Mark to record their blessed events. Mark lifted the bible from the box and opened it. On the events page, he saw that his Ma had already printed,

Mark and Hope (Lane) McCain, married, and the date.

Tears fell as Mark gave his Ma a hug.

Lucas placed a hand on Mark’s shoulder and said, “Son, I think it’s time you and Hope head on home.”

“But I thought we were staying in the hotel tonight.”

“Mark, your Ma, Myra, and I will stay here, you take your wife home. Nils has a buggy out front and will drive you home.”

“Pa, what about…” Mark started to ask.

“No Mark, you don’t need to worry. Everyone has agreed because of your ages, it wouldn’t be proper for a shivaree. You go on home, now.”
Everyone watched as Mark and Hope ran to the buggy.

The Next Step — The Wedding Night

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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