The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 28 – The Day After
Written by Deanne Bertram

Lucas drove Milly and the baby back to the ranch the following morning. He watched as his wife carried their daughter inside, he smiled as he thought of his eldest child already inside, then he headed the team to the barn. He tended to Mark’s morning chores in the barn, obvious, Mark hadn’t been outside yet. Once finished with the chores in the barn, Lucas returned to the house, carrying the milk pail and a basket of eggs. He set them down on the counter as he smiled and walked to the closed bedroom door.

“Lucas McCain,” Milly whispered. “You let them two sleep. Remember back to our wedding night. I’ll not have you disturbing them. They’ll wake when they’re ready, and not before then.” Milly held and pointed the spatula to Lucas as she stood in front of the stove. Lucas feigned a look of hurt, but then went and picked up his daughter from her cradle and walked and sat down in his chair.

“Well, Myra, seems we officially have a new member in the family today. Granted it took longer than nine months for her to become a part of this family, but well worth the wait. I’ll introduce your new sister to you as soon as she wakes.”

Milly smiled as she watched her husband and daughter. Lucas cooing and Myra grabbing at his lips as Lucas held the baby to his face.

*****

Mark woke in the morning and looked over at his sleeping wife, thankful the new bed he had ordered had arrived before their wedding. He saw the rise and fall of her chest under the cover and saw the smile on her face. He placed a gentle kiss on her lips, then, under the cover, ran his hand down her arm. Sensing the softness of her skin.

Hope woke and looked to Mark. Smiling as she looked into his dark eyes. They kissed and continued to caress each other, neither saying a word.

Their attention was drawn to the sound of a baby squealing in the front room, both grinned as they realized they were no longer alone in the house. Quietly they slipped from their bed and got dressed.

Before opening the door, Mark pulled Hope into his arms, one more time and briefly gave her a kiss.

“Oh Mark, I can’t go out there.” Hope stated, all of a sudden feeling extremely embarrassed. “Your parents are out there.”

“Hope, they’re your parents now too,” Mark said as he ran his thumb across her cheek.

“But Mark, I… I can’t,” Hope softly cried to his chest.

“Hope, why?” Mark asked.

“I just can’t,” she cried as she pulled away from Mark and ran to lay down on their bed.

Mark opened the door and then pulled it shut behind him. He looked to his Pa, sitting in his chair, a smile on his face as he tried not to make eye contact with his son. Mark was confused and unsure what was wrong with Hope. He walked to his Ma and whispered, “Ma, could you talk with Hope. I think she needs to talk to you. Please?”

Milly turned around and after looking at Mark and seeing the closed bedroom door, understood the problem. “Okay Mark, just don’t let your father’s breakfast burn. I’ll be out when I can.” She turned and walked to the bedroom door, quietly knocking before entering.

Lucas put Myra in her crib and walked to the kitchen, “Trouble son?”

“I’m not sure,” Mark stated with concern as he watched his Ma close the door behind her.

“Son, as a married couple, what happens behind that door, between you and Hope, is your business. I won’t pry, but I understand what’s happening. Mark, every new bride goes through this. Worrying about what others must think of them. That’s one of the reasons Milly and I wanted you to spend last night here. You’re both still young enough to need the help of family to get you through this morning. Even you Mark. You’re scared right now.” Lucas placed a hand on Mark’s should and gave it a squeeze.

“Only because I don’t understand and I’m worried about Hope,” Mark answered.

“Mark,” Lucas hesitated, as he remembered his wedding night with Milly. “What you both felt last night, neither of you’ve ever experienced them before. Even though we had talked about what to expect, actually experiencing those feelings is something different. Women are more sensitive to the situation and their feelings, afterwards. This is all perfectly normal. It’s part of being married. Don’t worry, your Ma will have her out here soon. Let me finish cooking, you go set the table.”

“Pa, how did I end up with a Pa like you?”

“Guess you were just lucky.”

By the time Lucas was ready to take up the food, Mark had the table set, and had picked up his sister, he was cooing at her and she was babbling back to him. “That’s okay Gabby, yes it is,” Mark stated. “One of these days you’ll get the words out. It takes time, just keep trying.”

Mark looked up as the bedroom door opened and Milly led Hope into the room.

“Good morning daughter,” Lucas brightly called. “Have a seat at the table and I’ll have your breakfast there in a moment.”

Hope looked to Milly who nodded and gave her a slight push to the table. She walked over and sat down next to Mark, who handed her Myra. He sat back and watched as Hope lovingly held and cooed to his sister.

Milly walked back to the kitchen, “Is everything okay?” Lucas asked.

“It will be. Just give her time. Please, just go about everything as usual and for now, no references to last night.”

“I promise. I talked with Mark, I could tell he was confused and worried. I explained what was happening to him and let him know this is natural. I also told him, this was one of the reasons we wanted the two of them to be here last night, instead of the hotel. So, yes, my love, I’ll behave.”

“You better Lucas, or so help me…!” Lucas quickly quieted Milly with a kiss. They carried breakfast to the table.

During breakfast, they made plans for the day. Milly asked Hope if she would stay at the house and help her, she wanted to get things organized for when they brought Hope’s belongings from Miss Hattie’s. That and the rest of their families were expected at the ranch for supper that night. Lucas and Mark planned to head into town to pick up some lumber, seems they needed to make a larger table and some bench seats for their guests. Lucas stood to take his dishes to the sink when Hope stood and said, “No Mr. McCain, I’ll get that.”

Momentarily taken back, Lucas put his hand up and pulled his plate away from Hope. “Hope, let’s get one thing straight, right now. You are a member of this family and I’ll not have you calling me Mr. McCain.”

“Yes sir.”

“Hope, I’m not reprimanding you. You can call me Lucas, if you wish.”

“Oh, no sir… I couldn’t, it’s not proper.”

“Well then what do you suggest would be proper?” Lucas asked.

“Well, I was thinking…” Hope looked to Mark. “My father is my father, but you… Would it be…

Would it be proper if I were to call you Pa and Miss Milly, Ma?”

Milly looked to Lucas and nodded. “Hope, we’d be right honored to have you call us Ma and Pa. As I said, you’re family. And for right now, I can take my own dirty dishes to the sink, as can your husband!”

*****

They kissed their respective wives and then peaked at the sleeping Myra. As they stopped to get their hats from the rack and pick up their rifles Lucas quietly stated, “Come on son, we got work to do today. That is, unless you’re too tired.” But not quiet enough. Before he could open the door, he heard Milly yell, “Lucas McCain!”

“Come on son, before your Ma throws the spatula at me.” Both laughed as they headed to the barn.

*****

Until they crossed over the hill and the house was no longer in sight, Mark kept looking back over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry son, she’ll be there when we get back. Here,” Lucas stated as he handed the reins to the team to Mark. “Get your mind off your wife.”

“Sure Pa,” Mark replied. “Pa? Is this how you felt with Ma, not wanting to be separated?”

“Every minute. But you got to let them breathe son, you can’t be underfoot all the time.

*****

Lou walked into the restaurant to find Micah and Hattie sitting down at a table, Micah being the gentleman and holding out her chair. Lou raised an eyebrow and then cheerfully greeted them. Micah scooted his chair a little bit away from Hattie as he cleared his throat before replying to Lou.

“No Micah,” Lou cajoled him. “Don’t insult the woman. You scoot your chair right back to where it was, else I’ll get Johnny in here!”

“Lou, where my chair is, is my business,” Micah stated.

“Yes, but this is MY business establishment, so you follow my rules. Micah, I think it’s sweet. You and Hattie make a wonderful couple. Besides, it’s about time you too came out into the open instead of sneaking around to hold hands and keep each other company, when you think no ones looking.”

“But Lou,” Hattie stated. “We’re too old to go around like you young folks. We just enjoy each other’s company.”

“Hattie, there’s no age limit on love. In the beginning I enjoyed Johnny’s company and in the beginning, Lucas enjoyed Milly’s company. Nothing wrong with you enjoying each other’s company, in the presence of others. As long as you two are happy, who cares what others think.”

“Thanks Lou, I guess you’re right. We’re two adults and what we do, well…” Micah stated as he moved his chair back towards Hattie.

“I’ll have your breakfasts out shortly,” Lou stated as she headed to the kitchen.

*****

Mark pulled up the team in front of the hotel as he saw his Uncle Johnny and Aunt Colleen exit.

“Morning Uncle Johnny, Aunt Colleen,” Mark called.

“Johnny, Colleen,” Lucas greeted them.

“Good Morning,” they answered in unison.

“Now Mark, didn’t expect to see you in town today. Your Pa scoot you out the door as soon as you woke this morning? Drug you away from that fine looking wife you married?” Then turning to Lucas, “Lucas how could you drag the poor boy away from his marriage bed? Shame on you.”

Mark’s cheeks started turning red at the conversation. His Pa laid a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

Colleen gave Johnny a sharp jab in the ribs.

“Johnny, I didn’t wake him this morning. Milly wouldn’t let me. Besides, if we’re going to have everyone over for supper, we need to make some more furniture.”

As they stood there talking, many of the town’s people who were out and about offered congratulations again to Mark, as they walked by.

“Could you use some help there Luke?” Johnny asked.

“Sure, just let Mark and me get the lumber purchased and loaded, before we head on back to the ranch. That’ll give you time to get the buggy from the livery. I’m sure Milly and Hope would love to share Colleen’s company.”

*****

While Mark escorted Colleen into the house, Lucas had a chat with Johnny.

“Johnny, while you’re here today, do me a favor, no comments about Mark and Hope and their marriage bed.” Johnny had a perplexed look on his face. “Johnny, Hope was rather embarrassed this morning. You and Colleen, and Milly and I, we were adults when we got married. Don’t forget, they’re both only 18. That’s one of the reasons I forbid a shivaree last night. Please for Margaret’s son, behave yourself?”

“Lucas, I understand. Guess I should have been more sensitive earlier. I’m sorry,” Johnny stated.

After Mark returned outside, the three set to work constructing the furniture.

*****

Hope’s father and brother arrived at the ranch around mid-afternoon. After unsaddling their horses, they helped carry the new furniture into the home.

Dinner was everything Milly had wished it would be. Family present and celebrating. And no one mentioned anything about Mark and Hope’s marriage bed. Soon the evening came to a close and the Gibb’s and the Lane’s left. The family walked back inside after seeing everyone off.

Milly stated, “Well Lucas, I sure am tired after all the work today, are you ready to retire?” as she poked him in the ribs and motioned with her head towards the bedroom.

Lucas agreed. The two of them kissed Hope and hugged Mark and wished them good night. They picked Myra up from the cradle and walked to their bedroom.

As he closed the door behind them, Lucas asked, “Milly, what was that all about?”

“Lucas, please. This way it will be easier for Hope, no one present to watch as she and Mark walk into their bedroom. We’ll see how she’s doing in the morning,” Milly answered.

Lucas had removed his shirt and sat down on the bed and sighed as Milly leaned back into him and held Myra to nurse. Warmth filled Lucas’ heart as he watched two of the three most dearest women in his life.

“Milly, thank you for being my wife and such a wonderful mother to my children.”

The Next Step — Settling In

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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