The Rifleman
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The Next Step...
Chapter 119 - The Goodbye
Written by Deanne Bertram

Seth returned home to find Lilah at the door, asking what had upset him earlier.

“Ethan didn’t tell you?” replied Seth as he removed his hat and hung it on the rack on the wall next to the door.

“No, he said you’d want to be the one to tell me. Seth, please…what happened? Why is Ethan here?”

Taking his wife by the hand, he escorted her into the parlor of their home and saw her seated on the couch. Taking a deep breath, Seth sat down beside her.

“I’ve been reactivated.”

“Reactivated…”

“I’ve been reactivated and promoted to the rank of Colonel.”

“But why? You retired.”

“So I thought. Lilah, I’m being reassigned to Fort Wingate…”

“Fort Wingate… Last I heard that place was… It…” the reputation of the fort disgusted Lilah.

“I know. The army has positioned a temporary command at the garrison, until I arrive. It will be my job to return honor and conduct at the post. Ethan thinks there’s a possibility the government will be relocating several Indian tribes in the future; and the settlers…” shaking his head, “It’s just a mess.” Seth heaved a heavy sigh.

“And they expect you to handle this…all by yourself?” an appalled Lilah asked. “Those soldiers there…”

“No, Ethan is being promoted to Lt. Colonel and reassigned as my second-in-command.”

“And?”

“I hope you’ll come with me…” knowing that his reassignment would put Lilah in a difficult position.

“Come with you?” Lilah hesitated, curious to why Seth would even ask. “I’m your wife. Why wouldn’t I…” Lilah’s eyes lit with understanding. “What of Annie and their children.”

“They’ll be relocating as well.”

“But, you’ve not told Hope or Mark,” Lilah inferred.

Seth cast his eyes to the floor and shook his head.

“Oh Seth…” Lilah wrapped her arms around her husband, torn she was soon to be separated from one set of grandchildren, yet reunited with another set.

Seth heard someone clearing their throat and looked up to see Ethan standing in the archway of the parlor, hat in hand, “Guess we should go see your sister and inform her…” Seth stated.

Ethan nodded.

*****

Father and son entered the clinic and held the door open for Sarah to carry out a tray bearing empty dishes.

“Deputy, Major…” Sarah acknowledged.

“Miss,” Ethan replied, removing his hat.

From within the room Mark called, “Major?”

Hope opened her eyes and tried to sit up as the members of her family entered.

“No you don’t,” Mark stated as he helped her sit up and propped the pillows behind her.

“Ethan, don’t tell me you came all this way just because a cow kicked me?” Hope weakly spoke, her eyes lit upon seeing her brother, but those present heard the weariness and pain in her voice.

“Sorry sis, but I didn’t know anything about your accident until after I stepped off the train.”

Ethan walked up next to the bed, leaned over, and placed a kiss on his sister’s cheek.

“What brought you from Fort Stanton?” inquired Mark.

“I brought news to Father…”

“News?” asked Hope, looking between the two.

Ethan picked up two chairs from next to the desk and setting them beside the bed, offering one to his father, they took their seats.

“I’ve been reactivated,” Seth stated, trying not to hold his breath, he couldn’t help it as he avoided looking into the face of his daughter.

“Reactivated?” Hope repeated.

“The United States Army has reactivated my commission,” replied Seth.

“Why would they do that? There hasn’t been any trouble around these parts that requires the Cavalry,” commented Mark.

“Not here, Fort Wingate; I’m being relocated. Hope I know this couldn’t have come at a worse time. North Fork’s going to be down one deputy… and Mark…”

“Seth, Johnny and I can get along for a while. I can wire Denver or who knows, maybe Uncle Johnny will step up to want to wear the badge,” jested Mark.

“Worse, is the predicament it’s going to put you two in…”

“Us?” asked Hope.

“It’s going to be a while before you’re fully back on your feet and neither Lilah nor I will be here to help you with the children.”

“How soon do you have to leave, Father?” asked Hope, fearing it would be too soon.

“Father and I have until the end of January to relocate,” commented Ethan.

“You? You’re being reassigned, too?” Hope queried.

“Yes, I’ll be Father’s second-in-command,” Ethan answered.

“Ethan I’m so happy for you…that means you’re being promoted!” Hope squealed as she reached out to give her brother a hug and regretted it as she gave a small cry at the pain and reached for her abdomen.

Ethan stood and sat down on the edge of the bed and hugged his sister, accepting her congratulations and offering her comfort.

“There you go, trying to draw attention back to yourself,” teased Ethan. “Just breathe easy and I’m sure the pain will pass.”

“Do you want me to fetch Doc?” asked Seth.

Hope shook her head and loosened her arms from around her stomach, “Guess I shouldn’t have moved so fast. What of Lilah?” she asked as she looked to Seth, “and Annie and the children?” as she looked to her brother.

“We’re all relocating…” Seth replied with disappointment in his voice.

“Father, I’m happy for you. The Army was always your life, yours and Ethan’s.”

“But I retired to be here…”

Feeling an awkward silence settle over the group Mark inquired, “I take it you’ve already told Johnny?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you first. I should have because you’re family. I had hoped that Johnny might come up with a reason why…”

“We understand, besides we were a little indisposed earlier today,” Mark replied trying to lessen Seth’s apparent guilt.

The door to the room opened after a brief knock.

“How’s our patient?” Aaron asked as he entered. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had company.”

“Aaron, I’d like you to meet Hope’s brother, Major Ethan Lane or is that Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Lane?” Mark introduced.

“Major for now,” answered Ethan.

“Ethan, this is Doc Aaron Jamison, he and Doc Burrage saved Hope’s life,” Mark introduced.

The two men shook hands and exchanged greetings.

“Well, since you’re family, maybe you can be of some help,” commented Aaron.

“Help?” asked Seth.

“We need to get Hope up again and have her walk around for a little while. I’m sure the two of you could help cheer her on.”

“I don’t need any spectators,” Hope answered with a little bit of pain in her voice.

“Afraid you’re going to fall and skin your knees again? I remember when you first learned to walk,” dared Ethan.

Mark stood up, swept the covers from Hope’s legs, and helped turn her to sit on the bed. With Seth on one side and Mark on the other for support, Hope stood.

“Come on sis, bet you can’t take ten steps without falling down,” teased Ethan.

Carefully, Hope concentrated as she placed one foot in front of the other to walk across the floor.

“My, my… my little sister can walk. Wonder just how far you can walk?” Ethan taunted.

Under her own power, but with Mark and Seth close, Hope walked out the door and to the end of the hallway.

“Do you want to sit for a little while?” asked a concerned Seth.

“No, my big brother doesn’t think I can do this,” Hope boldly replied.

Placing one hand to Mark’s hand and the other to Seth’s, in order to steady herself, Hope turned around and walked back to the room and to her bed.

Mark sensed Hope’s knees were about to buckle when he picked her up in his arms and in two steps had her back in the bed.

“Well, maybe I should have your brother stay here to oversee your recovery,” smiled Aaron.

“You men are incorrigible!” Sarah stated as she entered the room behind the others. She walked to the bed, handed Hope a glass of water, and handed her two pills. “These will help lessen some of the pain.”

Turning to the men standing behind her, Sarah placed the knuckles of her fisted hands on her hips.

“Now out of here, all of you, so I can tend to Hope and change her bandage,” Sarah ordered.

“But I’m the doctor,” Aaron replied with a teasing voice.

“Doctor, right now you are no better than the lot of these three. And they’re her family. Shame on all of you!” scolded Sarah.

Sarah motioned all four men to leave the room, but Aaron hesitated, “You know she needed to get up and walk today.”

“Yes, but not that much!”

Casting his eyes to the floor, Aaron allowed himself to be escorted to the door, but before leaving, he snuck a kiss to Sarah’s cheek, and commented, “I promise I’ll be more considerate in the future.”

“As you should,” Sarah replied as her cheeks reddened. Upon closing the door, she turned and watched as Hope sank deeper into the bed.

“The lot of them are enough to try a healthy person, let alone someone recovering from surgery.” Sarah crossed the floor and began to examine Hope’s wound. “I really do need to change the bandage.”

Sarah pulled out a pair of scissors from the drawer in the table next to the bed and cut away the gauze wrapping, steadily pulling it from under Hope.

“You incision looks so much better this evening. In time, you’ll barely be able to see the scar.”

Sarah helped Hope sit up so she could place a fresh gauze pad and rewrap the bandage around Hope’s middle. A few minutes later, she helped an exhausted Hope lie back down, and pulled the covers over her.

“You sleep. I’m sending Mark home to be with your children for the night. That way you can get some real sleep.”

“Sarah,” Hope tiredly called.

“Yes?” she asked as she turned to look at Hope.

“Thank you.”

“It’s all part of my job; nurses have to have more common sense than the doctors.”

Sarah turned the wick of the lantern down low and smiled to herself as she walked from the room.

*****

Later that evening, Mark slowly rode for home and was eagerly greeted by his children in the living room of his parents’ home. After giving Lucas and Milly an update on Hope’s recovery, he lifted Faith to his hip and motioned the others out the door, across the yard, and into their own home. After seeing his children to bed, Mark crawled into his own bed, but sleep wouldn’t come. It felt strange to sleep in their bed without Hope lying next to him. He turned on his side, pulled her pillow to his chest, and cried.

*****

Lucas and Milly oversaw their three children to bed and returned to the front room to talk. Lucas sat in his chair and reached for his bible. Milly sat in her chair, near the fireplace and began sewing the hem for Myra’s dress.

“Lucas, Mark looks so exhausted. Isn’t there something more we can do to help?” asked Milly.

“We can’t force our help upon him. I’m afraid he learned about being proud and stubborn from me.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with accepting help from family.”

“We just need to give him time to realize he needs our help. Right now, he’s still dealing with Hope’s pain.”

“Lucas, there was something else, something else Mark didn’t tell us tonight,” commented Milly as she set her sewing to her lap.

“What makes you say that?” asked Lucas.

“A woman’s intuition.”

“What does your woman’s intuition tell you about Little Ted?” Lucas stated, changing the subject. “I don’t know what to do with him. He’s never been so disrespectful.”

“Lucas, can you blame him for being so upset? Having the Weyrlings show up like they did…it blind-sided all of us.”

“I want to tan his hide,” Lucas ruefully stated, looking to the bedroom door.

“You know that wouldn’t solve his problems. He just needs to understand there are consequences for his actions. It’s not just how he reacted when he found out about Robbie and Eloise’s aunt and uncle, or his attitude… He just needs to see how others handle adversity.”

“You can sit there and accept his attitude?” Lucas asked, unbelievingly.

“No, I can sit here and understand he is hurting. We have to be patient and let him know we still love him. When he’s ready to listen, only then will he understand how his attitude affected others; if we were to punish him now, he’ll remain bitter about it. We just have to show him we love him.”

“It will be a difficult lesson for him to learn about the consequences for his actions…”

Milly looked over her shoulder when she heard one of the bedroom doors open.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” asked Milly.

“I couldn’t sleep,” answered Little Ted.

“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Lucas.

“About me not sleeping?” replied Little Ted.

“Do you want to talk about what it is that’s keeping you from sleeping,” answered Lucas.

“Pa, Mama said you still love me. Do you? Do you really still love me?”

Lucas nodded and motioned for Little Ted to come to him, he lifted his son to his lap.

“Little Ted, a father never stops loving their child…”

“But Robbie’s Pa did, otherwise, he wouldn’t have beat them.”

Lucas could finally understand the conflict plaguing his son.

“If they stayed here, they wouldn’t be beat no more,” Little Ted stated.

“Ted, I’m sure the Weyrlings are good people. They wouldn’t have come all this way if they weren’t,” replied Lucas.

Looking to Milly, Little Ted asked, “Do you think Mark didn’t stay any longer because of me?”

“Why would you ask that?” answered Milly.

“I’m the reason Hope got hurt, my additute,” replied Little Ted.

“Ted, you’re not the reason Hope was hurt, but you are right, your attitude didn’t make it any easier on the rest of us,” Lucas answered.

“Do you think they still love me?”

“I think that’s a question best answered by Mark, why don’t you ask Mark that question, tomorrow. Now, I think you need to get back to bed.”

Lucas set his son to his feet and pointed him in the direction of his bedroom.

“Pa, I’m really sorry…” Little Ted hesitated in saying.

“I know you are”

“And you do love me?”

“Yes, I love you,” replied Lucas.

“And I love you too,” Milly stated as she stood and walked to her son, kissed him on top of the head, and gave him a pat on the behind, to get him moving back to bed.

Waiting until she heard the door close, Milly gave a brief giggle, “Do you think he understands?”

“Guess your women’s intuition was right,” Lucas stated as he shook his head.

*****

Mark returned his children to his parents’ home shortly after daybreak.

Lucas followed Mark to the porch and with concern asked, “Is there something else, son?”

“Seems the world is crashing down around us, Robbie and Eloise, Little Ted, Hope…”

“And?”

“Pa, did you know Ethan was in town?”

Lucas shook his head.

“He came in on the train Wednesday, he brought news that Seth’s been reactivated. He received orders to relocate to Fort Wingate. Pa, its like everything is being ripped away. I don’t know which way is up anymore… I want to spend time with Little Ted, to make sure he knows I still love him, and I need to spend time with my own children, but Hope’s…” Mark shook his head, feeling defeated as he leaned again the post.

“Mark, you’re human. Let Milly and I help you. If you want to, stay in town, I don’t need you getting sick again; running back and forth and trying to do everything for everybody. Take care of yourself and Hope. Milly and I can watch the children. As for the ranch, Jake’s here, like he always is.”

“What about Little Ted? I haven’t had a chance to really talk with him…”

“Well,” mused Lucas. “I think he understands how wrong he was…”

“Pa, I just want to crawl back in bed and forget this whole past week…”

“We’re all feeling the same way. Mark, just remember, I’m here, when you want to talk…” Lucas stated as he took his eldest by the shoulders and turned him so he could look him in the eye.

“Pa…” Mark’s words faltered.

“Mark, why don’t you head on into town, I’m sure you’ll start feeling better once you see Hope. Don’t worry about having to come home this evening.”

*****

Mark was finishing bridling Rainmaker when he heard the front door to the barn open and a voice call, “Mark?”

“Ted?” queried Mark as he looked over his shoulder.

“Can we talk?”

“Can this wait until later? I want to get to town to see Hope,” answered a tired Mark.

“She is going to be okay, isn’t she?”

“From what Doc Burrage and Doc Jamison say, yes, but she’ll need to say at the clinic for a while longer.”

“Mark…Can I go with you?” Little Ted asked, averting his eyes and shifting on his feet.

Mark curiously looked at his brother for a few moments, remembering his brother’s attitude the last he came to town, but also remembering his Pa’s words a few minutes before…

“Please Mark, I gotta go with ya,” declared Little Ted.

“Okay, let me tell Ma and Pa you’re going into town with me.”

*****

Mark quietly rode, his mind focusing on Hope and the news Seth had given them.

“Do you think I can see Hope today?” Little Ted asked for a second time before Mark heard him.

“That’ll be up to Doc.”

“Mark,” Little Ted stated, halting Cappy.

Mark halted Rainmaker and turned him around to face his brother.

“I’m really sorry. It was all my fault.”

“What was your fault?” asked Mark.

“Hope got hurt because you and Pa had to come after me. Mark, I didn’t mean for the cow to hurt her…”

“Whoa right there. You had nothing to do with the cow.”

“But I got mad at you and ran away…”

“You couldn’t have known what was going to happen.”

“But if I hadn’t gotten mad at you, if I’d a listened to Pa… You tried to tell me that the law couldn’t stop them from taking Robbie and Eloise.”

“We all know you were hurting. I know how difficult it can be growing up, trying to understand things that even us adults have a hard time understanding.”

“Can we still be brothers? I don’t hate you. I didn’t really mean it when I said it. I really want you as my big brother,” Little Ted couldn’t prevent the tears from streaming down his face as he honestly spoke those words.

Kneeing Rainmaker closer, Mark set his hand to his brother’s shoulder, “You never, weren’t my brother.”

“I’d like to tell Hope I’m sorry….”

“That won’t be necessary. But you can wish her to get well real quick,” grinned Mark.

“I can do that. And while we’re in town, I can give Rainmaker a good grooming and clean your stuff, and help out at the Marshal’s Office with the cleaning.”

“You, offering to do chores? Did Ma or Pa put you up to this?” asked Mark as he raised his eyebrows.

“Not really, I heard them talking ‘bout consa… consa…”

“Consequences?”

“That’s it. And because of you having to spend so much time with Hope, I overheard Mama and Pa talking…”

“Tell you what. Let’s get to town and visit with Hope. Afterwards, we’ll see if Marshal Johnny needs any hired help for the day.”

“Hired help? You mean I’d get paid?” Little Ted’s eyes lit at the thought.

“Yes, but this is between the two of us.”

“Yes sir,” answered Little Ted as he heeled his horse on.

*****

After spending some time with Hope and being kicked out of the clinic so that Sarah could help her bathe for the morning, Mark escorted Little Ted to the Marshal’s Office.

“Johnny,” Mark called as he entered the office and pointed his brother where to stand.

“Morning, Mark. How’s Hope?”

“Getting stronger each day, maybe Doc will discharge her this weekend.” Mark walked around the office, running his finger over the bars to the cells and across the table on the far side of the room. “Seems that we need to do a little housekeeping in here.”

“Sorry about that, but with everything that’s been going on, keeping things tidy was relegated to the bottom of the list,” replied Drako as he stood and walked to the potbellied stove to pour himself a cup of coffee.

“Well, what would you think about hiring someone for the day?” asked Mark.

Looking at the younger McCain standing in the middle of the room with his hat in hand, Johnny asked, “You have anyone in particular in mind?”

“Marshal Johnny? I promise to do my best and make this office look rebestacle.”

Johnny tried hard to keep from laughing at the boy’s pronunciation, “I think the word is respectable.”

“That’s what I said, rebestacle.”

“Okay, how about twenty-five cents for the day?”

“Really?! You mean it?!”

Without waiting for Drako to answer, Little Ted looked around the office and saw the closet, he ran over and opened the door, finding the brooms, and a mop and bucket, and all kinds of rags. Industriously, he set to work, determined to make his brother and the Marshal proud of the job he did.

“Johnny, I need to wire Denver.”

“Someone to help out once Seth leaves?”

Mark nodded.

“Go on Boy, do what you have to do. Just make sure they understand the deputy they send will have dual responsibilities, to you and to me.”

*****

Little Ted pulled the linens from the bunks in the cell and ran them over to the laundry, telling the laundryman, “No starch! These are for the jail.”

Pulling a chair over from the table, he climbed on it to wash down the bars in the cells. He set to dusting off the desks and table, as well as the racks holding the rifles. Next, he stood on the chair to wash the inside of the windows. From the water trough down the street, John Hamilton operated the pump to help Little Ted refill the bucket in order to mop the floor. As he finished, he carried the bucket with the dirty water out the back door and threw it out on the ground. The last chore Little Ted attempted to do was take a broom and reach for the cobwebs hanging in the corners at the ceiling.

The long broom proved unwieldy and Johnny caught it just before it fell on his desk.

“Sorry Marshal Johnny,” Little Ted embarrassedly spoke.

“Apology accepted. Tell you what, why don’t we leave this job for your brother?”

“But you paid me to do the job…”

“And a fine job you’ve done.”

Johnny helped Little Ted put away all the cleaning supplies before reaching in his pocket and pulling out a quarter, handing it to the younger McCain.

“For real?” Little Ted asked, wide-eyed.

“For real.”

Little Ted extended his other hand and offered a handshake to the Marshal.

*****

Mark and Little Ted rode for home later that afternoon. Mark looked to his brother, seeing him stifle a yawn, “Tired?”

“A little, never new women’s work was so hard,” Little Ted answered.

“Women’s work? At the jail? You don’t see any women working there do you?”

“Guess not.” Little Ted yawned again. “Mark, are you doing… women’s work… at home?”

“Not tonight.”

“Do you need help when you do?” Little Ted’s head started to bob as he spoke, “I can help… around the house… like Mr. Jake helps you and Pa.”

“I think supper and to bed are in your near future.”

Mark reached over and lifted Little Ted, and set his sleeping brother in front of him in the saddle. Even without a rider, Cappy stayed next to Rainmaker as they continued home.

*****

An anxious Milly stood on the porch as she saw Mark returning down the lane, with a riderless Cappy next to him.

“Mark?” Milly called.

“He’s just a sleep,” answered Mark as he handed his brother down.

“Mark?” asked Lucas as he stepped from the barn.

“I’ll explain while we put away the horses.”

Mark followed Lucas into the barn and told his Pa of the conversation during their ride into town. He explained how apologetic Little Ted had been and how sincere he was as he was visiting Hope. Mark told of Little Ted cleaning the Marshal’s Office, and offering to help him with housework, until Hope got better.

“You don’t know how close I came to tanning his backside,” Lucas grinned. “I think he overheard Milly and I talking last night.”

“I kind of figured that out. But Pa, you never took me for any woodshed yelping, I can’t see you changing.”

“No, but he sorely tried my patience.”

Luca and Mark laughed as they left the barn.

*****

Upon returning to town Friday morning, Martin handed Mark a wire.

Marshal Mark McCain
North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Sorry to hear about Seth. /stop
Requesting volunteer. /stop
Understand requirements. /stop

Marshal Cole Barker
Denver, Colorado

*****

The weekend finally arrived with Hope being discharged from the clinic to return home.

Mark drove the buckboard to the porch of their home; Hope started giggling as she saw the small figure wearing an apron opening the door.

“Welcome Home Hope!” Little Ted called, but turned around upon hearing Milly call Faith’s name, he prevented her from toddling out the door.

Mark carried Hope into their home and set her in his overstuffed chair. He allowed his little brother to guide his youngest daughter to her mother. Mark lifted her and set her in Hope’s lap.

“Ted what are you doing wearing my apron?”

“I’m doing con-se-quens-es,” answered Little Ted.

Hope raised her eyebrows to see Mark mouth, “Later.”

Milly walked over and gave Hope a hug, telling her, “Supper is on the stove, and should be ready in about five minutes.”

“I’ll fetch you a bowl of stew,” stated Little Ted.

“Ted, I think you’ve done enough work today. Why don’t you go with Ma and have supper at home tonight,” suggested Mark.

“You want me to return tomorrow?”

“I think you deserve a day of rest, after all tomorrow is Sunday, AND you return to school on Monday.”

“Oh… I forgot about that…” Turning to Hope, Little Ted stated, “If you need anything, you call for me?”

Hope nodded.

*****



Mark closed the door behind Milly and Little Ted and was halfway across the floor to the kitchen when the door opened, “Sorry,” Little Ted called as he pulled the apron over his head and handed it to Hope. He ran from the house, pulling the door closed.

“What was that all about?” asked Hope.

“His offering penance for how he behaved earlier in the week. AND it was all his idea, least Ma and Pa won’t admit to saying they told him he had to help.”

*****

Over a week had passed since Mark has sent his wire when the people in town were caught unawares hearing someone yell out, “Hey Gramps!” and turned to see a slender man of colored-skin, wearing buckskin clothing, jogging down the street, towards Micah.

“Reese? Reese Randall?!” Micah answered as he held out both hands.

Holding out his hands, he took Micah’s hand in his and vigorously pumped it up and down.

“I couldn’t believe my ears when Barker asked for a volunteer.” Turning around he pushed his hat back on his head, “Uh, uh, uh. Can’t believe it. What I wouldn’t give to see my Pop’s face when he reads my letter telling him I was being reassigned to none other than North Fork.” He finished speaking he held his arms out to his side and inhaled deeply.

“So you’re gonna be our deputy?” Micah asked, slapping Reese upon the back and maneuvering him back to where he abandoned his horse. “Let’s get your horse to the livery. Say, we weren’t expecting you until next week sometime.”

“Thought I’d come and get myself acquainted before I had to start working.”

*****

The weekend before Seth and Lilah were to leave, Mark drove his family to town to help them pack their household goods and furniture. Though Mark would have preferred to leave the children at the daycare while they were working, Lilah insisted on the children being at the house. She also kept an eye on Hope, not letting her exert herself, but still letting her help.

*****

Too soon, it was time for Seth and Lilah to leave to ensure they would arrive in time for him to report as ordered to Fort Wingate; Seth, Lilah, and all the McCains stood on the platform at the train depot.

“Hope, I remember the first time I left you here…in the hands of North Fork.” Seth paused as he looked towards the town, before returning his gaze to Lucas and Mark. “Back then, we hadn’t been reunited that long, and having a daughter again…was new…and leaving didn’t hurt so much. But each time I visited and had to say goodbye, it became harder and harder, that’s why I retired and moved here. I didn’t want to have to say goodbye again. This time… Hope, it’s tearing me up inside. I wish I didn’t have to go. You, your children…”

“Father, you have to go. Even without your orders, I realize that I’ve been selfish.”

“Selfish?”

“Father, Seth Edward and Marissa have a right to have their Grandparents in their lives, and not just an occasional visit. As long as you’ll promise to visit, either announced or unannounced…”

Not being able to continue to say what she wanted, Hope wrapped her arms around her father, and hugged him. Mark placed a hand to his wife’s back, offering comfort as he watched, understanding how difficult this was for his wife and their children. He tried to think how he would feel, ‘I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to Pa like this.’

*****

Holding their youngest daughter on his hip, and his other arm around his wife, Mark watched the train pull away. He felt a strong hand placed to his shoulder, giving him a reassuring squeeze. Mark looked over his shoulder to see his Pa standing behind him, arm around Milly.

The Next Step — The Assignment

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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