The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Years Before

Chapter 10 - A Spring of Surprises
Written by Michelle Palmer
 
February 30, 1863
 
Margaret, It has been pretty dull around here this winter, but the weather has been rather active. Your talk of blizzards makes me glad I’m where I’m at. The weather has been a bit rough at times, but not nearly as rough as you’ve had it. I’ve managed to stay warm and some nights it’s only by thinking about you, my sweet girl. Oh, how I wish I could see you… just hold you in my arms and maybe kiss you…
 
I shiver just thinking about you girls being trapped out in that horrid blizzard! We received a newspaper just the other day, and even newspapers further up north are talking about the blizzard you received over there. I read there were many deaths that occurred, not only in Enid but all throughout the area. The major danger was how fast the storm came up.
 
I will have to thank that old man someday for rescuing you. I shudder to think that you almost died. Well, rest easy, Margaret. March will be upon us by the time you receive this letter. I need to gather up my men for a drill, so I must close for now. The Captain is a bit concerned with how quiet the Rebs are being so he’s been putting us through drill after drill. We’re all a bit on edge here.
 
Oh, by the way my heart grieves on the death of your horse. I wish I were there to help you find a different horse because I know you need it. Please don’t refuse a horse just because the one you loved died. I know the love you have for horses, and I can’t see you riding just any old horse. I’ve always told you that a special lady requires a special horse.
 
Take care, my love. Perhaps we’ll be together soon. We’re one day closer than we were yesterday.
 
Lucas
 
***
 
March 10, 1863
 
Dear Lucas,
 
I don’t want another horse. Not right now, anyways. Maybe when you come back you can help me find a horse. I’d just rather not get one without you. I think that’s why Golden meant so much to me – because you helped me break her. Remember how our fathers shook their heads and our mothers nearly came out of their skin at the thought of two seven year old children training a horse? Oh, but we showed them didn’t we? We managed to train a pretty good horse and I was so proud!
 
I pray for you every night, Lucas. Scott doesn’t like me to read the paper, but I have to read it every now and then. I don’t often find the news in there satisfying. I had hoped President Lincoln’s Proclamation would have some sort of impact on the war, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good at all. Oh, how I wish this war would end! Scott said that if the Union loses, Andy would have died in vain, but I can’t see it that way. Andy was fighting for what he believed, and he died for what he believed. That makes me proud.
 
Things are not going any better with Pa. During the blizzard, he got drunk again. I overheard Scott and Abraham talking about it one day. They are both very angry at Pa for what he did. I wish I could break through to him. Pa loves us, I know he does but he is so broken and feels so guilty for Andy’s death. Nobody can get through to him.
 
A little girl is about to have her birthday. Oh, she is so excited! She’s going to be eight year old and she is all ready for a colt. Your mother is a bit leery about giving in to it, but Abraham thinks she’s ready. The party will be Friday, so I guess we’ll find out then who will win that battle. Laura is beginning to find ways to tug at Abe’s heartstrings so I think Abe will give in and give her a colt. He’s been over here looking at the three colts we have. One of them is a beautiful black horse with a white star on her forehead. Scott says she’s breaking gentle, so she may be perfect for Laura.
 
I best close for now. I love you, Lucas. You take care and please come home soon.
 
Margaret
 
***
 
It was a warm day in March. Laura slipped her shoes off when nobody was looking and hummed as she carried her rag doll down toward the creek. The last words her sister had said to her were for her not to leave the yard, but like many almost-eight year old children, Laura didn’t always do exactly as she was told. Laura hummed as she cradled her doll and made her way down to the creek. She paused when she discovered she wasn’t the only one down there.
 
Laura recognized the man sitting under the tree drinking from a bottle. “Uncle Sam!” she called excitedly. “Hello, Uncle Sam!”
 
Samuel Gibbs stood up and slowly stepped toward Laura. Laura hugged him. “I miss ya, Uncle Sam! What ya drinking?”
 
“It’s whisky.”
 
Laura cocked her head to one side. “Your voice sure does sound funny! Is whisky good?”
 
“Oh yes…it’s mighty good. It takes away the pain you’re feeling.”
 
“You feeling pain?” Laura asked worriedly.
 
“The pain I feel is deep inside my heart. This whisky makes it go away.” Samuel stepped back. Laura started walking on a log. “Hey Uncle Sam, can I go out there?” She pointed to another log in the middle of the creek.
 
Samuel shrugged. “I don’t care if you do!”
 
“Abe says when the creek’s sounding like that it’s not safe, you shouldn’t play in the water. Ya sure it’s safe?” Laura asked then.
 
“I’m sure it’s safe!” Samuel moved his head from side to side as he took another drink.
 
Laura spread out her arms as she started walking across the log. She hummed cheerfully to herself. “Laura Rose!” A hand suddenly reached out and grabbed her. Laura gasped and turned to face an angry brother. “Laura, your sister’s looking for you!”
 
Laura shrugged at Abraham. “I figured. She wouldn’t let me help her cut up taters, so I decided to go for a walk.”
 
“Your sister told you to stay in the yard!” Abraham declared. “You disobeyed her.”
 
“I didn’t go far.”
 
“Now Laura, I…” Abraham stopped as Samuel had fallen and started singing a barroom song. “Laura, you get on up to the house. Go on to the barn. I’ll be in there to deal with you soon.”
 
“Ya gonna give me the strap?” Laura asked suddenly.
 
“I’m going to spank you, yes.” Abraham nodded. “I think you need a reminder of the rules now that spring time’s here, and you are getting a bit free with your mouth as well!”
 
“Can I have a warning first?” Laura asked suddenly.
 
“Go!” Abraham shouted as Samuel’s singing grew louder. “NOW!”
 
Abraham waited until Laura was gone. Then he walked over to Samuel and lifted him to his feet. “Alright, I want to talk to you!” He still remembered what Samuel had done during the blizzard. Margaret had been missing, yet Samuel went and got drunk. Since then, Abraham’s tolerance level toward Samuel was very low. “You stay clear away from my family!”
 
“I was here first.” Samuel’s words slurred.
 
“You should be at the ranch working!” Abraham shouted angrily. “Not out here making a fool of yourself!”
 
“I’ve been working!” Samuel declared. “A man needs a break every now and then.”
 
“A break…a break!” Abraham shoved Samuel up against the tree. “Now, you listen to me! I’ve given you all the breaks I’m going to give you! What you did the night of the blizzard is…it’s unforgiveable!”
 
“What did I do?” Samuel asked. “How was I supposed to know my daughter was out in the storm? Her brother shouldn’t have…”
 
“You don’t get it!” Abraham’s eyes narrowed. “YOU are her father! YOU should have been there taking care of your family instead of getting drunk! Your daughter was missing. She almost died, and all you could do was get drunk!” Abraham paused. He thought on his next words carefully. “You better get sober and stay sober. Next time, you may very well kill your daughter!”
 
Abraham turned to walk away. He turned back. “I mean it. Stay clear away from my family!”
 
***
 
The whisky was gone. The Gibbs’ account at the bank was untouchable for Samuel now. In one of his sober moments, Scott had talked Samuel into signing all his rights to the money over to him. He knew it was for the best, but Samuel regretted it when he needed some whisky and had no money. He was paid hired hand wages and that was it. Scott had him on a tight string and treated him like one of the hired hands. Samuel put a hand to his head and groaned as he stumbled back towards the ranch. As he walked into the yard he saw Scott chopping wood. Scott looked up, saw his father, then turned and went back to chopping.
 
Samuel stopped just behind Scott. “I need some money.”
 
“No,” Scott grunted as he brought the ax down hard on the wood, splitting it in two.
 
“You don’t understand!” Samuel declared. “I’m sick!”
 
“Sick…” Scott shook his head as he turned around. “You’ve been sick now for four months. It’s the same sickness – whiskey.”
 
“I need it, son!” Samuel held up his shaking hands. “Don’t you see how my hands shake?”
 
“You were supposed to clear out the North field today. There’s a lot of brush that fell over the winter. It needs cleared out.” Samuel slowly lowered his eyes and stared at his shaking hands. He couldn’t quite believe Scott would be so cruel as to allow him to suffer like this. Anyone looking at him could tell he was sick. Scott suddenly turned. “Well, you best get going or I’ll have to dock you some pay!”
 
Samuel slowly turned and walked away. His hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t stand it. He stopped and slowly turned around. “Why won’t you show me some respect?” he lashed out then. “I’m your father!”
 
The ax paused in mid air. Scott’s back straightened as he slowly sat down the ax and turned around. The expression on his face would make a polar bear shiver. Slowly, Scott sat down the ax and took two steps forward. Samuel stepped back, the look on his face was so terrifying. “No. You’re not my father.” Scott’s voice was surprisingly calm at the moment. “My father walked out on us one day. I don’t know where he’s at but he’s not here anymore.”
 
“Scott…” Samuel mumbled as he slowly shook his head.
 
“Because MY father would not go off and get drunk when his daughter is lost out in a blizzard!”
 
“I’ve told you I’m sorry for that. I was worried, and when I’m worried…”
 
“NO!” Scott suddenly shouted. “NO! My father never…NEVER behaved that way when he was worried.  My father acted…”
 
The door suddenly opened. Margaret ran out and hurried to her father. “Stop it!” she cried. “He’s sick. Can’t you see that?”
 
“He’s a drunk,” Scott sneered as he gave Samuel a hard stare. “He’s just a drunk.”
 
“Papa, come on inside. I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe that will make you feel better.” Samuel nodded as Margaret started to lead him inside.
 
“NO.” Scott clinched his teeth together. “I don’t want that man in my house.”
 
“He’s our father! He and Mother built up this house…and ranch…together!” Margaret cried out then.
 
“Margaret…” Scott folded his arms and gave her a stern look. “The only reason he is still on this ranch at all is because he is that…our FATHER…but after what he did, I don’t want him in our home. Not until he’s ready to change.” Scott turned toward Samuel. “Are you? Ready to change?”
 
Samuel turned and looked at Margaret. Margaret’s eyes pleaded with him. But his eyes grew very sad and he lowered his head. “I can’t. God help me…I can’t.”
 
“Oh, Papa…” Margaret cried out softly as she took his hand. “Papa…”
 
“You’ve got work to do.” Scott turned and picked up the ax. “Get going.”
 
Margaret stared as her father hung his head and slowly walked away. She turned and looked at Scott. Scott lifted the ax over his shoulder, paused, and turned to look at Margaret. Margaret slowly shook her head in disbelief. “How could you? How could you…degrade him like that?”
 
Margaret slowly began to walk away from him backwards as she continued to shake her head in disbelief. “How…how could you?”
 
Scott felt pain and regret in his heart when he saw the agony this was putting his sister through. Margaret had such a deep, sensitive heart and this was just about breaking it, but Scott had to do what he thought was best for his family. “Margaret…” he started as he slowly lowered the ax. Tears blinded her eyes as she continued to back away from him. He could tell she was about to bolt. He threw down the ax, turned and reached out for her, but she stepped away from his grasp, turned around, and ran out of the yard. “Margaret!”
 
***
 
Abraham paused outside the barn door and sighed. As usual, he looked skyward and asked God to give him strength in dealing with Laura calmly. Then he walked inside. Laura was sitting on a bench with her back toward him. He heard her sniffing. Abraham sat on the bench beside her and nudged her with his shoulder. “Why are you crying?”
 
“Because I’m in trouble,” Laura answered.
 
“You’re crying because you’re going to get a spanking?”
 
Laura sniffed. “No sir.” Abraham waited for Laura to speak. “I try to be good but…there’s just something inside me that won’t seem to let me!”
 
Abraham put a hand to his mouth and tried hard not to laugh, but remembering back just about made him choke on his laughter. A chuckle rose up from somewhere deep inside him, and he suddenly exploded in roars of laughter. Laura was shocked and slowly stood up. She turned and looked at her brother as she placed her hands on her hips and gave him an annoyed expression. Abraham grabbed at his middle trying to regain composure. “I…I’m sorry, Laura.” Abraham swallowed his laughter and cleared his throat. “Oh, you are so much like your brother, Luke!”
 
“Why?” Laura asked, still giving him an annoyed expression.
 
“Even the way you’re looking at me now reminds me of Luke.” Abraham shook his head and reached out to pull her back down beside him. “I remember one day when Luke did something bad. I was in the barn tending to my chores and Pa was right here on this very bench with Luke beside him. He was probably eight at the time. Pa was yelling at him and Luke suddenly said the exact same words you told me – that he TRIED to be good but something inside him wouldn’t let him.”
 
“What did Pa say?” Laura asked.
 
“Oh…” Abraham frowned. “Well, you don’t want to know what Pa had to say. And you don’t want to know what he did either.” Abraham put his arm around Laura. “I know you are a lot like Luke, and regardless of how much trouble he managed to not only get himself in, but our brothers, Margaret and Andy as well; I reckon he turned out okay.”
 
“So…ya gonna whip me?”
 
Abraham chuckled. “I think I’m softening. No. I won’t whip you. But we are going to have a talk. Now then, why did Emily tell you not to leave the yard?”
 
Laura lowered her head. Abraham cleared his throat. “Because Peter told me yesterday I couldn’t go out of the yard until he said it was okay.”
 
“Mm hm. Then what happened at breakfast?” Abraham asked.
 
“Well…I started complaining so Peter put me in the chair and told me I couldn’t go outside until Mama said I could.” Abraham nodded. “Then Mama said I could and Emily told me not to go out of the yard.”
 
“Did Peter tell you WHY you couldn’t go out of the yard?”
 
“No sir,” Laura answered.
 
“Okay…I’ll talk to Peter about that, but regardless of the fact…an adult…two adults…gave you an order, and you disobeyed. You have to be punished for that.” Abraham picked her up and sat her on his lap. “But first, I want to explain something to you. We’ve been having a lot of rain lately and the creek is flooded. There’s some sort of…magnet…that seems to pull you down to the creek and we all know it. Not only that, but if it starts raining, we could have a flash flood. Do you know what that is?”
 
“Yes sir. We talked about that in school the other day. A flash flood is when it’s raining and a whole lot of water comes really fast.” Abraham nodded. “But it ain’t raining, Abe.”
 
“No. But when I came to the creek, you were just about to go out onto a log on the water. That was very dangerous.” Abraham shook his finger at her.
 
“Yes sir, but Uncle Sam was right there! He told me…”
 
Abraham closed his eyes and groaned. How did he explain something like this to an almost-eight year old? “I know. But Uncle Sam isn’t very well right now.”
 
“He said he drinks whisky to make the pain go away. Is he really sick?” Laura asked then.
 
Abraham scratched his head. He wasn’t sure how to explain such a thing to Laura, but decided honesty was the best method. “Okay Laura.” He cleared his throat. “You are about to turn eight in a couple days, so I reckon you are old enough to understand this now. Uncle Sam is not sick. He has some problems…his heart is hurting really bad and he thinks that if he drinks whisky it’ll make the pain go away.” Laura screwed up her face, still not understanding. “You remember when we went into town one day and you asked about the saloon?” Laura nodded. “Do you remember what I told you about it?”
 
“You said that people go in there and drink alcohol that makes them crazy. But I saw you go inside once.”
 
“You did?” Abraham smiled in spite of himself. “Yes. Well…I may go inside to drink a beer or two, but what Uncle Sam is doing isn’t just drinking one or two.  He’s constantly drinking and doesn’t care or rather, the whisky makes him not care. Had he been sober, he would have stopped you from walking out on that log. Didn’t you see how he staggered when he walked and then he fell down, didn’t even act as though it hurt him?”
 
“Oh.” Laura stood up. “Like what Peter used to do? I would come out of my room sometimes and see him stumbling around. He couldn’t figure out where the door to his bedroom was. And then Mama and Papa yelled at him a lot.”
 
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Rosebud.” He rubbed his hand up and down her arm. “You see, since Andy died, Uncle Sam is really, really sad. He feels it’s his fault.”
 
“His fault?” Laura screwed up her face again. “But it’s not his fault!”
 
“No. It’s not. But sometimes when our minds start thinking on something…our thoughts start to run away and before long that’s all we think about.”
 
Laura hung her head. “You mean…like me thinking Lucas was dead when you told me he wasn’t?”
 
“Yes. I mean JUST like that.”
 
Laura’s face suddenly lit up. “Then tell Luke to write him a letter. It’ll make him feel better!”
 
Abraham hugged her to him. “I’m afraid it’s a little harder with adults, honey. But until he’s better…I don’t want you to visit him unless another adult is with you. He’s sort of dangerous right now. But we still love him.” Laura nodded.
 
“Now then…for your disobeying…and for your smart mouth, what should I do with you?” Abraham scratched his beard and narrowed her eyes as he looked at her.
 
“Well…” Laura acted as if she was deep in thought. “I suppose I could help Tiffany with the laundry.”
 
“And?”
 
“And then I COULD collect all the woodchips Peter has in the yard.”
 
“And?”
 
“And?” Laura squeaked out. “And what?”
 
“Well…I think Julie has a big pile of dirty diapers to wash. I suppose she could use another set of hands since she and Margaret have to take the babies in for a check-up later today!”
 
Laura gasped. “Oh yes! They need my help with the babies in…”
 
“Laura Rose…” Abraham warned.
 
“Oh. I guess I could stay at the farm with you and work on washing out dirty diapers. But…you know how much I HATE that job!”
 
“Yes.” Abraham nodded. “You tell me all the time. But maybe it’ll remind you why guarding your tongue and obeying is important.
 
“So then I DON’T have to do the chore for Tiffany or Peter?”
 
“Oh, well…I think those would be some nice things to do for your brother and sister in law…don’t you? “
 
“I guess so.” Laura hugged Abraham. “Thanks for not spanking me.”
 
Abraham shook his head at her. “I’m just becoming an ol’ softy!” he declared as he gave her a light pat on the backside and motioned for her to get started on her chores.
 
***
 
That evening, Laura was finishing washing out the last dirty diaper when Julie pulled up in the wagon. Abraham hurried toward them and lifted one of the triplets from the back of the wagon. “So, how are my little guys?” Abraham asked as he ticked Baby Samuel’s nose with his beard.
 
Julie chuckled. “The doctor says they are all growing and healthy!”
 
“I’ll take Margaret home tonight.” Abraham kissed Julie. He turned to see Laura standing right behind him. “Don’t you have a chore to finish?” Laura walked away. Abraham turned back to his wife. “I’m going to bring home the colt tonight. Make sure Laura’s back home before I get back.”
 
Julie nodded with a smile. He went to fetch Andy’s horse Margaret had ridden over. Then he helped Margaret up onto the wagon and they started home. They rode in silence for a few minutes before Margaret finally spoke. “You’re giving her the pony, aren’t you?”
 
Abraham chuckled. “Mother isn’t so sure it’s a good idea, but it seems to me I remember another little girl receiving a colt when she was seven. We’re already a year behind.” Margaret smiled. She couldn’t help remembering that birthday. “Pa thought on giving Laura a colt for her last birthday but…Ma had a way with him and he decided against it.”
 
“I think she’s ready. She’s seemed to simmer down a bit this year.”
 
Abraham laughed. “Or maybe we’ve just gotten used to her ways.”
 
Margaret stood in the doorway of the barn and watched Abraham talk softly to the little black colt with the star. She was sad to see him go, actually. She had sort of started wondering what it would be like to have the colt for her own. There was something that tugged at her heartstrings as she remembered back to her seventh birthday. Luke had stayed very close to her all evening and steered her away from the yard. She had gotten annoyed with him, but then her father had paused and announced there was something outside for her. She had been so very happy to find Golden in the corral. She fell in love with the horse that night. She and Luke had spent countless hours training that horse.
 
“Hello, Margaret.” Margaret jumped and turned around. Her father was standing beside her in the doorway to the barn. “Is Abe buying the horse?” His voice slurred.
 
Margaret’s eyes focused on the bottle in his hand. “Oh Papa…” She shook her head sadly. “Papa, where’d you get it?”
 
“Took a trip in town.” Samuel started to take a drink but lowered the bottle and stared into his daughter’s eyes. “I need it. Can’t you understand that I HAVE to have it?” Margaret lowered her eyes. “Margaret, I’m sick. I…”
 
“Get out!” Scott’s voice sounded angrily from behind Margaret. “Get out of here now!”
 
“Scott!” Margaret turned and looked at her brother. Scott gave her a stern look and frowned before looking back up at Samuel. “Scott, he’s sick!”
 
“He’s drunk!” Scott said. Margaret threw a hand to her mouth. “Get inside, Margaret.”
 
“No, Scott. I want to talk to him…I think I can…”
 
“I said get inside!” Scott’s voice this time was sterner. Margaret turned and looked at her father. “Go on.”
 
“Oh…Papa…why? Why?” She shook her head as her eyes filled with tears. “We all lost Andy! Why is it so…difficult for you?”
 
“I’m leaving.” Margaret knew he’d rather leave than answer her questions. She cried as she watched him slowly walk out of the yard.
 
“I’m sorry, honey,” Scott said as he put a hand on her shoulder. “I wish things were different.”
 
Margaret nodded. “So do I. I just want him back.” She suddenly bolted forward and ran to him. “Papa!” Samuel stopped. Margaret threw her arms around him and hugged him. “I love you, Pa. No matter what…I love you.”
 
***
When Friday morning arrived, Laura was practically bouncing off the ceiling with excitement. Tiffany and Emily stood in the kitchen working on breakfast and laughed as Peter demanded Laura sit down and start behaving like a lady. But she wanted the whole world to understand that she was now eight years old. “Alright!” Peter declared as he picked up the newspaper. “Then act like it!”
 
Tiffany came from the kitchen and sat the maple syrup on the table. She bent over and kissed her husband. “You’re just jealous because you don’t have a birthday today!”
 
“Humph!” Peter declared as he pulled her down onto his lap and poked her in the ribs. “I’m twenty-one. I don’t NEED another birthday.”
 
Emily smiled at the two love birds. She had noticed a change in them ever since the blizzard. Before then they hadn’t acted like a married couple, but more like friends. She almost felt as if they were on their honeymoon, the way they acted.
 
Emily cleared her throat. “Uh…Laura, go get ready for school.”
 
“School?” Laura groaned. “But it’s my birthday!”
 
“And your party’s tonight!” Emily declared. She turned and looked at Peter. He leaned forward and kissed Tiffany again. “Peter McCain! You let your wife get back to the kitchen and convince your sister she has to go to school today!”
 
“Okay.” Peter smiled into Tiffany’s eyes. “Emily, you have to go to school today.”
 
Tiffany giggled. “That isn’t funny! It’s your ‘other’ sister who needs convincing she needs to go to school!” Emily declared as she put a hand on her hip.
 
Peter sighed as Tiffany stood up. “Why does she have to go to school on her birthday?”
 
“Yeah.” Laura declared. “It’s my birthday!  Why do I have to go to school?”
 
“Because Ma said so!” Emily shook her head. “And you just may be finding yourself having mush for breakfast, Peter McCain!”
 
“Oh…honey…” Peter called. “Emily’s being mean again!”
 
“So…” Laura looked from her sister to her brother. “Do I have to go to school today?”
 
“Yes!” Emily declared.
 
“No!” Peter answered.
 
Brother and sister glared at each other. Just then, the door opened. Abraham walked in with Charlie right behind him. “How’s the birthday girl?”
 
Laura ran over to Abraham. Abraham swooped her up and gave her a great big bear hug. “Do you need a birthday spanking?” Laura rolled her eyes. “Julie can’t come for breakfast this morning, Emily. She’s a bit under the weather.” Abraham smiled at Laura.
 
“Emily and Peter are fighting!” Laura declared.
 
“Oh?” Abraham raised an eyebrow and sat Laura down in a chair. “Why?”
 
“I don’t think Laura should HAVE to go to school today,” Peter declared. “It’s her birthday.”
 
“And Mother wants her to go. We’re having a party for her and we’ve lots to do!”
 
“Hmmmmm…” Abraham scratched his beard. “I see. Well Peter, Ma is her mother and she has say so.” Peter studied Laura as she got a hopeful look on her face. Abraham sighed. “Where is Ma?”
 
“I’m right here,” Ruth answered as she came from the bedroom. “What’s all the bickering about in here?”
 
Abraham turned toward Ruth. “Can we talk outside for a moment?” Emily, Peter, and Laura watched as Abraham and their mother walked outside. Only a couple minutes later, Abraham came back inside. “Laura Rose, how’d you like to spend the day at our house helping Julie with the kids?”
 
“Honest?” Laura asked as she jumped up and down.
 
Everyone laughed at her excitement. Abraham assured her they’d go right after breakfast. But as they ate, nobody missed the excitement in her eyes of her approaching party.
 
That day, Laura talked excitedly as she helped Julie with the chores and care for the children. Margaret came over that afternoon. Julie had just ordered Laura to lay down with the children for a nap. Laura declared she didn’t need a nap, but when Abraham lifted an eyebrow and started to stand from the table, Laura bolted toward the door and suddenly decided a nap was a good idea.
 
Laura was happy when the moment finally arrived for her party. She received many gifts, but when she looked at the smile on Abraham’s face, she knew he had something planned.
 
Julie nudged her husband to get on with his surprise. Laura stood before him with a smile of anticipation on her face. “Well?” she asked.
 
“Let me see now…where did I put it…” Abraham started feeling around his shirt and pants and scratched his beard as he pretended to think.
 
“Stop joshing!” Laura demanded with fists on her hips. “What is it?”
 
Abraham chuckled as he picked her up and carried her out to the corral. They stood beside the corral as Peter slowly walked out with a…
 
Laura gasped. “Oh, a colt!” She slid from Abraham’s arms and slowly stepped through the corral fence. “She’s so pretty!” Laura immediately stroked the star on her forehead. “Is it for me? Is it really for me?” Abraham nodded as he chuckled at her excitement. “Oh Abe!” Laura jumped into his arms and hugged him tight. “Thank you!”
 
“What will you name her?” Margaret asked as she patted Laura’s shoulder.
 
“Starbright!” Laura declared. “I’ll name her Starbright!” Laura bent over to hug Starbright’s neck. “When can I learn to ride her?”
 
“I’ll start teaching you tomorrow,” Peter declared as he chuckled. “Then in the evenings when your homework’s done, we’ll work on riding.”
 
“Oh, thank you!” Laura said again.
 
Margaret watched the scene as a tear left her eye and slowly made its way down her cheek. She was remembering another time when another little girl behaved just like Laura. But that time, Luke had been right beside her. She treasured all these things in her heart. She couldn’t wait to tell Luke.
 
Laura could hardly concentrate on anything else that evening. She was so very, very excited about the horse. Even after the day was over and she lay down to rest, Laura continued to chat about the horse she had received. Her mother finally ordered her to hush and go to sleep. Peter came in and again promised her he’d teach her to ride the horse the next day. Laura finally went asleep with a big smile on her face.
 
***
My Dearest Lucas,
 
Oh, I just HAD to write you and tell you about your sister. Abraham gave her a colt for her birthday last night. You should have seen the look on her face, she was so very excited. She named the horse Starbright. I know it’s a funny name, especially since the horse is black with a white star but she was pretty insistent on the name.
 
Last night as I stood there and watched Laura’s excitement, I was remembering the day I got my horse, Golden. I still miss her so badly, Luke. Its funny how we become so attached to an animal, isn’t it? I watched Abraham come to our home and take the pony the other day. I must admit that I had a bit of sadness watching her leave our barn. Somehow I’d been thinking how nice it would be to have her for a horse, but then I wouldn’t miss watching Laura’s exciting eyes for anything!
 
Peter is going to teach Laura to ride today. I may find an excuse to go down to the farm so I can watch and remember you and me out there in the corral.
 
I think about you always.
 
Love,
 
Margaret
 
***
 
 
The rain continued to fall. March grew later and later. Margaret received another letter from Lucas near the end of the month and she excitedly walked to the creek to read his letter.
 
My Dearest Margaret,
 
I’m afraid the letter will be quite short tonight. I’ve had a very long day and long to only go to sleep. One of my soldiers today got out of line and we ended up almost in a dual over something that was so trivial. I know everyone is getting testy and homesick; and they are beginning to take it out on those at a hire rank.
 
I’ve been in the saddle a lot lately. The Cavalry saddles leave little to be desired. After just a couple hours my backside is very sore and my legs ache. Oh, how I long for those days of leisure when we used to sit on the bank of the creek and talk. I wonder if we’ll ever have those days again.
 
It’s quite discouraging right now, Margaret. We’re losing a lot of men…not to war, but to disease. We have every kind of disease imaginable out here right now. They get in the food, the bugs, everything. We had to bury three good soldiers from our own group just this week.
 
I guess what I’m trying to say is…pray for me…for us. We’ve quite a burden on our shoulders.
 
I must close for now.
 
Lucas
 
***
 
The remainder of March quietly slipped by. Lucas McCain turned 19 near the end of the month, but nobody noticed because they were too busy planting between rain storms. Oklahoma seemed to be getting an abundance of rain that year which made planting season difficult, but the families welcomed it knowing it could be dry later and they would be once again begging for rain.
 
And as April quietly slipped in, seeds were planted in the ground. Peter even managed to get the potatoes planted on his own. All three of the McCain brothers worked diligently on the planning. It was such a busy season that their wives hardly even saw them. By the time they got home, they were all so tired that they went right to sleep.
 
At five months pregnant, Tiffany was beginning to show outward signs of the life growing inside her. One morning Peter stared at his wife as she stood in their bedroom with just her under things on. He paused on the side of the bed and called her name. She turned and smiled when she saw Peter staring at her as if he saw her for the first time. It had been nearly a month since planting season began and he had hardly had time to look at her. “Yes?”
 
Peter slowly stood from the bed and walked over to her. He dropped to his knees in front of her and touched her belly. “Can you feel him?” he asked softly.
 
Tiffany giggled as he continued to run his hands around her growing belly. “A bit. He lets me know he’s in there, but it feels more like…butterflies fluttering around then a baby.”
 
Peter’s hands paused on her belly and he lifted his head and looked at her. “…butterflies?” He asked as he raised an eyebrow. Again, Tiffany giggled. Peter stared back at her belly. “There really IS a baby growing inside you…”
 
Tiffany slowly got to her knees in front of him. He put his hands on her shoulders as they stared into each other’s eyes. “Did you have doubts, husband?” Tiffany asked with a small smile and a sparkle in her eye.
 
“Not exactly. I just…” Peter grinned. “…I just couldn’t quite…” He kissed her softly as he laid a hand on her cheek. “Tiffany…the baby inside you was made on our wedding night.” He lowered his head, no longer able to look in her eyes. “I must admit I’m a bit ashamed of that because…”
 
Tiffany suddenly reached out and placed a finger to her husband’s lips. “Don’t. What’s done is done…Maybe…maybe he…or she…wasn’t made out of love. But I think this baby is doing something for us…”
 
Peter slowly nodded his head. “I love you, Tiffany McCain. I love you.”
 
Tears filled her eyes. “That’s the first time you’ve said that.” She kissed him softly as she laid a hand against his cheek. “I love you too.” They wrapped their arms around each other as their kiss deepened. They slowly stood up to their feet as they kissed, but suddenly a knock sounded on the door.
 
“What?” Peter hollered out in an annoyed voice.
 
“Mama said breakfast’s on the table!” Laura announced.
 
“I’m not hungry!” Peter declared. Tiffany nudged him with her elbow. “Ouch!” Peter shouted.
 
“What’s wrong?” Laura called from the door.
 
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” Peter answered as Tiffany hurried over to get her dress on. He walked up behind her and started buttoning her dress. “You know…we could spend a couple hours alone this morning. Just you…” Peter kissed the side of her neck. “…and me…”
 
Tiffany turned around and put her hands behind his neck. “With your mother and sisters just outside the door? I’ll pass.” Then she gave Peter one last kiss before hurrying out the door.
 
Peter sat down on the bed as he finished dressing himself. He rolled his eyes. “What does a man have to do to get some privacy around here anyhow?” he grumbled.
 
***
 
That same morning, Jeremiah was sitting at his table eating breakfast. Em had gotten up late and had paused in her rushing around to stare out the window as her hands clinched the side of the counter. “What’s wrong with you this morning?”
 
Em turned and looked at her husband. “Nothing. I just wonder when I’ll get to see you longer than to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’”
 
Jeremiah sighed as he looked down into his bowl. “We don’t have too much more planting to do. I think we’ll try to get it all done soon. You have Sunday’s you know. Ma won’t let us do a lick of work on Sundays.”
 
“Sundays…” Em looked down into the sink and closed her eyes as another spell of nausea came over her. “We rush around and get ready for church, then go to your family’s house. That afternoon you work on getting your own chores done…” Her voice held anger and impatience in it.
 
Jeremiah slowly sat his fork down and stood from the table. He cocked his head to one side as he made his way into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? I’ve never heard you complain before.”
 
Em suddenly pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead and sighed deeply. “I’m sorry. I guess it’s just the busy-ness or something…I feel so…different.”
 
“Sick?” Jeremiah asked, suddenly concerned as he grabbed her shoulders.
 
“No.” Em forced a smile as she lifted her head to look at him. “Just missing my husband.”
 
“Oh.” Jeremiah gave her a quick kiss on the lips and turned to grab his hat. “I best get going. The other’s are probably wondering where I am.”
 
“Oh, Jeremiah…before you go could you hitch up the team?” Jeremiah slowly turned from the door and looked at her. “I know my oversleeping has already slowed you down, but you won’t teach me how to hitch up the team.”
 
“No I won’t. It’s no job for a lady!” Jeremiah declared.
 
“Well…the fact is I need to go into town today. I’ve a few supplies to pick up. Could I use the team and take Tiffany with me?” Your mother isn’t feeling well…doctor says it’s just everything that’s been going on lately…and Emily is very busy with all the chores at the main farm. Peter wants Tiffany to see the doctor.”
 
“Alright.” Jeremiah agreed. “I’ll hitch up the team.”
 
Em watched him hurry out the door and shook her head. This was her first year to experience life as a farmer’s wife and she wasn’t sure she liked spring planting too much. It seemed that was worse than harvest time! But perhaps she would have some news for him later that would slow him down a bit and he’d stop to take notice of her.
 
As they rode into town, Tiffany announced to Em that Peter had told her he loved her that morning. She blushed as the baby growing inside her moved. “I know that sounds odd coming from a woman in my condition…”
 
Em shook her head. “We all know your marriage wasn’t through love.”
 
“Peter feels awful about it now, but I can’t share his opinion. After all…a life was created, regardless of the reason. I…” Tiffany blushed as they pulled up to the General Store. “Peter wants me to see the doctor while I’m here. I don’t think it’s necessary but he does.”
 
Em paused as she wrapped the reins around the break. “Oh…Well, it just so happens I was headed there myself. How about if we BOTH go down there together?”
 
“You?” Tiffany’s face turned concerned. “You aren’t sick?”
 
“I don’t think so. I’ve just been a bit under the weather lately and just want the doctor to take a look at me out.” Em smiled. “That’s all…”
 
“Hello, ladies!” Scott Gibbs walked up to the McCain ladies as they sat talking on the seat of the buckboard. “Let me help you down.”
 
Scott gently helped Tiffany down then helped Em over the wheel. “How’s your family?” Em asked after her feet were planted firmly on the ground.
 
“Busy. Planting’s done. My two ranch hands are staying in line now, so I’m able to give this lame leg of mine some rest. I came in for supplies.”
 
Margaret stepped out of the General Store and waved at Em and Tiffany. “And your third ranch hand?” Tiffany asked. “How’s he?”
 
Scott frowned. “Not too dependable, I guess.” He turned and looked at Margaret as she started picking out a bucket of apples. “I uh…would fire him, but Margaret wants him to stay. She thinks he’s in less trouble if he stays there and I reckon she’s right.”
 
“No change at all?” Em asked, disappointed. Scott shook his head. “I’m sorry. We’ll keep praying.”
 
“Thanks.” The girls walked into the General Store to deliver their list of supplies to the store keeper.
 
The three ladies stood and talked for a few minutes. Finally, Em cleared her throat. “Tiffany’s going to see the doctor. We’ll come back for our supplies.”
 
Scott tipped his hat to them. “I’ll wait to help you load your supplies.”
 
“Oh…that’s not…” Tiffany started.
 
“Nonsense!” Margaret declared. “I can remember many times Scott wasn’t a gentleman. Let him this time!”
 
“Speaking of gentleman…when’s the wedding?” Em asked suddenly.
 
Scott smiled. “In two weeks. Ann and Hal are getting married at the end of June. Ann’s going all out so Hal has to wait a while.”
 
“Well…it’s good for him!” Tiffany turned and looked at Em. “Shall we?”
 
They made their way to the doctor’s office. Doc Stevens looked up from stitching a little boy’s arm. “Good morning! Have a seat and I’ll be with you in a minute.”
 
As they sat down, Tiffany didn’t miss the nervous look on Em’s face. “Alright…what’s going on?”
 
“Well…” Em sighed. “When you first started feeling…pregnant…how did you feel?”
 
“Well, I was really nauseous. It was constant but increased at certain times of the day. I felt light headed – like the room was spinning and I…” Tiffany stopped and suddenly gasped. “Do you think you’re pregnant???”
 
Em held up her hand. “I don’t know, but you can’t say a word to anybody! Promise?” Tiffany nodded. But Em didn’t miss the question in her eyes. “Well, it’s just that it seems everybody finds out your pregnant at the same time in this family. I want to share the news privately with my husband before announcing it to the world! So you MUST be quiet!”
 
“Oh, it’ll be hard but…mum’s the word!”
 
Johnny Williams held his arm as he walked out. He was crying a bit. “Oh Johnny, does it hurt?” Em asked, concerned.
 
“No, but it sure will soon!” Johnny declared.
 
The women turned and looked at the doctor as Johnny walked out. Johnny was the marshal’s eight year old son. Doctor Stevens smiled. “It seems the marshal told Johnny he couldn’t climb up on the old shed behind their house, but he did just that. He fell and cut his arm but his folks don’t know yet. The Marshal will give him a licking, and Johnny isn’t looking forward to telling him.” The ladies laughed. “Now then, I’m supposing you, young lady, are here for a checkup,” Dr. Stevens smiled at Tiffany.
 
Tiffany turned and looked at Em. “We both are,” Em nodded.
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “Well now…how about if I examine Tiffany first, then we’ll talk about your…er…problem.” Em paced the waiting room impatiently as she waited. She knew Jeremiah would be happy, had told her on their wedding night that he wouldn’t mind having a whole dozen children. The possibility had grown on her too. She had seen the love Abraham and Julie had for their children and had a desire for her and Jeremiah to share the same thing.
 
The door opened and Tiffany walked out. “Well?”
 
“We are both fine!” Tiffany declared as she sat down. “Now we’ll see how you are!”
 
Em turned and looked at the doctor as she raised her eyebrows. Her heart started racing as he motioned for her to go into his examining room. She paused and turned to look at Tiffany, suddenly wondering what if it wasn’t true. Maybe she had been imagining things all along. “He won’t bite!” Tiffany declared. Then she smiled. “There’s only one way to find out.” She nodded toward the room.
 
Em nodded. She took a deep breath then walked into the room. She gasped as she heard the door behind her close. “Just step back there and undress for me. I have a sheet here for you to cover up with.”
 
“Undress?” Em suddenly squeaked out. “I just came to…”
 
“I know what you came for,” Dr. Stevens declared as he turned to wash his hands in the basin. “I have to examine you to be sure.”
 
Emily did as she was told and soon laid on the table waiting for him to examine her. As he started the process, he began asking her some questions. “Do you know when you could have conceived?”
 
“Not…exactly…” Em answered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as her heart continued to race.
 
“Alright. You can get your clothes on now. Then we’ll talk.”
 
Em slowly sat up. “That’s it?”
 
“That’s it,” Dr. Stevens answered. “I have your answer.” She waited. “After you get dressed!”
 
Em quickly dressed then stepped out from behind the partition. She waited for Dr. Stevens to finish writing on the sheet of paper. Then he stood up and turned around to face her. “Does eight weeks sound about right?” Dr. Stevens picked up the calendar. “That would put it around…oh…” He scratched his head. “Say, I do believe that was around the time of the blizzard.”
 
Em blushed. “Uh…” She smoothed her skirt. “That’s about right.” She stopped as her eyes opened wide. “Are you saying I’m…”
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “Congratulations.”
 
“Oh!” Em threw her hands to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. She hurried from the room and hugged Tiffany. “I’m eight weeks along!” she declared suddenly.
 
“Eight…” Tiffany smiled. “So you ARE pregnant!”
 
“I’m going to have a baby!” Em declared. “I’m going to…” Her voice grew louder.
 
Tiffany reached out and clamped her hand over Em’s mouth. “You wanted it to be a secret, remember? Something about wanting your husband to be the first…er…third to know?”
 
“Oh, but it’s going to be so hard to keep it quiet!” Em declared. “How do I ever…” She turned and looked at the doctor. “Oh…how much…”
 
He shook his head. “I’ll send you a bill at the end of the month. I like to do my business that way. Seems I’ll be earning a lot of McCain money this year.” He smiled. “Congratulations again, Em.”
 
Em and Tiffany hurried out. They walked toward the General Store to find Scott loading their wagon. “Oh, you don’t have to do that!” Em declared.
 
“Nonsense!” Scott grunted as he lifted the heavy barrel of oats on the back of the wagon. “This is no chore for ladies.”
 
“Oh, but…”
 
Scott brushed his hands. “All done. Now, are there other things you ladies need or…”
 
“Not today,” Tiffany answered. “I think we’re anxious to get home.” Scott helped them up into the wagon. Em picked up the reins and they started for home.
 
Em could hardly contain her excitement. She talked about her hopes and dreams all the way home. She stopped outside the McCain house. Peter and Abraham hurried over and helped them down from the wagon. “Well?” Peter asked Tiffany anxiously.
 
“The doctor says everything’s fine. I told you not to worry.”
 
“I know, but it’s a husband’s job…among many, many others…” Peter answered.
 
“Some more obvious than others,” Abraham declared as he grinned at Tiffany and pointed to her growing belly.
 
Emily had stepped out in time to hear Abraham’s declaration. “Abraham McCain!” Emily shouted as she placed her hands on her hips. “You should be ashamed of yourself!” She wagged a finger at him. “I just finished making a new batch of Ma’s lye soap!  I’d be much obliged to wash your mouth out!”
 
“No thanks, sis!” Abraham said. “Julie’s already threatened that.”
 
“Well then, you just keep a guard on your tongue!”
 
“What did I say?” Abraham lifted his arms to his shoulders and shrugged innocently.
 
Tiffany and Em looked at each other and smiled. Em shook her head. “Nevermind, Abe. We know exactly how the male mind works!” She looked around. “Where’s my husband?”
 
“Oh…” Abraham stepped forward. “He cut his hand while working on the plow this morning. We sent him home to take care of it and…”
 
Em gasped. “Oh my…we’ll be back for the wagon!” She lifted her skirt and hurried toward her house.
 
“It’s just a little scratch!” Abraham shouted after her. But Em was already half way up the hill. Abraham shook his head. “Gee, I wonder what’s wrong with her?”
 
Tiffany smiled. “Oh you…you…MEN!” She declared as she hurried into the house.
 
Em hurried into the yard to see Jeremiah step outside. Jeremiah immediately became concerned when he saw her rushing toward him. “What’s wrong?”
 
“I heard you cut your hand. Let me see.” She grabbed his hand and removed his kerchief.
 
“It’s okay, honey. I ran it under the water,” Jeremiah assured her.
 
“Under the water? That’s it?” Em shook her head at him. “Come on, let’s get it fixed up proper!”
 
Jeremiah couldn’t help grinning as she started working on his hand. He stared at her face the whole time. “What would I do without you?” he asked with a grin.
 
Em dabbed the moist cloth on his hand. “Not very well, I’m afraid. Probably lose your hand to gangrene!”
 
“You know…You are beautiful today.” Jeremiah touched her face. She paused and looked up into his eyes. “You are more beautiful than I’ve ever seen you before.” Their eyes locked on each others. “What makes you glow like you are?”
 
Em smiled as she snapped the medicine box closed and put it back in its place. “Would you like some lunch?”
 
“Emily’s fixing sandwiches for everyone. I’ll eat down there.”
 
Em suddenly hit the counter with her fist as she stared down into the sink. “Can’t we have lunch together just once?” she shouted impatiently. She immediately closed her eyes in regret. “Oh…I’m sorry…”
 
Jeremiah hurried over to her. “What’s wrong? Why are you so…so…” he hesitated to say the word, unsure of how she’d respond.
 
“Moody?” Em allowed herself to smile. “I suppose it goes with it…”
 
“With what?” Jeremiah asked. “There’s something you aren’t telling me.”
 
“Will you have lunch here? I’ll tell you after you eat.” Jeremiah agreed and sat down at the table. He ate his sandwich in silence as Em busied herself in the kitchen. Finally, she came over and sat down on his lap. She bent her head over and laid a long, lingering kiss on his lips. “I have a confession to make.”
 
“Oh?” Jeremiah breathed as he stared at her lips.
 
“I wasn’t completely honest with you on my reason for going to town this morning.” Jeremiah moved his eyes from her lips to her eyes. He waited for her to go on. “I had someone to visit.”
 
“Oh?” Jeremiah waited for her to go on.
 
“Yes.” Em toyed with the top button of his shirt. “Well…” she bit her lip. “You know how Abe was talking the other day about adding on a couple rooms to his house?” Jeremiah nodded. “Well, when you men finish his house, maybe you should uh…work on ours.”
 
Jeremiah looked around their house. “I thought we agreed one bedroom was plenty for now.”
 
“That was last spring when we got married,” Em pointed out. “Things are different now.”
 
“How are things different?” Jeremiah asked suddenly. “With just the two of us, we don’t need any more room!”
 
Em shook her head. “Well…suppose it’s not just the two of us?”
 
“Who’s moving in here? Is there someone in town who needs a home?”
 
Em rolled her eyes. “Oh you men!” she declared. “Do we always have to spell everything out?” Em bent over and kissed him again. “Do you remember the afternoon you came home from the blizzard?” Jeremiah nodded. “Do you really remember that afternoon?” Em bent over and kissed his cheek.
 
“I remember that afternoon.” Jeremiah answered. “And several evenings similar to that since then.” He stopped. “Ohhhh…you want another afternoon like that?”
 
Em rolled her eyes again. “No…something really, really special happened that afternoon.”
 
“Oh?” Jeremiah grinned. “I think so too.”
 
“Jeremiah McCain, I’m going to have a baby!” Em declared suddenly.
 
“A…” Jeremiah’s eyes grew wide. He stood her up beside him and slowly stood from the chair. “A baby? You mean we’re…”
 
“The doctor confirmed me this morning. You have 32 weeks to get ready for the occasion!” Em nodded her head.
 
Jeremiah just stared at her as he allowed the news to sink in. “We’re really going to…Oh Em!” He suddenly took her in h is arms, lifting her from the floor, and hugged her as hard as he could. “Oh…I am so happy!” He put her down and suddenly apologized. “Oh, I’m sorry…I shouldn’t…” He kissed her.
 
“Are you happy?” Em asked then.
 
“Happy?” Jeremiah kissed her passionately. After he parted, he paused. “I would LOVE to show you just how happy I am but…” he turned and looked out the window. “I’m afraid that will have to wait until tonight. I’ve work to do. Here comes big brother to get me.”
 
“Don’t tell him!” Em begged. “Please…I want this to be our little secret for awhile. We can spend some time celebrating…just the two of us.” Em kissed him again as she ran her hand down the front of his shirt.
 
“Mmm…” he put his arms around her and pressed her against him as their kiss deepened.
 
Abraham banged on the door. “Come on, Jeremiah! We’ve work to do! That hand ain’t that bad!”
 
Jeremiah moaned as he allowed his lips to part from hers. “Go away! I’m busy!” He turned and smiled into Em’s eyes. “A baby…” he mumbled.
 
Abraham opened the door. He folded his arms and leaned in the doorframe. “Yes..I see that…” He smiled. “Em…I promise you can have him back in a few days. We don’t have that much more planting to do.”
 
“I’ve got to get a lock for that door!” Jeremiah grumbled as he gave Em one last quick kiss. “Need to keep the pests away!”
 
“Just wait until kids come along, little brother. Then you really WON’T get much privacy!” Abraham declared as he turned and walked out the door. Jeremiah turned back to look at Em. They shared a knowing smile. He suddenly felt Abraham grab his arm and pull him out the door. “Come on. If you’re lucky, we’ll be done by supper tonight and you two can have the whole evening to celebrate the good news.”
 
“Good news?” Jeremiah turned and looked at Abraham. “What good news?”
 
“That Em is expecting.”
 
“I thought it was a secret!” Jeremiah declared. “How did you know?”
 
“You learn to look for the signs,” Abraham answered.
 
“You know…” Jeremiah sighed as he folded his arms and shook his head. “A brother can’t help but feel really…blessed…to have a big brother like you!”
 
“I know…” Abraham shook his head. “It’s a curse!”
 
“Yeah…” Jeremiah mumbled. “…It certainly is!”
 
***
 
Abraham quickly finished his chores in the barn. When he exited, he saw his mother, Emily, and Laura hurrying down back toward their place with his kids. He turned and looked toward the house wondering what was going on. Julie smiled as she exited the house carrying a towel. “You get cleaned up in the barn tonight. I’m still working on supper.” Her face was beaming.
 
Abraham took the towel from her and nodded. “I’ll take a bath if I stink that bad. But…” He turned and looked toward the hill.
 
Julie had started back towards the house, but stopped and turned back toward him. “But what?”
 
Abraham scratched his head. “Never mind.” He shook his head. “I’ll take a bath then be in.” He admitted that he probably really did smell pretty bad. He shook his head, but after being married for four years he had learned that sometimes asking questions got you only more questions. He knew he’d find out what was going on in time.
 
When he came inside, he found Julie dressed in her Sunday dress and two candles lit on the table. They were having cinnamon chicken with new potatoes and fresh squash. This was a meal Julie never fixed except when it was just the two of them. Abraham paused as he closed the door. He looked his wife up and down from head to toe. “Well…now I know why the children are staying at my mother’s house tonight.” He grinned as he moved toward her.
 
Julie held up a finger in front of his face. “Let’s eat first.” Abraham nodded as he scooted the chair out for her. He pushed the chair back in to the table then sat down beside her. He took her hand and said a blessing, then she served him. This was indeed a special occasion. After they were first married Julie had served him, but once the children arrived their lives became pretty hectic. These days, they were lucky if they could eat a whole meal without being interrupted.
 
They ate quietly, each enjoying the peace that surrounded their usually hectic home. “How was your day?” Julie asked in a soft voice.
 
“Fine. It was fine…” Abraham lifted his eyes and smiled at her. “How was yours?”
 
“Pretty crazy as usual. The children seemed to be more trying today.” Julie picked up her glass of milk and took a small sip from it. “Of course…it could be more me than them.”
 
“You?” Abraham lifted his head and looked at her. “What do you mean you?”
 
Julie cleared her throat as she took another bite. “Planting almost done?”
 
“Soon. If we get plenty of rain this summer, we won’t have to work so hard. I’m hoping that’s the case. I know I’ve been neglecting you and the children lately. I’m sorry.” He smiled. “I guess this is your way of getting me to yourself?”
 
Julie smiled. “Would you like some pie?” Abraham bent over and kissed her lips softly. “It’s cooling in the kitchen…” Julie mumbled after their lips parted.
 
“Oh…” Abraham stood up. “I’ve a feeling you have something to tell me.” He pulled her up to stand in front of him.”
 
Julie lowered her head. “I do.” Abraham put his hand under her chin and lifted her face to his. He kissed her one more time. “I think you are going to be busy once the planting’s done.”
 
“Oh?” Abraham lifted an eyebrow. “Doing what?”
 
“Well…you’ve been promising me for some time you would build a couple more bedrooms. We can’t expect all four boys to share the same room, and soon we’ll need more room with our growing family!”
 
Abraham’s eyes grew wide. “You mean…” Julie smiled at him. “How did that happen?”
 
Julie rolled her eyes. “Why do you say that every time I tell you I’m pregnant?”
 
“It’s a shock response, I guess…” Abraham stared into her eyes.
 
“I was afraid to tell you in front of the kids…” Julie toyed with the button on his shirt. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take the news.” She laid her head against his chest and sighed. “I remember that night after we made love…we discussed how we could end up pregnant again if we weren’t careful.”
 
“That’s the night it happened, you think?” Julie nodded. “That was six or seven weeks ago.”
 
“Eight.” Julie smiled. “Dr. Stevens confirmed my suspicions yesterday.”
 
“Oh.” Abraham rubbed his hands up and down her back as he tried to take the news in. “Wow.”
 
“Are you upset?”
 
“No…I’m not upset…” He lifted her head and kissed her. “How can I be when you’re carrying my child?” He sighed. “It’s just…We’ve been married for four years and expecting our fifth child. Wow…”
 
“I feel the same way but…” Julie smiled. “Maybe it’ll be a girl this time. You would like a daughter, wouldn’t you?”
 
Abraham heard the tension in her voice. He smiled as he rested his hands on her cheeks. “Honey, I will be happy with as many babies as God chooses to bless us with. Please…don’t think I’m upset…I’m not…It’s just a lot for a man to take in.” He kissed her softly again.
 
“I know…” Julie smiled as she heaved a big sigh of relief.
 
“Well…” Abraham smiled into her eyes. “Since there’s no kids tonight…maybe we could take dessert late and uh…” Abraham grinned knowingly. “…Celebrate.”
 
“Oh…well, I guess there’s no reason to hold back tonight, huh?”
 
Abraham picked her up in his arms and kissed her passionately as he walked into the bedroom.

The Years Before — The Wedding that Almost Wasn't

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

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