The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Years Before

Chapter 12 - Loss
Written by Michelle Palmer
 
The smoke was so thick he couldn’t see what was in front of him, but he knew it was the enemy because he felt the bullets whizzing past his ears. Never had he been so afraid. Never had death seemed so close to him, not even when he buried Andy. He fired one last shot, not knowing whether his bullets were striking anyone or not.
 
He sat down behind the tree to reload his rifle. It was then that he saw the large number of Union Soldiers now laying dead all around him. He froze as he looked around at all the death around him and slowly closed his eyes wondering when all this needless, useless killing of innocent men would end. The man beside him had fallen dead two hours before, yet there was nothing he could do. It bothered him to see men he had spent the last several months with – men who had become like family – dying in such a way, their bodies so disrespectfully laying there in dishonor as the men continued to fight around them.
 
His body ached from weariness. He wondered how much longer they could last. The battle had already been going on for days.
 
He waited behind the tree for the bullets to stop whizzing around his head before he turned and began firing through the thick smoke again. His clothes were drenched in sweat. His eyes burned from the smoke, and his nose burned from the smell of death all around, yet he had to keep on firing.
 
Only a few moments later, Lucas heard a man groaning beside him. Another one of the men who had become like family to him had been shot. He bent down to see the man grabbing at his shoulder. “You okay?” Lucas screamed over the gunfire. The man answered him with a groan. Lucas tore the man’s shirt, his eyes growing wide, because he knew that the man would have to live without an arm and his shoulder was half gone as well.
 
He looked up to see Johnny reloading his rifle. “Drako, help me!” Lucas called to his friend.
 
Johnny hurried over and grabbed the solder’s other side. Together, they carried him back toward the hospital already set up behind the battle lines. But when they got to the tent, two soldiers stopped him. “There’s no room. I’m sorry.”
 
“But this man’s in pain!” Lucas argued.
 
“I know,” one of the soldiers declared with a short nod. “So are all of these men.”
 
Lucas stopped and looked around at all the soldiers waiting to be tended to. There were hundreds of soldiers who had been injured over the course of the battle. They all held pain in their eyes. Some of them lay dying like a wild animal. And others had died while waiting, hope of living gone. “McCain! Drako! Leave him and get back to the line!” the Lieutenant called.
 
They had no choice. This was breaking his heart. Lucas bent down beside the man. “You’ll be okay! You’ll live!” Lucas assured the man.  But he didn’t know the man would. “I’m sorry…I have to go.”
 
The man – his comrade and friend nodded. “Don’t worry, Sergeant. You have a job to do. My job’s done here.” After one more look, Lucas got up and hurried back to the line.
 
As Lucas returned to the battle line, he started firing again. Anytime now, he knew he or Johnny…or both of them…could go down. This was his worst battle yet. And he wasn’t afraid to admit that…he was scared.
 
As he continued fighting, he allowed his mind to travel back to a happier time…a time when he and Margaret were together laughing and dancing and…
 
***
 
She was wearing that green dress that made her already perfect figure even more beautiful. Her brunette-colored hair hung down her back and curled around her face. Her cheeks were rosy and her lips soft and inviting. Her brown eyes danced with laughter. He took her hands in his and led her out onto the dance floor. “You look beautiful tonight,” Lucas smiled huskily.
 
Margaret’s eyes crinkled as she smiled. They were the only two on the dance floor. Everyone stood and watched the magic the couple dancing together ignited. The music played as he held up his hands. Margaret giggled softly and rolled her eyes. “Bullet,” she said softly. That was her secret word to remind him how to hold his hands. She had taught him to dance when they were 14, yet every once in a while he still got it wrong – and she loved him even more for it.
 
He chuckled and repositioned his hands, then he waltzed her around the dance floor. His steps were long and quick as he swung her around and around. The music grew louder. He stared her in the eye and she began laughing with joy. They both chuckled until he swung her through the door and sat quietly on the bench outside. The bugs softly sang their nightly song and the birds sung in the nests.
 
As he pulled her to sit down beside him, Lucas laid a hand on her cheek and ran a finger along her cheek bone. “You are…so…beautiful,” he whispered huskily. The moonlight shone perfectly on her face. Her smile deepened and her eyes filled with happy tears.
 
“I love you, Lucas McCain,” Margaret whispered as Lucas’s face lowered to hers. It seemed like forever before their lips finally touched. Their kiss deepened as he wrapped his arms around her.   The kiss lasted longer than any other kiss and she found herself floating in the air as if she were a cloud.
 
Suddenly, Lucas was no longer kissing her, but he was laying on the ground, pleading desperately to her. “Hold me, Margaret! Hold me and never let me go!” His voice became more desperate. “Just hold me, Margaret! Margaret, I need you! Margaret!”
 
***
 
Margaret woke with a start that night. She bolted straight up in bed. “Lucas!” Fear gripped her heart. She threw the covers back and jumped out of bed as she reached for her robe in the darkness. “Luke!” she called as she raced to the bedroom door and swung it open.  Her heart beat so fast. She had to get to him before it was too late.  “Luke!” She raced to the front door and swung it open. “Luke!” she called frantically as she hurried out onto the porch.
 
“Margaret?” Margaret turned to see her mother hurrying toward her with a worried expression on her face. “Honey, what is it?” She tightened the belt on her robe. “What’s wrong?”
 
Scott’s bedroom door opened. Amanda, his newly married wife, followed at his heels. “Margaret, what is it?” he asked as he too hurried up behind her.
 
Margaret turned and shivered. She looked at her family blankly. Then reality sank in – Luke was gone far from her. She couldn’t run to help him. She turned from her family as she stared out into the darkness. “Something’s wrong…I heard Luke calling me as plain as…” Margaret stopped. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Mama, that fear is back. I’m afraid, Mama! I’m so afraid!” Margaret hugged her mother as Jennifer held her. She cried.
 
“Let’s leave them be,” Scott murmured to Amanda as they turned and went back into their room.
 
Jennifer sat down on the porch steps with Margaret and smoothed her hair while she cried. Several minutes later, Margaret wiped at her tears. She felt such a pressure in her chest as she looked up at the stars. “The first time I felt this way, Luke was shot. The second time, Andy died. And now…” Her sobs came out again. She could hardly stand the pain it was causing.
 
Jennifer took her daughter in her arms. “No…Shh…You mustn’t think like that, Margaret. What were you dreaming? Can you tell me?” Jennifer lovingly smoothed Margaret’s hair from her face.
 
 “He was dancing with me,” Margaret said in a shaky voice as she laid her head against her mother’s shoulder. “He was dancing with only me. Everyone else was standing around the edges of the dance floor watching us. Then he swept me outside and he…” Margaret stopped, feeling her face blush.
 
“Go on,” Jennifer whispered softly. “Go on, baby. Tell me everything.”
 
Margaret lifted her head to look into her mother’s eyes. “I…told him I loved him and then he kissed me. He kissed me like he’s never kissed me before. It seemed so real. Oh Mother, was it wrong for me to dream that? Was it?”
 
Jennifer smiled. “You love Luke, and he loves you. Naturally you would want him to kiss you. Maybe he was thinking about you just as strongly, honey. Maybe…maybe you love each other so much that…” Jennifer stopped.
 
“But he said my name…The way he said my name was as if he was calling for help. Oh Mother!” Margaret collapsed against her mother again and wept. “How much longer, Mother? How much longer do I have to endure this? How much longer must my heart go on suffering this pain?”
 
“I don’t know, honey…I don’t know…” Jennifer began weeping for her daughter. She had known for a long time Margaret and Lucas loved each other. For years, she had been waiting for the day to hear that she and Luke would be joined together as husband and wife. She longed to see her daughter smile again.   Margaret had always been such a happy girl, so full of hopes and dreams, but the longer Lucas was at war, the more Margaret struggled. Jennifer ached for what her daughter was going through.
 
The door to the house opened, but neither mother nor daughter turned around. Scott stepped out and bent down beside his mother and sister. He laid a hand on Margaret’s shoulder. “Honey, I’m sorry. I wish I could take your pain away.”
 
Margaret sniffed. “He was calling out to me. I can feel it in every fiber of my body!”
 
“It was only a dream, honey,” Scott explained softly.
 
“No!” Margaret turned and shook her head profusely at her brother. “No! It wasn’t just a dream! It was a…a…Scott, he was speaking to me! He was…” Margaret put her hands to her face and wept.
 
“Mother…” Scott said softly. “Perhaps some warm milk? She’s going to cry herself sick.”
 
Jennifer stood. Scott helped Margaret to her feet as they slowly walked inside.
 
***
May 9, 1863
 
The family was just sitting down for breakfast. Abraham said the blessing then picked up the newspaper as he sipped his coffee. The children were restless, but Julie managed to keep them from fussing as she fed them oatmeal. She wasn’t eating herself – didn’t have the stomach for it this morning. But just then, she looked towards Abraham and  watched the expression on his face turn from pleasant to concern as Sammy started fussing beside him.
 
“What is it, Abe?” Julie asked, suddenly alarmed at his change in mood.
 
But he was too concerned about the article he was reading to hear her. His eyes grew wide as he continued to read. “Abe…” Julie started, but stopped when she felt a slight pain in her middle. She gasped and put a hand to her stomach, but the pain passed so quickly, she wasn’t sure it was ever there.
 
A knock sounded on the door. Abraham stood and went to answer it. Peter was there with a newspaper in his hand. He held a look on his face that matched his older brother’s. Without invitation, Peter hurried inside, waving the paper around. “Did you see it?” He asked. “Did you read it?” His voice was filled with concern.
 
Julie slowly stood from her chair as she sat the spoon back into the bowl of oatmeal, but she felt so very weak. The room began to spin. She slowly sat back down before anyone noticed. “What?” She asked suddenly. “What is it?”
 
Abraham turned and looked at Julie. Her face was as white as a ghost. A new concern filled him and he hurried over to her. “Are you okay?” He bent down in front of her and put a soft hand to her face. The concern on his face was still there, but much deeper now.
 
“What’s in the paper, Abe? Tell me!” She looked from Abraham to Peter, then back to Abraham. Her heart raced at the concern she saw on their faces. “What is it?”
 
Abraham slowly handed Julie the newspaper, knowing she would become fearful as they had; but also knowing the truth had to come out one way or the other. Julie’s face grew even whiter when she saw the headline.
 
Major Civil War Battle Hits Chancellorsville!
 
Though the information is still coming in, it appears that the most major and costly battle of the Civil War has now ended.
 
The latest battle seems to have been iniated by Civil War General, Joseph Hooker. This was a devastating and surprising maneuver, catching the Union Soldiers off guard and the price both sides paid was very costly.
 
Though the numbers are not in yet, it is suspected that thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers were killed. Thousands more were wounded, and thousands missing. This is a great loss for the Union, but even greater for the Confederacy who needs every soldier they can get.
 
The battle began on April 30 and ended on May 6. The costly battle was won by the Confederacy.
 
The paper’s source, who is currently a soldier fighting for the United States Calvary, declared that he can smell the dead from miles away. The pain and misery is felt by every Union soldier. The loss of life is great. When the battle was over, there were more dead and wounded than alive. It will take weeks for the families to be notified. The families of the missing soldiers will be notified as well. It is suspected that they abandoned the cause or were caught on the wrong end of a cannon or grenade.
 
The Enid Harold wishes to expresses its condolences for any local family who will suffer because of this news. Updates will be recorded in the Harold as they become available.
 
As she started reading, her face grew even paler than before. The pain in her middle came back, but she still paid no mind. “Oh no!” She again tried to stand up, but the room suddenly started spinning.
 
Abraham saw Julie struggling and rushed over to her. After helping her sit down, he bent down in front of her. “Are you okay?” Julie nodded. “Do I need to go for the doctor? Are you feeling pain?”
 
“No…I…I just need to sit here and catch my breath.” Julie looked down at the newspaper and studied it. She again looked up at Abraham. “Someone better tell the Gibbs. They should know about this.”
 
Abraham turned and looked at Peter. “Can you send Tiffany or Emily up here to watch the children? I want Julie in bed.”
 
Peter nodded, but Julie started to protest. “Oh Abe, I…” she started.
 
“No argument now!” he demanded sternly. He stood and lifted her from the chair. “I want you in bed. If you aren’t feeling better when I get back, I’m going for the doctor.”
 
“Abraham, really! I’m feeling better now!” Julie argued. “I have to take care of the boys!”
 
“No!” Abraham laid her in their bed and covered her. “You have to do as I say.” He stood as he shook a finger at her. “I mean it now, stay in that bed!”
 
Abraham hurried out to finish feeding the children. Tiffany arrived, stating Emily was busy trying to get Laura off to school. Abraham picked up the newspaper. “Alright. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He kissed Charlie and sat him down. “You be good and obey Aunt Tiffany!” he demanded. Then he left.
 
***
 
That afternoon, Margaret Gibbs stepped outside her house. She was all set to go help Julie with the children as she did every afternoon. But the moment she stepped out, Abraham and Scott stopped talking and looked up at her. Her smile died when she saw Scott shove a newspaper behind his back. Abraham quickly stood from the bench he had been sitting on. Their faces held a solemn look. “Well, since I’m here, I’ll take you on along with me,” Abraham nodded as he forced a smile on his face. “We could sure use your help today, Margaret. Julie isn’t feeling well at all. I’ve ordered her in bed and right now Tiffany’s caring for the children. “
 
But Margaret wasn’t going to ignore what she had apparently interrupted. She knew the discussion concerned her. “What’s going on out here?” Margaret asked suddenly. “What does the paper say?”
 
Scott looked towards Abraham who merely looked away. “Nothing, Margaret. I…” Scott stopped. He knew she knew he was lying.
 
Margaret shook her head. “I want to know.” Both Scott and Abraham shifted uncomfortably. “Is it about Lucas?” The gasp from Abraham’s lips told her it was. “What about him?”
 
“Well…” Scott turned and looked toward Abraham. “Honey, there was a major battle in Chancellorsville, Virginia. From the way Luke was talking in his last letter to Abe….” Scott’s voice died. He knew from the look on his sister’s face that going on would be futile.
 
“A major battle?” Margaret asked suddenly. “How major?” Her heart started racing.
 
“Well…” Abraham walked up to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “It was a surprise attack…” he started.
 
“Abe…” Scott warned, unsure on how much Margaret should know.
 
Abraham turned toward Scott and held up a hand. “Now Scott, I don’t want to go against you, but you know our fathers have always taught it’s best to be honest. You know that.” Abraham paused before continuing. “She should know.”
 
Scott nodded and slapped the newspaper against his thigh in frustration. “I know she should….but dang it, she’s so worried already…”
 
“And getting more worried!” Margaret declared as she wrinkled her eyebrows and glanced down at the paper still in Scott’s hand. “What does the paper say?”
 
Abraham turned back toward Margaret. He gently took her arm. “Come on. I’ll tell you on the way.”
 
Abraham helped Margaret up over the wheel. Margaret stayed quiet as they started along the road. She waited for Abraham to speak, and when he did, it wasn’t about his brother. “I’m going to go for the doctor. I don’t like how Julie’s feeling. She had sickness with the others, but not like this.” He shook his head. “This is different…I’ve a bad feeling.”
 
“What’s wrong with her?” Margaret asked as she studied her hands nervously.
 
“I don’t know. I know she’s feeling worse than she lets on. I can see worry and pain in her eyes but…” Abraham grew quiet.
 
“What’s going on?” Margaret asked in a quiet voice. “What was in the newspaper?”
 
“Well honey, apparently General Lee did a surprise attack in Virginia. It was a long, ugly battle that lasted for days…” Abraham paused as he tried to find a way to put the rest of his announcement into words.
 
“Yes?” Margaret asked anxiously.
 
“Honey, there were a lot of Union Soldiers killed. It was a very, very bloody battle.”
 
“No…” Margaret threw her hands to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears. “Oh…Abe…When will it end? Tell me!”
 
Abe sighed. “I wish I could. The truth is, I don’t know.” Abraham paused as he drove the horses along. “The Union lost the battle.” Margaret was so quiet. Abraham slowed the horses and turned to look at her. “You okay?” Margaret nodded but bit her lip. “I’m sorry. But it ended two days ago and we haven’t heard anything yet so…”
 
“That doesn’t mean he’s not dead or…or…” Margaret put her hands to her face and wept.
 
“No. You’re right. It doesn’t mean anything, but I really believe that Luke’s alive and okay. You have to believe that too.” Margaret grew quiet. Abraham stopped the wagon and turned to her. “Margaret, we MUST have faith! Lucas is depending on us!”
 
Margaret slowly lifted her head and looked into Abraham’s eyes. She slowly nodded her head. “I do.” She smiled sadly. “I do. I’m sure we’ll hear from him soon.” But she couldn’t help remembering the dream she had the other night. It was the last day of the battle according to Abraham. Had Luke indeed gotten hurt? Was he indeed calling out to her on the battle field? Oh, she hoped they’d receive news soon. Her heart wouldn’t rest until she heard something…anything…from her beloved!
 
Abraham pulled his horses into his yard. He helped Margaret down then hurried inside. Much to his dismay, Julie was in the kitchen working on lunch. Abraham looked around as he put his hands on his hips angrily. “Why are you up? And where’s Tiffany?” He demanded answers.
 
Julie defiantly lifted her chin as she turned to face her husband. “I sent Tiffany home. She’s too far along to be taking care of four children!” She declared. Margaret could see that she didn’t feel good. She tried to keep the pain from her eyes, but she wasn’t successful. She was fooling no one.
 
Abraham dropped his hat on the table and hung his holster on the hook by the door. Then he walked over to her. He put an arm around her back and grabbed her other arm. “I’ve brought Margaret. You are going back to bed!” His voice was stern, but worried.
 
“Abe, I don’t…”
 
“Julie!” Abraham said her name quite sternly. “Now, I won’t have any argument. You will stay in bed until the doctor examines you.” Margaret watched worriedly as Abraham walked Julie to the bedroom. She could hear arguing filtering out from the bedroom, but in time Abraham stepped out, closing the door behind him. He picked up his hat. “I’ll be back.”
 
“Abe…” Julie stopped him. “How is she?”
 
“I don’t know.” Abraham shook his head. “I just don’t like it. She’s been very moody with this pregnancy – not happy and glowing like she usually is, and I can tell she’s having pain. I just don’t like it.”
 
“I’ll make sure she stays in bed.” Margaret watched Abraham leave before turning to the children who were all sitting at the table. She spent the next half hour feeding all of them. When they were done eating, she changed them and laid them down for a nap. Charlie argued, but when Margaret offered to read him a story he settled right down.
 
Margaret laid beside Charlie on his bed and read the story book quietly. She turned and saw him sleeping. Quietly getting to her feet, she tucked the covers around the little boy and lightly laid a kiss on his forehead.
 
She was just leaving the bedroom when Dr. Stevens walked in with Abraham. “I’m sure it’s nothing, but…” Abraham started as he walked in the door. He didn’t say anything to Margaret, but hurried the doctor over to the bedroom door.
 
“You just stay out here. I’ll be out as soon as I check on her.” Abraham watched the door close. He tapped it lightly and sighed. Then he turned around and looked at Margaret.
 
Margaret saw the worry on every inch of his face. She was worried also. She knew Julie quite well, and was concerned there was something wrong. But she tried to smile. “I’m…sure everything’s fine.”
 
“Yeah.” Abraham dug his hands in his back pockets. “It’s just that…Julie loves children. She lights up when she’s with child and…well, she loves being pregnant. This time it’s different.” Margaret went to start working on cleaning the kitchen. She watched Abraham as he started pacing back and forth. “Um, Abe…” she grabbed the bucket. “Why don’t you go fetch some water from the spring? I need to wash these dishes.”
 
“Alright.” Abe hurried out the door. Margaret rolled up her sleeves, then gathered up the dishes. She did so hope Julie and the baby were okay, but she was happy to have something to take her mind off of her worries.
 
Abraham returned with the water then immediately started pacing the floor again. He could hardly concentrate on anything besides Julie and the baby. Both Abraham and Margaret turned when the door to the bedroom finally opened. Dr. Stevens came out and sat his bag on the table. He wiped his brow with the back of his shirtsleeve. “It sure is hot already!” he commented. “Yes sir…it’s going to be one of those summers.”
 
“Doctor…” Abraham swallowed as he walked up to him. “My wife…”
 
Dr. Stevens’ paused his movements. He slowly turned and looked at Abraham. “I tell it like it is, you know that, Abe.” Abraham nodded. Dr. Steven’s sighed. “I’m sorry. The baby’s not doing too well. I’m concerned about the pain she’s been feeling.”
 
“The…” Abraham swallowed hard as his heart skipped a beat. “Cramping?”
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “For the last day or so…she didn’t want to worry you.” He turned and folded his arms. “The fact that she’s only starting her third month concerns me…yet if she were to miscarry…it would be easier on her now then…”
 
“Miscarry?” Abraham spoke hoarsely. The word almost choked him as it left his mouth.
 
“Oh no…” Margaret whispered.
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “I’m sorry, son. I want her to stay in bed. She won’t like it, but we must make her understand that this is very important.” Dr. Stevens saw the unasked questions in Abraham’s eyes. “We just have to wait and see.”
 
“Is she awake?” Abraham asked then. Dr. Stevens nodded. “Does she…know?”
 
“Well…” Dr. Stevens started as he accepted the cup of coffee Margaret offered him. “I told her I want her to stay in bed. Under no circumstances can she get up but…I’ll leave it up to you on how much to tell her.” Abraham started for the bedroom. “Abe…” Dr. Stevens stopped him. Abraham turned back around. “I don’t hold out much hope. Chances are she’ll lose the baby. You may want to prepare her for that possibility.” He sat down the cup and walked toward the door. “If there’s any sign of bleeding or an increase in pain or…fever, I need you to fetch me immediately. If she does miscarry we’ll have to make sure…Well, we don’t want her to get an infection.”
 
Abraham nodded. He watched Dr. Stevens leave. “Oh Julie…” Abraham whispered as he put his hand on the bedroom door. He turned toward Margaret. “Could you go down the hill and inform my family? I’ll need someone to stay here with her all the time, when I’m not here. And the children…”
 
“I’ll do it, Abe. You know I will.” Abraham nodded as he looked toward the bedroom. He breathed a silent prayer to God. Then he mustered all his strength before slowly walking inside and closing the door.
 
Julie turned toward Abraham as he sat down on the bed. “Well…” He started with a forced smile as he put a hand on each side of her. “It sounds like you get a bit of a vacation for a while, my love.” He brushed the hair from her face.
 
“Is it the baby? Dr. Stevens told me I had to stay in bed. Is it the baby?” Julie suddenly asked, concerned.
 
Abe turned from her and nodded. “He wasn’t sure if we should tell you or not.”
 
“Am I going to lose it, Abe?” Julie’s voice cracked. Abraham couldn’t look at her. His eyes filled up with tears. “Abe…am I going to lose the baby?”
 
He couldn’t answer. It was killing him to see her like this. Julie had a big heart for children and wanted their home filled with them. Instead of answering, he stood up and walked toward the window.  “My mother borned eight babies. One summer we had this horrible drought. It was after Emily was born and they were so tiny. Emily was about…oh…two or three at the time and the babies were under a year old. They were twins. The drought was horrible that year. I remember the praying…the tears…but…they didn’t make it. We just…we couldn’t do it. I watched my brother and sister die a slow, agonizing death.”
 
Abraham turned from the window. “I hoped I’d never have to go through the loss of a child because it’s a horrible…horrible thing. I remembered how my mother ached for a long time. Soon after we buried them we got the needed rain but it was too late. It was a long time before Laura was born.” He walked back to sit on their bed.
 
He looked her in the eye and knew he had to tell her the truth. His heart physically ached to tell her. “The doctor…” He took her hand in his and swallowed. “He said the chances aren’t good. He wants you to stay in bed until…” He stopped. He couldn’t bear to say the word “miscarriage.”
 
“Until I lose the baby?” Julie cried out as her eyes filled up with tears. “I’m going to lose it…aren’t I, Abe?”
 
Abe nodded. “It looks like it, but there’s always a chance!” Abraham took her in his arms as she started to cry. “Oh…don’t cry, baby…Please…please don’t cry.” He held her for a long time while she cried.
 
The bedroom door opened and Ruth hurried inside. Emily was right behind her. Abraham laid Julie back onto the pillow and kissed her. “I…think you need my mother and Emily more right now.” He stood up and walked out, quietly closing the door behind him. Margaret had Charlie at the table playing with some spoons while Adam sat on her hip. “You can stay?” he asked.
 
Margaret turned from the kitchen. “Of course, Abraham. I wouldn’t leave for anything. I’ll stay for as long as I’m needed.”
 
Abraham nodded. “Thanks.” His voice broke as he hurried toward the door. After strapping on his holster and putting his hat on, he opened the door. “I’ll send word to your…family.” Margaret’s heart broke as the door closed. She knew he would grieve in his own way.
 
***
 
As promised, Margaret stayed and helped Abraham with the children and Julie. Julie was very quiet and feeling withdrawn. Margaret allowed the children to visit their mother every day, hoping their visits would make her feel better. While they were there, Julie seemed happier, but when Margaret escorted them out she would fall into the same depression. Margaret ached for her, but there was nothing she could do. She felt terrible for cleaning her house and mothering her children, but she also knew that Julie understood she had a baby trying to grow inside her that needed her more right now.
 
Abraham didn’t want to be too far away from the house. He worked on chores around the house and started drawing plans for the two bedrooms he would soon add on. No matter what he was doing, he checked on Julie several times a day. The doctor had assured him on more than one occasion that Julie was fine. It was the baby growing inside her that wasn’t doing too well. But still, Abraham worried. It wasn’t Julie’s physical state that worried him, but her emotional state.
 
Abraham sat a cot up in the living room for Margaret to sleep on. She was close to the children and got up to help them when they woke up at night. Abraham knew it was killing Julie not to hold her babies at night, but she knew they had to take every precaution just in case the baby really DID have a chance. Abraham would retire each night, crawl in bed, and hold Julie in his arms. For the first five nights, Julie just laid silently in his arms without saying a word. But on the 16th of May, she softly spoke.
 
“I’m sorry if I did anything to…to cause this.”
 
“You didn’t,” Abraham whispered quickly as he softly laid a kiss on her neck and stroked her hair. “You didn’t.” His arms tightened around her.
 
“Why, Abe? Why is this happening?” Abe said nothing. He had no answers and she knew that. “Has Margaret heard from Luke yet?”
 
“No.”
 
“She’s worried. I see it in her eyes.” Abraham nodded. “Maybe tomorrow.”
 
“Sh.” Abraham kissed her cheek. “Now…you go to sleep, my love. That’s what you need.”
 
Julie obeyed and fell asleep in Abraham’s arms.
 
The next day, Abraham went to town. He wanted to talk to the doctor. After giving his list of supplies to the clerk at the General Store, he made his way to the doctor’s office. Dr. Stevens was just cleaning up from an operation when Abraham walked in and sat down. He didn’t miss the worry in his eyes. “Have you heard from Luke?”
 
“No.”
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “The preacher said a special prayer for him in church Sunday. Jeremiah told us about the family’s worry – that he could possibly have been in the war in Chancellorsville.”
 
“Yeah. The paper yesterday said his regiment was there.” Abraham sighed. “Margaret’s really worried.”
 
“I’m sure she is.” Dr. Stevens washed his hands as he studied Abraham. Abraham just stared at the wall as if something was there keeping his focus. “Abe…” Dr. Stevens sat down as he wiped his hands off with a towel. “She’ll survive this. She’s strong and there’s no reason she can’t have more children.”
 
Abraham’s eyes slowly turned to focus on the doctor. “You speak as if she’s already miscarried.”
 
“I know.”
 
“She hasn’t. She’s still carrying the baby.”
 
“I stopped by yesterday. Her pains are getting worse. This baby’s a fighter but…”
 
“I thought miscarriages happen suddenly and quickly. I didn’t think they took time like this…”
 
“Well, like everything else, miscarriages come in many different shapes and sizes. Her body’s rejecting the baby.”
 
“I wish it had come sudden. It would be over now.” Abraham lowered his head and sighed. “Doc…I’m going to tell you something…” He raised his head.
 
“You wish it would come?” Abraham’s face relaxed a bit. “There’s no need to say it. I understand. The strain isn’t just on Julie – it’s on your whole family. Sometimes…” Dr. Stevens shook his head. “Well, I’m sure it will end soon.”
 
“Why is this happening?” Abraham sighed as he rubbed a hand over his face. “She asked me last night if it was something she did.”
 
“Mother nature has a way of knowing when things are not developing right. If something goes wrong with the development…especially during the first three months or so…the body rejects it. The truth is that the baby could have died some time ago, yet for some reason…”
 
“Is there a chance, doctor?” Abraham asked suddenly.
 
Dr. Stevens nodded. “There’s always a chance.” He patted Abraham on the back and smiled.  “There’s always a chance.”
 
Abraham stood up and left the office. He walked back into the General Store and saw the clerk sorting the mail. “Abe…” he hurried up to him. “A letter for Margaret. It’s from Lucas.”
 
Abraham grabbed the letter and smiled.  “Oh, this is what she’s been waiting for!” His heart leapt for joy. “This is just what we need! Thank you, Marvin.” After getting the supplies loaded, Abraham jumped in his wagon and hurried home.
 
When he got home, Abraham found Emily and Margaret both trying to settle the boys down. Charlie was running around the room screaming like a banshee while Emily chased him one way, then the other. Abraham could tell his sister was getting very impatient with the little boy. Meanwhile, Margaret had a triplet on each hip bouncing them up and down while the other sat on the quilt on the floor with his fingers in his mouth crying as hard as he could.
 
 Abraham stood beside the table with his arms folded and legs spread. When Charlie came running around the table, he ran into his father’s leg and stopped dead in his tracks. Knowing he was in trouble for the way he had behaved, he tried to turn and run the other way, but Abraham grabbed Charlie by the middle and carried him toward Margaret.
 
“No Papa, no!” Charlie screamed as he kicked in his father’s arms.
 
“I have something for you,” he stated as he planted a firm hand on Charlie’s back side. That’s all it took for Charlie to stop crying and stay quiet. “It’s from Luke.”
 
“Luke?” Margaret gasped as she slid the triplets to the blanket on the floor and took the letter. “Oh, he’s okay!” She hugged the letter to her chest. “Thank you!” She tucked it in her pocket. “It will give me something to read tonight…after these children go to bed!”
 
And that’s just what she did. That evening, Margaret checked one last time on the children. They were all in their room sleeping soundly. She sat down at the table and smiled as Abraham said goodnight. Then she slowly opened the letter and read Lucas’ words.
 
 
May 7, 1863
 
Dear Margaret,
 
My heart is very sad today. I watched a lot of our men fall. I watched a lot of men die or become cripple for life. I am so tired of seeing all the destruction and pain this war has caused. I’m sure you read about the battle in the paper, or at least you’ve heard about it. Well, don’t believe what the paper says. It was worse than could ever be written about. Now the men are sick from not eating enough, lack of sleep, and the disease the dead has caused. The good Lord must favor me some because I am still staying healthy.
 
It’s been a year since I’ve seen you and my heart aches. I long to hold you in my arms….to kiss you and say those words I’ve written so many times in person. When I was out on that battlefield, I thought of you and me dancing together. Your lovely face is the only thing that got me through these hard times. Oh Margaret, how I long to come home. I long to be in that barn fighting with my brothers once again.
 
How is the family? Emily wrote and told me Em and Julie are both pregnant. She said their babies are both expected to arrive around the same time. What, did the blizzard cause a rash of pregnancies all of a sudden or something? How’s Tiffany? I’m sure Peter is growing nervous about becoming a father. I just can’t believe all my brothers are married and about to become fathers, yet here I am.
 
I’m so very tired, Margaret. We have drills first thing in the morning so I must close. Take care and tell the family I said hi.
 
Love,
 
Lucas
 
***
 
May 22, 1863
 
Dear Lucas,
 
I meant to write you sooner but just haven’t had the time. I am so very tired right now. I’m staying with Abraham and Julie. Julie’s pregnancy isn’t going so well and the doctor thinks she’ll eventually lose the baby. That was almost two weeks ago and the baby’s still holding on. We have no way of knowing if he’s actually still alive or if her body’s just taking it’s time in rejecting it. Julie is very upset, and Abraham…well…he’s beside himself with worry. Please pray for them, Luke, if you have time.
 
Emily and Aunt Ruth come and help me care for the children when they can. Laura is feeling neglected and is acting out again. Peter’s having to deal with her behavior right now because Aunt Ruth just can’t bear to bother Abe with those problems. Laura’s about to finish school in a couple weeks and she’ll come help me every day. She’s getting so big, Luke.
 
I’m worried about your mother. She’s always been rather plump, which I love, but lately she has really lost a lot of weight. I asked Emily about it, and she says Aunt Ruth has to work a lot more now that there’s not so many McCain’s living in the main house but…I can’t help feeling there’s more. The truth is, Emily’s taken over a lot of the domestic work because Ruth tires easily and has to lay down a lot. Oh, I don’t want to mention it since you are so far away but I wanted to tell you my worries so you could pray for her.
 
Tiffany is doing well. Peter doesn’t want her coming up here helping out. He’s taking every precaution he can to make sure she and the baby stay healthy. I think they are growing anxious for the baby to arrive. The doctor says he should make his presence in the beginning of August.
 
I haven’t seen Pa in several weeks. He’s decided not to help out at the farm anymore. I’m so worried about him but at the moment I can’t do anything to help him.
 
Luke, I’m not sure quite how to tell you this…I know it’s going to sound silly, my writing it on paper but I was there with you on that battlefield, except you weren’t fighting. You were dancing with me. I could hear you calling my name and it was so very, very real. I tried to run to you, but I couldn’t reach you. Oh, I’m so glad you’re out of danger. I pray the war will end soon and you’ll come home.
 
I must close for now, Luke. Please take care and stay safe.
 
I love you.
 
Margaret
 
***
 
May slipped out and June was soon upon the McCain/Gibbs family. The family continued to cry out their prayers to spare the life growing inside Julie, but as the days passed, their hope slipped further and further away.
 
Abraham woke up one night in early June at the sound of thunder. He moaned because he could never sleep during storms. He carefully moved Julie’s arm from around him and slipped out of bed. The thunder clapped and he feared it would wake up his sleeping children, which would cause a storm inside the quiet house as well. Walking to the front door, he yawned as he opened it and stepped out onto the porch.
 
As the sky lit up, he saw the rolling clouds. Then in the distance, he heard a roaring sound. He heard that same sound two years ago when he had lost his barn to a tornado. Abraham listened closer. This time, the sound was unmistakable.
 
A twister!
 
He turned and hurried inside. As he started throwing chairs away from the cellar opening, he called, “Margaret!” Margaret jumped out of bed at the sound of his panicked voice.
 
“Abe!” Margaret shouted as she grabbed for her robe. “It sounds like a twister!”
 
Abraham ran over to her. “Forget your robe! Go get the children!” Margaret hurried toward the boys’ bedroom as she tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Hurry!” Abraham demanded.
 
As Margaret disappeared into the boys’ room, Abraham adjusted the ladder on the cellar.  “Julie! Julie!” Abraham called as he took the first protesting child from Margaret and took him down into the cellar.
 
Julie hurried from the bedroom. She heard the roaring noise and ran to get another baby. Soon, Abraham was helping the two women down the ladder before firmly closing the door. The roaring got louder and louder as Abraham, Julie, and Margaret held the babies close. But the noise only lasted for a few minutes. Then it was quiet.
 
“Is it over?” Julie asked, shaken, as Abraham stood, still holding David in his arms.
 
“I don’t know…” Abraham turned and sat David down on a cot in the corner. “Wait here.” They stared upwards in the dark as Abraham lifted himself from the cellar. They watched a small light enter the darkness, then they heard footsteps go across the floor and the front door open. Abraham came back down the latter. “It seems to have passed right over us, thank God.” He helped Margaret and Julie settle the babies.
 
Julie stood over the cradles and watched her babies sleeping. She smiled down at little Charlie as he slept soundly in his bed once again. “I miss my babies, Abe,” Julie mumbled.
 
Abraham stood behind his wife and put his arms around her. “I know. I’m sorry this is happening.” He kissed the top of her head. “How are you feeling?”
 
“Honestly?” She turned in Abraham’s arms and looked into his eyes. “The pains are getting worse and I feel so…so…tired.”
 
“Let’s get you back to bed.” He turned toward Margaret. “You best get to bed too. These children will want your attention early in the morning.” The house was again quiet for a couple hours.
 
The next morning, Abraham came out of the bedroom to find the children already dressed and sitting at the table. Margaret sat down with a bowl of oatmeal to feed the triplets while Charlie made a mess with his eggs. “I made omelets for the three of us. Would you like me to take Julie’s in to her?”
 
Abraham sat down and took a sip of the coffee Margaret had sat in front of him. “You know…You’re certainly going to make a good home for Luke.”
 
“You don’t know that Luke and I will get married. A lot can…” Margaret allowed her words to die.
 
“Did he say anything about the battle?” Abraham asked softly.
 
Margaret picked the bowl of oatmeal back up and picked the spoon up. “It was bad, Abe. Luke sounds so…tired. I’m worried.”
 
“I know. So am I.” Silence settled around them while Margaret silently fed the triplets. Abraham finished his breakfast and stood up. As he strapped on his gun belt he studied Margaret. “Margaret…Luke is strong. God’s with him. The strength of your prayers will carry him through.” Margaret nodded. “After you finish with the kids, go ahead and eat your breakfast. Julie’s still sleeping, so you can bring in her food after you’ve had yours.”
 
Abraham went to investigate if there was any damage from the storm. Margaret did as Abraham had asked. When she knocked on the door to Julie’s bedroom, she got no answer so she went inside and sat down the tray. “Julie?” Margaret made her way over to the bed. Julie’s cheeks were flushed. Margaret gently laid a hand on Julie’s forehead as Julie stirred. “Oh no…” she moaned.
 
“Margaret? What time is it?” Julie moaned.
 
“It’s nearly eight. The pain…is it…” Julie closed her eyes, but didn’t answer. “Julie, you have a fever.”
 
Margaret turned and hurried out of the bedroom. She saw Abraham coming in the front door. Margaret hurried up to him. “There’s something wrong with Julie!”
 
Abraham dropped his gun belt on the table and took his hat off as he ran into the bedroom. Julie was sleeping. He sat down on the side of the bed and put a hand to her forehead. “I think she’s running a fever, Abe.” Abraham turned and looked at Margaret. He nodded his head with a sigh. They both knew this was not a good sign. “I’ll go get the doctor!”
 
“No!” Abraham turned when he heard one of the boys crying. They would just have to cry because right now they had something much worse to worry about. “Go tell Peter to get the doctor. He’s in the wheat field. Tell him to hurry.” Abraham ordered worriedly as he turned back to look at his wife.
 
Julie opened her eyes and looked at her husband. She lifted a hand and laid it on his bearded cheek. “Don’t worry. I’m okay.” Julie groaned weakly.
 
Abraham took her hand in his and kissed her forehead. “I know, honey…” He tried to smile, but his heart broke when he saw a single tear slip down her cheek. “I know.”
 
The doctor was soon there. Emily and Margaret worked on caring for the children while the doctor examined Julie. Abraham sat at the table, nervously talking to his mother. “I need to get started on those extra bedrooms,” he mumbled. “Time’s getting away from me. I really need to…”
 
Ruth put a hand on her son’s shaking hand. “She’s okay, Abe. She’s probably losing the baby, but you two have a lot of love. You can get through this and make other babies.”
 
“I know.” Abraham grew quiet. “Does that cause fever, Ma?” Abraham asked, suddenly needing more reassurance.
 
“It could, I suppose…” Abraham ran a hand through his hair and stood up. He walked to the bedroom door and touched it. Then he turned and picked up Charlie who was at his feet.  Abraham hugged Charlie, trying to find some sort of comfort.
 
The door to the bedroom opened. Abraham turned as Charlie stuck his hand in his mouth and laid his head on his father’s chest. He squeezed Charlie against him again. “Julie…”
 
Dr. Stevens sighed as he sat the bag on the table. He shook his head worriedly. “I think she’s developed an infection. My guess is the baby died some time ago and…her body hasn’t rejected it yet.”
 
Abraham put his hands on his hips. In frustration, he lashed out at the doctor. “So? What  exactly are you saying?”
 
Dr. Stevens sighed. “I’m saying…that we may have to find some herbs and try to…” he paused, trying to find the right way to put it.
 
Abraham turned and looked at his mother. “I don’t know if I can do that, doctor. I don’t know if…”
 
Dr. Stevens laid a hand on his arm. “I believe in letting nature take its course. I believe in letting God decide, but he’s given us the materials we need…he gives doctors the knowledge. You aren’t taking away something God has given you.” Abraham turned and looked toward his mother. “Abe…I would simply be getting rid of an infection. It’s my diagnosis that the baby has died and is poisoning your wife…”
 
“Does she know?” Abraham swallowed as his eyes filled with tears. “I mean…have you told her…anything?”
 
“I think she knows, but she’s a woman and a woman wants to hold on for as long as she can. If she accepts the fact the baby’s gone, perhaps her body would reject the fetus…but if she believes…The mind is the most powerful tool we have. It can control our bodies in ways that…” Dr. Stevens sighed. “I’m sorry. Keep a close watch on her temperature. If it goes any higher, I’ll want to try the herbs.”
 
Abraham watched the doctor leave. He punched the wall as Peter closed the door behind him. Ruth came to stand beside her son. “I’m sorry.”
 
“I need to get some air!” Abraham grabbed his hat and walked out the door.
 
“Mother! Where’s he going? Julie needs him!” Emily declared as she hurried toward the door.
 
Ruth simply turned and shook her head. “Julie’s a woman, that’s true. But Abraham is very much his father’s son and when things get rough he withdraws. Losing a baby…even the idea of one…is hard. He’ll go to her when he can.”
 
Ruth put an arm around her daughter as they cried. Laura offered to stay and help Margaret with the laundry. Ruth nodded her permission as she and Emily left.
 
***
 
In the midst of this disaster that was trying to happen, another one struck. It was a disaster that caused the entire town of Enid, Oklahoma to stop and take notice. It was a disaster much worse, in some ways, then the blizzard that had hit just months before. This was a disaster like none other.
 
Laura was walking toward Abraham’s house the next morning when a dark cloud suddenly covered the sky. She looked up and gasped at what she saw. It was the strangest black cloud, and she wasn’t sure what to think of it but she quickened her pace toward Abraham’s house.
 
Abraham was in his yard chopping wood when he noticed the sun disappear. He looked up toward the sky. “Oh, Dear God!” he breathed. Dropping his ax, he turned and saw Charlie playing in the front yard as Margaret worked on the laundry. “Charlie! Get inside!” he screamed as he ran toward Charlie as fast as his legs would allow.
 
Margaret paused in her task to look up at the sky. A hand flew to her mouth as Abraham grabbed her arm and hurried her toward the house. On his way, he swept Charlie up in his arms. Charlie let out a loud cry, but Abraham paid no mind.
 
“Close all the windows! Quickly!” Abraham demanded once they were inside.
 
“What is it, Abe?” Margaret asked as she obeyed him and started closing the windows. She knew, but she didn’t want to believe it was true.
 
“Locusts!” Abe declared as he started closing the shutters. “Oh God, why? Why? Why?” Abraham’s voice boomed as they worked on closing up the house. “Let’s get blankets and towels in the cracks and…”
 
Margaret paused as she worked on closing a window. Her eyes grew wide and she shot a hand to her mouth at what she saw. “Abe!” Margaret’s eyes grew even wider as she stared out the window . “Abe, look!”
 
Abraham saw the locusts coming in to land. They would soon be everywhere. But what had horrified Margaret was seeing Laura screaming as she tried to brush the locusts from her clothing. “Laura!” Abraham ran to the door. “Close it right behind me!” he shouted as he grabbed a blanket from the cot in the main room. He opened the door and hurried out. “Laura!” he called. “Come on!”
 
Laura was waving her arms and screaming. Abraham tried to grab her, but she was fighting against fear. Abraham swooped her up. “I’m here, honey!” he shouted over her screams as he wrapped the blanket around her and hurried her toward the house. He made sure her entire body was wrapped in the blanket, but she continued screaming. “Open the door!” he screamed as Laura continued to cry from inside the blanket. Margaret opened the door then closed it right behind her. She stomped on the grasshoppers that came into the house.
 
Laura continued screaming as Abraham started unwrapping her from the blanket. She was shaking hard as she clung to Abraham and cried.
 
Abraham held her shaking body in his arms. “You’re okay, honey. You’re okay!” He tried to sooth her, but she was still terrified from her experience.
 
The bedroom door opened at that moment. Julie stepped out and leaned against the doorframe. “Abe…what…” She looked up and stared out the window. “Oh no!” she cried, realizing the horrid event that was happening. She grabbed her middle and groaned as an intense pain came over her. “Abe!” she cried. But before he could get to her, she crumpled to the floor.
 
“Take her!” Abraham ordered Margaret as he sat Laura down in front of her. He rushed over to Julie. He bent down next to her and called her name, but there was no answer. “She’s bleeding!” He picked Julie up and carried her back to the bed. “Julie…” She was unconscious. Abraham stared at her. He gently shook her. “Julie…honey…” He swallowed and put his head down on her chest to listen. The strong heartbeat was music to his ears. “Oh, thank God you’re alive!”
 
Julie woke up moments later but was shaking badly. “Abe…” she swallowed. “I think I’m losing the…” A tear fell down her cheek. “Oh God…no…Please don’t take my baby…” she pleaded as she clutched her middle and moaned in pain. Her shaking increased as she began crying out to God.
 
Abraham punched the bed next to her and lifted her from the pillow as he cradled her in his arms. “I’m sorry, honey…it’s too late.” Julie turned her head to the side and began sobbing. Abraham started to lay her back on the pillow and stand up, but Julie grabbed him. “I have to go for the doctor!” Abraham declared. “He wanted to check…”
 
“Hold me…” Julie’s eyes pleaded with him. “Hold me!”
 
Abraham lifted her from the bed and wrapped his arms around her. “My baby…my baby…” Julie mumbled as she grieved.
 
Abraham couldn’t say anything as he held her. There was nothing he could do or say to take her pain away.
 
***
 
Margaret heard the children waking up from their naps. She continued holding Laura on her lap as the doorknob to the boys’ bedroom jiggled. “Let’s go check on the boys.” Laura nodded and held tight to Margaret’s hand as they walked toward the bedroom.
 
Suddenly, the front door opened. Laura screamed as locusts came jumping inside with the visitor. She covered her face and hid behind Margaret. “It’s okay. It’s just Peter.” Margaret put her arm around Laura and coaxed her out from behind her dress. “Look. It’s Peter.”
 
Laura cried out as she ran to her brother. Peter dropped to his knees as Laura ran into his arms and started crying. He looked up at Margaret, his eyes questioning her. “She got caught in the locusts. It scared her.”
 
“Oh, I’m sorry, honey!” Peter said as he held her tight. He looked at Margaret. “Where’s Abe?”
 
“In the bedroom. Julie…” Margaret shook her head as she stood behind Laura. Margaret walked to the window. She could hear nibbling as the locusts ate everything in sight. She hugged herself and shivered. “I hoped I’d never see them again.”
 
Peter picked Laura up and walked to stand beside Margaret at the window. “I know. It took us three years to recover last time. I’m afraid it’ll be another hard year.”
 
Margaret put her hand to the window and stared outside. “How much more, Peter?” She turned and smoothed Laura’s hair. “How much more do we have to endure?”
 
“I don’t know.”
 
“Peter…” Laura started quietly. “What’s those grasshoppers doing?”
 
“They’re eating, honey,” Peter answered quietly. He looked toward the bedroom. “I want you to stay here with Margaret. I need to check on Abe.”
 
Laura stood beside Margret as Peter made his way to the bedroom. He softly knocked on the door. When he heard Abraham’s muffled voice he opened the door. Abraham was holding Julie while she sobbed. “Would you like me to go for the doctor?”
 
Abraham nodded without turning to look at his brother. Peter knew the couple was grieving for what had finally come - and for what they knew would soon come...a hard year of barely scraping by. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He quietly closed the door then walked toward the front door. Laura walked toward him. “They’ll be gone tomorrow. As soon as they eat everything they’ll move on.”
 
“They’ll eat everything?” Laura asked suddenly.
 
Peter dropped to his knees in front of her and nodded as he laid his hands on her shoulders. “Yes, honey. Everything.”
 
“Even the stuff in the garden?”
 
“Even the stuff in the garden.” Peter looked up at Margaret. “I have to go for the doctor. You’ll stay here tonight then we’ll get you home tomorrow.”
 
Margaret and Laura watched Peter hurry out the door. Margaret quickly killed the locusts that came inside.
 
Laura’s eyes filled with tears. Margaret paused in sweeping up the dead insects when she saw the tears in the little girl’s eyes. She bent down in front of Laura. “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll get through this.”
 
“They’re eating our food!” Laura cried.
 
“I know.”
 
“What will we eat this winter? What will we…” Laura’s bottom lip quivered as she stared at Margaret.
 
Margaret lowered her head. “Can you be a big girl? We need you to be strong. You see…Julie’s lost the baby.”
 
Laura’s eyes filled with tears. “Mama said she would.”
 
“Yes. And now the locusts…well, we all have to be strong and lean on each other. Julie and Abe will need you. We’ll all need you. Can you be strong?”
 
Laura nodded. “But will we die?”
 
“No, honey.” Margaret shook her head. “You won’t die. I promise.”
 
***
 
Abraham paced the floor as Dr. Stevens examined Julie. The locusts were the least of his worries right now. After the last locust attack, Abraham’s father had set back money they would need if another one happened. Abraham made sure that money stayed in the bank just in case they needed it…and they did. The door opened. Abraham hurried up to the doctor. “Margaret’s helping her get freshened up. She’s a distressed woman, Abe. I’ve given her something to help her sleep.”
 
Abraham nodded. “We knew it was coming but still…it hurts now that it happened.”
 
“I know. Miscarriage is one of those cruel things we’ll never understand. Nature creates something then takes it away. But it’s the body’s way of telling you that something’s not right.”
 
“You’ll stay until the hoppers leave?” Abraham asked. “It’ll probably be tomorrow.” Dr. Stevens nodded. “Margaret will fix supper soon, I’m sure.”
 
“And I’ll help her,” Laura stated as she lifted her head and squared her shoulders back.
 
Abraham bent down and looked into his sister’s eyes. “That would mean a lot to us, honey.” He hugged her, finding comfort in having her close.
 
Inside the bedroom, Margaret had fresh sheets on the bed and helped Julie back under the covers. Once she was settled, she sat down on the side of the bed. “Does it hurt?”
 
Julie shook her head. “Not outside but…inside…” Julie pressed a hand to her chest.
 
“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how it feels to…” Margaret watched as another tear slid down Julie’s cheek.
 
“It feels awful,” Julie mumbled. “It feels like someone came and ripped something from my body.” Margaret could tell the medicine was taking effect. “But I’m glad it’s over in a way. All these weeks of fretting and…” Julie drifted off to sleep.
 
Margaret came out of the bedroom and announced Julie was sleeping then she went to start supper. The children were all fussy and hungry. She had her work cut out for her. Abraham and Peter did their best to keep the children entertained while she cooked.
 
Abraham said the blessing then they started eating. But listening to the gnawing outside was nerve-wracking for everyone. Not a word was said as the family ate in silence. Laura wasn’t eating at all. She just pushed her food back and forth on the plate and stared toward the window. Abraham couldn’t take it anymore. “Laura, eat your supper.”
 
“Can’t…” she mumbled.
 
Abraham folded his arms and leaned towards her. “Why not?”
 
Laura didn’t answer, but merely lifted her head and stared toward the window. The sound of the little mouths nibbling brought tears to her eyes. Her face screwed up and she turned her head from the group. “Oh, I can’t stand it! I’m trying to be a big girl but…I just can’t stand it!”
 
Abraham lowered his head into  his hands. The room grew quiet as Laura sobbed. Abraham stood and walked to the window. Looking out, he suddenly grew frustrated. He punched the wall in anger. Everyone sitting at the table jumped as he cursed. “Abraham!” Margaret exclaimed in shock of his language in front of the children.
 
“Seems since Luke made his announcement he was going off to war nothing’s been going right for us.” He turned from the window. “Is that it? Is Luke the man that’s held this family together all these years?” Abraham started pacing the floor. “I mean…Pa dies…I practically beat Laura in frustration over it…Laura almost dies in a cave…Andy dies…Samuel goes completely loco over this…we almost lose several of you in the blizzard…Julie loses our baby and now this?” Abraham pressed his hands on his hips. “How much more do I have to take? How much more do I have to endure before God finds me worthy???” Again, he banged the wall with his fist as hard as he could.


Margaret turned and looked at Laura. She was terrified now listening to her brother speak. Her eyes had grown wide and her mouth opened in worry. Margaret stood and took Laura’s arm. “Come on, honey, let’s go check on Julie.” She lifted Charlie from the high chair. “Then we’ll check on your nephews. Come on…” Margaret quickly dragged Laura from the room, but Laura left the room, she turned and stared at her brother.
 
Abraham realized what he had just done and slowly sat back down at the table. In anger, at himself and everything else that had happened, Abraham flung his plate across the room, cursing again. The noise  of the plate and utensils hitting the floor made the two men sitting at the table jump. Abraham jumped up from the table and went to the window. Again, he banged his fist hard against the wall.
 
Peter stood up and came to stand behind his brother. He grabbed Abraham’s fist and studied the lacerations his anger had caused. Then he sighed and rested his hands on Abraham’s shoulders. “I don’t know, big brother. You are right; it has been an awful year. I cannot imagine what it feels like to lose a baby.” Peter bent down beside his brother. For once, he felt he was the grown up and his brother the child. “But Abe…we’ve gotten through every tragedy that’s come our way. We’ve endured it and we’ve moved on. We’ve become closer because of it.”
 
Abraham said nothing. He closed his eyes as he looked toward the bedroom Margaret and Laura had disappeared into. “Abe…a year ago, before Pa died, would you have ever been able to hold us together like this? You would have lost it a long time ago! Your temper has simmered quite a bit, regardless of your understandable actions in anger today. You’ve eased up with Laura some and you’ve really kept this family together. Today’s outburst is NOTHING compared to what it would have been a year ago.”
 
Abraham slowly moved his head toward his brother. “Are you telling me…I’ve become a softy?”
 
Peter smiled at the way Abraham said those words. “Well…I did get a good fight on Mischief Night, but you allowed me to live in spite of what I did…and that’s saying a lot for the Abraham I used to know.”
 
Abraham slowly stood from the chair and looked out the window at the Locusts. “This is going to set us back a lot.”
 
“Yes.” Peter nodded. “But we’ve survived it before. We’ll survive it again.” Peter hesitated before speaking his thoughts. He wasn’t sure how Abraham…even the new Abraham…would take his words. “Luke’s sent all his money he’s earned home. It would be enough to ease us a bit.”
 
Abraham turned and glared at his brother. “No!” Abraham declared. “That money is for Margaret and Luke! We can’t touch that money!”
 
“What are you talking about?” Both men turned to see Margaret standing just outside the door. Abraham gasped, realizing Margaret had heard their conversation. “What money’s for us?”
 
“Margaret…it’s…”
 
“What money, Abe?” Margaret asked again as she walked up to the brothers.
 
Abraham sighed. “We’ve been saving every penny Luke’s sent home from the war. As a family, we decided to save it for when he comes home and marries you. We figured it would be good to have that money as a down payment on the land Luke’s always had his eye on. It would make a good ranch.”
 
“Well…” Margaret smiled as she folded her arms across her chest. “I must say you two have a lot of confidence that Luke and I will be married. I feel like this is an arranged marriage.”
 
Peter and Abraham looked at each other and smiled weakly. “Well…” Abraham nodded slightly. “I must admit that ever since you and Luke were little things, you’ve felt like a sister to us. I reckon we’ve always imagined you two getting married when you grew up. Now that you have admitted your feelings for each other…”
 
“Oh?” Margaret cocked her head to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “How would you know we’ve admitted our feelings?”
 
Abraham grinned sincerely this time. “Well…need I remind you…SIS…that I was there when Luke wrote his letter of confession? In his weakened state, I was forced to write all that mushy stuff down on paper?”
 
“Oh.” Margaret blushed. She’d forgotten all about that fact. “So you’ve been saving his pay all this time?” Abraham nodded. “How much is there?”
 
Abraham cleared his throat. “There’s enough. In the bank, it’s gaining interest so there’s close to $500 there.”
 
“Five hund…” Margaret gasped. She turned from them and put a hand to her mouth. After regaining composure, she turned back around. “You struggle from month to month trying to find a way to put food on your tables while we Gibbs sit back and relax knowing there’s plenty of money in our account. We enjoy the finer things in life while you struggle…and yet you’ve kept THAT much money in the bank for US?”
 
Abraham turned and looked at Peter. Then he nodded silently. She bit her lip. “Abe…Luke sent that money home for you to use. He’s contributing, knowing his money will help the family when things get tough for you.” She looked toward the window. “Now that the locusts have returned, I’d say things are tough for you, and neither Luke nor I would want to watch you struggle eating mush and flapjacks while that five hundred dollars sits in the bank for Luke and I to have a ranch!”
 
“But…” Abraham started.
 
Margaret held up a hand. “Since you’ve chosen to make that money ‘our’ money, meaning money for Lucas and me, I will tell you my wishes for the money.” Margaret walked up to Abraham and put a hand on his arm. “Abe…I want you to use that money to get through this year. Luke would want that too.”
 
“Margaret, I…”
 
She held up a hand to silent him again. “Now listen to me, Abraham McCain! If Luke and I are supposed to get married, it will happen with or without your interference. And if Luke and I are to have a ranch, it will happen with or without that five hundred dollars.” Margaret bit her lip as her eyes filled with tears. “Oh Abe…don’t think I don’t appreciate what you did because I do…very much! But Abe, as your future sister-in-law, if you will, I must tell you that when things get hard we have to make sacrifices. I WANT you to use that money, Abe. I WANT you to let Luke…and me…help you. Then when the time comes for us to get married, you can help us.”
 
Abraham fought his tears as he reached out and hugged Margaret to him. He couldn’t say anything as he held her close, just enjoying having her in their family.
 
“We have some money set aside for such emergencies, Margaret…” Abraham said quietly. “But if things get bad, we’ll use some of your money.” He put a hand under her chin and lifted her face toward his. “Luke is going to marry a fine woman someday. You are truly special.”
 
“I’m just looking out for my family.” Margaret smiled.
 
“Where’s Laura?” Abraham suddenly asked as he looked around.
 
“Oh…she wanted to sit with Julie for awhile. Julie’s still sleeping, but Laura felt she could bring her comfort if she sat and held her hand for awhile. They’ve both lost something today, Abe. They need each other.”
 
Dr. Stevens had sat at the table, quietly sipping his coffee as the family matters happened. Peter, noticing him for the first time since the whole drama started, hurried over to him. “I think you and I should go to the main house and stay the night. It would be more…er…comfortable for you there, I think.” They grabbed their wraps then left.
 
Abraham put his children to bed, taking time to kiss each of his children goodnight. He walked to their bedroom door and opened it, but before exiting, he turned looked in on his four sleeping sons once again. He smiled, feeling a peace fall over him. He was truly blessed – even through their loss. After one more glance, he softly closed their door and walked into the bedroom for the night. Margaret assured him she would turn in as soon as she got the kitchen clean.
 
 But as Abraham lay down beside his wife he knew sleep wouldn’t come. All he could hear was the loud gnawing of locusts. He had been laying there for a couple hours when Julie woke up. He turned on his side and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s okay, honey. Go back to sleep.”
 
Julie turned and looked at him. “Abe…I have to talk to you.” Abe stroked her hair softly and waited for her to speak. “I feel guilty. Abe…losing the baby is horrible…I mean, I wish it didn’t have to happen but after weeks in bed I’m sort of…” Julie stopped.
 
“Relieved?” Julie nodded. “So am I…now that I’ve had time to think on it.”
 
“I think we lost our baby that day Dr. Stevens came and announced the news to us. But something made me want to hold on. I couldn’t help but hope that maybe…just maybe…something would change and our baby would…” Julie laid her head on his chest. She could hear the locusts nibbling their plants. “Will we be okay?”
 
“Of course we will.” Abraham kissed the top of her head and rubbed a hand up and down her back. “We’re young. We can have more babies.”
 
“I’m not talking about that.” Julie moved her head to look into his face. “I’m talking about the grasshoppers. Will we be okay?”
 
Abraham nodded. “We’ll survive.” Julie heard the worry in his voice.
 
“How’s Laura?”
 
Abraham lifted his head from the pillow and stared at her in amazement. “You are so amazing, you know that? Here I thought you would be ripped apart by what’s happened yet you’re worried how everyone else is.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. “Laura’s asleep. Margaret made a pallet on the floor beside her cot. She’ll be there if Laura has a nightmare.”
 
They were quiet for a few minutes as Julie lay back down on her side and allowed Abraham to hold her tight in his arms.
 
“Abe…” Julie’s voice broke. “I hurt so…so bad.” Once again, she started weeping as Abraham’s arms of comfort tightened around her.
 
“I know, honey. I know.” No other words were said as Julie lay awake and tried to come to terms with the loss.
 
***
 
The next morning, Margaret got up and fixed breakfast. Laura was feeling a bit better and was even standing at the window watching the locusts as they ate. “There’s not much left. You reckon they’ll leave soon?” Laura asked as she watched.
 
“I expect so,” Margret answered as she lit the stove. “There’s no eggs this morning. Perhaps…” Margaret’s words died when she heard Laura gasp She hurried over to look out the window and saw the grasshoppers all lining up. “They’re walking!”
 
“Walking? They’re all lining up.” Laura looked up at Margaret. “What’s it mean, Margaret?”
 
Margaret wiped her hands on her apron and smiled. “It means they’re leaving, Laura Rose. They’re getting ready to fly off!” Margaret declared happily.
 
Sure enough, the girls watched as they disappeared into a cloud. They left just like they had come. Then there was silence.
 
But the silence didn’t last long. Laura suddenly let out a joyful cry. “Abe! Abe!” Laura jumped down and hurried toward her brother’s bedroom. Margaret stopped her before she was able to get inside. “They’re gone! They’re gone!” she declared.
 
Abraham opened the door as he was buttoning his shirt. “Alright, young lady, what’s all the shouting about? Don’t you know I’m trying to sleep?”
 
“The hoppers are gone!” Laura shouted. “Look!”
 
Abraham went and opened the front door. He looked around the yard. “Would you look at that!” Julie had slipped into her robe and was standing behind her husband on the porch. “It never amazes me the power of nature.”
 
“We will be okay…won’t we Abe?” Julie asked again. This time her voice held a little more confidence.
 
Abe slipped an arm around his wife as they stood together on the porch. “Yes, my love. We’ll survive just fine.” Abraham locked eyes with Margaret who smiled with a nod. “We may all have to make sacrifices, but we’ll survive.
 
“You won’t…” Julie looked up at him. “You won’t have to go away this year to find work?”
 
Abraham looked down at her. He kissed her forehead. “I think…” Abraham started as he put his hands on her shoulders. “…That somebody’s already gone away and worked for us.” Julie gave him a strange look. “We’ll discuss it over breakfast.”
 
***
 
Saturday evening, Abraham had David McCain sitting on the counter. The triplets had all managed to spill the pail of milk that Abraham had sitting by the door, all over themselves, and it was quite a mess. “Papa, I’m hungry!” two year old Charlie declared for the fifth time.
 
But nothing would break Abraham’s cheerful mood tonight. Julie had announced that morning that they were having a party at the McCain house. When Abraham asked why, she asked, “Do we have to have a reason for a party, darling?”
 
Abraham was so happy to see Julie’s eyes again light up with gladness. She loved once again being with her sons and caring for her family; yet still he saw a look of sadness and loss in her eyes. He suspected it would be there for quite awhile.
 
Abraham sat David on the floor, satisfied that he was all cleaned up. David started crawling away. Now all four of his boys were clean, and as usual, they were waiting on the lady of the house to get ready. Abraham bent down in front of his boys. “You all be on your best behavior!” He rolled his eyes, not sure how much of his fatherly lecture his boys would understand.
 
The door opened. Abraham turned to look and slowly let out a long loud whistle at the sight that met his eyes. “WOW!” Abraham declared as he slowly stood to his feet. He whistled his approval again as he started towards her. He circled her and looked her up and down. “WOW! You are beautiful, Mrs. McCain!”
 
Julie smiled as she smoothed her dress. “Aren’t you laying it on a little thick?”
 
“Not at all!” Abraham cleared his throat. “Charlie, isn’t your mother beautiful?”
 
“Mama’s pretty!” Charlie declared with a nod of his head.
 
“See? Even your son thinks you’re beautiful.” Abraham bent over and kissed her softly. He stepped back and looked her up and down. “I’ve never seen that dress before.” Julie gave him a look that told him differently. “Have I?”
 
Julie shook her head in disappointment. “Abraham McCain…” she grumbled. “I wore this dress to our engagement party!”
 
“Oh…well, that was so long ago…” Abraham thought he was trying to redeem himself, but all it got him was a hard poke in the gut with her elbow. “…I mean…” he cleared his throat. “After four kids, you can still wear it. You see! Who says you can’t keep your figure after you’re married?”
 
“I had to let it out quite a bit. That’s what took me so long,” Julie declared as she glared at him.
 
“Oh…yes…” Abraham cleared his throat. “Boys, let’s go to the party!”
 
“Abe!” Abraham stopped at the door as he ushered Charlie outside and carried David and Samuel.  He slowly turned to look at his wife. “I love you.” She smiled at him.
 
“I love you too.” They stood and smiled at each other, as a little more of the sadness in her eyes died. “Let’s go!”
 
Abraham hurried down the hill with three of the boys, allowing Julie to take her time with the last boy. He may have been a bit insensitive leaving her behind, but he wanted to get to the main house in time to talk to the family. When he got into the yard, he saw that the Gibbs family was all there. As he looked toward the barn, he saw a loner leaned against it with a bottle in his hand. He quickly ushered Charlie inside.
 
Emily and Margaret quickly stepped forward to take the small boys from his arms. “Julie’s coming, but please don’t talk about the pregnancies tonight. She’s still recovering from what happened earlier in the week.”
 
“Abraham…” Ruth stepped forward. “Sometimes the best way to help a woman who’s lost a baby is to talk like normal, not stay on guard.”
 
“This is the way I want it.” Abraham said sternly. The door opened and Julie stepped in with Laura at her side talking a mile a minute.
 
Everyone turned and looked at Julie. Julie smiled as she looked at her family. “Smells delicious, Ma,” Julie stated. “Anything I can do to help?”
 
“Everything’s ready!” Emily stated. “We were just waiting on you.”
 
The family and friends all sat down at the table. Scott sat down beside Abraham, with Amanda at his side. “Uh…did you see Pa outside?” Abraham nodded. “Should we chase him off?”
 
“Not tonight, Scott,” Amanda said quietly.
 
“He’s not hurting anything,” Abraham said as he looked at Julie. He knew that’s what Julie would want. “Let’s just leave him.”
 
The family bowed their heads and thanked God for the health of each family member present. Then they lifted their heads. As they ate, conversation was kept light. Tiffany let out a gasp half-way through the meal and grabbed her belly. “What’s wrong?” Peter asked suddenly.
 
“Uh…” Tiffany smiled. “Just startled. That’s all.”
 
“How are you feeling, Tiffany?” Julie asked.
 
“Fine.” Tiffany turned and looked at her husband before going back to eating.
 
Julie was a bit put-out at the brief response, but turned to look at Em. “And how are you feeling?”
 
“Oh, great! Jeremiah and I are both great,” Em answered quickly, flashing Abraham a look.
 
Julie looked down at her plate and started pushing her food around. The conversation again turned back to catching up on everyone’s life. But Julie had lost some of her excitement for the party. She could feel something welling up in her chest as she sat there.
 
Suddenly, Johnny spoke up. These days, the things that came from his mouth could be down-right horrid. “How’s it feel, Julie, to lose a baby?”
 
Several people gasped as they stared at Johnny. Even Laura grew quiet and waited for the explosion to happen. Julie suddenly stood up. She looked around at the concerned faces and laid down her napkin. “Excuse me.” She hurried from the room, slamming the bedroom door firmly.
 
Scott stood up and grabbed Johnny by the ear. “Let’s go, young man! Outside!”
 
Amanda stood up. “Scott, you’re not going to whip this child.”
 
“Damn right, I’m gonna whip him!” Scott declared angrily. “…within an inch of his life!” Johnny cried as Scott hurried Johnny from the house.
 
Abraham started to stand to go to his wife, but Emily put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll go.” She looked at Margaret and nodded toward the door. “I believe you’ve done enough damage for one evening.” She and Margaret disappeared into the bedroom.
 
They didn’t find Julie on the bed sobbing uncontrollably. They found her staring out the window sobbing quietly. Julie turned as Emily closed the door. “I don’t want to be treated differently!” Julie declared. “I had a miscarriage. Lots of women have miscarriages. I just want things to get back to normal.” Julie bit her lip. “That’s why Abe rushed down here tonight…to warn everyone to walk lightly around me.”
 
Emily nodded. “He’s worried about you.”
 
“I…” Julie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I know…” Julie laid a hand on her chest and sighed deeply. “And I still ache inside very much…It’ll be awhile before the pain goes away. I won’t say it won’t hurt to watch Em grow bigger as her baby grows inside her. I won’t say that the day Em delivers her baby won’t be the most painful day of my life because I’ll wonder ‘what if.’ But…if I’m going to heal, I must move on. Not talking about the pregnancies isn’t going to help it!”
 
“Then that’s just what we’ll do!” Margaret declared as she grabbed Julie’s arm and started toward the door. As the door opened, everyone turned to look at Julie. The front door opened and Scott walked inside. Johnny was rubbing his back side and had tears in his eyes. Scott kept a firm hold on Johnny’s arm and immediately cleared his throat.
 
“I…” Johnny paused as he bashfully looked around at the others at the table. “I’m sorry for what I said. I knew it was mean, but I…” Johnny stopped, not wanting to say anymore.
 
“I forgive you,” Julie said quietly.
 
Abraham stood up and started toward her. Margaret stepped forward. “You just sit right back down, Abraham McCain!” Margaret cleared her throat. “Now, Julie wants to be treated like a normal human being.” Margaret put her hands on her hips. “You men think us women are weak and need protected, but let me tell you God made the McCain/Gibbs women strong! We may not be able to chop wood or lift heavy rocks like you men can; but we sure can hold a family together and make sure you men stay in line!” Margaret turned and looked at Julie. “Julie wants to talk to Em and Tiffany about their pregnancies. It may hurt, but it’ll hurt her a lot worse to hold it all in like my…” Margaret stopped and cleared her throat. “Well…like others are doing.”
 
She stopped. Abraham cleared his throat. “Can I…stand up now?” Margaret nodded. “Julie…I’m sorry. I just know how you hurt and I…”
 
“Abraham McCain…I gave birth to three babies one morning without any help from a man. I think I am a lot stronger than you ever give me credit for!”
 
Abraham walked toward her. “You’re right, honey. I guess I behaved like a…like a…”
 
“A man????” Julie finished for him.
 
Abraham stepped in front of her and nodded. “I’m ‘fraid so. I reckon I don’t give you enough credit.” He turned to look at his children. “I mean…any woman who can take care of four children and…me…is a pretty darn strong woman. I reckon I’m the one who’s weak – not wanting to see you suffer…”
 
Julie stepped forward until she was standing right in front of him. “And I don’t like to see you suffer, Abraham. But that’s what life is all about. We all experience loss, and when loss comes we help each other through it by talking and living! There will always be loss. But…” Julie reached out and took her husband’s hand. “You will always be there to hold my hand through the loss.”
 
Abraham turned and looked at everyone as they stared at the couple. “Well…I don’t necessarily enjoy doing our making up in front of company but…” He bent his head down and gave her a long, soft kiss.  After their lips parted, he hugged her. He felt her forgiveness in her kiss.
 
“Now…” Julie swallowed. “Can we get back to supper? I’ve a mind to do some dancing later.”
 
***
 
Dear Lucas,
 
We’ve experienced such a loss this week, but in the end I feel we’ve gained so much more. Julie lost her baby and locusts returned, but with those things came such a love for each other. I sometimes feel that God gives us loss to show us just how strong we are. As I watched Abraham and Julie tonight come to terms with their loss, I wonder what losses I will experience in my life.
 
I’ve lost Andy, and I’ve lost my father yet I feel so strengthened by your words of comfort even this far away. I pray that each loss we experience will bring us closer together. I pray, Luke, that no matter what happens, you, my Love, will learn to work your way through the loss and grow closer to those you love. Because as much as it pains me to think about, I know you too will experience some great losses in your life.
 
I am exhausted from the last month. I have cried all the tears I’m going to cry, and I’m now back home in my own room. Beth and I had a long talk before she went to sleep. I feel stronger now, and I feel I’m not as worried about you.
 
Come home soon, Luke. I love you so much. But through our own loss of being apart, I feel we too have grown closer together.
Love,
Margaret

The Years Before — Leaving Gettysburg Behind

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman

Here are some other great stories.  Enjoy!
 

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