The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Years Before
 
Chapter 14 - The Fight
Written by Michelle Palmer

Laura McCain turned back and looked toward the house she had lived in for the past eight years. Her eyes again filled up with tears. Her brother Abe stopped walking when he realized she was no longer beside him. Gently sitting his two sons on the ground, he turned and walked back to Laura. Without saying a word, he crouched down behind her and looked toward the house. Emily stood in the doorway looking toward them.
 
“I can’t do it, Abe,” Laura sniffed as she shook her head. “I just can’t leave them!”
 
Abe’s heart went out to her. He heard the hesitation in her voice. He turned and looked at his wife. “Honey, take the boys on up to the house. We’ll be there soon.” Julie nodded and worked at coaxing all four of her sons home. Abe sat down behind Laura quietly as she continued to stare at the house. He watched Emily turn and walk inside, closing the door behind her. “Come here, honey.”
 
Laura didn’t budge. Abraham reached up and pulled her down to sit on his lap.  “When we were talking earlier, we all decided this was best.” Abe lifted a hand and began wiping his sister’s tears with his thumbs. “We even explained why this way was best.”
 
“Abe…” Laura swallowed. “I won’t be bad! I promise! I’ll be a big help to Emily and I’ll…”
 
“Laura…” Abe pressed a finger to her lips to hush her. “You are NOT being punished! I don’t want you to think you are being punished.” He spoke to her in a soothing voice as she continued to cry softly.
 
“Emily don’t want me because…” Laura started.
 
“No, honey.” Abe shook his head. “Emily does want you! She wants you to live with her very, very much.” Abe cleared his throat. “I know this is hard for an eight year old girl to understand but…your sister is only 18 years old. She’s still trying to learn and grow herself and now she has the burden of taking care of our mother. You, Laura Rose, have a lot of growing to do. Emily would spend all her time worrying…because that’s what a woman does…She’d worry about what you’re doing outside when she can’t see you..she’d worry about your eating properly, getting you to school, seeing that your chores are done…She doesn’t need all that worry, honey.” Abe brushed Laura’s hair back from her face and smiled tenderly at her. “It’s not your fault…it’s just the way we were made.”
 
“But Peter and Tiffany…” Laura started.
 
Abe shook his head. “Peter isn’t much older – twenty-one years old…He’s just learning how to be a man. He and Tiffany just had a baby. They have never been parents before, so it’s going to be quite an adjustment…Again, this is nobody’s fault, but it’s just the way it is.”
 
Laura stared down toward the house. “I just…” She stopped and turned to look at her brother. “It’s not that I don’t love ya, Abe but…”
 
Abe shook his head. “I understand, honey. But…” Abraham lowered his head. “I’m sorry you have to go through this, Laura Rose. Julie and I will try to understand. We’ll be patient and help you make this adjustment.”
 
“Can I…go see Mama tonight?”
 
“We’ll see, honey. Julie and I will take you down there. We’ll let you stay for a spell, but its best we make your visits short.”
 
“Abe?” Abe raised his eyebrows. “Mama is going to die…ain’t she?”
 
Abe’s eyes filled up with tears. “Ye…yes, honey. I’m afraid so.”
 
“Soon?”
 
“Very soon. Remember, she’s my Ma too. My heart’s really sad as well. This is so hard…for me…” Abe allowed his tears to fall so Laura could see that he was really hurt over what was happening. Laura reached up and brushed one of his tears away. “I think Julie’s worried about you. Can we go…” Abe swallowed as he said the word. “…home now and show her you’ll be okay?” Laura nodded. Abe stood and carried her toward her new home.
 
When they walked inside, Julie looked up from the table where she was changing David’s diaper. She paused in her task. Laura stood in the doorway and looked up at Abe who winked and nodded. “You know…” Laura started as she walked inside. “I know how ta change diapers.”
 
Julie smiled as she straightened up. She smiled at Laura. “I know. You’ve shown me.”
 
“And…” Laura lowered her head. “I even know how ta wash clothes. Mama…” Laura stopped. She burst into tears and ran to Julie. Julie stooped down and welcomed the little girl in her arms. They cried together while Abe went to finish the diaper change.
 
Julie kissed Laura then laid her hands on Laura’s cheeks and looked into her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Laura. I’m sorry for the pain you have to go through. I can’t take it away but…” Julie slid her hands down onto Laura’s shoulders. “…I’ll try to be here so we can talk.”
 
Laura looked up at Abe. “How ‘bout Abe? Will you be here for him too?”
 
“Of course…” Julie swallowed. “Of course I will. I’ll help you both.” She looked at the bag by the door. “Would you like to take your clothes in the bedroom? I bet Abe can hang some pegs on the wall.”
 
The house was built with just two bedrooms. Abe and Julie had talked about building a third during her last pregnancy, but a chain of events never allowed the plan to materialize. Currently, the triplets were still using their over-sized cradles to sleep while Charlie slept in a big boy bed. A second bed was in there for those times Laura had to stay over. Now it would be her bed.
 
Abraham and Laura worked until lunch time rearranging the things for her part of the bedroom. After blessing was said, Laura asked her brother about her own room. Abe shot Julie a look as he shifted uncomfortable in his chair. “Well…” He swallowed his stew as he tried to put his thought into words. “We’ll have to see, honey. Since the locusts destroyed our crops, things are going to be tight and…”
 
“But Julie said we could!” Laura cried out.
 
“Laura, don’t raise your voice to me!” Abe ordered. He cleared his throat. “Julie and I haven’t talked about it. I…”
 
“Abe…” Abe looked toward Julie. “Uh…can we discuss this later?” She looked toward Laura. Abe nodded, knowing she wanted to ‘discuss’ it with him, and he had a pretty good idea of where the discussion was going to lead. “I was hoping, Laura, that you could help me with laundry this afternoon. Then if Abe can kill a chicken, you can help me clean it and I’ll fix fried chicken for supper.”
 
“Then we can go check on Ma?” Laura asked hopefully.
 
Julie looked toward Abe. “Uh…we’ll see,” Abe mumbled as he went back to his stew.
 
As it turned out, Peter stopped by just as they were finishing supper to let Abe and Julie know that their mother was having a bad night. She was awake and in a great deal of pain. They had the doctor there trying to make her comfortable. Laura heard some of the conversation and demanded to go see her mother immediately. “Laura…” Peter bent down in front of her. “Mother wouldn’t want you to see her when she’s hurting so badly. She won’t even let me or Emily in the room. The doctor’s there and won’t leave until she’s asleep. Maybe tomorrow.”
 
The news upset Laura very much. Julie asked Laura to help her with the dishes, but Laura just sat in her chair with her head propped up in her hands. “Laura, Julie asked you to help her with the dishes.”
 
Laura defiantly narrowed her eyes at Abe. “NO!” she shouted.
 
Abe grew angry and started to stand from his chair, but Julie put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t, Abe.” Julie turned and looked at Laura. “Now, I know you are hurting, Laura. We are all hurting and we have to help each other out. By saying no, you’re not only hurting yourself...you are also hurting your brother…and me…very much.” Julie held out a dirty plate to her. “Now…come help me in the kitchen.”
 
Laura stared at the plate then she looked up at Abe. “Fine.” She followed Julie to the kitchen and silently pouted as she helped with the dishes.
 
After the dishes, Abe and Julie worked at putting the boys down for the night. It was early, but they had had a long day. Laura sat at the table, still pouting, and looking through a picture book. “I think you should turn in as well,” Julie suggested as she came out of the bedroom.
 
“I don’t have to go to bed until 8:30!” Laura said. She looked at the clock on the mantle. “It’s only 7:00.”
 
Abe took a deep breath. Julie put a warning hand on his arm again, but he shook his head. “Now, let’s get one thing straight, young lady!” Abe bent down in front of her. “You are hurting like the rest of us. But I’M in charge here and you will follow MY rules. One of those rules is to go to bed when we tell you to. The next time you talk back, you WILL be punished.” Abe stood up and pointed toward the bedroom. “Now, get ready to go to bed. When you’re ready, we’ll come in and kiss you goodnight.”
 
Laura stood as hot, angry tears burned her face. “Alright. I’ll get ready for bed and I’ll GO to bed, but I don’t want you to kiss me goodnight! My Mama kisses me goodnight! Emily kisses me goodnight! But NOT you!” She cried as she ran to the bedroom and slammed the door. Julie jumped when she heard one of the boys start to cry.
 
Julie stared at the door. She turned and glared at Abe. “Was that really necessary, Abe?” she asked in a calm voice.
 
“Julie, she has to understand…”
 
“YOUR in charge? YOUR rules?” Julie repeated his words to Laura. “Since when was I not included in these decisions?”
 
“Julie…” Abe started.
 
“I’ll take care of it, Abe. You…go bed down the stock!” Julie’s voice was angry when she spoke to him. Abraham quickly walked out the door.
 
When Julie walked into the bedroom, Laura kept her back turned while she changed into her nightgown. Julie patted Sammy’s back until he went back to sleep. Then she went to sit on Laura’s bed. Laura stood, her back still turned to Julie. “Sit.”
 
Laura obeyed and sat down beside her. “Honey, I’m not your enemy. I want to be your friend. I want to help you through this.”
 
“Abe’s being so mean!” Laura declared.
 
“Abe…” Julie sighed. “…he’s being Abe. He doesn’t mean to be mean but…he’s right. You live in our home now. You have to live by our rules, and you can’t use your mother or sister to lash out at us when things don’t go your way.”
 
“He wouldn’t let me see my Mama!” Laura declared.
 
“Because she’s in a lot of pain. She doesn’t want you to see her that way.” Julie waited for Laura to nod in understanding. “Okay. Now let’s get under the covers.” Julie put the covers over Laura. She started to bend down and kiss her but remembered Laura’s words from earlier. “Good night, Laura.” But Laura said nothing. Her eyes were closed.
 
Julie went out to work on sewing a torn shirt of Charlie’s. She knew this adjustment wouldn’t be easy for any of them, but it was one that would have to be made. It was quite some time before Abe came back inside. She didn’t look up at him as he hung his hat on the peg and put his gun belt on its peg for the night. “Can’t believe how hot it still is out there.” Abe turned and looked at Julie, but Julie continued sewing. Abe walked over to the stove and poured himself a cup of coffee.
 
He went to sit at the desk. “Got another bill from the General Store. I reckon I’ll have to pay that one first.” He still got no response. “I think the hat you bought for that wedding will set us back for quite some time.” He tried to tease, but his voice didn’t quite go that way.
 
From behind him, he heard Julie drop her sewing and stand up. Without saying a word, she stomped across the room and slammed the door to their bedroom. Abe jammed his pen down and stared at the desk. He knew Julie believed he’d done something wrong, and in time Julie would surely tell him what it was. It wasn’t often she gave him the silent treatment…in fact, when she thought he was in the wrong she was really vocal about it. He’d prefer that way from her not saying anything at all.
 
Abe tried to concentrate on doing the books. He put a hand to his head, unsure of where the needed money was going to come from. Things were going to be mighty tight until they brought in next year’s crops, he knew that. He hesitated spending the money his father had saved up, and he hesitated spending Lucas’s money. His father had been proud, and Abraham was turning out to be the same way. It was his nature…
 
Abe stood and stretched. He looked toward his bedroom, knowing he would have to face Julie sooner or later. Finally, he blew out the lantern and made his way to the bedroom to see if he could find out just what he had apparently done wrong.
 
Julie wasn’t in bed, but was standing at the window staring out into the darkness. “Thought you’d be in bed,” Abe said as he sat down to take his boots off.
 
“She’s got to have her own room, Abe…” Julie said quietly.
 
Abe’s hands froze on his boot. “What?”
 
Julie turned around. “I said she’s got to have her own room.”
 
“I know, and she will. But not now,” Abe answered in a controlled voice.
 
“Abe…” Julie walked towards him as she motioned toward the bedroom door. “You can’t expect her to sleep in a room with four other little boys! She’s eight years old and…”
 
Abe felt his temper flaring. He closed his eyes as he slowly stood up. “It will have to wait, Julie.” His voice held warning. Every McCain brother had that warning voice, and most people knew to heed it.
 
But Julie wasn’t most people.
 
“It can’t wait, Abe!” Julie’s voice rose a bit as she glared at him.
 
“Julie…” Abe’s voice rose considerably. He took a deep breath and turned from her, trying to calm his voice down. But when he turned, his face was red and his eyes flashed. “I was just sitting out there at my desk trying to figure out how to put food on my family’s table…how to feed my wife and children…and YOU are angry with me because I can’t build Laura a bedroom?”
 
“Can’t?” Julie asked as she took another step toward him. “Or won’t?”
 
“Can’t!” Abe planted his hands on his hips as he continued to glare at her. “There is no money!”
 
“What are you talking about???” Julie shouted. “You have money in the bank! Your father set money aside and Luke…”
 
“I don’t want to spend that money!” Abraham hollered. “I think we can make it through if…”
 
“Abe, stop yelling. You’ll wake the children,” Julie said in a calm voice.
 
“What the BLAZES is this???” Abe hurried toward the bedroom door. “My mother is up there dying and you are yelling at me about giving Laura her own bedroom?” Abe punched the door with his fist, causing Julie to jump. “How can I focus on anything else when Ma is dying? I’m going to have to bury my mother soon…I’m having to take in my sister…that’s ANOTHER mouth I have to feed! And yet you want her to have her own ROOM?”
 
Abe started pacing the floor. “Abe, there are some things you don’t under…”
 
“I’ve NEVER had my own room! Growing up, I shared my room with my brothers! First there was Jeremiah, then Peter, and finally Luke! I never complained when each new brother moved right in! Emily and Laura never complained and…”
 
“You aren’t listening to me, Abe! You aren’t hearing what I’m saying!” Julie turned from him and wiped at her face. She turned back around and looked her husband in the eye. “And another thing…you have GOT to be easy with her! She’s acting out because she’s confused and hurting and…”
 
“What’s that got to do with having her own bedroom???”
 
“You were too hard on her tonight! You can’t expect-“
 
“Look Julie, I’m doing the best I can. I don’t know what you expect me to do!” Julie turned from him and went to the bed. “What are you doing now?”
 
“I’m going to sleep!” Julie snapped as she pulled back the covers.
 
“We’re talking!” Abe argued.
 
“No Abe!” Julie sat down on the bed. “You’re yelling! You are not listening!” She laid down. “Goodnight!”
 
Abraham stomped over to the bed and stared as she turned her back to him. How had things suddenly gotten so out of control? As quietness came over their bedroom once again, his angry words echoed in his head. He remembered back to after his father died and how bad he had gotten. But now, the pressure seemed much greater. Abraham slowly sat down on the side of the bed and put his head in his hands. “Maybe tomorrow we can talk about this like two rational adults. Maybe I can get you to understand…” Abe started in a calm voice.
 
“I said goodnight,” Julie’s muffled voice answered. Abe quickly undressed and slipped under the covers. He turned on his side away from her, but never went to sleep.
 
Outside their bedroom door, a little girl had listened to most of the conversation. She cried, realizing she was the reason they were fighting. She was a burden to her brother. God was so unfair.
 
***
 
When Julie woke up the next morning, Abe was gone. She hadn’t slept very well and knew Abe hadn’t slept either. But she had nothing to say that wouldn’t provoke more angry words between them. As she got up from the bed and started dressing, she wept. She didn’t only weep because she and Abe were at odds; she was mostly weeping for the pain Abe and Laura were feeling. She knew Ruth’s death would be a big blow to the family.
 
Julie walked toward the door. She paused and tried to force the anger she felt down. Then she opened the door.
 
Laura was in the bedroom helping Abe get the boys dressed. “Morning,” Abe greeted her shortly. Julie merely nodded her head and went to start breakfast. She saw sadness in Laura’s eyes. The sadness was deeper and more intense this morning then it had been the night before and she wondered what had caused it. Perhaps Laura was beginning to realize that her mother really WAS dying.
 
Julie fixed breakfast while Abe went to do his morning chores and Laura entertained the boys. Abe said a very short prayer before they ate. After breakfast, Laura helped with the dishes without saying a word. Julie suspected she knew why Laura had been so willing. After the last dish was in the cupboard, Laura turned and announced, “Well…I’m ready.”
 
Abe paused at cleaning his gun and looked up at his sister. “Ready? For what?” he asked.
 
“Well…” Laura turned to look at Julie. “You said I could go see Ma this morning.”
 
“Laura, I..” Abe started.
 
But Julie jumped in before he could get any further. “I think you should.” Julie wiped her hands on her apron. “I’ve got lots of chores around for you to help me with this afternoon, but while you’re there see if you can do anything for Emily, ya hear?”
 
“Thanks!” Laura ran toward the front door. “I will!”
 
Abraham slowly stood from his chair as Julie went to boil some water to wash the floors. “Abe, I’d appreciate you setting the play pen out in the shade for the boys this morning. I want to get this floor scrubbed.”
 
“Why did you do that?” Abe asked suddenly as he stood right behind her. His voice held anger.
 
“Do what?”
 
“THAT…tell Laura she could go see Mother…Why, Julie?”
 
Julie paused and closed her eyes. “Because, Abe, her mother is DYING. Laura is feeling so many emotions and…”
 
“You just undermined my authority, you know. You made me look like a FOOL in front of the children!”
 
“I did no such thing!” Julie declared. “I just…”
 
“You did! I was answering and you just jumped right in with your…” Abraham stopped.
 
“I broke in because you were about to deny your sister permission to go see you Mother!” Julie declared. “That little girl needs to see her mother! She has to come to terms with what’s happened – even if it means sitting by her bedside holding her hand! Laura is a confused little girl about to lose her mother and I…”
 
“Mama!” Charlie cried. Julie bent down and picked Charlie up.
 
“Now, if you will please set up the playpen outside…”
 
No more words were spoken between the couple. Abraham went to get the supplies to start working on the fence around their yard while Julie went back inside to clean the floor. The triplets played while Abraham kept an eye on them. Only a couple hours later, Laura came over the hill with Peter. She was crying and clinging to her brother. Abraham took out his kerchief and wiped the sweat from his neck as they approached.
 
“Margaret will be here this afternoon. Emily said you can send Laura back down then. She can stay the afternoon.”
 
Abraham nodded as he looked down at Laura. “Alright.” He could tell Laura was sad. “You want to talk about it?”
 
“No sir,” Laura answered. She walked toward the house. Abe watched her go.
 
“Something wrong with her,” Peter stated.
 
“Yes.” Abe nodded. “Her mother’s dying. She suddenly has a new home…One day things were fine and the next her world was turned upside down.”
 
“It’s more than that. She doesn’t think anybody wants her.”
 
“We talked about that yesterday!” Abe declared. “I thought we had it all settled.”
 
Peter narrowed his eyes as he looked at his brother. “Something’s wrong with you. What is it?”
 
“No,” Abraham sighed. “Nothing’s wrong. I…” He sighed and shook his head. “McCain’s can never hide things from each other. We know each other too well.” Abe lowered his head. “Our mother’s dying…I’m trying to figure out how to get us through this next year…and…” Abe looked toward the house. “Julie and I had a big fight last night.”
 
“How big?”
 
“Well…let’s just say that there was a thick sheet of ice on my bed last night.”
 
“Shouting?”
 
“Oh yeah!” Abe answered.
 
“Separate sides of the bed and never in the tween shall meet?”
 
“Yep.”
 
“Mmmm….” Peter sighed and shook his head. “Care to tell me what it’s about?”
 
“Not right now.” Abe turned and looked toward the house. “Let’s just say it’s about Laura.” Peter opened his mouth to speak. “…not about her living here, but about other things, and about money, and…”
 
“I see.” Peter looked at the holes Abe was digging. “Looks like you could use some help.”
 
“I told Laura she could help me.”
 
“Alright. I best get back to my family.” He patted Abe on the shoulder. “Hang in there. Things will get tougher before they get better.”
 
Julie stood in the doorway. “Abe, Laura’s fixing sandwiches. Can you get Charlie washed up so we can eat? We’ll eat outside.”
 
Abe obeyed. The conversation during lunch was stiff. Anyone there would know Abe and Julie were at odds. Laura helped Abe with the fence until Margaret came by to get her. Abe watched her leave with Margaret before continuing his work.
 
Abe came inside for a drink of water. Julie was just exiting the bedroom from laying the boys down for their nap. She gathered up laundry and went to fill up her laundry tubs. Abe worked, glancing over at her every now and then. But neither spoke. So much had been said last night. Neither Julie nor Abe knew how to make things right. So they went throughout their afternoon without mentioning their fight.
 
The boys’ woke and came to play outside while Julie started supper. Abe stopped his fencing to play with them for a bit. Supper was ready but Laura wasn’t back yet. “I think I should go get her,” Abe stated as he looked towards the main farm.
 
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Julie mumbled from the kitchen.
 
“She shouldn’t be down there so much. It’s not good for her.”
 
“And you know what’s best for her, I’m sure…” Julie mumbled as she continued to prepare supper.
 
“Let’s not start!” Abe shouted suddenly. “I think enough has been said on the matter!”
 
“Abe, this morning I wasn’t trying to undermine your authority! I was trying to help Laura!”
 
“You shouldn’t have spoken out of turn!” Abe snapped. “I was handling the situation just fine!”
 
“Just fine? Abe, you were trying to keep her from your mother! She’s dying!”
 
Abe whirled around and glared at Julie once again. “I know she’s dying! My mother is leaving me! She’s leaving Laura! She’s leaving all of us to go to Pa! My mother is going to die!!!” Abe had tears in his eyes. He hurried to the front door and opened it.
 
“Where are you going?” Julie asked suddenly.
 
“I’m going to see my mother and fetch my sister!” Abe stomped out the door, giving it a hard slam on his way out. Julie jumped. The triplets started crying. Charlie looked up at his mother who burst into tears.
 
***
 
“She’s been in there all afternoon, Abe. She’s just holding her hand and cries every once in a while. Ma’s spoken to her a few times. She knows Laura’s there and I think it’s bringing her peace.”
 
Abraham stared blankly at Emily and nodded. Then he opened the door. “Laura, it’s time to go home.”
 
Laura heard it in his voice. It was laced with anger and regret. She knew Abe didn’t really want her home. She was more of a burden to him than anything else.
 
“She hasn’t said anything to me in three hours…” Laura said hoarsely. “I’m afeared she’s about ta…” She stopped when Abe put a hand on her shoulder.
 
“Go on home. Julie has supper on the table.” Laura obediently stood up. She bent over and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Go on, honey.”
 
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mama.” Abe’s jaw clinched when he heard Laura’s words. He watched her leave then sat down in the chair beside her bed.
 
Silently, he lifted her hand and pressed it to his cheek. “Oh…oh Mama…I…I need you so bad.” Abraham started weeping as he looked at his mother. Her cheeks were sunken in and her face pale. She looked like she could die at any time. “I know you want to see Papa, but Laura needs you…” Abe swallowed. “Well…the truth is that…I need you too.” Abe brushed the back of his hand against her cheek. “I…I love you, Mama.”
 
In time, Abe stood and went to the door. He turned back to look at her, unsure if he’d see her again. Then he slowly stepped out, softly closing the door behind him. “It’s happening so fast,” he told his brother, Peter.
 
“I know.” Peter looked toward Emily. “Uh…I’ll walk you home.”
 
They stepped outside. “Has Jeremiah been by today?”
 
Peter nodded. “They were here most of the morning.” They walked silently. “You and Julie still fighting?”
 
“Yeah. I guess so.”
 
“All couples fight, I reckon…”
 
“You and Tiffany?” Abe asked.
 
“You know we have,” Peter answered. “Remember the blizzard?”
 
“Julie and I have had our arguments, but nothing like this. It started last night and seems to be getting worse.” They walked silently beside each other. “You know…in all the years, I never saw Ma and Pa fight.”
 
Peter stopped and turned to Abe. “You know, you’re right. Pa seemed to bend over backwards for Ma. I can’t remember them EVER lifting their voices at each other.” The brothers started walking again. “I wonder what their secret was.”
 
“I don’t know.” Abe looked over his shoulder. “There’s so many things I want to ask Ma now and it’s too late. Why is it we wait until it’s too late to find out about the important things?”
 
They were standing outside Abe’s house now. Abe took a deep breath as he stared at the house. “You act like you’re about to go out onto the battlefield.”
 
“I am.” Abe turned and looked at Peter. “Well, goodnight.”
 
Abraham walked into the house. Julie was sitting in her chair reading her Bible. Abe hung his hat up and walked over to the stove. He poured a cup of coffee and took the plate of stew from the warmer. “Kids in bed?”
 
“All but Laura,” Julie answered without looking up.
 
“Oh? Where’s she?”
 
“Went to fetch some water from the creek.” Julie turned the page in her Bible while Abe ate silently. Finally, Julie closed her Bible and stood up. “Being with her mother this afternoon is helping her I think. I think she needs to…”
 
“Can we not discuss it for one night? I’m so tired of arguing. I was with my mother tonight and it didn’t help me a bit.”
 
“Laura was able to see just how ill Ma is. She’s…”
 
“I said I don’t want to discuss it!” Abe raised his voice. There was something inside him that was snapping. He didn’t understand what it was.
 
They heard a sniff from behind them. Abe and Julie turned to see Laura. She was soaked to the skin from head to toe. “I fell in.”
 
Julie gasped and hurried toward her. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up. Abe can fetch the water.”
 
Abe stood up and walked to the door. He went to do the task. When he returned with the water, Julie wasn’t there. She must be in with Laura. He walked to the bedroom door and could hear Julie’s soothing voice as she softly spoke to Laura. “Your brother can be a hard man at times, but he’s a good man. He has a lot of pressure, and often times he doesn’t know how to handle it all. We’ll get through this.”
 
Abe went to his desk and sat down. Julie came out and looked toward him, but Abe didn’t acknowledge her. “Goodnight.”
 
“Going to bed?” Abe stood up.
 
“Yes.” Julie paused at the door to their bedroom. “It’s been a long day.” She waited before speaking again. “Will you be…coming to bed?”
 
“Do you want me to?” Abe asked softly.
 
“Abe…” Julie sighed as she wiped at her eye. “There are so many things that were said. You can’t just take them back. You’ve hurt me. I…”
 
“I’ll sleep in the barn if you want.”
 
“Oh, you don’t have to. I…”
 
“No. I think its better that way,” Abe answered. “Perhaps tomorrow will be better.”
 
“I’m scared, Abe. I don’t know how to fix this. I…” Julie stopped. Whatever she was about to say died. She bit her lip.
 
“I don’t even know what there is TO fix, Julie. I…”
 
Julie lowered her eyes to the floor. “I think that’s part of the problem, Abe. You can’t see what needs fixed.” She turned toward the kids’ bedroom. “We can’t fix anything until you understand. Goodnight.”
 
***
 
Day three found more of the same. Julie and Abe conversed just enough to get through their task of caring for their family. Julie seemed withdrawn that day and quickly ushered Laura out of the house before Abe could say a word. She knew this upset Abe even more, for he abruptly stood from the breakfast table and hurried out the door, giving it a hard slam as he left.
 
But what she didn’t know is where he went. Abe walked to his father’s grave and sat down. He stared at the headstone for a long time before finally speaking in a broken voice. “Pa…I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know why we’re fighting anymore. Did you and Ma ever…fight like this? I don’t remember there ever being a cross word between you yet…” Abe sank to the ground and buried his head in his arms. He sobbed, wishing his could ask his father for advice on how to fix this. Julie said he didn’t even know what was broken, and maybe she was right.
 
“Abe?” Abe turned to see Samuel Gibbs standing behind him. Samuel slowly walked up and kneeled down beside him. “I come to talk to your father often. We were best friends, you know.”
 
Abe turned back to stare at the grave. “Pa would have a few things to say to you right now, were he still alive…you leaving your family like you did.”
 
Samuel sighed. “You asked your father a question just now. I…” Abe turned and stared at Samuel. “I’m sorry I interrupted you but…I thought you’d like to know the truth.”
 
“What truth?”
 
“About your mother and father.” Abe turned away. “You and Julie fighting?” Abe nodded. “Yes.  Your folks were about the age you two are now when they had their big fight.”
 
“What are you talking about?” Abe asked suddenly. “I never saw my folks fight a day in their life!”
 
“They had their arguments,” Samuel nodded. He sat down. “It was a hard summer. I don’t know the details of their fight…those were carried to the grave, I suspect, but I do know that your father came to stay at our house for two nights while they were fighting.”
 
“What?” Abe narrowed his eyes. “When? Why?”
 
“Abe…like I said, I don’t know the reason for their fight. I just know that…well, that it was ugly. Your father said he had found himself shouting at your mother. It hurt him terribly because he promised himself he would never yell at her.”
 
“What happened?” Abe asked quietly.
 
“Well…your father listened to what your Ma had to say. I mean, he really listened. Seems it was about nine months later your brother came along.” Samuel smiled. “Have you listened to her? Have you REALLY listened to her?”
 
“She doesn’t understand!” Abe declared.
 
“Oh?” Samuel stood up. “Maybe it’s you…who doesn’t understand.” Abe slowly stood up as he allowed those words to penetrate. “Listen to her. Let her pour her heart out to you. You may be surprised. As the man of the house, you owe it to her.”
 
“You sound pretty sober,” Abe stated.
 
“I was just on my way into town.”
 
“Why, Uncle Sam? Why not go home to your family?” Abe asked.
 
Sam didn’t answer. Instead, he said, “I hope things work out between you and Julie.” Then he turned and walked away.
 
“Uncle Sam?” Samuel turned back. “Ma and Pa…did they argue after that?”
 
Samuel nodded. “At times. I suspect every couple argues.”
 
“I wonder why we never knew…” Abe wondered.
 
If he expected some magical answer to appear, he was very disappointed. Abe finally stood from the grave, put his hat back on and walked to his mother’s house. When he entered, he saw Em and Jeremiah there. “Laura still here?”
 
“She hasn’t left Mother’s side since she got here,” Jeremiah answered.
 
“I see.” Abe walked toward his mother’s room. “This is Julie’s doing, not mine.” He turned. “She told Laura to come down…to spend as much time with her mother as she could.”
 
“She’s coming to terms with what will soon come in her own way, Abe.” Jeremiah sat down his coffee cup. “I think you need to do the same.”
 
“Our mother’s dying. I know that!” Abe snapped out.
 
“But have you come to terms with that?” Jeremiah asked calmly.
 
Abe turned and glared at his brother. “I’ll ‘come to terms’ with that fact when she’s gone! For now I…” Abe closed his eyes as he turned to see Laura staring at him. “Laura, I…”
 
“Can I stay, Abe? Can I?” Laura asked, her face wet with tears.
 
“I think you should come home now. There’s plenty of work for you to do at home.”
 
“Oh, but Abe…” Emily started. But she clamped her mouth shut when she saw the look on her brother’s face.
 
“Laura, I want you to go home.” Laura turned back to look at her mother. “Go on now.”
 
Laura turned and looked at Emily. Then she looked at Abe. “Abe, please…”
 
“Laura…” Abe spoke in a controlled voice. “You need to obey me. I know what’s best for you. Now…go on home.” He watched Laura slowly walk out.
 
Abe went into the bedroom and closed the door to have a few minutes alone with his mother. Then he too went home. When he got there, he asked Julie where Laura was. “She’s in the bedroom,” Julie answered. “What did you say to her?” Her voice held accusation in it.
 
“I didn’t SAY anything to her!” Abe answered. “I just told her to come home and help you.”
 
“Oh?” Julie slammed down the bread pan and turned to glare at him. “She can’t ‘help’ me! She’s much too upset for that.”
 
“I’ll go…” Abe started for the bedroom door.
 
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Julie said quietly as she clinched the side of the sink to keep her composure. “I’d rather you work outside until lunch time.”
 
“Julie…”
 
“Please…Abe…” Julie closed her eyes, keeping her back to him.
 
“Alright.” Abe started for the door.
 
“Would you take the boys out into the yard with you?”
 
Abe paused at the door. “Would it be too much to ask Laura to assist me?”
 
Julie turned and looked at Abe. Then he walked out the door.
 
Lunch was eaten in an uncomfortable silence. The boys made their regular noises, but Laura, Abe, and Julie sat quietly. The moment Abe finished eating, he stood and hurried out of the house. Julie wanted to burst into tears. “Uh, Laura…as soon as you get the dishes done you can go on to the main house for awhile.”
 
“But Abe…”
 
“Nevermind. Just do the dishes.” Julie stood. “I’m going to lay the boys down for their nap.”
 
After she finished the dishes, Laura walked out the door. She saw Abe working on the fence – the fence he said they’d work on together. Laura walked up to Abe. “Julie said I could go down to see Ma this afternoon.”
 
“Oh?” Abe grunted as he sat part of the fence in place.
 
“Can I?”
 
“I can’t very well say no if Julie’s said yes, can I now?” Abe answered. “Just be back by supper.” He paused to wipe some sweat from his neck as he watched Laura make her way down the hill. He turned to see Julie standing in the doorway. They looked at each other, but not a word was said.
 
Later that afternoon Abe went inside to wash up. Julie turned to look at him and saw the anger in the way he was acting. “You angry with me?”
 
“I don’t think that even needs an answer,” Abe answered with a grunt.
 
“You’re angry because I told Laura to go see your mother?”
 
“I’m angry…” Abe threw down the towel and put his shirt on. “…because you told her she could go without consulting me.”
 
“Consulting you?”
 
“She’s MY sister!” Abraham shouted. Julie suddenly whirled around and stared at him. Abraham shot a hand to his head, regretting the words he had spoken.
 
“Yes.” Julie untied her apron. “And I’m a woman – I have no authority to speak…I am supposed to stay SILENT and allow you to make ALL the decisions…to just cook your meals and have your babies!” Julie threw her apron on the counter. “Well…I won’t do that Abe!” Julie pushed past him and ran out the door. Her eyes filled with tears, but she wouldn’t stop.
 
“Julie!” Abe called. “Julie!” He started to run after her, but turned to see the boys looking at him.
 
He stopped down and looked at his sons. “I did it again…” Abe said as he shook his head.
 
The door opened. Abe turned, expecting to see Julie, but his smile died when he saw Margret and Laura standing there. “I’m glad you’re here.” Abe grabbed his hat. “I have to go find Julie.”
 
“Where is she?” Margaret asked.
 
“I don’t know. But I have to find her.” Abe hurried out without another word.
 
Margaret looked around the kitchen. “Well, let’s get supper on the table.”
 
***
Abe didn’t have to go far. He found Julie just over the rise behind their house. She was sitting beside the creek. He paused, trying to decide what to say. “Do you love me?” he found himself asking.
 
Julie turned to look up at him. Her mouth opened in surprise. Tears laid heavily on her face. “I reckon I’ll always love you,” she answered quietly. “Can hardly think of anything that would stop me from loving you.”
 
“Good.” Abe sat down beside her. “I hate fighting with you, Julie. But I’m pretty mule-headed, you know that.” Julie nodded. “Where do we go from here?”
 
“I…I don’t know, Abe.” Julie stared over the waters. “So many things have been said.” She pressed her lips together and turned to look at Abe. “But children can pick up on things like this. I think Laura knows we’re fighting, and it wouldn’t take much for her to figure out what’s going on.”
 
“I hate fighting,” Abe said as he slowly reached for her hand. Julie allowed him to take it. “I hate going to bed angry…makes for a cold night when I can’t cuddle up next to ya.” Abe squeezed her hand when he saw a small smile on her face. “In fact….I sorta don’t even remember what started the fight.”
 
“I guess I did by not telling you everything…” Julie answered. She turned and looked at her husband. “My mother died when I was eight.”
 
“What?” Abe gasped. “But she’s alive…at the wedding…”
 
“No.” Julie shook her head. “My father married her shortly after my mother died…within a couple months.” Julie turned and looked out over the water. She released her hand from Abe’s, suddenly not feeling worthy of his tenderness. “It was a really hard time. Celia, my step mother, helped me through the ordeal but…I never got to see my mother after she got sick. My father sent me to stay with neighbors and he didn’t allow me to visit because he didn’t want me to see my mother like that.”
 
“He was protecting you.”
 
“Was he?” Julie shook her head. “I never got to say goodbye. She developed typhoid suddenly. One moment she was there and the next…I came home from school one day only to be whisked to my neighbors. If it wasn’t for Celia, I never would have survived that time.”
 
“You never told me.”
 
Julie stood up and went to look over the water. “That’s because it was a very, very painful time for me, Abe. You can’t even imagine…After my father remarried I blocked the whole horrid event out of my life and I never had to face it again.” She turned. “…until now. When I moved into Celia’s house, I was forced into a room with three other children – children I didn’t know. I needed my space to mourn and to adjust…I needed space to feel like I was important, but I didn’t get that.”
 
“So what happened?”
 
“It was a hard, painful road, Abe. To this day, I don’t get along with those three children – two girls and a boy. My family didn’t have the money to give me my own room – or maybe Pa would have but…I always felt like a fifth wheel…you know…the one that’s underneath the wagon just in case it’s needed?” Julie shivered as she scanned the horizon. “Incidentally, my brother got his own room…You know, the one who died in the war?”
 
“Oh? You two were pretty close.” Julie nodded. “Come sit?” Julie returned to her seat near Abe. There was still tension between them, but Abe again took her hand in his. “Honey, we can’t build a bedroom for every one of our children.”
 
“No.” Julie turned to look at him. “But the boys’ world isn’t being turned upside down. Laura’s is. She needs to feel special. And…” Julie shook her head. “One bedroom for five children just won’t cut it! Someday if we have a little girl, Laura may have to share her room again but by then she’ll feel accepted.”
 
“I never really stopped to think about all that. I guess I just assumed that..”
 
“She’d survive?” Abe nodded. “She will survive, Abe. But I love Laura as if she were my daughter, and I don’t want her to grow up feeling resentful towards our children. I want her to feel as much a part of our family as our own children are. I know I’m just a woman but…”
 
“Hm…” Abe smiled. “That’s the reason I married you. You have thoughts and opinions, knowledge and experiences, and a whole lot of wisdom. I should have respected that.”
 
“And I should have told you instead of giving you the silent treatment then exploding like I did. I was just…trying to keep from bringing up the truth. I didn’t want you to think ill of me.”
 
“Honey, no matter how much we fight, I could never think ill of you! You’ve given me four beautiful children. You make my life complete. I…” Abe stopped. “I’ve said some terrible things to you. I’m sorry.” He swallowed. “I just…don’t know how to fix this.”
 
“Words often said in haste are…” Julie stopped.
 
“So…” Abe sighed.
 
Silence fell among them. Julie wasn’t sure what this all meant. Where would they go from here? Did Abe really understand her now? “Where are the children?”
 
“I left them with Margaret.” Abe stood up. “Perhaps we should continue this discussion tonight after the children are in bed.”
 
“Discuss?” Julie asked as she lifted an eyebrow.
 
Abe put an arm around her shoulders as they started back toward the house. The arm held tension in it. “I think we should both think on what we want to say to the other, and talk rationally about it.” They walked in silence the rest of the way back to the house. Upon entering, they found Margaret wiping down the counters. All four boys were playing quietly on their blanket. Laura was sitting at the table writing a letter.
 
“Is everything better?” Margaret asked hopefully.
 
“They will be,” Julie smiled. “Margaret, I’m sorry we kept you so late. Perhaps Abe should drive you home.”
 
“Oh no!” Margaret picked up her basket. “I’ll be fine!”
 
“Nonsense.” Abe opened the door for her. “After all you do for us, it’s the least we could do.”
 
Julie worked at putting the children to bed while Abe was gone. Laura continued to write a letter. When Julie walked out of the bedroom, she heard a wagon approaching. “Laura, you should get to bed now,” she mumbled as she looked towards the barn.
 
“Not yet. I’m trying to finish my letter,” Laura answered.
 
Julie turned. “Is that to Luke?” Laura nodded. “How’s your Ma?”
 
“She didn’t talk to me at all today. Emily said the doctor gave her some medicine to make her sleep all the time.” Laura continued writing on the sheet of paper. “I wish Emily would quit giving her the medicine so Ma would wake up.”
 
“Well Laura…if Emily quit giving her the medicine, she’d be in a lot of pain. When she’s asleep…she’s not aware of the pain.”
 
“But it ain’t fair! I mean…Ma’s there, but she ain’t there!”
 
“In some ways…she’s gone already, honey.” Julie put a hand to Laura’s back and rubbed it up and down. “In some ways, your mother died the day she collapsed.”
 
“I have to finish this letter.”
 
“Tomorrow, Laura. Right now, I think you should go to bed.” Laura continued writing.
 
The door opened and Abe walked in. “Laura, I think it’s time for bed.” Julie and Laura both looked up at Abe. “Go on, now. Get to bed.”
 
Laura abruptly stood up. She looked from Abe to Julie, then wadded the sheet of paper up and threw it on the floor. Then she ran to the bedroom and slammed the door shut. “That’s it!” Abe declared as he started for the bedroom.
 
Julie used all her strength to keep him at bay. “NO, Abraham McCain!” Julie said as crying erupted from the bedroom. “I was handling it and you just stepped right in and got all nasty with her!”
 
Abe stopped and pressed a hand to his forehead. He felt like they were going around in circles. He watched Julie hurry toward the bedroom and close the door. Abe hurried from the house and went to the barn.
 
He’d been in there for thirty minutes when he heard the barn door open. He just sat on the bench in the darkness. “Abe?”
 
Abe swallowed. “I…stopped by Ma’s on the way home and she’s bad, Julie.” Julie walked to the lantern and lit it. She slowly walked over to her husband as he sat on the bench with his shoulders slumped. After she sat down beside him, Abe lifted his face to hers. “She’s going to die…” he swallowed. “How will I EVER live without her?”
 
Julie just sat quietly and looked at him. She wanted to put her arms around him and give him comfort, but something stopped her. “I’m sorry.”
 
“I wish I wasn’t such a monster when I’m under a lot of pressure. Don’t know why you put up with me.”
 
“Because I love you, Abraham McCain.” Julie forced a strained smile on her face. “And I’m here for you. I’ll be here through the whole thing.”
 
“Even if we’re fighting?”
 
“The fighting…” Julie sighed. “Will eventually end. It always does. We love each other too much to allow anything to stay between us.”
 
“Peter and I…” Abe swallowed. “We were talking earlier and couldn’t remember a single time my parents were ever at odds.”
 
Julie smiled. “When you married me, you married a mule-headed person. Two mule heads is surely going to cause some fights. Your mother was a very gentle, loving woman. If there were cross words, she handled them quite elegantly, I’m sure.”
 
Abe chuckled softly. “My mother…she would do the silent treatment when she was upset with us.” Abe sighed. “Perhaps that’s why we never heard her and father fighting.” Abe turned and looked at Julie. “I wish we could hold our tongues.”
 
“So, how do we fix this?” Julie asked.
 
“I understand about the bedroom but…give me awhile. Just let me deal with my mother first. Then we’ll talk about the bedroom.” Julie nodded. “Honey, I know it’s hard to understand but it’s the way I was brought up. My mother wants Luke to have that piece of land a few miles on the other side of town. It meant a lot to her.”
 
“You discussed it?” Julie asked.
 
Abe nodded. “My mother made her position quite clear on the matter. I want to respect that.”
 
“But if Ma were here now, she’d…” Julie stopped.
 
“I know.” Abe’s eyes filled with tears. “Just…” His voice broke. He took a deep breath as a tear slid from his eye. “Just let me get through this first, Julie. Please…me and Laura!”
 
Julie nodded. “Speaking of Laura…” She took her husband’s hand in hers. “Abe, Laura is hurting so badly. I don’t know exactly what’s bothering her – she won’t talk to me about it. But I want to ask you to do something for me…” Abe nodded. “Let me handle Laura right now. You are way too emotionally involved in this. You are both upset and angry over your mother’s dying. I know what she’s feeling and I can help her. But…you must step back for a time and allow me to handle her.”
 
“Alright.” Abe nodded. “But I won’t have her being disrespectful to you. If she is…”
 
“Hm…” Julie stood up and sat down on her husband’s lap. “Like you’ve been disrespectful to me?” Julie lowered her eyes. “Of course, I guess I have been too.  I shouldn’t have undermined you like I did. I’m sorry.” She lifted her head up to look into his eyes.
 
“I’ll try to be better.” Julie lifted her eyebrows and waited for his apology. Abe sighed. “Of course I’m sorry.” He lifted his hand and laid it on her cheek. “So…is the battle over, Mrs. McCain?”
 
“I suppose so.” Abe lifted his head down toward hers. His lips parted slightly as he pressed them to hers. Their kiss intensified and Abe tightened his arms around her as they enjoyed a long kiss. Tension was still present, but they knew it would take time for that to go away.   “Can I sleep in the house tonight?” Abe asked with lifted eyebrows. “I’m leaving that decision up to you.”
 
Julie smiled as she pressed a hand to Abe’s cheek. “It was mighty…cold in that bed without you last night, Abe.”
 
“Oh?’ Abe lifted an eyebrow. “In the middle of the summer?”
 
“Well…there are different kinds of cold.” Julie smiled. “It’s been cold in that bed for two nights now. I’d rather not make it a third.”
 
They held hands as they walked inside. After they were in bed, Julie laid her head on his chest. “If you want to talk, Abe, I’ll listen.”
 
“I think I just want to sleep, Julie, with you in my arms.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, then closed his eyes and went to sleep.
 
But Julie didn’t sleep. She was worried about Abe and Laura. She knew how hard it was for Abe when his father died, and she was afraid the same would happen now. Julie heard her husband’s steady breathing and carefully slipped from his arms. She walked into the main room to get a drink of water. Her bare foot hit something. Bending over, she picked it up. It was the letter Laura had wadded up earlier.
 
Julie unwadded it and smoothed it out. She’d ask Laura to finish it tomorrow.
 
With so much tension in her family, sleep was hard to come by. Julie practically jumped out of bed when she saw the first rays of sunlight coming onto the farm. She dressed in the semi-darkness and went out to light a fire. But she stopped when she saw Laura sitting at the table. “Why are you sitting here in the dark?” Julie asked as she sat down across from her.
 
“Ain’t allowed to light the lantern,” Laura answered.
 
“Oh.” Julie smiled. She got a match and lit the lantern. “You want to talk about it?”
 
“Not really.” Julie sat silently. “Does Abe love me?”
 
Julie sucked in her breath at the question. “Oh…honey!” Julie lifted her face. “He loves you…very much!”
 
“He don’t want me to live here.” Laura cried as tears streaked down her face. “He thinks I’m a burden.”
 
“No, honey! He doesn’t!” Julie tried to assure her.
 
“He does!” Laura sniffed. “He said so!”
 
“What are you talking about, honey?” Julie asked. Laura stayed silent. “Luke’s letter…did you read it?”
 
“It’s not my place,” Julie answered.
 
“Read it,” Laura suggested.
 
Julie looked down at the letter. “No. You tell me, honey.” Laura sat silently. “I’m your friend, remember?”
 
“I’m just another mouth to feed.”
 
“What are you talking about?” Julie asked as understanding suddenly began to sink in.
 
“Abe said that…that I’m a mouth to feed! He was yelling at you because you said I could live with you! He don’t want me here – not really! But nobody else can take me so that’s why he wants me!” Laura was crying so hard her words became hard to understand. She stopped suddenly and looked up.
 
Julie turned to see Abe standing in the doorway. He had a look of horror on his face and slowly shook his head. “Laura…” he whispered as he slowly walked forward. Julie saw tears shining in his eyes. “Oh Laura…” His footsteps quickened as he hurried toward her. Reaching her, he dropped to his knees in front of her. “Oh my Rosebud…” Abraham cried as he took Laura in his arms and hugged her. “I love you, honey…I love you SO MUCH!”
 
Abraham pushed her back. His beard was moist from his tears as he tried to speak to her. He stared her in the eye and spoke in a broken voice as he laid his hands on her cheeks. “I want you to live with us, Laura! I want you to live with us very, very much!” Abe swallowed. “You’ve become more than a sister to me. Your more like a daughter and I love you!”
 
Laura just stood quietly and stared at Abe. She was confused at the words he’d spoken the other night and she had never seen him so upset…not ever!
 
“Oh Laura…” Abe swallowed the lump in his throat as he slowly shook his head back and forth. “Forgive me! Honey, what you heard the other night was simply two adults having an argument.” Laura looked at Julie who nodded. “You know how bad of a temper I have…”
 
Laura narrowed her eyes. “Should I answer that question?” Julie laughed and nodded. “Yes Abe, Julie says you have a VERY bad temper.”
 
“Well…Julie and I were arguing over adult stuff…money and kids…and…”
 
“You were fighting!” Laura declared sternly. “You were fighting over me!”
 
Abe lowered his head. “Yes. I’m afraid we were.”
 
“Cause I’m a problem!”
 
“No!” Abe declared. “No, you are NOT a problem, Laura! I…” Abe sighed, trying to get her to understand he loved her very much. “Oh Laura…I’m going to build you your very own room as soon as we can. I know you need that but…” Abe closed his eyes. “Please, let’s just get through this thing with Ma first, huh? Julie’s agreed to wait until after…after….”
 
Julie turned Laura around to face her. “Laura Rose, I love you like a daughter and I want you very, very much. Abe and I BOTH want you to live here. I’m going to need your help a lot and I want you to have your own room. Your mother is going to be gone soon, then we’ll talk about that. For now…you have to understand that…well, that your brother is hurting very, very much.” Julie smoothed Laura’s hair. “You know, she’s been his mother for 27 years. Abe has a lot more memories and a lot more time of loving her then you so…just try to think about how much he’s hurting.”
 
Laura turned back and looked at Abe. “Honest? You REALLY want me?”
 
“I really, really want you, Laura. I want you to live here until you get married!”
 
“I’m never getting married!” Laura declared. “Cause if I get married, I’ll have kids and make them sad when I die!”
 
Abe looked towards Julie, who only shook her head. “So, do you forgive me…sis?”
 
“I forgive you.” Laura practically jumped into her brother’s arms. Abe hugged her tight.
 
When they parted, Abe rubbed his tummy. “You know, I’m so hungry I could eat a bear!”
 
“How’s pancakes sound?”
 
“With maple syrup?” Laura asked.
 
“Well, I think that should be saved for…” Julie cleared her throat. “Maple syrup it is!” Abe declared. “And after breakfast…what do you say if we go down and spend some time with Ma?”
 
“Just a few minutes?” Laura asked, keeping her head lowered as she lifted her eyes to look up at her brother.
 
Abe bent down in front of her. “No, Laura Rose. We can just sit with her all day if we’ve a mind to. I think that’s important…don’t you?” Laura nodded. “But…if things aren’t going well, we won’t stay. And after we leave and you need to cry, I’ve got two shoulders to cry on right here.”
 
“Okay, but…” Julie turned from the stove. “Margaret has some things she has to take care of today and won’t be able to help Emily, so I told Emily I’d help her. Looks like you have baby duty this afternoon, Abe.” Julie looked toward Laura. “And I think he’ll need help.”
 
“I’ll make sure he don’t do nothing wrong!”
 
“Doesn’t do anything!” Julie corrected her. “I’d appreciate it if you would do the diaper changing and the feeding. Last time Abe changed a diaper…well…” Julie put a hand on her hip. “Let’s just say it didn’t go well!”
 
“Are you saying I don’t know how to change a diaper, woman?” Abe asked as he winked at Laura.
 
“That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying, Abraham McCain!”
 
“Now, you see here…” Abe started.
 
“Abe…” Laura cleared her throat. “Are you and Julie fighting again?”
 
“Of course not.” Abe stood up and walked into the kitchen. He slid his arms around Julie’s middle and kissed her neck as she worked on fixing breakfast. “If I’d known putting a diaper on wrong was all it took to get me out of diaper duty, I’d have done it a long time ago,” Abe mumbled against her ear.
 
“Abe!” Julie pushed him away. “Laura’s got her mind set on maple syrup with her pancakes, so you just go on down to the cellar and get some!” Julie demanded. “Scat!”
 
“Oh, and Laura…” Julie picked up her bowl of batter. “I’d appreciate it if you would work on the laundry this afternoon. Then tomorrow you can help me make soap.”
 
“Oh, more dirty diapers?” Laura suddenly whined. “I thought I’d help Abe with the…”
 
“Laura Rose…” Abe shot a warning as he started down the steps to the cellar.
 
Laura sighed. “Yes ma’am.”
 
That morning, Abe waited until his family was all gathered around the table holding hands before he said the prayer. After blessing, he smiled as he looked at his family. Then he locked eyes on Laura. They both knew the next few days would be rough ones, but he had a fine wife who intended on walking beside him no matter how bad things got. He couldn’t ask for more than that.
 
Before Abe and Laura went to visit their mother, they picked some flowers. Abe told Laura that their mother would somehow know they were there. Brother and sister sat together in their mother’s bedroom. Abe told Laura story after story of his childhood. Somehow, it seemed to help them say goodbye…for she was looking paler than ever and knew she could go at any moment.
 
Laura was a good sport at caring for the boys that afternoon. Abe kept a close eye on them, but made sure to allow Laura to feel she was really needed. That evening, after Laura got ready for bed, she padded into the living room where Julie and Abe were reading. “I’m all ready for bed,” Laura said.
 
“Goodnight,” Abe mumbled as he continued reading.
 
“Aren’t you going to tuck me in and kiss me goodnight?” Laura asked suddenly.
 
Abe lifted his head in surprise. “I thought you said…”
 
“Abe…” Julie shot him a warning and shook his head. She stood up. “We’ll do it every night if that’s what you want, honey.” Abe put an arm around Julie as she looked up at him and smiled. Though they weren’t completely healed from their fight yet, today had made a good improvement on their road to recovery.
 
After Abe and Julie retired for the night, Abe took Julie in his arms and kissed her. Sleep was late in coming as the couple cuddled and spent the next long while just kissing, enjoying once again being in each other’s arms.


The Years Before — Broken

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman

Here are some other great stories.  Enjoy!
 

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