Brian and Sarah were running across the meadow, flying a kite Sully had made for them. They looked over at Sarah's mother and Daniel as they went for a walk. Because they weren't paying attention to the kite, it dipped suddenly and fell to the ground. They returned their attention to the kite, and then went to retrieve it. Once they had the string wound and the kite in their hands, Sarah suggested that they take a break, and just sit, so they walked over to the bridge that connected the town to the Meadow, and dangled their feet over the edge. They sat there for several minutes before Sarah broke the silence.
"Brian, what was it like when Dr. Mike adopted you? Or when she married Sully, and he became your Pa?"
Brian looked down into the little stream of water running beneath them, remembering how scared and sad and angry he was all at the same time. "When my real Ma died, I was real sad. My Pa had left us years ago and she was all we had. I was also angry at Ma for leavin' us and makin' us go live with Dr. Mike. She was the one who didn't save my Ma, and I blamed her for it. But, I had always looked up to Sully, and thought that I would be better off livin' with him and the Cheyenne. When I ran away and got lost, she spent two days lookin' for me, and when she and Sully found me, I realized that she really cared about me.
"After that, I accepted her as my Ma, and even began calling her that. When she married Sully, it wasn't that hard for us to accept it. Sully'd always been around to help my real Ma and us even before Dr. Mike came to town. When they met, they began a real good friendship, and he was around even more. We just began to think of him as our Pa, and when they got married, the only thing that changed was that he moved in with us into the homestead he built."
Sarah thought about what Brian had just told her, and Brian realized that she was thinking about something really serious. "Sarah, why're ya askin' about it?"
"Well, I'm sure you've seen Sheriff Simon and my Mama spending a lot of time together the past few months, especially since we were in that accident," she began.
"Yeah," Brian agreed.
"Well, I've seen Mama when he's around, and I'm pretty sure that they're walking off, now, to talk about marriage. I just wanted to know what you thought of having a new Pa."
"Do you like Daniel?"
"Yes. He's always been very kind to me, and he's always offered his help to us when we've needed it. And, I haven't seen Mama this happy since before we left Georgia."
"But, how would you feel if he and your Ma got married?"
"I don't know. I guess it would be all right. I know Mama's missed having a man around the house, and even though she's very happy to have me, I know she misses Papa. But, Sheriff Simon seems to make her happy, and I don't want to stop that."
"Well, then, I think it would be real great if they get married. It won't be the same as havin' your real Pa with ya, but Daniel's a real good man, and he'll be a good Pa."
"I know," she agreed, then thought of something else. "Brian, do you think I'll have to change my last name?"
"Nah, we didn't change our last name to Quinn or Sully when we were adopted," he replied.
"Good. I don't know, but I would just like to keep my Daddy's name. Help me keep him close to me, somehow."
"I know what you mean," Brian agreed, then thought about Sully. Matthew was still a Cooper, and when he got married, he would carry on the name. If his Ma had another girl, Sully wouldn't have anyone to carry on his name. He had just kept Cooper as his last name because he had never given it any thought before. But, now with his Ma being pregnant again, he knew that it was most likely going to be her last child. If it was another girl, he knew what he would have to do, for his Pa, and he was going to do it.
"Thank you, Brian, for talking," Sarah was saying. "I really needed it."
"Sure, Sarah. Anytime," Brian replied. He turned to look up at the sky and down at the water beneath them, as they both settled into contented silence again.
* * * * *
Daniel and Anna Marie were walking along the edge of the woods, talking amiably about the bright and beautiful sky, the opening of the bookshop in town, and the addition of Jacob Farley as another blacksmith. Suddenly, Daniel stopped, placing his hand at Anna Marie's elbow to stop her as well. She turned to look at him, and saw that he had a very serious look on his face.
"Is something wrong, Sheriff?"
"Now that ya mention it, yes, there is." She looked up at him expectantly. "I've asked ya time and time again to call me Daniel, but you're always callin' me Sheriff or Mr. Simon, or just plain nothin' at all. Now, what's it gonna take to get ya to call me by my first name?"
Anna Marie blushed and averted her eyes. "It's just not proper. A lady never calls a gentleman by his first name unless they're betrothed," she stated.
"Well, then how about we change that?"
"Sheriff?" she replied, looking up at him. "Are you suggesting that *we* get betrothed?" she asked, incredulously.
"Well, now that's a mighty fancy name for it, but yeah, I guess I am." He paused as he watched her think it over. "Whaddya say?"
"I don't know. I mean, there's a lot of things to consider. We can't just jump into this lightly," she replied.
Daniel took one of her hands in his and lifted her chin to look at him with the other. "What's there to consider? I love you, Anna Marie, and I want more than anythin' for ya to be my wife. I'll be a good husband to ya, and a good father to Sarah," he vowed.
"Well, that's just it. Sarah. We haven't even considered how she would react to this. She's never seen me keep company with any other man aside from her father. When he was killed, God rest his soul, she was devastated. I know she's seen you with me from time to time, and she doesn't seem to be bothered by it, but I can't assume that it's all right with her."
"Then, how about we ask her how she feels?" Daniel suggested.
"We can't not do that. After all, if we were to get married, she'd be part of the family, as well."
"So, does that mean that ya'd marry me, if'n she said yes?"
Anna Marie looked into Daniel's eyes and saw nothing but undisguised love for her shining in them. She knew she loved Daniel, had loved him for quite some time now. But, she had trouble convincing herself that she wasn't being disloyal to her late husband's memory. It took a while before she was able to admit to herself that he wouldn't want her to live the rest of her life alone, and that if she found love again, he would want her to be happy. When she realized this, she was able to admit to Daniel that she loved him.
"Yes, Daniel, I'll marry you. I love you, and I want to be your wife, but only if Sarah says that it's all right with her."
Daniel pulled her to him for a quick embrace. "Then, let's not waste any time. Let's go ask her now. If it's all right with her, and you, we'll get married at the end of next month. How does that sound?"
"That sounds wonderful."
"I love you, Anna Marie," he stated.
"And I love you, Daniel," she replied, giving him a quick kiss.
* * * * *
Hank was sitting at one of the tables that had been set up for the party, watching Anabel play with the children who were running around. She was laughing, and so involved, she didn't notice that her hair had come out of its confines. It was now flowing loosely about her shoulders and down her back, and Hank thought it was the most beautiful hair he'd seen......since Clarice. He didn't know what had made him think of her, but he was.
He remembered her shining smile and her beautiful eyes, full of love for him. He wasn't even one to admit that he loved any woman, but he loved Clarice. She even gave him a son, Zach, but then she had died soon afterwards. When she died, his heart had hardened, on the outside, towards everyone except his son. He sent Zach to live with Ruby, one of his girls who had left, and made sure that he had everything he needed.
When Ruby had died, and Michaela had found Zach, all of his feelings of love had come to the surface again. He didn't want everyone to know that Zach was his son, but pretty soon everyone did know. After realizing that his son was very talented in art, he sent him to an art school in Denver. Hank hadn't seen him since, except for visits at Christmas and Thanksgiving. As he watched Anabel, he realized it was about time he paid a visit to his son, or at least had him come back to Colorado Springs.
Just then, Anabel came running up to him, out of breath. She sat down next to him, but realized that he was a million miles away from him, deep in thought. She snapped her fingers in front of his face, and he started out of his reverie.
"Earth to Hank," she said.
"Anabel," he acknowledged.
"All right, out with it," she demanded.
"Out with what?"
"Tell me what's wrong."
"Nothin'," he replied.
"Don't lie to me, Hank. I know something's bothering you, and I want to know what it is," she continued to demand.
"You wouldn't understand," he answered.
"Yes! You're going to talk to me if I have to force it out of you."
Hank turned to look at the fire in her eyes, and realized he wasn't going to win this argument. He didn't even know how it had turned into an argument. That was what always amazed him about Anabel. No matter what they said, they always ended up butting heads over the topic. Not that he cared much, since he always loved a good argument, and he could always count on her to start it.
"Hank. Start talking."
He turned away from her and stood up abruptly. He just wasn't in the mood right now to face her, especially since he was confused about how he felt about her. He hadn't felt this way since Clarice was alive, but he didn't want to admit that he loved Anabel. It just wasn't possible. So, instead of talking, he walked off and toward the Gold Nugget, where he always went when he wanted to be alone.
He didn't count on Anabel following him.
"Hank! You're not going to get away from me," she said, following him into the Saloon.
"Anabel, just leave me alone!"
"No, I won't. Not until you tell me what's bothering you!"
"Well, ya ain't gonna find out. So, just leave!"
"Fine! But, if I leave, don't expect me to ever come back!" she stated, threateningly, as she stepped away from him to do as he told.
Hank grabbed a hold of her arm, stopping her from leaving. He yanked her back around to face him, then covered her lips with his own. She immediately gave in to his embrace, and as his kiss became less demanding, her arms wrapped around him. All too soon, the kiss was over, and Hank pushed her from him, turning his back to her.
Anabel was still a little shaky on her feet, but she took a few steps and stood next to him. She placed a hand on his arm. "Hank? Please, tell me what's wrong?" she asked, compellingly.
"Ya wouldn't understand," he replied, dejectedly.
"We're not going to go through that again. And how do you know I won't understand unless you try me?"
Hank turned back around, then sank into a chair. Anabel followed suit and took his hands in hers, encouraging him to talk. He took a deep breath, then began.
"Zach's mother," she stated.
"Yeah. I can't get her outta my head. I don't know why, but every time I look at ya, I see her face in my mind. It's like she's coming back to haunt me 'cause I'm startin' to have feelin's for ya."
"Well maybe you're seeing her face because she was the first woman you loved, and now that you love me, you're remembering those feelings you had for her," she explained.
Hank looked up and stared at her. How was she able to so simply explain what had been tormenting him for weeks? "Anabel..."
"Are you denying it?" she cut him off.
"That you love me?"
He sighed. "Nah, but...."
"There's no but's about it. You love me. I love you. So, why don't we get married?"
For the second time in as many minutes, Hank stared at her, shocked. How could she suggest such a thing? He couldn't get married. What would that do to his business? What would the people of town think? What would Zach think? What would... He stopped wondering how other people would react, and realized he really didn't care. Anabel was right. He hadn't felt this way about any woman since Clarice, and if she had lived, he'd have married her. Now, he wasn't about to lose another great woman because of what others might think. Since when did he care about other's opinions, anyway.
He clasped Anabel's hands, and grinned that devilish grin of his, the one she would never tire of seeing. "Why not?"
Anabel jumped up from her seat and threw her arms around Hank, taking the initiative and kissing him first, this time. She sat on Hank's lap, and enjoyed being held by the man she loved. For the first time in her life, she had found someone who brought out the best in her and wasn't afraid to be honest. He was a real man, nothing like the men she scared off back in Denver, and she was thrilled to have found him.
* * * * *
The sun was beginning to set, and most of the townsfolk had gone home. Sully and Michaela and Katie came back from exploring and found Brian and Matthew, as well as the Farley's standing with Grace and Robert E. Maryann Farley held out her arms, and Katie willingly ran into them.
"May-an!" she squealed as Maryann swung her around.
"Are ya ready, little brother?" Matthew asked Brian.
Sully and Michaela looked around at the smiling faces around them. "What's goin' on?" he asked.
"We thought we'd give ya a quiet evening to yourselves tonight. It's your third anniversary, and ya don't need no little ones underfoot," Grace explained.
"And it will give Katie and me some time to get used to each other. If I'm going to be watching her, I want her to be comfortable with me," Maryann continued.
"Brian can stay with me at the old homestead," Matthew offered.
"I don't know what to say," Michaela exclaimed, surprised at this turn of events.
"Don't say nothin'. Just come on over to the café and enjoy the supper I prepared for ya both," Grace instructed.
"Looks like ya got everythin' under control," Sully observed.
"How can we refuse?" Michaela added with a smile. "Thank you."
"You deserve it," Robert E chimed in.
"Don't worry about Katie. She'll be fine with us. We'll take real good care of her," Mrs. Farley assured them.
"I know," Michaela agreed, and everyone went their separate ways.
After a delicious candlelight meal, prepared and served by Grace, Sully and Michaela headed home for a quiet evening alone. There wouldn't be too many more like this once the baby arrived, so they were determined to enjoy it.
As they sat in front of the fireplace, Michaela leaned back against her husband and sighed.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"I was just thinking about how wonderful life is," she told him. "I mean, I couldn't be happier. I have four children that love me, a new son-in-law, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, family coming out for the arrival of our second baby, a town that accepts me, and a husband that loves me more than life itself. Life can't get any better," she stated.
Sully wrapped his arms more securely around his wife and leaned down to place a kiss on her temple. "You're right. We been through a lot, but one thing's the same, we're real lucky to have so many around that love us. And ya know somethin' else?"
"I was just thinkin' 'bout how beautiful ya are, sittin' here in my arms with the firelight shinin' off your hair, makin' it look like spun gold."
"I'm not beautiful, Sully, far from it. I'm fat and ugly," she complained.
"We ain't gonna go through that again, are we, Michaela?"
She smiled, in spite of herself, as she remembered saying exactly the same thing two years ago around this time, when she was pregnant with Katie. She was about to answer him, when he stopped her.
"Hold that thought," he told her as he moved to get up. He walked over to the table under the window and pulled out a very small package. He came back over to her and kneeled in front of her. "I was thinkin' about our anniversary and how three years ago, we were married. That was the happiest day of my life, and if I was given the choice, I'd do it all over agin," he stated as he handed her the package.
Michaela took it, tears shining in her eyes, and opened it. Nestled inside was a small gold band. She gasped as she took it out of its nest and held it in her hands. Sully took it from her and placed it on the third finger of her right hand, then brought both of her hands to his lips, placing soft kisses on each of her fingers.
"This is a promise that we'll remain true to each other forever."
He looked at Michaela and saw the desire he felt reflected in her eyes. He leaned in to kiss her lips, and they both lost track of time. They mutually broke apart to take a breath, and Michaela tried to rise.
"What're ya doin', Michaela?"
"Well, I'm trying to get up to get your present, but it seems I'm having a little trouble." She smiled sheepishly.
"Don't you go gettin' up. I'll get it for ya," he told her. "Just sit right there and tell me where it is."
"It's in my sewing basket," she told him and watched as he walked over to get it, the carry it back to her. He placed it in her lap and she placed her hands on it. She looked down at the package for a few moments, then up at her husband. "I couldn't think of what to get you for our anniversary, but with Katie's help, I realized that I could give you something that had meant a lot to you over the years. As soon as I saw both of them, I realized that it would be the best present I could give you, next to our second baby," she added and smiled.
Sully smiled back at her, then took the package as she handed it to him. He unwrapped the paper, and stared at what he found inside. Never had he expected to ever see these things again. He pulled out his medicine pouch, the stones still in it, along with his string of beads, immediately placing both around his neck. He leaned in to give her a quick kiss to show his gratitude. "Thank you, Michaela. It's the best present ya could give me. You're right. The next best gift will be our baby," he said as he lovingly stroked her belly. "Now, how about we sit back and relax, and I read to ya from Thoreau and Emerson, for a change?" he suggested.
"That sounds truly wonderful," she agreed, as he situated himself again behind her, only this time, he placed more blankets to support Michaela's back, and leaned back more so that she wasn't sitting upright. He picked up the first book and held it up to the lamp as he began to read.
"'When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again......
"'An elderly dame, too, dwells in my neighborhood, invisible to most persons, in whose odorous herb garden I love to stroll sometimes, gathering simples and listening to her fables; for she has a genius of unequaled fertility, and her memory runs back farther than mythology, and she can tell me the original of every fable, and on what fact every one is founded, for the incidents occurred when she was young. A ruddy and lusty old dame, who delights in all weathers and seasons, and is likely to outlive all her children yet.'"****
Michaela sighed. "Thoreau has a true gift at making the words come alive on the page. I always enjoyed reading his accounts of his life on Walden Pond. It made me want to go there and see if it really was the way he described it. When I finally had the chance to visit, I realized that he was right. It was every bit as beautiful as he wrote, if not more."
"He does tell a nice story," Sully agreed. "But, I have a feeling that you enjoy this next writer even more," he told her and smiled.
She knew he was going to read from Emerson, so she relaxed against him and closed her eyes, waiting for him to begin.
"'A single odd volume of Cotton's translation of the Essays remained to me from my father's library, when a boy. It lay long neglected, until, after many years, when I was newly escaped from college, I read the book, and procured the remaining volumes. I remember the delight and wonder in which I lived with it. It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke of my thought and experience.'"*****
"Sully, that sounds like me reading my father's journals," she exclaimed.
"I know. That's why I chose it. It reminded me of what you told me about readin' what your father wrote in his journals, so I thought you'd enjoy it," he admitted.
"Well, you were right. I did enjoy it. But, I always enjoy it when you read, whatever it is. I just love listening to your voice."
He kissed the top of her head, then leaned his chin on her head, as he placed both of his arms tightly around her and drew her back against him. She sighed, content, and closed her eyes, enjoying the peace and quiet of the night.
Michaela and Sully stood waiting with Katie on the platform as the train pulled into the station. Katie was fascinated by the big train and all of the smoke she saw, as well as all of the people walking to and fro around her. Michaela held a bouquet of flowers for her mother, and Sully realized that she was going to destroy them if she didn't stop twisting her hands around the stems. He reached over and took the bouquet from her with one hand, then held her hands with the other. Michaela looked up at him, and he gave her a reassuring smile.
"Ya ain't gotta be nervous, Michaela. Your mother and sister have been here before," he said, trying to calm her.
"I know, but the last time we were together, I could still feel some tension in our relationship. I know she was hurt when Marjorie died, especially after finding out about Marjorie and Loren, and I don't know how she's going to react this time. She seemed fine at Christmas, but I'm never certain. Besides, I'm always nervous when my mother comes to visit. I don't think she's ever really gotten over my leaving Boston to move out here, nor my marriage to you, despite what she tells me and how she acts on the outside," Michaela voiced her concerns.
"I know what ya mean, but I'm sure you're gonna find out that your Ma's changed since ya last saw her. Losin' someone real close to ya often does that. An' she's had lots a time to think about it."
"I hope you're right," she replied, giving his hand a loving squeeze.
As they watched the passengers disembark, Michaela's face lit up when she saw her mother and Rebecca. She looked for her nieces and nephews, but didn't see them. They walked down the few steps to greet them.
"Michaela! How wonderful to see you again," Elizabeth greeted as she kissed her daughter's cheek and gave her a hug.
"Mother," Michaela replied.
"Hello, Mr. Sully." Elizabeth held out her hand.
"Mrs. Quinn," Sully replied, taking her hand and kissing her cheek.
"Michaela! I can't believe how big you've gotten!" Rebecca exclaimed.
"I know," Michaela laughed nervously. "I had to have Anabel let out my dresses more than they had been let out the last time I was pregnant. I have a feeling that this baby is going to be quite a handful." She paused as she looked around again. "Where are.....?"
"He had a last minute business affair to handle," she said, speaking of her husband, "and the children decided that they would rather stay with Maureen and Claudette than come all the way out here to this 'uncivilized territory',"Rebecca explained with a smile. "They haven't the faintest idea what they're missing," she added.
Rebecca and Michaela embraced, and then she turned and embraced Sully.
All of a sudden, Katie became aware that her grandma and aunt Rebecca were standing in front of her. She had been so engrossed in the activity around her that she didn't notice.
"Ganma!" she exclaimed, running to embrace Elizabeth.
"Well, hello there, Miss Katie. How are you?" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"I good," Katie replied, then turned to Rebecca.
"Aunt Becca!" she said as Rebecca picked up Katie into her arms.
"Hello, Katie. My, you're such a big girl," Rebecca observed.
"Well, there's no use in us standing around here talking. We have all been invited to the Chateau for dinner, at the request of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Cook," she informed them with a smile.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Colleen is married, now, isn't she?" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"And how are the two newlyweds doing?" asked Rebecca, holding Katie and trying to keep her from playing with her brooch.
"Well, we ain't heard much from 'em, but I think they're adjustin' pretty good," Sully said with a knowing smirk. Everyone laughed, knowing full well that the honeymoon stage was indeed a time of extreme happiness.
"They're preparing for their move to Philadelphia next week. Colleen is leaving at the end of the week, and Andrew will be following her one week later," Michaela added.
"Yes. I do remember you writing me and telling me that Colleen had been accepted to the school you attended. We are still planning on having a reception for both of them in Boston once they're both settled and can take a weekend to come visit," Elizabeth stated.
"Yes, Colleen told me about that. I'm certain they will be very appreciative."
"We better get goin', or we'll be late," Sully interrupted.
"Yes, since Mr. Lodge had to sell the Chateau, and I am the supervising doctor there, now, we arranged for you to stay at the Chateau while you are here. It would be a little crowded at the homestead, and I didn't want you to have to remain in town. I suppose it worked out well that Sully is good friends with the new owner," Michaela explained.
"Thank you, Michaela, Mr. Sully. It will be a very enjoyable stay, but I'm certain we would have been quite comfortable wherever we stayed. I'm simply happy to be able to visit my youngest daughter and her family," Elizabeth assured them.
Michaela smiled as Sully took her hand and gave it a squeeze, as if to say, "I told you so."
Sully arranged for their luggage to accompany them in the Chateau carriage while Sully, Michaela and Katie followed behind them. Brian and Matthew were already there.
* * * * *
Later that week, Colleen was with Michaela in the Clinic, and Elizabeth and Rebecca were out at the Chateau with Katie, enjoying the Hot Springs. Michaela was going through some of her medical textbooks and deciding which ones to give to Colleen.
"This one will help you a lot, I'm certain. It saved me a number of times when I had to do some extra research for a class, or when I needed help making a diagnosis," Michaela told Colleen as she handed her the book.
"Thanks, Ma," she replied. "You don't have to do this, but I really appreciate it."
"It's the least I can do. If you were going to be closer, I'd be able to just mail them to you when you needed them, or you could come home once in a while to use them. Being in Philadelphia, I won't see you that much, so I'm making sure I do what I can for you while you're still here. I know that having my father's medical books with me helped me feel a little closer to him, and I want these books to do the same for you."
Colleen hugged her Ma. "They will, and I'll make sure I take real good care of them." She paused as she thought about something that had been bothering her all week. "Ma, are you sure I should leave you here with the baby so close to arriving? I mean, I could wire the dean and explain the situation. It wouldn't be any problem, I'm sure, if I stayed until the baby is born," Colleen asked, concerned.
"I'll be fine, Colleen. After all, the baby's not due for another two weeks and if there's any problem, I'm sure Andrew will stay behind. Or I can always wire for Dr. Bernard. I...." Michaela broke off as she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen.
"Ma?" Colleen asked, worried. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Colleen," Michaela replied. "I'm fine. It was merely a small pain, most likely from my doing so much recently." She explained it away.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm certain. I....." she stopped as another pain hit her.
"Ma, you're not all right. You shouldn't be feeling those pains. I'm going to go get Sully," Colleen told her.
"I think that's a good idea, Colleen. And why don't you have someone ride out to the Chateau and tell Andrew to come to the Clinic. I've been feeling the contractions, slightly, for the past hour, but now, they're more intense. The baby is on its way," Michaela stated.
"So soon? But, it's not due for another two weeks."
"Try telling the baby that!" Michaela smiled, slightly, as she made her way
Colleen went to the back door of the Clinic and opened it. She spotted Sully walking away from the Café and towards the livery. "Sully!" she shouted and he turned. "Come quick! Ma's havin' the baby!"
Sully dropped what he was holding and ran into the Clinic. "Michaela! Are you all right?" He ran over to her and kneeled in front of her, a worried expression on his face.
"I'm fine, Sully. We've been through this before, remember?" she told him and smiled.
"Yeah, but the last time we were out in the woods," he countered.
"I guess it's a good thing this baby had a little more sense and decided to be born in the Clinic," she continued to tease.
"Colleen. Go over to Dorothy's and get Brian to ride out to the Chateau for Andrew. I'm gonna take your Ma up to one of the recovery rooms," Sully instructed.
"All right, Sully," Colleen obeyed and went to go get Brian.
Sully picked up Michaela into his arms and carried her upstairs. He set her down on the bed and pulled down the covers, propping up several pillows behind her to make sure she was comfortable. He pulled a chair close to the bed and took her hand in his.
"Is there anythin' else I can do for ya?"
"Just stay with me," she told him as another contraction hit. "Oh, and you might want to get some towels for when my water breaks," she added in a pain-filled whisper as the contraction faded. He immediately did as she asked, then sat back down and took her hand.
Moments later, her water broke, and Michaela prayed that the baby would wait until Andrew could get here. Another contraction hit, and beads of sweat began appearing on her forehead. Sully got up to pour some water in the washbasin, then wet a towel and mopped her forehead with it. He brought the basin over to the bedside table, in case it needed to be moistened again, and held onto Michaela's right hand, lending his support and love to her through his touch.
"I hope Andrew makes it here in time." Michaela voiced her concern. "My water already broke and the contractions are coming very close together. It appears as if the birth is progressing at a much faster rate than Katie's."
"But, is everythin' all right?"
"Yes, Sully. Everything is fine. I am not experiencing anything that isn't normal," she assured him.
"Well, we been through this before, and Katie's just fine. If Andrew don't get here, we can do it again." He squeezed her hand.
Just then, Andrew came running into the room, followed by Colleen, both of them carrying the needed items for a delivery.
"I was on my way into town when I ran into Brian," he explained, out of breath. "I sent him on to the Chateau to inform your mother and sister, then raced to get here as fast as I could. Has your water broke yet?" he asked, becoming the efficient doctor.
"Yes," Michaela breathed. "About five minutes ago."
"About four minutes apart," she answered, then squeezed Sully's hand as another one hit. "Make that three," she grunted as the contraction passed. Sully mopped her forehead again.
Andrew took out his stethescope and placed the end on Michaela's abdomen. "Sully, I think it would be best if you waited outside," Andrew told him.
"No, I ain't leavin' my wife," Sully stated. "I was with her for Katie, and I'll be with her for this one, too."
"I can't say that I blame you. I know if my wife was having a baby, I'd want to be with her, too." He looked over at Colleen as he suddenly realized that he did, in fact, have a wife, now. He grasped her hand and smiled, then turned towards Michaela as another contraction hit. "I have always thought the rule that father's should wait outside to be foolish. They can offer more help and support than any nurse or midwife, and at times, can even keep the mother at peace," he continued.
"Colleen, I'm going to need a basin of water and soap to wash my hands. And can you bring me some scissors as well as some cord to tie off the umbilical cord? Also, check on the boiling water downstairs, and bring up some more towels ," he told his wife, and she immediately went downstairs to retrieve the requested items.
Andrew set everything up to prepare for the birth, including helping Michaela to position her legs to help her with the contractions and ease the pain of the delivery, and Colleen proved to be an irreplaceable help, anticipating his every move before he made it. Sully watched this and realized that they had definitely adapted to married life very well in the past week.
"I guess this means that you won't be going to college today, after all," Michaela told her daughter with a smile, then grimaced as she endured another contraction.
Colleen smiled at her Ma. "I'll just be sure to wire the dean and explain the situation. I'm sure he'll understand," she replied. "After all, I couldn't miss the birth of my new little brother or sister," she added.
"Thank you, to all of you," Michaela whispered as Sully mopped her forehead then placed a kiss on her temple.
"Believe me, Michaela. It's quite an honor to be able to be here for this delivery. I missed delivering Katie, and this time, I'm delivering not only your second baby, but my brother or sister-in-law," he told her and smiled.
In the next ten minutes, he timed her contractions, and realized that the baby was very close to being born. He counted five contractions, and knew that it wouldn't be long.
* * * * *
By the time Elizabeth and Rebecca arrived at the Clinic, a crowd had already gathered outside, waiting to see the new Sully baby. Word had spread like wildfire once Colleen had shouted the news to Sully, and almost everyone had gathered to wait. Elizabeth took up to pacing, and Rebecca was helpless to stop her. But, as she looked around, she realized that her mother wasn't the only one anxiously awaiting the announcement. Loren was pacing as well, and Dorothy was wringing her hands. Brian was tapping his foot on the wooden planks of the front porch, and Maryann was trying to explain to Katie why she couldn't go see her Ma. This baby had better come soon, or the townsfolk were going to burst with anticipation.
A half an hour passed and then the door to the Clinic opened. Andrew came out, wiping his hands on a towel, a big smile on his face. He immediately searched out Elizabeth's face.
"Mrs. Quinn, you have a beautiful and healthy grand-daughter," he announced and watched her heave a sigh of relief.
"How is Michaela. Can I see her?" she asked.
"Certainly. She's doing just fine. Colleen and Sully are with her and the baby, and Brian, you and Matthew can come up as well."
"Mama!" Katie yelled out.
"All right, Katie, come with me and I'll take you to see your Ma," he said to the little girl.
* * * * *
"Oh, Michaela! She's beautiful," exclaimed Elizabeth as she looked upon her tiny grand-daughter.
"Do we have a name for this precious girl?" asked Rebecca.
Michaela and Sully shared a private look, and Sully nodded. "Yes, we do. Sully and I talked about it, and we decided that if it was a girl, she would be named Marjorie Hannah," Michaela stated.
"Oh, Michaela," Elizabeth breathed as tears formed in her eyes.
"Marjorie would be proud," Rebecca added. "And so would your daughter, Mr. Sully," she said as she looked at Sully.
He smiled as tears came to his eyes as well. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Mama!" Katie spoke out and made her way to the side of the bed.
"Katie." Michaela beckoned to her youngest daughter. "Meet your new baby sister, Marjorie," Michaela said as she pushed back the swaddling from the baby's face so Katie could see her.
"Pwetty baby," Katie said as she gently touched the baby's head. "My baby!"
"Well, Kates, it's your sister, but it's your Ma's and my baby," Sully interjected.
"My baby!" she demanded.
"All right, Kates, it's your baby." Sully figured it was all right for her to believe, if only for a little while.
She climbed up onto Sully's lap, and sat with her head against his chest, giving him a hug, having received the answer she wanted.
Everyone took their turn looking at the baby, each one cooing over how little she was, and how much reddish-gold hair she had, much different from Katie's fine strands.
Andrew and Colleen stood back, their arms around each other, watching this touching scene, both realizing that they would most likely be in that position in two years. Brian stood back, realizing that he had to put his plan into action, and soon, if he was going to surprise his Ma and Pa with his decision. He wanted to do something for his Pa to show him how much he loved him, and this was the best thing he could do.
Throughout the next week, various members of the town came in and out to visit her. She decided to remain at the Clinic a little longer than necessary so that it would be easier for her friends to come and see her and the baby. Sully came by several times a day to make sure she was alright and to marvel at his little daughter. Michaela's heart was full of love each time she watched her husband walking around and talking in subdued tones to baby Marjorie, and the fact that her daughter had a head full of red hair reminded her even more of her baby's namesake, her sister, Marjorie.
She was comforted by the acts of kindness offered to her by her friends, whether it was Grace coming to bring her lunch every day, or Dorothy coming just to talk, or Loren coming to dote on the little baby and make sure she was all right, or just her friends coming in to express their thankfulness that she and the baby were all right and that they would be glad when she was able to return to work. The last thought made her smile, since Andrew was handling any emergencies or small visits in her stead. It made her wonder if they had gotten so used to her, that even the thought of a male doctor caused them to be apprehensive. Wouldn't that be switch from when she first came to this little town?
The week went by, and Michaela took little Marjorie home for the first time. Sully came up to gather Michaela's things while she bundled up the little girl and walked down to the wagon waiting outside. When she stepped outside, she saw Colleen and Andrew standing with a carpet bag, and she realized that it was now time for Colleen to leave for Philadelphia. They had postponed each of their departures for one week, but Colleen couldn't remain in Colorado Springs any longer. Andrew and Sully were engaged in a conversation, so Michaela walked towards her eldest daughter.
"Are you all ready to go, Colleen?"
"Yeah, Ma. I just wanted to make sure that you're all right before I go to the train station," she replied.
"Well, don't worry about me. I have plenty people to dote on and fuss over me in your place," she smiled. "Your grandmother and Aunt Rebecca will be staying a little while longer, and Sully's working with Mr. Farley on his house, so he'll be around. I also have Brian and Sarah to play with Katie, and then there's always Maryann, who'll be watching both Marjorie and Katie once I go back to work," she explained.
Colleen laughed. "I guess you're right, Ma. I think you have plenty of help. But, you make sure you don't overdo it your first week back. Remember when Katie was first born."
"Don't worry I won't. That's why Sully and I hired Maryann, so that she could remain at the Clinic with me during the day and watch Katie and Marjorie in the front rooms while I care for patients. Believe me, I'll be just fine. But, I want you to make sure that you stick to your studies, and if you need anything at all, you can always send us a telegram or write us a letter. And your grandma is only a few hours away by train, so don't spend all of your time in books."
"Oh, I won't, Ma," she replied, and turned to face her husband, who shared a private look with her. Michaela was sure that her oldest daughter would be just fine.
"Now, let's get you to that train. We wouldn't want you to miss this one, too, especially when you don't really have a reason," Michaela stated.
Sully and Andrew ended their conversation and Sully came over to help Michaela into the wagon. Colleen and Andrew sat in the back of the wagon, and Colleen held her one bag she would take with her on the train. When they arrived at the station, Andrew helped her down and took her bag from her. The rest of her luggage was already on the train, and the remainder of their things would accompany him next week. Sully helped Michaela down and they walked over to see Colleen off.
"I've already said goodbye to Grandma and Aunt Rebecca, and Brian and Matthew and Katie," she told them as she looked at her Ma and Pa and new baby sister. "I just realized how much this feels like when I left for college in Denver, right after Katie was born. You were all standing here just like this, only it was the whole family, instead of just you," she said as tears began forming in her eyes.
"Colleen, the two years will fly by sooner than you think, and then you'll have your degree and you'll be a doctor. Then, if you like, you and Andrew can come back here and set up your practice, or remain in Philadelphia," Michaela assured her.
"Oh, we've already discussed that, Ma. We're going to be coming back here once I'm finished. We both love it here too much to stay away. Besides, everything and everyone I love is here, so how could I not come back?" she replied with a smile as Andrew gave her hand a squeeze.
"That's wonderful news, Colleen. Andrew."
"I'm glad ya both decided to come back. It just wouldn't be the same without ya," Sully added.
The train whistle blew as the engineer signaled the five-minute warning.
"Well, we'd better be going and let you two say your goodbyes," Michaela said in a rush.
"Alright, Ma. I'll miss you," Colleen said as she embraced her Ma. "And I haven't seen you for very long, little Marjorie. You'll be a big girl when I return, but I know Ma and Pa'll take real good care of you. So will your brothers, Matthew and Brian, as well as your big sister, Katie. You be sure you don't forget me," she said as she leaned down to kiss her baby sister. "I'll miss you, too, Pa. I'll make sure to write all of you whenever I get the chance to let you know how everything is going," she promised as Sully kissed her cheek and gave her a quick hug.
"You just be sure to study real hard and make yourself a real good doctor, though I don't think you'll have a problem," Sully admonished.
"I will, Pa, and thank you helping me and supporting me through all of this."
"You're welcome, Colleen. Now, we'd better go," Michaela replied, as she and Sully prepared to leave.
"We'll see ya back at the homestead, Andrew," Sully added as he led Michaela back to the wagon and headed for home.
Andrew and Colleen stood facing each other, and then Andrew drew her into his arms for a long embrace. "I'll miss you, but I'll be in Philadelphia next week and I'll bring the rest of our things with me. We'll get settled in our home near the school, and I'll work on getting my practice set up with Dr. Beaumont," he told her.
The final train whistle blew and Andrew pulled slightly away. He leaned down to kiss his wife goodbye. "Have a safe trip, and I'll see you next week."
"I love you, Andrew."
"And I love you, Colleen," he replied, giving her one final kiss, then waved as he watched the train depart. He had never known the lonely feelings he had as he realized he would be without her for one week. But, he knew he would be very busy making sure things were in order for him to travel, and he also knew that he had all of Colleen's family here to help keep him company. They had very quickly become his family from the time he and Colleen had begun to court, and as he headed for the Sully homestead, he had such a wonderful sense of home that he hadn't felt since before his parents died.
* * * * *
Later that evening, after Brian and Katie had gone to bed, and Elizabeth and Rebecca had returned with Andrew to the Chateau, Michaela sat in her bedroom with Marjorie, nursing her and rocking her to sleep in the rocking chair. She wasn't sleeping through the night, but she had surprised Michaela by only waking once or twice when she wanted to be fed. Katie used to awaken almost every hour, wanting to be held. As she looked down at her little daughter, she began humming a melody that her mother used to sing to her when she was a little girl. It worked for Katie, and still did whenever Katie couldn't get to sleep.
Sully had remained downstairs to fix them both a cup of chamomile tea. After caring for their newborn all day, a nice hot cup of chamomile tea helped them both to sleep more peacefully. As he walked up the stairs, he could hear his wife singing to their daughter. When he stood in the doorway, he looked at his wife, sitting in the rocking chair, her long, beautiful hair spilling about her shoulders and glowing in the firelight, and little Marjorie nursing at her breast. A few tears formed in his eyes and his heart swelled with love for his wife and new little girl.
"'I see the sleeping babe nestling the breast of its mother,
The sleeping mother and babe -- hush'd, I study them long and long.'"+
Michaela looked up when she heard her husband's voice and smiled at him, standing in the doorway gazing upon them both. Sully set the two cups of tea on the bedside table and walked over to where Michaela sat. He kneeled down next to them and reached out a hand to caress the baby's face and hair. Then, he raised himself up slightly to give his wife a kiss, communicating to her how much he loved her and the new little girl she had given him.
"'Oh the mother's joys!
The watching, the endurance, the precious love,
The anguish, the patiently yielded life.'"++
"Whitman?" Michaela asked and smiled.
"Yep," he replied. "Amazin' how he has so much that goes so well with our life," he noted.
"And to think, I almost swore off his poetry because of what others were saying about his preference for male company," Michaela marveled and shook her head. She looked down at Marjorie and saw that the little girl was fast asleep. "I think we better get this little one into her crib and get a little sleep, ourselves. She'll be up again in a few hours," Michaela stated as she rose from the rocking chair and walked over to the crib.
As she placed Marjorie in the crib and covered her with a blanket, Sully looked down, then placed his arm around his wife.
"'The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time,
And silently brush away flies with my hand.'" +++
Michaela leaned against her husband and placed her head on his shoulder. She reached out to caress Marjorie's soft head, then turned as Sully led her back to their bed. He removed his shirt, then helped her undress, pausing in between each article of clothing to place a loving kiss on her sweet lips. When they were both ready for bed, he pulled down the bedclothes and helped her in, then walked around and climbed in on the other side.
He immediately pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her. She snuggled against him, molding her body to his. He kissed the top of her head, and she kissed his chest where her head lay.
"It's been nice havin' your Ma and Rebecca around, and Maryann, ta help take care of Katie and the homestead while we been at the Clinic," Sully mused.
"Yes, it has." Michaela sighed. "I don't know what we would have done without them here, and Andrew and Colleen to watch over my patients," she agreed. "I've constantly been wondering how Katie would react to little Marjorie being around. She'll be taking up a lot of our attention, and I hope Katie doesn't feel left out. Remember Brian with Katie?"
"Yeah, but I think we learned a lot with Katie," Sully pointed out. "I learned how ta court ya again," he teased and gave her a loving squeeze. "An' we both learned to pay more attention to everyone so as not to leave anyone out."
"That's true. I think Katie helped us prepare for the changes that we'll have to handle with Marjorie. I mean, Mother and Rebecca will be leaving next week, and Colleen and Andrew will both be in Philadelphia. Matthew is no longer around, since he's moved into his homestead, so that leaves Brian and Katie and Marjorie here at home with us."
"Looks like we got a much younger family, now," Sully observed and smiled.
"Yes, and that means that we're going to have to be even more careful to pay attention to everyone."
"We will. Don't worry, Michaela," Sully assured her. "We'll be sure to include Katie and Brian whenever we can, especially when Marjorie has all her big moments. An' now that we got Maryann, we can take Brian and Katie out alone for some special time," he continued.
"Yes, Maryann will prove to be an irreplaceable help to us," she agreed.
"Now, how 'bout we get some sleep. That little one over there's gonna be up 'fore we know it," Sully suggested, then lifted Michaela's lips to meet his. When they parted, she snuggled down against him again and promptly fell asleep. Sully smiled as he knew that there would be plenty of time soon enough for him and Michaela to get back to spending time alone. Right now, he knew she was exhausted, and so was he, so he was content to let her get her rest, snuggled up against him, sharing their warmth.
Brian raced over to the Clinic, hoping that his Pa was there, since he knew it was about lunchtime and he would be eating with Ma, Katie and Marjorie. He just couldn't wait to share his news with them.
He ran in and found everyone sitting at the table in the old dining room. "Ma, Pa! I got somethin' to show ya!" he said all in a rush, out of breath. Maryann was helping Katie eat, and Marjorie was sleeping in the leather pouch Sully had made for his Ma when Katie was a baby.
"Whoa, Brian, slow down and relax. Here, have some water and take a few deep breaths," Michaela instructed. He did as he was told, and then was ready to share his news.
"Now, what's this news ya gotta tell us?" Sully asked.
"I just found out from Matthew that everything went through fine. I sent a telegram askin' about it, and thought it would be a problem, seein' as how I'm not of age, yet, but Matthew pulled a few strings and helped me out. He just gave me the paper, and it's official," he told them, not realizing that he wasn't making any sense to them.
"Now, wait a minute," Michaela interrupted him. "What went through fine? To whom did you send a telegram? What does being of age have to do with anything?"
"Just tell us what ya did," Sully told him.
"Oh, sorry, Ma," he apologized, then turned to face Sully. "Pa, I know how much ya wanted a son, and when Marjorie was born, and since Matthew was of age when ya married Ma, I realized that ya didn't have anyone to carry on your name. So, I wrote to this agency in Denver and with Matthew's help, I got my last name changed," he explained.
Sully sat there, shocked that Brian had done this. He was trying to take in what he just learned, when Michaela spoke. "Do you mean that you are no longer a Cooper?" Michaela asked, incredulous.
"Well, not really," Brian replied. "Ya see, I added Sully onto Cooper. That way, I would still be keepin' my real Ma's name, but I would also be able to carry on Sully's name when I get married and have my own family," he explained, then turned to Sully, seeking his assurance that what he did was all right.
"Brian, I don't know what ta say. I'm honored that ya'd do such a thing, but are ya sure it's what ya wanna do?"
"Sure, Pa. I know how much ya wanted a son, and since I'm your son, I figured that I could be the one to carry on your name."
Sully reached out and embraced Brian. He looked over Brian's shoulder at Michaela and smiled. "Thanks, son. It makes me proud knowin' ya want my name. And as for wantin' a son, I can't say I did, since I knew I already had two. Now, I can be assured that my name will pass on with you."
Brian pulled away. "You're welcome, Pa."
"Would you like to join us for lunch?" Michaela invited.
"Sure. Do ya got enough?"
"There's plenty. I think Sully still thinks I'm pregnant," Michaela replied, laughing across the table at Sully.
"Bwian!" Katie exclaimed from the other end of the table, as if she had just realized her brother was there.
"Hey, Katie." He smiled.
"Bwian, baby!" she told him pointing at their Ma and little Marjorie.
Brian laughed. "Yeah, I know, Katie. That's our sister, Marjorie."
"Majee!" Katie said, then clapped, proud of herself at saying her sister's name.
Everyone at the table laughed. "That's right, Kates. That's Marjorie," Sully agreed.
"I think after dinner, I'm going to go to the Chateau and visit Mother and Rebecca. I haven't had much time with them since little Majorie decided to arrive just two days after they came here. Besides, they're going to be leaving on Friday with Andrew, and traveling with him to Philadelphia, then going on to Boston. I want to make certain that they see enough of Marjorie before they have to go back. I have no idea when I'll see them again," Michaela stated.
"I think that's a good idea, Michaela. Maryann, think ya can handle Katie?"
"Sure, Sully. She's a real sweetheart. I think I'll take her for a little walk over to the bookshop before putting her down for her nap," Maryann replied.
"Thank you so much, Maryann, for your help. You have no idea how much this means to both of us," Michaela expressed.
"Oh, it's no trouble. I'm glad you chose me, since I love children, and I'm having the best time watching this little one," she replied, reaching out to lovingly caress Katie's blond curls.
"Well, I'm very happy you and your family moved here. And who knows, perhaps before long, you'll be indirectly part of our family," she hinted, speaking of Matthew and Carrie.
Carrie smiled and nodded, knowing that it was probably true.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon, Matthew was over at the bookshop, visiting with Carrie and her mother, when he happened to glance out the window and see someone he hadn't seen in over a year. He couldn't believe that she had come back to Colorado Springs. He wondered why she was here.
"Scuse me," he said to Carrie, and she watched him walk out and approach the young woman walking by. A big smile crossed her face and they embraced, then began an animated conversation.
"I'm sure it's just an old friend, Carrie," Henrietta said, as she observed Matthew and watched her daughter's face.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Carrie said, but she still wasn't convinced. To get her mind off of that reuniting scene, she busied herself with dusting the shelves. A few minutes later, the bell above the door jingled, signaling that someone had entered. Carrie turned to greet the customer and was surprised to see a man now standing with Matthew and the young lady he greeted in the street.
"Carrie, I'd like ya ta meet Emma. And this is her fiancé, Charles Taggart. He owns the Mercantile in Soda Springs where Emma works. Mr. Taggart, Emma, this is Carrie Farley, my fiancee," he introduced everyone and smiled at Carrie as they shook hands all around. He had just proposed to her yesterday, so it was new to him to introduce her as his fianceé. However, he liked how it sounded.
"Very nice to meet you, Mr. Taggart, Emma. Matthew has told me a little about you, and it's nice to finally have a face to put with the name," Carrie told her.
"Well, Matthew became my friend while I was here in Colorado Springs when no one else would. He helped me get back on my feet and do what I always dreamed of doing, opening a dress shop of my very own," Emma replied.
"How exciting!" Carrie exclaimed. "I know how you feel, though, since Mother and I moved here and opened this bookshop. I love helping customers find a good book to read, and I'm sure you love making dresses for your customers."
"Yes. Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of having a dress shop, but when my Ma died, I had to postpone it to find whatever work I could in the meantime. Now, I'm as happy as I can be, next to knowing that in three months, I'll be Mrs. Taggart," she added and squeezed her fiance's hand.
"Well, how about we all go over to Grace's for some coffee or cider and some a her apple pie?" Matthew suggested.
"Mmm, that sounds wonderful. You'll love Grace's food, Charles. She's the best cook in the territory," Emma told him.
"Well, what are waiting for?" he exclaimed as they all headed over to Grace's.
Henrietta Farley watched as her daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law left, and sent a quick prayer of thanks up to God for bringing them to this little town. She knew it was where He wanted them.
* * * * *
The remainder of the week passed all too quickly for Michaela, and sooner than she'd expected, her Mother and sister, along with Andrew were saying their goodbyes at the train station.
"You be certain to write us and keep us updated on little Marjorie's milestones," Elizabeth admonished. "And we'll write to keep you abreast of all that's going on in Boston," she promised.
"I will, Mother, and thank you," Michaela replied.
"I'll be sure to tell Colleen you said 'hello' and we promise to write when we can," Andrew said.
"Just make certain she sticks to her studies, Andrew, and sooner than you realize, you'll both be back here, setting up your practice in Colorado Springs," Michaela instructed.
"Oh, don't worry, she will. I don't want anything to prevent Colleen from attaining her dream of becoming a doctor, so I'll make certain she keeps her eye on her goal," he promised.
The final train whistle blew.
"We better be going. I'll miss you Michaela. And you, too, Sully. I know we've had our disagreements, but I know that Michaela made the wisest choice in you. You've taken excellent care of my daughter, and are a wonderful father to my grandchildren," Elizabeth praised.
"Thank you, Elizabeth," Sully replied. "Ya got no idea how much that means to me."
"Oh, I think I have an idea," she countered and smiled, holding out her hand, and leaning towards him as he kissed her cheek. "You take good care of little Marjorie, and you be a good big sister," she said to Michaela and Katie as she turned to board the train.
"Bye-bye, Ganma. Aunt Becca," Katie called and waved.
"Goodbye, sweet Katie. Michaela," Rebecca said as the two of them embraced. "Goodbye, little Marjorie," she said to the baby in the leather carrying pouch. "You behave yourself, and don't keep your parents awake too much. You, too, Katie," she scolded, then smiled at her sister and Sully.
"Goodbye, Sully. It was very nice seeing you again," she said to him, and took his hand as well.
"Same here," he replied.
"Colleen and I will send a telegram when I arrive and we get settled into our home," Andrew told them as he turned to follow Mrs. Quinn and Rebecca onto the train.
"Goodbye, Andrew," Michaela and Sully said in parting.
Sully picked up Katie and they all waved as the train pulled out from the station and rolled down the tracks, out of sight.
"Choo-choo!" Katie exclaimed as she watched the train disappear.
Sully and Michaela laughed at their daughter, then prepared to walk back to the wagon to head home.
* * * * *
After supper that evening, Marjorie had been fed and was taking a nap. Maryann had kept Katie busy most of the day, so the little toddler had fallen asleep not too long after she finished eating. Brian, realizing that his Ma and Pa could use this time alone, said goodnight and went to his room to read before going to sleep. Michaela and Sully just sat at the table, enjoying the peace and quiet. They knew it wouldn't last long, since Marjorie was bound to be up in about an hour.
"How 'bout we go sit out on the porch?" Sully suggested. "We'll be below our window, so we can hear Marjorie if she cries."
"That sounds wonderful," Michaela agreed. "We won't have too many nights like this."
So, Sully retrieved a book from the table along with the lantern and walked with Michaela out onto the porch. He sat down, then reached out his left arm, inviting her to sit next to him. She did, then leaned against him, placing her head on his shoulder, sighing in contentment.
"Ya know, Michaela, I been thinkin'," he began.
"About us, and about how that night we spent in that tepee at the Cheyenne camp, I knew that my life was taking an unexpected turn, and that the Spirits had led me to you," he replied. "And now, over six years later, I realize how far we've come since that night."
"I know what you mean, Sully. When you placed your blanket around me and held your hands on my shoulders, I felt something course through me, and I knew that somehow, I was going to be connected to you. Never did I dream that night, that I would eventually marry you and give you two daughters," she confessed.
"Me, neither," he agreed. "When was it that ya first realized that our relationship was more than friendship?"
"Well, I knew that we had something between us on my birthday, but I don't think I fully realized it until we talked before the town picture was taken. That's when you told me that you cared about me, and we both admitted that we weren't ready for a serious commitment yet."
"Yeah, but then I talked with Mr. Watkins and he helped me to see that I had trouble makin' promises. That's why I decided to stand with ya for the picture. It was my way of sayin' that I was takin' a stand and makin' a promise to ya," he explained.
"I know how much it took for you to do that, Sully, and you'll never know how happy I was that you did it," she told him.
"Oh, I think I got an idea," he teased as he leaned down and lifted her chin to place a kiss on her soft lips. Michaela responded to the kiss and felt the familiar longing that built inside of her whenever she was around Sully being communicated through her kiss.
Moments later, they broke apart to take a breath. Sully took Michaela's left hand in his right, and held it in his lap, absently rubbing his thumb over her fingers.
"Ya know, I knew right away that there was somethin' special about ya," he continued their conversation. "All that time I was tellin' ya 'bout how man an' woman were separated, according to Cheyenne legend, and how they spent their lives tryin' to find their other half, I knew that I had found my soul-mate in you.
"I knew when ya got sick with the grippe," he continued, "that if ya died, I wouldn't have been able to go on. I know I only knew ya for a short time, but in that time, you'd been imprinted on my heart, and you became a part of me. If I had lost ya then, or when ya went to Boston, or even when the Dog Soldiers captured ya, or when Katie was born, I know it woulda killed me, too," he admitted.
Michaela looked up at him with tears in her eyes. Sully began rubbing his hand up and down her back. "I know what you mean, Sully, because I felt the same way about you. Only, I didn't have the benefit of knowing about soul-mates, since my mother never really talked about love around me. I grew up thinking that marriage was a duty, and my job was to make the best match possible.
"When I came out here, I realized that those ideas were wrong. I met you, and you showed me a whole new world I had never seen before. You opened my eyes to everlasting love, something I never felt for David." She paused and clasped the hand that held hers, tightly. "I knew that there was something special between us, and it constantly amazed me at how well you knew me.
"Every time we were together, I felt such a sense of peace, and when we were separated, I always knew when something was wrong. Of course, when my mind gets muddled with other things, I tended to not notice, like when you were suffering from that megrim and when you were hurting from my indecision over David," she pointed out.
"I understood that you were strugglin' just as much as me, Michaela. I knew it wasn't easy for ya when David came back. I can't pretend to know how you were feelin', but I do know that I loved ya and was willin' to give ya up if ya thought you'd be happier with David."
"Well, I'm glad that you didn't give up on me, and that you helped me see you as my soul-mate by giving me the freedom to decide," she told him.
"So am I," he agreed and smiled, kissing her again.
When they parted, Sully released her hand to pick up the book he had brought out with him. "Whitman?" Michaela asked, smiling in anticipation at what he would read tonight.
"Yep. I found some great passages last night while I was readin' and wanna share 'em with ya," he replied.
"Well, I can't wait to hear them," she told him.
He drew her closer to him, then turned the book so that the light from the lamp hanging on the wall shined on the pages. Michaela placed her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, concentrating on the soothing sound of his voice and the love, emanating from his touch.
"'Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walk of dreams.....
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to you ear,
I have loved many, but I love none better than you.....
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you.
None has understood you, but I understand you.....'" ++++
As Michaela listened to Sully read, she realized that he was speaking of his love for her through the words he read, and this warmed her heart like nothing else. She snuggled closer to him and was content to breathe in his familiar scent.
Sully looked down at his wife and smiled. Love for her overwhelmed him, and he turned the pages to another fitting passage.
"'Fast-anchor'd eternal O love! O woman I love!
O bride! O wife! More resistless than I can tell, the thought of you!
Then separate, as disembodied or another born,
Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation,
I ascend, I float in the regions of your love O love!
O sharer of my roving life!'" +++++
He turned a few more pages, then continued:
"'O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you,
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me.'" ^
Sully looked down as he heard a small sniffle come from his wife. "Michaela?" he whispered as he drew up her chin so she looked into his eyes.
"I'm all right, Sully. I was so touched by those words." She paused and took a deep breath. "And it means even more to me knowing that you really mean them," she assured him.
"'Course I do," he replied. "You're a breath of life to me, Michaela, and always will be. I'd be nothin' without ya. You complete me like no one else, an' I know I don't always tell ya, but I love ya, more than life itself, and I think you're the most beautiful woman alive," he professed.
"Sully," she breathed, and that was his undoing. He turned to face her and brought his lips down to meet hers, their breaths intermingled. He covered her face with kisses, and she did the same. When their lips met again, Michaela felt all of the love shared between them burst forth in their embrace.
They parted, and Michaela placed her head again on his shoulder, catching her breath and marveling at the emotions this man stirred inside of her. She knew it would never change, and smiled as she thought of Andrew and Colleen, as well as Matthew and Carrie, knowing that they would all experience the same as their love matured. She was glad they had each found their loves, and even happier that the Reverend as well as Daniel had found someone to love. Then, there was Hank and Anabel. She laughed as she thought about all of them.
"What was that laugh for?"
"I was just thinking about all of the weddings we're going to be attending this summer," she replied.
Sully laughed as well. "Ya know, you're right. I never thought about it, but we got the Reverend and Miss Campbell, Daniel and Mrs. Sheehan, Matthew and Carrie, and even Hank and Anabel. Somethin' musta hit this town," Sully stated, then shook his head in amazement.
"I think it's leftover from the Sweetheart's Dance," Michaela added.
"May be," Sully agreed.
"In any event, I'm just happy that they've all found their loves. Now, they have a chance to be as happy as we are," she told him.
"True," he agreed, again, then gave her shoulder a squeeze. "Well, how about one more poem before we go on inside? I'm sure little Majorie'll be makin' herself known pretty soon."
"That sounds nice. I'm enjoying this peace and quiet, and I want to make the best of it," she told him.
"Well, I can think of other ways we can do that," he said, suggestively.
She blushed, then nudged him. "You know what I mean," she corrected.
"Yeah, I know," he returned, then opened the book again.
"'Skirting the river road, my forenoon walk, my rest,
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.'" ^^
"That was beautiful, Sully," Michaela whispered, caught up in the emotions of the depiction of the renewal of the eagle's commitment to each other.
"That's just like us, Michaela," he began. "We're just like two eagles, flyin' together, an' each year, we renew our commitment to each other. We're one an' the same, and nothin' can separate us, not in heaven or earth," he declared.
Michaela was too overcome with emotion to respond, so she just nodded, kissed his neck, and laid her head on his shoulder again, interlocking her left hand with his as it rested over her shoulder and clasping his right hand in hers in his lap.
They sat there, watching the stars begin to appear in the sky, listening to the sounds of the night, and enjoying the peace and quiet, for the remaining moments it would last. They both made a commitment right there, in their hearts, to never depart from this peace and to always renew their vows to each other. They would be just like the eagles in renewing their love, and nothing would come between them again.
* READINGS *
* The Awakening of Rip Van Winkle -- The Sketch Book -- Washington Irving -- 1819-1820.
** From Pent-Up Aching Rivers -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1857.
*** M'liss Goes to School -- M'liss, one of the stories in The Luck of the Roaring Camp -- by Bret Harte -- 1868.
**** The Building of His House at Walden Pond -- Chapter I of Walden or Life in the Woods -- Henry David Thoreau -- 1854.
***** The Intellectual Honesty of Montaigne -- Representative Men -- Ralph Waldo Emerson -- 1850
+ Mother and Babe -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1869.
++ A Song of Joys -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1863.
+++ Song of Myself -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1857.
++++ To You -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1863.
+++++ Fast-Anchor'd Eternal O Love! -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1857.
^ O You Whom I Often and Silently Come -- Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman -- 1853.
^^ The Dalliance of the Eagles -- Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman -- 1869.