A Love So Bold - Chapter 61 - 63

LoveSoBold_0.jpgA Love So Bold
by Anon Allsop

The story continues - Hope you enjoy!

-Sixty One-

Their wagon rolled on, the land had begun to level out during the past few days. Tall pines crowded the trail; Hannah was smiling more as the snowy landscape was turning green with vegetation that had yet been touched by winter’s icy grasp. Within her heart was an anticipation that seemed to grow with each rotation of their wheels. Gideon and the children too weren’t immune to the excitement of the trail’s end. Theirs was a journey that had taken months, but like those who arrived before them, much would need to be done!

In both Hannah’s and Gideon’s minds, there was much to be thankful for. The odds of arriving with a family intact was almost unfathomable. More often than not, a family would have lost one or more of their members along the way. Hannah recalled the countless markers or piles of stone, were all that remained of those who lost the fight to move west.

She looked backward into their wagon, among the spare parts and clutter, slept three of the most precious little humans she had ever loved. Turning back to the front, she thought about her parents who fell to the Indian attack so many miles ago. She loved them deeply, but somehow that love paled to what she felt for Gideon, Cade, Emma and now, even Rachel.

Beside her sat Gideon, who held the reins in his strong hands. Feeling he was being watched he turned toward her and smiled; his twinkling eyes made her young heart flutter. “What?” he asked.

She leaned into his shoulder, “I love you.” Her words were true, her love for him consuming.

He grinned broadly, and then leaned over and kissed her. “I was planning on waiting until later to tell you…”

The look on her face was of concern, yet the smile he held on his confused her. “What? What is it?”

Gideon sat up straighter and gestured with his head, “Notice the mountain?” Her eyes quickly glanced toward the shrinking colossus. “We’ve turned to the south… we’re on the last leg.”

There were tears in her eyes, as visions of her parents, the original Hannah and Ezrah all flashed through her mind. Each was an integral part of whom she had become, like twigs that are gathered to make a strong almost unbreakable bond.

She ran the tip of her finger along her eye, chasing the tears that were collecting away. “H..how much further do we have to go?”

Gideon looked up toward the early November sun, “Probably only a few days…if that.”

He smiled slowly; his grin was infectious and caused her to smile as well. "We should be in the Willamette Valley within the week. That is, barring anything unforeseen that could delay our arrival."

She sighed and looked out into the distance, "The good Lord willing."

He lightly nudged her with his shoulder, "Don't you fret, Hannah, you should know I'll see after you and the children."

Hannah smiled at him, as she pushed her fiery loose hair back under her bonnet. She sat quietly listening to the sounds of the trail, the rattle of the wagons and creaking of their axels. Also heard was the lowing of the trailing oxen and the whistling and calling out from those riders within their wagons and on horseback. They were sounds that she never wanted to hear again, yet would miss desperately.

It was amusing to her as she thought of how sounds and smells of the journey someone like her could actually admit to missing. Hannah knew that there would be a day that she might look back on this time, and take great pride in seeing it through to the end. Especially, knowing what she had gone through after all, to get here.

She looked at her lap, the slight swell of their child growing quietly in her womb. She thought of her parents, killed along the trail west. She was still upset that she never took the time to bury them properly, yet knew that had she remained even for a moment she may have been killed.

Hannah had no way of knowing how their lives would turn out, or whether it was even possible anymore to return to who she had once been. Yet she felt confident that staying as she was for Gideon, the children, and yes, herself was the only viable option she had. Having been Hannah for this long, she had forgotten much of Ezrah's life.

To her now, Ezrah seemed like a cousin whom she had lost touch with. She could remember his laugh and voice as much as she could her own parents... but that was where it stopped. She could no longer fathom what life would be like without her family surrounding her, and the lives that she touched, and those that touched her along the way.

-Sixty Two-

The excitement continued to build among everyone, and there was an almost imperceptible anticipation to be just about anywhere that didn't involve riding in a wagon.

On one of the last days they were on the trail, Gideon was driving in the line with Cade upon Blackie's back, yet tied to the rear of their wagon. With Emma asleep inside, it gave Hannah and Rachel a chance to stretch their legs.

The two females walked quietly off to one side. Hannah was deep in thought, missing her parents terribly. As they walked, surrounded by the serenade of noise from the train, Hannah's mind drifted back to when she was a child. Back to a time when life was so simple and unencumbered, with the stress of just living and being part of a family.

In her grasp she could feel the small hand of Rachel. Her eyes traveled to the poor child, who like her had lost so much along the way. The girl looked up and grinned, and the honesty of that heartfelt action caused Hannah to smile in return.

They couldn't have taken more than ten steps when Rachel's soft voice broke their silence. "Will I still be your daughter after the baby is born?"

Hannah chuckled, "Of course!" She glanced down at the youngster still holding her hand, "Does my having another child trouble you?"

Rachel shrugged, "I know you aren't my real ma, she is buried back there a-ways." She gestured in the direction they had come from, "I just have come to love you and Pa, Emma...and Cade so much that I don't ever want to lose any of you!"

Hannah gave her adopted daughter's hand a gentle squeeze, "I think I know exactly what you mean."

The young girl glanced upward at Hannah, "On account of you losing your parents too?" Hannah only nodded her response, and then gently hugged the girl as they continued walking.

Glancing over toward Cade as he rode upon the big black horse's back, she saw him smiling. When he noticed her watching, he waved. Her eyes followed up the wagon until they rested on Gideon. He cuts quite a dashing figure, even with the scruff still on his face, her thought sent a tingle racing within her.

Smiling to herself, her eyes dropped to the ground just in front of her, and then trailed toward the slight roundness of her belly. Without realizing that she was doing it, her hand gently caressed the bump.

She recalled back to Cap and Luttie, and wondered if they still survived and had made it all the way to California. Looking toward the front of the train, she thought of the faces of all those within their little world: those friends she had made along the way, especially of Arden, Charles and their children.

Far ahead, she could see the land flattening out somewhat. She knew that the end of their trail would be soon. She watched as Vaughn paced his horse from one wagon to the next, most likely informing them of where they were planning on camping tonight.

Hannah was very tired, yet she knew that everyone in the train was ready for this all to end. She was also sure that the next year would be a busy one for all: building their cabin, farm... and the baby. She found herself smiling at the thought of being a mother, having performed the duties of one for long enough... might as well go the rest of the way. She thought to herself. Yet with this one, it was because of her own actions that had placed this child within her womb.

That wasn’t necessarily true, because Gideon did have a hand at putting that child within her…and she would be remiss if she didn’t admit that she enjoyed every second of it.

The first of the wagons began to turn, and Hannah realized that here was where they would camp for the evening. As Hannah and Rachel approached their wagon, Gideon hopped down and moved to begin unhitching the mules.

Hannah paused and glanced back toward her horse, “Cade honey, climb down from Blackie, and you and Rachel can gather up some wood for our fire tonight.”

He flattened down and slowly turned his body so he could drop to the ground. Before he could slide down, Gideon grasped his belt and pulled him down like he were a saddle. “Come on boy, let me give you a hand so you don’t hurt yourself.”

“Thanks, Pa,” he chirped as his feet touched safely on the ground.

Gideon laughed and then encouraged him, “Go on and help Rachel gather wood, so we can get warm and eat a bite!”

He took off in a run to catch up with Rachel; as he arrived beside them, Gideon glanced toward Hannah. She was showing them where she wanted her fire built, as she pointed to the spot, Gideon stood in behind them and admired the red-haired beauty.

He was hopelessly in love once again with the woman before him; and the fact that she was strikingly beautiful only added to his love. She stood and looked toward him, tucking her drifting hair once again into place. Her eyes met his, and he was smiling.

She returned in kind, her look causing Gideon to realize that he was staring. He smiled, tipped his hat at her and then quietly led Blackie beyond their wagon to where he had picketed their mules.

Later that evening as Hannah and the children were finishing their supper; Gideon stood and walked to their wagon. He left unnoticed and when he returned, Hannah was still feeding Emma the thick broth of their stew with a spoon.

As Gideon passed beyond her peripheral vision, both Cade and Rachel clapped gleefully. Hannah heard one of the children squeal with delight, "You going to play for us, Pa?" Her eyes darted up, spoon held in mid-air.

Her impatient daughter leaned forward and grabbed at the spoon, knocking most of what had been held in it to the ground. "Oh Em..." Hannah groused and then laughed.

Gideon sat down and was quickly joined on each side by Cade and Rachel. Their appearance near to him so quickly, reminded her of a magnet that she had once seen in a shop in Delphi…two little nails slid quickly toward it and stuck fast.

Gideon's eyes met with hers. "Play something happy!" She mouthed to him, to which he winked at her and smiled. He thought, ‘Who could ever deny those beautiful eyes?’

Once again he sat up straight, his eyes grew large and he began to draw his bow across the strings like a donkey's 'Hee-Haw'. Both children giggled, and then rapidly began to suggest another sound for him to play. Hearing the frivolity, within minutes the Bloom children were beside the Shepherds’ fire.

Hannah sat with Emma upon her lap and both faced their frolicking family. Hannah laughed and gently clapped Em's hands together like the other children were doing. Gideon glanced toward the red-haired beauty as she held his youngest; laughing and looking ravishing, even dressed for the trail as she was.

Her fiery hair was down on this evening, hanging over her shoulder and almost to the bottom of her bodice. Each soft curl was reflecting the light back from their campfire. Had they been alone, he would have taken her there that very minute, yet he played on.

Later on that evening as the children were sleeping quietly inside the wagon, Gideon was seated upon the ground and leaning against a log near the fire, and Hannah was beside him seated on the log. His shoulder was leaning against her knees, his head resting upon her thigh. She was gently running her fingers through his hair as they talked.

He sighed, enjoying her gentle touch. “Do you like that?” she asked.

Gideon laughed, “Who wouldn’t?” He lifted his head and smiled broadly, “Vaughn said that we would be in the valley sometime tomorrow.”

She stopped her hand, “Valley? You mean THE Willamette Valley?”

He sat up and turned toward her, “The very same…by this time tomorrow night, we’ll have our land and be planning our new homestead.”

She began to cry, and tears rolled down her cheeks. Gideon didn’t have to ask why she cried; she had given up so much to come this far…much more than most. He rose up to sit beside her on the log and held her close. Tomorrow…their journey would end tomorrow.

She looked off into the distance, her gaze on the trail they had been on for months. Gideon gently placed his arm around her; he knew what she was thinking. Her head slowly dropped in sorrow, for her thoughts returned to her parents once again.

No words were spoken as he gently drew her to him in a hug; the only sound was her soft sobs upon his chest. Tears were also in Gideon's eyes, for he was truly sympathetic, and seeing her cry tugged at his emotion in a way that had never happened before.

He held Hannah against his chest in a lingering and loving embrace, kissing and stroking her hair as she cried. Gideon lifted her chin, and tears trailed down her soft cheeks as he kissed her forehead. Now was not the time for passion, it was a time for understanding, and the woman that Hanna had become, was immensely grateful.

-Sixty Three-

The morning air was quite cold; Hannah slowly pushed back the thick hide down and poked her face out to look around. She noticed that Gideon was not lying beside her; she scooted toward the wagon curtain and quietly drew it aside. Gideon was sitting on the log and pouring himself a cup of coffee.

Noticing the curtain moving, he glanced up and saw Hanna peering out at him. "You want a cup of coffee?" he whispered.

"Sure," she replied softly and then let the curtain fall as she began quickly changing from her sleeping dress. She yawned rather unladylike as she crawled from under the wagon, and slowly stood to her feet.

She sat beside Gideon and eagerly accepted the steaming cup from him. "Bless you!" She beamed.

"Cold?" She nodded.

Once she lowered the cup she gestured toward the fire, "You are up early. Did you sleep?"

"Every time I closed my eyes I would think about what this day will bring."

She savored another sip of the steaming liquid, "The coffee tastes wonderful, especially on such a cold morning."

He leaned forward and began to refill his cup with more coffee, "Saw Vaughn this morning. He said he wanted to get an early start." He took a moment to blow across the surface of his coffee.

"How early is early?" she asked, warming her hands around the cup she held.

Gideon lowered his cup, after drinking. "He wants to be moving before sunup."

Hannah sighed, "I guess I had better get started on breakfast then."

He rose to his feet, "There won't be time. Just slice some of that cured venison, give them biscuits and call it a meal." She began to stand; he offered her his hand to assist her to her feet. "We'll be eating light today so we can get into town before dark."

"I'll have them ready as soon as you are." She adjusted her winter shawl as he began to walk off to get the mules. "Were you going to eat anything?"

"If you want to fix me something, I'll eat it." He smiled.

She laughed, "A biscuit sandwich it is."

While she fed the children, Gideon attended to the team. They had not told them of the upcoming end to their journey, both having decided that the excitement might be too much. As it was, their father's constant walking back and forth was very disruptive.

By noon, a soft blowing warm breeze began to caress the land, allowing the temperature to climb enough to take off the chill. "Sure is a sight better than what we went through by the mountain."

Hannah looked up from her book, "What time do you think it is?"

Gideon held his hat up to shield his eyes, "Going by the sun, I'd say we're probably close to noon."

Far ahead a wagon was pulled to one side; a man was standing and looking down. From his seat, Gideon knew that the man’s posture spoke volumes. Lowering his hat, Gideon sighed deeply. It wasn’t because he would be asked to help; it was that even this delay would prolong their journey. As they drew closer, he saw that it was Forrest Roland and it was obvious that he had a broken wheel. Standing behind him was his wife, looking beside herself with worry.

It was apparent to Gideon that Hannah hadn’t notice the Roland’s wagon, since she was preparing herself to climb over the wagon seat. As they neared, several members of the train were already passing the broken-down wagon, more focused on finishing their own journey.

"If Mister Vaughn isn't going to stop for lunch, I've got to see that the children are fed." Hannah began to step over the seat to get into the wagon, as she passed Gideon he gently caressed her backside.

"Fresh!" she giggled.

He laughed his reply, "Always."

“Pulling out of line, won’t be too hard of a decision to make, Hannah, because it looks like the Roland’s are in need of a helping hand.” He pointed toward their friends and grinned when her shoulders slumped. He knew that she would have made him stop if she had seen their wagon and he had not, so he dismissed her reaction to his comment.

Emma was quietly lying on the wagon floor playing with a homemade cloth doll, Blackie was tied behind the wagon, and Rachel and Cade were riding on his back. Hannah peered through the bonnet of the wagon, "How hungry are you two?"

Cade looked over his shoulder at Rachel, they conversed quietly for a moment, "Pretty hungry."

She looked back up toward Gideon, "Honey, when you pull out of line to help, can you help the children down so they can eat?" He nodded and led the mules slightly to the side and reined them to a stop, and set the break.

As she sliced the venison, one by one they were lifted from the wagon where she handed them their sandwiches. By the time Gideon returned, Charles had pulled up and called out to Gideon, "Having trouble?"

Gideon stood at the back of the wagon, "Hannah wanted to feed the children and while we’re waiting, I’m going to help the Roland’s - they have a busted wheel. I'm going to let Forrest use one of mine. I was wondering..."

Charles ran the reins a couple of times around the break handle, "Say no more." He climbed down and walked over to help them remove the wheel from the back of the Gideon’s wagon where it had been stored.

Using a huge block and a wagon tongue as the fulcrum, the broken wheel was moved off of the trail, and the borrowed one was mounted within an hour. Charles was already tightening up the huge nut as Forrest stood nearby with tears in his eyes.

"You and the Shepherds are some real good people," he swallowed his emotion, "I don't know how I can possibly thank you...I would be right honored to have you folks as my neighbors."

Charles smiled as he looked up at him, "I think I can speak for Gideon as well, we would love to have you and your wife as our neighbor too, Forrest."

Hannah and Arden handed each of them a sandwich as they began to return their tools to their respective wagons, and then once again returned to their journey.

To be concluded...

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