2 years later
Samantha sighed with a heavy heart. The day never seemed to get easier, though it was the third of its kind. The anniversary of her father’s death was a day that often felt strange, as though Samantha didn’t know what to do for the day.
It was a time for her to reflect and remember, but it was equally a time for them to be thankful for what they had.
Jasper was incredible about it. He seemed to understand instantly that Samantha would need space, that she would be extra sensitive and not up to doing much around the house.
This included looking after their son. A lot had changed over the two years since they had first decided to buy the farm near where Michael and Sally were living. Samantha smiled as she thought about the life that she had built with Jasper. She felt blessed to be surrounded by so many people that loved her.
After they had bought their farm, Samantha and Jasper had been quick to move in before they could fully think about it. At first, it had been incredibly difficult to adjust to their new way of life. There were lots of jobs that needed doing in the beginning, lots of things that needed setting up.
Samantha had forsaken her role of simply staying in the house to go out and assist with the crops. She wanted to help out as much as she could, and she wanted to show Jasper that she could pull her weight in this new life.
The farm had been a success. It was a gamble, in the beginning, of whether or not it would really take off. There were plenty of farmers in the town, and that meant plenty of competition around them. If they didn’t have a good year with their first crops, they might not have been able to afford to keep the place going.
They had both been incredibly thankful that the crops had fared well and they had made a healthy profit. It had meant that they were able to expand in their second year running the place, and able to hire some staff, too.
Just before they had begun their second year, Jasper had asked a question that had changed the course of their lives. They were soon united in the happiest of ways—Samantha had cried and she had wished her father was there to see her big day.
The day itself had been magical, yet modest. The ceremony was intimate, as they both had wanted it—the last thing they wanted was to be married in a church filled with strangers. Samantha knew that even though Jasper didn’t talk about it often, he was still terrified of the thought of being recognized as one of the gang members that should be in jail.
She only knew this because he had cut his hair slightly shorter than usual for the big day, wanting to hide his true identity.
The memories of the day brought tears to her eyes as she thought about the absence of her father. Of course, it had been great having Michael and Sally in attendance. Both of them were able to give their best advice about what it was like to be a married couple.
Samantha remembered how their advice had deviated. Sally had focused more on the happiness aspect of it, the way that it would make you feel comforted. However, Michael had focused on much more physical aspects of it… a much more male approach.
Samantha smiled at the memory. It was good that they could share so much happiness in their new life together, so many memories.
Soon after their wedding, about a month or so later, Samantha had begun to feel incredibly ill. At first, she had simply put it down to some kind of sickness that she would quickly get over.
However, with a quick conversation with Sally, it was clear that something else was happening.
The next nine months had felt like a blur. Samantha and Jasper were both content in the fact that they were going to be parents, uniting them even closer.
Samantha hadn’t expected just how much having a child would affect her. Working in the home had always prepared her for the trials of motherhood, but there was something about James Sherman that melted her heart.
Baby James had her father’s eyes. Samantha almost couldn’t believe it at first, she had thought that there was no way she would ever see her father again. But he was there every time she comforted her crying child. Samantha was sure that there was nothing that she would ever love more in the world than James and Jasper.
“He’s beautiful, like his mother.” Jasper smiled lightly when he was allowed in to see her after the birth. Samantha had never known happiness like that evening, their first with their son.
From that moment on, everything had changed in their family. Their priorities had shifted in tone dramatically, as had their desire to travel.
“Well,” Jasper sighed once the baby had finally stopped crying and had fallen asleep on their first night as parents. “It looks as though we’re going to have to hold off on those adventures that we talked about,” he admitted with a chuckle.
Samantha managed a laugh even though her entire body ached in a way that she had never experienced before. It felt as though all of the energy within her had been sucked out and placed into the small body of the baby in her arms.
“I know, we’re going to have to wait a long time now before we think about those adventures.” Samantha nodded, thinking about the stability that a child would need. It would be incredibly selfish of them to go off exploring the world while James was still so young.
His soft breathing was comforting as they lay together in bed. Samantha smiled as Jasper kissed her forehead delicately.
“I think we have our own adventure right here, though.” Jasper gestured down to the sleeping baby in her arms. “A whole new journey.”
She supposed that he was right, in a way. They were going to have to learn very quickly the right and wrong ways to parent. Samantha was aware that she was going to have to show Jasper as well as James the correct ways to behave. It seemed at times that his outlaw instincts would kick in and he would say or do the wrong thing.
Samantha tried to be as understanding as she could, knowing that it was going to be difficult for him to simply rewrite most things that he had once been taught. However, after the arrival of the baby, her patience had grown to be much thinner. It was certainly a journey that was by no means linear. They were going to fight, go back two steps, and then leap ahead with progress—it was life’s journey, and it was frequently complicated.
Samantha and Jasper knew that they had made the right choice in moving down the road from Michael and Sally. It meant they had much more support than if they had ventured elsewhere and into unknown territory.
Jasper told her often of the stories he had from various places around the state, places that Samantha couldn’t even begin to imagine. It was still incredibly foreign to her that the land could vary so much in terms of the mountain ranges, temperature, and amount of greenery around.
“I don’t think that I’ll ever tire of your stories,” Samantha confessed one evening as they sat on their own porch and looked out at the peaceful land around them. James was happily asleep in her arms, a moment of peace that they were taking full advantage of.
“I think you will one day,” Jasper chuckled at her words. “One day, we’ll have stories that we can both tell, experiences that will stay with you forever.”
Samantha nodded and pursed her lips. In that moment, she felt completely content with simply living in the present. She knew that the lands they spoke of would always be there, but she didn’t want to miss a second of watching her son grow up. That seemed as though it were an adventure too precious to miss out on.
“One day.” Samantha nodded. “Perhaps James will want to come with us.” She had thought it was a good idea until Jasper chuckled and tilted his head. “What?”
“I don’t think that when he’s old enough to make decisions for himself, he’s going to want to travel the state with his parents.”
“I don’t want to think about the idea of him leaving us.” Samantha shook her head adamantly.
“I know, but it’s going to happen one day. You can’t keep him here forever, I’m afraid.”
Samantha knew that one day they were going to have to send James off into the big, wide world. After seeing both the danger and excitement that it held, she was conflicted about how to feel about that.
Samantha wanted her son to come with them, to see what else the world could offer, but she knew that it would be pushing her luck.
“I just wish that I could freeze time.” Samantha glanced down at her lap. “Perhaps when he’s a bit older, though, but I would want to keep him young forever.”
“Why?” Jasper asked with a frown; he clearly didn’t want to hinder his son.
“Because we both know how cruel the world is out there. I don’t want him to get hurt.”
“Sometimes, that’s the only way people learn. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. He’s going to have to figure the world out for himself, just as your father had intended for you. At the end of the day, we can only wish him happiness.”
“Happiness is enough.” Samantha nodded and smiled lightly at her husband. Jasper squeezed her arm and returned the smile.
“We’ll always have each other, even after James has gone off on his own adventures. He’s simply going off to collect his own stories to tell us when he returns.”
Samantha nodded at the thought, it was comforting to her to view it in that way. She liked Jasper’s analogy and realized that it was incredibly true, he was going to go off to find his own adventures. Samantha was going to simply have to take comfort in the fact that one day he would be back to tell her all about it.
“I like that, I’m going to tell myself that often when he’s gone,” she told him. “But that’s a long time away. I’m glad that first, we will get so many years to cherish him before any of that happens.”
“Good, that’s the best way to think of it. I can’t wait to experience many more years with you, too, Mrs. Sherman.”
Samantha smiled at the name, it was still something that she wasn’t fully used to. The novelty of marriage hadn’t worn off yet, and she wasn’t sure when it would. Sally had said that since unifying with Jasper, Samantha had appeared as though she was glowing. The baby had only intensified this radiance, a glow that Samantha herself couldn’t see.
The two-year anniversary of her father’s passing had snuck up on her. Samantha felt as though time had both sped up to the event, but also that it had been an age since she’d last thought about.
It was the first year where they had James with them, too, and that had made it slightly more difficult to focus on the grieving process.
Samantha thanked Jasper over and over for the way that he helped out so much on that day. She was the one that typically looked after the baby. Samantha knew that Jasper did struggle with some of the chores that involved James, mainly when he needed to change. Even things like stopping him from crying also became a challenge.
That day had started off well. Samantha had sat on the porch reading, trying to make the most of the peace and quiet around their farm. However, it soon became very apparent that Jasper was struggling. She didn’t realize just how much until she could hear Sally’s voice coming from inside of the house.
Samantha knew that he must have gone to get help rather than to disturb her, she found it all very sweet but incredibly unnecessary.
“You could have just called me,” she laughed as Jasper walked out onto the porch, assuming that Sally must be putting James down for his nap.
“Well, I didn’t want to disturb you.” He shrugged sheepishly. Even just by looking at his haggard appearance, Samantha could tell that he was having a tough time trying to look after their son. His hair stood at awkward angles, his clothes were creased, and his shirt sleeves were rolled up to his forearms.
“Thank you, it means a lot.” Samantha nodded as he sat down next to her and kissed her forehead tenderly.
“How are you doing?”
“I feel better.” Samantha sighed and tried to smile as best as she could. “I don’t think this day will ever be easier to handle.”
“Sally said Michael feels the same.” Jasper nodded. “Did you want to go and see him? It might make you feel better to be with your brother.”
Samantha pondered the idea, she wasn’t sure what she wanted. It was simply the one day of the year that she paused and was completely unable to do any work. Seeing people who wanted to talk about it only seemed to ever make her more upset. Even looking at her son was a burden—he looked so much like her father that it wasn’t the face she wanted to see on that day.
“How’s Sally doing?” Samantha was keen to change the subject. She knew that if Jasper had noticed, he’d remained silent about the fact that she had done so.
“She’s good, she said that it’s only a few more weeks now.” Jasper sighed, rubbing his eyes. Samantha wanted to be there for him, too, to help him through this time just as much. However, it was clear that Jasper wasn’t going to let her do anything on such a sad anniversary. “She’s gotten so big, you know? Bigger than you were with James.”
Sally was pregnant, and imminently expecting her first baby. It was a happy time for them all as they realized that their children were going to be cousins and close in age. Samantha liked that they would have one another, it gave her a small hope that if James was ever left on his own, he would be okay.
She had thought about having another child if it was a possibility, and she wanted to do it soon. However, for the moment, one baby seemed to be enough for them both.
“What are you thinking about?” Jasper asked—it was a question that he still asked from time to time.
“I was thinking about James.” She shrugged. “About the possibility of having another baby.”
Jasper’s eyes widened at her words; she knew that it was something he hadn’t thought about much. “Really?”
Samantha nodded and pursed her lips. It had only been an idea, it wasn’t set in stone. She didn’t want James to grow up and be alone once they were gone from the world.
“Just think about when he’s older, surely it would be much better for him to have a sibling,” she explained, and Jasper nodded at her words. “Think about me traveling across the country just to see Mike. After my father died, I was comforted in the knowledge that I could go and see my brother and things would be okay. What will happen with James? He wouldn’t have that same security.”
“He’ll have his cousin?”
“That’s not the same as a sibling,” she retorted. Jasper mulled over her words for a while before putting his arm around her and shaking his head with a small chuckle. “What?”
“Just you. Sometimes, I wonder what goes on in that head of yours.”
“Yes, you’re always worrying about someone else or something else that has nothing to do with the present. Today is your day of reflection, I don’t want you worrying over things like whether or not James will be alone in the world when we’ve gone.”
Samantha knew that he was right. She knew that she was thinking up all of the different scenarios as a distraction—all for the sole purpose of trying not to think about the large hole in her heart that the loss of her father had caused.
Without warning, the tears arrived and barely made an announcement before they were flowing down her cheeks with no trouble at all. Jasper noticed and pulled her in for a tight hug.
“I miss him,” she admitted simply, knowing that there was no use in crying over it. However, at that moment, it felt like the right thing. It was something that comforted her in a time when she needed comfort.
“That’s it,” Jasper said softly as he rocked her in his arms. “You’re safe, you can let it all out with me. You know that.”
She nodded and continued to sob. Samantha felt as though it was the only thing that she could do, the only way that she could show just how much it hurt.
“Thank you, Jasper.” She placed a hand on his cheek and kissed him tenderly. Jasper held a hand to her face and wiped away the stray tears that were still running down her cheeks.
“You know I’ll always be here for you.” He nodded reassuringly. “But if you need someone else, perhaps female comfort, Sally is just upstairs. Or, if you need to be with your brother right now, I completely understand. I would never want you to feel guilty about that.”
Samantha wasn’t sure how she’d gotten so lucky. She also couldn’t quite comprehend how someone who used to be so harsh against the world could be so sweet and understanding. It wasn’t logical, yet it was something that Samantha promised herself she would never take for granted or underestimate.
Jasper truly cared for her, and she had no idea what she had done to deserve love as rich as the one that they shared.
“Thank you. I think I’m okay just being here with you for the moment, though.”
“All right, but please don’t keep things like this to yourself. Like I promised you when we got married, I’ll always be here for you. I’ll always be the shoulder that you can cry on.”
Their faces were inches apart as he spoke, and Samantha could feel his hot breath fan over her face. She smiled and nodded at his words.
It felt good to know that they were so strong, even after years of being together. She couldn’t deny that the worry that it would fizzle out had plagued her for a while. But now, it seemed as though there was nothing to worry about when it came to Jasper.
“Shall we go and check on James?” Samantha asked, hearing that their son’s cries were still echoing around the house.
“Sally promised me that she had it under control,” Jasper assured her with a shrug. “I told her that you needed the time while you could get it.”
“Thank you.” Samantha smiled and pressed her lips to his again. She was slightly unable to believe just how kind he was being, how he loved her so dearly.
She thought back to the men that were currently rotting in the county jail in the center of Tanbutte. It was reassuring to know that they weren’t going to be out hurting people any time soon. Samantha felt as though it all couldn’t have worked out any better.
Of course, she was upset by the loss of her father, but his absence had given way to an entirely new family that she could have never even imagined—an adventure that she would tell James all about as he grew into a strong young man.
After James had left to go and see the world for himself, Jasper had promised her that he would also take her on an adventure. One last journey around the surrounding lands, thrills that would last a lifetime and stories that they could share that would live on after them.
“I love you so much, Jasper. I honestly don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here for me like you are.”
Jasper smiled and pecked her cheek tenderly.
“I love you more,” he challenged almost playfully. “And I don’t know how you do it, but you grow even more beautiful every day. Even right now, when you’re crying.”
Samantha laughed and felt a blush tint her cheeks a sweet rose. She shook her head, not feeling beautiful in that moment. Her blonde hair was tied up messily and her eyes were puffy from the bout of recent tears, Samantha was sure that her nose was also red. She didn’t think that any of this would amount to the beauty that her husband spoke of.
“I thought we agreed that we wouldn’t lie to each other anymore?” She raised an eyebrow and laughed lightly.
“Who said I was lying?” Jasper smiled and kissed her lovingly. Samantha smiled, content in the knowledge that everything would be all right.