Embraced in Love’s Melody – Extended Epilogue

Two years. Two years had passed since their ‘real’ wedding and Cliff couldn’t be happier. He watched his daughter Caroline toddling in the yard, shouting to Maybelle to keep up in baby talk which consisted mostly of the words, “Up, May. Up. Up.”

Maybelle, being a couple months younger could crawl with the best of them but was easily confounded when Caroline tried to pull herself into one of the wood chairs they’d set out for their picnic.

In truth, this was a bit more than a picnic, though Caroline hadn’t figured that out yet. It was the little girl’s first birthday and they’d been kind of quiet on the details thinking to surprise the little bundle of energy. Not that she’d have understood anyway. So far their insistence on setting up long tables on sawhorses had left her puzzled yet delighted by the unexpected playground of furniture. Now as the first wagon rumbled into the yard, loaded with extra chairs, the party could truly start to take shape.

At first, the idea of celebrating a little girl’s first birthday with a full barn dance had been met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. The whole thing had been Maggie’s idea. Like most of Maggie’s ideas, Cliff was fast learning to just sit back and enjoy them, seeing where this was going to go. Maybe Caroline wouldn’t remember today, but her family certainly would. Besides, if all went well, this might even turn into a tradition of sorts. Why not have a great big birthday bash every year in the middle of summer? What better time to bring together friends and family?

Cliff left off watching the little ones, knowing that their hired girl, Nettie, had things well in hand. She was hovering over the cousins like a guardian angel, letting them fall, but not too hard. He ambled off to the wagon as it came to halt. “Need some help?”

Hank wiped the sweat from his brow before climbing down from the wagon. “Tell me this is the last load.” Hank grinned broadly, his natural good humor taking over.

“It’s the last load,” Cliff dutifully replied, already working at the knots holding the chairs in place.

“Now tell me and mean it,” Hank complained as he climbed down. “Why again are we doing this out at the ranch and not in town at the church when they offered to host the whole thing?”

“Because this is our party. Because it’s easier with the children. Because Maggie would have my head if I’d agreed to anything other than what she’d envisioned.”

“I think you got it right on the last one. Next time lead with that.” Hank pulled a chair from the pile. “And we’re not just using boards for benches because…”

“Maggie would have my head if I agreed to anything other than what she’d envisioned,” Cliff replied dutifully.

“Got it in one. Anna too, I suspect. Did you know she’s talking about hosting a party for Maybelle’s birthday in August? Never mind. I can tell from the look on your face that you have. What have we gotten into, my friend?” Hank shook his head dolefully.

Cliff laughed. “It’ll be nice to have our friends and family out to see the place. Never expected not to sell out though. This place is pretty vast when you come down to it.”

Both men paused in their work to look at the sweeping grounds, the neat fences, the herds grazing on the hills around them. Acres of grassland stretched out under a warm summer sun, the fields with their orderly stalks and shoots were reaching for the warm sun and basking in the heat of the day. 

“Still doesn’t quite feel like me. The place is too big.”

“After the money you made on that railroad scheme?” Hank grinned. “Looks about right.”

“You’re all right out at the old place?”

Hank guffawed. “You kidding? I built the main house with my own hands while you were gone, remember. Maybe it was always meant to be mine. Got a new foreman in the cottage we built when Anna and I first married. It feels right cozy. Yeah, we do alright, we do very well indeed.”

Cliff nodded and worked in silence getting down the last few chairs. The old Nott homestead really was quite a showplace. Funny how he’d expected to live here someday, married to Laura, only to wind up owning the house and all the land outright with Maggie. Behind him, the frame house felt huge still, not quite his after only weeks of ownership. Waiting to be filled with children and laughter and love. It had more rooms than they could use, some he wasn’t sure he’d even been in yet, but it was only the start, after all. They would grow into the house.

Speaking of which. The children squealed nearby. Cliff watched as Caroline grabbed at Maybelle’s hand, trying to pull the little one to her feet. The baby tottered for a moment and fell, sending them both sprawling. The squeals were delight and laughter as they rolled in the grass, wrapped around each other. They were probably getting grass stains on their dresses, but Nettie was nearby and Cliff didn’t have the heart to stop their fun.

Hank chuckled. “Those two are trouble, that’s for sure.”

“She’ll be walking in no time if Caroline has anything to say about it.”

“At ten months?” Hank asked, eyes wide. He whipped his head around to look at his daughter in a new light.

“Nearly eleven,” Cliff reminded him. “I think Caroline started to pull herself up on stuff about then.”

Hank groaned. “Don’t tell me this. I am not ready for that.”

They finished setting out the chairs about the time the first guests started showing up. And did they ever come. They came in carts, in wagons, on horseback, on foot, and they just kept coming. Cliff had thought his wife had been exaggerating about the numbers of tables and chairs they needed set up. As it was, there were so many kids they used boards set on buckets to create benches for the young’uns who perched only long enough to eat what was on their plates from the potluck spread out on the table before running off to play.

It felt like the entire town was there. Maybe it was. And then some. It looked like everyone who came invited someone else until Cliff could have sworn that there were more people tramping down his grass than were in the entire county. The food was threatening the strength of the tables it was set on and a few of the boards set for the fare groaned under the weight.

As the adults settled in to watch the little ones play, Cliff knew this was life at its best. He’d seen so much pain and suffering in the war. To be here now with friends and family, those days seemed far away. Not that he’d ever forget the friends he’d lost, but he’d at least come to a place where the pain was tolerable. He could remember fondly without the overwhelming guilt of having survived. He gave a quiet mental nod to those who never made it home, those who would never know the kind of life he had now. Maybe the best way to honor them and their sacrifice was to live the best life he could. 

Even so, it was hard to let go and really laugh the way those did who’d never been there. It would come in time, he had Maggie, after all, she would help him find his laugh again. She was already helping him heal in ways he never imagined he could.

As if reading his mind, Maggie reached over to squeeze his hand. “Why don’t you fetch the presents?”

The crowd hadn’t come empty-handed. There was a wide away of dolls and enough animals carved of wood, he would have to make a Noah’s ark later to contain them all. Soft blankets and pretty dresses blossomed from baskets, the area women eager to show off their needlework. There were worked leather toys too, balls, and things that rattled and rang and were certain to keep a child’s parents from sleeping. Caroline didn’t understand any of it, and sat sucking on a carved deer, watching the proceedings with wide eyes. 

It was time for his surprise.

Cliff waited until Maggie was preoccupied and slipped out to the barn. Hank followed him with a knowing nod. They spent a moment or two getting Caroline’s present ready.

When they came back, they were greeted with cheers from the children and pleased murmurs and sighs from the guests. 

Cliff was leading a pony the color of caramel with a cream-colored mane and tail. This particular pony was the smallest he had seen, round of girth, and with an uncommonly good nature. Most ponies had difficult personalities, prone to stubbornness. This sweet little gelding was curious and interested in the proceedings, barely flickering an ear at the excited screams of the children crowding around it. He seemed as interested in them as they were in him and proceeded to sniff each child to their delighted laughter and he seemed to revel in the attention they provided.

“Oh, Cliff!” 

Maggie’s face was glowing with delight. She picked up their daughter, bringing her forward to what Cliff hoped would be a new friend for many years to come. 

Caroline’s mouth opened into a round ‘o’ and she let out a pleased noise as her fingers sank into the pony’s mane. She seemed to like how soft the animal was. He seemed to like the feel of her pudgy hand in his hair.

“Is it safe?” Maggie asked, with all the worried hovering of a true mother, and Cliff reached to touch her cheek. 

“Trust me. I wouldn’t let harm come to a hair on our daughter’s head for anything.”

With that, he plucked his daughter from Maggie’s arms and settled her into the tiny saddle, sized to fit a toddler. 

Well, maybe the saddle was a little bit big, but Caroline had ridden on a horse before, sitting in front of her father. She knew what to do, or at least sat still and buried her fingers again in the pony’s mane, finding the reins and clasping them too with squeals of laughter.

The pony stood, as he was trained to do.

“Maggie, why don’t you walk with her.”

Cliff led the pony with Maggie steadying their young daughter with one hand, giving her the first of what was to become many pony rides. Caroline took to it like a duck to water. Cliff’s grin near matched his daughter’s when they stopped in front of their guests again. “Look at that!” he exclaimed as he picked up Caroline and swung her around. “A real little cowgirl.”

From there it was a matter of letting the other small children give the pony a try. The little pony didn’t seem to mind, especially when other ponies, ridden by the neighbor kids were pressed into use. Soon the entire corral was full of children playing cowboy with whoops and hollers. The birthday girl, worn out from the day, missed it all by sleeping right through it.

By the time evening came, the affair settled into a dance. Tables were cleared, and chairs were gathered to be placed alongside a makeshift dance floor constructed of lumber set aside for that purpose. Instruments came out and soon the air was filled with music. Cliff went for his fiddle and found his wife on the porch enjoying the sunset.

He lingered there with her, one arm slipping naturally around her waist.

“Caroline down for the night?” he asked, and she nodded. 

“Nettie is watching over the little ones. Maybelle is in sleeping with her. A couple of others. She’ll let us know if any of them need anything.”

Cliff was in no hurry to go. His life felt full. Complete. Especially with his wife standing there at his side. They watched together as the sky erupted into purple and orange streaks, deep blue edging the sky as the sun dipped down behind the mountains. The sunset was a glorious one, marking a truly fine day.

Maggie’s head was on his shoulder as they watched the sun slip away. Out where the musicians tuned their instruments, lanterns appeared as if by magic, lights sparkling like fireflies as one after another was lit. They would dance the night away.

Only they needed his fiddle to do so.

“I should go,” he said finally, though he didn’t make a move to let Maggie loose. He loved the feeling of her in his arms. 

“You should go,” she agreed, her head still on his shoulder. “Or you could stay a minute. With me.”

“Something’s on your mind?” he asked, turning to look at her in the reflected lights from the lanterns.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, stepping away from him and going to the porch railing. “I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it.”

“About what?” he asked, his tone a little sharper than intended, but he could see Maggie was beating about the bush, and now he was growing worried. 

“Do you remember Alfred…?”

Of course, he did. He felt every muscle in his body clench when he so much as heard the name. “What about him?”

“Have you ever considered that he did something good for this town without meaning to? Without him, we wouldn’t have the reservoir. Maybe it’s an odd thing, but I couldn’t help but wonder if sometimes bad things happen to make way for good.”

“Like us,” he said softly, seeing where she was going with this. “But why are you bringing this up now…?”

“It’s about this house.” 

“The house?” He looked around him in surprise, seeing the porch, the lights through the wavy glass of the windows. “What about it?”

“I need to confess something to you. I didn’t want us to buy it. I hated the idea of living here in the house of the girl you were going to marry.”

“We talked about this…”

“We did. I just wasn’t sure I could stand it. I can’t even explain why.”

“So, you’re wanting to move?” he asked, confused. “We’d talked about this when the place became available.”

“No!” she turned to take his hands, looking at him fully in the face. “I found out something in the last couple of months. Every time Caroline laughs I find myself feeling like this house is becoming more and more a part of us. I think I’m going to like it here, especially as we build new memories here together. Like tonight. In fact, I wanted you to know that I don’t feel like the house isn’t ours anymore. After tonight, with you here like this, and all our friends around us, it truly feels as though we’ve come home. To our own home.”

Cliff let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “It is home, isn’t it?”

“Except…we’re missing something.”

“We are?” Cliff’s stomach dropped out again. “My love, you can’t keep going back and forth like this. What’s missing? Tell me and I’ll get it for you.”

“It’s more something I can get for you.” She took his hand, kissing it before placing it gently upon her stomach. She looked at him significantly, her eyes watchful. Waiting.

It took him a minute all the same. “You mean…?”

She nodded. “I’m pretty sure. I mean, here I was thinking there’s a lot of empty rooms here that need filling and then it came to me that maybe I had a head start on that which I hadn’t realized just yet.”

“Another baby.” Cliff picked Maggie up in his arms and swung her around. “Maggie, my love that’s the most wonderful thing anyone has ever told me.”

She slapped a hand over his mouth. “Well, maybe we shouldn’t go about telling the world just yet. I mean I’m not entirely sure, and even if it is, we’re a long way away from having another child. Maybe around Christmas?”

“A Christmas baby. I couldn’t think of a finer present.” He grinned big, then realized the tuning of instruments out on the dance floor had devolved into a sort of tune. Squares were forming up into a sort of pattern. “Wait a minute. If we’re going to do a big shindig for Caroline every summer, we’re going to have to work out something for a gala every Christmas. Maybe if we built a proper barn. We could use the loft to store hay and the bottom for wagons and the like which we can push out for dancing. Big enough to hold the town though would require a proper foundation. Stone maybe, from up by the quarry. Or a new quarry…”

Maggie was laughing in earnest now. “Stop! Stop, do you hear yourself?”

“Well this is how we celebrate birthdays out here, isn’t it?” he asked, quite seriously.

“Now I’ve started something,” she moaned, pushing him toward the door of the house. “Go get your fiddle before you start putting an addition on the house for overnight guests. The way you’re going you’ll have people here dancing for days.”

“Now that’s not a bad idea…”

“GO!”

Her laughter followed him into the house. As Cliff reached for his fiddle, he considered how moments ago he’d felt as though he couldn’t get any happier, and now here he was, more content than it should be possible to feel. Maybe Maggie was right, it took a tragedy to make you see things in a different way. Not that he’d ever thank Alfred for giving him his wife, but he could see where good had indeed come from some bad places.

He paused a moment to give a prayer of thanksgiving. Then, went out to rejoin the party, fiddle under his arm. The way he felt right now he could play until morning. Especially with Maggie standing right there smiling at him the way she was right now. 

Glory, hallelujah but life was good.

THE END


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47 thoughts on “Embraced in Love’s Melody – Extended Epilogue”

    1. That was a beautiful story, I enjoyed every page. It was very frustrating that neither one of them would confess their love for one another I guess it was because they were both hurt. But it all turned out for the best in the end.

    2. This book was so enjoyable! It really kept my interest at a high level throughout the reading of the entire book and extended epilouge! Hope to hear from these same characters in another great book!

    3. So enjoyed thisbook. I. Started reading It and was happy to see a different story line. It came around to family and staying together. Really enjoyed reading this book highly recommend it

    4. Miss Carol. This has been one of your best books and the extended epilogue made me really happy. Cliff and Maggie made the perfect couple and having Anna and Hank was an added bonus. I thank you so much for continuing to give such enjoyment. I have to admit after I started reading this book I haven’t been able to get much done from reading this amazing book. Thank you so much. Sharon

      1. Dear Sharon! Your heartwarming comment put a wide smile across my face! 😊 I am glad you enjoyed it as much and with your sweet support as inspiration I will continue writing for as long as I can!

    5. Carol; another grand slam! I really enjoyed this sweet story. You brought so many world’s together and set the stage for spin-offs. The post Civil War Era hovered in the background and a feeling of authenticity always rang true. Thank you for this delightful story!

    6. Really loved this story! It had me laughing and crying! I was just so sorry the story ended!

      Great job Carol!

  1. You certainly do tell an amazing yarn Carol. There are a few typos and once Anne and Maggie’s names are muddled but it is a fine story.

  2. You are a great story teller and keep the story moving at a really nice pace. The continuety errors and typos, as mentioned above, are distracting. Perhaps a good proof-reader would be beneficial, to make your works even more compelling. Great character development and story flow makes this very readable.

  3. I enjoyed twists and turns in this book and finally finding true love. Thank you Carol. Hope to read many more of your books.

  4. I loved the book and the ending. You always amaze me with your wonderful stories. Can’t sit to read another one.

  5. Such an excellent picture of how towns survived after the War. Good folks sticking together through thick and thin. Railroads were definitely a part of history. Your book was such a pleasant get away.

  6. You should know that your books are absolutely the best,with all the great adjectives possible.Thank you for such clean enjoyable works.Keep it up.

  7. Couldn’t put this book down. You kept me eager to see what would happen next and how Maggie and Cliff would work things out. Loved it!

  8. I absolutely loved this book and the extended epilogue. I am glad that Maggie was finally able to declare her love to Cliff. It was rest the way that all things came together for them from Laura and Albert.

      1. Found the story hard to get into at first but persevered and did get into it. Really enjoyed the extended epilogue. So glad that they got together and eventually got married and that they settled down and that they had a family. Hope that they have many more children. Keep up the good work and look forward to reading the next book.

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