“So, tell me all about him.” Lizzy leaned forward toward June, eager to hear her latest news.
It had been a good while since Marie, June and Lizzie had gotten together. Now that they all lived in separate places, it seemed harder than ever to find time to get together.
“He’s kind, and he’s handsome, and he’s a blacksmith in town.” June blushed, “I don’t know though, maybe I am rushing into things.”
Lizzy shook her head. “If you think it is worth it to get to know him, then you should.” Lizzy was happy for June. She knew that she wanted to find someone, and it was time that she did. She deserved it.
“What about you, Marie? What is new with you and Timothy?”
Marie blushed, “There’s nothing new with me and Timothy, but I spoke to Pa the other day.”
“Really?” Lizzy’s stomach fell. She knew that the relationship with Marie and her father was tumultuous. He had been the one to send her away and the reason for so much hardship in their family.
“Yes. But it wasn’t all bad. He apologized.”
“He did?” June chimed in. She looked shocked.
“Yes. I guess I’ve seen him around town a few times and we’ve had a few conversations. I feel like I’ve gotten to know him a little and the other day, he said he was sorry for everything he’s put me through. I believe him.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment.
“Maybe he is changing. I think that losing everything makes you see the things you had at one point,” Marie said softly.
“I hope so. I should talk to him sometime. I’ve seen him around town a few times but have sort of been avoiding him.” June sounded skeptical and Lizzy didn’t blame her.
She wasn’t sure she would be able to give her own parents that sort of trust again. She had exchanged a few letters with them since she’d married Jake, but they were still quite distant and she wasn’t planning on visiting them any time soon.
Hope came running up to them, her cheeks flushed pink. Lizzy smiled. It was nice to see how big Hope was getting. She was happy and healthy, and she was going to the one room school house in town.
She was learning something new every day and had even had some friends.
“Did you hear that the orphan train is going to be passing through town in a few days?” June asked Lizzy.
“Really? It will be the first since the new tracks were put in.” Lizzy had thought about adopting a child from the orphan train. She had already discussed it with Jake and he had agreed that they would go and look at the children, just to make sure they found homes with people in town at least.
“But you both will already have two children soon,” June said with a grin, nodding towards Lizzy’s growing stomach.
Lizzy put a hand on the baby that was growing in her middle. June was right. In a few months, they would have their first baby together.
She had Jake had moved into a house that was a few minutes away from where June and his mother lived.
They still saw each other quite often, but didn’t often have the time to sit down and talk about things the way they were doing now.
“I need to go. It is getting late and it sounds like Timothy is already here to pick me up,” Marie said with a smile.
“Really? I don’t see him.” Lizzy looked around. There was no sign of Timothy yet.
“I can hear the wagon, I am sure you will see it in a second.” Marie looked proud of herself and Lizzy knew she had a right to be.
True to her word, Timothy pulled up in his wagon a moment later.
Lizzy stood and gave her sister-in-law a tight hug. “We need to do this again soon. I miss you both when I don’t see you very often.”
Marie nodded, “As soon as we can, we will get together again.”
Lizzy watched Marie get into the wagon and ride away. She knew they were three separate people with different lives, but they were still so entwined. It felt as if they were one family most of the time.
“You should come in and say hello to Mother, I’m sure she wants to see you,” June said, intertwining her arm with Lizzy’s.
“How is she? Is she doing better?”
“She is. Since two weeks ago when you saw her, she’s put on more weight and has had a lot more energy. I can’t believe that such a short time ago we thought she wouldn’t be with us anymore.”
“I know. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”
“You do enough to help by bringing Hope around. My mother loves having her around. I can’t lie. I like seeing her too.”
“I know you both do. I wish that I had more time. Lately it has been hard keeping up with everything with the new ranch and the garden to take care of.”
“I know.” June shook her head. “Maybe one of these days I will come and help you a bit.”
Lizzy smiled, “Maybe.”
June’s mother was waiting for them right inside the door.
“Lizzy! I am so glad you came, it is too quiet around here without you and Hope.”
Lizzy gave June’s mother a hug. “I know. We are going to try and come around more often. Now that we are properly settled into the new house, we should be able to.”
“I can’t wait. Will you come in to have some lunch?”
Lizzy nodded, “That sounds lovely.”
Lizzy hoped that Jake would take his time. She could visit with his family for the entire day if she was left to do so.
Jake jerked awake. He wasn’t sure what had woken him up. It was time to get up anyway. The sun was already peeking above the horizon, making the sky a light grey color.
Lizzy was asleep in the bed beside him and Hope was in the trundle bed by the wall.
Jake padded over to the window and looked outside. It was another day, the day that he’d agreed to take Lizzy into town to see the children on the orphan train. People he had talked to told him that maybe they should reconsider before taking another child into their home.
Jake wasn’t sure that they would take a new child in, but he agreed with Lizzy that they should see if there were any children like Hope or Marie that no one wanted. If there was a child who needed a home and who no one wanted, he knew already that they would bring them home.
It was the right thing to do and since both he and Lizzy had experience having someone they cared about in that situation, he knew they would never stand by and let them go unwanted if they could help it.
Lizzy stirred and sat up. “The orphan train is coming today, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yes, it is. I didn’twant to wake you yet.” Jake walked over and sat down beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
Lizzy rested her head on his chest. “It’s fine, I needed to get up anyway. What are you thinking about?”
“Not much. Just wondering what today will bring. Remember the days when we would talk with every single orphan train we heard of? Or every single Children’s Aid Society worker?”
Lizzy smiled, “Yes, I do. I don’t miss those days, I have to say. I enjoy having her here with me. Every single day I remind myself to be grateful for the time that we have together because I never know when we might be apart.”
Jake shook his head, “If it is up to me, you will never be apart from her again.”
Lizzy gave him a tight hug. “Thank you, Jake. It means so much to me that you care about both of us.”
“How could I not? Come on now, we’d better get Hope up and get our morning chores done or we will miss the train.”
Lizzy nodded and her eyes lit up. Jake could tell that she was excited about going into town.
She hurried to get dressed and Jake followed her into the kitchen. As if she could sense that both of them had left the room, Hope walked into the kitchen a few seconds later.
The new cabin was small, a lot smaller than the home that they had shared with his mother and sister. But Jake liked it. He’d helped build it with his own two hands and it was their beginning. He enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labors.
He also liked living on a ranch that they had made together.
He hurried out to the barn and tended to the horses and the chickens. He made sure to check the cows in the pasture and milk the one that had milk.
When he got back to the kitchen, the cabin was filled with the delicious smells of hotcakes, scrambled eggs, salt pork and coffee.
Hope was laughing and Lizzy was setting a plate of food in front of her.
Lizzy’s face lit up when Jake walked into the kitchen.
“There you are. I was about to go find you.”
Jake smiled. “I could smell the food all the way from the barn. I had to hurry in.”
Lizzy laughed, “I doubt you could, but it’s nice of you to say. I’ll get you a plate.”
Lizzy came back a second later with a plate heaped full of food. “You look hungry.”
“I am starving. Let’s pray.” Jake took Hope and Lizzy’s hands in his and then said grace for their food and their blessings. He knew that everything he had was because God gave it to him.
After breakfast, Jake got the wagon ready and soon the three of them were off to town. They could hear the sound of the train whistle long before they arrived in town.
By the time they pulled into the main street of town, they could already see some people leaving the new train station with a child beside them or between them. It seemed that there were many families willing to take in children.
When they got to the train platform, most of the children were already gone. Jake left Lizzy and Hope nearby and went to speak with one of the Children’s Aid Society workers.
It certainly wasn’t a new experience and he half expected the young woman to recognize him, but she didn’t.
“Is this all of the children who came today?” Jake asked.
“Yes. There were a lot adopted in the last couple of towns. But there will be a new group of children in a couple of weeks.”
“Thank you,” Jake said.
He went back with Hope and Lizzy. The three of them watched as different people came up and picked out children from the line.
The children who were waiting were all wearing spiffy clothes that looked clean and well kept. Their hair was brushed neatly, and they had on smiles that might have fooled most.
But Jake could see that they were nervous and worried. One little boy caught his eye. He was around five or six years old and had the biggest blue eyes. Several people went up to him, but they walked away quickly and picked a different child soon after.
Jake was curious. Why was everyone avoiding this boy? Soon, the other children had all been taken home.
The little boy was still standing there, staring down at his shoes as if he were resigned to the fact that he wouldn’t be finding a home today.
“I wonder why no one took him,” Lizzy said sadly.
“I don’t know. I will go talk to him.” Jake crossed the emptying platform and knelt down in front of the little boy.
“What’s your name?” Jake asked.
“Nathan.” The boy looked up at him with big untrusting eyes. “You won’t want me either, just like everyone else.” Nathan’s voice was sad, and it sounded as if his tears were right on the surface.
“Now why would that be?” Jake asked.
“Because, I can’t walk right.” Nathan pulled out a short walking stick from behind him that Jake hadn’t been able to see before.
He took a few steps, showing Jake that he had a bit of a limp. One of his legs was just a tiny bit shorter than the other.
“Have you been on the train for long?” Jake asked.
“Yes. I have been on lots of trains. But no one ever takes me home.” Nathan lowered his head, his blonde hair falling in front of his eyes.
“Okay, Nathan, do you see that woman over there?” Jake pointed to Lizzy.
Nathan put his chin up just a tad and nodded.
“She’s my wife, and the little girl standing next to her is my daughter. How would you like to come and live with us?”
The little boy’s eyes widened, and he perked up for a second. “Do you really mean it?”
“Yes. I really mean it. It’s time you found yourself a home.”
The little boy turned to the Children’s Aid Society worker who had come up. “This man says he’s going to take me home!” Nathan exclaimed.
“Really?” the woman looked at Jake in surprise. “Do you know about his…infirmity?” She motioned toward Nathan, as if she were embarrassed to say it out loud.
“Yes, I am aware, and it is of no matter to me. I think he will be a nice fit for our family.”
“Okay, there are a few papers for you to sign.” The woman still looked uncertain.
“You wait for me here, Nathan. I will be right back.” Jake followed the woman and quickly filled out the papers that she gave him. Soon, he was signing on the line.
When he got back to Nathan, Lizzy was there in front of him. She and Hope were talking to Nathan as if they had known him their entire lives.
Lizzy stood with Nathan’s hand in her own. “I see that you found the perfect little one for our family,” she said with a smile.
“Yes, I did. It looks like our family is growing a lot faster than we expected.”
Lizzy giggled. “Who knows? Maybe we will have those six children after all.”
Jake followed the three of them to the wagon. When they got there, he lifted Nathan into the back along with Hope.
“Come on then, let’s go and see your new home.”
Nathan looked as if he were dumbstruck and didn’t understand a single thing that was happening. He had a happy smile on his face and kept looking between Jake, Hope and Lizzy.
Jake had a feeling he was going to like his new home and his life as their son.
Jake stared out the cabin window. Hope and Nathan were running around in the front yard. It was a sunny day, perfect for two children to be rough housing together in the breeze.
“You’d never know they weren’t siblings,” Lizzy said from beside him. “It’s like seeing a miracle.”
It had been nearly three weeks since they had brought Nathan home. He had fit right in to their family, like he was the missing piece of the puzzle. Jake knew that their new child would also fit right in and soon they would be a family of five.
“Yes, they do look like siblings, and that is what they are.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and brought her closer. He placed a gentle kiss on the side of her head. “You know, maybe we should always check the trains when they come through, just in case there is another Nathan.”
Lizzy giggled and nodded, “Maybe it would be a good idea. But I don’t know how many children we have room for.”
“Don’t worry. I am sure that my mother would lend us some room, or even June or Marie if need be.”
“It is something to consider for the future.” Lizzy sounded hopeful.
“Did you ever think this was where we would end up when you saw me in the hotel that first time?” Jake asked.
“Absolutely not. I guess in a way we have Eddie to thank for all of this. If he hadn’t taken my daughter and prolonged our stay in Sequoia, maybe we wouldn’t have ended up together.”
“We would have ended up together, I am sure of it,” Jake said with a grin. He’d started to have feelings for Lizzy on their way to Sequoia. Even if things had happened differently, he would have found a way to make her fall in love with him.
“Did I ever tell you I am the luckiest woman in the west?” Lizzy asked, looking up at him with bright eyes full of love.
“Well, I am not the luckiest man in the west.” Jake shook his head.
“You’re not?” Lizzy laughed.
“No, I am the luckiest man in the world.” And Jake meant it. He had every one of his dreams, right there on his tiny little ranch. He was a happy man and could ask for nothing more.