Rachel hummed as she set the plates of food on the table. She loved taking care of her family and making sure that they had everything that they needed. When she was done, she went toward the parlor to call them in. She paused at the window for a second.
Lucy was outside, right beside Lee. The two of them were caring for the chickens.
Rachel smiled; Lucy had been living with them for almost five months now. She was every bit as much their daughter as their own baby would have been. The sheriff had managed to find reason to take Lucy from her father.
Her father never cared for her and couldn’t be trusted with her. While her father feigned being sad about losing his daughter, everyone knew that losing her had affected his life very little. He still spent a lot of his time in the saloon. Even though he was technically allowed to come and visit Lucy, he had never come in all of the time she had lived with Rachel and Lee.
Rachel loved having Lucy nearby. She loved making sure she was well fed and tucked in at night. She constantly kept an eye on her. Lucy had changed into a different person than the little girl that Rachel had met at school. She was confident and lovely. She enjoyed talking about her day and laughing at Lee’s jokes.
There was rarely a moment where she wasn’t happy. Rachel hated to think of the times when a smile hadn’t always been present on Lucy’s face. In the first weeks that Lucy had come to live with them, she’d been afraid of Lee, avoiding him and sticking close to Rachel.
But as time passed, she’d started to realize that Lee was just as caring and loving as Rachel was and only wanted the best for her. Now she was his shadow as he went about the ranch doing his chores. She seemed fascinated with everything that he did.
“It’s time for lunch!” Rachel called out.
“We’re coming!” Lee hollered back quickly. He and Lucy were chasing a chicken back into the coop who seemed to have escaped.
Rachel giggled as she watched them.
“Are they back at it in the chicken coop? I swear sometimes they let the chickens out on purpose just so they can chase them back.” Loise’s voice spoke from behind Rachel.
Rachel spun around with a smile and hurried to help Loise. Things were harder for her now. It had only been eight months since Rachel and Lee married, but still, things had changed in a lot of ways in their lives.
“You know you don’t need to help me,” Loise fussed. She did need the help, but she hated to admit it.
Rachel didn’t stop helping her until Loise was sitting safely at a chair in the kitchen.
A knock on the door surprised Rachel. Lee wasn’t one to knock at his own house. It had to be someone else.
She hurried over to the door to open it. To her surprise, it was Mila. Since her first visit to the ranch, she had become much more accustomed to visiting. She would visit quite often now, and Rachel enjoyed her company. She liked spending time with Mila and sometimes Mila would even help Rachel with some simpler chores around the house.
“Mila, what are you doing here?” Rachel asked.
“I just figured I would stop by. I was in the area.”
“You were?” Rachel didn’t believe her for a moment. The area of the ranch wasn’t anywhere close to town and that was the only place where Mila spent her time if she could help it most days. “Come in. We were just about to eat lunch.”
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“Yes, I am sure. Come in. Sit down.” Rachel hurried back to the kitchen and pulled out another set of dishes, putting them beside Loise at the table.
To add to the commotion, Lee and Lucy came into the house at about the same time.
“Did you see us chasing the chicken, Mama?” Lucy asked breathlessly.
Rachel’s heart constricted, barely allowing her to breathe. It did that whenever Lucy called her Mama. Rachel had considered Lucy her daughter from the moment she had walked into the cabin that first night, but it was something different and spectacular to know that Lucy also thought of her as her Mama.
“I did see you. Did you catch him? Such a mischievous one, I bet he’s like you.” Rachel reached out and touched Lucy on the nose, causing her to giggle.
“No, I’m not like a chicken.” Lucy squirmed away from Rachel and took shelter beside Aunt Loise.
“You don’t think so?” Rachel rose her eyebrows as if she were skeptical.
“I know so!” Lucy seemed quite offended at the idea.
“Well, we will have to see about that. Everyone needs to sit down now. The food is ready, and I don’t want it to get cold.”
Rachel almost laughed at her own words. It was so warm out that the food getting cold was probably impossible. She dished everyone up as they sat down. After she set the last plate back down, she sat down herself.
“Let us say grace.” Lee reached out his hand took Rachel’s, giving it a soft squeeze.
Everyone else joined hands and Lee offered grace for the food. As everyone ate, Rachel started thinking about the letter she had in her room. Lee had brought it home that morning. It was from her mother.
Even though she had been out west for almost a year now, her mother still wrote her very often. At least a letter a week, if not more. Rachel looked forward to each and every one and made sure to respond to each and every one.
She especially liked to take her time and read them when she wasn’t distracted or busy. It made her feel closer to her mother and as if her mother was in the room with her.
Rachel pulled herself back to the meal at hand. Everyone was talking about Davis and Ann.
“Can we visit soon? I want to see the baby,” Lucy was saying.
“The baby still isn’t born yet. I am sure that when she or he is born, they will invite us to visit them.”
“When will it be born?” Lucy asked, sounding very disappointed that she couldn’t go and visit Davis’s newborn baby yet.
“I think in around a month.” Lee’s eyes were twinkling with mischief.
“How long is a month?” Lucy was sounding very impatient now indeed.
“It’s four weeks,” Lee said patiently.
Rachel smiled, “The baby will be here when it is here, and we all just need to be patient until then.”
“Okay.” Lucy seemed a bit deflated. “Can we at least go visit them to make sure the baby hasn’t come?”
“Of course, we can. I need to get a few things from over there tomorrow anyway. We can all go and make a day of it.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Rachel said. She had wanted to visit Ann for a while now. She knew that being pregnant and at home for most of the time had been difficult for her.
“I think it would be a fun thing to do,” Lee sounded excited. Rachel knew he hadn’t had quite as much time to spend with Davis since they were both married. They had just been so busy with the ranch. They had so many plans and were working on it together to create a large ranch that was earning enough money to sustain itself.
“You know, sometimes I forget how much all of you have been through together. Do you guys ever imagine what would have happened if Rachel really was Marilyn?” Mira’s question made everyone at the question pause, and then laugh. It was almost a relief to Rachel that they could joke about the whole mix-up with Marilyn. She still thought about her brief time in jail from time to time.
“I think we are all grateful that she wasn’t. I am also glad that Marilyn has moved on to other towns,” Lee spoke up.
Rachel nodded and reached up to touch her necklace out of habit. She still thought of Marilyn whenever she looked at that locket. But she’d stopped fearing her. There had been rumors that she’d been attacking stagecoaches near a different town now. It was getting too difficult for her to keep robbing near White Water, Texas, because everyone had stopped going anywhere for fear of running into her.
Rachel let the rest of their afternoon meal conversation wash over her. Once it was all done and Mila was on her way home, Lucy was resting in the parlor and Rachel had a moment to herself, she slipped away to the room that she shared with Lee.
She pulled out the letter from home and started to read.
I hope you are doing well. How are Lucy and Lee? Have the two of you thought about making your family bigger yet? I heard something very recently that I thought you would enjoy hearing about.
It turns out that Simon and his father have lost their business. Their customers learned that their money was not being kept right and they stopped using the bank. They are very upset, but no one trusts them anymore. There is nothing that they can do about it. I heard they were going to move to Illinois and try to start over. I thought you would like to know.
Also, your father and I made a very important decision. Next year, we will be selling the bank and moving down there so we can all live closer. I can’t wait to meet Lucy and Lee in person. I know that you probably know this already, but I am so happy that you have found a good man and love him.
I pray for your family frequently. I hope that everything is well with you all. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rachel folded the letter back up and put it in its envelope reverently. She appreciated every single letter she got from home.
It made her feel as if she were home again. She loved having those pieces of home close. She could almost hear her mother’s voice talking to her.
“Rachel, are you in there?” Lee’s voice at the door made her look up.
“I’m here,” Rachel called out.
A second later, Lee stepped into the room.
“What did your mother have to say?” he asked. Rachel often would read her letters out loud to him if she got the chance, or simply tell him about them and what her parents said.
“They are planning to move closer next year, she also said that Simon and his father’s bank went under.” Rachel could see that Lee was as happy about the last bit of news as she was. Simon didn’t deserve to have everything work out for him after what he had done. He would either need to get a proper job to support himself, or he would need to find someone else to support him now. Neither of those options were very likely.
Lee sat down on the edge of the bed, right beside Rachel. “I heard something in town that I thought might interest you.”
“Really? What is it?” Rachel adjusted herself so she could see Lee’s eyes.
“The teacher left and went back to the city. She won’t be coming back next year. I thought maybe you would like to talk with the board and get a permanent position as the teacher. I noticed how much you enjoyed teaching the children when you were covering for the other teacher.”
“Really? You wouldn’t mind?” Rachel felt a rush of excitement go through her. She had very much enjoyed teaching at the school before. She loved seeing the children learn every day and enjoyed being the one to teach them.
“Of course I wouldn’t mind! I want you to be happy and you make a wonderful teacher. That is how Lucy became a part of our family.”
“How can I forget? You really are the best husband I could have asked for.” Rachel leaned into him, giving him a quick hug. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Lee planted a kiss on her forehead and Rachel paused in the warmth. She hoped that nothing ever changed between Lee and herself. Things were perfect as they were.
Lee felt tense as soon as he heard the thundering hoofbeats of the horse galloping up the road. He knew that something out of the ordinary was happening before he even looked out the door.
It was Davis, and he looked a combination of worried and scared all at once.
Lee hurried out down the porch. “What’s going on?”
“It’s the baby. It’s on the way.” Davis looked excited, but Lee could tell that his biggest emotion on his face was fear. He could see that having a child was a scary experience. He could only imagine what it would be like when it was his turn. Right now, he felt about has nervous for Davis’s baby as if it were his own.
“It’s early, isn’t it?” As far as Lee knew, it was still supposed to be a few weeks before the baby was born at the earliest.
“The midwife says that it is about right. Maybe we miscalculated.”
“What’s going on?” Rachel rushed in from the other room. She glanced between Davis and Lee. “The baby is on its way, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Lee turned back to Davis who still hadn’t gotten down from his horse. “We will be there as fast as we can.”
Davis nodded and turned his horse, riding away as quickly as he had come. Lee knew that if Davis had come this far, he wanted them to be there to help him with this difficult and scary time.
Rachel didn’t need to be told twice. She hurried into the kitchen and a moment later, she came back with Lucy beside her.
Lucy’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Is the baby coming today?”
“It appears so.” Lee couldn’t help but feel a bit of excitement for his friend’s news.
“I can’t wait to meet him or her.” Lucy raced along with Rachel and Lee as they scurried around, preparing the wagon and a few things they wanted to take. It wasn’t long before they were on their way to Davis’s ranch.
“Now remember, it might be a long wait. We don’t know how long it will take for the baby to be born,” Rachel started to explain to Lucy.
“But why do they take so long?” Lucy sounded disappointed yet again, which made Lee grin.
He knew that Lucy didn’t understand, but it was still sweet to see her innocence in the matter.
“They take a long time sometimes because that is just the way they are.” Rachel didn’t have much time to explain anything else since they were already there. Lee had a feeling that they were going to have a long wait.
Lee paced back and forth outside the cabin with Davis. They’d been waiting for a good two hours. Rachel had gone in to help the midwife, and Lucy was playing with some puppies in the barn while she waited.
Lee felt almost as stressed as Davis. “Are you sure it is supposed to take so long?” he asked.
“Yes. It is. The midwife said we could be here all night.”
“Oh, goodness, I hope it doesn’t take that long.”
“You’re not the only one,” Davis shook his head. “I don’t know how I have waited this long. I keep worrying that something terrible is happening to Ann. I don’t know if we will have a second child.” Davis looked like the idea of a second child terrified him at that moment.
“Oh, come now, I have met people who have lots of children and have this experience every single time. I am sure it will get easier with practice.” Lee chuckled, “The good thing was that with Lucy we didn’t have to go through this.”
Davis bobbed his head up and down enthusiastically. “You’re right. Maybe we should adopt if we want more children.”
“That’s not what I was saying…” Lee trailed off. Whatever else he was going to say was interrupted by Rachel poking her head out the door.
“You have a son, Davis, a healthy baby boy!”
Davis stopped pacing and his face filled with joy. Lee walked over to him and gave him a half hug, half slap on the back.
“Congratulations, you are going to make a wonderful father.”
“And you a wonderful uncle.” It was clear that Davis was trying to keep from crying.
“Can I see him?” Davis asked.
“Just for a moment. Ann is pretty tired and needs some rest.”
Davis nodded and followed Rachel into the room. Lee stood at the doorway, taking in the scene.
Rachel joined him and put her hand on his arm. “One day, this will be us.”
Lee smiled at her, “Yes, you’re right. One day, it will be.”
Lee watched his friend basking in his new family and the love all around him. He knew that one day their family would get bigger and he couldn’t wait to grow it with Rachel at his side.
Lucy came rushing in and after a quick talk with Rachel, she was led into the room to take a peek at the latest member of the family.
Standing in the cabin, Lee knew that this was where he and Davis were meant to be. The secrets of their past did not define them; bounty hunting had only been a small section of their lives. Where they belonged was here, with their families who they loved and who loved them.