Four Years Later
The large, calloused hands of Lou held onto his wife’s soft shoulders as he guided her towards the back of their family home. He had been planning for this moment for almost two years. It was the first thing he wanted to do on the day Eleanor agreed to spend the rest of her life with him.
And now that day was finally happening.
“Lou? Where in heaven’s name are you taking me?” Eleanor let out a slight chuckle as she struggled to keep her balance while blind-folded. It did not help that she was also seven months pregnant with their first child. “Darling, how much further?” Though she tried to keep her voice light and jovial, Eleanor felt the effects of the afternoon pregnancy fatigue. It brought her joy to be carrying Lou’s child. Through their year of courtship, they had discussed whether or not they wanted to have a large family, or even a family at all. Lou promised he would remain patient until Eleanor was ready. And even if she never would be, Lou assured her his love would never die because his heart would forever be connected to Eleanor, children or no children.
During their first two years of marriage, Eleanor had enjoyed the freedom she found being Lou’s wife. She could come and go as she pleased. She could spend her days painting the second-story bedroom Lou had given to her for her studio. It was not as large as her father’s shed. But it was from Lou and she would make it work.
Every day, there were new creations with experiments on brush strokes and types of paints she would have shipped in from across the country. Eleanor had everything she could ever want. But, sadly, Mrs. Woods still felt a void in her heart. She carried a heavy soul and she could not figure out the source for her loneliness.
“Perhaps you want to become a mother after all, Nelley.” Anastasia lounged on the chaise in Eleanor’s studio during one of her biweekly visits to the Triple W. Eleanor paused in thought, her paintbrush hanging in the air as she held it near the canvas.
“Do you really think that’s it, Mamma? Do you think I want to become a mamma myself? Am I ready to become a mamma myself?” Eleanor stared off into the distance, her mind racing uncontrollably.
“I was just like you, my darling. I wanted my freedom. And your papa gave me that freedom. But, once I had it, I knew there was still so much more to life and I could not figure out what that was exactly.”
Anastasia stared out the floor-to-ceiling window. “And no one is ever truly ready for anything, Nelley dear. Motherhood is natural. It is something the Lord put in us women to embrace and make as our own. There were times I messed up and should have done things differently. But, through His abundant grace, God gave me the wisdom and strength to be the mother I had always hoped to be.”
Eleanor sat on her stool and processed the possibility. It had never occurred to her that the desire would come naturally. She never realized that, as her mother had said, being a child’s mamma would be something she would simply know how to do.
After that conversation, Eleanor and Lou started on their family immediately. Once she had overcome her initial fears, Eleanor soon fell pregnant with child and began the journey of motherhood.
Lou had been wonderful through the entire adventure. He knew it was by God’s grace that the longing had been placed in Eleanor’s heart. And Lou thanked the Good Lord daily for planting that seed in her, the desire and child alike.
It was one of the main reasons he had decided to surprise Eleanor with his own creation. He knew they would be needing to transform her studio into a nursery. And it was high time Eleanor had been praised for her accomplishments as an artist.
Lou leaned down and whispered softly into her ear.
“Just a few steps more, my Love. Just a few steps more.”
And true to his word, Lou guided her only a few feet away from where they had been walking. Eleanor felt the excitement bubble in her heart as the anticipation stirred in her soul.
Softly, Lou untied the blindfold covering her eyes as he stood in front of her blocking her view.
“Are you ready, my Love?”
Eleanor nodded as she instinctively and lightly rested her hands on her maternal bump.
Lou stepped behind her, revealing an extensive building tucked away behind a picturesque view of gigantic oak and pines.
“Lou! What is this? Is this for me?” She saw him nod as she continued to stammer her words. “But you told me this was for the ranch.”
“It is, Ellie. It’s for what you will bring to the ranch.”
Lou pulled Eleanor along gently by her hand tightly clasped into his and opened the large wooden double doors wide.
“Surprise!” A loud cheer resounded from inside the enormous painting studio. Eleanor and Lou’s family and friends clapped and congratulated with full elation.
“Oh, my word! How did you ever pull this off, Lou?” She smiled at the way his mustache turned up with a mischievous grin.
“That’s what happens when you take long naps regularly during the afternoon. I know when you’re going to be asleep and when I can gather all our friends and family together without you hearing a sound.”
“You sly devil you! Oh, this is wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!”
Eleanor took in her surroundings of the wide-open spaces ready to display her paintings. Blank easels lined the perimeter waiting for Eleanor’s new creations. There was a second-level gallery where Lou had taken the freedom to hang her exquisite works of art she had painted since the first day in her father’s workshop, four years earlier.
Lou had cornered-off an entire section on the first floor of the studio for her work to come together. He had built her cabinets and shelves lining the wall that held all her painting supplies with much more space for other purchases she would make in the coming future. She had never seen a place so full and wonderful as the original studio her loving husband had built for her with his own two hands.
“Sweetie! It’s divine, truly divine!” Rona ran up to her best friend’s side and hugged her gently. “Lou really did this one right!” Rona shined a bright smile up at Lou who lowered his head humbly.
Eleanor slipped her arm into the crook of her husband’s elbow, just as they had done their first night together.
“Yes, Rona! He most definitely did. I truly am a blessed woman.”
Stepping up behind Rona, a much more confidant and much calmer Weber wrapped his arm around her waist. “Congratulations, Eleanor. I am thrilled for you. You deserve every bit of it.” Weber turned his attention over to Lou who lifted his head politely as his guest approached them. “And well done, Lou. I think you are the only man who could have ever pulled off something so elaborate as this. Especially without Eleanor finding out.”
“Thanks, Weber. And thank you for lending me some of your men to help with the construction. Sure made it go up much quicker than if I only had the boys to do the job.”
Weber nodded. “I’ll be callin’ in that favor come drovin’ time. You have got the best team in the state. Don’t know how you got ‘em without anyone else having the chance to snatch ‘em up from under ye’, but you got ‘em.”
Lou puffed out his chest, proud of the group of men who remained faithful to him. “The boys know how to get the job done when it matters the most.” Lou nodded with a smile, “And, of course, as long as we’re not drovin’ our own lot, you are more than welcome to anything at the Triple W.”
Relationships had changed dramatically between the trio after the four years of confrontation. At first, Weber had become so upset with the whole situation that he secluded himself from anyone and anything. No one had seen him around town. No one had heard from him in the livestock community for a good six months. It was as if he had dropped off the face of the earth completely.
But after a conversation with Eleanor, Rona took it upon herself to reach out to Weber to see how he was doing. And that initial meeting led to the two of them forming a strong relationship, eventually leading to their courtship four years later.
Eleanor smiled as she watched Rona and Weber move to the makeshift dance-floor Lou had constructed for the grand reveal. It brought joy to Eleanor’s heart to see the two of them find such happiness with one another.
Rona was just the woman Weber needed to keep him on track. For the past three years, the two courted one another happily. Weber became a doting boyfriend as Rona became a strong yet caring person, making them both the perfect match for one another.
Having a moment to themselves, Lou took hold of Eleanor’s hand and guided her to a corner of the studio.
“Are you truly happy with it, my Love? Is it okay that I’ve done this for you?” Lou stared into her eyes as she gazed up at his.
Eleanor could not believe her blessings. After four years, she had learned how to balance being a wife to a cattle ranch owner. She could not believe she would have a child in less than three months’ time with the man she loved.
“Yes, Lou. This is more than okay. This is all I have ever wanted. Of course, I’ll just paint in my free time especially with the little one coming.”
“Ellie, Sweetheart. I want you to paint as much as your heart desires. There will be plenty of help with our baby. You know folks will want to take care of the young’un every chance they can get.”
Lou brushed a loose curl from over her brow.
“In fact, I think you should have your own art show in the new exhibition hall they just built next door to The Grand. I’m sure Rona’s Pa will be more than happy to let you show off your work.”
Eleanor continued to gaze into her husband’s eyes. She had never known so much love and honor and devotion as she did from Lou in that perfect moment.
And she and Lou would continue to live their lives with the same love and honor and devotion forever, as long as they both lived.