Three Years Later
It was Thanksgiving Day, and Amelia and Amie arrived at their father’s home early that morning, ready to spend the next few hours preparing a meal for their growing family. Amelia wasn’t surprised to find Harriet already in the kitchen, busy peeling potatoes. She could smell the fragrance of the turkey already cooking inside the oven. Dough was rising in a large bowl, almost ready to be formed into rolls.
“Good morning, girls,” Harriet greeted them with a kiss on their cheeks.
“I thought we told you we’d help with the food,” Amie chastised her.
“Oh, pfff. I just wanted to get a head start. There is plenty for you to do.” She gave them each a welcoming hug before returning to her job.
Amelia set two of the pies she had made the day before on the counter.
“Those look good, Amelia,” Harriet praised her. “I almost want to eat a slice right now.”
“I have three more out in the buggy,” Amelia replied.
While Amie put on an apron and began to help Harriet, Amelia went outside to get the rest of the pies. She paused at her buggy and looked around the farm. It was good to be here again. Even though she came to check on her father almost weekly, it felt somehow different today.
So much had happened since her wedding to Duncan three years ago. After they had gotten engaged, they both agreed to have a short engagement, and were married two months later. Exactly ten months after that, their son, Jonathan, was born, named after Duncan’s father. Amie and Mike tied the knot about six months after their wedding and were now the proud parents of two beautiful twin daughters, Sarah and Ellen. Mike had expanded the house he had been living in behind the blacksmith shop and the two sisters spent quite a bit of time together.
Amelia also continued to go out to the family farm to work with her dogs. Just in the last year, she was beginning to get a good name for herself by training sheepdogs. There were some farmers and ranchers who even paid her to work with dogs that they already had. At the moment, she didn’t have any puppies, having sold her last one a month ago. Jack had turned out to be a wonderful dog and had already fathered two litters with both Daisy and Mauve.
Along with her three-month-old daughters, Amie also kept busy carding, spinning and dying yarn that she then sold in Willow Creek and the surrounding towns. Mike did his part by driving the yarn she made to different stores for Amie. She even had begun to sell her yarn in Denver. She had developed an easy way to dye the yarn she spun, with bright colors she prepared from the plants and flowers she had started to grow in her gardens.
Just then, Beth stepped outside and passed her to go to the barn.
“Is Rick going to join us for dinner?” Amelia asked her as she walked by.
The young woman shook her head. “He has to work, but I’ll see him tonight.”
“We’ll make sure to save him a slice of pie,” Amelia offered.
“He’d like that,” Beth responded with a smile. She pointed to the henhouse. “Harriet needs more eggs.”
Amelia watched her walk away and smiled at the slight skip in her step. Beth still worked for Pa as a housekeeper. But Amelia had begun to think of her as another sister more than anything else. She fit easily in the family, although she had been working for them for almost a year before they’d heard about how she had ended up in Dustwater Saloon, and it was a very sad story. Her parents had died when she was sixteen and an uncle had taken over her care. Beth had been distraught with grief at being left alone, and had caused some problems in her uncle’s home that he didn’t want to deal with. She had only been living there for a few months when he informed her one day that he had arranged for her to move to a new home.
That home was a saloon in the next town. For months, she was moved around from one saloon to another. She’d run away, hating the saloon life, but the owner of the saloon always found her. She caused enough trouble that the owner usually arranged for her to be taken to another saloon. She was sure that money had changed hands. The last time she ran away, the owner of the Dustwater Saloon, Jedidiah, had found her sleeping in the alley behind his house. He had offered her a job, as well as a small salary. Beth had hated accepting it, but she knew of nothing else that she could do.
She was very loyal to Amelia’s family and did everything she could to make the new job work. Now, Beth was being courted by a cowboy who worked on a cattle ranch near Ragwood. Amelia had never seen her happier.
But the biggest change of all in the last three years was in her father. Unbeknownst to Amelia or Amie, he had begun to see Harriet soon after the famous Sunday dinner. By mutual agreement, they had kept their relationship quiet until after Amie had married, before they finally announced their news that they were also engaged. Amelia was thrilled for her father. She knew how hard it had been to lose their mother, since he had such a deep love for her. It had taken years for him to finally realize that he needed to let her go and move on. Amelia gave Harriet quite a bit of the credit that Pa had been able to do so. And she and Amie had no problem welcoming her into the family.
As she carried the last of the pies into the kitchen, she couldn’t help but look around, and nostalgia hit her square in the chest. There had been so many changes in her life, and she knew there were more to come. She pasted a smile on her face as Amie turned to look at her, a question in her eyes. She wasn’t surprised that Amie had picked up that something was going on, but she gave her sister a slight shake of her head. She and Duncan had some news that they would share with the entire family later. Now, she wanted to enjoy this time with Amie, Harriet, and Beth.
A few hours later, Duncan arrived with Jonathan in his arms. Mike also arrived with his daughters, both of them fussing. Amie immediately took Sarah into a spare room to nurse. Ellen began to cry as her mother moved away, not willing to wait for her own meal.
“Let me have her,” Harriet offered as she reached for the baby from Mike’s arms. “Your mama will feed you as soon as she can. You just have to wait your turn.” Amelia watched as Harriet began to bounce her around the room, and the baby stopped crying and was soon laughing.
Pa came into the house and stomped his feet. “Boy, it is getting cold out there,” he announced. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get snow by tomorrow.”
“I hope it holds off,” Duncan commented, “at least until we can get back home.”
“You never know in this part of Colorado,” Pa replied as he hung up his coat, hat, and scarf on a peg. He rubbed his hands together in an effort to warm them.
“Where are the mittens I made for you, Pa?” Amie asked with a slight chastisement in her voice, but she smiled at him to lessen the impact of the words she’d just said.
Pa’s face looked a bit chagrined. “I dropped one and Summer ran off with it.”
Amelia tried not to groan at the mention of her pet. Summer was the small runt she had kept from Daisy’s first litter. As she had expected, the dog hadn’t taken to working with sheep, but she was a sweet dog, and a bit mischievous. “If Summer has it, it’s probably in shreds.”
“I’ll make you another pair,” Amie offered, and Pa smiled his thanks.
It didn’t take long to get dinner on the table. There was so much food, Amelia wondered if the table was going to sag under the weight of it all. A large turkey sat on a platter in the middle, with bowls of stuffing, potatoes, beans, and gravy surrounding it. The yeasty rolls were in a basket by Amelia and she had to sit on her hands to keep herself from picking one of them up and taking a bite, they smelled so good. After everyone took their places, Pa cleared his throat and began to speak.
“I just want to tell you all that I’m glad you are here. We have had a good and productive year and it is nice to be able to share it with everyone.”
Baby Sarah gave a loud yell as if she was agreeing with her grandpa’s words. Everyone laughed.
Jonathan, who sat between her and Duncan, reached out a small hand to take the very roll Amelia wanted.
“Wait until we pray, Son,” Duncan admonished as he moved the rolls away from the boy.
“Let’s have a prayer. Then we can start eating,” Harriet suggested.
Pa smiled at his wife, took her hand, and waited until they all held the hand of the person next to them. He bowed his head and gave a short, but powerful prayer, thanking God for all of their blessings in their lives. The moment he said amen, dishes began to be passed around the table. Amelia piled her plate high with a liberal amount of everything, and she wondered if she would be able to eat it all.
“Can I go first, Pa?” Amie spoke up after everyone’s plate was full and they had begun to eat. At Pa’s nod, she continued. “I just received word that a store is opening up in Denver that is going to begin selling fabric, sewing items, and things like that. It is going to be focused on things women would need for sewing, quilting, crocheting, and knitting. They have asked me to sell them all the yarn that I can send them.”
Duncan looked confused. “Why would someone want to open a store that only sells those items? I find that a bit strange.”
Amie nodded. “I thought the same, but the owner seems to think it is going to be very popular. They will be able to provide a greater variety than mercantile or general stores can.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Amelia commented, happy for her sister. “How much yarn do they want from you?”
“As much as I can send them,” Amie responded, smiling at the idea. “I have quite a bit I can send them now, but then I will have to wait to send more until we shear the sheep next summer.”
“You can use all the wool you want,” Pa told her.
“Thanks, Pa,” Amie said, pleased.
“Can I talk next?” Beth spoke up a bit eagerly. “I have some wonderful news to share.”
“Yes, you can go next,” Pa agreed.
She started to smile as if she couldn’t keep her good news inside any longer. “Rick asked me to marry him last night, and I said yes!”
“Congratulations,” Amelia said as she watched Harriet, who sat beside her, give the girl a hug. “That is great news. Tell us what your plans are.”
Beth quickly told them that they planned to marry sometime in February, before the calves were born on the ranch Rick worked at. Beth would move there to live with him, but they hope that they would be able to purchase some land of their own in a few years. Amelia was so happy for Beth and how wonderful her life had worked out for her. She also felt bad that her fiancé couldn’t have joined them for Thanksgiving dinner to share their news together.
And then, it was her turn. Duncan squeezed her hand, and she gave him a subtle nod. “We have some news of our own. I was contacted by my friend in Texas, Brian. He has offered me a job, again, only this time not as a ranger, but as someone who will manage other rangers in the same area of Texas.”
“Oh,” Amie exclaimed, her eyes wide. “Are you going to take it?”
Amelia slowly nodded. “It is what Duncan has wanted to do for some time now. It is a perfect job for him.”
“But you will be moving,” Pa said in an even voice. Amelia couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
This time it was Duncan’s turn to nod. “Yes, but we’ll be living in a town close to the border between Texas and New Mexico territory. Now that the train goes in that direction, we can come and visit often.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Amie said. “And we can come to visit you.”
Amelia knew that their news was going to be taken with mixed emotions. She could see the intense disappointment on her family’s faces, as well as proud expressions that Duncan had this opportunity.
“What about your dogs?” Beth asked.
“I will take Jack, Daisy, and Lady. The rest, I’ll leave for you, Pa.”
“I appreciate that.” Pa nodded.
“When will you leave?” Beth asked.
“Not until spring,” Amelia responded. She noticed that Amie relaxed slightly and knew that her sister was glad that they had a few months to get used to the idea.
Then Pa cleared his throat. “And last but not least, we have news of our own.”
Amelia glanced at Harriet and noticed tears in her eyes. She immediately became concerned that something was wrong. What could their news be that would make Harriet cry? She grasped Duncan’s hand tightly, almost wishing she could run from the room. She didn’t want to hear any bad news on this day, especially because she was aware that Duncan’s decision to take the job had put a damper on the meal.
“We are expecting a child.”
For a moment, Amelia didn’t understand. Amie was the first to respond. She squealed and jumped to her feet to give Harriet and then Pa a hug. By the time Amie was done, Amelia realized what Pa had just said.
“You are going to have a baby?” she asked, making sure she had heard right.
“Yes.” Harriet nodded, tears still in her eyes. Amelia could tell that she was absolutely thrilled. “I thought I was too old for such a thing to happen, but…”
“I guess not,” Amelia commented with a smile. “Congratulations, both of you.”
That evening, Duncan drove the buggy with Amelia by his side. Jonathan was wrapped in two thick quilts that Harriet had made, and Duncan’s spare horse was tied to the back of the buggy, slowly following along.
“I’m wondering if we shouldn’t have told your family about my new job until after Thanksgiving,” Duncan said in the darkness.
“They had to know sometime. I know that they’re a bit disappointed that we’re moving, but they are also happy and proud, too,”
“Are you sure that you want to do this, Amelia? Because if you aren’t, I can let Brian know that I’ve changed my mind. I really don’t like the idea of moving you from your family.”
“Duncan, I love my family and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I won’t miss them, but you are my family now. They will be fine. Amie has made a good start with her own family with Mike and their babies. Beth is engaged. And I am so happy for Pa and Harriet.”
“I imagine that was quite a shock for them to find out that Harriet was expecting,” Duncan commented.
Amelia laughed. “I sure would love to be a fly on the wall when they first realized it. I’m sure Harriet hadn’t expected something like this to happen. After all, she didn’t have children with her first husband.”
“They’ll make great parents,” Duncan said.
Amelia nodded. “But back to the subject of the ranger job, I do want you to take the offer. You have been willing to help me work on my dreams. Now it is your turn. This is your dream job, and I want you to have this option before you get too old.”
Duncan growled at her playfully. “So, you think that I’m getting old, do you?”
Amelia giggled as she slipped her arm through his. “I didn’t say that, I said before you get too old.” She turned serious. “We can plan to move back to Willow Creek, if we want to, when you have had your fill of being a ranger. I know that you will do a great job, and I’m sure Brian also thinks so, or he wouldn’t have offered the job to you.”
“I actually like the idea of moving, just the three of us. It will be good for us to depend just on each other.” She covered her stomach and instantly decided it was time to tell him what she had been suspecting for the last week, but had just been verified the day before. “I mean, the four of us.”
She waited for a long moment and at first Duncan didn’t respond, and she wondered if he had gotten her not-so-subtle hint. She looked at him and he was staring at her, astonishment on his face.
“Are you saying what I think you are saying?”
“Jonathan will be a big brother in about seven months.” Amelia smiled. “And before you say anything, we are still moving. This is your chance to shine. Let’s make the most of it.”
“I love you, Amelia Jennings. I think the best thing that ever happened to me was when you burst into my office. I thank God every day that you are in my life.”
Amelia wanted to respond, but tears choked her throat, so instead, she leaned her head against his shoulder as they continued to their home. As they traveled, small snowflakes began to fall, settling gently around them.
She knew that when they woke up in the morning, the entire world would be covered with snow. Amelia felt that snow gave the world a new life, just like Duncan had given her.