Cara woke up to Hope’s cries and the smell of coffee brewing. For a moment she wondered if she had overslept, and Adam was cooking breakfast. That had happened once last summer.
It only took a moment to remember that it was Philip in the kitchen.
For the first time since she could remember, she had the luxury of taking her time to feed Hope and get dressed. The only other times that she had someone cook breakfast for her had been after she had Hope, when Adam’s ma had stayed with her.
She put on the new dress Adam and Dinah had given her for Christmas. She remembered the look in his eyes when he saw her in it for the first time. She had known then that he loved her.
She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle. She didn’t want to wake the girls and Remmie up. Maybe when Adam came in for breakfast she could have a few minutes alone with him.
It didn’t work out that way. Philip stood at the stove frying hotcakes when Cara walked into the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
He turned and grinned. It was obvious that he was enjoying himself. “I guess there’s nothing left to do but set the table.”
Cara set the plates on the dining room table in the order that they had been sitting these past few days. The girls on one side, Remmie and Adam on the other. Herself at the foot of the table, and the head of the table left empty. They had taken the chair and put it in the master bedroom, so Philip could sit with Ayla.
She moved Adam’s plate and chair to the head of the table.
Adam walked in, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the tenderness in his eyes. He held her in his arms and kissed her. “That will probably be the only chance I get to do that all day.”
As she stepped back, he looked at the table. She knew he noticed that she had moved his plate.
His eyes met hers warily. “I thought you weren’t going to tell the children yet.”
“I don’t think Remmie is old enough to understand.”
“Are you sure?” She nodded, and he put a hand on her shoulder. “I will do my best to lead this family, Cara.”
“I know you will be a wonderful—”
She stopped, and Adam dropped his hand as they heard the children coming. They were still in their new nightclothes that Dinah had made for them. Cara always served them breakfast before they changed into their clothes for the day. She hoped that Rose would not make a mess.
Philip brought in a pan of scrambled eggs and a towering platter of hotcakes.
“Is Ayla getting up for breakfast?” Cara asked.
“No. She felt pretty tired this morning. I think she overdid things yesterday.”
Philip poured Cara’s coffee first. Then he looked at where Adam was sitting. As if to stop him from pointing it out, Adam shook his head slightly. Philip nodded, and asked, “Would you like some coffee, Adam?”
Cara could hardly contain a giggle when Adam met her eyes and winked as Philip leaned down to pour his coffee. She knew he was remembering, as she was, their tender moments when they were alone last night. She had offered him coffee, and ended up with kisses, instead.
“There’s something different about these hotcakes,” Remmie said.
“There is a little different flavor,” Adam agreed.
Philip laughed. “It’s my secret ingredient. Do you like them?”
“They are very good,” Cara said, and meant it. They were even better since she had not had to stand at the stove cooking them.
“What is your secret ingredient?” Remmie asked.
“I don’t mind telling you that it is nutmeg. It adds a hint of spice to the batter.”
After Philip left the room, Remmie looked at Adam. “You’re sitting in my pa’s chair.”
“Yes, I am. Do you mind?”
Remmie shrugged and shook his head. “No, he’s dead.”
Cara waited for Remmie to say something more, but that was it. No emotion, no regret. His pa was dead. It broke her heart a little to realize that Lem’s passing had no noticeable effect on his emotions.
Doc came by to check on Ayla. When he walked in, Cara greeted him with a smile.
“Do you have something new to tell me?” Doc asked.
Her face grew warm, but her smile widened. “You know that Adam was going to ask me to marry him.”
“I do, I saw him on my way out and he asked if I minded.”
“Do you mind?”
Doc walked over and hugged her. His eyes were teary when he stepped back. Cara felt her eyes well up with tears at the happiness he showed. “I couldn’t have picked a better man for you if I had tried.”
“Didn’t you pick him out?” she said teasingly.
He laughed, the trace of tears gone. “I picked him out for your hired hand. But it wasn’t until after I saw you together, and the way he was with your children, that I realized he would make a good husband for you.”
“Do you think he is too young to be a good father? His pa does.”
“Adam is a godly man, Cara. And God will show him how to raise your children. And you will teach him also. I have never seen another woman who is better at being a mother than you are. You will do well raising them together.”
After breakfast, Adam decided to walk down to his parents’ house. Although he and Cara were not saying anything to the children yet, he knew his ma would want to know if he had proposed to Cara, and if she had said yes. “Do you mind if Remmie and I take a walk to my ma’s?” he asked Cara.
“No, of course not. You will be careful what is said in front of him, won’t you?”
“Of course. If Eliza is there, I won’t go in.”
It was cold out. Adam walked at a slow pace so Remmie wouldn’t have to hurry to keep up.
He heard the familiar sound of chopping firewood when he neared the barn. Seth and John were there.
“Is that to sell, or for home?”
“Pa said we might sell some,” Seth answered. “I need the money.”
“You got a wedding to prepare for?” Adam asked.
“She said yes,” Seth said with a grin. “Did Cara –“ Seth stopped when Adam shook his head. “What? Did she turn you down?”
Adam shook his head. “No, she said yes.”
“I knew it!” Seth clapped him on the shoulder. “Congratulations.”
“What does he mean, Adam?” Remmie asked curiously.
“Nothing,” Adam replied, with a warning glance at Seth. “Is Ma around?”
“She’s in the house, but so is Eliza.”
“Maybe we won’t go in, then. Eliza will have a harder time holding her tongue around the boy.”
“She doesn’t like it, you know.”
“Who? Ma or Eliza?”
“Ma seems all right with it. Eliza was pretty vocal about her opinion after you left. Pa told her to keep quiet, and Obed took her home crying.”
“Is that so? Well, she’s going to have to get used to the idea.” Adam turned to Remmie. “Do you want to see the rope swing I used to play on?”
“So now that you’re your own boss, you can just take the day off and play?” Seth asked, half-in-jest.
“It doesn’t hurt once in a while.” He took Remmie up to the hayloft and showed him the heavy rope that was tied around the rafters. He caught hold of it and tried to swing like he had when he was younger, but he was too tall now.
“Do you want to try it?”
He showed Remmie how to jump up and grab onto the rope. Then he moved him back onto the rafter. He noticed that Remmie looked down and was afraid. “I’ll hold you,” Adam said. He kept his arm around Remmie as he jumped off the rafter and swung out on the rope.
He didn’t go far, but he was happy and laughing. “That was fun.”
Adam did it a few more times, but stopped before Remmie could get rope burn on his soft hands.
When they came down from the hayloft, Adam’s pa was standing there.
“Showing the boy your own foolish ways, I see.”
“He needs to have a little fun.”
“Too much fun and he won’t know enough to work hard.”
“I’ll teach him to work hard,” Adam said firmly.
“You’re making it your job to teach the widow’s son?”
“Remmie, why don’t you go and watch Seth chop wood?” After the boy left, Adam said, “He’ll be my son soon enough.”
“You’re too young to be a good father to a growing boy. You’ll be too soft on him.”
“I know how to be firm when I need to be.”
“You learned that from me, I suppose?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But that’s what you meant. You think I’m too strict with you boys.” Evan didn’t give Adam a chance to respond. “Teach a boy to work hard, and he will grow up to provide for his family. Let a boy be lazy, and he will be lazy all his life,” Evan quoted a favorite saying of his. “You’d do well to remember that, yourself.”
A boy needed time to be a boy, Adam thought, but he knew it was no use arguing with his pa. “Yes, Pa,” he said in a respectful tone.
He saw Eliza walk back to her house across the road, the baby bundled up in her arms. It was safe to go in and talk to his ma without Eliza’s listening ears.
“Do you want to go in and see if Mrs. Kenley has cookies, Remmie?”
Remmie nodded vigorously, and Adam chuckled. “Maybe she will make us some hot cocoa, too.”
His ma was surprised to see them. “Why Adam, Remmie. It’s good to see you.”
“Hello, Mrs. Kenley,” Remmie said, remembering his manners.
“Do you have some cookies and hot cocoa for a couple of boys?” Adam asked.
Dinah’s eyes were full of questions. “I think I can round up some. Remmie, why don’t you play with the blocks while Adam helps me?”
Remmie found the box of blocks, and Adam followed his ma into the kitchen.
“Your pa won’t be very happy to see you today,” Dinah told her son grimly.
“I already saw him.”
“What did he say?”
“He thought I ought to be out working, setting a good example for the boy.”
“And what do you think?”
“I have plenty of wood cut, the animals are well fed – And it’s a time of celebration,” he finished with a grin.
“She said yes, then.”
“Yes, she did. She loves me.”
“I knew she did.” Dinah did not seem very happy.
“I know you care for her like a daughter, Ma. So why don’t you want me to marry her?”
“You’re so young, Adam. She has four children.”
“She’s younger than I am.”
“But in life experiences, she’s way older than you.”
“I don’t agree. Pa raised us up to be responsible men. I barely had a childhood.”
“He meant well,” Dinah defended her husband.
“I know he did what he thought was best.” Admitting that did not mean he agreed with his pa’s parenting ways.
“You turned out all right.”
“So will Cara’s children.”
She changed the subject. “Have you set a date for the wedding?”
She handed him a steaming cup of cocoa.
Before he called out for Remmie, she asked, “What do the children think of it?”
“We aren’t telling them yet. Cara said it will be hard for Remmie to wait patiently until we are married, because he will be excited about it.”
Adam and Remmie drank the cocoa and ate cookies.
“May I have another cookie, Mrs. Kenley?” Remmie asked.
“I think two cookies are enough, Remmie. I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.”
“I think we should head back. Why don’t you go and get your boots on?”
Remmie went off to do as Adam bid. When he was out of earshot, Adam asked, “Do you think you could handle having Remmie as a grandson?”
Dinah looked surprised. “I had not thought of that.”
“You’ll have four more grandchildren when I marry Cara.”
“Well, then, that will be a blessing.” She sounded sincere, and Adam hoped that she was.
“I’d better get back home.”
That he called Cara’s place home did not go unnoticed by Dinah. She felt as though she had lost her son.
That evening, the Bible story that Adam read for family altar was about the first children born in the Bible, brothers Cain and Abel. Like the story the night before, it did not have a happy ending, for Cain killed his brother, Abel.
To make the story more meaningful, Adam said, “You know, I’ve been pretty mad at my brothers before, and they have been pretty mad at me.”
“But you would never kill your brother!” Remmie looked horrified at the thought.
“No, I would not, and they would never do that to me. You see, whenever we got into a fight, we would get a stern talking to from our pa. If we had actually been fighting with our fists, and not our words, he would give us a whipping and send us to our rooms without supper.”
Remmie looked as if he wasn’t sure what was worse, killing his brother or getting whipped and sent to his room without supper. Adam met Cara’s eyes and saw her amusement. It was possible she was thinking the same thing. She didn’t comment, though, and he went on to finish what he meant to say.
“I always forgave my brothers, and they always forgave me. We went on about our business and forgot what we had been fighting about. Nothing is more important than being a family.”
“I wish I had a brother,” Remmie said with a sigh.
Adam didn’t dare meet Cara’s eyes. He didn’t know if she were amused by that, but the thought of giving Remmie a brother brought thoughts to mind that didn’t belong at the family altar.
“You never know what lies down the road, Remmie,” Cara told him.
After the children were tucked in bed, Cara joined Adam in the front room. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” she asked.
Her eyes were dancing, and he paused for a moment, wondering what she had in mind.
She laughed at his apprehension. “I do mean coffee, and a piece of pie.”
“You know, that sounds pretty good.” He started to stand up.
She gestured for him to remain seated. “I’ll bring it in here. It is so nice and peaceful with the fire going.”
Adam watched the flames flicker and dance in the fireplace. She was right, it was peaceful in here. When he reached up to take the cup and plate from Cara, he saw the firelight reflected in the glow of her cheeks.
He took the coffee and pie. “Thank you, Cara.”
His soft words brought a smile to her face that lit her eyes. He was a lucky man, he realized, sipping the hot coffee. Not that he believed in luck. He believed that God worked in all things to bring about the good.
“You know I feel very blessed to be a part of your life,” he said, watching her take a sip of her coffee.
“That’s a very nice thing to say.”
“I mean it. I’ve had a pretty good life. My pa was strict, but he provided for every need. My ma raised us with kindness. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me. I thought I was blessed before, then I met you. Now I realize that I have everything I’ve ever wanted in life, in you.”
Her eyes lit up with happiness. “I had so much bad happen to me in my life, as you know. God brought you into my life, and you brought the goodness with you. I feel blessed, also, that you have chosen me to be the woman you love.”
“Seth proposed to Louisa yesterday, and she said yes,” he said.
“Both brothers proposed in the same day,” she said. And looked suddenly apprehensive. “That didn’t have any bearing on you proposing to me, did it?”
“Do you really think that?” He was disappointed that she would think that of him.
She blushed. “No, I don’t think you are like that. Did he say when they were getting married?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think they have set a date yet.”
The unspoken words hung between them. “Neither have we.”
Cara finished her pie and set her plate down. Adam waited for her to speak and was disappointed when she didn’t right away.
“I’ll wait for you as long as you want, Cara.”
She smiled and looked pleased with his answer. Then her smile turned teasing. “Are you and Seth going to have a race to see who gets to the altar first?”
He was surprised by her teasing and then burst out laughing. He was so glad that she felt comfortable enough with him to joke around. Life with her was going to be amazing. “You know us pretty well, don’t you? I’m older, so I should go first,” he added, and she still smiled. He was relieved that she didn’t think he was pushing her for an answer.
“I’d like to wean Hope before I marry you, Adam.”
He felt his cheeks grow warm. It was a natural thing, but not something he was comfortable talking about. “I don’t know much about that.”
“I nursed the other children until they were between six and nine months old. It all depended on how busy the season was, and how soon the babies were ready.”
Adam counted in his head. Hope had been born at the end of August. “Six months would be February.”
“Do you think the end of March would be all right?”
“A spring wedding,” he said, nodding his head. “I like that idea.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “I know that will make Philip unhappy. He thinks we ought to marry now to make our living arrangements appear right.”
“I know you don’t feel that way, and neither do I. Rushing into marriage isn’t going to stop the rumors.” In fact, Adam thought it might only prove that the rumors were trued, which they were not. He and Cara had done nothing untowardly. And would not.
“I don’t think so, either.”
Adam rose and picked up his plate. Cara did the same. “Do you want to tell the children yet?”
“Let’s think about how we can tell Remmie so that he can be patient until March. Then after we tell him, we can make the announcement.”
Adam wanted to hug her and kiss her right then, he was so happy that he was going to be able to announce to the world that he was going to marry her. He waited until they had put their dishes in the kitchen. Then he turned and drew her into his arms. She came willingly and smiled up at him.
“I’m so happy,” she said. He could see the happiness in her eyes, and it rang in his heart as well.
“So am I.” He showed her how happy he was with a few sweet kisses
As he left her and walked out into the night air, he immediately missed the warmth of the farmhouse, and the warmth of her smile. It seemed to him that the next three months were going to go by very slowly. God was going to have to help him remain strong.