Two weeks before the wedding, Adam was awakened out of his sleep by his pa’s stern voice.
“Adam, you need to get up.”
Adam felt groggy. It was still dark out, and he thought it couldn’t be chore time already.
“Adam, we have a visitor. It isn’t good news.”
That brought Adam immediately to his senses. He jumped up and quickly dressed, and followed his pa out of the room.
“Who is it?”
“It’s the young doctor, Byford.”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen to Cara?”
“No, not to her and the children. Come on and I’ll let him tell it to you.”
Adam hurried into the parlor, where the doctor was seated in the lamplight. His ma stood beside the door, tears on her face.
“Dr. Byford,” Adam said, polite in spite of his concern.
The doctor arose, and shook Adam’s proffered hand. “I come bearing bad news, Adam.”
“You might as well give it to me straight.”
“It’s Doc. I went to awaken him to ask about a patient, and he was gone.”
“Gone?” Adam felt the color drain from his face.
“His heart gave out. He died in his sleep.”
“I’m afraid so. If I had known – well, I keep thinking there is something I might have done.”
The doctor was clearly distraught, and blamed himself. While Adam was still registering the shock, his pa spoke up.
“It wasn’t your fault, Dr. Byford. Doc was well advanced in years, and it was his time to go.”
“Cara knew he was not doing well,” Adam said. “She had so hoped that he could walk her down the aisle.”
“She will be devastated,” Dinah said tearfully.
Hearing his ma say it, Adam knew she was right. This would come as a terrible shock to Cara, since she and the doctor had been so close.
“I thought you ought to tell her, before she hears it from someone else,” the doctor suggested.
“He’s right,” Dinah agreed, looking at Adam. “You’d best go and tell her first thing in the morning.”
“She’d never forgive me if I wait until morning to tell her,” Adam said. “I’ll go over there now.”
“No sense getting her up in the middle of the night,” Evan disagreed.
“She’ll want to know. It’s no telling who might come riding out to the house to break the news. You know how folks are. Everybody wants to be the one to announce a tragedy.”
“If you’re going over now, I’m going with you,” Dinah spoke up. “It wouldn’t look right for you to go to her house in the middle of the night.”
“You don’t have to get out in the dark, Ma.”
“She’s right,” Evan said. “No sense getting the rumor mill started up again.”
They were right, and Adam knew it. He waited while his ma bundled up, and the doctor offered to drop them off in his buggy before heading back into town.
“Will you wake the children up when you knock on the door?” Dinah worried as they stood on the porch.
“I hope not.” Adam was second-guessing his decision not to wait until morning.
After a few hard knocks on the door, it was opened a crack by Cara. She held a lamp in her hand, and Adam could see that her hair was braided. She had obviously pulled a dress on over her nightgown, and she looked sleepy.
When she realized it was Adam, Cara opened the door all the way.
“Adam, Mother Kenley – whatever is wrong?” she asked in concern.
“May we come in?”
“Of course.” Cara stepped back, and Adam and Dinah walked into the house. “What’s wrong?” Cara asked again.
“Cara, it’s Doc.”
“Doc?” She looked very pale.
Adam couldn’t bring himself to say it. He looked at his mother helplessly.
“Doc passed away tonight, Cara,” Dinah said in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice.
Cara’s face crumpled as though in pain. Adam reached out for her, fearing that she would faint.
“Adam, is it true?” It was as if she were begging him to say something different. Adam felt her anguish, and wished he could tell her it wasn’t true.
“Yes, it is. I’m sorry.”
“Doc’s gone.” Cara said it as though she couldn’t believe it, and then she burst into tears.
Adam wrapped his arms around Cara and held her against his chest while she cried. He brushed his hand over her hair and shoulders, trying to comfort her without really knowing how. She sobbed, softly at first, and then her sobs grew louder, more anguished. He looked at his ma over Cara’s shoulder, wondering what he should do.
“Take her into the parlor and lay her down,” Dinah suggested. “I’ll brew some tea.”
Adam led, half-carried, Cara into the parlor and settled her on the sofa. She clung to him, and he sat down beside her, holding her close.
Her cries grew softer, and the shaking in her shoulders subsided. She was spent.
“I’m sorry, Cara,” Adam said softly as he pressed a handkerchief into her hand.
Cara wiped her eyes and nose, her hand trembling. “I can’t believe it,” she said in an anguished voice. “I can’t believe he’s gone.” Fresh tears streamed down her face.
“Dr. Byford came to the house to tell us. He went to wake Doc up, to ask him about a patient. Doc was already gone.”
Dinah came into the room. “I don’t think he suffered much, Cara. Dr. Byford thinks he passed away in his sleep.”
“What will I do now?”
Her question hung in the air. No one knew what to say. Doc had been all the family she had, and now he was gone. She had no parents, no grandparents, no siblings. Except for her children, she was alone.
“I’m here for you, Cara,” Adam said.
“Yes, Adam is here for you, and so am I,” Dinah said, laying a hand on Cara’s shoulder.
Cara started to cry again, and Adam held her against his chest. Dinah left, and brought back a cup of steaming tea.
“Try to drink this, Cara,” she coaxed.
Cara sat up and sipped at the hot tea. Despite its warmth, she felt chilled. Doc was dead.
Dinah sat down, and a sad silence fell over the room. Cara leaned back against the cushion, away from Adam’s comforting arms. She sipped her tea, trying to hold back more tears. She had known for a while that Doc was growing old and tired. She knew he had hired Dr. Byford as a partner to take care of things when he was gone. She had just pushed aside the thoughts of Doc’s growing frail, all the while hoping he would be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
Now, the signs that she had seen in him had come to pass. He was gone from this world, gone on to his heavenly reward. She knew he was in a place where there was no more pain or sorrow, but his passing was so hard to accept.
Adam broke the silence. “I didn’t want to wait until morning to tell you. I thought you would want to know.”
“You’re right, Adam. It was thoughtful of you to come and tell me yourself.” Cara’s voice sounded surprisingly calm.
Dinah spoke up. “Dr. Byford will send a telegram to Doc’s sister Margaret in the morning. He said he will wait until she arrives to make arrangements for the wake.”
At the mention of Doc’s sister Margaret, Cara thought briefly about the woman who had stirred up so much trouble for her and Adam last summer. She was not looking forward to seeing her again. Yet, she knew Doc and his sister had been close, and she would most likely be here for the wake.
“Would you like another cup of tea, Cara?” Dinah asked.
The shock of Doc’s death had subsided. Cara still felt shaken and her heart was heavy, but she was regaining control over her emotions. Soon, Hope would be awake, and she would need to feed her. Then she would have to go through the motions of the day, just as if nothing tragic had happened.
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. It must be about time for chores, isn’t it?”
“It’s getting close,” Adam said. “I’ll take Ma home, and then come back, if that’s all right.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you for coming.”
“Send Adam over if you need anything, Cara.” Dinah’s gentle voice almost brought Cara to tears again. Dinah came over and hugged Cara, and the tender, motherly embrace caused the tears to flow. Cara stepped back, wiping her eyes.
“I’ll be back as soon as I get the chores done, Cara,” Adam promised, kissing her cheek.
Hope awakened. Cara still nursed her in the mornings and at bedtime, but she was trying to wean her before the wedding. Today, she would not even try to deal with a fussy baby. She nursed her, then changed and fixed her hair. Although her world had just fallen apart, Adam would be hungry after chores, and the children would need to eat. She went through the motions of cooking breakfast, scarcely aware that she was fixing oatmeal and fried eggs.
She and Adam told the children at breakfast.
“Doc passed away last night.”
“What does passed away mean, Ma?” Remmie asked.
“It means Doc died, Remmie.”
“Oh.” Remmie looked ready to cry. “Like my pa?”
“Yes, son. He won’t be with us anymore.”
Rose didn’t understand. “Doc coming’?” she asked.
“Rose, Ma just said Doc died. Don’t you understand?”
“Doc die?” Rose repeated the words, but she was too little to comprehend their meaning.
A glance at Charity showed the girl’s sad expression, but Cara was unclear whether or not Charity fully understood. Her daughter would be four years old in a few days. Was that too young to understand what death meant?”
Adam stayed in the house all day. Cara fought to keep her tears under control. She didn’t want to frighten the children, but she could scarcely think of Doc without crying. Adam kept the children busy while she did her morning chores, stopping a fight between Remmie and Rose and bouncing Hope on his knee when she grew fussy.
About noon, Dinah and Evan came to the door. Rose went right over to Evan and held up her arms, and he lifted her up. She patted his beard contentedly.
“How are you doing, Cara?” Dinah asked. Cara shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. Dinah seemed to understand.
She held out a covered dish. “I’ve made some chicken soup with dumplings in it for your lunch. I thought you might not feel like cooking.”
Cara hadn’t given any thought to a noon meal. “Thank you. It is greatly appreciated.”
“Dr. Byford received a telegram from Margaret. She is coming on the afternoon train, and will be here this evening.”
“I must admit, I am not looking forward to seeing her again,” Cara said.
“I understand. But we must be kind to her, for she and Doc were very close.”
“I know.” Cara knew how much Doc had loved his sister, despite her overbearing ways.
“How is your black dress, Cara? Will it need to be laundered?”
Cara turned ashen. “I haven’t given it any thought.”
“Why don’t you show it to me, and if you like, I’ll take it home and freshen it up for you.”
Cara led Dinah into the bedroom, and retrieved her black dress. It was clean but wrinkled.
“I’ll press it for you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Agnes ordered shoes for me for the wedding. If they have come in, I would like to have them for the wake.” That brought another concern to Cara’s mind. “I suppose all of those things I ordered – I will need to pay for them now?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to Agnes, and we’ll see what needs to be done.”
“We best go, so these folks can eat,” Evan said, setting Rose down.
“I eat,” Rose said happily, bringing a smile to the faces of the adults. Even in the most tragic of times, small children could bring joy to one’s heart.
The soup was good, and the dumplings were comforting, but Cara could scarcely eat. Remmie and Charity picked at their food, and Cara realized how hard the news had been on them. In the afternoon, she joined the children and Adam in the sitting room.
“You look like you could use a nap,” Adam said after a little while.
“So do you.”
“Why don’t you see if you can rest for a while?” he suggested. “If I get tired I can doze off in a chair.”
Cara took Rose and Charity with her and they lay down on the bed. Rose tossed and turned for a few minutes, then fell asleep. Charity snuggled up beside Cara.
“What are you thinking about, Charity?” Cara asked.
“I don’t want Doc to die.”
Cara felt tears sting her eyes. “I didn’t want him to either, Charity. But people die, whether we want them to or not.”
“Well, Doc was very old, and very tired.” Cara chose her words carefully. “He lived a long time, and I think he was ready to rest.”
“I’m sad because Doc died,” Charity said.
Cara hugged her little daughter. “So am I, Charity. So am I.”
Later that evening, it was time for Adam to leave. He rose reluctantly and retrieved his boots. As he put them on, he saw the sorrowful look on Cara’s face. How would she cope when she was here by herself, with no one to talk to?
“I don’t want to leave you here alone,” he said truthfully.
“I don’t want you to go,” she replied, equally honest.
Her words struck a chord in his emotions. If things were different – he could stay. But he knew where things could lead, and it wouldn’t be right for them to be together – not yet.
“I’ll be back in the morning,” he said, although he knew it was of little consolation to her. She rose, and he drew her into the circle of his arms. When he kissed her, she clung to him, and his arms tightened around her. For a moment, he forgot about everything except for Cara, and how much he loved her. Then reality sank in, and he reluctantly ended the kiss. “I have to go, Cara.”
Tears formed in her eyes, but she nodded. “I know.”
Long after Adam left, Cara lay in bed, staring up at the dark ceiling. She wanted to pray and ask God for His comfort, but all she felt in her heart was a complete sense of loss. She couldn’t form the words to pray, and the tears began to flow. She hadn’t cried so hard since the day she lost Gran. Then, as now, she had felt completely alone, even though she had Lem in her life back then, and she had Adam now. Yet, even Adam’s love for her could not replace the loss of her beloved friend.
When Adam came into the house in the morning, he noticed how tired Cara looked. Her eyes were slightly swollen, and he knew she had spent most of the night crying. He hadn’t slept well, either. He had thought about Cara all night, and prayed for God to comfort her. He wondered if his prayers had been heard.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m getting by all right.”
It was a lie, and Adam knew it, but he did not correct her.
“Ma says the wake is going to be held in Doc’s office.”
“At two o’clock this afternoon. Ma said you might like to go a little early, though, before everyone else arrives.”
“How will Margaret feel about that?”
“Ma asked her, and she said it would be fine. She wants to see you and the children.”
“I’m not so sure I want to see her.”
“I know. But we have to be polite to her, since Doc’s death is going to be tough on her.”
“I know it is. Doc was all the family she had left.” Even as she said the words, Cara almost started to cry. Doc had been all the family she had, also, besides the children.
Adam sat down to breakfast. Cara and the children joined him. The meal passed in near-silence. Cara took a couple of bites of her hotcakes, and barely choked them down. She drank a little coffee, but she could not eat.
After breakfast, Adam brought in water to heat for the children’s baths.
“I was too tired last night to think of bathing them,” Cara explained when she asked him about it.
“Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“I don’t think so. Just having you here – “ Her voice broke down.
“I’ll be here for you, as long as you need me.”
By the time baths were finished and the children all dressed, Adam was getting the horse and buggy ready. The day was clear and starting to turn warm, but Cara bundled the children into their warm wraps. They had not gone far down the road when Remmie complained.
“This jacket scratches, and it’s too tight.”
“Those are the same clothes you wear for church, Remmie. You don’t complain of it on Sundays.”
“It doesn’t make me itch on Sundays.”
Cara glanced at Adam, and saw the corner of his mouth curve up in a grin. She almost smiled, herself. Then the thought struck her that Remmie might be complaining because he was grieving, and didn’t know how to talk about it. That made her sad.
“Sing for us, Adam,” Remmie said.
“Adam sing!” Rose repeated excitedly.
Adam’s eyes met Cara’s. “I don’t think I can, Remmie.”
“Sometimes, when we’re sad, it’s hard to sing.”
“Are you sad, Adam?”
Remmie’s question was so direct that it took Adam by surprise. “Well, yes, Remmie, I am sad. This is a sad day for all of us.”
“I know. Doc died.” Remmie’s quiet statement brought tears to Cara’s eyes. She could hardly bear her own sorrow, but it was even harder to see her children grieving.
“Doc died,” Rose said solemnly.
“Yes, Doc died, but he is in heaven now,” Adam told them. “In heaven, there is no more pain or sadness, so Doc is in a happy place.”
Remmie seemed to accept Adam’s answer, but Cara wondered if her son really understood the meaning.
Adam stopped the horse and buggy in the street in front of Doc’s office. It was a logical place for the wake to be held, but Cara felt her feet dragging as she walked up to the door.
Dr. Byford answered the door. He looked very grave.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Bancroft.”
Cara’s eyes clouded with tears. “Thank you,” she said softly. She gathered the children close and they followed Dr. Byford into the waiting room. Doc’s casket was resting on a table, and she could see his snow-white hair from where she stood. Her knees felt weak, and she felt Adam’s hand grasp her arm. She leaned against him for support.
Margaret stood near the casket, draped in a black dress and hat. When she turned, Cara saw that she was crying. Any hard feelings she had for Margaret faded in that moment. They had both loved Doc, and they were both mourning their loss. In that, they were united.
Cara straightened and moved forward, as Margaret came towards her.
“My dear, I’m so glad you’ve come,” Margaret said, reaching out and clasping Cara’s hands.
“I’m sorry that he’s gone,” Cara said softly.
“He’s in a better place,” Margaret said, but her lip trembled.
“I know. It’s so hard to believe that he’s not with us anymore.”
Margaret took Cara’s arm and led her up to the casket. Cara stared down at the one person who had stood by her since her grandmother’s death. He had loved her and the children like his own, and she had thought of him as a father. Life would never be the same without him.
She felt Remmie tugging on her arm, and she glanced down at him.
She put a finger to her lips. “Hush, Remmie. This isn’t the time to ask questions.”
Adam drew Remmie to his side, and Cara realized she had sounded harsh. She looked helplessly at Adam, and he gave her a comforting smile. Then he silently took the children over to the chairs and sat down with them, holding Hope in one arm and Rose in the other. Remmie sat tight to his side. Only Charity remained beside her mother.
“When he came and saw me last, I knew he wasn’t doing very well,” Margaret was saying. “I tried to get him to come and live with me, but he didn’t want to move to the city.”
“I suppose not,” Cara murmured politely.
“I think he wanted to stay close to you and the children. You were like family to him.” Margaret did not seem upset with the fact, however.
“He was like a father to me,” Cara admitted, hoping her words did not cause the older woman anger.
Margaret’s expression was sad, but she managed a little smile. “I’m glad he had you and the children to care for him.” Cara was relieved at Margaret’s kind words. “He and Patsy never were able to have children, and of course, my husband and I couldn’t either. You meant a lot to him.”
Tears welled up in Cara’s eyes. Doc had meant so much to her, as well. His friendship could never be replaced.
Margaret wanted to talk about Doc, and Cara stayed close to her side, listening and commenting here and there. She glanced over at Adam often and saw that he and the children were seated quietly. Whenever their eyes met, he smiled his encouragement. It helped so much to have him there.
Rose started to grow restless, and Cara thought she should go to her children. Margaret’s arm slipped through Cara’s when she started to move away.
“Please stay with me, dear.”
“I’m not sure I should.”
“It doesn’t matter to me what anyone thinks,” Margaret said. When Cara looked at her in puzzlement, she added, “I know what I did last summer, Cara, and I’m not proud of it. I realized that you and Adam were not what I imagined you to be, but by then it was too late to take back my words.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Cara said, trying to sound reassuring.
“It does matter. I’ve been hoping for a chance to ask your forgiveness.”
It was easy to accept Margaret’s apology standing near Doc’s casket. It was as if Doc himself were pleading with Cara to forgive his sister.
“Of course, I forgive you.”
“Now, people are starting to come, and I want you by my side. I don’t want to go through this all alone.”
Cara was glad to see Adam’s parents among the first to arrive. After they paid their respects to Doc, and said a few words to Cara and Margaret, Dinah took Charity’s hand and walked over to the corner where Adam and the other children were seated. Cara felt better with the Kenleys helping Adam. Remmie would sit quietly enough, but Rose did not understand how to be appropriately quiet.
People were crowding into the room now, and everyone came forward to pay their last respects to Doc. Everyone had a kind word for Margaret, and some had kind words for Cara as well. For the most part, however, she was ignored. She wished she could crawl away and not have to talk to one more person. Margaret stood staunchly beside her, as if daring anyone to object to her presence.
She could see from a distance that Rose was growing restless. Hope began to fuss, and she knew it would not be long until she was crying in earnest.
“Please excuse me, Margaret. I need to tend to the children.”
Margaret looked surprised. “I think Adam and his parents can handle them, Cara.”
“Rose is growing restless, and I’ll need to feed Hope.”
“Well, then, if you must go.” Margaret seemed reluctant to let Cara leave, but the children were demanding her attention.
Cara took the girls to the rooms in back of the office, where Doc had lived. She avoided looking at the door to his bedroom. Instead she sat in the other room, in a rocking chair in front of a fireplace. She wished the fire was lit, she felt so cold.
Cara allowed Hope to nurse. After the news of Doc’s death, it had made sense to Cara to continue nursing her. She was not up to dealing with a fussy baby along with the turmoil she felt inside.
She felt numb. Seeing all of those people come forward to see Doc one last time had been almost unbearable. The women had been weeping, and even a few of the men were misty-eyed. She had fought back tears as she stood there quietly beside the casket, unwilling to let anyone see her break down. Now, as she sat in the quiet room with her children, she felt tears form in her eyes. She missed Doc so much already, and he had not even been buried yet. How would she endure a future without his kindness and compassion? She did not think she could stand it with him being gone.
Before Hope had finished nursing, Dinah was at the door. “It’s time we were going to the cemetery, Cara.”
Hope was not completely satisfied, but Cara passed her to Dinah and buttoned her bodice. She followed Dinah from the room, and joined Adam in the parlor. He had a concerned look on his face as he met her eyes.
“How are you doing?”
Tears threatened to fall. Cara squared her shoulders back.
“I’m doing fine,” she lied.
Margaret walked over to them. “I’ll be riding to the cemetery with Dr. Byford. Cara, will you ride with us?”
“I don’t know if it’s appropriate,” Cara said hesitantly.
“I think you ought to go with her,” Dinah said. “We’ll follow close behind.”
On the way to the cemetery, Margaret wanted to talk. “I never dreamed so many people would turn out for Erich’s wake.”
“He was loved by everyone in the community.”
“I’m glad they loved him so. He was a good man,” Margaret said, choking back a sob. “I’m all alone in this world now, Cara.”
Cara felt like she was, too, but she could not say that to Doc’s sister. “I’m sorry.”
“We lived apart, but he corresponded with me and we visited a few times a year,” Margaret said as though to herself. “I don’t know what I will do without his companionship.”
Cara wished Margaret would be quiet, for she was voicing her own thoughts without realizing it. She did not want to be crying when they arrived at the cemetery.
Dr. Byford brought the carriage to a stop inside the cemetery. He helped Cara and Margaret from the buggy.
“Mama!” she heard Rose shout. She turned to see Rose running towards her. Adam caught her and picked her up. He stood away from the grave, and he looked unsure of his place. Cara took a step towards him, and he came nearer.
“I don’t know where we should stand,” he said quietly.
“I want the children here with me.”
Adam set Rose down, and walked away. Cara wanted to tell him to come back, but the words stuck in her throat.
Adam felt wounded when Cara all but sent him away from her. He had tried to be the good husband and father today that he was soon going to be. It had surprised him that Margaret wanted Cara to stand beside her and greet the mourners. He hadn’t minded at first. She had been so close to Doc, and it was her rightful place to be by his side. He had taken the children and kept them quiet, so they did not disturb the wake. It had been a handful, to keep Rose quiet. His ma had helped some, and he did not know how he would have handled things if she had not been there to help.
It was hard not to feel a little resentful that Cara had ignored him all morning. Other than a few glances to check on the children, she had not seemed to notice he was there at all. Even now, she had said she wanted the children with her, but she had not said anything about wanting him there by her side. He did not want to stick around where he wasn’t wanted. He joined his parents and brothers in the line of mourners gathered around the grave, while wanting to be at Cara and the children’s side. It was his place, he felt, to be with her. After all, they were engaged to be married. But it almost felt like she had forgotten that, in her grieving over Doc.
“Jesus said, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.’ “ The preacher’s voice spoke with authority. “Doc believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior, and we know that his spirit has gone on to his heavenly reward. Now we commit his body to its final resting place. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
When the casket was lowered into the ground, Margaret wept openly. Cara fought back tears, but it was too much for her, and she started to cry. Adam wished he were beside her, where he could hold her in his arms and comfort her. Instead, he had to watch from a distance, unable to help her.
“Go to her, son,” he heard his ma say. He shook his head slightly.
“I don’t know if she wants me there,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Of course she does.”
Adam hoped his ma was right. He moved forward, and came up beside Cara. He put his arm around her shoulders, and she glanced up at him.
“Oh, Adam,” she cried softly.
“I’m sorry, Cara. I’m sorry that he’s gone.”
She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he felt how weak she was. He held her, willing to impart his own strength to her. When he felt her crumple against him, he realized she had fainted.
Cara came to in Adam’s arms, with Dinah and Margaret hovering over her. She was immediately embarrassed that she had fainted, in front of all of these people.
“Are you all right, dear?” Margaret asked in concern.
“Yes, I am,” Cara said, struggling to stand.
“Take your time, Cara,” Dinah said. “You’re really pale.”
“She didn’t eat any breakfast,” Adam spoke up.
“I didn’t think so.” Dinah laid a comforting hand on Cara’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but we have to take care of ourselves in times such as this.”
“I’ll be all right.” Cara stood on shaking legs, and leaned against Adam for support. All eyes at the gravesite were on her now, and she felt humiliated to have shown such weakness.
“We need to get you home, so you can rest.” Adam’s concern was evident in the grim set to his mouth.
Cara shook her head. “I’ll be expected to be there.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll be all right, after I’ve had something to eat.”
Margaret slipped her hand through Cara’s arm. “I’m feeling quite weak myself. Would that all of these people would go away so I could rest.”
“That’s how I feel,” Cara admitted.
“It will be over soon.” Dinah’s words were promising.
Adam helped Cara into Dr. Byford’s buggy, and then assisted Margaret as well. After the buggy was started down the road, Margaret said, “Adam is a very kind man.”
“Yes, he is.” A small smile curve Cara’s mouth.
“I noticed during that brief visit last summer how attentive he was to you and to the children. I think that’s why I thought there was something between the two of you, he was so caring.”
“He’s that way with everyone.”
“But especially with you, and the children.” Margaret sighed. “My husband was a very solicitous man as well. He always treated me kindly, no matter what I did or said. I see that same attribute in Adam.”
Cara thought about the argument she had with Adam a few weeks back. He had been angry with her, and he had raised his voice in front of the children. He had frightened Charity with his intensity, but it had been out of character for him. She did not think she had anything to worry about in their marriage.
Margaret talked about her late husband as they traveled the distance between the cemetery and the schoolhouse, where the meal was to be held. Cara tried to listen and put in appropriate comments, but her thoughts were on the task ahead of her. She dreaded spending any more time with the people of the community. She just wanted to go home and rest.
Adam was waiting for her, and helped her from the buggy. His ma held Hope, and Rose was content to be in Evan’s arms. Charity clung to Cara’s skirt.
“I think she missed you,” Adam said with a grin.
“It’s hard for her, with all of these strangers around.” Dinah gave an understanding smile.
“It’s only a little while longer, Charity.” Cara’s voice was reassuring.
The ladies of the church had all brought in food, and the tables were heaped with dishes of every variety. There was fried chicken and sandwiches, ham and baked beans, relishes, pies and cakes. Cara sat with the children and tried to eat a few bites, but she had no appetite. The children only picked at their food.
Hope started to cry. Cara looked around for Adam. He had been talking with his brothers, but he started in her direction at the sound of Hope’s cries.
“I think we should leave,” Cara said. “Hope will need to be fed.”
“And it’s time to do chores,” he said. He took Hope from Cara and cradled her. She settled down against his shoulder.
“I should say good-bye to Margaret,” Cara said. She found Margaret talking with Mr. Walker, the lawyer. “Mrs. Bancroft, I’ve been meaning to talk with you,” Mr. Walker said.
“We’re going to have the reading of Doc’s will tomorrow at ten o’clock.”
“That should not pertain to me,” Cara protested. “I’m not family.”
“Doc specifically told me that when the time came for me to read his will, for you to be present.”
Cara looked at Margaret. She did not look surprised, or displeased.
“Mr. Walker is right, Cara. Doc mentioned his will to me only once, but he told me what was going to be in it. I think you ought to be present.”
“All right, then.”
When Cara and Adam left the house, Cara told Adam about the reading of the will. “For some reason, Doc wanted me to be present when it is read.”
“I’ll see if Ma can keep the children, and I will bring you into town.”
They returned to the farm. After helping Cara and the children into the house, he said, “Don’t worry about fixing supper tonight. I’m still full from the luncheon.”
“The children did not eat well. I’ll have to fix something for them.”
“Keep it simple, then,” he said, smiling. His look was tender, and she felt warm and cared-for.
The children were happy to be home. Remmie took out his blocks and wooden animals and played by the hearth. Rose and Charity brought their dolls into the kitchen, where Cara fixed a simple meal of bread and milk. When Adam came into the house, everyone was peacefully occupied.
“It’s quiet in here.”
“I think they’re all too tired to make much noise. I’m going to put them to bed early tonight.”
“No,” Rose said in protest.
“Rose.” Cara’s tone was sharp. “You need to behave, young lady.”
“She’s been pretty good, considering.”
After the supper dishes were done, Cara joined Adam and the children in the sitting room. Adam brought out the Bible instead of the Bible story book.
“My ma suggested we read Psalm 46. I think the message of these verses is appropriate for this evening.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…”
Cara felt comforted by the thought of God being her refuge and strength. She had wanted to hide out today, away from all of the people. It had been God’s strength that had carried her through those awful hours.
The final verses of the Psalm struck a chord in Cara’s heart. “Be still, and know that I am God…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
“I needed to hear those words tonight,” Cara said.
Adam agreed. “They do seem fitting for our present situation. Even with all of the confusion of these past two days, God has been with us.”
“He’s been my strength. There was a time, not too long ago, when I didn’t look to the Lord for my strength.”
“And now that you have?”
“I could not get through these days without His presence.”
Adam grinned. “You don’t know how good it is to hear those words.”
“My turn, Adam!” Rose demanded, bringing the Bible story book to Adam.
He lifted her, book and all, onto his lap. “Are you ready for a story, Rose?”
Cara’s mind wandered back to the Psalm while Adam read the Bible story, but all three children listened with rapt attention. Hope had fallen asleep in her lap. Before Adam finished the story, Rose was nodding off in his arms.
“I think it’s time for three little children to go to bed.”
“No bed,” Rose said, fighting even as she was drifting off to sleep.
Cara reached out for Rose, but Adam shook his head. “I’ll carry her into the bedroom for you. She’s getting too big for you to be lifting.”
“I’ve gotten my strength back.”
“And I want you to keep your strength, not wearing yourself out carrying the bigger children.”
She was about to protest, and then clamped her mouth shut. Adam was saying that because he truly cared about her, and the thought made her joyful.
With the girls tucked into bed, and Remmie gone upstairs, Adam said, “How about a cup of tea?”
“You’re asking for tea?”
“Ma always said tea is good for comfort. I think that’s what we need tonight, don’t you?”
Cara brewed some tea and brought a cup for herself and for Adam. “Shall we sit in the parlor?” she suggested.
Adam carried the lamp into the parlor, and joined Cara on the sofa. In silence, they sipped their tea. Cara leaned her head back against the cushion, closing her eyes.
He saw the tears flowing down Cara’s cheeks. He set aside his cup, and took hers gently out of her hands. “Cara, I feel so bad for you. I don’t know what to say.”
“There’s nothing you can say right now. I’m hurting so bad inside that I don’t think words will help.”
Adam gathered her into his arms, and held her as she wept. He was so moved by her emotion that tears formed in his own eyes. He blinked them back, unwilling to have her see him cry. There was nothing he could say to comfort her. He hoped by holding her close, she would know how much he loved her.
“Cara,” he murmured. She looked up. Her eyes were filled with grief. He laid a hand against her soft cheek, wiping away a stray tear. “I love you.” He pressed his lips to hers gently at first. He tried to pour all of his love into that kiss, wanting to comfort her. Then the tempo of their kiss changed, and he forgot about everything except Cara, and the joy of holding her in his arms.
Cara lost herself in Adam’s kisses. She could push aside her sorrow, as she was wrapped up in the wonder of their love. She clung to Adam, wanting that wonderful feeling to go on and on. As long as he was holding her, she could forget about Doc’s death.
After an indefinite amount of time, she felt Adam draw back. She didn’t want to let go.
“Cara,” he said in a thick voice. “We have to stop.”
His words were like a bucket of water on the fire that his kisses had kindled. She felt cold inside as he moved away from her.
He sounded worried. Cara couldn’t meet his eyes. How could she say what she felt in her heart? She wanted him to go on kissing her – forever. She didn’t want him to leave.
“I think it’s time I was heading home,” he said, in a reluctant voice. When she did not answer, he lifted her chin, so he could see her face. Cara could not hide the tears that spilled over onto her cheeks.
“Please stay,” she whispered.
Her words pierced his heart. He wanted to stay, more than anything. He didn’t want to leave her alone, not tonight – not while the grief over Doc’s death was still raw. But he could not stay. If he stayed, he would not be able to keep his distance from her. In their emotional state, it was too easy to get swept away.
They would be married soon. If he stayed, for a little while longer, he knew he wouldn’t want to leave. And if he did not come home, his parents would know where he was, and they would guess at what happened. He could not face them if he stayed with Cara.
He would do the right thing, even though the right thing was not easy.
“I have to go.” He regretted the pain he saw in Cara’s eyes. “I can’t stay here with you tonight.”
Her face flushed with embarrassment. “I know.”
“Do you want me to bring my ma back, to stay with you?”
“No.” Cara sat up straight, folding her hands in her lap. He knew that look, that stubborn set to her chin. “No, I don’t need your ma to come and stay. I will be all right.”
“Will you see me to the door?” he asked.
Cara waited in the front room while Adam put on his boots and coat. He paused before opening the door, and drew her into his arms for a brief hug.
“I’ll be back in the morning.”
Cara scarcely slept that night. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see Doc as he lay in the casket, lifeless. She could see the casket being lowered into the ground. It was such an air of finality. She had not felt so great a loss since Gran had died.
When Gran died, Cara had not understood the plan of salvation. Gran had believed she would be in heaven, so Cara had believed it, too. Yet, it had not given her a sense of peace. Being born again had given her a new understanding of heaven. Even in the midst of her grief over Doc’s death, she believed that he was in a better place. Reunited with his wife, and all of the loved ones who had gone on before, he would never again know pain or suffering.
Knowing all of that did not ease her own pain and grief. She wrestled with her emotions long into the night. It seemed that she had just fallen asleep when Hope awakened, crying to be fed.
Cara fed the baby, and then put on her black dress. If she had to go into town for the will to be read, then she would wear the mourning gown. It did not seem appropriate to do otherwise.
Adam came in after the chores were done. He kissed Cara on the cheek, and she sensed him studying her. She tried to put on a brave front, but he was not fooled.
“You didn’t get much sleep.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I should have brought Ma over. She said this morning that she would have stayed with you, had she known how difficult it was for you to stay alone.”
“I don’t think it would have made a difference, having her here. It’s something I need to work out on my own.”
Her words bothered him, judging by the look on his face. “I hope you know you don’t have to go through this on your own. I’m here for you.”
He hadn’t been here last night. The words crept into Cara’s thoughts, and she pushed them aside. She understood why Adam hadn’t stayed.
She had fixed a big breakfast. Adam and the children ate hungrily. Recalling her fainting experience of the day before, Cara forced herself to eat a bowl of porridge and an egg. She did not want to show any sign of weakness today.
“Ma said the children could stay there with her. Not the baby, of course.”
“Do I have to stay with Mrs. Kenley, Mama?” Charity asked in a worried voice as they were getting ready to leave.
“Yes, you do. You children have to stay with her for a while today.”
“Why, Ma?” Remmie wanted to know.
“I have some things to take care of in town, and I can’t take you children with me. Except for Hope, of course. She is too little to stay with Mrs. Kenley.”
Dinah came out onto the porch as Adam drove up in the buggy. When Cara started to step down, she called out, “You don’t have to get out if you don’t want to, Cara. Adam can bring the children in. I’m sure you’re anxious to be on your way.”
Cara smiled, but inside she was dreading her trip into town. She did not know why she had to be present, and could only hope that it wasn’t terrible news.
“The children will be all right,” Adam said when he returned to the buggy. She let him think that her quietness was concern over her children. They didn’t talk as they drove into town.
Margaret was already waiting at the lawyer’s office when Adam and Cara arrived.
“This meeting is for Margaret and Cara, and Dr. Byford, only,” Mr. Walker said, when Adam started to follow Cara into the office.
“Adam and I are engaged to be married, Mr. Walker. I’d like to have him present also.”
Mr. Walker looked askance at Margaret.
She smiled. “That will be all right. Doc approved of their marriage, and he would want Adam to know.”
Know what? Cara thought curiously. She sat in a straight-backed chair, and folded her hands in her lap.
Mr. Walker unfolded a long white paper, and began the reading of the will. Cara listened intently as Doc’s final wishes were expressed. Dr. Byford had purchased the practice from Doc before he died. The office and its furnishings were all part of the purchase agreement. In a generous move, Doc left the house in town to Philip and Ayla, who had made it their residence on a temporary agreement. Cara knew that her friends would be overwhelmed with gratitude to have a place of their own, and not have to pay for rent somewhere else.
“Does anyone object to that arrangement?” Mr. Walker asked.
Cara shook her head.
“He asked that ten percent of his estate be set aside as a tithe to the church,” Mr. Walker said. “Does anyone object to that?”
“Of course not,” Margaret spoke up. “He would have wanted the church to have a portion of his estate.”
“The jewelry that is in his safety deposit box, he leaves to his sister Margaret.”
Cara was not surprised at this, but the next statement shocked her.
“And he leaves the balance of his estate to Cara Bancroft.”
She felt the color drain from her face. Mr. Walker repeated his words. “Do you understand what this means, Mrs. Bancroft?”
“Margaret?” Cara looked at Doc’s sister. Margaret was beaming.
“I knew what he was going to do, Cara. He spoke of it the last time he visited me.”
“How do you feel about it, Mrs. Warner?” Mr. Walker asked.
“I don’t have any objections to his decision.” She spoke with a genuineness which Cara found surprising.
“But he is leaving you with nothing, except the jewelry,” Cara said in protest.
“My dear, my own husband died a very wealthy man,” Margaret said. “Doc knew that I am comfortably taken care of for the rest of my life. In fact, I have more money than I need. His intention was to provide for you and your children, so that you would never be in want.”
“But—” Cara felt Adam squeeze her hand. She looked up at him anxiously.
“If it’s what Doc wanted, Cara, then it must be all right,” he said quietly.
“I questioned Doc about this when he made out his will,” Mr. Walker said. “I told him it was highly unusual for someone to leave his estate to someone outside of the family. He told me that besides his sister, you were his family, you and your children. He looked on you as a daughter, and he insisted that he wanted to provide for your future.”
“I didn’t know all of this.”
“Does anyone object to Doc’s decision to leave his estate to Cara Bancroft?” Mr. Walker asked.
“On the contrary. I wholly support that decision,” Margaret spoke up confidently.
“Mrs. Bancroft?” Mr. Walker eyed her keenly. “Do you object?”
She shook her head, dumbfounded. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t want to go against Doc’s wishes.”
“Well, then, you are a very rich woman, Mrs. Bancroft.” Mr. Walker named the amount of Doc’s estate. Her head was swimming with the numbers.
“Now, Cara, you won’t ever have to worry about losing your farm,” Margaret said, reaching over and covering Cara’s hand with her own. “Isn’t that truly a wonderful feeling?”
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Cara admitted.
Dr. Byford excused himself and left.
“Are you sure about this, Margaret?” Cara asked in a serious tone.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Margaret’s look was equally serious. “It was what Erich wanted.”
“And you are certain you have enough to live on?”
Margaret smiled. “I’m a very rich woman, also, Cara. Of course I have enough.”
Cara looked up at Adam. “Do you think it is right for me to take the money?”
He nodded. “You will have enough for everything you need, and you will be able to provide for the children’s future. I think that was what Doc wanted for you.”
Margaret took Cara’s hand. “Now, Cara, I’ve been meaning to ask you something. You know I am going back home tomorrow?”
“I wasn’t sure.”
“Well, I’d like you to consider coming with me, you and your children.”
Cara’s shock must have registered on her face, for Margaret added, “I’m serious. As you know, Doc was all I had left in this world.” Tears formed in the older woman’s eyes.
“I know.” Cara’s eyes clouded with tears.
“I don’t want to be myself. I want you and the children to come and stay with me.”
Cara glanced at Adam. He was surprised, and tightlipped. She wondered what he was thinking.
“For a visit?” she asked.
“For as long as you will stay. I know your plans were to marry Adam, but under the circumstances, I don’t think this is an appropriate time for a wedding. I thought you might like to come to the city for a while.”
“Adam, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, Cara. Ma and I were talking about the wedding this morning. She doesn’t think we should go ahead as planned.”
Tears filled her eyes. She didn’t want things to change.
“You don’t have to give me your answer right now, dear,” Margaret said. “Why don’t you think about it, and you can send word this evening. I’ll wait until I hear from you, one way or the other, before I leave tomorrow.”
Cara felt her emotions were in a state of upheaval.
“Now, why don’t you let me buy the two of you dinner?” Margaret said. “I don’t like to eat alone, and it’s lunchtime.”
They went to the hotel, and Cara ordered soup and crackers. Adam ordered chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. He insisted on paying for it, but Margaret was more stubborn.
She talked at length about her home in the city, and her circle of friends. “I’d like to introduce you to them, Cara. I’d like them to meet the person whom Doc so highly favored.”
“They won’t want to meet me.” Cara was certain of that.
“They don’t know anything about your past. It will be like having a fresh start for you.”
Cara heard the words, ‘fresh start.’ How often had she thought about how it might be to go away and start over someplace else? To go to a place where no one knew about her past mistakes? Where she would not be judged by them? It was almost a sign from above to have the offer put before her, especially now that her best friend was gone.
On the way home from town, Adam said, “Are you considering Margaret’s offer?”
“I am. It might be good for the children and I to get away for a little while.”
“What about our wedding?”
“You said your ma didn’t think we should get married right now.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to go away.”
“If I go away, I’ll come back, Adam.” Her quiet words were meant to be reassuring. He didn’t look convinced.
“Are you sure?”
The words “fresh start” came to mind again. It was tempting to go away and start over, but she had a life here, with Adam. She smiled.
He reached out and covered her hand with his. “I was worried that you might not decide to get married after all.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just need some time, that’s all.”
“We have all the time in the world,” he said, but she could tell that he was still worried.
They drove to his parents’ home. When they walked into the house, the children ran to them excitedly. Cara couldn’t help but notice that they were as excited to see Adam as they were to see her, especially Rose and Remmie.
“How did your meeting go?” Dinah asked.
Cara glanced at Adam. He motioned for her to go ahead and tell his ma.
“How about a cup of coffee?” Dinah said. “We’ll all sit down and have a visit.”
Adam led Cara to the parlor, and they sat down on the sofa. Rose squeezed her way in between them. Dinah brought cups of coffee, and cream and sugar for Cara.
“Do you want to tell her, Adam?” Cara asked.
“No, I think you should.” He smiled at her encouragingly.
“Doc left everything to me. Except for some jewelry that he left to Margaret.”
Dinah did not look surprised.
“Did you know he was going to do that?” Cara asked.
“He told me a while back that he wanted to take care of you and the children after he was gone. I wasn’t sure what he had planned, but I thought it might be something about his will.”
“I don’t know if I should accept it. I’m not his family.”
“Other than Margaret, Doc had no family, Cara. I think you were family to him.”
Tears formed in Cara’s eyes. “Sometimes I wonder why. Why did he care so much for me and the children?”
“Doc was very close to your grandmother. So close, in fact, that he wanted to marry her. Why she refused him I do not know, but he never stopped loving her.”
“So he cared for me because he loved my grandmother?”
“No, I don’t think that was the only reason. When your grandmother died, he knew you didn’t have any family left, besides your husband and children. I think he felt kinship towards you, since he was alone in the world, as well as you. And you and your children needed his friendship, because—” Dinah paused as though unsure if she should continue.
“Because everyone else treated us so terribly?”
“I think that’s why. He knew you were not the kind of person everyone thought you were, and he stuck by you and defended you.”
“He was the only one, then.”
Dinah blushed. “I never thought the rumors were true, from what little I had been around you when your grandmother was alive. But I never stood up for you, or befriended you.”
Seeing that Dinah felt badly about the fact, Cara said, “I never expected you to.” Evan would not have approved of Dinah befriending her.
“What will you do with the money?” Dinah asked.
“I’ll pay the dressmaker, for one thing.”
“Agnes said that Doc had already paid her for your order. In fact, he gave her more than enough money, so she wanted to see whether there was anything else you might want.”
“I don’t know what I will do with the dresses now, if we’re not going to get married.”
Dinah looked surprised. “You’re not going to get married after all?”
“Adam said you thought we should put off the wedding for a while.”
“Well, I did say that I don’t think we should go ahead with a big wedding right now. It might be well to observe a mourning period for Doc.”
“That’s what I think, too.” Cara still wanted to marry Adam, but it was too soon after Doc’s death to think about a wedding.
“Margaret has asked me to go with her to the city for a visit.”
“With the children?” Diana was taken aback.
“Yes, the children and I. I think it would be nice to go.”
“So you are thinking of going.” Adam sounded disappointed.
“Yes, I am. I won’t go with her tomorrow. I don’t think there is enough time to get ready for that. But I will go in a week or two, once I have things prepared.”
“What kind of preparations do you need to make?” Dinah asked.
“The children need new clothes. They have the new things you made for the wedding, but they will need a few things that are less fancy, also.”
“I’d be happy to make the girls’ dresses, and some clothes for Remmie. You don’t have to go to any expense.”
Cara’s mouth turned down sadly. “I guess I don’t have to worry about expenses now.”
Adam reached over and squeezed Cara’s hand. He didn’t like the idea of her going to the city, but he didn’t think he should say that to Cara. If she wanted to go and get away for a few days, then he wanted to be supportive of her. Still, he was afraid that once she was gone, she would never come back.
Now that her decision had been made, Cara prepared for an extended visit to the city. She was glad that they had already sewn her trousseau. Along with her wedding dress, she had ordered two good dresses, and an everyday housedress, to be made. Now that they were going to the city, she had Agnes make her a new black dress, also. Dinah had made new dresses and a new suit for Remmie for the wedding. Now she used the same patterns and made two outfits each in less expensive fabrics, but fancy enough to be suitable for visiting Margaret. Cara knew Margaret well enough to know she would be expected to dress well.
Remmie did not like the idea of leaving the farm. “I don’t want to leave Adam. Can’t I stay here with him?”
“If you were older, I might consider it,” Cara said. “But you are too young for Adam to take care of all alone.”
Adam thought she was wrong, but he was not going to contradict her.
“Besides, it’s important to me that we all stay together,” Cara added. “Mrs. Warner invited all of us to come and stay.”
“I don’t want to go.” Remmie had a stubborn set to his chin that reminded Adam of Cara.
“Well, you’re going.” Cara said this with an air of finality that Remmie knew better than to argue with.
On the day they were to depart for the city, Adam drove them to the train station in the farm wagon. His heart was heavy, but for Cara’s sake, he pasted on a smile.
“I’ll write to you, Cara,” he told her as they waited for the train.
“I’ll try and write to you too.” She must have seen his disappointment, for she added, “I’ve never been much of a writer, Adam.”
“It doesn’t matter what you write, or how you write it.” He tried to sound reassuring without sounding desperate. “I’d just like to hear how you and the children are doing.”
She smiled then. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Her words caused him more anguish. He covered her hand with his, feeling the softness of her skin. He recalled the calluses she had last summer, after years of doing the hard work on the farm. In the past few months, he had taken over the heavy labor. She no longer went to the barn to milk or feed the animals. It was always he who did that. She didn’t have to put her hand to the plow, or drive a team. Her hands had softened, even though she still had the heavy tasks of churning butter and washing clothes.
He liked that he was able to make her life easier. Even last summer, before he had fallen in love with her, he was glad he could step in and ease her burden. Then, she had looked tired and overworked, old for her twenty-one years. Easing up on the load of farm work had softened her appearance. Her face was smooth and youthful, often wreathed in a smile as she went about her daily chores. His love for her had brought about that change.
He couldn’t take full credit for it, however. Her countenance had changed the day she received the Lord. The worry and mistrust that had been a permanent part of her features had been erased. God’s love had radiated from her heart, making her even more beautiful than before. It was her inner beauty that had drawn him to her, even more so than her physical beauty.
In the past few days, she had worn a sad expression more often than not, due to Doc’s passing. She seemed excited about her trip to the city, though. He should be glad that something had happened to bring her happiness. Yet, he was jealous of the fact that her happiness stemmed from leaving the farm. From leaving him.
He glanced down at her. She had a quizzical look on her face as he met her eyes.
“Are you all right, Adam?”
Her quiet question soothed his troubled heart. “I’m all right. But I’m going to miss you, Cara.”
“I’m going to miss you, too. So will the children.”
“So why are you leaving?” He blurt out the question before he could stop himself.
There was a hurt expression in her eyes. She sighed. “All I can think about is how much I miss Doc. The way people treated me at his wake made me realize that not everyone in the community is going to accept me.”
“I thought people were kind to you.”
“Some of them were.” Her mouth turned down sadly. “But more of them were cool towards me. I sensed that some were questioning why I was standing beside Margaret. As though I didn’t have a right to be there.”
“I don’t know if people really thought that.”
“Some of them let on that they felt that way, without saying anything at all.” Cara withdrew her hand. “Soon, everyone will know that Doc left his estate to me. Those that knew Doc well, and knew that he thought of me as a daughter, will not have a problem with it. But there are others who will harbor resentment that Doc would leave his money to someone who wasn’t related to him. I’m afraid they will be unpleasant, more so than they’ve already been.”
He laced his fingers through hers. He understood. He had watched some of the townspeople at the wake. While many of them expressed condolences to Cara, there were just as many who passed her by. Their looks had been condemning, and the comments he had overheard had been unforgiving. He hadn’t realized Cara was aware of their feelings.
“So you’re escaping to the city?”
“Margaret has offered the opportunity, and I feel that I must take advantage of it. I need some time to grieve for Doc, away from the judgmental and watchful eyes.”
“And you can’t do that at the house?”
“I would still have to face those people at the church, and in town. I just can’t do that right now.”
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “I understand. I don’t want you to go, but I know why you want to do it.”
“That means a lot to me.”
“But you will come back?” He asked the question directly, searching her eyes for any doubt. She smiled, and he realized his fears were unfounded.
“I will. I’m not going to be gone forever.”
He was so happy he leaned forward and kissed her right then and there. “Promise?”
She nodded, her cheeks rosy. “I promise.”
The train was coming into the station now. Adam helped Cara and the children onto the train and checked her baggage. He stood beside the train as it pulled out of the station. She and the children waved to him from the window, and he waved back until they were no longer in sight. Watching until the train disappeared on the horizon, he felt empty inside. He felt like he was losing his family.