— Chapter 11 — They moved on until late in the night. Exhausted, Alan tied the horses to a tree and the two went to sleep in the back of the wagon. Jobeth slept snuggled up to Shawna while Alan lay alone in a roll on the floor. The wagon had become their new home. In the morning Alan caught a rabbit for breakfast. They had plenty of food: the meat dried for winter and their store of vegetables and dried fruits and grains, but there was no reason to dip into their supplies when food was plenty off the land. Jobeth tried to push aside the pictures that came to her mind, but she could not stop the images of Jonah arguing with Shawna over who caught the rabbit or of him standing next to her chatting away while helping her prepare the evening meal. She wanted to cry when she thought of him but tears were a luxury she could not afford at the moment. Landscape passed by without Jobeth noticing. She easily conformed to traveling again and figured she would never be settled in one spot. Something would always happen to uproot them again. The difference this time was she had no urges to lay down roots. She had all she needed and that was Alan and Shawna. They passed town after town in their covered wagon. Alan knew eventually they would have to stop. Shawna needed to be in school and Jobeth needed her own home, whether she believed it or not. He knew this and still continued pushing the horses on. As they moved farther south, the weather warmed. Even though winter had begun, traveling was not a problem. Covered in warm blankets at night and dressed in cozy clothing, there was no reason not to continue on their journey. How nice it was now that they had the leisure of the horses. They became healthier and stronger as their hearts and souls healed. “Jobeth?” Alan asked, flicking the horse’s reins. “Yes?” Jobeth responded, seated snugly beside him in the front seat of the wagon. Evening was creeping up on them. Soon they would need to stop for dinner. The gray sky was cool and the bare trees swayed in the breeze. Alan and Jobeth could hear Shawna playing contentedly in the back with her dolls. Her small voice in harmony with nature’s music. “We are gonna have to stop soon,” Alan said, looking at the gravel road. It was well-worn, a telltale sign that a town lay ahead. “Yes, Shawna must be hungry.” Jobeth clasped her mittened hands together, shivering. The night air was unusually cool. “No, that is not what I mean,” Alan continued. Jobeth pulled the dark brown woolen cloak she wore tightly around her ears and bent her covered head down. “I know you don’t feel ready yet, but it has been three months since Jonah...” “I know, Alan,” Jobeth sighed, looking at him. She sniffed, wondering if her nose was as red as his. “It’s just hard. I’m not sure I am ready to start again.” “Shawna needs school, friends, a home. We all do,” Alan said, staring out at the starlit sky. He understood how Jobeth felt. He too didn’t feel ready to stop moving yet. The last three months had been so peaceful. He pushed out his breath, loosely between his lips, causing the air to steam up in front of him like smoke.“You are right. I know you’re right,” Jobeth nodded, her heart fluttering. Alan grinned and absently placed a mittened hand on her blanket-covered lap. “Soon, just not yet,” he said, patting her leg reassuringly. The next morning, Jobeth was sleeping soundly as Queenie lay curled up protectively beside her. “Jobeth wake up!” A male voice called from the back of the wagon. “Alan?” Jobeth groaned in protest, turning over and hiding her face in the quilts. The sun was beaming bright into the wagon, stinging Jobeth’s unadjusted eyes. “I am exhausted,” she moaned, noticing the wagon was not swaying with movement. Alan must have stopped for some reason. “Now honey, I want you to see this house with me,” Alan said in an excited voice. “Honey?” She sat up abruptly. Alan was holding the canvas of the wagon open, his body shielding most of the sun’s rays from penetrating inside the dark retreat. He beamed at Jobeth, winking at her. Confused, she quickly arranged her hair. Alan held his hand out, imploring. “Please play along?” he whispered into her ear as she jumped down from the step. Squinting from the bright rays, she adjusted her eyes and looked around. The wagon was stopped in front of a little white house. A couple in their early sixties was standing respectfully by the horses, waiting it seemed, for her and Alan. “This is my wife, Jobeth,” Alan presented to the elderly couple. He placed his arm around her waist and gave a light squeeze, causing a shiver to bolt up Jobeth’s spine.The couple walked over, hands outstretched in greeting. “You two look young to be married,” the man said, squinting his gray eyes. He was a handsome man with a mane of snow-white hair and a strong tanned build, made hard by work in the sun. “Oh, stop it, George. I married you when I was just sixteen,” said the small woman beside him. She pushed him aside easily in spite of the difference in their sizes and raised her hand out toward Jobeth, warmly. “Hello, dearie. I am Diana and this big old lug is my husband, George.” “Hello,” Jobeth replied rather shyly, wanting to hide behind Alan. Diana was the first new person she had spoken to in over a year. She felt nervous, but Diana had a kind face with light blue shimmering eyes and soft blonde hair showing only the slightest gray. She accepted the older woman’s hand and was pleased how soft and warm it felt. “Well,” Alan said clapping his hands together if in prayer, “I guess we can see the house now,” Jobeth looked at Alan questioningly.“Of course.” Diana smiled sincerely, gently dropping Jobeth’s hands and turning towards the little white building. “Where is Shawna?” Jobeth asked searching for the little girl. With all the confusion she had forgotten about her little charge. As her eyes scanned the area, she could not believe the magnificent view. Two large oak trees towered over a little two-story house. That was what it was, but to say it was merely a house would be an understatement. The dwelling screamed out “home.” A swing hung from one of the oak tree’s branches. In the summer the grass would cover the front lawn in a counterpane of green with flowers trimming the edges of the house.“Shawna is in the back yard playing with our grandbabies,” Diana said, linking her arm in Jobeth’s, comfortably. She began to lead her toward the house. “Your husband here says you are newlyweds. Big responsibility having to raise a little sister on top of just becoming a wife. Once the babies start coming, you are going to have your hands full.” Diana exclaimed. Jobeth’s heart jumped. Suddenly she felt frightened and didn’t understand why. She looked back beseechingly to Alan who was engrossed in his conversation with George. He did not notice the anxiety in Jobeth’s eyes. “Shawna is no trouble to Alan or me. We love her dearly,” Jobeth said a bit defensively. “She is a blessing.” Diana looked at the young girl’s wounded face. This couple did seem awfully green to her. But what tugged at Diana’s heart most was the sorrow in Jobeth’s eyes. She had seen that look before in ones who had beheld and lost too much in life. Diana also saw how those same pained eyes would glow lovingly at the boy, Alan. He shined just as brightly at Jobeth. “Children are all a blessing,” Diana smiled kindly. Jobeth forced her lips into a grin and followed Diana into the little house. It was beautiful. It had two separate bedrooms plus a loft. There was a secluded room for cooking and eating, plus another room for sitting and relaxing. This room boasted two chairs and a couch jacketed in a rich burgundy material. Best of all was the outhouse. It was indoors! An odd-looking chain hung from a tank attached to the wall. When you pulled it, the waste was flushed away. It was truly amazing. Jobeth and Alan had never imagined such a device. Diana and George laughed at the young couple’s disbelief and had to demonstrate how it worked. “They are called toilets and they are the wave of the future. Soon every home will have one,” exclaimed Diana, her hands clutched to her full chest. “Now that you have seen our little place, what do you think?” “It is the most beautiful residence I have ever seen,” Jobeth was unable to hide her awe. Alan smiled proudly at her excited face.“There is the barn too, and a few animals,” George said, holding the hand of his bride of fifty years. “You don’t have to start from scratch. We know how hard it is to start a home when you are newlyweds.” “Do you want the house, Jobeth?” Alan asked, clutching her hands tightly in his. “Of course,” Jobeth commented in disbelief. She had never dreamed of such luxuries. “But how? You don’t even have a job?” “I got a good paying job in town while you were sleeping. In fact, after I was hired, I asked around if there was a house I could buy and was told about George and Diana. All we need to do is trade Diana and George our horses and wagon, plus a hundred dollars.” Jobeth couldn’t believe their luck. Could it be possible the beautiful house could be theirs? “That is it?” She squeaked. A hundred dollars was a lot of money. It was all the money Alan had saved. A near fortune. But a home such as George and Diana’s was a dream comes true. “Yes,” Diana chuckled, placing a hand on a bewildered Jobeth’s shoulder. “George and I want a change. The children are grown and have families of their own. Now it is our time. Like when we were first married.” George reddened and coughed, embarrassed. It had been his dream, when they first got married, to travel across the country, but Diana kept having one baby after the other. Now, finally his dream was coming true. All he wanted was Diana by his side and leather reins in his calloused hands. “The horses are fine beasts. We aren’t really giving you a deal, Miss.” Jobeth nodded kindly to the older man. If he only knew how they had started out. This house was too much to ever dream of. “Alan says you have been traveling for months and it is beautiful,” George said, excited. His adventure was about to begin. He would never have guessed at sixty-eight years of age his life’s wish would come true. “Wonderful,” Jobeth cooed, remembering the therapeutic power of the open plains. Yes, her heart was forever changed with the loss of Jonah and her baby, but the journey to this little town had begun to heal the wound their deaths had left. “Well, Jobeth?” Alan asked, staring into her hazel eyes, looking incredibly handsome. Jobeth’s blood felt warm in her veins and her heart fluttered uncontrollably. “Do we take it?” “I would be a fool if I said no,” she said, overcome with joy, “Yes, we’ll take it.” Jobeth spun around, arms outstretch like a gleeful child in the center of the family room.
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