Sneak Peek, Chapter 2: Afterwards

Here is your “sneak peek” at Chapter 2 of “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness.” Unpublished copy, all rights reserved. (c)Beverly Scott

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Chapter 2: Afterwards

In the afternoon, I gently washed Sam’s thin body. His ribs had pushed against his skin. His knees looked like knobs on sticks. He had wasted away in the last weeks. I held his hand and stroked his withered finger, injured during the War. My tears and sadness flowed all over him as I washed him and whispered goodbye. I told him that despite his rough edges, he was good to me. I would miss his wisdom, his care and support, his companionship. Then I dressed him in his best pants and shirt. His black hair was only flecked with gray even now. I stared for a long time remembering the dark handsome man I married almost twenty years before.

Afterward, I stepped outside. The winter light was fading. From the door, I could just barely see the rocky brown hills. They seemed rude, pushing up through the dry grasslands, demanding that I notice them. No sign of human disturbance in this barren landscape except for our animal shed.

I felt myself shiver. The wind was unusually still for New Mexico, but the air was crisp and cold. I went back inside. I wanted to feel the heat from the fire in the stove. I wanted to be warm, really warm. I sat down in my rock­ing chair rocking slowly. The coldness inside moved up my back and tingled at the nape of my neck. I fingered the piece of Wyoming jade Sam had given me when he pro­posed, remembering that he promised steadfast love.

“I’m a widow,” I said aloud. I was alone, completely responsible for the children, not just for a few weeks or the winter season until Sam returned. I felt cold, flat. I opened my Bible, hoping for solace. I began to survey the landscape of my mind, much as I had the landscape outside. My mind was a closed book with all the memories of my life with Sam shut away. “I am alone.” There were no images of the future. But to my surprise, I also felt a sense of calm and relief.

I stopped rocking. Was my relief because Sam was no longer suffering, or because I no longer felt torn between his demands and the children? I had known that he would leave me a widow given the thirty-year age difference be­tween us. I thought I had prepared myself to face many years without a husband. Now, I was annoyed that he had left me with five children, including an infant, with no means of support. Could I cope without him?

I straightened up remembering how I had steeled myself against my fear of being alone when we lived in Oklahoma. I had learned to cope with his long absenc­es to meet with the government agent about his Veteran’s pension. I reminded myself, that I had also loved my in­dependence when I was young. Now, as I thought back to those times alone in Oklahoma facing the challenges of sick children, wandering livestock or bitter winter storms, I felt a calm and growing confidence that I could handle this challenge.

I rocked quietly now, continuing to feel the mixture of relief, sadness, resentment and fear. I felt the smoothness of the jade in my apron pocket again. It had rough edges which Sam had compared to himself.

Soon the children would be home from town and Patricia would wake from her afternoon nap. The familiar knot in my back tightened. Being a woman alone with five children would be hard. It would be even harder to make ends meet. Would we even have enough to eat? Could I keep Daniel, Joe and Charlie from going off on their own and maybe getting into trouble? But I couldn’t let myself get discouraged. They’re good boys.

I reassured myself that I could handle this. I had to. I sat up straight. Together, as a family, we would be strong.

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