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Chapter Twenty-four
Women Are a Lot of Trouble

1837, in what would later become Yellowstone National Park.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou [God] wilt revive me..."
~ Psalm 138:7 ~

Shortly after Josiah and Grandpap rejoined the group, and after a brief meal, they resumed their journey South, into the Yellowstone. Mountains jutted against a sapphire blue sky, their snow capped peaks wearing a perpetual garment of white. But in the lower elevations, spring had kissed the earth with fields of green and wildflowers in profuse abandon. The beauty was startling, even to Emma, who still felt the happy glow of Josiah's return. He rode at the head of the procession with Mary, the two of them talking and laughing, the strain of the recent dangers behind them.

Even Grandpap's weathered face showed signs of relief, wrinkling into a relaxed smile when they stopped later that day to make camp. He pulled out his pipe and sat against a tree, watching the others work until falling into a much needed nap before supper.

They had all been pushing hard, not stopping unless absolutely necessary, even forgoing the comfort of Cora's hide lodge at night. For days on end, they had slept beneath the open sky, keeping a cold camp to prevent from being spotted. Now they could rest.

Early evening cast its shadow on the ground, but Emma knew enough daylight remained to make a proper camp.

With Will's help, Josiah led their tired horses to a nearby field with enough grass to satisfy the hungry animals. Even in this relaxed atmosphere, Josiah didn't want the ponies grazing too far from camp, where they could easily be taken by others who might happen to be in the area. Josiah had earlier scouted out the land, pronounced it safe, but even still, Emma knew only a fool let his guard completely down in the wilderness.

On a bed of robes and blankets near Grandpap's tree, George slept soundly, no longer having to endure the constant jostle of the travois. The snore of the one didn't seem to disturb the other, until Grandpap finally stirred to relight his pipe.

After seeing to the horses, Will joined Emma and Mary by the fire while Josiah went to help Cora. Will and Emma watched in fascinated curiosity as mother and son set up the hide lodge, the impressively long poles pointing to heaven in the form of an upside-down cone.

"Wish they'd let me help," Will said, his blue eyes softening as he looked at Cora. "I asked, but she sent me away."

A harrumph came from the tree, and they turned to see Grandpap shaking his head at Will.

"I don't see you offering to help them," said Will.

Grandpap scowled. "It is women's work."

"That's not what Josiah said. He's over there, helping his ma."

Grandpap grunted, mild amusement playing in his elderly eyes. "Josiah is a white man."

"So am I," said Will.

Nodding, Grandpap drew out the tobacco pipe long enough to point its stem at the lodge. "Then you go help."

"I think I might just do that," said Will, straightening his shoulders with determination. Then he looked back at the construction already in progress. "Reckon I'd better not. Your daughter told me to go away."

Grandpap shook his head once more, as if Will had just proved his point.

Will turned back to Emma. "I don't think Grandpap likes me too much."

At this, the tree harrumphed.

"Which is a pity," Will said in a loud, deliberate voice, "because I think so very highly of him."

Emma wasn't sure if the comment had been rhetorical or not, but it stopped the harrumphing.

In the exposed open of the wilderness, the Blackfoot lodge welcomed Emma with the security that came with shelter. After the buffalo hides had been pulled taut over the smooth poles, and the inside lining had been secured, Cora and Mary carried their belongings inside. Now they had a home again, however temporary the location might be.

Looking tired but content, Josiah sauntered over to the campfire.

"George still sleeping?" he asked, looking over at the young man. "Good. He needs to get as much rest as possible."

"Are we leaving in the morning, Josiah?"

Josiah sat down, rubbed his buckskins with the broad palm of his hand and inhaled the perfume of the burning wood. "No, Emma, I reckon we'll stay here a few days. There's buffalo signs to the South, and I'm wanting to do some hunting afore we go."

"I'd like to be there for that," said Will, his face brightening at the prospect. "Maybe we can get some buffalo hides."

A grin formed as Josiah stretched himself before the fire. "That's what I'm thinking. They might earn us something at the rendezvous, especially since we've got no beaver to show fer all this trouble."

Emma crawled to sit beside Josiah, worrying her bottom lip until it nearly bled. Would this be a good time to ask, she wondered. He hadn't mentioned the subject in a while, and now that winter had passed, perhaps they could have another discussion. Not that Emma expected him to agree, but maybe he would at least agree to talk about it again.

It couldn't hurt to try.

Her lap being so handy, Josiah rested his head on the deerskin dress, closed his eyes, and with a free hand, brought the flintlock to his side. Always on guard, even in his rest.

"Tomorrow, we'll go hunting," Josiah said with a yawn. He scratched at his shirt, betraying the months he had gone without bathing.

Her fingers combed through Josiah's shaggy hair, working out the tangles he didn't bother with himself. Could he learn to tolerate civilization? she wondered. Would it be fair to even ask it of him?

The mountain man basked in her attention, his chest rumbling in a satisfied groan that signaled utter and complete contentment.

"Josiah?" She said his name with much hesitance, hoping to ease into the subject without argument. "Do you remember that talk we had, about not making any decisions before considering my opinion?"

His dark eyes flashed up at her, instantly cautious. "What of it?" he asked.

"I was wondering..." Emma bit her lip self-consciously, "if you've given it any more thought."

She could feel Josiah stiffen on her lap, saw his jaw tighten.

"Have you thought about my opinion, have you taken it into consideration?"

Lines deepened on his forehead, the eyes grew darker, and the mouth more determined. He understood. Even so, she repeated the request, blindly groping for the smallest crumb of hope.

"We talked of leaving the mountains. Do you remember, Josiah? Do you remember holding me, and telling me you'd consult my opinion? Then we tussled by the fire. Remember? Please tell me you remember."

He abandoned her lap, and Emma's heart trembled.

"Do you think I'd ever ferget, Emma?"

"Then you remember."

"I do."

"You told me you'd consult my opinion before making a final decision."

A frown creased his mouth. "I haven't fergotten what yer wanting from me."

"And?" She waited, hoping against hope his answer would be different than the one she knew he'd give.

"We ain't leaving the mountains."

It didn't come as a surprise to Emma, but the grief of disappointment that followed surged through her heart without warning. The urge to cry came strong. He hadn't changed his mind, not even in the slightest.

"I warned you not to git yer hopes up, Emma."

"I know." Her voice trembled terribly, even in those two words. If she said anything more, she'd cry. She knew it, and pressed her lips together to keep from making a scene.

Josiah groaned so loudly, the entire camp fell into a watchful hush. "This is the only way of life I know, Emma."

She nodded quickly. She understood.

"I never promised I'd leave, woman." His voice sounded almost harsh. "I told you I wouldn't change-- not on this." When she couldn't meet his gaze, he grabbed her arm and forced her to look at him. Her distress must have touched him, for his grip lessened, though his hand held fast. "I told you, Emma. I told you."

"I know," she said in a whimper. She looked at him helplessly, still pleading her cause, this time without words.

The hand let go of her. In one swift motion Josiah got to his feet, and grabbed his rifle. He rapidly moved to the outer perimeter of the camp, paused, then turned to look at her. "Emma?" He stood in the evening light, his face grieved but unflinching. "You promised to stay with me." He had spoken firmly, but the slight hitch in his voice hinted of desperation. His body froze, and it seemed even his breath waited for her response.

"I won't leave you, Josiah. You know I won't."

He looked at her, and the silence between them felt heavy. This disagreement had been long in the making, each wanting the life they knew best. Emma had already determined she would remain with Josiah, come what may; she was his wife, and her place was with her husband. But the constant fight to merely survive wore at Emma's resolve to mutely follow.

"Please, say something," she said quietly.

He opened his mouth, as if searching for his voice. When he couldn't speak, he walked away without looking back.

"Where's he going? I can't see where he went!"

"Easy there, Emma, he won't go too far." Will struggled onto his leg, balanced unsteadily and looked in the direction Josiah had disappeared. "I think he's just gone to sit with the horses. He'll be all right."

It had been there all the time, always present, though often unspoken between him and Emma. She hadn't forgotten their talk, and neither had he. He had only hoped she had reconciled herself to the future, that she had kept silent for so long, because she knew the future couldn't be changed. Josiah felt his feet were bound to the path he traveled, that to leave the familiarity of these mountains, would be akin to sawing off an arm or a leg-- to forget and toss away a part of himself. This land had known the tread of his moccasins, had soaked up his blood, had been with him throughout his entire life.

To leave, he felt, would be to die.

The ponies grazed nearby, their tails flicking at the maddening insistence of the flies. Josiah sank against the tree, watching the animals but not really paying attention to anything but his dark thoughts.

"God?" Josiah looked up at the darkening heavens. "What am I supposed to do? I sure could use some advice."

Someone cleared their throat, and for the briefest of moments, Josiah thought it was God.

"Hope I'm not interrupting anything," said Will, hobbling over to the tree. "Mind if I join you?"

"I reckon not." Josiah leaned his head against the bark. "Though I should warn you I ain't feeling much like company right now." He slanted a look at Will. "Is she all right? Is she crying?"

"Emma has gone to bed early," said Will, gingerly lowering himself to the ground. The older man looked about, his eyes taking in the broad horizon and rising mountains. "Beautiful evening, isn't it?"

Josiah didn't respond.

"Yes, sir, that's a mighty pretty sunset. It puts me in mind of a blushing woman when her man looks at her just right." Josiah heard the smile in Will's voice. "I've never had a woman do that for me, and I reckon I never will. Still, a man would do an awful lot to see the woman he loved blushing so prettily."

"You're taking a long time beating around the bush, Will. If you're going to disagree with me, I'd rather you just spit it out."

Will chuckled. "I sure don't intend to fight. Made up my mind long ago not to meddle in the private concerns of married folk."

Josiah looked at him in mock disbelief. "Then why'd you come out here? It sure wasn't to talk about the sunset."

"No, it wasn't." Will rubbed his good knee. "I couldn't help overhearing what you said back there to Emma."

Josiah chuckled grimly. "I reckon everyone else couldn't, either."

"You love that woman, don't you? Love her enough to try something new? Something you've never done before?"

"I love her more than my own life," said Josiah. "I'd do most anything to make her happy, to bring that purty blush to her cheeks that you were so busy talking about. But it ain't that simple. This life is all I've known. I just can't leave, and expect to find a way to feed my family elsewhere. I'm knowing Emma yearns to be with her own kind, but it ain't in my power to grant her wish. I'd have to give her up altogether, and I ain't willing to do that. She's my wife, she's carrying my child, and she's needing me too much."

"No one's suggesting you give her up." Will sighed, stretched out his stump and adjusted the wooden leg. "I don't know if you're aware of it, Josiah, but you could get along with white folks if you really wanted to-- folks like Emma's kind, as you put it. Yes, even her kind. People like her build churches and schools, and give their time to the poor. If you could learn to win Emma's heart, and her coming from money and all, then you could learn to be neighborly with others. It's in you. I know it is."

Josiah frowned. "How are you knowing that?"

"You get along good with me, don't you? Even before we were friends, you were neighborly enough it put me to shame."

"No, I meant about Emma coming from money. How do you know?"

Will shrugged. "I don't, exactly. I can just tell. The way you can tell a whore from a gentle woman, just by tipping your hat to her when you pass each other on the street. You know the genuine thing when you see it-- at least I do. Emma carries herself like she's used to better; I don't think she's aware of it, for she's too sweet a woman for such nonsense. But I recognize it, and so does George."

Disbelief clouded Josiah's mind. "I've known a few women in my time, and I know what yer meaning about whores. Emma comes from gentle folk-- that's true enough-- but I don't see her in a rich house with fancy trappings."

"How many white women have you known?" asked Will, lifting a skeptical brow at Josiah. "And I'm not counting the whores."

"I reckon it's only been Emma."

"Do you allow I'd know more about white women than you?"

"I reckon."

"Then that's that." Will nodded conclusively. "If you ever find I'm wrong, then I'll take back what I said. But I don't think it's likely. I'm older than you, and I've seen more of life. I've also traveled more, seen folks of all kinds, and you get to know them from a distance, just by watching."

"Well," said Josiah, amused by Will's conversation, "I'll only add that you might know more about white women, but I know Emma. She's never told me anything of what you just said."

Will made no reply, but leaned back against the tree while Josiah returned his mind to the current problem.

"I'll grant you, though," said Josiah, nodding to the horizon, "it is a purty sunset."

Smiling in agreement, Will gave a good-natured grunt. In the silence of the wilderness, they let the sun dip behind the mountains until all rays of light were quenched by the night.

Sleep didn't come easily for Emma. She had to work for it, and even then, it didn't last for long. The others had been polite, Cora and Grandpap keeping their conversation to the buffalo, the weather, the food. She could see it in their eyes, though, the knowing understanding that something had happened between her and Josiah. Considering they were Josiah's blood relations, Emma had thought they might reprove her, but they didn't. If anything, Cora seemed sympathetic. Cora had even been the one to suggest Emma lay down in the lodge, and Emma had readily complied, grateful for Cora's kindness.

The sun had gone down some time ago, and Josiah hadn't returned. Will had limped back after supper, saying Josiah was fine, that he just needed some time to himself. But how much time? wondered Emma. She watched the flames in the fire pit, absently studied the smoke as it rose through the smoke hole at the top of the lodge. Even if Josiah were here, what would she say to him?

The sound of approaching footsteps prompted Emma to peek through the door cover. A large figure moved through the camp, pausing briefly to whisper something to Grandpap, who had volunteered for the first night watch; Will would be next, then it had been assumed Josiah would take the last watch, keeping guard over the horses and the campsite until morning.

Emma quickly lay down, and did her best to sound as though she were asleep. She wasn't ready to speak to Josiah. Not yet. She knew it now, as those footsteps came even closer. If she tried to speak, it would only result in more weeping.

Soft rustling announced Josiah's presence, then the robes tugged lightly behind her back. She felt a cold draft as he lay down. The others were sound asleep, the only one stirring momentarily being Mary, who had snuggled beside Cora. Then the lodge returned to its former silence, punctuated only by Will's snores and the crackle of the night fire.

"Emma?" Josiah breathed her name in a quiet hush.

She didn't dare move a single muscle, but kept her eyes firmly shut. His hair flicked against her ear, most probably as he came closer to see if she were awake.

"All right, Em," his tone sounded of resignation, his breath warming her cheek, "you don't have to say anything. I'm understanding."

Emma sighed inwardly. He knew she wasn't asleep, but then again, she shouldn't be too surprised for he could usually tell.

Silence once more, and then another, "Emma?" This time, he sounded more insistent. "Do you still love me? I need to know fer sure."

The beginning of tears were already pooling in her yes. Without meeting his gaze, Emma rolled over and quickly buried herself in his arms. He moaned, wrapped himself around her, and squeezed her to his body in a tight bear hug.

"God bless you fer that, Emma." His chest heaved a great sigh, and his hand cradled her back.

He didn't say or do anything more, although Emma dearly hoped he would. She wanted him to speak, to say something to lessen the pain of their disagreement. As much as she wanted to stay awake and wait, sleep beckoned and she nodded in and out of consciousness. Each time she awoke, she found Josiah still alert, his expression fixed in deep thought. As far as she knew, he didn't get a wink of sleep the entire night.

Through the dim awareness of gradually waking slumber, Emma heard the hush of voices, the tones kept low as though trying not to disturb someone. The scent of pemmican greeted her senses, and without opening her eyes, Emma knew morning had come. Wearily, she blinked at the clouded sky, wishing she could remain in bed and get more rest.

Then she remembered Josiah. Sometime last night, he'd left her to stand watch over the campsite.

She sat up, pushed back the buffalo robe and noticed the hush around the fire lessen as people noticed she was awake. Cora, Mary and George were the only ones present.

"Where did Josiah go?" asked Emma, crawling out of bed with her blanket wrap. "Did he already leave for the buffalo hunt?"

Mary nodded, her mouth working the chewy meal. "Pa said not to wake you up until you was good and ready."

"Were good and ready," said George, slanting Mary a gently reproving look. The young man huddled in his blanket, someone's belongings propping him up so he could rest without lying on his back all day. The cold morning breeze blew against him, and he shivered noticeably. "Josiah said not to worry about his absence, Mrs. Brown. He guessed it would be late afternoon before his return, but said not to be concerned if it took longer."

"I wish he hadn't left without first getting some sleep," said Emma, going to the fire to warm her hands. It might be Spring, but the air still felt cold. Heat permeated her limbs, taking some of the stiffness from her muscles.

"He did not sleep?" asked Cora, handing Emma a breakfast of pemmican.

Emma smiled weakly. "I don't think so. He kept staring at the smoke hole in the lodge. I believe he was watching the stars."

Cora grunted. "He has much to think about."

Everyone in the camp knew of their argument. They had witnessed it firsthand, heard both sides, and now, it appeared, had decided to keep silent. Emma wondered if Cora blamed her for Josiah's current state of unhappiness. It would be understandable if she did. Lacking the courage to ask, Emma busied herself with the food and her own private thoughts.

"You going to keep quiet all day?" asked Will, squinting into the distance as he spoke. He patted his horse's neck, steadying the animal's skittishness. "You've hardly said two words together since we left camp."

"The white woman is giving him trouble," said Grandpap, as the three horses rode side by side into the sweeping valley. "She did not let him sleep."

Will turned in his saddle to squint at Josiah. "You are looking kind of tuckered out. Sure you don't want to go back?"

"Why?" asked Josiah, his horse's reins in one hand, a rifle in the other. "It wouldn't do any good."

Will spat at the grass. "Of course it would. She's not mad at you."

Grandpap harrumphed. "Women are a lot of trouble. White, red-- it makes no difference. When a man does not sleep, it is because of a woman."

"If she's the right one," said Will, flashing a grin at Grandpap, "her husband shouldn't mind losing a little sleep once in awhile."

"All women are the same," said Grandpap, his worn features studying the lay of the land. "Very much trouble."

"What about it, Josiah? Why don't we turn around and go back?"

"I haven't got anything to say to her, Will."

Will shook his head. "You're being just plain stubborn. Of course you do. Tell her something to make her smile. She's your woman, you know how."

Josiah didn't respond. If he talked to Emma, he'd only have her crying again, and then they'd both feel worse than before.

"Muleheaded nonsense," Will said under his breath. "I've never seen the like. Hopelessly in love with his wife, but won't even try to talk things out with her."

A thin smile stretched across Grandpap's mouth. Josiah saw it.

"I wish you two would stop badgering me," said Josiah. "And Will, I take offense at what you said."

"That so?" asked Will. "I'm surprised. Thought you weren't paying attention."

Josiah abruptly reined in his horse. Will stopped as well, and the two men stared at each other for a long moment.

"You're getting mighty thin-skinned, if you can't handle the truth," said Will. "I'm your friend, aren't I?"

Scowling, Josiah slapped the reins against his leg. "Yeah. I reckon."

"You still aim to take offense? You know I spoke the truth."

"But I already tried talking to her, Will. All I got was tears. She ain't never going to change her mind. She's dead set against being here, and all the talk in the world ain't going to change that."

Will's frown deepened. "Why does it have to be just your way, or even hers? Why can't you find some common ground so you two can be together?"

Common ground... Emma's words rushed back to Josiah. He remembered the night they had talked about his decision, and about taking her agreement into consideration-- she had said she wanted it "our way." At the time, he had thought it an odd thing to say, but now, as he faced this seemingly impossible situation, he saw wisdom in the statement.

"But what ground do we have that's in common?" asked Josiah, a new surge of frustration tugging him into despair. "She and I don't come from the same worlds. We're too different."

Will looked at Josiah, his bearded face open and frank. "If you love her, you won't give up until you find that common ground. I don't see any other way."

Her wide belly made it difficult to stoop to gather wood, so Emma tried to content herself with filling her arms with the sticks and twigs Mary collected. The girls circled the camp, each time going out a little further than before in search of firewood.

"Stay within sight!" Cora called to them, Emma's loaded shotgun at Cora's side; the weapon wouldn't do them any good if they wandered from the range of its protection.

"Ma," Mary tugged at Emma's arm, threatening to spill the carefully stacked wood. "A rider is coming. I think it's Pa."

"But it can't be, it isn't even noonday." Emma felt uneasy remaining in the open. "Come, we're going back to camp."

The child remained insistent about the identity of the rider, and when they reached Cora, Cora agreed with Mary.

"I don't understand. What's he doing back so soon?" asked Emma, shielding her eyes against the sun to see what she could. To her dismay, she saw nothing until Josiah's horse came much closer.

Mary ran out to meet her pa, jumping excitedly, plying him with requests to join him when he returned to Grandpap and Will. "I can hunt buffalo, too!" she said excitedly. "Please, Pa!"

Josiah dismounted, his attention fully on Emma. At his side, Mary continued to beg. "Hush," he rested a hand on Mary's head. "Go help Grandma'am. I'm needing to speak to yer ma in private."

" But Pa..."

He looked at her, insistent but gentle, and Mary obeyed.

After Mary left, Josiah remained silent. He studied Emma carefully, as if soaking in the very sight of her. Then his eyes darted to her shoulder, where her shotgun usually hung by its strap.

"Where's yer weapon, Emma? You know better than to leave camp without it-- even to gather wood."

Emma marveled at him. Even from that great distance, he had known what she had been doing. That man had eyes like a hawk.

"My arms were full, so Cora kept watch. We stayed close to the camp."

"Not close enough," he said, grumbling his displeasure. "I ain't comfortable seeing you without yer shotgun."

"We weren't in any danger, Josiah."

"I didn't come back to argue with you," he said, looking off in the direction he had come. "I'm needing to talk to you--" he turned, noticed George seated in some warm blankets under a tree, casually reading his law book. Josiah squinted at him, and George kept reading. "Would you walk with me, Emma?"

Bringing the shawl around her shoulders, Emma followed Josiah away from the camp. It was a beautiful day, a crisp day that beckoned a man like Josiah away from home, off to the excitement of the hunt. But here he strolled, silently burning daylight. A strong gust came through the valley, tussling Josiah's sun-streaked mane, causing her eagle feather to dance wildly in the wind. Emma's heart stirred at the sight.

"Josiah? Would you mind if I spoke first?"

"It might be best if you did," he said with a half smile. "What I've got to say ain't easy."

"I once told you I'd abide by your final decision, Josiah, and I meant it. Tell me it's been made, and I'll be silent."

"I reckon that would be mighty hard for you to do-- to keep silent," he said with an amusement Emma found somewhat annoying. "I know yer meaning it, Emma, and I'm grateful you don't want to go against yer husband." He brought her to a shady spot beside a tree, then helped her to sit down.

She looked up at him as he stared off into the distant horizon, an odd sort of wistfulness playing in his dark eyes.

"I must be changing more than I counted on," he sighed helplessly. He claimed a place beside her in the grass, turned his face to her and smiled. "I ain't giving in mind you, but I'm willing to talk about how I make my living, and where that might take us." He paused, took another deep breath and continued. "Will said we had to find common ground. I ain't rightly sure where that is, but I'm willing to consider the possibilities."

"Even the possibility of leaving the mountains?" Emma waited, pensive for his answer.

His brow creased in discomfort, but he nodded "yes" anyway. "Even that. Even leaving the mountains," he said quietly.

Emma gasped in amazement. Never in her life with Josiah would she have believed to hear him say those words. She could hope for them, yes, but not realistically. She fought back the urge to celebrate, for the fear shadowing his features turned the joy bittersweet. Josiah didn't know anything but these mountains. The mere thought of leaving everything he knew, must surely be frightening.

She touched his hand, and he grasped it in his own.

"Thank you, Josiah."

He kept his eyes on some fixed point in the distance, but his fingers squeezed Emma's hand with an intensity that spoke louder than words: He loved her. She knew he couldn't say it without betraying weakness, without admitting that the moisture in his eyes were tears and not just the result of staring into the wind. But tender words weren't really needed. The turned away gaze said it for him, that and those fingers tightly pressing her hand into his.

He loved her. He loved her.

Never before had Emma felt so at one with Josiah. She could almost believe the same heart pumped for them both, she felt it that strongly.

"Reckon we best head back," Josiah said finally, standing with a cat-like fluidity that to Emma, in her present condition, could only dream of. His hand pulled her to her feet, and when they came face to face, he seemed to forget they were leaving. "You really are a beautiful woman, Emma. It don't seem possible, but yer getting prettier and prettier."

"It isn't possible," she said with a laugh. "Love must be affecting your vision."

"I can see just fine," he said, tugging her even closer. He looked about quickly, as if to make sure they were alone.

"Josiah, surely not now. What about the buffalo?"

"They can wait." His mouth eagerly lowered to hers, but then he paused, the mention of the buffalo having awakened his survival instincts. "Grandpap and Will are waiting. They'll have found a good place to run the buffaler by now." With a loud, overdramatic sigh, Josiah released her. He stooped for the rifle in the grass. "You win again, Emma. I don't mind saying it bothers me some," he chuckled, only half in jest. "Losing might get to be a habit with me."

She went to his side, took his arm, and smiled. "I don't want to win, Josiah, I only want agreement."

Grinning, he pressed his lips to her forehead. "Our way again?"

She nodded, grateful he had remembered.

"I'll try, Emma. I ain't promising much, only that I'll try."

Emma hugged his arm as they walked back to camp. The future still looked uncertain, but this time, whatever it held, she would have a say in their destiny. A thrill of excitement coursed through her, and her mind chased dreams she had long ignored. There were too many things to consider, too much to weigh for her to think clearly.

Josiah had opened the door and the possibilities dazzled Emma. Now, in the rush of newfound plans, she could only hold on tight, and pray God would give them wisdom to make the right decisions for their family.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom... satisfy us early with Thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
~ Psalm 90:12, 14 ~

end of chapter
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