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As Josiah showed Mary his coat, Emma realized her back was sore-- a sure sign of an upcoming cycle. Back home in Indiana, Emma would have used sheepskin during such times, but there were no sheep to be found in these mountains. Emma knew she had to make due with whatever was on hand, so while Josiah worked with little Mary, Emma went to the leather packages stacked in the corner. Without asking permission, she began to open and go through Josiah's belongings.


At the sound of her name, Emma glimpsed Josiah over her shoulder.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

The sound of Josiah's brisk stride crossing the room made Emma feel a little weak.

"I never said you could go through those things," he said, coming to her side with a frown.

Emma prayed Josiah would understand. Leaning forward so Mary couldn't overhear, Emma quietly explained what was about to happen.

Thankfully, Josiah understood. He searched through his limited store of animal skins until he pulled out a mink. "At least it's soft," he said, handing the skin to Emma.

Not only was the skin very soft, but its underside was watertight. Grateful, Emma kissed Josiah's cheek. "Thank you, Josiah. I don't know what I would have done without this."

Josiah looked at her thoughtfully. "Is that why you were crying this morning? It's yer cycle?"

Embarrassed, Emma nodded "yes."

Josiah was pleased. "Until you start bleeding again, I reckon you can't become with child."

Emma felt self-conscience for discussing such things with a man, even though that man was her husband. "I think that's why nothing's happened so far," she said quietly.

With a broad hand, Josiah pulled Emma close. He wrapped his arms about her, and Emma relaxed in his warm embrace. When Josiah gave a contented moan, Emma knew he was pleased to have her back in his arms. Just then, a small tug on Emma's dress drew her attention away from Josiah. Emma turned, and saw Mary beaming up at her proudly.

"See what I did, Ma?" Mary held up one end of the heavy bear coat she had dragged across the dirt floor.

Josiah's tenderness turned into a scowl, and Emma heard him groan impatiently. Then he saw the dirt on his coat, and Emma could tell he was struggling against frustration. His dark eyes flashed at Mary, and then at Emma.

Without speaking, Emma nested in the strong arms still around her.

"She's ruining my coat, Emma. Lookit, she's tugged one of the unfinished sleeves half off."

Emma nestled even harder.
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