Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 3

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

[Previous]

After breakfast, Sandy went out to check on Stepper. Not that Mr. Jim would have done a bad job with him, but Sandy had been taught from the time he was old enough to know what a horse was that a good rider always made sure his mount was taken care of. Because the storm was still blowing fiercely, he took the tunnel from the house to the barn.

‘Who digs a tunnel under their front yard,’ he remembered demanding of his da when they’d starting digging it. Robert Black’s face had been grave. ‘Someone who’s lived through more than one Wyoming winter,’ he’d said. ‘Someday you might be thankful we’re doing this.’

Well, I suppose this is one of those times I’m thankful, Sandy thought tiredly. Calling enough Fire to light his way through the darkness had been hard, and by the time he’d made his way back to the cellar stairs he was light-headed and breathing hard.

Mama met him at the head of the stairs.

Bachgen—” She stopped, corrected herself. “No, I can’t keep calling you that, can I? You’re not a little boy anymore. But Sandy, would you please go back to bed?”

“But—” he tried to argue, but she cut him off.

“You’ve been through an awful lot this past week. Sleep will do you good.”

It didn’t do much good to fuss with Mama when she wore that determined look, especially as he knew she was right—he was still exhausted.

“Fine,” he muttered and found his way back to his room. The house was quiet, except the rattling of the wind on the windows. He was asleep before he knew it.

When he awoke again, the wind had finally stopped. It was quiet inside and out. Looking out his room’s little window, Sandy could see nothing but the sun shining on a deep blanket of snow. Storm must have blown itself out, he thought to himself. Snow rarely stayed on the ground long around here. Which means I need to act now. He went to find his sister.

He didn’t see her anywhere, but Jon was in the kitchen sitting in Mama’s old chair, rocking back and forth and looking rather out of place in the little aspen rocker.

“Where’s Kat?” Sandy asked without preamble.

Jon glanced up from the baby he held—wrapped up as the child was, Sandy couldn’t tell whose kid it was. “She’s catching a nap.” His smile was wry. “She was up all night, and unfortunately, I can’t help walk the floors right now. So I’m on rocking-chair duty until she wakes up.”

Is Rose already causing problems for them? Sandy worried. “Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to—”

Jon waved away his concern. “Jack here is the main culprit. He likes a snack every two hours or so, then has to be walked or rocked back to sleep. Been that way since he was born. Your Rose is much more polite; she only woke us up once.”

“Oh. Okay.” Good, Sandy thought with relief. “So, do you expect Kat to be up and coherent anytime soon?”

“Probably not. Why?”

Dang. “Kinda needed to talk to her.”

Jon just looked at him, and those too-sharp eyes narrowed. “Leaving again already?”

Sandy didn’t bother asking how he knew. “Have to.”

“Thought you said you quit your job.”

“Isn’t about the job.”

His brother in law was silent for a minute, then said quietly, “You know, it broke your ma’s heart when you ran away last time. The captain’s too.”

Sandy lifted a brow. “I broke my father’s heart? That’s laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think? I mean, does the man even have a heart?”

“Your pa’s not a machine, Sandy. He feels just as deeply as the rest of us. He just has a much harder time putting his feelings into words and actions.”

And now you sound like your dad, always defending Da, Sandy thought, but all he said was, “Maybe that’s so, but I won’t be hanging around until he gets back.”

“Whyever not?”

“Because . . . ’cause I can’t bear to hear him say ‘I told you so.’ ” Sandy burst out, a little too loudly. In the cradle, Rose awoke and began to cry. Without thinking, Sandy picked her up and held her warm little body close to his chest, swaying back and forth as he did. As the second oldest of six, he knew very well how to soothe a baby.

“You really think he’d do that?” Jon asked as Rose quieted.

Sandy’s shoulders slumped. “No. He’d not say a word about it. Probably wouldn’t even think it. But I would. Every single time he looked at me, I’d curse myself for a hot-headed, immature idiot. He was right, you know, same as he always is. I was way too young to be heading up a family on my own,” he finished with brutal honesty.

Then he looked down, so as to avoid Jon’s sympathetic gaze. “Worse, the thought keeps haunting me—if I’d listened to him, if I’d waited, would Raven still be alive? I can’t even attempt to deal with that bag of cats right now, Jon. I . . . I need some time to figure out which end of me is up, and I can’t do it here.”

“I see.” He paused as if thinking. “So what did you need to talk to Kat about?”

“Need to know . . . do you think Kat would mind—” He broke off, unable to take this final step.

After seeing Jon cradling Rose that morning, after Kat had offered to care for her, the thoughts Sandy had struggled with on the bitter road home had solidified into something resembling a plan. I have to do this. For her sake. Taking a deep breath, he plunged ahead. “Jon? Would you and Kat be willing . . . would you raise Rose as your own?”

Jon didn’t seem at all shocked by his request. “And Kat was right. Again. She thought you’d ask that of us,” he commented before asking soberly, “Is that truly what you want? To give your daughter away to someone else?” He laid a large hand lightly on his son’s head, and his expression softened. “My pa had to face that choice as well, but he was willing to give up everything not to lose me.”

“Situations are more than little bit different, Jon. You were what, four, five years’ old? You didn’t need a mama for survival,” Sandy returned quietly. Then his head dropped and he whispered, “No, I don’t want to give my daughter up. It’s the absolute last thing I want to do. But I do want what’s best for her, and right now I’m sure as hell not it.” Not sure I’ll ever be what’s best for her.

He kissed the downy black hair, nuzzled the smooth cheek gently, then set her back down beside Jack with shaking hands.

Jon reached out and grasped his hand, squeezed it hard. “We agreed that, if you asked, we’d do it,” was all he said.

Sandy could barely see through the tears streaming down his face. He wiped them on his sleeve with a quick head swipe.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

 

To be continued . . .

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