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Joy's Legacy- Chapters 20-39

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CHAPTER 20

 

 

Jack spent the rest of his afternoon at Seth’s place, discussing what had just taken place. It had, indeed, been an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. They didn’t know how far or how wide spread it was, but Mr. Bodaway informed them that this had all been planned by many different countries, and that the effects were probably all over the country. It would take months, if not years to get everything back to normal.

 

“Think about it,” Mr. Bodaway had said, “hardly any cars, no electricity, no computers. Do you have money in the bank? How do you think they keep records? On a computer. What about your gas? Now I know you each have, what? A thousand gallons of propane? So you should be covered for cooking, but what about all those in the cities that depend on either electricity or natural gas to cook? Or how about hospitals? Schools? Jails? This has affected us in more ways than we can imagine. How will food get to stores, and how will they refrigerate it to keep it fresh? And if you think that most people will be civilized and wait patiently for their turn to get some food at the stores and share, think again. Once the initial food is gone, how long will it take to get the stores replenished, if they get replenished at all? Mass panic will soon begin, and it’s not going to be pretty. Things were already not going so well, and this is likely to push things over the edge.”

 

After a couple of hours of discussing what had happened with his friends, Jack rode his horse back to the farmhouse, and told the others what had happened. He explained everything that Mr. Bodaway had explained to them, trying to include as many details as he possibly could.

 

Jack decided to take them up on the offer to stay for supper this time. They all enjoyed a good, but simple meal, surrounded by somber talk. Jack stole several glances in Joy’s direction, wondering if she would ever look at him the way she had when Luke had given her the flowers. Her face had lit up, and he had loved the look in her eyes. Jack shook his head, trying to focus on what was being said.

 

Luke and Victoria ate supper together outside, enjoying each other’s company. Joy was happy that the two kids got along so well, even though it did seem like Victoria was a little bossy with him sometimes. After the dishes had been cleared and the leftover food taken care of, everyone made their way outside to sit and enjoy the slightly cooler weather. Joy was glad that it was a little cooler, and wondered how hot it was going to be to sleep in the house that night without the central air to cool them off.

 

They decided that they would all go to bed early that night, and Jack went home with his kids. Roger and Allen walked to the cabin with him, helping him carry the babies.

 

Joy was exhausted that night. It had been hard to remember not to flip the switch every time she went into a room, and wondered if she would ever get used to it. Victoria had also been extra tired, to the point of being a little grumpy. Joy was glad when she had finally been able to fall asleep, after taking a luke warm bath. Joy had been able to heat some water on the propane stove, so that at least the water hadn’t been cold. Joy added a few drops of lavender oil to the bathtub, knowing it would help Victoria sleep better.

 

After putting Victoria to bed, Joy took a bath of her own. She took her time in heating the water, wanting a nice, hot bath. She also added essential oils to hers, and pinned her hair back into a bun. She stepped lightly into the old bathtub, enjoying the warmth of the water on her body. She rubbed St. Johnswort mixed with Vaseline to help her sore muscles, and then just soaked for a while, closing her eyes and allowing herself to relax. She had several candles burning, and would open her eyes once in a while to make sure none of them were burning out of control.

 

What had been that noise? Joy opened her eyes and sat up in the bathtub. It had come from outside, just below the bathroom window. The window was high enough that it didn’t require curtains, and still provided enough privacy for its users. Joy got out of the bathtub and covered herself with a towel, feeling vulnerable. She grabbed the stool nearby and stepped on it carefully, looking out the window. She gasped as she saw a small figure in the moonlight, running away from the farmhouse. Joy quickly dried herself and put her robe on, wanting to look outside to see what she could see.

 

By the time she made it out there, the person was gone. She shuddered at the thought that someone had been watching her, and opted to think that it was just her imagination. She went back into the house and took care of the candles, making sure everything was safe.

 

After she was done, Joy made her way to the kitchen where she found Bethany munching on some cookies that Joy had made for the next day, with some candles of her own. Joy had made several different kinds, enough for her family and to take to Jack’s place in the morning.

 

“So, how do you like them?” Joy asked Bethany as she walked through the door.

 

“Eh, there ok. Nothing spectacular.” Bethany responded flatly.

 

“Did you hear anything? I thought I heard something outside, and maybe even saw someone, but I couldn’t tell for sure.”

 

Bethany rolled her eyes at Joy, not even pretending to hide it. “No, it’s just you, Joy, making stuff up again in your mind. So why are you still up?”

 

Joy reached over and grabbed the flowers that Luke had given her and held them up in the vase. “For these,” she said simply.

 

Bethany rolled her eyes again. “Oh, the weeds they cut for you?”

 

“One person’s weeds, another one’s flowers. I think it was sweet. He was concerned about me.”

 

“Yeah, well, you probably didn’t need him to carry you, Joy. I wish you weren’t so dramatic sometimes.”

 

“I was talking about Luke.” Joy replied, trying to not let Bethany’s attitude get to her. “I’m going to bed. Good night.”

 

“Yeah. Whatever.”

 

Joy went into her room and got ready for bed, pulling her long hair down and running a brush through it. She thought about the events of the day, and what it meant for all of them. Jack had said that Seth had an old radio that they had gotten to work, and that they were going to listen to see what was happening outside of the Reservation. Joy climbed into bed, careful not to wake Victoria up. She tried desperately to fall asleep, tossing and turning well into the night. Her mind kept going over what had happened in the last couple of days, especially the times that Jack had had to carry her because she had fainted. Marie had told her about the second time when Jack had carried her into the house. She vaguely remembered being carried, her head resting against Jack’s muscular shoulder. Joy shook her head in the dark, and pushed the feelings that were rising within her aside. She finally fell asleep, thoughts of beautiful flowers and a little boy’s blue eyes flooding her head.

 

 

Jack and Luke had talked for a while about what was going on, and finally Luke had fallen asleep. Jack wanted to keep his son informed, so that things wouldn’t be so shocking to him. Jack stayed up a little later, trying to read a book. His mind wondered for a while, thinking about things that Mr. Bodaway had said. He had talked about how rough he thought things could be, and how they had already had some encounters at the Reservation. Jack had no idea that they had been so sheltered at the farm, as he hadn’t been to the Reservation since the meeting that had taken place about a month or so ago.

 

Mr. Bodaway also talked about how some of the men at the Reservation were growing restless, some even going around picking fights. Several families had moved off of the Reservation, deciding to head south before the winter came. Jack shook his head and sighed, wondering what their fate was now. Mr. Bodaway’s son had bought the homes in name of the Reservation, so that they could be used for the common good. The people leaving had left with a large amount of money, but had to promise that they would never return. One of the bigger homes they would convert into a mini-hospital, where Roger and Marie would be able to work and treat their patients. The plan was to encourage Roger and Marie to move into town, to a house near the hospital. Jack knew that there was no point in even asking them until they were married, but he didn’t bother telling Mr. Bodaway that.

 

Marriage. The word now seemed foreign to him, like something that happened to other people. He still missed Carol, but with everything that was happening, he felt like it had been a lifetime ago. He knew that there would always be a special place for her in his heart, but was also starting to feel the void that she had left. While Jack sat there, pretending to read a book by oil lamp, he came to grips with the fact that he was lonely. He knew that someday he would like to remarry, but under the circumstances he knew that if it happened at all, it would probably not be soon.

 

There was a noise outside that jerked Jack from his thoughts, and he was almost relieved for the interruption. He got out of his chair quickly and went out the door.

 

“Oh. Uh, hi Jack.” A man said, nervous as if he had been caught like a deer in headlights.

 

“Hi. What are you doing out here?” Jack asked, still not sure who the man was. He hoped that he would lure him closer to the cabin where the light from inside would show who it was.

 

“Well, believe it or not, I kind of got lost,” Simon Little said, stepping into the light where Jack could see him.

 

Jack’s hair stood up on the back of his neck. Something about this man made him uneasy. Jack knew that there was no way that Simon was lost, that he knew this area like the back of his own hand.

 

“Hmmm.” Jack responded. “Well, you better get, because I heard that around here they don’t take too kindly to strangers.” He said, his eyes narrowing.

 

“Is that right? Well, the preacher has been real nice to me. He even invited me to Sunday’s church service over at his house. He said his daughter, what’s the pretty one’s name?”

 

“Joy.” Jack answered automatically, and then mentally kicked himself as hard as he could.

 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Well, he said she’d be there playing the piano, and I wouldn’t want to miss that, now would I?”

 

Jack cringed at the thought of this man looking at Joy. Something in him boiled with the thought of them even being in the same room, but there was nothing he could do about that.

 

“Alright then.” Jack said and turned around to go back into the cabin. He’d have to make sure that he put a gun near the door with Simon on the loose, he thought to himself.

 

Jack went into his cabin and turned off his lamp. Once it was dark, he let his eyes adjust to it and peered cautiously out the window. It looked like Simon had left, this time for real. Jack wondered what he was doing in the area, and wished he could go check on Joy. And her family too, he mentally added as soon as the thought popped into his mind.

 

Once he was sure that he and his kids were safe, he made his way to his bedroom and got ready for bed. This was the time of day that he hated the most, as even Luke was sleeping, and there was no one to share the events of the day with.

 

Jack went to bed, wishing that the loneliness that he was feeling weren’t so real, and so deep. His last thought before he fell asleep was of Joy’s face when Luke gave her the flowers, and it made him smile.

 

 

Joy woke up the next morning, anxious to get the day going. She took a quick shower in the dark, wary of the noise she had heard the night before. Had she imagined it? It sounded to real, to close. She shivered as she pulled on a pair of jeans and a lightweight blouse, glad to find an excuse to think of something else.

 

Victoria woke up earlier than usual, and hurried to get dressed as well. Joy had told her the night before that they would be going back to Luke’s place, and she didn’t want to waste a minute.

 

Joy helped her get ready, putting her hair into a French-braid, and then doing the same with her own hair. After they had each used the bathroom and brushed their teeth, they made their way to the kitchen to get their stuff for the day.

 

“Well, you’re up early,” Ed said when he saw them.

 

Joy nodded as he gave Victoria a big bear hug. “Yup, we are going to go to Jack’s place again today, see if I can keep from fainting this time.” She said with a smile, trying to find humor in the whole situation.

 

They said their goodbyes for the day, and then headed out the door. Joy had to get creative to know what to make for meals, but was finally able to decide on eggs for breakfast, sandwiches with homemade bread for lunch and spaghetti with her own canned sauce for supper. She was excited, as most of the food that she was taking had been grown in their own garden. She couldn’t take much credit for it, but was learning a lot from Rebecca and her Aunt Linda on anything from harvesting to preserving seeds for next year. She hoped that next year she would be able to plant her own garden, or at least help with theirs.

 

This time Joy had found an old wagon to carry the things in. She and Victoria made their way out to Jack’s place, enjoying the cool, crisp morning. Even though it was July, it had been a cool week, and Joy wished she had brought a sweater. She was sure it was about sixty degrees or less and was glad she had planned for Victoria.

 

Once at the cabin, Joy knocked on the door softly, in case the babies or Luke were still sleeping. No one answered the door, so Joy knocked a little harder. When no one answered again, she tried the doorknob and it opened. She peeked her head in, looking around for any sign of Jack or Luke. When she didn’t see anyone, she walked in quietly, motioning to Victoria to do the same. She gave Victoria a new book to look at, one that she had gotten from the kids books in the basement at the farmhouse.

 

Joy walked over to Jack’s room, and pushed the door open quietly. He had left it open a crack, and she was able to peek in. Jack was lying on his stomach, his arms spread above his head, wearing only his sleeping pants. His back went up and down rhythmically with every breath he took, allowing her to see just how muscular he really was. Joy turned around quickly, her face warming. She refused to admit that she had liked what she had seen, and busied herself with breakfast.

 

A few minutes later, Jack came out of his room, rubbing his eyes. Joy glanced at him and was glad to see that he had gotten fully dressed.

 

“Good morning,” Joy said quietly, knowing that Luke was probably still sleeping.

 

“Hi, Joy,” Jack answered, walking over to see what Victoria was looking at. “Hi Victoria, what are you doing?”

 

“Just looking at this book.” She replied, showing it to him.

 

“Do you want me to read it to you?” Jack asked, sitting next to her.

 

Victoria nodded and stood up, asking to sit on his lap. Joy turned to look at the scene, and caught Jack’s eye. She nodded her head, knowing that he was wondering if it was ok with her.

 

Victoria sat with Jack, and Jack read her the book. Joy enjoyed hearing Jack make all the different voices for each character, and found herself laughing with Victoria. Soon breakfast was almost ready, and Jack went to get Luke. Victoria helped set the table again, and Victoria sat down to wait for Jack and Luke, while Joy got the rest of the meal ready.

 

“Hi, Victoria,” Luke said quietly, sitting down next her. Jack went over to the small stove that Joy was finishing breakfast at and peered over her shoulder.

 

“Now what are you making?” He said, very aware of what she was doing.

 

Joy laughed. “What does it look like?” She teased back.

 

Jack helped her get the food to the table, and was thanked with a smile.

 

He took a seat and waited until Joy sat down. Victoria set her hands out to hold Joy and Luke’s hand, looking at Jack and Joy expectantly.

 

Jack offered his hand to Joy, who took it shyly. Jack offered up thanks, and they ate their meal, enjoying what she had made.

 

“This is really good, Joy. What do you call it?” Jack asked, taking another mouthful.

 

“These? They are just poached eggs in stewed tomatoes. The only thing that isn’t from this farm are the spices, and that’s just salt, pepper, and chili pepper. And that includes all the other vegetables in there, and the eggs, of course.” Joy responded, obviously proud that they had been able to do that. Living off of her own land had always been a dream for Joy, and now, in one of the darkest times in history, her dream was coming true.

 

Jack nodded his head appreciatively. “It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?” He asked, his eyes shinning.

 

Joy smiled. “I love it. I love waking up in the morning knowing that the day is full of surprises, and that I never know what I am going to see or do. I’m looking forward to a schedule, though, but I know that that will come soon enough. I’m planning to start classes in September for Victoria, and that will definitely be a way to get scheduling back into my day!”

 

They talked a bit about school, finishing up their breakfast.

 

Joy stood up and started clearing the table, and each person joined her, taking their plates to the small sink. “So what are your plans for the day?” she asked Jack.

 

“Well, I wish I knew you guys were coming. I have the day off as no one is going to be working on my house today. Because of the recent events, Mr. Bodaway gave everyone the day off. I told Luke that we could go out exploring today.” Jack said, searching her face.

 

“Esploring? I wanna go esploring Mama!” Victoria said excitedly.

 

“Oh, honey, another time, ok? I’m not sure that this is the best time for you to go.” Joy replied, wishing that she could go, too.

 

“Well, she can come with us, right, Luke?” Jack asked Luke, who immediately nodded.

 

“See, Mama? Can I? Please, please, please?”

 

Jack and Luke joined in on the pleading, making Joy laugh. “Ok, you three, but I want you back for lunch, ok? Do you want to take some snacks with you, Jack?”

 

Jack nodded. “Sure, if you have some. I’m afraid all we have in the cabin is whatever you guys bring us.”

 

Joy busied herself getting some snacks together and three bottled waters that she had brought from the farmhouse, intending to send them to work with Jack. She put them together in a backpack that Jack had, while he tended to Victor, who had just woke up.

 

Soon the threesome had taken off, and Joy was left alone with the two babies. She fed them and changed their diaper, and spent some one-on-one time with each of them. They looked healthy, and Joy was pleased to see the normal signs of growing in each of them. Joy put them down to sleep, and was relieved that the crying only lasted for a little while.

 

Joy washed the dishes with the water that Jack had provided, thankful again that she wasn’t the one that had to haul it. She tidied the cabin up, and got to work, putting the right size sheets on Luke’s bed, and arranging things so that he’d have a little more space. She also rearranged the living and dining area so that it was more convenient for whoever was making meals, trying to not wake the babies up.

 

Joy looked at the clock that Jack had on the wall, and decided to start lunch so that it’d be ready by the time they got home. She got the food ready that she had brought, and then put a tablecloth that she had made out of material from Mrs. Larson’s sewing room. She set out her homemade bread, and set the table so that everything could be ready and they could just sit down and eat. She put out some juice, and soon heard Jack and the kids approaching. She wiped her hands on her apron, and looked outside the window to watch them coming.

 

Joy smiled as they thundered through the door, and asked them to take off their shoes so that they wouldn’t carry in the mess. Victoria talked about their trip excitedly, and although Luke didn’t say much, his eyes were shinning too.

 

Joy made them all wash their hands, and they sat at the table to eat. After Jack had said grace, they all became quiet as they ate their sandwiches.

 

“Joy, you’ve been working hard, I see,” Jack said, looking at her across the table.

 

“Oh, not much, I enjoy decorating and rearranging things. I hope you don’t mind.” Joy answered, suddenly realizing that she had never asked.

 

Jack shook his head. “No, it looks great!” he said appreciatively.

 

“Thanks,” Joy said, looking around. There was a lot more that she would do if she knew that she could do it, but she didn’t want to impose.

 

They finished their lunch just in time, as the babies woke up, crying like there was no tomorrow. Joy had everything ready this time, not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the other day. Two babies isn’t so bad, she thought to herself as she picked up Grace and changed her diaper. Especially if you plan ahead. But she hadn’t had to stay up with them at night yet, she reminded herself. And Jack had taken Luke and Victoria, allowing her to concentrate on them. Ok, so it’s a little bit hard, she concluded, holding Grace close.

 

After feeding Grace and lying her down, she took care of Victor, who was fussier than usual. Jack offered to feed him while Joy cleaned up, and she gratefully accepted. Luke and Victoria had gone out onto the porch and were looking at books together.

 

Jack stood up from his chair, still holding Victor, and went to stand next to Joy as she washed the dishes.

 

“Thanks for all your help, Joy. I really appreciate it.” He said, looking intently into her eyes.

 

Joy turned from his gaze, uncomfortable with the goose-bumps it had caused. “Oh, it’s no problem, Jack. That’s what we are all here for, to help each other, right?”

 

Jack nodded, and leaned against the counter, studying little Victor intently. “I was wondering,” he said, looking back at her, “do you want to go see my new house? It’s across the lake, and you’d have to go by yourself, but I’d like you to see it. I can stay here with the kids, after the twins fall asleep.”

 

“Really?” Joy asked, wanting to jump at the chance of getting to see the other side of the lake.

 

“Sure. Have you ever paddled a canoe?” He asked, jokingly.

 

“Sure I have. And I’ve only fallen in half of the times I’ve been on one!” Joy responded, her voice playful and her eyes shinning.

 

Joy hurried with the dishes, and then put the babies to bed, after making sure that they had stayed up for a little while. Luke and Victoria came inside, and Jack read from a book to them again.

 

Joy left, finding the canoe near the lake. She turned it over, but wished that it had been like that already. She pushed it into the lake and jumped in just before it was to late. She rocked back and forth for a little bit, but was able to steady herself. She sat down carefully, and made her way to the other side of the lake. It didn’t take too long, and once there, she was able to tie the canoe to the dock and got out.

 

Joy un-tucked her blouse, wishing she had worn a t-shirt instead. The day had turned out to be rather warm, and the humidity had risen to the point that she felt like she was sweating buckets, especially as she paddled across the lake.

 

From the dock she could see the house that was being built. It looked like a two story log cabin with a wrap around porch. It didn’t look very big, but it did have large windows to see out to the lake.

 

Joy walked over to the house, wondering what the one before had been like. Jack had made her take a flashlight so that she could see the basement too, saying that it had also been redone. She opened the door slowly and went inside, enjoying the sweet smell of the wood that engulfed the home. She took her time going room by room, noting what she would do with each room, if the place were hers. The upstairs was only a loft, with a wall of built-in bookshelves and a desk built in between. Joy guessed that the desk had been planned for the computer that Jack would not be able to use. The main floor consisted of three small bedrooms, each with a view of either the lake or the woods, and the main room. The main room consisted of the kitchen, dining room and living room, all open to each other. She like the open feeling it gave, and especially liked the exposed beams through out the home. The bedrooms and bathroom each had a sheetrock wall, otherwise everything else was wood. There was a massive stone fireplace in the main room, and a larger wood stove closer to the kitchen. It looked larger and older than the ones she had been practicing on, but she was sure that it was a cook stove as well.

 

Joy liked the kitchen the best. It had an old feeling to it, even though it was brand new. Some of the cabinets had windows on them, exposing what was going to be put inside, while others mimicked the color of the wooden walls and floor, making it all seem like one. The center island dividing the kitchen from the other two rooms consisted of a large butcher block, with hooks above it for hanging things. Joy could almost envision hanging food and herbs to dry, preserving them for the winter months. The sink was an old farm sink, and Joy was shocked when she turned the water faucet and the water actually came out. It was perfect, and Joy couldn’t help but be a little jealous of Jack, and the thought even crossed her mind of asking him to trade.

 

Joy made her way around quietly, feeling like she was intruding on Jack’s personal space. She knew that he had invited her to see it, but still couldn’t shake the feeling. She opened the door to the basement, and found that instead of there being rooms down there, they had built shelves to hold supplies instead. Joy wondered why some of them were tilted, and decided that she’d ask Jack about it later. It was a little eerie in the dark for Joy, so she made her way back upstairs, wanting to check out the barns as well.

 

She went across to the barn, and thought she saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. The barn door had just closed, but it still allowed enough space to see through. Thinking that it was John, or some of the other kids taking care of the cows, Joy approached the barn carefully and quietly, wanting to surprise whoever was in there.

 

Joy heard a lot of noise coming from the barn, and her curiosity overtook her. She hurriedly made her way to the door, still trying to be as quiet as she could. She peered inside the barn, and covered her mouth to quiet the gasp that had escaped her lips.

 

The figure that she had seen enter the barn wasn’t John, or anyone else of her family. It was Simon! She pressed her back against the side of the barn, not wanting him to see her, and willed herself to remain calm. Jack was the only one that knew she was here, and he wouldn’t necessarily be expecting her back in a while. Joy peered in quickly into the barn again, wondering what Simon was doing in Jack’s barn. Was he doing some kind of work? It looked like he was digging for something.

 

Simon threw the shovel down in exasperation and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Where is this stupid thing?” He murmured to himself, but loud enough for Joy to hear. He pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket and read it to himself again. He folded it once again and stuffed it in his pocket.

 

Joy was more than curious now, but too afraid to make her presence known. Simon had made a pass at her the day after her husband had died, and then had pulled her a little too close for her comfort when she had almost fallen into the lake. She shuddered at the thought of what he could do to her out here, where no one could hear her if she screamed.

 

As she retreated back to the dock quietly, rain began to fall. Slowly at first, and then harder as each second made it feel colder and colder. She ran knowing that Simon wouldn’t be able to hear her over the rain, not wanting to get soaked.

 

She untied the canoe and climbed into it, and took off as fast as she could. She could barely see in front of her, and hoped that it meant that if Simon had come out, that he wouldn’t be able to see her, either. She’d rather him not know that she had been there, so she pressed on, hoping that she was going in the right direction.

 

Joy shivered as she heard the thunder clapping, but it only made her more determined to get to the other side. The lake was not the place to be in a thunderstorm, and Joy worried that lightning might hit the water. Just as Joy thought it couldn’t get any worse, hail started falling, hurting her body as she continued paddling. The wind was picking up, and she was having a hard time keeping the canoe from tipping over. She wasn’t sure just where she was, but she continued paddling, hoping to at some point hit land.

 

Just then, a large wind gust blew from her left side, toppling her and the canoe over. Joy went under water and panicked, not knowing which way to swim. Her feet were getting tangled in some milfoil and she felt like someone was pulling her under. The more she kicked, the further she got tangled, and Joy wondered if this would be the end of her. Thoughts of Victoria flooded her mind as she desperately tried to get out of the tangled mess.

 

“Help!” She yelled, just before going under again.

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Guest Guest

CHAPTER 21

 

The water was cold and the sound deafening as the rain and hail hit the lake around Joy. The sky had gone black with the sun nowhere to be seen, and as she slipped back into the water it was almost as dark as it had been when she had gotten stuck in the elevator.

 

Joy struggled to go back up for air, her face barely clearing the surface. “Help!” She yelled as loud as she could. The only response that she heard was of loud thunder and the roaring rain before the milfoil that had her trapped pulled her down again.

 

 

Jack looked out the cabin’s window, a look of concern on his face. Luke and Victoria had both fallen asleep, and he was glad that they didn’t seem bothered by the storm. The twins woke up and he took care of them, looking out the window time and time again for Joy. They were now lying contentedly on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

 

He went out, got some wood and started a fire in the fireplace, knowing that Joy would be soaked when she returned. He put water on to heat, hoping that she would be back soon. He pulled a towel from one of his boxes, and set it near the door, ready to be used when Joy arrived. He peered expectantly through the window once more, and was disappointed to not see her coming.

 

Jack looked through the stuff that she had brought, and was happy to discover that she had packed some tea. At least now she would be able to have some flavor in the hot water, he thought.

 

He saw another lightning strike through the corner of his eye, lightning up the sky. Maybe she stayed at the house, Jack hoped. He knew that it was dangerous to be out on the water in a thunderstorm, and didn’t want to think of what could happen to her.

 

Jack sighed and put his hands on the counter, lowering his head. “Lord,” he prayed softly, “please protect her!” His heart was racing, and his gut told him she was in trouble. He walked over to the fireplace and poked it, making sure it kept the cabin warm. The temperature had taken a remarkable drop, but that wasn’t uncommon for this far up North.

 

He checked on each of the four kids, and made sure that they all had blankets on them, keeping the chill off. The twins had fallen asleep on their own with out crying, much to Jack’s amazement and relief.

 

 

Joy kept struggling to get free from the milfoil and get another breath of air. Her lungs were getting tired as was the rest of her body, and she felt that she was losing the fight.

 

“Joy.”

 

Joy shook her head and kept struggling in the dark. She recognized the voice inside her head, as she had heard it many times before. She refused to listen.

 

“Joy, relax.”

 

No! She wanted to shout. Joy was able to come up just enough to get some air, but not enough to call out for help again. It seemed that the time she went underwater was longer than the time she spent outside, and she was beginning to feel weak.

 

“Joy,” the voice said again, “trust Me. Relax.”

 

I don’t trust you! I can’t! You let Dave die! Joy shook her head under the water again, determined to win this fight by herself.

 

“You cannot do this without Me, Joy. Relax.”

 

Joy could feel the tears of frustration coming down her cheeks, even in the water. But I’ll die!

 

“Trust Me,” came back His reply.

 

Joy finally gave in allowing herself to relax, sinking deeper into the water. At the same time, the milfoil around her released its grasp. As she realized what was happening, she calmly, but quickly, took the milfoil off her arms and legs, freeing herself to go back up for air.

 

As she reached the surface, her lungs received the much-needed air that she had been deprived of. She looked around for the canoe and swam to it, careful not to get caught again. She wrapped her arms around it, glad to have a place to rest, even in the middle of the storm.

 

Joy allowed herself to float for what seemed to be for hours, when in fact it was just a few minutes. She cried her heart out to God, her Maker, her Savior, and Friend. She allowed the tears to run freely, glad to know that God was indeed on her side. She would probably never understand why Dave had had to die, but she would trust that God would use it for His purposes. She determined that she would also allow Him to use her life for the same thing. What had Dave prayed for that last time they were together? That above all, for God to be glorified and for His will to be done in their lives, whatever that may be. She closed her eyes and as the tears continued to flow freely, she made Dave’s prayer her own, feeling the peace of God, the one that passes all understanding, flooding her heart once more.

 

 

Jack almost jumped when he saw Joy coming. He opened the door and stepped out onto the porch as she ran through the rain, her clothes cold against her body. He held out the towel he had prepared for her and wrapped it around her shoulders.

 

“Are you ok?” He asked, leading her back inside to the warmth of the fire.

 

“Yes,” she replied quietly, her eyes filled with joy, “I am now.”

 

Jack smiled down at her, relieved that she was ok. “I want to know what happened, but you need to get out of those clothes, or you’re going to catch yourself a cold.”

 

“But I didn’t bring any extra, and I’d really rather not go back out in the rain.” She responded.

 

“Well, I guess you’ll just have to use some of mine. I’m sorry, Joy. I should have known the storm was coming with the humidity being so high.” He said as he pulled out a pair of clean sweatpants and a t-shirt. “Here, put these on. They’ll probably be a little big, but it’s the best I’ve got”

 

Joy nodded gratefully and took the clothes. She closed the door to his bedroom behind her and quickly changed into the dry clothes, appreciating the warmth they brought to her cold body. Joy picked up all of her clothes and placed them near the fire to dry, except for her undergarments.

 

Jack handed her a cup of tea and made her sit near the fire, putting a light blanket around her shoulders. He took a chair and turned it around, crossing his arms on the back, resting his chin on his hands. He looked at her expectantly, waiting to hear what she had to say.

 

“Where are the kids?” Joy asked, taking a sip of the hot tea.

 

Jack nodded towards Luke’s room, and Joy could see them through the halfway opened door. Luke was sprawled out across the floor and Victoria was lying on the bed that she had just made that day for Luke. It almost seemed like a lifetime ago to Joy, and the scene of her daughter sleeping peacefully made her smile.

 

“I had a fight with God, Jack.” She stated simply.

 

Jack raised his eyebrows and nodded, encouraging her to go on.

 

“He won.” She smiled. “And I’m glad He did, or I’d probably be dead right now, meeting Him in person, trying to explain why I was holding such a grudge against Him.”

 

Joy related the events that had happen, going into details about how she had finally allowed God to enter her life once more. Jack listened intently, his eyes never leaving her face, not wanting to miss a word.

 

Tears formed in her eyes again as she retold of her struggle in the water. “Once I gave in to God and relaxed,” she said, “I remembered seeing something in the news about a guy drowning because he had panicked under water. The more he tried to free himself, the more he got tangled up. They told the viewers that if they were ever in a similar situation, that they should just relax and calmly take the milfoil off So I did, and here I am.”

 

Jack let out a deep breath and smiled at her. “Well, I’m so glad you are ok,” he stated simply.

 

Joy smiled back. “Thanks Jack. And Jack,” she paused, not quite knowing what to say next.

 

Jack looked at her with the same intensity he had before, wanting her to know that he was still available to listen.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“For this?” he asked, a little confused. “You would have done the same for me.”

 

Joy nodded. “Yes, for this,” she said, nodding at the fire. “But also for being my friend. I treated you so badly the day we met, and I’ve felt horrible about it since then. Will you forgive me?”

 

Jack smiled at her, making her relax. “Of course I will. I’m sorry for assuming that you were in trouble. It’s just that that man, Simon, gives me the creeps.”

 

“I was in trouble,” Joy confessed. “I was just too proud to take any help. By the way, Simon was at your barn today, while I was there.”

 

“What?” Jack asked surprised. “Why would he be there?”

 

Joy recounted what she had seen, and was surprised at the troubled look that came over his eyes.

 

“And you say he had a piece of paper?” Jack asked, the sound of his voice matching his eyes.

 

Joy nodded and stood up, leaving the blanket behind. “You think about that and I’ll get supper started.” She said, patting his shoulder as she walked by him.

 

“Are you sure you are ok now?” He asked her, concern still in his voice.

 

“Positive.” She replied, pulling out what she had prepared the day before. It was all ready to just put together so that it would still be fresh.

 

She busied herself preparing the spaghetti and warming the French bread she had made. She put the salad together and soon the cabin was filled with the wonderful smell of the tomatoes, together with all the other spices. She hummed as she worked, oblivious to the fact that she was doing so.

 

As Joy worked on the meal, Jack helped by setting the table. He couldn’t help but notice her humming, and was pleasantly surprised at the sound of her voice. He looked up to watch her, and stood there almost entranced at her beauty. She was beautiful on the outside, but the beauty that Jack was witnessing came from deep within her heart. He worked quietly, not wanting to miss hearing her voice.

 

Joy washed her hands and came to join him, putting glasses and silverware on the table. Jack reached to take some of the silverware, and their hands touched, making Joy blush. She turned away quickly so that Jack wouldn’t notice, not wanting to think about the feelings that were arising in her.

 

Soon Luke and Victoria woke up, and joined the adults in the main room. Then the babies awoke too, and Jack offered to watch the kids and keep an eye on the meal while she took care of them.

 

Joy took each baby and took care of them, feeling like she was doing it for the first time. She was still a little week from struggling in the water, but she felt fresh, like she had a new lease on life. After she put Victor down, she paused and pulled her hair out of the braid she had made earlier in the morning, allowing her hair to cascade down over her shoulders. She figured that this would allow it some time to dry, and laughed when Grace grabbed hold of a lock of hair tightly.

 

After Joy was done taking care of the babies, she gave Grace to Jack, and laid Victor on the bed. She got the food on the table, and after Jack gave thanks for the meal, she went to pick up Victor, and they all ate their meal, Jack and Joy with a baby each. The kids enjoyed slurping the noodles, and Jack and Joy enjoyed laughing at them.

 

The rain had stopped and the clouds had moved on. The sun was shinning bright again, and Jack allowed the fire to die. After they were done with supper, Joy put the babies down for one more nap before they were put down for the night. Jack and the kids cleared the table, and as Joy washed the dishes, they enjoyed a game of Candy Land that Joy had brought over.

 

Joy laughed with the kids as Jack pretended to be in deep sorrow over loosing the game. The kids asked to play another game, and then another, until Joy finally said it was time for her and Victoria to go home.

 

“But I don’t want to go home!” Victoria whined.

 

“Well, we’ll see Luke and Dr. Jack again tomorrow, ok? They are going to come over to our place to the party that Auntie Bethany is preparing.” Joy said, gathering some things to take back.

 

“A party? Yeah! Luke, do you want to come over to my house tomorrow for a party?” She asked excitedly, jumping up and down.

 

Luke nodded, but didn’t exactly mirror her enthusiasm. “Dr. Jack, do you want to come over too?” She asked, still excited.

 

“I sure do!” He exclaimed.

 

“But, who will take care of the babies then?” She asked, her eyes clouding over.

 

Jack and Joy laughed, and Jack responded. “Don’t worry. They’ll be there too!”

 

Joy knelt and gave Luke a hug. “Good night, Luke, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She said, kissing his cheek lightly. In the few days that she had really gotten to know him, Joy had grown attached to the little boy.

 

Luke looked down, a little embarrassed that a girl had kissed him. “Good night,” he replied quietly.

 

Joy smiled and stood up. “Good night, Jack.”

 

“’Night, Joy.” Jack replied, feeling a little awkward. Should he hug her too, he wondered?

 

He didn’t wonder for long as Joy reached up and gave him a quick hug. “Thanks for listening,” she whispered in his ear before turning to go.

 

He smiled at her and held the door open for them. She was still wearing his clothes, and had taken all of hers so that she could wash them once she got home.

 

Jack and Luke watched as Joy and Victoria made their way back to their home, following them as far as they could with their eyes.

 

Luke turned to look at Jack, and put his little hand in his big one. “I like her,” he said softly, looking back out the window.

 

“Who, Victoria?” Jack asked, turning to look at him.

 

Luke shook his head. “Miss Joy.”

 

 

Joy and Victoria made their way back to the farmhouse and were met at the porch by Liz, Bethany and Ann, worried looks on their faces.

 

“Joy! Are you ok? We were worried about you!” Liz said giving her a hug, and then bending down and giving Victoria one.

 

“We’re fine,” Joy reassured everyone. “I do have a story to tell, though” she said, her eyes shinning.

 

“Why are you wearing Jack’s clothes?” Bethany asked accusingly.

 

“I’ll tell you all inside,” Joy responded. Not even Bethany could take away the joy she felt in her heart now.

 

They all went into the house, and Joy allowed Victoria to play in her room while she and the other adults talked about her experiences of the day. They were all thankful that she was all right, but Joy noticed that there was even a deeper satisfaction in Ed’s smile, and she knew that it was because he was rejoicing in the fact that she had returned to the Lord.

 

They spent the evening talking and catching up on all the events of the day. Bethany announced the plans for the next day, and Joy was happy to hear that it involved some games and outdoor activities, if the weather cooperated, of course.

 

Joy took another long bath that night, but this time put a towel over the window. She spent time talking with the Friend that she had ignored for so long, thanking Him for His hand of protection on her life.

 

The next day started out a little later than usual, with everyone sleeping in, even Ed. Soon the hustle and bustle of the activities started, and Joy and Victoria joined in. Victoria played with her second cousins outside while Joy helped in the kitchen, getting breakfast ready and putting in some pies to bake.

 

Jack, Luke and the twins soon joined them, and he came into the kitchen to see if he could help, only to be told to wait outside with the rest of the men.

 

They all enjoyed their breakfast outside, after Ed had given thanks. Joy had not been too excited about the “party day”, but it was turning out to be a lot of fun. After the dishes were done, she followed the ladies outside to see what Bethany had planned for them. They played a bunch of games, some even childish, but they had a lot of fun. Joy laughed like she hadn’t in a long time, even when Jack and Bethany’s team won at tug of war, sending her team through the mud.

 

After lunch Bethany made the announcement that there was going to be a co-ed game of Tackle Football for whoever was interested. Everyone decided to join, except for the older and younger crowd, aside from Linda offering to referee. Bethany assigned teams, trying to make it fair. Jack and Joy again were on opposite sides, but Joy failed to see that Bethany made sure that she and Jack were on the same one. When Bethany came to Joy to let her know what team she was going to be on, she laughed at her quietly, and then teased her that this would maybe prove to be to tough of a game for her.

 

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll break a nail?” She asked sinisterly. “It’s bound to get rough, maybe you shouldn’t play.” Bethany laughed and glanced at Jack for approval, who was oblivious of what was happening.

 

Joy tilted her head slightly and raised her eyebrows. “Bring it on!” she yelled in the best macho voice she could come up with, clenching her fists near her sides.

 

Bethany went over the rules quickly, making sure that everyone knew that they had to count to five Mississippi before rushing the quarterback for each team. Seth was the quarterback for Joy’s team, and Jack had been assigned as the quarterback for his team.

 

A few minutes into the game, Joy’s team had the ball and they were close to scoring a touchdown. In the huddle, Seth called a play for Roger and Joy to go out for a pass. He told them that he expected they would cover Roger and let Joy go free. “Be ready, Joy,” he said, “I’m going to look for you first.” When the ball was snapped, the other team yelled their five Mississippi’s and Seth dropped back to pass. He saw that Joy was open and threw the ball to her. She was excited when she caught the ball, only for her face to drop when she saw Juan and Jack running towards her, followed close behind by Bethany.

 

She ran for all she was worth, laughing hard as she went. She knew that the other team was not too far behind and she wanted desperately to turn and see how far they were, but knew that it was probably going to cost her. So she kept running, the ball tucked tightly in her arms. Jack did catch up with her, and tumbled her to the ground, his body halfway landing on hers.

 

She turned to see who it was, and grinned when she realized it was Jack. “Fooled ya, didn’t we?”

 

Jack smiled at her, aware of her closeness and the sweet smell of her perfume. He looked at her eyes intently, wondering why they were greener today than they had been the other day, and why he had even noticed. He shook his head, more to clear it than anything, then stood up and held his hand out to help her up. “You sure did,” he mumbled as she took his hand “you sure did.”

 

Joy’s team came running and gathered around her. “Joy! You did it! We got our first touchdown!” Roger held her hand up in triumph. They cheered, but it would soon prove to be premature. Jack’s team proved to be too much and too fast, and Joy knew they would probably lose the game. She was not too competitive, but had gotten in the spirit of the sport, and really wanted her team to win.

 

Jack’s team had the ball, and they all took their places, getting ready to make their play. Jack called out the snap count and Juan hiked the ball to him. Joy’s team started to count loud enough for all of them to hear.

 

“One Mississippi, Two Mississippi…” Joy joined them, but then at the last minute changed her mind, skipping the counting and rushing Jack, taking him by surprise. She wrapped her arms around his waist and turned him around, finally wrestling him onto the ground before he was able to throw the ball. Joy stood up quickly and laughed as Jack struggled to get up, trying to figure out if he had missed something.

 

Jack realized what had happened, and went after Joy, making her run for all her might when she saw him coming for her. He was too fast for her, though, and soon caught up, putting his arms around her waist from the back and picking her off the ground.

 

“You little cheater,” He laughed, swinging her around in the air.

 

He finally put her down and everyone laughed as she walked around a little dizzy, trying to find her footing. Jack laughed and held her steady, hoping that he hadn’t over done it. Everyone soon joined them, and Bethany declared the game won by her team, due to Joy’s cheating and the fact that they were five touchdowns ahead. The game died down, with everyone wanting to get a bit of rest before they went on to other things.

 

Joy walked back with the others to the porch, where some of the older crowd was playing dominoes. She was surprised that Mr. Bodaway was there, playing with them.

 

“Hello, Miss Joy. How are you today?” He asked with a big smile.

 

“Good, Mr. Bodaway, and you?” She answered with a smile of her own.

 

“Good, thank you. I came by to invite all of you to a party the Reservation is holding tonight, hoping that you aren’t too tired after all the playing you have done today.”

 

Joy nodded looking at her dad. “Are we going to go?” She wondered. None of them had been back to the Reservation since the last meeting they had had there. Joy thought it might be fun, and was excited at the prospect of going.

 

“Yes, I think so,” Ed replied, much to both Mr. Bodaway and Joy’s delight.

 

“Good!” Joy said, leaning in to give her dad a kiss. “I’m going to take the paddle boat and go swimming, ok? Victoria and Luke are outside, and Aunt Linda is taking care of the babies, so they should be ok. I’ll be back later to help with supper. Send someone to get me if I’m taking too long, I promise I won’t go far.”

 

Joy’s started blushing as she realized that she had assumed that Jack’s kids were her responsibility. She was grateful that the two men didn’t seem to notice, but Joy caught the look of concern in her dad’s eyes.

 

“After yesterday? Are you sure, Joy?” He asked her.

 

Joy nodded her head firmly. “Yes. I’m getting back on the horse dad! I promise to be careful, ok?”

 

“Ok. But I’m sending someone out looking for you from time to time to make sure you are ok.” He replied, his voice serious.

 

“Ok, Dad. And I will be careful. I promise.”

 

Joy made her way back into her bedroom where she put her swimming suit on, and pulled a pair of shorts on over it. She made her way down to the paddleboat, this time putting on a life jacket. She went into the lake, enjoying the warm breeze, marveling at the difference in the weather from one day to the next. It had been just yesterday that Jack had had to have the fire going to keep her warm, and here she was, swimming again in the lake. This time she was thankful that she had a lifejacket on, just in case. Joy had seen Allen coming to check on her while she was out swimming, and had waved to let him know that she was ok.

 

After she had swam for a while, she went back to the paddleboat and paddled to the dock. She tied it back onto the dock and left the life jacket there, taking her towel and shorts with her. She walked to a small sandy beach, surrounded by the trees and spread out her towel, lying down on it and enjoying the sun.

 

She was close enough to the others to hear their voices, and yet far enough to be able to relax. She closed her eyes for a while, glad that she was able to enjoy some time alone.

 

“Joy? Joy!” Joy heard Allen calling for her.

 

“I’m over here!” She yelled, standing up and picking up her towel. As she bent over, she heard a noise through the trees and looked up. Standing there, behind one of the trees was Simon Little. He smiled at her, not taking his eyes off of her, then turned and walked away.

 

“Allen!” Joy yelled, running to where she had heard Allen’s voice last.

 

She finally met up with him, her hands shaking. “Are you ok?” Allen asked her, helping her climb over some bushes.

 

Joy nodded her head, not wanting to worry him. At only fifteen years old, Allen seemed to be a lot more mature for his age. She had found him to not only be a fun companion, but a faithful friend as well. Joy knew that she should probably tell him about the incident, but he interrupted her thoughts.

 

“Grandpa says that we need to get ready for the party. I’m going to wear my cowboy hat.” He said proudly.

 

“You brought it?” Joy asked and then laughed as he nodded. “Well, I think you’ll fit right in, then!”

 

They laughed as they made their way back to the house, arm in arm. Once there Joy discovered that Jack had gone to Seth’s place to shower and get ready there, and had taken his kids with him. Part of her was disappointed, but she focused on getting herself ready for the party. She took her turn in the shower, glad to see that her sisters had already showered and were getting ready in Joy’s room. Liz had given Victoria a bath, and they were helping her get pretty for the event as well.

 

After they were all ready, they climbed up on a horse drawn wagon that was normally used for hayrides in the fall. They all sang and clapped, enjoying each other’s company. Bethany wasn’t with them either, since she had gone to Seth’s as well, and instead they had John. He and Allen led the group in singing, laughing along the way until they got there.

 

Once at the party, Joy heard the sound of music, and saw lights all around the center of the town. At first she was confused, but then figured out that they were using generators. The food smelled wonderful, and the ambiance was very nice. All the men seemed to be wearing western clothing, while all the women were dressed in pretty dresses.

 

The music that was playing was mostly country. Joy had never danced country, or danced much at all, but gave in when Allen pleaded with her to dance with him. And he sure knew how to dance! He gave her a few tips before they sat back down, only for him to pull her back up a few minutes later when they all started line dancing. Most of her family joined in on this one except Ed and Liz, who where content sitting back and watching everyone else.

 

 

Seth and those with him finally arrived at the party in time to join the line dancing. Linda had again offered to baby-sit the twins, but they had brought them to Mr. Bodaway’s home so that they wouldn’t be alone at Seth’s. Jack and Luke joined the dancing right away, followed by Bethany. She made sure she stayed close to Jack, with the excuse of learning how to dance.

 

Jack felt very uncomfortable. She had sat next to him on the way to the party, and had about landed on his lap when they went over a bump. He had moved over to give her some space, but she had slowly inched herself towards him again. When they got to the party, instead of taking his hand that he had offered her to get down, she put her two hands on his shoulders and jumped down, making him almost loose his balance. She had looked up to him with the same expectation again in her eyes, but he still couldn’t read what she was trying to tell him.

 

After the line dancing ended, the crowd dispersed, allowing those who stayed to dance for the next song to have some space. Joy was making her way back to the table her family was at when someone pulled her hand back and jerked her around.

 

Simon gathered Joy into his arms, holding her close for the slow song. Joy could smell the liquor on his rancid breath and tried desperately to pull away.

 

“Ah, come on, darlin’! Let’s dance!” He sneered, allowing his hand to go further down her back.

 

“Knock it off, Simon!” Joy said in a loud voice. “Get your hands off of me!”

 

Simon lifted his head back and laughed as he danced her further away from the people, his hands holding her tight.

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CHAPTER 22

 

 

“I believe the lady said to let her go,” a voice behind Joy said. Joy looked over her shoulder and was relieved to see Jack standing there. She didn’t care what he thought of her at this point, she needed his help!

 

“Jack!” Both Joy and Simon said at the same time, although the tone of their voice was definitely different.

 

“Look, Jack, I got to her first. You are just going to have to wait your turn, and that won’t be until my turn is over.” Simon said, then turned away and spit, still holding on tight to Joy.

 

“Well, it sounds as though she thinks your turn is done, so back off. If you don’t, I will certainly be glad to make you.” Jack said, grabbing Joy’s arm gently and one of Simon’s arms not so gently.

 

Simon lifted his hands and backed away, shaking his head. “Now, now, Jack. Nothin’ to git upset about. Soon we will all be on level playin’ field, and we’ll see who comes out on top then!”

 

Jack looked at him a little confused, but didn’t let go of Joy’s arm. “Well you just make sure you stay away from her, do you hear? If I see you bothering her, or any of the other ladies here, you’ll have me to answer to.”

 

Simon spat again and looked at Jack with hate-filled eyes. “Don’t mess with me, Doc. I swear I will have her if it’s the last thing I do. Mark my words, one way or another, she’ll be mine!”

 

“What’s going on here?” Andrew Atsidi, the chief of police, asked. “Are you in trouble Ma’am?”

 

“No trouble, Officer. Jack here just couldn’t wait his turn to dance with the lady. But that’s all right! I have a forgivin’ heart. We’ll all get our chance soon enough, right?” Simon said as he winked at Andrew and laughed again, sending chills up and down Joy’s back.

 

“I’m fine, now, thank you,” Joy answered, scowling at Simon as he walked away.

 

“Alright, then. Jack. Ma’am,” Andrew said, tipping his hat and making his way back to the dance floor.

 

“Are you really ok, Joy?” Jack asked, his eyes searching her face for any clues of how she was feeling. He was afraid that she might get angry with him again for intervening, but was more concerned about her well being than anything.

 

“Yes, I am. Thank you for helping me, Jack. I won’t be as foolish as I was the last time and yell at you for helping me. I’m not sure what he would have done if you hadn’t come along. Now, if you would be so kind as to let go of my arm, maybe I could get some feeling back in to it.”

 

Joy grinned at the look on Jack’s face when he realized that he had not let go of her arm yet. He let go immediately, embarrassed that he had held on so long.

 

“I’m sorry, Joy,” he said quietly, looking down at his feet. “I didn’t realize, I hope I didn’t, I mean I…”

 

Joy laughed and locked her arm in his, leading him back to the dance floor. “Come and teach me how to cowboy dance, Jack.” When he hesitated, she pulled on his hand with both of her hands, smiling and batting her eyelashes as big as she could. “Please?” she teased.

 

Jack smiled and gave in, pulling her closer to him to dance. “I haven’t danced in years,” he admitted to Joy.

 

Joy smiled up at him and responded, but Jack didn’t hear her over the music. He leaned his head closer to her, waiting for her to repeat what she has just said.

 

“I said you could have fooled me!” Joy responded and laughed when she stepped on his foot. “I’m sorry!”

 

Jack laughed too, and tuned her around like a ballerina. “You are a dangerous woman, Joy. Not sure I’d trust my feet around you!”

 

Joy gave him a playful shove with her hips, laughing when he overcompensated for it. They continued dancing until the music stopped, and they waited for the next song to be played. Jack looked at Joy, wondering if they were done.

 

“Do you want to keep dancing?” Jack asked, wondering if he wanted to himself. Something about Joy deeply moved him, and yet he refused to allow himself to look at her as anything other than a friend. The encounter with Simon had stirred some deep emotions in him that he hadn’t felt in a long time, and he had to fight himself from wanting to pound the guy for even looking at her, let alone touching her.

 

Joy looked up at him and nodded eagerly, fully enjoying the dance. “I’ve never danced this much in my life,” she said excitedly, her eyes shining in the dark.

 

Jack reached over and put his hand on her waist, noticing her stunning figure as she drew closer to him when the music started. It was a slow song, and Joy felt her cheeks growing warm at the touch of his hands. She turned her face from him as she reached her hand up to his shoulder, feeling the strength of his arm, and allowed him to lead her around the dance floor. Jack was quite a bit taller than she was, and she felt almost powerless in his arms. She was glad that it hadn’t been him that had threatened her, or she really wouldn’t have stood a chance.

 

Jack looked down at Joy, disturbed by her beauty. Her eyes were shining and her hair was gleaming in the lights, making her face the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. She looked up at him and smiled, her lips full and tempting, and for a moment, he felt like it was just the two of them dancing under all the lights and candles.

 

It was only for a moment, though. Jack’s eyes went past Joy to someone standing behind her, his face showing a little concern.

 

“Hey, can a girl cut in?” Bethany asked, tapping on Joy’s shoulder.

 

Joy looked back at Bethany and blushed, feeling as though she had been caught. “Um, yes, of course. That is, if Jack’s okay with it. I mean he’d be the one doing the dancing.”

 

Joy took a couple of steps back, embarrassed to now be left standing alone on the dance floor. She looked at the couple as they danced away, catching Jack’s eye. He shrugged and rolled his eyes, letting her know that there wasn’t much he could do. Joy smiled at him, more to reassure herself that she was fine than anything else.

 

Just then a very well dressed man approached Joy, smiling at her and offering his hand. “Would you care to dance?” he asked. Joy nodded her head and took his hand, a little uncomfortable with not knowing who he was. She noted that her family was watching her, so she felt better about agreeing to dance with him.

 

“You are Ms. Wilson, right? Joy Wilson?” he asked, his mustache hiding a slight smile. He was an American Indian man in his late forties, his long black hair pulled back into a braid. He was a good looking man, and seemed to know exactly what he was doing, at least on the dance floor. His hands were large, yet soft, not at all like Jack’s. Joy noticed that Jack’s hands were not only large, but used to work, and hard work at that.

 

Joy nodded and looked at him a little surprised. “Yes, I am. And you are?”

 

The man smiled and nodded. “Forgive me. I thought perhaps you would have remembered. I’m Wamblee Bodaway, the chief of the town,” he said with obvious pride.

 

“Oh, yes! Now I do remember. I’m sorry,” Joy said apologetically. “I saw you the first day we got here, at the meeting at your father’s home.”

 

Wamblee nodded, his eyes full of pride. “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to come to your new home to see you and your family. We are glad you are here, that you have decided to stay. I trust you are settling in okay?”

 

Joy nodded, and smiled. “Yes. And we are very happy and grateful to be here. I’m not sure what our fate would have been had we not been able to come and live here. Thank you!”

 

“Well, I’m glad you are doing well. Do you like the town?”

 

“Oh, yes, very much! It has such a warm feeling to it, and it seems like everyone knows each other and gets along well,” Joy responded, looking around her.

 

Wamblee nodded and looked around himself. “Yes, most everyone gets along well. We have some issues, but we are working those out for the good of the Reservation. Are you aware of what is happening outside the area?”

 

Joy looked at him in all seriousness and shook her head, expecting him to continue.

 

“Well, it’s not good. At all. Things are falling apart, especially in the cities, as if there was no way for the government officials to control what is going on. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it’s all over the country. The Government had to bring more than half of its troops back from all around the world just to keep order around here, leaving the countries they were in at the time in a bad way. Did you know that the Government has gone bankrupt?” Wamblee asked, amused at how little Joy really knew. After she shook her head, her eyes wide with fear, he continued.

 

“Yup. I’m not the best at all the foreign policy stuff, but several countries, including China, decided to collect what they were owed all at once, throwing the American economy down the hole. It’s a whole different world out there, Ms. Wilson. A worse one, I’m afraid. Not many people would make it out there, especially ones that didn’t know how to defend themselves.”

 

Joy looked at Wamblee, wondering what he was saying. She had been okay dancing with the man, but was glad that the song was now over and she could go back to her family. She felt uncomfortable still in his arms, but he had not let go, and looked like he had no intentions on doing so.

 

“It’s good you are here, Joy. We are glad to have you. Do you mind dancing with me again?” Wamblee asked, not waiting for an answer. Joy looked back at her family, but none of them seemed to notice that she was uncomfortable. Jack and Bethany had gone back as well, but neither of them was looking in her direction.

 

“Mr. Bodaway, are you trying to tell me something?” Joy asked, a little irritated.

 

Wamblee looked at her, surprised by how direct she was. He laughed and squeezed her hand. “No, no. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. Not at all. I do think it would be good if you could learn how to shoot. I guess that is what I was getting at. Are you familiar with guns?”

 

Joy felt herself relax, glad that he wasn’t kicking her out of the Reservation. She wasn’t sure why she thought that, but he had made her feel like she was somehow in trouble. She shook her head to answer his question.

 

“No, not at all. I’ve never even touched one,” she admitted, feeling a little foolish.

 

“Well, that will be no problem. There are several men on the Reservation that would be happy to teach you, and your family of course, me included. We have things set up in a way that you shouldn’t have to worry about the outside world for a long, long time, Ms. Wilson. Not until it’s safe to go out there again, that is. But it’s always good to be prepared. If we had not listened to my father about any of this, we would not have been able to provide this protection, to be this organized in time. Now, although things are changing in the Reservation, we are in a place where we can rise from this whole situation and come out on top.

 

“I will have a talk with your father soon, and ask permission to come and teach you to handle a gun. I don’t think you will take much time in learning, and you might even come to like it.” He smiled at the confused look on her face, but wasn’t able to continue.

 

“Ask my father?” Joy asked.

 

Wamblee nodded. “Yes. One of the changes that we are making in the Reservation is that all the women need to have a man that will be responsible for them. I know that sounds like we are going back to the Stone Age, but it could be dangerous for the women, especially beautiful ones like yourself, even here in this protected environment. We feel like the best way to protect women is to have someone that will be responsible for them, and will defend them.”

 

“You don’t think women can defend themselves?” Joy asked incredulously.

 

“Can you?” Wamblee retorted kindly. “Look, Ms. Wilson, we aren’t trying to be condescending. But we can’t afford to have single women in the Reservation to be taken advantage of, or worse. By having a man with them, well, it would at least give them more protection. We want to protect the women, and yet be fair to the men in the Reservation as well. We are still trying to figure all that out, and I have a feeling it will be a late night for the members of the committee and I. We will be taking a vote on some suggestions and passing the laws tonight.”

 

Joy let out a sigh, not knowing what to think. “How,” she stopped to clear her throat, “how will this affect me and others like me?”

 

“Oh, I’m sure it won’t be anything too bad, Ms. Wilson. It will be something that we can all live with, I assure you,” Wamblee said in his most reassuring voice. “How ‘bout we change the subject? I didn’t mean to put a damper on your evening,” he said, putting his hand on her chin to raise her face to look at him.

 

Joy looked away, uncomfortable with the way he was looking at her. It wasn’t like Simon, but she knew that he still enjoyed his hands on her body.

 

“I’m fine, thank you. But if you don’t mind, I think I’m a little hungry and would like to get back to our table.” Joy said, letting go of his hand.

 

Wamblee nodded, and put his arm around her shoulder. “I’ll walk you back, Ms. Wilson, and then maybe we can practice some shooting tomorrow after the service, if you’d like.”

 

Joy nodded absentmindedly and walked faster, hoping that his hand would not follow her. It did. When they got to the table where her family was, Joy noticed that her parents had already left, and that it looked as the others were getting ready to leave as well.

 

“We are getting ready to go home,” Ann said when she saw Joy. She noticed the look on her face right away, and held her hand out to Joy. Joy took it immediately, pulling away from Wamblee, glad to be out of his embrace.

 

“Is the Reverend gone?” Wamblee asked Juan and Ann.

 

Juan nodded. “Yes, they left a little a while ago. Did you need him?”

 

Wamblee shook his head, and tipped his hat. “No, thank you. It can wait until tomorrow. Juan, ladies.”

 

As Wamblee walked away, Ann put her arm around her baby sister. “Are you okay?” she asked her in Spanish.

 

“I am now,” Joy answered. “He is a strange man. He told me some things that I’m not sure what to make of, and I really didn’t like him hugging me like that.”

 

“I’m sorry, Joy, we were all keeping an eye on you, but you seemed to be doing fine. Then when Seth and his family left it created quite a commotion, trying to get everyone back into the wagon they had come in. Bethany has gone there to stay over night, and they took Jack and Luke home as well. We thought that it was getting late, so we should get back too, especially since there is going to be church tomorrow. Mom and Dad have gone to get the wagon, and Roger and Marie went with them. Every one else I think is still dancing, but Juan is going to get them now, right Juan?”

 

Juan smiled back at her and stuck his tongue out at her. “Yeah, I’m going, I’m going.”

 

Soon they were all on their way back, with Victoria fast asleep in Joy’s lap. Joy told her family about what Wamblee had said, and they all discussed at length what they thought it meant.

 

“Well, we will pray about it and trust the Lord,” Ed said, careful with the words he was choosing. “We have come a long way, and he has not let us down yet. We’ll take all this one step at a time, and ask Him to help us cross that bridge when we get there.”

 

Joy smiled at how simple he made it sound. Just trust the Lord. She realized that they were now in a time that those words would be have to be practiced often, if not every day. They traveled the rest of their way home in silence, each into his own thoughts. John had gone home with his parents, and Joy noticed that she and Allen were the only ones without a partner.

 

She reached over and patted his leg, smiling up at him. Here he was, her little nephew, tall and strong. She admired him for how well he was handling everything, and was glad that they had been able to remain close through it all. Allen reached over and put his arm around her arms and gave her a squeeze.

 

“It will be okay,” he whispered in Spanish, his voice calm.

 

Joy nodded and smiled again, glad for his comfort. Once home, Joy got Victoria ready for bed and then said goodnight to her family. She got ready for bed herself, tired from the active day they had had. She climbed into bed quietly, not wanting to disturb Victoria. She pulled the covers up to her chin and shivered, wishing that she had put another blanket on the bed. Even though they were in the middle of summer there was a cold front going through, and Joy was sure that it was sixty degrees outside or less. She tossed and turned for a while, trying desperately to fall asleep.

 

It had been a long day for Joy, but she had really enjoyed it. She almost laughed out loud when she thought about pushing Jack over and the look of surprise that had crossed his face. He’s such a good sport, Joy thought and blushed when she remembered his arms around her while they danced. She pushed the thought far in the back of her mind, not wanting to think about it. She still missed her husband terribly, and wished that he could be there now, holding her and comforting her. She didn’t realize how much she was going to miss just having a man. She reasoned with herself that that was why she had enjoyed dancing with Jack so much, having his strong arms embrace her. It had nothing to do with him personally, she told herself. It’s just that I miss having a husband. He was turning out to be a good friend, and she was glad for that.

 

Just as her eyes started to close, she heard someone knocking at the front door of the farmhouse. Who in the world could it be at this time of the night? She wondered. The sun had set a long time ago, and Joy knew that it meant it was late. The knocking turned into pounding, until she heard her dad yell out “Who is it?” from their room. There were some loud shouts, and then Joy could hear her dad heading to the door.

 

“Ouch, ouch,” he whispered as he tripped over something in the dark, making Joy smile.

 

Ed peered out of the front door. “Yes, can I help you?” Joy heard him say.

 

“Sure ya can, Preacher man! Now, it is common knowledge that you have a single girl over the age of 18 living here with ya, ain’t that right?” A man with a high-pitched voice answered.

 

Joy shot up in bed. She recognized that voice. Simon! What was he doing here? She shivered even more when she remembered his arms around her at the dance. If Jack hadn’t shown up when he did, Joy shivered again, not wanting to think about what had happened.

 

“Yeah,” Ed responded, “what of it?”

 

“Well, there is a law right here that says that she needs to come with us.” Simon said, triumph in his voice.

 

“What? Why? Did she do something wrong?” Ed sounded confused. Joy knew his best time wasn’t at night. He was easily confused during this time, and she knew that lately it had been worse, especially with everything going on.

 

“No, no, sir,” Simon continued. “She’s fine, mighty fine, actually.” He paused and looked back at his friends as they laughed at his joke. “No, she just needs to come with us. Right now. Chief’s orders, see?” Joy could hear him shuffling papers.

 

“But, but she’s married!” Ed said, skimming the papers before him.

 

“Oh, no she ain’t! I know for a fact that she ain’t. She just lost her husband a while ago, and that makes her single. Even if she does have a kid.”

 

Joy’s face started to flush in anger as she realized they were talking about her. This whole time she thought they were talking about Marie!

 

She got up and went to the door of her room, thankful that her sister wasn’t there. She looked through the crack of the edge of the door and saw that there were more men than just Simon. And they all had weapons. Ed had just started to learn how to use the one Seth had given him, but against these many men, he didn’t stand a chance.

 

“Well,” Ed said, “you can come and get her in the morning. I’ll have her ready for you then.”

 

Joy could see the small man eyeing Ed carefully. “Well, I guess one more night won’t hurt. I can wait one more night. All right people, let’s git goin’! The tavern’s awaitin’,” Simon shouted as the men filed in behind him, his voice cracking in mid sentence. This seemed to give the men a good laugh, and they all walked away, with Simon swearing at all of them loudly, making them laugh all the more.

 

Ed closed the door with the paperwork still in his hand and leaned against it. Joy could see his tired face as he studied the content of the papers in the dim light of his candle. When Joy was sure the men were gone, she carefully opened the door.

 

“Dad? What was that all about?” She asked as she came to him and put her arms around his waist.

 

He put his chin on her head and wrapped his arms around her. “Oh, Joy,” he said, his voice quivering.

 

“Is everything ok, Ed?” Liz asked as she entered the living room and spotted the two.

 

Ed shook his head. “Joy, get Allen to go get everyone. We need to talk.”

 

Joy could hear it in his voice. It was a sense of panic. She had hardly ever heard it in her life, and she didn’t like the sound of it at all.

 

Joy got Allen to go get his parents, sister and Marie. Roger came up from the basement he was sharing with Allen, and then Joy checked on Victoria. She was still fast asleep. Joy bent to kiss her on the forehead and then headed back into the living room, after softly closing the door behind her.

 

Liz had turned the oil lamps on and had sat down, looking at the papers that had just been delivered. As Joy studied her face, she saw a wide range of emotions going through it. First she was confused, then shocked, and finally, angry.

 

“And just who do they think they are?” She asked as quietly as she could, not wanting to wake up Victoria.

 

Ed shook his head. He didn’t have time to answer as the door opened and the rest of the family came in. They all sat down, glad to be inside. It was a cold night, and pajamas were not the best things to be running around in, even with the light sweaters they were wearing.

 

“Well,” everyone looked at Ed anxiously as he started, “we got ourselves a problem. Some men from the reservation came to get Joy tonight.” He held up his hand to quiet everyone down so he could continue. “There apparently has been a law passed that says that all single women over the age of eighteen are to report to the main office at the Reservation. Let’s see, it says here that too many problems have been reported concerning the single women. There are too many men, and not enough women. In order ‘to be fair, we request that all single women over the age of 18 present themselves to the Reservation to find a husband. To be fair to all the men, the men will be able to pay in gold towards the woman of their choice. Half of that gold will go to the father of the woman, if there is one, to compensate for his loss. If not, then it will go together with the other half to the Reservation fund, and be used for trading purposes at the General Store. The amount of gold will depend on the woman in question. If no gold is offered for her, then she is free to go home to her family. If more than one man offers gold for a woman, then the man that offers the most will be able to marry her. Women are not required to participate in this, although let it be known that if one does not consent, she will be asked to leave the Reservation immediately. She is free to go, but will not be allowed to return, or have any contact with anyone on the Reservation. This law applies to all on the Reservation and to it’s surrounding areas. Please notify the Chief’s secretary of any single women in your household over the age of 18 no later than July 3rd, of the present year.’” Ed let out a deep sigh and looked down.

 

Everyone was quiet until finally Leslie broke the silence. “What are we going to do, Grandpa?” She asked, her voice quivering and her face showing her fear.

 

Ed shook his head. “There is only one thing we can do right now, and then we can talk some more. Let’s pray.” They all bowed their heads in prayer as Ed led them in asking the Lord for direction.

 

Once done, Ed looked up and Joy could see he was fighting back tears. Joy shook her head and looked down. What did this all mean? She was glad when Marie asked the question for her.

 

“So, what does this all mean? I’m still single and over 18, but I’m engaged. Do I still have to report? And what about Joy? She’s single, but she’s a widow. Does she still have to report? And Leslie? She’s barely 18. What about her?”

 

Juan shook his head and spoke up, loudly. “Well, no one is going to sell my daughter, I’ll tell you that! We’ll have to leave before that happens!” He looked angrily at Ann as she shushed him. “What? You want her sold? Huh? Is that what you want?”

 

“No, Juan, what I want is for you to lower your voice so that you don’t wake up Victoria. The last thing we need is for her to know about this until we have it all figured out.” Ann responded patiently.

 

“Well, what if Leslie was married by the 3rd?” Marco asked cautiously, holding on to Leslie’s hand.

 

Leslie looked at him surprised. “Marco, that’s tomorrow.”

 

“I know. What if she was married?” he pressed.

 

Ed shook his head. “I don’t know,” he responded. “I guess she’d be over 18, but she wouldn’t be single. I suppose then she’d be safe.” It looked like a light bulb went on in his head.

 

Juan shook his head. “You want to get married before tomorrow? What ever happened to you waiting until she was 20?” he asked.

 

“Well, do you want her to marry me, or someone with more gold than I have? Because last time I checked I had, let me see…oh, yeah. None.” Marco responded sarcastically. Joy could tell everyone was getting tired of Juan’s attitude. He was a hard worker, but he sure was a whiner.

 

Juan sat there quietly as he thought of the options he had. “Well, is that what you want, Leslie?” he asked her kindly, to everyone’s surprise.

 

Leslie looked at Marco, and then slowly nodded her head. “Yes. But not only because of this,” she said, reaching to hold his hand. “But because I love you.”

 

Marco smiled at her and squeezed her hand. “I love you too, Babe.”

 

Roger cleared his throat and looked at Marie. “Marie, would you marry me tonight, too?”

 

Marie turned to look at him surprised. “But I thought you really wanted to see if things would settle down until we could get back to Africa! What if this so called law doesn’t apply to me because we are engaged?” she asked him.

 

Roger shook his head. “No, darling. I do not want to take that chance. If this law does apply to you, and we do not know it, then I would also lose you, as I do not have any gold either.”

 

Marie nodded her head. Joy could see disappointment in her face, knowing that she had always dreamed of a wedding, but not under these circumstances.

 

“What if you all just get married right now?” Allen asked. “What’s stopping you? Grandpa can marry you, and there are enough of us here to witness it.”

 

“No!” Leslie said, indignantly. “I want a wedding!”

 

“Well, you could get married tonight ‘civilly’ like they do in Mexico, and do a proper wedding later,” Allen retorted.

 

That seemed to appease both Leslie and Marie. They would be safe, and get their wedding.

 

Joy was starting to panic. She was more than happy that they had figured out something for her sister and niece, but what about her? The men had come that night for her. She knew that Simon would want her and she would rather die first than be his. But then, what about Victoria? How could she leave her with out her Daddy and Mommy? And could Joy ever survive outside of the Reservation? She knew she couldn’t. In fact, her fate would probably be worse than marrying Simon.

 

Suddenly she saw why Wamblee had talked to her that night. He had either wanted her for himself, or was warning her of what was to come. Could she trust him? Would he have more gold than Simon?

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CHAPTER 23

 

 

“What about me?” Joy asked quietly, trying to blink away the tears that threatened to come in waves.

 

All eyes turned to look at her as a tear rolled down her face. Liz got up and came to hug her, “Oh, honey!” She said as Joy buried her head on her shoulder and allowed herself to cry.

 

It’s just not fair, Joy thought. Why did Dave have to die? I wouldn’t be in this mess now if he hadn’t died. What was she going to do now? She wondered. Even though she had just had an encounter with God and she trusted Him, Joy felt lost and alone.

 

Ed got up and walked over to where Joy was standing and put his hand on her shoulder. “Joy, I know this isn’t fair to you. Nothing of this has been fair to any of us. But we can’t despair. We must do what we can to keep faith. God will not abandon us. He has not yet, and he never will. Look, we’ll figure something out, ok? We will. I promise.”

 

Joy smiled at her dad, knowing that he was doing everything that he could to comfort her, and nodded her head. She knew he was right, but it seemed like there really was no hope for her at all.

 

She dried her tears and smiled again. “Well, what are we waiting for? We have a couple of weddings to attend!”

 

Ed gave her a quick hug and got back to where he had been sitting. “Ok,” he said. “We are going to do this real quick and simple, then we will do the real thing at a later time. Ok?” After everyone nodded, he asked Liz to get his papers and the seal that the town leaders had provided him with to make things official.

 

Once Liz came back with the papers, he had her give them to Joy. “Ok, Joy, now as nicely as you can, I want you to write up some marriage certificates. While you do that,” he continued as he turned to the two couples, “who wants to go first?”

 

Ann spoke up, “I think Roger and Marie should. That way they can always say that they got married before Leslie did.” She smiled.

 

“Ay, Ann! Who cares?” Juan said.

 

“Actually, I do,” Marie said. “Can we get married first?”

 

Ed nodded. “Sure. Step right over here.” Ed waited until they were standing in front of him, holding hands and then said, “Okay. Roger, do you?”

 

Roger looked at Ed with a blank stare. “Pardon me?” he asked.

 

“I said, Roger, do you? I figure we’ll fill in the blanks at the ‘real’ wedding.” Ed replied shrugging his shoulders.

 

Roger smiled and looked at Marie. “Yes, I do.”

 

“And Marie? Do you?” Ed said, looking at Marie.

 

“I do,” she said, smiling up at Roger.

 

“Ok, then. You can save the kiss for the ‘real’ wedding. Next!” Ed laughed at their disappointed look.

 

Marco and Leslie came and stood in front of Ed. “Marco, do you?”

 

Marco nodded as he looked at his young bride, still dressed in her pajamas. “I do.”

 

“Leslie, do you?” Ed continued.

 

“Yes, with all my heart.” She responded, squeezing Marco’s hand.

 

Just as they were about to kiss, Roger stopped them. “Hey, if we can’t, then you can’t!” He said and everyone laughed, including Joy.

 

After Joy finished making up the marriage certificates, everyone involved signed them, plus two witnesses on each.

 

“It’s late. Why don’t we pray and get to bed, and we will see what tomorrow brings?” Ed said. They all nodded and bowed their heads. Ed prayed that God would bless the marriages that had taken place, and that they would find the right answer for Joy. That He would protect her, and bring about His will in her life.

 

After the prayer, Liz sent the girls home with Juan and Marie, saying that they were not allowed to sleep with their husbands until the ‘real’ wedding took place. There were some complaints, but she just hushed them up. Roger, Allen and Marco went back downstairs to get some sleep.

 

Joy went back into the room she was sharing with Victoria and brushed her hair back to see her face. She kissed her softly on the cheek, and then lay down next to her, running her hand through her hair. She could hear her parents talking, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. She heard footsteps going towards the door, so she quickly got up to see what was happening through the crack in the door.

 

Ed was dressed and was heading out the door. Where could he be going? Joy wondered climbing back into bed, praying her heart out to God, asking Him for more faith.

 

 

“Jack, Jack!” Ed knocked quietly on the cabin door as loudly as he dared, not wanting to wake the kids up.

 

“Who is it?” Jack said, grabbing his pistol. He had heard commotion at the farmhouse earlier, and wondered if they were now coming to see him.

 

“Jack, it’s me, Ed!”

 

Jack went to the door, still holding his handgun, careful not to wake the babies up.

 

“Is everything ok?” Jack whispered after he made sure that Ed was alone.

 

Ed shook his head. “No, Jack, it’s not. Some men came to the farmhouse tonight to get Joy.”

 

Jack looked shocked. “Joy? Why? Is she ok?” Jack felt a knot form in his stomach. Where did that come from? he wondered.

 

“Look.” Ed said as he handed Jack the paperwork that the men had brought. Ed held up the flashlight he had brought as Jack read the new law.

 

“What? This is ridiculous! Who came up with this stuff? It’s gotta be a joke!” Jack said, not being able to believe what he had just read.

 

Ed shook his head. “Well, maybe it is, but that man, Simon, sure seemed to take it for absolute truth.”

 

“Simon?” Jack asked. “Are you sure it was Simon?”

 

Jack’s stomach tightened into all kinds of knots as Ed nodded his head slowly. Jack shook his head. “Well, then what about Marie and Leslie, and Bethany? Are they going to sell them off too?”

 

Ed shook his head. “We hope not. I just married Marie and Leslie a little while ago.”

 

Jack looked at him and nodded his head. “That was smart. But each of them has someone to marry, and Joy doesn’t”.

 

Ed nodded his head. “Can you help us?” he asked.

 

Jack nodded. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said. “If you stay here with the kids, I’ll go talk to Mr. Bodaway. The twins shouldn’t wake up for a while, but there is stuff ready to be made for them on the counter if you need. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

 

Ed nodded, “Thank you, Jack. You don’t know how much this means to me,” Ed said, his voice cracking.

 

Jack nodded his head. “I can’t imagine what you are feeling, Ed, but if anyone tried to touch my daughter, I know I’d do anything in my power to rescue her, too. I promise that I will do whatever I can to prevent anything from happening to Joy,” he said as he put his hand on Ed’s shoulder. “I promise.”

 

Jack took off as Ed went in to the cabin and sat on the chair at the small table to pray. Jack went across the lake quickly and then went to the barn and got his horse ready. He rode as fast as he dared in the dark, glad for the full moon. As he reached the Reservation he knew that the tavern was still open, and that all the usual drunks would be there, including Simon.

 

He slowed down, not wanting to draw any attention to himself. Just then, the doors swung open, and one of Simon’s friends came out, struggling to stay on his feet. As soon as he saw Jack, he yelled back into the tavern “Hey, Simon, your friend the Vet is here!”

 

Jack rolled his eyes and held on tightly onto his grandfather’s old Winchester. He waited for Simon to come out of the tavern, not wanting to have his back exposed to him.

 

Simon came out, drunk as ever. “Hey, well, lookie who we got here,” he said loudly, then laughed, thinking that he was real funny. “What are you doing over here at this time of night? You ain’t come to out bid me on that foxy lady, did you? Man she’s hot…I sure do look forward to”- he never got to finish his sentence as Jack spoke up.

 

“So what if I am. It’s a free country, isn’t it? Well, it used to be, anyway,” Jack said, wishing it still was.

 

Simon laughed. “You are so funny, man! You oughtta come in the tavern and get a beer with us! We could have some fun together!”

 

Jack nodded, relieved that it seemed that Simon was drunk enough to not be thinking straight. “Yeah, well, maybe another time,” Jack said, as friendly as he could, wanting to get going.

 

“Well, boys, I got a game I need to finish beating you at. Let’s go!” Simon yelled, going back into the tavern.

 

Jack sighed a heavy sigh of relief. He had never hated anyone, but he was close to hating Simon. The way he had looked at Joy earlier that night at the party made Jack’s blood want to boil.

 

Jack made his way towards Mr. Bodaway’s home as quickly and quietly as he could. He didn’t want any more encounters, especially at this time of the night. Once there, he got off his horse, and tied him to the railing in front of the house. He knocked on the door softly and waited to see if anyone answered. When no one did, he knocked a little louder. This time, he could hear footsteps coming towards him.

 

“Who is it?” Mr. Bodaway asked nervously.

 

“Mr. Bodaway, it’s Jack. Jack Daniels.” Jack replied quickly, wanting to put him at ease.

 

Mr. Bodaway opened his door, a pistol in his hand. “Jack! Are you ok? Are your kids ok?”

 

“We’re all fine, Mr. Bodaway. I’m sorry for disturbing you this late. May I come in? I promise to be real quiet,” Jack smiled.

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “Sure, Jack.” They sat on the couch as Jack took out the paper that Ed had given him. “Do you know about this?”

 

Mr. Bodaway adjusted his glasses and squinted in the dim light, then nodded his head. “Yes, I’m afraid I do,” he said sadly. “But, how does this concern you?” he looked at Jack confused.

 

“Well,” Jack answered, “it doesn’t really concern me. It concerns one of my friends, Joy. She lost her husband in one of the terrorist attacks in the Twin Cities, and now she is considered ‘single’. Who agreed to this stuff, anyway?”

 

“My son did, Jack. My son did. I tried to warn him that it wasn’t going to work, but he went ahead and did it anyway. I know this Joy you are talking about. There are several men that have already put a bid in for her, including Wamblee. She is a beautiful woman, and will raise a lot of gold,” the old man nodded thoughtfully.

 

“But why? Why do this? What’s the point?” Jack asked, trying to understand.

 

Mr. Bodaway looked at him surprised. “Well, Jack, because men are greedy, that’s why! There are more men in the Reservation than there are women. They all want to make sure they can get a wife, or at least secure a significant other. Some of them don’t feel like they can compete, say, with someone like you. So they came up with the idea of biding for them. I think it’s one of the most stupid ideas I have ever heard,” he shook his head in disgust. “Your friend Joy will probably end up with the likes of Simon, or even John Runt.”

 

“John Runt? But he is one of the elders of this tribe! Surely he would not stoop this low,” Jack said angrily.

 

Mr. Bodaway put his finger to his lips and motioned Jack to keep it down, as he looked around the living room as if someone were listening. “Who do you think came up with the idea?” he whispered quietly.

 

Jack sat back and shook is head in shock. “This was his idea?” he asked in disbelief.

 

As Mr. Bodaway nodded, “Do you think they will change their minds?” Jack asked him.

 

“No, Jack, I don’t. Not until it’s too late for some of the women. You see, not all men have gold. So it’s not fair to them. Sooner or later, they are going to start complaining that the whole thing wasn’t fair to them, and then, I’m afraid, a worse fate might come on your friend, and women like her. The only ones safe will be the ones that leave, but unfortunately, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive outside of the Reservation. It’s a very different world out there now, Jack. Women don’t stand much of a chance. Neither do men, for that matter, unless they are in a group, like we are.” He shook his head slowly.

 

“So what hope is there for her, then, Mr. Bodaway? What can I go back and tell her father?”

 

“Hope?” Mr. Bodaway smiled sadly, “Like I said, Jack. Her only hope is to escape, or to be married by tomorrow.”

 

Jack shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. What could he possibly do? If she left, he knew she wouldn’t survive, possibly not even a day. But if she stays, isn’t the fate that awaits her here at the Reservation worse than death? He wondered.

 

Mr. Bodaway interrupted his thoughts, putting his old hand on Jack’s back. “What about you?”

 

“What about me?” Jack looked at him startled.

 

Mr. Bodaway smiled, “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about marrying her yourself?” he asked.

 

Jack’s face blushed in the darkness. He was glad Mr. Bodaway couldn’t see him that well. “Well, no, actually, I haven’t. But, even if I had, where could I get any gold?” he stammered.

 

Mr. Bodaway laughed softly. “Jack, Jack,” he shook his head. “For a smart man, you are pretty dense!” He looked at his old clock. “It’s still the 2nd, my dear friend. It’s still the 2nd. If you hurry, you still may be able to marry her. That is if you want to, of course,” he paused. “This is the only viable solution I see to this dilemma, Jack.”

 

The old man got up from the couch. “And now you must hurry, man. If this is what you are going to do to save the young lady, then you must hurry.”

 

Jack shook his head and stood up, offering his hand to shake Mr. Bodaway’s. “Thanks Mr. Bodaway,” he said and then turned to go.

 

“Jack,” Mr. Bodaway stopped him by putting his hand on his arm, “are you even remotely attracted to Joy?” he asked.

 

Jack knew why he was asking, but he really didn’t want to answer. It’s as if Jack himself didn’t want to know the answer. For crying out loud! They had both just lost their spouse! How could he be attracted to her? But Jack knew the old man was right. He needed to be at least a little attracted to her to make this work.

 

Jack slowly nodded his head. “I guess I am, Mr. Bodaway, and now I’m off to find out if she’s in the least bit attracted to me.” He said good-bye to Mr. Bodaway and took off as quickly and quietly as he could back to his place.

 

Once there, he put the horse away, and made sure it was well taken care of. He had the chore down pat and was able to do it quickly and efficiently as he had done countless times before.

 

He got to the canoe again and went across the lake, back to the cabin. He went in to find Ed still sitting at the table, praying.

 

Ed looked up at Jack and smiled. “Jack, you’re back!” he whispered.

 

The men walked out to the porch so they could talk, but still keep an ear out for the kids.

 

“Were you able to work something out?” Ed asked, his voice full of hope.

 

Jack shook his head. “No,” he said sadly. “I talked to Mr. Bodaway, and he said this all started because of one of the elders. The elder felt he couldn’t compete with some of the men to get a wife, so he suggested they do this.”

 

Ed looked down and shook his head. “But why?”

 

“Well, it’s quite simply, as Mr. Bodaway put it, greed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t think it will work.” Jack said.

 

“What do you mean, unfortunately? Surely you don’t agree?” Ed asked.

 

“No, of course not!” Jack went on to explain about the fairness of the whole thing to Ed, and what that would mean to the women later on.

 

Ed sat down on the steps and buried his face in his hands. “Oh Lord, oh Lord, what are we going to do?” He said, tears beginning to run down his face.

 

Jack took a deep breath and squatted down in front of Ed. “There is one more option, Ed,” he said quietly.

 

Ed looked up at him quickly, his eyes full of tears. “What?”

 

Jack looked down at the ground. “She could get married.”

 

Ed shook his head. “But to who? Who would want to marry a woman with a four-year-old child? And would she want to marry him?”

 

Jack smiled and shook his head. “Believe me, Ed, there are plenty of men lined up, all ready to marry her. None of which she would have, I’m sure. Ed, we don’t have much time. I’d like to ask your permission to ask Joy to marry me,” Jack finished quickly. He hadn’t thought he would be this nervous about the whole thing, but somehow the seriousness of it was kicking in.

 

Ed looked at Jack surprised. “You?”

 

Jack nodded and shrugged his shoulders. “I like her. She’s a good friend. I can’t say I love her, but I care about her more than all those other yahoos that have bid gold on her already. I think we could make it work. She’s a great mother, and Luke loves her already. He talks about her and Victoria constantly. And, I, I would make sure Joy and Victoria wouldn’t lack anything they need. I promise.” Jack felt his heart pounding. He was asking for Joy’s hand in marriage and somehow it was much more important to him than he had thought it would be.

 

Ed smiled as he put his hand on Jack’s arm. “You have my blessing Jack, and my deep gratitude. Now we better get going. You go on ahead, and once there, send Allen to come and stay with the kids. Then I will come over and see what Joy has decided, ok?”

 

Jack nodded. He helped the older man up and watched him wipe his tears away. “Go Jack, we don’t have much time!”

 

Jack went back into the cabin to grab his heavy shirt, wishing he’d had it when he went into town. He trotted to the farmhouse, the wind brisk on his face. It was a clear night, and the stars were shining brighter than ever. There was a full moon that night, so he had no need for his flashlight, but he brought one anyway. As he made his way there, he prayed that he was doing the right thing, that the Lord would bless his willingness to help Joy.

 

Once at the old farmhouse he knocked softly on the door and a few seconds later, the door opened a crack. He was surprised to see Joy standing there, her long hair pulled back into a braid.

 

“Jack, what are you doing here?” She whispered, holding up a candle and opening the door a little bit more.

 

“Can we talk?” Jack asked quietly, noting that she had been crying.

 

Joy nodded and opened the door and motioned for him to come in. Jack shook his head. “Do you mind if we walk a little?”

 

Joy frowned, but she felt Jack wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. “Just a second,” she said as she closed the door on him. She went back into her room, pulled on a pair of jeans and put on socks and tennis shoes.

 

She went outside and found Jack sitting on the porch steps, wringing his hands. He got up quickly, and they walked side by side toward the lake. Joy had left her candle at the house since she knew Jack had a flashlight, and now her hands had nothing to do. She stuck them into her jean pockets and shivered as the cool wind blew against them.

 

Jack glanced at Joy in time to see her shiver. He took off his shirt and draped it around her shoulders, wanting to make sure she was warm enough. “Here,” he said, “put this on.”

 

Joy thought about refusing but decided against it, grateful for the warmth it provided. “Thanks,” she said as she turned to look up at him, a little embarrassed.

 

“Your dad came to see me,” Jack started, not knowing where to start.

 

“My dad did? When? Tonight?” So that’s where he must have gone to, she thought.

 

Jack nodded. “He showed me the paperwork to the so called ‘law’,” he continued.

 

Joy’s eyes started filling up with tears again. “Yeah, I guess I’m out of luck, huh?”

 

Jack paused to look at her in the moonlight, struggling for a second to keep focused. He hated how beautiful she was, as he knew that it was what was getting her in this trouble. Was there nothing she could do about that? The tears that were forming in her eyes made them look brilliant, and her soft skin looked pale under the light of the moon. No wonder so many men had already bid on her!

 

“Look, Joy,” Jack said and then had to pause.

 

“What?” Joy asked him quietly, trying to figure out what he wanted to say, but not wanting to push him. Why had he brought her out here? She enjoyed his company, but at this hour of the night? In the cold?

 

Jack cleared his throat, nervous at what he was about to say. “Like I told your Dad, there is one solution to the dilemma that you are facing.”

 

Dilemma, Joy thought. What do you know about dilemmas? She almost asked him, but decided not to. She knew that Jack also had his share. She felt bad for feeling so irritable and taking it out on him, and knew that she wasn’t being fair.

 

“So, what is it? Leave the Reservation and trust God to provide for me?” She asked, a little sarcastically.

 

Jack shook his head. “No. You could marry me.”

 

Jack watched Joy closely to see her reaction. She looked at him shocked, disbelief filling her eyes. “You want to marry me? Why would you want to do that?”

 

Jack looked away. “I just don’t want you to end up being auctioned off, that’s all!” He responded, feeling a little defensive.

 

Joy shrugged, even more irritated than she had been before. “And this is the best idea you could come up with?” she asked, spreading her arms wide, almost dropping his shirt. “Come on Jack! You’ve got ties! Can’t you go talk to your friend, Mr. Bodaway? He could help, couldn’t he?”

 

“I tried Joy!” Jack responded, trying to calm himself down, but it was hard. Man she can be stubborn, he thought to himself.

 

“And what do you get out of it, Jack?” Joy asked eyeing him suspiciously, wondering if in the end he really was like all the other men.

 

“Nothing!” Jack raised his voice as he threw his hands up in the air. “ARGH! Doggone it, Joy, I’m trying to help you! Look, do you want to marry Simon or do you want to marry me?”

 

Joy turned so Jack couldn’t see her smile. For some reason she found it humorous to see him so upset. ‘Doggone it’ was as close as she had ever heard him come to swearing, so she figured she must have really touched a nerve. Her smile faded as the seriousness of the situation came flooding back. They walked in silence for a little while, each deep in their own thoughts.

 

“Really, Jack. What would you get out of it?” Joy asked softly, her eyes searching his face. She could tell he was really trying to help her, but she needed to know what the motivation was behind it.

 

Jack looked at Joy and saw the fear in her eyes. He shook his head. “Look, Joy, I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for me. Carol died just a day or two before your husband did. So, in that sense, we’re both in the same boat.” He paused and turned back to look at her. “I’m not asking you to be my wife. I’m asking you to marry me. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s the only thing I can think of to get you out of this, this dilemma.”

 

“But why, Jack? If you aren’t asking me to be your wife, then what will you expect from me?” Joy asked, trying to sound as neutral as possible. Inside, her mind was racing and her heart was pounding. She had only had one other proposal in her life, and that had been Dave, because he loved her. She had not been one for casual dating, and had not foreseen getting married again, at least not this soon. But she realized she didn’t have a choice. She would have to marry, and the only choice she had was whom she would marry. Joy knew that Jack was doing what he thought was best for her. But what about him? She didn’t want to be in a relationship where he was her savior. What if he ever got tired of her? What if they didn’t get along?

 

Jack shook his head, and then paused. “Actually, Joy, if you think of it, I stand to gain almost as much as you do.”

 

“What? How?” Joy asked, very interested in what he had to say about it.

 

“Well, I’m depending on you and your family all the time to help with the twins, and most of the time even Luke. There is no way I can be both father and mother to them. They will need a mother, not just now, but growing up also. Especially Grace,” he said with tenderness in his voice. Joy liked that about Jack. She could see the change in his face and the sound of his voice any time he talked about his children. “If we get married, you and Victoria could come and live over at my new place, and we could be a family. You could help me around the house and with the kids, and I will provide for you and Victoria. We both win.”

 

Joy stopped and looked up to him to see if he was serious. Did he really mean it? It sounded like he did. “Jack, you need to know this, as it might change your mind about this whole thing,” she said, searching his eyes. “I may be pregnant.”

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CHAPTER 24

 

 

“I’m not sure yet,” Joy continued quietly, “but I haven’t gotten my, um, my sign that I’m not. Dave and I had been trying to get pregnant again, and, well… ” She stopped before she broke down crying. Victoria was four and a half, and Joy and Dave had been trying to give her a sibling for the last two years. They had done everything short of invitro fertilization, but to no avail. Every time that Joy thought she was pregnant their hopes were raised, only to be shattered again and again.

 

Jack raised his eyebrows and whistled softly through his teeth. “Wow,” was all he could say as he glanced away and let out a deep breath. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, wanting to do something with them, but not knowing what.

 

Joy felt the hope that she had just experienced begin to fade. Her eyes began to tear up, and she hated that she couldn’t just turn the faucet off. She didn’t want Jack to think of her as weak, but the truth was that he was right. This was the only real option to a decent life that she had ahead of her, and now, it might not even happen!

 

She cleared her throat, hoping that her voice wouldn’t betray her feelings of fear. It did. “Does that make a difference in your proposal?” she asked, her voice cracking mid sentence.

 

Jack could see the emotions she was feeling through her eyes, as she wasn’t that good at hiding them. He held her gaze, watching her intently. Thoughts of caring for three babies, in addition to the older children, and having to provide for another person in the long run raced through his mind. Could they do it? Would she be able to manage five kids? Would he? Then he thought of Joy’s fate if they didn’t get married, whether she chose to stay at the Reservation or not. Just as quickly as the doubts had come into his mind they went away. He felt a peace about this, one he couldn’t understand or even begin to explain. He felt as though God’s hand was on them, and He would walk with them wherever He led them.

 

Joy bit her bottom lip gently to keep it from trembling and looked away, afraid to hear what she was sure Jack was getting ready to say. Jack saw the worried look in her eyes and felt his heart sink. The same feeling that had come over him earlier that night when Simon had tried to hurt her was coming over him now.

 

“No, no!” he responded quickly taking her by her elbows and searching her eyes. He took her chin in his hand and lifted her face, forcing her to look at him. “No, Joy, it just makes it all the more urgent,” he said quietly, not taking his eyes off of her face.

 

Joy looked away from Jack’s piercing gaze as a tear rolled down her cheek, her lips trembling. She quickly brushed it away, glad for the distraction it provided.

 

“Ok, then.” Joy nodded, as she took a deep breath, trying to gain control back. “Let’s say I marry you. I would be a mother to your children, and you a father to mine. But what about us? What would we be to each other?”

 

Jack shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. “We will remain friends, and trust the Lord for the rest. I promise I will respect you and your privacy, Joy. I will not ever expect anything from you that you are not completely willing to give.” He was a little uncomfortable with the question as he really hadn’t thought everything through, but was sure that they could figure something out.

 

“But what about sleeping arrangements? Would we live separately? How would that work if I’m to help you with the twins?” Joy bombarded Jack with questions, her mind spinning out of control, trying to figure out what the best was for her and Victoria. As she thought through things quickly, she had to admit to herself that she was thinking about what was best for Jack and his kids as well. That has to be a good sign, she thought to herself.

 

“Whoa, Joy. Let’s take one step at a time. I can sleep with my kids at the cabin until the log home is finished, then we can all move in there. It has three bedrooms, so I’m sure we can figure something out. In the meantime, you can help me with taking care of the cabin and the kids everyday, and I’ll work at getting the house done for us,” Jack answered, feeling a bit overwhelmed himself.

 

All of the sudden a thought crossed Joy’s mind, and she was almost ready to say no to the whole thing. “Jack, what about Bethany? She is single, too.”

 

Jack looked a little shocked, as if the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. He scratched his chin, noting that he’d have to shave in the morning before the service. “Yeah, I suppose she is,” he said, not sure what to do about it.

 

They walked a little more in silence, each into their own thoughts. “Would,” Joy paused and cleared her throat again, “would you rather ask her to marry you?” She offered, really hoping that he wouldn’t.

 

“No!” Jack answered a little faster than he had intended. He didn’t want to sound like he didn’t like Bethany, but the truth was that he really didn’t. He didn’t appreciate the advances she had made towards him that same night, or the looks she gave him while they danced. She seemed to think that she owned him somehow, and that was certainly not okay with him. “No, Joy. The fact that she is single and we don’t know what’s going to happen to her doesn’t change things at all.”

 

“Would you ask her if I said no?”

 

Jack coughed, trying not to snicker to loud. “No, I wouldn’t,” he answered as seriously as he could. “I haven’t been able to put much thought in what I’m asking you, but I feel like it’s the right choice. I will think and see what I can do for Bethany, but I assure you, no matter what your reply is, I will not be asking her to marry me.” He paused for a second, and then added “or anyone else for that matter,” after he realized that of the women he knew, Joy would be the only one that he wanted to marry.

 

They turned and started heading back towards the farmhouse. Joy felt relieved that Jack didn’t want to take his offer back, but was still concerned for Bethany. She knew that it’d be foolish not to take Jack’s offer on account of Bethany; after all, Joy wouldn’t expect that of her.

 

Joy took a deep breath of the cool night air and let it out. “What about our kids?” she asked gently. “Will you be more than a provider for Victoria? Will you be her father as well? What I’m getting at is how would we raise the kids? Would you discipline Victoria, and do you trust me to discipline Luke, and later on the twins? I know this might sound petty, but it’s important to me.”

 

Jack nodded his head, wanting to reassure her. “It’s very important to me too, Joy. But I’ve seen you with Victoria, and with my kids, all four of them in a very stressful situation. You did great. I was very impressed with how you handled everything,” he teased a little, “that is until you went and cut your finger!”

 

They both laughed, relieved at a little humor in the situation. “Seriously, though,” Jack continued, his eyes piercing through hers again as if he could see through to the depths of her soul, “Yes. I do trust you to raise my children. I’ll have to. And you’ll have to trust me to raise yours. It’s the best that we’ll be able to do.”

 

“Okay,” Joy said quietly, pulling Jack’s shirt closer around her shoulders. Some how it brought her comfort, almost as if Jack himself had his arms wrapped tightly around her. Joy pushed the thought aside, wanting to focus on the conversation, and not wanting to deal with the feelings that went along with the thoughts. Jack stopped and turned to look at her, wanting to see if he could read anything else in her face.

 

Joy bit the inside of her cheek thoughtfully, and looked up at him, her eyes softening. “You are a very generous man, Jack Daniels.”

 

He smiled at her and moved a stray lock of hair out of her face that the wind insisted on blowing across it. “Is that a yes?” he asked quietly, wanting to make sure that he was understanding her right.

 

Joy gave up a small smile of her own and nodded slightly, her eyes shinning in the moonlight. “Yes,” she replied, her voice suddenly strong and confident. She didn’t know what was going to become of them, but she too felt a peace that she could not ignore. She looked up at Jack and hoped that her deep appreciation for him showed through her eyes. How could she ever thank him? She still had many questions that would have to go unanswered, but for now was very relieved that her near future was taken care of.

 

Jack sighed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t quite sure why, but this whole thing was turning out much better than he thought it would. His children would now have a full time mother, and Joy would be saved from the likes of Simon Little. He pushed aside the feelings that arouse deep inside of his heart, promising himself that he would deal with them later.

 

“Do you mind if we pray? I realize that we are both making a life changing decision, and I’d like to put it in the Lord’s hands.” After Joy nodded, Jack reached out and took both her hands in his. “Abba, we come before you with thanksgiving and praise. Our hearts are full of wonder at your ways, even if we can’t fully understand them. As we begin our life together, we ask that you will be the one that leads us and guides us, that our new family together will be a reflection of your love, of your grace. We give this decision to you, and ask that you take it and bless it for your own honor and glory. In your name, and for your sake we pray, amen.”

 

“Amen,” Joy whispered opening her eyes and looking back up at Jack. He let go of her hands, and turned to go back towards the farmhouse.

 

“Ok. Let’s get back to the house and get Allen. He can go get your dad, and then he can marry us. We have to hurry if we are going to do this in time, while it’s still today.” He started walking back, but Joy stopped him, putting her hand on his arm.

 

“Jack,” she said softly as she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a hug, “thank you.”

 

Jack wrapped his large arms around her, and his heart skipped a beat as her body pressed against his. I’m going to have to keep an eye on this hugging business if I’m going to stay true to my promise, he thought as he pulled away. He smiled down at her, and led her back to the farmhouse.

 

They walked back in silence, Joy holding Jack’s shirt tight against her once more. Neither of them spoke a word, as they both thought about what they were about to do. Once they were back at the house, Joy went into her parent’s room and knocked on the door softly as Jack went to get Allen. Joy updated Liz on what was happening, and Liz reached over and gave her a big hug as she started to cry.

 

“Oh, Joy, I can’t tell you how relieved I am. There seemed to be no way out of this, but I can see that God has provided a way.” Liz said, stroking Joy’s hair thoughtfully.

 

“Why is it that we have to do things that we don’t want to do? How can this be God’s will? I have peace, but I don’t understand,” Joy whispered, as if she didn’t want anyone to hear.

 

“Well, sometimes God asks things of us that we aren’t willing to give, Joy. Sometimes life is easy. But for times like now, He makes it abundantly clear that His grace is more than sufficient for what we are going through. Think about Queen Esther. Do you think she wanted to marry that king? It was not up to her whether she wanted to or not, she didn’t have a choice, much like the situation you are in. I’m sure that she had to do things that she didn’t want to do, but regardless, she trusted God. She did what she had to do, and God used her to save her people. Now I’m not sure what God will do with this, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will use it if you allow Him to. Jack is a good man, Joy. I’m grateful that it is him that you are marrying, and not some other man like Simon Little.”

 

Joy nodded, fully knowing that it was a blessing that she was marring Jack instead of Simon. She shivered at the thought of how different life could be for her, and for Victoria. She knew that Jack cared for Victoria, and was grateful that he would hopefully fill in the gap for Dave as a father.

 

“Are you going to get married in jeans or are you going to have a ‘real’ wedding later like Leslie and Marie?” Liz asked, interrupting Joy’s thoughts.

 

Joy looked down at what she was wearing and shook her head. “No, Mom. This will be the only wedding. But for Jack’s sake, I’ll go freshen up a bit, and maybe even put a dress on,” she smiled. “It’s the least I can do for the man that is saving my life, right?”

 

Liz nodded, “I’m so sorry, honey!” Liz gave her daughter another hug, and then Joy went and looked in the closet for a dress. She had hung all of her good clothes in this room, so she was able to find her long, white dress that Ann had made for her earlier that year. She fought with herself for a few seconds, wondering if she should wear the dress. It was white, and she knew that meant purity, and she was obviously no longer a virgin. At the same time, she had kept herself pure, and although she didn’t know how she and Jack were going to relate to each other, she was also going into this relationship pure. It was a strange feeling, but she felt that she should wear the dress. She took her braid out and brushed her hair, allowing it to go free. She looked at herself in the old mirror above the dresser, wishing she could see better in the dim light but decided it was going to have to do. She also decided to go barefoot instead of waking Victoria up to get the shoes to go with the dress. She wondered if their kids should be there. No, she thought. This was all traumatic for them as it was, they could talk to the kids in the morning. She washed her face in the bathroom and put a little make-up on, wanting to look her best. She even put on some of her homemade perfume, making her smell like fresh roses.

 

“So how do I look?” Joy asked Liz as she went back into the room.

 

“Lovely, dear. Just lovely.” Liz smiled back at her, holding Joy’s hands. She pulled a necklace off of her neck and put it on Joy.

 

“Mom! Your necklace?” Joy exclaimed, touching it softly.

 

Liz nodded and turned it so that the clasp was in the back. “This was the one my mom gave me when I got married,” she said. “I was going to leave it to you when I died, but I think you should have it now. See the three strands in it? It’s symbolic, based on the verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12 were it talks about the cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Read that whole passage, Joy. I think God has a wonderful plan for you and Jack. I know you are not in love now, but I trust that it will come, and that in the meantime you can learn to take care of each other, and of course, your kids.”

 

Joy gave Liz another hug, thankful for her support. “Thank you,” she whispered, truly touched by the gift. “God is good, Mom. I feel such peace about all this, even though I don’t fully understand it. I know Jack does too, I could see it in his eyes. This will all be new to both of us, but like you said, I know that God will take it and use it for his glory.”

 

Liz nodded and then led Joy out of the room to find Jack standing there, talking to Ed. Jack looked at Joy, his eyes glowing. This made Joy blush, and she quickly looked away, hoping he hadn’t noticed. Maybe she shouldn’t have changed. After all, Jack didn’t, and she didn’t want to give him the wrong idea of why she had. It was for him, but at the same time, it wasn’t. Joy shook her head at herself, hoping that she wasn’t sending mixed messages to him. She hoped he would understand that she wasn’t ready to sleep with him tonight.

 

Mr. Bodaway was there, too. When had he come? Joy wondered, as she hadn’t heard anything about him coming.

 

“Mr. Bodaway is going to be a witness for out wedding,” Jack told Joy and Liz quietly.

 

Joy nodded her head and smiled at Mr. Bodaway. She was glad he was there, as she knew that he was a good friend of Jack’s. She wished that the rest of her family could be there too, but decided it was best to just keep it simple.

 

As Joy approached Jack, Ed started their wedding. “Would you please hold hands?” he paused to allow them to do so, Jack taking Joy’s small hand in his. “Jack, do you have something to say to Joy?”

 

Jack looked at Ed surprised, then nodded. “Joy, I promise that I will care for you and your children. I will respect you and provide for you, I will be with you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. I promise to always be your friend, and will be faithful to you for the rest of my life.”

 

Ed nodded. “Good. Joy, do you have something you want to say to Jack?”

 

Joy nodded. She was glad Ed had asked Jack first, as this gave her a little bit of time to figure out what she would say. “Jack, I also promise that I will care for you and your children. I will love them as my own, and will do my best to raise them as God intended. I will help you in whatever way I can, and will also be faithful to you for the rest of my life.”

 

“Let’s bow our heads in prayer,” Ed said, and they all followed suit. “Father, we present to you Jack and Joy and the promises they have made to each other. We trust that You will be with them at all times, that You will hold them close, and that you will be their provider. But most of all, we trust that You will be Lord of their new family, Lord of their new home. We ask that You will help them to grow closer to each other as they grow closer to You. In Your name and for Your sake we ask, amen.”

 

There was a number of amen’s responded, including Mr. Bodaway. Jack squeezed Joy’s hand gently, wanting her to know that this was his prayer, too.

 

“Ok,” Ed said as he cleared his throat, “now by the powers invested in me by God, and this Reservation, and in the presence of these witnesses, I pronounce you man and wife. I won’t tell you to kiss the bride, but you can if you want to,” Ed grinned.

 

Jack bent down and kissed Joy softly on the cheek. She smiled at him and blushed, but didn’t turn away, looking deeply into his eyes.

 

Ed came over and hugged Jack tightly. “Thank you, Jack. Thank you!” he whispered patting him on the back, tears running down his face. Hugs were shared all around, and then as Jack, Liz, Ed and Mr. Bodaway talked quietly, Joy wrote out a third marriage certificate for that night. She thought of how odd it was that she had to write her own marriage certificate, but glad that she could. When it came to writing what her new name would be, she hesitated, and then wrote in what she thought Dave would have wanted her to be called. She busied herself writing out copies, wanting to have several originals on hand in case they needed them. She hoped that there wouldn’t be any problems, but wanted to make sure that if there were, they weren’t for lack of marriage certificates. She signed all of the copies, liking the way they looked.

 

Once done, she handed the certificates over to her dad to sign. Liz and Mr. Bodaway were next, and then finally, Jack. Jack took the papers from Mr. Bodaway, and just as he was getting ready to sign them, he noticed that Joy already had. He was surprised by what he saw, and looked up at her in shock. There, where her new name was to be printed, she had written what she wanted her name to be. They had not discussed it at all, and as he looked at it again, he smiled at what he saw. Her name read Joy Hope Daniels.

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