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Joy’s Journey, Chapter 1



The wedding had been quick and simple. Jack, in his own words, had promised that he would respect and take care of Joy, and Joy had promised the same in return. Jack had made an effort to get his heart to stop beating so fast, but was unable to do so when he first saw Joy come out of her parent’s room. She had changed and was now wearing a long white dress. Her eyes were again bright and shiny, and he knew that he would have to be diligent in keeping his word to respect her, and her boundaries. He glanced at her as she talked to her parents, astonished at the turn of events of the last few hours. He had enjoyed getting to know Joy, but if anyone had told them that by midnight they’d be married, he would have laughed out loud.


Jack shook his head slightly and looked at the papers in his hand again, amazed. He read Joy’s new name to himself softly, enjoying the sound of it. He looked up at Joy who was busy signing the other copies of their marriage certificate. He paused before signing it, and reached for Joy’s elbow to get her attention.


“Are you sure?” He asked her quietly, showing the certificate to her and pointing at the name change with the pen.


Joy nodded, her eyes shinning in the dimly lit room. “If it’s ok with you,” she whispered back.


“Yes, of course,” he responded smiling, then leaned over to sign his name. He handed it back to Ed who stamped it, and then handed it over to Mr. Bodaway. He pulled his own stamp and smiled at all of them.


“You thought I came just as a witness, didn’t you? Well, I did, but I know that there will be men who will try to dispute this marriage. With my stamp on it as well as Ed’s, there is no way anyone can go against it. Not even my son.” He winked at them and stamped the paper, and then the copies that were being made.


Once everyone was done signing, Mr. Bodaway excused himself, took his copy and left, just before the old clock in the living room struck midnight. Ed and Liz said their goodnights, knowing that the new couple needed time to talk. Liz gave Joy a warm embrace, followed by a kiss on the cheek from Ed. Jack also got a hug from Liz and a hardy handshake from Ed. Then they were gone, back to their room to try and get some sleep before the next day arrived with it’s own set of problems.


“Well, I guess I should go, too,” Jack said, a little nervous to all of the sudden be left alone with Joy.


Joy nodded, feeling a little uncomfortable herself. “Will you be coming to the service tomorrow morning?” she asked.


Jack nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be here. Joy, I hope…I hope you know I really will honor you and respect you. I would have said the whole vows thing if I knew them by heart, but I can’t remember them. But know that I am taking this seriously, and will do my best to be a good friend to you and a good father to your children.”


Joy nodded and smiled at him, knowing that he was making every effort to make her comfortable. “I know Jack, and so do I. I meant what I said, and more,” she replied quietly, not knowing what else to say. “Like you said, we’ll just trust God for everything else.”


“That we will,” Jack nodded and put his hand on the doorknob, ready to leave. “Okay, then, I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said opening the door.


“Wait,” Joy said, going back to the living room to get his shirt. “Take this back with you, it’s bound to be colder out there now,” she said handing the shirt over to him. Jack took it silently and put it on, thanking her quietly for bringing it.


“Do you want me to bring breakfast over tomorrow morning?” Joy asked once he was outside.


Jack shook his head. “Why don’t I just bring the kids over earlier and we can eat here?” He asked, and after Joy nodded, he hesitated and then continued, “When should we tell the kids?”


Joy sighed and shook her head pulling a strand of hair behind her ear. “I don’t know. How do you think they’ll take it?”


Jack sighed himself and shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. But maybe you should come over tomorrow morning for breakfast and they can be the first to know.”


“Good idea,” Joy said thoughtfully.


“Ok, let’s do that then. See you in the morning, Joy.”


“Good night, Jack,” Joy responded, wishing she could thank him again without sounding desperate. She closed the door behind her and leaned against it, not knowing what to think. She was now Joy Daniels. She sighed and went into her room quietly, glad that Victoria had seemed to have slept through the whole ordeal. She changed back into her pajamas, glad to finally be able to get some rest.


The next thing she knew, Ed was knocking on her door, getting her up to get ready for church. It was a strange thought to be having church in their home, but she was glad that they were going to have it at all. Joy missed having church, and hoped that they could get into some kind of a routine, and that the people from the Reservation would feel comfortable coming. She went to the bathroom and took a quick shower and got herself ready. She knew she didn’t have much time, so she hurriedly got dressed in the Sunday clothes she had prepared for herself and then got Victoria up and asked Liz to help get her ready. In the meantime Joy got some things ready to take to Jack’s cabin for breakfast, and told her dad what they were planning on doing.


“Sounds like a plan,” Ed said helping her get the stuff ready. “When are you going to tell the kids?”


“This morning, probably. Pray for us. It’s not like we had time to think about all this,” Joy said, grabbing some fresh milk that John had brought in earlier in the morning. “I can’t believe I’m married again,” she continued quietly, not wanting Victoria to hear her.


“I know honey. I’m just glad you married him, and not someone else that would have been bad for you,” Ed said, putting his hand on her shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze.


Joy nodded, knowing he was right. “He’s a good man, from what we know, isn’t he?” She asked, trying to reassure herself.


Ed nodded. “Yes, he is. And it was a good thing that he did last night. I’ll be praying that the Lord will bless your relationship, Joy, that you will grow to love each other.”


“Well, I’ll leave you to your prayers, Dad. I have to go. Thanks again, Dad,” she said, leaning over and giving him a quick hug. “Victoria, are you ready?” she called into the living room.


“Ready Mama!” Victoria came bouncing in, her deep blue eyes filled with laughter.


They made their way to Jack’s cabin once more, holding each other’s hands and Joy pulling the small wagon. Once at the cabin, Jack opened the door and helped Joy bring the food in, placing the items she had brought on the counter. He was also ready for church, Joy noticed, as he was wearing what must have been some of his better clothes.


“Good morning,” Jack said, looking back at Joy and Victoria.


“Good morning, Dr. Daniels!” Victoria said excitedly. Joy smiled at her excitement, but thought that they were going to have to decide what to call each other, something less formal.


Jack smiled and bent down so that he was at Victoria’s level. “So how are you this morning, Princess Victoria?”


Victoria blushed, but didn’t back away. “Doin’ good. Mama brought some breakfast for us to eat,” she said, pointing at the food they had brought.


“Well, that was nice of her, wasn’t it?” Jack asked, smiling up at Joy. Joy smiled back and started getting breakfast ready. Soon Luke was out as well, and the meal was served.


“French toast?” Jack said when he saw what she had prepared. There were several different cut up fruits and a couple of choices for juice. He recognized the maple syrup that came from of the neighbors, and was glad that Joy was able to bring some. The milk he knew came from his own cows, as did the eggs from his chickens. “Did you make the bread?” he asked, already knowing that she probably had.


Joy nodded, proud of the fact that she had. “Yep, a couple of days ago,” she said as she sat down next to Jack and winked over at Luke and Victoria. “Makes for good French toast!”


Jack extended his hand to her and she took it, and then held on to Victoria’s while he prayed. They ate their meal quickly, urging the kids to hurry. They wanted to make sure that they had enough time to talk to them before they went back to the farmhouse for the service.


Jack let Joy know that the babies were taken care of for a while, as he had put them back to sleep just before she came. When they were all done, they cleaned up quickly and then led the kids outside to the porch. Once they were all sitting down on the steps of the porch, Jack cleared his throat.


“Well, we have an announcement to make,” he stated simply. “Luke, Victoria, how would you like it if we told you that we are all going to be a family from now on?”


Victoria and Luke looked at Jack confused, not knowing what he meant.


“Huh? We are all going to be a family?” Victoria asked.


“Yes, sweetie. Mama and Dr. Daniels got married last night,” Joy said, putting her arm around Victoria.


“You got married last night? But you are already married, Mama!” Victoria said, looking at Joy completely confused.


“No, honey, I wasn’t. That’s why I married Dr. Daniels,” Joy said, fighting back the tears that threatened to come. This was harder than she thought it would be. How could they explain it to her in a way that she would understand?


“What about Daddy?” Victoria asked, her eyes filling with tears of her own. “Are you going to have two husbands?”


Joy took a deep breath and held it, feeling like the wound of her first husband dying had just been opened up again. Jack noticed Joy’s pain and cleared his throat, wanting to get the kids attention off of Joy.


“No, Victoria. Just one. Your Daddy went to live with Jesus, and now I’m going to be your Mama’s husband. Just like Luke’s Mother went to live with Jesus, and now your Mama is my wife. That means that now you and Luke are brother and sister, and that the twins are also your brother and sister,” Jack said calmly, trying to be as reassuring as possible.


“But I don’t want you to take Daddy’s place. I want my Daddy to come back to us!” Victoria cried, her tears spilling over.


Joy bit her lip to keep from crying herself, and was grateful for Jack’s support, especially when he reached across the kids and put his hand on her shoulder to give it a gentle squeeze.


“Victoria, Luke, listen. We will never replace your Daddy, or your Mother. That’s not what we are here to do. We will be a new family, and when you get to heaven, we will all be one happy family up there,” Jack continued. “I don’t think that your Daddy or your Mother are upset about this. Do you think your Mother would want you to have someone to take care of you, and to help you, Luke?”


Luke nodded his head slowly, understanding the situation better than Victoria. Joy wasn’t sure if it was because of their age difference, or if was because he was so desperate to be loved after loosing his mother.


“Victoria, do you think Daddy would want you to have someone here with you to be with you, and help keep you safe?” Joy asked her, holding her chin in her hand, her voice quivering a little.


Victoria finally nodded, and then put her head against Joy. “I miss Daddy, Mama,” she cried, holding on tight to Joy.


Joy soothed her hair, glancing over her to Jack, her own tears spilling over. “I miss him, too, honey. But you know what? God has given us Dr. Daniels and Luke, and Victor and Grace to be part of our family now. Remember the other day you didn’t want to go home? Well, now we will all be one family.” Joy took her other hand and placed it on Luke’s face, letting him know she was talking to him as well.


Victoria sat up and looked at Jack. “Do I have to call you Daddy?” She wondered, her voice still shaken from crying.


“Do you want to call me that, Victoria?” he asked her gently. “You can call me whatever you want,” he assured her as she shook her head.


“Papa,” Luke said quietly, looking at Victoria. “You can call him Papa, like I do. Then you can still talk about your Daddy, and we’ll know who you mean.”


Victoria stared at Luke for a little bit, processing what he had just said. “So I can still have my Daddy in heaven, and you here?” she asked, looking at Jack.


“You betcha! Your Daddy will always be your Daddy, no matter what. And Luke, your Mother will always be your Mother, no matter what. You don’t have to call Miss Joy that if you don’t want to either,” Jack responded looking over at Joy.


“He’s right, Luke, you can call me whatever you feel best calling me, too,” Joy said, putting her hand back on his head.


Luke looked at Victoria again, who was tugging at his shirt. “You could call her Mama, like I do!” she said, excitement creeping back into her voice.


Luke nodded slowly and looked back up at Joy. “Would that be ok?” he asked timidly, glancing at Jack.


Joy nodded, a smile covering her face. “I’d like that very much Luke,” she said quietly.


“Ok. So now I have a Daddy and a Mommy, and a Papa! But I won’t get to see Daddy again until I go to heaven, too, right?” Victoria asked, back to her normal self. Joy nodded, smiling at her daughter. She hoped that Victoria’s life would always be this simple, that she would always receive change and see the best in it.


“Now, Victoria, listen to me. You are going to have to mind Papa as you did your Daddy, ok? I don’t want to hear any back talking or disobeying, okay?” Joy asked her voice serious.


As Victoria nodded looking at Jack, he nodded his head and then looked at Luke. “The same goes for you, too, buddy. Okay? You pay attention to your Mama and do as she says. Any time you disobey her, you will be disobeying me, do you understand?”


“Yes, Papa,” Luke said, his face straight and his eyes wide.


“Okay,” Jack said. “We better get to church then, we don’t want to be late.” He reached out and put his hand around the two kids, resting it on Joy’s back. “Let’s pray,” he said simply.


Joy put her hand up around on his arm and held Victoria’s hand with her other one. Jack offered a simple prayer, asking God to be the leader of their new family, the real focus of their home. He prayed that they would all learn to love each other in the same way that He had loved them, and that they would properly reflect His love towards others.


Once done, he squeezed Joy’s shoulder and smiled at her above the kids’ heads. “Well, let’s go!” he said jumping up and picking Victoria up and putting her over his shoulders. Then he carefully bent over and picked up Luke and did the same, careful not to bump their heads. “I’m ready,” he grinned at Joy as the kids giggled. “Are you coming?”


Joy laughed and shook her head. “Not without those babies I’m not!”


Jack squeezed Luke and Victoria’s legs, making them laugh even more. “I don’t know about taking these sack of potatoes to church, Joy, they sure are wiggly,” he said following her back into the cabin. He had to go in sideways to not hit the kids’ heads, but seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.


Joy got some things ready to take to the ‘Church’ for the babies, and then picked Victor up carefully from his nap. He stirred a little but didn’t wake up, so she moved over and allowed Jack to pick up Grace, after he had put the other two kids down.


They made their way to the farmhouse, with Victoria skipping her way there. Jack allowed Luke to run along side, glad for the chance to talk to Joy.


“How do you think it went?” He asked, wanting to know what she was thinking.


“I think in the end it went really well, don’t you? I liked your prayer,” Joy responded honestly.


Jack nodded, regretting that he had taken so long to talk to her. I should have started sooner, he thought as they reached the farmhouse. Luke and Victoria hurried in, but Jack put his hand on Joy’s arm to hold her back.


“Joy,” he said quietly, not wanting anyone else to hear him, “do you think we can get a chance to talk? Alone?”


Joy nodded, knowing that they really needed to talk without the kids, or anyone else there. “After church, maybe?”


Jack nodded and opened the screen door for her to go into the house. Joy smiled her thanks and walked by him, following the voices.


Everyone was there, crammed into the living room. Seth and Rebecca and their family were there, including Linda. It seemed to Joy that no one other than her family was there, and she figured it was because most people would have probably slept in after the party the night before.


Jack and Joy had to sit separated, as there was no place for them to sit together. It bothered Jack, not so much because he couldn’t sit with Joy, but because he had to sit next to Bethany. Joy had sat next to Ann, leaving only one seat available to sit in.


Bethany smiled up at Jack, glad that he was sitting next to her. She reached out and caressed Grace’s face, not taking her eyes off of him. Jack shifted uncomfortably, looking around the room for someone to rescue him.


Ed came over to Joy and spoke to her quietly, and Joy nodded her head. She carefully handed Victor to Ann, and then made her way to the piano, exchanging places with Allen. Ed led them all in singing a few hymns after a short prayer, with Joy playing the piano. Jack was impressed with how well she played, and made a mental note to ask her what she thought about teaching the kids to play as well. After they sang, Ed cleared his throat and sat down.


“Well, since it’s just us, I thought we would just have a short Bible study and then have some time to share what has been going on in our lives. I think there is a lot to share, so I’ll make it brief,” Ed said, opening his Bible.


He spoke about Joseph, and how despite of everything that happened to him, God was always with him.


“You know, just like Joseph some of us have had dreams that have been shattered, especially by the recent events,” Ed said. “Maybe they weren’t big dreams, maybe they were. Some of us thought we would be in our own home churches, maybe preaching our own sermons in a whole different language,” he continued nodding at Roger. “I don’t know why these things have to happen. I don’t know why someone thought that it would be wise to knock out all our power and change the course of millions of lives. But I do know this. In the darkest times of our lives, God is always there.


“You know, I often wonder if Joseph felt Him while in the pit, or in the jail? If he knew beyond any doubt that God was there? Regardless, it didn’t change the fact that He was there, just as He is here now, with us. And He will work everything together for good, even things that seem unfair, if we allow Him to. Let’s pray.”


Ed prayed that this would be true in everyone’s lives, that whatever the evil one had intended to destroy them, would be turned around and used for God’s glory, and for His Kingdom to be expanded because of it.


After everyone said amen in agreement, Ed opened it up for whoever wanted to share. Just as Roger began to speak, there was a knock on the door, interrupting their service.


“It’s open,” Ed called from the living room.


The door opened and Jack could hear several sets of footsteps coming into the house. There were several men in the group, most of them single, led by Wamblee Bodaway himself.


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Wamblee stepped into the living room and took his cowboy hat off, followed by several other men. “Good morning,” he said loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m sorry to interrupt the service, Reverend. Could we have a minute of your time?” he asked, moving to stand next to Ed.


“As you all may know by now, there has been a new law passed by the Reservation that we think will solve many of the problems that have been arising in town. When several of the families left the Reservation earlier last month, they took their eligible for marriage daughters with them. That meant that the Reservation was left with more men than women, for the first time in many, many years. Several men have grown restless, especially since the most recent attack on our country, fearing that they would never have a fair chance at finding a bride. They threatened to leave the Reservation, leaving us without manpower to protect ourselves. Because of this, we devised a way to be fair to all the men, so that they can all have a fair shot at having a wife.


“Now, by order of the Reservation, it has been declared that any woman over the age of eighteen will have to have a man that calls her his own by a legally binding document, like a marriage certificate. If an eligible woman is not married, then she is to report to the town’s main offices to find out who will call her his own. This is not a mandatory law for the women. It is completely voluntary, but know that any woman that does not abide by it will be asked to leave the Reservation. This is to protect the single women from being harassed by the men of the town.


“Now,” Wamblee continued, allowing a moment to let what he had just said to sink in, “we would like to escort the eligible women you have in this household to town, after the service is done. I believe that there are four of you present?”


No one said a word, not even to answer Wamblee. It was evident to Jack that this was all new to Seth and Rebecca as their emotions came across strongly on their face.


“This is ridiculous, Wamblee!” Seth said, standing up. “Who do you think you are trying to come in here and tell us what we can and can’t do, and who these ladies can or can’t marry, or even if they should? If I remember right, we live in a free country, and this is a load of, of stuff that should never be said in the House of God.”


Wamblee smiled slightly and shook his head. “Unfortunately, Seth, it really isn’t a free country anymore. There is so much going on outside of this Reservation that few of you are aware of. As we have told you before, nobody is keeping you here. You are welcome to stay on your land as long as you want, as long as you abide by the Reservation laws. You all agreed to that, and it will not be the first time that we call on you to do so. Right now, these men are defending everyone who lives on the reservation. All they ask for is a fair chance at getting a wife.


“Now Seth, you of all people know that we are protecting you. How many people have tried to come close to your home in the past few days? I’d say several. If you don’t know about it, it’s because we are doing our job well. Here on the farm and Jack’s farm, you are safe, surrounded by either the Reservation or Seth’s place. Again, if you would like to leave, you are welcome to do so, but I wouldn’t recommend it.


“Ladies,” he said, looking at Joy, “please know that we are doing this for your benefit as well. By having a man claim you as his own, you will be more protected, and the single men will leave you alone. There are strong penalties for anyone who messes with a married woman. If someone does, they will either be asked to leave the Reservation or killed. We will not tolerate it. So you see, we are looking out for you as well.”


“We are not pieces of property, Wamblee,” Joy said, deliberately using his first name. She figured that a title such as mister needed to be earned, especially in his case.


“No, I didn’t say that! I’m sorry you see it that way, Ms. Wilson. Now we will leave you to finish your service and then we will escort all the young ladies that are not married to the town.” Wamblee said, putting his hat back on.


He turned to leave, pushing the other men out in front of him.


After they were gone, Bethany looked at Jack with fear in her eyes. “What are we going to do, Jack?”


Joy felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as she realized that they still didn’t have an answer for her former sister-in-law. She felt her face grow warm as she looked around the room and the realization was evident on all the faces there. She assumed that her parents had told her sisters about her marriage to Jack, but there was no way of knowing if Seth and his family knew, or Bethany. Joy could see now that Bethany was hoping that Jack would some how save her, like he had saved her.


Jack looked at Bethany, not knowing what to say. He hadn’t thought about her again at all after talking with Joy, and now wished that there was something that he could do to help her, too. He would have never been happy if he had married her, he realized, looking across at his new wife. Somehow he felt that he had done the right thing by marrying Joy, and was glad that he had taken Mr. Bodaway’s advice.


Bethany followed his gaze to Joy, and looked at her surprised. “Surely you don’t count as single, do you, Joy?”


Joy wasn’t sure what to say, and was glad that Rebecca responded for her. “Well, yes, I think she does, unfortunately, as do you, Marie and Leslie. I don’t know what they are planning on doing, but this is ridiculous,” she said in disgust.


“Well, actually, we do,” Ed said, handing her the piece of paper that Simon had brought the night before. While Seth and Rebecca poured over it, Joy stood and took Victor to get his diaper changed and fix him a bottle. He had woken up without crying, but was starting to get fussy. She could see that Grace was waking up too, so she made a bottle for each of them. Once she was done changing Victor, she went back into the room and exchanged babies with Jack, noticing that Bethany was reading the new law. She gave the bottle to Jack to feed Victor and went and got Grace changed, glad that she couldn’t hear Bethany over Grace’s crying.


Joy took her time, and when she couldn’t put it off anymore, she made her way back into the living room with Grace.


“Well, what are we, a bunch of slaves?” Bethany was asking when Joy came into the living room. “Can they do that? Can they sell us like that?” she asked incredulously.


Ed shook his head, sad at what it all meant. “I don’t know Bethany, I don’t know. We have found a way that we think will protect Marie, Joy and Leslie. At this moment I’m not sure what we can do to protect you, though.”


“Protect them? How? What did you do?” Bethany asked.


“You found a way around it, Ed?” Seth asked, eager as well to find out what it was.


Ed nodded and then recounted what had happened the night before, but never got to tell about Jack and Joy’s wedding as everyone started to talk at once. The next few minutes were a blur to Joy, with a lot of talk going on around her, not being able to understand what anyone was saying.


“Ok, ok,” Jack raised his voice, making Victor jump a little. “Ruth,” he said, talking to Seth and Rebecca’s daughter, “do you mind taking all the kids out in back to play? Don’t go to far though, ok?” he paused as Ruth nodded her head and took all the kids out, promising them a fun time.


“Now let’s all calm down a little,” he continued, “and grab a hold of ourselves. There were a few weddings that took place last night in an effort to save as many of the girls as possible. Roger and Marie got married, and then Marco and Leslie. Later on I asked Joy to marry me, knowing that I needed the help just as much as she did. She accepted, so now she is safe too. Unfortunately there aren’t that many of us single men, and there was no one to marry you, Bethany.”


“You married Joy? You could have asked me!” Bethany said indignantly, her eyes flashing. “She was probably safe to begin with, being that she’s been married before. Why didn’t you ask me?” She glanced towards Joy, looking at her accusingly.


Joy felt like crawling under a table, wanting to just hide until it was all taken care of. She appreciated Jack saying that he had asked her, and hoped that Bethany had heard that as well.


“Well, I didn’t, Bethany. I asked Joy. I know she’ll be a good mother to my children, and I think I made the right decision,” he answered softly but firmly, letting her know where he stood.


“And you didn’t trust me?” Bethany asked him again, her ego hurt more than the fact that she was about to be sold.


“I didn’t say I didn’t trust you Bethany. Right now it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find a way to get you out of it,” Jack said, wanting her to back off. He never expected that Bethany would have wanted to marry him, and now all those looks she had given him of expectation came back to him. He felt stupid for not seeing it before, and realized that there really wasn’t much he could do for her now. He would not have married her anyway, as he wasn’t sure he even liked her.


He caught Joy’s eye and nodded slightly, wanting to assure her that his decision was final, that she had nothing to worry about. She nodded back, but he wasn’t sure that she got what he was trying to express. Just then the door opened again and Wamblee came back in, followed by some of the men, but not as many as he had before. Jack tensed up as he realized that Simon was with the group, and he was eyeing Joy sinisterly.


“Well,” Wamblee cleared his throat, “I’m afraid we have to get going. Would all of the single ladies please come forward?”


There was a long, uncomfortable pause, and then Bethany simply said “No.”


“No?” Wamblee asked, a little confused. “Are you refusing to come? Do you all prefer to leave the Reservation?” he asked looking directly at Joy.


“Well, actually,” Jack said standing up and taking Victor to Liz to hold, “can we have a moment?” he asked Wamblee, walking past the men who all seemed clearly upset. Jack glared at Simon as he walked by, and Simon glared back. There was no loss of love between the two men, but they both kept their composure.


Wamblee frowned but followed Jack out the porch to the front of the house. “Jack, this is none of your business. You will have a chance to bid just like all the other men. Now if you don’t like this, you are also welcome to leave,” Wamblee threatened him evenly.


“This is a bunch of baloney, Wamblee and you know it.” Jack said evenly. “You are being terribly unfair to all these ladies, making them choose like that. Do you have an eye on one of them? Is that what this is about? You couldn’t just wait to ask her the right way?”


Wamblee looked down embarrassed, as if Jack had struck a cord somewhere. “Well, no, not particularly. Look, Jack, we want you here. We want you to stay. In fact, we need you here. I’m willing to help you bid on one of the girls, and even willing to pay some upfront gold to the other men in there for their services in the army just like I have with the rest of the men. That way you can all have a fair chance.”


“Well, this may spoil your little game, Wamblee, but there are not four single girls in there. There is only one.” Jack said, relieved that they had taken care of that the night before.


“What?” Wamblee answered in disbelief. “I have it in our records that there are four. Bethany Wilson, Joy Wilson, Marie Lamont and Leslie Casas,” he said looking at his papers.


“Well, your papers are outdated. Marie is now Marie Bunti, Leslie is Leslie Juarez, and Joy”, Jack paused for a moment, “Joy is Joy Daniels.” Jack said, purposely leaving Joy at the end. Jack had seen Wamblee dancing with her the night before, and had noticed the desire for her in his eyes.


“Joy Daniels?” Wamblee asked, not knowing how to respond to that. “You married her? When?”


“Last night, before midnight. Here’s the marriage certificate to prove it,” Jack responded, pulling it out of his back pocket and handing it to Wamblee. Wamblee took it and read over it, noticing the two stamps on the bottom.


“Wow,” he said, whistling under his breath. “Well, you pulled one over on me, Jack,” he said. “Congratulations. You win. I can’t go against my own laws. She’s yours.” He said quietly, handing the paper back.


Jack took it and put it back into his pocket. “That’s it?” he asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.


Wamblee nodded. “Most of the bidding was for her and her sister, Marie. I know that there was some for Leslie as well, and I’ll have to check on Bethany. You can tell Bethany that she can remain here until we find out what happens. She can go about her life normally, until we let her know otherwise.”


“You know that this is wrong, don’t you?” Jack said, trying to convince him.


“Well, whether it is or not, it doesn’t matter anymore. It is what it is.”


“You could still change the law, Wamblee.”


Wamblee shook his head. “It’s too late for that, now, Jack. You may think horribly of me for saying this, but I passed the law in order to save myself. The committee was threatening to overthrow me if I didn’t pass it, and then the fate of the Reservation and it’s people would lay in the hands of men that care more about their personal desires than the people they are serving. Because I passed this law, I will now be the chief until I die. That is the way of my people. Now it will be my duty to protect them, to lead them. I think I can do a better job than many of them combined.”


Jack looked at him surprised. Was there more to this than Jack knew about? He had never been involved in the leadership meetings, unless it was Mr. Bodaway that was handling them.


“Someone said that you bid on a woman yourself,” Jack said, accusingly.


Wamblee smiled slightly and nodded his head, running his fingers through his hair. “Indeed I did. My father must have told you that, right? I already know, Jack, his stamp is on your wedding certificate. I bid on Joy. A lot of gold. I was hoping that I could outbid men like John Runt, or Simon Little. She would have been better off with me than either of those two men, or any of the other jerks that bid on her. I’m glad Marie and Leslie are taken care of as well, as they were going to end up with some questionable characters too.”


“How do I know that you are telling me the truth? That I can trust you?” Jack asked him eyeing him suspiciously but wanting to believe him. He had known Wamblee for many years and had never known him to be a bad man, but wasn’t sure he could be trusted after this. “And how do I know that my wife will be left alone?”


“Well, as far as trusting me, I guess I’ll just have to earn that back. And I do want your trust, Jack. I was hoping to make you part of my new group of advisors. I’ll give you time to think about that for a while, but I’m starting a fresh new group of lawmakers. I get to decide who is in it, and so far I have my father on board, Andrew Atsidi and I’ll be asking the Reverend as well.


“As far as Joy being left alone, well, she better be. She and any other women that are married. Otherwise there is a steep penalty to be paid. I will not have prisoners on this Reservation. We don’t have the manpower to watch them, and I will not take food away from law-abiding citizens to give to them. They will either be killed immediately, depending on their offense, or kicked off the Reservation, never to come back.”


Jack nodded thoughtfully, chewing on his lower lip. “Ok, I will hold you to that, then,” he said sternly. “I don’t want that Simon Little running around my property, leering at my wife.”


Wamblee grinned, amused by Jack’s immediate protection over his new wife. “Ok, Jack, I’ll talk to him. It is your property, and you have the right to ask someone not to be on it,” he said. “Now, I better get going. There are a few other families that we have to visit yet, unfortunately.”


Jack nodded his head and stretched his hand to take the handshake Wamblee offered. “You are a good man, Jack. I trust that you will be good to her,” he said, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.


Jack nodded his head and turned to see Wamblee going up the steps of the porch. “Wamblee,” he called him, getting an idea.


“Yeah,” Wamblee stopped and turned to look at Jack.


Jack motioned for him to come back, and once they were out of earshot again, Jack made a proposal to Wamblee. “I’ll consider being part of your committee if you consider biding high enough to marry Bethany Wilson,” he stated simply.


Wamblee stared at him for a few seconds, choosing his words carefully. “So you will be part of my committee if I marry Bethany?” he asked, wanting to be clear.


Jack sighed and nodded his head. He had never liked being part of politics, but it seemed like a win-win situation. Bethany wouldn’t have to marry someone like Simon, and maybe he could bring some influence into Wamblee’s life so that he wouldn’t make a stupid law like this again.


“Would this help you trust me again?” Wamblee asked, knowing how important it was to have Jack’s trust.


“It’d help,” Jack shrugged and nodded again.


“I’ll see what I can do,” Wamblee said, turning and going back to the house followed by Jack.


Wamblee opened the door and called for the men to come out. “Hurry up, we’ve got several other places to go,” he said loudly for all of them to hear.


The men filed out of the house, and Jack noticed that the last one to come out was Simon. “What about the girls?” Simon asked, pointing to the house.


“That’s none of your business, Simon, now let’s go,” Wamblee answered.


“What do you mean it’s none of my business? Of course it is! I have a lot of gold tied up biding on that lady, and I aim to collect,” he said his eyes narrowing and his voice changing to a high pitch tone as he whined.


“Simon, get on your horse and ride. Stay away from all the ladies in there, and keep off of Jack’s land, do you hear? That’s an order!” Wamblee said as if he was talking to a soldier.


The rest of the men had gotten on their horses, many of which Jack had taken care of at one point or another. He wondered how people could change their behavior in such a small amount of time. Simon glared at Jack and spit on the ground, then reluctantly followed his orders.


Jack stared back at Simon, feeling as if he was in an old western movie, ready for a shoot out. He hoped it would never come to that, but thought that it’d be best to be prepared, and teach Joy as well. He would hate himself for the rest of his life if something happened to her because she couldn’t protect herself from Simon and men like him.


He followed the men with his gaze until they couldn’t be seen anymore, and then went back into the house. The kids were still outside in the back playing, and the babies had fallen back asleep. Everyone else just sat there and stared at him, expecting him to share what had happen outside.


Jack chose to stay by the entrance to the living room instead of sitting next to Bethany again, and cleared his throat trying to figure out what to say, and exactly how to say it. “Well, it looks like the plan worked!” he said and a cheer went up in the room.


Joy sunk back in the couch, feeling as though a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. It worked! She thought to herself, realizing that this meant that now she really was married to Jack.


Jack turned to look at Bethany, and noticed that she wasn’t too happy. She was glaring in Joy’s direction, but Joy didn’t seem to notice. He walked over and sat down next to her, careful to keep his space.


“Bethany,” he said quietly, leaning his elbows on his legs in front of him, “there is one option for you, if you’ll take it.”


Bethany looked at him her eyes full of hope, and Jack wondered what exactly she was hoping for.


“It’s not the best, as it still isn’t your choice, but Wamblee said that he would do everything he could to win the bid for you. He’s a decent man, and I think he would take good care of you.”


Bethany kept her eyes on him, her lips quivering. “Is this all just for looks like you and Joy? Or will he expect me to really be his wife?”


Jack glanced at Joy, not understanding what Bethany was saying. What did she mean just for looks? I suppose she knows that we aren’t going to be sleeping together, he thought. “I don’t know, I guess that would be between the two of you,” he replied.


Bethany nodded and put her hand on Jack’s arm. “Thanks for doing this for me, Jack. For taking care of me. Maybe all this will blow over and we won’t really have to be married to different people.”


Jack felt uncomfortable with Bethany’s hand on his arm, so he stood up, wanting out of the awkward situation. “You’re welcome, Bethany. I hope it works out,” he stammered looking down at her.


“Why don’t we pray and close the service, and then I’m sure the girls will want to start planning the weddings. Shall we?” Ed said, extending his hands to hold the ones next to him, and looked around expecting everyone else to do so.


Joy noticed that Jack hesitated wondering what to do. He really didn’t want to sit back down next to Bethany and have to hold her hand, but he didn’t have much of a choice. He finally sat down, taking Bethany’s hand lightly in his. Ed said a short prayer, thanking the Lord for His hand upon them, and for His protection on every aspect of their lives.


Soon everyone was mingling again, chatting about the events of the night before. Jack looked around for Joy, but found that she had left the group. Allen saw him looking around, and pointed towards Joy’s room, letting him know where she was. Jack smiled his thanks and made his way there to see her, stopping only to say hi to Seth.


Jack got to Joy’s door and almost knocked even though the door was open. He didn’t want to surprise her, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. He had his hand ready to knock, when he realized what she was doing. Both Victor and Grace were sleeping, and Joy was bending over to give each of them a kiss, and make sure they were okay. He watched her for a moment in silence, appreciating her love for his children. He smiled as she hummed softly, the same tune she had been humming just a few days before at the cabin.


“Joy,” he said quietly, not wanting to wake the babies up.


Joy jumped a little not knowing that someone was watching her. She held her hand to her chest, as if she had been really scared.


“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to surprise you,” Jack said as she approached him. She smiled up at him and stuck her tongue out at him playfully.


Jack shocked her by sticking his out in return. “Well, you don’t have to be so jumpy, you know,” he said teasingly. “You might get cut again.”


Joy scoffed indignantly and swatted his arm with the back of her hand, making him back away a step. “You better watch it Dr. Daniels,” she teased back, “or I’ll faint on you again.”


Jack grinned, and glanced at the babies. “Will they be okay here for a while?”


Joy nodded her head and then followed him out of her room into the hallway. “You think we can get away for a little while?” Jack asked.


Joy nodded again, halfway closing the door behind her. “I think so. The twins will be sleeping for a while, and the kids can have lunch here. Do you want to have lunch and then go?” she asked peering into the kitchen where Liz and Linda had started lunch for everyone.


Jack shook his head. “Maybe we could take some with us and go across the lake to our house?”


Joy smiled at his use of the word ‘our’ in relation to the log home that was being built. “Our house?” she asked.


Jack nodded and shrugged. “Well, yeah. What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours, right?”


Joy nodded thoughtfully, a smile playing on her lips. “So you’re saying that what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine.”


Jack nodded again and then stopped to look at her. “Wait. What?”


Joy laughed at his confusion, going to get some lunch for them. “I’ll see what I can do.”


Jack grinned and followed her into the kitchen. “Mom, would it be ok if we bailed on lunch?” Joy asked, pulling a picnic basket from one of the large cupboards.


“Sure hon. Take what you need. Will you be leaving the kids here?”


Jack and Joy both nodded their heads. “If that’s okay with you,” Joy said, filling up the basket with things to eat as Jack got them some plates and water bottles.


“No problem, and take your time. We’ve got formula here as well as diapers, so we’ll be set for a while.”


“Thanks Mom,” Joy said and gave her a quick hug.


“Yes, thank you,” Jack said gratefully.


“Jack, I’m going to change real quick and then I’ll be ready to go. Can you put the rest of this stuff in the basket and let the kids know what the plan is?”


Jack nodded and Joy made her way back to her room.


“So you’re a married woman, again, huh Joy?” Bethany said catching up with her in the hallway.


Joy wasn’t sure what to say, so she just nodded her head and kept walking. She was not in the mood to talk to Bethany, especially since she felt so bad about completely forgetting about her the night before. Bethany followed her into her room and closed the door softly behind her.


“Well, Jack said he’s going to see what he can do to work something out for me,” Bethany said quietly, glancing at the babies. “I don’t think he liked that I wasn’t included in the marriage thing last night.”


“None of us did, Bethany. None of this was our idea.” Joy said pulling the shades to her room so she could change privately.


“Well, you’d almost think it was by the way you look at him,” Bethany retorted harshly.


Joy stopped in the middle of what she was doing and stared at Bethany. “What?”


“You heard me! It’s like you were never married to begin with, like you never had a husband.”


“That’s not true!” Joy whispered as loud as she dared, her eyes filling with tears.


“Well, you certainly act like it. As if you are the only one that matters,” Bethany said, her eyes flashing.


“What is it that you want from me, Bethany? I was thrown into this situation just as much as you were. I didn’t ask for this to happen to me,” Joy cried, trying to keep her voice down.


“Well, if you were ‘thrown into it’ as you say, maybe you should see about switching places with me. If you really don’t care about Jack, then let him marry me instead. I would be able to be a real wife to him. One that would be ready to take care of his needs and wants, not just a fake, like you.”

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“Let him marry you?” Joy asked Bethany incredulously. “How could I do that?”


“Well, Jack said that your marriage is just for looks. If it is, then you can just as easily get it annulled and marry Wamblee. Then Jack and I can be free to marry,” Bethany said boldly.


Joy looked at Bethany, speechless. “Well, I don’t know about Jack, but I made a promise to him, and I don’t intend on breaking it. If he wants to annul our marriage, then that’s up to him. I will not go back on my word.”


“Well, then maybe you should ask what he wants, and care about someone else’s feelings for once,” Bethany said before she stormed out the room, almost slamming the door shut.


Joy followed her long enough to catch the door and close it softly behind her, then leaned against it allowing the tears to flow. How could Bethany think that I wanted this to happen? She started to feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out what to think. She decided to talk to Jack about it, even though she knew that he didn’t want Bethany. She would let him go if he wanted to change his mind, but she needed to know one way or another for good.


She wiped the tears from her face and quickly changed into a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt. She started taking her sandals off when she heard a soft knock on the door.


“Joy? Can I come in?” It was Jack.


“Come in,” Joy replied softly, hoping that he had heard her.


Jack opened the door a crack, and when he saw that she was presentable, walked in the room. “Are you okay?”


Joy sniffled and nodded, pulling on a pair of socks and tennis shoes.


He squatted down in front of the chair she was sitting on, looking up at her face. “You don’t look like you are okay. Do you want to talk about it?”


Joy shook her head and stood up, walking around him. “Not here,” she said, grabbing her sweatshirt and tying it around her waist.


Jack nodded and followed her out the door after they both looked at the babies once more. They were still fast asleep, and Jack was glad that they weren’t so picky as to only sleep in their own crib.


He left the door half open, and assured Joy that the older kids were going to be fine. He had talked to them, and Liz said that they would all make sure that they would be okay.


Jack picked up the picnic basket they had filled, and motioned with his head that they could leave through the front door. Most everyone else was out on the kitchen deck, getting ready for lunch. Jack opened the door for Joy and allowed her to go through, and then led her to his cabin.


“I think I’d like to change too, if you don’t mind,” Jack said, looking over at Joy. She nodded, but didn’t say anything, so he decided to just walk in silence next to her. When they arrived at the cabin, he sat the basket on the bench near the door and opened it for her to go in. Joy hesitated, not knowing if she should go in or not.


“Aren’t you going to come in?” Jack asked, a little confused.


“I don’t know, Jack. Do you think it would look bad?”


“Bad? Bad how?”


“Well, you and me in there? Alone?”


“Joy, it doesn’t matter how it looks. We’re married,” he stated simply.


Joy searched his eyes, wondering what he was thinking. “Joy, if you feel more comfortable staying out here, I won’t force you to come in. I promised you I wouldn’t ever ask anything of you that you weren’t willing to give, and I intend on keeping that promise.”


Joy smiled at him slightly, walking into the cabin. “That’s not what I’m afraid of, Jack.”


Jack followed her in, and tugged at her hand gently to turn her to look at him. “Do you want to tell me what’s bothering you now?”


Joy opened her mouth to say something, but at the last minute didn’t trust her voice, so she pressed her lips to keep them from trembling and shook her head.


Jack sighed and let go of her hand. “Ok. I’m going to change, and then I thought we could go across the lake to eat our picnic at our house.”


Joy nodded, but turned away quickly so he couldn’t see her tears forming. Jack went into his room and closed the door behind him, emerging a few minutes later wearing a pair of jeans and a long sleeve white shirt.


“You ready to go?” he asked rolling his sleeves up.


Joy nodded and went out the door. They made their way to the lake in silence, and once they got to the boat, Jack helped her step into it, then handed her the basket. She put it at her feet and he pushed the boat in, jumping in just before getting his feet soaked.


He paddled his way across the lake, pausing now and then to show Joy a school of fish. Her back was to him so he couldn’t see her face, but he wish he could. He wanted to know what she was thinking, what she was feeling. What had upset her so much? He wondered. If he could just look at her eyes, then maybe he could read her a little better.


When they got to the dock, Jack tied the boat to the post and got out, then took the basket from her and helped her out. Joy was amazed at how effortlessly he pulled her up, almost overcompensating for her weight. Jack briefly put his hand on Joy’s back and led her to the still-under-construction house.


He opened the door for her to go in, and the smell of the fresh wood was almost overwhelming. Joy gasped as she looked around, as she had forgotten how beautiful the place really was.


Jack put the basket on the kitchen counter and leaned against it, crossing his arms. “So?”


Joy looked at him and leaned against the counter across from him. “So?” she repeated, wondering what he meant.


“So what do you want to do first? Talk? Take the guided tour? Eat?”


“Let’s take the guided tour,” she said, wanting to put off the talk, but not wanting to eat until they had.


“Ok, Ma’am, follow me,” he said, leading the way. He showed her the two smaller bedrooms, and then the bigger one, with a bathroom that Joy hadn’t noticed the day she had fallen into the lake. “I thought you, Victoria and Grace could sleep in here, and I could sleep with the boys in one of the other rooms. Then when the kids get older, maybe we can build an additional room. What do you think?”


“I, uh, show me downstairs. I didn’t spend much time down there, but it almost looked like you had it set up like a store,” Joy stammered, still not ready to answer.


“Ok, let me get a flashlight,” Jack said, going back into the kitchen and grabbing a flashlight from one of the drawers.


He led the way downstairs, making sure that she had enough light to see as well. Once down there, he turned on some oil lamps with a lighter, illuminating most of the basement. Joy looked around and was amazed at all that he had been able to accomplish. Most of the food he had stored was down there, anything that hadn’t been burned in the fire at least. It seemed as though he was set to eat for quite a while, without having to eat the same thing over and over. She noticed that some of the shelves were at an angle, with the cans or jars all tilting downward.


“Why did you make these like this?” she wondered, standing in front of them, looking at what was on the shelves. The whole wall was covered with these shelves, from the ceiling to the floor, all holding different things, from fruit to vegetables, and stews and canned meat.


“Well, the idea is that you take from here, see?” Jack said reaching past her and grabbing a jar of homemade applesauce from the bottom side of one of the shelves. “Once you pull it, all the other ones will roll down. Then when you want to add more, you add them up there, so that you are always using the oldest product first. It automatically rotates itself.”


“Well, I’m impressed,” Joy said helping him put the applesauce back. “Looks like you have enough here to last you for a while,” she added, looking around the room. There were diapers and toilet paper, paper towels and other paper items as well as some shelves with extra clothing.


Across from the tilted shelves was a wall with wooden baskets, each filled with potatoes, carrots, onions, and other edible roots. “Where did you get these?” Joy asked, holding a potato up.


“From the garden. I have a small garden that I try to work on when I get a chance. It’s not nearly as big as what the Larson’s had, but it will give us some fresh things to eat in the wintertime so that not everything is from a can. It will stay cool here throughout the year, yet warm enough during the winter. I’m hoping you can give me a hand with the garden, and maybe we can have a bigger one next year.” Jack said, catching the potato that she tossed at him.


There were a few empty shelves as well, and Joy wondered what those were for, but decided to ask later. Something else had caught her attention, and she walked over to stand in front of what looked like a large, walk-in safe.


“What’s in here?” Joy asked her curiosity taking over.


“In here? Oh, guns, ammo, personal papers, and some old things my parents left me, well here. I’ll show you.” Jack opened the safe that revealed to be bigger than what it looked like on the outside. Joy had thought that he would have a few guns, but it looked like Jack could almost single handedly outfit an army. She whistled under her breath as she stepped into the safe, wrinkling her nose to the musty smell.


“Why so many guns?”


“The guns? Oh, some of them are mine, some of them were my dad’s and some my grandpa’s. About half of these in here were Carol’s, as she liked to shoot, and hunt, and just stare at them all day if she got a chance. I figured that if we were going to have the guns, then might as well have the ammo to go with it. Now I’m glad I did. It will be next to impossible to get ammo for some of these old ones now. Here’s one that would be good for you,” Jack said pulling a handgun from a shelf in the safe.


“A gun? Ah, sorry Jack. You’re talking to the wrong girl. I’m not into hunting or shooting, and I’d really rather not even look at them.” Joy shook her head, not wanting to even touch the gun.


“Well, unfortunately we aren’t in a position to choose anymore, Joy. Have you seen how Simon looks at you? He would have his way with you if he had a chance.”


Joy blushed, but appreciated Jack’s concern for her. “Well, he’d probably want his way with any woman, Jack, not just me,” she countered.


“Well, that may be true, but I know for sure he wants you. Now I’m not going to be able to be with you a hundred percent of the time, so I’d like you to learn how to defend yourself. I don’t know what I would do if he did something to you, Joy. And think about our kids. What if someone tried to do something to them? Wouldn’t you want to be able to defend them?”


“Jack, I really don’t think this is necessary…”


“Joy,” Jack interrupted, putting his hand gently on her shoulder, his voice stern, but his eyes full of concern. “I do. I’ll teach you. Once you learn the basics, you can practice and get better at it. I think you won’t mind so much, once you get the hang of it. Can you do that for me? Please?”


Joy looked up at Jack in the dark safe, knowing that somehow this meant a lot to him. “I really won’t be able to get out of this, will I?” she asked, trying to make the mood a little lighter. “Okay, Jack. If you want me to. But you’ll have to teach me, as I don’t know the first thing about guns, and I’d rather not have it around the kids until I do.”


“Fair enough. We’ll spend some time each day practicing, and I’ll teach you all you need to know, okay?”


“Okay,” she smiled up at him, glad to finally be able to do something for him. He had struck a chord when he talked about the kids. Even though Luke and the twins weren’t her kids, she felt as though she would fight to death for them, just as she would for Victoria.


“I was fortunate that none of this got burned when the house burned down,” Jack said quietly, looking through a box on one of the shelves. It was filled with old pictures and papers his parents had left for him. “Carol never felt comfortable putting pictures up in the house, so I stored them down here. Look, here is my dad and mom when they got married. And here are some pictures of me when I was young, even some of my old school records. I was pretty smart, you oughtta know.”


Joy smiled and took the records from him, looking at all his school pictures. Jack rummaged through the box a little more, finally finding what he was looking for. He stuffed the small box into his pocket, hoping Joy hadn’t seen. He glanced at her and was relieved to see that she was still busy looking at the pictures.


“Your mother was a beautiful woman, Jack,” Joy said, holding the oval frame that held Jack’s parents wedding picture.


“Yes, she was. From the inside out,” Jack responded, taking the frame from her. Just like you, he wanted to add, but didn’t dare. “They died a few years back. They never even got to meet Luke, or even Carol. You would have liked Mom. She was into a lot of the things you like, like cooking and making stuff.”


They looked through a few more things, and Joy was glad for the opportunity to look into Jack’s past a bit.


“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry. You wanna eat?” Jack asked, stepping out of the safe. Joy nodded and put the pictures back, then followed him out. He followed her back up the steps after blowing out the lamps, again allowing her enough light to see where she was going.


“Do you want to eat outside?” Jack asked, picking up the basket.




They went outside and found a tree to sit by. Joy opened up a blanket that she had packed for them to sit on, and prepared them sandwiches. They ate silently after Jack prayed, each absorbed in their own thoughts. When they were done, Jack started cleaning up, saying that since she had cooked, he could clean.


“Are you ready to talk about what was bothering you?” Jack asked Joy, searching her eyes.


Joy nodded, but stood up. “Do you mind if we walk? I get nervous if I’m just sitting still.”


“Sure,” Jack shrugged, carrying the basket to the porch. “I’ll show you around the other buildings.”


He showed her the outside buildings, the cows and the chickens, and finally, his horse. “Jack! She is beautiful!” Joy said, running her hand over the mare’s neck. Jack had ridden her over the night before, and had left her there overnight.


“Do you want to go for a ride?”


“Really? But I’m not that great at riding.”


“That’s ok, I’ll go with you,” Jack said, saddling up the mare. He got on the mare and then held his hand out to pull Joy up. Soon they were on their way, enjoying the great outdoors. Jack showed her most of his property, wanting her to see her new home. He enjoyed the feeling of her arms wrapped around his waist, especially when he allowed the mare to run, making Joy nervous enough to hold him tighter.


Joy held on tight to Jack and pressed her cheek against his back, closing her eyes tightly. She finally opened them and realized how much she really enjoyed riding. He led the mare back around to the open area of the property, where he rented the space out to a neighbor to grow hay. In addition to the rent the neighbor paid, he also provided Jack with enough hay to feed his creatures throughout the year.


Jack pointed out the extent of the property, and Joy was amazed at the beauty of it all. They rode back towards the house the opposite way they had come, going around in a large circle. When they got to the stream on the property, Jack helped Joy down and then got down himself. He allowed the mare to drink some water, and then tied her to a tree.


“Come here, there is something I want to show you,” Jack said, taking Joy’s hand and leading her towards a small wooden bridge that crossed the stream.


“Jack, it’s gorgeous!” Joy exclaimed, hurrying past him to the bridge.


“I thought you’d like it,” Jack smiled, sitting down next to her.


Joy took her tennis shoes and socks off, and put her feet in the cool water, allowing it to flow against her bare feet. They were quiet for a few moments, and finally, Joy felt like it was time to talk. She hated having to ruin such a special moment, but decided it was better now than never.


“Well,” she said taking a deep breath, “I guess I’ve kept you in suspense long enough.”


“Mmmm,” Jack said, looking at her, resting his hands on the bridge. He was dying to know what was bothering her, but didn’t want to push.


“Are you sure we made the right choice?” she started still looking down at her feet in the water, not wanting to face him directly.


“What do you mean?”


“Well, now that things have settled down a little, do you regret, um, do you regret marrying me?”


“Marrying you? No, why should I?” Jack asked, confused. Had he sent some kind of signal that he didn’t realize? Had he said something that made her think that?


“Well, it is just a piece of paper, Jack. It’s not like we’ve done anything to consummate the marriage,” she continued, wishing she had chosen different words.


“What are you saying, Joy? Are you having second thoughts? I know that it was all done quickly, but I meant everything I said. I’m a man of my word, Joy. I promised I would care for you, and if you’ll let me, I’ll be true to my word.”


“So if you had a way out, would you take it?”


“No. Would you?”


Joy looked over at him, her eyes tearing up. “No,” she whispered.


“What brought all of this up?” Jack asked her softly, not wanting to sound accusing.


“Well, I thought that, I was told that I should give you the option to change,” she answered, a tear falling down her cheek. “That I was being selfish by not giving you a way out.”


“Who told you that?” Jack asked, wiping her tear away with his thumb.


“Well,” Joy paused, not sure she should bring Bethany into it. She decided that if she was going to be in a relationship with this man, that she better make it an honest one. She wanted Jack to be able to trust her, and knew that in turn, she needed to be able to trust him. “Bethany mentioned that maybe you would rather marry her, and then I could marry Wamblee instead. I know you said you didn’t, but,”


“What?” Jack interrupted her.


“Well, she thinks that somehow I have brought this on all of us, although I’m not sure how. We’ve never really gotten along that well, but this has been making it worse on all of us,” Joy said, looking away from Jack again.


“Joy look at me,” Jack said, waiting for her to turn her face to him. “I asked you because I wanted to marry you. If I had wanted to marry her, I would have asked her. I told you that last night. Now, I know that the circumstances aren’t the greatest, but I will not go back on my word unless you want me too. Is that what you want?”


Joy shook her head, the tears coming again. “Don’t cry, Joy, please. Come here,” Jack said, putting his arm around her. Joy felt comforted by his embrace, and yet relieved, as it seemed like he was giving it as a friend, and nothing more. She rested her head on his chest, glad for his understanding.


Jack put his chin on Joy’s head and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “Better?”


“Much. Thank you,” Joy said, sitting up straight and smiling up at him.


Jack took his arm back, not wanting to make her feel uncomfortable. “We should probably start heading back, you think?”


Joy sighed and then nodded, not wanting to give up this peaceful moment. Joy put her shoes and socks back on, and then they walked back to the barn, where Jack put the horse away for the evening.


“Where was it that you saw Simon the other day, Joy?” Jack asked as he put the saddle away.


“In the other barn, where you have some stuff in storage,” she said, pointing in the general direction of where she had seen him.


“Let’s go take a look.”


They went over to the other barn, and Jack opened the door cautiously, almost expecting to see Simon there. “You said he was digging?”


Joy nodded and walked past Jack into the middle of the barn. “I thought he was, anyway. But now that I’m here, I don’t see how, if the ground is concrete.”


“Mmmm, let me see, Joy, excuse me,” Jack said pulling her gently out of the way. “The ground is concrete,” he continued, moving the mixture of dirt and hay around, “but they are concrete blocks, made to be moved if they need to be. Can you hand me that shovel?”


Joy handed him the shovel, curious as to what he was going to do. “See,” he said, stomping on one of the large blocks, “this one sounds hollow compared to this one. That’s probably were he had been digging. Let’s see what he was looking for.” Jack forced the block up with the shovel, revealing a hole that Simon had dug underneath it. Joy took the shovel from him and helped him push the block away.


“There is nothing there,” Joy said, disappointed.


“Yeah, he probably already took whatever he found. I wonder what it was?”


“You didn’t put it there?”


Jack shook his head, holding the block up. “Nope, wasn’t me. The farm here used to belong to an old man named MacDonald. He was teased about having a farm and all the animals on it, that’s why the place is so big. The house was probably as old as he was when we bought it, and the only reason he sold it to us is because he knew and liked my dad. He was the only one that didn’t make fun of Mr. MacDonald, and would even come out here on occasion to chat for a while. He was said to be filthy rich, but my dad thought that was just a legend. He collected a lot of things, but dad said it was all just a bunch of junk. One time he told my dad and I about his most prized possession, and made us promise to never tell anyone where he kept it. He said that if he ever died, we could have it, as he had no one else to give it to.”


“What was it?” Joy asked, working hard at keeping her part of the block up.


“A rock collection,” Jack answered lowering the block back into place. “I’ll need to come back later and fill that up, it’s not safe like that.”


Joy nodded and clapped her hands, trying to get as much dust off of her hands as possible. “So what about the rocks?”


“Well, everywhere he went he would pick up a rock, and add it to his collection. I mean everywhere. If he went to our house, which he would do on occasion, he’d pick up a rock. If he went to the store, or the Reservation, or even to the other side of the property, he’d pick one up. Needless to say, he had hundreds, if not thousands of them stashed away.”


“Wow. Did you see them all?” Joy asked, reaching up to take a scrap of hay out of Jack’s hair.


Jack shook his head. “No, just a few jars that he showed us. That’s probably the treasure that Simon was looking for. Mr. MacDonald used to call them his gold nuggets, or sometimes his silver and gold coins, or both. The only ones that knew what he was talking about were dad and I, but we let everyone else think what they wanted. It made him seem a little more credible, you know what I mean?”


Joy smiled as she imagined the old man, counting his precious rocks. “I bet he had a story for everyone of them.”


“He sure did,” Jack laughed. “Dad and I spent a whole afternoon listening to such stories. They really were quite incredible, he had really done a lot in his life. Some of the rocks were from all the way up in Canada, some even Alaska. He said that he rode a horse all the way up there to see a friend once, but I was never able to confirm that.”


Joy shook her head in amazement. “So what happened to him?”


“He died shortly after we bought the place. He gave us a really good deal for it, and he was the one that introduced me to Mr. Bodaway. Oddly enough, Mr. Bodaway doesn’t think he was crazy at all. He and Mr. MacDonald served in the war together, with my dad.”


“Man, it’s a small world after all, isn’t it?”


Jack smiled. “Sure is. You interested in seeing those rocks?”


Joy nodded, her eyes shinning. “Yeah, I’d love too! Do you have them?”


“I could probably dig them up for you,” he nodded, motioning to the back of the barn with his head. “We had to move the barn several years ago, but they should still be underground back there, where the barn used to be.”


“Really? Does Simon know that the barn was moved?”


“I don’t know,” Jack replied, walking towards the back of the barn and going through the back door. Joy followed him, watching were she stepped. It looked like the barn was only used for storage, but she figured one could never be too careful. “You know, he probably didn’t,” Jack continued looking around the ground, “and somehow he found out that Mr. McDonald had some kind of treasure under this barn, and that’s why he was looking in there.”

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J.J. Chapter 4



Jack and Joy made their way back to the house to pick up the basket before heading back across the lake. Jack assured Joy that the rocks would still be there later, after all, not even Simon had been able to find them. He promised her that he would get them out for her soon enough.


Jack locked up the house, especially the door to the basement. “I’ve never had to lock a basement door before,” he told Joy, “but with the way things are going, I rather not lose all the stuff we have down there.”


Joy had nodded understanding what he meant. “Do you think I could put some of my stuff down there, too?” she asked Jack timidly.


“Of course! There is plenty of space. Joy, I don’t want you to feel like you are a visitor here, because you aren’t. This is your home now, too. Maybe we can have a day of moving stuff over here. I have a bunch of stuff in the cabin, but I’d rather keep it there until we move in here. We could survive on what I have in the cabin if we lost what’s in the house, but not if we lost everything.”


They went back across the lake, and this time Joy sat facing Jack. They talked and teased each other, even splashing each other, really enjoying their time together.


Jack helped her out of the boat on the other side of the lake, and they started walking back to the farmhouse. “Joy, do you think we could do this on a regular basis?”


“Do what?” Joy asked, turning to look at him.


“I don’t know, spend time together. Alone.” He said, hoping he wasn’t pushing her to fast.


Joy nodded, noticing that Jack was trying hard not to make her uncomfortable. “I think that would be good. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a bit more.”


“Yeah, it was a good afternoon. Now I know why they say honeymoons are a good idea,” Jack said smiling at her. Joy raised her eyebrows at his comment, making him blush for a change. “No, I didn’t mean, what I meant…”


Joy laughed as Jack tried to back paddle his way out of what he said. “I know what you meant, Jack,” she reassured him, patting his back.


Jack shook his head and looked at the ground, thinking that he was going to have to be more careful with what he said from now on. They got back to the farmhouse and Jack held the door open for Joy to go in. Several of the family members were there, either playing cards or taking a nap. Seth and his family had gone back home, and Bethany was nowhere to be seen. Joy was glad that at least for now she wouldn’t have to deal with her.


“So where is everyone?” Joy asked in general, not wanting to interrupt the game or wake up those who were napping.


Liz informed her that the two newlywed couples had decided to do the same as Jack and Joy had, and that Seth and his family had gone home. The babies had woke up and eaten, and then after being awake for a while and having their diapers changed a couple of times, they had gone back to sleep. Victoria and Luke were also taking a nap, lying on Joy’s bed, while the babies were lying on Ed and Liz’s bed.


“Mr. Bodaway came a little while ago to see you, Jack. He will be back soon. He and Ed went for a walk together, apparently to talk about some serious stuff. Bethany is also here, but she is lying down as well.”


Joy felt her stomach drop when she heard that Bethany was still there. She wished that she didn’t have to see her for a while, but knew that there wasn’t much she could do about that.


Jack joined the card game, and Joy helped Liz and Ann start supper. “It’s going to get lonely around here pretty soon,” Liz said as she shredded some Mexican cheese she had made.


“Why?” Ann asked, taking a handful of the cheese.


“Hey! Watch it now. I’m still practicing and we don’t have a lot. It’s been many, many years since I’ve made cheese,” Liz said, playfully slapping Ann’s hand. “Well, with everyone getting married, I’m sure that they are going to be moving out, starting lives of their own,” she continued. “I’m sure everyone is going to want their privacy, especially the newly weds,” Liz said as she continued shredding, but glanced at Joy to see her reaction.


“Well, Jack and I won’t need any privacy,” Joy said as casually as she could, frying the tortillas to make enchiladas.


“No privacy for you?” Ann asked, stopping what she was doing. “What do you mean?”


“Well, it’s not like we are in love like Roger and Marie, or Leslie and Marco,” Joy replied simply. “We have no need for that kind of privacy.”


“Mmmm,” was all Ann said as she and Liz shared a look.


“What?” Joy asked noticing the shared look.


“Nothing, nothing. It’s just that at some point you are going to have to move in with him, Joy,” Ann said. “And then what? Are you going to sleep in separate rooms? Separate beds? Live with a husband that is never really yours?”


“I don’t know, Ann,” Joy responded quietly, wanting to keep her voice down so that the others couldn’t hear. “I guess we’ll just have to figure it out as we go.”


“I know. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be pushy. It’s just that I know that it’s hard for a man to be married, but not have all the privileges that come with it,” Ann said putting her arm around Joy.


Joy nodded, but wasn’t sure what to say. She knew that Ann was right, but she wasn’t ready to give herself to another man yet, and wasn’t sure how soon that would be, if ever.


They made the rest of the supper, changing the subject from Jack and Joy’s afternoon together, to the wedding plans for Marie. They had agreed that they would marry the next weekend during the service, and that Marco and Leslie would marry the week after.


Once supper was ready Joy went outside to get the tables ready for them to eat. It was still nice outside, so they had decided to eat outside. While Joy was out there putting table cloths on the tables, Bethany came out with plates and silverware to set the tables.


“Your mom said that you’d maybe need some help,” she said coldly, almost throwing the plates on the table. “Did you talk to Jack?”


“Talk to me about what?” Jack said, coming through the screen door.


Bethany stalled when she saw him, trying to figure out what to say. “Well, she was supposed to talk to you about the arrangement that was made last night.”


Jack walked over and put his arm around Joy’s shoulders. “She did.”


“Oh. And?”


Joy couldn’t believe that Bethany was setting herself up for this, that she really thought that Jack wanted her instead. Why did she think that?


Jack wasn’t able to answer as the screen door opened again, this time Mr. Bodaway coming out.


“Good evening, everyone,” Mr. Bodaway said, smiling at all of them. “It’s sure is a nice night, isn’t it?”


Jack and Joy nodded, but Bethany just ignored him. “Bethany, could I have a word with you, perhaps?” Mr. Bodaway asked.


“With me?”


Mr. Bodaway nodded, and went down the deck steps, expecting her to follow. Bethany did, albeit reluctantly.


Once they were gone, Jack squeezed Joy’s shoulder and let go. “Are you ok?”


Joy nodded, handing him some plates to help set the table. “Yeah, I am. I’m glad you came out just then, because to be honest, she kind of scares me,” Joy answered, following him around the tables, putting the silverware in their places.


Jack laughed and nodded his head. “I know what you mean. She scares me too, just not in the way you might think.”


Joy looked at him quizzically, and then laughed herself. Once done, they headed back inside and helped bring the food out. “What is this?” Jack asked, smelling the food.


“Enchiladas,” Joy answered. “Have you ever had them? We made the tortillas ourselves!”


Jack shook his head. “Are they spicy?”


“Well, they can be. We made two sets, one hot and one not. Not all of my family likes hot food, like my dad, or Bethany.”


“Well, I’ll try them both. It smells great!”


Soon the rest of the family joined them, and Luke and Victoria sat in between Jack and Joy. Liz let them know that she had left the window in her room opened, so that they could hear the babies when they woke up.


Ed asked Roger to pray, and then they all ate, enjoying each other’s company. Jack found that he really did like the hot stuff, and even asked to have some of the extra salsa they had made.


“Jack,” Juan laughed, “you may want to take it easy with that buddy! If it doesn’t burn on the way in, sometimes it burns on the way out.”


Everyone laughed at his comment, but Joy noticed that Jack took his advice. She was glad he did, because she would rather him get used to it little by little, instead of being turned off of it by getting sick.


Mr. Bodaway and Bethany came back and sat down to join the supper. Bethany glanced at Joy smugly, making Joy wonder what they had talked about. She pushed the thoughts away, wanting to enjoy her time with her family. They all sat there and talked, even though the food was long gone.


Even Mr. Bodaway entered the conversation, entertaining them all with old stories about the Reservation. Joy heard the babies crying over the talking, so got up to go get them fed. Jack stood up to help her, but Joy assured him she’d be fine.


She went into her parent’s room and got Victor, holding him close to her heart. “Victor, Victor, you’re okay, honey. Mama’s here. Come here, Sweetie. Let’s get your diaper changed.” Joy took Victor to her room and changed him, but soon heard Grace crying as well. She wished she had taken Jack’s help when he had offered it but was glad when she heard footsteps go towards her and then she stopped crying.


She put Victor’s clothes back on, and was surprised when Bethany came into her room, holding Grace.


“Here,” she said, “Grace needs her diaper changed too.”


Bethany laid Grace down and picked up Victor. “So I guess I’ll be married soon too,” she said, her voice even.


“Really?” Joy asked, hoping to not get into an argument again.


“Yeah, that’s what Mr. Bodaway came to see me for. He thinks that I would be an excellent wife for the chief of the Reservation. I didn’t know that Wamblee was quite that important, did you?”


“No, I guess I didn’t. So you agreed to marry him?”


Bethany nodded, looking at Victor. “Yes. We will do the same thing you did, and I get to keep the gold that Wamblee was going to bid for me instead. Sounded like a good deal to me. If none of these are real marriages, then what do I have to lose?”


“Well, I’m glad that it’s working out for you, Bethany.”


“Yeah, well, you can thank Jack for that. He’s the one that’s taking care of me.”


“Well, now you’ll have Wamblee,” Joy said picking up Grace. “He’ll be able to take care of you now.”


Bethany blew through her nose, scoffing at what Joy had just said. “We’ll see,” she said. “We’ll see.”


The rest of the night was uneventful, and soon everyone started to go back to their homes. Marie and Leslie were still staying at the cabin closest to the house with Juan and Ann, and all four of them went home, followed by Mr. Bodaway taking Bethany to Seth’s house. Her wedding would be held the next day at the Reservation, and she had told everyone that there was no need to show up, since it was just for looks, like Jack and Joy’s marriage. Jack had glanced at Joy when she said this, but Joy hadn’t noticed.


Victoria cried when it was time for her to go to bed, but Joy could see that she really was tired and needed to get to sleep. Joy helped her brush her teeth, and then Victoria changed into her pajamas. She went out to say goodnight to everyone that was left, giving everyone a hug.


While she did that, Jack took Joy aside. “Is it okay if I help put her to bed?” he asked her, his eyes not leaving hers.


“Sure, if you want to,” Joy answered, feeling a little uncomfortable under his gaze, but somehow enjoying it at the same time.


“Thanks,” Jack whispered, and then called Victoria. “Let’s get the princess to bed!”


He walked with her hand in hand into the room, then lifted her up and gave her a hug. “Good night, Victoria,” he said softly in her ear.


“Good night, Papa,” Victoria said emphatically and then giggled.


Jack smiled, and Joy knew that it meant a lot to him that she had called him that. “Now close your eyes,” he said, putting his hand on her head. He motioned for Joy to join them, then prayed for her, blessing her with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.


“The Lord bless you and keep you;” he quoted, “the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”


“Amen,” Joy whispered, smiling at Jack.


“Amen!” Victoria repeated.


Jack laughed and gave Victoria a kiss, then laid her down in the bed. “Sleep good, princess Victoria.”


“Sleep good,” she said, getting comfortable under the covers. “Love you, Mama.”


“I love you too, Sweetie. Goodnight.”


Jack and Joy left the room and turned off the light, closing the door softly behind them. “That was nice, Jack,” Joy said once they were out of Victoria’s earshot.


“Mmmm. Would you mind if I did it every night?”


Joy shook her head. “No! I think it’s great!”


“Well, it’s late, and Luke should get to bed, too. I’ll see you tomorrow?”


Joy nodded, feeling awkward saying good night to her husband, and sending him away. “I wish I could put Luke to bed, too,” she stated simply.


“Well, I’d offer for you to come with me, but I don’t want you to have to come back alone. We’ll figure something out, okay?”


Joy nodded, and called Luke over to give him a hug. “Good night, Luke,” she said, squatting down to his level.


“You aren’t coming with us?” he asked shyly.


“No, honey, not tonight. But I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”


He nodded, but didn’t return her smile. Joy felt bad and wished she could explain to him what was going on, but knew that he was too young to understand. Joy got the babies ready for Jack to take, giving them each a kiss.


Jack and Luke said goodnight to everyone, and Joy walked them to the front door. “Now I’ll see you in the morning, okay Luke?”


Luke nodded, but still didn’t respond. Joy tussled his hair and then turned to say good night to Jack. She reached up and gave him a hug around the babies, glad that it didn’t have to be too close.


That night both Jack and Joy had a tough time falling asleep, each thinking about the events of the day, and what they meant. The morning came all to soon for Joy, as her night had been restless, with her mind going over everything that had happened in her life in the most recent days. She decided that she would see about going to Bethany’s wedding, as she felt like it was the least she could do for her former sister-in-law.


Joy got up and got ready for the day, trying to not disturb Victoria. She got some food ready to take to Jack’s place, and wondered how long it would be until they could move into the log home. She had noticed that some of the walls in the rooms needed painting, and she made a mental note to ask him what he planned to do about that.


Once she had everything ready, she woke Victoria, and helped her get ready for the day. They said goodbye to Ed and Liz, as they were the only ones up. Joy pulled the little red wagon again, glad that she didn’t have to carry the stuff. She had brought more than they needed for the day, hoping to stock the little kitchen up so that she wouldn’t have to make so many trips with food.


“Good morning,” Jack called from the porch when he saw them coming. Victoria ran to him and jumped up in his arms, giving him a big hug. “Well, good morning to you too!” he laughed, returning her hug.


Victoria giggled, and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. Joy smiled at the encounter, and looked around for Luke. She had hated seeing him so sad to leave the night before, and was anxious to hold him again. The door to the cabin opened slightly, and Luke peeked out, his blond hair tussling about in the wind. “You did come!” he cried, running to Joy and giving her legs a hug. Joy wrapped her arms around him, glad to see his smile again. She looked up at Jack, who was smiling down at her.


Joy took Luke’s hand and went inside the cabin. “Are you hungry?”


Both Jack and Luke nodded eagerly, and Joy laughed at the sight. She made breakfast for them quickly, glad that she had chosen to just make scrambled eggs and bacon.


After breakfast, Jack had the kids help clean up the table, and then let them go outside to play. As he helped Joy with the dishes, he let her know of the plans he had for the day.


“I’ll be working on the house for a while, but this afternoon I have to go into town. Mr. Bodaway stopped over last night after he dropped Bethany off, and asked me if I’d be willing to be a witness to Wamblee and Bethany’s marriage. I agreed, figuring there are some things I need to get for the house there anyway. Apparently the Reservation has bought out all the stores, and made it so that you can only trade with them. You can trade as much as you want with your neighbors, but I guess if you don’t want to go to all over the place, you can just go there, where everything will be in one place, sort of like the old trading posts.


“That man amazes me,” Jack continued, taking a plate from her and drying it. “He really has planned all this well. I wonder how long in advance he knew that the power was going to go out. He’s not sure how well it’s going for the people in places like Oklahoma, as apparently that’s where the bomb struck. I think it struck in the air though, because it took out power all over the Unites States, and even the southern part of Canada and northern part of Mexico. It’s pretty bad out there, Joy. Things are looking pretty grim for the States.”


“What do you mean? The States has always been able to jump back into things, hasn’t it? Surely they can fix this.”


“Well, I’m afraid it won’t be so simple this time,” Jack said leaning on the counter and looking at her. “The EMP attack really fried things, no pun intended, even government things. I’m not so sure the US is going to survive this one, at least not a US like we have known it. I’m sure a lot of things have changed, and there are some changes that are not for good. I’ve heard rumors, and if they are true, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t intend on allowing my family to go into camps where they can decide what’s best for us. I think we will do fine here, where we are, on our own.”


“Well, yes, but surely the President wouldn’t allow that to happen, would he?” Joy asked, not wanting to believe that things could really get that bad.


“The President? Unfortunately he’s dead, Joy. No one knows just how he died, but the Vice President has taken his place, and although he is trying, he isn’t being very successful at keeping order. Things were bad as it was, but with this, it seems as though the country is falling apart at the seams.”


They talked for a while longer, until the dishes were done. “I better get going, Joy. There should be some men coming over to the house to work on it today, and I’d like to be there to help. I’ll be back for lunch, and then go to town.”


Joy nodded thoughtfully, drying her hands. “Jack, could I go with you?”


“To town?”


Joy nodded. “What about the kids?” he asked, hoping it would work out.


“Well, I talked to my mom about it this morning, and she said she would take care of them for me if I wanted to go to Bethany’s wedding. At the time I didn’t know that you were going to go, so now I have a ride,” Joy grinned.


“Sounds good to me,” Jack said, putting his hat on. “It’s eight o’clock now, I’ll be back around noon. We can have lunch with the kids, and then go to town. I want to go to the ‘General Store’ as they call it now and pick up a few things, and you can see if you need anything from there as well.”


Joy nodded, and followed him out the door. “Have a good day, Jack,” she said, leaning against the doorframe. He turned back and waved at her, then went and said goodbye to the kids. No sooner had he left, the twins woke up, a little grumpier than usual. She attended each of them, making sure that they were okay. It was another beautiful day outside, so she decided to take them outside for a while. She played with them, watching Luke and Victoria play with some outside toys Joy had brought.


Sooner than she wanted, the babies were ready for another nap. She changed each of their diapers again and laid them down, after holding them for a little bit, reluctant to put them down. They were soon fast asleep, and Joy busied herself in Luke’s room, changing the sheets, and making the room a little more comfortable. Once she was done in there, she spent part of her morning cleaning the cabin, watching the clock, waiting for Jack to come home. She checked on the older kids and called them in for a snack, cutting up apples for all three of them. After their snack, Joy took care of the babies again, glad that they weren’t as fussy this time. Finally, it was time to start lunch. She made tomato soup and grilled sandwiches, supplementing it with a small salad. She was happy to see that Jack came home shortly after noon, just as he had said. Joy tried to ignore the fact that she was so glad to see him, and concentrated on getting the food on the table.


Jack had worked hard on the house, knowing that the rest of the day he was going to be gone. He was relieved when Simon didn’t show up. Mr. Bodaway told him that Simon had been informed that he was no longer welcome on Jack’s property, and that it would be considered trespassing. That was a serious offence on the Reservation. Jack was happy to go back to the cabin and see the kids, happy to see Joy. He was not a fool, and knew that his attraction for her was growing. He would try to keep that in check, and not make her feel uncomfortable so as to not push her away.


“Hi, Jack. How was your day?” Joy greeted him as he came through the door with two giggling sacks of potatoes over his shoulder. She grinned seeing the look on the upside down kids, and helped Jack turn them back around.


“My day was fine, but I don’t know about these potatoes you dug up,” he grinned back at her. Joy laughed and told the kids to get cleaned up for lunch. “How was your day? It looks like you’ve been busy,” he said, washing his own hands.


Joy told him what she had done, glad that he was interested. They prayed and ate their lunch, anxious to get to town. Jack helped Joy clean up again, pleased that she had chosen to use paper plates this time. All they had to do was wash a few dishes, and then they were ready to go. Jack changed out of his work clothes, and took a quick sponge bath as there was no shower. They each took a baby, then headed to the farmhouse to drop of the kids.


“Are you sure your mom is okay with this?” Jack asked Joy, not wanting to take advantage of their generosity.


“Yes,” Joy nodded. “Aunt Linda is also going to be here, helping with wedding preparations.”


“It’s not going to be a big wedding, is it?”


“No, but both Marie and Leslie deserve a nice one. Poor Leslie. She will mainly be getting the leftovers from Marie’s wedding, as we can’t make two of everything. I’ll be helping Marie as I can this week to get their cabin prepared. She is so happy! I’m not sure I have ever seen her so happy.”


Jack smiled, glad that in the midst of the world falling apart, there was still something normal, like blushing brides and nervous grooms. He hoped that someday there would be that special kind of love between him and Joy. That same kind of excitement. He wondered how long it would take, if it happened at all. He determined in his heart to win her over, to be the best husband he could be, even if he didn’t yet have the strong feelings for her that he hoped someday he would have. A verse from the book of Ephesians came to his mind as they made their way in a comfortable silence, watching the older kids run out ahead of them. Husbands, love your wives…


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J.J. Chapter 5



Jack and Joy dropped off the kids and gave them all hugs, then left for town on Jack’s mare. Joy had changed into jeans for the ride to town, packing a backpack with more appropriate clothes she could wear once they got there, and some bottled water and snacks for along the way. Jack had his granddad’s old rifle with him, making Joy a little nervous. She again hung on to Jack, much to his liking. There was something about Joy that stirred him, deeper than any woman had ever before, even Carol. He had loved Carol deeply, but his relationship with her was closely defined as buddies. She was a regular tomboy, and could keep up with him in everything he did, sometimes even doing it better than he did. Joy seemed to be more like Jack’s mother. Good in a lot of things, but a lot more on the feminine side. While Carol cared more about her shooting abilities, Joy seemed to care more about the table looking nice when she set it. Jack had noticed the night before that Joy took great care in making anything she did look nice, down to adding chopped up cilantro leaves to the enchiladas ‘for coloring,’ as she had put it when he had asked, ‘in addition to the flavor.’ Even though she spent time putting nail polish on her toenails and was concerned about her hands being soft, Jack knew that she was a hard worker, not afraid to get her hands dirty. He had seen her working in the garden, digging in and fully enjoying herself. Granted she was wearing gloves, Jack smiled to himself, but still, she really is quite the trooper.


One other thing that Jack liked about Joy was her character. She seemed to be strong, and her faith cemented in God, especially after her encounter with Him. He was certainly glad that he had married her instead of Bethany. Of the two women, she shared his belief and devotion to God more closely. And last, but not least, Jack had to admit that he was intensely attracted to her. It bothered him to an extent, because he knew that if he had met her before each of their spouses has died, he would have still been attracted to her. He would have never acted on it, of course, but he was just glad that he was married to her now, and that any feelings he might develop towards her were in the right context. He prayed that God would bless their relationship, and that it would grow at the right pace.


Joy rode behind Jack for a while in silence, enjoying the countryside. She held on tight to Jack with her arms wrapped around his waist, hoping he didn’t mind. At one point the wind was blowing against them, so she shielded her face by leaning it against his back. She could hear the beating rhythm of his heart, and stayed there long after the wind died down. Jack noticed, but didn’t comment, glad that she felt at ease to do so.


Suddenly Joy sat up, but still kept her arms around his waist. Jack wondered what had sparked the change and looked back to see if anything was wrong. Joy was staring behind her, looking at a herd of deer. “Look Jack! They are beautiful,” she cried, pointing at them, still hanging on tight with the other arm.


Jack nodded, amazed at how such a simple thing seemed to make her day. It was unusual for them to be out in this area, but once in while you could see them wandering around. Joy went back to her resting place, hoping again that Jack wouldn’t mind. She didn’t want to send the wrong signals, and if she saw that she was, she determined to back away immediately.


They arrived at the town, and Jack led the mare to the main offices in town. He helped Joy down and then got down himself. He tied the mare to the post and opened the door for Joy to go in. “I’m going to find a restroom to change in, okay?” Joy said, looking around for one.


“Sure. They’re right over there,” Jack answered, pointing in the direction of the bathrooms. “I’ll wait for you here.”


Joy nodded and went into the bathroom. She changed quickly, pulling on a long skirt and a nicer white t-shirt. She brushed her hair then changed her tennis shoes and socks for sandals. The skirt almost covered her feet, and her painted toenails stood out against the army green color of the skirt. She pulled her blouse down to cover as much as she could of her midriff as the skirt had a low waist, and was glad to see that she had accomplished her task. She wished that she had brought a different one, but it was too late for that now. Joy looked at herself in the mirror and reapplied some of her makeup, wondering why she was even bothering to do so. She knew the answer was because she wanted to look pretty for Jack, but didn’t want to entertain the thought. The last thing she did before leaving the bathroom to meet Jack, was dab herself a little with her home made perfume, making her smell like fresh roses.


She checked in the mirror one more time and pursed her lips, then hurried to meet Jack out by the entrance.


Ed, Mr. Bodaway and his wife were there talking with Jack, and as Joy approached them, Wamblee came out of a door nearby. He saw her first and looked at her approvingly, making Joy feel very uncomfortable. She had made sure that nothing indecent was showing, yet somehow felt like it was her fault that he was looking at her the way he was.


“Hello, Wamblee,” Joy said coldly, not appreciating his look.


“Good afternoon, Mrs. Daniels. You look lovely today,” Wamblee said, offering his hand to shake hers. She took it timidly, and he held it softly.


Her eyes went past him to Jack, who was looking in their direction as well. He must have recognized the look on her face, for he came to her rescue, again. “Wamblee,” he called. “Come join us. It’s almost time for your wedding.”


Joy looked at Jack relieved, then went and stood beside him. Where’s Bethany? She wondered, looking around for her. She followed the small group into a room and smiled her thanks to Jack as he allowed her to go through the door before him. Bethany was in there already, just waiting for the rest to show up. She was wearing a white flowing strapless dress that came down just below her knees. She had a large sun hat on that had a matching white bow, and white high heels. It looked to Joy as if Bethany had gotten prettied up for her wedding in the same way she had for Jack, and truly hoped that their relationship would blossom into true love.


Bethany looked at Joy confused, but for only a second. She squeezed past the men to get to Joy, and looked at her with a look that Joy hadn’t seen before. “What are you doing here?”


“Well, I thought I should come to your wedding. I hope you don’t mind,” Joy said, a little nervous.


“Mmmm. Well, I need a witness anyway, so you’ll have to do,” Bethany said flipping her curly black hair back. “See the ring he gave me?”


Joy took Bethany’s hand to look at her ring, surprised that she had received one. “It’s beautiful, Bethany!” Joy exclaimed. “Do you like it?”


“Do I like it? It’s almost two carats, of course I like it! And this is just the engagement ring,” Bethany said, her voice sounding superficial. “Do you plan on wearing a ring, or did Jack not give you one? Oh, that’s right, you didn’t need one, as your marriage is just for ‘looks’.”


Joy absentmindedly looked at her left hand, where she still wore the ring that Dave had given her the day they had married. He had surprised her with it, and she had loved it instantly. She wasn’t sure what to answer and was glad when Wamblee came and put his arm around Bethany’s waist.


“Ready, darling?”


Bethany looked at Joy with an air of superiority, as if some how she was better than Joy for marrying the Chief. “Ready as ever,” Bethany replied, smiling at Wamblee.


Joy went in and stood next to Jack again, grateful that he was there. Jack smiled down at her and put his arm around her shoulders, giving her a little squeeze. Joy smiled back, and then turned to listen to Ed as he said a few words. He had them repeat their vows after him, and then had them exchange rings. Joy wondered where Bethany had gotten a ring for Wamblee, but when she noticed that his also had diamonds, she guessed that Wamblee had probably given it to Bethany to give to him.


“By the power invested in me by God and this Reservation,” Ed was saying, “I pronounce you man and wife. If you’d like, you may kiss the bride.”


Wamblee smiled and took Bethany in his arms, then kissed her on the mouth. Joy raised her eyebrows, and as she glanced at the others in the room, realized she wasn’t the only one that was surprised. Bethany laughed nervously, looking over at Jack, as if she was worried about what he might think.


Jack did find it interesting. He glanced quickly at Joy, wondering what her reaction was, what she thought. She looked to be as surprised as he was, especially after how Bethany had acted the day before.


After the wedding, Wamblee excused himself and his ‘new bride’, saying that they needed some time to get acquainted. Jack raised an eyebrow at the thought, realizing that for them, this was not a ‘name only’ marriage.


Just before leaving, Wamblee took Jack aside, wanting to talk to him privately. “So we have an agreement? You’ll be part of the committee?” he asked Jack.


Jack sighed and nodded his head. “I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it, but I’ll do the best that I can. Just let me know what it involves.”


Wamblee nodded and offered his hand to Jack. “Sounds good, I’ll let you know. Maybe I’ll come by and see you sometime next week. By then things should have calmed down a little.”


“You know where I live,” Jack responded, taking his hand.


While Jack and Wamblee chatted, Joy approached Bethany and gave her a quick hug. “Congratulations, Bethany,” she said quietly.


“Thank you. I think this might turn out quite well, actually. You should see the place we are going to live in. It’s an apartment, but it’s big, and it has everything we could possibly want. Maybe we’ll have you over for dinner sometime, and you can see what I mean.”


Joy nodded, hoping that she and Bethany could really figure out a way to be friends. She wondered if the fact that they wouldn’t be seeing each other as much would help, now that Bethany was moving into town.


Wamblee and Bethany left, and the rest went outside, ready to get on with their day. Ed excused himself from the group, needing to go visit some people that had lost a relative because of the power outage. The lady, about eighty-five years of age, had been stuck in an elevator when the power had gone out. They had not been able to get her out in time, and she had suffered a heat stroke, causing a massive heart attack. Mrs. Bodaway also left, wanting to get back home to start supper.


“I suppose we better get going too,” Jack told Mr. Bodaway, sorry that they didn’t have more time to spend with him.


“Do you two have a minute? I have something I want to show you,” Mr. Bodaway said, a twinkle in his eyes.


“Sure,” Jack said after Joy nodded. Jack took the mare and they followed Mr. Bodaway down the street a little, until they came to one of the stores he owned. It was the hardware store that provided the town with anything from paint to plants, and nails to kitchen sinks. Parked in front of it was a horse with a covered wagon behind it that almost looked like the ones from the old pioneer days. The only difference, Jack noted, was that it had rubber tires instead of the commonly used wooden wheels.


“Wow, would you look at that!” Jack exclaimed, patting the horse on the neck. Jack’s mare nudged him gently on the back as if she was jealous that he was giving attention to another horse, making Joy laugh. “This is a beautiful animal Mr. Bodaway,” he said, “Where did you get him?”


“I bought him from that camp out west, remember, where I went last spring? They made these wagons for sale, so I bought a few, thinking they might come in handy,” Mr. Bodaway responded. “They cost me a pretty penny at the time, but I’m sure I could sell them for a lot more than that right now.”


Jack nodded, looking over the animal. “I’m sure you could, Mr. Bodaway,” he mumbled, distracted.


“So do you like it?” Mr. Bodaway asked Joy.


“Me? Oh, yes! I was just thinking. I wonder how hard it would be to duplicate it so that more people could have one? And are there more horses? Can everyone afford one?”


Mr. Bodaway smiled at Joy, pleased to see that she automatically thought of others first. He had hoped that she would have been his daughter-in-law, but had to admit that she was a much better fit for Jack than his own son, Wamblee.


“Good points to ponder, Mrs. Daniels. I think that can easily be arranged. For now, I want you two to borrow it. Now that you are almost done with your home, I think you may want to take the stuff you have stored in the shop,” Mr. Bodaway replied.


Jack stood up from checking the horse’s legs and slapped his forehead with his hand. “The storage!”


Mr. Bodaway laughed, looking over at Joy. “And there is more where this came from, Joy. I can’t give it to you, but I’ll make you a good deal. Try this one out first, though. See what you think. See if you like it.”


“Wow. I, I’m not sure what to say, Mr. Bodaway,” Jack said, truly thankful for the help.


“Well, I don’t either, but…” Joy embraced the older man gently, as if she was afraid that she was going to break him.


“There now, you see Jack,” Mr. Bodaway smiled broadly. “She has spoken eloquently for both of you.”


Jack laughed and extended his hand to shake Mr. Bodaway’s. “Thank you, Mr. Bodaway!”


“Don’t mention it. Mrs. Bodaway wanted to be here for this, especially since this was her idea. But she had other pressing things to do, like make a special supper for our new daughter-in-law. Now, Jack, I purposely picked a stallion so that hopefully he and the mare will give you a foal. I’m afraid that it will be a while before we see any cars running, although someone said that there is a way to get the older ones working. We are looking into that, but not many people have old cars anymore.


“Right now, I think you need to go into the store to get any supplies you might need, and then go to your storage room. As you may have guessed, it is no longer climate controlled. The things you have in there may not do well in extreme weather, so you’ll want to take as much with you as possible.”


Mr. Bodaway smiled, stretching his hand to shake Jack’s once more. “There should be a couple of guys there, and they can help you with some heavy things if you need. I better get going before they send out a search party for me. Now go into the store and get whatever you need. We’ll just add it to the bill for the house.”


Joy smiled, excited that she may actually get to pick some paint colors. Mr. Bodaway left, and Jack and Joy went into the dark store, with only the large windows for light. It was barely enough to get around, aside from a few skylights that were placed around the store.


“Can we get some paint?” Joy asked Jack, hoping desperately that he’d agree. One of her passions was interior decorating, and she was hoping to work on the log home with what little they had, maybe even before they moved in.


“Sure. Why don’t you get what you want, and then meet me back there. See that door? That’s were the storage room is. I’ll be in there looking at what I left in there. It’s been years.”


“You trust me to pick paint colors?” Joy asked mischievously.


“Well, as long as you don’t paint my room black or pink, I think I’ll survive.” Jack grinned.


“Ok. See you in a few. It shouldn’t take me long,” Joy took a small pencil and a piece of paper and wrote down how many walls in how many rooms needed to be painted. Once she had that, she set out to find the right colors of paint for each room, hoping that they were what she thought they were, considering that the lighting wasn’t that great. She wondered how Jack was doing in the storage room, if he had enough light. She wrote down what she needed, and gave it to the clerk to fill her order. She also got some painting supplies, wondering if Jack or the Larson’s farm had any.


Jack made his way to the back, to the room that he had rented from Mr. Bodaway for many years. He reached up above the doorframe and pulled the hidden key, smiling at the fact that it was still there. He opened the door, and was pleased to see that everything was just as he left it, long before he and Carol had even gotten married. They had never had a chance to go through it, and then it just became something that he would do someday as a project, and he never found time to do it.


He opened the door all the way, allowing the room to air out a little. He was glad for the skylight, as it offered just enough light for him to be able to see. He had a few pieces of furniture stored there, as well as a couple of boxes and bags that his mom had left him when she died. He had gone through them before, pulling out what he thought was important, like his parents wedding photo and a few of his own photos, and of course, his mother’s wedding ring. He had gotten that out the day before, and would wait for the right time to ask Joy if she would wear it. He looked at the boxes, wondering what all was in there. He found some old sermon notes that his father had written, and decided to take those with him. He recalled that his dad had ‘practiced’ his sermons on him first, and remembered them well. He put them aside, and kept looking through the box, finding his grandmother’s old cookbook, with hand written notes that her and his mom had made next to the recipes. He figured Joy might enjoy looking at it, so after flipping through it quickly, he also put it aside. Not much else was in the box, so he stood up and went to the corner, reaching for an old guitar case. He took the sheet off of it that he had put on to protect it from dust, and was happy to see that it was in the same condition that he had left it in. Old and worn, but well taken care of.


“What’s that?” Joy asked, making Jack jump. Joy laughed, and soon Jack joined her.


“You shouldn’t sneak up on a guy like that, Joy,” he teased her. “It might make him think that he can sneak up on you.” Joy smiled, but didn’t comment further. “This, is my dad’s guitar. He used to play it at church. Man, this brings back memories…” Jack set the case down on a covered bench and pulled the guitar out.


“Do you play?” Joy asked, not sure if she should interrupt his thoughts.


“Huh?” Jack looked up at her, “this? Yes, my dad made sure of that.”


“Could you play something?”


“Right now?”


“Sure. I’d love to hear you play.”


Jack took the guitar and masterfully tuned it to perfection. The strings that were once loose and almost dangling were now tight and ready to be used. He picked it a little, with the sounds that came from the room filling the rest of the store. Jack seemed almost entranced, as though the guitar had some magical spell on him.


Joy leaned back on the doorframe and watched Jack amazed, as if a transformation was taking place. And in a way, there was. Jack lost himself in the music, as if he had longed to do it for years, but for some reason had been unable to. When he finished playing, he looked at Joy, not sure what to expect.


“Jack, that was amazing!” She cried, holding her hand to her throat. Jack smiled and put the guitar carefully away.


“Thank you,” he said quietly, a little embarrassed.


“You are going to bring that, aren’t you?”


Jack nodded, setting the guitar case by the door. “Yes. Hopefully I can teach my sons how to play some day,” he said, reaching past her to put the guitar outside the door.


“And your daughters,” Joy reminded him. “I think it’d be great if they could learn too.”


Jack grinned, not only because of the reminder, but because she had said daughters, plural. He turned and took off the rest of the sheets, displaying the rest of the stuff there.


“A piano? You have a piano?” Joy asked excitedly stepping around things to get to it.


Jack nodded, glad to see the same look on her face as she had the day that Luke had given her the flowers. It seemed like so long ago, but he knew that it had only been the week before. Joy touched the keys softly, not knowing what to expect. The piano was out of tune, and no one, not even the best piano player, could make it sound the way it was meant to until it was.


“I suppose we can’t take this one, can we?” Joy asked, a little saddened. “Who’s was it?”


“My parents. My mom used to play, but not quite as good as you do. My grandmother, though, she was probably the one that taught Beethoven!


Joy laughed at his joke, running her hand lightly across the top of the piano. She carefully shut the cover and helped Jack put the sheet back on. She sighed, wishing that they could somehow take it, but knew that even if they did, it wouldn’t be usable until it was tuned, and she didn’t know anyone that could do that.


“Now this, this I’d like to take if we can. This is my Grandfather’s desk. He used it to write his sermons, and then my dad used it to write his,” Jack said, lifting up the cover to the secretarial desk. It was empty, but Jack was glad to have it. “I’ll have to ask someone to help me take this to the wagon. Otherwise, are you ready?”


Joy nodded her head. “And what’s this?” she asked, holding up a bag filled with what looked like blankets. There were others near it, and she figured they all had the same thing.


“Those are probably quilts. You interested?”


“Interested? Sure I am! Who made them?” Joy asked pulling out a large, beautiful quilt. Jack helped her open it up, and Joy gasped when she saw the detailed work that had gone into it. “Jack! This is gorgeous,” she exclaimed, touching the stitches carefully. “Why haven’t you used it?”


Jack shrugged his shoulders, and shook his head. “I don’t know, really. It’s been in here since before Carol and I got married, and I guess I just never had time to come and see what was here. I think my Grandma made it, my dad’s mom. This is the only thing he got from her. That cookbook over there is one of the only things I got from my other grandma. Whatever little else there was, was given to my other uncles and aunts to pass on to their children. We can take it with us, if you want. There should be some other ones in there, like a pink one that my mom made for me when she was pregnant, sure that I was going to be a girl. There should also be one that was made after she found out I was a boy. Maybe we can put that one on Luke’s bed. And then there are some small ones that she made that she used to hang around as decorations.”


“Oh, I’m so excited Jack! This color here matches the pale yellow color I picked for the master bedroom! And the pink one will look darling in the girl’s room.” Joy wanted to keep looking through the bag, but knew that they had to get going. Jack smiled at her, glad that she had found something that she liked so much that he could give her.


“I’m so glad you’re pleased Joy,” he said. “Let’s get these to the wagon, and then we need to get going.”


Joy nodded, and they folded the large heavy quilt back up. “Jack, I have some cash on me. Should I try to pay for things with cash?”


Jack looked at her surprised, not knowing that she had any at all. “Sure, if that’s okay with you. I don’t even carry my wallet anymore. We’ll have to see if they take cash anymore, though.”


Joy smiled, knowing what he meant. “I haven’t carried mine around lately either, but I thought I’d bring it today, knowing that we’d probably go to a store. I didn’t just get paint, I also got some plants, hoping to bring some life into the house. Is that okay?”


“Sure! Sounds good to me. Why don’t you go do that, and I’ll see about getting someone to help me with this desk?” Jack asked, picking it up on one end to see how heavy it was.


They went to the checkout counter, and Joy paid for as much as she could afford, after finding out that they did take cash. She had to leave about half of it on their credit, and was hoping that they would be able to pay it all off soon. Jack got someone to help him with the desk, and after about half an hour they had everything in the wagon that they needed, with Jack’s mare tied to the back.


“Ready?” he asked her, as she came around the wagon. Joy shook her head, patting her stomach.


“I’m hungry,” she said, hoping that he was too. “Is there anywhere that we can get some food to take? Any McDonalds that we could drive through?”


Jack laughed and shook his head. “What, you want a combo?”


Joy laughed and nodded. “Sure, why not! Make that a super-size, please!”


“Well, I’m not sure what we will find, but if we hurry, maybe we can make it home. Can you hang on?”


Joy nodded and went to stand at the front of the wagon. “If I have to, I guess. Now how do you get on this thing?”


“Well, not too easily in that skirt I’m afraid. Here,” Jack bent over and lifted her up swiftly in one move and sat her down before she could resist. “There. Now it’s not a problem!” He grinned at the expression on her face, glad to be away from any swatting hands.


He jumped up on the other side, and they made their way across town, a lot slower than if they had just taken the horse. Joy felt strange, with people staring at them as they went along. She was glad when they finally had left town, and they were able to spend some time either quietly or talking, but not worrying about others hearing what they had to say, even if what they were saying wasn’t that important.


“Do you want to take the reins?” Jack asked, offering them to Joy.


Joy took them gently, as if they would break if she held them too tight. “You have to hold them tighter, see? Like this,” Jack said taking her hands in his large ones, holding the reins tighter. Joy held on tighter, but Jack kept his hands on hers, making sure that she had a good grasp. “You’ll want to wear gloves in the future, of course,” he said when he felt how soft her hands were. “You’re likely to get them bleeding if you do it for too long.”


Joy looked up at him, and felt her heart skip a beat when she saw how close he really was to her. She could see the lines near his eyes, and knew that they came from having a lot of laughter in his life.


“It’s not a car, but you still need to watch where you are going, Mrs. Daniels,” Jack teased her. Joy blushed, unaware until now that she had been staring at him. There was a short uncomfortable silence, and then Jack looked at her, now realizing himself how close they really were. “You smell like roses,” he stated simply, “I like it.”


Joy felt her cheeks warming again, but was happy that he had noticed. She was glad when he sat back, taking his hands off of hers. After a few minutes, Joy wondered where exactly they were. “Jack, are you sure this is the way?”


Jack nodded. “Yes, you just don’t recognize it because it’s not the way we came. See that intersection up there? That’s where we’ll turn, and then you should start recognizing things. How are you doing there?” he asked, nodding at the reins. Joy smiled and was about to answer something smart, but was interrupted by a loud gunshot. It sounded very close to where they were and it spooked the horse, making it run off. Joy tried to grab the reins, but it was too late, and they had slipped out of her hands as they were tossed around.


“Hold on!” Jack yelled as the frantic horse ran off past the bend, showing no signs of stopping.

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J.J.Chapter 6



Jack heard the gunshot and watched as the stallion stood up on its hind legs, boxing his front ones into the air as he neighed loudly. Then Jack was jerked backwards, almost losing his balance and falling off the wagon. “Hang on!” he yelled loudly as he looked at Joy with a knot in his stomach, wanting more than anything for her to be okay. She was, but her eyes were filled with fear, and her face was turning white.


“Jack!” She yelled as loud as she could. “The reins! I don’t have the reins!”


Jack looked from her face to her hands, and then back, realizing what she was saying. “Can you hang on Joy?” he asked loudly over the sound of the pounding hooves. She nodded and he glanced back, long enough to see that his mare was gone. His heart sank for a second, hoping that the mare was okay, but the feeling was quickly overtaken with the present concern for their lives. He looked ahead again, praying for guidance in what to do next. The horse had turned and was going further away from the road, taking them away from anywhere that they could be found. The road they were on now had been closed years before, and was now overtaken with grass and potholes. He knew that there had been a barricade set up about a mile down, and could see that they were coming up on it now. If the stallion decided to jump over it, he would flip the wagon over, with Joy and Jack in it. They were going too fast for them to jump off the wagon, and without knowing whether or not Joy was pregnant, he did not want to risk asking her to jump. Just then the wagon hit a bump, sending both Jack and Joy flying. It all played out like a bad dream in Jack’s mind, watching Joy lose the grasp she had and almost falling off the wagon. Her legs dragged on the ground as she held on tightly to the seat, her head just inches from the tire. Jack held on tight with his left hand and pulled himself to her side, offering his right hand for her to take.


“Joy!” He yelled. “Take my hand! It’s the only way!” Joy looked up to him, but couldn’t bring herself to let go, not even to take his hand.


“I can’t,” she yelled back, hoping he could hear her above all the noise.


Jack searched her face, then glanced at the coming road. “Please, Joy. Please! It’s the only way. Take my hand!”


Just then Joy’s hand slipped for a second, making Jack’s heart pound even harder, but she was somehow able to grab on again. In that moment, something happened to Joy. She felt a strong desire to give up, to let go. She glanced down to see the road running past her at a great speed, only to shut her eyes tightly at the site of it. I can’t do this! It’s too hard! Her hands and arms were aching from trying to hold her own weight and she bit her lip to keep herself from crying out, wondering for a quick second what would happen if she were to let go. Dave. The thought came into her mind, and as soon as his name was there, her heart ached just wanting to be with him. The struggle that was ahead of her seemed to be too much to handle, too much to bare. Was it worth the fight?


Jack could see that she wasn’t going to last much longer, and that as it was, her legs seemed to be tangling down like a rag doll’s. He felt as if he was in an old western movie, where the girl was about to fall and he had to save her. What happened next, happened almost in slow motion for Jack, as he didn’t know if he would survive this himself or not.


Joy shook her head as she felt the tears running down her face. She felt tired, and she just didn’t want to hold on anymore. God, I’m coming Home! She glanced up to see Jack, her new husband, one last time as if to say goodbye. Just then, at the site of him, something stirred in Joy. A sense of strength, even courage, swelled up from deep inside of her, making her want to hang on. She felt that she could face anything, even worse than this, if she could just have Jack by her side.


Lord, please help us! Jack prayed as he let go and put pressure on his legs, trying to keep himself from flying off the wagon. He reached down for Joy with both hands and put them under her armpits firmly.


“I’ve got ya, Joy. Let go!” Jack said close to her ear. Joy looked up with tears streaking her face, her hair blowing wildly out of control. She shook her head as if saying I can’t! and Jack realized that she was paralyzed with fear. He looked ahead to where they were going again, and realized they were almost to the barrier. He looked back at Joy, still holding on to her with all his might.


“Joy! Do you trust me?” He asked loud enough for her to hear. She looked up to him, her eyes reflecting the horror she was feeling. He held her gaze, and she finally nodded a single nod. “Okay. On my count. Ready? One, two, three! ARGH!” Jack let out a loud yell as Joy let go, pulling her up and out of harms way, with Joy landing awkwardly on his lap. Jack held her for a moment, then pulled her over to sit back on the bench, making sure that she was hanging on tight again. He clasped his hands on the wagon again, glad that they were both back on where they were supposed to be. Just before they got to the barrier, the horse turned right, trying to avoid it. Both Jack and Joy saw what was coming and were able to brace themselves for the turn this time. They made the turn, and headed still rapidly towards the woods.


“Joy, I need to get those reins back somehow. They aren’t too far out of reach, can you help me?”


Joy nodded, determined to help in any way she could. “What do you need me to do?” she yelled back for him to hear.


“I’ll need you to hang on with one arm and help me steady myself with the other. Can you do that?” He asked, trying to find the right position to do it in. Joy nodded, and gave him a free hand. Jack took it, and carefully stood up, then bent in the direction of the stallion. He pulled Joy gently until he could let go of her hand and hold on the front of the wagon. They were no longer on the road, and although it was still bumpy, there were no more potholes for them to worry about. Jack climbed over the wagon so that he stood on the outside of the front, and calmly, but surely, leaned towards the stallion and took the reins. He held onto them tight, then carefully climbed back into the wagon again with Joy’s help. He sat next to her and gently pulled on the reins, not wanting to spook the horse even more. Slowly the horse came to a stop, and then just stood there, trembling.


Both Jack and Joy just sat there, staring straight ahead of them, not knowing what to think. Finally, after a few seconds Jack turned to Joy and noticed the tears running down her face. He placed his hand gently on her arm, dirty from what they had just gone through. “Are you okay?” he asked softly.


Joy didn’t respond, biting her lip and looking down as she wrung her hands, the tears still flowing. Jack jumped down and hurried around the other side and held up his hands to lift her down. He noticed her skirt was torn, and she had lost her sandals somewhere along the road. Joy stood and allowed him to help her down, letting out a little yelp when he put her down on the ground. Joy reached down to her right ankle, as if by touching it she could take away the pain.


“Are you hurt?” Jack asked concerned, kneeling down quickly to look at her ankle.


“I think I just might have sprained it,” Joy said quietly, her voice quivering. She winced at the scratches and scrapes that she had gotten as she dragged from the wagon, but was glad to see that it appeared that none of them were deep.


Jack nodded, holding it gently, trying to determine if there was a break. “Well, the good news is it isn’t broken. It will be slightly swollen for a little while, and it may even feel better as soon as tomorrow. You just need to stay off of it,” he said looking around. “We are very blessed that that is the worst that happened.” He took her in his arms and held her, relieved beyond words that she was okay.


“See those trees over there?” Jack asked pointing at a line of trees, about a half a mile away. “That’s our property,” he continued once Joy nodded. “The opposite side of where we want to be, but at least it’s our property. Do you want to try to make it over there? It will be just as far as going back around the other way.”


Joy nodded, knowing that she would feel more comfortable if Jack was in an area that he knew well. Jack picked her up carefully again, sitting her softly on the wagon. He walked around again, this time stopping to make sure that the stallion was okay. He was relieved that although he looked shaken, he seemed to be okay. He hoped that nothing else would spook him, and that they could get back home safely. He looked up at the sky, a worried look crossing his face. It was late, and the sun was starting to set. He had not allowed time for anything going wrong, and Joy’s family would be worried about them soon if they didn’t show up. He knew they were still a good two hours from home, and wished that they could just get in a car and make the fifteen-minute trip to the farm. He jumped up next to her and took the reins in his hands, encouraging the stallion to go.


They made their way in silence, and Jack glanced at Joy every so often, hoping that she really was okay. She didn’t complain about the pain once, even though he knew that she probably was hurting pretty bad. Once at the edge of the trees, they came to the stream that went by the log home, and Joy felt some sense of peace, knowing that they were on their property, and that they were almost home. She too had noticed that the sun was going down, and hoped that they would make it back before dark.


Jack encouraged the stallion to go across the stream, and the stallion did, pulling the wagon behind it. As the wagon tried to get through the water, the stallion had a harder and harder time pulling it, until it couldn’t go any further.


“What happened?” Joy wondered, looking down at the water running below her.


Jack sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I think we are stuck,” he said, jumping down and going to the back of the wagon. The water was cold, and he was a little chilled as he looked at what the problem was. Now that they were in the forest, the daylight that they had was quickly fading, and he knew that in an hour or so it would be completely dark.


“Joy? Take the reins, and when I count to three, get the stallion to pull, okay?” He asked, bracing himself to push. “One, two, three!” He heard Joy slap the reins, and he pushed as hard as he could, but the back left tire only seemed to sink deeper into the now muddy water. He grunted and then stopped, and then counted loudly again for Joy to hear. They repeated this several times, but to no avail. Finally, Jack gave up and walked over to the front of the wagon and jumped up on it, his feet soaking the wood underneath him.


“Well,” he said quietly, “we’re stuck.”


“What do you mean?” Joy asked, looking at him for the first time since he had pulled her back up onto the wagon.


Jack nodded and looked back. “One of the tires is flat, and is sinking deeper every time I push. I need to lift it up and out, and maybe even change the tire before we can move it. I’ll have to come back tomorrow for the stuff, and we’ll take the stallion home. Do you think you can ride?”


“I don’t know, Jack. What other alternatives do we have?”


Jack looked at her and then at her foot. It was starting to swell, and he knew that although it wasn’t serious, it probably hurt a lot. She really did need to stay off of it, and the ride on the horse would maybe prove to be more painful then he wanted her to handle. “Well, I can take the stallion and go get help, but I don’t want to leave you here alone. Or, I could carry you, but I’m not sure that would be much better than riding, and it’s still quite a bit away, and it’s going to get dark soon. Or, we could just stay the night here. You would have to stay in the wagon, and there are some blankets in there that we could use, right?”


Joy nodded, but didn’t like any of the answers given. “Is there anything else we could do? Can I help you push?”


Jack laughed softly, not wanting to make her feel bad. “No, you can’t help me push, especially with a bad foot. I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine soon, but I know what you are feeling. It hurts, doesn’t it?”


Joy nodded, and looked away before he could see that the tears were starting to form again. “Here, why don’t I help you sit down over there,” Jack said pointing at some trees on the side of the stream. “Then I’ll get a place ready for you to sleep. I’m sorry we didn’t stop to eat, Joy, I should have listen to you.”


Jack came around again and picked Joy up with ease as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He walked through the stream and set her down gently, not wanting to cause her any more pain. “Are you okay?” he asked again, this time meaning in more ways than just the pain.


Joy looked at him and shook her head. Jack sat down, putting his arm around her. “Come here,” he said softly, holding her close.


Joy allowed herself to cry, but only because she trusted Jack enough to not laugh at her. “I’m so sorry, Jack. I’m so sorry!”


“Sorry? For what? You didn’t do anything,” he said and then pulled away far enough to see her face. The tears were making a path on her dirty face, leaving streaks that looked like rivers splitting into different directions.


“If I had been paying attention, I wouldn’t have let go of the reins, and we wouldn’t be in this mess.”


“Joy, you can’t blame yourself for that! The horse got spooked and took off. End of story. It could have happened to any of us.”


Joy leaned closer against him again, glad for his comfort and that he didn’t hold her responsible for the mess they were in. Jack took his thumb and rubbed away her tears, making the mess on her face worse. He realized what he was doing, so he stopped and just held her close. Joy confused him to a degree, because although she was a strong woman, he felt as though somehow he needed to protect her, to keep her safe. He liked the feelings that welled up inside him, although they were foreign to him. He had never had to protect or keep Carol safe, she was more than capable of doing that on her own. The closest he could come to describing the feeling was describing how he felt about his children, and yet he knew that it was different than that, that even though he couldn’t yet call it love, it was possibly the beginning of it. On the other hand Jack had seen the determination in Joy’s eyes when she said that she trusted him and had let go, putting her life in his hands. It took strength to do that, and he admired her for it. Jack sighed softly and leaned his chin on Joy’s head, still holding her close.


Joy cradled in Jack’s arms, grateful for his strong embrace, for his protection. She felt as though she could let her guard down with him, like she could be who she was, and he would still respect her for it. She shivered when she closed her eyes and saw the tire so close to her head, knowing that she could have died. What would have happened then? She recalled the feelings that she had experienced, tugging at her from two opposite sides. She determined to talk about it with Jack, as he had been right in the middle of her mind’s tug of war.


She took a breath as if to say something, but Jack beat her to it. “You should probably change,” he said, glancing at her leg. The skirt had torn at the seam, and was now revealing her leg as she lay against him. Joy looked over and nodded, hoping that she hadn’t embarrassed him in any way.


“Here, I’ll help you up,” Jack said kissing her softly on her head. He stood up and gently lifted her again, careful of her ankle. He carried her to the wagon, but this time took her straight to the back. He lifted her into it, cautious to not lose his balance in the water. Joy hung on to his neck again, idly playing with the hair on the back of his head. Jack noticed, but saw the far off look she had, and realized that she probably wasn’t doing it on purpose, although he kind of wished she were. He placed her softly on the wagon bed, backing up to give her some space. Joy pushed herself back slowly, wincing at the pain she caused her ankle. She saw Jack’s expression, and determined to only let him know if it really hurt, not wanting him to worry more than he was now. She grabbed her backpack and opened it, pulling out the clothes that she had worn earlier.


“How should we do this?” Joy asked, still looking through the bag.


“What do you mean? Do you want me to leave? I was thinking about just turning my back.”


Joy smiled at his concern for her privacy, and shook her head. “No, I meant where do you want to sleep? Do you want me to hand you some blankets, or do you think the wagon would be better?”


“Well, let’s get you changed first, and then we’ll go from there. I need to get the stallion out of the water, so I’ll do that while you change,” Jack said, walking through the cold water. He decided he too, would have to take his shoes off and let them dry, otherwise, he might get sick himself.


Joy watched Jack with the horse, noting that he was being extra careful not to look her way. She changed as quickly as she could, pulling off her skirt and putting on the pair of shorts that she had on earlier. She also changed her blouse, and then looked at herself in the mirror. I’m a mess! She thought, laying on her stomach and trying to reach water to wash her face.


“What are you doing?” Jack asked confused, coming to stand next to her after he had gotten the stallion to dry land and made sure he was secure.


Joy looked up at him and grinned, a little embarrassed. “I’m trying to get some water to wash my face. Why didn’t you tell me I was so dirty?” She asked, playfully slapping him on his leg.


Jack grinned, and splashed her with water. “I would have if I thought it made a difference,” he laughed, splashing her again.


Joy moved away, startled by how cold the water was. “You…you monster!” She laughed, reaching as far down as she could, barely able to touch the surface of the stream. She laughed again at her meager attempts to get him wet, and then laughed even harder when he almost fell, trying to move away from her splashing. Jack laughed as well, and splashed her lightly again.


“There! That should be enough water, don’t you think?” He grinned as Joy tried to wipe away the dirt from her face.


“You just watch your back, Dr. Daniels, just watch your back,” she threatened and then laughed again.


Jack reached over and lifted her up again, walking her back to the tree where they had sat. He put her down gently, and examined her foot again. “How’s it feeling?”


Joy shrugged, not wanting to complain. “It would be nice to put some ice on it,” she said, knowing that there were a lot of other things that would be nice to do.


“I have an idea!” Jack picked Joy up once more, this time grunting. Joy grinned and gently pulled the back of his hair.


“Where are you taking me now? You know, it’s almost like you like carrying me everywhere, I could try walking,” she teased again. She was, really, very grateful that he was willing to do so. She knew it would have taken forever if they had had to depend on her walking.


Jack grinned and took her to the edge of the stream and pretended to throw her in. Joy yelled and hung on to his neck tight. “I’m not letting go, so if I go, you go!”


Jack laughed and set her down. “Put you foot in the water. That should be cool enough,”


Joy did as he said, and smiled as she felt the cold water washing against her foot. Jack made his way back to the wagon and rummaged through the bags that were there. “What do you think we should do, Jack? It’s going to get dark soon, and I’m sure it’d be easier to do things in the light.”


Jack nodded, lifting her backpack up. “What all do you have in here? It’s heavy,” he said holding it up for her to see.


“Snacks! And water! Jack, I’d completely forgotten about it,” Joy said excitedly.


Jack grinned, excited as well. He pulled out some cookies that Joy had made and put into a container so they wouldn’t get squished, and a couple bottles of water. He walked back to Joy, his feet starting to feel numb. He knew that he had to stop wading through the water, but wasn’t sure what they were going to do yet. He sat next to Joy, and they ate their cookies in silence.


“These are the best cookies I’ve ever had,” Jack said, taking another bite.


Joy laughed and wiped a crumb from her mouth. “You’re just saying that because you’re hungry,” she said, jabbing him lightly with her elbow.


“Well, that may be true,” Jack laughed, “but they really are very good. Where did you learn to bake? Or cook, for that matter?”


“I took some classes, but mostly I just read recipes and then adjust them to what I like. I love cooking. There is such a sense of accomplishment when you put something on the table and you say ‘I made that’, and it tastes good! Especially now that, although I didn’t plant the garden, I have helped harvest it and can the foods that we will be eating. It’s a nice feeling.”


They chatted quietly for a little while, enjoying the extra time getting to know each other better. They both realized that this was a blessing in disguise, and they were grateful for it.


“We better get the beds made for the night before it’s too late,” Jack said, taking Joy’s empty bottle. “You can sleep in the wagon, and I’ll stay over here. It’ll probably get cold tonight, so we need to make sure that we get enough covers. Do you want to go back to the wagon now?”


Joy looked past the trees uncomfortably, not wanting to ask for help to be able to relieve herself. Jack saw the hesitation and the glance, so he picked her up again, shaking his head. “Women. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them,” he grinned as she playfully stuck her tongue out at him. He took her into the forest and put her down, walking far enough away to give her plenty of privacy.


Joy felt very awkward, but did what she had to do. Once done, she moved away and hopped as far as she could until Jack saw her and came to get her. “Do you want to try to walk?” he asked her, wanting to know how much the cold water had helped her foot.


Joy nodded, and leaned against him as he put his arm around her. He helped her to the edge of the stream and then picked her up once more, taking her into the wagon. The stream wasn’t very deep here, but his feet were starting to hurt. He knew he needed to get his socks and shoes off, or they would never dry before morning. Joy busied herself, getting some blankets for him to take back with him, and he helped her spread some out for her. The light was quickly dissipating, and Jack wanted them to be settled in before it was completely dark.


Joy handed him the blankets, and just as he turned to leave, she placed her hand on his arm gently, wanting to get his attention. Jack looked at her hand and then her face, wondering if something was wrong.


“Jack,” she started slowly, “do you mind staying in the wagon with me? We can have separate blankets, I’m just not sure that I’m ready to spend the night in the middle of the woods on a wagon in the stream. I’m not…” Joy paused, trying to find the right words, “I’m not…”


Jack nodded and threw the blankets back in, smiling. “I know,” he stated simply. He hopped on the back of the wagon and took his socks and shoes off, his feet throbbing.


“Jack! Your feet!” Joy exclaimed, sitting closer to him to get a better look.


“Huh? Oh, yeah. It’s because of the water,” he said, rubbing them gently.


“I’m so sorry, Jack! How many times did I make you go in and out of the stream? Come here. Now don’t get any ideas, I don’t ever give foot rubs, but you need to make sure that your feet warm up slowly. You rub that one and I’ll rub this one,” Joy said, taking charge.


Jack laughed and shook his head. “You don’t have to do that, Joy. I’ll be fine.”


Joy shook her head stubbornly and pulled his foot up by his pant leg. “Come on. If you can carry me all over the place, making me feel like a queen, then I can rub your feet, and make you feel like a king. We’re even.”


Jack grinned, not so much for what she had said, but because of how stubborn she really was. Joy rubbed one foot while he rubbed the other, and then they switched feet. “You’re going to have to get out of those pants too, Jack. I promise I won’t look,” she said mischievously.


Jack laughed, but knew she was right. His pants were wet past his knees, and not only would he not be able to sleep, but it would make it difficult to work tomorrow. So just as the last light was fading, he crawled under a quilt that his grandmother had made and took his pants off, laying them on the wagon seat to dry. He was glad that the water hadn’t reached his boxers, or he’d really be in trouble then.


Joy smiled and wanted desperately to tease him, but decided not to as he had been a gentleman when she had changed. She crawled under her own set of quilts, glad that she had folded one to act as a pillow. They laid there in silence for a while, each deep into their own thoughts. Jack put his hands beneath his head and looked up at the stars, noting where each constellation was.


“Jack?” Joy whispered, turning on her side to look at him. There wasn’t a full moon, but there was enough light to see the outline of his face.


“Yeah?” Jack answered quietly, glancing at her.


“Thank you.”


“Thank you? For what?”


Joy propped herself on her elbow to see him better, and made sure that he was looking at her. “For saving my life.”


Jack sighed and took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “You are a brave woman, Joy. A lot of women wouldn’t have wanted to try that little maneuver.”


Joy smiled sadly and laid back down, looking at the stars herself. “I almost didn’t try it myself.”


“You didn’t? What do you mean?”


Joy shook her head, even though she couldn’t tell if he had noticed or not. “At one point I knew that if I let go, that there was a real possibility of going under the wagon, and that I might even die. I almost let go.”


Jack was quiet for a few seconds, processing what she had just said. “What made you change your mind?”


Joy sighed, wondering how he would take what she was about to say. “You.”


This time Jack sat up on his elbow to look at her. “Me?”


Joy glanced at him and nodded. “See, I felt like I had a choice. I wasn’t sure that I would have died if I let go, but I knew that Victoria would be well taken care of if I did. To be completely honest, I didn’t even think too much about her until after everything happened. I could only think of, well, of you.”


Jack wanted to press her, to know exactly what she was saying. Instead he just looked at her, hoping that she would go on, his eyes searching her face in the dark.


“Well, of you and Dave. I felt like I had a choice to make. I could let go, and possibly die doing so, and go to heaven where I would see Dave again. I would be free of pain, of worry, of sorrow. Or, I could hang on and live life here, with you. Live to see what God had in mind when He brought us together, see what great plans He had in store for us.”


Jack stared at her, and then gently reached and put his hand on her face. “You are a brave woman,” he repeated, leaning down and kissing her gently on her lips. Joy returned his kiss, but he pulled back to look at her eyes, running his hand through her hair.


She bit her lip, and he pulled further away, not wanting her to think that he was pushing her. “Jack, I’m not ready,” she whispered, hoping she didn’t hurt his feelings. She had really enjoyed his kiss, but knew that often kissing led to intimacy, and she wasn’t ready for that.


He smiled and nodded, wanting to make her comfortable again. He kissed her lightly on her forehead and laid back down, putting his arms behind his head again.

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