Summary: Adam finally meets his wife to be, but before the wedding a tragedy occurs that almost tears the Cartwrights apart for good.
Rated: T (5,885 words)
He’d found her. Adam had finally found the woman he would marry. How did he know? He knew because he’d never felt like this about anyone before – not Laura or even Ruth. He loved them yes, but not like this. Every waking moment was filled with thoughts of her. And, at night, he dreamed of her – Faith.
She’d moved to Virginia City five months ago. Her father and mother opened the town’s first notions store. Adam first saw her when she entered the mercantile where he and his brothers were doing their monthly shopping. It was ritual for them to ride into town with their pay and buy their favorite items.
Hoss usually indulged in a bag of sweets – a big bag. Little Joe always sampled gentleman’s cologne or he might splurge on a dime store novel or a catalogue with the latest rifles, clothing and tack. Adam rarely splurged. Every purchase was well thought out and justified. That day he needed writing paper, a comb and the set of guitar strings he’d sent to San Francisco for.
The boys milled about the store until Faith made her entrance. That was all it took for Adam to realize that she was the one. He’d always thought love at first sight was nonsense. He was wrong. And, for a man who was mostly right about just about everything, it was a revelation.
Both Hoss and Joe straightened up when Faith came into the place as they would for any pretty, young lady but were promptly brushed aside by their older brother. The boys sniffed at him as he swaggered by them to introduce himself. They accepted it, and returned to browsing.
“Hello.” He said with his rich baritone voice. “I’m Adam Cartwright.”
“Hello.” She accepted his greeting with an outstretched, gloved hand. “My name is Faith. Faith McIsaac.”
Adam took her hand gently and bowed slightly to kiss it. Then he glanced up at her soulfully. It was only then that she knew it too. She was looking at the man to whom she would give her heart. She could see her unborn children in his sensitive eyes.
“Would you like to have lunch with me Faith?” He asked boldly.
“I would love to sir.” She replied.
With her acceptance, Adam offered his crooked arm for her to take. She placed her tiny hand on his forearm. Her touch was so soft; he barely felt it on his forearm. The pair turned to leave the store.
“Hey!” Hoss interrupted. “Where you goin’? We’ve got all that feed to load up still. Don’t you go anywhere we k’ain’t find ya.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing you and little brother can’t handle.” Adam answered smartly. “I’ll see you boys back at the ranch… later.”
“But…” Little Joe tried to retort.
“Later Joe… much later.”
The twosome left the store and Adam escorted Faith to the Palace Hotel for lunch. But, lunch soon melted into dinnertime and dinnertime soon turned to night. The time had come for them to part. Adam walked Faith home and kissed her precociously on the cheek. She blushed slightly but she was glad he did.
He rode home, somewhat in a haze of emotion. He was confused at the way he felt. It was like he had to force himself to ride away from Faith. He felt like he should only be riding toward her – like being separated from her was unnatural. When he finally entered the house he was oblivious to his family who looked up at him with anticipation.
Ben sat in the red leather chair reading a book and smoking his pipe. Occasionally, he’d peer up at Hoss and Joe, as they cheated each other at checkers. The game board was placed on the massive coffee table that stood in front of the equally massive fireplace. Joe sat in the light blue, velvet chair and Hoss on the settee.
“Well.” Ben began, hoping to hear all about this new girl. “Rumor has it you’re smitten son.”
But, Adam did not reply. He stared into space, distracted by images of her.
“Huh… ah, sorry Pa. Did you say something?”
“I said, the boys tell me you met someone this afternoon.”
“Yes. Yes I did.” Adam smirked wickedly.
“What’s the young ladies name?”
“Pa… the young ladies name is… Mrs. Adam Cartwright.”
With his oldest son’s astonishing announcement, his father and siblings watched dumbstruck as Adam sauntered across the living room floor and ascended the stairs to his room.
Shots rang out. Adam bolted out of bed, hitting his noggin on the headboard. He sucked air through his gritted teeth and cursed his youngest brother. As he stood he rubbed the dented spot vigorously to erase the pain. More shots echoed through the air just outside Adam’s bedroom window. He knew it was Joe who chose the most inconsiderate times to practice his target shooting. Adam stumbled to the window stubbing his toe on the leg of the bed. Again, he howled. He hopped over to the window and opened it as wide as it would go. He stuck his entire torso out and leaned on the sill for balance.
“JOE! How many times have I told you to do that out on the range.” Adam bellowed. “I just about gave myself a concussion! I think I broke my toe! You scared my half to death.”
“It’s almost noon.” Joe blasted back. “You should have been out of bed hours ago older brother.”
Adam gave Joe a gnarly scowl and pulled himself back into his room. He rubbed his head again and growled. He glanced at the clock and was astonished to see that Joe was right. It was 11:38. He sat on the edge of his bed and examined his foot for damage.
“Why didn’t anyone wake me?” He mumbled to himself, preoccupied with his three little toes that were already turning blue.
The truth was, Adam hadn’t slept well at all. He’d tossed and turned for hours. All he could think about was Faith. It wasn’t until early morning that he finally fell asleep. His mind couldn’t help but plan his future – his future with her. He thought about the wedding, and the design of their house. He even wondered about his children. He was exhausted. Several more shots were fired and it made Adam seethe.
“PA!” He yelled as he threw on his housecoat and hobbled out of his bedroom and to the top of the stairs. “PA. Could you please tell your son to do his target shooting somewhere else?”
“Well good morning Adam.” Ben greeted calmly. “Or should I say, good afternoon.”
“Sorry Pa. I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“Oh?” Ben said as he looked up at his boy with a smirk.
“What’s so funny?” Adam asked as if he didn’t know.
“Oh nothing. I just remember the sleepless nights I had when I first met your mother.”
Adam grinned back at his father and went back to his room to dress and start the day.
“Well what Pa?”
“Adam. You came into this house last night and announced you’re engagement to a woman you just met hours before. I’d like to know something about my future daughter.”
The men had just sat down for lunch and placed their napkins politely on their laps. Ben, Hoss and Little Joe could barely contain their curiosity. Adam was never one to discuss his personal life voluntarily. He had to be probed for information first.
“Her name is Faith McIsaac and… she’s the one.”
“Yes.” Adam concluded simply as he broke off a piece of bread and popped it in his mouth.
“A few more details would be much appreciated.”
“I don’t have any details.” Adam chewed nonchalantly. “We met. We love each other and we’re going to get married.”
“But, you’ve only known the girl for a few hours.”
“Let me ask you this Pa. When you first saw my mother. You knew right then and there didn’t you? You knew that she would become your wife. The same is true with Hoss’ mother and Joe’s… right?”
“Yes,” Ben smiled warmly, “I knew.”
“Well, it’s the same with Faith. I just know. And, so does she. It’s just, I don’t know, it just feels right. I have to be with her. And, she has to be with me. It’s that simple.”
“Well, can we at least meet her?” Ben asked beaming with happiness for his number one son.
“I’ll invite her for supper on Saturday.” Adam pointed at his younger brothers accusingly. “And, you two are to be on your best behavior… understood.”
Both Hoss and Joe looked at Adam innocently.
“What did we do?” Joe asked puzzled.
“Nothing…yet.” Adam said as he rose from the table.
“Where are you going?” Hoss asked.
“But, you were supposed to ride fence with me today.”
Adam walked to the front door and put on his hat and holster and turned back to his family.
“Hoss, I have more important things to do today than ride fence with you.”
“I’ll bet he’d ride fence with Faith.” Hoss quipped.
Ben and Joe chortled like schoolboys at Hoss’ remark, but Adam chose to ignore it. He casually saluted his family with a devilish grin and walked out the front door.
Over the next several months, Faith became part of the family. Ben and the boys grew to love her like a daughter and a sister. Adam spent most of his time with her. Their days were filled with picnics and walks and getting to know one another. They planned their future. They talked about their children and growing old together. Adam had never felt such happiness. He felt as if his life was now complete. Their wedding would be filled with love and flowers and a feast of the best money could buy.
Ben too, was delighted over the impending nuptials. He was overjoyed that one of his boy’s had finally decided to take the plunge and he couldn’t be more pleased with Adam’s choice. The prospect of grandchildren was eagerly anticipated. Finally, one of his boys would be leaving the nest and building one of his own. He gave Adam and Faith five hundred acres of prime land for them to settle on.
When Adam returned home every night he’d rushed through his supper then retired to his room where he’d work on the drawings for their new home. It would be magnificent in scale and design. Adam was in his element. He’d been reborn and it agreed with him.
“I love you, Adam Cartwight.” She said softly.
“I love you too Faith.” Adam replied. “You make me happy. You’re the most beautiful woman in the world and you’re mine.”
“And, don’t you forget it.” Faith teased as he gave her horse a swift kick and galloped across a field of wild flowers.
Adam gave chase and caught up to her, grabbing her around her waist and slowing her horse to a stop.
“You can’t get away.” Adam joked. “So, don’t even try.”
“Nothing will separate us Adam. Nothing.”
“Come on. Let’s go back to the house and I’ll show you my drawings of the house.”
“Oh yes. I’d love to.”
The pair cantered side-by-side back to the ranch and bedded down their horses. As they exited the barn, Adam playfully picked up Faith and carried her around behind the barn. He propped her up against the wall and gazed into her emerald green eyes. Her lips glistened as she looked back at him, seemingly into his soul. Adam placed both hands on Faith’s waist and pulled her hips against his and kissed her passionately. She moaned with pleasure and stroked his sable hair. The sun warmed their bodies and they both thought they’d transcended earth. Then, they were startled by the sound of gunshots.
“Joe.” Adam hissed. “If I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a thousand times!”
Adam left Faith’s side to go straighten out his brother and she followed. More rounds echoed and as Adam and Faith came out from behind the barn a single shot rang out. Faith fell to the ground silently. Joe dropped his gun and stood still with horror. Adam was unaware of what had just occurred and started to chastise his brother. But, when he saw the shock on Joe’s face he turned back to see why.
“FAITH!” Adam screamed with terror. “FAITH… FAITH!!”
Faith’s funeral was heart wrenching. Adam was inconsolable and hadn’t spoken since the day of her death. Joe was so riddled with guilt it was difficult to face his family or Faith’s parents to apologize. Apologies just didn’t seem to be enough. He too, fell into a chasm of silence.
As for dealing with Adam, it was something Joe couldn’t even imagine possible. Their relationship had always been contemptuous even though they loved one another more than life itself. They’d fought bitterly about issues from the Civil War to conflicts over women to struggles between right and wrong. But, this… this would end it all. That’s how Joe felt. He felt as if he’d lost everything – that the Cartwright’s bond had been shattered into pieces.
Ben suffered over the loss of Faith. He bled for both his boys and felt helpless. He had to be strong for Adam and sympathetic to Joseph. But, how could he mend wounds so deep they might see the demise of what he loved most – his sons.
After the service the Cartwright’s returned home. Adam rode along side the buggy driven by Ben with Hoss next to him and Joe in the back. All four stared into space. All of them unable to come to terms with the tragedy. All of them filled with emptiness.
When they arrived at the ranch, Hoss, Ben and Joe watched Adam take Sport into the barn. They waited for him and when he finally walked towards the house, his face etched with anguish, Joe stepped forward to speak.
“Adam.” He said barely audible.
But Adam did not stop. He walked passed his family and into the house without any sign of recognition. Ben placed his hand and Joe’s shoulder to try to console him. He burst into tears and turned to embrace his father. Hoss lowered his head, trying to hide his pain.
“It will be alright Joseph. Adam is strong. We are strong.” He said firmly.
The threesome turned and linked together as one and followed Adam into the house.
Adam retreated to his room. For several days, the Ponderosa fell under a shroud of darkness. Sadness filled every corner of the house that usually bustled with activity and camaraderie. Ben, Hoss and Joe seemed to meander around the place like phantoms. Conversation was non-existent, as no one knew what to say. Hop Sing tried to get them to eat but his meals were only picked at. He’d leave a plate outside Adam’s door but each time he did he ended up collecting the dish untouched.
Ben feared that life as he knew it might be over – that his family had been irreparably torn apart by a tragic accident. But, his biggest concern was for Adam who had not yet shed a tear. He’d pent up his emotions and that, Ben worried, was a dangerous thing. He knew Adam was not only grieving over Faith and the loss of his future, but was also filled with anger – anger towards Joe.
When the third day passed, the time came for Ben to try and talk to Adam. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say or what he would find when he entered Adam’s room. It frightened him. Anxiously, he climbed the stairs and walked slowly down the upper hallway. He tapped on Adam’s bedroom door. There was no answer so Ben quietly turned the knob and opened the door.
“Adam?” He said gently.
The only sound was the creaking of the door as Ben entered the darkened room. Adam’s architectural drawings were strewn across the floor, several were ripped to shreds.
“Son? I’d like to talk to you. May I come in?”
Again, there was no response.
When Ben finally saw his son, his eye’s flooded. His throat tightened with the pain of heartache. It felt like he was being choked with sorrow. He wanted so desperately to comfort Adam but was unsure if he’d be received.
Adam lay on the far side of his bed in the fetal position. His back was to the door. He rocked slowly back and forth as if trying to sedate himself. He was still wearing his Sunday suit and still had on his boots. His eyes stared out the window with a blankness that sent a shiver of cold down the back of Ben’s neck. He moved around the bed and sat on its edge and tentatively placed his hand on Adam’s shoulder. He paused briefly before he spoke, searching for the right words.
“I know what you’re feeling son.” Ben’s resonant voice wafted over Adam’s body like a blanket. “I’ve been there. Oh, I’ve been there several times. And, I know it’s the darkest place you’ve ever been.”
Adam’s expression was stonelike. His father’s words seemed to hover over his head – like he was incapable of comprehension.
“When I was about your age,” Ben continued thoughtfully, “Marie died and I thought I would not survive. But, I had you boys to take care of. I had to continue on for you and Hoss and Joe, but also for me. No, it wasn’t easy… it was very, very difficult and it took a long time. A long, long time. You’ve got to start another life Adam, a life without Faith. It won’t be easy for you either… but, you’ve got to be strong. Your brother’s and I will be there for you. We love you. We want to help you. Let us help you boy.” Ben implored.
Adam continued to rock rhythmically.
“I know you’re angry. Joseph is so, so sorry. He needs your forgiveness Adam. You have to find it in your heart to forgive you’re brother… or I’m afraid… well, I’m afraid for both of you, for us. Please son. Please come downstairs and talk to your brother.”
Ben received no answer or even any sign of recognition. He tried to find some way to penetrate Adam’s wall of bereavement.
“Remember when you were fourteen. Joe was just a little fellow. Just walking. You took him to the lake. It was just you and him. Oh, he loved you so much. He worshipped you, remember? You couldn’t go anywhere without him trying to tag along beside you like a puppy. Whenever you left him behind, he’d cry. He’d cry so hard until you came home from school. You found it annoying,” Ben chuckled, “you were almost a man and had your own friends and things you wanted to do without a baby around. But, you indulged him. And, you took him to the lake to teach him to swim. But, you turned your back for just a moment and Joe fell in and you jumped in after him with all of your clothes on. Do you remember that day Adam? Do you remember how it felt? Do you remember your brother’s screams for help – the panic you both experienced? Well, he’s reaching out to you now Adam… to save him. Only you can save him. Please Adam.”
Adam only responded with the slow blinking of his hazel eyes. He was not ready and Ben realized it. So, he firmly gripped Adam’s arm and then rubbed his back strongly. He had to turn away to regain control and then rose slowly from the bed feeling more helpless than he did when he’d first arrived. He pulled himself away from Adam’s side and returned to the living room where Joe and Hoss waited hopefully.
“How is he Pa?” Hoss asked with concern.
“He’s going to be alright.” Ben tried to sound upbeat, but the boys knew things were not all right at all.
“I think I should leave.” Joe said shyly. “Maybe if I go away, Adam can…”
“Joseph. I will not stand for that kind of talk.” Ben commanded. “We’ve been through tragedy before and we will overcome it like we always have… as a family. Understood?”
“Yes sir.” Joe replied with a tearful sniff. He bowed his head shamefully.
Then, Adam appeared at the top of the landing and descended the stairs. He’d changed into his familiar black shirt and pants. Ben, Hoss and Joe were taken off guard when they saw him. They all stood, ready to give support if necessary. But, Adam walked by them toward the front door. No eye contact exchanged between them.
“Where are you going son?”
“Town.” Adam said vacantly.
He placed his hat on his head and left.
One week turned into three and Adam never returned. Ben ordered Hoss and Joe to stay on the ranch to give their older brother some space, convinced that eventually Adam would come home and begin the healing process.
The boys worked laboriously to not only take up the slack that Adam’s absence had left, but to preoccupy their minds. When they returned home for supper, not much was said and they’d retire to bed with forced “good nights”.
One evening as the threesome sat somberly drinking there evening coffee, there was a knock on the front door. Hoss went to get it and welcomed Sheriff Coffee into the house.
“Roy. It’s nice to see you. What brings you out at this hour?”
“Howdy Ben… boys.” Roy took off his hat and took a seat on the settee. “Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but… well, it’s Adam.”
“Adam? Is he alright?”
“No. No Ben, he isn’t.”
“What happened? Is he hurt?”
“He ain’t the boy I’ve known all his life Ben. He’s been fighting and gambling and drinking pretty hard. I’ve had to put in the drunk tank more than once in the last couple of weeks.”
Ben sighed with worry and frustration.
“I know he’s hurtin’ over Faith’s death.” Roy continued. “You and me have been there. I know it’s hard to get over the loss of a loved one. When Mary died, I almost died along with her. I guess a part of me truly did. But, if you don’t come fetch Adam, and I mean soon… well, he’s just going to fall deeper and deeper until nobody will be able to dig him out.”
“Yes. Yes your right Roy. I thought if I let him be… well, whatever I thought I was wrong. I’ve been remiss.”
“I’m sorry Ben.”
“No need Roy. Thank you for your patience. I’ll get Adam home. I appreciate you taking the time to come out here.”
“Well you know how I feel about you and your boys. And, I know Adam as well as any of you and he just ain’t right. He needs you.”
All Ben could do was nod. He escorted Roy to the door and wished him a good night and thanked him once again. He came back into the house and approached Hoss.
“Get into town and bring him home.” He demanded.
“What if he don’t want to come Pa?”
“I don’t care if he wants to or not. This is where he belongs. You get him here any way you can. Even if you have to hog tie him, just get him here.”
With his mission appointed Hoss confidently left the house to rescue his brother. He’d wanted to so many times the last several weeks but respected his father’s wishes. He tacked up Chubb and rode into town.
Hoss arrived in Virginia City in the wee hours of the morning. He knew Adam’s favorite haunt was the Saserack and it would be his first stop. Hoss glanced into the bar over the top of the swinging half doors. He didn’t see Adam but entered anyway to ask if anyone had.
“L’o Sam.” Hoss greeted. “You seen my brother Adam?”
“I’m glad you’re here. He’s in the back room and I can’t seem to get rid of him. He’s really tied one on the last couple of weeks. He’s taking Faith’s death pretty hard huh.”
“Yeah.” Hoss said simply, not wanting to discuss family issues in public.
“He’s been real ornery too. Couple times I’ve had to call the sheriff.”
“I know.” Again Hoss replied sparsely. “Thanks Sam.”
He walked to the back room where a poker game was in full swing. The room was tiny. It was just a cubbyhole really with a red velvet drape to separate it from the rest of the saloon. Smoke billowed out as Hoss pulled the curtain back to expose his brother and opposite him, two drifters. A number of bottles littered the table.
Adam was bleary eyed and had a saloon girl at each elbow. He was beyond drunk – barely conscious. His head sagged between his shoulders and bobbed forward as he struggled to stay awake. His eyes were half closed and black as coal. His clothes were filthy and he stunk of whiskey and cigars. His knuckles were bloody from fighting and he’d grown a thick, dark beard. The sight of his brother almost made Hoss weep. He’d never seen him in such depths of misery and it upset him.
“Adam.” Hoss said strongly, after taking a few seconds to get his emotions in check.
“Hoss… look everybody it’s my brother Hoss.” Adam slurred. “Come on, come on…” He waved sloppily, “join the game. Si’down, come on si’down. Girls make way for my little brother.”
“No thanks. Come on now, let’s get you home.”
“No… no. I’m not going home. The games go’in good. I’m winning. Come on Hoss, come and si’down. Have a drink and set a spell.”
“Adam, you’re coming home with me and you’re coming right now.”
“Hoss.” Adam smiled with inebriation. “I’m staying right here and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Don’t make me come over there Adam. Pa wants you home and he sent me here to git’ya and I ain’t leav’in without’cha.”
“Well, you’re going to have to because…I’m staying right where I am, right girls?”
“Oh no you ain’t.” Hoss insisted.
He moved toward Adam and grasped his forearm like a vice. But, Adam pulled away and stood, something that surprised everyone – including the two other cowboys at the table.
“Adam. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Leave me alone Hoss… I’m, I’m warning you.” Adam said as he concentrated on keeping balance. His sudden bolt, made his head swim and he blinked rapidly to try and focus on the looming figure of Hoss Cartwright coming at him.
Hoss gently pushed the saloon girls to the side and they scampered away for fear of the immanent fracas. Adam was cornered. He placed one hand on each wall to stop the room from spinning and bent his knees to steady himself. His head flopped forward and he struggled to look up. His glare was cold and hateful.
“Don’t come any closer.” He cautioned. “Don’t do it.”
Hoss held out his hand like he was greeting a strange dog. Adam held his ground.
“Come on Adam. I’m just trying to help ya.”
“I DON’T WANT YOUR HELP!” He shouted vehemently.
“You don’t have any choice, older brother.”
Hoss took Adam’s arm gingerly and flung it over his shoulder all the while readying himself for a fight. But, with the touch of his brother’s support, Adam finally broke down and crumpled to the ground in a heap of despair. On his knees, he held his face with both hands as streams of tears spilled onto the floor.
“Why?” Adam whimpered; his face disfigured with grief. “Why… why Hoss? Oh God… why?” Adam cried.
Hoss crouched down and hugged Adam as tightly as he could subliminally trying to keep him in one piece. Wails of pain oozed from Adam’s every pour. He sounded like an animal caught in a trap. It made Hoss’ stomach tighten with torment. Adam then passed out and fell limp against his brother’s broad chest. It was as if his body turned to liquid. Hoss picked him up with one fluid motion and threw him over his shoulder like a bag of grain. He carried him out of the saloon as the patrons and saloon girls watched in silence. Hoss took Adam home.
The sun swelled over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, spreading a calming veil of cobalt blue over the valley below. Ben and Joe had not gone to bed, but rather waited for Hoss to return with Adam. Joe paced until his father stopped him and guided him to the chesterfield. Finally, the muffled sound of hooves distracted them and they raced out to see if, in fact, Hoss was successful.
He’d place Adam in his saddle and sat on Chubb’s rump to support him like an armchair. He held onto his brother, surrounding him with his bulk, as he guided his horse to the hitching post just outside the front door.
Both Joe and Ben caught Adam, as he seemed to drip off the horse into their waiting arms. He was still unconscious and Hoss dismounted and came round to help get Adam’s dead weight into the house.
“Let me take’em.” Hoss said, taking charge of the situation to the end. “I’ll take’em.” He assured.
He cupped one arm under Adam’s shoulder blades and the other under his knees. With eyes tightly closed, Adam rested his head on his little brother’s shoulder like a small child in his mother’s comforting embrace. Joe was shocked at Adam’s appearance and glanced at his father to see if his reaction was the same. It was.
“It’s alright Joe. He’s home now.” Ben affirmed to his son as he squeezed the back of Joe’s neck for moral support. “Adam is going to be fine.”
But Joe wasn’t so sure. What he did know was that when Adam opened his eyes, Joe would be there. Then he could apologize and beg for his brother’s forgiveness. Only, then could Joe prove his remorse and regain Adam’s faith. Only then, could Joe and Adam heal.
Hoss laid Adam on his bed. Ben and Joe followed them upstairs and entered the room right behind them. Hoss began to take off Adam’s boots.
“I’ll do that.” Joe said quietly.
Hoss looked up at his father to see if that was all right and Ben nodded. He knew Joe needed to tend to Adam, even if Adam was oblivious to his attention. Hoss stepped aside and let Little Joe take over.
“If it’s alright with you Pa, I’d like to take care of Adam.” Joe asked.
“Fine son. You take the first shift and I’ll relieve you later on.”
“No. I’m going to take care of him until he’s well. It’s the only way Pa. Please let me take care of this…please.”
Ben looked into Joseph’s eyes and saw his desperate need to make amends. At this point, it was the only way he knew how. Their eyes locked and without a word being spoken, Ben gave Joe full ward over Adam. He placed his broad hand squarely on Hoss’ back and steered him into the hallway. Ben peered back at Joe with a sympathetic smile and then closed the door.
Joe then turned his attention back to Adam and continued to take off his boots and the rest of his dirty clothes. He washed him and shaved him and placed him securely under the covers. Adam was running a fever and mumbled an incoherent conversation with himself about Hoss being lost of all things. Then to his astonishment, Adam called for Marie – Joe’s mother.
“Help me. Marie, Ma?” He sighed. “Ma?”
“I’m here Adam.” Joe assured as he placed a cloth on Adam’s forehead. “You’re gonna be just fine.”
“Marie? Don’t go. Where are you going? Marie? Ma… Ma?”
Only then did Joe realize what his mother meant to Adam. He’d never considered it before. He never considered that Adam loved his mother. He’d always just thought about himself and how Marie’s death affected his life. He never realized what affect it had on Adam or even Hoss for that matter – they were only young boys after all. They never talked about it. But, it was probably worse for Adam.
How had he dealt with the death of three mothers? How has he coped, Joe pondered. No one every seemed to worry about how he was dealing with their deaths. Everyone just assumed Adam could handle it. But, now, after what had happened to Faith, it was just too much for Adam to bear. Finally, after twenty years of lost love ones, Adam could bear no more. He just couldn’t muster one more brave face.
Adam had not only lost his own mother, but Inga – Hoss’ mother and then Marie as well. He loved them all and they all abandoned him. And now, Adam was without Faith. He’d lost her too. The more Joe thought about it the more upset he became. Joe’s stomach churned with nausea and he began to cry. He rested his arms on the edge of Adam’s bed and lowered his head onto them.
“I’m sorry Adam. I’m so sorry… for everything” Joe murmured. “Please forgive me. Forgive me Adam.”
When Adam finally awoke two days later, his body quaked with withdrawal. The alcohol he’d pumped into his veins was now holding him hostage in a world of pain.
But, Joe saw him through it and when he’d regained his strength, Adam lashed out at his little brother – even coming to blows. Ben and Hoss could hear the combat through the house but never interfered. They wanted to, but knew it would prevent Joe and Adam’s atonement. They stayed clear and let nature take it’s course. They just prayed that nature would shine understanding upon them.
Joe confided in Adam, telling him that he’d never considered his older brother’s feelings about anything – not the death of Ben’s wives or Adam’s interference in Joe’s life for his own good or his concerns over Joe’s reckless target shooting. That he’d been selfish his whole life and he promised to change. He apologized over and over until Adam heard him. He apologized until Adam forgave him.
When the pair finally released themselves from the prison of Adam’s room, things were still edgy but they were on the road to recovery. No, life would never be the same for either brother but it was a start – a new start. They now had more than they had every had before – faith in each other’s undying love – faith in overcoming the worst of tragedies and faith the power of forgiveness.