Coming Home (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)

Summary:  Short Sequel to “A Stranger Returns”. Rating and Genre always subject to change. While all the Cartwrights will be mentioned and shown at times, it center mostly on Hoss, Adam and their families.

Rated: K+ (5,860 words)

Author’s Note: I do not know if Carson City had a railroad station when this story is taking place, but for the sake of the story it does.

*In all reality, the school “year” back in the 1800’s was NOT the same as ours. However, for the sake of the storyline, school is being held for nine months out of the year.

A Stranger Returns Series:

A Stranger Returns
Coming Home

Coming Home

Chapter One

The sound of the train rolling down the railroad tracks might have lulled Tabitha to sleep, but she was far too anxious to do anything like catch a few z’s. *The school year was over, and she was going home for the summer. It was going to feel like heaven. Oh, sure, Thanksgiving and Christmas had been wonderful too, but they’d only been short visits. As she remembered those visits, they danced across the stage of her mind. She couldn’t help but smile wide.

Filled with excitement Tabitha, who moments before had been rewarded with squeals of delight when her sister and brothers opened the presents she had brought them, hurried to open the last of her gifts. So far her family, which included her extended family such as her uncles and such, had given her a story book in Braille, new stockings and a new dress. However, her father had said they were saving the best for last. Due the fact that the box had holes in it, and there was a noise coming from inside it…a noise she easily recognized, Tabitha couldn’t get the package open fast enough. Sure enough, moments later a puppy was in her arms. She could tell by the size of its large soft paws, it wasn’t going to be a small dog.

“It’s a German Shepherd. I talked to the superintendent of the blind school. He knows a family who lives near the school who will let him live at their place, and you can see him every day.” Adam told her as he smiled at Hoss. His brother had helped him find a dog known to be good with people. Truth was, with their daughter having no sight; he and Laura Ann wanted Tabitha to have a constant companion.

Tabitha was still smiling, as she thought on Prince, who the railroad had allowed to ride in one of the boxcars until Adam picked her up at the station in Carson City. The dog had been such a source of comfort for her when it came to bad days. Oh, not that she had that many anymore; she didn’t. Her Uncle Hoss had been right. She’d made new friends and learned a lot. And, this time, when she “saw” him, Tabitha promised herself she was going to thank him properly for convincing her parents to send her to the blind school. She still didn’t know all the reasons why she’d had to lose her sight, but she had figured out one. More than once she’d been able to help one of the other students who were struggling with one subject or another. She’d also spent countless hours helping the teacher with one thing or another. Tabitha was now seriously considering becoming a schoolteacher when she got old enough, and her teacher had assured her the school could always use a good teacher. Even if, by some wild chance, her eyesight ever returned, Tabitha still thought teaching would suit her just fine.

As she thought on the students, she thought on the best friend she’d made that year, a young girl by the name of Gloria Benson. Maybe, just maybe, her friend was another reason Tabitha had to lose her eyesight. Gloria had suffered the loss of her father a few years before, and now her mother was remarrying. Gloria had been devastated; thinking her mother was trying to replace her father. It had been Tabitha that Gloria had turned to; knowing Tabitha also had a stepfather. Tabitha smiled wide as she remembered how Gloria had left the blind school the same day as she, to attend her mother’s wedding. Instead of being dark and sullen, the young girl had actually been quite excited and full of anticipation. Only the sound of the train whistle and the train’s brakes brought the young Cartwright out of her thoughts.

~oOo~

From where Adam stood, he could see the train approaching. He had arrived at the train station early, not wanting to chance that his stepdaughter arriving and having to wait at the train station alone. The last eight months had flown by fast enough he supposed. Thanksgiving had been good, though Tabitha had been quieter than she used to be. Christmas had been wonderful as the young girl was acting more like her old self, a child full of energy and smiles…she’d even pulled a few pranks on her siblings and cousins. He just hoped that meant that the rest of the school year had continued to help Tabitha develop and cope with the many challenges her disability caused.

“I tell myself not to think about it, and that’s she’s making progress.” Adam looked at the living room window as he talked to Hoss, who continued to be both excited and scared to death when it came to the impending birth of the child Mary carried.

“Reckon you kin’t help it, Adam. Yer her pa and ya want to know you did right by sendin’ her away to that school.” Hoss paused and shoved his hands into his pockets, looking out the window as he did so. “Reckon I do too.”

When the train came to a stop, Adam waited until everyone but Tabitha, who had been told to stay in her seat until her stepfather came for her, boarded the train and made his way to where his daughter was sitting. She, at the sound of his footsteps coming towards her, stood up. “Pa?”

“Yeah,” Adam smiled and laid a hand upon her shoulder, “It’s me, but I wonder,” he said teasing, “Are you sure you’re my daughter? She’s a good four inches shorter than this young lady in front of me.”

Tabitha laughed as she could hear the humor in Adam’s voice. Since her teacher had been kind enough to measure her height when Tabitha asked her too, the young girl came back without missing a beat, “Three inches. I grew three inches this year.” She then asked, without missing a beat, “Where’s Prince? Is the family with you?”

Adam couldn’t help it; he started laughing. Leave it to a child to mention her dog before she asked about the family. “Your mother, sister and brothers are waiting at the house with your grandfather and everyone else for you. As far as Prince goes,” Adam took his daughter’s hands and placed them on his upper arm as he guided her off the train, “Let’s go get him.” Within ten minutes, the two had Prince and were heading to home.

Chapter Two

“Welcome home!” It was a phrase that had been met Tabitha, as she and Adam drove through Virginia City. It was now being repeated, as she, her father and Prince (who was only allowed in the house for Tabitha’s sake) walked through the door. Ben, his other sons and grandchildren all took turns hugging Tabitha. When she came to her Uncle Hoss, Tabitha held onto him the longest; it warmed his heart. Though, it grew ten times more when she whispered, “Thanks, Uncle Hoss. I love you. I’m so glad you came back to us.”

Even though she whispered it, Ben, Adam and Laura Anna heard it. It made them smile from ear to ear. This was definitely a sight they’d prayed for over the months since Tabitha had started her education at the school for the blind.

“Come on, sis! I have a present for you!” Kristine, who had recently turned ten, grabbed her sister’s arm. Tabitha’s twelfth birthday would be within the next week and her younger sister was unwilling to wait…as she’d earned the gift for her sister a few months before.

“All right! You don’t need to pull my arm off!” Tabitha feigned exasperation, as she heard her parents and the other adults start to laugh, while her cousins and brothers were giggling. It didn’t take long for the two girls to disappear upstairs or for their cousins to go back to playing inside or out in the yard, leaving the adults to talk among themselves.

“It’s good to see her so happy.” Adam said as he wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulder. They all nodded and agreed, though it was Hoss who spoke up next.

“Reckon ya can rest easier now?” Hoss looked at his brother and sister in law, fully aware the two had had more than one sleepless night since Tabitha left. How could he not be when he worked with Adam almost every day for at least a few hours?

Adam and Laura Ann both smiled at him. “I think so.” Adam answered, as he gave his wife a slight squeeze as he looked at her slightly swollen stomach. While she was not due for months yet, it helped Adam to know his wife wouldn’t have the added stress of continuing to worry about Tabitha on top of carrying this baby. His eyes went to his sister in law, Mary, next. She was supposed to have had her baby last week and looked as if she might pop any day. Adam couldn’t believe how life could keep changing, though he was glad that when it came to the love and support a family had the ability to share with each other didn’t have too. His thoughts were interrupted when Little Joe and his wife excused themselves.

“Well, it’s been great, only we need to get our children and head home. You two relax and simply enjoy things, okay?” Little Joe looked at Adam and Laura Ann while helping his wife, Alice with her light coat. The statement was met with smiles and assurances they would do just that.

No sooner had Little Joe and his family driven away, than Mary let out a cry and water was going everywhere. Her cry, and the fluid, had everyone jumping, including Tabitha…who was standing at the top of the stairs.

“Pa? Ma? What’s wrong?” She took a hold of the banister and started making her way down the stairs only to find her father beside her and helping her hurrying down the stairs. This only added to the child’s confusion; that is, until she heard her grandfather’s and her Aunt Mary’s footsteps going up the stairs while Hoss said he was going for a doctor.

“Is Aunt Mary finally havin’ that baby of theirs?” Tabitha asked as she made her found her way to the couch. If her new cousin was coming to join them, Tabitha wasn’t going anywhere.

“Looks like it,” her father said, as he watched Laura Ann hurry into the kitchen, probably to boil water and grab whatever was needed. Adam might have followed if it weren’t for two things; one, he had learned a long time ago to stay out of the way when it came to babies being born and, two, Tabitha had reached up and touched his arm when she realized just how close he was to her.

“Pa?” She asked with her head slightly titled, and her voice filled with a bit of concern.

“What is it, Tabitha?” Adam asked as he sat down beside her, concerned something was seriously wrong.

Tabitha rubbed the palms of her hands together and then slowly asked, “Will Aunt Mary be all right?”

“Huh?” Adam’s eyebrows furrowed just a little. Where had this question came from? Tabitha knew the facts of life when it came to women birthing children. After all, she was the oldest of four children, five the day Laura Ann would give birth to the child she now carried.

“Why do you ask?” Adam asked patiently after a few moments.

Tabitha squirmed and then replied, “Well, Uncle Hoss is so big and Aunt Mary; well….” Tabitha again squirmed not knowing exactly how to ask her question without it sounding funny or wrong. It didn’t matter as Adam seemed to read her mind as he leaned back and threw his arm on top of the sofa.

“She’s so little and you’re worried for her.” Adam wondered where this concern came from Sure, there was always risk in child bearing, but so far the family had been blessed. Since this was Mary’s first child, it might take a while longer than it would otherwise; still, why worry unless something actually started to go wrong?

Tabitha nodded and then Adam found himself getting the answer to his unasked question as she said, “I know a girl at school. Her mama was small like Aunt Mary. Hannah said her mother died a few years ago because the baby was too big and wouldn’t come out. She said it killed her mother and the baby.”

Adam sucked in his breath. No wonder his daughter was so afraid for her aunt. He had to admit, he’d heard of such things happening. He started to think about Mary and the baby she would soon be giving birth too, but stopped when he found himself just as worried as his daughter seemed to be. He moved the arm that was resting on top of the sofa and wrapped it around his daughter. “I’m sure you aunt and cousin will be just fine.” He assured Tabitha, who had moved closer to him, having a sudden urge to ask her father it was possible for them to turn back the clock so she could be young enough to sit on his lap.

Adam recognized what was going on and held his daughter in an appropriate manner, something Tabitha found herself very grateful for.

“May I just stay with you for now, pa?” Tabitha asked she allowed the comforting feeling that fell over her to deepen, grateful again her mother had married Adam instead of someone else.

“For as long as you need,” Adam smiled and answered, the whole time praying that Mary would soon deliver a fine, healthy child and be okay herself.

Chapter Thee

Tabitha stood by the window next to her grandfather’s desk. She could feel the cool breeze drifting through. With her aunt in labor, her mind had wandered back through time. For a small moment, she was six years old and Adam Jr. was in the process of being born. Her memories then turned to the birth of her brother Thomas and when he was being born. His birth had proven difficult, but her mother had been fine. She hoped like crazy her Aunt Mary would be fine too. Then again, Tabitha knew that her mother was up helping the doctor with her aunt. She might have continued thinking, only she heard her Uncle Hoss, who had been sitting on the couch, stand up and begin to walk over to her. She turned away from the window.

Hoss couldn’t help but smile. Out of all his nieces and nephews, Tabitha was the most sensitive one. He didn’t have to ask what was bothering her. He knew. “Ya don’t have to keep standin’ over ther by yerself. Yer Aunt Mary will be fine.” Just as he said the words he and Tabitha heard Mary scream out in pain. It made Hoss jerk backwards slightly and Tabitha fly over to him, wrapping her arms around him the best she could. An action that had Hoss and Adam, who was sitting in the blue chair next to the stairs, and Ben, who was standing against the mantle, smile wide.

“She’ll be fine.” Adam spoke up doing his best not to chuckle at his brother and Tabitha, though he was still grinning wide. He couldn’t help it. The bond between his brother and his daughter was something that Adam was grateful for.

“We know that.” Hoss smiled at Tabitha, who had let go of him and stepped backwards. “Don’t we pumpkin?”

Tabitha did her best to smile and agree, and then made her way to her father. Once she’d reached his chair, she sat down at his feet. “I wish that baby would hurry up and get here.” Tabitha said as she rested her chin in her hands and let out a ‘humph’. “It’s taking too long to get here.” That statement only made it so the three Cartwright men started laughing.

“That’s what your Uncle Joe said every time he and your Aunt Alice had a child.” Ben said as he looked towards the slightly open front door. His youngest son and daughter in law were outside keeping the other children busy.

“Uncle Hoss?” Tabitha asked as she sat straight up. “What are you going to name the baby? Which one do you want?”

Hoss rubbed the back of his neck as he thought on all the conversations he and Mary had had concerning that subject. Finally he answered, “Your Aunt Mary wants to name it ‘Hope’ if it’s a girl, and I think we’ve decided on ‘Benjamin Eric’ if it’s a boy. What do I want?” Hoss smiled, “It doesn’t matter. As long as I can keep the memories that have returned,” over time the majority of his memories had returned, “and Mary is all right, reckon I’ll take whatever the good Lord sends us.” He meant it too. He didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl; he just wanted his son, or daughter, in his arms.

An almost reverent silence floated down into the room as they all thought on the word, or in this case the name, Hope. It was a word that had all the three adults smiling wider. After everything that had happened over the past year, the word and its meaning were something they held close to their hearts. However, that silence was broken when Tabitha shocked them all when she said, “One of the girls at school says Hope is a stupid name. In fact she said we need to just deal with reality and not hold onto ‘such a thing’.”

Adam laid his hand on her shoulder and replied quietly. “Hope is a very good thing. Think about it. What is it that keeps a body going when things get bad? What helped your Uncle keep living while he was away from us and what gave us all the strength to move forward when he returned?” He paused giving Tabitha time to think about what he’d just said. He then continued, “Besides our faith and love, what do you think gave your mother and I the strength to send you away to the blind school in the first place?”

When he stopped speaking, Tabitha knelt up and reached out for her father. Adam was more than happy to move just enough to be able to embrace his daughter. “Hope is an absolute necessity in life, Tabitha.” He put his hand on top of his daughter’s head. “Ask your uncle and he’ll tell you; it no longer matters that he’s missing some of his memories because he, your aunt and the rest of us are all making new ones for him. Also,” he patted her head, “if you never regain your sight, we still have the hope that you’ll be able to live a good, long life because of the support you have here and the education you’re receiving at the blind school.”

Tabitha continued to hold onto her father, as if she was allowing the strength she felt in him to seep into her. At least, that’s what it felt like she was doing until she heard the sound of a baby’s cry. When that happened, everyone was up on their feet, and Joe, along with the others who had heard the cry from the upstairs open window, flew through the front door.

“What…” Little Joe started to talk only to have Laura Ann start down the steps. Everyone held their breath and she looked at Hoss.

Any thought she had of teasing her brother in law fled as Laura Ann looked up on his very anxious face. She gave in and gave him mercy instead of teasing him. “You have a son and, don’t worry, Mary is just fine.”

“Congratulations! Way to go! and Hello Pa!” were just some of the cries that erupted throughout the room. Laura Ann stepped aside and let the new father past as he was ran up the stairs, sometimes missing one, to get to his wife. Ben wasn’t far behind. When the two men disappeared around the corner of the upstairs hallway, and everyone else went back outside, Tabitha turned to her father and asked, “Do you think that now, since Aunt Mary’s had her baby, we could go on a picnic? Only,” she paused not knowing how to make her request without it sounding offensive towards any family member.

“Only what?” Adam asked as he sat back down in his chair.

“Would it be so bad if it was just us? I mean, you, ma, Kristine, the boys and me? Would grandpa and the others have to come along too?” As much as she loved her grandfather and other relatives, the young girl had wanted to have a simply family picnic for ages…like the ones they’d had in the past.

Adam started chuckling, as he understood all too well where she was coming from, especially since he and his family had continued to live under the same roof as his father. “A picnic it is! However, we’ll have to do it tomorrow. I already promised your grandpa I’d stick around and help him today.” Adam promised her before telling her to go enjoy her cousins for the rest of the day. He laughed again as Tabitha let out a squeal of delight and then went outside and did as he’d told her to.

Chapter Four

Tabitha, Kristine, along with Adam Jr., let out one squeal after another, as Adam chased them around the pond. Laura Ann and Thomas simply sat and watched, laughing every time Adam “finally” caught Tabitha and swung her around in the air. Of course, this caused the other children to laugh also. After the children took turns having him twirl them around, Adam made it to his wife’s side and sat down beside her. She could tell the children were tiring him out.

“This is turning out to be the best day we’ve had in a long time.” Laura Ann told Adam, as she watched Tabitha laughing and playing with her siblings. If it weren’t for the fact that the young girl was holding her arms out and taking directions from her younger sister, Laura Ann would have said the day was an exact repeat of the picnic they’d had before Tabitha had her accident.

Adam smiled, as he leaned against the tree, he wrapped his arm his arm around her and pulled her to his side. “I’d say it’s perfect.” He said getting rather comfortable only to hear Thomas crying out and jumping onto his lap. It wouldn’t have been so bad only, due to where he landed, Adam found himself sitting straight up and biting his tongue.

Laura Ann bit her own lip just because she didn’t think her husband would appreciate her laughing at his discomfort.

“Sorry, pa.” Thomas, as young as he was, still knew he’d hurt his father somehow. “Adam Jr. tried to get me.”

Adam looked over to where his oldest son and daughters now stood. Adam gave them a mock glare as he couldn’t be mad at them; especially Tabitha’s face was simply radiating joy and happiness. “Well, I’d say the lot of you best be careful. If I’m going to be injured, I’d rather not have it by my own children’s hands.” “Or in this case their whole bodies” was a thought Adam said only to himself.

“Yes, pa,” Adam Jr. smiled once he saw his father was indeed okay. “You’re it!” He turned and tagged Kristine and Tabitha both. He had to; Kristine was the one leading her sister as they chased each other.

“Where has the time gone to?” Laura Ann asked Adam, as she watched their children playing together. “Wasn’t it yesterday we were hoping and praying we were doing the right thing in sending her to that school, worrying she wouldn’t make the adjustment? Look at her! She’s as active and happy as ever. Sometimes I think she doesn’t….” her voice trailed off. The change in her daughter was something Laura Ann was grateful for; she was just having a hard time with the fact that her little girl would be growing up without her. That is, for the majority of the year she would be.

Adam, who was lying on his side, didn’t have to ask what the problem was; he knew. Sitting up, he pulled his wife to him and held her close. “She’ll always need us, Adam Jr., Thomas and Kristine,” Adam said as he ran his hand over his wife’s bulging abdomen, “along with this baby, be what it may. We did the right thing.” He swallowed hard as he too watched Tabitha laughing and playing with her siblings and added, “We’re doing the right thing.” As true as his words were; and he knew they were, Adam still felt the same pain his wife was feeling. Only difference was, he didn’t show it. Maybe, if Laura Ann and he were by themselves, but not with the children so close by. They didn’t need to see that side of him at the moment.

“Come pa! Come ma!” Tabitha, who had made to her father, laughed and smiled as she tugged on her mother’s arm. “Come play with us.”

Laura Ann smiled and took a hold of Adam’s hand as they stood up. She might not be able to run around with the children; still, she could join in the fun. The fact that her oldest had asked them to join in seemed to sooth her unsettled feelings. For the rest of the afternoon, Adam and Laura Ann enjoyed the day with their children.

~oOo~

Ben stepped out of the house after dinner to find Adam standing on the porch looking up at the stars. He could guess what his oldest was thinking. After all, wasn’t summer half over and hadn’t Tabitha and the other children laughed time and time again, as Tabitha told them one story after another at the dinner table…all of which had to do with her time at the blind school?

“She’s doing fine, Adam.” Ben said as he stepped up on the porch and stood next to his son. He then let out a low sigh. “I can’t believe how fast this past year has gone. Hoss came home with a wife, getting the majority of his memories back and then becoming a father,” he paused and said quietly, “Adam, don’t be angry when it comes to Tabitha’s blindness.”

Adam stiffened, as he went to deny he was angry only he stopped, for he realized his father was right. He was angry. He wanted Tabitha to have her sight, to be growing up on the Ponderosa with the rest of the family. He didn’t want her to just be coming home for holidays and summers. “It isn’t fair, pa. We’re her family.”

Ben gave his son an understanding smile and nodded. “We will always be her family son, but life is what it is. Good, bad, up and downs. You know that better than most people. Let’s just be grateful for the good and hold onto each other during the bad, okay?”

Before Adam could answer, they heard the front door open. When they turned around, Tabitha was making her way towards the porch. Adam moved quickly off the porch and met his daughter half way. He was a bit more than surprised when Tabitha tilted her head upwards and said, “You forgot your own rule.”

“Huh?” Ben and Adam both looked at each other confused. That is until Tabitha pointed out that the living room window was open and then asked if she could be alone with her father.

“Sure thing,” Ben gave his granddaughter a quick hug and disappeared inside while Adam and Tabitha made their way back to the front porch and sat down.

After what seemed like an eternity, Tabitha turned her head slightly and put her hand on her father’s arm. “I’m all right pa, really I am. Uncle Hoss was right. I needed to go to that blind school, still do. Let’s not worry about what’s fair and what’s not. Let’s just enjoy the rest of the summer okay? Now,” she said, as she laid her head against his arm, “how about a song?”

Adam couldn’t help but smile and let out a chuckle. It had always been him or Laura Ann to do what they could to speak to their children like this, to be the ones offering comfort and wise words. He started smiling even more as he did as she asked.

Chapter Five

A gentle breeze was blowing over the Ponderosa as Hoss helped Tabitha down from the wagon. She couldn’t believe how quiet it was. She had graduated from school, taken her teacher’s exam and passed it with flying colors. She was to start teaching at the blind school in the fall. The family was supposed to be holding a huge celebration.

“Where is everyone Uncle Hoss?” Tabitha turned her face towards the man she secretly called her favorite uncle. Of course, she never said that around her Uncle Joe.

“Don’t ya worry none, pumpkin.” Hoss grinned from ear to ear. “I reckon they’re just runnin’ a tad bit late is all. Besides, ya gotta know they’ll show up sooner or later when my Mary is doin’ the cookin’.”

Tabitha smiled as she thought on her Aunt Mary and her cooking. The woman was indeed a fine cook, housekeeper and mother. Though, when it came to motherhood, Tabitha wished Hoss and Mary had been blessed with more than the one son. Oh, Mary had conceived two other times only to lose them within the first three months she was carrying them. Hoss must have read Tabitha’s thoughts, as he surprised her when he said she had four more cousins.

Tabitha was confused. Her Uncle Joe and Aunt Alice had added two children to their family in the past five years while her mother had given birth to another girl at the end of the summer that Tabitha, had requested the family’s special picnic. They’d also been blessed with another son two years ago. That was it as far as Tabitha knew. “What are you talking about?” She stopped a few feet from the front door and turned towards her uncle.

At first Hoss sighed as he told her about a family by the name of Kendall. “The parents were great people and had five children, three girls and two boys.” He went on to explain how Mr. and Mrs. Kendall, along with the oldest son, had been killed in a freak stagecoach accident. “None of their relatives could take the rest of the children in, and they didn’t want to be split up. I reckon I cin’t blame them.”

Hoss started smiling as Tabitha’s face lit up and she cried out in joy, “Aunt Mary and you… you adopted them!”

“That we did.” Hoss answered as he opened the door up.

The moment the door opened and Hoss and Tabitha walked in the house erupted with one cry after another. Such things as “teacher’s here”, “Way to go, sis” and “We knew you could do it” rang through the air as each member of the family took turns hugging, and talking to, her. By the time Tabitha sat on the hearth, and the majority of the children had run outside to play outdoor games and the adults had settled around the kitchen table or around the living room, Tabitha was more than ready to simply enjoy the relatively quiet house.

“Noise gets to you after a while, huh?” Joe sat down on the couch and smiled at his niece who looked as if she simply wanted to disappear into a hole. He couldn’t help but chuckle when she blushed out of embarrassment.

When his daughter blushed, but said nothing, Adam, who was sitting in “his” chair, spoke up. “We could run away later this afternoon. Your mother and I found the perfect picnic spot the other day. Of course,” He smiled at his brothers, their wives and his father, “you’d have to promise not to tell anyone here where’s it’s at.”

“Yeah, they’ve been hidin’ it from us for months, keep saying they’re going to build a house and hide from the lot of us.” Hoss chimed in as he rolled his eyes and laughed.

Tabitha too laughed, even if she did tell him not to worry. As much as the noise got on her nerves at times, there was nothing like being with family and she would just as soon as enjoy every minute of it. Well, that is, she admitted that after extracting a promise from her parents that they’d take her to the secret spot….just in case she ever needed it.

Epilogue

Tabitha once again sat near the pond that she and her family had enjoyed time and time again. Where had the years flown to? Everything had changed so, and everything had stayed the same. How could that be? It was a question she asked herself until she heard her Uncle Joe off in the distance cussing at some of the stray cows, and her Uncle Hoss telling him that ‘the critters ain’t gonna listen iff’n ya talk to them like that.’

“Sit there all day and you’ll freeze.” Adam’s voice brought his daughter out of her thoughts and she turned her head towards her father.

“It’s supposed to be grandpa cussing the cows out.” She said quietly as her father took a seat next to her. “Grandpa’s supposed to cuss them out not Uncle Joe.” Both Tabitha and Adam let out a small chuckle when she said that, and then Adam grew serious.

“In some ways coming home is the best thing you’ll ever do, Tabitha. On the other hand,” He said as he thought on the father who had passed away the year before, “It will always be the hardest, for things are never quite the same.”

An almost reverend silence fell between the two until Tabitha’s ten year old daughter, Faith Crandell, ran up to Adam and tagged him.

“You’re it, grandpa!” Tabitha then burst out laughing as she heard her father “growl” at her daughter and began chasing her. Her father was right…coming home was one of the hardest things one could ever do, but it was also the best thing too.

 

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