Summary: Whether it’s for a crisis, a romance, or good old family fun, the Cartwrights are drawn to Lake Tahoe. Written for double challenge – prequel, summer at the lake.
Rating – K, WC – 1603
The Power of the Lake
If the Ponderosa was Heaven on Earth, then Lake Tahoe was the jewel of the Ponderosa. Her clear sapphire and emerald waters shown against the soft waves that sparkled like diamonds. Surrounded by strong granite sentinels that were the Sierra Nevada, she brought peace to the wounded heart, joy to the carefree, and love to those who lived near her shores and cared for her land.
Adam relaxed on the beach, his hands draped over his raised knees, eyes closed, letting the sounds of the lapping waters wash over his soul. No matter how long he was gone – be it days or years – it only took a few moments at the lake’s edge would restore his balance in life.
A snapping twig brought him back to the world around him. When no other sound was issued, he finally spoke, his voice soft and welcoming, “It’s alright. You’re not intruding, Joe.”
More footsteps, now crunching on the sand and stones, and Adam felt his brother drop down beside him. He cracked his eyes open just enough to confirm his brother’s expression, one of gentle concern.
“You don’t need to worry. I’m fine. I just needed a few moments to reconnect with the beauty here.”
“I kinda figured but just wanted to make sure.”
“Don’t worry; your birthday will go on as planned.” Adam released a crooked smile.
Joe chuckled. “Oh you can be sure of that brother.”
For a while the brothers sat silently, mirror images of each other.
“The sound of the water lapping against the large rocks brings an unusual peace, doesn’t it?”
Joe finally noticed his brother’s closed eyes and did the same himself. “Yeah, never thought about just listening.”
“Something Hoss taught me. A long time ago.”
“Sounds like Hoss. When did he teach you that?”
Adam drew in a slow deep breath. “Before you were born. In fact I was just pondering that time when you walked up.”
Joe knew to keep quiet at this point, a rare moment when Adam would share a story of the past.
“Pa and Marie had not been home long, and well, you know this part. I was still having trouble accepting Marie as my mother. After several months, with her long-suffering patience and love, I began to let her into my life and accept her as part of the family. One particular day became the turning point when I finally quit fighting the changes.”
Adam opened his eyes and stared across the glassy lake. Joe knew he was in another time and waited, although his curiosity was getting the better of him.
Adam’s soft voice rolled with the gentle waves. “It was Hoss’ sixth birthday and Pa had sent us out of the house for a bit while he and Marie got things ready. Hoss was so excited I thought it best to take him to the lake and play there for a while…..”
Hoss tossed another stone into the lake and frowned when it sank. “Adam, how’d ya make the stones jump ‘cross the water?”
Adam chuckled and took his brother by the hand. “First you have to find the right kind of rocks. Let me show you my secret spot.”
They walked a ways down the beach and Adam knelt down to show Hoss the flatter rocks. “You chose one of these. They have to be flat and smooth. Then you heft it to check the weight, can’t be too heavy. When you find one you like, you stand like this and throw the rock along a straight path across the water.”
Hoss was copying Adam’s every move. “Flick your wrist and let it fly.” Adam released it and it hopped three times before sinking.
Hoss tried his and it hopped once, then disappeared. “Aw shucks!” He kicked at the sand.
“No Hoss, you did it. You just need a little more speed. Try it again.”
Hoss found another rock, took his stance and let it fly. “One…two…three…four!! Adam it hopped four times.” He jumped up and down as Adam laughed and congratulated him.
For the next hour they took turns skipping stones and talking about stuff only brothers talk about. Once their arms got tired the pair plopped down on some flat boulders to rest.
“Adam, I hope you don’t get mad at me for sayin’ this but I’m glad you ain’t so moody anymore about Mama.”
“I couldn’t be mad at you Hoss. I know I’ve been a bear but the night of the storm Marie and I had a long talk and, well, we finally worked things out. I’ve got some catching up to do to get used to her being here but I’ll get there, little buddy. Don’t you fret about it.”
“Yeah, I can see that, and it makes me real happy.”
During a quiet spell, they heard their names called. Both looked up the beach and saw their Pa and Marie. They rushed to them.
“We wondered where you got off to. We thought we’d join you for a bit.”
“Sorry Pa, we went down that way to look for rocks to skip on the lake.”
“Yeah, Pa, Adam taught me how. Wanna see? I got two good ones. Here Adam you can have one.”
“That’s okay, Hoss. It’s your birthday. You can have both.”
Hoss grinned and headed to the water’s edge. Both stones skipped perfectly and when Hoss returned Marie danced around with him in celebration.
After a while, Ben and Marie sat on a blanket chatting quietly. Hoss played nearby and Adam headed off to be alone. He had a suspicion that something was about to change in their family and needed time to sort it out. Hoss noticed and wandered over to him.
“Adam, what’s wrong? You ain’t getting all moody again, are ya?”
Adam smiled at his brother. “No Hoss. Just needed to do some thinking. Have you noticed that Pa and Marie seem really happy today? Like they just can’t stop smiling?”
Hoss wrinkled his brow and glanced back at his parents. “Not really. I just reckon it’s ‘cause it’s a happy day.”
“Yeah, you’re right, little buddy. You always are.”
“Adam, can I share somethin’ with ya?”
“When ya get like ya do, ya know, moody and all. Why don’t ya try closin’ your eyes? Shut out what ya see that bugs ya and just let your ears work. Like this.”
Hoss made himself comfortable, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Adam watched as his brother’s breathing slowed and his body relaxed. He tried it and found it worked. His questions and suspicions about his parents melted away as he listened to the water lapping at the shore and the sounds of distant laughter. He suddenly found his mind was focusing on happy thoughts, and decided he needed to speak to his parents.
When he opened his eyes, Hoss was smiling at him. “It worked for ya, didn’t it?”
Adam ruffled his little brother’s hair. “It sure did. Now let’s go talk to Pa and Marie. I have a feeling they have something to tell us.”
Hoss skipped ahead as Adam took long strides to keep up with him.
“Hi Pa. Hoss and I just wanted to say that we’re glad you came to join us. You both seem so happy this afternoon.”
Marie placed her hand gently on her husband’s hand and smiled at her sons. “Qui, we are, mes chers. You welcomed me into your family last year, and before this year is over we will welcome another little one into our family.”
Hoss watched as his Pa and Ma shared a smile and his Pa nodded Adam’s way. Adam’s face split into a grin, then Hoss figured it out.
“A baby? I’m gonna have a little brother?” He started dancing around.
Ben gave a hearty laugh. “Well, you will be a big brother Hoss but we’ll have to wait and see if you have a little brother or a little sister.” He stood up and helped Marie stand. “Why don’t we head home? I think we have someone else’s birthday to celebrate.”
“Yippee!!! It’s my birthday today and soon we’ll have another to celebrate.”
Adam continued to grin as that distant memory played in his mind. He glanced at Joe who had closed his eyes again. Adam nudged him with his boot, making his little brother jump and look sheepish.
“That wasn’t meant to be a bedtime story, Joe.”
“Don’t be silly. I was just trying to visualize it all as you told it. I had no idea all that happened on Hoss’ birthday.”
“Yeah, it was some birthday for the kid, and for all of us. Of course, your actual birthday was just as exciting, but in a different way.”
“Oh I’ve heard all those stories. Speaking of which, we better get back to the house and see if the ladies have everything ready. The cake was in the oven when I left and the sweet smell was driving me crazy then.”
The brothers stood together. Joe ran up the bank and turned, expecting Adam to be right behind. Instead he watched as his older brother closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and after a moment’s silence, opened his eyes to gaze across the lake. Joe thought he saw him mouth the words ‘thank you’. In his own heart, Joe felt his gratitude for his missing middle brother and his oldest brother. He knew they would all always be together no matter how far apart they were physically, especially at the lake.
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