(A sequel to “All She Ever Wanted“)
The Williams Ranch, somewhere in the American West – June 1919
He watched her, looking out over the horizon, sitting there on the porch of the home they’d shared for thirty years. She looked peaceful, but he knew she wasn’t. Resigned maybe, but peaceful? No.
Matthew followed Grace’s gaze to the distant hills. It was as if she were waiting for something, for some miracle that would change the fact that Carl Lewis was gone.
It had happened so quickly, though it wasn’t like they didn’t know the day would come. He had slipped away, quietly in the night. Grace hadn’t been there. She’d arrived moments after…after her father had gone, leaving behind a family that loved him more than words could express and enough memories to last a lifetime.
Matthew reached out and touched her shoulder. Grace placed her hand over his, accepting his support, hoping her husband would understand her appreciation of his loving gesture.
A simple touch, a simple smile, or a hug. There was nothing to take the place of a hug from Matthew Williams. It held a magic all its own, with the power to make the world right, at least Grace’s world anyway.
She loved him more than life. She hoped somehow he knew. Grace stood and melted into one of his hugs now, discretely wiping at a tear that had escaped from the reservoir, which never seemed to run dry.
Wordlessly, she looked into his eyes, finding the love and support she needed. The blue eyes were shining, as if he knew secret.
She tipped her head, “I can read you like a book, Matthew Williams. You got somethin’ brewin’ in that mind ‘a yours.”
“Nope, nothin’,” he denied, though he knew his wife knew better.
Grace waited, knowing if she prodded, it would only take longer for Matthew to reveal whatever it was he had up his sleeve.
“You’re not doin’ nothin’ important right now, are ya?” He knew she wasn’t.
“Only broodin’. That can wait.”
“Good! We got us a picnic to attend.” He took her hand and led her to the carriage he had ready and waiting in the barn.
“Can’t have a picnic without food.” She attempted to free her hand, but he tightened his grip.
“Already got it covered.” He lifted a cloth, revealing a basket of picnic lunch, neatly packed for two.
“I remember this place!”
They had driven for a long time, past ranches she knew well, past the road where they would turn to head into town, until they finally reached it. The small clearing near the pond was sheltered by pines. It had been their special place. She had snuck out of the house to meet him here dozens of times, while they were courting. She smiled and blushed now, remembering.
Matthew smiled too, with a few memories of his own. He feared Carl Lewis might have come after him with a shotgun if he’d known about those memories, back then.
He jumped down from the carriage and lifted Grace to the ground before he spread a blanket over the pine needles.
Grace had her shoes off already, dipping her toes at the water’s edge. “Colder than I remember,” she remarked, thinking of how many times they’d met for a late night swim.
“Not one bit colder. You gettin’ old on me, Gracie?” he teased, tossing his shirt onto the nearby blanket, along with several other items of clothing unnecessary for skinny-dipping.
“Just don’t you forget who’s older!” Her eyes flashed, accepting the dare he’d just extended as her clothes joined his on the blanket.
“Hmmm?” Matthew was almost asleep on the blanket, his wife tucked comfortably in the crook of his arm, his stomach satisfied with chicken and cookies.
“You s’pose we’ll be married long as they were?”
“Long as who were?”
She let out a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes. “My Pa and Ma.”
“Not if you keep talkin’ when I’m tryin’ to sleep.”
She shot him a look.
This drew a laugh from Matthew and he rolled over, pinning her beneath him, kissing her. “Remind me, how long were they married?”
“Whew!” Matthew shook his head in disbelief, insinuating a marriage that long was unthinkable. “Don’t think I can commit to sixty-five years, Gracie.”
Her look changed to one of disappointment.
“But I’ll make ya a deal.”
“What kind’a deal?” her eyes narrowed.
“We been married thirty years this month, right?”
“I can give ya thirty more, but that’s all I’m committin’ to right now.”
Her eyes softened and she pulled him into a long, enticing kiss. “You got yourself a deal, Mr. Williams. Thirty more years.” Then, as if suddenly struck with an afterthought, she stopped short, “Oh, but what if…”
“What if what?” It was Matthew’s turn to look disappointed.
“What if that handsome, blue-eyed cowboy I knew when I was a child shows up, wantin’ me to run off with him, to his mansion out in Calif…”
“Gracie,” Matthew covered her mouth with his, silencing her with a kiss.
Dedicated to my Dad.
For my husband, Matthew,
Just in case you ever doubt the depth of my commitment, may this short story illustrate the place you’ve always held in my heart. And the place you always will!
Here’s to thirty more years!
Grace’s memoirs continue in: A Quiet Strength
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.