Epilogue

Seven men gathered around the Barkley parlor staring up at the staircase leading to the upper level of the Barkley home. One paced as he pounded his fist into the palm his hand. One sat on the bottom step of the staircase. The other five looked on apprehensively.

Heath stared over at Ben before standing. "Pa, you think they're okay?"

Ben answered his son in law from the chair he was sitting. "Yes, son. I'm sure."

Heath waited a couple more minutes before he started to head up the stairs. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. "Where do ya think you're going, boy?"

"Nick, I don't see why I can't be there with her." Heath raked his hand through his unruly blonde hair.

"That's unheard of." Nick threw his hands up on the air.

Ben arched an eyebrow as he watched his son in law become more and more impatient.

"Why? I helped deliver a woman's baby once when I was seventeen." Heath stated like it was an everyday occurrence. "Don't take much doin'. The woman does all the work."

Jarrod chuckled at Nick's rolling of his eyes. He could just see Nick's thoughts of Heath aiding a strange woman in childbirth. 'Figures, boy. What haven't you done?'

Eugene stood up and marched over to Heath. "I agree with, Heath. I don't see why a man can't be in the room with his wife when their child is born. I think it would offer her support."

"Don't surprise me none that you agree with him. You and Heath are thicker than thieves." Nick retorted staring at his youngest brother.

"You're one to talk." Eugene snorted out indignantly. Nick and Heath were as close as two brothers could get as well.

Jarrod smiled at the banter between two of his younger siblings. He remembered the time that brought Eugene to be best friends with Heath. It was when they arrived in Nevada to the Ponderosa. Their mother shared some devastating secrets that almost tore the family apart. The Barkleys and Cartwrights stood together as a family and worked their way through it.

Eugene took it hard when he realized that he would never know if his father was the beloved Tom Barkley or the kind hearted Ben Cartwright. He had threw a tantrum or two. Refused to talk to anyone including his brothers until the day of Audra's and Heath's legal wedding. Eugene found Heath in the barn currying the horses as he awaited for the bride to prepare herself. Eugene made his way into the barn to say to Heath the words that started a mending between the family.

"I guess I'm a bastard just like you." Eugene didn't mean the words to come out harshly. He meant them as a peace offering in a strange way.

The next thing he knew he felt a fist upside his jaw. Eugene had landed in a heap on the floor. Heath stood over him staring down. "Don't ever call any of my brothers a bastard."

"I may not be your brother." Eugene retorted.

"You're my brother, Gene. Don't matter who your Pa is. You're my brother." Heath pulled Eugene up into a brotherly embrace before releasing the younger man.

"Well, you didn't accept Audra like that. Why me?" Eugene dusted off his pants as Heath and he headed towards Ben's cabin.

"You're not as pretty as she is." Heath teased with a lopsided grin and wink.

From that day forward, a tight brotherly bond had formed between Heath and Eugene. The past hurts were mending even if it were slow in coming. Ben and his sons didn't mind more additions to the family. The Cartwrights and the Barkleys seemed to forge as one family living in two different places. The marriage between Audra and Heath cemented that family bond.

"What's takin' so long?" Heath and Nick bellowed at the same time.

Ben and Adam had been through the same thing before. They knew the impatience of becoming a father. However, it did seem to be taking longer than with their wives.

Adam's wife had went to visit her family back East. She had taken little Ben with her. It seems Amy, her younger sister, was getting married. Joe Cartwright teased of the irony of the girl marrying a dirt poor missionary worker who as Joe put it, fell from an ugly tree and hit every branch. It seemed Amy had finally put away her childish judgings and fell head over heels in love with the man.

Heath jumped up again from the bottom step he was perched on. "I'm gonna go check."

Before anyone could stop him. Victoria Barkley was standing at the top of the stairs with a huge grin on her face.

"Mother?" Heath took in a deep breath as he looked at her.

Victoria reached her hand towards Heath. "Come on, Heath. Come meet your daughters."

Ben felt himself sway slightly. He watched Heath run up the stairs and disappear. He swallowed as he said. "Did Victoria say daughters?"

It wasn't long before Ben was the next to go up. Audra nodded to the bundles secured in her arms. "Pa, come meet your granddaughters."

After each of the uncles and grandpa were introduced to the most beautiful infant girls, Victoria ran all of them out saying Audra needed her rest. She also told Heath to go get him a bite to eat while she enjoyed a moment alone with her daugher and her new granddaughters.

Heath had said he wanted to name one girl after the two best mothers a man could have. Therefore, the quiet, demure acting daughter was named Leah Victoria Barkley. The other infant girl was loud and fussy. Audra couldn't seem to nurse her enough. Audra knew one name Heath wanted for his child. She chose the other. Audra chose Lillian and Heath put in the name Nicole. Nick puffed out his chest knowing his niece was named after him. He was taken aback with emotion when Heath and Audra requested he be their daughters godfather.

The Barkleys and the Cartwrights were given the special blessings of the beautiful twin girls, Leah Victoria Barkley and Lillian Nicole Barkley.

In the parlor, all the men were enjoying drinks as they talked about the twin girls. Heath stood staring in the fire feeling overwhelmed by happiness.

Eugene spoke up as he glanced at Ben. "Pa, what do you think is the most difficult thing about the birth of a child from a father's point of view?"

Ben was going to say the worry for the child. But he stopped short when Heath spoke without realizing he was talking out loud. "Waitin' six weeks to start practing creatin' another one."

When Heath realized his slip of tongue, his head snapped up to meet the glares of his wife's six brothers and one father aimed directly at him. Heath rubbed his neck nervously.

"I think I'm gonna go check on my wife and our girls." With those words, Heath hurriedly made his way out of the lion's den.

All the men broke out in laughter at Heath's quick and nervous exit.

The house became quiet as the day darkened into night. A peace could be filled throughout the Barkley mansion as the family settled down for bed.

In Heath's and Audra's bedroom, Victoria poured fresh water in the pitcher beside the bed. She added clean linens and a pile of clean towels to the dresser. She stared back momentarily at her son, daughter, and granddaughters. Heath was lovingly watching his wife nurse one daughter while the other daughter slept in his arms. Heath placed his finger under Audra's chin. He pulled her to face him. Victoria watched as Heath kissed Audra with a kiss passionate enough to tell without words his love for his wife. The kiss looked normal now. It wasn't appalling or a cause for her to flinch. It seemed right. The kiss seemed perfect.

Victoria Barkley headed to her room to get some rest. Victoria noticed the satchel sitting beside her bed. She picked up the satchel retrieving the note Rose had left. For the first time, she noticed the small notation on the bottom of the simple note. "All things work out to God's glory."

Victoria smiled at the simple last words from Rose. It was true. Through all the lies and secrets, God had still seen to give them all an abundance of blessings. They all were unworthy but so very thankful.

Victoria ran her hand over the leather worn satchel. She pulled out the journal and began her own entry.

On this day, I welcome my lovely granddaughters into the world. I am so truly blessed…..

Victoria ran her fingers over the entry she had made before shutting the journal and placing it back in the satchel. Some day, the girls would be old enough to want to know how their mother and father fell in love. On that day, Victoria knew she'd pull out the old satchel to share with her granddaughters saying to them.

"It all started with a satchel full of truths."