Title: 'WAIT' pt. 1

Abigail stood at the sink washing up the last of the supper dishes. The soapy water had turned tepid under her fingers. It hadn't been a huge crowd on this weeknight but it had been steady. After all the excitement lately with the new railroad cafe opening and then closing, she was just grateful for calm consistency.

She glanced toward the wooden clock on the wall. It was getting late. Cody had turned in almost an hour ago and as she turned over the last of the plates onto the towels to dry, she glanced toward her teakettle. She was just going to settle for a few minutes and enjoy one warm cup of honey tea and then head off to bed herself.

She was just reaching for the teakettle when she heard a startling knock on the front door of the café. Who could that be at this late hour? She slipped her way through the dining area quietly approaching the door. She unlatched the door as she turned the knob.

"I'm so sorry but we're cl-…"

She trailed off as she stood looking at the distraught face of the young woman in front of her.

"Elizabeth! What in the world?"

Automatically, she stepped back to let her friend enter. Elizabeth did so and Abigail couldn't help but notice the tight way she held herself as she passed into the dining room.

Before she could say anything else, Elizabeth was already talking.

"Abigail, I'm so sorry but I just couldn't wait …I had to talk to someone."

Elizabeth's dramatic tone concerned Abigail a bit.

She reached out to take Elizabeth's arm. "Well, then you came to the right place." Pulling at her arm, she turned them both toward the kitchen.

"I was just about to have a cup of tea…Sit down and join me and let's talk this out."

Elizabeth said nothing more as she followed. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she leaned forward, staring into space and worried her bottom lip.

Abigail glanced up as she poured and realized that something-something important- was truly troubling her friend. She tried for a light-hearted smile as she placed the cup in front of Elizabeth and took a seat opposite her.

"I must say Elizabeth, I would have thought you would have been having dinner and enjoying the company of your intended this evening."

Elizabeth ignored the tea and dropped her face into her hands with a small cry, startling Abigail.

"That's just it! I can't. I just…can't."

Abigail gently set her cup down. She had no idea what Elizabeth was getting at. The only thing that came to mind…Oh no…

"Oh Elizabeth! You and Jack…You're not…Please tell me that you haven't…called things off!"

Elizabeth instantly shot her head upward, eyes wide.

"NO!" She gave a startled cry. Realizing how upset she sounded, she forced her voice to calm and lower as she glanced toward the steps where she knew Cody slept not far away.

"No, I mean, it's nothing like that. Jack and I are…we're fine…really fine…Actually…"

She swallowed and fought back a blush that won and flushed her entire face.

Abigail reached over and patted her friend's clenched hands.

"It's actually…" She prodded.

Elizabeth glanced up at her and then down quickly again.

"I don't really know how to talk about it."

Abigail was beginning to gather an inkling of what might be bothering Elizabeth. She hastened to reassure her.

"Elizabeth, you know that I would never break a confidence between us. What is said here will stay here."

Elizabeth's eyes shot up once more. "Oh! I know that."

"Then…trust me to help you?"

Her friend nodded and swallowed. Abigail wanted to hug her to reassure but held back in fear that Elizabeth would lose the courage she seemed to be so visibly gathering.

"Abigail…you were…married…So…You…know…"

She stopped and huffed out a labored breath.

"You know these…" She put a small fist on her chest and then moved it to spread her long fingers over her mid-section. "…you know these…feelings."

Ah. Abigail internally sighed with relief.

So that's what this was about. Elizabeth had just gotten her man back and both of them were obviously thrilled to see each other. And they were both two very passionate people. She wasn't a brilliant mind but she had plenty of common sense.

She smiled inside. And thought of her own dear husband. She'd had a wonderful marriage. Elizabeth was right. She had been there. And she did know those feelings.

But oh, to explain the newness of them to a novice.

"Elizabeth, perhaps you could…elaborate a little." She gave her friend a small, encouraging smile.

"Oh Abigail, it's just not something I have ever spoken of. Mother…I mean, she didn't believe that young ladies should speak of what she referred to as 'the woman's duty'."

Abigail snorted. She knew Elizabeth's mother was a fine lady in many ways but her child needed more than silence and half-truths right now.

"Well, I certainly don't mean to speak ill of your mother but I've always wondered how a woman ever learns about something she won't speak of!"

Elizabeth gave her a small smile. "True."

Abigail nodded. "So ask. No judgments. Just answers where I can."

Elizabeth let out a long breath. "Well, you know since Jack came back last week how happy we have both been."

Abigail nodded again and smiled. "Obviously. I haven't seen you two over six inches apart since he rode back into town."

Elizabeth gave another embarrassed little laugh. "I know…I feel like I can't let him go. Like if I do he might disappear."

"Understandable." She patted Elizabeth's hand. "You two have been apart far too long."

Elizabeth grimaced. "And that's the problem Abigail. We have missed each other so much…" She trailed off a moment before finally continuing.

"At first, it was fine. Jack and I had so much catching up to do." She smiled as if seeing the scenes clearly in front of her. "We talked. And laughed. And cried. And… hugged." Abigail noticed she stared just past her as if wrapped up in the memory of it all. "We did a lot of hugging. And of lot of... kissing."

She nodded almost just to herself as if she'd forgotten momentarily Abigail's presence.

"But then…tonight…it…just…Well, just talking and hugging and holding each other…it…it just wasn't… it became…"

She closed her eyes tightly and blew out the words. "…not enough."

She glanced toward Abigail who was just sitting very still, her lips drawn together tightly.

Abigail was truly now a bit worried for her young friends. Had they…? It was surely understandable given what they had been through but they were so close to their wedding but it wouldn't do for Elizabeth to be with child in her position in this small community. As much as folks loved her-loved Jack too- they wouldn't stand for their children's teacher and their honorable law enforcement officer to be enjoying physical pleasures outside of marriage.

No, it just wouldn't do. Just couldn't be.

She waited a moment and when Elizabeth, who was still flushed pink with embarrassment, refused to elaborate, she eased the question out.

"Elizabeth…did you and Jack…have…" She glanced toward the staircase that led to Cody's room and lowered her voice. "…intimate relations?" It came out as a tiny whisper- a scandalous whisper that she couldn't quite believe she was asking.

Elizabeth instantly bit her lip and closed her eyes tightly. Abigail felt her worse fears confirmed. Her mind began to spin. They would have to be married right away. There was no time to plan things out now. They could say Jack was demanding a fast marriage due to his uncertain career. They could say…oh…something would come to her.

Finally, when Elizabeth opened her eyes, they were glistening, sparkling blue and slightly wet with unshed tears and enormous emotion.

Abigail knew what her young friend was feeling. She knew how it was to need a man, want a man…love a man so much that nothing you could do together could ever seem wrong. One touch and you were lost in him. Time seemed to stand still. Nothing in the world seemed to matter but you becoming a part of him and he a part of you. Consequences seemed far away when you held each other.

Sighing and shaking her own self as she broke Elizabeth's gaze, she just smacked her hands to her knees. Action. Solving. That was a talent the good Lord had blessed her with and that's what she would do. She would help her friends through this.

"Well, looks like you two have some decisions to make that won't wait." Abigail rose to her feet, ready to discuss the options and tackle the problem.

But Elizabeth hadn't moved. Hadn't said a word. Then, slowly, ever so slowly, she raised her eyes toward Abigail once more and began to shake her head. Abigail watched in confusion as a lone tear fell and streaked down her friend's soft cheek.

"No…" Elizabeth's voice broke on the word. "We didn't…have…do… that."

Abigail instantly sank with relief back into the chair.

She offered Elizabeth a soft smile and reached over to pat her hand. "Then there's no problem to see to."

More tears fell from Elizabeth's wet eyes. "Oh Abigail, yes there is…for you see…I…I wanted to. So very badly. "

Her voice dropped to an anguished whisper. "I want very much wanted to and so did Jack. " She wiped at her eyes and brushed the tears from her cheek.

"Don't you see Abigail? I can't be with him right now…He…He's just…" She paused and Abigail nodded her certain understanding.

Leaning in closely, her intent to whisper herself, Abigail murmured. "He's just lost his will to control himself with you?"

She knew she'd guessed right when Elizabeth began to nod an affirmation. She smiled patiently. "That's men sometimes Elizabeth…Why I remember when Noah tried..."

But Elizabeth stopped her with a fierce shake of her head.

"It's not Jack…It's me! I am the one that can't control myself…Jack is the one with control. He's the one that stopped things before…before…" She trailed off in anguish and frustration.

Abigail smiled now with understanding. Jack Thornton was quite a man. Quite a man indeed.

Elizabeth leaned in toward her. "I think I would have let him Abigail. I would have…Oh! These feelings inside me! I don't understand them…I shouldn't have…I was taught to never allow a man such liberties but I…I couldn't seem to stop myself."

Elizabeth trailed off seemingly not knowing what else to say or how else to explain. But she didn't have to.

Abigail leaned forward and took Elizabeth in her arms, feeling suddenly more like her mother than her friend. She supposed she was some of both.

She patted Elizabeth's back with a soothing stroke and then took both of her hands and squeezed them as she looked her again in the eyes. "It's understandable to feel this way Elizabeth." She stopped to let her words sink in. "You love Jack madly. And he is going to be your husband."

Elizabeth gave her a small shaky smile and nodded.

"I know but I can't…trust myself. I have discovered I'm not who I thought I was. This…" She pointed and her breast and moved her hand down her body and motioned to indicate her entire being. "This is not…" She paused as if searching for the right word again. "Intimate relations is obviously not going to be what I believed them to be….It's…They're so much… more."

Abigail smiled and nodded. "I know sweetie…I know."

Elizabeth sniffed and wiped away the last of her tears. She let out a breath and straightened her back in what Abigail had come to know was her teacher-like resolved movement.

"Well, then it's settled. Jack and I just cannot, absolutely will not, be alone ever again before we are married." She nodded her head and held her chin high.

Abigail startled. Wow, whatever had happened between the two had certainly had a momentous effect on Elizabeth. It made her even more curious.

"Elizabeth, I doubt Jack is going to see it that way." She offered a tiny smile.

Elizabeth sniffed and shook her head. "He's just going to have to Abigail. We can't take such chances again."

Abigail sat back in her chair and reached for her tea cup. Toying with the handle, she finally picked it up. She supposed most women would let it go at that. She knew she'd had to figure everything out the hard way. But Elizabeth was her dearest friend and she adored both she and Jack. And besides, when had she ever be just like 'most women'?

Here was the action she was going to have to take. She needed to educate her young friend as to what lie ahead of her and try and take away her fear of Jack and the intimate feelings that lovers aroused in each other. It wasn't going to be easy with someone as innocent as Elizabeth but she couldn't shy away from a task she was suited to take on.

And besides, Jack would thank her later she was quite sure. She smiled to herself.

"Perhaps you would feel better and I could help you understand how you are feeling if you could share what happened to upset you so that has that led you to my doorstep this late."

Elizabeth nodded. "Yes, perhaps, I should just explain more…fully." She fortified herself with a sip of the tea and cleared her throat to begin.

Abigail poured them both a little more tea as she listened to Elizabeth start the tale.

It seemed like it might be a long story.