Chapter 30: Salvation
The rider, Horace, had come after a shot had been heard, and screams had carried with the wind through the rain. Shortly behind Horace was Loren Bray as well as Matthew Cooper and his brother Brian. Finding the horrible scene before them, they went back to town for reinforcements and wagons.
Now, Michaela was standing before Sully in one of Colleen's rooms. She dabbed at the cut across his cheek. It had only required a few stitches, and she was thankful that that's all it was.
Julia and Liam were sleeping in the next room. Julia had known something had happened, but she had been protected from the fact that her father had returned. Michaela knew the child loved her father, but she also knew that she understood that hurting others was bad. Julia had witnessed the beatings before, but she was so young, and Michaela hoped that perhaps she wouldn't remember them as she grew.
Hank was doing much better. Jake had a cut across the back of his head, and Michaela had stitched him up just fine. He was doing ok, except for a little hurt pride that he had to let a woman stitch him up. Word around town was already buzzing, and women were bringing by hot food and desserts for the lady doctor and the injured men, while men were asking Hank and Jake what really happened, and of course, the story was embellished quite a bit.
"Are you ok?" Sully asked quietly, tracing his fingers very gently over the bruise on Michaela's eye. She flinched a little but nodded.
"I'm fine." He saw the worry in her eyes. "I'm not worried about me." She placed her hand on her belly. "He threw me down, Sully. He didn't know…I never told him…I just…I thought I was protecting the baby."
"The baby's gonna be ok," he whispered. "You'll see. She's strong like her mama." Michaela hoped the baby was strong. "I'm sorry…I'm sorry I wasn't there."
"Sully, I don't blame you. You were unconscious."
"I shouldn't have…"
"You had no idea of knowing that he wasn't Jake," Michaela assured him. She put down the cloth she was cleaning his stitched cut with. "Sully, don't blame yourself. I told you what kind of a man James is."
"He hurt you, Michaela." His hand motioned toward her bruise. Michaela turned her head and winced.
"It's nothing," she breathed, but Sully knew better. He gently undid a couple of buttons on her blouse, and it was then that he saw the nasty bruises on her neck.
"Michaela!" He stood quickly. "I'm gonna kill him…"
"Sully!" Michaela exclaimed, "it's over!"
"It's been worse before, believe me," she replied, tears in her eyes. "You have no idea how worse." She did up her buttons, and she looked into Sully's eyes. He was angry, and she knew that. "He's going to jail, Sully."
"He deserves to die for what he did to you." Michaela looked away, and she moved over to the window to look out. The sun was shining now, and horses pulled wagons through the streets, the tires sloshing in the mud.
"He's going away for a long time, Sully. He won't hurt us anymore." Sully moved across the room, standing behind her, watching silently as the clock on the wall ticked down the minutes until Horace and Loren came to escort her to the jail, where she would have her final words with the man she would never see again.
"You're sure you wanna do this?"
"I've never been more sure of anything when it came to James? I've been waiting for the moment to tell him goodbye for a long time."
"Want me to go with you?" Michaela turned to face Sully.
"Yes," she whispered, "but I have to do it alone."
"He's behind bars, Sully. He can't hurt me anymore." With a sigh, she wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head against his chest. He held her close, still angry with himself for having let himself be fooled. But Michaela was right. He'd had no way of knowing that it wasn't Jake.
"Mama?" Julia hurried into the room, her doll under her arm. She was rubbing her sleepy eyes. Michaela and Sully turned toward the little girl. Michaela bent down, picking her up.
"What's the matter, sweetheart?"
"I had a bad dream," she whimpered, "about Papa." Michaela swallowed hard.
"Uh-huh. He hurt you, mama. I tried to make him stop, but he didn't hear me." Michaela closed her eyes and held her little girl close. Julia looked across at Sully, who placed a hand on Michaela's shoulder to comfort her. "Sully? You'd never hurt my mama, would you?" The lump in Sully's throat swelled, and he swallowed it, taking Julia's little hand in his. Michaela trembled at the little girl's question, and she kept her back to Sully. Sully let go of Julia's little hand, and he wrapped his arms around Michaela, enveloping both her and her daughter.
"I'd never hurt your mama, Julia. I love her more than anything in the world."
"More than anything?"
"Uh huh. Well, 'cept for you, of course." Julia giggled.
"I love all three of ya. You're my family now. That's ok with you, right?"
"Yeah," Julia grinned, nodding her head. "Mama, when are you getting married?" Michaela chuckled, kissing her little girl's cheek.
"As soon as possible, sweetheart." She turned in Sully's arms, sandwiching little Julia between herself and Sully. Sully took Julia from her. "Would you like to be the flower girl?"
"Yeah!" Julia exclaimed. "I'm going to practice right now!" She squirmed out of Sully's arms and rushed out of the room, dropping her doll in her excitement. Shaking her head and smiling, Michaela picked up the doll and placed it on the bed.
"She's happy, Sully," Michaela whispered. "That's all I want for my children."
"That's all I want for them too," Sully replied, "and for you." She turned back to him, and he took her in his arms. "I can't wait for you to be my wife."
"And I can't wait for you to be my husband." She stood on her tiptoes and softly kissed his lips. "Of course, you realize it may take a while…"
"That's ok," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "You're worth the wait." He bent down, kissing her softly. He rubbed her back, and she gasped a moment later.
"The baby moved," she whispered, relief in her voice. Sully placed his hand over hers on her belly, and they smiled together, resting their foreheads together and standing silently. A knock at the door interrupted them, and Colleen poked her head in, blushing a little.
"Sorry," she whispered. "Dr. Mike, Horace is downstairs. Says he got a telegram from St. Louis. They caught that Joann Lewis woman. They're takin' her back to Boston, and a few fellas will be here tomorrow to take Mr. Laurie away." Michaela breathed a sigh of relief, and Sully took her hand, squeezing it in his. "They're ready to take ya over to the jail."
"Thank you, Colleen. I'll be down in a moment." Colleen nodded and left to go back downstairs. Michaela turned back to Sully, who gently rubbed her arms, trying to relax her.
"You don't gotta do this."
"Yes I do," she said with a nod. "I have to, or I'm never going to put it behind me."
He held her hand, as they walked across the street to the jail with Horace and Loren. All eyes were on them, as they walked with Loren and Horace. Jake and Hank, both resting in their own respective homes, had their eyes on the group as well. If Hank or Jake had had anything to say about it, James Laurie would be swinging from a tree. There probably wouldn't have been much of a fight put up about it either.
"Who took care of his wound?"
"Bullet went clean through," Loren said. "Dorothy fixed him up. I told her not to mess with him, but he was bleedin' all over the floor." Michaela and Sully glanced at each other. When they reached the jail, Michaela froze, and Sully took her hand.
"You can do this," he whispered in her ear. "I believe in you." Michaela squeezed his hand and nodded. Horace opened up the door and let her in. He closed it to give them some privacy, but Sully moved closer, just in case he needed to get her out of there.
She looked at his form, slumped over in the corner.
"They caught Joann," was the first thing out of her mouth. "She's on her way back to Boston, and they'll be here for you in the morning."
"I hope you don't think this is over, Michaela. You're my wife."
"No. Not for long. I'm wiring for divorce papers today."
"It doesn't matter. You'll always be my wife, Michaela. I don't care what some damned piece of paper says." He looked out toward the street. "Even if you marry him, you'll only be his whore. You're still my wife. 'Til death do us part."
"I was never your wife, James. I tried to be a good wife to you, but you treated me like your property. But never again, James. The children and I don't need you. You'll never see them again." James chuckled.
"Oh, Michaela, you're so naïve."
"Not anymore," she replied. "Do you know how I used to count the minutes until you got home? I had it down perfectly! I could read you like a book. You didn't even realize how much I understood you. The only time I didn't was when you flew into your rages. You're a sick man, James. I feel sorry for you. But you make me sick, and I can't wait to watch them take you out of this town and out of my life forever."
"I won't sign those papers."
"Yes you will. You'll have no choice. You'll sign them, because you know you've lost. There's nothing more you can do. I'm free from you. The children are free. If you don't sign, Sully and I will find another way to be together. You can't stop us from being happy. From being together."
"See, I was right. You are a wh—"
"And you're an abusive, sadistic pig! I hate you, James Laurie." She looked away. "But I forgive you. Because if I hold a grudge against you, that means you win. That means I'm stuck with you for the rest of my life, and that's no way I want to live." She stepped toward the bars of the cell, her entire body trembling. "See these bruises? They're going to fade with time. You'll be lucky if you keep your leg. I hope it was worth it. I hope you enjoyed your journey out here, because you're never going anywhere ever again…once you get to prison, I hope they throw away the key and let you rot." Her words were like venom, and he watched the woman who had once begged for mercy from him. She wasn't weak, and he could see that, but he'd never let her know he knew.
"I hope your Sully sees you for what you really are. I hope he learns how to keep you in line, because no man wants a woman like you. I thought your mother taught you that when you were a child. I suppose you're too stubborn, too free-willing."
"That's the way I like her." Michaela turned to see Sully standing in the doorway now, his eyes like ice as they glared daggers into James Laurie. Michaela turned back to James. She could say nothing else to this man but the one thing she'd wanted to say to him for so long.
"Goodbye, James. You'll be hearing from my lawyer." She reached for Sully's hand, and he pulled his arm around her, escorting her out of the jail as James looked on in disgust. The door closed, and he sat there, listening to the little clock on the wall counting the minutes until dawn.
Several months later…
Sully grimaced, as Michaela's engagement ring dug into his hand. She was squeezing his hand so tightly, as she tried not to scream. The pain was becoming more and more intense, and the only thing he could think about was how their child was about to be brought into the world.
"Papa!" Liam cried, as Colleen held him on her hip.
"You gotta go wait outside now, Sully. It's time…" Colleen handed the baby to Sully.
"I don't wanna leave her."
"Don't leave," Michaela cried from the bed. "I need you here! I need you, Sully." She screamed in pain, frightening poor Liam.
"Alright, you can stay if ya want, but you gotta take Lee out of the room. He don't need to see this." Sully took Lee out into the hall and down the stairs. Julia was sitting with Dorothy and Loren out on the porch of the boarding house.
"How's Mama?" Julia asked.
"It won't be long now," Sully said nervously, his hands shaking. "Take your brother…hold his hand. I'll be back in a few minutes." Julia nodded, and Sully put the boy on her lap. Lee wanted down, but she held onto him.
"Come on, little one." Dorothy took the boy into her arms and bounced him on her knee. Julia giggled as Lee pointed to the ground.
"He wants to walk." He'd just started walking a month ago, and he was already getting too fast for his own good.
"Oh no. No, you're sitting right here for now. Your Ma's gonna want you in one piece when you meet your new baby brother or sister.
"Oh, I think he wants his grandma," came a voice rounding the bend. Elizabeth and Rebecca were just coming from Grace's with a picnic basket full of food for the new family.
"Gamma! Gamma!" Lee exclaimed, holding his chubby arms out for her. Elizabeth bent down, taking the boy into her arms and holding him close.
"There's my sweet grandson," she breathed. "Grandma's here…and she's never letting you go." Lee giggled, as Elizabeth kissed his nose, and they all sat down together to wait for any news from inside.
"Sully! I want Sully!" Michaela screamed, as Colleen examined the doctor. She'd grown into quite a good midwife, taking over her mother's job.
"Sully's coming back! He's…he'll be right back."
"SULLYYYYYY!" Michaela was pushing now, and Sully burst through the door in a heartbeat.
"I'm right here," he assured her, taking her hand and brushing the hair back off of her face. "I'm right here."
"I ain't goin' nowhere," he promised, kissing her hand. "I'm here for you." Michaela nodded, and she took a deep breath. "Just look at me. Just look right here. Look into my eyes." Michaela's eyes focused on him, and she cried out in pain, as she pushed once again.
"That's right. The head's almost out. One more push and the head'll be out," Colleen urged. Michaela gasped for breath and bore down, giving another push. "Okay. Okay. Stop…the head's out." Michaela groaned in pain, but she never broke eye contact with Sully.
"I'm so proud-a you, Michaela. You're so strong." She was whimpering now, and she shook her head.
"I can't…I can't do this anymore…"
"Yes you can. Just…just focus on me. Don't think about anything else. Just look at me and think about getting that baby out into the world. Just a couple more pushes. Just squeeze my hand. It's gonna be ok. In a minute, our baby'll be here, Michaela."
"Our baby," she whispered. This seemed to renew her energy somewhat, and she took a few deep breaths, and when Colleen instructed her to push, she did so with renewed vigor. She clenched her teeth and groaned through the pain, and in a moment, a child's cry filled the room. The moment Michaela laid eyes on her little one, the pain melted away, and she reached out.
Colleen clipped off the cord, cleaned the baby off, and in a minute, she was handing the bundle over to the waiting mother. Michaela took her baby into her arms, holding the tiny infant so close.
"Look, Sully…look…" The child's eyes, bright green like her mother's and like Julia's, sparkled so intensely.
"She's beautiful," Colleen whispered. "Congratulations." Colleen worked for a few more minutes to clean up Michaela, and then she left the new parents in peace.
"She looks just like ya," Sully breathed.
"You knew all along she'd be a girl," Michaela grinned.
"I just had a feelin'."
"Sully…what shall we name her? I…I want her to have your last name. I know we aren't married yet, but she's your daughter too."
"I'd be honored," he breathed, kissing her forehead softly before bending down to kiss his daughter.
"I…I hope it's alright, but I've been thinking about little girl's names. I…I thought that perhaps, as a middle name, we could name her after your sister. Abagail?" She saw the tears sparkling in his eyes, and he smiled.
"I think she'd like that." He placed his finger in the baby's hand, and she gripped it. He chuckled.
"I knew it."
"She'd be just as strong as her mama." Michaela smiled. "She's got a strong grip. Think she's gonna be just as stubborn as you are." He kissed her lips softly, and she smiled against his kiss. "But I wouldn't want her any other way." He gently moved to sit on the bed beside his future wife, and he pulled his arm around her.
"We still need to think of a first name, Sully. I'm not certain what to call her…it has to be perfect."
"We don't gotta decide right now, do we?"
"I suppose not," Michaela said quietly.
"Well, you're right. A perfect little girl's gotta have a perfect name." He kissed Michaela's cheek. "We don't gotta decide right now. We got all the time in the world." Closing her eyes, Michaela rested her head on Sully's shoulder, completely exhausted but feeling incredibly blessed for the family she'd been given. It was the start of a new life with the man she loved and the children they would forever raise as their own. She'd been given a second chance, and she was taking it.
Tears trickled down her cheeks as she rocked her daughter in her arms and rested against the man she loved. Life had never been so wonderful, and this was only the beginning.
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who read and gave me feedback! This is the end of this story, but I'm going to start on a sequel and see what I can do with it. If it works out, I will start posting when I'm feeling comfortable with it. Thanks again for all of your support and your feedback! It's been really helpful! I hope you'll continue to check out my future fanfics, as well as some of my past ones. Until next time, love, Ashley.