The moon was full and bright and a soft cool breezed floated in through the window where she stood gazing out. She sighed knowing what she needed to do, but not wanting to. She still had one more week before he was set to leave, she decided to put it off for another day. It was the third time that she had decided to put it off.
"Becky? There you are. Too hot to sleep?" He rubbed his face sleepily and stood beside her at the window.
"No. There's a nice breeze now. I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"
"Not really. I just turned over and you weren't there. That breeze is nice! Something bothering you?" He studied her thoughtfully.
"No. I was just looking at this big moon. Rose woke up a bit ago and I went to her, but she'd climbed in with Katie. Then I was sort of awake." She smiled at him but she didn't look directly in his eyes. He'd noticed that she'd been doing that for the last week or so. He knew from years of hard-learning that she was avoiding something.
"Becky, what is it? You don't want me to go?"
"I didn't say that. I know you need to check your traps and do some hunting before the fall harvest." She sounded defensive.
"I didn't say you did. Sweetheart, what is it?" He took hold of her hand. She sighed but still said nothing. She stood silently staring at the moon but held his hand tightly.
"I . . ." She paused. "Dan, you know I take my promises seriously." He nodded at her puzzled.
"I made a promise to you a while back, but it is difficult for me to keep it. I don't want to break it, but I don't really want to keep it either." She dropped his hand and moved away from the window. She stood beside the table. He turned and faced her but still he said nothing. He had learned long ago, that if waited long enough, she would talk.
She looked at his eyes then and sighing again said, "You sure have gotten wise over the years." She gave him a small grin.
"Don't try and distract me with flattery, love. Why don't you just tell me about it, instead of avoiding it?" She stood silently. He smiled at her. "I can wait." His eyes remained steady on her.
"Dan, . . .I . . ." She struggled.
"It can't be that bad. You didn't steal a horse or kill a man, did ya?" He teased her.
She rolled her eyes at him."No, it isn't anything bad really. And I'm only saying it because of the promise you made me give. But, you have to promise you won't spend your time and energy worrying on it." Still she hesitated. He stood silent and continued to wait.
"Alright, then!" She said as though he'd been arguing with her. Taking in a big breath she said, "In the spring, there might be another Boone. But I . . ."
"You're carrying a child?" He interrupted her, his voice filled with the wonder of it. He smiled lovingly at her and crossed over to her but she stepped away and sat down. "Oh, Becky," he began gently, understanding that she was afraid.
"I don't want you getting excited just yet." She let out a long breath. "It's too soon and you know what might happen. What will probably happen."
He said nothing but studied her thoughtfully. "Rebecca," He said gently. He sat down at the bench in front of her. "So, you'd keep it to yourself, then. That's what you'd prefer?"
"I don't want you to worry. I don't want you to be sad or disappointed if . . ."
"Rebecca, you've never disappointed me." She looked up at him then. He smiled at her and reached for her hand. "We've talked about this so many times, but it is like you are determined not to listen."
"I just . . . I can only manage so much at a time. I hate to think that I will cause you pain again. It isn't fair to you." Her voice was soft and sad.
"You think it has been all your fault?" He squeezed her fingers when she didn't answer him. "Your Ma explained to you about babies, didn't she? There's more involved than just you." He grinned at her.
"Daniel . . ." She said wearily.
"Well, you are acting like it is all your fault. I've known you a long time, 'Becca, and I can't think of a thing you've done that would deserve this kind of punishment."
"My temper for starters, and I'm willful as the day is long."
"So God took Patrick from you for that? And Elizabeth? And William? He took those other three who we never got to meet because you are headstrong? And he punished me, too? That doesn't make any sense and you know it."
"I don't want to talk about it, please, Dan. It is too . . ."
"Darlin' we have to talk about it. I'm not leaving 'til we get this straight. Mima told me how things were before Rose was born. I won't allow that again. You are a stubborn woman, Rebecca - stubborn about blaming yourself. You really believe that those babies died because you did something wrong?"
"I don't know, but there must be something, I did. Other women don't have the same troubles. Why look at Mrs. Jones, she's always got a baby on her hip. They must have ten now. There must be a reason, and I'm the one carrying them, not you."
"How can you believe that? Becky, you must have half that Bible memorized, but you aren't listening to it. That's not how He works and you know it. Sometimes bad things just happen. And sometimes they happen to the best people we know. Why isn't it my fault? Why isn't it something I did?"
"You aren't willful like me. You are much more patient, and you aren't the one carrying them and feeding them - I do all that." She sighed, frustrated. "I don't want to talk about this any more."
"What about James?" He asked her. "Was that punishment for you too?"
"Don't talk to me about James." She said in a whisper. "That's different."
"It is different. That was my fault. I was prideful, and didn't listen to reason. I never should have let those boys go on ahead alone. You even told me not too, but I didn't listen."
"Oh, Dan. Stop it. You couldn't have known. James died because of . . . he was deceitful. You couldn't have known it. It was . . . his fault. You weren't responsible for it. Please, lets not talk about it." She covered her face with her hands.
He sighed. "I must have spent days and days weeping over it. Blaming myself. I was so angry that I could have been so foolish. I couldn't bear to even look into your eyes. I wanted to just go off somewhere and die." He turned to her and pulled her hands away from her face and held them. "But you came to me, and you told me that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. That it wasn't my fault; that there was no way I could have known what was in that Shawnee's heart. I'll never know such forgiveness and kindness here on this earth. Becky, you forgave me of something I really did have a hand in, but you won't forgive yourself for something that you had no control over."
"You didn't cause James' death. It wasn't your fault." She said again. She rose and stood next to the fireplace. "This is why I would rather keep it to myself until we know one way or the other. It stirs up too much."
He followed her over and standing in front of her, brushed the hair off her forehead. "Maybe it needs to be stirred up. You do have a bad habit of avoiding things." He looked into her eyes. "You're acting just like Ruby, believing those lies Peter said - that everything was her fault - that she was guilty. She couldn't look at things clearly because she was in too much pain and it was too close to her. You are the same way - maybe it makes it easier somehow, thinking there's a reason. Maybe it keeps you from considering blaming me. But either way, you aren't seeing things clearly either. You are a good, sweet, loving woman and I've never seen anyone study the Bible as much as you. You are a loving mother, and a patient wife, but all you seem to see when you look at yourself, is someone who deserves punishment. Is that it?"
She said nothing. Her lower lip trembled. She made no sound at all and it was only as the tears rolled down her cheeks, that he realized she was crying. He had pushed her to her limit and he knew it. It pained him to see her so distraught, but in all their years together, she had never really complained about this. She wept at each loss, and turned to him for reassurance, but he had never heard her utter one word about how terribly unfair it was. The most she had ever said was, "I wish . . .", and even then she hadn't completed the sentence.
"Go on, sweetheart," He said quietly. "You can say it."
"It isn't fair!" She wailed at last. "I wanted every one of those babies! I loved them before I ever saw their faces and even if I never did. I want to tell you a new baby is coming and laugh and smile, and plan, just like everyone else. But I am terrified. I don't want my heart to break again. I don't think I can endure it. And I can't have you hurt. I can't bear to see you or others look at me with pity, again." She looked up into his eyes. "Why? Why did they all die?" She was sobbing now. "Oh,why did you make me talk about it? I don't want to feel this way. I can't do this again. I swear, Dan, I've been as good as can be. I've tried and tried. Why does He take them from us? Why?"
He had pulled her into his arms. She shook with sobs. He remembered what Menewa had once said. There was no greater pain than seeing your woman suffer. He had no answers for her. It was the only thing in his life, other than James, that he desired to be different.
"Oh, sweetheart, I wish I knew. I'd do anything to change it. Anything." He kissed her forehead. "But you can't lock it away, love. You can't keep it inside, like a secret. You know, this is the first time I've ever heard you say it is unfair? You push it down and away, but it hurts you inside. You can't do that, darlin'. It doesn't work."
He kissed her again. She was a contradiction - strong as iron on the outside but the most fragile fine china inside. It was a secret only he knew. He sighed. "How does it go? You are my heartbeat?" He asked her.
"My heart beats inside you. Ta mo chroi istigh ionat." She said.
"That's it. My heart beats within you." He said to her. She looked up at him. "We'll wait and see together."
She nodded her head and said nothing but held onto him tightly. They stood together for some time, as her tears subsided.
"Love," He said gently, after a bit. "I've got a list of demands for you."
"Daniel, don't . . ." She said wiping the tears from her face.
"Uh uh. You don't get to argue, either." He interrupted her.
She looked up into his face and he grinned at her. She smiled back and sighing asked him, "Alright, what are they?"
"Well, do not carry the water bucket or more than two pieces of firewood. I don't care if the fire goes out or the water runs dry! The children can do it. And rest when you need to. Both Israel and Katie can hold their own in the kitchen, so you don't have to wear yourself out worrying about them starving to death without you."
"Alright, I suppose that's reasonable." She said.
"And one last thing." He said trying to determine how stubborn she was going to be on this issue.
"What is it?" She asked nervously.
"I want you to tell Grace. I'd feel better, knowing someone else knew about it. And she's a good friend to you, Becky. She'd make you talk even if you didn't want to."
She moved and sat down at the settee. "I don't want to. Please, don't make me."
"Becky . . ." He began.
"No, wait. Let me explain it to you. It is just that if I tell her, and something happens than I have to tell her that. And I hate more than anything, having people look at me with pity. 'Poor, Rebecca. She's lost all those babies. I don't know how poor, Dan manages.' It makes me angry. I can't bear the things people say to each other about me, and it is even worse the things they say to me." She looked down at her hands.
He sighed. "I can understand that, but before Rose was born, you stayed out here all by yourself for over four months! You didn't see anyone or go into the fort! You carried all of it alone. Mima said she'd wake up in the middle of the night and you'd be pacing the floor. I can't have that again."
"How about a compromise then?" She looked up at him her blue eyes wide.
"What kind of a compromise?" He crossed his arms.
"I promise to tell her if something happens OR it gets to the point that I can't hide it anymore. You'll only be gone a month or so. Six weeks isn't very long. No one will be able to tell before you come back. It was different with Rose. You weren't supposed to be gone so long. Then, I was worried you'd never come home, and I couldn't tell anyone else, when I'd never even said it to you. I waited for you because it gave me hope, that you'd be home. This isn't the same at all."
"I suppose that's fair." He studied her. It was good to have her look him directly in the eyes again. She seemed less restless, and more at peace. He sat down beside her and put his arm around her. She yawned and rested her head on his shoulder. He asked her softly. "What are you thinking?"
"I don't know. I guess I'm thinking that it would be so good to see you holding a tiny baby in your arms again, and I guess I'm thinking that even if you don't, we'll manage it together. I'm thinking that I'm awfully sleepy." She smiled up at him. He smiled back and kissed her forehead. "And, I'm thinking that sometimes, not all the time, mind you, but sometimes, you are right."
He grinned at her, and reached for her hand. "Well, mo shearc, we will manage it together. We are unbroken, you and I." She nodded her head, and kissed his hand. He sighed and continued, "Come on to bed and get some sleep then. I'm not going to say another word - I can't risk shattering your illusions of my rare ability to be right!" He led her back to their bed, and she slept peacefully nestled in his arms.