Just sort of a fluffy filler chapter with a scenario that I wanted to put in now since from here on out, things get a little dark.
Fun facts for this chapter: Nancy Glenn was the woman William Hatfield married in real life, and
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms was a hymn that was published in 1887. Also, recent movie reference in this chapter, give a shout if you spot it.

West Virginia, 1887

"By the power vested in me by the state of West Virginia, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

We all cheered whole heartedly as my cousin touched lips to his blushing bride for the first time. Robert E had finally bucked up the courage to court Mariah Wolford last year and the girl had responded in kind. Their engagement was short, the two twenty-one years old eager to know each other as man and wife. Mariah was friendly and eager to integrate as she allowed myself, Nancy, Victoria and even Lavicy help her plan for the big day. It was easy to see that she would make a good Hatfield.

"I present to you for the first time," Preacher Garrett continued, smiling amicably as Rob and Mariah pulled apart beaming, "Mr. and Mrs. Robert E Hatfield."

Another cheer went up as the two newlyweds turned to face the church, hands raised up between then. I clapped enthusiastically, only turning away from my cousin to spare his best man a coy smile. Will looked down right handsome in his black suit with his hair brushed back from his face. I laughed as he shot me a flirtatious wink, linking arms with Mariah's maid of honor, Nancy Glenn, as the wedding party made its way down the aisle. Elliot was not far behind with Margaret Schindler on his arm and from the way the sixteen year old was eyeing his chosen date, I guessed there would be another engagement not far off.

Sparing waves for members of my family that passed, I turned back and gave an exaggerated grin to Rosada who was standing in the pew beside me. She was three now and was starting to show bursts of her own excitable personality. She was a happy, bubbly child and when Lavicy had asked me to watch over her during the ceremony I had been more than obliged to do so.

"Wasn't that fun?" I asked, hoisting her onto my hip as everyone began to vacate their seats and make for the exit. The curly haired youth clapped her chubby hands enthusiastically.

"Robby married," she informed. I nodded sagely, checking to make sure I had not left anything of mine or hers behind as I shuffled into the aisle. Elias, Detroit, and Joseph, who had been considered too young to be groomsmen, followed close behind, chattering animatedly as they had not been able to during the ceremony. As we milled out into the street with everyone else, I continuously recounted them to make sure one did not run off from me.

"Where in the Sam hill is your daddy?" I asked Elias. He turned from his conversation with his brothers to spare me and exasperated eye roll. For a ten year old he appeared to have quite an attitude.

"He's drivin' the cart with Robert E and Mariah back to the house," he said as if I should have known this. Perhaps I should have but I still warned him off the lip before asking after his mother. "She went with 'em."

"Guess I'll take y'all with me then," I grumbled, scanning the crowd for my brother who had not sat with us inside. Through the sea of my uncles, aunts, and other distant kin, I spotted the fair haired young man talking animatedly with my cousins Mary and Elizabeth. I waved all three of them over, feeling myself huff wearily as I did another quick head account. "Hopefully all eight of us can fit into mine and Will's cart, cause I ain't about to leave none of ya here."

"I could stay behind," Mary piped up suddenly, drawing my suspicious eye. She looked flustered at her own outburst but trudged on. "I mean…I could always ride with the Howes."

I turned and squinted across the dusty court yard then, spotting the Howe family not far off. Their eldest, Frank, was currently, hitching up their wagon as his parents tried to work out whether or not they wanted to come to the reception. I lifted an eyebrow as Frank glanced up and spared my young cousin a shy smile. Turning back to her, I was just in time to see the nervous wave she did in return. An amused if not astonished inhale and a shake of my head later, I began ushering all my kin towards my wagon.

"Nope, nope, none a that," I decided, placing Rosada down on the front seat as I began to help the boys climb into the back. "I ain't about to let Uncle Anse or Will have my head cause I let you go traipsin' off with Frank Howe unsupervised." My cousin huffed indignantly and refused my helping hand as she clambered into the back to sulk beside her sister. I shrugged, not caring if she was ornery with me as long as we got a move on soon. Once they were all situated and cozy, I returned to the front of the cart where Cotton-Top had pulled Rosada into his lap and was waiting to go impatiently.

"Hurry up, Abi," he rushed as I moved to untie the horse before climbing into the seat beside him, "We's gonna miss the dancin'!"

"Cotton, a weddin' reception goes all night," I chuckled, keeping focused on the task at hand less I accidently run over Jim Vance or someone, "We ain't gon' miss the dancin'."

"Yours and Cap's weddin' didn't last all night," Detroit pointed out from his seat directly behind me. Leaning my head back, I bumped our scalps together and made him laugh.

"That's cause Will and I didn't have a weddin'," I admitted, glancing over as Rosada squealed happily. Cotton-Top had begun to tickle her belly. "We just let Uncle Wall marry us and called it a day. And how would you remember anyway? You were one at the time."

"I remember," he insisted cryptically and I bumped my head against his again, smiling at his bell like laughter. Soon the children fell into conversation amongst themselves and I spent the rest of the ride to my Uncle Anderson's property listening to their younger musings.

Before too long, we were pulling up outside the children's home and the cart was vibrating with their excitement. The front door and windows to the house were wide open, letting a breeze flow through the crowded room and carry laughter and dish clatter out to our ears. A large tent was set up on the far side of the house, white streamers and unlit lanterns hanging from its ends. I could feel myself starting to get as riled as my cousins.

"Hey there, Angel!"

Turning to look off to my left as I began to steer the cart off the main road, I waved at my Uncle Wall and his wife Jane as they too arrived from the church flanked by other packed carts. Victoria was with her parents for the first time in ages, her copper hair shining in the sunlight as she turned and nodded at me. I could only guess from the somber look on her face that Plyant had been forced into hiding –if not already arrested- due to the reward the McCoys had put on his head. I spared her a sympathetic grimace as I drew my cart to a halt.

"Yay!" Cotton whooped, his cry signaling for my cousins to all rush out of the cart, shouting out their own happy exclamations as I tried to maintain some type of order amongst them. Once I had obtained a promise from each of them to check-in with their mother and handed Rosada off to a still ill-tempered Mary, I felt I could finally breathe.

"I'll never know how my brothers put up with all that noise and then some."

I turned curiously, eyes landing on a stately woman with a head of curly auburn hair and thin framed glassed. With a breathy laugh, I hopped down from my cart seat and into the waiting arms of a woman I had not seen since my Pa's funeral.

"Aunt Martha!" I gushed happily, squeezing her to my breast as she rocked me from side to side, "It's so good to see you!"

"Me?" she chuckled, pulling away and waving a hand at me, "What about you? Every time I see you, you look more and more like your daddy. If your daddy had been more beautiful a course."

I blushed, preening in my aunt's attention as she continued to carry on about my fair hair and high cheek bones. Martha was someone Cotton-Top and I had seen rarely in our childhood, but she was always a welcome visit, bringing gifts and stories from further off states like New York. She had never married and so had no family tying her to any one place. She was an adventurer if I had ever had the sense to name one. Her tirade of compliments only ended when Uncle Wall was finally settled and called her over to receive a hug. The two siblings were soon wrapped in some long unfinished conversation and I decided to make my way through the festivities.

In the Hatfield house, it was one giant family reunion, faces I had not seen since either a funeral or some other unmemorable event crowding every open area. At the counter, Bad Lias and Good Lias were having a playful argument, the fifteen year age gap between them melting away as they laughed before their wives, Jane and Elizabeth. By the front window, my great uncles Basil and Jacob were calling back to their teen years and debating which one of them had out grown the other. Their wives, Nancy and Rebecca, were far off near the dining table fawning over Lavicy who was once again swollen in pregnancy.

I moved from huddle to huddle, greeting familiar faces and sharing information that could not have been passed on through letters. After all this time, some people still did not even know I had married William years back. My uncle Anderson the deacon feigned being hurt over not being asked to reside over the ceremony but kissed my cheek in congratulations all the same. His wife Polly was all a flutter with excitement for me, promising to send a very late wedding gift once they had returned home to Tennessee. Like so many, they had traveled from far off to come witness my cousin's wedding day. As I made to exit the house, nearly getting toppled over by my younger cousin Henry, I wondered briefly if this was how it would have been on my wedding day had William and I decided to stick with tradition.

Outside under the tent was the majority of my more closely associated family along with the wedding party. My uncles Ephraim and Floyd were making a go at picking up a beat and I wagered that soon their staggered tunes would be heard inside and draw out the rest of the guests. Passing by the food tables and stopping to smile and chat with Mariah's family briefly, I made my way to the edge of the tent where a handsome man in a black suit leaned against one of the poles.

"Ya know," I couldn't help but smile as Will started slightly before turning to me, "I think I'm partial to the white dress Mariah wore today," My husband smiled and allowed me to sidle up under his arm as I continued, "Think I would have liked to do that on our wedding day."

"Yes, well, Mariah's family is lucky they are wealthy enough to afford it," he intoned, leaning his head down to touch with mine as he breathed heavily. "Thought you was Nancy Glenn sneakin' up on me."

"She been doin' that a lot today?" I questioned, resting my head against his chest and winding my arms around his middle as he took to staring off into the wood again.

"She's incorrigible," the young Hatfield bemoaned, "It's like she don't even care I'm married."

I shrugged, not particularly threatened by Ms. Glenn since she was a cousin of Mariah's who was only in town for the wedding. "Maybe because you don't have a weddin' band," I murmured thoughtfully, picking up my husband's work hardened hand and examining it closely. He chuckled shortly around me and I felt a kiss fall into my hair which was combed back and plated today.

"Marryin' you on the spur of the moment seemed like a good idea at the time," he joked half-heartedly. I looked up and smiled at him, realizing how my many observations must sound.

It was true, since we had been married quickly with no planning or ceremony, Will and I had not been afforded certain traditions. I had been married in my casual long skirt and a blouse I had been gifted by my daddy. Will was in his work clothes. We had not had a great big reception where all our family was called from every corner of the states to acknowledge us. We had not thought ahead to go out and find a matching set of gold bands to place on our fingers either. We had simply gotten married and lived as man and wife from that day on.

I was moved to comfort Will with the knowledge that I did not need all the pomp and circumstance of having a proper wedding when the clatter from beneath the tent began to die down. We both turned to find the majority of the guests were now outside, crowding around the new couple whom were seated at the table meant for the wedding party. Devil Anse was lightly thrumming a spoon against this table and calling everyone's attention to him.

"Thank you kindly," he began once everyone had quieted down "To all of you for making the trip out here." People that had glasses raised them in acknowledgement. My uncle shuffled his feet then, sparing his third son a furtive glance before chucking lowly. "Ya know," he went on, his ever present pipe not marring his speech on this day, "For all the kids I've had married now…I do not believe I've ever made a weddin' day speech." There was a polite chuckle as a few people gave Will and Nancy teasing glances, painfully ignoring the missing brother. Johnse had not shown today, too angry and distant from his family after they expressed reluctance to have his wife present. Anderson Hatfield ducked his head, coming off shy for all the power and sway he held over the majority of the people present.

"As a parent there is…nothin' in life that makes you happier…than when your children find happiness themselves." Parents throughout the crowd smiled and tucked their children closer, Mariah's mother leaning in to place a kiss in her ebony curls. "I have been lucky enough to have many children and see them experience the joys of life in many different ways." He turned slowly, gracing every face of his immediate family with a knowing look. He paused on me and my husband and we straightened. "I have seen my second oldest, William, fall for, woo, and marry the love of his life, my niece Abigail." I blushed as many smiles turned on us, Robert E raising a wave from his spot beside his bride. I returned the wave, still tucked into Will's side. Their father went on.

"I watched Robert E pine after Mariah for nearly three years before ever workin' up the courage to talk to her." Here the newlyweds laughed and blushed, hugging each other closer as their guests called out playful taunts. The devil laughed at his third son, waiting for the noise to settle before he continued. "I have watched each and every one of my children grow into their own person, none of 'em comin' out just the way I'd expected." Another laugh. "But that's alright, because I'm proud of 'em either way."

I sniffled lowly, not realizing until that moment that my eyes were watering. Will wordlessly pulled a hand kerchief from his breast pocket and allowed me to wipe sheepishly at my face.

My uncle cleared his throat loudly and I dared to imagine that perhaps he needed a bit of cloth to wipe at his eyes too. "That all bein' said," he went on, hands now placed at his hips as he frowned thoughtfully at the ground, "I wish Robert E and Mariah nothin' but the best from here on out. " He turned to face the couple. "And I'm just happy to welcome you into the family, darlin'."

The crowd burst into applause as the teary eyed girl exited her seat to hug her new father-in-law. As Will released me to join in, I found myself unable to as I watched Mariah speak quickly with my uncle before returning to her seat, gold band flashing on her finger. I was beyond happy for her and my cousin, but I could feel a hot ball of jealousy settling in my stomach and I shivered. As the guests all began to move off to the sides and Jim Vance helped Mariah's father bring a small piano down from his cart, I studied this new feeling that had taken over me.

Though I had been ready to assure Will that I was fine with how our union had been authorized and carried out, I could not help but gaze yearningly out at the hoard of people that had flocked here to fawn over my cousin and his new wife. I had never imagined a dream wedding at any point in my life, but there were some things that went without saying when you quietly admitted you wanted to be married someday. Things like a simple wedding ring to ensure every woman far and wide realized your man was taken. Things like a reception filled with your family and closest friends congratulating you and giving you gifts. Things like a speech from your father-in-law welcoming you to the family.

She was getting everything I had never known I wanted.

"Abi?" I jumped, ripped from my sinful musings as Will called my attention to him. By now one of my uncles had taken the seat at the piano and was playing out the chords to a familiar hymn. I blinked up at Will. "Dance with me?"

I tried to remember the last time Will and I had danced, if ever, and decided it would have had to be when we were still in our adolescence since it had certainly not been any time recently. I agreed, forcing a smile as I took his hand and let him lead me out onto the dance floor. Looking back towards the piano and main table, I noticed my Aunt Jenny leaning over one of her brother-in-law's arm to read the hymn. Will brought my arms up around his shoulders and circled his at my hips as Floyd's pretty little wife began to sing.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Will and I were close. So close that my cheek brushed his suit without me having to lean in at all as I gazed around us. We were turning slowly around the designated dancing area and I spotted many other couples in similar poses throughout. Rob and Mariah were having their first dance not far off from Nancy and Charlie Mullins who were speaking quietly in the large space between their faces due to Charlie's tall stature. I noticed one of Mariah's kin trying to interest my Aunt Martha in a dance and I shut my eyes.


Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Jenny's voice was beautiful as I had learned years before, and I hated to speak over it, but I would not deny William anything. Not raising my cheek from his chest nor opening my cyan eyes, I answered him.


O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

"Do you regret not havin' all this?" one of his arms left my hip, I imagine to gesture at everything that surrounded us. "All this celebration and what not over a weddin'?"

I sighed deeply in my chest, half-heartedly cursing God for making Will and I so perfect for each other that he could almost read my thoughts some days. Turning my face up to him, I finally opened my eyes and met his mix-matched ones in a serious gaze.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

"No," I said as honestly as I could, feeling far lighter as I swayed here in my husband's arms. He frowned down at me concernedly and I sighed. "I'm a lil' jealous, yes," I admitted, "But I've never been to a weddin' like this before." It was true. Nancy's wedding to John Vance had been a humble ceremony/reception and that was the only other one I had been to. "If I hadn't seen any a this, it;d never even cross my mind that we needed somethin' silly like…a white dress or a big ole' party afterwards."

The second Hatfield nodded, seeing reason and truth in this as our swaying came to a slow and steady halt. He brought one hand up towards my neck, cupping my jaw line where my whip lashes from Jim Vance had long since faded in the last year. "So ya don't wish wed' done any a this?"

I smiled at him.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

"I wish I'd done everythin' on earth with you," I confided thickly, reaching up my own hand to brush lovingly at his cheek. Lord, but he looked down right handsome. "But I wouldn't change one second of our life together, Cap Hatfield."

My husband smiled, his mustache tilting in that way I loved as he pulled me in for a kiss. All around us, our old and new family members celebrated and danced and laughed and loved and in that moment, it was not hard to pretend it had all been for us.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.