You are not hallucinating. This is not a dream. This is an update! A real, honest to goodness, update!
I know it's been an absurdly long time since I paid attention to this story. The main excuse for my lack of updating is just that I became so wrapped up in my other stories, this one just sort of got shoved to the back burner. But inspiration hit me recently, and then voila! A chapter! So I apologize profusely for the ridiculously long wait (it's been over a year, y'all. Yikes!) and I hope you guys are still with me! Thank you for your patience, and thank you for your support!
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Hatfields & McCoys, only the OC's.
At Evelyn and Will's insistence, Johnse agreed to stay with them for the foreseeable future. Considering their house wasn't big and already a bit on the crowded side, having Johnse living with them was a bit of a challenge at first, but after a few days, he seemed to settle in well enough.
It was obvious that Johnse was still upset about the death of Sarah Elizabeth, but he kept himself distracted from his grief by helping Will and the rest of the men tend to tasks around their little settlement in the woods. The person he helped out the most, though, was actually Evelyn. Johnse did anything and everything he could to assist her in any way she needed him to, whether it be something as simple as retrieving a pot that was too high up for her to reach or something more complicated, like fixing a hole in the roof that suddenly became known to them when it rained his third day living with them. He was always there, jumping up to take care of anything she asked, even when she wasn't specifically asking him to do it. By the looks of things, he seemed determined to wait on her hand and foot.
It was endearing, Johnse's willingness to help, though the lengths he was going to in order to make himself useful weren't quite necessary if one were to ask Evelyn. She wasn't sure if Johnse was trying to work his way back into her good graces after being so cold and distance these past five months, or if he was simply trying to keep himself preoccupied so he didn't have to dwell on the sorrow she could still see floating in his eyes, but she supposed she shouldn't complain about his contributions to their everyday living. He was being exceedingly kind to her, which was a nice change, and he had kept his whiskey drinking to a minimum after drinking himself stupid on her kitchen floor, which was encouraging. All things considered, she was happy about the change she had seen in her brother-in-law, and hoped it was a change that would stick permanently.
It was mid afternoon on what Evelyn thought might have been a Saturday, though she couldn't be sure if that was right, seeing as it was getting harder to keep track of the days the longer they were removed from the rest of civilization. She was in one of the other cabins sitting in front of Marlene Hatfield, who was married to Leroy Hatfield, a second cousin to Will. The girl was a few years younger than Evelyn and nearly six months pregnant with her first child. Evelyn wiped the sweat from her forehead, ignoring the summertime heat invading the cabin, then focused her attention on Marlene's rounded belly, pressing gently with her fingertips as she felt around the baby currently growing within the woman's womb. She would admit that she had little experience with pregnancies, seeing as Dr. Tiller had always handled those patients, but she felt confident enough to at least perform simple checkups whenever her former employer couldn't come around to do it himself.
"Everythin' seems normal," Evelyn finally deduced, removing her hands from the woman's belly. "Any pain? Any unusual goin's on I should know about?"
Marlene shook her head, then smiled ruefully. "Not unless ya wanna worry yerself over my swollen ankles or the stool that don't seem 'ta wanna come outta me these days," she joked lightly.
Evelyn smiled. "I ain't no expert on things of this nature, but those sound like fairly normal occurrences fer women as far along as you," she reassured. "Drink some coffee if yer havin' trouble goin'," she suggested. "That usually seems 'ta get things movin' the way they should. An' put yer feet up when ya get a moment 'ta rest. It'll help with the swellin'."
Marlene nodded in understanding, but said nothing in response.
A silence passed between them after that, where Evelyn watched as Marlene let out a small sigh and looked out the window, her hand rubbing over her rounded belly and her lips pulling into a frown so small, it could have easily been missed if Evelyn hadn't been paying close attention. Evelyn's brows furrowed with concern and she reached out to place a hand over Marlene's, drawing the woman's attention back to her.
"Everything alright?" she asked gently. "Is there somethin' on your mind?"
Marlene stared at her for a moment, then sighed heavily. "I just…it's foolish," she said, shaking her head and looking reluctant to confess to whatever was on her mind.
Evelyn squeezed the woman's hand. "Must not be, if it's botherin' ya like this," she pointed out knowingly. "What's wrong, Marlene? You can confide in me," Evelyn assured her with a nod.
An unmistakable look of fright began to creep into Marlene's eyes. "I'm worried…about childbirth," she admitted quietly, which made Evelyn's eyebrows raise. "I overhead some'a the other women talkin' about when they gave birth, an' it…well…it sounded awful," she said with a cringe. "I know the risks that come with bringin' a child into this world. Not just fer the baby, but…fer me, too. Women die in childbirth all the time, Evelyn," she said.
Evelyn pressed her lips together in response to that. Marlene certainly wasn't wrong. There were a lot of risks that came with childbirth, and there were women who sometimes did not live to hold and nurse and raise the babies they brought into the world. But just because it was risky, that didn't automatically mean Marlene was going to have a difficult delivery, nor that it would claim her life. This was Marlene's first child, however, which meant that this was all new and unfamiliar and, quite frankly, scary. Evelyn could completely understand why she was worried.
"I won't lie 'ta you, Marlene," Evelyn said in a gentle voice, "givin' birth is frightenin' an' painful, an' yes, sometimes it can be difficult." Marlene frowned deeper, which prompted Evelyn to squeeze her hand again. "But just 'cause things've gone wrong fer others in the past, that don't mean it's gonna go wrong fer you. You ain't alone in this," she said with a firm nod. "I'm'a be right there with ya when this baby comes, an' so will Dr. Tiller. We ain't gonna let anythin' happen 'ta you or 'ta the baby. We'll take good care'a you, I swear it."
The words seemed to be enough to bring Marlene comfort. Her shoulders relaxed and the fright that had been in her eyes diminished, replaced by gratitude as she turned her hand under Evelyn's and squeezed her fingers. "Thank you, Evelyn," she said sincerely. "It does bring me comfort, knowin' you'll be there," she admitted.
Evelyn skilled. "I'll always be around if ya need me. I'm just a few doors over," she reminded her. "Anytime ya need anything, don't hesitate 'ta come knockin'."
"I won't," Marlene promised.
"Good," Evelyn said, satisfied.
She ended up staying with Marlene a little while longer so she could put together a quick lunch for them and allow the woman some time to rest her swollen ankles. They chatted easily while they ate together, talking about whatever came to mind, until Evelyn finally remembered that there was still a pile of laundry to be folded back home and decided she had put off her own chores for long enough. Evelyn cleaned up their dishes from lunch then bid goodbye to Marlene, but not before insisting that she try not to worry too much, as stress wouldn't be good for the baby.
It was ungodly hot as she stepped out of Marlene and Leroy's cabin and made her way through the settlement, heading in the direction of her own house, smiling at and greeting anyone she crossed paths with along the way. Sighing to herself and feeling disgusted with the sweat that she could feel seeping into the fabric of her clothes, she trudged along, promising herself a nice bath later on.
The house was empty when she stepped inside, which was a rare occurrence these days. Usually there was someone running around, whether it be one of the other occupants of the house or the younger kids using their cabin for adventures and playtime. But Will had gone with Johnse, Cotton Top, and Lias to take care of some business outside the settlement, which meant he would likely be away for the rest of the day, and both Robert E. and Elliot had gone out hunting with Devil Anse and Jim Vance that morning. As strange as it was to be in a quiet home, and as much as she hated that Will had gone out, Evelyn actually relished in the peace and quiet that she was greeted with.
Evelyn went to her and Will's bedroom, where she had left the basket of laundry that needed to be folded, then got to work. Humming a song to herself, she folded the clothes belonging to all the people living under her roof, stacking them in neat piles and separating them according to whom they belonged to. When she had finished sorting them out, she took the piles belonging to the boys and carried them to their bedroom, where she stowed them away in the dresser they shared. Evelyn went back to her own bedroom and did the same for her and Will's clothing, tucking them away tidily in the dresser.
She grabbed the laundry basket from the bed and set it off to the side, next to the small desk that sat against the wall, just under the window. Evelyn started to turn away and leave the bedroom, but paused as she looked down at the desk, her teeth gnawing at her bottom lip. Glancing toward the living area to double check nobody was there – even though she hadn't heard anyone enter the home – she opened the bottom drawer and rifled through some papers, until she found the letter that she had written earlier that week. Brows furrowed with concentration, her eyes quickly scanned her own neat, cursive handwriting.
It has been a long time since last we spoke to one another. I admit that even now, a year later, it still feels strange to have grown so distant from someone I spent every day with for nearly ten years. I hope, however, that you will not discard this letter the moment you recognize my handwriting and that you can find it in your heart to read what it is I have to say to you.
I received the most terrible news yesterday. I learned that Sarah Elizabeth, your sweet baby girl, has perished. Upon hearing the tragic news, I felt as though my heart had broken into a dozen pieces. She was so young, and so beautiful, and it is unforgivably cruel of this world to have taken her from you so soon. But I can only imagine that the pain I have felt pales in comparison to what you must be feeling, Roseanna. There are simply no words I could write or say to express how deeply sorry I am for the loss you have suffered. I could say sorry from now until the end of time, and it would never feel like enough. But I will say it now anyway – I am so sorry, my dear friend.
Much has changed since last we spoke, and things are more dangerous than ever. But, regardless, I have a request to make of you. Meet with me. Please. I cannot stand the thought of you alone, consumed by grief and with hardly anyone to lean on for comfort. I understand whole heartedly if you do not wish to see me, seeing as I am now a Hatfield and have earned myself the title of traitor to all those bound to the McCoy family. If you do not want to see me, I would not hold it against you. But I hope with all of my heart that you will agree. For all that has changed, there is one thing that remains steadfast – you are still my best friend, and I still love you as if you were my sister. I want only to see you and hug you and be there to help you endure this hardship in person, not just through words on a piece of paper. If you agree to meet, I will let you pick a safe place of your choosing and will happily meet you there. No one else knows of this plan – only Will and I would come to meet with you. If you do not agree to meet, then I hope the words I have written will, if nothing else, remind you that despite all that has happened and regardless of the time that has passed, I still care for you, and that I will always be here if you need me.
All my love,
Evelyn sighed as she finished reading the letter, then set it gently down on the desk.
It had been emotional, putting the words in her head down onto paper. She had even been forced to start over and rewrite the letter when the original paper had been ruined and smudged by the tears that had escaped her eyes when she had first written it. This copy had been sitting in the bottom of the drawer ever since, unknown to everyone else, including Will.
The only reason she had not yet attempted to send it was because Will had still not told her whether or not he was going to let her meet with Roseanna, which was frustrating considering she had first proposed the idea an entire week ago. They had not even discussed it, which was due partly to the fact that Evelyn didn't want to nag at him about it, but also in large part to the fact that Will had been extra preoccupied doing the biddings of his father. He had been busier than normal dealing with things outside the settlement, and had not been home much – almost every day that week he had left in the morning and would not return until suppertime, looking so exhausted that it was a miracle he hadn't fallen asleep with his face in his dinner plate yet.
He had been so busy, in fact, that Evelyn couldn't help but wonder if he was purposefully keeping away just so he wouldn't have to talk about her idea to see Roseanna. She knew he didn't like the thought of her going to see the McCoy, which she understood completely, but it was frustrating that so much time had gone by without anything else being said on the matter. The longer she waited, the longer Roseanna had to grieve on her own, which was simply not something Evelyn was alright with. She wanted an answer, and if Will thought making her wait would make her give up or make her forget, well…he had another thing coming to him.
Evelyn thought about it a moment longer, then quickly decided that enough was enough. When Will came home that night, she was going to get an answer from him, and that was that.
Will walked through the door just before sundown, looking windblown and tired. Johnse was right on his heels, looking equally as haggard as his younger brother. Both men stopped to shed their hats and jackets, hanging them on the rack by the door, before propping their guns up against the wall and leaving them there until they would be needed again.
Evelyn, who was standing in front of the stove and finishing cooking dinner, smiled as her husband walked over to where she stood. He smelled strongly of horse and sweat, but she didn't mind it much as he ran a hand along her spine and kissed her temple.
"Evenin', darlin'," he greeted, his voice weary.
Evelyn turned her smile up to him. "Evenin', husband," she said back. "Hello, Johnse," she said to her brother-in-law next when he went to the water pitcher to pour himself a glass.
"Hey, Evie," he said, flashing a smile.
"Long day?" she asked, looking to Will again.
He nodded. "Busy. Long. Exhaustin'," Will answered with a heave, his hand remaining on her back. "Glad 'ta be home," he said next, managing a smile.
"I'm glad yer home, too," Evelyn agreed. She happily accepted the kiss Will planted on her lips in the next moment, before nodding her head toward the door. "Why don't ya get yerself cleaned up?" she suggested. "Dinner's just about ready."
Will nodded, then caught his brother's attention. "C'mon, Johnse. Let's wash up."
Johnse made a move to follow Will, but they both paused when Evelyn turned and stopped Johnse with a gentle hand on his arm. "You go on," she said to Will. "I need 'ta speak with Johnse right quick."
Will frowned and shared a confused look with Johnse, who shrugged cluelessly. Finally, Will turned and headed outside, but not without shooting one last odd look in their direction. Once he was gone and had shut the door behind him, Evelyn turned her eyes up to Johnse, who was peering down at her uncertainly.
"Everythin' alright?" he asked.
Evelyn smiled reassuringly and nodded. "Just fine," she said. "I just wanted 'ta thank you fer all you've been doin' 'ta help out around here this past week," she told him, squeezing his shoulder. "An' I wanted 'ta say that I'm glad you an' I have gone back 'ta how we used 'ta be."
Johnse smiled, looking pleased with her praise. "Yer welcome, Evie," he said. "An' I'm glad things are back 'ta normal, too. Yer a good friend. I was bein' a fool, givin' ya the cold shoulder all those months. I shouldn't have done it."
"All is forgiven," Evelyn reassured.
Johnse made another move to leave, but, again, Evelyn stopped him. "There's one more thing," she said when he turned back to her with curious eyes. "Will's been workin' awful hard this week, an' we ain't had much time together," she told him. "I hate 'ta ask this, but…it'd be real nice if Will an' I could have a night to ourselves. The other boys already found other places 'ta stay tonight. Would ya mind terribly findin' other accommodations for the night as well?"
Johnse raised his brows, then smirked a bit. "Yeah. Of course," he agreed. "You an' Cap done a lot fer me this week. The least I can do is give ya some time to yerselves tonight."
Evelyn sighed with gratitude. "Thank you."
Johnse patted her on the shoulder and nodded, then finally headed for the door. "I'll be on my way, then," he said. He opened the door, then shot her a saucy wink, looking more like the real Johnse Hatfield than she had seen all week. "Have a nice night."
Evelyn resisted the urge to blush, then turned back to the store to finish cooking dinner as Johnse left. Barely two minutes later, the door opened again, and as Will returned, he raised his brows at her questioningly.
"Ya kicked everyone out fer the night?" he asked. Clearly he had heard the news from Johnse already.
Evelyn nodded in confirmation. She had gotten rid of the other occupants so that she could have some alone time with Will after not seeing him much that week, yes…but, admittedly, she had some ulterior motives. Her plan for this evening was to make Will feel as happy and relaxed as possible before bringing up the subject of visiting Roseanna, in the hope that he might be more obliging if he was in a good mood. Getting rid of the other Hatfield's had seemed like the most logical thing to do, that way there would be no one around to interrupt her as she pampered Will, nor would anyone be around in case an argument arose between them.
"You an' I ain't had this house 'ta ourselves since we moved in," she said, flashing him a smile over her shoulder as he came to stand behind her. "Thought it'd be nice 'ta have a little quiet time 'ta enjoy bein' husband an' wife without anyone else around."
Will smiled and wrapped his arms around her, dipping his head so he could press a leisurely kiss to the side of her neck. "Well, I sure ain't gonna complain 'bout that," he grumbled in her ear.
Evelyn felt heat immediately shoot through her in response to his proximity and his touch. She had always desired Will, even before they had begun making love. But that desire had grown even more now that they were free to be intimate with one another whenever they so pleased – it seemed nowadays that all it took was one look or one touch from him and she'd turn into a lustful mess.
Will pressed a few more kisses to her neck, his hands sliding down to rest on her hips. Evelyn sighed, feeling momentarily distracted by the attention her husband was bestowing upon her, until she forced herself to focus again. As much as she enjoyed his affections and as much as she would have loved to see what their newfound privacy might lead to, she reminded herself that she had been working hard on their dinner for over an hour now, and that she wasn't about to let that dinner get ruined because they decided to hop into bed instead.
"Could ya set the table, husband?" she asked to give him something to do and keep things from progressing any further.
If Will was disappointed that she was appointing him a task rather than falling victim to his charms, he didn't show it. "Sure thing," he said, placing a sweet, innocent kiss on her cheek before releasing his hold on her and moving to do as she had asked.
She instantly felt a little cold when he left her at the stove to go and collect the plates and utensils, but pushed away the brief disappointment that had washed through her and focused on the food she was cooking. While Will set out two plates and the eating utensils they would need, Evelyn finished up the last touches on dinner before finally taking all the pans off the stove. She encouraged Will to sit down at the table – which looked strangely empty without the rest of their housemates present – then began to fill their plates. Once she was done giving them both hefty helpings of food, she joined Will at the table, sitting across from him.
"This looks an' smells incredible, darlin'," Will complimented as he eyed the food appreciatively. "Thank you fer workin' so hard on it," he added, reaching across the table to grab her hand and squeeze it.
Evelyn smiled broadly and squeezed his hand back. "Yer welcome, honey."
They finally dug into their food, and the atmosphere that surrounded them as they ate was a comfortable one. They talked all through dinner, making sure not to let their conversation veer anywhere near a subject that might put a damper on their evening, like bounty hunters or the business that had been keeping Will away. The instead stuck to more light-hearted conversation – they talked about things that had been going on around the settlement and the mischief the younger kids had gotten up to, then laughed as the rehashed shared memories of their own mischievous days as children. Evelyn could tell that Will had already begun to relax significantly just being able to sit and talk and laugh with her. For once, he seemed to have forgotten all the outside troubles that had plagued them for the past few years and was focused only on her, on this quiet, peaceful evening together.
When dinner was finished, Evelyn told Will to go and sit by the fire and kick his feet up for a bit while she drew him a nice hot bath to soak in. He tried to help her out, but all Evelyn allowed him to do was move the tub into the living room before she ordered him to go and relax. Will finally did as he was told and took a seat by the fire, propping his feet up and lighting a cigar as he made himself comfortable.
It took some time, but eventually the tub was full of warm water and ready to be used. After Evelyn had collected some soap and a hand towel for him to wash up with, she went over to the chair that Will had been sitting in, unsurprised when she found that he had drifted off to sleep in the time it had taken her to get the bath ready. Evelyn placed a hand on his shoulder and gently shook him awake, making his eyes pop open.
"The bath's ready, husband," she said with a smile.
Will nodded and yawned widely, raising his long arms above his head to stretch. "Sorry fer dozin' off," he apologized with a sheepish smile.
"No need fer apology," Evelyn said with a shake of her head. "I know ya been workin' yerself extra hard this week. I don't blame ya fer bein' tired."
Will stood from the chair and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. "Have I told ya I loved ya today?" he asked, tilting his head curiously.
Evelyn smiled and shrugged, her hands resting comfortably on his shoulders. "Only once or twice."
Will leaned down to brush his lips over hers. "I love ya, Evie," he said against her lips.
Evelyn sighed, raising her hands to toy with his hair. "I love ya, too, Will."
Will kissed her again, his lips soft and unhurried against hers. After a moment he began to kiss her a bit firmer, tilting his head so that he could deepen their kiss. Evelyn couldn't stop the small sound of approval that welled up in her throat and pressed closer to him, one hand raking through his blonde hair, the other trailing along his warm back. When she felt his fingers beginning to work at the buttons of her dress, she pulled her lips away from his to raise her brows at him.
"What're you doin'?" she asked with a small smile.
Will smirked, his fingers still expertly undoing the buttons keeping her dress on properly. "What's it look like?" he shot back, his one good eye darker than normal.
"It looks like yer undressin' me," Evelyn pointed out obviously, her heart thumping harder in her chest with each passing moment.
"Well, ya can't very well take a bath with all yer clothes on, now can ya?" Will asked.
Evelyn cocked an eyebrow. "The bath is meant fer you, Will, not me," she said, despite the fact she had been yearning for a hot bath all day.
"There's room fer two in there," he countered without missing a beat. When she started to say something else, he quieted her with another kiss. "Take a bath with me, Evie," he said in a low voice that made a pleasant shiver shoot down her spine.
That was all the convincing she needed. Evelyn nodded, then began to untuck Will's shirt from his pants as he captured her lips in another kiss. They slowly made their way to the bath, kissing and caressing each other the whole way, only pulling away from one another so that they could remove clothes and drop them onto the floor. By the time they made it to the bath, Will had shed all of his clothes while Evelyn remained only in her shift. She encouraged Will to get into the bath first, eyeing his bare body unabashedly as he climbed into the tub and slowly eased into the warm water. Once he was settled, he gave her an expectant look.
Evelyn took down her hair and shook it out, then pulled off her shift, no longer embarrassed to do so in front of him, feeling heat bloom in belly when she saw the hunger that entered his gaze as he stared at her. She finally stepped into the tub and took Will's hand when he extended it to her, allowing him to guide her as she sunk into the water. Will immediately pulled her close, his lips finding hers again as their naked bodies pressed close to one another. Evelyn kept the kiss short, however, and pulled away to grab the soap so they could begin washing up.
She helped him wash up, lathering his skin and hair with the soap and cleaning away the dirt and grime from the day. Will was content to let her work, his eyes locked on her the entire time, his hands sneaking in caresses here or there. Evelyn's desire was growing more and more by the second, and it was more than obvious that his was, as well. Regardless, when she finished washing him he took the soap from her to return the favor, his hands gentle and his eyes full of reverence as he watched his own hands glide along her skin. When it came time to wash her back, he gently guided her to turn around and began running the soap along her spine. After a few moments, he pushed her now damp hair to the side and began pressing kisses against the back of her neck, his lips moving along her skin until they were at her shoulder. It wasn't much longer before he abandoned the soap entirely, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close, so that her back was flush with his chest.
"Yer the most beautiful thing I ever saw, Evelyn," he murmured huskily, his lips still tasting her skin, his hands roaming her body freely. "There ain't no words 'ta properly say just how much I love you."
Evelyn turned in his arms, certain that the desire she saw on his face mirrored the desire on her own. She pressed as close as she could, winding her arms around his neck and locking her lips on his. Will moaned, his hands quickly finding purchase on her hips. "Well then, husband," she said against his lips, her lips pulling into a lazy smile. "If there ain't no words, maybe ya can show me instead."
Will's answer was to growl low in throat, wrap a hand into her hair, and pull her back in for a hungry kiss.
They made love right there in the tub, becoming lost in one another as they kissed and touched and moved together with a feverish passion. The outside world ceased to exist, and the only thing that mattered was them and the wonderful, exquisite pleasure they enjoyed together. When they had both reached satisfaction, they made no moves to leave the tub, but rather relaxed in the slowly cooling water, sitting cuddled together as Evelyn leaned back against him while Will wound his long, protective arms around her.
"We made a mess," Evelyn said with a giggle, noticing the fact that the water around them was lower after their enthusiastic love making – a significant amount of it had spilled over the side and now covered the floor around them.
Will chuckled behind her, his lips ghosting over her shoulder. "We'll clean it up later," he said. "Right now, I don't wanna move an inch."
Evelyn nodded in agreement and settled further against him, letting her fingers lazily trail along the skin of Will's arms. It was quiet in the house now, save for the sound of Will breathing behind her and the occasional crackle from the fireplace.
"We should do this more often," she commented, thinking about how nice it was to be able to lounge around with Will without anyone else around to intrude on the moment.
"Well, the night's still young," Will said, and though she couldn't see his face, she could hear the smirk in his voice. "Just gimme a little bit'a time, an' I'll be ready fer another round of lovin'."
Evelyn laughed and swatted his arm playfully. "That's wasn't what I was talkin' about," she chastised good-naturedly. "I meant we should have more nights like this. Just the two'a us," she corrected. "I adore Cotton an' yer brothers, but it's nice 'ta have some quiet time fer just us."
"That it is," Will agreed. "Though ya might as well get used 'ta havin' extra people under the same roof as us," he added warningly. "Once we got our own munchkins runnin' around here, we ain't gonna have quiet time fer a long, long time."
Evelyn smiled softly at his words, then gave him a look over her shoulder. "Gotta get pregnant 'ta have children," she said, trying not to think about the worries concerning her own fertility that always lingered in the back of her mind.
"You'll get pregnant," Will said with a firm nod, his tone full of confidence. "You will."
Evelyn started to say 'I hope so', but thought it might sound too pessimistic. Instead, she decided to change the subject. "Speakin' of pregnancies, I did a check up on Marlene today while you were out," she said, settling further into his embrace again. The water was starting to get a little cold for her taste, which meant Will was now the best source of warmth. "Leroy asked me 'ta look over her since Dr. Tiller ain't been able 'ta come out in a while."
"She alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, she's fine," Evelyn said with a nod. "She's just a little worried about the birth, an' I don't blame her fer that. Deliveries are hard. Things can go badly at the drop of a hat," Evelyn explained. She paused for a moment, suddenly seeing the perfect opportunity to steer their conversation toward the subject she had been working up toward all evening. "I remember how hard it was fer Roseanna," she said softly, seizing the opportunity. "It took her a long while 'ta recover after Sarah Elizabeth was born."
Will didn't say anything to that, but she could feel that his body had gone the slightest bit tense at the mention of the McCoy. Evelyn gave it a moment, then turned in Will's arms so she could see his face. His expression was neutral, but there was a wary gleam in his good eye as he peered back at her.
"An' while were on the topic of Roseanna," Evelyn said gently, "it hasn't escaped my notice that ya still ain't given me an answer 'bout what I proposed 'ta ya a week ago." She raised her brows at him. "Have ya given me seein' her any thought?"
Will blinked at her, then sighed heavily. "Yeah, I've been thinkin' about it," he reluctantly admitted, his lips turning downward into a grim frown.
When he didn't say anything more, Evelyn motioned for him to continue. "And?" she urged.
Will heaved again and let his head fall backward against the edge of the tub, his eyes closing. "Darlin'…I just don't know," he said, sounding conflicted. He opened his eyes again and lifted his head to meet her gaze. "I know it's what ya want, an' I know you'll be disappointed if I say no. An' Lord knows the last thing I wanna do is disappoint ya." He took a moment to heave. "But I'm yer husband, an' my job is 'ta protect ya an' make sure no harm comes to ya. The thought of takin' ya somewheres those bounty hunters can get ya…I can't lie, Evie. Everything inside me is screamin' that it's a bad idea," he confessed.
Evelyn frowned at that.
"Then there's my Pa 'ta think about," Will continued. "He'd lose 'is head if he knew we left 'ta go meet with a McCoy. Hell, the whole family would be in an uproar if they knew. An' if ya think my Pa is frightenin' when he's angry, ya don't even wanna see what my Momma is like," he warned with a shake of his head.
Evelyn sighed, turning her eyes elsewhere for a moment. It was hard to argue with Will's reasons for not wanting her to go see Roseanna – everyone knew that safety was no longer a guarantee once they left the hills, and if the elder Hatfield's learned what she was trying to do behind their backs, there would be serious repercussions for it. Evelyn had not been outright told that she was no longer allowed to interact her McCoy friends, but she was not naïve. She had known the moment she joined the Hatfield's that her days of associating with the McCoy's – including the friendly ones – were over.
But still…just because she understood why she shouldn't go, that didn't change the fact that she still very much wanted to see Roseanna. If she didn't reach out to her, if she didn't let Roseanna know that she still cared and was still there for her, Evelyn knew it would haunt her for the rest of her days.
A gentle touch on her cheek made her look back to Will. He stared at her in silence for a moment, his expression contemplative as he trailed gentle fingers along her cheek. Finally, he sighed in what sounded a lot like resignation. "This is really important 'ta you, ain't it?" he asked.
Evelyn felt hope flare in her chest. "Yes," she said, nodding vehemently. "If it were anythin' else, I'd leave it alone. But one'a my best friends just lost her child. I can't just sit here an' do nothin'. It just feels…wrong."
Evelyn moved closer, placing her hands on either side of Will's neck as she stared at him with pleading eyes. "I don't even know if Roseanna will agree 'ta meet me. But I have 'ta at least try, Will. Please. Let me do this," she all but begged.
Will pressed his lips into a grim line, his good eye regarding her with an emotion she couldn't quite place. Finally, after several long moments, he heaved and shook his head in defeat. "Alright," he agreed with a great deal of reluctance. "Send word 'ta Roseanna."
Evelyn grinned broadly, then planted a long, happy kiss on his lips. "Thank you, Will," she said earnestly. "I mean it – thank you."
"Don't get too excitable yet," Will warned, giving her a look. "We'll see what Roseanna says. If she agrees 'ta meet an' comes up with a place I think will be safe, we'll go see her. But if I think fer even a second she's gonna try 'ta pull somethin' or if I get any sorta bad feelin's, we ain't goin', ya hear me?" he said sternly.
Evelyn's grin didn't falter, despite his warnings. "I understand," she said with a quick nod.
"An' fer the love of God, don't tell no one else about this," Will added. "Not unless ya want my Pa 'ta string ya up by yer ankles."
"Not a word," Evelyn promised.
"Mhmm," he hummed in his throat, giving her a look. "Write Roseanna a letter. I'll see that it gets 'ta Dr. Tiller, then ask him 'ta deliver it," he told her.
Evelyn grinned. "Already wrote one," she revealed.
Will snorted. "Why am I not surprised?" he asked with a tinge of sarcasm. He shook his head to himself, then cocked an eyebrow at her. "Am I right in thinkin' that you gettin' me to agree 'ta let ya see Roseanna was the real reason ya buttered me up tonight?"
Evelyn blushed a little at having been caught, then shrugged. "Not completely," she defended. When Will made a sound of disbelief, Evelyn smiled and wound her arms around his neck, molding her body to his. Will's accusatory expression faded quickly, turning into something completely different as she pressed against him. "Ya gotta admit, gettin' fed, bathed, an' made love to is a lot better than bein' nagged at, ain't it?" she asked, her fingers toying with his hair.
Will huffed and shook his head, though that didn't stop his hands from sliding onto her hips again. "Not sure if I should say yes or not," he told her. "Feel like that'll only encourage ya 'ta keep manipulatin' me in the future."
"Manipulatin'?" Evelyn repeated with a small frown. "That's a bit of a harsh word, don't ya think?"
"What would you call it, then?" Will tossed back.
Evelyn thought on the question for a moment, then smiled sweetly. "Bein' persuasive."
Will huffed. "Sure," he grunted with a slight roll of his eyes.
Evelyn smiled and leaned forward to give him a sweet kiss. "Thank you, Will. Truly," she said. "I know ya ain't all that happy with me seeing her, but it means a lot that yer willin' to let me try."
Will grumbled under his breath for a second, then gave her a pointed look. "I just hope this don't become somethin' I'm gonna regret," he said.
"It won't," Evelyn said with confidence.
Will didn't look nearly as convinced, but didn't say anything else on the matter.
Evelyn half expected Will to have changed his mind by the time they woke the next morning, but, to her relief, he did no such thing. He still didn't seem overly thrilled about the agreement they had come to the night before, but he did not try to go back on his decision. When she presented him with the letter she had written for Roseanna, he merely took it from her without reading it – she said that he could if he wanted, but he declined, reminding her that it was meant for Roseanna's eyes – and went to tuck it away in his traveling coat for safekeeping.
There were no trips out of the hills for the men that day, nor the day after, which meant there was no opportunity for Will to go and visit Dr. Tiller. Evelyn, who had been hoping he would run off to deliver her letter for Roseanna straight away, could honestly say it was the first time she had been disappointed that her husband had actually stayed home rather than heading out with his kin, which did make her feel somewhat guilty. She should have been happy that Will was home, safe and sound and far out of the clutches of any bounty hunters. Instead, she found herself struggling not to sulk over the fact that she had to wait even longer for her letter to reach its destination.
On the third day, however, her sulking came to an abrupt end when an expected, but very welcome, visitor cane to visit. Around noon, a sweaty and slightly cranky Dr. Tiller showed up to check in on Marlene, and as happy as she was to see her friend and mentor, she was even happier about the fact that they'd be able to give him the letter intended for Roseanna. After he'd done a thorough check of Marlene, updated the men about the goings on in Mate Creek, and had himself a decent lunch, he began to pack up his things to make the long journey back home. Evelyn and Will seized the opportunity to pull him aside and inform him of their intentions to try to arrange a meeting with the eldest McCoy daughter. Needless to say, the man did not take the revelation of their risky plans very well.
"Pardon my language, but are the both of you outta yer damn minds?" he demanded, his lips turned down into a deep frown of disapproval. "Do you have any inkling as 'ta how dangerous that would be?"
"Trust me, Will has been more than happy 'ta remind me of the dangers that come with a meetin' such as this," Evelyn said, huffing and shooting a look at her husband, who had reminded her at least a dozen times in the past few days how risky it would be to see Roseanna.
"If yer expectin' an apology, you ain't gonna get one," Will rebutted, looking thoroughly unremorseful for his recent proclivity to nagging her. "I'm just makin' sure ya know exactly what yer gettin' yerself into."
"I'm aware, thank you," Evelyn replied, forcing herself to keep her tone neutral.
Dr. Tiller heaved, which had them shifting their attention back to him. "I am genuinely surprised yer even entertainin' this idea, Cap," he said, giving Will a critical look. "The price on her head is nearly as big as the one on yer own. If those bounty hunters catch you, they will not hesitate 'ta throw ya both into the Pikeville jail…or worse."
"We know what the risk is, Dr. Tiller," Will said, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'll tell ya true right now – I ain't thrilled about the idea of Evie goin' out there either. But nothin' is set in stone yet, neither. Right now, all we're doin' is reachin' out 'ta her an' openin' up the line of communication. If Roseanna agrees 'ta meet an' I think it's safe, we'll go. Otherwise, we're stayin' right here."
Dr. Tiller gave Will a long look, then turned his gaze briefly toward Devil Anse, who was chatting with Jim Vance on the porch of his small cabin. "I take it yer Pap don't know anything about this?"
Will shared a sideways look with Evelyn, before shaking his head. "Not exactly," he said, which was an understatement. Devil Anse had absolutely no idea what they were planning, otherwise he likely would have beaten them both half to death by now. "An' if you could keep this letter a secret between us, it would be much appreciated," he added with a meaningful look.
Dr. Tiller blinked at him, then heaved and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "I do not like lyin' to Devil Anse," he said. "I cringe 'ta think what he would do if he knew of this."
"It ain't lyin' exactly," Evelyn spoke up. "We just…ain't tellin' him."
"I doubt he would see the difference," Dr. Tiller grumbled in response.
Evelyn shared another look with Will, before turning a hopeful stare on Dr. Tiller. "I'm sorry that we had 'ta put this burden on you, but yer the only one we can trust 'ta see the letter delivered," she said earnestly. "It's important, Dr. Tiller. Will ya help us? Please?"
Dr. Tiller held her gaze for a few long, silent seconds. Finally his expression turned to one of resignation, and after releasing a long sigh, he nodded in agreement. "Yes. I will help you." Evelyn grinned widely, but before she could say anything more, he pointed a stern finger at the both of them. "But for the record, I do not approve of this endeavor. I think it is reckless an' irresponsible of you both, an' quite frankly, it has me questionin' how much sense ya have in yer heads."
"Trust me, you ain't the only one who feels that way," Will admitted, looking as if he was questioning his own sanity.
Evelyn ignored her husband's comment and stepped forward to wrap her arms around the older doctor in a tight hug. "Thank you," she said, kissing his cheek for good measure. "It means a lot, you helpin' us."
Dr. Tiller patted her back, then cleared his throat and straightened out his jacket when she released him. "Yes, well…if ya die or get thrown in jail, don't say I didn't warn you," he huffed out, still looking displeased.
"That won't happen," Will said with confidence. "I'll make sure of it."
"Ya better," Dr. Tiller countered, his tone holding some sort of threat that he didn't voice aloud. "Give me the letter then," he said, extending his hand to them. "Before I change my mind."
Will glanced around to make sure nobody was watching them, before he took the letter Evelyn had written from the inside of his shirt and passed it over. Dr. Tiller took it, shook his head, and shoved it into the inside pocket of his jacket.
"I will deliver this 'ta Roseanna at my earliest convenience," he promised. "Until then, try not 'ta do anything stupid, will ya?"
"We'll do our best," Evelyn said, trying not to smile in amusement at the exasperated look on the older man's face.
With that being said, Dr. Tiller hugged Evelyn tightly, shook Will's hand and gave him a look that said to be careful, then climbed atop his horse and left. Will wrapped an arm around her shoulders and tucked her into his side as they stood there watching Dr. Tiller shrink into the distance. Eventually he heaved, his mustache twitching as he pursed his lips.
"It's done now," he said, sounding as though he were talking more to himself than to her. He watched as Dr. Tiller rounded the bend and disappeared from sight, before casting a look down at her. "Think he'll tell anyone about the letter?"
"An' risk Devil Anse findin' out he helped us behind his back?" she asked with no small amount of doubt. "No. He won't tell anyone."
Will seemed to accept her answer. He nodded, glanced one last time in the direction Dr. Tiller had gone, then patted her shoulder. "We should get back 'ta the house, 'fore someone sees us standin' here an' starts 'ta think somethin's goin' on."
Evelyn nodded, then let Will lead her back to their house. In a way, she felt better now that the letter would soon be on its way to Roseanna – at least, if nothing else, Roseanna would know that she was thinking about her. Yet at the same time, the part of her that had no idea how Roseanna would react to her letter began to feel even more nervous than it already had. What would Roseanna say? Would she be happy to hear from her? And would she agree to meet?
Evelyn had no idea, and she wouldn't know until Roseanna responded…assuming she would respond at all. There was nothing to do now but to wait, and to hope for the best.
For the rest of the Hatfield's, life went about as it normally did over the course of the next few weeks. The men saw to business as usual, both in their settlement as well as out of it, while the women remained tucked safely away in the hills, spending their days carrying out chores and tending their families. The days were, for the most part, quiet and uneventful, save for the night where everyone got a little too rowdy celebrating one of the Hatfield cousin's birthdays, and one rather alarming morning where there was a scare involving one of the younger kids and a snake that had managed to slither it's way into their bed.
As for Evelyn, however, the weeks were pure and utter torture.
She thought about Roseanna non-stop. There were so many unanswered questions going through her mind on a daily basis – had Dr. Tiller delivered her letter? If so, had Roseanna read it or had she merely thrown it into the fire after learning who it was from? If she had read it, did she intend to respond? And if she did respond, would she accept Evelyn's request to meet somewhere safe, or would she decline?
It was absolutely maddening, the not knowing, and it was slowly begun to drive Evelyn out of her wits. She tried to keep herself preoccupied so as not to think about it, but it didn't always work. For one, Johnse was still staying with them, and every time she caught sight of her brother-in-law, it always made her immediately think of Roseanna. It also didn't help that Will was busy with his father's biddings more often than not, which meant he wasn't around to keep her mind off of things as much as she would have liked. All she could do was wait and hope that Dr. Tiller would suddenly come trotting into the settlement with word from Roseanna. Hell, even him coming back without a reply would have been better than all of this uncertainty – at least if she knew he had delivered the letter and Roseanna was still too upset with her to write back, then she would know Roseanna wanted nothing to do with her and she could stop driving herself mad trying to guess what was going to happen.
Before she knew it, an entire month had passed without any signs of Dr. Tiller, nor any response from Roseanna. The summer weather had finally begun to fade off and the days were getting cooler, which was much appreciated considering how brutally hot the summer had been. By now, any hope Evelyn had harbored for meeting with Roseanna had diminished to the point that it was nearly entirely gone. She could not deny that she was both hurt and disappointed by the lack of response from the woman she had long considered to be more like a sister than just a friend, and there had even been a time or two where she had shed tears over the realization that their friendship was, once and for all, over. But she did her best to keep her chin up, telling herself that she had tried to be a good friend to her, that she had made the effort, and if Roseanna did not want to meet her halfway, then there was simply nothing to be done about that.
Toward the end of September, just as the weather began to really turn, Evelyn found herself busier than usual as a bad stomach flu swept through the settlement. It started with Lias, who woke up in the middle of the night extremely sick and suffering out of both ends. From Lias, the illness passed to Jim Vance, who then gave it to one of the cousins. By the end of the week, at least half the people in the settlement were ill, which meant Evelyn had to work overtime in her attempts to both heal those who had been affected, as well as keep everyone else from catching what they had gotten. Needless to say, it was an absolute mess.
With her limited medical supplies running low and with zero access to local stores, Evelyn had no choice but to take to the forest in an attempt to try to find some herbs that might help ease the stomach issues the sick Hatfield's were dealing with. One morning, while Will was off tending to some business with Johnse and Jim Vance, Evelyn ventured out with Nancy, the oldest of Will's sisters, and Mrs. Levicy, who volunteered without Evelyn even needing to ask. They scoured the forest while a few of the men who had not fallen ill stood on guard nearby, their eyes sharp as they watched the forest for any intruders.
"Is this useful?" Nancy asked, holding up a handful of something she had just plucked from the ground.
Evelyn glanced over, then shook her head. "No, afraid not." She watched as Nancy tossed the foliage away with a frown. "Be careful what yer pickin'," she added warningly. "Last thing we need is fer you 'ta get into poison ivy by accident."
Nancy blanched at those words, then proceeded with a little more caution.
They didn't talk much while they hunted around, thinking it wiser to keep quiet so as not to attract any unwanted attention. Evelyn spied a promising looking plant at the base of a tree and crouched down to inspect it, before nodding in approval and adding it to her basket. As she stood to keep moving, however, her stomach turned unexpectedly, which had her closing her eyes and bracing a hand against the sturdy trunk of a tree as she tried to resist the urge to throw up the contents of her stomach.
"You feeling alright, Evelyn?" Mrs. Levicy asked as she came over and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Evelyn opened her eyes to glance at her mother-in-law. The truth was that she had been feeling a little under the weather since she had woken that morning. Will had been warning her for days that she was going to catch the stomach bug if she wasn't careful, and she was beginning to fear it had finally happened. If anyone knew, though, they would try to make her stay in bed. And since she needed to help those who were worse off than herself, that simply couldn't happen.
"Yes. I'm fine," she lied with a pinched smile. "I just…stood up too fast, I think."
Mrs. Levicy didn't look convinced. "Ya sure?"
After Evelyn nodded in assurance, Mrs. Levicy stopped questioning her. As they continued on, however, she could see that her mother-in-law was watching her closely, clearly on the lookout for any signs of possible illness. Evelyn trucked on, keeping her eyes on the ground and doing her best to ignore the increasing nausea in her stomach. Eventually, however, she could ignore the feeling no longer. Without warning the others, she dropped the basket she had been carrying and ducked behind the nearest tree, where she promptly vomited.
When she had finished, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and straightened up again, leaning heavily against the tree. Mrs. Levicy was behind her, rubbing her shoulder comfortingly and clicking her tongue with a combination of concern and disapproval.
"If you were feelin' ill, ya shoulda said somethin'," she chastised.
"Thought it would pass," Evelyn said with a weak shrug of her shoulders. "Thought wrong, I guess."
"I'd say so," Mrs. Levicy agreed. "C'mon, then," she said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Let's get ya
Evelyn managed to make it back to the settlement without getting sick again, but ended up vomiting once more when they walked past one of the other houses and she caught a whiff of something that made her nausea return with a vengeance. After rushing to the nearest bush to throw up again, Mrs. Levicy and Nancy finally got her to her house, where they immediately lead her into the bedroom and forced her into bed.
Since Will would likely be gone for a while, Mrs. Levicy stayed Evelyn for the next few hours so that she wouldn't be alone, keeping her company and making her some tea with a few herbs thrown in to try to settle her stomach. After a while, Mrs. Levicy took it upon herself to take care of a few easy chores that Evelyn had intended to do. Evelyn, who had begun to feel better by that point, tried to get out of bed to help her, only to be reprimanded by her mother-in-law and forced back into bed.
It was late afternoon by the time will returned, and when he discovered that Evelyn had fallen ill and was confined to bed, he couldn't resist giving her a knowing look.
"I don't wanna say I told ya so…" he said as he sat down onto the bed next to her, his eyebrow quirked upward.
Evelyn sighed and sent him a disgruntled glance. "Then don't say it," she said grumpily, knowing good and well that he was going to remind her of his warnings that she would get sick if she wasn't careful. "I'm a doctor. I'm s'posed to take care'a sick people. Gettin' sick myself kinda comes with the territory," she defended. "Besides, I feel better now," she added with a firm nod, ignoring the fact that she did still feel a little queasy.
Will didn't look like he entirely believed her, nor did Mrs. Levicy, who was standing just behind Will with her arms crossed over her chest. "She got sick twice, an' looked white as sheet at one point," she said, which had Evelyn fighting back the strong urge to glare at her for snitching. "She's been workin' hard takin' care of the others. She needs rest, son."
Will nodded in agreement. "I'll see to it that she does," he assured Mrs. Levicy. "Thank you fer lookin after her, Ma," he said, giving a grateful nod.
Mrs. Levicy smiled and reached out to squeeze his shoulder. "Of course," she said, before patting his back and taking a step backward. "I'll get outta yer hair fer now. Come an' collect me if ya need anything."
"We will," Will said in response.
Mrs. Levicy started for the door, but stopped in the door frame to give her a parting look. "Feel better, Evelyn," she said.
Evelyn gave her a small smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Levicy."
The Hatfield matriarch left after that, and once she was gone Evelyn let out a long breath and rubbed her face. When she chanced a look at Will between the gaps in her fingers, he was staring at her with a quirked eyebrow and his lips pulled into a small smirk of amusement.
"An' what exactly is so humorous about my misfortunes?" she asked, dropping her hands from her face.
"Nothin'. I just know how pushy my Ma used 'ta get when one'a us was sick," he said, raising his brows. "How much did she fuss over you?" he asked.
"Far more than I would'a expected she would," Evelyn admitted. "She wouldn't even let me help her fold the laundry, fer Pete's sake!"
Will chuckled. "She's just lookin' out for ya," he said.
"I know, I know," Evelyn said with a wave of her hand.
She sighed again after that, then made a move to get out of bed now that Mrs. Levicy wasn't around to make sure she didn't go anywhere. Just as she sat up, however, Will frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her from going any further. "Where do ya think yer goin'?" he asked.
Evelyn rolled her eyes and gave him a look. "I'm fine, Will. I was feelin' puny early, but I feel much better now. I don't need 'ta keep layin' here like a slug. There are people who are far worse off than me, an' I need 'ta go see how they are doin'," she said firmly.
She tried to get up again, but Will merely kept his hand on her shoulder, once again stopping her from going anywhere. "Ya done enough fer everyone else," he argued. "If yer feelin' better, then good, but if ya go around anyone else who is sick, you'll prob'ly just get worse. Stay here. Rest. I'll keep an eye on ya. Literally," he added jokingly, referring to the fact that he only had one eye to watch her with.
She gave a small smile at his joke, but then gave him a look. "Will – " she started to say.
"No arguments," Will interrupted authoritatively. "Let someone take care'a you fer a change."
Evelyn sighed, then finally gave up and flopped back down. "Fine," she conceded.
Will, pleased that she was no longer fighting him on the matter, grabbed her hand and raised it to his lips so he could kiss her knuckles. "I'll make ya somethin' to eat," he said, before standing up and heading for the kitchen.
The thought of food had her stomach rolling again, but Evelyn did not try to stop him. With a sigh, she simply rolled onto her side and made herself comfortable while she waited, knowing good and well that Will wouldn't be letting her go anywhere anytime soon.
He made her stay in bed for most of the day, but finally let her move around again when he seemed to decide she looked well enough to join him, Johnse, and their housemates for dinner, which Mrs. Levicy had graciously provided given the fact that Evelyn had not done any cooking. She was happy to be out of bed, but, admittedly, the smell of the meat Mrs. Levicy had sent had her stomach turning. Not left Will to worry – and not wanting him to force her back into bed – she carefully concealed any queasiness she was feeling and forced the food down, thankful she had Cotton Top's enthusiastic chatter to distract her from the uneasiness in her belly.
Evelyn fully expected to wake up feeling right as rain and ready to take on the day the next morning, but, unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Barely five minutes into the start of her day, she was overcome by nausea so strongly that she didn't even finish changing into her dress for the day before she was rushing to the kitchen to vomit into a bucket. It didn't end there, either. She was sick twice more over the course of the morning, and then again in the afternoon. It was enough to have Will ordering her back into their bed, and it was another long day of lying down while Will did whatever he could to try to make her feel better.
The next day wasn't much better, nor was the day after. Evelyn, who had thrown up more times than she could count by then, was exhausted, in need of a good, long bath, and was starting to feel overall frustrated with the turn her health had taken. She had heard from Nancy that the rest of the Hatfield's that had fallen ill seemed to finally be on the mend, but not her. Sometimes she would feel a little better, but then she would smell something off-putting that would have her hurrying toward the nearest bucket and she'd be right back to square one.
It certainly wasn't fair, and as Evelyn lay in bed after vomiting for what felt like the hundredth time, she had to wonder why she was so much more unfortunate than the rest of the family. The bug was showing no signs of going away, and as someone who didn't find herself falling ill very frequently, having to deal with this sickness was really starting to become a huge inconvenience, as well as annoyance. She had a house to take care of and a husband to look after, as well as four other men that relied on her for meals and clean clothes to put on their backs. She hadn't been able to do any of those things, though, because this stomach bug was taking so much out of her. All she wanted was to feel better again, so she could be freed from this bed and able to get on with her life as usual.
Evelyn was pulled from her thoughts when the bedroom door opened and Mrs. Levicy came strolling in carrying a tray of food, as well as a mug of what looked like hot tea. Will had gone out with Lias and Jim Vance again, so since he wasn't able to take care of her himself, Mrs. Levicy had volunteered for the job.
"Here ya go," her mother-in-law said, flashing a small smile as she came to stand next to the bed. "I made ya some breakfast. Ya gotta keep yer strength up," she said, nodding insistently.
Evelyn sighed and sat up, leaning her back against the headboard. "Thank you," she said, taking the tray from Mrs. Levicy and setting it on her lap.
The plate her mother-in-law had made her contained scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast, and a few glistening slices of ham steaks. The moment Evelyn got a good sniff of the meat, her stomach rolled. Without thinking about it, she grimaced and all but flinched back away from the ham steaks, unable to stop herself from showing her obvious displeasure. When she saw Mrs. Levicy's eyebrows raise, she gave the older woman a shrug and a sheepish smile.
"Sorry," she said, pushing the ham steaks further away. "Meat an' I ain't been gettin' along real well these past few days," she admitted. "Makes my stomach positively roll when I get around it."
"No need to apologize. I understand," Mrs. Levicy said with a small nod. "I've had similar experiences myself."
"You have?" Evelyn asked as she reached for the tea and raised it to her lips to take a small sip.
Mrs. Levicy smiled and nodded. "The worst of it was when I was pregnant with Cap," she revealed. "Couldn't even think about meat without wantin' to vomit up everything I'd ever eaten." Evelyn blinked at her in surprise, unsure what to say in response to that piece of information. Mrs. Levicy gave her a look as she leaned over to take the plate of food, but before she could take it away completely, she motioned to the toast. "At least eat the toast," she encouraged. "Ya need 'ta get somethin' on yer stomach."
Evelyn nodded silently and took the toast, but she didn't take a bite of it. While she placed the toast on the breakfast tray, Mrs. Levicy took the plate of food and headed for the door. The woman paused in the doorway and gave Evelyn another look, before nodding her head. "I will return in a moment with the eggs, I'm just gonna dispose of the meat," she said.
After Evelyn made a sound of understanding, Mrs. Levicy left the bedroom. Still holding her mug of tea, she tapped her nails against the ceramic and turned her eyes to the window, Mrs. Levicy's words still rolling around in her head. The worst of it was when I was pregnant with Cap. That certainly wasn't an abnormal thing to happen – it was common knowledge that pregnant women were prone to getting sick at a moment's notice, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. She wondered why Mrs. Levicy's worst bout of morning sickness had been with Will, though, and whether or not she had experienced it with the rest of her children as well.
Suddenly, Evelyn stopped tapping her nails and her brows furrowed together. Thinking about the symptoms of pregnancy had her reassessing her own bouts of illness, and as she considered the fact that the bug seemed to have affected her a little differently than it had everyone else, she found herself trying to remember just when exactly she had last had her flow. Realization quickly began to sink in, which had her eyes growing very wide.
It had been two months since her last flow. It hadn't come this past month, only she had been so distracted by everything going on that she hadn't even realized she had missed it. She was late, very late, and that was not at all a common thing for her. She had always been very regular, to the point that she could predict almost exactly when it would arrive, so if she had missed one completely, well…that could only mean one thing.
Evelyn wasn't sure when she started crying, but the next thing she knew she was grinning like an idiot and wiping at the tears of complete joy that were sliding down her cheeks. It was around that time that Mrs. Levicy returned with her eggs, and though the woman seemed alarmed at first to see Evelyn crying, when she realized it was a happy cry she instantly smiled and gave her a knowing look.
"Figured it out finally?" she asked pointedly.
Evelyn laughed and nodded. It was no surprise that Mrs. Levicy had figured out the truth before Evelyn had – the woman really was sharp as a whip. "How did ya know?" she asked with a big, watery smile.
"I've had enough children of my own 'ta know when I'm around a pregnant woman," Mrs. Levicy said with a firm nod. "I thought you would'a realized it sooner. When ya didn't, I thought I'd start droppin' some hints."
Evelyn just laughed at that and nodded in understanding. Mrs. Levicy gave her a gentle smile, set the plate of eggs on the nightstand, then leaned over to kiss the top of Evelyn's head. "Congratulations, Evelyn," she said, her eyes shining with happiness. "Yer gonna be an amazing mother."
The words had Evelyn dissolving into another round of tears, though whether they were tears of happiness or relief – or both – she couldn't quite say. Mrs. Levicy sat on the bed next to her and pulled her into a tight hug, which Evelyn was happy to return.
It had finally happened. After all these months, after having all that worry and stress and the fear hang over her, it had finally happened. She was pregnant. She and Will were finally going to have a baby.
It was a new kind of torture, waiting for Will to come home while she sat on the knowledge that they were, finally, going to have a baby. She could hardly contain her nervous excitement, so much so that she finally had to get out of bed and start piddling around the house, just so that she would have something to do to keep her mind off things. She washed herself up, got dressed, then took care of some easy chores around the house to keep herself preoccupied. Mrs. Levicy stuck around to help her, and the two of them talked for hours about babies and pregnancies and all the things that Evelyn could expect now that she was with child. It was clear that the Hatfield matriarch was beyond happy about the fact that she was going to have a grandchild to spoil. But as happy as Mrs. Levicy was, it paled into comparison to what Evelyn was feeling. She and Will had been wanting a family for months, and now it was finally happening. She could hardly wait to see him and tell him the news – he was going to be over the moon.
When they finally heard the approach of horses around midafternoon, they both stopped what they were doing and turned eager looks on one another. It took a few minutes, but soon they could hear footsteps on the porch outside, before the door opened and Will, dressed in his travelling gear and looking a little windblown, walked in. He paused as he caught sight of Evelyn up and moving around, then frowned a bit as he set his gun by the door and hung his hat on the coat rack.
"Feelin' better?" he asked, his good eye giving her a critical once over.
Evelyn glanced briefly as Mrs. Levicy, then nodded. "Yeah. Much," she said, trying hard to at least somewhat contain the grin that was threatening to break through. "Everything go alright?" she asked.
Will nodded. "Yeah, fine," he answered.
There was a momentary pause, where Evelyn resisted the urge to shout the news of her pregnancy and where Will glanced between her and his mother, the look on his face hinting that there was something he wanted to talk to her about, only he didn't seem to want to do so in front of company. Mrs. Levicy eventually cleared her throat, then stepped away from the sink she had been standing at so she could wipe her hands on a towel.
"I'm gonna get on home," she said, pausing by Evelyn's side to grab her hand and give it a squeeze. "Need anything?" she asked.
Evelyn shook her head. "I'm set, thank you," she said, returning the woman's squeeze with a grateful smile.
Mrs. Levicy nodded and patted her gently on the back. It was actually a rather affectionate moment for the both of them, which had Will frowning a little with confusion as he watched the exchange. Finally, Mrs. Levicy headed for the door, squeezing Will's shoulder as she went past them. She lingered long enough to give them both one last smile, before seeing herself out. Will stared at the closed door, then turned a quirked brow on Evelyn.
"What was that all about?" he asked uncertainly.
Evelyn shook her head. "Nothin'. We just…had a good day together," she excused.
Will seemed like he still had questions, but apparently decided they could wait. "Alright," he said with a shrug. He then strode over to stand in front of her, his gaze flickering over the house quickly. "Anyone else here?" he asked in a more serious tone, looking back to Evelyn.
Evelyn frowned at the shift in his demeanor, then shook her head. "No. Mrs. Levicy kicked everyone out so I could rest."
Will nodded. "Good. I've got somethin' fer you," he revealed.
Evelyn watched as he stuck his hand into the pocket of his jacket, then produced a folded up envelope. As he extended toward her and gave her a meaningful look, she knew in an instant that the letter he was now presenting her with was from Roseanna – he must have bumped into Dr. Tiller while he had been out. Her eyes widened, before she quickly took the envelope and opened it, hastily retrieving the letter inside and unfolding it. The sight of Roseanna's familiar handwriting had Evelyn's heart jumping in anticipation, and without another word to Will, she began to read.
I must say that I find myself surprised to have received word from you, especially considering how horribly awry things have gone between our two families since last we spoke. As surprised as I am, however, I will readily admit that I was glad to hear from you. You are right. It has been far too long.
I am grateful for your condolences regarding Sarah Elizabeth. There are no proper words to describe how difficult her passing has been to bear. I will not go into detail, for it is still much too difficult for me to speak of, but I will say this – no parent should have to bury their child, especially one so young. It simply should not be the way of things. Yet, it has happened, and there is nothing I can do now but continue to mourn for my daughter and hope that she is at peace now that she has gone to heaven. Know that your words, however, and the knowledge that I still have your friendship and support has brought me comfort in a time where comfort was greatly needed. Thank you for that, Evelyn.
I must now speak to you about your offer to meet one another in person. Let me first say that if I could see you right this very moment, I would jump at the chance. I have missed you so very much, and I yearn for the days where we would simply sit and speak for hours without having to worry about feuds or fights or anything of the like. However, those days have passed, and there is much for us to worry about now. I cannot, in good conscious, agree to meet with you with all the dangers this world holds for those bearing the Hatfield name. I have seen the wanted posters and I have heard the stories of your escape from Pikeville. You are a wanted woman, Evelyn. But, more importantly, you are my friend. Plain and simple, I refuse to agree to anything that might put you in harm's way. I could not put you in danger like that, nor would I ever forgive myself if something happened to you on my account.
I hope you will forgive me for not agreeing to meet with you, but know that I only do so out of love for you and concern for what would happen should any of those bounty hunters catch you. If you are willing, I am more than happy to continue to communicate with you through letters. Until this feud is finished, however, until you can walk freely, we cannot meet in person. I am sorry, and I hope you will understand my reasoning. Please, write to me whenever you want. I eagerly await another letter you, my dearest friend.
All my love,
Evelyn finished reading the letter, then glanced up at Will. He had been waiting patiently while she read, but she could tell he was eager to know what the letter said. She handed the letter to him, then waited while he quickly read it. As he got to the end, his shoulders visibly relaxed and an unmistakable look of relief passed over his handsome face. She knew exactly how worried he had been about the thought of taking her to see Roseanna, so it was no surprise that he was happy the McCoy had decline to meet.
He raised his gaze back to hers, looking sympathetic but also pleased at the same time. "I'm sorry," he said, folding up the letter and handing it back to her. "I know how badly ya wished 'ta see her."
Evelyn shrugged. Sure, there was a part of her that was disappointed that Roseanna had declined, but, at the same time, she could not deny that she was immensely glad that Roseanna at least still cared about her, and that she wanted to correspond regularly. Besides, in light of the revelation of her pregnancy, she knew good and well that venturing out of the hills was not a possibility anymore. She would not do anything that could potentially put her or her unborn child at risk, not even if it was just to visit an old friend.
"It's alright," Evelyn said, carefully sliding the letter back inside its envelope. "It's better this way, actually."
Will blinked at her, looking confused. "But…you had yer heart set on visiting with her. You were determined 'ta go," he said, his expression hinting that he thought something was wrong with her. "Why are you not more upset about this?"
Evelyn couldn't stop the smile that spread across her face. "Things have changed," she confessed, knowing the moment to reveal the truth to Will was upon her.
Will looked even more confused. "How so?"
Not wanting to beat around the bush, and feeling like she would explode if she didn't tell him, Evelyn grabbed Will's hand. "I was wrong," she told him. "I haven't been sick because I caught what the others had. I should'a realized it sooner, but it just…slipped my mind."
Will frowned. "Known what sooner?"
Evelyn took the hand she held between hers and pressed it to her belly, giving him a meaningful look. It took a moment or two of Will glancing between his hand and her face, his confusion evident, before realization began to dawn in his good eye. As Evelyn's own eyes began to fill with happy tears again, his went wide with shock. He spluttered for a moment, unable to make coherent words, before he finally managed to speak.
"Wait, are you sayin' – ?" he managed out.
Evelyn nodded. "I'm pregnant," she revealed.
Will was frozen for a second, but then he grinned, let out a loud whoop, and scooped Evelyn up, lifting her clear off her feet and hugging her fiercely. Evelyn laughed as she hugged him back, a few happy tears escaping her eyes, before she blanched as he began to twirl her in circles. "Easy! Easy!" she warned between laughs. "I'm still queasy!"
"Sorry! Sorry!" Will said, setting her safely back on her feet. He didn't release her though, merely grinned down at her before dropping to his knees and kissing her stomach, his hands resting comfortably on her hips. "I'm yer father, little man," he said, talking to her stomach. "I'm gonna take care of ya, an' teach ya to hunt an' fish an' all kinds of things! Just you wait!"
Evelyn smiled, her heart filling with warmth as she toyed with Will's hair. "I don't think the baby can hear you yet," she said, despite how sweet it was that he was taking to their unborn child already. "An' what makes ya think it's a boy?" she added with a quirked brow.
"I just know," Will said without hesitation, giving her a firm nod of determination.
Evelyn laughed and shook her head in amusement. Will flashed her a grin, kissed her belly once more, then stood to his full height again. This time he placed his hands on either side of her neck before swooping in to give her an enthusiastic kiss. "You have made me so happy, darlin'," he murmured against her lips. "Thank you."
Evelyn wrapped her arms around him tightly, her smile sappy and love-struck as she gazed up at him. "We're gonna be a family, Will," she said in wonderment.
"We already were a family," Will corrected. "Now we get 'ta make that family a little bigger."
Evelyn smiled and nodded, then pulled leaned in for another kiss, which he happily gave. When they parted again, she hugged him tightly. "I love you, Will," she said, resting her head over his heart.
"I love you, too. More than I could ever say," he said, kissing the top of her head. They stood that way for a few moments, before Will finally released her. "Now come on, darlin'," he urged, sounding excited again. "Let's go tell the family!"
Evelyn just laughed at his enthusiasm and nodded. Then, with wide, matching grins, they left hand in hand to go and tell the rest of the family the good news.
Hope you guys enjoyed the chapter!