1982

I find her on the porch, again, and hope this time she isn't crying. I'm realizing that I'm not too good at the talking and romancing part of this. It is obvious to me now that I should've told her a few things before she married me. Even so, I don't regret it. I have never, ever been so happy - not since I was a boy; before all that heartache.

She's sitting on the front step, wrapped up in one of my flannel shirts. It makes me smile to see her stealing one of my shirts, and I find it a good deal more intoxicating than some fancy nightgown - although, I don't mind those none.

I sit beside her, and glance nervously, relieved that she isn't crying.

"You alright?" I ask her.

"Yes." She says softly, wrapping her arms around mine, and resting her head against my shoulder.

"Kind of a strange honeymoon, I guess." I say to her.

"Well, I do like the fair." She says smiling at me.

"Did we go to a fair?" I ask her. "I just remember you starting some kind of fight."

"Me?"

"Yeah, honey, you've got a serious right hook."

"You'd be wise to remember that." Her laughter is like the moonlight, spilling all around me; fighting off the darkness.

"Why you sitting out here?" I ask her.

"It's quiet. Seven men can be kind of noisy."

"Yeah," I sigh. "We aren't what you'd call mild-mannered."

"Neither am I." She says. "This ranch, this house . . ." She sighs. "It is beautiful, Adam. It's more than I ever expected to . . ." She moves so she can catch my eye. "The last time I slept inside a house was before my Daddy left us, and that was a long, long time ago. We lived in trailers, apartments, slept in other people's spare rooms, but I never had a house."

"I've never lived anywhere but here." I tell her. "I was supposed to go to school, but . . .my plans got changed."

"I can see that." She reaches out with her soft fingers, and runs them along my cheek. "That must have been a pretty hard time." And I feel stupid because without any warning at all, my eyes fill with tears.

"Yeah." I say my voice choked up. "It kind of was."

She wipes the lone tear that has escaped away with her thumb, and kisses the wet spot it leaves behind.

"I bet someday, you'll tell me about it."

And I nod, finding words impossible, knowing that someday I will. I will spill all my secrets to her, and she'll know everything - everything I've locked away and kept hidden will come under the light of her loving gaze.

My father and mother loved each other. You could tell it. Their eyes were always searching for each other, and their faces changed when they came into view. They fought sometimes - my father was stubborn as a mule, but even then you could feel it - their love. When I was young, before they died - I longed for a love like that. But I found it pretty difficult to convince a twenty year old girl to give up everything and help me raise my six brothers. Ranch work is hard enough, but adding a pack of wounded, orphaned, wild boys into the mix, pretty much killed off any romance. So I gave it all up, and resigned myself to a life alone. Until her.

I could take every word that there is in the whole dictionary, and it wouldn't be enough to explain how much she means to me, already. We've been married for seventeen days, and I'm telling you, if she walked away from me right now, I would never, ever recover. Never.

"I was afraid you'd come out here, crying and thinking of running off." I say because I'm a bit of a coward.

"Nope." She says because she is stronger than steel, and knows I'm fishing for reassurance.

"You are crazy." I tell her. "You know that, right? Everyone's gonna say how crazy you are for sticking it out."

"Everyone is pretty stupid then." She says. "I meant what I said in that chapel, Adam. I'm hoping you did too."

"I did." I say seriously. "I do."

"I do, too." She says gently. I lean over and kiss her thinking again that I must be the luckiest man on the planet. She breaks away from me.

"Adam, I don't want you wondering every time, I take a walk or watch the moonrise. I understand why you didn't tell me. You explained it. I'm not going anywhere, leastways not without you. I'll do my best to help you. I hope they'll come to like me, although, I'm thinking that might be a long, hard road with Brian." She says to me.

"Brian's not big on change." I tell her.

"I picked up on that. You probably should've said something to them."

"Probably." I agree.

"You might want to take a minute and explain things to them - the way you did to me. It might help."

"Guthrie already loves you." I tell her.

"Oh! If you had wanted to trick me into marrying you, you should've introduced me to him right at the start! That boy is sweet, Adam!"

"He was my mother's last baby - she raised him with so much love." I tell her, and she laughs.

"You've been raising him these last ten years. You and your grumpy brother." My eyes widen, surprised. "I think you must be a very good parent, Adam. I hope I can do as good a job as you."

She's shocked me now. I never thought much about raising them. I mean I think about raising them all the time, every single day, but I never thought to sit back and look at it - see how I'm doing.

"You think I'm doing okay? You think I'm raising them well?" I ask her, hating how much I sound like a boy. I glance at her to see if she's laughing at me, but her eyes are filled with tears, which surprises me.

"Yeah." She says. "I think you are doing really well."

"Honey?" I start to ask her about the tears, but she shakes her head, and wipes them away.

"You're a good man." She says softly, her face close to mine. "That's all. I can't believe my luck."

"I can't believe my luck." I tell her. We are so close that our foreheads are touching and I'm not really interested in talking anymore.

"Come on, Mrs. McFadden," I tell her, smiling even as I say it; it fills my heart with that much joy. "We'll worry about the raising of these boys some other time." I rise and stand on the step with my hand outstretched to her.

"Alright, Mr. McFadden." She grins at me, and puts her hand in mine, and together we walk up the steps and into the house, ready to face whatever comes our way together.