For personal use and select distribution only © by Judy A. June 2002
Where We Belong
by Judith A.
I have spent eight months writing Where We Belong. Writing this story has been a journey for me. It has been at times all consuming and even frustrating, but it has also been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. It has led me to learn so much about writing and history and to try something I’ve never done before. This is my first attempt at fan fiction so please be gentle.
Where We Belong takes place from 1879-1880 and explores an idea I had about what it might be like for Michaela and Sully to cope with the changes occurring in the country in the late nineteenth century. During this period, their lives’ work was going in different directions. For Michaela this would have been an exciting time. Medicine was rapidly growing and changing. New diseases were being discovered and the causes of old ones identified. Advances were being made in the treatment of many illnesses. It was also a period of growing professionalism in American medicine and Michaela would have thrived.
For Sully it would have been the exact opposite. It would have been a discouraging and disheartening time for him. By the late 1870’s, after the Battle at Little Big Horn, all the Indians were on reservations and no longer permitted to roam free. The Cheyenne population was depleted in subsequent battles culminating in the cruelty at Fort Robinson. This was also the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the Robber Barons and all that entailed. At this time the government was focused on selling the land for business development, not preserving it. The idea of environmental conservation and preserving the land for future generations did not gain widespread attention until the early 20th Century. It is interesting to note that after Congress designated Yellowstone a national park in 1872, the next area protected was the Adirondacks in upstate New York in 1885. Yosemite was established in 1890 and Rocky Mountain National Park wasn’t established until 1915.
Where We Belong is the story of Sully’s personal crisis in dealing with his inability to make a difference in a world that is destroying everything he cares about. It is also a story about how Sully’s personal crisis creates a crisis in his marriage with Michaela and jeopardizes the trust they have in one another.
This story may be seen as controversial by many of you since it shows our favorite couple having problems, especially since they are such a solid couple in our eyes. You may even be inclined not to read it given the premise. I have trepidation in even posting it for this reason. But, I have tried my best to create a believable story that could have been told on the series. I have also tried to show how Michaela and Sully might respond to very real problems encountered by many couples who have been together a long time. So as Michaela might say, “I hope you will keep an open mind.”
For context, I have tried to stay as true to the series and characters as possible. This story weaves in the series, but it stands on it’s own. It is not related to any other fan fiction. Where We Belong takes place nine years after Michaela and Sully are married. Katie is eight years old and they have a son, Josef Quinn Sully. For those seasoned fan fiction readers, he is not the same Josef as Debby has created in her stories. I thought about choosing a different name, but I strongly believe that if they did have a son, he would have been named Josef after Michaela’s father. The choice of Quinn for his middle name, I believe, is plausible since this would be Michaela’s last chance to carry on the Quinn name. Josef is four years old.
I did a great deal of research for this story and the historical events and characters are true. I did take some liberties to fit them into a fictionalized story, but I tried to stay as true to the people and the events as possible. My sources for the story are listed at the end.
Now my Thank Yous. I would first like to thank Beth Sullivan for creating such wonderful characters and a show that continues to live in my heart. Never has a television show touched me like this one and it’s difficult to let it go. Thank you also to Jane Seymour and Joe Lando who brought to life two rich and complicated characters and together created a couple that so many of us want to keep alive and take on new and exciting adventures. Thanks to all the other actors and writers who brought Colorado Springs to life from 1867-1873.
I would also like to thank all the fan fiction writers who continue to keep Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman alive. Becky Harkness, Pam Hunter, and Debby K. in particular, have written wonderful stories that have inspired me to try my hand at writing.
I would especially like to thank two people from the List who have read and commented on this story as it was being written. Thank you Mary ann for being willing to read an early draft of a story from someone you never heard of before and then to honestly tell me that while it had potential it still needed a lot of work. I will always be grateful for that. At the time I sent it to her I believed it was further along, but she quickly changed my mind. She gave me invaluable advice about writing, challenged me to keep making it better and always told me if I wasn’t keeping true to the characters or if I was taking lazy shortcuts. She also helped me develop the plot and some of the scenes are there because of her.
And finally, I’d like to thank Tamara. I couldn’t have found a better editor, or a more ardent grammar freak. I’m honored that she spent as much time on this story as she did and helped me make it the best it could be with honest, constructive criticism and more than a little humor. Several of the scenes were a true collaboration. Her attention to detail was amazing. She didn’t miss a single inconsistency and wouldn’t let me get away with anything! Most importantly she helped me bring my scenes to life and challenged me to stay true to the series and the characters. While she doesn’t claim to be a Hank expert, her love for Hank is evident in my story. All the scenes with Hank are mine, but Tamara gave him more lines, a few snide comments that weren’t there originally, and made sure he stayed true to character. I enjoyed e-mailing back and forth and obsessing on little details while writing. I found a wonderful editor and made a friend. Finally, Tamara suggested the title. Several back and forth e-mails with all sorts of titles led to Where We Belong and I think it is fitting. The story is a journey of discovery for many characters in the story, especially Sully and Michaela. I loved writing this story and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Judy A. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear what you thought of the story.
“Josef, please stop moving the food around your plate and eat something,” Michaela admonished fully aware that this was not one of her best meals.
“I don’t like it,” the little four-year-old boy whined as he pushed the potatoes around with his fork.
“Just eat a few bites, then you may be excused,” she responded struggling to eat the concoction. Just then Katie started to get up from the table.
“Katie, where are you going?” she asked wearily, exhausted from her harried day.
“To work on my science project,” her eight-year old daughter answered as she stood behind her chair.
“Katie, what do we say in this house when we want to leave the table?”
“Sorry.” Katie was aware of her mother’s short fuse, of late. “Can I be excused?” she asked contritely.
Michaela sighed. “It’s may I be excused. Just because we were late coming home this evening and supper was rushed is no reason to forget our manners. Now you may be excused as soon as you help me clear these supper dishes.”
“All right,” Katie agreed half-heartedly. She quickly gathered the plates from the table, set them down on the counter and returned for more.
“Josef, please, a few more bites,” Michaela urged as she set aside a plate of supper for Sully.
“When’s Papa coming home?” Katie asked holding the next stack of dishes.
Michaela carried the last of the dishes into the kitchen. “I thought he’d be home for supper. He must be running late too.”
“He missed supper last night,” she reminded her mother.
“I know,” she softly responded, her brow creased in consternation.
With the table cleared, Katie sat down with her homework and began working on her science project.
“Papa said he’d help me tonight,” she said as she organized her assignment.
“Then I’m sure he will when he gets home,” her mother assured carrying the remaining dishes into the kitchen and returning to coax a few more bites of food into her son. Unsuccessful in this attempt, she took Josef by the hand and led him to his room.
Katie was settled at the kitchen table working on her homework while Michaela was upstairs putting Josef to sleep.
Michaela helped Josef change into his pajamas. “How are you enjoying your first few days of school?”
“It’s okay,” he answered stepping out of his boots and pants.
“Is something bothering you?” she asked as she stroked his long honey brown hair.
Josef finished putting on his pajamas and considered her question. “Well…what if I don’t do good?”
Michaela brought him into her tight embrace and kissed his forehead. Then she lifted him up and laid him onto the bed. “Sweetheart, you’ll do fine. There’s nothing to worry about. You have other children there your age and Katie will look out for you. It was different for your sister. She was the youngest child in school and she kept thinking she had to do what the older children did.”
“But Katie’s real smart,” he said in awe of his big sister.
“Josef Quinn Sully, you’re every bit as smart! Now lie down and go to sleep. No more worrying.” Michaela tucked him under the quilts, placed a tender kiss on his forehead, and watched as he closed his eyes. He looked so much like Sully lying there peacefully, about to fall asleep. Hearing the front door open, she stood, straightened her skirts, and left Josef’s room to go downstairs.
Katie saw her father walk through the door and she ran to him. “Papa, you’re home.”
Sully crouched down and welcomed her into his arms as he stroked her long blond curls. “Hi Kates, whatcha doin’?” He stood and removed his buckskin jacket, hanging it on the rack.
“My science project. You said you’d help me,” she reminded him as she took his hand and led him to the kitchen table.
“Sure I’ll help. Where’s Joe?” Sully asked looking around the living room.
“What’s all this?” he asked looking at the bowls of sugar and flour on the table.
“I’m gonna tell what happens when ya add water and why,” Katie explained not letting go of his hand. “Mama said they have different chemical properties.”
Sully smiled at his daughter’s determination and shook his head. “I know what happens when ya add water ta these, but I don’t know why,” he said having no idea how he would help Katie with this project. “You better ask your ma for help with this.”
“Ask my help with what?” Michaela asked overhearing Sully’s last remark as she walked toward them. She smiled when she saw him, stepped forward and touched his arm. “I saved you some supper.”
Sully backed away, never meeting her eyes. “I’m not hungry. I’m goin’ upstairs ta say g’night ta Joe.”
“Papa, you promised you’d help,” Katie said dejected.
“Kates, I can’t help ya with that. Work with your ma some and when I come back down, we’ll go over your other homework,” he instructed then left the room.
Michaela had a worried look in her eyes as she watched Sully disappear up the stairs. Taking a seat at the table, she brought Katie up to sit in her lap. When her daughter was settled, they discussed why sugar dissolves in water. After several minutes a loud knock at the front door of the homestead interrupted their work.
Michaela opened the door. “Horace, what brings you out here tonight?”
“There was a fight at the saloon and a man’s hurt real bad. Hank said to ride out here and get you,” Horace explained as he tried to catch his breath.
Michaela put on her coat and called, “Su…,” when she saw him halfway down the stairs.
“Can’t Jake handle it or that new doctor out at the Chateau, Dr. Meadows?” Sully asked with an edge to his voice.
“No, the cut’s too deep, he said to get Dr. Mike,” Horace countered.
Michaela looked at Sully apologetically and shrugged her shoulders. “I’m sorry, I’ll be home as soon as I can. Make sure Katie goes to bed soon,” she added closing the door behind her.
Sully walked toward the window. With a steely glare he watched his wife head into the night for her third emergency this week. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but gradually over the past few years Michaela’s practice had taken on increasing importance, leaving less time for him. And now the feelings of rejection and anger, that for months he had been trying so hard to suppress, were coming to the surface.
* * *
Early dawn sunlight began to peak through the curtains and illuminate the bedroom. Michaela stirred as the light hit her face and she rolled over, exhausted from her late night at the clinic. Half asleep, she opened her eyes and turned to face Sully. The bed was empty. “It must be later than I think,” she thought. Picking her head off the pillow to look around the room she spotted him pensively gazing out their bedroom window fully dressed, putting on his belt. She watched him for a while wishing she knew what he was thinking.
Michaela rose and quietly walked toward him. “Good morning,” she whispered lovingly, slipping her arm around his waist and leaning into his body.
Sully tensed and took a deep breath. “I gotta go,” he hurriedly said as he quickly moved toward the dresser to put on his beads. “I promised Robert E. I’d help him with the addition to the café.”
Michaela tried again. “At least let me make you breakfast,” she offered. “Then we can ride into town together.”
“I can’t. I’m already late,” he explained without making eye contact.
“Sully,” she said with an unsteady voice.
“Will you be home for supper?” she asked swallowing hard to control her emotions.
“I don’t know,” he replied as he looked at his wife wondering if she would even make it home for supper herself. Seeing the wounded look in her eyes, he amended his reply. “I’ll try.” Slowly he closed the door behind him.
* * *
“You’re awfully quiet, even for you,” Robert E. commented as he sawed wood for the addition he and Sully were building on the café.
Sully looked up, startled. “Just thinkin’.’” He continued to hammer a nail into the post.
“Anythin’ you wanna talk about?” Robert E. asked as he continued to saw the wood to size. The blacksmith knew Sully wasn’t one to open up easily, but they had been friends a long time and he was clearly troubled.
“No, I’m just tryin’ ta work some things out in my mind.” He reached for his canteen and brought it up to his mouth for some water. Then he poured the water over his head to cool off. “This addition’ll be real nice Robert E,” he remarked as he swiped his sleeve across his eyes to wipe away the water. Then he sat down to rest.
“Yeah, thanks ta you it will,” Robert E. said taking a seat beside him. “Why should Preston have the only nice place ta eat in town? Addin’ on this part ‘ill let folks come to the café for fine dinin’ as well as the regular menu.”
“I didn’t do much. It was Grace’s idea,” Sully modestly returned.
“Don’t be silly. You designed it. I’d a never thought ta separate it off like this so the folks havin’ the fancy meals can eat in private.”
“It’ll be good to give Preston some competition,” Sully added. “Grace’ll have people leavin’ the Chateau for her cookin’ and hospitality. Only reason people eat at the Chateau is there’s nowhere else ta go. I’d sooner go ta Denver for supper than give Preston my money.”
Robert E. chuckled and both men got back to work. “Have ya heard any more about the forest?” Robert E. asked hoping the news was good.
“Yeah. Just yesterday. They said no,” Sully replied sounding defeated. He drove another nail into the post. “Suppose they’ll let some lumber mill buy it.”
“Just ‘cause they ain’t protectin’ it don’t mean they’re gonna sell it,” Robert E. stressed as he held the post in place.
“They’re gonna sell everythin’ sooner or later I reckon,” Sully said disgusted.
“You sound like you’re givin’ up,” Robert E. remarked and took a drink of water to cool off.
“Don’t know what I’m gonna do yet.”
Robert E. sympathized with Sully’s frustration. Still, he couldn’t imagine a better advocate for the land. If Sully quit, Robert E. worried that most of the land would be sold off for development, forever changing the look and character of the town.
“I know it’s frustratin’, but ya done a lot a good.”
“I ain’t done nothin’.”
“You don’t have ta decide now, with work slowin’ down for the winter,” Robert E. told him.
“Next week I’m takin’ some folks from Washington to Hunter Pass. There’s a bill in Congress ta protect it. After that, don’t suppose there’ll be much ‘til next spring,” Sully told him.
“Maybe that bill will pass,” Robert E. hoped for Sully’s sake knowing that all his past efforts to preserve land in Colorado had failed.
“Don’t hold your breath,” he countered as he grabbed another post and some nails. The men continued to work together in silence hammering side by side. Hearing his name being called in the distance, Sully looked up.
“Sully! Sully!” Michaela called as she ran toward him at the cafe. “They published it! I can’t believe it! They actually published it,” she shouted waving a journal in front of him.
Sully gave Michaela a puzzled look then he reached over to examine the journal in her hand. There in black and white was her name, “Michaela Quinn M.D.,” printed in the New England Journal of Medicine. He turned to the article and read the summary then finally looked at her. “That’s real good Michaela.”
“Oh, I’m so excited! I’m the first woman doctor who’s ever been published here! It’s the most prestigious medical journal you know,” she went on as her words came quickly. “We should celebrate,” she said looking at her husband. But he remained silent just staring at the journal.
“I bet they’ll be invitin’ ya to speak at those fancy medical conferences now, Dr. Mike,” Robert E. commented genuinely impressed with her achievement.
“Oh, I don’t know about that Robert E,” she returned with a gleam in her eye. Michaela looked at Sully again hoping he would show more enthusiasm.
“You’ll see, they’ll be wantin’ ya ta speak and sharin’ your cures with other doctors,” Robert E. added.
Sully wanted to tell her he was proud of her, but he couldn’t find the words. Instead he just stood there and handed the journal back to her. Just once he wanted to feel the way she felt at this moment. His work never made him feel proud. He never had any great triumphs, only disappointment, and it was eating away at him.
An hour ago Michaela couldn’t wait to tell Sully about the article. Now she was sorry she had because he didn’t seem to care. She needed him to tell her he was proud of her and that he supported her. His unwavering support was one of the reasons she fell in love with him. Just as she turned to leave she remembered, “Sully, there’s a town council meeting tonight. I’ll be home late. Can you pick up the children and take care of supper?”
“Sure,” he replied as he watched her walk away, all the time wondering how long it would be before her life here wouldn’t be enough anymore.
“Dr. Mike sure is busy,” Robert E. remarked startling Sully out of his reverie. “Maybe she should think about gettin’ help at the clinic.”
“She doesn’t want any help,” Sully sadly replied.
* * *
“Why don’t we all go fishing next Saturday?” Michaela suggested as she worked on a quilt square in the living room. She had been in town late last night for a council meeting and was looking for a way to make it up to her family.
“All of us?” Katie eagerly asked looking up from her homework.
“Yes, the whole family. It’s been a while since we spent the day together, just the four of us. Sully, what do you think?” she asked hopefully.
“Uh…Maybe, I don’t know,” he responded looking up from sharpening his knife.
“Could you think about it?” she urged impatiently.
“Ya sure you can get away from the clinic?” he asked warming to the idea.
“Positive. I’ll let everyone know where to find me if there’s an emergency.”
“Sounds nice then, if the weather holds.” He looked at the floor where his children were quietly working, Katie on math and Josef on the alphabet. “What do you two think about all of us goin’ fishin’?”
“I like fishin’,” Josef said eagerly.
“Me too,” echoed Katie.
“Good, then it’s set. Now it’s time for bed. Come on,” Sully urged. Katie and Josef stood, put their homework in their schoolbags and headed upstairs with their parents.
When Michaela and Sully came back downstairs after the children were asleep, she went to the kitchen to make tea and he sat on the rug in front of the fire. Returning to her seat with two cups of tea, she handed one to Sully and continued quilting. Several moments later she looked over at him sensing he was troubled. She longed for him to tell her what was wrong.
Sully picked up his knife and continued to sharpen it. He ran the smooth stone across the knife several times, deep in thought. Glancing at his wife, he desperately wanted to share some of what was on his mind, but he didn’t know where to begin. Instead he continued to run the stone over the knife. After several minutes, he looked at her again.
“Michaela,” he said breaking the silence. Then he paused. “I got a telegram,” he finally told her.
“Telegram? Is it more work?”
“No. The forest.” He hesitated. “They said no.”
“Oh no, Sully. I know how much that meant to you,” she sympathized.
“Don’t matter now,” he remarked with resignation in his tone.
“Of course it matters,” she stressed. “Perhaps you could review your proposal again and see if you can improve it by making different arguments. You could also work to get additional supporters. I’m certain there’s a way to persuade them. We just have to try harder,” she added, forever the optimist.
“You don’t understand.”
“I’d like to,” she softly replied reaching for his hand.
Sully held her hand and tenderly stroked it with his thumb. “Everythin’s changin’. Nothin’s gonna look the same here in another ten years. I don’t wanna stand by and watch it all get destroyed. I can’t do it anymore, Michaela.”
“You won’t watch it be destroyed. I know you’ve had some disappointments, but you are making a difference. You have to focus on what you have done. You’re standing up for the right things, just like you always have,” she insisted.
Sully listened to her words. While he had heard them all before, on this evening they sounded hollow. His failure with the land was taking its toll and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could continue with this kind of life.
“I’m tired, Michaela,” he responded slowly letting go of her hand.
“Why don’t you go upstairs, I’ll close up down here,” she encouraged, missing the true meaning of his words.
* * *
Michaela woke before dawn, rested and content. Her head was still spinning from the excitement over her publication and she was encouraged that Sully had opened up a little to her last night. As she looked over at her sleeping husband, she could see his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Stirred, she propped up on her elbow to watch him sleep, longing to reach out to him and run her fingers tenderly across his chest. It had been several months since they last made love and she remembered that time as unremarkable – hurried and unsatisfying. Michaela wasn’t sure why they stopped. Was it their busy schedules, Sully’s frequent absences for work, or the children? Whatever the reasons, she missed it. Their intimacy had been one of the best parts of their marriage.
Michaela longed to feel close to him again. Feeling bold, the adrenaline still coursing through her body from finally feeling accepted as a professional, she snuggled up close against his body and rested her head on his chest. The warmth from his body replaced the morning chill. She tenderly began caressing his chest and trailing light kisses from his chest to his neck. Sully stirred a little and let out a soft moan, encouraging her to continue. She moved higher, kissing his ear, his cheek, his eyes, and finally claiming his lips.
Sully’s eyes snapped open. “Uh…I…uh…can’t now,” he stammered as he quickly bolted up and rolled away from her.
Michaela reached for him, but he moved further away. “Sorry, I woke you.” She hesitated. “I’ve missed you.”
Sully looked away. “I gotta go. I promised Robert E. we’d finish the addition today,” he explained as he got out of bed and quickly got dressed.
“It’s still early. Stay with me a little longer,” she pleaded, her voice inviting.
“I can’t Michaela, Robert E. needs to finish today,” he said as he pulled his moccasins out from under the bed and walked out the door.
Michaela lay back in bed, hurt and ashamed. As tears sprang to her eyes, she wrapped the quilt around her trembling body and wondered what just happened. Sully’s rejection hurt her terribly. It was hard for her to initiate intimacy, yet when she did, he always seemed pleased. Now he couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. Something was happening to her marriage that she didn’t fully understand and it frightened her.
Outside on the porch, Sully finally let out the breath he was holding. He had no idea why he turned away from Michaela the way he did. Perhaps she caught him by surprise. While he wanted to be with her, it had been a long time since they last made love. And recently, the few times he tried to initiate intimacy she was too tired and rejected his advances. Before heading to Robert E’s, he decided to ride into the woods to clear his head and make sense of his confused emotions.
Michaela woke Saturday morning and sighed as she looked over at Sully’s empty side of the bed. She couldn’t remember the last time they woke together and languished in bed holding each other and talking about their day. Mornings were one of her favorite times of day, but they didn’t share them anymore. Is this what her friends meant when they told her it wouldn’t last? Had their intimacy become like brushing your teeth as Myra suggested it would so long ago? Is this how she and Sully were destined to spend the rest of their days? That last thought disturbed her, but she shook it off. Then she got up, dressed, and headed downstairs.
“Eat your oatmeal, Joe, or we’re not goin’ fishin’,” Sully warned.
“Okay,” Josef responded reluctantly taking a mouthful of oatmeal.
“Mornin’.” He smiled. “You ready?” Sully questioned when he saw Michaela descending the stairs.
“Ready for what?” she said puzzled.
“Fishin’. Remember. It was your idea,” but he knew what was coming.
“Oh, Sully. I forgot. I can’t.”
“What do ya mean you can’t?” he asked with noticeable irritation.
“Today was the only day I could schedule Mr. Adams surgery. I completely forgot about fishing,” she explained guiltily.
“I figured you’d forget.”
“Sully…please. I know I’ve been very busy lately, but things will settle down soon.”
“When Michaela? All I see is it’s gettin’ worse,” he said raising his voice and finally revealing some of what he’d been feeling.
“Pease come fishin’ Mama, you promised,” Josef begged.
“Yeah, you promised,” Katie imitated her brother. “You said all of us would go today.”
Michaela swallowed hard. Her whole family was disappointed with her and she knew it was her fault. After all, it was she who had suggested this fishing trip.
Michaela knelt down to meet her children’s eyes and she placed one hand on each of their shoulders. “I know I said we’d all go and I’m sorry. I really am. After the surgery I’ll meet you by the stream, all right?”
“Okay,” Katie replied. Josef nodded.
Sully just stared at her, taking deep breaths as he tried to prevent himself from saying something he’d regret. It had been like this for months. Michaela spent more and more time at the clinic and away at medical conferences, leaving little time for anything else. What little free time she did have was spent with the children or with town council business. There was no time left for the two of them and he was frustrated. Mostly he kept quiet and hoped she would see what her work was doing to them and their family. But just lately he suggested she get help at the clinic, only to be met with resistance. Now, as his feelings of rejection grew, his anger was approaching a boiling point.
He gathered the fishing poles and the bucket, placing them by the front door. “Come on kids, it’s just us,” he said, adding, “as usual,” under his breath. Sully put on his jacket and opened the front door.
“Sully,” she said almost afraid to speak as she saw the disappointment in his eyes.
“Yeah.” He gazed at her hopefully.
“I almost forgot. There’s something I need to ask you.”
She continued. “On Tuesday Mrs. Slicker wants to see us at the school. She’s meeting with all the parents at the start of the school year to go over milestones for each child. I think it’s important we both be there since Josef’s just starting school.”
“What do you mean you can’t?”
“I’m takin’ those men from Washington over ta Hunter Pass, I told ya. I’ll be gone three days,” Sully explained.
“Can’t you delay it? This is important,” Michaela implored.
“No. What I gotta do is important too. It’ll be all right if ya go without me. You can tell me about it when I get home,” he calmly replied. Sensing she wasn’t going to give up, he walked onto the porch. Michaela followed him, leaving Katie and Josef inside.
“I’d like to do it together,” she stressed.
“Well, I can’t,” he said pacing a few feet away.
“Sully, I think it’s important we both show an interest in the children’s education,” she went on as she watched him place the fishing poles in the wagon.
Sully raised his hand to stop her. “Please don’t start Michaela. Just ‘cause I gotta work don’t mean I’m not interested in their education.”
“I just don’t understand why you can’t move your trip a few days,” she entreated.
“I just can’t and don’t push this. Please.”
“I’m just…” Michaela tried to speak, but he held up his hand to cut her off.
“Why am I the one who’s supposed to move things around when I don’t see you make one change in your job to benefit our family? Answer that.” He couldn’t hold in his frustration any longer.
“I can’t change when people get sick. I can’t control my schedule,” she tried to explain defensively. “But…but you can.”
“I can’t change that there’s men comin’ from Washington who expect me ta meet ‘em in Denver. And how do I know you won’t have another emergency on Tuesday?” he argued. Sully walked toward the house. “I’m not goin’ to the school meetin’.” He paused for a moment. “And we’re not gonna settle anythin’ now. I’m takin’ the kids fishin’.”
He walked back up the porch steps and called to the children, “Come on. Let’s go.” He walked back down the porch with Katie and Josef, and lifted them into the back of the wagon. Once they were comfortably settled, he climbed up, took the reins and rode off without another word.
* * *
“Papa, why we fish with worms?” Josef asked as he sat on his father’s lap watching him put one on the end of the fishing pole. Next to him, Katie was digging for more.
“Fish like ta eat worms and it makes ‘em easier ta catch,” Sully explained with his arm protectively around his son. Holding him close, he handed him the fishing pole. “Now put this in the water and if you feel somethin’ pull on it, ya got a fish.”
“I got another worm,” Katie said excitedly as she held it in the air, its body wiggling.
“Let’s put it on your pole Katie.” Sully held her pole while Katie attached the worm. With his daughter close to his side, he gently repositioned his son to sit between his knees in front of him. Then he picked up a piece of wood and started carving.
“What ya makin?” Josef asked looking at his father run the knife blade across the wood.
“Don’t know yet,” he answered. “Is there somethin’ you’d like me ta make?”
“Can ya make a dog?”
“Joey, Papa can make anythin’,” Katie chimed in.
Sully chuckled and gently placed his hand on her back. “Don’t know ‘bout that Kates, but I can make a dog.” He enjoyed spending time with his children. Being with them was simple and uncomplicated and their love unconditional, as his was for them. They sat for a long time with their fishing poles in the water while Sully carved the dog.
After a while, Katie stood and handed her pole to her father. “I’m gonna pick some flowers.”
“All right, but stay where I can see ya.”
Katie nodded and walked away from the stream to collect flowers.
“I can’t catch fish,” Josef said frustrated.
“Sure ya can. You just gotta be patient,” Sully told him as he tousled his hair.
“What’s this Papa?” Katie asked when she returned, pointing to a tall spike with colorful bells.
“That’s Foxglove. Your ma uses it in her doctorin’.”
“I’ve never seen this one. What’s it for?” she asked curiously.
“I think it treats the heart, but you better ask your ma to be sure,” he replied examining the spike more closely. “Yeah, it’s for the heart.”
“How does it help the heart?” asked the inquisitive child.
“I’m not sure.”
“I’ll ask Mama when she comes,” Katie announced taking a seat next to her father with her flowers clutched tightly in her hand.
Sully put his arm around her and held her close wondering if Michaela would even show up at all.
Josef became restless at not catching any fish. “Papa, why you have to work so far away?”
Sully pondered his question for a few moments. “See all this, Joe.” He made a sweeping gesture with his arm toward the surrounding land. “The stream, the mountains, and the trees?”
“I wanna make sure it’s all still here when you grow up and have kids, and even long after that,” Sully patiently explained.
“Where would it go?” he asked puzzled.
“People might wanna build towns and roads through here and put businesses where the forests are. I wanna make sure there’s enough land left for the future so your kids and their kids can see how beautiful this land is.”
“So you go away to save the land for me,” he concluded, thinking that was a pretty important job. Josef was proud. His mama was a doctor and helped people get better and his papa protected the mountains and the streams.
“Sort of. I try.” Sully started to stand. “It’s gettin’ late. We oughta head back home for lunch.”
“But we didn’t catch any fish,” Katie protested.
“Kates, fishin’ ain’t only ‘bout catchin’ fish. It’s about sittin’ out here and thinkin’ and enjoyin’ where we are.”
She pondered her father’s words. “I still think we should catch fish, and besides, we have to wait for Mama,” she persisted.
“She ain’t comin’ Kates,” Sully sadly admitted. “She’ll meet us back home for lunch. Let’s go.”
Sully returned home with Katie and Josef to find his wife still wasn’t there. After he made them lunch and convinced an unwilling Josef to take a nap, he left Katie by the fire reading so he could go outside to do chores. When Michaela returned home an hour later, she noticed Sully in the barn. She led Flash in to remove her saddle, unsure of what to say to her husband. Knowing Sully, he’d be angry, but in this case he had a right to be. She had broken her promise to him and the children.
“Sully, I’m sorry. There were complications with the surgery and it took much longer than I anticipated,” she calmly explained hoping he would understand.
Sully gave her a sharp glare then returned to rake the stall without saying a word. Michaela could see by the motions of the rake, quick and short, that he was angry.
“Where are the children?”
“Josef’s nappin’ and Katie’s readin’ inside,” he answered as he continued to toss the hay.
I’ll go inside then,” she said quietly, turning around to exit the barn.
“When I’m done here, I gotta go out,” he informed her.
She turned back around to face him. “Will you be home for supper?” she asked assuming he needed some time alone.
“No,” he quietly replied.
“When will you be home?” she asked, her voice quivering
“Don’t know,” he answered then he glanced at her once more and quickly turned away.
* * *
Sully was sitting Indian-style outside his lean-to staring into a burning fire. Unbeknownst to Michaela, he had recently rebuilt it as a place to think and for those nights, such as this one, that he spent away from the homestead. After being married for over nine years, his lean-to was left to dissipate in the woods. He hardly ever had need of it…until now.
Hours later he was still upset about the fishing trip. She promised to be there then didn’t show up. The broken promises, which he understood were an occupational hazard in an emergency, were now a regular occurrence. There were other times when they planned a family outing only to have Michaela waylaid at the clinic. Added to these were numerous missed suppers and lunches. On many occasions Sully remembered sitting alone at Grace’s waiting for his wife to join him at the café, but she never showed up. And it seemed whenever he planned time for just the two of them - a walk in the woods or a picnic at the waterfall - she cancelled at the last minute.
Sully thought about how he always tried to understand what it meant to be a doctor, but the sacrifices their family was making was becoming too much. He agonized about whether he was being selfish, whether he should try harder to see if from her perspective, but the only conclusion he could reach was that she stopped making him a priority. That thought alone was breaking his heart.
The longer he sat staring into the fire, the more he tried to make sense of his life and the changes that had occurred over the past few years. Cloud Dancing had moved to Montana to join the Northern Cheyenne. All the Cheyenne in Colorado were gone – either killed by the Army or up north. Sully had nothing left of the Indians he called his family. In his work, nothing he had done since his efforts to help the Cheyenne held meaning for him. His work to protect the land had brought nothing but frustration and failure.
Sully didn’t know where he belonged in the world anymore. Michaela was slipping away from him and he felt helpless to do anything about it. The way of life he fought so hard to protect was vanishing. He was angry at everything and he worried how that anger would affect his children. Before things got much worse, he needed to find his way again, and figure out his role in this rapidly changing world.
* * *
“You’re home,” Michaela said when she saw Sully walk through the front door.
Sully quickly glanced at her without saying a word and hung his coat on the rack.
“Where were you?” she asked searching his eyes for an explanation about why he had been gone for two days. “I was worried.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean ta worry you,” he replied sincerely.
Michaela tentatively moved closer to him. “There’s still some supper on the stove. Are you hungry?”
“I’ll be right back,” she said as she walked into the kitchen. Her hands trembled as she ladled the stew into a dish for Sully. She knew he was angry with her about the fishing trip and about her hours at the clinic, but lately he seemed troubled by something more. Carrying the stew out of the kitchen, she placed it in front of him.
“Thank you.” As their eyes momentarily met, Sully touched her arm then quickly looked down at his stew.
Michaela took a seat across from him. “Are you still leaving for Denver tomorrow?”
He nodded. “In the mornin’.”
“Do the politicians you’re guiding have the influence in Congress to pass the bill?” As she talked with Sully, her heart ached for the loving couple they once were, not these two strangers desperately trying to carry on a polite conversation.
“I hope so,” he replied. “Are the kids asleep?”
“I put them to bed right before you came home, but they’re probably not asleep yet. Katie wanted to read and Josef wanted to draw. They missed you,” she told him.
“I missed them too. I’ll go upstairs to say goodnight then I’ll turn in. I wanna get an early start tomorrow.” He stood lingering a little longer as he stared at his wife longing to share some of what was on his mind.
“I’ll lock up down here,” she said as she held his gaze.
Before Sully turned around to head upstairs he reached over and lightly touched her shoulder. “G’night, Michaela.”
“Goodnight.” She watched him approach the stairs and place his foot on the bottom step. “Sully,” she said, her heart pounding.
He quickly turned around. “Yeah.”
She hesitated as her courage evaporated. “It’s nothing really. Go say goodnight to the children. Perhaps we can talk in the morning.”
His shoulders slumped and he slowly walked up the stairs.
Michaela doused the lamps and locked the doors, all the time worried about what was bothering her husband. Sully had become more withdrawn over the past several weeks and she was growing increasingly concerned. Once upstairs, she changed into her nightgown and crawled into bed beside him. With his back to her, his even breathing told her he was probably already asleep. Facing his back, she placed her hand on his shoulder and closed her eyes. Her touch was comforting, and Sully reached up and took her hand in his, pulling her closer as he drifted off to sleep.
* * *
Sully rose before dawn, dressed quickly and made his way downstairs. After having coffee and quietly packing his bag for the trip to Denver, he went to the barn to saddle his horse. He said goodbye to the children last night and wanted to be out of the house before Michaela woke up to avoid another strained conversation and perhaps an argument. Being alone in the woods for a few days was just what he needed. It would give him time to think about what he needed to do. There was still one stop to make before riding to Denver. He arrived at Matthew’s homestead at dawn and found him in the barn milking the cow.
“Mornin’ Matthew,” he greeted.
“Hey, Sully, what brings you out here this early?”
“Matthew, mind if I ask ya a favor,” he said leaning against the barn door.
“Favor?” he questioned as he finished milking the cow.
“Yeah, I’m headin’ ta Denver to meet those folks from Washington. Would you check on things at the homestead for me while I’m gone?”
“You know I will. How long will you be gone?” Matthew asked.
“Three days, at most a week,” he replied. Sully lingered a little longer nervously kicking his feet in the dirt deciding whether he wanted to continue.
Matthew noticed Sully’s unease. “Is somethin’ botherin ya?”
He stood silently for a few moments collecting his thoughts. “No. But if I was ta go away for a while, could ya maybe watch things at the homestead for me?”
“Sure, more work?” Matthew asked walking over to the stump to chop wood.
“No,” Sully said following him out.
“I been thinkin’ ‘bout visitin’ Cloud Dancin’, but before I decide, I gotta know things’ll be all right here,” Sully told him.
“You know I’ll help out for however long ya need,” Matthew reassured lifting the ax and bringing it down to split the log.
“Thanks, Matthew.” Sully patted him on the back.
“What’s Dr. Mike say about this?” Matthew asked with concern.
“I haven’t exactly said anythin’ to her yet. Like I said, I ain’t decided,” he replied. Then he added under his breath, “She’d hardly notice I’m gone,” unaware that Matthew had heard. Sully turned to leave and shook Matthew’s hand. “Thanks, Matthew, I appreciate ya looking out for the place.”
“Sure thing, Sully. Have a good trip,” Matthew said as he watched him ride away, concerned about what might be going through his mind.
* * *
Michaela drove the wagon into town at a fast pace. She had overslept and was hurt that Sully left for Denver without a word between them. She hated when they parted without a proper goodbye. After she dropped the children off at school she headed to the clinic. Three patients were already waiting at the door. “Another busy day,” she sighed.
“Good Morning Dr. Mike,” Mrs. Jenkins called waving from just outside the clinic.
Michaela stepped down from the wagon and walked toward the clinic eyeing the line already forming outside. “Good Morning Mrs. Jenkins,” she returned opening the clinic door. “Step inside and we’ll see what the problem is.” She looked at the other patients, exasperated. “You may all have a seat on the bench and I’ll be with you shortly.”
After a steady stream of broken bones, cuts and bruises, and the always-present catarrh, Michaela realized it was past one o’clock and she hadn’t eaten lunch. She put on her coat and opened the clinic door.
“Oh I’m sorry to barge in like this Dr. Mike, but Sam took sick this mornin’. He seems ta be gettin’ worse and nothin’s helpin’ him. I’d be mighty grateful if you’d take a look at him,” a worried mother said as she rushed into the clinic.
“Of course Mrs. Wright. Bring Sam over to the table,” she replied taking off her coat and hanging it back up on the rack. Michaela walked to the examination table and gently prodded the little boy’s abdomen causing him to wince and moan.
“Is he gonna be all right?” Mrs. Wright asked clasping and unclasping her hands with worry.
“Yes, he’ll be fine,” Michaela reassured. “Sam appears to have an upset stomach. Did he eat anything unusual yesterday?” She walked over to the cabinet to get medicine for him.
“He might have had some milk that turned,” his mother remembered.
“That was probably it. I’ll give Sam some bicarbonate to settle his stomach and you should keep him home from school for the rest of the day. He should feel fine in the morning,” she told her as she mixed the medicine and gave it to the boy to drink.
“Thank you Dr. Mike,” exclaimed a very relieved Mrs. Wright as she handed the doctor a few coins. Will this cover it?”
“Yes. Thank you,” Michaela answered escorting Mrs. Wright to the door. Outside several other patients were waiting to be seen. Michaela sighed and directed the most seriously ill of them inside the clinic.
As Michaela was treating her last patient of the day, the clinic door swung open. Katie and Josef bounded inside.
“What are you doing?” she chastised. Katie saw her mother with a patient and knew they were in trouble.
“Sorry,” Katie replied with her head down.
“Julie, could you take them outside while I finish here?” Michaela asked the baby sitter who had just run in after the children. Her tone was serious and short. Michaela and Sully had hired Julie to watch the children a few days a week after school when neither of them was available.
“Sorry Dr. Mike, I couldn’t catch up to them,” Julie explained.
“It’s all right, Dr. Mike,” Mr. Jordan assured. “I know I came right when you were closin’ up. They didn’t mean no harm.”
“Thank you for saying that, but they know they can’t barge in the clinic. It could have been much worse,” she responded. Michaela walked Mr. Jordan out of the clinic. “I’ll need to examine the cut tomorrow to make sure infection doesn’t set in.”
“Sure thing, Dr. Mike.”
Michaela turned to her children who were quietly sitting on the bench outside the clinic fully aware they were in trouble. “Please come in here now.”
Katie and Josef slowly entered the clinic. Michaela thanked Julie and made sure she could watch the children after school tomorrow since Sully was away.
Michaela turned to her children and began. “We’ve talked about this. You may not run into the clinic. I had finished with Mr. Jordan, but another time I might have been in the middle of a delicate procedure. Do you understand?”
“Sorry,” Katie said with her eyes fixed on the floor.
“Sorry,” echoed Josef standing behind his sister.
Michaela knelt down to hug them. “Please be more careful next time.” Then she stood to walk over to her instruments.
“I will,” Katie promised looking at her mother. “Mama.”
“Yes,” her mother replied as she cleaned her instruments, not really paying attention.
Katie walked to where her mother was standing and looked up at her. “I just wanted to tell you,” she began nervously. “I got an A on my science project and my math test,” she said hoping her mother would be pleased.
Michaela smiled and knelt down to embrace her daughter. “Katie, that’s wonderful, I’m so proud of you,” she replied suddenly realizing she had been ignoring her children. “I know you were excited and wanted to tell me, but you have to be more careful in the future.”
“And Josef, how was school for you today?” she asked turning to wrap her arms around him.
“Good, we learned all about which trees different leaves come from. Katie knew all the answers. I knew all cept two,” Josef beamed.
Michaela smiled at her children. “With the amount of time you spend with your father in the woods, I’m not surprised!”
Katie looked up at her mother. “When’s Papa comin’ home? I wanna tell him about my grades and I wanna take him to see the baby deer in the thicket.”
“I don’t know sweetheart. It should be very soon. I know he’ll be proud of you,” she assured. “Perhaps when he comes home we could all walk up to the thicket to see the deer.”
“Mama, I drew you a picture,” Josef said holding up a colorful paper in his hand. Michaela looked at the picture. Her son had drawn a woman treating a patient with something around her neck that resembled a stethoscope and a man in the woods. There was a line down the center of the page and under each figure it said “Mama” and “Papa.” Josef had drawn his parents, but to Michaela it looked like two separate people with nothing to do with one another. She took a few deep breaths. Her son had perfectly captured how separate their lives had become. Seeing it on paper made it more real than she had been willing to admit.
* * *
After putting the children to sleep, Michaela sat on the porch sipping a cup of tea. It was a cool September night and she pulled the shawl tightly around her shoulders for warmth. Josef’s picture had deeply disturbed her. She didn’t know how it happened, but the chasm between them had grown slowly and gradually, fueled by not sharing the same day-to-day experiences. And over time their once easy and open communication had become strained. As she wrapped her hands around the cup and stared up at the stars, she tried to remember how their problems began.
Josef was still a baby when Sully left again and again for work at weeks on end. Michaela was left alone with two small children, herself to take care of, and the clinic, all without the help and support of her husband. And though she was loathe to admit it, she couldn’t do everything herself. Her older children, who she always counted on for support in the past, had their own lives now. Colleen had a successful medical practice in Boston. Matthew was busy with a thriving law practice that kept him traveling back and forth to Denver and Brian had left home to attend College in Denver then taken a job as an apprentice at The Boston Globe.
When Sully first accepted the job with the Interior Department she remembered how easy it was for them to settle back into a routine when he returned home from a trip. They were both excited about the potential importance of the job. It also helped that she had more support at home and only one child to care for. Later, as the frequency and duration of the trips increased, and as Sully grew more frustrated at not being able to win preservation for the sites he recommended, it became more difficult to reconnect. Each time he came home it felt like they were starting over, then after he was home for a while and they were finally comfortable with each other again, he’d leave on another trip. In the past few months he hadn’t been home long enough for them to find their rhythm together.
To cope with the loneliness she felt by Sully’s constant absences, Michaela immersed herself in work and the children. Medicine was changing and it seemed a new treatment was discovered almost every month. With all these changes, it was easy for her to lose herself in her work. Sometimes just as Sully was coming home, she would leave for a medical conference to retreat from the pressures of doing everything alone. Her career was bringing a satisfaction that was missing in other areas of her life. She felt needed and respected and had even begun to gain greater professional acceptance among her male colleagues. Only recently, when she realized that her hours at the clinic were hurting her family was she prepared to make the necessary changes.
As Josef’s picture starkly revealed to her, she and Sully were living separate lives with only the children to tie them together. Thinking back to when they first married, she believed they shared a true partnership. They each properly balanced the needs of their family with the demands of the outside world. In the past few years it seemed they both let outside demands pull them away from each other to the detriment of their marriage. She couldn’t remember the last time they did anything alone – just the two of them. She thought they could find the time when things settled down, only they never did. Still, she knew they loved each other, even if they hadn’t shown or said it lately. Starting now Michaela was prepared to do anything to get back what they had in the beginning. She only hoped it was possible.
“Am I early Michaela?” Dorothy asked as she arrived for her appointment and noticed her friend hunched over her desk. “I can wait outside.”
Michaela was sitting at her desk, reviewing patient files, rubbing her temples to ease the headache that threatened to consume her. Hearing Dorothy’s voice she looked up. “Don’t be silly. Come in,” she encouraged as she closed the files. “How are you feeling Dorothy?”
Dorothy could see how overworked and withdrawn Michaela seemed. “I’m doing much better than the last time I was here. My cough’s almost gone, but you don’t look too well, Michaela,” she observed taking a seat on the examination table.
“Me? Oh, I’m fine Dorothy. Just a little tired,” she insisted as she started her examination.
“I’d say it’s more than a little tired,” her friend gently persisted.
Michaela lowered her eyes to the floor, choking back tears. “There is something else,” she whispered. Dorothy touched her arm encouraging her to continue. “Well…I’m not sure how to begin,” she said when she finished listening to Dorothy’s lungs. “Things…things have been strained between Sully and myself.” She paused and looked away. “They have been for a long time now, but lately it’s gotten worse.”
“Worse?” Dorothy asked. All her friends had noticed the couple drifting apart. That electric spark between them was gone.
“He’s so distant, cold almost.” Michaela swallowed hard before continuing. “He’s warm and caring with the children, but with me it’s…it’s as if he can’t stand to be in the same room with me,” she finished in a voice barely audible.
“Oh, Michaela, I’m sure that’s not the case,” she reassured, disturbed at seeing her friend so upset. “It’s true, Sully doesn’t seem himself lately and he’s been stayin’ away from folks more and more, but he loves you.”
“He never…well, he hardly ever touches or kisses me anymore,” she added with embarrassment as tears sprang to her eyes.
“I see,” her friend responded unaware that things between them had gotten that bad.
Michaela continued, “All we do is argue or…or ignore each other. He didn’t even say goodbye before he left for Denver,” she said fighting to maintain control as the tears rolled down her face. “And sometimes he doesn’t come home at night,” she revealed in barely a whisper.
Dorothy put her arms around her friend to comfort her, patting her back as she cried. After several moments, Michaela pulled back to regain her composure. She wiped the tears from her face, straightened her skirts, and resumed her examination.
“Have you talked to him?” Dorothy asked. “Tried to find out what’s wrong?”
“You have to talk to him!”
“I know, but it seems we’re unable to communicate without arguing or hurting each other,” she sadly admitted.
“Michaela, do you want to fix things between you and Sully?”
“More than anything.”
“Then talk to him. I know the two of you. There’s nothing you can’t fix if you talk about it and work it through together,” Dorothy assured.
“You still think so?” she asked with uncertainty.
“I know so,” Dorothy confirmed, but then hesitated. Although she didn’t want to overstep her bounds, someone had to confront Michaela. “I know Sully being away so much for work has been hard on both of you, but from what I see, so has your hours at the clinic,” she pointed out.
Michaela put away her stethoscope. “You’re right. Dorothy, please don’t tell anyone, but a few weeks ago I advertised for another doctor.”
“You did!” Dorothy exclaimed with a wide grin. “But why keep it a secret?”
“I want to surprise Sully. I want to show him that I’m prepared to make more time for him and the children,” she explained. “Perhaps he’ll agree to do the same. I know with more time together we can make our marriage work again. I’m ashamed when I think of what I’ve permitted my practice to do to us.” Michaela gazed out the window. “I only hope he still wants the same thing.”
“I’m sure Sully wants the same thing you do. And Michaela, it’s not all your fault. Seems like Sully was away more and more too,” Dorothy countered.
“True, but I never should have let it get so bad at the clinic,” she said guiltily. “It seems the more he was away, the more I allowed work to consume me. Sully could always get me to slow down, and remind me of what was truly important. When he stopped doing that, it seemed I forgot how,” Michaela remarked with her voice breaking.
Dorothy stood and walked toward her friend, placing her hand on her shoulder. “Well, what’s important is you’re going to do something about it now.”
Michaela turned away. “Still, I’m uncertain. This was not an easy decision to make.”
“For heavens sake why not! It’s clear to anyone you need help,” Dorothy stated emphatically.
“I know, but I built this practice on my own and it’s hard to envision sharing it with a colleague,” Michaela admitted.
“You worked with Andrew and now Dr. Meadows.” Dorothy didn’t understand.
“Yes, but they had their own practice at the Chateau. This time, I’ll be sharing my practice and losing some of my independence as a physician. It won’t be my clinic any longer. It will be our clinic. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”
Dorothy took her hand. “This is the right decision, Michaela. You’ll see. When are you going to tell Sully?”
“I thought I’d wait to see if I get any replies. It won’t be easy finding someone willing to work for a woman.”
“Well, I won’t say anythin’ ‘til you say. I know this is right. Everything will work out. You’ll see.”
“Thank you Dorothy. It’s clear Sully and I can’t keep going on like this.” Michaela resumed her professional demeanor. “Well, you appear to be in perfect health,” she assured as she walked Dorothy to the door. “Come and see me if that cough bothers you again.”
“I will Michaela. Thank you.” Dorothy stepped closer and gave her friend a reassuring hug. “Take care of yourself.”
* * *
Michaela was sitting on the porch step when Sully rode up. She watched him lead his horse into the barn then she went inside to bring him a cup of coffee. A few minutes later he sat beside her on the porch with his hands wrapped around the steaming cup. She longed for him to put his strong arms around her and to kiss her hello like he used to, but he just sat there staring straight ahead. With her throat dry and her stomach in knots, she thought about what she was going to say. For a long time, they sat in uncomfortable silence before they both spoke in unison, “Sully,” “Michaela.”
“No you first,” Sully said as he turned to face her.
Michaela looked into his eyes and reached for his hand. “Sully, we can’t keep going on like this.”
“No. We can’t,” he spoke in barely a whisper.
Still meeting his eyes she gathered the courage to continue. “Sully, I miss us. I miss the way we used to be, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get that back.”
Sully sat in stunned silence.
Michaela took a deep breath and went on. “I can make more time for us. I’ll cut back my hours at the clinic and quit the town council. I’m willing to do anything. Just tell me you want the same thing.”
Sully looked away. This was the last thing he expected to hear after all this time. As much as he longed to tell her he missed her and wanted the same thing she did, he couldn’t. Instead he remained silent for several long moments building up the strength to tell her what he needed to do. “Michaela…it’s not that simple. I think we both could use some time apart to figure out what we want.” Sully hesitated. “I’m goin’ up north ta see Cloud Dancin’ for a while.”
Michaela was quiet as she absorbed his words. Just when she told him she would do anything to fix their marriage, he told her he was leaving. “I just told you what I want. I don’t need time apart to think about it.”
“I do,” he said softly with his eyes focused on the ground. “And I think it would be good for you too.”
As his words sank in, the hurt and fear she felt surfaced as anger. “Your solution to everything is to leave,” she accused unable to accept what she was hearing. Abruptly, she stood and moved away from him with tears welling up in her eyes. Feeling unsteady, she grabbed onto the porch railing for support. “We can’t fix what’s wrong between us if we’re apart,” she said taking deep breaths to keep from breaking down.
“Michaela, please listen to me. I’m not happy.” Sully was struggling with the words. “I’ve lost my way. I need to figure out what my path is without the Indians and with the mines and the lumber mills comin’ in and destroyin’ the land. I don’t feel like I have a purpose in the world right now and it’s tearin’ me apart.” He paused and looked at her. “It’s tearin’ us apart. I need time ta think. Please understand why I have ta do this.”
“Understand!” she repeated having reached her breaking point. “What am I supposed to understand? That you never want to be home? What about me? The children? How are we supposed to build a life together if you’re never here?”
“What difference does it make if I’m here? You don’t need me,” he said revealing his inner pain. As his hurt turned to anger, he stood and paced a few steps away to control his temper. “You never have time for me. You never want to be alone with me. You’re the one who ruined our anniversary, not me.” Sully immediately regretted bringing that up, but it was too late.
Michaela was trembling as tears rolled down her face. “I thought you understood.”
“Well I didn’t,” he admitted. “How could I understand why you put so little time and effort into us? That you didn’t love me enough to spend our anniversary together,” he finished at last.
“Not love you! You can’t honestly believe that Sully. I’d give my life for you, and nearly had to on occasion,” she said emphatically. “If you hadn’t become such a stranger to me this past year I would have found more time for us. Perhaps it’s you who doesn’t want me. When was the last time you touched me or wanted to be with me?” Now it was Michaela who was lashing out.
Before they hurt each other more than they already had, and perhaps irreparably, Sully stepped off the porch and walked a few yards away from the house. He kept walking into the woods hoping to clear his head and figure out some way to convince Michaela that what he needed to do would be best for both of them.
Michaela walked back into the house. Stunned, she sat down in the wingback chair to attempt to understand how things had gone so wrong. The words, “I’m not happy,” kept echoing over and over again in her mind. She thought back to their anniversary. She and Sully had planned to spend the day together, enjoy a romantic supper at home, and spend the night in the woods, alone. Only it didn’t work out that way. As she stared into the fire, the memory of that night resurfaced.
*”I’m sorry, Sully. I couldn’t get away. Mr. Bryce’s appendix burst.” Michaela noticed the special effort Sully had put into this evening, a lump forming in her throat. “The table looks beautiful,” she whispered noticing the tablecloth, the fancy dishes, the flowers, and the candles, almost burned down to the end. “Is there any supper left?”
“It’s cold.” Sully couldn’t look at her. He was profoundly hurt and felt like his chest was being crushed. “It’s our anniversary Michaela,” he finally said, his voice unsteady. “First you can’t spend the day with me then you missed supper. Couldn’t Dr. Meadow’s have handled things?”
“He’s my patient and this was a life-threatening situation. Dr. Meadow’s has never seen an appendix once it’s ruptured,” she explained, her hands trembling. “I’m truly sorry. I wish this hadn’t happened.” She tried to rescue the evening. “We could still spend the night in the woods,” she said suggestively with the corner of her mouth turned up.
“I don’t think so,” he responded still unable to look at her. “I’m goin’ up ta bed.”
“I’m sorry Sully, but you can’t predict when an emergency will occur. My father missed a lot of important things and left my mother with ruined meals on more than one occasion. It can’t be helped,” she said walking over to the table to examine what remained of their supper.
“I suppose not,” he murmured as he blew out the candles.
“So you understand?” she asked relieved.
“I guess.” Sully headed up to bed.
“I’ll make it up to you,” she promised as he was heading up the stairs.*
Michaela didn’t think she would ever forget the pain in his eyes that night. “I never kept that promise,” she mused. The more she thought, the more she realized things seemed to get worse from that night on.
* * *
“Michaela.” Sully was gently tapping her shoulder. “Michaela, we need ta talk.”
She started to rouse unaware she had fallen asleep in the chair. “Sully,” she spoke as she rubbed her eyes and tried to focus.
“We need ta talk,” he repeated.
Michaela straightened in the chair, her neck and back sore. As she became more fully awake she remembered their last words. “Sully, please don’t leave,” she implored. “I’m sorry about the things I said and about so many other things. Stay here and figure out what you need to do, but don’t leave again. Please, for me,” she pleaded.
Sully swallowed hard. “I need to find my way again,” he told her in a quiet voice.
“Why can’t you do that here? I can help, if you’ll let me,” she begged as tears threatened to fall.
“I can’t.” Sully stood and walked toward the mantle, his back to Michaela.
“I just can’t,” he whispered in a shaky voice as he stared at the flames in the fire.
Michaela knew Sully wasn’t going to tell her anymore so she decided to ask the only question she really wanted to know. “Do you still love me?”
Sully turned to face her. “Of course I love you! I’ll always love you.” How could they have gotten to a place where his wife would ask this question and sound like she didn’t know the answer? “Never forget how much I love you, Michaela. You and the kids mean everything ta me, but we’re not makin’ each other happy. I don’t know where I belong anymore.”
Michaela stood and stepped closer to him. “What are you talking about? You belong here with your family. I love you. You make me very happy!” she told him as she instinctively reached for his hand. “We just need to spend some time together and talk about our problems. We can get through this, I know we can.” Michaela felt like she was drowning.
Sully caressed her hand. “It’s not that simple,” he replied biting back tears.
“What am I supposed to do? Stay home and take care of the children and the homestead?” she asked letting go of his hand. “You’re not being fair Sully. Whenever things get too hard for you, you just leave. What about Katie and Josef? What about me?”
“You’ll be fine. You always are,” he said sadly knowing that in truth, his family would be just fine without him. Michaela had proven that time and time again.
“How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you going to tell the children?” she asked as she wiped away her tears.
“That I love them.”
Sully rubbed her arm. “I think some time apart will be good for both of us, give us time to think about the life we want and what’ll make us happy.”
“I know what I want!” She impulsively threw her arms around him, pressing herself against his chest in a desperate attempt to change his mind. Sully remained unresponsive, but his heart ached for both of them. “Please don’t go,” she pleaded one more time.
After a few moments, she let go of him and headed for the stairs. She gave up trying to convince him to stay because it was obvious he was set on going. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she turned to him once more. “When do you leave?”
“In the mornin’.”
“You’ll say goodbye to the children?”
Michaela walked up the stairs to their bedroom. She couldn’t believe he was leaving. Just when she was ready to do anything to make their marriage work he was leaving again. With tears streaming down her face, she collapsed on the bed. The tears turned to sobs until she was crying uncontrollably.
Sully pensively gazed into the fire, his heart aching, as he thought about what was happening to them. He knew how much his decision to leave had hurt his wife, yet he didn’t know any other way. He could always hear the spirits more clearly alone in the woods and surely they would give him the answers he was searching for. He knew he was doing the right thing for himself because he wasn’t any good to anyone right now. Not Michaela or the kids. Some time with Cloud Dancing and his Cheyenne family would restore the balance in his life and point him on the right path. Dropping his head in his hands despondently, he could no longer pretend to be happy with his life. In truth, he was miserable. While he would miss Michaela and the kids terribly, he knew that he and Michaela hadn’t been happy for a long time.
Sully went up the stairs and slowly walked by Katie’s room. “G’night Kates, my sweet girl,” he whispered to his sleeping daughter. He looked in on Josef and smiled. “Sweet dreams.” Then he walked toward his bedroom. Hearing Michaela crying on the other side of the door broke his heart. He wanted to go to her, take her in his arms and tell her he loved her, but he couldn’t. Despairingly Sully descended the stairs knowing that on this night he would not get any sleep.
* * *
The next morning Sully packed his bag and made breakfast for the kids. They were up and excited he was home.
“How was your trip Papa?” Katie asked picking up her fork to eat her eggs.
“Good. What’s new here? How’s school?” Sully asked his daughter who at that moment looked so much like Michaela.
Katie was glad to have her father home. “Good. I got an A on my math test,” she told him. “There’s a baby deer by the red oak Papa. I wanna show you.”
“Look at my picture of wof Papa,” Josef said waving the paper in front of him.
“That’s a real good drawin’ Joe, it looks just like ‘im. Kates, I’d like ta see the deer but I gotta go away for a while.”
“No Papa, you just got home,” Katie said as her voice trembled.
Sully could see the pain in her eyes. “I know, and I’m sorry, but it’s important. I’m gonna go see Cloud Dancin’. You remember him don’t ya?”
Katie nodded. “I don’t want you to go away again,” she begged as she hugged her father.
Sully embraced her and stroked her hair. “I gotta go Kates,” he said, his voice faltering. “Take real good care of your ma and Joe for me. Think ya can do that?”
Katie nodded with tears in her eyes.
Josef climbed into Sully’s lap. “When will you be home Papa? When will we be a real family?”
“We are a real family Joe,” Sully said thinking that leaving was going to be harder than he thought. “Mornin’,” Sully apprehensively greeted Michaela as he saw her come down the stairs. From the look in her eyes, he knew she had hardly slept at all and probably cried most of the night.
Michaela couldn’t look him in the eye. “Good morning.”
“Come join us for breakfast,” he urged not wanting to part in anger.
“I’m not hungry,” she answered as she sat in one of the chairs in the living room willing herself to stay in control long enough to say goodbye.
Sully brought her a cup of coffee then he returned to the kitchen table and continued to enjoy the excited chatter of his children over breakfast. Once the dishes were cleared and the children dressed, he began to say goodbye.
“Bye. Now be good for your ma and study hard in school,” he said as he hugged Katie and Josef goodbye.
“Bye, Papa,” Josef said clutching his father’s shirt.
“Bye, Papa. Say hello to Cloud Dancing,” Katie said.
“I will.” Sully held his children tightly in his arms, not wanting to let go. “I love you both so much. Don’t ever forget that.”
He motioned for Michaela to join him outside. She stepped down from the porch as Sully was leading his horse from the barn.
“Please don’t go,” she pleaded one last time stepping closer to him.
“I have to Michaela,” he reiterated. He looked at her for several moments then brought his hand to her face and lightly brushed her cheek. “Take care of yourself and the kids,” he finally said as he mounted his horse. When he reached the end of the path to the homestead he turned and waved goodbye.
Michaela watched him ride away from the homestead. She was angry and frightened. Yet, she knew Sully. He often needed time alone to sort out his feelings, and for the nine years they had been married, she tried to accept that part of him. Although she wouldn’t be happy about it, Michaela decided she would accept that he needed to do this. “I wish I had told him this last night,” she thought standing outside staring into the distance. When he returned, they would work out their problems. Michaela knew she had to be patient. They both loved each other, and she counted on the strength of that love to bring them back together.
“I’m so glad you could join me for lunch today,” Dorothy told her as she cut her meatloaf and brought a piece to her mouth.
“I almost didn’t,” Michaela sighed exhausted. “I had so many patients this morning and last night there was an emergency. I had to take Katie and Josef with me and we all spent the night at the clinic.”
“You look bone tired,” she sympathized as she reached across the table to pat her hand. “I thought Sully would be back by now.”
Michaela looked down at her soup with a troubled expression on her face. “He’s gone to Montana to visit Cloud Dancing.”
“Cloud Dancing! I thought he was in Denver with those folks from Washington.”
“He was.” After some hesitation she continued. “When he came home he told me he needed to go up north to see Cloud Dancing. He left a few days ago.”
“I see,” Dorothy replied eyeing her friend warily. “When will he be back?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted in a voice barely audible. Her eyes were fixed on the tiny squares in the tablecloth. Dorothy held Michaela’s hand encouraging her to continue. Michaela went on. “He was troubled, Dorothy,” she said choosing her words carefully. “I think he needed to be with Cloud Dancing to sort out his feelings.”
“How do you feel about this?” Dorothy asked with concern.
Michaela placed her elbows on the table and clasped her hands under her chin, a far away look in her eyes. “I was angry at first, mostly that he wouldn’t stay and let me help him.”
“Now?” She paused to ponder the question. “Now I’m glad he’s visiting Cloud Dancing. I know how important their friendship is to Sully. He may be the only person who can help him right now,” she admitted regretfully. Michaela hesitated and absently stirred her soup. Taking a deep breath, she added, “I’m also frightened.”
Michaela nodded. “He was so distant before he left.” She paused staring down at her soup. “I’d feel better about this trip if we weren’t having problems.”
“Well, being with Cloud Dancing will do him a world of good and when he comes home, you can fix what’s wrong between the two of you,” Dorothy said encouragingly. “By then you’ll have hired a new doctor and have more time to spend together.”
Michaela smiled softly. “I suppose you’re right. I’m so sure about what we need to do that I wanted to start right away.”
“Maybe…” Dorothy started cautiously. “Maybe…Sully needed to sort out some things for himself first, before he could do it with you.”
“I’ve considered that, and I think you’re right,” she said hesitating. “But I’m frightened about what he might decide.” Michaela stirred her coffee.
“What if he wants a different life? One away from Colorado Springs?”
“Well, you’ll just have to make those decisions together. You’ll have to listen to each other and decide what’s best for your family,” Dorothy reasoned hoping she wouldn’t someday lose her best friend.
“I suppose,” Michaela replied. “As much as I don’t want to live anywhere else, it’s important to me that Sully is happy, and that we raise our children and grow old together. Perhaps for Sully and I to be truly happy again, we belong somewhere else, somewhere other than Colorado,” she revealed.
“Then, if the time comes, you’ll know what to do.”
“Yes, but the waiting is difficult.”
“Well,” Dorothy replied knowing her impatience. “While you wait, you can make all those changes you were talking about, and when Sully comes home, he’ll see a new Michaela.”
“New Michaela,” she chuckled. “I don’t know about that Dorothy,” she said grinning.
Just then Dorothy’s attention shifted. She looked past Michaela with a distant expression in her eyes.
“Dorothy? Are you all right?” she asked startling Dorothy from her daydream.
“I haven’t thought about Cloud Dancing for a long time,” she remarked softly. “I miss him. I wonder how he and his people are faring?”
“I know you do,” she nodded sympathetically.
“It’ll be good to hear how he’s getting on. He’s a very special man,” Dorothy wistfully remarked.
“Yes he is.”
“If anyone can help Sully, he can.”
“Dr. Mike, Dr. Mike, they need you at the clinic,” Horace yelled.
“Never a dull moment,” Michaela said as she rose from the table. “I’ll see you soon Dorothy.”
Dorothy remained at the table a while longer thinking about Cloud Dancing and what might have been. If only they didn’t come from such different worlds.
* * *
Sully had been riding alone for days in the drizzle and pouring rain so deep in thought he wasn’t sure how many days he’d been gone. Blazed in his mind was the pain and hurt in Michaela’s eyes as he rode away from the homestead. He wished he had the strength to stay, but his own feelings of failure as a husband, and his helplessness at not being able to make a difference in the world were too overpowering. Until he could feel whole again, Sully knew he wouldn’t be able to find his way back to Michaela. Despair had caused him to pull away from the most important person in his life.
Being outside alone was already doing him good. Sully needed solitude to clear his head and although she tried, Michaela never really understood how important this time alone was to him. The more time he spent alone, the more she felt rejected. Sully recognized that this was one of the many ways they were different. Michaela always kept busy. She filled all her time with the clinic, the kids, town council business, and the homestead, rarely having a free minute. He admired her energy, determination to succeed, and her passion to make a difference in her work. Though Sully valued hard, honest work too, and time with Michaela and the kids, he always needed time by himself for his spirit to be renewed.
Thinking back to the night before he left, Sully desperately wanted to believe that Michaela needed him, but he had doubts. Lately, she put everything before him, especially her practice, the children, and even town business. Sully couldn’t help thinking that he no longer made her happy. “Maybe Michaela wants a different life,” he thought, “and I’m just holdin’ her back.” This night, as he rode through the rain, he wondered if she might not be better off without him, free to pursue a new life for her and the kids. These thoughts frightened and disturbed him. With his mind filled with confusing thoughts and images, Sully continued riding through the night toward Montana, Cloud Dancing, and the journey that lay ahead.
* * *
“Do you have any more peaches Loren?” Michaela asked as she ambled through the mercantile filling her basket with groceries and items for the clinic.
“No. I sold the last jar this morning,” Loren replied looking up from stocking flour on the shelf. “Folks were grabbin’ ‘em off the shelves.”
“I should have come by earlier,” she muttered frowning. Michaela finished putting the last of her groceries in the basket and walked toward the counter to pay for her purchases. “Loren, I also need more material for bandages,” she said placing the items on the counter.
“I have it right here,” Loren said as he handed her the material and added it to her purchases. “It comes to four dollars even, Dr. Mike. You sure are goin’ through a lot of bandages,” he remarked opening the cash box.
“I am. I’ve had so many new patients and I keep running out of supplies. I suppose I should start ordering larger quantities of everything.” Michaela handed him the money.
Loren watched her intently. She looked exhausted, like she hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks, and her face was drawn and pale. “Have ya thought about gettin’ help, Dr. Mike? With more folks movin’ here, it seems the town could use another doctor,” he suggested as he closed the cash box.
“Are you saying I’m not able to adequately care for my patients?”
“Now don’t go gettin’ all riled up,” Loren replied. “You’re takin’ care a folks fine, but I don’t know how you have time for anythin’ else.” He walked her out of the store to help her load the groceries into the wagon. “I mean with two little ones at home and that husband of yours away all the time.”
Michaela ignored the insult to Sully and considered her response. “You’re right Loren. The clinic has grown too large for me to handle by myself and I would like more time with my family.” When the last item was in the wagon, she turned to face him. “I may as well tell you now. I’m going to be taking on a partner.”
“Ya are! Who? When?”
“His name is Dr. Morrison and he arrives from New York in two weeks.”
“Two weeks!” Loren was flabbergasted. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“I wanted to make sure I could find someone who would be willing to work for a woman and when I did, I wanted to tell Sully first.” She hesitated before continuing. “Since he’s not here at the moment, I’m afraid he’s going to be the last to find out,” she said, her voice laced with regret.
“Dorothy said he went to visit Cloud Dancing.”
“When will he be back?”
“I’m not certain. It’s a long trip, but I’m sure he’ll return as soon as he can,” she assured herself.
“It’s not right him bein’ gone so much,” Loren said, though more to himself than for her ears.
Michaela tensed. “Sully’s with us as much as he can and I understand that,” she replied nervously rearranging the groceries in the back of the wagon. “I really should return to the clinic.”
“You take care Dr. Mike, and I’ll save you a jar of peaches when I get more in.”
“Thank you Loren.”
Michaela returned to the clinic. She felt dizzy and reached for a chair to sit down. Her head was throbbing and her stomach ached. “Not now,” she thought. “I can’t get sick now.” Then she remembered she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday. She stepped outside the clinic and walked to the wagon for an apple and some crackers.
“Dr. Mike,” a voice called.
Michaela turned to see it was Maggie, one of Hank’s girls. “Maggie, is something wrong?”
Maggie hesitated and looked down at the ground. Gingerly, she moved closer to Michaela. “It’s Hank,” she whispered. “He’d kill me if he knew I was here, but he’s sick Dr. Mike.”
“Sick!” Michaela repeated alarmed.
Maggie nervously shifted from one foot to the other. “He ain’t been outta his room for two days and when I checked on him today he was real hot. Can ya come see ‘im Dr. Mike?”
“Of course. Let me get by bag,” Michaela responded. She quickly walked back inside the clinic to retrieve her medical bag and some quinine. She put her arm around Maggie. “You did the right thing by coming to get me. Don’t worry about Hank.”
They crossed the street to the saloon and Michaela climbed the stairs up to Hank’s room, ignoring the snickers and snide remarks of the men in the saloon. She knocked on the door.
“Leave me alone,” a low voice called from inside.
“It’s Michaela. I need to examine you.”
“Go away. I don’t want ya here,” Hank weakly shouted.
Michaela slowly turned the doorknob, opened the door, and quietly entered Hank’s room. She drew in her breath when she saw him lying in bed holding his head, wrapped in layers of blankets. Quickly she moved to his side and put her hand on his forehead.
“Hank, your fever is very high. We need to cool your body down as quickly as possible. How long have you been like this?”
“A day or so,” he weakly responded. “My head,” he cried as he held his head to ease the crushing pain.
“Your head hurts? Anything else?”
“It’s so cold,” he added drawing the blankets tighter around his body.
“That’s the fever. I’m going to give you some quinine for the fever and apply wet cloths to help cool your body,” she calmly told him. “The most important thing right now is to get your fever down.”
Hank just nodded. Michaela urgently stood, walked over to the washbasin, and after rinsing a glass, prepared the quinine. She gently lifted Hank’s head and urged him to drink it. After successfully administering the medicine, she stood and walked back to the washbasin to dampen a cloth, and returned to place it on his forehead. Michaela wiped his brow and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt to place the cool cloth on his neck and chest. “Oh God,” she thought noticing the pink rash on his chest, “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.”
“Help me,” Hank said as he looked into her eyes.
“I will, Hank. You have to trust me.”
Michaela sat by Hank’s side for the next hour sponging his hot, burning body, as he drifted in and out of consciousness. Never having been in Hank’s room before, her eyes darted from one end to the other, taking in the humble surroundings. The room was small, barely large enough for a bed, dresser, and a nightstand. The furnishings were simple yet masculine, lacking a woman’s touch. Pictures drawn by Zach adorned the walls, which contrasted sharply with the starkness of the room. Hank didn’t speak of Zach often, but seeing his pictures hung prominently on the walls told Michaela how proud Hank was of his son.
Michaela thought back to the first time Hank’s life was in jeopardy. Then it had been hard for her to care about him and want him to get better. While she still thought Hank’s line of work was reprehensible, over the years she had grown to respect the rugged barkeeper. Hank could be counted on when it really mattered and he had even saved her life. As she sat here now, she cared about Hank and vowed to do everything she could to see him recover from this illness.
Michaela was startled out of her thoughts by a soft knock at the door. She rose to answer it and saw Maggie standing outside with two of the other girls.
“Is he gonna be all right?” she timidly asked.
Michaela touched the girl’s shoulder. “His fever is very high. I’m doing what I can to bring it down, but we have to wait. You may have saved his life by coming to get me when you did.”
“Can I do anythin’?”
“Yes.” Michaela led Maggie into the room and showed her the washbasin, the cloth, and how to prepare the quinine. “You could continue to sponge his forehead and chest with this cool cloth. Every four hours I’d like you to give him quinine. I need to return to the clinic this afternoon, but I’ll come see him tonight.”
“Thank you Dr. Mike,” she replied taking a seat on the edge of the bed next to Hank.
When Michaela exited the saloon, there was a crowd waiting to ask her questions about Hank. Since she had been there a long time, word spread quickly that Hank was ill.
“What’s he got Dr. Mike?” one man asked.
“We got ourselves another epidemic, I tell ya,” Jake shouted.
“Will he live?” Loren asked.
“Everyone, please calm down,” she demanded. “There is no epidemic. Hank contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.”
“Is it catchin’?” Horace questioned.
“No, it’s not contagious. It’s contracted from a tick bite. We don’t understand much about it, but from what the latest research suggests the tick carries the illness through some type of germ. It is very serious, but if we can bring his fever down, I believe he will recover. Maggie is sitting with him now and I’ll be back later,” she patiently explained to the crowd.
The men were relieved that there was no epidemic, but still very worried about their friend.
Michaela heard her stomach growl and looked at her watch. With still ten minutes before her next appointment, she decided to walk to Grace’s to pick up a late lunch to take back to the clinic.
“Afternoon Dr. Mike,” Grace called as she continued to stir the stew. “How’s Hank?”
“It’s serious. His fever is still very high. I have some patients to see this afternoon, but I’ll return to check in on him later,” she told Grace. “I’ll stay at the clinic tonight in case they need me.”
“Why don’t we take Katie and Josef for ya tonight?”
“I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“It’d be no problem. We’d love ta have ‘em,” Grace insisted.
“Thank you.” Michaela was relieved she didn’t have to worry about the children on top of everything else, but she also felt guilty. It seemed she was always surrendering her children to the care of others. “Grace, I haven’t eaten much all day. I was wondering if I could get some soup to take back to the clinic?”
“Comin’ right up,” Grace said as she hurried back toward the kitchen. She had finished the lunch rush several hours ago, but she still had a steady stream of customers as she began preparing for the supper rush. One of the new girls she hired to help was sick and Grace was falling behind.
A few minutes later Grace returned with a piping hot bowl of chicken soup and a biscuit. She handed it to Michaela. Seeing her pale, drawn face and the dark circles under her eyes, Grace put her hand on her arm. “You all right Dr. Mike? You look tired.”
Michaela looked at Grace with an expression that belied her true feelings. “I’m fine Grace. The clinic was so busy this morning and now with Hank’s illness, I never seem to have a spare minute.” Michaela had a bite of her biscuit and held onto the soup. “How are Robert E. and the children?”
“Everyone’s fine,” Grace responded deciding to ignore her deflection. “Robert E. has been gettin’ more work than he can handle, but he ain’t complainin’ and Harriett and James are growin’ like weeds. Now how are my two favorite godchildren?”
Michaela smiled. She was happy for Grace and Robert E. and how they built a successful life for themselves and their two children. She remembered how after Anthony’s death Grace had given up hope of ever being able to conceive a child and now she had a beautiful little girl and boy. “Katie is working very hard in school and Josef is still drawing. Sully takes them for walks in the woods and Katie looks for animals and Josef draws them. They’re really a joy.”
“I’m glad Dr. Mike. And Sully, is he away again?” Grace asked thinking she hadn’t seen the two of them having lunch together for some time.
Michaela looked away. “Yes, he’s gone to Montana to visit Cloud Dancing.” Michaela had been too busy lately to dwell on how much she missed Sully, but every time she explained his latest trip, she felt her heart sink. It had been two weeks and there hadn’t been any word from him.
“I see,” Grace said perplexed. “I suppose it’s been a long time since he’s seen Cloud Dancing,” she offered trying to hide her concern.
“The addition to the café looks wonderful. When do you open?” Michaela asked obviously trying to change the subject.
“Robert E. and Sully did such a good job. Robert E. still needs to paint it, and I need to get help with the cookin’, but I thought I’d open the night of the Sweetheart’s Dance. Thought some couples might wanna have a nice romantic supper before the dance.”
“That’s a wonderful idea,” Michaela exclaimed wondering if she and Sully would even go to the Sweetheart’s Dance this year.
“You and Sully should be my first customers,” Grace stated as if reading her mind. “After all his work, the meal’s on the house.”
“I don’t know Grace.”
“Well, it’s not for another coupla months. Ya got time ta convince ‘im.” Grace turned to seat another customer. “Excuse me Dr. Mike, I don’t know where they’re comin’ from today. You take care.” Michaela turned and headed back to the clinic.
* * *
Sully made camp for the night. It was a clear, crisp, star filled night and he was sitting by the fire, deep in thought, his hands wrapped around a piping hot cup of coffee. It seemed the more distance he put between himself and Colorado Springs the more he missed his family. If he closed his eyes, he could see Katie and Josef, and he tried to imagine what they were doing each day he was gone. He missed them terribly. He missed their excited chatter, the endless questions as they learned about the world for the first time, and he missed tucking them in at night, telling them stories and having them look at him like he was the most important person in the world. “How much longer are they gonna look at me like that?” His greatest fear was that once his children saw how he didn’t fit in, they would someday be ashamed of him.
Michaela filled his thoughts too, especially at night. He missed holding her and talking with her the way it used to be, but he didn’t miss the recent tension and the constant arguing. As he thought about the past year, he was angry with her for breaking so many promises – their anniversary, lunches, hikes in the woods, and fishing trips. Still, he loved her with all his soul. His feelings for Michaela were like nothing he’d ever experienced, and lately the depth of those feelings scared him. He was terrified she didn’t need him in her life anymore. The more those fears gripped him, the more he pushed her away.
This night, as he lay on his bedroll and stared up at the stars, he longed to have his wife in his arms the way it used to be. He longed to feel her soft skin next to his, to bury his head in her long beautiful hair, and to make love to her until all his energy was spent. As long as he lived, Sully couldn’t imagine a more powerful love than what he shared with Michaela. He stared up at the stars, wondering if it was possible to ever get that back.
* * *
“Michaela,” Hank weakly spoke.
Michaela startled having fallen asleep in the chair. Worried about Hank, she spent the night by his side and now daylight was creeping through the window. “Hank.” She touched his forehead. “Your fever’s broken, thank God.”
Michaela reached over, brought a glass of water to his lips and helped him swallow a few sips.
“Am I gonna live?” he asked in barely a whisper.
“Yes, Hank, now that the fever’s broken, you’re going to be fine.” Michaela raised the damp cloth to wipe the perspiration from his brow. “I’d like you to stay in bed for a week to allow your body to fully recover.”
Hank nodded in agreement, too weak to put up an argument. After a few moments he asked, “What was it?”
“Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s contracted from a tick bite,” she explained.
“A little tick can nearly kill a man?”
“Yes. You were lucky Maggie came and got me,” she said reaching over to wipe his brow again.
“Told her not to,” he remembered. “Never listens,” Hank remarked.
“It’s a good thing she didn’t listen this time.”
“Thank you for savin’ my life…again.” Hank spoke with genuine gratitude in his voice.
“Your welcome, but it was your body that fought off the infection. I only tried to reduce your fever,” Michaela modestly replied.
“But I knew you were here,” he spoke softly.
“I was worried about you. We all were.”
Hank smiled faintly. “Thank you,” he repeated and drifted back to sleep.
* * *
After staying at the clinic for the past few nights, Michaela was finally back in her own bed, but she was unable to sleep. The days and nights always seemed longer when Sully was away, but this time was worse. She lay in bed, tossing and turning, sleep eluding her, replaying all the arguments and disappointments of the past year, wondering how they let it get so bad. “I should have listened to you months ago,” she whispered aloud to his pillow as she vividly recalled one of their arguments.
*“Shouldn’t you consider hirin’ another doctor? We can’t keep goin’ on like this,” Sully said frustrated.
“It won’t stay like this, Sully. I’ll have more time soon,” Michaela reassured.
“No you won’t. Why are you resistin’ this Michaela?”
“It’s not that easy. First, the practice isn’t big enough to support two full-time doctors and second, no one will want to work for a woman physician.”
“Those are just excuses,” Sully said pacing back and forth along the porch railing. “Maybe there is someone interested. You’ll never know unless ya try. Plus, would it be so bad ta cut back your hours, spend more time with your family?”
His words stung. “Is this just about me staying home so you can be away more?” she accused.
“You know that’s not what I’m sayin’.”
“Well, what about you Sully,” she challenged. “Are you prepared to be away less and spend more time with us or am I the only one who’s supposed to make such a sacrifice?”
“I didn’t realize spendin’ time with us was such a sacrifice!”
“Of course it isn’t.” Her voice softened. “It would just be nice if you were home more as well.”
“Maybe for once you could go with me, see why this is so important ta me, take an interest in my job for a change,” Sully responded eyeing her carefully. Michaela just stood there so he went on, “You know my trips can’t be helped, Michaela. I can’t do my work in Colorado Springs. I have ta be in the mountains and on the land. Besides, I’m home most a the winter,” he added.
“Well, my schedule can’t be helped either,” she snapped back. “I’m a doctor and a doctor’s life doesn’t run on a schedule like a banker or teacher. I thought you understood that when we got married.”
“I understand that you could make it better and you won’t,” Sully replied frustrated. “We’re not gonna settle this tonight.” With those last words he walked away from the homestead.*
“Sully was right,” she realized. “Why couldn’t I just agree with him and hire another doctor? At the time I thought he was trying to control me, tell me what to do. I thought he was saying his work was more important than mine. I was so resistant and so sure I couldn’t find a partner,” she remembered. Looking back now she realized, “He was only trying to prevent what ultimately happened to us. Oh, Sully, how could I have been so foolish?”
Michaela was nervously pacing back and forth on the train station platform waiting to greet the new doctor she hired to assist her at the clinic. “Dr. Morrison, over here,” she waved as she spotted a young man with a medical bag disembarking the train. Another gentleman accompanied him.
Jason Morrison walked toward her and shook her hand. “Dr. Quinn, it’s a pleasure to meet you and please, call me Jason.” He was a young man in his late twenties with brown wavy hair and deep-set brown eyes. Jason introduced his traveling companion. “This is my brother Ben. He’s doing research on American Indians and jumped at the chance to travel west with me.”
“Welcome to Colorado Springs, Mr. Morrison,” Michaela greeted offering her hand.
“Please, it’s Ben,” he smiled shaking her hand. Ben Morrison was strikingly handsome. He was considerably older than his brother with the same wavy, dark brown hair, but his eyes were green and he had a more muscular physique.
“Please call me Dr. Mike. I’d love to hear more about your research. Unfortunately, most of the Indians are gone from this area, but there is a rich history that I’m sure will interest you,” she told him as they walked toward her wagon.
“I’m looking forward to learning about that history,” he replied placing the luggage in the back.
After Ben helped Michaela into the wagon, both brothers climbed in. “I’ve taken the liberty of booking you two rooms at the Chateau and after you’ve had a chance to rest, I’ll show you my clinic. I’ll also show you the lodging that’s available for rent. You can rent it by the month while we decide whether our arrangement will be permanent,” she told them as she took the reins.
“Thank you Dr. Mike. After this long trip from New York, we need to wash up and get some rest. Then we’d like to see the lodging and the clinic.” Jason replied as he took in the sights of the town.
“This is quite a charming town,” Ben remarked admiring the scenery.
“I hope you both find it as agreeable as I have,” she said steering the wagon toward the Chateau.
* * *
“Matthew, I thought I heard you out here,” Michaela called from the porch in her nightgown.
“I wanted to get an early start on the chores. I have a new client meeting me at nine o’clock,” Matthew replied as he continued to chop wood. “I’ve taken care of the horses and the chickens and I see you already milked the cow. I thought you could use some more wood with winter comin’.”
“Thank you, Matthew. I don’t know what we would have done without you these past few weeks.”
“So what do ya think of the new doctor?” he asked bringing the ax down on another log.
“I like him, so far,” Michaela replied. “He seems down to earth and I think he’ll fit in very well in Colorado Springs. He and his brother spent the night at the Chateau, and today I’ll show Jason the clinic and help him get settled.”
“That’s good. I hope it works out. I’ve seen how busy the clinic’s gotten. You could use the help,” Matthew observed.
“Yes, and I could do more around here,” she asserted. “You have your own life Matthew. You shouldn’t have to come here every day to take care of the homestead.”
“I don’t mind, really,” he stated firmly. “Besides I promised Sully I’d look after the place.”
“Did Sully talk with you about his plans?” she asked curiously.
“Not really,” he admitted wiping his brow with the back of his hand. “He just said he was thinkin’ ‘bout visitin’ Cloud Dancing. He asked if I would look after things here if he went.”
“Did he tell you why he needed to see Cloud Dancing,” Michaela anxiously pressed.
“No.” Then he continued, “You know Sully. Sometimes he needs to get away to figure things out. Besides, he hasn’t seen Cloud Dancing in a long time. Maybe he figured it was time.”
“Perhaps,” she responded softly.
Matthew put down the ax. “Have you heard from him? Did he let you know he got there?”
“No, and I’ve been checking with Horace every day,” she quietly confessed lowering her eyes.
“Don’t worry, you’ll hear somethin’ soon,” Matthew reassured. “It’s rough terrain up there. It’s probably takin’ longer to get there than he thought.”
“I’m sure that’s it,” Michaela agreed. “Matthew, why don’t you join us for breakfast. You’ll still get into town in time to meet your client.”
“I’d like that. I seem to have worked up an appetite,” he joked as he walked up the porch steps and into the homestead. Matthew could see how worried Michaela was about Sully, even though she tried to hide it. An idea occurred to him that would surely cheer her up.
* * *
“This is all very impressive, Dr. Mike,” Jason complimented as he toured the clinic taking in the space and the equipment.
“I imagine it’s not as sophisticated as what you’re used to in New York,” she replied worried about how the clinic would measure up to a big city hospital.
“That depends,” he responded pausing to examine an instrument. “It doesn’t have the equipment of some of the better hospitals, but it is far superior to some of the clinics available for the immigrants. I’m looking forward to working in an environment where we treat all people the same – the wealthy banker and the immigrant.”
“What about the Indians and the Negroes?” she challenged.
“Of course, but I thought you said there weren’t many Indians left in Colorado.”
Jason noticed the separate examination rooms. “Did you have a partner before? It looks like there’s room for two doctors comfortably.”
“No. Before the clinic at the Chateau developed into a full-time practice, the doctor there would assist me when this clinic got too busy. My husband expanded the clinic so two doctors could work comfortably and see patients at the same time.” She paused, looking out the window with a far away look in her eyes. “He thought I might need to take on a partner someday.”
“He did a good job. It’s very comfortable and affords our patients adequate privacy.”
“I agree.” Michaela walked over to her desk and took out some writing paper and a pen. “Jason, I’d like to work out a schedule.”
“Schedule?” He looked puzzled.
“Yes,” she began. “The practice isn’t yet big enough to support two full-time doctors, but I had been looking for a way to reduce my hours. I have two small children and my husband often travels for work, so I’d like to start early in the morning and leave by two o’clock. I thought you could start later in the morning, say ten o’clock, and stay until four o’clock, which is the time I usually close. We could also share the evening and weekend emergencies.”
Jason chuckled at her organization. “I think that would work out fine,” he replied. Noticing the time he remembered, “Oh, I’m due to meet my brother for lunch at the café across the way. I’d like for you to join us if you would please. Unless you have other plans.”
“I’d like that, if you’re sure he won’t mind.”
“Ben won’t mind. Besides, he’ll want to ask you questions about the Indians.” Jason reached for his coat and handed Michaela hers.
“Well, if you’re positive he won’t mind. I don’t have patients until later this afternoon.” She put on her coat.
“Good. Let’s go,” Jason said opening the door and escorting Michaela over to the café.
“Jason, over here,” Ben called, spying his brother and Michaela. He had been waiting impatiently, tapping his fingers on the table.
“I asked Dr. Mike to join us. She was so helpful to me this morning.” He pulled the chair out for Michaela then took his seat. “The clinic is far more impressive than what you might expect this far out west.”
“What can I get you folks?” Grace asked eyeing them as she did all new customers.
“Grace, I’d like you to meet Dr. Jason Morrison and his brother Ben. Jason is the new doctor I hired for the clinic,” she explained as she tried to ease her concern.
“Oh,” Grace said holding her hand out to greet him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She was immediately struck by how handsome the two men were. “It might not be so bad gettin’ sick if he took care of me,” she chuckled to herself.
“The pleasure is mine, I’m sure. Now what do you recommend?” Jason asked.
“Meatloaf,” Grace answered. “I’ll bring you soup and a biscuit as usual, Dr. Mike.” She took their orders and hurried into the kitchen.
“Ben, did you look at the property for rent?” Jason asked his brother.
“Yes,” he replied. “I think it will do just fine until you know what you want to do and can bring Nellie out here.”
“Nellie?” Michaela wondered, as her curiosity was peaked.
“My fiancé. We’re to be married in June,” Jason replied.
“What does she think of you coming out west?”
“She supports it, but she wants to make sure I want to settle here before uprooting herself,” he replied.
Relieved, she wanted to know a little about Nellie. “Does she work?”
Jason smiled. “She works with groups helping the new immigrants get settled, making sure they have food, shelter, and medical care. That’s how we met, actually. What about you, Dr. Mike, how old are your children?”
Michaela beamed at the thought of her children. “Katie is eight going on eighteen and Josef is almost five. He just started school. Our three older children, Matthew, Colleen, and Brian, are all grown up with their own lives now. Matthew has a law practice in town. Colleen and Brian are living in Boston now.”
“Here ya go, enjoy,” Grace said as she served the trio their lunch.
“Thank you,” Ben responded.
Grace hurried to help another customer.
“And your husband, what does he do?” Jason asked returning to the conversation.
“Sully works for the General Land Office of the Interior Department. He surveys land for business development and guides politicians into lands being considered for preservation. His real passion is fighting to protect the natural beauty of Colorado and the surrounding territories. Unfortunately, that means he’s away from home a lot,” Michaela replied disheartened.
Ben noticed the change in her demeanor. “I’m sure that’s difficult with two young children.”
“At times,” she replied stirring her soup. “Ben, tell me more about your research.”
He put down his fork. “I’m an American History professor at Columbia College in New York City,” he began. “I have a yearlong sabbatical to study the native Indian tribes. I want my students to see the Indians in a different light, to understand how they lived and what’s happening to them now. All the information we get back east defines the Indians as a problem to be eradicated. Nobody seems to appreciate that they were here first.” As he lectured his voice rose and his face became flush. “Sorry Dr. Mike, I didn’t mean to go on like this. Just when I get started, I can’t seem to stop,” he explained, a little embarrassed.
Michaela chucked. “That’s all right. It’s obvious you care deeply about your work.” She wished Sully was here right now. He would like Ben.
Jason laughed. “He could bend your ear all day and tell you about every tribe including many of their customs.”
“Ben, I think you could do a lot of good if you could get your students to see the Indians in a different light. I’d be happy to help any way I can,” she offered sincerely.
Ben was impressed with her open mind. “Could you show me the library and the newspaper? That’s where I begin my research when I’m in a new town.”
“Certainly,” Michaela responded. She suddenly realized they had been sitting there a long time. “Oh my, Jason, we must be going. I think we should see patients together this afternoon to let them become comfortable with you first.”
“Sure thing, Dr. Mike,” he replied as he stood to leave the table.
“The Gazette is run by my friend, Dorothy Jennings,” Michaela said to Ben as she stood to leave. “Stop by and introduce yourself. Tell her I sent you. She’ll be glad to help you find back issues so you can read about the Cheyenne and their place in our town.”
“I’ll do that, thank you.”
* * *
Sully waited by a stream on the outskirts of the village aware that as an unknown white man in these parts, he might not be welcome. Placing his hands over his mouth, he made a dove call. Cloud Dancing would hear the call and sense his presence. The wind was picking up so he pulled the collar up on his buckskin jacket for warmth. Montana was much colder this time of year than Colorado Springs. It had been two years since he last saw his brother. Cloud Dancing left Colorado Springs in 1875 to join the Cheyenne in the north, returning after the Battle at Little Big Horn. After several years, he returned to live among his people near the Tongue River.
“Ha Ho my brother. You have traveled far,” echoed Cloud Dancing from behind a tree.
Sully walked toward him and they embraced. “I have missed my brother. How are you?”
“I am alive, and for that I am grateful,” Cloud Dancing replied. “Are Michaela and the children well?” he asked concerned about what might have brought his brother all this way alone.
Sully nodded. “Yes, they’re fine. Dorothy sends her regards too,” he replied still unable to believe his brother was standing before him after all this time.
“Is Dorothy well?”
“Yes,” he answered. “She misses you. We all miss you.”
“I miss all of my good friends, but it was time for me to ride with my people.” He paused. “Sully, you are troubled,” Cloud Dancing sensed.
“I’m lost Cloud Dancin’,” Sully told him solemnly.
“I remember you saying those same words to me a long time ago, after Abigail,” he reminded him. “I do not understand. I thought those days were in the past.”
“Me too.” Sully looked down at the ground, hesitating for a moment, then continued. “I don’t know my place in the world anymore.”
“I thought that with Michaela and the children, you found where you belonged.”
“I love Michaela, but…we’re not happy. I’m not fittin’ in her life anymore. She’s busy with her doctorin’ and with the town growin’. I’m not a part of any of that. I feel like I don’t belong,” Sully sadly revealed.
“You do not belong or do not fit?” Cloud Dancing asked wisely as the two men started walking.
“What’s the difference?”
Cloud Dancing turned to face him. “The Cheyenne know where we belong, but we have had to make many changes to our way of life in order to survive. And I know that I belong with my people now, but it is not always easy to fit in. I have made many changes to live among my brothers in the north. We are all different, but it’s our differences that work together to make us fit into a whole.”
“When does it become too much?” Sully asked pointedly.
“That is for every man to decide for himself,” he responded then paused for some moments. “Do you still believe you belong with Michaela?”
“Course I do,” Sully answered immediately then stared off into the distance. “It’s…it’s just…lately things haven’t been workin’. She never has any time for me. I’m thinkin’ maybe she don’t want me around.”
“Have you talked with her?” Cloud Dancing was worried about what had brought his brother into such darkness.
“Not lately,” Sully acknowledged, his voice unsteady.
“Sully, a good marriage is one of the most important things a man can make in his lifetime, but it is not easy. You and Michaela were joined together by the spirits. You are one. You need to talk with her, she will help you find your way.”
“That’s just it, we can’t talk ta each other anymore. All we do is fight or ignore each other.”
Sully bit his lower lip and his eyes remained fixed on the ground. “I’m not sure about anythin’ anymore Cloud Dancin’. Truth is, Michaela’s only part of it.” He paused. “I used ta know my path, what my purpose was, but now I ain’t so sure.”
“What has caused these doubts?”
“I don’t fit with the way the world’s goin’. I can’t do anythin’ ta stop what’s happenin’ with the land and the Indians. I’m not makin’ a difference. I failed at everythin’. I tried doin’ things her way but it ain’t workin’. I didn’t want Michaela and the kids ta see the man I was becomin’ so I stayed away. It didn’t matter ‘cause she didn’t seem ta want me around,” he said with his heart breaking.
Cloud Dancing could see the anguish in Sully’s eyes. “Come, we will return to my lodge. There we will talk.”
“Thanks Cloud Dancin,” Sully replied as they walked toward his tepee.
Members of the tribal council gathered around Cloud Dancing and started yelling at him in Cheyenne.
“Why have you brought the veho to our village,” a tribal leader accused.
“Sully is my brother. He has saved the lives of many Cheyenne, including Live in Hopes. He will be staying in my lodge,” he stated firmly.
“There are no good white men,” shouted one brave. “He must go,” cried another. “We do not want him here,” stated a third brave.
“I’ve come to renew my spirit with my brother,” Sully said in Cheyenne.
Finally, Chief Little Wolf turned to Cloud Dancing. “He may stay with you, but we will be watching carefully,” he warned.
Sully, fluent in Cheyenne, understood every word. In time, he believed this village would accept him just as Black Kettle’s village had.
* * *
Michaela immediately looked up at hearing this while someone opened the door to the clinic.
“Brian, what are you doing here?” she exclaimed, shocked to see her son standing before her. Michaela stood and walked over to him. “When did you get here? Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? How long are you staying?”
Brian chuckled. “Can I get a hug or are ya just gonna ask me a million questions?” he teased, grinning widely.
Michaela put her arms around him and they hugged each other tightly. “I can’t believe you’re here. It’s so good to see you,” she exclaimed, her eyes moist. “But what are you doing here?”
Brian let her go, stepped back and combed his fingers through his hair. “Ma, I been thinkin’ it was time ta come home, then Matthew wrote me about Sully goin’ to Montana and how you could use some company. So here I am.”
Michaela was touched. “Oh, Brian you shouldn’t have left Boston on account of me. What about your job?”
Brian smiled at her. “Don’t worry about that. This is where I’m needed now. I’m staying with you for a while,” he said taking a seat in the clinic.
“Brian, don’t be silly. I’m fine,” Michaela told him. “You’re welcome to stay for a visit, but I want you to return to Boston after that.”
“No Ma, I’m stayin’ with you. I’m gonna help you with the homestead and with Katie and Josef. I can still write from here,” he insisted, trying to hide his worry.
“All right,” Michaela reluctantly agreed, realizing she wasn’t going to change his mind. In truth she was secretly glad he wasn’t going to leave right away.
The door to the adjoining patient examination room opened and Michaela looked up. “Oh, Jason, I want you to meet my son, Brian. He’s home visiting from Boston.” She turned to Brian. “This is Dr. Morrison. I hired him to assist me at the clinic. My patient load was too heavy to handle by myself any longer.”
Brian noticed that Jason was young, probably about Matthew’s age, he thought. “Pleased to meet you Dr. Morrison,” Brian said shaking his hand. “I’m glad Ma finally got some help. She needed it, but was too stubborn to admit it,” he teased.
“It’s good to meet you Brian,” Jason replied shaking his hand. “Dr. Mike talks about you all the time. Please call me Jason. And you’re right, the clinic’s so busy I can hardly believe she handled it all alone for so long.”
Michaela grew uncomfortable at the unintentional reminder of how poorly she had managed things. “Jason, can you finish here? I’d like to take Brian home and hear all about Boston.”
“Yes, you go on. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jason replied.
“Brian, let’s go pick up Katie and Josef and head home. The children will be so excited to see you.” Michaela put her coat on and opened the clinic door.
* * *
“I didn’t think Katie would ever fall asleep. Does she always ask so many questions?” Brian chuckled as he sipped his hot cocoa.
Michaela added another log to the fire then sat down at the kitchen table to join her son. “I’m afraid so. She’s curious about everything and she’s very bright,” Michaela told him with obvious pride in her daughter.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Brian remarked smiling. “I can’t believe how much they’ve grown since I was last here, especially Joey. He’s learned so many new things.”
Michaela nodded. “It seems they learn something new every day.” As she said those words she thought of Sully, and all he was missing being away from them for over a month already. The children did learn something new every day and Sully wasn’t here to share their new discoveries with her. “Brian, tell me all about Boston. How is your writing progressing?”
“Boston’s great!” he said immediately. “I love the excitement of the city and getting to know my cousins, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’d rather be in a smaller town closer to the woods and nature. Sully taught me to value the earth and I miss the woods when I’m away from them. But I’m learning how to be a better reporter and that’s what’s important.” He paused to take a sip of hot cocoa. “I just finished an article exposing a meat packing company for unsafe practices. Mr. Brewster, that’s my boss, wants me to write some articles while I’m here and send them to him. I also thought I could help out Miss Dorothy.”
“I’m sure she’ll love that. Brian, I’m so proud of you and I know Sully is too.”
“Ma, tell me about Dr. Morrison.”
Michaela thought for a moment, taking a sip of hot cocoa. “Well, he graduated from Harvard Medical College a year after Andrew and has been practicing in New York. He has experience treating immigrant populations so I know he shares my beliefs about treating all people equally. He has a fiancé in New York who he’ll send for if he chooses to remain here. We’re both doing this on a trial basis which is good because I had a hard time choosing to take on a partner.”
“I think you made the right decision. I hope Dr. Morrison works out.”
“So do I Brian. He’s already made my life so much easier.” She paused. “I planned to surprise Sully and show him I was prepared to make more time for us. Now with him in Montana, I need the time for the homestead and the children,” she added regretfully.
“Ma, what’s Pa doin’ in Montana?” He asked hesitantly not wanting to pry.
“He’s visiting Cloud Dancing,” she replied without elaborating.
“Is everything all right between you and Pa? When I was here last spring, I could tell he wasn’t home much and the two of you didn’t seem to spend any time together, but Matthew says it’s gotten worse.”
Michaela was shocked that Brian noticed. “It’s nothing for you to worry about. Sully and I will work it out when he gets home.” Michaela was looking down at the table absently stirring her hot cocoa.
“Matthew says Pa’s away a lot,” he pressed.
“Yes. You know his work takes him away for long periods of time,” she replied defensively.
“Did he say why he needed to see Cloud Dancing or how long he’d be gone?” Brian persisted.
“It’s been two years since he’s seen Cloud Dancing. I suppose he thought it was time.”
“It will be good for him to spend time with Cloud Dancing again,” Brian said reassuringly, disguising his concern. “I’m sure he’ll be home soon.”
“I hope so. I don’t think he fully appreciates that Katie and Josef need him more now than ever. They’re getting older and it hurts them when he’s away so much.”
“I know how they feel. Ethan was never around when I was little. Have you heard from him? Did he say when he was comin’ home?”
Michaela looked away to hide her worry. “No, we haven’t heard from him. I imagine he’s not near any towns with a telegraph office. Poor Horace. I finally stopped going to the telegraph office every day to ask him if Sully sent word. Every day Horace would say ‘there’s nothin’ here for ya.’ I started to feel sorry for Horace, he felt so badly,” Michaela sheepishly stated.
“I’m sure he’ll send word soon and tell ya when he’s comin’ home.”
Michaela nodded. “Brian, I’m so glad you’ve come home for a visit but we really should be discussing getting you back to Boston.”
“I told you Ma, I’m staying here for a while. This is where I’m needed. You need help with the chores and the kids and I’m happy to do it.”
“Brain, I don’t want you worrying about me. We’ll be fine.”
“Ma, you took care of me for most of my life. Now it’s my turn to take care of things around here.”
Michaela smiled at her son. “Brian, you’re a remarkable young man and I love you.”
“I love you too, Ma.”
“Did Dr. Mike really treat an influenza epidemic with an Indian remedy?” Ben asked in disbelief from his seat at the Gazette surrounded by old newspapers.
“Yes. I wasn’t here at the time, but I wrote that article about her when she was nominated for Woman of the Year. I learned all about what she did for folks when she first got here. When the town was hit with an influenza epidemic she ran out of quinine. Many more people would have died if she didn’t use the willow bark tea,” Dorothy reflected as she handed Ben a few more issues of the Gazette.
“How’d she know about it?” he asked as he reread the article equally impressed by Michaela’s nomination.
Dorothy sat down across from Ben and smiled at the memory. “Her husband…well he wasn’t her husband back then…well…let’s see, how can I explain?” she began. “Michaela got the influenza herself and there was no more medicine so Sully, that’s her husband, brought her to Cloud Dancing. He treated her with willow bark tea, she recovered, and Sully brought some back for everyone to use. Now Michaela uses it all the time for fevers and headaches.”
“That’s amazing,” Ben remarked. “The town accepted it?”
“Not at first. But when it’s that or sufferin’, folks’ll come around,” Dorothy supplied. He picked up his pen to take notes as she continued. “The Indians taught Michaela about many natural remedies that she uses to supplement her medicines.”
“What else?” Ben asked as he excitedly tapped his pen on the table. “It would help to share with my students some of what we can learn from the Indians.”
Dorothy thought for a few moments. “You should really ask Michaela. She’s written articles about her use of Indian remedies. She even used dandelion roots to save her own mother’s life,” she said, her voice reflecting the respect she had for her friend.
“I will,” he replied continuing to look through old newspapers. “I see the Army brought a Typhus epidemic to the reservation. Spreading disease through blankets was a pretty standard practice toward the Indians,” Ben said shaking his head.
“Standard practice!” Dorothy gasped at this statement, appalled. “I thought that was just the action of rogue Generals. General Sherman and Custer to be precise.”
“No. The Army’s goal is to eradicate the Indians and they used blankets to spread disease in order to kill and weaken their numbers. Having no natural immunity to such diseases, the Indians succumbed easily,” Ben explained as he took notes on the epidemic.
“I had no idea. I remember having a hard time believing Michaela and Sully when they said the Army spread the disease on purpose,” Dorothy reflected.
“Dorothy, is this true about Dr. Mike being kidnapped by Dog Soldiers?” Ben asked shaking his head.
“Yes, everything in the Gazette is true.”
“The Cheyenne are said to have derived their name from the French word for dog, ‘chien.’ The Dog Soldiers are an important soldier society among the Cheyenne,” Ben said unable to resist giving a history lesson. “But why did they kidnap her if they were her friends, as you say?” he asked pushing his hair behind his ears.
“It’s a long story.” Dorothy thought about how to explain it to Ben. “Michaela told General Custer the dog soldiers murdered two of his soldiers so they kidnapped her for revenge. Sully rescued her. Oh, it was the most romantic thing! That’s when those two knew they would be together forever,” she stated whimsically, as if she had forgotten Ben was in the room.
“Custer,” Ben muttered with distaste. “The suffering the Cheyenne endured at his hand over these past few years has been deplorable. It was among the worst of all the Indians of the Plains.”
“I know,” Dorothy replied solemnly. “Sand Creek, Washita, Little Big Horn…”
“The Army reported that he killed mostly warriors, but eye witness reports tell us mostly women and children were killed in those battles,” Ben sadly added.
Dorothy handed Ben another article. “I wrote this after Washita. It’s Michaela’s description of what happened.” Ben began to read the article as Dorothy went on. “After Little Big Horn General Mackenzie launched a winter attack two years ago now that depleted the Cheyenne population and destroyed centuries of cultural artifacts,” Dorothy explained as she remembered Cloud Dancing’s description of the massacre.
Ben continued reading. “It appears you don’t share Dr. Mike’s views on the Indians,” he observed reading one of Dorothy’s editorials.
“Read on, Ben. You’ll see my views evolved quite a bit over the years. I even wrote a book about Cloud Dancing, the Cheyenne Medicine Man,” Dorothy boasted.
“Really! Can I read it?”
Dorothy looked down. “No, I had to destroy it in order to keep him safe after the uprising at Palmer Creek.”
“Yes, I read about that.” Ben’s focus shifted and he grew increasingly inquisitive about Michaela and Sully. “Was Dr. Mike’s husband really wanted for treason?”
“Yes, Sully didn’t know they were going to start a rebellion. He was only trying to save Cloud Dancing’s life,” Dorothy said remembering that painful time. She continued. “That was a very difficult time for them. Sully was away from his family for six months, but he got a full pardon in the end.”
“That’s good. Would you be willing to tell me about Cloud Dancing?” Ben asked taking out another piece of paper.
“Of course,” she replied, pulling up a chair next to him. “Where should I begin?”
* * *
“Ma, where are the fishing poles?” Brian asked looking in several cabinets.
“They should be by the front door. I pulled them out last night,” Michaela replied as she packed the picnic basket with cold meat, carrots, and apples for lunch.
“Yep, they’re right there,” he said. “Where are Katie and Joey?”
“They’re playing on the rug in the living room,” Michaela answered making sure she had enough packed for lunch.
Brian looked over at his siblings enthralled in their drawing and smiled. He joined his mother in the kitchen. “Have you thought about what else we’ll do today Ma? It’s kinda warm for late October. We should take advantage of it. It’s not gonna last.”
“After we go fishing, I thought we’d have a picnic in the meadow,” Michaela answered excitedly. “I’m ashamed to admit it Brian, but I can’t remember the last time I spent an entire day with the children. I was always too busy.” She closed the basket satisfied she had enough packed.
“Well, you’re doing it today. That’s all that counts.” Brian hadn’t seen his mother this relaxed in a long time. “Why don’t I bring the kite to the meadow and teach the kids to fly it?”
“That’s a wonderful idea Brian.”
Brian loaded the fishing poles, picnic basket, and blanket into the wagon while Michaela was inside the house dressing the children. A few moments later, she walked out of the house hand-in-hand with Katie and Josef and settled them into the back of the wagon. Taking the reins, she guided the family toward the stream as the children giggled excitedly in the back.
Sitting on a log near the stream, Michaela watched Brian and Katie help Josef dig for worms and put them on the fishing pole. Her daughter was quite an expert at digging for worms given the many times she and Sully had gone fishing. Seeing her children enjoying themselves on this beautiful autumn day filled her with joy. The sky was clear blue, the air crisp, and a carpet of red and yellow leaves blanketed the ground, crackling under their feet as they walked. It was wonderful to have Brian home, even if she did feel guilty to be the cause of his worry. As Katie and Josef got their poles in the water, Brain joined his mother on the log.
“They’re awfully cute Ma,” Brian said of his brother and sister. “They remind me of me when I was little, especially Katie. They’re curious about everything around them. They have a lot of you and Sully in them.”
Michaela laughed and turned to face her son. “They ought to Brian, they are our children!”
Brian chuckled, his face turning red. “I only mean it’s a little strange; Katie will give you a look that’s just like yours and Josef will make an expression and look just like Sully in that instant.”
“What looks do I give?” Michaela asked in jest. “I know what you mean though, especially about Josef. Katie may have my thirst for knowledge, but she has Sully’s observant side. In many ways, she’s her daddy’s little girl,” Michaela remarked keeping a close eye on the two youngsters fishing below.
Brian picked up a piece of wood, took out his knife, and began to carve. “They miss Pa a lot,” he said running the knife blade over the wood.
“I know,” Michaela responded looking down at the ground. “Sully’s usually the one who takes them on outings. I’m trying as best I can to fill that role, but it’s not the same.”
“Maybe not,” Brian remarked, “but it’s special anyway. They wanna spend time with you just as much as Pa.”
“I suppose, but unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve done this with them.” Michaela and Brian sat quietly for the next several minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. She missed Sully terribly. Watching her children fishing by the stream, she could almost see him sitting next to them patiently teaching them about the earth and answering their questions. It had been six weeks since Sully left and Michaela was growing increasingly anxious. Receiving no word from him only reinforced her belief that Sully was deeply troubled. He had withdrawn from everyone, including his family. She prayed that Cloud Dancing would help him find his way home soon.
Brian noticed his mother’s pensive stare. “Are you all right Ma?”
“I’m fine, Brian,” she replied trying to quell her worries. “How’s that young lady you wrote home about? Anna is her name, correct?”
“She’s great,” Brian answered.
“Are you two getting serious?”
Brian grew uncomfortable. “I think I love her Ma, but I’m not ready to get married yet. I remember what you told Matthew when he and Ingrid wanted to get married. You’d want me to develop my reporting first and get a job. Don’t worry, I’m not ready to rush into anything yet…not until I’m sure it’s right for me.”
“Brian, don’t even consider marriage if you can’t say for sure if you love her,” Michaela counseled.
“Did you know right away you loved Sully?” he asked curiously.
She nodded. “My problem was trying to convince myself that it wasn’t love. I knew I loved him and that scared me.”
“I don’t have the same feelings for Anna that I had for Sarah,” Brian told her as he fondly remembered the first girl he ever loved. “But I enjoy being with her and think we could be happy.”
“Give it more time and you’ll know what to do,” Michaela instructed, putting her arm around his shoulder for reassurance. “Let’s join the children,” she suggested as she stood and walked toward the stream.
“Mama, will you fish?” Josef asked as he saw her approaching. Michaela sat down between Katie and Josef with her fishing pole. “It’s been quite a while since I did this, but I’ll try,” she replied as she began digging for worms.
“I’ll get ya a worm,” Josef announced as he dug in the dirt and pulled up a worm. As it wiggled in the air, he accidentally dropped it on his mother.
Michaela involuntarily screamed and jumped causing her children to laugh. Feeling foolish, she joined them in laughter. “I think I’ll need some help putting it on the pole too,” Michaela sheepishly confessed as the laughter subsided.
“I’ll do it,” Katie told her as she expertly attached the worm to the end of the pole.
Michaela chuckled. “I had no idea how accomplished you are at this.”
“I like fishin’, but not when I don’t get a fish,” Katie told her.
“I’m positive that between the four of us, we’ll catch a fish,” Michaela said enjoying this time with her children.
Suddenly Katie felt something on the end of her line. “Mama, I got one! I got one!” she cried out exuberantly.
Michaela held her pole steady and helped her pull in the line. As it struggled to free itself, it splashed in the water and both Katie and Michaela got wet.
“Good job Katie,” Brian complimented. “That’s a big fish!”
“It certainly is,” Michaela marveled as they unhooked it and placed it in the bucket. “Let’s go to the meadow for lunch.”
* * *
“I wanna fly it Mama,” Katie said watching her brothers running around the meadow with the kite.
“You can fly it after lunch,” Michaela told her as they laid the blanket on the ground and began to unpack the picnic basket. She turned toward the boys. “Brian, Josef, it’s time for lunch.” The boys returned to the picnic blanket and the entire family ate lunch.
“Ma, why don’t you fly it with Katie?” Brian suggested taking another bite of his apple.
“Please Mama,” Katie begged as she rocked back and forth on her knees.
Michaela stood, the kite tucked under her arm, and walked with Katie to the middle of the meadow. “I’ll let out some string and you run,” she said. The little girl started running and the kite was carried higher and higher in the air. “Let out more string Katie,” Michaela called.
“Look, Mama, it’s flying,” yelled a delighted Katie as she ran across the meadow.
“Yes, it is!” her mother exclaimed with a broad smile on her face.
After a few moments in the air, the kite got tangled in some trees and once they retrieved it, Katie had the kite up in the air again. All afternoon Brian, Katie and Josef each took turns flying the kite with Brian having to retrieve it when it fell into the trees. The children laughed and screamed with excitement each time the kite was successfully in the air. After a while they coaxed Michaela into flying the kite. She too was overjoyed when she got it flying in the air. All afternoon the four of them laughed and ran around the meadow.
As she lovingly watched her children running in the meadow with the kite, she remembered the time Sully taught her to fly one. It was when the whole town was afraid a comet was going to strike earth and they would all be gone. Despite her best intentions, she could never completely relax and after flying it once, she insisted they get back. Today, she was laughing with her children all afternoon as they each took turns with the kite. She had Sully to thank for teaching her how to relax and have fun, even if she didn’t always show that side of herself.
“Oh, Sully, if you could see us now,” Michaela murmured as she gazed at the kite in the air.
Katie ran over to her mother. “I wish Papa was here,” she said as if reading her mother’s mind.
“Me too sweetheart, me too,” Michaela said wishing she could ease her children’s longing, as well as her own.
“Mama, this was the best day ever,” Josef exclaimed as they were heading back to the homestead.
“Yes, it was a very special day.” Michaela reflected that this day would forever remind her of the importance of slowing down and taking time to enjoy being with the ones you love. She vowed that this would be one of many fishing trips and other outings she would take with the children. “Now that Mama doesn’t have to spend as much time at the clinic we can do this more often. Would you like that?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Katie and Josef shouted at the same time.
* * *
“Katie thinks fishin’s only ‘bout catchin’ fish,” Sully told Cloud Dancing as they sat by the stream fishing, neither of them catching any fish.
“She is still young,” Cloud Dancing replied holding his fishing pole in the water.
“I know, but she’s fixed in purpose, like Michaela,” Sully said as he attached a worm to the end of his pole.
“Do you not see yourself in her?” Cloud Dancing queried raising his eyebrows.
“I do.” He paused. His face lit up as he gradually turned toward Cloud Dancing. “You should see her Cloud Dancin’,” Sully beamed. “She’s beautiful and smart and caring. She cares about people, the land around her and the animals.”
“And Josef? He was very young when I left,” Cloud Dancing remembered.
“Michaela says he looks like me. He’s different from Katie. He’s real sensitive and quiet,” Sully remarked placing his fishing pole in the water.
“A lot like you,” Cloud Dancing affirmed. “You are proud of these children?”
“Course, who wouldn’t be?”
“Then I do not understand,” Cloud Dancing began. “Children are our greatest gifts for the future. You and Michaela are raising good children who will make important contributions to the world. There is no greater achievement a man can have. Why do you believe yourself a failure?”
Sully sat silently for a few moments trying to come up with the words to explain his feelings. “I’ve failed at everythin’ I tried ta do to protect the Indians and the land. I’ve been workin’ for the General Land Office for years and I ain’t been able to do anythin’,” Sully explained in a soft voice. “And…and I’ve failed…Michaela. It’s only a matter of time before I fail the kids too.”
“Has the government sold off all the land?” Cloud Dancing asked.
“Not yet, but it’s gonna happen sooner or later.”
“So the land is still free?” he probed.
“For now,” Sully said blankly staring into the water.
Cloud Dancing thought for a moment. “Why do you believe you have lost? With hope, the fight is not over,” he persisted.
“It won’t make a difference. Our way of life is ending.”
“It is true the world is changing in ways that are not good for my people,” Cloud Dancing responded as his voice reflected much sadness.
“I should have done more,” Sully argued. “I should have tried harder. I wanted to make a difference.”
Cloud Dancing looked him in the eye. “Sully, do you really believe you are powerful enough to stop what is happening?”
Sully looked away. “I thought I could do more. I should have found a way,” he simply stated.
“And Michaela, how have you failed her?” he asked guardedly.
Sully paused for a long moment, choking back tears. “I’m not makin’ her happy.”
“Has she told you this?” Cloud Dancing doubted.
“Not in so many words.”
“Assumptions can be dangerous,” his brother wisely cautioned.
“She’s focused on her practice. Medicine’s changin’ and growin’ and she wants to be in the center of it. The kind of life we have ain’t enough for her anymore.”
“That doesn’t sound like the Michaela I know,” Cloud Dancing challenged, eyeing Sully carefully.
“She’s changed Cloud Dancin’. We have separate lives. If she wanted me around, why would she never have time for me?” Sully stared straight ahead afraid if he looked at Cloud Dancing his eyes would reveal his pain.
“No one is separate. We are all part of a greater whole. When we lose that connection we lose our way. You must remember that the spirits guided you to each other for a purpose,” Cloud Dancing counseled. “Have you considered other reasons she no longer has time for you?”
Sully turned to face his brother. “Cloud Dancin’, I’m not sure of anythin’ right now. I need to seek guidance from the spirits. I want to stay here with the Cheyenne for a while. I want to be with the family that saved my life once before.”
Cloud Dancing thought for a few moments. “It will be difficult. These Cheyenne are different from my village. They do not trust the white man. For many generations they have suffered at their hand. Now, after what happened at Fort Robinson with Dull Knife I do not believe you will find what you are looking for with my people. I am sorry.”
“Please Cloud Dancin’,” Sully begged distraught. “You know I’m not like them. They’ll see that in time. The Cheyenne are my family.”
“These Cheyenne are not your family,” Cloud Dancing stated firmly, regretting the turn of events over the past few years. “You cannot live in the past Sully. You have your own family now. They must help you find your way.” He paused and turned to face Sully. “Do you still love Michaela?” he asked certain of the answer.
Sully nodded. “With everything I am,” he replied softly.
“And the children?” Cloud Dancing went on.
“Do you want Katie and Josef to grow up without a father?”
Sully swallowed hard. “No! I know what it’s like ta grow up without a father. I’d never want that for my kids. It’s just…just that…I don’t know how to be the father they need,” he whispered, voice cracking.
“You are their father. That is all they need,” Cloud Dancing assured him. After several moments in silence Cloud Dancing faced his brother. “Do you intend to run away from your family forever?” He paused and when Sully didn’t answer he continued. “Go home. Speak with Michaela. Running away does not sound like the Sully I have known.”
“I can’t,” Sully said anguished. “I’m no good to anyone until I fix what’s in here first,” he stated placing his hand over his heart.
Cloud Dancing nodded. “You may stay here until your heart tells you what you must do.”
Sully sighed with relief. “Thanks Cloud Dancin’.”
* * *
“That was an excellent service, Reverend,” Michaela commented as the family was leaving church.
“Thank you, Dr. Mike. I hope everything is working out with young Dr. Morrison. I’ve heard some of his patients speak very highly of him,” Reverend Johnson told her as she paused in front of the church door.
“Yes, it’s working out quite well. Jason is a fine doctor and he’s very good with patients. I couldn’t have asked for a better colleague,” she replied shaking his hand.
“Any word from Sully? I’m surprised he’s not back by now.”
Michaela’s body stiffened and she was glad the Reverend couldn’t see the expression in her eyes. “Montana is very far away, Reverend,” she spoke defensively. “Sully wanted to spend time with Cloud Dancing. He hasn’t had much opportunity to see him in the last few years,” she added regaining her composure.
“Of course,” the Reverend replied, his brow furrowed. “I was only thinking it might be hard for you with him being gone so long.”
“It is, but I support his need to do this. Cloud Dancing is very important to him,” she explained confidently.
“Dr. Mike,” Jake interrupted noticing Michaela, “do ya know when Sully’ll be back? I was hopin’ I could get him ta add onto my house ‘for the new baby came.”
“No, I don’t, but I expect he’ll be home by Thanksgiving. I’ll ask him for you then,” she offered. “How is Theresa feeling, Jake? Please remind her about her appointment next week. And how is Luke?”
“She’s a little nauseous, but otherwise fine. Don’t worry. She won’t miss that appointment. Luke is excited about havin’ a little brother or sister to play with,” Jake replied as he thanked the Reverend for the service.
“Michaela,” Dorothy called from the bottom of the church steps.
“Well, if you will excuse me gentlemen, I need to speak with Dorothy,” she said walking down the church steps with Katie and Josef in tow. Both Jake and the Reverend nodded goodbye to Michaela.
“Yes, Dorothy?” Michaela queried standing by the side of the church.
“Well…what have you heard from Sully?”
“Nothing yet. He must be unable to get word to us,” she replied, eyes lowered.
“Well, don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll be home soon,” Dorothy reassured reaching for her hand.
“I hope he’ll be home by Thanksgiving.”
“Thanksgiving! My goodness, Michaela, of course he’ll be home by then,” Dorothy stated assuredly.
“Won’t you join us for a picnic? I’ve asked Jason and Ben to come as well. We won’t be able to do this much longer with winter coming.”
“I can’t. I need to finish an article for the Gazette,” Dorothy explained. “I’m very impressed with Ben, Michaela. He’s been spending a lot of time at the Gazette reading old issues to learn about the Cheyenne. I think his work could really make a difference.”
“I think so too Dorothy,” Michaela agreed then she turned to walk toward the meadow with the children.