A Headstrong Woman - By Michelle Maness

Jonathon Stewart watched as the coffin containing his wife and their stillborn daughter was lowered into the ground. Thunder rumbled overhead as wind whipped rain over those gathered at the graveside. The other mourners stood huddled together sharing umbrellas and comfort. Jonathon stood alone as the rain that washed over him provided the tears that would not come. The deluge that started as they arrived at the graveyard had turned the rich Dakota soil into a sticky quagmire and now ran in rivulets over the mouth of the grave and was starting to fill the bottom. Jonathon shuddered. He and Emily had been eagerly awaiting their first child after a series of miscarriages and still births had left them disappointed. Now he was a widower.

As the minister stepped back from the hole in the ground, two men stepped forward to thrust their shovels into the wet pile of mud that stood at ready. The mud made a grotesque sucking noise as they lifted their load. The first clump of wet earth hit the coffin with a thud. Jonathon flinched as the sound exploded through him. The second clenched his hands into tight fist that wanted to strike in anger and despair but could find no target. Jonathon spun from the grave and moved toward his mount at a desperate pace.

His mind numb, Jonathon gave Raven his lead and in minutes they topped a low rise that overlooked his property. Jonathon stopped and surveyed the soggy landscape below him. A cabin sat in the bend of a creek; flowers along the side of the home bowed their heads under the weight of rainwater, and in the distance, just to the south of the home sat stables only a few feet from neatly plowed fields.

The rain and fog seemed appropriate, lending an air of mourning to a home that on any sunny day would have appeared cheerful and welcoming. Without Emily it would never again be either. Trying hard to ignore the onslaught of memories that assailed him, Jonathon swung from his saddle and pushed open the door. There was the crib draped in the baby blanket Emily had spent hours making; the rocker where she sat each night rubbing her belly and imagining what their little one would be like; their bed where they had shared their love and conceived the child that she had risked everything to have. With a growl of frustration Jonathon yanked open his chifferobe and began shoving things into his bags. Fifteen minutes later he emerged redressed in warm clothing and rain gear and with two saddlebags ready to go. He planned to start riding and not stop until he was forced to look for work.

“Where are you going?” his brother Ted demanded as he rode into the yard. Jonathon knew that his parents would be close behind.

“Away,” he swung into the saddle.

“Do you think you can out run this?”

“No, but I don’t have to stare reminders in the face on a daily basis either,” Jonathon told his younger sibling.

“So the rest of us mean nothing?”

“That is not what I said and you know it. I hope that you never understand what I’m feeling, Ted. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” his voice was flat. He rode forward to meet his parents’ buggy; he knew his mother would try convincing him to stay.

“You’re leaving,” his dad’s eyes were sad but filled with understanding.

“I need some space to sort through everything,” Jonathon replied.

“Won’t you stay until the weather clears?” his mother pleaded.

“I love you, Mom, but I can’t.”

He watched her nod her understanding. “You’ll write?”

“I will; I love you all but I can’t stay. Maybe I’ll come back…. maybe I won’t but I can’t stay. Ted, will you look after my place? Any profit from the crop is yours.”

“I will,” Ted agreed, though he looked as happy as the storm clouds over head.

“Thank you. I should go,” he was impatient to put space between him and home.

Dorothy watched her son ride into the fog and hoped that he would find a place of healing. She could understand his loss, had experienced a similar loss herself; a life time ago it seemed. Watching her son now brought it all back. Nathaniel took her hand and she turned to offer her husband a small smile. He knew her story, had been the one to pick up the pieces and help her move on with her life. That was what her son needed now.

***

For once not stopping to mourn

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