A WEEK LATER, the wagon train arrived at Fort Bridger built on the Black’s Fork of the Green River. In three months, they had traveled more than a thousand miles and were only halfway to the Willamette Valley. The trip wore on everyone, fraying nerves and exhausting even the young and physically fit.
Kit didn’t need a reason to cry. Tears spilled over burned biscuits or a splinter in her finger or a cheerful good morning from one of the children. For someone with a penchant for leaving clothes, art supplies, and shoes lying about on the floor, she became a shrew, nagging Cullen for unpacking his books and stacking them in piles inside their new tent.
John received the brunt of her churlishness though. “He won’t listen to me,” she said to Cullen. “I’ve tried to tell him he needs to buy a new team but he won’t.” She poured a cup of coffee, then absentmindedly set the pot on the table instead of returning it to the campfire grate.
Cullen closed his legal treatise and put it aside along with his glasses. “He doesn’t want to be any more beholden to you than he already is.”
“He’s being stubborn. Why doesn’t he think more about his family and less about his pride?” She picked up her sewing basket then sat in the chair beside him.
“I’ll talk to him.” Cullen leaned over, kissed her, and trailed the backs of his long fingers over the curve of her breasts.
Kit jumped. “Ouch.”
He drew back his hand.
She hunched her shoulders, protecting her chest. “My breasts are sore.”
“They weren’t sore last night.”
‘That’s why they’re sore tonight. Don’t you have reading to do? A map to study? A meeting to go to?”
“Kitherina, what’s wrong?”
“Kitherina? Do you know how many different names you call me?” She counted them off on her fingers. “Kitherina, lass, sweetling, Kit. And Henry calls me missy. I don’t know why I answer either of you.”
“You always answer when I call you sweetling, and it’s usually with a breathy sigh.”
“If you’re trying to get on my good side, you’re not.” She set her basket on the table next to the misplaced coffee pot.
What’s wrong with me?
She carried the pot back to the campfire, paced for a couple of minutes then went inside the tent to get something but couldn’t remember what.
Cullen followed, hands clasped behind his back, his head slightly lowered as if he were in deep thought. “What’s on your mind?”
The timbre of his voice found a warm place in her heart. “My boobs hurt, my stomach’s queasy, and I’m in a bad mood.”
She waved him off. “My breasts.”
“Come here and tell me what’s bothering you.”
She drew in a deep, ragged breath. “We made love for the first time over a month ago.”
A tiny tic leaped at the corner of his jaw. “A wonderful, memorable night.”
“A night with consequences.”
“Consequences?” He paused. The silence seemed to take on weight. He threw her a crooked grin. “Are you expecting?”
“I think so. And if I am, that means I got pregnant before we got married.”
“When was your last…?” Cullen’s cheeks turned red.
“When was your last…?” Cullen’s cheeks turned red.
Kit pinched the bridge of nose, thinking. “I’ve never had regular periods, and I haven’t had one at all since I’ve been in your time.”
“Do you want to ask Sarah what she thinks?”
Kit shook her head. “Not right now.” She tapped her fingernail on her bottom teeth. “There’s a way to find out.”
He fixed her with a serious gaze, wrinkling his brow.
“I packed a pregnancy test in my red bag.”
He gave her a heart-splitting smile. “What kind of questions are on the test? When was the last time you made love?”
She swatted him with the tail of her apron. “Not that kind of test.
“How many tests did you bring with you?”
“One test, one time.”
He grinned. “I suggest you take it now unless you have to study beforehand.”
He shrugged. “Then you won’t have to worry about it.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Okay. You wait outside?”
“I’m not leaving.”
She put her hands on her hips and growled. “I love you to death, Cullen Montgomery, but you’re not going to watch me pee on a pregnancy strip.”
“What does peeing have to do with taking the test?”
She threw up her hands. “Go away. Come back in five minutes.” She pushed him through the tent flaps then dug through her paramedic bag for the pregnancy test. It was one of the things she’d tossed into her bag without thinking during the raid on the farm’s clinic the night before she left. She’d grabbed one or two of everything whether she needed it or not.
Cullen reentered the tent, pulled the box from her hands, and read the directions. “Hold the stick under your stream of urine for five seconds.” He then removed the foil wrapper and handed her the stick.
She didn’t budge.
“Pee on the stick, Kit. I won’t watch.” He turned his back.
She blew out an exasperated breath, pulled up her dress, squatted over the chamber pot, and held the stick in the correct position for five seconds.
They sat side-by-side on the bed and stared at the small flashing hourglass in the plastic window.
At three minutes, she wrung her hands.
At two minutes, she gnawed on her lower lip
At one minute, she broke out in a sweat.
At thirty seconds, she held her breath.
The answer flashed. The stick shook in her hand.
Cullen’s eyes grew wide, the blue—bluer. “It’s says you’re pregnant.”
She let out the breath she was holding. “Looks that way.”
Visibly shaking, he asked, “I’m going to be a father?”
Kit nodded, slowly processing. I’m going to be a mother. She’d had two and lost both. Tears streaked her face.
He pulled her onto his lap, pressing her head against his chest. “I’m going to be a father.”
“I’m scared.” She imagined herself hanging by a frayed rope on the rotted board side of a bridge, swinging precipitously over a dangerous ravine.
“Women birth babies every day.”
“I’m not afraid of birthing. I’m afraid of the next thousand miles. I’m afraid of the decisions we have to make. I’m afraid I’ll not be strong enough to carry the baby and will miscarry like Sarah. I’m afraid I’ll be forced to make a decision like my birth mother.”
“You’re not alone in this venture. I can’t guarantee everything will be as you want, but I will give my life to see that you and our son arrive safely in San Francisco.”
Time stopped for a moment. A baby, a brooch, and now another baby. She felt like she’d been cast in a play without a script. She wasn’t even sure which role she was supposed to play.
Note from Kathy: Feel free to tell me what you think of the characters, the setting, the writing, the plot, or even what you think will happen next. I would love to hear from you.