The Final Goodbye By: J.L. Jacobs © 2015 (Full Length Book)

Out of sheer desperation, Sophia Lancaster flees her small town of Wellington, Ohio in order to become a mail-order-bride. Naive and full of hope, her world is shattered once again as she is quickly wed to Travis Ewing who seems to despise her from the moment they meet.

Over time, they fall madly in love with each other but Fate has other plans in store for them. This is a suspenseful and very emotional love story that is set in the 1890's where history comes alive. You will laugh and cry over Sophia's journey through hell and back as she fights for the only thing she truly believes in: Love.

*I love to hear your comments and feedback but please DO NOT POST ANY SPOILER ALERTS OR GIVE AWAY STORY INFO. This ruins the reading experience for others.* This is a rough draft version. This book is for mature readers over the age of 17 only. It does contain some profanity and a few graphic love scenes. The synopsis will be re-written, and I will be updating the book with edits.

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16. Chapter Sixteen: Insights and Delights

Chapter Sixteen: Insights and Delights

 

 

     Once Travis arrived back at the ranch, he no sooner had his horse in the stable when Mikey and Hope came running in to greet him. The second his boots hit the dirt packed ground, both the kids had their arms wrapped around him in a hug. "Well I'll be! It looks as if a couple of rugrats missed their Pa!" Travis joked with them. He was in an exceptionally good mood this morning even if he was overly sore and in need of a hot meal and an equally hot bath. "Pa! Where were you?" Hope laughed at him, "You didn't tuck us in bed last night. Mrs. Cox was getting worried about you. She was saying that something important must have happened to keep you away." Travis scooped up his daughter and held her on his left hip as he ruffled Mikey's hair. "Well," he said, "as it happens, Mrs. Cox was correct. Something important did keep me away. I will talk to you both about it once I get some grub in my belly. Your Pa hasn't eaten and needs some food straight away. I sure hope Mrs. Cox has some breakfast left over for me." Hope hugged his neck as Mikey said, "Yeah, Mrs. Cox said you'd be back Pa. She has a plate saved for you. She made some biscuits and gravy and I ate three bowls!" Travis did an appraisal of Mikey from head to toe and said jokingly, "I can tell. Looks like all that food made you grow a quarter of an inch taller." Mikey puffed out his chest and stood even straighter. He had a look of pride on his small face as he said, "Wow, you know Pa, I do feel taller!" Travis carried Hope with him towards the house along with a bag of mail that he picked up from the postal station on his way back home. There was more mail than usual in the bag he was guessing from the looks of it. "Hey Mikey." he said to his son, "Why don't you do me a big favor and put my horse in his stall. If you feed him and brush him down I will even give you some ribbon candy for the help." Mikey's eyes lit up. He always loved it when his Pa trusted him enough to take care of his horse and he loved it even more when he got some yummy ribbon candy. "Sure thing Pa!" Mikey exclaimed, running back towards the barn as fast as his little six year old feet would take him. "Can I help too?" Hope asked as her eyes got bigger. Travis pretended to ponder her question for several seconds until she wriggled out of his arms and got down on her knees with her hands folded as if she were praying. She looked up at him with her big eyes and a fake pout and proceeded to beg him further. "Please, please, please, please Pa? I want some ribbon candy too! I'll do anything. Please Pa!" Travis laughed uproariously at how darned cute she was. "Yes Hope. But instead of helping Mikey with my horse, how's about you help sort the mail for me. You can do it at the table in the kitchen while I am eating. Now, sorting the mail is a pretty important job." He started to explain as they walked in the back door to the kitchen. Mrs. Cox was washing up the dishes and smiled as she saw them come in. "You need to look carefully at each piece of mail and check the name on it to see who it's for. Make a separate pile for the ones that have the same names. For example, make a pile with all the mail that has my name on it. There should be mail for Mr. and Mrs. Cox, so make a pile with their names. But you can put all their mail in the same pile." He set the mail bag down on the table and Hope was quick to open it up and get to work. She was sitting on her knees at the table and had a determined look on her face that was complete with her tongue sticking partially out of the corner of her mouth. Travis chuckled. He sure did have some great kids. "Someone's in a fine mood today!" Mrs. Cox commented over her shoulder at Travis as she was finishing up the dishes. Travis grabbed the decently warm plate of food and sat down at the table to dig in. After several bites he took a moment to comment back at Mrs. Cox, "Fine mood indeed. Thanks for saving me a plate. I was famished." He then turned his attention back to his food. "There's more in the oven that I was keeping warm for you just in case." Mrs. Cox laughed, "You sure are lucky there is even any left. Mikey's stomach was a bottomless pit this morning." Travis shook his head smiling, "He's a growing boy. It's about time his appetite increased. Pretty soon he'll be eating like a man." "Pretty soon?" Mrs. Cox laughed, "He ate like a man already this morning!" "Hey Pa," Hope interrupted, "did ya know that a man is in woman?" Travis about choked on his food when he heard her say that and even Mrs. Cox stopped what she was doing to look at Hope with a look of shock mixed with some curiosity. "Wh-what in the world are you talking about Hope?" Travis asked perplexed. Of course his dirty mind mistook what she had meant, which she quickly clarified by saying innocently, "You know. The word man is inside the word woman." Travis breathed a sigh of relief and then roared in laughter. His daughter never ceased to amaze him. "That's correct little darlin'. You're getting so smart." Hope beamed at his praise. Mrs. Cox giggled to herself as she started drying the washed dishes with a dry towel. Several minutes later he finished up his second helping of Mrs. Cox's outstanding biscuits and gravy. Hope placed the last envelope in its pile and sat down on her rump with a smile on her face. "I'm all done sortin' the mail Papa. Can I have my candy now pretty please?" Travis looked over her piles and began to check each one. Sure as shit, all the piles were sorted just as he had asked. There was not one piece of mail that she placed in a wrong pile. Travis noticed that there was even a pile for Sophia which was new. She had never gotten mail yet up until this point and it seemed like her pile was the biggest. There were even two smaller wrapped parcels with her name on it. He knew she had been homesick since she arrived here, so her getting some mail was something he could bring with him to the hospital later that would make her smile. He was sure of it. "Yes pumpkin, you can get your candy. I think two pieces are called for since you did a perfect job." Hope smiled brightly as she jumped up from her chair cheering loudly, "Did ya hear that Mrs. Cox, I did a perfect job!" Mrs. Cox stopped what she was doing and went over to give Hope a big hug. "Well done!" she praised the little girl. Travis placed his dirty dish over near the sink for Mrs. Cox to wash, then headed to his office with the stack of mail that was his with an eager Hope trailing right behind him. He set the mail down on his desk and opened up one of his desk drawers, pulling out a wax paper wrapper that contained several pieces of the ribbon candy inside. He took out two brightly colored chucks and handed them to Hope. Without skipping a beat, she popped one of them inside her mouth and began to suck loudly on it while she skipped off with a "Thank you Papa!" that could be heard as she went down the hallway back towards the kitchen. Sitting down, he sorted through the mail and proceeded to pay bills that were due and took care of the other expenditures. Just as he was filing some of the paperwork away, Mikey made his way inside the study so he could claim his own candy which Travis gave to him. Mikey's face lit up in surprise as he saw two pieces of candy instead of only one. "Thanks Pa!" he said brightly. Travis once again ruffled the hair on Mikey's head, "Go grab your sister and have a seat at the table in the kitchen. I have to talk to you both. On second thought, grab Mrs. Cox for me too. I need to have this talk with her as well." "Sure thing Pa." Mikey yelled as he ran down the hallway, much like his sister had done just a short while before. 

 

     Moments later Travis went into the kitchen and took a seat at the head of the table in his customary spot. Three pairs of eyes looked at him expectantly as they waited for him to speak. The truth was, he didn't really know what to say to them. He took a minute to ponder what to tell them without scaring the children. "As the three of you are already aware, I didn't come home last night. I don't even know how to say this so I am just going to come out with it. I found out that Sophia was in the hospital and I went there to see her. Now before you start asking a bunch of questions let me just point out that I do not know why she was there. I do intend to find that out when I go back there later." Hope began to cry so Mrs. Cox scooped her up and sat her on her own lap, hugging her while rocking back and forth in her seat. "Is she going to be alright Pa?" Mikey asked with genuine concern in his voice. "I think so Mikey. I know she's in a lot of pain though. Dr. May is taking real good care of her so I am not worried. She's in good hands." Travis answered. Mrs. Cox looked at him with a look that he couldn't quite discern. Hope was still crying which tugged at his heart strings. He came up with an idea. "How would the three of you like to go with me later to visit Sophia? I am sure she would love to see you all." Hope hopped off of Mrs. Cox's lap and jumped up and down excitedly. "Yes Papa! I want to go!" she yelled. Even Mikey chimed in, "Yeah, sure, I'll go too, Pa." Mikey looked hesitantly at both Mrs. Cox and Travis as tears welled up in his eyes. "Whatever is the matter?" Mrs. Cox asked. Mikey rarely showed much emotion, at least, ever since his mother had died. Travis looked at his son, unsure of what had made him cry. Was he upset over the news about Sophia? "Son," Travis began as he walked over to his son. He knelt down on one knee in front of Mikey and placed both arms on his small arms, "I didn't mean to upset you when I told you about Sophia. She's doing just fine. Don't you go and get upset now." That only made Mikey's tears fall at an even faster rate. His face turned a dark shade of pink as he collapsed onto the floor. Mrs. Cox and Travis both exchanged looks of shock. "Son, what is it?" Travis questioned with a small degree of alarm. Mikey took several moments to respond, "I-I- I did something real bad Pa. You're going to hate me for it. Sophia too." Travis was taken aback. "Whatever it is that you have done, I need to know what it is. I won't hate you for it, I promise. I am guessing that Sophia could never hate you no matter what. But being honest is very important which you already know." Travis said solemnly. In the back of his mind Travis wondered what his son had done so wrong that it would cause him to break down like that. "Yo-you promise?" Mikey sniffled. "Yes," Travis responded, "I promise. What is it?" Mikey looked hesitantly at his father. His tears continued their decent down his face, some of which fell onto his shirt making small wet marks. "I, I, well, you see sir, I sort of hid some of Sophia's mail in my room. I took it when I sorted the mail like you asked me to over the last week and put her mail under my mattress. I feel bad that I did that, honestly I do. I just didn't-- well, I don't know rightly why I did it Pa." The look of guilt on his small face was unmistakable." Hope was the first one to say anything. She ran the few feet over to her brother and began to pound her little fists against his back. "Why would you do that Mikey!" she cried out loud. "She ain't done nothin' to you!" Mikey stood up and looked at his sister with a look of ire. "I didn't want her here!" he yelled back, "We were doing just fine without her. I knew she was feeling sad about not getting mail from her family and I thought maybe if she didn't get her mail that she might go back home. But I feel bad about it now. I know what I did was wrong and I am sorry." Hope looked at her brother with narrowed eyes and glared at him feeling incensed. "Now cut it off you two!" Travis interjected before they said anything further, "What's done is done. Mikey, I want you to go up to your room right this instant and get me that mail you hid and bring it back to me. Now!" Mikey, his head drooped with regret, left the room to do as his father had commanded. Hope planted both her arms on her tiny hips and stood there in anger. "Pa, I sure hope you're gonna punish him good for that!" she said fiercely. Travis stood up and looked at his daughter and replied, "I agree that what he did was wrong. However, he did do the right thing by confessing. I agree that there is some sort of punishment he needs to get but for right now we need to get back up to the hospital to see Sophia. I think it will cheer her up to have some visitors." It was Mrs. Cox's turn to say something. "Sometimes people do things that we don't always understand. Let your Pa handle this Hope." Hope stood there taking turns looking at the two of them. "I sure hope he gets a whoopin' for that!" she declared. Mikey's footsteps could be heard running back down the steps and he returned with a small stack of mail in his hands. "Hand them over young man." Travis said as he held out his hand. Mikey, without delay, did as his father had asked. Travis looked at the mail. There were four envelopes there which he added to the small stack of her other mail on the table. "I have an idea. Why don't you both go pick some wildflowers so we can take them to Sophia?" Mrs. Cox suggested. "That's a wonderful suggestion." Travis replied, "Hurry up though, I'd like for us to leave as soon as possible." He gave a pointed look at both his children and they ran out the door seconds later. 

 

     That left Mrs. Cox alone with Travis which was the whole point behind her idea to have the children pick the flowers. "What's really going on with Sophia?" Mrs. Cox asked as she narrowed her eyes at Travis. He shrugged his shoulders to indicate he didn't know but he spoke up anyhow, "I tried to ask her about it last night but never did find out. Even Dr. May is being tight lipped. I do intend to find out what's going on with her. I'm hoping to talk to either or both of them later to find out more. Something happened but damned if I know what it is. She didn't look good last night. I'm actually pretty worried. They are giving her laudanum for pain and she seemed to be in a great deal of it." Mrs. Cox remained unusually quiet as she contemplated what he just told her. "Mrs. Cox?" Travis asked after several minutes of silence. She looked up at him as he broke the daze she was in. "I had this feeling in my gut and I chose to ignore it." she said quietly, "There was no basis for it. Just a feeling that something was wrong. Is wrong. Either way, Sophia will need all the love and support she can get from us. We're her only family here and she's a long way from her family back home after all." That last part of her sentence nipped at his heart. "We're her only family here."  Travis replied thoughtfully to himself. Mrs. Cox smiled a tiny bit. "I can wait to leave for another few days Mr. Ewing, but I will have to leave soon. I cannot miss my daughter giving birth. She is counting on me and I will not let her down. If by some chance Sophia isn't back here by then, well, there needs to be another plan. Perhaps the Johnson widow can come here to help out." Travis didn't know how to respond to that. He nodded his head at Mrs. Cox to indicate that he understood. "I am going to take a quick bath. If the kids are back before I come back down, ask them to make sure their chores are done and that they are in fresh clothes. We'll leave here in about an hour or so to go visit Sophia. But first, I will ask one of the guys to get the carriage ready before I take my bath and get cleaned up."

 

#

     It was well into the afternoon and the weather outside was scorching hot. The heavy rains from the other day had already saturated the ground making it dusty once more as Elsie had described to Sophia during her visit earlier that afternoon. Sophia felt quite happy to have made such a wonderful friend already. Elsie had brought Sophia a lemon flavored icee which was such a delightful treat. Even though it had already melted quite a bit by the time Elsie had gotten there, Sophia had enjoyed each and every bite. Thankfully, Elsie had purposefully avoided talking about the cancer situation which Sophia felt grateful for. She honestly didn't want to talk about it. Not with anyone. It was almost as if not talking about it made it less real somehow. Now she was alone in her room and completely bored. She read the papers and gossip rags that Elsie brought her yesterday morning and caught up on the Dallas related news. There was a big article written about the second phase of the Exall Lake beautification project. Exall Lake was located in Turtle Creek where Travis's ranch was also at. In fact, Travis was the only land owner there that didn't sell out when Henry Exall swooped in to buy out most of Turtle Creek in order to gain access to the natural hot springs, the beautiful park-like land that was ripe with a mixture of various trees, and the centrally located waterways that merged to form Exall Lake itself. Not that he hadn't tried to pressure Travis into selling his land to him. After many unsuccessful offers, Henry Exall had even taken advantage of the period after Travis's wife had died when Travis was at an ultimate low point in his life in order to get Travis to sell his one hundred and fifty acres of land. But Travis remained steadfast in his decision not to sell his portion while Henry Exall turned the rest of Turtle Creek into a high class resort area. The article in the Dallas Daily Times Herald even talked about the mayor, W.C. Connor, who was a frequent visitor of the resort being quoted as saying "The natural hot springs at Exall Lakes Resort are above par for wellness of the mind, body, and soul." Elsie had talked about some of this when they were on the train after the two of them had first met, Sophia recalled fondly. Exall Lakes Resort sounded like a really nice place to visit. Perhaps one day she would actually have the chance to do just that. After all, it was so close to Travis's ranch so there really was a good chance she could visit. There was another article that talked about the fire restoration projects that were going on. A few of the smaller businesses had to close since their insurance didn't cover all the expenses for their particular owners to re-build, but the rest of the businesses were already on track. The fire had been devastating and was the second major fire to have hit the city in this year alone. Many of the buildings that were being re-built were now being replaced with brick and stone based materials, instead of wood which was quick to burn with the dry summer heat in Dallas. The article finished up by saying that insurance premiums were being increased because of the fires. After she finished reading the papers, Sophia just laid there in her bed and mutely listened to the sounds coming in from the open window in her room.

 

     Outside the streets were bustling with activity and she wished fervently that she wasn't stuck in bed. Or sick. Or dying. That last thought brought tears to her eyes. She was dying. It was really true! This wasn't some awful dream-- this was her life and it was becoming a living nightmare. She would never have children like she had desperately wanted. Perhaps this was Fate's way of intervening between her and Jeremy. If he hadn't cheated on her with Angelique then they would be happily married right now and he would be the one having to deal with the fact that she had cancer, instead of Travis who was still a relative stranger to her. The next thing she knew, she was balling her eyes out so loudly that a few wails had escaped her mouth quite loudly which had alerted her nurse. Moments later the nurse came rushing into the room in a panic. "Mrs. Ewing? What is it? Are you having worsening pain?" the nurse asked her urgently. That had only made Sophia cry out even louder. The nurse assumed that it was the pain making her cry like that so she turned around and went to fetch more laudanum. Sophia was still having a fit of hysteria when the nurse came back in followed closely by Dr. May. "Here," the nurse said patiently, "I need you to swallow your medicine Mrs. Ewing so the pain will go away." Sophia was having pain but not the sort of pain that the nurse had assumed. Her pain was on a much deeper and mental level which left her speechless and unable to communicate. Somehow she managed to swallow all the bitter-tasting medicine that she had been given and several moments later it created a very calming effect over her. The nurse looked visibly relieved and with a silent nod from Dr. May she quietly left the room, making sure to close the door behind her. Dr. May looked at Sophia thoughtfully and took a seat in the chair on the right side of her bed. Sophia was staring out her window and even though the medicine helped to calm her with its drowsy-like effect, she was still feeling upset with the cancer diagnosis and her ultimate prognosis. Dr. May didn't talk for several minutes; he was allowing sufficient time for Sophia to calm down completely first.

 

     Once he was satisfied that she would listen to him, he began talking to her. "Mrs. Ewing." he said in a soothing voice, "It's time we had a talk. Please look at me." She hesitantly looked over at him through sorrowful eyes that looked haunted. Her face was abnormally pale and there were dark circles under her naturally pretty eyes that no longer held any sort of sparkle in them. Dr. May was slightly taken aback. "Why bother talking? It's not like it's going to change anything!" she commented as she grabbed a handkerchief that was inside her reticule. It was the same one her father had given her just before she boarded the train to come out there which had been washed just before she left the ranch again a couple days ago. Little did she know that day that she would be here dealing with how she would live the rest of her life and impending death. She proceeded to blow her stuffed up nose in order to breathe better. When she was finished she held the scrunched up hanky in her fist and continued talking to Dr. May by saying, "What's there really to say? I mean, after all, I am dying. There's no hope for me! I will never have children of my own. I will never have a happy marriage with a man who loves me. All's I ever wanted in life was to be happily married with a family of my own. I will most likely never see my parents, sister, or friends in Ohio ever again. Hells fire, I probably won't even be able to see my sister's baby after it's born. Yes, I have a sister who is pregnant with her first baby! A baby I will not even get to meet! After all, I might be dead before her baby even arrives!" She turned her head back to look in the direction of the window and stared at it blankly. Since she was stuck in bed she couldn't exactly get up to walk over there to look down at the bustling activity in the streets below. The only thing she could see was the reddish brick building across the street with its many windows that glistened from afternoon sun casting its intense glow upon their reflective surfaces. From this far away it almost looked as if the windows were actually mirrors. Her thoughts drifted back to Dr. May at once. "Did you know I was a jilted bride?" Sophia said quietly. "Obviously I was not jilted by Travis. I was left on my wedding day by my former fiancé. His name is Jeremy. He's a doctor in the town I lived in before I came here. I was at the church getting ready to walk down the aisle when he came to see me. He told me that he had slept with another woman. Angelique. Apparently she told him just as he was leaving his house for the wedding that she was pregnant with his baby. Of course he went and married her. It was the right thing to do I suppose. Either way, I was the one left broken hearted and devastated. I had never felt so betrayed in all my life. I never would have suspected that Jeremy would have cheated on me but he did and what's done is done. Then one morning, not long after my almost wedding, I was reading my father's newspaper during breakfast and saw their marriage announcement. My heart sank of course. It wasn't more than a few minutes later when I saw the advertisement that Travis had placed looking for a mail-order bride. He wanted someone to marry so he had help raising his children. I thought that Fate was intervening and decided right then and there that I would respond, and as you can see, here I am. We were married shortly after my arrival. I mean, I got off the train and a few hours later we were already married. I was sort of happy that I gained an instant family to call my own and now I am going to die without even being able to have a family like I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. What am I going to do?" she wailed in despair, "I also forgot to mention that Travis wants to dissolve our marriage. That is why I didn't want him to know what was going on with me. I still don't. You cannot tell him. He knows I am here, as you are aware of, but he doesn't know why and I would like to keep it that way. This would only make it worse for him. He already lost his first wife! He cannot ever find out that I have cancer!" Her nose and eyes were red and swollen from crying so much. Dr. May took the opportunity of her blowing her nose again to speak up, "Mrs. Ewing, if I may be so bold.... you might have more than enough time to still make your dreams come true. No one can say how much time you have left. I suggest making the most of it by living your life and doing what makes you happy. There is nothing wrong with having a positive outlook in this situation. I understand that you are heartbroken. Trust me, I do. I can see your emotional pain. But look at where you are right now--" "Yes, in a lousy hospital bed!" Sophia griped while interrupting him. Dr. May chuckled and continued speaking, "You have an incurable disease. However, you also have a new husband, two children, and a very lovely home to call your own right now. You have a positively wonderful friend in Elsie Prescott who will stand by your side through it all. I know it's hard not to think of all of this as something bad. Maybe, perhaps, turn it into something positive that you can take away from it. Use this as a learning experience per-say by living the rest of your life savoring every little bit of it. Who can say how long you have like I have said before. It could be years before your health declines to the point where it's your time to be with God. Do you want the time you do have left to be spent regretting the past or do you want it spent living for the future with the people you do have in your life now? I know if I were in your position right now, that I would do as much as I possibly could. That's all you can do unless you give in to your sadness. I think if you chose to do that, well, your health may decline much faster. Don't give up! Fight for what you want! I am surprised to hear that Travis is seeking to dissolve the marriage. From what I have noticed, it seems to me that he is growing to love you. I also believe that you have feelings for him as well. Trust in your feelings for him. Show him that. I truly believe that he would be one hundred percent receptive to your feelings if you just show him that. I cannot force you to tell him about your cancer but he is very persistent. I think he should know. 

 

     Now, I need to change the subject a bit. I actually came up here to talk to you about something I found out about." Sophia turned her head to look at him and her eyes beckoned for him to continue. "I made some inquiries to some doctors who specialize specifically in cancer research and got a very promising lead. There is a doctor named William Stewart Halsted who is a professor of surgery over at John's Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. I took the liberty to wire him on your behalf to see if there is anything he can do for you. I explained your case in detail and received a telegraph back from him only an hour ago. He wants to take over your case and suggested I put you on a regiment of cannabis indicas oil therapy in addition to your pain medication in the meantime. He's going to come here next week to meet you and take over your treatments. Of course, I will still be involved as we will both manage your disease together on a weekly basis." He stopped talking and watched as Sophia's face lit up with joy and tears of happiness. What Dr. May wasn't telling her was that Elsie Prescott had offered to pay Dr. Halsted a handsome fee for agreeing to come here and treat Sophia. "I don't even know what to say Dr. May. That is... is.... amazing news! Do you think there might be some hope for me after all?" Dr. May smiled kindly at her which made the corners of his eyes crinkle, "I believe that even if Dr. Halsted wasn't coming here there is always hope. But yes, I do agree that him coming here is downright amazing. You are one lucky woman Mrs. Ewing. Count your blessings no matter how bleak things may seem. We are all born to one day die. It just takes some of us longer to do that than others." They both chuckled at his attempt at humor and Sophia began to feel better mentally. Dr. May had really inspired her. He brought up some really good points. There was no reason why she couldn't enjoy her new family. She was lucky that Travis chose her to marry. She would just have to make the most of this awful situation and embrace what she had with him and the children. The medicine had made her very drowsy but she didn't want to sleep just yet. "Thank you Dr. May! I cannot say that enough. I feel positively awful about my outburst." Dr. May looked at her with his kind eyes and stood up from the chair he was sitting in. "Mrs. Ewing, there is nothing to apologize for. Your outburst, as you put it, was quite normal considering your circumstance. Just keep reminding yourself of all your blessings whenever you start to feel blue. I have to go now and check in with a couple of my other patients but wanted to stop in to see you when I got that news. You are healing very well thus far so just keep you spirits up until I can get you out of here. I will update your chart to reflect the new regimen of medicine which will include that cannabis oil. I will also have the nurse come in soon to change your bandage and empty your chamber pot for you. Take care Mrs. Ewing." He gave a small wave of his hand and left the room. Sophia turned her head once more to stare out of her window but this time she had a smile on her face. Dr. May was right. She needed to embrace the blessings she had in her life and not fixate on the drawbacks.

 

#

     Travis led Mrs. Cox, Mikey, and Hope to the slightly closed door with the number 308 on it. On the way to the hospital, Mrs. Cox had spoken to the children to let them know that they needed to be on their best behavior, be quiet, and not to ask any questions. Travis peeked his head in the room and saw that Sophia was awake and writing something in a leather bound book. He gave a quick tap-tap on her door which caused her to look up in surprise when she saw him standing there. A smile lit up her face and she called for him to come inside. When the children and Mrs. Cox followed him in, her smile became even brighter. "I brought some visitors with me." Travis said cheerfully, "I hope you don't mind." "Of course I don't mind!" she exclaimed laughing. When Hope saw Sophia, she ran over to the side of her bed and gave her a big hug when Sophia bent over far enough for her to do so. It caused her some pain when she did that but it was well worth it. "Oh I have missed you all so much!" Sophia said beaming with joy. Mikey stood back until Sophia looked at him and said, "Mikey, do come here and give me a hug. I have missed you as well." He looked questioningly at Travis who nodded his head that it was fine to do so. "Go on." Travis urged him. Mikey hesitantly worked his way to the side of Sophia's bed, but not close enough for her to hug him like she had done with Hope. Sophia noticed that he seemed a little frightened. "It's okay if you don't want to hug me. I am just so glad to see you. Thank you for coming to see me. It sure means a lot that you came." Tears began to well up in his eyes and he immediately inched his way backwards until he bumped into Mrs. Cox. Sophia sighed. At least he came. That was something. But the tears in his eyes caused a queer feeling to take root in her chest. She hated to think that him seeing her like this scared him. All of a sudden he burst into even more tears and began to cry out even louder. Travis saw the hurt look on Sophia's face. He knew why Mikey was crying. It was time for Mikey to make a confession. "Mikey," Travis said quietly, "I think you owe Sophia an explanation." Hope looked back and forth between the two of them with an avid interest. Mrs. Cox remained silent but also watched the exchange. Mikey's face turned a deep shade of red from guilt and embarrassment. "Go on son. Tell her." Travis urged. Sophia looked Mikey right in the eyes, "Come here," she said calmly, "I won't bite. I already had my lunch today so my belly is full." Hope giggled. Sophia's humor seemed to put the small boy at ease a little. He walked back over to the side of her bed, using his shoulder to push Hope out of his way. Hope took a seat in the chair next to Sophia's bed. "I'm sorry." Mikey said softly, his head bent down so that he was looking at the floor instead of at Sophia. "Whatever in the world is there for you to be sorry for?" Sophia questioned lightly as confusion began to set in. Her eyes were twinkling as she reached her right arm out to gently stroke his arm in a soothing gesture. The boy lifted his head as more tears made their way down his little face. "I-I'm sorry Ma'am. I hid some of your mail under my mattress this past week. I'm a bad boy!" His head once again stared down at the ground out of guilt and shame. Sophia was taken aback just a little bit, not sure what she could say in that moment. Travis looked at her, urging her with his eyes to say something. Anything. "Mikey," she began, "I appreciate you telling me the truth. That was very brave of you. Where is my mail at now? And please, look at me. I am not going to hurt you and I am not mad. I am, however, disappointed that you did that to me. I wouldn't have ever suspected that is why I wasn't getting mail from my family." Mikey looked back up at her with a look of genuine remorse written all over his face. His hands played with the bottom edge of his shirt nervously. "I gave them all to Pa." he answered back, sparing a glance at his father for confirmation. With that, Travis walked over to her bed and stood right next to Mikey. He handed over a worn brown leather bag which Sophia quickly took from him. Upon inspection, Sophia saw the bag was full of envelopes and a couple of small packages that were wrapped in brown paper and tied with lighter brown string that was a bit frayed in places. A smile instantly lit her face. So her family was thinking of her after all! "So you had all of this hidden under your mattress?" she asked Mikey. He was quick to reply, "No Ma'am. I only had a few envelopes. The rest of it actually came in  today's post that Pa picked up from the postal office." Travis nodded his head yes to confirm that what Mikey said was true. "First of all, Mikey, I would like you to stop calling me Ma'am. It makes me feel so old. You can call me by my first name." Sophia began, "Second of all, I am glad you told me the truth. I have been waiting for word from my family so I cannot say I am not disappointed in the fact you hid that away from me. But you did the right thing by admitting that to me and I am proud of you for telling me the truth." It looked as if a visible weight had been lifted off of the boy's shoulders. Sophia smiled kindly at him and he gave a tentative smile in return. She had a feeling that this was a new turning point in their relationship.

 

     Hope moved herself forward by using her shoulder to move Mikey away, much like he had done with her only minutes before. "What's wrong with you Sophia?" she asked vivaciously, "Why are you in here? When are you coming back home?" Sophia laughed but at the same time grew a bit uncomfortable. The little girl's candor was refreshing yet scary at the same time. "Honey, we're here to visit with Sophia, not to ask her a bunch of questions. Remember what your Pa said before we left the house?" Mrs. Cox admonished. Mrs. Cox picked up Hope and sat down in the chair so that Hope rested on her own lap, "Hope here has been asking after you a lot the last couple of days." she laughed. "We all have missed you." Travis said with a gleam in his eyes. Sophia felt her chest tighten and her eyes filled up with tears of happiness. "I have missed you all more than you can possibly realize." Sophia said truthfully. "So?" Hope piped in, "When are ya coming home?" Sophia giggled at the little girl, "Well," she began, "Maybe as early as tomorrow or the next day. But when I do come back, I will still need to take it easy until my stitches are ready to come out." Since none of them knew why Sophia was there to begin with, this statement made all of their eyes widen in surprise. "You have stitches just like I did?" Hope asked in awe. "I sure do.' Sophia replied, "Just like you did!" Hope was captivated by that bit of information. "Where are your stitches at?" Hope asked innocently. Sophia grew a bit uncomfortable. She did not want to scare the children nor alert Travis and Mrs. Cox to the fact that she had surgery and why she had surgery. Noticing Sophia's discomfiture, Mrs. Cox spoke up, "Did we not agree that we were not going to hound Sophia?" Hope's smile faded a bit when Mikey spoke up. "When you come back home I can help you out with anything you need." That sentiment touched Sophia's heart and she smiled fondly at him, "Oh Mikey, I really appreciate that. I just may take you up on that offer. You're such a wonderful boy and much too kind." His eyes lit up from her praise. "I will help too!" Hope chimed in. "That would be wonderful!" Sophia intoned, "I am so lucky to have to both in my life." Travis looked over at Mrs. Cox who was still sitting in the chair with Hope on her lap. "How about you take these two little rugrats over to the general store and get them some ice cream cones while I finish visiting with my lovely wife." Travis suggested. Mrs. Cox scooted Hope off her lap and stood up, "I would love to Mr. Ewing, provided that you include me in on that ice cream deal." Mrs. Cox said semi-jokingly. He chortled at that, "Of course Mrs. Cox. I would never begrudge you of an ice cream treat. Kids, say goodbye to your stepmother now. It's time to let her get some rest." "But Pa, if she needs some rest, why are you staying here?" Mikey questioned. Travis rolled his eyes in mirth. His son was way too smart for his own britches. "Go on now," Mrs. Cox playfully admonished them, " and say your goodbyes to Sophia. Your Pa hasn't had his chance to see Sophia alone yet. Besides, it's as hot as Hades in here. I'm sweating all over. Ice cream sounds divine right about now!" Both of the children went over to the side of the bed and once again, Sophia painfully bent over far enough for them to each give her a small hug. When it was Mikey's turn she held on tighter and for a few seconds longer enjoying this new side of him. "You get yourself better Mrs. Ewing." Mrs. Cox said as she ushered she kids out of the room.

 

     Travis closed the door so they had some privacy, then walked back over to the side of her bed where he bent down and gave her a long and sensual kiss on the lips that stirred up feelings in them both. Sophia's eyes were still closed and she had a wide smile on her face when Travis stood back up. "I could kiss you non-stop for days." he smirked. Sophia slowly opened her eyes which were filled with an unrequited desire for her husband. "I wish you would." she retorted back saucily. He sat down on the now unoccupied chair and watched her carefully. There seemed to be a definitive change in her. Nothing major that he could easily place but it was there nonetheless. She was somehow... different. Changed. "You look much happier than you did this morning." he said simply. She didn't respond right away. Instead, she used her fingers to brush back her hair which was a bit wet from the sweat that beaded the top of her forehead. Mrs. Cox had been correct when she said it was as hot as Hades in there. "I actually feel happier than I did this morning if you should know." Sophia admitted truthfully, "Dr. May came to see me just before you guys got here. He said some things that really got me thinking." Travis's left eyebrow raised up in surprise, "Do tell." "Well first, can you please get me a glass of water? I am so thirsty." she asked. He shook his head yes and took her cup off the small table next to her bed, then got up to do as she had requested. While he was gone, Sophia closed her eyes and began to think about what to tell Travis. She did not want him to know about the cancer until he absolutely needed to know. If he even needed to find that out at all. What if he felt compelled to keep her around only out of guilt because she was dying? No, she wouldn't let that happen. She would keep this secret for as long as she feasibly could. There was always the possibility that he would be furious with her if and when he did find out, but until then, she was resolved in her decision to say nothing. But what would she tell him in the meantime? As his wife, she did owe him some sort of an explanation. After all, she did have stitches in her abdomen that would leave a scar. He would notice that if they ever had relations with each other again. Perhaps if they only did that at night then he would never have to find out. She heard the now familiar sounds of his cowboy boots as they clanked against the wooden floor which was getting closer and closer to her room. She quickly opened her eyes as he appeared in her doorway. He was absolutely gorgeous! Travis walked over to her, handing her the cup of water which she took and drank thirstily from. When she was finished, she handed it to Travis and he drank the rest of it up. She laughed playfully at him and he smiled sheepishly. "Hey, I was thirsty too!" he laughed while taking a seat back in the chair. "I am real sorry about Mikey hiding some of your mail like that." Sophia had almost forgotten about her mail. Once Travis left she would delve into reading it all. "It wasn't your fault." she reminded him, "No worries though. All is forgiven. I am just happy that I have them now. I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't heard from them. Truth be told, I cannot wait to start reading them." The last part ended with a yawn. She was suddenly very tired and Travis must have sensed that as he stood back up saying, "I will let you get some rest darlin'. But I will come back tomorrow at about the same time." She gave another big yawn and smiled brightly at him, "That sounds wonderful! I cannot wait." He leaned over again to kiss her full on the mouth, and once again they both felt tingles shoot through their bodies. "Until tomorrow then." he smiled seductively at her. Seconds later, he was out the door leaving Sophia reeling from their kiss.

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