Three Years Later
The letter took them all by surprise, really. Bertie was the one who always went down to the town for the post, and he brought back a small, grubby cream-colored letter with strange, sloping handwriting on the envelope.
Bertie had moved into Wolf and Ivy’s home a year and a half after the wedding. The debts on the farm were too much, and there was far too much to be done for just one person. Wolf had his own farm and family to care for and couldn’t possibly manage two.
It only took a few weeks to build an extension on the back of the cabin for Bertie to live, and it was good to have him around to care for the children. He seemed happier, too. Ivy had said more than once that living alone on that ranch was no good for him.
Annabelle and Susannah were nearly two years old and ran their parents ragged most days. Yolanda was expecting too. It had only been a few months after her marriage to Ned, and Ivy just knew that she was a little worried about having baby after baby like Ned’s mother. She was adamant that they would only have a handful of children, and Ivy hoped that she managed that.
Ivy was glad that her friend had a chance to get married. Ned adored her, and she adored him. The town had been buzzing for a few months after the would-be bank robbery, but it was more or less quiet again. People were even getting used to Wolf and Ivy as a couple.
Bertie handed over the letter to Wolf and scooped up one grandchild in each arm. The girls squealed with joy.
Wolf eyed the envelope curiously. “The writing is familiar.”
“It’s addressed to you,” Ivy said, smiling at the children disappearing with Bertie into his rooms. “Go on, open it.”
Wolf tore open the envelope and took out the letter inside. He scanned the writing and sucked in a breath, his eyes widening. Ivy shuffled closer, reading over his shoulder.
My Dear Son,
A traveler who once visited Littleton told me about your marriage. He said that his name was Adam, and he was impressed by your bravery, Wolf, and the bravery of your new wife. He said she was called Ivy. That is a beautiful name.
I am sorry that I have missed so much of your life. Returning to Littleton is so painful for me. I have nightmares about it, usually on the anniversary of your Father’s death. But I will come back to see you, my son, as well as your wife and children, if you have them.
I love you with all my heart. I have never stopped loving you. We are traveling in that area soon, in spring, perhaps. Then I will be close enough to visit you and you me.
I think of you everyday without fail, and I wish for your prosperity, happiness, and health every night. When I meet your wife and my grandchildren, I will have more people to think of.
I hope you have forgiven me for leaving you. I often cannot forgive myself, but believe me when I say I would be dead by now if I had stayed in Littleton. A wounded body can mend itself, and a broken bone can knit together, but a crushed spirit is harder to heal.
I love you, Wolf. My Gray Wolf. I think of you whenever we see wolves slip through the trees.
All my love and blessings.
Your Mother, Onawa
Ivy pressed a hand to her mouth, turning to look at Wolf. He was obviously choking with emotion, his eyes red-rimmed and his mouth working as if he were trying to fight back tears.
“She didn’t forget,” he whispered hoarsely. “I wished I could write to her. I wished I could have every day. But, the tribes travel, and it’s not as if you can send a post-horse out there.”
Ivy slid an arm around her husband’s shoulder, squeezing him tight and pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“She said she’ll be nearby in spring,” Ivy murmured. “That’s only a few months away. She’s coming, Wolf. She’s coming here to see you.”
Wolf nodded vigorously, brushing away a tear. “I know I shouldn’t resent her for leaving me, but…”
“I understand, Wolf. It’s hard not to. But look, she’s coming back. She’s trying to make amends. Maybe she’ll want to stay.”
Wolf drew in a deep, shaky breath, smiling at his wife. He reached out, cupping her cheek with his palm.
“She won’t want to stay, but I know that she’ll love you. You and the children. I just know it.”
Ivy leaned forward to kiss Wolf. He’d been growing a beard lately, and it made him look even more handsome. His beard was black, sleek, and well-trimmed, and it made him look older and more distinguished. It did tickle, though.
They pulled apart, smiling at each other.
“Let’s have Pa babysit, and we can go over to Yolanda and Ned’s,” Ivy suggested. “We can tell them about the letter and see what they have to say.”
Wolf brightened. “That’s a good idea. Ned used to help me a lot when I couldn’t afford farm hands here, and now that he’s got his own home and land, I think he could use some help. Time to return the favor, eh?”
Ivy wasn’t a fool. She knew that they weren’t accepted in town. There were people who disagreed with an Indian man marrying a white woman. Ivy didn’t care what those people thought though, and never would.
Sometimes it hurt. She didn’t like being talked about behind her back and worried about Annabelle and Susannah.
Sometimes, she thought that the world would never change. But it was changing, slowly. And while they might not see significant changes in their lifetimes, Ivy could take Wolf’s hand and know that she’d made the right decision.
They put on coats and hats to deal with the cold March day and ventured out into the snow together. Ned and Yolanda’s house could be seen on a nearby hill, and it wasn’t a long walk.
They walked in a comfortable silence, and Wolf reached out taking Ivy’s hand, lacing their fingers together. She smiled up at him.
Yes, this was the right decision.