***************mid-November. The days had gone by, the weeks too. The last letter from Adam had explained how the parents of Sue-Ling had been found safe after long weeks of silence and horror. They had been injured and had been saved by some neighbours and they hadn’t been able to send any news before. The quake had been a big one, bigger than the one they had faced in Fort Tejon, in 1857. So many people were lying dead, so many children were crying for their dead parents, so many parents were crying for their dead children. So many families had been wiped out all together.
************What a day! Adam’s sons, Benji and Luke-Adam were so excited for what would happen today. First they would go to town, help decorate the ranch for a special event « the welcome back party », help Hop Sing make cookies, and then they’d surely play with their friends at the creek. They would run across the meadow, flying the kite Uncle Joe had made for them. As winter would soon be back, these were the last opportunities to have a picnic and some fun close to the lake.
Their Grandma, Joan was busy in the kitchen. She kept glancing at the clock. It was the day of Adam’s and Francesca ‘s return, she was going to prepare the perfect evening for them.
« Benjamin, I have to go. I’ll be absent for one or two hours, Mrs Clambay asked me to come to her ranch to pick up some apple pies for the party.
-yeah, I remember, you told me about it. So, see you later. Be careful with the wagon ».
-I will, » she replied before blowing him a kiss.
***********Francesca Cartwright was sitting close to Adam, she looked out the train window. She smiled at the familiar surroundings—finally they were home. The train at last came to Carson City, at the station. Before Francesca stepped off the train, she paused for a moment to take in the beautiful view she had in front of her eyes. After having seen desperation and smoke, it was precious to be able to enjoy the peaceful view.
*************In Carson City.
They had a few minutes left before getting into the stage coach, direction Ponderosa. The driver would make a detour and leave them in the yard of one of their neighbours; who would lend them a wagon and a team.
After having fed their baby daughter and put her down for a nap on the blanket, Francesca spoke first.
“Adam, do you remember when you were first took me here, to show me the lake?”
Mmmm,” he said into her hair.
“When we first started courting?” She continued, “Do you remember when you took me to the place you go to to think about things? This is the only other view I’ve seen which comes close to the beauty of that place.”
Adam raised his head to look into the mountains. “We’ve sure come a long way since then.”
Francesca turned in his arms to face him. “Do you remember what I said there? I told you that I knew where I wanted us to get to, but I was unsure if I knew how we’d get there.” Adam replied: “My pa would say we followed our own path.”
Francesca smiled up at him, the man who was first her friend, her protector, her guide and who now was her husband. “I’m so happy, Adam. I can’t imagine being anywhere else but with you now.”
Adam replied by pulling her against him and rocking her gently in his arms.
*********Ben was at his desk when they arrived and he jumped to his feet when he heard the noise of a wagon in the yard. “Adam, Francesca ! ” He rushed round the desk and walked towards the door to welcome them : he helped Francesca to get down, she had her daughter in her arms. He lifted the little girl from his daughter-in-law’s arms. As he spoke to the infant, the baby smiled. Then he kissed his granddaughter’s head.
« Oh, my little princess, look, at this beauty. She has grown so much », Ben exclaimed with enthousiasm. “What ya doin’, sweety ?” Ben made a face at her.
The baby smiled and moved her arms. Ben lowered his finger for the infant to clutch. The little girl babbled.
“It’s so good to have you home. I was starting to worry about you.”
“Mommy; Daddy!” five year old Benji screamed out in excitement, followed by Luke-Adam and they ran as fast as their short legs would carry them across the front lawn of the ranch as their tall strong father and their lovely mommy appeared. Adam immediately threw his bags to the ground and leant down as they threw themselves towards him and he scooped them up in mid-flight into his arms.
“Oh my boys, I missed you so much!” he exclaimed. Adam balanced the youngest on his hip while Francesca wrapped an arm around Luke-Adam’s shoulders.
“Daddy, mommy, kitten will soon be born”. That made their parents smile, the little boy was so excited, that was the first thing he wanted to tell them.
“Adammm!” Joe waved enthusiastically as he spotted his brother climbing down from the wagon.
“Joe!” he ran to him and embraced his younger brother.
“Francesca!” Joe’s smile greeted his sister-in-law, as well.
“Big brother, ” Joe beamed. “Sure is good t’ see ya.”
“You, too,” Adam placed an arm around his brother and his wife.
“ Let’s go home.”
They came into the house.
******Adam and Francesca glanced around the room, looking around for the same friendly face that they had longed to see when they had been feeling so desperate.
“Welcome home, Adam, Welcome home Francesca.”
“Leslie ! It’s good to see you again.”
Francesca ran into her sister-in-law’s arms, the warm, tender embrace was such a comfort after weeks of being gone.
« How are you, sis’ », Francesca asked. Leslie softly stroked her round belly and smiled.
« I’m around four months pregnant… Another Cartwright will make the family bigger ».
******************Evening was about to fall, taking the warmth of the sun with it, leaving behind a cold dark world. But inside it was warm and cosy. A little fire was burning in the fireplace, candles where glowing floating around in the room, giving a warm light.
Coffee time and apple-pie had been pleasant. But it had resulted in Joe getting a lecture from Adam and Francesca too; about not caring enough for his pregnant wife.
***************Francesca wrapped her arms around Adam ‘s neck and leaned forward to kiss him, long and slow and deep – the kind of kiss that made him want to make love, but they wouldn’t have enough time ; and he didn’t want to start something which would be interrupted. As the clock chimed above the mantle, he tightened his arms around her back and deepened the kiss, not ready to let go. She was breathless from the kiss. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes looked glassy, and it took all his willpower not to kiss her again.
“We have to dress ourselves for the party! », she said, moving from his arms.
“I love you,” he said softly.
*************Francesca fed her baby girl, changed her diaper and got into her gown.
« everything is fine, she just finished her supper. She’ll sleep the whole night, she’s a big girl now. And we won’t stay the whole night at the party. I want to go check on the kids,” she kissed the baby’s head.
“Here,” Adam held out his arms. “I’ll take her.”
Francesca quietly entered her boy’s bedroom. She checked Benji’s and Luke-Adam’s covers and leaned down to kiss their forehead.
“Good night, boys,” she whispered.
Before going back to her bedroom, she went to Amelia’s room and kissed her good night. The nine-year-old girl was reading her new book, her parents had bought it in Carson City, as they had stopped there for a while.
Entering the bedroom, she saw Adam in the rocking chair with the baby. A powerful surge of love for her husband swept over her. It was not just the love that she felt in her heart, but it was her physical attraction to him.
When he looked up at her and smiled, her heart leapt, and her breathing quickened.
“Adam,” she walked to him and kissed his cheek. “I’m ready, we can go.”
He smiled and carried Elisabeth to her cradle.
*********They left the ranch, after having talked a few minutes with the 16-year-old girl who would stay at home for the night, to keep an eye on the children.
***************What could be more romantic than that? Adam was dressed in his black suit. Adam’s suit was as dashing on him as Francesca’s dress was on her. She was dressed in a rich burgundy silk dress. It graced her shoulders and dipped low in the front and the back. Her tiny waist was accentuated by the flare of the skirt of the dress. She wore her hair in a soft pile on the top of her head, her face framed with wisps of hair curling around it. Each time Adam saw her, he was struck by her beauty. Francesca seemed unaware of how beautiful she appeared to him. It was apparent from the moment they made their way into the dining room that they made a handsome couple-Francesca with her regal beauty, Adam with his rugged, lean frame. Ben approached with a bottle of champagne. He first poured a glass for Francesca, then one for Adam. They all raised their glasses for a toast.
Francesca began: “To the pleasure of being alive, together, at the Ponderosa.”
Adam continued: “To my wife, the one I was destined to love, the one who gave me courage and strength.”
Their glasses clicked ceremoniously and they drank while watching each other intently.
*******************The classic Slow Waltz music was highly romantic and sentimental, just as Adam Cartwright was on that night.
“Would you like to-”, Adam bowed to the waist. Very slowly, he lifted his head. “May I have the honor of this dance?” he asked softly.
Francesca nodded and placed her small hand in his. He slid an arm around her waist and pulled her close. He was holding his wife in his arms and was looking in her eyes and then the two of them were moving like they were one. The music was soft and flowing , it was filling the room with magic. Joan, when she didn’t dance, loved watching people do the waltz and she was seeing poetry in motion. The waltz was a wonderful elegant- feeling smooth sound. Dancing close cheek to cheek, bodies slowly swaying to the music. Adam’s hand on Francesca’s back holding her tight. For three or four minutes all was perfect with the world.
Joan would never be able to forget the first time she’d danced with Ben. She had felt something she would discover later under the name: chemistry. She had been falling in love with the man, and with the music and with the waltz.
***************There was a small group of middle-aged people chatting next to Ben, and somehow or another he ended up speaking with them.
***a few seconds later
“My dear, I know, my son is a very good dancer, but may I show you, from whom he learnt how to dance”; Ben added while asking her for the next dance.
Oh the way he was holding her. As they took their first steps, Joan felt his clear tender handsome lead.
He spun her round twice in an underarm turn, then in the opposite direction. They promenaded side by side, as if ice skating. Up went his arms into a difficult turn, and once again she followed his lead. She felt this wonderful chemistry between them as they continued to glide and spin and twirl with grace around the floor.
As the music softly ended, they both beamed with delight. Joan was breathless with exhilaration.
« how beautiful a dance the waltz can be. »
In the dance of love, the waltz had become the key to Joan’s heart.
The Ponderosa was so elegant. Two or three tables to the side were glowing with lilac decorations, and white roses in lovely vases. The dance floor took up the whole room, the cocktail tables only lining the edge of the room. Couples spun around in each other arms on the dance floor. Women’s long skirts twirled in various colors while black suit legs gracefully glided alongside.
The bodies on the dance floor were so beautiful. It was as if the music was the heartbeat of their living bodies, and they were merely the vibrations of the music.
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