August 12, 1838
Ella ran from behind the tree that offered shelter toward the next Oak in the garden, giggling all the way. Her laughter bounced off the walls, entwining with a little boy's as she moved. Playing with Cole Jenkins was Ella's favorite thing to do. Once a week their mothers got together for tea, enabling the four year olds to run around wildly in the back yard.
"Ella, come here!" Cole yelled, collapsing onto the stone bench.
She peeked around the tree that was giving her protection, her dark hair tumbling over her shoulder. "No!" she called. "That's how Charlie tricks me!"
"I won't tag you, I promise. I have a present for you."
As the word present hit her small ears, she rushed from her hiding place, her skirt swishing around her knees as she ran. Skipping the last few steps, she stopped before Cole, a brilliant smile on her face. "A present?"
Cole produced a beautiful pink rose and Ella squealed with delight. "Pink is my favorite color!"
"I know," Cole answered, grinning proudly. "I picked it for you because I love you."
"I love you too," she whispered, sitting beside him on the bench, grasping the rose in her hand.
"I'm going to marry you some day, I promise." The confidence with which he spoke would have made an adult laugh, but it caused butterflies to flutter in Ella's stomach.
"I'd like that."
Cole leaned toward her, his lips puckered together tightly. Ella scooted closer to him, mimicking his lips with her own. They shared a kiss, their lips brushing lightly against each others and Ella felt like giggling. She loved Cole Jenkins better than anyone else, other than her Mama and Daddy of course. At four years old, she was completely convinced that she would share her life with Cole someday, just like her parents. They would live in the same house and never have to say goodbye. It would be perfect.
While the four year olds shared a romantic moment in the garden, their mothers watched the scene as if it was the entertainment for the afternoon. Amy Jenkins gasped as she watched her son pucker his lips. "Please tell me Cole isn't…"
"Oh, he is," Sarah Robinson laughed, her own daughter playing an equal part in the impropriety.
"Sarah, I'm so sorry, I'll have his father talk with him immediately." Amy blushed at her son's boldness, settling her china cup on the saucer.
"Please, it's fine, they're only four. I'll be speaking with my daughter later as well. I knew I would have to talk to her about boys someday, I didn't think it would have to be so soon!"
"Oh goodness, my mother would die if she saw this!" Amy giggled.
Sarah joined in with her own laughter. Both of their mothers were still very active in the social circles of Baltimore, and prided themselves with their upstanding family and friends. Both women would have an issue with the scene that was taking place in the back yard. Propriety and appropriate behavior was very important to them.
Amy was now up at the glass paned door, inspecting the scene more closely. "What would possess him to do such a thing?"
"You and Frank!" Sarah said, stating the obvious. She knew her friend very well, and understood the depth of the relationship she shared with her husband, something that was very rare in their Baltimore neighborhood.
A blush flooded Amy's cheeks. "Sarah, you shouldn't say such things!"
"I know," Sarah grinned, taking a sip from her cup deviously. "But it's the truth. Where else would Cole pick it up?"
"I suppose you're right," Amy sighed. "I should probably go get my little Casanova before he compromises your daughter's innocence with any other moves. I'll see you next week?"
"Definitely, I find I despise calling on anyone other than you. The other ladies in town probably talk about me constantly, but I don't really care. Sitting with them is practically torture."
"I agree whole heartedly! The other women in this town are so…"
"Proper? Self righteous? Boring? Stuck up?" Sarah supplied.
The women chuckled at their agreement then called the children in from the garden. Cole and Ella hugged tightly before Amy pulled him from the Robinson's home, leaving Sarah to have an important talk with her little girl.
"Ella, come here darling," Sarah cooed, crouching down to the height of her daughter. Ella skipped toward her, a bright smile on her face. Sarah couldn't help but smile. Not only did she think her daughter the sweetest and cutest child in the neighborhood, but she found the situation very comical.
"Mrs. Jenkins and I saw you and Cole kiss." Sarah watched her daughter carefully and was surprised to see that Ella didn't really react.
"And I see you and Daddy kiss." The four year old responded without pause. She blinked at her mother, as if she didn't understand why she was being told such a thing.
"Ella, kisses are something very special that should only be shared between people that are going to be married. You can not give your kisses away so freely, dearest."
"But I am going to marry Cole." Ella reasoned.
"What? What do you mean?"
"I love him, Mama. We're going to get married someday. We'll be just like you and Daddy!" she said happily.
Sarah held back a chuckle and put a hand on her daughter's cheek. "That's a very nice idea, but getting married to Cole is a long time away. You're much too young to be thinking of things like that. So until you get a lot older, you need to keep your lips to yourself."
"Alright, Mama." Ella answered, and then cocked her head to the side, a puzzled expression scrunching her perfect skin. "Am I in trouble?"
Sarah pulled her into a hug, "No darling, as long as you listen to what I'm telling you, no more kisses, not even for Cole."
"Okay, but someone will have to tell him that, I think he likes kissing me." Ella snuggled against her mother, thankful that she wasn't in trouble, enjoying the peaceful quiet and her mother's warmth, while Sarah fought more laughter. Even as Ella remained tucked under her mother's arm, she thought about the feeling in her tummy when she kissed Cole, and a small smile snuck onto her face again. Yes, she loved Cole Jenkins, she loved him very much.
March 20, 1842
"Please, Paul, get ready!" Sarah begged, pushing her husband to the large wardrobe that occupied their bedroom. Tears were already threatening to spill from her green eyes.
"I have plenty of time, Sarah; I'll be ready by the time the Jenkins arrive, promise."
Sarah plopped down onto her bed, her silk gown swishing with the action. "I just want everything to be perfect for them."
Paul moved closer to his wife, sitting down beside her, putting an arm around her. She rested her head on his shoulder, allowing a few of those tears to escape. "Everything will be perfect. You go tend to Charlie and Ella and I'll get ready right now," he said, gently smoothing her hair.
She dried her eyes and popped up, the thought of a new task pushing her emotions back down. Ella was playing with her dolls quietly on her bedroom floor. She was wearing a beautiful green dress, and her hair was masterfully curled, Sarah sighed in relief. "Thank goodness for Addie." Moving down the hallway toward Charlie's bedroom, she could already hear that her son was playing with his toy soldiers, but she prayed that he would be ready for tonight. When she entered the room, Charlie was sprawled across his bed, his suspenders unfastened, his shirt un-tucked, and his hair an un-combed mess.
Fortunately, it didn't take long to get him ready, and Sarah was able to go back to her own bedroom with ten minutes to check on her husband before their guests would arrive. A smile blossomed as she peeked in on him, revealing a handsome gentleman clothed in his best suit with his hair and moustache combed neatly. He grinned when he noticed her, causing his handsomeness to increase exponentially. "I promised, didn't I?" As he spoke, she showed off his excellent attire like a proud school boy, causing Sarah to giggle.
"How did I get so lucky; getting such a handsome, wonderful husband?"
He strode over to her, taking her in his arms easily, and pressed a kiss to her lips. "I'm fairly certain that's how," he answered, kissing her again.
A giggle bubbled from her throat and she swatted him playfully. "That had better not be the only way!"
"You know it isn't." His answer was sincere and honest, followed by another blissful kiss. Sarah's stomach twisted, the feeling of fluttering butterflies making her feel giddy. She felt that way every time Paul kissed her.
Breaking away, she pressed her head against his chest, relishing his tight grasp. "Thank you for being you. I apologize in advance for the emotions you're about to endure," she whispered.
Paul tightened his hug in reassurance; he knew that tonight was going to be difficult for his wife. The Jenkins were coming over to enjoy their last night in Baltimore. Two months ago they had decided to go West, Frank wanted to be a rancher, and Amy wanted him to do whatever he loved. They were leaving the next morning to join a wagon train leaving from Missouri and Sarah was going to miss her best friend. But it wasn't just the thought of her not being around that had her sad, it was all the stories from the trail that had been floating around Baltimore. It seemed that most families did not make it to the West as a whole. Members of small and large families died of illness and disease and Indians on the large trek across their country, and it terrified Sarah to think of her friend on such a dangerous journey.
There was a knock on the front door. Sarah wriggled out of Paul's hug and floated down the stairs, using all of the elegance her mother had instilled in her. When she opened the door, she found the Jenkins huddled on the doorstep. Mandy and Cole raced past her with a smile and a laugh, charging up the stairs toward her own children's bedrooms. Frank planted a polite kiss on her cheek as he entered, leaving Amy waiting on the step. Sarah noticed tears clinging to her eyelashes and pulled her into a hug. "Let's save the tears for later," she whispered.
Amy nodded her head against Sarah's shoulder, sniffling her early tears away. The two women walked toward the dining room and called for their children. A flurry of young limbs clambered down the stairs and dove into the chairs surrounding the large dining table. Ella and Cole chose two chairs beside each other, while Mandy and Charlie chose to distance themselves, putting a parent between them. Dinner was an entertaining affair. Whenever the Jenkins and the Robinsons got together for dinner, their children often ate without them in the kitchen, and then were allowed to play; affording the adults some extra quiet. Since it was their last time together, Sarah had decided that they should all eat together, which made it the loudest most boisterous meal in Sarah's memory.
When dinner was finished, Sarah released the children to go play once again. And they all laughed as Cole and Ella exited hand in hand. With the children gone, the adults settled in the parlor, where coffee and dessert was waiting. "Are you sure you want to go?" Sarah asked for the hundredth time.
"Yes, we're sure," Frank answered, taking his wife's hand.
"And you're going to do your very best to stay healthy on the journey? Drink plenty of water, make sure your food is sanitary, and stay away from others who seem to be getting sick?"
Amy giggled, "Of course, Sarah. We've done plenty of research and we understand why some people don't make it across the trail. We'll be fine."
"Of course, there are some things you can't plan for. You promise not to do anything dangerous, right?"
Paul wrapped an arm around his wife, giving her a gentle squeeze. "Sarah; Frank and Amy will be fine, we've already been over all of this. Let's just enjoy each other's company tonight."
Sarah turned and smiled, he was right. She had already had countless conversations with Amy about their big move. The night Amy and Frank had shared the news, she had been shocked, worried and most of all, upset. How would she survive without her best friend? But, Amy and Frank were determined. They truly believed that the West held a new and wonderful life for them, and who was Sarah to deny them such an adventure. But their leaving would be hard. Even now as she sat and spoke with her friend, she missed her, wondering what conversations would never occur because of the great distance that would separate them. Sarah didn't even want to think about how upset Ella would be over their departure, but that would have to wait for another day. Tonight, she would enjoy the company of her best friend, for the last time.