Nebraska Territory

July 9, 1854

Twenty-five year old Emily Peel sat stiffly in her wagon seat watching as the group of children, who were walking, came toward her wagon. The children were the only things that could make her smile, of late.

After burying her still-born son, James, two weeks ago; and seeing her husband, Jack, drown not a month before that, in a river crossing, Emily was convinced of two things: She would never marry again; and she hated this wagon train, and Nebraska.

The children were passing her wagon now. They came in small groups of two or three, talking amongst themselves.

First came the three 6 year olds; Caitlin O'Riley, Hannah Slate, and Sarah James; after them were the eight year olds; Cara O'Riley, and Emma Slate; after them came thirteen year old Joshua James, and his nine year old brother Parker, with twelve year old Nathan Gardner. A good ways behind them was thirteen-year-old Aileen O'Riley, and fourteen year old Myranda Gardner, who were watching three-year-old Beth Slate, and Aileen's two-year-old half - brother, Logan. Lastly came seventeen-year-old Kate Gardner, sixteen-year-old Celina Gardner, and sixteen year old Kevin James Jr.

Tucking a strand of pale blond hair behind her ear, Emily counted the children as they walked by: the four O'Riley's, the four Gardner's, the four James', and the three Slate's – no four- she had forgotten one year old Diana. There were sixteen children in all.

Emily began to take a mental tally of all the people who were, or had been, in the wagon train.

There was the O'Rileys – Sean, the father who was Irish, Julia, his wife who was German, and their four children, soon to be five, Aileen, Cara, Caitlin, and Logan.

Then there were the Gardners – The father Jim, who was a preacher, his wife Clarissa, and their children Kate, Celina, Myranda, and Nathan.

Then there were the Slate's – Johnny, the father, his wife Tillie, and their children, Emma, Hannah, Beth, and Diana.

Then there were the James – Kevin, the father, his wife Antalya, who was Russian, and their children, Kevin Jr., Joshua, Parker, and Sarah.

There was Mr. Cecil Dalton, and his wife Mary, the elderly couple who planned on setting up a general store.

There were the three bachelors: Jay O'Brien, who was Irish, Michael Bilyew, and Randy Reynolds, also Irish.

Lastly, there were the Peels- Jack, Emily, and James. That made thirty-two people, but now there was only thirty.

Emily sighed, squared her shoulders, and purposely turned her thoughts to something else, anything else other than Jack and James.