Abigail found him sitting on their bed rubbing the cover Arthur’s journal. Sitting down next to him, she noted the tears gathering in his eyes. Placing a hand on his shoulder, and her other settled over his, she asked, “John, are you alright?”
He turned to her with a pained smile. “No, I… ain’t.” John glanced down to where their hands lay. “Despite all our travels, I never opened it to read it. I… only opened it to see where his last journal entry was before I started writing my own.” With an exhale, John glanced around the room. “And I know we got the ranch and all, and that I shouldn’t revisit the past, and yet… I can’t help but want to.”
Abigail returned his sad smile and wiped some of the gathering tears away. “I understand, John. How… how about we read it together?” Then she paused only to start giggling. “Well, I suppose you’ll be doing most of the reading.” John chuckled with her as they placed their foreheads together.
“I guess I shall.”
Thumbing open the journal with a shaky exhale, John glanced at her before finding the first page. “I bought this journal, after the last one got destroyed in that fire all those months ago, whenever it was. Haven’t written or drawn much in the past few months, but I was missing it more than I thought I would, and finally near a store, so here I am, I guess. After all that business up North and the fire, we spent a few months in the wilderness, traveling down from the Northern Grizzlies, stuck mostly western foothills of the mountains during the worst of the winter. Food was easy to find, and life was good.”
“It was,” Abigail murmured. “Probably the last time we were all really happy before Blackwater. And despite our constant fights too.” John pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Dutch had a lead for some land were going to buy, but the land did not match up to his criteria, or he got spooked we were being watched by the law and that somebody knew who he was, and we never bought it and we are wandering still.”
A silent question passed between the both of them. They wondered the true reason why Dutch hadn’t bought it, and after 1899, they weren’t sure they wanted to know. John cleared his throat to begin reading again. “We picked up a couple of new folk in the Grizzlies. Jenny, a sweet young girl we met abandoned on the roadside, and Mi-micah,” John stumbled over the man’s name, “an outlaw Dutch met in a bar someplace. Dutch seems very taken with Micah, who is pretty hot-headed, argumentative and full of himself. Hosea and I are less sure. Guess we will see.” John couldn’t help the snort that came from his body. "Oh, we saw alright," he grumbled.
Abigail nudged him with her arm. “It’s over now,” she reminded him.
“I know,” John whispered back. “But in some ways I’m still angry. About what he did.” Abigail squeezed his thigh, and he took that as a cue to start reading again. “Eventually, we came out of the wilderness and are holed up outside of Blackwater, although sometimes I stay in town, hunting for opportunities. I might be on to something. We got plenty of money, and the trail we took was so tortuous and slow nobody could have followed us south and ear, or figured out where we was heading. We was thinking about California, but then Dutch and Hosea brought us down to Blackwater.”
He paused to let out a yawn and rub his eyes. Glancing outside, he noticed the sky was pitch black. Abigail seemed to know what he was thinking. “How about we take a break, John? We can read more tomorrow.”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Pressing a kiss to her cheek, John got up and moved over to the chest where he kept some of their old things. Opening it, he gently placed the journal back inside before getting up and moving to lay next to Abigail. “Good night, dear.”
“Good night, John.”