This story is in response to the #write photo prompt from Sue Vincent this past week
Sarah Connor pulled her kerchief tighter around her nose and mouth to keep out the dust raised by the wagon in front of her. She had been walking along the Oregon Trail, beside her mother’s and father’s Conestoga wagon, for nearly two months now, while her stomach grew round with new life.
The night she told her parents of her pregnancy was etched in acid. The family, including her younger brother Ethan, were sitting around a fire, the empty plates of their dinner on the ground beside them.
“I have to tell you something…Mother, Father.” Both parents focused on Sarah. “I am expecting a baby,” she said in almost a whisper.
“What? You can’t be! Here we are about to set off on a difficult, hazardous journey of months and you are pregnant?” Her mother shook her head and stood up. “You are utterly without morals, Sarah, and thoughtless of your family, too. I want nothing to do with you from now on. Make your own way.”
Her father stood up, too. “Is this the truth, child?”
“Yes, Father. I’m so sorry, we never meant it to happen.” In fact, the long days of waiting for the wagon trains to form and leave from Missouri had given Sarah a freedom she had never known at home, her former home.
Her father seemed to grow twice in size as he took a deep breath and said in a loud voice, “And just who is the father?”
“Gabriel Harrison. You met him several times.”
“Yes, yes, I know, the scout for the wagons that left last week.”
“He’s a good man, Father. He will marry me when he finds out about the baby.”
“If he doesn’t, I will kill him,” her father said in an icy cold voice. Sarah knew he meant it. “Now we will get down on our knees and pray to the Lord God Almighty for his forgiveness of Sarah’s immorality…and for his blessings on our journey.”
Both parents ignored Sarah when they formed a line of wagons the next day and the passing weeks, as she walked along with the wagon. However, they didn’t let her starve, and she silently worked to set up their campsite in the evening and to load the wagon in the morning.
She slept on the ground under the wagon. Ethan was her only comfort, giving her a blanket at night and checking to make sure she was well. “They’ll come around, Sarah, just give them time. You know Mother would love to hold a baby in her arms again.”
Sarah was certain that Gabriel would not forsake her. Before he left, he told her he would be thinking of her every day, and he would leave a sign on the trail to let her know. She told Ethan so there would be two pairs of eyes searching.
She’d been looking every day, to one side and another of the trail. Her heart dropped more each day when neither she nor Ethan found anything.
Two months into their journey, her parents had relented sufficiently to allow her to sleep in the wagon, her father stating he would not be responsible for his daughter’s death from cold or predators. One morning, Ethan came riding back from the front of the wagon train. “I found something from Gabriel for you.” He pulled her up behind him on his horse, and they rode forward along the long line of wagons, until Ethan reined in. “There. See that rock in the middle of the trail? Get down and wait until the next wagon passes, then see what’s scratched on it.”
Sarah slid down and waited patiently for the next wagon to pass. In the brief moments between wagons, she ran to the middle of the trail and looked down at the large, flat rock. Scratched into its surface were two sets of initials, set in a heart: SC and GH. Her heart soared, and she felt the baby kick for the first time.