“Well, if the vein is as rich as it sounds like it could be…” Kit said.
They sat in the small cabin the neighbors had come together to build after the fire destroyed the first cabin. They were starting over from scratch, but the cabin was big enough for the small family.
Stud and Judy had stayed in the stable, both for their privacy and the family’s.
“If we can’t get home, then we can work that together and split the profits,” Stud said. He had experience with cattle, but mining was going to be more money faster. It might make sense for them.
Judy was wearing a dress and she didn’t seem to particularly like it. She kept plucking at the sleeves and shoulders.
He’d finally put on some of the other clothes too. His old clothes were filthy and they were getting so beat up with the wear and tear. Funny how much easier life was in the future, even when it was hard work.
They’d get Judy some more jeans and Sylvia was promising to teach her how to knit. Her cardigan was being worn apart with its constant use. If anything, he’d get her home and they’d just go buy a new one. Or, he wouldn’t doubt that was her standard uniform, jeans and a cardigan over a tank top.
She was perfect. And he couldn’t ever stop his expression of her perfection from lighting his face.
Judy looked over at him as he was gazing upon her.
“Steve?” she said. He’d been too busy daydreaming to even listen to their conversation.
“Sorry, what?” He blinked twice to try and clear his head.
“We’ll build a cabin of our own, higher up the hill, near the vein and we’ll work through the summer, both preparing for winter and working the vein.”
He nodded. “That’s a good plan. It makes sense. And if we can’t get home…”
“Well, it wasn’t a little cave when we fell into it the first time. I don’t know what would have happened to it for it to be the mine shaft we fell into.”
“We’ll do whatever we can to help you,” Kit said. “You’re kin. We’ll be here.”
Judy smiled. “Thank you.”
“We’ll go back up and take a look.”
They rode up after their lunch, a leisurely pace. Kit scrambled off his horse and went into the little cave. A low whistle and, “Sweet Jesus.” He came out and said, “Either they didn’t know about this or that’s why they set up their camp here. With a little work, you folks’ll have the nicest house on the hill.”
Stud smiled, looking at Judy. He’d buy her a carriage. Or a wagon, he supposed. She’d have to wait thirty years for a Model T, but he’d buy her one of those too. He’d buy her a big fancy dress. In a dusty pink, with the big bustle. Maybe a little parasol.
He sighed then and she looked at him with a quirked eyebrow. He blushed and looked away. He was like a junior high school boy, enamored with a woman for the first time.
She reached out to him and held his hand. “Do you think going back in that cave will take us home?”
He hadn’t considered it yet. “Should we try? All these plans will be for nothing if that will just take us home.”
She nodded. “Let’s try.”
Kit was out from the cave and looking at them. He held out a piece of silvery white ore.
Stud took it from them and said, “This might send us home.”
Kit nodded. “I didn’t think of that. If it doesn’t, we’re happy to have you. If it does, I’m just glad to know the—” A wave of emotion over swept him.
“The land stayed in the family,” Stud said. “And we’ve done well.”
Kit stuck his hand out and Stud shook it forcefully. Judy stepped forward and hugged him. “Give my love to Sylvia and the little one.”
She held her hand out to Stud again and he took it. Stud stuck the piece of ore in his pocket. The crouched over and climbed into the cave.
The disappointment swept over both of them immediately. “I’d hoped,” she said.
“Me, too.” The shuffled out and he said, “We’ll make it here. I know you must miss her terribly. But we’ll find a way to send her a message, I promise.”
The tears welled up in her eyes. He’d never seen her as anything but tough. The only time he’d seen her cry was after she pulled him out from the fire. But he stepped forward and held her. “I’ll keep you as safe as I can, I promise.”
She started crying in earnest, and he only held her, rocking softly and stroking her hair and whispering little nothings into her ear.
She stilled eventually and Kit said, “We’ll make a plan and we’ll start.”
Stud said, “I don’t think we’ll need the neighbors to help. All that was really important was your place. We’ll be fine in whatever we make.” Judy could do anything. With the two of them working together, they’d build a home they could be proud of.
Kit shook his head. “We’ll help you. We’ll be there.” He looked at the cave and said, “We’ll have all the resources we need. And with you here, we’ll have all the family we’ll need too.”
Judy looked unsure of all of this, but she was willing to try. She was going to make the best of it. She was going to do it all. Despite missing her daughter, despite all the things they were facing now. He knew she’d be able to do it, he knew she’d come through. And, if anything, she’d bring him through too.
“We’ll all come together and make your cabin all set. It’ll be great,” Stud said.
She nodded and drew herself up. They’d come through.