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Chapter 13 A Year Later

Whose looks did the new baby have? It was too early to tell. His skin was fair and his hair was a light brown. And his eyes were sky blue from the day of his birth three months before.

Tom Booker lay next to his father now. Annie knew this from Frank. His letter arrived on a Wednesday morning in late July when she was alone. She already knew then that she was carrying a child.

Frank also wrote about a conversation that Tom had with Joe before he died. He wanted to give Grace a present: Bronty’s baby.

So Frank was sending the young horse east with Pilgrim.

Both horses lifted their heads when Annie walked into the field. Then they calmly continued eating the grass. Grace worked with the young horse, now almost a year old, every weekend. She never pushed the young animal too hard. Just helped him to help himself. He was doing well. Grace named him Gully.

Annie couldn’t remember much about the week that followed Tom’s death. And it was probably best that way. They left when Grace was fit to travel. They flew back to New York. For days the girl did and said almost nothing.

But when the horses arrived that August morning, Grace changed. They seemed to unlock a door inside her, and for two weeks she cried. And then all the pain was out. She seemed to decide, like Pilgrim, that she wanted to live. She became an adult.

In the autumn she went back to school. The welcome that she received there from her friends helped a lot. And when Annie finally told her about the baby, she showed only happiness. She never once asked who the father was.

Robert, too, did not ask. He wanted to believe that this was, perhaps, his child. That, at least, was Annie’s feeling. She told him everything after they returned from Montana. But they did not want to decide about their future together. Not then. Grace was more important. So Annie stayed in Chatham and Robert in New York. Grace went from one to the other.

At first, Robert dropped Grace at her mother’s and then left.

Few words passed between them. Then, one night in October, Grace asked him to stay. He slept in the guest room and went the next morning. After that, he spent one night in the guest room each weekend. His leaving time the next day got later and later.

The baby was born in early March. Robert and Grace were there for the birth. They all cried and laughed together. They called him Matthew, after Annie’s father.

Annie heard the baby crying. She fed him. Then she took him into the house and changed him. He watched her with those clear blue eyes while she prepared supper. Perhaps she should ask Robert to stay all weekend this time.

There was one other thing that Frank sent with his letter last summer. It was an envelope with Annie’s name on it, from the table in Tom’s room.

Annie looked at the envelope for a long time before she opened it. Inside, in a sheet of plain white paper, was the loop of rope. On the paper were the words ‘Never forget’.

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