The trees were just beginning to slip on their gold and red autumn sheen as Jonathan Albers loaded the wagon for a picnic lunch, but he knew winter would descend faster than he wanted. He couldn’t let another season pass him by before setting things right.
Up before dawn, he hardly even noticed the cool dew that soaked through his deerskin boots, and he had the team ready to go by the time the first few streaks of sunlight splashed against the front of the cabin.
Jonathan stepped inside to spring the surprise on his wife. As had become her habit, Caroline sat in the old rocking chair next to a cold hearth, rocking and staring straight ahead into the darkness.
“We’re going for a ride today, Caroline,” Jonathan told her.
“Alright.” Her voice was flat, but she stood and walked through the door.
An hour later, they had ventured deep into the open prairie, and Jonathan guided the horses toward Bronson’s Bluff. It was a trip three years overdue.
“Are we there yet?”
They were the first words Caroline had spoken since they left home. Jonathan reached for her icy hand and nodded toward the crest on the horizon.
“Just over that hill up there, Caroline.”
She locked her gaze on the top of the ridge and watched as brown grassy meadows gave way to scraggly trees on the rise. Soon enough, the black wrought iron gates of the Bronson Cemetery came into view. Caroline clutched Jonathan’s hand tight and sat up straight.
“Is it time, Jon?”
Tears filled his eyes. “Yes, dear, it’s time.”
The horses stopped at a headstone marked, “Caroline Albers.”
Jonathan stared at the marker for a few seconds, then turned his coach around and drove home, alone.