This is in first draft form so it’s not perfect:
“We’ll stop here for tonight,” Joe called out to the group as he rode by on his horse.
As tired as Amanda was, she wished they could have kept going for another half hour. But he was right. They should stop for the evening. The day had been a long one, and this one seemed especially difficult given the lack of wind as the sun beat down on them. She came to a stop and opened her canteen. There was no more water in it. With a sigh, she put the lid back on and studied her surroundings.
In New York City, she got used to buildings and lots of people. But out here, it seemed like a desolate wilderness. There was the occasional town along the way, but for the most part, it was open land as far as the eye could see. She couldn’t decide if she liked it or not. Omaha was bound to be much different from what she was used to.
“You want to eat with my family tonight?”
She gasped and turned, unaware Richard had come up behind her.
He smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Relaxing, she returned his smile. “I don’t know where my mind is.”
“It’s been a long day.” He glanced back at their wagon. “I need to get the animals settled before supper.” He turned his gaze back to her. “My ma asked us if we wanted to eat with them tonight. I told her I’d ask you. I wasn’t sure if you feel up to preparing something or not.” He took his hat off and wiped the sweat from his brow. His blond hair, which was a light shade of blond, appeared darker in the orange and pink hues of the evening sky. Hat still in hand, he continued, “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I can bring something back for you if you’d rather not talk to anyone. I know Laura was giving you a difficult time earlier today.”
She met Richard’s eyes again. They’d gone to school together, but it wasn’t until recently that she got to know him. Their wedding had been so rushed, being that it was done out of necessity. “I’ll be happy to join your family for supper this evening,” she finally said.
After everything he’d done for her, it was the least she could do. And as he’d pointed out, Laura had been unusually annoying that day by coming up to her during the break at the stream. Amanda scanned the area where people were getting settled for the evening. Good. Laura was preoccupied with her mother.
“We’ll go to their wagon in a little bit,” Richard told her, directing her attention back to him.
She nodded then found a private area where she could go to the restroom. Of all the conveniences she missed in New York, this was the one she missed most. Outhouses might have stunk, but they offered a better sense of privacy than a group of bushes did. She had to keep worrying someone would happen to find her like this. Though was it any worse than the condition Richard found her? And had it not been for him, who knew what would have happened to her?
Don’t think about it, she admonished herself.
She left the bushes and returned to her wagon. He’d already unhitched the oxen for the night and was letting them rest with the other animals. “Do you need any help?” she asked as she pulled the strap holding her canteen over her head.
“No. I have it all taken care of.” He held his hand out to her. “I’ll put that in the wagon and fill it up tomorrow.”
She thanked him and handed him the canteen. As he jumped up into the wagon, a movement not too far away caught her attention. The last thing she wanted to do was look over and see what it was. Or rather, who it was. She had an unsettling feeling someone was watching her. And if she guessed right, it was Joe. Forcing her hands into her pockets, she kept her eyes on Richard who was setting the canteen next to the blanket that served as a bed.
Relieved when he returned, she relaxed. But only slightly. Joe was still watching her. She told herself not to think about it. He was a part of her past. Richard was her future. And really, no one could blame her. She had no other choice at the time.
Richard smiled and took her by the arm, gently leading her away from the wagon, away from Joe. She stepped closer to Richard, taking comfort in his silent strength. He’d been there when Joe hadn’t been, and for that, she owed him her life.
“Ma said my brothers caught a couple rabbits earlier today,” Richard said. “She’s going to cook them then put them in stew with the carrots and potatoes they saved from the last town we were in.”
“Your ma’s a good cook,” she replied.
“You are, too.”
She wanted to argue with him but didn’t. He seemed to see only the best in things, and that included her. She wasn’t sure what to make of it. How did someone tell someone they weren’t as perfect as they were made out to be? Would he find out soon enough? And at that time, would he realize he made a mistake?
She forced the questions aside. It’d been a long day. Tomorrow would be just as long. And quite frankly, she was tired. All she wanted to do was eat and go to sleep. Sleeping was her favorite activity because it was in sleep she could forget everything. Then, for a few hours, she had peace.