Author's Note: Inspired by Bob Dylan's "Feel My Love" Lyrics to follow.
The storm came all of a sudden and with only a flash of lightning and a single crack of thunder as warning, the skies opened up and sheets of rain blanketed the land around me. There was a time when the thunder and lightning frightened me and I would cower in my mother's embrace. But that was back in Austria, before we came here. My father had saved enough money for passage to America and it was to be the start of a grand new life for us. There were limitless opportunities in this fledgling country, we were told. The journey was hard and took its toll on my parents the most. They were dead and buried at sea before we even spied this great new land. Whatever storms I might face from then on, I would have to do it alone and get over my fears for there was to one to cower to anymore.
There aren't a lot of opportunities for a girl on her own who doesn't even speak the language that most do. I tried to learn English and picked up bits here and there but I had to concern myself more with eating and finding a safe place to sleep than with learning a language.
I met a woman one day who told me that there were men in the west who were lonely and wanted wives. I was shocked at the idea at first but then realized that if I'd still been in Austria my marriage would have been arranged anyway. I was only fifteen and scared half out of my mind but I found a place that would set something like this in motion for me and hoped for the best. Word soon came to me that Henry Atkins in the Nebraska Territory would be my husband. I knew nothing of him. There were letters but I could not read them as they were in English and I barely know how to read my own language.
He met me when I stepped out of the stagecoach and he was nothing I expected. I don't know why but I pictured someone much younger. It made sense of course that he was older. I think he was disappointed some that I didn't speak English but we managed and I learned to understand most of what he said in time. I was never comfortable speaking many words and he probably thought I still didn't understand him. But I was there and I cooked for him and cleaned and mended and shared his bed. That seemed to meet his needs and he was kind to me. Once I understood more of what he said, I made out that he frequently spoke of how beautiful he thought I was and how he could never have dreamt he'd have a wife as lovely as I was. I know he thought he was talking to himself but I think that made the words that much more precious to me.
We were married three years and I think I did love him. At first I was just thankful that he was a kind man. In those years he raised neither voice nor hand to me. I was never expected to do what I wasn't willing to do. He spoke one night, still thinking I couldn't understand, of how it broke his heart that he had nothing more to offer than what he did. He kept saying he was sorry and I deserved more. This isn't a rich life here but it is no harder than what I would have had back in Austria.
When the fever hit him, I did what I could to help. There's no doctor that I know of for miles and I wouldn't know how to find one anyway. I took over his work and tried to nurse him to health again but it was not to be. One day his shivering stopped and I thought maybe he was getting better. He looked me straight in the eye and spoke.
"Monica," he said, "When I sent for you I just wanted to not be alone anymore. I never dreamed they'd send such a beauty or that I'd fall in love with you. I'm sorry I'm not leaving you anything but if you've never understood anything else that I've said, know that I love you."
He drew in one more shaky breath and then I was alone. I buried him myself. I learned to use his gun to hunt some and I get by alright.
Like I said, the storms don't scare me anymore. When this one started up, I looked out the window to see if the clouds were going to settle in for a while or roll on by. That's when I saw the man ride in and duck into my barn. I am sure he was trying to go unnoticed and that only confirmed to me that he wanted only a safe place to wait out the storm. I grabbed my coat and held it out over my head to shield me. It is a heavy wool so the rain didn't make it through too much and I arrived at the barn nearly dry. I could not say the same for the man who was about to settle into a pile of straw in the barn. I think my presence startled him and he looked to me but then quickly away. He was at least part Indian and I had heard stories that should have made me afraid of him but there was a softness in his eyes and the care he took to look away as an animal that is trying to avoid a confrontation. I told him to come in and I gave him the coat to hold over the both of us, though I don't know why it mattered for him as he was soaked through from the ride in.
He stood uncertainly in the doorway. It stabbed at me to think that most would turn him away and show cruelty to him at only a look at him. He didn't make eye contact with me and that allowed me to get a good look at him. He was beautiful; long dark hair hanging loose and soaking wet, chiseled features and deep, soft eyes. His mouth tried to form a smile but it was such an uncomfortable thing. I tugged at his jacket and I think, well, I don't know for certain what he thought I was trying to do but I think I frightened him. I finally made him understand that I wanted his clothes to be able to dry before he caught a chill. I fetched him a blanket to wrap him in and he seemed thankful. I thought of all those who told me Indians were savages and nearly laughed at the thought of this man standing in my home blushing about stripping to his undergarments. I saw that there was a wound on his arm. He tried to tell me not to bother with it but infections can start so easily and can be prevented with little effort. I know I heard gunshots before the storm rolled in and I was pretty sure I was looking at the results of those shots. I made him sit in a chair by the fire and cleaned the wound and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. It felt so good to have someone to care for even if it was only for a short while.
We spent a quiet afternoon and evening sitting in front of the fire and listening to the rain. He told me his name was Buck and mentioned that he rode for the Pony Express. I went to make something for our dinner and he looked uncomfortable as if he felt that he should help me cook. But then I think he didn't want to wander around in his under things. I smiled as I prepared the meal knowing that somehow fate had sent a real gentleman to keep me company for a short while.
He enjoyed my cooking and told me so. It really felt good to cook for someone else besides just me and food always tastes better when you aren't eating alone. We sat a while longer and he noticed the rain had let up, it was still raining but not so hard and the thunder and lightning had long passed us by. He looked to his clothes which were dry by that time and said he should probably be going and he didn't want to be a bother. My heart broke once more for the way he always seemed to be apologizing for his very existence. If I had the words at my disposal to tell him how little of a bother he was, how lonely I had been, how good it was to just not be alone, I would have. Instead I just told him that it was night and he should stay. He accepted and I think he was enjoying not being alone as well. I went to ready for bed and noticed that he made sure to not look my way.
I went to him and told him to come to bed. I didn't plan it, I just needed to be close to someone and I knew he'd not take liberties with me unless I wanted him to. He blushed and tried to tell me that he would sleep in the chair but I knew that the chair was hard and the bed was soft. He turned his back to me once in the bed. My heart softened even more for the lengths he was taking to show me that he'd not behave badly to me. I wrapped him in my arms and stroked his long black hair. It was so soft and I heard him sigh lightly. A wave of love swept over me and tears flowed down my face and into his hair. I think it was the first time I cried for Henry though I think I was crying as much for myself and my loneliness as for him.
I turned his face to mine and saw a desire in his eyes that scared me at first. I hadn't expected it. I knew at that point that the lengths he took to prove his gentlemanly intent were less for my benefit than to keep himself from a temptation he thought he shouldn't give in to. He kissed me and I could feel he was holding back the passion he felt at that moment. When he pulled away there was fear in him that he had upset me and I would put him out. The opposite was true. He had reawakened a passion that was dormant in me for so long. I had grown to love Henry and at times felt passion for him but with Buck I instantly felt the love and the heat. I kissed him back and became desperate to make him feel loved. For in that moment I loved him more deeply than I think any woman has loved any man and I knew I would do anything to show him, to make him feel it.
He left the next morning. I think he was sad at first to be leaving me but I felt no sadness for his leaving; only joy that he had been there at all.
I will never forget the solace he gave me and I will never again be lonely for he left a gift behind for me that it took a few months for me to understand. My belly grew and life began to move within me. I had never known the very power of that feeling. To know that love and tenderness between strangers could come to life and grow within me, that God could choose me to help to bring a new life about. In time the pains came and with them you; my little Nessa. You are all I could ever have hoped for. As you grow, I see your father's face more and more and I am grateful to know that I'll never forget what he looks like.
You are the sweetest baby and most content. I don't just mean right now because you are suckling happily but always. You are the most peaceful child and I know I have been blessed with you. I wonder sometimes if it would be right to try to find Buck to tell him about you. I would like to think he would be struck by your beauty and the thought he had helped to create a miracle such as you but then he didn't ask for fatherhood and it's not as if there was much talk between us. Perhaps someday I will try to find him; I don't know. I know I did love him and I know, for that night anyway, he loved me. I know you came from love and I will work every day to make sure you know that there is nothing more precious and nothing a person can do for another that is greater than showing love. If you learn nothing else from me, Nessa, learn that.
Once I feared the thunder. I remember as a child, my mother told me the thunder was God speaking. I know now as a grown woman that He is not merely talking, He is answering prayers.
Feel My Love by Bob Dylan
When the rain is blowing in your face
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
I know you haven't made your mind up yet
I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
The storms are raging on the rollin' sea
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true