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Though Anya had initially invited Joe into her bed out of gratitude, over the next months she learned to love him passionately, looking forward to their time together in the rope bed. Neither of them had a lot to say, but the little family thrived. Sally had gone from toddling to running and was speaking in short sentences. Little Joe now called them “Ma” and “Pa,” likely forgetting the poor woman who’d born him. Anya was the only one Sally had ever called “Ma.”
Joe and Anya traded visits with Emma and Rufus a couple of times over the summer with Emma promising to attend her baby’s birth. Anya came to depend on her like a mother, taking comfort in her company, grateful she didn’t have to feel awkward about the timing of the upcoming birth. Emma never brought the subject up again, just reminded Anya to have Joe fetch her when he time came.
One Saturday evening Melvin came riding over to let them know he’d be marrying Jenny in a couple of weeks. Emma sent word they should come to the wedding. Joe told Melvin they’d try if Anya was up to it, but as soon as he was out of earshot, reminded Anya. “We got to lay low. It was night and the woman was bundled up against the cold, but that preacher might see you ain’t the woman I married. There ought’n to be no questions about you long as that preacher don’t git to nosin’ around. Nobody else was there for the marryin’. We’ll just say you ain’t well an’ keep to the house.” Joe didn’t think much of preachers and was rankled that this one stood between him and Anya.
It pained Anya to shun her friend’s joy, but knew they dared not risk discovery. She’d been lulled into a sense of general well-being with her life with Joe and pregnancy hormones. She had begun to look forward to the little one, hoping it would be a girl who looked like her own baby sister. Joe lay spooned against her at night, often stroking her belly in his sleep as he nuzzled her shoulder. Anya wouldn’t have changed anything about her life.
Joe looked around the small cabin the next morning. “We’re gonna be spllin’ out of this cabin son. Next spring, I’m gonna put in a few acres of grain for a cash crop so we can add on a room an’ maybe get you a cook-stove. A woman that cooks like you ought’a have her a stove. Joe scooped Sally up and tickled her as she darted by in pursuit of her kitten.” Life was good.