Alice had finished putting the wash on the line, grateful it wasn't snowing when she heard whistling behind her. Turning around, she saw Gideon whittling with a piece of wood. While all the brothers were knowledgeable about everything that had to do with running the farm, Gideon's talent seemed to be carpentry. Throughout winter, Gideon would leave little carved figurines made of wood as a peace offering for her. Alice guarded them jealousy, afraid of what some of the girls would say if they knew she kept them. Alice sighed; the truth was she never had someone be so attentive like Gideon. Growing up, Alice had always been called a "sweet girl" or a "fine girl" by everyone including her parents. Sometimes she thought that the only reason Stephen Green tried to woo her was that she was the reverend's daughter and that his aunt, the local schoolmarm, was friends with her mother.
"Oh, Stephen will make a fine husband for you, Alice," her mother would say. "He's so intelligent and such a godly man." Alice only partly agreed with her mother about Stephen, in truth Alice thought Stephen was a bit arrogant and somewhat of a know-it-all. As for being godly, sure he went to church every Sunday, but she saw him sneaking off to Matthew Straither's weekly poker game often enough, despite having a holier-than-though attitude. Gideon, on the other hand, was so humble and sweet. He was hard-working, respected his older brothers, and adored Milly. Sure, he had a mischievous side, but Alice found that so charming. He was especially charming at the barn raising when Alice could barely speak to him because of how handsome he was.
"Is this your time at a barn raising?" Alice asked when she finally untied her tongue.
"Yes, though if I knew that someone as beautiful as you Miss Alice attended them, I would have come to one sooner," Gideon replied, making Alice turn bight red. None one ever called her beautiful before, and the fact that someone as handsome as Gideon did make heat rise to her cheeks. Alice started to fan herself with a gloved hand, which caused Gideon to tilt his head to the side. "Please excuse me, Mis Alice. I will be right back." Gideon then dashed to the refreshments table and brought back to cups of lemonade and two large oatmeal cookies.
"Thank you," Alice squeaked taking a deep sip.
"I also grabbed these," Gideon said, holding up the cookies. "I saw you looking at them when we passed the table."
"Oh," Alice said, surprised that Gideon had even noticed that. "Well, we aren't supposed to eat them now. Therefore after a meal."
"Maybe," Gideon replied as an impish smile. "But I won't tell if you don't." Alice giggled as she took the cookie, feeling so naughty for eating her dessert first. As they ate, Alice noticed Gideon staring at her.
"Is something wrong?" Alice inquired.
"Nothing's wrong," Gideon replied quietly. "It's just that, it makes sense you're the preacher's daughter because you look an angel." Alice's mouth made an O in shock, unable to believe that Gideon would compare her to an angel. Dorcus or Sarah yes, but not her. How could someone be that sweet? How someone as sweet as Gideon kidnaps her? Alice had pondered these questions all winter, but now she knew she should see how Gideon was doing.
"Hello Gideon," Alice called out, making Gideon jump.
"Alice!" Gideon cried before straightening up and taking a deep breath. "I'm glad you're here, I want to apologize for being harsh to you earlier. That was uncalled for, and I am sorry."
"It's alright, and I'm sorry for not knowing that this is a difficult time for you and your brothers," Alice replied. Gideon smiled sadly and leaned up against a tree.
"It's alright, you have nothing to apologize for. You can't be blamed for not knowing," Gideon said.
"How are you holding up?" Alice asked. Gideon sighed and tossed the stick he had been whittling onto the ground.
"It's… always difficult this time of year… for all of us, especially since Adam isn't here," Gideon replied slowly. "It seems to be harder on my brothers than me. I was only three when Ma passed, and I never met my Da."
"Do you have any memories of her?" Alice asked as she leaned against the tree. Gideon frowned and thought hard.
"Not really," he finally replied. "I remember someone reading to me, but that's it. Everything I know about my parents come form what Adam or Ben has told me. It's why we still gather around their graves so that Frank and I can connect with them."
"Your brothers pretty much raised you themselves," Alice stated. Gideon nodded.
"Adam was the closest thing to a father I ever had," Gideon explained. "He's ten years older than me, and growing up, I thought he held all the answers. At least until Milly came around."
"She is pretty great, isn't she?" Alice giggled; Milly had been like an older sister to her growing up. Gideon smiled in agreement.
"Still, even with Milly here, I continued to turn to Adam for answers," Gideon said, now looking Alice in the eye. "When he suggested that we kidnap you and the other ladies, I agreed because Adam had never steered me wrong before. But I realized that what I did was wrong, and I like to apologize for what I did." Alice stared at Gideon for a moment in deep thought.
"Truthfully, Gideon, I hated you at first," Alice explained. "But couldn't stay mad at you. It was unfair that you and your family were barred from town, and it would be unchristian for me not to forgive you. You have admitted and understood what you did was wrong, not just now but many times before. Strangely, I think being kidnap did me some good."
"What?!" Gideon exclaimed, clearly bewildered.
"Hear me out," Alice cried. "I've thought about this for a long time, and it all comes down to something my father used to say when parishioners would complain about hard times. He would say that God was like a painter, to create a masterpiece, dark colors were needed. While this has been hard on me, I feel like being here has made me a stronger person. I feel more confident and more independent."
"Well, I'm glad…" Gideon started but Alice stopped him by placing a finger to his lips.
"Also, I feel like God tested me," Alice continued. "By putting us in the toughest situation I can imagine, He showed me that our love for each other is strong and true. You never stopped loving me, and I learned to love you, Gideon Pontipee." Gideon smiled and wrapped Alice in an embrace, gently kissing her. Alice happily accepted, Gideon's kiss felt like Christmas, her birthday, and the first day of summer all rolled into one moment.
"I love you," Gideon whispered when they broke from their kiss. Alice grinned and kissed Gideon again.
"I love you too," she replied and took Gideon's hand. "Come on, let's get dinner."
It took all the brides to convince Milly to let the brothers joined them for dinner in the cabin. While the meal itself wasn't fancy, Alice insisted that they use the best dishes. As they all gathered around the table, Ben clinked his spoon against his cup to call for everyone's attention. When he got it, Ben nervously stood up.
"Um, I know we're about to say grace, but I would like to make a toast," Ben said. Dorcus slipped her left hand into his right and squeezed it. Ben smiled and continued. "I like to toast my parents, Liam and Elizabeth Pontipee. To them and their legacy." Ben motioned to Milly's growing belly.
"To the Pontipee family," Dorcus cried raising her cup.
"Hear, hear," everyone replied before taking a drink. Milly's eyes grew misty as all the brothers gazed lovingly into their girls' eyes, and the girls gazed back.
"Thank you, Ben, now let us give thanks," Milly said.