A bugle sent out a shrill warning that the party was about to take off. In the distance, Rachel saw about ten wagons abreast slowly beginning the trek west. Her heart began to pound even harder. Was it fear or excitement or a combination? She couldn't be sure, but she reached over for Helen and held her to her bosom, kissing the side of her head. "This is it, my darling. You'll never remember any of this -- the trip of a lifetime. God, watch over us all."
David helped Rachel and Helen up to the wagon seat and then stood next to the wagon, holding the reins. Lucinda mounted one of the horses and held the lead line tied to the other two. Lulu, the cow, pulled up the rear. Josiah ran over to his father and grabbed hold of his arm.
"Is this it? Are we really going?"
David patted him on the head. "It sure looks like it. You'll have plenty of time to play when we camp, son. Do you wanna ride in the wagon with your Mama or walk awhile?"
"I wanna walk with you, Papa."
"I guess it'll be okay, as long as you to stay clear of the wheels and the oxen. When you get tired, I'll set you up on the box in the wagon, but you have to be very, very careful."
"I know. Mama's told me a hundred times."
Rachel looked down at her husband and smiled nervously. "This is it."
"Yup. The start of something pretty special." He reached over and patted her hand. "You won't be sorry, Rachel. I promise you."
She nodded and looked at her sister's wagon. Bess was resting her head against Joe's chest. What mixed emotions she must be feeling, leaving a fresh grave. Friends had promised to place flowers on each of the graves of their loved ones when the wildflowers bloomed. It seemed like a small thing, but it meant a great deal to Rachel and Bess.