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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Dave Free on 18 January 2007 - 7:20pm.

Chapter 31

"Are you sure she can carry both of us?" Was all Annie asked when Steve and Nellie finally made their way to her tent.

"Are you kidding? Ole' Nellie here could carry this whole company and half of the next one all the way to Salt Lake City!" He quickly climbed down out of the saddle, patted Nellie on the neck and walked over to Annie. He put his arm around and her and turned her around so they were talking away from the horse then whispered in Annie's ear.

"Don't talk bad about her. If you diss her, she goes slower."

Annie looked over her shoulder and then back at Steve. "You're teasing me, aren't you?"

"No, I swear it is the truth. I just spent the last half-mile thinking up every compliment I could think of. The more compliments I gave her, the faster she walked."

Annie laughed. Steve continued, "Speaking of compliments you look wonderful."

Annie pulled away. "What are you talking about? I look the exact same way I've looked everyday we've been on the trail."

Steve grabbed her hand and pulled her toward Nellie. "Like I said, you look wonderful." Annie rolled her eyes.

"So what is the name of this beautiful steed that we will be riding on?" Annie asked loudly and spoke towards Nellie to make sure that the horse would hear.

"This is Nellie, the most talented horse in the entire territory." Steve replied as he patted Nellie on the neck and shoulders. "Have you ridden before Annie?" Annie shook her head. "Not only is Nellie the most talented horse in the territory, she is also the gentlest and most pleasant to ride."

Steve took the reins that he had let drop when he arrived, passed one around the other side of Nellie's neck and then brought them together and wrapped them quickly around the pommel. Nellie stood and waited patiently. Steve turned to Annie, placed his hands on her waist and said, "Ready, jump!"

Annie jumped and Steve lifted her into the saddle--sidesaddle. Grabbing a hold of the pommel, he put his foot in the stirrup and swung up behind her. Taking the reins in both hands he called out to Nellie. "Ok, beautiful, giddy up!" Nellie gave up hoping for another mouthful of grass, turned and began walking.

Steve had hoped they could get out of camp without anyone noticing them and charted the shortest course to the outskirts of camp, but his hopes were dashed when the first child spotted them.

"Elder! Elder! Can I have a ride?" Soon there were dozens of kids following them and begging for rides. As the children gathered and made a commotion, the adults came to see what was happening. By the time they passed the last tent, half the camp was following them and the other half of the camp was lined up in front of them waiting for them to come past. Just when Steve was beginning to give up hope of ever being on his own with Annie, Mother O'Malley pushed her way through the crowd with a huge smile on her face.

"Elder! Ye are courtin’ Miss Annie! Twas beginning to think we would run out of country before ya made yer move. But here ya are--laddy and lassie together at last!"

Steve forced a smile. "Hard to do much courting with a crowd!" he yelled back at her.

She looked around. "Hold on Annie and say no more Elder. Say no more." The towel snaked off her shoulder and snapped Nellie in the most sensitive part of her flank. Perhaps unaccustomed to sudden movement, or perhaps because her nerves took as much time to move as every other part of her body, Nellie didn't get the message until the second sting of the towel. When the message finally arrived there was no problem with interpretation. She jumped and took off like a shot. Steve had to grab hold of the pommel to keep from being thrown off the back. As they left the crowd behind they heard Mother O'Malley's Irish accent sending everyone back to their camps.

Nellie's burst of speed was noble but short lived. A half-mile from camp they were back to a walk but they were alone. Steve broke the silence.

"Well, that went well. Do you think anyone noticed we're courting?"

Annie laughed a little. "Elder, what are we doing out here?"

"We're on a date." Steve replied.

"I know that Elder. But why? The worst of the trip is yet ahead of us."

"That's exactly why we are on this date." Steve said with emphasis on exactly. "Look Annie. You've taught me a lot since we met. I still can't believe how little you have and how hard you work. And for the first time in my life the gospel means something to me. I just want to figure out some way to return the favor. Who knows, maybe my whole purpose in being here is to take Miss Annie on a date and let her have some fun for just a couple of hours."

Annie scoffed. "I hardly think God would send a messenger from the future just to have fun with me."

"Maybe not." Steve agreed, "But we can have fun finding out. C'mon, just a couple of hours relaxing and then we'll return to camp and put our shoulders to the wheel."

Annie didn't say anything. But Steve didn't give up. "I can't hear you."

Finally Annie said, "Alright. It is against my better judgment, but I will give you two hours."

Steve laughed. "I asked a girl to prom once. She gave me the exact same answer. I guess some things never change."

"What was her name?" Annie asked. Grateful to have Annie thinking about something other than the trip, Steve launched into a long and detailed explanation of the prom dance traditions. He was just beginning to tell her why you couldn't just walk up to a girl and ask her to go to prom when Nellie reached the river. Steve turned her to the west and began describing some of the ways he and his friends had invited girls to proms. Fifteen minutes later the trail came around a bend in the river and climbed a little hill. On top of the hill was a small meadow surrounded by large cottonwood trees except on the river side where the grass of the meadow sloped gently down into the water. In the middle of the meadow was a bright red and white gingham cloth spread with bundles of various sizes.

Steve directed Nellie towards the cloth. When she was within ten feet, he pulled her to a stop, climbed off her back, made a sweeping bow and said to Annie, "My lady, your picnic is served."

"But how did you--” She never finished her sentence. Just shook her head and smiled. As Steve helped her off the horse he saw Samuel and Robert wave from behind a tree and run off in the direction of camp.

Steve gave Nellie a whack on the backside and told her not to go far. Then turned to Annie, took her by the hand and walked her to the picnic. "Have you ever been on a picnic?" He asked her. She shook her head.

"Well it's a whole lot like the way we've been eating all our meals. You just call it something different so that it sounds funner and the food tastes better."

Annie tried to laugh and then began to cry. Steve put his arm around her. "Hey, why are you crying?"

She sobbed for a moment and then managed to say "Because no one has ever done anything like this for me before." She had her handkerchief out of her sleeve and began wiping her eyes.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry." Steve said weakly.

Annie smiled through her tears trying to make Steve feel better. "I know Elder, I know. Shall we eat?"

Steve helped her sit down and then took the seat across from her. "Well let’s see what the picnic fairies got for us." he said trying to lighten the mood. He picked up the nearest bundle and began to unwrap it.

"Elder should we pray first?" Annie asked with a smile.

"Oh yeah. Sorry forgot." Steve offered the prayer and the two of them began to unwrap the bundles.

"Sweetmeats!" Steve called out. "Here have one." He held the brown wrapping paper with half a dozen dried fruit chunks in the middle out to Annie.

"Shouldn't we save those for dessert?" Annie asked.

"Nope. Today you get to eat dessert first."

Annie smiled. "Ok, dessert first." She took what looked like a chunk of apricot and popped it into her mouth. She closed her eyes and smile came over her face. "Oh Elder it is lovely!"

Steve had a purple chunk in his mouth and couldn't agree more. His teeth wanted to chew but he was having none of it. He was going to slowly suck every bit of sweet flavor out of it slowly. He lay back on the cloth and looked up at the wispy white clouds blowing by. How many thousands of pieces of candy had he gulped in his life? Yet nothing ever tasted so good as a little dried chunk of plum out on the prairie near Ft Laramie.

So passed the afternoon, opening little bundles, savoring each flavor, and enjoying every minute. The cheese and bread were a wonderful treat and the cold water of the Platte served beautifully to wash it all down. By the time the last bundle was finished they were both laying on their backs looking up at the clouds.

"That's odd." Steve said.

"What's that Elder?"

"I think I am actually full." Steve replied. I haven't felt that way for so long I had forgotten what it feels like.

Annie laughed. "You were right Elder. This has been wonderful. Thank you for bringing me."

Steve leaned up on one elbow and looked at Annie. "You're welcome." He thought about leaning over and giving her a kiss, but decided to give her his gift instead. "Thanks for coming. I--uh, well I have something for you."

"Something else?" Annie asked incredulously. She sat up and looked at Steve.

Steve sat up too and began fishing in his pocket. "It's not much." He said as he found the little folded up paper bundle and handed it to Annie.

"But, Elder I don't have anything for you."

"Just smile." Steve replied. She blushed, smiled and began unwrapping the package. When she got to the heart, she held it up by its little ring.

"It's lovely Elder. Just lovely." Her eyes were tearing up again. "I will always cherish it."

Steve smiled and said lamely, "Like I said it's not much, but I wanted to get you something."

"Oh it's lovely” Annie said, she held it up again to take a closer look at it. "What does the "w" stand for Elder?"

"The what?" Steve's smile disappeared.

"This little "w" inscribed here on the back." Annie said. "Just wondering what it means?"

Again Steve's dreams of a romantic afternoon seemed to be crashing down around his ears. How could he have missed the "w?" The shopkeeper only showed him one side! His mind raced. He probably should have just come clean and told her it was all he could afford and it came with a "w," but that didn't seem good enough. The "w" could mean something.

"My first name actually starts with "w." Steve blurted out.

"Really?" Annie said, very curious. "You spell Steve with a "w" in the future?"

Steve smiled. "No. Steve is my middle name. My first name is actually Wenlock, but my parents decided to call me Steve." Annie dropped the heart and looked at Steve like she had seen a ghost.

"I know, it’s kind of a funny name, but it was my grandpa's name and his grandpa's name--a family thing." Annie was now staring at Steve very closely.

"What?" Steve asked again. “Why are you looking at me that way?”

"How do you spell Wenlock?" Annie asked.

"W, e, n, l, o, c, k” Steve spelled it out for her.

Annie was now standing up, pacing back and forth in the grass next to the blanket.

"Annie? What is it?" Steve got up too and caught hold of her by the shoulders and looked down into her eyes.

"What is it?" He asked again.

"It's your name."

"Hey, it's no big deal." Steve replied. "Nobody calls me by it anyway. Just forget about it."

"You don't understand. It's not your name, it's my name!" Annie pulled away from Steve's grip and began pacing again. She walked down to the opposite end of the picnic cloth and then back to Steve. Steve just stood and watched her completely confused. Annie stopped in front of Steve and took a deep breath.

"My mother's name is Hannah--Hannah Wenlock." she said and waited for the realization to register in Steve's face.

"Wow, that's weird that we both have the same name." Steve replied, "So Wenlock is a girl's name is that what's bothering you?"

"Elder, Wenlock is her last name!" Annie said with exasperation. "I always thought if I ever had a son I would name him Wenlock. Don't you see? Your name is Wenlock, your grandfather and great-grandfather were named Wenlock!"

Understanding began to dawn in Steve’s mind. "So that means you were--you are,” Steve hesitated, "my grandma?"

Annie kept pacing, shaking her head back and forth and mumbling to herself, “It couldn’t be—could it? No, that’s impossible.”

"Whoa!" was all Steve could say. He dropped to his knees on the picnic cloth.

Annie knelt down beside him. "Elder are you ok?"

Steve nodded. "I remember now my parents used to tell us stories about our pioneer ancestors. There was one that got disowned by her family when she joined the church. It's you isn't it?" He collapsed on his belly and then rolled over on his back with his eyes closed. Annie didn't answer and he kept talking with his eyes closed struggling to take in all the implications.

"That must mean you survive!" Steve sat up and looked at Annie who was still kneeling, sitting on her heels with her hands in her lap. She nodded her head like she had already thought of that. He lay back down and kept thinking and talking.

"It also means I almost kissed my great, great, great, great--who knows how many greats--grandma!"

"And what is wrong with kissing your grandma, Elder?" Annie asked indignantly.

"Nothing wrong with a grandma-kind-of peck-on-the-wrinkled-cheek kiss, but that's not exactly what I had in mind."

"No I don't suppose it was." Annie looked at Steve and winked.

He laughed and asked, "So do I have to call you grandma now?"

"If you do, I will never get married and you will cease to exist!" She grabbed a wadded up piece of wrapping paper and threw it at him. He caught it in mid air and tossed it back at her. They both giggled and then sat silently for several minutes letting the revelation sink in. Steve was the first to move.

"Well grandma--I mean Annie. We better get packed up and get Nellie heading back to the fort. The sergeant said he'd send a patrol out after us if we didn't get her back before sundown." He stood up and took a few steps toward the horse and then added over his shoulder, "And at your age, you shouldn't be out too late." Steve was quick, but Annie had a good arm. Another wad of wrapping paper bounced off the back of his head.

They rode back to the fort mostly in silence, grateful that they didn't have to go back through the handcart camp to get there. Nellie was old and slow, but once she realized they were heading back to her stall they didn't have to give her any additional compliments. From time to time one of them would realize another implication of their newly discovered relationship and mention it out loud. Then they would both go back to their individual thoughts, until the next discovery was announced.

When they arrived at the barn only the stall-cleaning soldier was still there. He asked how they liked Nellie and they both gave her their final compliments and thanked him for letting them use her. Then they headed back to camp. Steve held out his arm for Annie to take.

"Thanks Elder." She said as she took it, "And thanks again for the wonderful afternoon. I know it didn't turn out quite how you--how we--planned, but I think it was wonderful. I am proud that you are my descendent."

Steve smiled. "You know what's strange?" He replied.

"Could there be anything stranger than the fact that we just discovered I am your grandmother?" Annie replied innocently.

"Yeah, I mean for the last couple of months I've been living in this dream and I can't figure out a way to wake up. At first, it was really tough but I've survived and at times even enjoyed it. But this, this is really blowing my mind. I mean, what if something--you know, happens to you?"

"You mean what if I die?"

"Exactly! What if you die before you have kids and get married?"

"Well my plan is to get married first and then have children." Annie replied.

"You know what I mean." Steve said and Annie nodded. "So do you think I got sent here to help you?" he asked.

Annie thought for a time and then replied with a more serious tone. "I've been wondering the same thing. It could be, but in a way you've already done that. Now that I know that I have descendants, the whole world has changed for me." She paused, "And yet it hasn't. I joined the church because I know it is God's church. I'm going to Zion because the prophet said to come. None of that has changed, but I'm more determined than ever to choose the right--for you." She gave Steve's arm a squeeze.

"It's kind of the same for me." Steve said after a few moments of silence. "I've liked you ever since I met you. But the more I learned about you, the more I thought, 'Man, here's a girl that's really got her stuff together.' I've never met anyone your age that knows what they want the way you do. And to leave your family and come on this trip all by yourself after all you have been through? I'm not going to lie to you--you rock!"

Annie was shaking her head. "Well thank you Elder, but I have only done what I felt what was right."

"Exactly! You do what is right and that is so cool. But here is what is even cooler: Before tonight I just admired you, but when I found out you were my grandma it was like I was Peter Parker being bit by a radioactive spider! Or Clark Kent finding out that his father was from another planet! I felt like I was given super powers!" He paused for a minute to take a breath and looked at Annie to see if she was getting it. She looked back at him blankly.

"Don't you get it?" he continued. "Before I just admired your qualities. Now that I know you are my grandma, I also know that those qualities are a part of me! Because you rock, I rock!"

Annie smiled. "It's even better than that Elder."

"What do you mean?"

"We're all children of our Heavenly Father."

The sun had now set behind them. The campfires of the pioneers burned brightly ahead and promised external warmth, but neither of them was in any hurry to rush there and lose the warmth that burned within.



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