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Beau

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Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« on: October 15, 2013, 06:56:01 am »
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He should be sitting at his usual table at the Copper Wheel.  Black Falls had little entertainment on a Friday night.  Most men in the small western town in the New Mexico territory celebrated the end of the week with a drink or a game of cards.  As Doc Scully walked past the swinging saloon doors his arm actually lifted to touch the polished wood.  He could hear the piano and guitar playing.  Laughter and the smell of smoke. Someone was singing a Christmas carol and the sad melody made him nostalgic for the snow he’d known most of his life.  This would be the second holiday he’d spent in this backwater town with its dry heat and near desert terrain.  Christmas was a week away, but it seemed some were already getting into the spirit.

This is your life now.  You made a choice.

The sun was starting to sink towards the horizon, as he walked on, the wayward hand falling to his side.  The stables were on this end of town and his feet were carrying him there to fetch his horse for the ride to Sal’s place.  He’d been invited to dinner a few weeks ago, and put off making good on the invitation.  He’d run into the lady rancher today and she’d reminded him of the offer.  He’d had no further excuse to say no. 

Not that he was avoiding Sal. He considered her a friend, as much as he had any.  Here, people called him Doc, rather than Jake, and tended to want something when they came to visit.  Sal had raided his medicine cabinet, supplies overall low due to issues with Indian raids.  The dinner was her way of paying off the debt even though Jake had charged her a fair price. 

Nothing more.  Nothing less.

The breeze that ruffled his short brown hair held a hint of rain.  It would likely storm this weekend, the pinkish sky scattered with clouds.  Jake stepped off the wooden sidewalk and onto the dirt road, rounding the last corner that led to the stables.

The blacksmith was feeding the animals and securing the barn for the night.  “Evenin’ Doc,” he said.

Jake tipped his black Stetson in greeting.  “Morris.  How’s that burn doing?” An arm was shown for inspection.  In the dim light, Doc’s amber eyes examined the branding iron scorch.  “You putting that cream on like I showed you?”

The blacksmith smiled, a few teeth missing in his grin. “Sure thing Doc.  Works like a charm.  My misses used some for the rash on the baby’s bum the other day too.”

Jake shook his head.  The cream wasn’t meant to be multipurpose, and there wasn’t much to spare if the blacksmith wanted to avoid a scar.  He opened his mouth to say as much, then changed his mind.  A lecture would take time, and he suspected the blacksmith wasn’t really worried about a scar.   Instead he said, “I’m taking Tanner out.”  Of course there was little reason for Jake to be here other than to fetch his horse.  The buckskin was…tanner…than his last mount, and thus the unimaginative name.   The horse heard Jake’s voice and leaned his head out over the stall door.  One hoof pounded on the wood urging the man to ‘get a move on’.

The blacksmith nodded, and Jake took the hint to gather his saddle and bridle so the man could bolt the barn for the night.  “You gonna be back tonight?”

The speculative look wasn’t missed, but Jake wasn’t planning to start any rumors.  “Yep.”

It seemed his plans were known.  “Long ride out to Sal’s place.  Indians been sighted in the Valley.  You sure it’s safe to travel at night?”  Morris gave him a wink.

Jake pretended not to understand the innuendo. He wasn’t about to ask Sal to put him up.  “Just going to dinner.”  His hands weren’t holding any flowers.  Couldn’t he go and have some roast chicken without half the town whispering?  Jake cinched the saddle with more force than necessary.  He smiled, and felt no qualms showing his straight white teeth.  “I’ll let myself into the barn.  No need to fuss and stay up.”

“Sure thing Doc,” Morris said with another wink.

It probably didn’t help that he’d actually shaved and polished his boots.  With a sigh, Jake led the horse out of the barn.  He buttoned his overcoat and mounted Tanner.  “Night, Morris,” he said, before giving the horse a gentle tap with his spurs and trotting off into the sunset.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2013, 08:53:30 am by Beau »

Peregrine

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 09:09:10 am »
A heavy thump and some overlaid laughter as she felt pain run from her tailbone to the top of her head as she rolled quickly under the edge of the fence and reached and grabbed her hat before she leaned forward on her hands and knees and caught her breath.

Sally "Sal" Hansen stood after a moment and brushed the dirt off her person and glared over at a few of her chuckling cow pokes. "Well, why don't one of you wrangle him and get him to behave then?" The laughter of a few cut off but not of some of her more robust and youthful hands.

Bill came walking over with half smile and looked her over, "I knew I wasn't going to talk you out of that one, sometimes ya just got ta let the bruised rump and battered pride take their beating," he said with a smack at her rear.

Bill wasn't family, but near enough like an uncle, instead of a hired hand, that she didn't deck him when fresh pain went dancing across her back side. "I had to give it a shot, he'll be my horse when it's all said and done."

Bill shrugged and his face looked a bit more serious and sad, "Oly isn't gone yet girl."

Sally looked away from him out at the stomping brute she'd just been thrown from, and her jaw tightened. "No, but every day I wonder if he's sufferin' mor'in he needs to just because I can't be a good handler and put him down."

Bill put a hand on her arm until she pulled it away with a slight squint to one eye, "Don't be goin' on like that, wasn't your fault what happened to him in that raid and ifn I thought you were doin' somethin' foolish I'da told ya by now."

Sally nodded, her gaze glossing over in thought at a clod of dirt on the ground. It had only been a few weeks since the raid on the town and poor Oly had gotten two rounds though his flank and an arrow just above his right front shoulder and was still in touch and go shape.

She'd been proud of Cora that day to, the girl had kept her head and helped to keep the other town women and children safe in the general store cellar, but had promptly sent her to stay with an Aunt two days after that raid, despite protests.

Sal's hand rubbed over the spot on her arm she could feel the bumps from the stitches Doc had put in. She also had a small, almost healed slice across one thigh. She'd been mighty grateful for thick boiled hide chaps that day or the Indian's knife probably would probably cut her leg wide open. Probably would have killed her too, but someone had shot the fella in the back, but she didn't see who. Instead of death or maiming, the cut hadn't even needed more than two stitches at it's deepest point, and she'd pulled those out already.

She'd had to leave for Red River to go and drive her newly purchased cattle down the same day she'd sent Cora off. She hadn't trusted that Cora would be alright in her absence, or wouldn't do something fool hardy, or someone else do something stupid to the poor girl.

She'd just gotten back yesterday from the cattle drive. She was fulfilling a promise and had taken some supplies she'd picked up for the Wellford's general store today when she'd run into Doc. She hadn't bothered to bring up her invitation again, she'd made plenty in the past and he'd never come, so she figured it was fruitless to do more than say Howdy and see how things had been going. But apparently Miss Lin had been in town at some point and had done all reminding for her, making sure to inform the Doctor of his need to come and eat her cooking, 'As soon as Miss Sally was back."

Truth be told she was a bit shy to see Doc after he'd fixed her up and she'd high tailed out to go on the cattle drive. She wasn't sure why, or perhaps she was, but she didn't want to admit it or entertain foolishness. He was probably at least five years her senior, though she'd never done the math, and had never mentioned to him her age. Most folks thought she was older than she was since she managed a ranch.

Thinking of the Doc now, pulled her from her ruminations and Sal glanced down dusty, dirty, sweaty self. The afternoon was stretching out toward evening and she sighed.

As if Miss Lin had read her thoughts she was out on the porch of the house about fifteen yards away and was shouting at her, "Miss Sally! Miss Sally! You wash up now, not good for Lady to be dirty with company! Miss Sally! Miss Sally! You hear me?"

Sal rolled her eyes and chuckled a little, seeing Bill do the same out of the corner of her eye and straightened up from her lean on the fence and pushed away, "Settle him in for the evening and we'll have another go at him tomorrow."

Bill nodded and Sal turned and walked with only a slight hitch in her giddy up back toward the house all the while Miss Lin yelling things at her in her native tongue. She clicked said tongue at Sal when she was at the top of the steps by her. "You never get husband looking like that. I press nice Sunday dress for you, look very good, then maybe you have dinners with Doc more often."

Sal shook her head down at the petite little old woman, "I won't be puttin on any airs, Jake is only a friend. I'll wear a nice shirt and maybe a skirt or trousers."

"Only friend because you act no lady Miss Sally! You pretty girl! Should dress like young pretty girl."

Sal simply shrugged. Even if she sometimes entertained thoughts about Doc, she wasn't anywhere near his level of sophistication, no matter how many books she read, and her Ma had died so she wasn't even close to the Lady he deserved and would probably marry some day. Seeing she wasn't going to change her mind, the older woman threw up her hands exclaiming in a string of clearly upset words as she turned and walked back toward the door to the kitchen.

Sal sighed and went in the front door and up the stairs to her room and washed up in a half warm tub, she was sure would have been given fresh hot water had she agreed to wearing the dress.

She did take a minute to look at the dress, one her father had gifted her and that she wore to Church when she had the time to go and was in town, and had worn to one social, so a total of maybe seven times if she counted the time she put it on after she'd gotten her acceptance letter to the Georgia Female College in Macon, Georgia, before her Pa had died.

She sighed and dressed in a nice solid red shirt that brought out the strawberry in her straw blond hair she had twisted half up, and a settled on a black skirt instead of her usual work brown or blue pants (at least it was a skirt!), and her dress boots, which were just her nicest pair and had been polished not terribly long ago. She could smell the cooking wafting its way up and knew it was nearly time.

She walked down stairs and stoked the fire in the front sitting room before she picked up a book to keep her thoughts occupied while she waited. Wouldn't be long now, the sun had just dipped below the horizon.

She heard the Doc's horse long before he was at the front of the house. She heard Bill offer to take it and Miss Lin at the top of the stairs greet him and tell him how much he was going to like her cooking, that she'd made pie just for him, did he want a drink, all as Sal stood up from the seat in the front room by the open door and walked over.

She smiled, but it almost faltered after she saw how sharp he looked. Perhaps she should have worn the dress, but it was to late now. "Evenin' Jake, glad ya made it alright. Come on in out of the chill." The desert they may be in, but it could get bitter cold in the winter despite it. She gestured for him to come in and Miss Lin scurried past to go finish setting out the meal and get him something to drink.

The silence was awkward for a moment after the door shut. Sal cleared her throat,  "Didn't have any trouble on the way out did ya? I heard there was still some trouble after I left before the new Sheriff got here."

Beau

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2013, 05:57:17 am »
All in all it wasn’t that long a horse ride to Sal’s if you set a decent pace.  Jake didn’t have anyone to talk to, and no other horse to slow the gait as he let Tanner canter across the desert plane.  He knew the way.  Ranches ringed the town of Black Falls and he made calls to most, heading north on Mondays to check Betty Jo who was eight months pregnant, and riding south on Wednesdays to check on eighty year old Judge Hall who lived alone and seemed to enjoy the occasional game of cards and company.  Jake didn’t mind the social calls mixed in with the medicinal.  He liked to treat the whole person.  But he did enjoy his solitude, and the ride to Sal’s was one of the more picturesque of the bunch.

He’d been invited to dinner before and declined.  It must be the holiday season that made this somehow seem more than it was, and what ultimately lulled him into accepting this invitation.  He knew people would talk.  Jake had been in Black Falls almost three years and kept to himself.  Any break in the pattern of his nightly visits to the Copper Wagon was bound to be noticed.

Sal’s farm hand Bill spoke and Jake realized that he’d been alone with his thoughts too long.  He barely remembered the ride.  Offering a smile he handed the reins of Tanner to the man as he offered to take the horse to the barn.

“Just let me grab one thing from the saddle bag.” Jake said.  Without waiting he took a small paper wrapped parcel from the leather pouch.  The book was one he figured Sal would like.  It wasn’t wrapped like a gift, but the cover was hidden with the shipping paper and twine.  “How’s the price of beef these days?”

“Can’t complain,” Bill said, offering commentary on this year’s market over last.

Jake nodded like he knew the facts and figures even though he hadn’t the foggiest idea about ranching.  He patted Tanner on the rump as the horse was lead off with a thank you.

Miss Lin was at the door as Jake climbed the steps to the porch. Her first words were to focus his attention on food and the prospect of pie made him smile.  “I heard there was a special treat in store.  How could I resist.”

Jake took off his overcoat at her suggestion, passing the book package hand to hand. It was nice to be fussed over. The smile remained on his face as Sal stepped forward.  Her steps were quiet, making it almost appear that she’d emerged from the shadows.  He tipped his hat in traditional greeting before removing that as well and setting it on the rack near the door.

“No trouble on the way,” he said in response to her query about the journey.  “You look nice,” he thought to say.  And she did.  “I like red.”

Why did he suddenly long for the drink he’d been promised?  He felt nervous and couldn’t quite say why.  “Brought you something,” he said to fill the silence.  A book somehow seemed a fitting gift for Sal, and yet he didn’t want her to feel obligated to return the gesture.  Dinner was an adequate excuse to pass on what he’d been holding for a month.  He extended the simple package out to her. “Found it in Briar Park and I….”  It seemed weird to say he thought of her.  He typically didn’t but in this case he’d seen the title and impulsively made the purchase.

The foyer was nice, but the fire in the living room was equally inviting.  He suddenly felt silly for bringing the gift.  This was Sal after all.  "Shall we go sit down?  I don't want Miss Lin coming at me with a spoon for not being at the table on time."

Peregrine

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2013, 12:50:20 am »
If Sal hadn't already been speechless, she certainly would have after his compliment and continued remarks.

She shook herself from her stooper long enough to take the offered package from him, pulling the packaging string loose as he seemed to stumble through his own words before slipping into silence. The cover was blank so she turned the spine to see "A Study in Scarlet" Arthur Conan Doyle. She smiled, Sal was a sucker for mysteries, even if she couldn't solve the only real one that mattered to her.

She glanced up at Jake, "Thanks, that was awful thoughtful Jake. I'm sure I'll enjoy it." She saw him swallow and glanced toward the dinning room as he commented again about not wanting to incur the wrath of Miss Lin's wrath. She nodded and pulled the paper back over the book. "I'll just go and put this on the shelf and then join you."

She turned away from the dinning room and back into the sitting room and walked over toward the book shelf, looking at the one shelf of books she owned. She pulled the paper back and set the new book up next to the worn and ran her finger down the crisp spine looking at it compared to the others. The only one that wasn't used before she bought it, was a family bible with calligraphy inside her mother had gotten for a wedding gift, that only got used on special occasions, and the rest of the time the old black did the job.

She wondered at the book, and told herself not to read into it too much. There weren't many that could read more than a few words here and there in Black Falls, so she decided the doc must just want someone to talk to he knew could actually read the things he did.

She headed back to the dining room and smiled to see the tiny Miss Lin already loading up Jake's plate, looked like she'd brought his drink too.

"You too skinny doctor, not look good, people think you not healthy then not come see you. You come here and I feed you good, then people know and no worries."

Sal cleared her throat and gently put her hand on Miss Lin's shoulder, "Doc's got nothin' to worry about Miss Lin, everybody knows he's good at his job. Don't go worryin' him."

The little woman started saying things Sal couldn't understand as she went back to the kitchen to get something else and Sal went and took her seat across the table from Jake.

"Sorry about that, she thinks it's not right, me livin' out here with a bunch a cow hands and such. From what I've pieced together women don't inherit the same way we do." She shrugged, forcing her face to stay calm, as she talked about it all.

She didn't want Jake to think this was anything other than a friendly dinner between friends and such. She busied herself with putting a few things on her plate that were set out, then debated on asking him if he minded if she said grace.

She decided to forgo it this time and was about to take her first bite when the dinner bell started clanging down at the bunk house. She set her fork down and looked toward the window. They all should have eaten before now, and Bill knew she had company, so wouldn't have rang it now unless...

"Excuse me for a minute would ya Jake?"

She scooted back and headed toward the kitchen and the back door, Miss Lin came through the swinging door just as Sal's hand went out for it.

"Fire! Miss Sally! Fire!" she shouted as Sal pushed past her.

She swore as she ran out the back door, ripping a coat from a peg, and tore down the back steps, completely forgetting her company.

Bill was running up to her with a horse already saddled and he wheezed for a minute, "Lightenin' struck... out there on the prairie.... wouldn't have... sounded the bell.... but looks ta be... out by the... cattle."

Sally was already checking straps on the saddle as he spoke and yanked herself up in at the last. "Apologize to my comp'ny if you would, we gotta move those cows and the way the winds blowin, it's like to head for the ranch too if we don't get it under control."

Bill nodded as Sal spurred the horse with a hearty "Yah!" and tore off toward the smoke she could now see. She couldn't afford to loose one head of that cattle. She could already see some her men headed out to beat down the growing blaze and others heading to herd her cows as she raced after them.

Sal might not be good at a lot of things, complex math, holding her tongue, being a lady to name a few, but she was good at picking a good cow hand. They were all doing what they were supposed to... for now.

She ought to have known the one time she actually had company she wanted to have around, something like this would happen. It seemed to be her luck. First Cora and the raid, now Jake. She pushed it out of her mind to focus on what needed to get done.

Beau

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2013, 02:09:09 am »
Jake wouldn’t have asked the “So why do you live all the way out here” question.  He’d known Sal’s father.  He’d watched carefully over the last years and figured ranching was in her blood.  Some people were blacksmiths, some could sing.  Sal should have gone to college, but somehow her life here seemed to fit her.

He picked up his fork, not even thinking about grace.  He ate alone too much to consider prayers aloud any more.  He also wasn’t as god-fearing as some.  Anger was more the emotion he felt when confronted with an all powerful being.  It never seemed fair that someone else could say who lived and who died.

Miss Lin was quite endearing.  Jake smiled after the woman, collecting a snippet or two of the words in the other language as she walked off.  Sal would get a talking to after he left, no doubt.   At the same time, talk about people ‘not wanting to see him’ always put him on edge.  The reason didn’t matter.  I brought back the memory of why he was here, rather than New York.

To disguise his discomfort, Jake mumbled, “It’s okay,” and took a fork full of food.  He swallowed as the bell started to ring, and Sal jumped up.  Before he could comment she was running into the kitchen.  He heard the flap of the door before he had a second to stand and find out what the fuss was about.

Miss Lin scurried into the room.  “I’m a sorry Master Jake,” she said.  “We got trouble.  Fire.”

Jake assumed she meant the kitchen, but when he followed Miss Lin into the room there was no evidence of bacon grease or hot coals.  “Fire, where?”  Jake said.

The sound of clattering hooves was the answer.  Clearly the disturbance was on the ranch.  Lightening a likely culprit, although he could suspect something more sinister.  It was that thought that had him moving with haste out of the house.

Miss Lin scurried after him. She seemed worried, “You no fight fire.”

Jake looked over at the little woman. “I can’t just stay here.” A quiet smile.  “I can carry a bucket as good as the next guy.”

Her face seemed a bit crest fallen.  Belatedly Jake wondered if she needed company.  She dispelled that notion by saying, “You’ll ruin your suit.”

Jake chuckled.  “Well, that will teach me not to wear my Sunday best the next time I come to sample your cooking.  Why don’t you keep dinner warm for us?” 

Miss Lin scurried away and Jake went into the barn.  Tanner had been unsaddled and made comfortable, likely the reason Bill was still with the horses when he sounded the alarm.   Jake took a moment to take off his suit coat and roll up his sleeves before he hurriedly put the bridle on Tanner and road out bareback to help.

The fire wasn’t close to the house, but it appeared the cattle might be in harm way.  Jake wasn’t a rancher, but he knew animals almost as well as people.  He’d delivered a young cow once and, in hindsight, realized that if he’d chosen to be a veterinarian life would have been much easier.  But right now, he didn’t know the foggiest thing about ranching and fighting fires.   

He went to the first farm hand he saw and said, “How can I help?”

The man didn’t question what the doctor was doing there.  “Grab that shovel over there.  We’re digging a trench and trying to put out the fire.  Prepare to get dirty.”


Peregrine

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2013, 09:55:57 am »
Sal got out to the cattle just behind her hands and yanked a whip from it's hook on her saddle and started cracking it.

The cows had already smelled the smoke and some of them were lookin a might panicked. It wouldn't do for that kind of thing to spread or they'd have a stampede on their hands on top of everything else.

She mentally started counting as the herd started to move the direction they were shoving them, upwind, to cross the low creek bed. She was missing almost two handfuls.

She turned in her saddle seeing one group of six down wind and stirring to do something stupid. She raced after them to try to get them back in line, the fire was getting much to close for comfort.

Back at the Ranch Bill hobbled up next to Jake in the fire line. He gave him one appraising look before he started to dig in.

"Some of the boys'll be here right quick with a wagon filled with water barrels, we'll need ta wet the gunny sacks and beat down anythin' that comes to close and watch the edges of the fire line so's it doesn't creep around us," He hollard at all the men as he took a rest with his shovel. "Gotta make sure we have a place for Sal and the others to break through ifin they need it."

The rumble of the wagon came up at the end of his words.

Sal yanked a kerchief from her coat pocket and pressed it to her nose and mouth with one hand as she yanked the reigns around with the other, the horse skipping a bit under her at the abrupt turn, but steadying after a moment. She guided with her knees for a minute, irritated at the skirt constricting her a knees a bit, but was able to keep the horse in course as she cracked her whip to get the group moving the way she wanted.

'Too close!' she could feel the heat to her left, the smoke stinging her eyes as ash swirled in the growing wind, but she didn't dare turn her head for fear of what she'd see. She cracked it once more and then grabbed the reigns and bullied one sow into moving by pushing her horse into it.

They finally, thankfully started moving and she forced them to keep up the pace as she harried them behind.

She turned back toward the ranch as she saw them dropping down into the creek after the others. The fire was in too many places, moving too fast. Could this really all have been from a single lightening strike? A shiver ran down her spine, the cows were well on their way now to hopefully a safer section of pasture.

She still might loose a few head if her count had been right, but right now she was seeing the blaze creep closer to the outbuildings.

She hesitated, worried the wind would shift and head for the cows, worried there weren't enough hands back at the ranch. She was torn with what to do. The cows were her lively hood, buildings could be rebuilt... but her home was made from her parents hands, her hands, could she sacrifice it?

She heard shouting and saw someone waving at her from the fire break line but couldn't make out what was being shouted, or what they were pointing at. She was just far enough down the small gully, not to be able to see what was going on to the other side of her, though she could see the fire clearly by the buildings.

Bill got the men well underway, things were looking like they'd be alright when the breeze by the house shifted and he was shoulder to shoulder with men beating down flames that were trying to jump up and across the break to the dry grasses on their side.

He wasn't too worried yet, until he looked up to see Sal, sittin pretty on her horse between two lines of flame. He watched her for a moment, wondering what she was doin', looking back and forth the way she was. If she didn't move, she would soon be blocked in on too many sides with the way the wind was playin' with them.

He started shouting, "Sal, you get girl! Go on! Move! The fire!" and pointing at her hoping she could see what he was trying to say, but distance and wind and flame seemed to carry his words away.

"Fool girl, move!" He tried one more time before turning to look for a spare horse to go and chase her one direction or another.

Beau

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2013, 04:51:51 pm »
Tanner was getting jumpy.  He’d loosely tied the horse to a bramble bush, but the smell of smoke made the palomino nervous.  From the corner of his eye, Jake could see him paw the ground, and he wondered if the horse would have more luck with the trench than he was.  Jake wasn’t used to manual labor.  The palms of his hands would blister from the wear of the rough wood shovel handle.  His shoulder muscles ached even though he’d probably been working less than an hour.  Selfishly he wished he’d brought his hat.  The sun wasn’t in his eyes but he wondered if somehow the brim might have blocked the smoke and eased the squint.

He heard a farm hand cough repeatedly and looked up at the sound.  The fire was inching closer to the outbuildings, and the smoke grew thicker as it approached.  Jake too felt the irritant tickle his throat and longed for water.

Suddenly Bill started shouting.  He was farther along the line than Jake, but as he turned, Jake could see that he was yelling for Sal.  She was far away. Jake could hear Bill, but he doubted Sal did since she didn’t alter course or speed up.

The wind shifted again.  Smoke blew between the fire lines, obscuring Sal, her horse and cattle from view.  Jake knew that it would mess with her sense of direction as well.  When he saw Bill looking around he figured he was trying to find a way to ride out to the rescue.  It wasn’t Jake’s job, but he felt the same sense of urgency as the other.  Tanner was the closest horse, but he was already skittish.  There was no way the gelding would respond to another hand and be forced into danger.

Jake half-jogged over to Bill.  He gave the man his shovel, saying, “I’ll get her.”

He didn’t wait for permission, rationalizing that he was little use digging holes anyway.  With a snap of his wrist Tanner was freed from his makeshift tether.  The horse reared, eager to be gone.  Jake spoke calmly to the horse before mounting the bare back of the animal.  Tanner danced around.  Jake let him take a few strides back towards the house before wheeling him around towards the fire.

The smoke was thicker now.  He made his best guess on where Sal was and rode forward.  He knew he was going in the right direction when he came across the cow.  The crackling sound of the fire masked it’s plaintive moo.  Tanner shied, but Jake leaned down and swatted the animal on the rump sending it on forward. 

“Sal!” He called.  “You’re between the fire lines.  Follow my voice.  This way.”


Peregrine

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2013, 05:29:01 am »
As the smoke came billowing over the top of the gully Sal's horse reared and then stomped down to the ground pawing restlessly as she tried to reign him in. What' she wouldn't give to have Oly between her knees.

She coughed through the bandana and scrubbed a dirty hand over her watering eyes. She couldn't tell which way was which now with all the shuffling the horse was doing and the smoke.

She felt a small rise of panic come to her chest. Her cows, her ranch, this life, none of it was worth dying for. She turned the horse several times before she heard a voice.

She turned her head to try and catch it again, and urged her skiddish mount toward it.

She wasn't certain, but she almost thought it was Jake calling to her. Though why he'd be out here in particular, or outside instead of in with Miss Lin baffled her a bit.

The wind shifted again and wash of cinders blew over her. She was smacking the little embers out as she almost collided with Jake.

"Jake!" So she hadn't been wrong. She urged her horse around him and kept moving at a brisk pace, hoping that nothing would rise up out of the smoke to be run into.

When they cleared the fumes after a short little gallop she turned back to see where she'd been, in time to see the flame boil over the wash with a hunger. It entranced her for a moment, the orange-gold fluidity of it, the way it almost spilled over like spiky water.

She blinked, her eyes burning from the smoke and the heat and refusing to be ignored. She coughed and pulled her kerchief down and looked over at Jake, "Thanks... But what in tarnation are you doin' out here?"

Bill came trundling up, "Makin' a mighty fine fire line Sal and savin' your skin, fool girl. What were ya thinkin' out there?"

Sal felt her cheeks flush, but in the dim light of early evening and the fire behind her, it could easily been missed. "I went after a group of cows, gottum goin with the others then was tryin ta decide where I'd be most useful s'all."

Bill's face was scrunched up and his tone was less than pleasant, but she knew it was out of concern. "Next time, pick a spot and stick to it Sal. Now ur here, get offa that pretty pony and grab a sack, we got bushes to beat, it's getting a little to close to the pump house for my likin'."

With that Bill strode off and Sal was left with Jake again. She swallowed and shrugged with a sheepish smile, "Well, I guess ya can't say we don't make things entertainin out in these parts. You can head back ta the house if ya want, I don't want to be puttin out a guest."

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2013, 09:52:29 pm »
Her words made him angry.  It surprised him how much as his eyes narrowed under the dismissal. “I’m not some pansy city boy,” Jake said.  His voice was deadly quiet and laced with a hint of insult he felt.   If he paused to analyze the emotions churning through him he’d see past the anger.  He’d tried to save her father from the foolishness of taunting the local criminals.  No snake had shyed his horse, although Jake tried to protect Sal from the harsh reality of her father’s stupidity.

This wasn't entertainment either. “The fire was deliberately set,” he concluded.  He swung off his horse and pulled Tanner back towards the bush he’d been tied to earlier.  The animal was calmer now, thankful to be away from the flames, and more than grateful to wait at the safe distance.  “If you want to save the pump house I suggest we both help Bill.”

There were some ‘or’s in his thoughts; options of watching, options of riding off into the sunset.  None of those were practical of course.  He could joke about taking a train to Macon and getting away from danger at some other point.  Standing closer now he still felt the urge to grab her arm and shake her.  Bill had asked the question, but he'd ask it to. “What were you thinking?” Jake knew he should be grabbing his shovel and going back to work, but the soot on Sal’s face reminded him of the peril she’d put herself in.  “The cows aren’t worth it, Sal.”
« Last Edit: November 03, 2013, 09:54:12 pm by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2013, 06:08:41 am »
Click

Her brow furrowed at his upset. She hadn't called him a city boy. She knew he could work, she'd seen it first hand after the raid. She had meant it was rude to impose on guests, but now her own hackles were up.

Sal hopped off her pony and was shocked at the tone Jake took with her as he tied up Tanner and she followed suite with her horse. She was about to just walk past him, try and take her anger out on the burning bushes wuth a wet sack when his hands twitched and fell back again and he asked her the same thing Bill had, then scolded her. Again. 

She glared a bit, part do to the soot flying around, but mostly in anger. She wasn't a ditzy school girl any more than he was City Boy. "I was trying to be the boss, help my men where ever they were needin' me most." Her hands were fling as she spoke. "I was tryin to save my piece of somethin' whether it's what I wanted or not. I can't save that piece without cows, the ground ain't worth a lick for planting crops."

She shoved a sooty hand through her hair, jamming her eyes shut. When she opened them, she'd calmed a piece and her voice lowered glancing over his shoulder at her men and then back at him, "You think I don't know it wasn't lightening Jake? Lightening fires are few are far between and this is the third in as many months. I didn't ask for this, any of it. The ranch, Hitch, fires, bein' Boss!" She threw her hands up in defeat.

Even if she hadn't asked for it, this was her burden to bare now, this was her responsibility. She was a woman, and unmarried, and young - maybe too young. Could she have sold after her father died? Sure, but despite the instructions he'd left to do so, she knew it would break his heart to see it go to a stranger after all that it had cost him. So, she did the best she could with what she had learned and tried not to let the weight of it all crush her.

She felt her eyes welling with the pressure and the tension and the sternness of not only Jake but Bill too. She couldn't afford to fall apart, especially not now, so she took a deep breath and pulled her shoulders back bracing herself against the weight and simply willed herself to hold it together. She tossed her head a little, "I didn't mean to insult Jake, but I also know what Black Falls was like before we had a decent Doc around and I'll be blamed if you're hurt. A man's got to make his own choices though so I won't stop ya if your set on helpin', but I hope you know what a spot I'm in." A rock and fiery place, that's what.

With that she picked up her the blasted skirt and moved passed him, picking up a freshly dunked gunny sack from the hand by the barrels and went to beating on the bushes.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 07:28:59 am by Peregrine »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2013, 11:20:12 pm »
“You were supposed to sell.”

At first he wasn’t sure if he’d spoke aloud.  Sal continued to rant and march away from him with her head held high.  He knew her father’s dying wish, but Sal had been adamant about legacy and responsibility.  Apparently she still had that mind given the emotional protest.  Jake grit his teeth under her words and followed behind, unwilling to let the subject rest.  He too grabbed a gunny sack, matching the motion in the water tank.  “Your paw wanted you to go to school.  Selling this place would have made that possible.  There’s no shame in taking care of yourself and starting over.” 

Heaven knows I believed that to be true once.

He didn’t have a skirt to gather to give the move flair, but he strode on and stood beside her, beating at the bushes with more force than necessary.  Jake didn’t want to think about what drove him, ironically, out of the city and out to no-mans-land, or what he left behind.  This was about Sal.  And he had at least ten years of experience on her to share. The touch of gray at his temples testament to time and worry.

“Hitch wins if you’re dead.  He wins if he burns you out.”  Jake paused and coughed once, the smoky air irritating his throat.  He took one last deep breath to finish his thought.  “You gotta pick your battles Sal.  This may not be one you can win.”

He took a step back and blinked.  Some ash had gone into his eye but his hands were too dirty to brush them.  He lifted a shoulder and tried to wipe the soot off his lashes with the collar of his shirt.

“Dammit,” he swore softly.  The burning sensation continued, requiring more attention.  Jake turned and went back to the water barrel, the gunny sack dragging behind him.  He freed his hands and splashed the water on his face, cupping one hand to hold over his right eye.  The scorched flesh felt better, but not perfect.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 11:22:59 pm by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2013, 11:59:30 pm »
Sal beat the burning bushes with more ferocity the more he spoke. It looked like she was going to get a full lecture from him. Best to just let him have it out and be done with it. Her jaw clenched in an effort to stay quiet.

When he made his last comment she turned and was about to shout at him, finally feeling to angry at his words to keep silent when he swore.

She turned watching him rub at his eye and then head back to the barrel. She looked around and a hand with a freshly wet sack came up to take her place as she stepped away to follow and re-wet hers.

She shoved the sack in the water and looked around, all the men were busy and she said through her teeth, "My Pa wanted lots of things, a gaggle of boys, my Ma to grow old with, a Palomino and a Paint and the list could go on. What he got instead was me and this place and I don't intend to give it up without a fight. Up until a few months ago I'd say I'd been doin mighty fine the last 4 years bein' in charge." She'd been just shy of twenty when her Pa had died, and had taken over after a few months of Bill running things.

She grabbed a second sack and dunked it as she shoved her old one into the hands of one her men, the look on her face causing him skitter away quickly.

She shoved her hands into the barrel with the new sack and yanked it out, her voice raising from the growl it was before to a stern and stubborn close shout, "And just cause I didn't go runnin' from my problems, doesn't make me any less smart than you. Least wise you got no room to be tellin me what  to do. You eased my Pa's way which was a kindness, but you're not my Pa and your not by Husband, not even my beau, and even iffin you were, this is still my land, if I die for it, at least I die fightin'!" She gave him a hard look, her voice getting quiet and angry again, "Unless you plan on chanin' the situation any time soon, don't you ever presume to think you can go tellin' me what I can and cannot do again Jake Scully."

To prove her point, she stomped away again, threw the wet sack to one of her men and yanked her horse free and jumped on, spurring it through an opening in the fireline and across the scorched earth that was left behind after the fire went burning through and started to make a wide arch around to the creek bed so she could cross and go and check on her cows and men.

Bill came up, dunking his sack in one of the barrels, "You're kickin' cactus with that one boy. You might knock it over, but it'll leave it's prickers in ya. Black Falls and this Ranch are all she thinks she deserves, all she thinks she's good enough for now. She blames herself for her Pa's death. Hitch wanted to marry her, ya know. Most folks don't know it. When her Pa saw how upset it made her... well, I'm sure you can guess most the rest." He watched Sal's back and sighed, pulling the sack free slowly and walked past Doc and gave him a pat on his shoulder, "So's now... she'll let this place bleed her dry and then try to give it more, ya see?"

He trundled back to beat the bushes.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2013, 12:07:51 am by Peregrine »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2013, 01:43:46 am »
Based on her tone he knew he was misunderstood.  "I didn't say you weren't doing fine."

If Sal had been a gentle woman she would have come up to Jake and cooed over his burn.  She might have found a mothering instinct that distracted her from the fight and flight impulse, but Sal wasn't that way.  She lectured and ranted.  Jake had his hands full, splashing water on his face.  Her implication that he would 'run from his problems' when she wouldn't hit a bit too close to home.

"Careful, Sal," he warned, but she paid him no mind.  Jake put his hands on the barrel rim and stared at his faint reflection in the water as she layered on the self-righteous martyrdom.  He knew from experience that there was no point in talking now.  She wasn't going to listen.

Fight turned to flight and she got back on her horse to prove how tough she was.  Jake let her go.

Bill came to stand beside him and offered more insight, but Jake already knew the particulars.  He had eyes.   He knew his place in the grand scheme of things.   He nodded over the information, but didn't comment.   Sal had chosen her words carefully.  He wasn't her father; he wasn't her beau.  And none of that was going to change.

It got him thinking though.  As he pushed the wet hair out of his eyes for a brief moment he wondered why Sal's reaction bothered him so much.  He'd made a pledge to her father that he'd watch out for her, sure, and for several years he'd done that in his quiet fashion.  Her health was good.  The people who worked for her were reputable.  The general store never cheated her.  Then again, none of that was really due to his efforts.  She didn't need much from him, and asked for even less.  The occasional book.  The occasional conversation.

She didn't want his advice.

He was here to eat Miss Lin's cooking, not hers.

She cared only if he got hurt - for the town's sake.   Nothing more.  And dang it all he was hurt, his eye smarted and his fingers were burned, and she didn't ask after him out of concern.  Bill was right.  The ranch would be first and foremost.  So, Jake took up the burlap sack and went back to work trying to save what could be saved even though the owner couldn't see what she had.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone, the pump house endured to see another day.  The flames were contained behind the trench lines and the nearby brush only smoldered.  Pockets of fire remained, but they would have to burn themselves out.  A few of the men coughed and manifested the symptoms of smoke inhalation.  Jake urged them all to move away from the bushes and into the cleaner air.   Bill in particular looked a little worse for wear.  He offered the man a shoulder to lean on and walked slowly back towards the house.   Tanner marched with them, led along by his reins, much calmer now that the closer flames were gone.

"Miss Lin kept dinner warm," Jake told the older man.  "I heard there was also pie."

Bill chuckled.  He knew a thing or two about pie.  At the porch, Jake set the man's hand on the railing.  "Go on in.  I left my jacket in the barn - I'll collect it and be going.   You can have my piece.  You deserve it."

"You're not staying?" Bill asked.

"No." Jake said.  "I'm not staying.  I've already worn out my welcome."
« Last Edit: November 05, 2013, 01:56:52 am by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2013, 02:34:00 am »
Bill nodded, "Don't be surprised if Miss Lin comes a hollerin at ya at some point." He joked."It's late and your monin' welcome ta bunk in with the boys if ya think you ought not stay at the house, but  a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do I s'pose." He shrugged a little and glanced back at the house before he turned and looked at Doc.

"Don't tell her I told you so, but  Sal cares a great deal more than she'll admit what ya think and in my own opinion 'bout your person. She mentioned something bout the raid... and well, anyway... She wasn't gently bred, her Ma died before she could get much ah that, just had us men folk to watch out for her til Miss Lin eight years back...so she's not exactly... well... Anyway... don't be to hard on the girl."

With that Bill tipped his hat and pulled his old bones up the stairs.

Sal regretted it the moment she rode off, but she was too stubborn to turn around and apologize. Before she'd gotten more than ten yards away, her face was streaming with the tears she didn't allow herself when anyone could see.

After she dropped down into the gully she didn't finish crossing but instead urged her mount up stream away from all of it.

She couldn't face her men or the cows or Miss Lin or any of it right now. The light was long gone now, but she knew where she was going like the back of her hand. About fifty yards upstream she pulled the mount up the side of the gulch up onto an old, and slightly over grown trail.

She trotted for another ways and then slipped from the horse, tossing the reigns up around a branch of the old willow tree.

She slipped around the other side and slid down the tree to sit next to the two markers at the base of the tree. She pulled her knees up and rested her elbows on them and then her head. She thought of the looks that had crossed Jake's face through all their talking and verbal tussling. She should have thanked him for his help, made sure he was alright, instead she replayed her foolish words over and over and sighed heavily.

"So much for bein' friendly with Doc, don't expect I'll be seein a new book again unless I head over to Rosewood and pick it up myself... or anything else for that matter."

Any girlish notions about impressing Jake and getting him to notice her for anything other than a good book buddy, were all but squashed now. Even if there had been little to no hope of it before, there certainly would be nothing for certain now.

She looked at the markers and sighed, "Sorry Pa, I'm just makin' a mess of everything." Then she let her tears come again and stayed there for who knows how long before she finally pulled herself together and headed back toward the house, taking a meandering route through the property.

If she didn't get back soon Bill would send out a party searching for her and she couldn't afford to have those men not watching the cows or for flame ups. And if Jake, by some miracle was still around, she'd do her best to apologize and make amends, though she felt little hope that he actually stuck around to eat the meal she'd wanted to share with him for so long.


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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2013, 02:41:08 am »
Jake watched Bill go into the house and debated about the offer.   His stomach rumbled in protest as he turned towards the barn.  He needed Tanner’s saddle as well as his discarded clothing.  His steps were slow, and he let the horse have a drink of water before he went into the barn.  Here is was dark.  Earth mingled with sulfur in the air.  Jake took a moment to find Tanner’s saddle.  He found it heavy to lift.  Muscles screamed in protest as he hoisted it from the rack onto the horses back. 

Maybe I am a pansy city boy.  The thought was amusing but he didn’t smile over the conversation.  Sal had unknowning churned up memories of past choices.  His fingers fumbled over the cinch with a combination of regret, fatigue and raw skin, making his grip weak.

“I forgot my hat.” Jake said aloud.  He had others.  But somehow it seemed like a sin that he was leaving  something behind that he shouldn’t.  Sal had been quite clear about her desire for him to be gone.

Fatigue and depression washed over him. With a sigh, Jake leaned against the stall door.  He knew if he sat he’d be in trouble, but his knees bent under his weight.  His rump touched the straw on the rocky floor with a thud and he pulled one leg forward and rested his chin on his knee.  Tanner looked on curious.  The horse didn’t wander far with the reins still laced in between Doc’s fingers.

Jake heard the plod of a lone horse.  His eyes had adjusted to the dim light and the solitary figure was obviously not one of the ranch hands coming to find out why he hadn’t ridden off yet.

“I’d like to say one more thing if you’ll permit it,” Jake said.  His words were soft and slow with fatigue.  His head was turned towards the new arrival but he didn’t stand as a gentleman might.  His bones wouldn’t allow it.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt or offend you, Sally Jane.  I crossed a line I didn’t even know was there,” You can blame your paw for that and the promise he asked me to make.  “I just worry about you sometimes.  It’s not my place, I know.”  One shoulder lifted.  Jake winced.  His chin went back to resting on the bent knee.  “I won’t do it again.”

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2013, 02:17:48 am »
Sal had gotten back and Bill was sitting on the porch in one of the rockers. She didn't even bother slipping down from the horse as he stood up and brought over a lunch pail wrapped in a checker cloth and held it out over the porch rail. 

"That young man is still in the barn gettin' his horse hitched up. He did ya a piece of work out there Sal, I think he at least earned himself some grub and a thank you if not an apology for that tongue lashin' he got."

Sal felt a little defensive at that, but took the food and felt even more guilty than she had before. She nodded and headed toward the barn, slipping off the horse and guiding him into the dark. There wasn't even a lantern lit, so she wasn't entirely sure Jake really was still there until he started speaking.

She was glad for the dark after a minute, cause then he couldn't see the tear streaked and smeared soot on her face, or the fresh small tears forming in her eyes.

He was apologizing to her of all things. She didn't even know he knew her middle name, let alone worried about her.

Might as well have shot yourself in the foot! All this time...

She tossed the reigns of the horse around a hook she could make out now that her eyes adjusted. She looked at the state he was in, seeing the fatigue on his face and in his voice, the way he held his hands like they were stiff and painful, hearing the wince when he shrugged.  She let out a heavy sigh and grabbed the canteen from her saddle before she walked over to a row of shelves and grabbed the basket of bandages and tonics they kept for when a cow hand busted something up. She held the wrapped up lunch pail by the handle and walked over to him.

She sunk down to kneel next to him. "Don't go apologizing to the likes of me Jake, I don't deserve it. All you've been is kind and helpful and I'll I was rude and stubborn. I'm the one that needs to be sayin' sorry."

She set the food down next to his stretched out leg and then gently took one of his hands, "I'd tell ya to go and get the Doc ta fix ya up..." she let the attempt at poor humor trail off.

She got a clean cloth from the basket and dumped water from the canteen on it. Then started to gently clean his hands off. She cleared her throat and spoke, "I got upset cause there isn't a thing ya said that wasn't deserved or not true in one way or'nother." She held the cool wet rag over his hand with one of hers and finally got up the nerve to look in his face in the pail light.

"Truth is, I'm glad ta know ya worry. Things round here have been... well, anyway... I was takin' out my upset on the first person ta provoke me and I wished ta heaven it wouldn't have been you." She swallowed and knew she was probably blushing, but she pressed on. "All I wanted was ta have a nice evenin' with ya since ya'd finally agreed and all... and ta show ya... ta show ya I could be... well not that I am one of course, but maybe ya could see me as somethin' otherin' what... Oh bother, doesn't matter now."

She took a breath and tried to collect herself. "Won't ya stay Jake? Give me a chance ta show ya I'm better'n I acted?" Her voice was a bit pleading, a touch hurt, but mostly worried he would refuse. She looked up at him feeling flustered realizing how close she was to him, that she liked it. She felt her face flush again and started to lean back to take her hand away, realizing she hadn't let the wet cloth go and she was neglecting what she was trying to do for him while she wasn't saying what she wanted to.

If he refused, she'd at least make sure he was cleaned and bandaged up the best she could, and try and get him to eat something, help to saddle Tanner, or convince him to let Bill or one of the boys to drive him home with the wagon.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 06:58:44 am by Peregrine »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2013, 03:28:01 pm »
Her touch was gentle.  Doc wasn’t surprised by that, although he found it curious that she came and sat beside him.  The dark made a fine place for confessions.

“I understand the Doc doesn’t have the world’s best bedside manner.” Jake said, trying to keep the atmosphere light.

When she looked up at him, he didn’t look away.  The light was dim, but she was framed in the moonlight.  Her face was streaked with dirt.  He imagined he saw the traces of tears.  Frowned over the cause, but remained quiet.  She wasn’t speaking plainly but he could connect the dots.  Honestly, he hadn’t realized that she liked him.  She’d been sociable, but she’d never flaunted herself as some of the other women in town did.  It would have been easier if she had.  The insecurity made things more complicated.

Sal moved to take the cool cloth away.   Jake clenched his hand, capturing hers between his long fingers.  The water dripped across his knuckles as a few quiet second’s stretched before he spoke.  “You don’t need to prove anything to me Sal.”  He knew she was a lady even if she didn’t always act like one.  This close it was hard to deny.  His blue eyes studied the hint of heightened color, the long eyelashes and straight nose.

He wanted to stay.  She wanted his company.  So why was he hesitating?

His free hand moved to touch her face.  His thumb traced the line of her cheek.  “You deserve better than me.”  His eyes were sincere and a touch sad.  “Someone younger.”  And yet he couldn’t help himself from leaning closer.  Their noses nearly touched.  His hand moved to her ear and laced in her hair.  “Someone who knows something about ranching.”


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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2013, 09:35:44 pm »
Sal was a little stunned by his actions, but thrilled in the same heart beat. Not only was he not pulling away, he drew her in. She closed her eyes at the gentle touch of his hand on her face and then opened her eyes as he spoke. He was being earnest, so she didn't contadict him on the fact that she was grossly below him on the deserving scale.

She shooke her head very slightly, not enough to dislodge his hand, at his protests of not being good enough. She brought her own free hand up to rest on his shoulder gently. She looked at his face and before he could come up with more protests she said, "I'm a great shot Jake, no matter the obsticles thrown up at me, I usually get what I'm aimin' at." She smiled and said casual if not a little teasing, "I don't need another opinion on how to push cows around, you aren't as old as you pretend to be and I'm not as young and inexperienced as you think." She wasn't sure if another opportunity to be bold would ever present itself and she wasn't going to press her luck and give him the chance to change his mind.

She leaned in the minscule distance and kissed him. Jake certainly wasn't her first kiss, that had happened a fairly long time ago all things considered. Not to mention she'd gown up around young bucks and drifting cow hands. She didn't have the kind of experince women at the saloon had, but she'd kissed and romanced by a fair amount of boys, and men.

She hoped she hadn't read him wrong, but it was possible. She didn't press her luck to long and pulled back a small amount again, but not far away in the least. "So now ya know," she said quietly, but not hesitant in anyway.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2013, 09:44:36 pm by Peregrine »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2013, 02:33:44 am »
Someone who doesn’t run away from his troubles.

It was the last that kept him from kissing her.  He didn’t want to start something he couldn’t finish.

She took the initiative herself and closed the last few millimeters between their lips.  Jake didn’t pull away.  Selfishly he wanted to enjoy the moment.  The kiss hinted at something new and fragile.  His grip on her neck was loose and when she broke the kiss he let her.  He smiled under her words – he knew less than nothing.

“Well,” he said. The grin turned a bit wolfish and the tone of his voice flirtatious.  “You’re aim’s not bad.”

But then the look faded.  He sat up a bit straighter and let the silence stretch.  He took the cold cloth in his hands and toyed with it, looking down at his hands rather than at her.  “There’s things you don’t know about me, Sal…”

She was different than the girls at the saloon.  Not that he did much more than look in that direction.  He preferred his solitude – or so he kept telling himself.   He didn’t have time for frivolity.

Get a grip, man. She’s not asking to marry you…

All she’d said was she wanted to spend some time with him.  But his lips still felt warm.  Emotions he thought long buried warred with his practical nature. 

Jake set aside the cloth and the debate with himself.  “It looks like you brought some food out here.  How about we take the pail back to the house?”  No reason to eat on the dusty floor of the stable.  “Assuming Miss Lin will let me into the house all dusty.”

He chuckled, “You might have to help me up though.”  A sigh.  “I’m not used to all this exercise.”

And then again, if she offered an arm, he’d have an excuse to touch  her again.  Something he wanted to do, but didn’t think he had a right to.  After all he wasn’t her beau, and hadn’t thought he would be.  But…

Jake offered his hand.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2013, 03:47:17 am by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2013, 08:06:59 am »
Well he hadn't drawn away in disgust, and he was making jokes so she didn't think he hated that she'd kissed him. Then he got quiet.

Sal swallowed  slow and hard, just once. Maybe she'd counted her chickens before they'd hatched, maybe he was making jokes to cover up how awkward her felt.  Then he spoke again and she felt one small slice of chill pierce her gut. Of course there were things she didn't know about him. Heck, the longest conversation they'd had was over Frankenstein for Pete's sake. She could tell he was harboring something big, but Sal hadn't ever been an overly nosy person. She figured a man's business was his alone, that is until it affected her directly. While a part of her was burning to know what that past entailed, another part warned her she might not want to know.

She nodded, feeling a little crest fallen. Telling her he had a past was near enough to telling her to not get her hopes up as anything. She tried not to let her embarassment spread to her face again. "I ain't askin' for ya to go makin' any promises Jake, 'cept maybe that you won't shun me all together. Just... just think on it a piece, alright?" 

She had to be careful, he wasn't an open man, and he was clearly saying that right now. She was about to tell him she didn't mind him having a past, that she just wanted to look forward - see if there was even a chance at a future, when he mentioned the food.

She chuckled, "If she didn't let dusty cowboys or well, cowgirls, in the house, I'd never get inside. She'll make us eat at the big butcher table in the kitcen instead of in the dinning room, but personally I like that better anyway."

She felt guilty again when he mentioned needing help up. He'd helped her and look at him! He was  a wreck! Nice clothes most likely ruined, his precious hands blistered and cracked. Did she even have any business offering him more than friendship?

She rolled smoothly back off her knees to the balls of her feet, taking his hand and continuing the smooth motion into a standing position and gently helping him up. She didn't let go of his hand though as she bent and reached for the food pail and basket of medical supplies and then stood and eased his arm over her shoulder.

She had a flash of a bitter memory at the familiar silhouett they were creating, but she pushed it aside.

This is nothing like that.

She started moving slowly toward the house, then up the stairs to the wrap around porch. "You know after you're done eatin' I'm not lettin' ya ride back to town right? We've got a guest room, or if you want ta be stubborn I'll make the boys haul ya ta the bunk house and lock ya in with them and I can tell ya right now those bed taint nearly as comfortable."

She was trying to keep it light, she'd kissed him, he hadn't exactly turned her away, but he was hesitant. She didn't want to push him, and if all she could have of Doc was friendship, well.... Better'n not havin' him at all.

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #20 on: November 22, 2013, 03:33:07 pm »

As they moved his muscles relaxed.  He let his arm balance on her shoulder and his fingers rub against the soft material of her blouse. The warmth of another body walking next to him brought back a memory which didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. 

Maybe time heals everything.  A sigh.  It might have been fatigue, might have been reality creeping in.
Well, not everything.

As they approached the house he knew he should tell her the secret he harbored.  Squash any hope of a relationship between them.  She’d asked not to be shunned.  Truth was, she should shun him.  But his brain was too tired to form the words.  The moonlight wasn’t dark enough for more confessions.

Besides, if you tell her. You’d have to leave Black Falls.

To shift the direction of his thoughts he offered to carry one of the bundles in her hand, reaching over to take the small pack of medical supplies.  He was the doctor after all.

When they reached  the porch she shared her intention that he stay the night.  He didn’t commit to where, but he accepted the idea.  “All right.”

He leaned forward to open the back door, removing his arm from her shoulders in the process.  There would be enough gossip now.  He didn’t need her cow hands feeding the flames.  There was a tiny twitch of irony in the curve of his lips as he contemplated the play on words and went inside the kitchen.  Bill and a couple of others were there talking to Miss Lin.  They went silent mid sentence as the two walked in.

Then suddenly, like everyone had been holding their breath and released it at the same time, the room spun into motion. Miss Lin immediately stared fussing over Jake and Sal, asking questions and demanding they remove their boots and wash up.  Bill stood and offered to put the horses away.  The other cowboys gathered the used plates and cups to clear the table before they hustled out of the room.

Jake didn’t complain.  He shook off the last of his melancholy mood.  He’d agreed to stay.  He was hungry and the company would be pleasant.  So he’d live in the moment, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

“I must smell worse than I thought.” He offered Sal a wink as he went to the sink, his joke intended to be the reason the room suddenly evacuated.

Miss Lin took the cue and offered to warm some water for a bath.  Jake nodded and said, “That would be most welcome; I always have a change of clothes in my saddle bag.”

Almost before the words were out, Miss Lin ran to the door and shouted after Bill.  “You bring the Doc’s stuff in, ya’ here!”

“…but Ladies first.” Jake said, meaning Sal would have the honors of a warm tub before him.  “Well, actually, food first.”  His stomach rumbled as he dried his hands.  “I don’t think I can wait to sample the roast chicken any longer.”

“You just sit down.” Miss Lin said, taking all the extra work in stride.  She practically flew around the kitchen, emptying their prepacked dinner and  making it look pretty on a pair of plates.

Jake relaxed further, and genuinely smiled.  It was pleasant to be fussed over.  And there were two women in the room that seemed to like him – a rather uncommon thing.

So, as he took his seat across from Sal, and Miss Lin went out to fetch more water to put over the fire, Jake reached once more for Sal’s hand.  He could eat with his left, just as well as his right.  The touch would be subtle, but it would shift the mood.  This wasn’t a regular meeting of the book club.

“So,” Jake said.  “Where were we?”

« Last Edit: November 22, 2013, 03:35:21 pm by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2013, 10:24:48 pm »
Sal nearly rolled her eyes at her men as she stepped in with Jake behind her, they way they jolted to life and shuffled quickly about. She just did what she usually did, went and grabbed extra dishes to be stacked and then washed up, not really needing the prompt from Miss Lin.

She chuckled at Jake's comment, knowing a lot worse smelling things had walked into this kitchen and could be regularly found out in the bunkhouse on a daily basis. She washed her face up a bit now they were in the full light of lanterns and fireplace and pushed some of her mussed hair from her face. There wasn't much she could do about the tangled fall without a mirror, so she hoped she didn't look to terrible.

She poked the fire and tossed another log on as she heard Miss Lin offer a bath to Jake. She turned and gave him a disbelieving smile and a shake of her head as she walked over and sat down across the corner from him.

She wouldn't fight him about the bath, but she was determined to be quick about it so the water would stay hot enough to do him some good. She knew what a hot bath could do to restore aching muscles.

She smiled seeing him smile, despite the situation and despite the aches he was having. Before she could do or say anything the room was empty and quiet and his hand was resting gently on her own.

Her worry softened just the smallest amount and she smiled gently. His question could mean any number of things. She didn't think it meant to go back to whatever awkward conversation they might have had over the original meal, but she also didn't think it meant he wanted to have an in-depth conversation either. She had the sinking suspicion she might rather stay blissfully oblivious, but that they'd have to have a real discussion on both of their secrets at one point or another.

She smiled wider as she answered, a thought coming to her, "I think you were about to tell me again just how mighty fine I looked tonight." She couldn't help but chuckle considering the state they were both now in. It was a way to talk about something a little without it being to serious, and she liked the idea of him thinking she had at one point in the evening looked nice.

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #22 on: December 02, 2013, 04:19:07 am »
He had to laugh.  Indeed they both looked a fright, but as he recalled the compliment was one of the last things he’d offered before the fire started and their table time was interrupted.  “At least we got to sit down together this time.”

He took a bite of food and studied their hands.  He knew he should pull away, but he wanted the contact.  He denied himself much – surely this small bit wouldn’t hurt.

They had serious matters to discuss.  Not all about the two of them.  “You should come to town and tell the sheriff about the fires.  If, as you say this isn’t the first…”  He let the words pause and let his thumb slide over hers. He didn’t want to say again that he worried.   It seemed too paternal a phrase, and Jake was slowly coming to realize that he didn’t want the role of protector.  “Perhaps you will ride back with me in the morning.  Alert the authorities so they can begin investigating.”

He could talk to Hitch, but knew it would get them nowhere.  Likely make the situation worse.  All he had was a theory after all.  He shouldn’t assume the man’s guilt, even though it made logical sense.

Sal was independent.  She liked to deal with her own troubles in her own way.  He decided to offer a bit of motivation.  “I like the idea of you riding to town with me.”  Since he’d already agreed to stay it only made sense to discuss the morning.  There would be rumors regardless.  “Of course, I could speak to the sheriff on your behalf if you don’t want to be seen with me."

The kitchen door opened.  Jake released his grip and tried not to look too guilty as Bill returned with his saddle bags.  It seemed dinner would be cut short as  Miss Lin also returned and announced Sal’s bath was ready.  Activity buzzed around him and there were clearly places to go and people to see.  He’d be staying in the house.  There was no arguing the point with Miss Lin.  And Jake was too tired to argue, although his mind was busy and he wasn’t sure how he’d manage to get any sleep.

« Last Edit: December 02, 2013, 05:12:24 am by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2013, 06:53:39 am »
Sal smiled at the first comment and resigned herself to listen to him as he started in on a new topic, one less personal in one sense and overtly more so in another. She put a bite of food in her mouth and chewed slowly at his suggestions so she wouldn't speak to hastily.

"I don't have much proof, only the frequency and the lucky locations. Anyone I might accuse would most likely blame it on lightenin' and get away with it."

She shrugged, a little at loose ends, which was why she hadn't reported it, among other reasons. But she also liked the idea of riding with him, though if she actually talked to the new Sheriff was another matter.

Her chuckle at his last comment was cut off before it started as his hand pulled quickly away. She licked her lips and swallowed, dropping her hands to her lap, still warm from his being folded over hers. The question in her mind was not if she wanted to be seen with him but if he wanted to be seen with her.

She didn't have long to stew over it as Miss Lin shuffled her out the door without letting her even ask her pardons or finish the bite on her fork.

She kept her promise to herself and washed up as quickly as possible, her hair took her longer than she would have liked, but the water was still a steamy heat as she moved from the wash room toward the stairs.

She could hear voices still in the kitchen and she caught the rumble of Bills voice before Miss Lin stepped right in front of her and shooed her on up the stairs to dry her hair by the fire she'd built in her room. She paused at the top to hear Miss Lin in the kitchen hustling Jake toward the washroom.

She stayed up listening to the sounds of the house while she brushed and braided her hair in front of the fire. She heard Jake move toward the guest room, but he didn't stop and knock to talk more, so she made herself go to bed.

She was up before the sun, having barely slept, but feeling a growing ache and antsyness in her over all that had happened. Jake had secrets and the more she thought over his actions of the night before the more she recognized his hesitations, and the more she started to convince herself she'd read to much into it.

She had already ridden out and checked her herd, only lost two to last nights events, checked for any evidence, there was none she could find, and had checked on Oly before she heard the breakfast bell ring.

Instead of eating she saddled Jake's horse and watered her own for the ride into town. She tried to act natural when he finally came outside and she brought his horse around, but he looked to fine in his clean clothes which Miss Lin looked like she'd pressed. Sal was in her regular cotton shirt, jeans, chaps, leather long coat, gloves and hat. She looked down right plain in comparison.

She tossed him the reigns to his horse and smiled as best she could, "Hope that Sheriff's a morning person," she tried to joke. It was about the most in depth she got the whole ride in. She couldn't think of anything to say to Jake that wouldn't sound stupid or grasping or too deep for their current circumstances, so she remarked on the trail and the prairie and mentioned she hadn't found anything when she went looking that morning, keeping all topics at surface level.

It didn't look like there weren't too many folks about town when they got close, but aware of how he acted around the closest thing she had to call family the evening before, she reigned to a stop, "I'm sure someone will be lookin' for ya, most like you've got a line of folks at your office door, fate workin' out the way it does. I won't keep ya from your business." She smiled softly, feeling the weight of everything press terribly on her chest, "Maybe we could get lunch if things work out," though she knew she didn't plan to stay that long, and even if she did, she doubted he'd take her up. She tipped her hat and turned toward the trail that went around town toward the Sheriff's office instead of to the stables where she knew he kept his horse.

It took her less than thirty minutes to tell the new Sheriff of her suspicions, but like she'd thought, without proof there wasn't much he could do. So Sal had taken a long meandering route back to her ranch and threw herself into every project she could think needed doing for the rest of the day and for a weeks worth of days following. She told herself it was because the ranch needed it, that she had been gone enough from it on the cattle drive the last few weeks, but if she was being honest, it was because she was too scared or angry or hurt to go back to town where she might run into Jake, who hadn't bothered to come out either...

~~~
The stage stopped in a billowing cloud of dust. He let it settle for a good thirty seconds before he even deigned to open the door and step out, dropping his hat onto his golden topped head.

He collected his bag from the hossler and then squinted into the bright winter sunlight from the boarded walk. He took one pivoting turn. Not much had changed.

He debated for a few minutes where to go to find out what he wanted to know and then headed toward the Wagon Wheel.

He looked over the swinging doors into the darker space and then walked in and straight over to the bar, setting his suitcase on the floor next to him and leaned on the bar while he waited. He looked around, a few new faces that looked like they had settled into the place, a few old, and a few missing. He turned back to the bar with a smile as Hank came up to him. "One finger of brandy if you've got it," he set two coins down on the counter that were worth much more than the drink and continued not so quietly, "And some information if you've got it. I'm wondering if Sal Hansen still has a ranch near here, I'd really like to talk to him."

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2013, 04:49:50 am »

“Take a deep breath.  I want you to push on three.  One. Two. Three.”  Jake had spent the last three days at the McGalligar ranch.  Betty Jo was only eight months pregnant by his estimation – too early to go into delivery, but the anxious father had summoned him at the first sign of trouble.  Jakes efforts to stop the process failed, and the midwife wasn’t competent enough to deal with the complications.  Jake was just as exhausted as the expectant mother, but he wasn’t willing to give up hope, even though his bloodshot eyes could barely focus.

The baby was stillborn when it finally arrived.  Jake had feared that to be the case, a later term miscarriage that  neither he nor the mother could avoid. Hard to say what the cause actually was, but he couldn’t be distracted with speculation.

There’s too much blood. 

Jake grew cold as he surveyed the situation.  The mother was too tired to grieve.  The father had left them alone, leaving the cabin with his two other sons to bury their little brother.  Jake began to massage Betty Jo’s abdomen, hoping to stop the bleeding.

It was dark when he finally thought he’d done all he could.   The house was quiet now.  Jake sat in a chair at the bedside staring vacantly into space. He shook himself when the door opened and James McGalligar entered.  Silently they switched places, the husband grasping his wife’s hand.  Her breathing eased, but she didn’t wake.

“I’m not sure that she’ll be able to have more children,” Jake said softly as he inched towards the door.  “She should stay off her feet for a few days.”

A quiet nod was all the thanks he received.  Jake went to the kitchen and washed his hands.  The fire was low in the hearth and the other children were asleep in the common room near the dying flames.  Jake gathered his hat and his saddle bag and went out to the barn.  Honestly he was too tired to ride, but he didn’t want to stay on the couch as he’d done the last few nights.

Tanner was eager for the ride.  Jake let the horse lead, and was surprised when the detour towards Sal’s place was made.  Perhaps the horse knew more than Jake gave him credit for.  Sal wouldn’t judge his failure and he didn’t want to be alone.

The farm house was still lit.  Jake tried not to think about how she’d stood him up for lunch last week.  She’d talked to the sheriff, but it was the man with badge that joined him in the Copper Wheel rather than Sal.  He’d shared his side of the story and the sheriff said he’d look into it.  Jake couldn’t ask for more.

There simply hadn’t been time to ride out and talk to Sal before this.  The dark of the evening allowed him to remember the stolen kiss in the barn, rather than the stilted words.  He didn’t want much, just some company.  He knew all he'd need to say was that Betty Jo lost the baby to explain his condition.  He doubted he'd have to explain why that bothered him so much.

Jake swung down from the horse and walked the last few feet to the house.  Tanner’s reins were looped over the porch railing.  Jake was too tired to second guess his decision, or change the shirt that likely still had blood on it.   Thought of Miss Lin fussing over him once again but a soft smile on his face as he lifted his fist and knocked on the door.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 04:53:03 am by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #25 on: December 09, 2013, 09:21:22 am »
Miss Lin had shuffled to the door and when she opened it, her mouth open to reprimand one of the hands for bothering her at this hour she instead let out a scream at the sight of Jake.

There was a crash and a scraping sound behind her as dishes of some sort were dropped and a chair scrapped against the floor.

Miss Lin pulled it together enough to shout, "Miss Sally you come quick! Doc is bleeding!" as she reached out her small, well worked hands to grab him and pull him inside.

Sal came through the dinning room entryway to see the state Jake was in. He looked a horror and she rushed to the door. "Jake!" She let out a choked cry as her hands came forward to search his chest and stomach as Miss Lin dashed off to presumably go get some medical supplies. "What happened? Are you Hurt? Are you alright?" The past week fleeing her mind. Her hands and eyes were frantic, but all of the blood seemed to be dried and she couldn't find any holes in his shirt to substantiate all the blood. Surely he hadn't been wounded and then dressed and sent on his way to die somewhere in the desert.

She was ready to pull the shirt free and inspect skin when she felt her hands stilled and she looked up at his face for the first time, certain hers was pale as a ghost.

She didn't expect to see what she saw there, a fading smile and utter exhaustion sprinkled with pain, but not necessarily of the physical variety. She listened to his short explanation vaguely aware of a commotion outside, the stomping of fast feet and then she saw Bill and a few of her hands with guns behind him. The scream.

She leaned to the side past Jake, "S'all right fellas, Miss Lin just had a bit of a fright, we're alright. Go on back to the bunk house." Bill raised a brow seeing the company but she nodded ever so slightly and he turned to the men and waved is arm, "Ya heard her boys, back to bed, we got an early day of brandin' in the mornin'." He looked back at Sal gave her another look and started back a bit slower with the men.

Sal leaned back, her brow furrowed as she searched Jake's face again, one hand going down and taking one of his stained ones, the other hesitantly reached up to rest on his face, "I'm so sorry Jake. I... I'm just so sorry." She turned and pulled him gently further into the house as she closed the door, "Come on, let's get ya cleaned up and get ya some rest."

Miss Lin came shuffling back in, her arms loaded with a basket of things. She stopped, looking at Sal, who spoke gently to the other woman, "He's alright, if you could find something else for him to wear that's all we'll need." Miss Lin looked skeptical, but made a sharp nod and turned shuffling off to her task.

Sal guided him to the guest room he'd used over a week ago now and sat him down on the edge of the bed, the light from the lamps in the hall spilling in. She walked over to the wash basin in a shadowed corner and pumped a few times. This water would be cooler, but faster than waiting for some to boil. She filled a basin and grabbed the towel by it before she walked back over and knelt down and removed his boots then gently started to wash his face and hands and arms, the picture painfully familiar.

She didn't speak, and she only dared short glances at him directly. She wasn't sure what to say and in any case he appeared like he was going to fall back and pass out at any moment. She heard Miss Lin come shuffling in, a lantern in hand spilling a dim light into the room. She set it on the small table next to the bed, along with an old dressing down that had once belonged to Sal's father. She efficiently built a fire while Sal finished up and then she came over and stood right in front of Jake. "No clean close with horse, bring one of Mr. Hansen's old things. I take your things Mr. Scully." It wasn't a question. The hand she extended proving it.

Sal cleared her throat and stood up. "I'm sure we that can wait until mornin' Miss Lin. Let's just let him change and get some sleep." The smaller woman spouted something in her native language and gestured before she threw her hands up in the air as Sal gently pushed her to the door.

Sal collected the wash basin and the stained cloth, walking over to the pump and dumping the ruddy water out and setting the basin down before she headed to follow Miss Lin. She paused before heading outthe door herself and looked at Jake, "Is there anythin' else I can do... or anythin' else you need?"
« Last Edit: December 10, 2013, 04:48:43 am by Peregrine »

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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2013, 11:45:49 pm »

Miss Lin’s scream shocked him to silence.  He grew paler under her scared expression.  More embarrassed over Sal’s reaction.  Jake lifted his hands to still her probing of his person, but she slipped from his grip.  He wasn’t hurt and tried to tell her as much, but his throat wasn’t working.

She led him away to the guest room.  He mutely followed too tired to argue.  He’d come here for company – to rest. Maybe to be cared for just a little.  In the dim light of the room he watched Sal as she bathed his hands and face.  His brain wasn’t working properly.  Why else in that moment would he be stuck on the kiss they shared rather than the mechanics of washing.  His knees felt weak and he had to sit on the edge of the bed.

Miss Lin returned to claim his clothes.  The gesture caused Jake’s mouth to twitch upwards.  His fingers were numb and his arms too heavy to lift, or he might have complied.  Sal ushered her away and some of the air left the room  in a flurry of skirts and colorful language.  Then Sal seemed ready to go as well.

“I tried for three days.  In the end it wasn’t enough.”  He sighed with heartfelt fatigue.  “Sometimes I don’t know why I try.”

No, he didn’t need anything.  Nothing he could rightly ask for anyway.  From the edge of the bed he slid to the floor and drew his knees up so that his forehead could rest and his eyes could be shielded.  He whispered, “I’m so tired.”  Cold, his arms wrapped around his legs.   His shoulders shook with the effort to hold back the sob that wanted to escape.  Men didn’t cry.  Sal shouldn’t see him this way. He hadn’t heard the door close, but he desperately hoped it did and she didn’t hear him confess.  “I just didn’t want to be alone.”

The effort of speaking was too much.  The dam broke and Jake started to cry.  He couldn’t help the emotion, or the desire to crawl into a hole and never come out.  “I should have stayed.”  He cursed silently, trying to stop the anger that closely followed the grief,  “James wouldn’t go into the room with Betty Jo.  There was so much blood…”
Sal had washed his hands, but he knew his knuckles and nails were engrained with it.  Even though they were clean he still felt like his skin was slick with the warm fluid.  It brought back memories he wanted to shut out.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 08:49:11 pm by Beau »

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Re: Petty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #27 on: December 24, 2013, 05:15:15 am »
Sal listened to him and watched him sink to the floor. She swallowed and glanced at the slightly open door. She hesitated and then shut the door and let the dark of the room give him some privacy from the other people in the house and a bit from her as the room was lit now only by the mostly shuttered lantern.

He kept talking and she stayed where she was as she watched the anguish take him over. She pursed her lips, her own eyes brimming at his pain. She didn't want him to be alone either. She had taken care of more than one broken man. Heck, she'd taken care of her father for over ten years before he died. She wasn't unfamiliar with the signs of great stress and sorrow, the cracking that could take place coupled with exhaustion and loss. She wasn't certain, but it sounded like Betty Jo had gone into labor and he'd lost her and the babe.

She squatted down, her hands caught half in reaching half in staying still. She wasn't sure if it would hurt him more to be comforted or not. To comfort a man could break him or save him, or turn him sour against you after realizing the face they showed you was so vulnerable.

She took a silent deep breath and then moved toward him slowly, and very lightly put her hands on his tightly clasped to his legs. She whispered, "If ya didn't do what you do, didn't try, I probably wouldn't be here..." She wasn't sure that was much consolation currently.

Her eyes roved over him. No matter what he said though, she knew she couldn't leave him on the floor in his soiled clothes. He needed real rest in a bed. "I don't want to do you more harm Jake, I know for myself that it can hurt more than help to be cared for when your pain is so fresh..." If she was being really honest,  it hurt her to see him hurt. She didn't want to leave him until she was certain she had soothed him somehow, anyhow. She took a steadying breath. "Will ya let me stay, help, just a little?"

She hesitated in the silence and finally gently unwound his arms and started to remove his soiled jacket and shirt and set them to the side, then gently pulled him back up to the edge of the bed  trying not to look at his bare chest in the shuttered light of the lantern before helping him slip her fathers old night shirt on. Now was certainly not time to even try to entertain stray thoughts. She cautiously pressed his shoulders to get him to lay down.

She perched on the very edge of the bed and reached across him to pulled the quilt over him. As wrapped the blanket around she looked down at him and impulsively started running her fingers across his forehead and though his mussed hair with her free hand. It was something she remembered her mother doing for her when she was very young to chase away fears or aches or settle her to sleep when she was being obstinate in going to bed.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2013, 08:28:51 am by Peregrine »

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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #28 on: December 27, 2013, 12:11:33 am »
Jake didn’t answer her question about staying with a yes or a no.  Hearing her voice distracted him from his own thoughts.  He shied from the touch at first but then consented to the help with the buttons.  The tears dried on his face as he allowed the novelty of being helped into bed.  He might have asked for a drink if he’d been more coherent.  Alcohol was a welcome and comforting friend. 

The cotton bedclothes were cool and comfortable.  Jake’s eyelids were heavy and his vision blurred with fatigue.  Sal sat on the edge of the bed and brushed his hair off his forehead.  Jake sighed.  His mother used to do the same when he was feverish.

Sal’s other hand tucked in the quilt.  Jake fumbled with the heavy weave until his fingers were free.  They sought her other hand to hold.  “I owe you lunch,” Jake said.  “You didn’t wait at the Copper Wagon like you said you would.”
His eyes fluttered closed.  He turned his cheek into the pillow and sniffed the lemon scent of the sheet.  “I missed you.”

A few hours earlier, the bartender at the Copper Wagon might have been wondering where Jake was.  His usual poker game would be in full swing in an hour, but the Doc was strangely absent.  Fortunately the stage hadn’t brought any new patients or supplies that needed Jake’s attention.  The only passenger had been a stranger asking about the Hansen’s.

The bartender poured the asked for ration of brandy.  He kept the snort over the ‘one finger’ measurement to himself.  The cork on the bottle was replaced with a firm tap.  He doubted the city slicker would ask for more.  “The Hansen place is due west of here.  Three miles or so.   Sal comes into town for supplies every week or so.  You can rent a room and catch up with ‘em tomorrow, or rent a horse…”  He shrugged.  “You might get there about sunset if you leave soon.  But you best be sure of your welcome.  It’s easy to lose your way in the dark if you don't know the area.”

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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2013, 09:19:51 am »
He watched the way Hank held in his contempt while he poured the drink and then spoke. He took his drink and swirled it in thought, hearing the undertones of warning at the end of the little speech.

He tossed the drink back with ease and set the empty glass down on the counter and his eyes looked hooded and a little dark as he looked at the man behind the counter, "Oh, I know my way around, though I think I might try my hand at few rounds of cards and take a room for the night."

He dropped a few more coins on the counter before putting his hand atop the bottle that was about to be put away. He gave a dark smile and took the bottle and his glass over to the table of gaming men.


Sal's fingers twined easily with his as he took them. She kept stroking his hair as he spoke about their missed lunch. She choked back a small sob at his words, covering it by biting her lip. He had wanted to see her, he had missed her.

He was falling to sleep she could tell so she said very quietly, "We'll sort all that out in the morning, just rest now." She said even quieter, barely louder than a whisper, "I missed you too."

His sleeping was fitful for awhile, nightmares or stress or discomfort, she wasn't sure, but eventually he settled completely. Even after his breathing had gotten deep and steady and she'd stopped stroking his hair, she sat and watched him. His fingers were loose between her own, but she let herself memorize the feel of his hand with hers, just in case. In the morning, in the full light of day, he could review this night and pull even further from her than he had a week ago when Bill and Miss Lin had come in on them at dinner.

Slowly, gently, silently she slipped her hand and then herself from his side, and eventually out of the room. She didn't go far though, just the wing back chair in the hall. She curled up in it and picked up her book, listening and alert if he should need her.

She'd meant to stay awake, but at some point she must have drifted off because she was rubbing her eyes in the yellow washed light of morning and there was talking coming from the direction of the parlor. She ran a hand down her face and started to stretch the aches of sleeping in a chair away. Jake must be up and talking to Miss Lin.

She stood up and started stiffly toward the front of the house, patting at her hair, the braid a little mussed, her shirt a little wrinkled, but he'd seen her soot covered and sweaty, this was nothing compared to that. She was yawing mightily when she turned the corner and stopped, frozen in mid-stretch and she snapped her mouth shut. Not Jake.

"Why Sally Jane Hansen, I do believe you look exactly the way you did the day I left,"
he chuckled.