Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons Read 19375 times


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #150 on: June 26, 2014, 10:27:28 pm »
Sal nodded, Hank was who she'd wanted to go see, even before the Sheriff. He knew the in's and out's of the towns better than the gossips. People's tongues were even more liberal when they imbibed she supposed, and Hank had great hearing.

Still, as they walked, Sal couldn't help feeling the hair on the back of her neck raise. There were folks here that wouldn't take to kindly to seeing her and Jake together. She slipped her hand into his, her other hand hovered near the gun at her side.

They made it to the Wagon Wheel with little fuss though. Sal took a quick scan around and noticed a few familiar and unfriendly face, their eyes quickly darting away. She gave Jake a meaningful look and walked in a round about way toward the bar, keeping the men to her side and their backs from them.

Hank was busy having some kind of discussion with one of the girls when they made it up to the bar, but when he saw her he did a double take and walked over. "Well, look who's the little returned rebel, runnin out on her future in-laws and coming back looking like a ranch hand, and wearin' a gun again no less." Sal cleared her throat and shifted her eyes toward Jake.

Hank looked over and his eyes about bugged out if his head before he recovered his wits, "Good to see ya Doc." So news hadn't traveled to him yet, despite all the eyes. Hank cleared his throat and took a look around the room. "Why don't you two just go on back to the office. I'll be along shortly with some drinks and we can talk. Still got a couple bottles of the good stuff."

Sal nodded, "Sounds good to me."

They weren't in the office more than a minute or two before Hank came in with a bottle and two glasses and shut the door. He gave them both a crooked smile as he looked them over. "You two went and got hitched, didn't ya?"

Sal smiled, looking over at Jake and Hank nodded, "Well, that deserves a drink." He poured into the two glassed, handing one to Jake, knowing Sal wouldn't take one. After he took a drink he shook his head, "Don't suppose I can convince you to stay in town till the morning? Fix ya up the suite as a late wedding present?"

Sal raised a brow, "Why wouldn't we just go home?"

Hank looked away and shrugged, "Since the Marshall's men have been in town folks have been behavin' themselves... but before..."

"But what?"

Hank shrugged, "I heard there was some not so pleasant things happen when you up and disappeared. Not sure home would be so homey."

Sal grabbed Hank's arm, "You'd tell me if they'd done something to the ranch."

"I haven't been out there, but to hear tell from some of the men around here, they roughed up what was left of your crew and tossed the house and barn. Not sure what happened with the cattle. Some of those Harlaw men could still be loitering about."

Sal's hand found Jake's and it tightened as she asked the next, "Miss Lin?"

Hank shook his head, "Up in Red River, being held on aiding a kidnapping."

Sal took a deep breath shaking her head, feeling the weight of the situation starting to crush her new fighting resolve.

"We knew we'd have a mess on our hands." She turned to Jake, "Still a bit of light, so husband, we stayin' or goin'?" Her mouth quirked ever so slightly. She'd called him that every chance she could the last few days. It felt even more rewarding to say it in front of someone they both knew.


"They went and saw the Sheriff, now they're in the wagon wheel."

Thomas Harlaw nodded and looked pleased, "Good. Keep an eye on them Brandscome, if they decide to leave the watchful eyes of the towns folk, be ready. It needs to look like an accident, or at least can't be linked back to us. Wouldn't even have to worry if that Marshall hadn't left those men, or if we'd just hung that Sheriff before that idiot telegraph officer had sent out that notice."

Robert looked away from his Father out the window to the Wagon Wheel down the street. He was angry that things had turned out this way, but he still wasn't sure how comfortable he was with murder to get what he wanted.

He heard the knock at the door and someone let them know that his Mother was waiting for them so they could go to dinner at 'the only respectable place in town, if it could be called that'. He wasn't sure how she was even tolerating being back in Black Falls, he'd been surprised she hadn't left to go home yet.

He heard her come in a moment later, "Honestly, I can't believe I'm having to wait for the two of you. Just because that two bit cow hussy is back in town doesn't mean our dinner plans have to change. I still can't believe we're still considering marrying Robert off to her after what she did. I don't see why we don't just get rid of the both of them and buy up her land in the estate sale that would have to take place."

"Now, now Rebecca, Robert's certain he loves the girl or I wouldn't be putting up with all of this either."

Robert turned looking at his mother picking at her dress and gloves standing next to his father. He almost couldn't believe what he'd just heard. He composed himself before anyone could see and walked out the door.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #151 on: July 12, 2014, 04:32:10 am »

Sal used the term ‘husband’ and it weighed heavily on Jake.  He wanted a future, but the responsibility in the title was difficult to bear in the circumstances.  She was asking him to choose their next move, and frankly Jake was out of options.  All roads lead to the ranch.  Go now, go later.  Knowing that the place has been ‘tossed’ as Hank so aptly put it only worsened his dread.

Jake took his time with his answer.  He poured himself a drink and considered.  In the end the choice not to have the alcohol seemed right.  He’d been sober for several months now.  On that too there was no going back.

“You came here so we could go home.  We’ll be taking a rain check on that offer of a gift Hank.”

He moved to take Sal’s hand. “I have a threshold to carry you over.”

Sal didn't miss that Jake didn't drink what he'd poured. Jake wasn't a drunkard like her father had turned into in the end, but she was glad to see him not take it all the same.

She reached her hand out and took Jake's with a tentative smile. If she was being completely honest with herself she was nervous to see the ranch after what Hank said.

Hank shook his head a little and sighed, "Suppose you'll be needin' some horses. I'll have some brought around to the back."

Sal smiled over at him, "Be much obliged Hank."

The large bartender paused in the door. "There's no tellin' ya to be careful, but know there are folks besides me on your side." He walked out and Sal moved in to wrap her arms around Jake, resting her head on his chest.

It felt like folks were depending on them now. Sal didn't want to fight unless she had to. She didn't want to risk what she finally had. "I love you."

Jake wrapped his arm around Sal and settled into the contact.  "I love you too," he said and kissed the top of her head. Maybe all this would work out and he'd be able to say that for years to come, but he sincerely doubted it.

Hank was a fast worker, and soon enough he could tell that horses were ready outside.  Jake motioned for Sal to proceed him out, but Jake couldn't help the smile when he saw one of the two horses waiting.  "Tanner!"  he said.  "How ya been buddy?"   He moved forwards to path the horse on the neck.  The horse seemed happy to see him and stomped his feet in greeting.  Jake would be the first to admit that he was extremely pleased.

Sal was glad that Tanner had been well taken care of like she'd paid for. She figured he would have been even if she hadn't paid for the care. Folks around here took care of each other, for the most part.

It was a quiet ride out to the ranch, a few observations about the heat, the green in the desolation due to heavy spring rain. Sal got quieter as the sun dipped in it's path and the ranch came into view. From a distance it looked the same as the last time she'd been there, the day before Robert's mother arrived.

It had been almost three months since then. As they got closer Sal went silent. Half the barn was burnt down, she could see curtains fluttering through broken windows of the house her parents had built, the screen door hanging askew, half the flowers that her mother had carefully planted and had been cared for were torn up.

She pulled her horse to a stop a few yards from the front steps, forcing herself not to cry. If this is how it looked on the outside, she almost couldn't bare the thought of what inside looked like. She forced her leg to swing out of the saddle and get her feet on the ground.

She turned to Jake, "Can't say Hank didn't warn us." A poor attempt at humor before she tied her horse up to a broken stair rail.

It was tempting to ask one more time if she wanted to run away from the fight.  But seeing how upset she was only strengthened his resolve to move forward onto the porch.   He wanted to wash the sadness from her face.  If they left now, Sal would be plagued by what-ifs and this final vision of destruction.  He couldn't compete with that.

Jake dismounted.  "Come on," he said walking to the porch.  "I promised to carry my wife over the threshold.  We'll check out the house and then go see if any of the boys are in the bunk house."

It was getting dark, but he opened his arms and waited for her to come to him.

Sal gave Jake a tentative smile and walked into his arms.

She raised a teasing brow and grinned, "You sure you're strong enough. They didn't feed you much in jail and I'm no feather weight city gal." Mrs. Harlaw had taken time to mention it from her first dress fitting up until the day before Jake arrived.

Of course he would prove her wrong. She was able to laugh and enjoy the moment of coming home instead of crying at the broken bits, and there were plenty of those. She heard Jake's boots crunch on broken glass, and felt it herself in the dimness, when he set her down.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, keeping a hold of his hand as she looked 'round in the growing darkness. Broken glass and plates, papers- no doubt from books, every bit of furniture in sight up ended.

She turned and faced Jake giving his hand a squeeze, and despite the fact that it hurt to see it this way, and despite the fact that many of the things belonged to her parents and couldn't be replaced, they were just things. She had Jake. They would make new from the old, clear the mess and move forward.

"Let's go see if anyone is about the place, and what I'm.. we're payin' them for if they aren't fixen up the barn or the house."

Jake nodded.  He wasn't looking forward to housekeeping, but it seemed a bit of straightening and looking around was in order.  He hoped they'd done less damage upstairs, but it seemed the crew who made it through took their time.  He sighed as he opened doors in turn and noted that the guest room he normally stayed in one spared a bit more than the rest.  Perhaps they'd stay here, or sleep outside tonight.

He found Sal again and they walked over to the bunk house.  A handful of the crew were still there.  Jake learned they'd all been paid to leave, but it seemed they were willing to take their time about it all.

"Ten years, maybe." One of the hands said. 

Jake had to smile at that.  Sal did inspire loyalty.  He shared, "Chances are good we're gonna see some trouble by morning.  Everybody sleep with one ear open."


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #152 on: July 16, 2014, 03:59:57 am »
Sal thanked the men again as they were leaving, giving them reassurance that things were going to get back to normal as soon they could manage it.

She walked back out into the moonlit night and took a breath of the cooling air and looked up at the sky as more and more stars winked into view. The moon was nearly full, and there wasn't a cloud in sight, so it was easy to see a fair distance in most directions.

She turned to Jake, a worried and serious look on her face, "I know how you feel about shootin folks, but if you really think we're gonna see action, we ought to check the storm cellar for them anyway. The doors are hidden behind some bushes at the back of the house. It didn't look like they saw them."

She took a breath, trying for a lighter tone as she wrapped her arms around him and looked up with a twinkle in her eye, "There should be blankets and something to eat and drink in there too. I don't know about you, but I don't figure I'll be gettin much sleep. We could spend the night under the stars." She smiled, "There's even a little lean to in the back by the big oak, give us a little privacy." She glanced at the dark house, "Unless your set on sleep and a feather bed man, in which case we'll be plucking them out of hair in the morning most like." If they had until morning. Either way, she wasn't going to waste time or a chance to be with him.

Jake could appreciate some food and privacy.  He had to smile though as they stepped out into the night, "Ah, Miss Sally.  You only take me to the nicest places."  The words were meant in jest, but they held less humor than he wished.  He didn't want her spending time sleeping in the root cellar.

They came to the side of the house, but Jake didn't get to open the door and look inside.  Movement caught his eye.  It was far in the distance, but his gut told him it meant trouble.  "I think they're coming."

Sal followed Jake's eyes a darker black against the black of the sky along the horizon. They wouldn't even have another hour before trouble came there way. She looked back at Jake.

"You warn the boys, I'll get what we need from the cellar." She kissed him and moved behind the bushes to the hidden doors.

They came open with a single quiet squeak, Miss Lin would be appalled. She smiled to herself and let her boots move down the small five stone and clay stairs into the cool of the underground room. Her feet scuffed the large flat stones that let her know she'd reached the floor.

Her hand went out to search for the tin of matches and the lantern on the peg in the wall when they froze at the click of a gun being cocked. Her eyes danced around in the near darkness until a match flared to life to her right and a moment later the embers and puff of cigar smoke followed, illuminating black eyes. Brandscome.

"Well, well Mrs. Scullane, now is it?"

Sal moved to draw her gun, but a hand grabbed her wrist in the dark and twisted her arm behind her back, while another clamped over her mouth as she yelped. She felt her borrowed gun lifted from the holster. She should have known he wouldn't be alone.

"Oh no, none of that. No screaming either, you're gonna be nice and quiet or I'll make you watch as we riddle your good doctor with holes. You're gonna take a nice ride back into town and we'll get this whole mess of your kidnapping sorted out."

There was another twist of her arm with a shove to get her going back up the stairs.

Jake moved quickly back towards the bunk house.  The men there wouldn’t be called boys, but they hardly seemed like seasoned gun men.  They were ranchers.  Like Jake they knew the West was hard, but they weren’t hired guns.

Should have brought some of those…

“Looks like company is coming,” Jake said without preamble.  There was a shot gun leaning against the wall near the door.  He decided it might work for him.  He preferred the hunting rifle to the six shooter.  He check to see if it was loaded with shells and then found a few loose to add to his pocket.  “If you wanna leave, this may be your last chance.  If not,” Jake turned to the door and decided to leave them with the option.  He wasn’t going to demand they fight.  They were old enough to make their own choices.

The door slammed shut behind him, caught by the wind.  Jake jumped over the sound and spun around.  The turn slowed his pace, but he arrived close to the root cellar and heard a man’s voice and the shuffle of feet.  Sal had company.
He cocked the rifle and spread his legs for balance.  He leveled the weapon and took aim.  “Hold it right there,” he said to the emerging shadow.

Sal was jerked back, just as Jake came into view. She felt a gun barrel jam into her back and the hand slip from her mouth. "Run, they're gonna sho..." The hand was clamped back over her mouth.

She heard a dark chuckle behind her and Brandscome moved up to stand just behind the man holding her. He pushed the guy holding her out of the way, forcing him to let go of her at the same time his free hand gripped tightly to her shoulder. He ground the gun into her back and he pushed her out in front of him. "I don't think so Doctor."  Brandscome prodded her with his gun again and forced her to start moving toward Jake and to the side so they could move around the corner of the house with her as a shield. The other man had drawn his gun on Jake. "I mean, you're welcome to shoot, but then you'll be hitting your new wife here." They moved slowly to the corner and Brandscome started backing them up now, "No. I think you're going to let us be on our way. I'm supposed to bring this pretty young thing back alive, but honestly, I think life would be a lot easier if you were both dead."

She heard the cock of the gun and she swallowed hard. She could hear horses coming in fast now. Sal shook her head at Jake ever so slightly, but she couldn't risk that he'd put the gun down. "Now what's it going to be? You gonna put that gun down, or am I going to shoot you both?"

"No!" Gun fire erupted from the bunk house and Sal took the opportunity to jerk free of Brandscome to tackle his help.  She heard more gun fire and felt a pain burn in through her side, as she fell on him, but she'd knocked him backward down the cellar stairs and she fell in the dirt behind the bushes.

He shouldn't have been surprised when his Father decided they were going to head out to the Ranch as it got dark. He shouldn't have been surprised to find that they had left a few 'trusted' men out at the ranch after men had tossed the place.

He should have been surprised, but he was. He wasn't sure at this point what he was going to do, but he'd come to the conclusion as he sat at dinner, that Sally deserved to be happy and most certainly alive.

He had hoped that her happiness could have included him, but it was clear now that wasn't the case.

So when they got close to the ranch and his father split the group of about fifteen in two to circle to either side, Robert took the chance to take off on his own and ride directly up to the house. Maybe he could warn them, maybe he could get Sally out before anything terrible happened.

When he heard the gun fire come from the side of the house as he was jumping off his horse, he knew he was probably too late.

Jake felt it against his oath as a doctor to take human life, but seeing Sal in peril changed things.  Balance and choice.  Human and inhuman.  He was ordered to put down his gun but he didn’t move.
Sal pushed out of Branscome’s grasp and offered him a clear shot.  He took it.  Somewhere in his consciousness he heard other gun fire, but all he saw was a bloody blur of Brandscome falling backwards, the remnants of the man’s face gone in a rain of buckshot.  The body moved slowly as though caught in molasses, arms floating on heavy air.

Jake counted five of his own heartbeats before he could  swivel, intent on using the second shot to eliminate further threat.  The second man and Sally were gone.  His eyes left the rifle sight long enough to be sure.  His brain taking a moment to discern what might have happened.

“Sally?” he called.  The single word was peppered with the sound of gunfire at the bunk house, but that wasn’t Jake’s priority.  He moved forward, hoping he hadn’t done the unthinkable and struck Sal too, but he felt a pain in his shoulder and stumbled forward.

His left hand moved to cover the wound, his right held the shotgun as he turned to see Robert’s father striding forward, his gun smoking.  “Should have known I’d have to do the last myself.”

Sal could feel a warm wetness spreading across her back and the ground below her and she tried to sit up and groaned, she managed to see an inky darkness just below the her ribs on the right side before her head fell back in the dirt.

She heard a rustling in the bushes and her eyes darted around and she saw the gun the man she'd tackled had dropped after shooting her. She heard another shot from just beyond the bushes and she reached with some effort for it and got a good grip on it as a man came toward her. "Sally!"

Sal never thought she'd be glad to see Robert Harlaw in her life, but as he scrambled over on his knees looking terrified, she shook her head, "Please. Please, help Jake. Please Robert. If you ever loved me, help him." She couldn't help but plead, her eyes watering from worry and pain. It sounded like all hell had broken loose on the ranch, guns and screaming horses, but closer, Thomas Harlaw.

Robert looked at her, and seemed to debate. "Only for you Sally Jane," he stood up and ran out of the bushes. Another shot rang out just as he stepped between his father and Jake, his mouth open to shout, but no sound came out.

He looked down at his chest, and slowly back up at the horrified look on his father's face before he started to stumble back into Jake before he started to slide to the ground.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #153 on: July 23, 2014, 03:39:55 am »

Jake figured his time had come.  He turned to face the elder Harlaw and drew himself up to his full height, back straight and face stern.  He wouldn’t surrender, and raised his riffle with his good arm, but he didn’t get a chance to fire.   A shot was heard, but it didn’t come from his weapon, and it didn’t hit him either.  Another man stumbled into him, taking the bullet and brushing against him without a word.  Jake tried to lift his arm to catch him, but it was impossible and the two stumbled backwards, Jake’s knees bending off-balance as they fell together towards the ground.

There was a shout.  Jake was stunned by the impact of the earth against his head.  There might have been a stone where he fell, or it might have been emotional shock, but the world wasn’t obeying the natural laws.  Lights and smoke clouded his vision.

More gunfire.  A few shouts.  If he were dreaming he’d imagine that the sheriff was here but he couldn’t fathom that fantasy.  Jake managed to push himself up on one elbow and see the face of the man sprawled half on top of him.  Robert’s shirt was rapidly changing from white to red.  Jake shook his head to clear his vision and set his weapon aside.  His hands moved towards the wound.

“Don’t,” Robert said.  His head rolled to the side, but if he thought to speak with his father, the other man wasn’t there.  He’d fled without a word, running towards the bunkhouse as other horsemen arrived and all Robert would likely see were the dust kicked by his boots.  “I’m done for,” he gurgled.  His face was pale and sweat bedded on his upper lip.  “Go help Sally.”

Jake wasn’t sure he should take the man’s medical opinion.  He felt obligated to try and save him.  “You stepped in front of him.”  He sat now, and managed to push himself to his knees, the better to begin examining Robert. 

The other man put his hand on Jake’s wrist.  “Leave it. Sally’s been shot.”

Jake wanted to deny the statement, and he warred with fear and obligation before he nodded.  “I’ll be back,” he promised.

Shakily he managed to get to his feet and stagger towards the root cellar.  “Sal?” he called out.  He’d seen her fall, but he hoped Robert was wrong.

Sal lifted the gun in a shaking hand as she heard someone coming, she was starting to feel weak, though it felt like the bleeding had slowed. The gun dropped when she heard Jake's voice and then saw him. She put her hand to her eyes as she started to cry.

She dropped her hand, "I'm here." She was shaking and she caught the look of worry as he came closer. "I thought Thomas killed you." She reached her empty hand up to grab his arm and felt a wetness. "You've been shot."

Jake winced as she reached for him.  He wasn't hurt where she touched, but the pressure struck a nerve.  He didn't have enough experience to guage how hurt he was, but he tried to reassure her.  "Shoulder.  Robert is..."

He looked at her instead and what he thought to say was replaced with, "We should get you inside."  He couldn't lift her.  He looked around for help and saw the sheriff and Hank.  If he were thinking clearly he might have assumed a posee had come to his rescue, but now he just wanted a friendly face.  "Hank!"

Sal heard him wince and let his arm go. Then he was about to say something about Robert but he stopped. Sal tried not to think about it as Hank came over at Jake's call and Sal squinted her eyes at the glare of a lantern that he set down next to her. The look on his face gave her pause as he looked her over and then rolled her to her side and she let out a cry of pain. "Went all the way through. That's better than if it didn't, right?"

Hank looked up at Jake, but she missed any look that might have passed between them as Hank scooped her up as gently as he could. She let out another yelp none the less. Sal felt her shirt peal away from her back a bit as Hank started for the back door.

"We've got a fire goin' in the Kitchen. Miss Lin's about somewhere, got back with the Marshall and yelled who knows what when we were going to leave her in town. Some of the others were movin' Robert inside. No one else seems too shot up. Boys had good cover for the most part in the bunk house, but the Barn's done for, got lit again by someone. The Marshall's boys took off after Thomas, but in the dark, not sure they'll catch him." Sal felt even more light headed and couldn't quite catch the meaning of everything Hank was saying. He gave Jake another look as the light from inside the house fell on them. "You need someone to do somethin' about that shoulder 'for to long."

There were brighter lights and she saw someone laying on the large butcher table in the middle of the kitchen before they walked through to the dinning room. There was the sound of a higher voice in a stream of something that sounded like gibberish, but familiar at the same time. She felt herself laid down again and she groaned, the pain making her more alert again for a few minutes.

In the brighter light of the lanterns she could see Jake's blood soaked shoulder, and figured she didn't look much better. "Some honey moon." She swallowed letting the poor humor slide, and looked at him with a bit of fear, "Kiss me, before I pass out."

Jake's lips twitched.  She would think of kissing at a time like this.  He thought to comment but then noticed the fear in her eyes.  He complied silently.  And he suspected she'd pass out on cue.  He had that effect on women sometimes.

He appreciated that Hank did the lifting and toting.  His left arm was relatively useless.  He could wiggle his fingers, but he had a suspicion the bullet was lodge in the rotator cuff.  He'd need help to deal with it ultimately.  Hopefully Hank would stay close.

But first, he'd tend to Sally.  If Robert had redemption granted then he'd see to him as well.  "Someone needs to get my bag," he said, somehow managing to form the words even though he was afraid his skills wouldn't be enough.

Miss Lin was distraught.  Jake needed a surface to work, so Miss Sally was spread on the dining room table like Thanksgiving dinner.  The house would never be the same.  But, he hoped he'd have a chance to make new memories here.  Somehow it didn't seem right that the broken windows would only see blood.

He managed to wash his hands and do what needed to be done.  He offered reassuring words he didn't believe.  Hank fell asleep waiting, and a few from the posse bunked down upstairs where they could find clean blankets and sheets.  In the end, Jake let Miss Lin sit vigil over the two patients while he took a bottle outside and sat on the porch.  He knocked back the bottle and waited for the sun to come up.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #154 on: August 07, 2014, 07:03:55 am »
It had been close to two months since that awful night and for better, or worse in Jake's opinion, she was going to get back on a horse. Besides, he'd declared her mended enough for other activities a good long while ago, and she hadn't heard him complain. She smiled as she slipped from their room, she wasn't complaining either.

She held her boots and clothes as she slipped quietly down the stairs in the early morning twilight. She had to be extra careful since many of the stairs had been replaced and she didn't know where all the new creeks would come from. She slipped into the kitchen and stirred the coals before she hurried and changed in the chilly air and pushed the coffee pot over the tiny flames. She still kept her boots off as she made for the front of the house.

The back half of the house was still under construction, much to Miss Lin's chagrin, as Sal had insisted they add on an office area for Jake to see folks out here as well as town. She also wanted him to have a space that was and always would be completely his, since he'd agreed to them staying. Since this place had always been her home, but now she wanted it to be their home, and since they were doing so many repairs anyway, it was just as easy to add on now as opposed to later.

When she got to the front of the house she slipped a jacket from a peg and quietly opened the new wood door as she took a deep breath. She knew the carved design and the cedar wood hadn't been the most practical choice, but she loved the smell, and with the investments Bill left them, they could afford it. Standing out on the porch she decided it was safe to put her boots on.

Straightening up from being bent over after wiggling them on still sent a small wave of pain, but it was more like stretching a sore muscle now she rationalized. She slipped her jacket on. It wasn't quite summer anymore, but it wasn't quite fall yet, so some of the mornings were bracing.

She rubbed her hands together and walked toward the new barn. It still needed varnish and paint and they still hadn't decided between shingles and the new tin being peddled about, but it was coming along nicely too.

She smiled as she went to open the door. Ole had mended just like Bill said he would. It had been nearly a year since that raid on the town, but despite mending she knew he'd never be his old self. He would however make a steady mount for her to get her riding legs under her again. She just had to get him saddled, ready, and riding, before Jake found out.

He heard her get up but decided to pretend sleep as she shuffled about the room.  There would be no stopping her.  Sal had been dreaming about riding, or at least it sounded like it from the mumbles he’d heard.  No point in trying to talk her out of it.

Besides, if she gets up first she makes the coffee.

Selfish to the end he let Sal sneak off downstairs before he yawned and sat up in bed.  He still wasn’t used to getting up this early or having someone underfoot as much as Sal.  Not that that was bad, actually to the contrary. Riding again would lead to more time apart as she took up ranch operations again.  Jake had mixed feelings about how that would impact them.  He’d started to get used to having lunch together and walking around the grounds at night.

With a sigh, Jake crawled out of bed and got dressed.  As predicted coffee was perking downstairs.  Miss Lin hadn’t yet arrived, so Jake took a moment in the quiet kitchen to pour two mugs and sample one.  He took both outside and drew up a chair so he could sit on the porch.  He set the other mug down and waited for Sal to emerge from the barn.

It was harder than she would ever admit to pull the saddle down and heft it and throw it over Ole's back. Just using muscles she hadn't in awhile, but she was made of tough stuff. She'd taken her jacket off before she started the straps, a small trickle of sweat rolling down her back at the exertion.

She checked, and double checked all the straps. If she was being honest, she was nervous. She hadn't ever expected to feel that way again about riding. Ole nudged her shoulder as she checked his bit again and she smiled and rubbed his head. "You to?"

She took a deep breath and pushed the door open with her boot, then moved and put it in the stirrup. She gripped the pommel, nothing hurt too bad so far. Ole stamped a foot, impatient. "Alright." She heaved herself up and swung her leg over. There was some stiffness, but she couldn't help but smile. She nudged Ole out into the corral attached to the barn and let him walk and when that didn't hurt, she nudged him to a trot.

Her smile grew, going around and around. The trot jarred her tender muscles and bones, but the feel of ridding again made it worth it. She pulled Ole around to face the gate she left open and she looked out at the expanse in the growing light.

She chewed the inside of her cheek, debating for a minute as she trotted Ole out. Riding felt so good and, if Jake hadn't come out and stopped her yet... She settled into the stirrups, her thighs squeezing tight and lifting her slightly as she leaned forward, "Yahh!" She said and Ole responded and took off. She caught her breath and then laughed.

Back at the ranch Miss Lin shuffled out to see Sal take off toward the arch at the foot of the drive. She walked over to Jake with the coffee pot shaking her head and tsk tsk tsking. "Just like when she was little girl." She poured more in Jake's cup and watched as Sal pulled Ole around in a tight turn and raced back toward the house.

Miss Lin's eyes narrowed, "So wild. I surprised to let her ride. I think not so safe for baby, but you the doctor." Sal, reigned up in a small cloud of dust at the base of the stairs, grinning, a thin sheen of sweat on her brow.

"Good morning!" She said a bit breathless as she slid down off Ole and looped his reigns on one of the new posts.  She came up on the porch and picked up her coffee and smiled at Jake, her eyes apologetic as she glanced at him, kissed him, and slid down next to him to watch the sun finish coming up. "I know you said not yet... but I just couldn't help it anymore."

Miss Lin shook her head with a furrowed brow and poured a little more in Sal's mug. "Breakfast be ready in twenty minutes," and shuffled away. Sal watched her go, "Guess she was on your side." She turned and looked at Jake for the first time in earnest, "You're not mad at me, are you?"

Jake remained in his chair as Miss Lin served the coffee and offered her own medical opinions. “Sometimes you have to let people be who they are.”

He did panic about the baby.  He’d only had a few days to get used to the idea and the bad experiences he had colored his optimizm and joy in the news.  But now wasn’t the time to dwell on the future.  The present had enough surprises.   

Miss Lin moved off to the kitchen and Sal joined him on the porch.   He reassured her, “No.  I’m not angry.”  He took a gulp from his mug to temper the lecture.  “I can tell from your expression that you enjoyed yourself.  Nothing wrong in that.”

Sal breathed a little easier and settled in next to him more comfortably. "Good."

She loved sitting here next to him. She slipped her hand into his. "You know, just cause I'm ridding again doesn't mean you get out of your husband duties. You've spoiled me with all the dotting. I've liked not having to feel like it's all on my shoulders." It had been nice to let a lot of the work fall on the men who'd stayed around. The pink was turning to blue, she could hear some of those men stirring already.

"And with the money Bill left us, we can afford some more hands. I won't lie, I wouldn't mind missin' most of those drives out to the plains and back." She liked the ranching life, but she knew he worried. She wanted to ease that a bit.  And she had to admit, she didn't like ranching enough to want to sleep out in the middle of nowhere, pregnant. She also knew that she'd want to be home more once the baby was there. Better to make changes now.

She smiled and turned her head to him, "We've worked long and hard for the right to a little relaxation. 'Sides all that, I'm the Doc's wife now, I've got to be a little more respectable." She kissed him and tried to look serious but couldn't keep from smiling, the future felt promising, despite hardships she was certain would come at some point.

"I do however expect William Jacob Scullane, Will for short, to learn to work as well as have book learning though. We can't have Bill's name sake not knowing how to ride a horse or drive a herd of cows." She hadn't said so yet, but she thought it was a boy, and when she was thinking just then, the name came rolling off her lips.

Sal always was a quick worker.  He hid the smile behind the coffee mug as she decided gender and name.  He had no reason to think she was wrong either, but he did add, “Well, we might have to come up with another nickname if she has blond hair like yours.”

They’d decided that Jake should part with the inheritance that caused all the trouble.  He made a donation to a missionary group, one he might donate time to in years to come. It did his heart good to know that other children would receive health care.

They didn’t speak of Robert or the Harlaws.  Jake wasn’t about to break that tradition now.  He looped an arm around Sal and listened to the morning.

“It’s going to be a good day,” he said.

Sal leaned in resting her head with his and smiled brightly at his contradiction of her assumption. She always had, and always would like that they didn't always agree. At his final comment she nodded slightly, took a deep breath and mmhmmed.

It's going to be a good life.

« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 07:06:08 am by Peregrine »