"Would you kindly watch where you are goin'?"
Teaspoon whirled around sweeping his hat of his head, "I'm so sorry Ma'am."
She glared at him and walked on. Teaspoon stood there, his eyes fixed on the past.
"Teaspoon?" The voice repeated, more insistent this time, "Teaspoon?"
Shaking his head to clear the mist from his mind he finally answered, "I'm sorry Lou, were you sayin' somethin'?"
Laughing Louise linked her arm through his, "You had this funny look on your face."
Louise stopped in front of the restaurant, "Like you were someplace else."
"Oh… well now, that ain't so funny. I was just rememberin' something, or tryin' anyways. The memory was just… just on the tip of my tongue. Sweet and Delica-" A grin split his weathered face from ear to ear, "You know… I'm feelin' a mite hungry." Looking into the window Teaspoon nodded resolutely.
"Let's get us some dessert."
"Dessert?" She laughed, "We ain't even had supper yet?"
Teaspoon tapped his hat in place and turned her around so he could usher her through the door, "Just this once, we'll have a treat."
The waitress set down two plates of pie, “Anythin’ else?”
Teaspoon leaned one elbow on the table and smiled up at the pinched faced woman, “Well now, two pieces of this luscious peach pie sounds about right for me, but what will my young friend eat?”
She ‘humphed’, “Wise cracks, he asks for pie, I bring it, and he gives me wise cracks.” She dropped the bill on the table, “I’ll settle for ya payin’ the bill without a fuss.”
Louise laughed at Teaspoon’s expression, “Seems to me she doesn’t appreciate your humor.”
Teaspoon spoke around the piece of pie in his mouth, “Seems to me she doesn’t appreciate much.”
Sighing over the warm gooey pie Louise set her fork down for a moment, “Why the peach pie Teaspoon?”
A secret smile crossed his face, “Call me an old fool, but sometimes ... sometimes memories come back and I can help but wallow in ‘em.”
Louise closed her lips around another sharply sweet bite and forced it down, “Wallow? Really Teaspoon, what’s goin’ on inside your head.”
“Well, inside, I’m all the way back in 1832 in New Orleans, Louisiana... it was the place I met my second wife.”
“I could hear them callin’, sayin’ the boat was leavin’.” Winking at Lou he continued on, “Can’t say that I really cared. The Captain wasn’t much even if he did pay top dollar for smugglin’.”
Louise tried to hide her shock.
“Well now,” Teaspoon spooned another heaping chunk of pie into his mouth, “this here was before my ‘law abidin’ days so don’t you go chokin’ on that deee-li-cious piece of pie.”
Wiping at the corners of her mouth, Louise hid behind the blush on her cheeks.
“So, you see, I heard ‘em callin’ but I didn’t pay hardly a snip of attention, I had bigger fish to fry-“
“What about your things? Did you leave them on the –“ Louise giggled at the look of mock impatience on Teaspoon’s face, “I’m sorry… you were sayin’”
He cleared his throat while he eyed the pie before him, “It all started an hour before. Never havin’ been in N’Orleans before I was havin’ myself a looksee. The buildings were all painted up and covered in fancy ironworks, the likes of which I haven’t seen since. There were these women-“
Teaspoon adjusted the collar of his shirt as if it had suddenly grown much too tight for his comfort.
“I guess you could say that I had ‘stumbled’ upon one of the local ‘sportin’ houses’. Well, I started crossin’ the street without lookin’ where I was goin’… I was distracted, you see… I must have been halfway crossed the street when I heard a woman scream.”
Teaspoon leaned his elbows on the table, “That’s what I said, scream.” He watched as Louise took another bite of the pie. “Her horse and buggy almost ran me down in the street! She yanked on the reins,” Teaspoon leaned back on the hind legs of his chair, imitating the frustrated yank on a pair of invisible reins, “and well, she could skin the hide off a cranky buffalo with the words that were flyin’ from her lips.”
Louise’s shoulders shook in silent laughter.
"Would you kindly watch where you are goin'?"
It took a moment for me to gather my thoughts, she was a spitfire and she was gorgeous. "I'm so sorry, Ma'am."
Some of the flames of her anger fell from her cheeks, “Ma’am? Ma’am! I’ll have you know that I am a prop-ah young woman.” I must have looked at her like she’d gone plum crazy, cause those flames came back. “You almost caused an accident and I will kindly ask you to step out of the street so that I may continue on.”
I winked, tipped my hat and smiled, “It would be my pleasure.” I set a hand on the bridle of one of the horses and walked around to the side of the carriage, trailing my hand along the rein as I went. When I’d reached the side of the buggy I looked back up. She had her fan out and was wavin’ it furiously -
Louise laughed again as Teaspoon imitated the flutter of a fan before his face.
She was a site, had flame red hair, or so I thought. She was wearin’ this funny shaped ‘spoon’-like bonnet on her head and there where these curls peakin’ out next to her face.
“Mornin’ Miss,” she tried to yank the leather rein out of my hand, but I held onto it, “So sorry to have caused you such distress. Please allow me to make it up to you.”
Her face settled into a sweet smile, “Really? How?”
I leaned closer, “Anythin’ your little heart desires-“
“Then let go!” Boy, could she yell. She tried and tried but I wouldn’t let go. After a few vicious yanks she settled down, “Will you kindly let go?”
“Not until I get your name.”
One of those delicate little hands drew up to her chest. Those five graceful fingers all dolled up in some sort of fancy leather glove, “My name? We have NOT been introduced and I don’t see what use you would have for my name.”
She sure knew how to spark my interest, “So’s I can call on you.” I let go of the reins to reach for her other hand and she cracked the reins, sendin’ that poor horse flyin’ down the cobbles.
“So how did you-“
Teaspoon held up a finger, “Patience there Lou.”
I must’ve stood there on the side of the road until she was clear out of site. Shakin’ my head I walked across the street, the whole way this time. I made my way towards the first buildin’, lookin’ to join a card game. A lady stopped me at the door, and lordy… how she was dressed… or rather I should say un-dressed. She held a hand across the doorway, blockin’ me from goin’ in.
“Did she tell you her name?”
I shook my head, “Nope, can’t think that a fine woman like that would ever tell her name to a man like me.”
Tryin’ not to laugh I tied to push past her, “How would you know?”
She shrugged her bare shoulders, “Darlin’... everyone in this town knows the names of the rich and righteous.”
I didn’t know if I was wastin’ my time, but I wanted to know, “Alright, what is it?”
She held out her hand and raised one painted eyebrow, “You want to know?”
“Does a crow eat corn?” I dug through my coat pockets and placed a coin in her hand.
Huffin’ out a breath she dropped the coin down the front of her…top, “Stanton, Ashby Lane Stanton… and if you wanna see her again, she’s goin’ to that fancy dress ball at the Jackson House tonight.”
“Fancy huh?” She nodded at me and I smiled, I found my way inside and joined the game.
Even if I hadn’t asked for directions, I could have found the Jackson house. The whole walkway was festooned with paper lanterns and carriages lined the whole way from half a mile down the road.
Louise leaned closer as she listened to his description.
I felt like a dapper young buck, dressed in my brand new suit. He grinned at Louise, I did fairly well at the card game, winning enough for a few suits of clothes, a room in a boardin’ house for the next few nights and enough extra to pamper a beautiful young woman.
No one noticed me as I walked along, their own hushed conversations were drowned out by the music comin’ from the house. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of them Grand plantation houses- he didn’t wait for Lou to shake her head ‘no’, but this one was the biggest I’d ever seen. Servants runnin’ everywhere, takin’ coats, drivin’ buggies… it’s a wonder they didn’t get lost in all the confusion.
Inside it looked like somethin’ from one of them ‘fairy tales’ that children read at bedtime. Candles twinkled everywhere and wax dripped down like some kind of frozen waterfall. Everything around me looked like it cost a fortune, makin’ me afraid to brush up against one of them fancy flower vases or anyone of them ornate candle holders where they sprouted up from that fancy hard wood floor. I guess I wasn’t all that hell-fired worried, cause the moment I saw her, I didn’t care.
Louise paused, her fork halfway to her mouth, to glance over at Teaspoon with a dreamy half smile.
She had hair like a fire red sunset and skin pale as cream. Sure there were a heap of beautiful women in that room, but she shone like gold. Clearing his throat Teaspoon looked at his fingers drumming on the table top. She danced in the center of the floor, weaving in and out of the other couples, her dress was dark gray but shone like silver in all that candle light… and me? I was a moth, drawn to her flame.
It didn’t matter how many people stood between us. I was … I was… His words trailed off as if following his thoughts to that long ago night. I was in love with that woman.
Setting her fork down Louise rested her chin on her intertwined hands.
I got my chance when the dance ended and she swept through the open doors into the night. Bolder than I had a right to be, I followed her.
There she stood, near the end of the terrace, her hands resting on the cold stone railing. Every movement and breath drawin’ me closer. Her hair shimmerin’ like liquid gold in that moonlight.
Smilin’ up at him Louise swallowed her bite of pie, “She sounds like a fairy tale princess.”
Teaspoon laughed and took another bite, “She may have looked like a princess, but she had a fire inside.”
Quiet as I could, I walked up behind her, her and that pile of sunset hair, “All alone?”
“Why no, Billy. Not anymore-“ she turned and took a step back, “You’re not Billy!”
I tried not to laugh, “No, not Billy... is that who you were ‘expecting’?”
Her cheeks turned dark behind the silk fan, “I was not expecting anyone as you so rudely put it. I was merely escaping the crush of the dance inside.” Her tone was icy, but there was a fire burning inside her silver-gray eyes as she looked back towards the house. “You will do me the favor of leaving me to my respite, it would not do for me to be seen with you out here, alone.”
She turned to the side and stared out into the darkness. I took a step forward and she pretended to ignore me. I took another step and her fan started a flutterin’ like crazy, “Miss Stanton-“
That lovely little chin dropped open, “How do you know my name?”
I grinned, she didn’t notice that I’d moved another step closer, “I thought everyone knew the name of the prettiest girl in town.”
The flattery worked, and then the age old talent of flirting, inborn in true Southern women, turned its power on me, “Prettiest?”
The word dripped off her lips as she raised two delicate eyebrows, awaiting my answer.
I raised one of my own, “Prettiest? Did I say prettiest? What I should have said, were my mouth truly able to tell you what’s in my heart, is luminescent, radiant, mythological beauty the likes of which have never been seen in the world before. Would that be a more accurate description of your many charms?”
She leaned a bit closer and lookin’ up at me through those dusky lashes she drawled, “Well, bless your heart. Most men comment on my dewy skin and winnin’ smile, but you’ve made yo’self a good start. Maybe you do have the makin’s of a gentleman after all.”
She was a gem, … no, more like a flower. That’s right, the finest bloom of Southern gentility. “Really? What else would I be?”
Setting her lips into a perfected pout she leaned one shoulder towards me, “You were most un-gentlemanly towards me this morning. Why, you gave me such a fright!”
I couldn’t let her get the upperhand, “A ‘fright’? Well now, that might explain why you still haven’t asked what my name is,” I watched her shoulders tighten up and tried not to laugh.
“I know what your name is. Every Southern girl knows everyone’s name: Darlin’, Honey and Sugah; with an ‘h’ not an’ ‘r’.”
I was getting’ closer by the minute but I don’t think she realized it.
“Well Miss Stanton, which name is mine?”
She looked at me like she was measurin’ up a horse at an auction, “You would be ‘sugah’,” laughing she turned her back to me and leaned out over the railin’, “It is such a beautiful night.”
I took my chance, sidlin’ up beside her, our hands touched and I smiled. She didn’t move away. “Yes, beautiful.”
She waited for a minute, I could almost hear her thoughts, “So?”
“What is your name?”
She giggled, “Now that is a mouthful, Mr. ‘Huntah.’”
I wasn’t goin’ to be happy with that, “Mister?”
She tossed a coy look over her shoulder, “Yes, it’s only propah to call you ‘mister’. It would simply be a sin.”
I just couldn’t understand, “A sin?”
She brought that dang fan up again, “Yes sir, there are many sins in this world, but to a southern woman there are only a few that are considered deadly, bad hair and bad manners.”
If it wasn’t for the fact that she sounded absolutely serious I would have laughed until I was rollin’ on the floor. Instead I moved closer, “Now a fine young woman like yourself shouldn’t have to worry about that. Why I bet you’re the finest woman ever born in N’Orlea-”
“I’m from Georgia.” Her cold tone was cold as ice, as if I’d insulted her.
“Really?” I pressed, “Seems to me I recall someone sayin’ you were born here.”
The icy tone deepened, “My mother was from Georgia and if she’d had her way I would have been too. So.. I am from Georgia.”
Who was I to argue? She seemed to relax a bit and I decided to press my advantage, “Doesn’t matter to me where you come from, you’re still goin’ to be my wife.”
Well you could’ve heard a june bug on the next plantation it was so quiet.
Teaspoon pounded on Louise’s back so she wouldn’t choke on her pie.
“I bet,” she gasped out. When she’d swallowed a gulp of water she continued, “I’m sure she didn’t know what to do.”
Laughing, Teaspoon shook his head, “You’re wrong Lou, she knew exactly what to do.”
I moved my jaw from side to side, but I could still feel the sting on my cheek. She may have looked like a little bitty thing but she could sure hit!
“Now why’d you go and do that?”
She gaped at me, her mouth movin’ like a fish takin’ in water, “You...You... you said you’re gonna marry me?”
“Well at least you can hear, even if you’re havin’ a hard time talkin’.”
“What...what did you expect. You corner me out here,” I moved closer and she backed up until her silk covered bottom was pressed up against the railing, “...and you accost me like some base... base..”
“Scoundrel?” I volunteered.
“Scoundrel? Yes! I’d say that fits,” her eyes stared up into mine as she tried to back up.
“Well now, if I’m a scoundrel, you wouldn’t be shocked if I did this,” I set one hand on the railing behind her and with my right I touched her hair. “So beautiful.”
She wanted to protest, “Mister Huntah-”
“Hush up Ashby Lane.”
I could tell be the look on her face that she was tryin’ to be angry. But even though her southern sensibilities were offended she couldn’t quite get up her ire with me bein’ so... close, “Mister Huntah, I have not yet afforded you such liberty as to call me by my first name.”
“Ashby, Ashby, Ashby, you have such beautiful hair... like ... like... a rich ripe peach...and your skin,” I touched her cheek, “like fresh cream.”
Her skin flushed warm under my hand and I held back my smile, not wanting to frighten the poor little thing.
“Frighten? She doesn’t seem like that frail of a woman Teaspoon.”
He laughed, “You’re right Lou, she was a woman that could challenge a saint, and I wasn’t that virtuous of a man in those days.”
“Really now sir, it seems as though I came out here to get away from the dance, but yo’ banter has us continuing a dance of a different sort out here in the dark.”
“So you’ll marry me?”
She shook her head, “What’s the rush sugah? We haven’t even been propah-ly introduced yet.”
“Yet?” I echoed, somewhat disappointed. “I guess we haven’t.“ It seemed as if I knew what I wanted, but it might take some convincing to get her to come around.
Ashby reached up and tucked back a strand of my hair, drawin’ the tip of her lacey glove against my ear. “No we haven‘t.” And then, she kissed me.
Teaspoon pushed back his chair and stood. Louise about fell off her chair waiting for the next part of the story.
Reaching into his pockets he dropped a handful of coins on the table, “Well, let’s head back to the office Lou, I’ve got a town to watch and deputy to spell.”
Louise blushed at Teaspoon’s pointed look, “But I haven’t heard the whole story yet. You didn‘t finish it.”
He smiled and pulled her to his side, “That my dear girl is for another day.”
She glanced up at him with a conspiratorial grin playing on her lips, “Well, I’ll come by the Marshal’s office tomorrow and collect you for lunch... and this time, the peach pie is on me.”
Teaspoon chuckled as they walked out the door, “I never could resist a peach.”