"The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." - Time Tested Beauty Tips

Jimmy watched Lou hand her canteen to Elias and saw his return smile. It was strange, but Jimmy couldn't put his finger on why it bothered him so. The two carried on a soft spoken conversation for a moment or two and then she laughed. A pure, easy laugh that set something clenching inside his middle.

He looked up at them, a question in his eyes.

Elias caught the look and lifted a hand in greeting. Well, two hands really, since they were still cuffed together. "Why don't you come join us, Hickok? Must get a bit lonely off there by yourself."

For just a moment, Jimmy wondered if it would be bad to shoot the prisoner on the way to his hanging. Instead he capped his canteen and sauntered over, giving them time to finish their conversation. "Just what is it you've got stuck in your head Elias? More dire warnings about my life?"

"No, son… not really. I was just havin' a delightful bit of conversation with this lovely young woman. How folks manage to miss the fact that she's a woman is beyond me. One look in those soft brown eyes and a man could get lost-"

He didn't hear the rest of Elias's pretty little speech. He'd heard all he needed to. It was true, anyone that had a good look in her eyes would know, would have to.

As he watched Elias croon his words to the young woman and completely charm her in the span of a few minutes he thought over the revelation Elias had just handed him. Only the fifth in the last few days, so really who was counting.

It was true. Her eyes. Whether she was dressed up in silks or burlap, her eyes would cut through the mere façade of her clothes and reveal the woman beneath. That's why when Louise met folks in town or talked to anyone on a run or at home, she wouldn't meet their eyes.

In the West, where so many people had left behind pasts shadowed with misdeeds and pain folks took others at face value. They saw what they saw and rarely looked any deeper than the inflection of an accent or the cut of your clothes. For folks looking for a new start they were amazingly willing to peg others at a glance.

That's why Lou had remained a secret so long. She didn't look a man straight in the eye. They would think that a boy was challenging them… they'd act accordingly and so Lou was right to keep her head down and duck under their notice.

Women thought Lou a shy boy. She averted her eyes when faced with a lady in town and didn't make much effort to interact. Why would they look any deeper when there wasn't any reason? It was dark before he realized he had dreamt away the last hour or so, a quick look around the camp proved that nothing had gone wrong. Elias was sleeping near the fire and Louise she was haunting his thoughts as well as the edge of the fire.

"Can't sleep?" Observant, great. "Jimmy?"

He willed himself not to look up. He didn't want… couldn't look up into her eyes now. He held his head in his hands.

"You're thinkin' about him, aren't ya?"

How could he tell her that Elias was the furthest thing from his mind? That instead the soft spoken woman beside him wasn't any further away than his arm's reach.

He got up, his mouth jawing away, his mind only half on the conversation, the rest of his concentration on how to keep enough distance between them. Yes… as long as she thought it was Elias that was fine with him. It did start there. It was Elias that spurred the odd epiphany that was now crowding his mind with images… with her… and he wondered if, "People got their minds made up about me."

"Doesn't matter what others think. It matter what you think." He wanted to laugh and tell her he wasn't a child and didn't believe in those fantasies, "For what it's worth though, I...I think you're a much better man than you give yourself credit for."

Was that how she saw him? Was it really?

So he looked. Was there anything else he could do? He looked down in her eyes and saw past the daily coating of dust and every other wall she would have set in place. He looked right into her heart and there it was… the beauty of her soul. The way she accepted everyone around her - good and ill. He saw the beauty of her soul and damned if he didn't want to drown in it.

It didn't matter if she wanted to wear pants or skirts, the truth was right there in front of him. She was beautiful.

"Goodnight." And she was walking away from him.

Walking away and he couldn't let her walk away… not again.

Email Miss Raye