Teaspoon folded his arms across his chest and stared down the old man behind the desk. “Horace,” he narrowed his eyes to accentuate his words, “I can’t believe that what my rider told me is true.”
“Believe it, because that’s exactly what I said.” Horace Billings squeaked his chair back from the desk and stood, straightening his spine a few inches at a time. “I ain’t gonna marry two ni-”
“Horace!” Teaspoon’s tone was enough to stop the man in his tracks, his frame leaning back from Teaspoon the fraction of an inch. “You and I have known each other off ‘n’ on for nearly half my life… and while I don’t begrudge a man his own opinions ‘n beliefs, Noah’s like one of my own… so before you finish that word… put that in your pipe and smoke on it.”
The man’s thinner frame seemed to waver as though a wind had pushed through the room. “Teaspoon, you may wear a star in this town, but you ain’ the boss of me when it comes to who I marry… that’s between me and God.”
“Hmph.” Teaspoon shook his head and let his arms drop to his side. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Horace… seems to me, the God I know loves everyone… not just the ones I like… he even loves the ones like you.”
Teaspoon’s spine was a little bit straighter when he walked out of the man’s office than the moment he walked in.
The mood in the bunkhouse when Teaspoon arrived wasn’t much better than when he’d left. He swung the door open and sought out the curious gazes of the riders, mainly Noah and Cassie. He took in a deep breath and then shook his head.
A split second later Noah’s hand smacked the top of the table sending plates and cups dancing. “I told you he wouldn’t listen!”
Cassie leaned against Noah’s arm, putting her head on his shoulder as her hands reached for his. “Shhhhh… it’s fine, Noah.”
“How can you say that?” He ground his teeth together and looked up at Teaspoon. “I’m going back there to talk to him and-”
Teaspoon held out a hand that kept Noah in his seat, barely. “Son,… you’re not gonna get anywhere with Horace, so it’s best that you just-”
“Just what, Teaspoon?” Noah stood, drawing his hands from Cassie’s as his anger bubbled closer to the surface. “Just sit back and wait for folks to understand that black or white we’re all the same?”
Jimmy shrugged and folded his arms over his chest. “Seems to me that might be a long long time from now.”
Teaspoon arched a quiet look at Jimmy. “I don’t need your input right now, Hickok.”
“Good.” Jimmy shot back as he picked up his cup from the table and walked it over to the sink to stand beside Lou. “I don’t see why it matters anyway.”
“I matters, Hickok,” Noah growled at Jimmy, “because I want to marry Cassie and that cr-” Noah stopped before the word had cleared his lips, “that man says we can’t.”
“He said he wouldn’t.” To Jimmy it was a statement of fact even if he didn’t like it.
Teaspoon sighed and ground out his response to Jimmy’s glib statement. “Just caught on to that, did you Hickok?”
Lou set down the plate she was scrubbing and looked from Jimmy’s face to Noah’s and finally Teaspoon. “Isn’t there someone else who could do it?”
“Who else is there?” Noah’s frustration was about to burst.
Cassie looked up at Lou, considering her words. There was a moment when her expression brightened. “We don’t need him.”
Turning back to Cassie, Noah was struggling to keep his tone of voice in control. “He’s the only preacher in town, Cassie… where can we go?”
Standing up from the table she moved to Noah, resting her hands on his shoulders. “We don’t have to go anywhere.” She smiled up into his puzzled expression. “We’ll get married,” she looked around the room at their friends and nodded. “Right here.”
Noah’s expression softened and his whispered words had a hard edge from the emotions he was pushing down his throat. “Darlin’… I want this to be special.”
“It will be.” Her smile was infectious and even the set of Noah’s mouth started to turn up as she began to speak. “On the plantation men and women didn’t marry in front of a preacher. We didn’t have one to speak of… we just had ourselves.”
Louise picked up a towel and handed it to Jimmy to start drying the dishes she handed him. “So what did folks do?”
Suddenly grabbed by the moment, Cassie took Noah’s face in her hands and leaned up to press a kiss on his lips. The spontaneous show of affection caught Noah by surprise and his cheeks colored with a flush. “Cassie?”
“Do you want to marry me?”
Noah ignored the curious gazes of his friends and nodded. “You know I do.”
“When?” Noah’s voice rose with his confusion. “You mean what day? Any day is fine with me.”
“Good.” Cassie nodded, her very air lifting the mood of everyone in the room. She dropped her hands from Noah’s face and she walked around him to the sink. She gave Lou a look and then turned to Rachel where she sat with the mending in her lap. “I’ll need your help.”
Lou’s grin lit her face as she shoved a half scrubbed plate into Jimmy’s hands.
His protest was lost as Rachel stood, nearly spilling the mending basket on the floor. “I think I know what you have in mind… let’s go.”
Stopping in the open doorway, Cassie turned back to Noah and gave him a wide smile. “Be here, tomorrow at noon.”
She didn’t wait for his answer; instead she shut the door on the men.
Noah was about to burst out of his skin and it was only a few minutes after noon. He moved to the window one more time pulling the curtain back to check the yard. “Where are they?”
Looking up from one of the bottom bunks, Jimmy tried not to laugh. “Worried she’s gonna run?” The look that Noah had on his face when he turned to his friend had Jimmy holding up his hands in surrender.
Instead of waiting for the other man to continue his pacing, Jimmy crossed the room and flung the door open. “I’m headin’ over to Rachel’s… you’re makin’ me nervous.”
“Makin’ you ner-”
Jimmy shut the door on Noah’s protest, but he didn’t make it more than a few feet before Teaspoon grabbed his arm to hold him up. “You get the table moved over some?”
Nodding, Jimmy smiled. “Told him it was to give him more room to pace in… told him to wear an even pattern in the floor.”
“Good one, son.” Teaspoon gave Jimmy a hearty smack on his back. “Let’s get this goin’… I think Cassie’s ready to get this done.”
True to Teaspoon’s words, Rachel appeared from around the corner and brushed a kiss on Jimmy’s cheek as she walked by. “Grab the door for me, please.”
Reaching out, Jimmy wrenched the door open as Rachel called inside. “Noah? I think there’s someone here to see you.”
His heart seemingly in his throat, Noah stepped into the open doorway and smiled. Sure enough, walking the short distance from Rachel’s house to the bunkhouse was Lou in her blue dress, her hair down and wreathed in spring wildflowers. She walked up and stepped onto the porch of the bunkhouse, making way for Noah to see beyond her.
Years later Noah would still tell the story in words that made Cassie blush. He would tell his children about the gently billowing hem of her skirt, the wide belt at her waist and the delicate lace that edged the neck and wrists of her blouse.
Of course to hear Cassie tell it the billowing hem was most likely caused by the knocking of her knees.
Either way they both agreed that no other smile in the history of the world had been as wide as hers, for in the moment they saw each other they knew that their love shone on their faces. Cassie shifted her bouquet to one hand as Noah reached out for her. She looked down at the deep mahogany of his hand twined with the softer tone of her own and when she lifted her gaze to meet his again there was a light haze of tears in their eyes.
It all threatened to come crashing down around them as Noah’s expression darkened. Squeezing her hand he pulled Cassie closer and whispered to her. “Darlin’… you look beautiful, but there ain’t no one here to marry us.”
She lifted her own expression to make up for his. “We don’t need a man with a book, Noah… we got ourselves and we got family.” She swept her gaze over the gathered group of riders and her brother. “Back on the plantation sometimes they didn’t even have that much, but what they could do was stand before those folks that they did have and declare that they were married.”
“I don’t want anyone sayin’ it wasn’t real… I don’t want folks sayin’ that you and I-”
“What do you care what other folks say, Noah Dixon?” Cassie pulled on his hand as she stepped closer to the man she loved. “What matters is what’s in our hearts… and in my heart, we’ve been joined for months now. I love you.”
“And I love you.” His eyes darkened with the depths of his love for the beautiful woman before him. “So how do we-”
Quinn stepped forward and held out a broom. “With this.”
Noah eyed the broom with a questioning look. “A broom?”
Quinn set the broom on the wooden floor beside the couple. “I don’t remember much from back then, but Cassie told me stories about Mama’s friends and how they declare themselves married to their men. All you have to do is ‘jump the broom’.”
Cassie squeezed their joined hands. “Will you? Take that step to make us married in the eyes of your family.”
Rachel beamed at the young woman. “Cassie… for us here at the Station, we’ve considered you one of the family pretty much since Noah met you.”
Noah’s gaze slid away as his smile widened. “Everyone sure caught on fast about how much you meant to me.”
“Me too,” Quinn piped in, “I knew you were perfect for each other.”
How Cassie blushed as she looked up at her love. “I knew it too… even though I tried to act like-”
“You didn’t have time for me? I did follow you around like a pup.”
“A pup that carried water for me.” Cassie reminded him of his kindness. “And stood up for me when most would have walked away.”
“You made me feel like I could float on air.” Noah’s soft admission was meant for Cassie’s ears alone, but Lou swiped at a tear as she stood beside Jimmy near the door.
“Then a little ‘jump’ won’t do you no harm, will it?” Teaspoon’s words were honeyed with his charm and he swept his arm out to point at the broom. “What do ya say, Noah? Ain’t it time you made this woman yours?”
The soft looks that passed between the couple weren’t lost on anyone in the group. Teaspoon’s words were sweet, but they knew it was only a ceremony. The two had been made for each other from birth.
He lifted their joint hands and brushed a kiss over Cassie’s fingertips. “I love you, Cassie Ellis.”
“And I you, Noah Dixon.”
“Just try to stop me.”
Noah snuck a look down at the broom and then back at his bride. “Never.”
Together they sank down an inch or two, their legs bending in unison before the sprung into the air and landed on the other side of the broom.
Cody blinked at the couple as they straightened up, each face beaming with light. Setting his hands on his hips Cody shook his head. “Just silly if you ask me.”
“No one’s askin’ you, Cody.” Buck’s grin didn’t even waver as he growled his words out of the corner of his mouth.
Jimmy set his hand on Lou’s shoulder and leaned down to see her face. “What ‘bout you, Lou? What do you think?”
“I think it’s just perfect.” She felt Jimmy shake with silent laughter and put her elbow to good use, poking it into his side. “Hush,” she hissed as his laughter burst from his lips.
But in the center of the room, Mr. & Mrs. Noah Dixon were lost in each other’s eyes and the promise of their new life together.
Author’s Note: please forgive my little bit of revisionist history… I never quite understood the Teaspoon as preacher thing… so I didn’t even think to use it… and the whole ‘jumping the broom’ thing totally worked out