Author's Note: A Letter of Frustration

Tie Up

Cody blew in about time dessert was being served. "Fine by me," he answered when told that the meal had already put into the food safe. "I don't mind startin' with the best part first!" He took his plate in both hands and set it down in front of him. "Whew! That ride was a pain in my-"

"Cody!" Rachel's warning was just in time and he even gave a little wince with his smile.

"Sorry." He lifted his already full fork to his lips and stuffed it in his mouth. "Som-tims ah fohrghet," he paused, chewing and then swallowing the mouthful hastily. "Sometimes I forget that we're supposed to have 'manners' at the time."

Louise rolled her eyes and looked down at the end of the table away from Cody. "And to close your mouth."

Cody's answer to her peevish statement was to waggle his tongue at her before shoveling another forkful in his mouth. "Oh… I almost forgot." He reached into the back waistband of his breeches and pulled out a well wrinkled envelope. "This came in for the Kid."

There was momentary pause as Kid wiped quickly at him mouth and set down his napkin before reaching for the envelope. Cody didn't even try to keep it away from him. The pie was apparently 'that' good.

Waving off a few curious onlookers, Kid read the name on the front of the envelope and gave a little shrug before excusing himself.

Lou tried not to look too interested as he walked outside and shut the door behind him.

"Who is it from, Cody?"

The blond rider looked up at Noah and shook his head. "I dunno."

"Riiiight." Buck reached out and snatched Cody's pie plate away. "Like you didn't look."

"I didn't!" Cody's protest fell on deaf ears as the plate passed to Ike before it was snapped up by Rachel who set it down in front of Cody. He gave her a big grateful smile before picking up another forkful of pie. "And it wasn't my fault that I had to drop it a few times before it fell on its back so I could see who it was from."

Ike elbowed Buck and they both agreed. "Nice one, Cody."

"So?" Noah leaned a bit closer, bracing himself on the table. "Who was it from?"

"A man should be able to keep some things private." Jimmy got up from the table and looked down at Lou's plate. "You done?"

"What?" She looked at his finger pointing to her plate and it dawned on her, what he was saying. "Yeah. I am…" lifting one leg over the bench she started to stand.

Noah noticed the pointed interruption, but it was too late to stop Cody.

"It's that pretty school-marm of his… you know Samantha Edgars."

They all felt the rush of air as it was sucked out of the room and Louise tensed mid-step. She didn't stop her stride as she took the plate from Jimmy's hand and walked over to the basin. As she moved past him, Jimmy reached out a hand but didn't touch her shoulder; instead he lifted it up and pushed his fingers through his hair.

Cody had to look at a few of the faces before he caught on to the odd feeling in the room. "Ah jeez, Lou… I'm sorry 'bout that, I know how-"

"Ain't nothin' to be sorry about, Cody." Louise didn't look back over her shoulder, her voice just bounced off the window and curtains, muffling her voice. "Kid's got a right to get letters from anyone." She put both plates down before she turned to face them. They all saw the strain around the corners of her mouth. "Y'all should let him have his privacy."

"Sure… you got it, Lou." Cody looked down at the full fork in his hand and set it down on the plate before he pushed the plate toward the middle of the table.

"I'm gonna go for a walk." She held up her hand before Jimmy could say a thing, but she did give him the barest of smiles before she whispered. "I'm fine."

Jimmy watched her go and let out a sigh. "Cody-"

Cody had his hands up in surrender before Jimmy even turned around. "I know… I know… I just… it's just that Lou's one of us and sometimes… it's hard to remember that… ah hell."

"Yeah," Noah agreed, "that's where this is."

*** ***

Kid didn't even use the stairs to get to Rachel's porch. He just took a giant step up and set himself down on the swing, nearly ripping the paper in half to get at the missive on the inside. As he looked at the carefully drawn script of her handwriting it occurred to him that in the short time they knew each other, he'd never seen her handwriting. They'd spoken and danced but she'd never written something to him.

Before he read even the first word he knew he would treasure this letter for the rest of his life.

Dear Kid,

As delighted as I was to receive your letter, I will admit that I was not sure that I was ready to hear from you.

Please do not think that I am ungrateful for everything you did for Martha and me. For the short time that we lived in Sweetwater you were one of the few people in town that we could depend upon for a kind word and a shoulder on which to lean.

There are so many things we need to say to one another before I could even begin to consider the development of a permanent relationship between us.

If you have your whole heart behind your words and you truly mean to offer me your hand, I have two requests to prove how dedicated you are to me.

First, a man set on marrying must consider the security of his family…

The rest of the words jumbled together as he felt his heart trembling in his chest. He had to force himself to read each and every word to be sure that he understood what she was saying. Kid read letter over a second time before deciding on his course of action. Folding the letter carefully he slid it back inside the envelope before heading over to the barn to see Teaspoon. It was a minute or two before the door opened up and Teaspoon peered out from the crack in the door, only one eye awake enough to see. "What is it, Kid? Barn burnin' down?"

"Uh… no, I-"

"Raiders on their way to kill us in our sleep?"

Kid looked around the yard at the quiet station. "Not that I know of."

"Hmph," Teaspoon scrubbed at his face and the few days' growth of beard, "well, what is it then?"

Kid held the letter in his hand and looked Teaspoon square in the eye. "I'm quitting."

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