Author's Note: A Letter of Supplication
A Favor For an Old Friend
Jimmy offered to help do the dishes, that's when Rachel knew that something was up. "You've been drying that plate now for the better part of five minutes." She dried her hands on her apron and leaned against the counter. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
Jimmy gave the plate two more deliberate swipes before he set it on the pile with the others. "I got a letter."
Rachel's curiosity was instantly piqued. "From who?" She knew it wasn't from Emma or his sister, those letters would have been welcome. Jimmy wasn't very happy.
He picked up another plate and started to wipe it in circles as he pondered his words. "The Kid."
Rachel waited for the other shoe to drop.
She couldn't help the little laugh that burst from her lips. "I'm sorry," she held up a hand to hold his question, "it just seemed silly… you complaining about-"
"The Kid got married in Saint Jo."
Rachel covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to wrap her mind around the thought. "And that's where Lou is heading."
"That might not be a problem." Jimmy sighed heartily. "She's heading there the day before, they probably won't be anywhere in the same area… but I don't know how I tell her."
"Tell her… he sent the letter to you… not her?"
Jimmy shook his head and reached into his pocket, withdrawing the letter and putting it into Rachel's hands. "Read it."
Rachel took the letter and sat down on a chair at her table in the kitchen. She read through the letter once and then again, finally setting it down on the table. She looked up at Jimmy and shook her head. "I understand his thoughts on this… I just think-"
"We don't have to think it through; he wants her to know before he comes 'home'. He wants her to hear it from a friend."
The word sank in the distance between them and Rachel folded up the letter to hand back to him. "He wants you to do it."
"You know how she's going to react?"
He looked up and shrugged. "Not really. The two of them have been over for awhile."
"A few months." Rachel's tone was flat, her face strained.
"Some fall fast." That's all he could say. All he had to say. "I guess I need to go talk to Lou."
He was almost to the door when Rachel called out to him. "She's packing, Jimmy…" she stood to look at him, the change in lighting showed the deep lines of wear on his face, "do you think this is the time?"
"Would you rather I tell her at the train station tomorrow?"
Rachel thought for a moment before she nodded. "Just be careful," she pursed her lips together, "I know you will, Jimmy… but this is hard."
"I know that, Rachel… believe me I know."
The bunkhouse was quiet by the time he stepped inside, Lou's trunk was still tucked behind her cot, the lid thrown open. Giving her a sideways look he stepped closer to her bunk and knelt down beside her. With a gentle shake he woke her up.
"Jimmy? Is there something wrong?" She rose up on an elbow to look at him on the same level.
"I was just going to ask you the same thing." He looked over at her trunk. "You were packing earlier."
She blinked at the trunk lid in the dark and nodded. "Yeah… but a rider came in from town. The train's been delayed and so I'll just get on the next one the day after."
Jimmy started to stand, but Lou put her hand on his shoulder. "Wait." He knelt back down and waited as she swung her legs over the edge of the bunk and looked at him though the semi-dark of the bunkhouse. "Is something wrong?"
He tried to wave it off, but there was something inside telling him that the timing was right. "I have to talk to you about something."
She looked at his face, studying the way he looked at her and then focused on the wall behind her head. "It's not something you want to talk about, I can see that." She looked down at the ground beneath her bunk. "Let's go outside and talk."
Jimmy held up her coat so that she could easily shrug it on before they walked outside. They walked side by side, heading for the corral fence as a neutral place to be.
Leaning against the fence, Louise looked up at the sky and wondered aloud. "I'm not sure what to think of the delay," she offered, "one day should be like any other day, don't you think?"
"Should be." Jimmy leaned his shoulder against the top rung about a foot away from her and looked at her with a mixture of concern and curiosity. "It's just one more day, right?"
She was still for a moment before turning to him. "Why do I get the feeling that this whole thing has to do with me leaving?"
He smiled, big and bold as he always did when she had him dead to rights about something. "That's because you could always seem to see right through me."
"It's not so bad," she looked down at her hands, "you're a good friend, Jimmy. I know that I can trust you."
Scrubbing his hand over his face he let out a groan. "It ain't easy when you start off like that, Lou."
"OH?" She laughed, but the sound wasn't full of joy like it usually was. "Does this have something to do with the letter you got today?"
"How did you-" he looked at her, narrowing his gaze if he was trying to look right into her skull.
"Arnold told me you got a letter and it had you stompin' around earlier before supper." She reached out and touched him on the arm. "If you need to talk, you know I'm here for you too."
He shook his head. "I know, Lou… you always have been." He pulled the letter out of his pocket and turned it over and over in his hands. "The letter I got was from the Kid." He didn't wait for her reaction. "I don't think he knows that you're leaving… or when you were supposed to go," he took in a breath, "but he's comin' in on the same train you're headin' out on."
A moment later, a small smile played across her lips. "That's fine by me." She took in a deep breath of her own. "It'll be nice to see him again… make sure he's fine and happy and-"
"He won't be comin' back alone." He tried to get some of the surprise across to her in his tone, but he knew it wasn't going to be enough. "Kid's comin' with-"
"I'm sure it has something to do with the Telegraph office, right?" She let go of her breath and leaned back hard against the fence. "He told me, in the letter I got that he's training to work for the telegraph." She turned around and touched her forehead to the round wooden rung. "It's too big a job for just one person, especially with messages coming in at all hours of the day."
Jimmy touched her upper arm with his hand turning her slowly until his other hand got a hold of her other arm. He looked down at her waiting for her to tilt her head up to him.
Louise blinked up at him along with a nervous laugh. "I'm talkin' over you aren't I?"
He didn't have to nod; she knew what she was doing so he just waited for her to give him a look that said she was ready. When it happened, he didn't see the need to drag out the inevitable. "The Kid sent me a letter so I could explain some things to you." He took a breath and a moment to think through his words. He didn't want you to come down to the train station to see him and be 'surprised.'"
"What's wrong, Jimmy… you're startin' to scare me."
"He's married, Lou." His throat felt like sandpaper but he had to tell her the rest. "While he was training for the telegrapher job he and Samantha Edgers got married."
"So," Louise seemed as though she wasn't quite sure she was awake anymore, "he's bringing her here."
"That's what I understand."
"And he didn't want me to be… 'surprised.'"
Jimmy pressed his fingers into his temples. "Not surprised, really… he just didn't want you to see Samantha and have your feelin's hurt. He doesn't want you hurt, Lou."
"Yeah," she sighed, "that's something, isn't it? That he didn't want my feelings hurt?"
"Lou, I-" he reached out to her, his hand just a few inches from her shoulder when he stopped, "I can see his reasoning… at the train station, there'll be a whole mess of folks and not a lot of privacy."
"And he didn't write me the letter, because…?"
Jimmy shrugged. "I dunno, Lou… beyond what he said in the letter, you can read it if you want, that he wanted you to hear it from someone," he looked away for a moment before putting voice to the words, "who cares for you as much as I do."
She took a step or two away from the corral, her gaze fixed on the midnight dark of the dirt under her feet. "He sent it… 'cause he doesn't know that I'm leaving."
"No, he doesn't know."
"He just wanted me to be prepared to see them… together."
"As far as I can figure," he agreed.
Louise looked up at Jimmy and moved closer until they were nearly toe to toe in the night. "And you thought I was leaving before hand and you were still going to tell me."
"Secrets hurt. You had a right to know, I just… I'm sure if there was an easier way that Kid would have found it."
She nodded, slowly folding her arms across her chest. "I'm gonna go in now and get some sleep."
He watched her turn and walk away. As the bunkhouse door opened under her hand she turned back to look over her shoulder. In the dark of the night he couldn't see or hear if she said anything, instead he lifted his hand to say goodnight. A moment later she was gone inside.
"Well," he whispered to no one in particular, "this is gonna be fun."