Author's Note: Letters of Revelation

Taking a Step Outside

Samantha settled into the circle of women with expected aplomb. She was gracious and sweet and spoke with light, lilting tones that had the women swept up in her stories.

"We're so glad to have you here, Samantha dear." Mrs. Winthrop cooed over the quilt square gripped in her hand. "We've longed so for a woman of fine qualities to come to town."

"Yes, yes," agreed Mrs. Marlowe, "while the West affords us wonderful opportunities it also attracts those," she gave a meaningful look to Mrs. Johnson, "other less 'genteel' people."

"Mmmhmm," Mrs. Johnson snipped at a loose thread and then looked up at Samantha, "we were so happy to see your husband take on a respectable job. The Express was all dust and danger," she looked around the assembled group, "just not the kind of element that really enhances a town."

"Why yes," Samantha agreed, her smile just a mite too bright, "I was happy to have him court me once he had begun his work with the telegraph. What an important service for our community."

"True, very true," Mrs. Winthrop nodded her approval as she began another long string of stitches. "I had wondered how he managed to afford a live-in servant on his salary. Surely the telegraph office pays well, but-"

"I agree," added Mrs. Johnson, "I've been asking my Thomas for a servant and he says it's a luxury that we can only aspire to once his business grows."

"Well," Samantha had to pull out a stitch that she'd put in the wrong place, using the time to think through her answer, "Martha is so very close to me… she practically raised me." She gave the women a smile and began her stitches again, "she's like family."

"Family?" Mrs. Marlowe sniffed disapprovingly. "Really?"

"Well, practically." Samantha bit the inside of her cheek before she turned to Mrs. Johnson. "You mentioned your daughter, Penelope, earlier?"

"Oh yes," the woman smiled and sighed dramatically, "I just received a letter from her the other day. She had her second baby… a boy."

The announcement was met with a chorus of happy exclamations and Samantha joined in, eager to take the focus from herself for the moment. She had hoped that here, in Rock Creek, she could have explained who Martha was, but once she'd heard their assumptions about who Martha was, she knew it was impossible.

*** ***

"Louise?" Teresa held the dress up to her body and moved about in front of the mirror. "What do you think?"

"Hmm?" Louise raised her head but her eyes were on the bodice before her. The lace that she was adding to the neckline of the dress was delicate and much too expensive to replace. "I'm sure it looks lovely."

Teresa's indulgent sigh filled the empty space between them. "I know it's lovely… you made it," she teased with her words and tone, "I was wondering what you thought of it… on me."

Louise set her needle down and straightened her back, wincing with the pain. She peered over the bolts of cloth and smiled. The dress would be nice on Teresa; there was no doubt in her mind. "You could always sew one for yourself."

The sweetness of her tone caught her sister's attention, but it wasn't until she saw Louise's arched eyebrow that Teresa's expression soured. "Louise! You're just the meanest person in the whole world!"

Picking up her needle, Louise went back to sewing as she listened to her sister rant over the injustice of having a dress shop at her disposal and not being able to take advantage of it as much as she should. Louise felt the tug at the corners of her mouth and lowered her head so her sister wouldn't see how much she was enjoying this. It certainly was different from all the times that she'd listened to the boys grouse and groan, but it was something sweet to her, knowing that she was back together with her sister.

*** ***

There was another town just a few miles down the trail, but there was something right about stopping here for the night. He still wasn't one for dealing with a lot of people. Sure, he enjoyed company, but outside of the riders and his sister there wasn't much he enjoyed about being crowded by a lot of people. Even after a few days at Emma's place, he'd been eager to get back on the trail. It just wasn't like him to stay that far from home… even though Emma's was a tempting place to dally.

Picketing Sundance near a spring he let her have her chance to rest as he set up his bedroll under a nearby tree. The breeze swept his hair back from his face and he reached up to settle his hat. He was grateful that Emma had packed some provisions for him; it gave him a little bit of the comfort of home and that was worth more than gold.

Lifting the pack from his saddle he pulled out a colorful cloth knotted around something that smelled like Emma's kitchen. He untied the knot and laid the sides of the cloth down revealing a little bit of heaven, Emma's roast, cut into a thick slice between a few slices of her fresh bread. He lifted it to his nose and breathed in the scent of it before taking a bite.

As he lowered the sandwich to his makeshift napkin he saw a little corner of paper poking out from beneath another of Emma's colorful packages. Wiping his fingers on the edge of the napkin he pulled the paper free and opened it up.

Emma's careful script was plain on the paper and he read through the letter she'd left him.

Jimmy,

Sometimes you don't realize what you have until it's gone. When I had you boys a stone's throw away I think I was too hard you. It was too easy to hold you too close. To worry too much. Especially about you, Jimmy. When you traveled with me to Fort Reunion I know how much it cost you. So many things went wrong on that trip and while I was glad to have you along as you were such a comfort to me and a protector when I should have been taking care of you.

Jimmy shook his head as he continued to read. Emma always made him smile.

I don't think you understand how much of a future you could have

There was a lift and a break in the line, as though Emma had left off her letter for a moment. Maybe there was something she had to do, someone at the door…

Or, Jimmy thought, she had to do a little bit of thinking before she continued on.

if you let yourself believe.

Jimmy sighed, drawing Sundance's attention, "Emma…"

*** ***

Kid settled a smile on his lips before he opened the front door. His relationship with Martha had been strained recently and it was no small problem for him. Marrying Samantha had been a dream. He just hadn't considered that Martha wouldn't take to him. Sure, he knew there would be an adjustment to get used to him. To get used to their… situation.

He hadn't counted on Martha becoming more bitter as their time went on.

Tugging on the door he stepped into the doorway and called out to his family. "I'm home."

Martha turned from the oven with a stern look. "And lettin' in the flies again."

His smile dropped along with his chin and he pulled the door closed behind him. "Sorry, Martha." He looked about the room for Samantha. The room was empty. He opened his mouth to ask about her, but Martha beat him to it.

"She off with her 'fine' friends. The ladies have gone to minister to the 'poor unfortunates.'" She didn't bother hiding the edge in her voice, the sharp look in her eyes. "You'll have to wait for supper until she's home."

"Yes, well… I'll go and wash up, change my-"

"Ah don't need to know everything you do… as long as your hands are clean at the table, that's all that I worry over."

She turned back to the stove and attacked the stew with the wooden spoon in her hand.

Retreating to the bedroom, Kid poured a generous splash of water into the bowl on the stand. He enjoyed the shiver that arced through him as he washed his face with the frigid liquid. He hoped Samantha would hurry home. He really needed to see her smile.

*** ***

"Louise!"

Setting her fork down, Louise swiped her napkin over her lips and dropped the linen square on the table top. She rose from her chair and smiled at her friend.

Mary Elaine Hopkins descended on the table like a whirlwind, dragging a young man behind her. "Louise… this is my brother Harold." She turned to her brother, nodding at him encouragingly, "Harold, this is Louise."

Louise reached out her hand and gave his hand a friendly shake. "Hello, Harold."

Raising a delicate hand to her mouth, Mary Elaine looked horrified. "Louise! Really? A handshake?"

Turning her embarrassed gaze to the young man, Louise let him take her hand gently in his. "Please to meet you, Harold."

He bent over her hand for a moment before giving her a wink that his sister couldn't see. "Quite alright, Miss, it's the most… unique greeting I've had."

Mary Elaine slugged him on the shoulder and then hid her hand behind her back. "Harold… don't tease. Louise is one of my dearest friends here in Saint Joseph. She owns the most delightful shop in town. You really ought to be on your best behavior."

Harold shook his head at his sister before he leaned an inch or two closer to Louise. "I'm sure you enjoy a little humor, don't you, Louise?"

She recognized the inherent nature of their relationship. A younger sister relying on her brother… the brother determined to give his sister fits. Smiling broadly she nodded. "I'm sure I can survive a joke or two."

Momentary shock wore off and Mary Elaine brightened considerably. "Oh look, there's Constance! Oh, Constance!" Mary Elaine waved at the front window of the restaurant. "If you'll both excuse me, I need to-"

She dashed off in mid-sentence and Louise was left gaping after her friend.

It was Harold's laughter that brought her back to the moment. She turned and smiled at him. "I'm sorry, I didn't… she probably-"

"I think we both know what my sister just did had nothing to do with talking to… whoever it was she said she was running off to talk to."

He indicated her empty seat with a gesture of his hand and preceded her to the chair, holding it out for her.

Louise nodded slightly and sat down in the chair, whispering her thanks as he rounded the table to sit in the empty seat across from her. "So you think she left-"

"To give us time alone? I'm pretty sure that's what she had in mind, however… if you'd like to finish your meal alone... I'm sure I can find an empty table in the dining room.

Looking about the room Louise did see a few empty tables here and there, but it hadn't been her intent to eat alone. "Mary Elaine was supposed to meet me for supper," she began, "I couldn't wait with Teresa alone in the shop… so there is the other chair and," she smiled and lifted her fork, "I don't mind some company."

"Good," he replied with another wink, "I don't mind it either." Harold flagged down the waiter for a menu.

*** ***

Teresa stared at the two fabrics she'd spread out on the table; one deep blue, the other green. They were both beautiful fabrics, not as expensive as some, but lovely all the same. She hated to acknowledge it, but Louise was right. Not that she'd ever tell her sister that. She could make her own clothes, but it was infinitely easier to buy them… or let her sister make them. Still, this was a business that they were building together and she had to be responsible.

"So which color should I use?"

She was reaching for the green fabric when the door to the shop opened. Turning around she gave a little gasp. "Oh dear!"

The man filling the doorway swept the hat from his head and cleared his throat. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."

"Scare me? I was wondering how long it would take you to show up!" She swept across the floor and grabbed at his hand, pulling him further inside. "Come on in and talk to me while I pin this pattern up."

He looked around the shop, leaning sideways to see into the back room. "Sure… I can stay for a bit."

Teresa couldn't help the smile that played across her lips. "It's been a few months, Jimmy."

"Hmm?" He straightened up and pulled his attention back to Teresa. "Yeah, sorry. We're busy ridin' circuit for the Express."

She nodded as she withdrew the paper pieces from a long flat drawer behind the counter. "I was beginning to think that Rachel was the only one who was ever going to come and visit."

"Rachel said you were both doing well. How is Jeremiah these days?"

"Busy," Teresa picked up her pin cushion and skirted back around the counter, "he's taken over two shifts at the smithy for Mr. Carmichael." She looked up at Jimmy with a smile. "Works well for them both. Mr. Carmichael's daughter still comes around with a meal about noon every day."

Jimmy saw the laughter in her eyes and couldn't help his own laughter at the thought. "So, working at the smithy has… other benefits?"

Bent over the pattern pieces, the young woman smiled prettily. "You could say that."

He looked about the store, as Teresa continued her work. "All alone tonight?"

"For the time being…" she pushed in another pin and leaned back to look up at him. "All the way here and still you can't just say what you mean." She gave a little sigh and shook her head. "Must get tiresome ridin' around the subject all the time."

*** ***

The bedroom door opened and Kid drew Samantha inside and into his embrace. "You're home."

"Oh, Kid." She swatted as his hands playfully, "you'll crush my flounces!" She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and stepped back away from him, taming her hair in the polished metal mirror beside the doorway. "I've been so busy today, you'd be so proud of all that I've done for the unfortunate in town."

He nodded even though she couldn't see him. He wanted to tell her he was proud, but he wanted to spend just a little time with her. Only her. Especially after the long day he'd put in at the office.

She whirled on him. "I should think you'd be thrilled to know how the ladies in town have taken to me. I've become a favorite amongst them." She tucked an errant curl back into her bun. "Why Mrs. Conner said I remind her of her own daughter back in Boston." She flushed to the roots of her hair. "Boston! Can you imagine, Kid?"

Shrugging he let out a sigh. "Sounds like you had a wonderful day, Samantha."

"Wonderful?" The corners of her mouth turned down at the thought. "Not quite. It was long and hot and I can't wait until Martha has supper ready for us. I'm famished!"

Samantha bent over the basin and quickly washed her face and hands. "If I'm not careful I'll burn brown and Martha will never forgive me!"

She stood, reaching out for a cloth to dry her face and Kid set it in her hand. She gently dried her skin and looked over at him. "Can you imagine what I'd look like? Brown like a leather saddle, how horrible!"

He smiled, taken as he always was with her beauty. "I think you'd be beautiful."

She threw the cloth at him, the limp square of cloth falling on his shoulder as she laughed. "Trust you to say the oddest things, Kid."

Moving a step closer he reached out a hand to touch her but she moved slightly away toward the bed. "I mean it, Samantha, you'll always be beautiful to me."

Fishing through her reticule she sighed. "Times like this, Kid, I'm reminded that you come from a town smaller than Rock Creek. Really, there are standards to true beauty and if I'm not careful, I'll go ahead and make a muck out of the little God saw fit to give me."

He wanted to argue with her, but Samantha didn't argue, she informed and he 'learned.' Quickly.

"Oh!" Samantha withdrew a piece of paper from her reticule and unfolded it. A moment later it had taken on the form of an envelope. "I almost forgot."

"A message came for you today." She was about to put it in his outstretched hand but seemed to think better of it. "What was that girl's name again? The one you were… friends with before you met me?"

Kid felt that old lump form firmly in his throat. "Louise… but we called her Lou."

Her delicate brows rose in surprised arches before she bestowed a winsome smile on him. "Oh! Good! Then here."

He took the envelope in his hand and looked at the careful script printed on the front. Samantha opened the bedroom door and he looked up at her, confusion written across his features. "Samantha?"

"Yes, Kid?" She gave him a sweet smile.

"This is from Emma Cain, our old Station Mistress."

"Hmm? Yes, I know that now."

His brows furrowed slightly as he looked down at the envelope again and back up at his wife. "Then why did you ask about Louise?"

Her smile seemed to tighten a bit at the corners of her mouth. "Well, last I heard Louise was still a single woman and I'm sure you understand that a single woman sending a letter to a married man would be," she cocked her head to the side and gave him a soft smile, "inappropriate."

It made sense and he nodded. Once… or twice before she moved away through the doorway and started to set the table for supper.

Kid opened the envelope and removed the letter, sitting down on the corner of the bed to read -

Dear Kid,

I understand that you've married. You have my best wishes and heartfelt congratulations…

*** ***

Harold offered his arm to Louise just outside the restaurant. "I've determined that my darling sister has abandoned me," He gave her a charming smile, "the least I can do to thank you for keeping me company during supper is to walk you back to your shop. Protect you from ruffians on the street?"

She smiled back at him. "I've never had a problem with anyone bothering me," she reached out and set her hand on his arm, "but I would enjoy the company."

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