The door opened slowly as if the person on the other side wasn't quite sure of their welcome and so they couldn't chance being told they couldn't come in.
"Hello?" Noah watched from the far side of the table, his right hand settling over the grip of his gun. "Someone there?"
Martha was suddenly standing in the doorway, her eyes cast down to the floor . "I'm here to talk to, Kid."
"Samantha, ain't… isn't here, Martha."
She clasped her hands together and nodded, accepting his words. "That's fine, 'cuz what I got to say, she can't hear it."
Dropping the flap of his saddle bag he turned from his bunk and couldn't miss the other riders in the room. Noah stood and looked back at Kid. "I'd better go and finish chores before-"
"You don't have to leave, Noah.. this is your home."
Buck stepped past Martha and nodded a greeting and Noah moved behind him towards the door. "It's all fine, Kid… we got work to do… and I think," he looked at Martha with sympathy in his gaze, "what she has to say's got to be pretty important."
Martha didn't return the younger man's smile and didn't acknowledge the tip of his hat as he walked past her, for that alone Kid was already unhappy with the woman. "Say what you need to say Martha… I have a run coming up."
She started to nod, but froze as though she'd ceased being real. The sudden shift both un-nerved and angered him at the same time.
She sat down in the chair and then thought better of the situation and got up again, pacing behind the table. "I'm here, 'cause Samantha ain't thinkin' right." She gave him a nod and continued on. "she don't understand it all. Ain't blamin' her much 'cause it ain't somethin' I taught her while she was growin' up to reach for the best of everythin' and not take no for an answer."
"And I aim to give her the best, Martha. I love-"
"Love ain't everythin'." She gasped when she finished her thought; her hand frozen halfway to her mouth. Her eyes wide like she was stuck somewhere in the past and couldn't get forward. "It doesn't solve all the problems in the world. Trouble is, Samantha read too many of them romance books while she was growin' up to keep her feet planted on solid ground."
"I'm not a man that goes off and does things without bein' sure. I'm solid set on marryin' Samantha."
"Even knowin' who her mama is?"
Martha's chin lifted the shade of an inch and her eyes met his with coal glittering in their depths. She was waiting for him to turn tail and run. She was waiting for Kid to show that he wasn't the gentleman everyone said he was. She was waiting for him to prove her right.
He looked down at the dusty toes of his boots and strapped his courage in tight. Facing a mama wasn't ever an easy thing to do, not when she thought her cub was in danger. "I know you don't think much of me, but I think the world of Samantha… your daughter." His eyes, the gaze behind them solid and earnest. "I know that you think a man like me… a man raised in the South wouldn't be a man you can count on. I'm not Rob-"
She reeled back as if he'd hit her. "I know… oh mister, I know you ain't Robert. And on that count I'm real happy… real happy. He'd hurt us more than I can explain to you, but this ain't got nothin' to do with Robert. He knew only too well what would happen if he lay with a Negress. He'd seen his pappy bed and birth a dozen brothers and sisters all sent away before folks done ask too many questions. He'd seen it and he'd thought of it when he'd done had me."
Kid's mind stumbled over her last words, her eyes boring into him when he didn't immediately respond. "So, that's the way of it, sir." Martha took a breath and relaxed a bit, if only for just a moment he was able to see the complete pain as it washed over her.
"And I'll stand by Samantha. She'll be my wife." He took a deep breath and looked at her. "I know that you can't believe that a man like me-"
"A white man."
"A man like me wouldn't be willing to follow through. I'm not like that. Ask any of my friends, they'll tell you."
She gave him a smile and for a moment he thought he'd gotten through to her. Thought, but then he saw the pitying look in her eyes and swallowed hard.
"Have you really thought what marriage with a girl like Samantha means? Have you thought of what happens next?"
His posture grew by nearly an inch under her gaze. "I dare any man or woman to say anything against her. I'll protect her good name, Martha. I'll be the one to protect her from the world."
She nodded slowly. "I can see how much you mean it, but then again… who will protect you?"
Again, he didn't understand her meaning. "I don't understand what the problem is now, Martha… what is it?"
"Haven't you thought about what comes from lovin'? What happens when a baby gets born-"
"I'll be happy to have children with her… I've always wanted to be a father… wanted many children and-"
"Have you?" She bit out the words and Kid's expression darkened.
"Don't you want Samantha to be happy? Don't you want her to have a family?"
"Do you understand that the baby she may give you may very well be as dark-skinned-"
He tried to wave it off. "That may be but-"
"No… no… don't ignore it, think." She moved closer and covered his eyes with her hand. "Think… think of the picture when the midwife calls you in and there on the bed, your lovely wife," Kid's smile twisted in her gut and she kept on, wanting to make her point, "and tucked up against her your son. His face black like mine."
She let go, lifting her hand off his eyes. She turned and walked back to the door, stopping one last time. "Can you live with that?"
Then, she was gone.