Author's Note: I have used Melissa Ethridge's song "Come To My Window", & Keith Anderson's "Pickin' Wildflowers" as inspiration throughout this story - Lyrics from the song are in Italics.
I know he is following me - I can just sense his presence. I continue on into the town ahead - more than likely, Teaspoon has sent him along as an extra gun for whatever I am carrying & he knows the stubborn streak within me well.
The thing is, my shadow doesn't know that I, Lou, am actually Louise. The only people who do know are Emma & surprisingly, Teaspoon. When he found out, I was sure the man was going to have a heart-attack. I'm just glad that Emma was there with me when Teaspoon found out. Emma was able to calm the man down & he decided keeping me on board as a rider was a much better idea than firing me - I am, after all, one of his best riders, so he couldn't just let me go.
When I arrived in town, I go straight to the Army Barracks & pass on the letter to the Commanding Officer as Teaspoon had directed me to do, then I take my horse to the livery at the other end of town before checking myself into the hotel.
As I check in, I ask for a bath to be sent up. I also scan the log for my shadow's name, but he hasn't yet checked in. Maybe he is staying somewhere else. I doubt he would have turned & headed right back home.
I enjoy a nice long soak in the bath & am just getting out & wrapping myself in a big white fluffy towel, when I sense him again. He is close - maybe he has finally checked into the hotel. I quickly finished drying off & get dressed.
He is a really experienced rider - I'm finding it hard to keep up with him. Teaspoon pulled me aside last night after dinner & asked me to shadow him - just watch his back & be a second gun if needed.
I watch from the cover of nearby buildings as he delivers the letter, then he heads to the other end of town. I follow along the back of buildings until we get to the Livery. I leave to return to my own horse as he stables his at the Livery. I watch from halfway down the street as he heads over to the hotel. As soon as he enters, I take my horse down & stable him at the livery before going to the hotel myself & checking in.
As I check in, I ask which room my friend is in, saying I saw his name in the register & want to surprise him. The guy behind the desk tells me Lou is in room 212, as he gives me my room key.
I head up to my room & once inside, I lay down on the bed to relax for a while before letting Lou know I was here. The next thing I know, I'm startled awake by a door slamming down the hall. I shake the cobwebs from brain as I sit up. I go to the window & see that outside it is a balcony, so I decide to go out & check out the town from above.
As I am turning around to return to my room, I see Lou through the curtains of his room. He is just getting out of a bathtub and …Hang on…What the hell? Lou is a…a...a girl? Sorry, no, a woman!
I quickly turn & return to my room. I'm in shock. He's a she? Lou's a girl? I just stand in my room, staring into space as I let the information sink into my brain. All those times I've spent with Lou since we both joined the Express. His…no, her behaviour had seemed odd at times back then, but now it all makes sense…but why didn't I see it before? It's all so clear now!
Nodding to myself, I head out the door, down the stairs & out into the street.
As I am putting on my shoes, there is a knock at the door. I adjust my dress then grab my gun & cock it before going over to stand behind the door. I summon up my courage before I unlock the door & pull it open. I hold my cocked gun in my hand hidden behind the door.
To my surprise, there stands Jimmy with that beautiful smile of his. I can't help the smile that spreads across my face. "Jimmy, what are you doing here?"
"Teaspoon really wanted a second gun on this run, so I shadowed you here…I'm sorry, please don't be mad. Here, I got these for you…as a peace offering if you like." Jimmy explains in a hurry, looking slightly embarrassed as he gives me a small bunch of flowers.
"Thank you Jimmy, they're beautiful & I'm not mad at you. I knew you were following me. I don't know how, I just knew….but why did you get me flowers…how did you find out about my secret??" I asked with fear of the unknown.
"I was actually out on the balcony outside there…" he points out the window, "…& as I was going back inside, I kinda saw you getting out of your bath. Lou, I'm sorry…I wasn't spyin', I promise" He closes his eyes, probably waiting for a fist in his face, or a bullet in his chest, but I leave him alone. He opens one eye after a moment & looks at me.
I stand in shock at first before I smile. "Well, I'm glad it was you who found out my secret before any of the other boys. At least now, I don't have to just run to Emma all the time to talk to someone. I have you too…I hope!"
His head shoots up at this bit of news. "Emma knows? Since when?" he asks me.
"Since the beginning… She's always just known." I tell him.
"Oh. So, Lou, do you…would you…" he stumbles over his words. Before he continues, he takes a deep breath & then tries again. "Lou, would you like to have dinner with me tonight?"
I feel my heart soar. I've fancied Jimmy for a while now…I'm always trying to sneak glances at him whenever I can. I quickly answer "Oh, Jimmy, I'd really like that." We look into one another's eyes, smiling at each other. I become lost in his eyes for a time. I finally find words to speak again after what I'm hoping is only a few moments, "So, do you want to go now, or…"
"Ahhh, yeah, sounds like a good idea, I'm starved, what about you?" he replies, shaking his head back to reality.
"Yeah, me too, let's go" I answer, taking his hand in mine & heading through the door & down the stairs.
Dinner is wonderful. We talk & laugh casually over our meal & then I ask her to join me in a walk around the town. As we walk outside onto the boardwalk, I take her hand in mine. Her hand is so small in mine & her smile could light up the darkest night. I feel my heart beating so loud I'm sure she can hear it, so I quickly look at her as we walk to see her face. She simply smiles at me & squeezes my hand. As we walk, I keep thinking about what I want to say to her, what I want to ask her. We eventually stop at the end of town, near the corral of the Livery. We both lean against the fence & look out to the open plains ahead. I summon my courage to finally say what's on my mind.
"Lou, there's something I think we should talk about…something I want to ask you." I begin. She looks over at me & smiles. "Well, for starters, what's your real name?" I ask. I thank the lord it's dark tonight, to help hide my cheeks as they turn red. Yes, I do get embarrassed, Okay!
"It's Louise." She tells me timidly.
"OK, Louise…I'm glad I'm getting to be the one who gets to know the real you, away from the prying eyes of the others."
"Yeah, it can be hard at times around the boys. So, where do we go from here, Jimmy? I mean I'd like us to be at least friends, but I'd be happy to be more than friends, if you know what I mean." She almost whispers.
I can't stop the grin that spreads across my face, I'm sure it's about reaching my ears. "I'd like us to give it a go, Lou...with us as a couple I mean…since I saw you climb out of that bath, that's all I've thought about."
"Yeah, I bet!" she giggles.
It takes me a minute to realise what she means & I feel the heat rise quickly to my cheeks once more, thanking God again for the cover of darkness. "Ahh, Lou, that's not what I mean. I meant us…as a couple…not you…you know…without your…you know…" I know I'm babbling now, but I feel myself shaking with nervousness. I've never been shy to talk to girls before, but Lou is someone so much more special than anyone I've ever met. I know now that I've always had a special place in my heart for Lou…even before I knew she was Louise, which, for some reason didn't unnerve me like I thought it should.
"Jimmy…breathe…it's OK, I'm just teasing you." Lou voice breaks through my muddled thoughts.
I take a few deep breaths before I say anything else. "So, does this mean we're going to give it a go? You & I? Have a relationship? Court? Whatever?" I stumble over my words again.
She chuckles again, mesmerising me with that simple laugh. I pray she says yes.
"Yes, Jimmy, I'd love for us to be a couple." She tells me.
As soon as she utters those words, I turn to her, bend down & capture her lips with mine - to seal the deal so to speak. We stand there in our own private world, embracing each other for a time, although we lose track of time - it could be hours, or mere minutes…but we don't care.
Eventually we make our way back to the hotel, hand in hand, enjoying each other's company. I walk her to her room & find it very hard to say goodnight. I know tomorrow we'll be heading back home & I know this will shock the rest of the boys, but I also hope they don't turn against Lou for not letting them know about herself in the begining.
I know there's something he's trying to hide, so I decide to throw caution to the wind & ask him. "Jimmy, is there something wrong? You seem worried about something?"
"Oh, Lou, I'm just worried about what's gonna happen when we get home & the boys find out you're actually Louise. I don't want them to turn against you. You know what they can be like." He confesses.
"Jimmy. I plan on telling them who I am, before we tell them about us. I'll tell them about me as soon as we get home. I just hope Teaspoon or Emma are there in case the boys start on me start on me - I know your temper all to well, Jimmy." I giggle, trying to lighten the mood before continuing. "No matter what happens, Jimmy, just remember it is you that I chose. I don't care what they think, I don't care what they say, What do they know about this love anyway?"
Nodding he replies, "well, it's getting late, & we've got a long ride back home tomorrow. I'll let you get to bed & I'll see you in the morning…although it won't come soon enough for me."
Smiling, I lean up & kiss him again - I just can't seem to get enough of his kisses. "Goodnight Jimmy. I'll see you in the morning" I say, before going into my room & closing the door. I go over to my window & close the shade before undressing & climbing into bed. I drift off to sleep dreaming about the new direction my life is hopefully headed in.
The next morning, I awake early eager to see Jimmy again. I quickly dress & gather my belongings. Just as I'm about to leave, there's a knock at my door. I go to answer it, guessing it's Jimmy. As I open the door, I see his pearly white smile shining at me. I return his smile as he asks "Are you ready to go Lou?"
Nodding, I follow him down the hallway and then stop as he walks into the dinning room of the hotel & sits at one of the tables. Blinking at him, he asks "Lou, are you gonna join me for breakfast before we head out?"
I can't help but smile before I nod & join him. We enjoy a nice big breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, biscuits & coffee, afterwards, I'm not sure that I can get up on my horse because I'm so full but eventually we start out for home.
We stop for a quick break by a pond around mid-afternoon. It's a warm day & the horses need a drink like us. It's a nice spot to stop at & I decide I want to come back here again in the future - maybe even spend the night - it looks like a nice spot just to get away from it all. We sit by the water & I play with a few stones, skittling them across the water, enjoying being alone with Jimmy.
I watch her as she throws rocks across the water, how peaceful she looks. I hope I can always bring peace to her life. I'm sure there's a reason she dresses as a boy & I hope one day she'll trust me enough to tell me. Well, for now, I'm happy to be here in her life & have her as part of mine.
After a while I decide to ask her a question. "Ah, Lou? Tomorrow, Whatcha say we go pickin' wildflowers? Got a spot way back in the woods, near the station. We could sneak away for a couple of hours, you & me, Pickin' wildflowers? What do you say? I don't mean we have to take them back to the station if you don't want to, but I thought you might like to do something like that"
Smiling brightly, she replies quickly "Jimmy that sounds wonderful, I'd love to…& we could take some back to the station for Emma. I'm sure she'd like some too."
"OK, once our chores are finished, maybe after lunch or somethin' we'll go, just the two of us. I'm gonna look forward to it…but right now, what do you say we head for home. As much as I'm enjoying being here with you, I'm looking forward to one of Emma's nice hot suppers." I laugh.
She rolls her eyes, but can't help but giggle too. I love her laugh, it sets my insides wriggling with happiness. When she's happy, I can't help but be happy too. I pull her close & kiss her with all that I am. I guess I pulled her a bit quick because her body lands on mine, but I don't care, I wrap my arms around her to hold her close & I deepen the kiss…this is truly what heaven must feel like…except for the rock that's digging in my back, but she's more important than the rock right now. When she pulls away, I let out a little groan - I don't want it to end.
Laughing, she tells me, "Come on Jimmy, we've gotta get going or we'll never get back at this rate." She stands, dusting herself off & then holds out her hand for me, like she can help pull me up. I take her hand & get to my feet, before kissing her again - I just can't get enough of kissing her. I then wrap my arm around her shoulder as we walk back to our horses. I hold Lightning's reigns as she climbs up into the saddle, handing the reigns to her once she's settled, then I go to my horse & quickly mount, Turn the horses towards home & gallop off. Our future together looks bright from my point of view.
A/N: A HUGE thank you goes out to Miss Raye for being my soundboard & for helping to release this little bunny from ideas we discussed. Please send me feedback if you enjoyed it…Some feedback may help release more Bunnies & possibly help complete some of my other stories LOL