"Welcome back, Louise. How was the ride?" Rachel asked when a tired but happy looking Lou entered the kitchen holding a brown parcel under her arm.
"Quite eventful. As Jimmy already told you, Matt was killed," she said, sobering for a moment.
The fella had been hired as her replacement but had been killed during his first ride and, what was worse, Lou and Jimmy hadn't received any help in finding the ones responsible of his death because nobody at the town where Matt was killed had been willing to do anything for him. Everyone at the station was sad for the young man, even though they had known him only for a short time.
"What is in that package?" Rachel asked after some moments of silence, to lighten the mood.
"This…well… it's my wedding dress," the girl said blushing, "I bought it in Seneca, the saleswoman said it's the latest fashion in Paris…"
"I'm sure it's beautiful! Can't wait to see it so we can decide the hairdo and the accessories…" the woman said excitedly.
"Sure…" Lou said, a bit taken aback by the older woman's enthusiasm, "but now I'd like to see Kid, have you seen him?"
She was a little disappointed that he wasn't waiting for her on the porch steps, as every other time she came back from a run. Just before she left with Jimmy she had brushed him away quite hastily, like every time he brought up the subject of the wedding, and now she was feeling a bit guilty.
"Well," Rachel responded, "if he isn't in the barn, then he'd be at his spot by the pond, I think. He's been quite pensive in these days, maybe he was just missing you," she concluded with wink.
"I'm sure you're right," Lou responded with a smile, even though the station mistress' words made her feel even guiltier. "I'll go to him now, keep my dress here, ok? See you later!"
As Rachel said, Lou found Kid at his thinking spot near the pond; he was sitting with his back against the fallen log and raised his head to her when he heard her approaching. The familiar blue twinkling was replaced by a sad, serious look that worried Lou.
"Hey," she greeted him.
"Hey, you," Kid responded with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
She seated herself beside him and for several minutes nobody said a word. Lou could feel the tension in Kid's body and that was beginning to scare her.
"Kid, you ok?" the girl finally said, putting her hand on his bigger one.
"I have to tell you something, Lou," he said, clutching her fingers. "You don't have to marry me if you don't want to, Lou," he said, "I know it's a big change for you and I'm willing to wait until you're ready. It's enough for me to know that one day you'll be willing to become my wife," he concluded with a trembling tone that he hurried to control.
Lou's eyes filled with tears, he was willing to call off the wedding they planned for the next month for her sake. She choked a sob and leapt to kiss him fully on the mouth, tenderly framing his face with her hands.
"I want to marry you Kid," she said when she returned to look at him, "I'm sorry I made you think the contrary. It's just that…a part of me can't wait to start a family with you, but the other one is scared to stop being Lou and return to be just an ordinary woman."
"You'll never be an ordinary woman, Lou," Kid responded, taking both of her hands in his and kissing the fingers lightly. "Together we can do whatever we want, I surely won't force you to be at home and only knit. I know you too well to do something so stupid." He smirked.
"Be sure to remember these words," the girl smirked back, but then she returned immediately serious. "I know you won't, but all the other men of Rock Creek would just think you're crazy. Let's just imagine what they will think when they find out that the short, little Lou McCloud is a girl who lived for months with a bunch of men who weren't her relatives."
"Is this what worries you, Lou? What might the others think of you?" Kid asked, concerned.
"No...well, yes, that too," she responded, embarrassed of herself
"You'll have me by your side in every step. You know that, Lou. I'll be proud to show the world the wonderful woman that made me the honour to become my wife. You're an amazing woman, Louise, you've been willing to accept a dangerous job for your brother and sister's sake and you showed a lot more courage than any other of those upstanding citizens would ever do. Don't let anyone think any less of you for any reason, ok?"
The girl blushed.
"I don't do it only for Miah and Tessie." Lou said with a tiny voice, "I love my job as a rider, I feel like I'm doing something important, something I would never be able to do as Louise."
"A girl with no ma, no pa, no kin ... what's left for me? Scrubbing floors or worse?"
The words rang in Kid's head while Lou was speaking; and the young man knew that, as sad as it could be, Lou was right. No matter how good on a horse, how skilled with a gun, how able to look after herself she was, nobody would have ever given her a chance as Louise.
"But nothing of this matter anymore," Lou continued, distracting Kid from those thoughts, "Our wedding is the most important thing for me now; I'm sorry it took to me a bit to understand it. But now I'm sure the only thing I want is to marry you. I love you Kid, more than anything else in the world."
The girl stared at him in the eyes, glad to see the last shadow of worry disappear.
"I love you too, Louise," he said with that husky voice of his that made her melt, "with all of my heart."
They kissed again, slowly and sweetly, and then remained cuddled with each other, basking in the soft sounds of the evening, until Kid broke the silence.
"Can I dare to propose a night on the town tomorrow, milady?" His tone was light but his eyes stared intently at Lou, as to test her reaction, "but a nice dinner at home would be ok too," the young man hurried to say when he saw Lou wasn't responding, "maybe I can ask Rachel if she could let us use the house and…"
His rambling was stopped by a gentle finger on his lips.
"A dinner at the restaurant sounds just fine to me, gentle sir." Lou finally responded with a sweet and shy smile.
Kid's face broke into a big smile, "To me too," he said embracing her, "To me too…"
A big thanks to Hanny and Mercy who beta-read this story for me!