Topic #33: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night
The Story by: Donna Ree
Where There's A Will, There's A Way by: Donna Ree
The Interrogation by: Debbie
Dreams Interrupted by: Lori
The Thunder Rolls by: Cindy
Together Forever by: Dede
The Story
by: Donna Ree

‘It was a dark and stormy night. Jake Winslow was drenched from head to foot, but it didn’t stop him from his mission…to make sure Charlotte Ainsley was safe, Charlie, to her friends.’ Cody rapidly scribbled onto his pad of paper.

Looking around the bunkhouse, making sure no one was paying him any attention, he continued.

‘Fighting the strong winds that threatened to take him from this earth, his movements were slow, but determined. Charlie was the one constant in his life. She was his reason for waking every morning, the reason he kept going. Without her his life would be nothing.’

Cody looked over at Lou playing cards with the boys and smiled. She was his one constant in his life and the reason he kept going. He was modeling ‘Charlotte’ after Lou. He hoped she’d never find out. He didn’t know what he would do if she ever did. The boys would all laugh. And the thought of Lou laughing at him over the feelings he secretly harbored for her would crush him.

Trying to push those thoughts aside, Cody continued with the story he was planning on entering in the Harpers Weekly writing contest. The top prize was ten dollars and he was planning on winning. In his mind he’d already spent his winnings. He was finally going to get up the nerve to confess his feelings for Lou and take her out for a night on the town. Now whether she’d return those feelings he wasn’t sure, but he was going to give it a whirl. At the very least he’d be giving Lou a night to be a woman again; and at the most she’d return the feelings and they could begin a relationship together. A relationship other than just fellow Express riders.

Cody continued to frantically write his story and when he was finished he sealed it in an envelope and sent it off.

*~*~*

Two months had gone by and Cody was eagerly awaiting news of his story entry. His feelings for Lou hadn’t changed, if anything they had increased in their intensity. Winning story or not, he was at the point he could barely wait to approach her of his feelings.

They had an upcoming ride to Deer Creek. He and Lou had been chosen by Teaspoon to make the run. Cody decided he’d take that opportunity to confess himself to her.

“Ya’ got mail, Cody.” Lou said the moment she walked into the bunkhouse from her run.

“Thanks, Lou.”

He took one look at the envelope and knew instantly who it was from, Harpers Weekly. He tore open the envelope and quickly scanned the letter it included.

“Second place! I won second place!” Cody exclaimed with delight. He rushed to Lou, picked her up and twirled her around the room. Knowing that no one else was in the room, he kissed her soundly on the mouth, surprising them both.

Stunned by Cody’s kiss, Lou merely said, “What’d you win second place at?”

“It’s a writing contest that I entered.”

“Did you win anything?” She asked looking into the now empty envelope.

“It’s a secret.”

“Aw, c’mon, Cody.”

“Five dollars.”

“Whatcha plannin’ on doing with it?”

Now was the time and Cody knew it. It was time for him to ask her to dinner.

“Well I was planning on going out to dinner with the most beautiful girl in town.” He told her.

Inside, Lou’s stomach fell. Ah, just to be called beautiful once…it wasn’t something likely to happen to her, not with the way she dressed. Maybe if her and Kid’s relationship hadn’t ended she might have heard it from him, but he only had eyes for the town’s new schoolteacher. Their relationship was way past being over.

“So?” Cody asked her.

As if being awakened from a daze, she realized Cody had been talking to her while she had been reminiscing over Kid.

“I’m sorry, Cody. What’d ya’ say?”

‘Oh, great, now I have to ask her all over again?’ Cody thought to himself. Bolstering his courage, he began again. “I was asking the most beautiful girl in town to dinner. We have a run coming up to Deer Creek together and I thought it be the perfect opportunity to paint the town. So how ‘bout it? Will you put me out my misery and have dinner with me?”

He held his breath waiting for her answer.

“Me? You think I’m the most beautiful girl in town and want to take me to dinner?”

“Well, yeah. Who else did ya’ think?”

“Cody, there’s plenty of girls in town, are you sure you wouldn’t rather spend your money on them?”

“Lou, there’s no one I’d rather spend my money on than you.”

And the moment she looked into his eyes for an answer, she already knew. It was her that he wanted to be with, not some other girl. “But Cody, why me? Why now?”

Not about to be dissuaded, he forged ahead. “Because there’s no time like the present. Lou, I’ve gotta tell ya’ I’ve had feelings for ya’ the moment I found out you were a girl. It’s just that Kid was there first, but now…” He trailed off and left the rest unsaid. Bringing up the way the Kid had dumped her would only hurt her and that’s the last thing he wanted to do. “C’mon, Lou, go with me. Please? If we spend some time together and you decide we can only just be friends then I’ll accept it. But what if we could have something more? If you don’t at least have dinner with me, we’ll never know.”

Feeling like she was just about to jump off a precipice into the great unknown, she said, “I’ll go.”

“You won’t regret it, Lou. I promise you that.”

*~*~*

Three weeks had passed since their special dinner in Deer Creek and Lou and Cody were slowly becoming more than just friends.

At suppertime, Teaspoon walked into the bunkhouse with a newspaper folded under his arm. He sat down and announced to everyone, “Seems like we’ve got a budding author in our mist.” All eyes turned to Cody, since he was always writing stories.

“Aw, what’d he write now, Teaspoon?” Jimmy groaned.

“Well now, he was published in Harpers Weekly. Looks to me like he won second prize in a writing contest.” Teaspoon spread the paper out onto the table for everyone to see.

After the paper and its story had been passed around for all the riders to read, Kid was the first to speak up. “Seems to me Charlotte reminds me an awful lot of Lou. And Jake Winslow seems to be a copy of you, Cody.” His ire rising, he asked, “You wouldn’t be interested in Lou now would you, Cody?”

Lou rolled up the paper and hit Kid on the side of the head with it, making her feel much better. “So what if he is, Kid? It’s no business of yours.”

Kid rubbed the side of his head and started to say something but was cut off by Jimmy, “Leave it be, Kid. ‘Sides, Lou’s right. It ain’t anyone’s business but their own.” Jimmy smiled at Lou, wishing he had been as clever as Cody and moved in on Lou when the time had been right.

Lou nodded at Jimmy and smiled back, as a silent thank you for coming to her defense.

Kid got up and stormed out of the room.

Teaspoon merely said, “Must not know good writin’ when he sees it. You did good, Cody. So I haven’t seen a new hat lying around, what’d ya’ do with your winnings?”

Cody smiled and looked at Lou. “Took the prettiest gal in town out to dinner.”

Noting the direction of his gaze, Teaspoon had his answer as to who that was. ‘Ah, to be young and in love.’ He thought to himself.

Congratulations came from all around the bunkhouse table, not only for his winning story, but for being the lucky one of them all to have asked Lou to dinner.

Where There's A Will, There's A Way
by: Donna Ree

Lou trudged through the snow, trying to make it home. It was already turning dark, but she knew the trail home like the back of her hand. As it snowed harder, the more determined she became to get back to the bunkhouse and the warmth it would provide. Not only the physical warmth, but the warmth her heart would be feeling at the sight of her Express family.

The snowstorm turned fierce, but still she continued. She was walking because her horse had turned up lame. She wish she could have taken Lightning on this run, but he had picked up a stone on her last run and he needed this time to heal.

As the storm continued she began to question the sanity in her decision not to stay in Horse Creek until the storm abated. But the closer to Sweetwater she got, the more excited she grew.

She’d had lots of time to think on this run and about her feelings for a certain rider. She knew the time had come to let him know how she felt. She knew he returned those feelings. She had noticed it in the way he looked at her when he thought she wasn’t looking and in the little extra things he did for her.

She thought back to last summer when she’d caught him in the all-together at the swimming hole. That brought a different kind of warmth to her and a smile to her face. She remembered the shocked look he had, realizing she had seen him, but his look had turned to something much deeper as she’d kept her gaze riveted on him. All at once she had looked away, noting the growing size of his anatomy.

It had been a cat and mouse game with them all through summer and into the fall. And now here it was winter and she was finally ready. Ready to tell him how she really felt about him.

As she reached the yard of the station, she felt relieved she’d finally made it and a little shy now that the time had come to confess her feelings. As luck would have it, he was in the barn waiting for her to return.

“Lou, I never thought you’d make it back.” Relief could be clearly heard in his voice. He took the reins of the horse she had been leading and brought him to the stall.

“Listen, I’ve got something to tell you.” She began. “I’ve been doin’ a lot of thinking lately about you and…me.

He looked up at her then and smiled. “I have, too, Lou.” He admitted softly.

Giddy that he’d been thinking of her, her stomach felt as if a parade of butterflies were inside her. “Go on.” She prodded him.

“No, you go.” He teased. “You started it.”

“Well, I think I…oh, I think I love you.” She finally admitted.

He walked toward her then, the horse completely forgotten. As he advanced on her and got closer, the butterflies in her stomach turned vicious. Could he really want to…

He kissed her. Hard. But gentle at the same time. He put all the feelings he could muster into that one kiss and she kissed him right back with all the love she felt for him.

When the kiss finally ended, they were both left breathless. Where they would go from here was anyone’s guess, but they were both thankful for the here and now and kissed again.

Lou smiled to herself. She was definitely glad she’d braved this dark and stormy night to make it home and straight into his arms.

The Interrogation
by: Debbie

It was a dark and stormy night and couldn't have come at a worse time.

Kid sighed in frustration as he glanced behind him. Lou was hurriedly pulling her shirt back on; a shirt that he had eagerly taken off her not a half hour ago.

They had planned everything so carefully and this damn storm had to come and ruin it all. He had pushed his horse and gotten back from his run around eight o'clock that evening, the same time the other riders, Rachel and Teaspoon were at the dance in town. Teaspoon always insisted that if they were not on a ride during a social event, it was mandatory they at least make a showing at it. So Lou had complained of a headache all day. This would give her the perfect reason to excuse herself early from the dance. How could a person handle the loud music when their head was pounding? Rachel had taken pity on Lou as she kept grabbing her head and had ordered her to go lay down immediately. Lou hid a smile as she told the station mistress that that was exactly what she had in mind of doing. She had ridden hard all the way back to the station, only to continue riding once she found Kid waiting for her in the barn.

He ran his hands through his unruly hair. It was mainly to keep them from grabbing Lou and throwing her back down to the pile of hay behind her.

"Kid, I still can't find my longjohns."

He watched as Lou started shoving hay aside in her effort to find the missing garment.

"Forget it, Lou, we gotta get back to the bunkhouse before the others show up." They had gotten used to the wind blowing all day and were thus occupied that when it started howling, they were oblivious to it. It wasn't until the rain started pelting the roof above them that they realized their plans were in ruin.

He took hold of her arm to help her up. Once she was standing and facing him, he started running his hands up and down her arms. "So much for our nice romantic evening," he grinned.

"Oh, I don't know, let's just say it was short and sweet," Lou told him as she put her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his lips.

As he responded to the kiss, he asked, "Short?"

"Our time together, not you," she explained.

"Well I'm glad we got that straightened out."

The kiss intensified but when Kid's hand started fumbling with the buttons on her shirt, Lou forced herself to pull away. "Kid," she chided, "you know we got to get back. I don't feel like explaining why we're out here together and I'm sure you don't either."

"Especially not to Cody or Jimmy," he muttered. "Just them thinking about us being together in that way makes them crazy trying to prove it. You would think they never met two people in love before."

Lou giggled. "It's not the love part that bothers them and you know it. It's the fact that we can manage to be together without them finding out about it that makes them nuts. They just wanna catch us in the act and haven't been able to yet."

"Well they're not about to tonight if I have anything to do about it," Kid assured her. "Come on." He took her hand and led her toward the door. He pulled it open, only to grab hold of it with both hands as the wind tried to force it out of his grip. "The storm couldn't have held off another hour, could it? No, it had to pick up right when we were just getting reaquainted and cut our time short."

"We could always stay out here and hope the others wouldn't leave the dance early," Lou offered.

"Not a chance, besides seeing how that wind is blowing even harder now, most folks are bound to be heading home to check up on their property. Well everything's secure in here so I'd say coming to the barn was worthwhile tonight, wouldn't you?"

"I couldn't agree with you more," Lou said smiling. She went to step outside but hesitated. "I forgot my jacket. I'll get soaked without it. Now where did I put it?" She started looking around.

"I can't believe how you keep misplacing things tonight. Did you have your mind on something else?" Kid teased.

"You hush," she warned but when he kept smiling at her, she finally gave in. "Alright, you distracted me by kissing me ... and looking so fine in that shirt of yours ... and out of it. There, are you happy now?"

"Perfectly." Kid turned around to glance outside and wound up wincing in pain as the door smacked him in the head. Rubbing the bump that he already felt, he squinted as he suddenly saw a flash of light. Kid watched it until he could make out dark shapes in the arc of light cast in the night. He cursed under his breath. He slammed the door shut then grabbed her hand. "Lou, the jacket will have to keep. The others are back. We have to go out the back way." He blew out the lantern, not daring to give themselves away by taking it, then fumbled his way to the back door with Lou close behind. Just as they made it outside, they heard the front door being opened.

"You boys take care of those horses then get right to bed. We'll have a mess to clean up around here come morning," Teaspoon bellowed. He took Rachel's arm and led her toward the house.

The boys quickly led their horses inside and shut the door. As Jimmy pulled his animal toward it's stall, he stopped and picked up something dark off the floor. He turned it over in his hand.

"What you got there, Jimmy?" Buck asked as he passed him.

"It's a jacket." He held it up for the others to see.

"That looks like the coat Lou had on," Noah said. "Why would she leave it on the ground in the middle of the barn?"

"Well at least it proves she made it back safe," Cody said.

"Yeah and before the rain started - it's dry," Jimmy stated.

*Kid's back,* Ike signed as he tapped on a stall to get their attention. He pointed to Katy who was in her stall then held up Kid's white hat. *This was on the peg next to the stall door,* he explained.

"It's dry, too," Noah confirmed, taking it from Ike. "So he's been back awhile too."

"I thought he wasn't due back until morning," Cody said. "Well at least she had someone to keep her compa ... oh, are you thinking what I'm thinking? " he asked excitedly as he turned to Jimmy.

"I'm thinking that he kept her company different than the way I would keep you company."

"Why are you guys so fixated on catching them in the act?" Buck asked, shaking his head. "It's none of our business."

"I know, that's what makes it so fun," Cody told him. "Besides, we know they've been dancing for a while now but they just won't admit it. We need one bit of evidence and we can call their bluff."

Cody, Jimmy, Noah and Buck turned around as they heard Ike repeatedly pounding on a board near one of the back stalls.

"What, Ike?" Cody whined, hating to be interrupted while his brain was busily coming up with a new scheme.

*Check this out.* Ike held up something white as he approached the others.

Cody took it in his hand and upon close inspection, suddenly tossed it to the ground. "Yuck! It's someone's underclothes."

"What's that doing in here?" Buck asked laughing.

*I found more,* Ike told them. He led them toward the stall he'd just exited. He pointed out the mound of hay that should have been full but was instead crushed to the ground. *Like someone was laying on it.*

"Maybe two someones," Cody and Jimmy said at the same time.

Cody layed down in demonstration. "Yep, just long enough to have been made by a man."

"These are awful tiny longjohns," Buck pointed out, "like they were meant for a boy."

"Or a short woman," Jimmy surmised. "Cody, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Let's go," Cody said. He started toward the door, tucking the longjohns under his coat.

Jimmy followed right behind, tucking Lou's jacket into his coat.

"Where you guys going?" Buck called. "You haven't taken care of your horses yet."

"Pleasure first, Buck, then business," Cody informed him.

"And this is definitely going to be pleasure," Jimmy agreed. "Wanna see a man squirm with no way out?"

"I ain't about to miss this," Noah admitted, running to catch up to them.

Buck threw up his hands in resignation. "Come on, Ike, Cody and Jimmy aren't gonna be happy until they've embarrassed those two and I do have to admit, it will be fun to see them coming up with excuses."

Ike grinned and followed his friend.

The five riders ran through the puddles and trudged up the steps into the bunkhouse. Once inside, all but Jimmy and Cody started to remove their soaked outer garments.

Lou groaned and turned over in her bunk. "Think you boys could be any louder?" she asked sarcastically. "You probably woke the dead."

"Well at least we didn't wake you or Kid," Cody commented.

"What do you mean you didn't wake us?" Kid asked, sitting up. "We're in bed."

"True, so true," Jimmy agreed. "And in separate ones, too, but just 'cause you're in bed doesn't mean you were sleeping."

"We figure you stayed out there as long as you could then made it back here just before we arrived," Cody told them.

"Stayed out where?" Lou asked as she sat up. "I was in here the whole time, well except for taking care of Lightning. Besides, I have a headache, remember?"

"Yeah I'm sure all that hard riding made your head ache even worse," Jimmy said grinning. "That and the combination of dancing can be quite dangerous when one has a pounding head."

"I'll pound you if you don't knock it off," Lou warned.

Jimmy held up his hands in defense.

"So, Lou, how come your hair's all wet?" Cody asked.

"I, uh, I had to use the facilities." She tried to glance at Kid but he was still on his bunk so she couldn't see him.

"Kid too?" Cody said, pointing to Kid's wet head. "And why didn't either of you think to put on your hats, you know, to protect you from this fierce weather we're having."

Noah cleared his throat from his position near the door. He pulled Kid's hat out from behind his back.

"Oh, could it be that Kid wasn't able to put his hat on since he didn't have it with him. What could have possibly distracted you enough to make you forget your hat in the barn, huh, Kid?"

"It's a mystery to me," Jimmy agreed.

"I was tired and just wanted to finish what we, I was doing out in the barn so I could get right to bed," Kid explained.

Jimmy took Lou's jacket out from under his coat and tossed it on the table.

"Uh huh, and Lou must have worked herself into quite a sweat taking care of business out there that it required her to remove her jacket and toss it in the middle of the aisle. You couldn't have even taken the extra minute required to hang it over one of the stalls?" Cody asked in mock shock.

"I must have dropped it when I was walking," she stammered, "not that it's any of your business."

"Oh believe me, I am so not interested in what other people are doing but if someone asks them a question, I would appreciate honesty when answering," Cody told her.

"We've answered all your questions. I know where you're going with this and you can't prove anything," Kid challenged, getting up and facing Cody and Jimmy from across the room.

The others started laughing.

"Kid, dear Kid, you couldn't bluff your way out of a poker game, even with a winning hand," Jimmy told him. "But you know what? You don't even have to tell us. Nope, we've seen all we need to see."

Kid turned terrified eyes toward Lou.

"And, Lou," Cody called out. "Even if you're hot, you really don't need to strip down to nothing to tend to your animal."

"Unless of course that animal only has two legs but in that case, I'd keep track of your underclothes if I were you," Jimmy told her.

Cody balled up the white longjohns and threw them at her.

Lou snatched them up, not needing to see them to know what the boys had found. She groaned and threw herself onto her pillow. She quickly pulled the sheet over her head in an attempt to drown out the laughter filling the room. Lou heard Kid sigh as he sat back down on his bunk.

It was a dark and stormy night and one that neither Kid nor Lou would be able to forget about, especially when there were five considerate souls around to remind them, repeatedly and repeatedly and repeatedly ...

Dreams Interrupted
by: Lori

“Noooo!”

The scream jerked Jimmy awake, and his first instinct was to reach for his guns, certain that someone, somewhere, was about to get him. When he encountered nothing but soft bed sheets, and a wide double bed, he relaxed and leaned back against the pillow. He was safely ensconced in his bed; no one had come after him in years. The low rumble of thunder brought a whisper of a smile to his lips. He loved sleeping when the rain was falling. The distant thunder, the soft, lulling sound of rain on the roof, it made him want to snuggle down deep in the covers and reach for-

“Mommy! Mommy!”

Jimmy groaned, pulling himself reluctantly from the mood he was creating. Little Becky hated storms. He was going to shoot Cody for ever putting the notion into her head that thunder was angry spirits and monsters coming down from their hiding places to snatch little kids. You don’t say things like that to three year olds. Of course it was easy for Uncle Cody to say such things because he didn’t have to deal with the years of nightmares that followed.

“Mommy!”

His little girl’s cries were reaching fever pitch, so he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stumbled across the room for the door. Mommy had gone to Miller’s Hollow to help her sister who’d just had a baby. He was Dad and Mom to their brood, and if he didn’t reach Becky soon, she’d wake her siblings and then the whole night would fall apart.

Quietly he opened the door to Becky’s room and crossed to her bed. “Becky Bear, it’s alright. Daddy’s here. It’s just the rain.”

“I want Mommy,” the little girl cried out, pushing away his hands as he tried to smooth them over her back.

“Mommy’s with Aunt Lil, sweetie, remember? You’re fine, honey. I know the thunder was loud, but there aren’t any monsters.” He was sitting on the bed, brushing her sweat-dampened hair back from her face. Thankfully she was quieting down, and with any luck, she’d be back asleep in no time.

“But Uncle Cody said,” she whispered plaintively in the dark.

Yep, he was definitely going to have to shoot Cody the next time he saw him. For three years they’d had to endure Becky’s hysterical crying every time it rained. About eight months ago she finally stopped crying during rainstorms during the day, but she still hated thunderstorms at night. “Uncle Cody was teasing, Becky. He didn’t mean to scare you, but there are no such things as monsters and spirits.”

“Uncle Buck says there’s spirits.”

Closing his eyes, he bit back a groan. All he wanted to do was climb back into bed and go to sleep. Not have a debate over what uncle said what. “Yes, that’s right, Becky, Uncle Buck says there are spirits. But the spirits won’t hurt you.”

“He says there are evil spirits.”

Now he was going to have to shoot Buck. What was with these men saying such things around impressionable, not to mention tender-hearted, little girls? Seven year old girls should not think monsters or evil spirits were out to get them. When Cody and Buck had children, Jimmy was going to give them pocketfuls of candy and ruin their teeth. Just to get ‘em back.

“Yes, honey, Uncle Buck believes there are good spirits and not so good ones, too. But you don’t have to worry. Mommy and Daddy won’t let anybody hurt you.”

“Even monsters and spirits?” she pressed.

“Even monsters and spirits,” he said, leaning over and kissing her on the forehead. “It’s just the rain, sweetie, so try to go back to sleep.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Will you stay until I fall asleep?” she asked, her large eyes visible in the pale light of the room.

He smoothed his calloused hand over her head. “Of course I’ll stay, Becky. Let Daddy just find a chair.”

“Mommy lays down beside me,” she shook her head.

He raised an eyebrow, appraising the small mattress, and the little girl who somehow managed to occupy most of it. “Couldn’t I just sit beside you in the rocking chair?” he offered, “I’ll even hold your hand.”

“Uh-uh,” she remained stubborn. “You gots to hold me.”

“Alright,” he said, standing up. “Scoot over a little, sweetie.”

She immediately positioned herself next to the wall, exactly where he was headed for. “How ‘bout you let Daddy lay next to the wall.”

“But then I’d fall off the bed,” she protested, her voice filling with tears again. “Mommy always lets me sleep next to the wall.”

Well, Mommy was also tinier than Jimmy, so it probably wasn’t a problem. But he just wanted to get his little girl back to sleep, so that he could head back to his own bed. His own bed. “Sweetie, what if you came and slept in Mommy and Daddy’s bed since Mommy’s not there?”

“No. I always have to sleep in my bed, you and Mommy said so.”

“But I’m telling you it’s alright, honey. Just this once.”

“I can’t,” she whispered. “If I get out of bed the monsters will get me.”

“Not if I carry you, Becky.”

“Nope,” she shook her head so furiously he could hear the rustle of her sheets. “I have to stay in my bed until the storm’s over.”

“Alright, alright,” he said with resignation. If the only way to get her to calm down and go to sleep was to lie beside her, in her own bed, he’d just have to do it. Situating himself on his side, he pressed as close to her as he dared so that he didn’t squish her, but all the same, a quarter of his backside was hanging off the bed. He really hoped she fell asleep soon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Bleary-eyed and yawning, Jimmy stumbled into the marshal’s office after walking the kids to school. Rachel had smiled indulgently at him as he nearly tripped up the stairs, apologizing for getting the kids there ten minutes late. He just wasn’t moving as quickly this morning.

Teaspoon looked up as he made a direct line for the coffee pot and poured a steaming cup before practically sticking his face in it and drinking greedily. “Rough night, son?”

“Becky had nightmares again,” he said, straightening up and wincing as a crick caught in his back. “She wanted Mommy…”

“But had to settle for you,” Teaspoon surmised.

Jimmy was too tired to even dispute the fact that he had performed quite admirably while Vi had been gone. All the kids had their homework done every night, he fixed dinner, he fixed breakfast – and it wasn’t always porridge, he even managed to match Becky’s hair ribbons to her dress and tie her hair up in pretty bows. But nothing soothed a frightened little girl like her mother, and Becky had slept fitfully last night, whimpering and waking up numerous times. He hadn’t been able to move to his own bed, and he lost count of how many times he fell to the floor after the fourth time of waking up down there.

“It’s all because of Cody and that blasted story he told about the monsters in the thunder,” he groused, rubbing the lingering sleep from his eye. “I think this summer I’m gonna send the kids to see his show…and then pray for rain.”

The Thunder Rolls
by: Cindy

He opened the barn door and slipped inside, pulling the door closed behind him. He latched the door against the winds raging outside, and then took a moment to shake some of the rainwater off. Just in the short run from the house to the barn he was drenched. Of course, it didn’t really matter, because he’d be getting even wetter this night. A few

degrees colder and it would turn to snow.

And the early-season storm outside was nothing compared to the turmoil he was feeling inside right now.

He set his pack down and worked his way along the stalls. He knew this barn well, so he could find his way even in the dark. And he didn’t want to light a lantern and risk giving away his presence here.

No, it was much better if no one knew he was here – and he wouldn’t be here for long.

He reached the stall he wanted, then hesitated as a soft whinny came from behind him. Swallowing hard against a lump that had suddenly filled his throat, he turned around. “Hey, Katy,” Kid whispered, reaching out to rub her muzzle.

He choked back a sob as the horse leaned over and nuzzled his shoulder. It was going to be hard to leave her behind . . . “Where I’m going is no place for you, Katy,” he whispered.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, and steel his resolve, Kid patted Katy’s nose one more time and then forced himself to turn away. He went to the stall across the way, where a roan mare stood. Purchased just a few days earlier, ostensibly for the horse ranch they’d talked of starting, her real purpose was something else.

He was going to war, which meant his horse was going to war too. And as much as he loved her – actually, because of how much he loved her – that couldn’t be Katy.

Kid cursed softly as he stumbled over something on the floor of the stall. He could blame it on working in the dark. Of course, with all of the tears stinging his eyes, he probably wouldn’t have seen it even with a light.

Feeling his way along the stall, he found the blanket and tossed it over the mare’s back. Then he added the saddle and fumbled with the straps. He’d saddled Katy many times in the dark, so why was he having so much trouble now?

Well, his hands had never trembled so much before.

He finally got the saddle cinched in place, and then he leaned against the horse, trying to stop trembling. He'd put so much thought into this decision – in fact, he’d been able to think of little else recently. And he knew it was the right decision.

Didn’t he?

Maybe if the Pony Express had stayed in business things would have been different. But the Pony had ceased operations almost five months ago. Since then, he and Lou had made do with odd jobs here and there to get by. He helped Teaspoon on occasion, and helped Janos Terkovsky from time to time with some blacksmithing work. Both of them assisted with the stage company business that still used the station, and Lou even helped out at Tompkins’ store a couple of days a week. They still lived in the station house, sharing it with Rachel. As long as the stages still came through, the company wasn’t selling the property. And all of that helped them save up money.

Money that was going to be used to start the horse ranch they’d spent the winter planning. They were just waiting for spring . . .

All of the money was in Lou’s name now – he’d seen to that. He’d only taken enough to see him to his destination. Enough to get him home . . .

Home.

He could hear Buck’s voice now, reminding him so many times that his home was here now – not out east, not somewhere he hadn’t seen in years.

If only he could make his heart believe that.

He led the horse out of the stall and toward the door, stopping to pick up his small pack of belongings and strap it behind the saddle. He wasn’t taking much. As a soldier, the army would see to his needs. And anything of value was something Lou could use to make her dreams come true.

Lou . . .

Her dreams should have been his dreams too, of course. And all winter he had struggled to make himself believe that. When Lou closed her eyes, picturing and describing the house they’d build, with room for Jeremiah, and Theresa, and children . . . well, that should have been his dream too.

But the winter had brought a near constant flurry of updates from out east. Telegraph messages arrived daily, telling of the battles fought, the movement of troops, changes in the lines. The newspapers that still arrived from the east brought more news, as did the groups of travelers who passed through Rock Creek, fleeing the war area.

Each new tale had tugged at his heart, reminding him of Virginia.

There had been so much to consider. The long winter nights had afforded plenty of opportunity to talk, and listen. Teaspoon had told cautionary tales about war, warning that few found glory on the battlefield; most found only pain, suffering, or death. Jimmy had spoken forcefully about abolition, with repeated reminders of what Noah had meant to all of them. Buck and Rachel had frequently brought up the violence against innocent civilians sponsored by southern sympathizers like Hawk’s raiders, and the Quantrill gang that Frank and Jesse James had apparently taken up with. And Lou . . . well, Lou had generally stayed away from expressing a direct opinion on the war, even though he knew what it would have been.

No, Lou had simply talked about the future. The future they would be sharing – here, in Rock Creek.

Not in Virginia.

A roll of thunder boomed, bringing his thoughts back to the present. He adjusted his hat and poncho and then opened the door, facing the fury of the storm again. The horse shied momentarily at leaving the shelter of the barn, but then she gave in and followed. He quickly closed the door – not even the thunder and rain could totally drown out Katy’s plaintive whinny at being left behind.

Lightning flashed, illuminating the bunkhouse straight across from him. Since Jimmy had left to join up with the Union forces shortly after the new year of 1862 began, Buck had the place to himself now. And outside of Lou, Kid knew that Buck would take his actions this night the hardest. The Kiowa rider had long been the voice of reason, trying to keep peace between Kid and Jimmy when their war debates threatened to get out of hand. And he had been the one who, time and time again, reminded them that they were a family.

Well, sometimes even family didn’t stay together, as Kid well knew. He could only hope that Buck would honor those family ties with Lou and help her through this.

Lou . . .

Thinking about her made him hesitate again. He loved her, and would until the day he died. When he’d said “I do” just a few months earlier, he’d really meant the “’til death do us part” line of the ceremony. But then the long winter had arrived, and so had his doubts.

He had so much here – how could he even think about leaving it? But then other images flooded in. He thought of home, the way he remembered it. He thought of Jed and how his brother had died for the cause. He thought of Doritha, and Gar, and all the other people he had known growing up. He thought about a way of life he’d left behind, but which seemed so very important to defend . . .

The thunder brought him back to the present yet again, and he shook his head. Standing out here in the cold rain wasn’t solving anything. He’d agonized over this decision long enough. It was time to leave – while he still had the courage.

He glanced up at the house one more time, picturing Lou asleep in their bed. A flash of lightning just as he was slipping out of the room tonight had lit up her sleeping form, bathing her face in a pale glow. He closed his eyes, capturing that image in his mind.

In the morning, she’d find the note, and the divorce papers he’d had drawn up in Plum Creek. “Abandonment” was the term they used.

This time he couldn’t choke back the sob, but it was quickly swallowed up by the storm. He knew she’d be hurt, and angry. But hopefully in time she’d come to see that it was for the best.

Better that she be alone, and free to start over, than to be stuck with a husband whose heart was a thousand miles away.

A thousand miles . . .

He kicked gently at the horse’s flanks, starting forward. Lou would be fine. She had Buck, and Rachel, and Teaspoon. Together, they’d make sure she saw her dream of being reunited with her brother and sister come true.

Yeah, she’d be fine . . .

And at least the heavy rain meant she wouldn’t be able to send Buck out to track him down.

He tore his eyes away from the house and urged the horse to a little more speed. The town of Rock Creek opened up before him, the street empty and silent except for the storm.

Ahead, a flash of lightning illuminated the church where they’d said their vows. In the eerie light it almost seemed to be mocking him. You promise-breaker . . .

But then the light faded away, and the church was little more than a shadow in the storm.

He kept riding, not looking back – not daring to look back.

The storm continued to rage all around him, the icy rain biting into exposed skin, but he barely noticed.

The storm in his heart took over, and he wept.

Together Forever
by: Dede

It was a dark, stormy night and there were a thousand places Cody would rather be than on the back of Friend trudging through this thunderstorm. One place in particular was the warm bunkhouse, eating Rachel’s warm cooking and, then, going to sleep in his warm bed. He sighed.

‘Teaspoon owes me big.’

Teaspoon had asked him to pick up a special locket the older man had spied when he was at his last stationmasters’ meeting in Green Springs. Rachel’s birthday was coming up and the man knew she’d love it.

So, Cody, doing as he was told like always, went to the jewelers and purchased the locket. Having to wait for the engraving, he wandered over to the saloon.

He supposed he should have gone to the jewelers as soon as he’d rode into town the day before, doing so would have ensured it was ready when he had to leave. Except he couldn’t, since he’d just had too many things to do. It would have been downright improper not to immediately go visit Miss Sally Mae Preston, the young lady he’d met on a previous ride.

‘Boy, she sure can cook,’ Cody sighed, a much different sound than the one before. ‘That blueberry pie she made just melted in my mouth.’ Another contented sigh escaped in unison with a loud clap of thunder.

Cody shuddered. He knew he had to get out of this weather soon before he caught his death. His thoughts drifted back to why he was in this predicament and riding at such a late hour.

Over at the saloon, he found himself engaged in a friendly game of cards. He figured it was as good as anything to pass the time. Cody had informed Mr. Maxwell, the jeweler, that he was in a hurry. Thus, the gentleman had sent his assistant over, after only an hour’s wait, to let him know the locket was ready. This impressed Cody. However, being in the middle of a game and not wanting to be rude, he decided to play out that hand.

Well, he didn’t really expect to win that hand or the next five. Soon he had a nice pile of winnings and, glancing outside, realized it was getting late. So, gathering up his money and thanking the other players, he hurried out the door to the jeweler’s.

CRACK!

The thunder brought him back to reality with a vengeance.

“Like I said, Teaspoon, you owe me big.”

Just as he cleared the next rise, he saw a small farmhouse in the distance. He looked heavenward, said a prayer of thanks and kicked Friend into a gallop toward the property.

~*~*~*~*~

Cody made sure Friend was rubbed down and fed before he grabbed his saddlebag and made a mad dash to the porch. Looking around, he noticed that the house was worse off than he had thought and in bad need of repairs. He really didn’t care about the outside, he just hoped the inside was dry and the fireplace was usable. Opening the door he was hit in the face by a cool, musty draft of air. He coughed twice and then sneezed. It was an odd smell, though not disgusting, but one he couldn’t place. He knew the smell wasn’t something dead so he continued through the door.

Walking in, he let his eyes adjust and saw that, though no one had lived here for a very long time, the structure was sturdy and dry. He sent up another prayer of thanks. The place looked to have been abandoned because the furniture and other personal items were still there.

After his initial inspection, his eyes landed back on the fireplace, which seemed to have a stack of wood ready to burn. Though it struck him as odd, he didn’t second-guess the good fortune.

Gathering up some smaller pieces of wood to use as kindling, he nearly tripped over a pile of what he thought were rags on the floor. When it sneezed, he realized it was a person. As Cody knelt down cautiously, a young woman sat up. She sneezed again and Cody noticed she was soaking wet.

“Miss, are you okay?”

“Actually no,” she replied, honestly. “I was thrown from my horse and I may have broken my left wrist.”

Cody saw that she kept it close to her, supporting it with her right hand. He held out his hands.

“Here, let me take a look.”

He watched her as she studied him for a moment. He supposed she reached a positive conclusion since she offered her wrist to him. He felt along the sides and up the forearm.

“Doesn’t appear to be broken but your palm and fingers look to be swellin’ up. We oughta get it wrapped.” Cody dug through his saddlebag to find a couple bandanas.

“My name is Rebeccah Greeley, Mister…”

“Oh, the name’s Cody. William F. Cody.” He gently placed her arm on his leg and wound the pieces of cloth around her wrist.

“Well, Mr. Cody, it appears I am in your debt. Thank you.”

As Cody wrapped her hand, he couldn’t help wondering where she’d come from. He hadn’t seen a lone horse anywhere around, though the rain was coming down hard enough to limit his vision.

“There you go.”

He smiled at the lady and for the first time really saw her. She was beautiful. She had pale skin and such black hair that her skin looked even paler in contrast.

“Again, thank you.” She looked down at her wrist and sighed. “I feel like such an idiot. I was riding into town to get my husband, Jonah.” She finally looked at Cody and smiled.

“Well, ma’am, it is rainin’ awful hard and, well, even I had some problems with my horse’s hooves gettin’ stuck in the mud.”

“‘Even you’? So you’re an expert rider?” She teased.

Cody grinned, “Well, maybe not expert but I do ride for the Pony Express.”

“The who?”

Cody was dumbfounded. He’d never met anyone that hadn’t heard of the Express.

“Um, we deliver the mail?”

Her face was still blank.

“From St. Joe to Sacramento, California? I’m stationed in Rock Creek.”

“I guess us being out here in the wilderness we don’t hear of those new things.” She dismissed it with a wave of her hand and changed the subject. “Do you need help with the fire?”

Cody was still shocked but quickly recovered when she mentioned the fire.

“No ma’am, I can manage.”

He finished collecting kindling and soon they had a nice fire blazing. He turned and saw Rebeccah shiver. He knew she needed to get into some dry clothes or she’d be the one to catch her death.

‘How exactly do I suggest that?’ he pondered. He figured the straightforward approach would have to do.

“Ma’am? You may want to get into somethin’ dry. I mean, it’ll help warm you up and may help that wrist of yours.”

She sneezed in response and he stifled a laugh.

“Not to mention that possible cold. I have an extra shirt and pants you can borrow. I ain’t tryin’ to be forward, it’s just…well, for your well-bein’.”

Laughing, she said, “Mr. Cody you are truly an angel of the Lord having been sent to take care of me. If you don’t mind, I would like to change.” She stood, a bit stiffly. She added, for Cody’s benefit, “And no, I don’t think you are being forward. Just helpful.”

Blushing, Cody handed her his change of clothes. It was lucky that Miss Sally Mae had laundered them before he left. She was always doing things like that for him.

Rebeccah went over to a corner cloaked in darkness to change. When she finished, she handed her dress to Cody to hang by the fireplace to dry. As he draped the dress the best he could, he noticed that it was faded. He’d thought the garment was a pale blue almost gray but the material at the seams was a much darker blue than the main fabric. The small flowers that covered the material were gray which matched the scarf she wore around her neck. She hadn’t removed that.

“So, why were you goin’ to get your husband on such a night?” Cody asked, curious as always. He walked over to sit by her in front of the fire.

“Well, Jonah, my husband rode to town for supplies. He was named for the bible as I was. My mother named me Rebeccah because of her courage and intelligence. At least, that’s what mother said, though the intelligence part was not with me tonight.” She chuckled.

Cody smiled and waited for her to continue. There was something odd about how she spoke; he wondered where she was from originally.

“I’m sorry. That’s not what you asked,” she sighed, looking down again at her wrist.

When she looked up, Cody saw such deep sadness.

“That’s alright. The other riders always accuse me of bein’ nosey. You don’t have to tell me.” He hoped that would help.

“No. You deserve an explanation. You’ve doctored me, made me comfortable with a fire and dry clothes and are being ever so kind. It’s just, well, I’m rather embarrassed.” Taking a deep breath, she plunged ahead. “You see, Jonah gambles and it seems that practically once a month he’s gambling away almost all our money. I say almost because I hide some away for, if not, it would surely be all.”

Cody nodded. He knew men like that because he saw them all the time in the saloons. He admitted that, yes, he played cards, but he didn’t lose all his money and he usually quit while he was ahead.

“He means well and he does understand me hiding some of the money. I know he does it for me but it scares me,” Rebeccah sighed. “Anyway, it was getting late and I was afraid that, as always, he was gambling at the saloon with Pete Riley, a very dear friend, so I rode out to get him. Unfortunately, with all the mud, I guess Ruth had a misstep and I was thrown.”

“Ruth?”

She giggled. “Yes, well, that’s my fault, keeping with the bible names. I suppose that’s not quite proper naming an animal after such a person but it suits her. And I do believe all things are good in the eyes of the Lord.”

She paused and studied the flames. The same look of sadness returned to her eyes and Cody thought to change the subject. Before he could, she continued.

“So, I picked myself up, made my way back to our house and curled up until you found me.”

Now Cody was sure something was wrong. Their house? He knew this place hadn’t been lived in for years. Maybe she hit her head when she fell. That worried him, because he wasn’t sure what to do about a head injury. He remembered when Emma fixed up Ike after he’d been horse-kicked, she’d said don’t let the person go to sleep or they may not wake up.

As he thought about what to do, he saw that the fire was dying, so he got up to retrieve more wood. A rocker, or what had been a rocker, was falling apart by the hearth. He figured he could use the spindles that had fallen from the back to spark the fire. As he picked them up, she screamed at him.

“Jonah made that rocker for me when I’m with child! Don’t you dare touch that!” She tried to stand up.

Cody threw up his hands to quiet her.

“Alright, alright, calm down and stay put. I don’t want you injurin’ that wrist anymore.”

He opened the wood box and saw that there actually was kindling and more wood and, thankfully, it was dry. So he added some and stayed by the fire, stoking it. He wasn’t sure about going back to sit so he continued to mull over his options standing there.

“Mr. Cody?”

He jumped, realizing she was standing right beside him. How’d she do that? He might not have Buck’s hearing but he was definitely more alert than most men.

“I’m sorry I treated you so. You don’t deserve my wrath. I guess I’m just on edge about Jonah. He’s never stayed away this long and I just hope nothing’s happened to him as well.”

“Well, I’m sure he stayed in town with the storm so bad. I bet he’s just fine,” Cody assured her. “‘Sides, we’ll just light out at daybreak and find out.” He promised.

“You truly are an angel. That takes much off my mind.”

She walked back to the spot by the fire, curled up and was soon fast asleep.

Cody watched her for a long time before he too, nodded off to sleep.

~*~*~*~*~

The next morning was sunny and clear. Standing on the porch, Cody looked around at the beautiful day.

“You wouldn’t know a big ol’ storm had happened last night,’ Cody mused as he stepped off the porch and sunk into the mud. Grumbling, he thought, ‘‘cept, of course, for the dang mud.’

Cody got Friend ready and brought him out just as Rebeccah stepped onto the porch. She had changed back into her dress and handed Cody his clothes, neatly folded.

“Thank you again for your kindness, Mr. Cody. It won’t go unrewarded.”

Cody didn’t quite understand what she meant but, needing to be on his way, he mounted the horse and helped Rebeccah up. They rode off for town.

It wasn’t long before the town was in sight. As they rode in, Cody looked around, thinking about what she said concerning them living in the wilderness. They were closer to town than the Express had been in Sweetwater. He puzzled over this until Rebeccah nudged him.

“Woolgathering?” she laughed.

“Oh, sorry. Lost in thought, I guess.”

“I said you may drop me by the store.” She pointed towards the mercantile. He obliged.

The storeowner was out sweeping the walk, getting ready for the day’s business. There were a few men sitting on the benches around the store, talking. Cody pulled Friend up to the front and jumped down.

Turning to help her, he saw she was already standing on the ground. Confused at how she’d managed this, he started to say something. Before he had a chance, she looked up at him with a true smile. Though she’d smiled and laughed last night, he hadn’t seen the emotion reach her eyes. The beautiful sight banished all thought from his brain.

“Mr. Cody. Thank you very much for everything. I think I’ll be okay now.” She leaned up, kissing him on the check.

Cody blushed, not knowing what to say for the first time, he thought, in his life.

“You sure you don’t want me to help you find Mr. Greeley?”

“Oh no. I know right where he is.” She smiled and walked off

Cody watched until she disappeared from view. Sighing, he jumped up on Friend and turned the horse for home.

He’d gotten to the edge of town when, looking down, he realized Rebeccah had left a bag on his saddle horn. Pulling the horse around, he quickly trotted back to the mercantile.

“Excuse me? Do you know where the lady went that I just dropped off?”

The storeowner looked at him and then glanced around to see if Cody was talking to him.

“I’m sorry. What lady?”

Cody let out an irritable sigh. “The young lady that I left here not minutes ago. She has long black hair and is wearing a blue dress.”

With a puzzled look, the storeowner explained, “I saw you get off your horse but didn’t see no woman with you.”

“Are you blind?” Cody asked. “Wait. Her name is Rebeccah Greeley.” Figuring that would solve everything, he smiled.

It solved nothing. The storeowner looked at him like he’d lost his mind, turned white as a sheet and ran into the store.

“Well, what the devil got into him?”

“Young man?”

Cody turned toward the voice and saw an elderly gentleman. He recognized him as one of the ones that was sitting on the benches. He’d probably be able to answer Cody’s question better. The storeowner had been too busy getting his wares setup and sweeping to have noticed Rebeccah. Though Cody thought that impossible, considering how beautiful the young woman was.

“Did you say the lady’s name is ‘Rebeccah Greeley’?” The older man looked at Cody with such an intense stare that Cody squirmed thinking maybe he’d dreamed the whole thing.

“Um, yes sir?”

“Where exactly did you come across Mrs. Greeley?”

“She was at the abandoned farmhouse not a mile outside of town.”

The man looked down at the ground, shook his head and heaved a huge sigh.

“Son, come here, I need to tell you a few things. Oh, and sit down. I think you’re gonna’ need to.”

Cody warily walked over to the bench and watched as the man sat down, rubbing his hands over his face.

“Don’t quite know how ta’ begin so, I guess the main point is the best.” He looked at Cody. “Rebeccah Greeley is dead.”

Cody wasn’t sure what the man was going to tell him but that definitely wasn’t in the long list of possibilities he had in his mind.

“Um, I think I’d better leave now….” Cody tried to get up but the man caught his arm.

“My name is Pete Riley.”

Cody remembered that name from Rebeccah; he was Jonah’s friend and gambling partner. This must be a joke or something.

“Yeah, Mrs. Greeley told me about you and Jonah gambling so I think you’d better just tell me where she is.” Cody was getting angry.

“I’m not lyin’. Rebeccah Greeley died from a broken neck ten years ago last night. She was thrown from her horse ridin’ in a thunderstorm like last night’s comin’ here to find Jonah. If you don’t believe me go look behind the church, they’re buried there.”

The hurt in the man’s eyes couldn’t be an act. Then Cody caught what he had said.

“What do you mean ‘they’?”

“Jonah found her just outside a’ town on his way home. Even though it was rainin’ and hard, he was rushin’ ‘cause he knew she’d be worryin’ that he’d taken so long and that she’d know what he’d been doin’. When he found her, he was so distraught knowin’ she’d been on her way for him that he...” Riley couldn’t continue and swallowed hard.

Cody just sat there, not sure what to say, not sure he could form anything coherent to say. This was just too weird.

“He shot himself,” Riley finished. “Yeah, he’d been gamblin’ like all the other times but this one was different.”

Cody waited. Riley stayed silent so Cody prodded him.

“How so?”

Riley looked straight at Cody.

“He won almost two hundred dollars,” Riley choked back the sob. “I’ve felt guilty for the last ten years and will feel guilty for the next ten.”

Cody sat for a moment taking all this in. Though normally skeptical of anything that wasn’t hard fact, he’d seen a lot in the time with the Express, especially being Buck’s friend. He reached out and squeezed the old man’s arm.

“Rebeccah didn’t strike me as the type to hold a grudge.”

Riley smiled a sad smile and continued.

“We heard the gunshot and ran to see what had happened. We were too late to do anythin’ but mourn and bury ‘em. A few of the nags ‘round here thought it sacrilege Jonah bein’ buried in consecrated ground since he’d committed suicide, a sin. But they were overruled. It touched a lot of people how much he really loved her and he truly did. The main reason he gambled was to get her purty things. He wanted to get things for her and the family they were plannin’ on havin’.”

Riley looked down at his hands, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Guess, it wasn’t meant to be,” he quietly said. Raising his head, he stared out at the town. “Now, on the anniversary there’s always some kinda’ rain. Might be a thunderstorm or just a shower but there’s always rain. Though, I’m not sure anybody’s ever seen her since no one’s gone in that house in the ten years since. Might be you’re the first.”

Cody was wishing he hadn’t been so special in being the first but thought it best not to voice his feelings. Riley grew quiet again.

Cody sat by the man, lending him his silent support. After a few moments, Cody stood up, knowing he was going to be much later than he’d planned getting home and he still wanted to see the graves for himself. He turned and held out his hand to the older man.

“Thank you for tellin’ me this. I’m sure it was awful hard but, like I said, Mrs. Greeley just didn’t seem the type to hold you at fault.”

“Thank you son,” Riley shook Cody’s hand and smiled. “Just tellin’ this has helped. Most know the story but don’t know how I feel.”

Cody nodded. Walking to Friend, he mounted and rode over to the church.

Standing in front of the graves he stared at the stone - Rebeccah Greeley; b. September 10, 1832;d. May 5, 1850. Jonah’s was right beside hers. He’d been twenty-three. It all seemed so sad to Cody, them being so young. Just then he felt a cold draft and looked up. There was a gray scarf dancing in the breeze beyond the pickets of the graveyard fence. He watched the scarf until it was gone.

As he was leaving, he remembered the bag. He wasn’t sure if he should look inside but something urged him to do so. Pulling out the contents he saw a wad of money and a note. He counted the money – almost two hundred dollars. Not able to move, he felt goose bumps pop up all over his skin. Shivering, he opened the note.

Mr. Cody,

I want you to know how much I really appreciated your kindness. I’m sure by now you’ve found out about my Jonah and me. Such a sad tale but know that we both loved each other very much. I now know Jonah had news for me, his gambling winnings, which I’ve included with this note. But I also had good news for him, for you see, I’d found out that I was pregnant. Please don’t be sad for us, we are all together forever.

Take this money and do all the good things I know you are destined for. Again, thank you for everything.

Rebeccah Greeley

Cody stared at the note for a long time until it was just a blur. He was brought out of his trance by the footsteps of the cemetery caretaker. Blowing out a deep breath, he walked over to Friend. Patting the old horse’s neck, Cody laughed shakily.

“Somethin’ tells me that you’re the only one that’ll believe this and that’s just ‘cause you were here.”

Mounting the horse, he said, “Let’s go home.”

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