April 2010 Volley Challenges:






It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall. ~Mexican Proverb

The Rose

Despair by: Karen
The Home Stretch by: Debbie
Wishful Thinking by: Miss Raye
Home Cooking by: Ellie
Butter Up by: Ellie
Butter and Buttercups by: Darks Hornet
A Tasty Surprise by: Karen
Falling by: Karen
Unsolicited Advice by: Karen
Wishful Thinking
by: Miss Raye

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me, And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves, And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter" - Jenny Joseph

Louise paused before the large cheval mirror and smiled. She turned a few inches this way… and then a few inches that way. She watched the way the pretty skirt flowed around her legs, curling at her ankles as though it was embracing her for a just a moment.

She sighed and it was a pure sigh, one full of wistful dreams and indulgences.

The fabric beneath her fingers was soft, melting beneath the warmth of her skin. Lifting the hem she pressed it close to her cheek and slid it along her skin until it met her hair.

"Beautiful." The word flowed over her lips and she felt the irrepressible push of laughter bubble up past her lips.

"What has you in such a great mood?"

Louise spun around, her face frozen in fear. She nearly tipped the mirror over as she stumbled within Charlotte's boots.

The woman herself looked down at the boots with a curious expression. "Lost your own shoes, sweetie?"

Sneaking a look at the dressing screen shielding the corner she smiled up at her friend. "Not really."

"Oh." There was more than a touch of mirth in Charlotte's tone. "So, why did you need to borrow mine?"

Duly caught and embarrassed, Louise hung her head. "I'm sorry, Charlotte, I-"

"Don't you be sorry to me, sweetheart."

Louise heard the soft steps toward the wardrobe and she looked up through her bangs. "I know I shouldn't have, but it was so pretty, and I-"

Charlotte turned around quickly and Louise could only stare at the lovely blue bodice and skirt in Charlotte's hands. "I think this color suits you better."

She held out the garment and watched as Louise moved closer, step by step as if fearful to fall over her feet. Taking it in her hands she exchanged the original dress for this new confection. "Oh Charlotte, it's beautiful!"

Nodding, Charlotte brushed back Louise's hair from her forehead. "Then you should try it on."

Clutching the garment to her chest Louise disappeared behind the screen. "You have such beautiful clothes, Charlotte."

"Well thank you, Louise," her bright tone disappeared as she whispered to herself, "it certainly cost me."

Charlotte managed to force a smile on her face as Louise emerged from behind the screen nearly swimming in the dress that she was wearing. The look of sheer happiness was enough to lighten even Charlotte's dark thoughts.

"You look lovely."

Louise swung around in a circle and gazed into the mirror, her face alight with joy and dreams. "One day," she whispered almost as if she was afraid she'd scare away the thoughts if she spoke louder, "I'm going to have a whole wardrobe full of dresses like this… even prettier!" Her eyes widened as though she's shocked herself with the rise in volume. She blushed into the mirror. "I'm sorry, Charlotte, I-"

Waving off the apology, Charlotte smiled back. "No need to apologize, darlin'… you'll have them… you'll have yourself a mess of dresses and jewelry and everything you can dream of. I just know it."

"Yes," Louise agreed, hope building in her eyes, "I'll have servants and a silver tea set, and a house with a hundred windows looking out over a field full of horses. I'll have everything that I could ever want…"

She watched Louise smooth her hands over the expensive fabric and smiled. Louise was the kind of girl that had a good heart and Charlotte wanted her to keep that wide-eyed innocence as long as she could. And maybe, just maybe she'd live to have those dresses and everything her heart could dream up… and not have to worry about anything.

Home Cooking
by: Ellie

The dinner bell rang with a shouted, "Come 'n' get it", and the boys and girl leaned their tools to the side and crowded around the water pump to clean up as Emma had made it clear already she expected before meals. Though they'd known each other only a couple of days, they already were jostling and joshing good-naturedly, splashing water on each other and guffawing at their own silly antics, when Emma stuck her head out of the bunkhouse and shouted, "Hurry it up, quit that lollygagging and get in here before this dinner gets cold!"

Amid a chorus of "yes ma'ams" they finished up and hurried into the bunkhouse. Miss Shannon was a fine cook and they were looking forward to their dinner after a hard day's work.

"Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits, my land," Cody chortled happily as they sat down. "I think I died and have gone to heaven."

Emma sprang up. "Almost forgot . . . I declare I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached. Can't have biscuits and potatoes without this." She returned to the table and placed a simple ceramic bowl on the table. "Sorry there wasn't any the first two days, boys, I missed last week's churning getting ready for y'all."

Kid's eyes fell on the butter bowl with a strange expression, and he picked it up to take his portion quietly. Taking a bite of a buttered biscuit, he savored the taste. It was one he hadn't had in a long time. Living from hand to mouth the last few years, he survived on what he could afford from the general store . . . boarding house fare and restaurant menus were well out of his reach, as was home cooking. He couldn't recall the last time he had butter on anything.

The taste brought him back home in his memory, to Ma's kitchen where he was in charge of rocking the barrel-churn for Ma when he was a little fellow, to the sips of buttermilk she used to let him taste when the churning was done and after Ma washed the fresh butter in cold water, and packed it in a little carved mold she'd bought from the tinker. To the dinner table with Jed and Ma and Pa, those laughing good times of happiness and relative prosperity. Back before Pa got so changed and the cow had to be sold along with most everything else they had. Before Pa started drinking and all the money in the house went to the upkeep of Pa's still, and everything changed and home wasn't the same, not ever again.

The taste was one of security, safety, comfort and home. Looking around shyly at the others, at Emma, he smiled slightly to himself, that it was starting to feel like home, too, and he hoped . . . well, he hoped the feeling would last a while this time.

Butter Up
by: Ellie

Emma wove the strips of dough into a basket weave pattern over her pie, flipping back half the vertical strips over the last one she laid across, then laying another strip down and so forth. She admired her work and looked up with a start when she realized Cody was watching her through the window.

"Billy, you gave me a scare," she said, wiping her face with her sleeve. "This'll be ready for your dessert tonight."

She placed the pie in the oven carefully, and Cody leaned his elbows on the open window. "That'll be a delight to the taste buds as always, I'm sure, Miss Emma."

"Fortunately, you're not too hard to please, Billy," she laughed, shutting the oven door.

"I tell you, that Sam's a lucky fella. It ain't often you see a woman who can cook like you ... and smart and nice to boot."

Emma raised an eyebrow. "Well, thank - -"

"And beautiful!"

Emma stammered, "What?"

"I forgot to mention how beautiful you are. You put me in mind of a sunrise, with them pink cheeks and orange hair, there. Like fluffy, orange clouds with the sun on 'em. Beautiful."

"Thanks again," Emma said, sourly. "If we're done with this conversation, I've got a load of laundry boilin' back behind the house I got to see to."

"I'll be glad to give you a hand with that," Cody said. He disappeared from view, scurrying around the house. Emma hurried to the back door in time to find Cody lifting a load of white laundry with her stirring-stick from the pot of boiling lye.

"Where do you want this, Emma?"

She stormed over, grabbing the stick. "Back in the pot, Billy, and go find something to keep busy until dinner. Doesn't Teaspoon have anything for you to do?"

He shuffled his feet awkwardly. "I was hoping to help you out this afternoon. I know how you slave from sunup to sundown for us ungrateful coyotes, and I'd just like to do you a good turn."

"Really. That's all?" she asked, smothering a smile.

"What do you mean?" the boy asked, picking up another stick and stirring the pot vigorously.

"This ain't got anything to do with that ride Teaspoon wants one of y'all to take with him to see Amanda O'Connell at her saloon? The one he said I'd decide which of y'al went on?"

"I'm ... I'm offended, that you would think I couldn't do something nice for you for no reason. What makes you have such a low opinion of me, that you'd assume I was just - "

"Buttering me up like a stack of hotcakes on Sunday, so I'd pick you to go along with Mr. Spoon?" Emma interrupted, wiping her hands on her apron and heading back up the steps.

"Well, yeah. What would make you think I'd do such a thing?"

She stopped at the back door and grinned at him over her shoulder. "Because, Billy-boy, you're the third one in here singing that same song in the last hour. Only you didn't bring me flowers like Jimmy . . . or a picture of me looking ten years younger than I really do, like Ike."

"Those . . . those dirty, low-down sneaks," Cody exploded. Cautiously, he called after her as she turned back to the house. "So which of us'll it be, then?" He scowled as he saw through the door to the front of the house, where a familiar dark-vested young man with long black hair was mounting the steps with a package in his hands, about to knock on the door.

"We'll see what Buck comes up with before I decide," her voice floated back amid Emma's throaty chuckle. "Looks like he's up next."

by: Karen

She sat on the porch of her home and watched as life moved around her. A newborn foal pranced next to its mother, the trees stood green with new leaves, the grass was lush with new growth. She sighed as she stood and made her way to the door of her home. The message she'd recently received fluttered to the ground at her feet. The wind picked it up and carried it across the yard.

The gunshot shattered the peaceful afternoon just as he bent to retrieve the paper at his feet. Without even looking he knew, but he read the telegram anyway before going to the house to clean up after her.

The Home Stretch
by: Debbie

Author's note: This story is the fourth installment in my 'Home' series, following the stories 'Heading Home', 'When Does a House Become a Home?' and 'A Touch of Home'

"Lou, where are you?" "I'm up here!" Kid shook his head and with a knowing grin, headed up the stairs, toward the first bedroom on the left. He stood in the doorway and leaned against the door jamb, watching his busy wife.

Lou carefully placed a neatly folded pile of small gowns into a drawer of the dresser Kid had just finished building. She then rearranged a few items she'd placed on top of the dresser.

"Would you give it a rest already?" he teased as he entered the room. "It looks great, just like it did when you decorated it days ago. And, besides, Rachel's letter said she has a bunch of things for the baby too so you'll get to fix it all up again when she gets here."

Lou scrunched up her face playfully at his comments. She couldn't help herself; she wanted everything to be perfect for when the baby arrived because she knew once she became a mother, that would take up all her time and there would be no time left for fussing over little things. She wanted to do what she could now.

"I just like being in here; is that so wrong?" She rubbed her hand over her greatly expanded abdomen as she walked over to the cradle Kid had carved for their firstborn. She didn't fuss with the blankets she'd placed inside it as it was an effort for her to get that close to the ground … and if she did get down there, she always needed help to get back up, which resulted in laughter directed her way from either Kid or Buck.

Kid was happy to see her enjoying these moments of her expecting because she'd been so nervous about it when she'd first gotten the news that he was afraid this day would never come. He had quickly learned that it wasn't being with child that had made her uneasy; it was all the changes happening so quickly in their lives as a newly married couple. Once she'd accepted the move to Emma's old house and Kid and Buck starting a horse ranch, Lou had become a different person and started to enjoy all the new challenges that each day presented.

"That's great you wanna be in here but how about some fresh air? That's good for you too. Now come on, there's somethin' I wanna show ya." Kid went to her and took her hand, playfully pulling her toward the doorway.

Lou laughed as she willing followed. "Alright, I'm comin'."

They carefully made their way down the stairs, out the door and before Lou knew it, she was standing in front of the corral Kid and Buck had rebuilt when they'd gotten there just about seven months ago. She gave Kid a curious look when he stood in front of her, spread his arms out wide and said, "What do ya see?"

"A mama horse and her baby enjoying this fine spring day." She went and placed her feet on the bottom board of the corral fence, resting her chin on her hands on the top rail as she watched mother and child dance around the corral.

"That's what it appears to be on the surface, just like looking at you gives the indication you're about to have a baby any day now. But, no, it's more than that … what you're seeing is the home stretch." Kid stood behind her, placing his hands around what was once her waist and weaving his fingers together at the front of her belly.

"The what?" Lou put her feet back on the ground as she glanced over her shoulder at him, sending him an amused look for his choice of words.

"The home stretch. It's something Teaspoon told me about before we came out here. He said it's somethin' real special so be sure to take notice 'cause the first is the best. It's that time in our lives that we never think we'll have but then suddenly it's a possibility: we can't wait for it to happen, that you're so close to it you can almost reach out to get it. It's that time right before you have everything you want in life. Remember when we used to compete in all those horse races in town?"

"You mean the ones I always beat you in?" Lou asked smugly.

Kid tickled her side in response, getting a squeal of laughter out of her. "Yes, those very ones. It's like when you're runnin' a race and you know you have to go around so many corners to get to the finish line. Each one of them presents a challenge but gettin' past them brings you one step closer to your goal. Well this is the time just after you round that last corner; there's nothin' between you and that finish line but the home stretch. You just have to maneuver it carefully, avoid any obstacles that might come flyin' at ya from out of nowhere, and then snatch the prize as you cross the line. It's that moment in time that seems to take forever but is over before you know it … we see the reward and just have to wait impatiently for it." He waved his hand at the other side of the fence then rubbed his hands on Lou's abdomen for emphasis

"You talkin' about me or the horses?"


"I don't know if I like being compared to a horse."

Kid laughed at her sour expression. He kissed her lips to wipe it away as he came to stand alongside her. "Just think about it, Lou. Buck went to get Rachel, which means that your time is almost here. We'll be a complete family once the baby gets born. And this little one prancin' around with his mother is just the start of all our dreams comin' true. He was bred from the purest stock I could purchase and once he's trained and sold, word will get out about what fine horses the K&L Ranch has to offer and people will come from all over to buy from us."

Lou smiled and nodded her head. "I get it. Each stage we've had to go through is like rounding one of those corners - us moving here with Buck; the two of you fixing up the house, barn and corral; buying a couple horses to train and sell to get money for more horses; beginning to breed; me getting used to being a housewife and soon to be mother. All that is behind us and now we only have the good things to look forward to - our rewards for all the hard work we've all gone through." Lou turned to face her husband and placed her hands on his shoulders. "I always thought I'd be nervous about this time, you know, having to face giving birth and also wondering if we could really make a go of owning a successful ranch but now that it's all within our grasp, I'm so excited!"

Kid pulled her to him for a big hug. "I love hearing you say that. It is exciting, isn't it? I can't wait for it all to happen and it will, just like we've imagined it will. I have to admit the home stretch is the best part of this race we're runnin' so far but, man, I can't wait to see what happens when we get to that finish line."

Smiling, Lou pulled out of his grasp so she could look at him. "I think a victory dance is in order … and you know the kind of dancin' I like to do." She gave him a sultry look, well as sultry a look as one could give who was nearly nine months along with child.

Kid threw back his head and laughed. "One look at you and it's pretty obvious we're quite good at that dance. "

"Thanks a lot! I seem to recall havin' help gettin' the way I am. For that comment, I was gonna let you win the race this time but now I'm not so sure." Lou turned her back on him, pretending to be in a huff as she began to walk back to the house.

Kid crossed his arms over his chest as he watched her walk away. She was good at torturing him but he could give it right back as well. He called out to her, "I don't think I could win seein' how you stick out quite a bit farther than I do." That did it as she turned around in a swirl of skirts and marched back to him, stopping only when they were stomach to stomach since nose to nose was out of the equation for the time being.

"Now that's somethin' I'd expect Jimmy or Cody to say to me, not you." Lou placed her hands on what used to be her hips as she waited for him to respond.

"I know and now you know why you're probably going to wind up looking this way several more times in our lives." Kid pulled her into his arms, not giving her a chance to squirm her way out, though he knew she wouldn't. "You torture me every day, Louise McCloud, but it's the type of torture I never thought I'd ever go through but am so glad you let me," he told her, using his wording of earlier. "Now do you really think you can, well, you know …?"

It had taken them a few months after moving there to get back this playful banter of theirs but once the two of them got started, nothing could slow them down. "I'm not sure how much I can do physically but I do have some other ideas." Lou reached over and whispered in his ear.

Kid pulled back, a pretended look of surprised shock on his face. "Louise!" He chuckled at the knowledge that she could still make his blush. "All I can say to that is as long as one of us wins the race we can let the victory dance begin!"

Lou began to walk backward, pulling him with her as Kid willingly followed along. "I know Buck is due back today with Rachel and I've missed her terribly and can't wait to see her but I hope the weather slowed them down." She gave him a wicked grin, the type of grin that used to get him out to the barn at all hours of the night.

Kid glanced up at the clear blue sky, the same sky they'd witnessed for the past several days. "Yeah, it's been bad, I'm sure they won't make it back until late tonight." He opened the door then deliberately locked it behind them as he let his wife lead him up the stairs.

Butter and Buttercups
by: Darks Hornet

He knew that this is where he would find her. He stood behind her and watched her for a few minutes before letting her know he was there. Her shoulders were hunched over and body was stiff. She was pulling the petals off of a daisy in her hand. He could almost hear her words . . . he loves me, pluck. He loves me not, pluck.

Once again, he had caused her to doubt his feelings toward her. Yes, he should not have lied about Margret. But she drove him crazy, he could not think straight when she was near. She was his soul mate, why could she not trust him with her heart?

He looked down at the small yellow flowers in his hands. Before he cleared his throat, he coughed.

"I know you're there," she said gruffly without turning around, still plucking away at the petals on the next daisy.

"I want to stop you on the 'he loves me' petal. I'm just not sure which one it is," he admitted as he slid down to the ground to sit beside her.

She did not say a thing to him.

The silence was awkward and uncomfortable to him. He knew that she was still poker hot mad at him.

He let the cold silence pass between them. Then he reached over and placed the yellow flowers under her chin, "You like butter!"

Louise leaned back and stared at him, "What are you talking about?" she said exasperatedly.

"You like butter, these are buttercups. You put them under someone's chin to see if the yellow reflects on their skin. If it does, it means they like butter!"

"You could have just asked me, I would have told you I liked butter," she mumbled. " Then you wouldn't have needed to go through all that work."

"What work?" he watched as the fire dimmed from her eyes.

"Pickin those," her voice now softer as she twirled the remaining daisy between her fingers.

"No, I picked them for you," he stretched out his hand and offered the flowers to her.

Louise sat there staring at the offering of flowers, presented behind a silly grinning face. The lone daisy with single petal was still in her hand.

"So what do did the daisy say?" he queried hopefully.

Her face relaxed and her heart melted, "He loves me."

"You could have asked me, and I would have told you that," he smiled as she put her head on his shoulder.

Author's Note: I would like to Thank Ellie for her beta work on this story. I am greatfull for the support and critical eye she gives me.

by: Karen

Teaspoon Hunter sat on the porch swing at the main house of the Sweetwater Pony Express Station and watched the six young men who were the riders assigned there. He smiled as he noticed how most of them were trying, unsuccessfully, to hide the pain they were in. He shook his head and chuckled softly as he thought back over the drills he had put them through the day before.

Teaspoon spied Ike and Buck as they exited the barn and made their way across the yard to the well. He noticed that despite the fact that the two of them had been given the task of cleaning the stables, neither of them seemed to be suffering as much as the others. He stood and went to join them as they approached the water bucket next to the well.

"You both seem no worse for wear," he said. "How is that?"

Ike simply shrugged and took a drink.

Buck replied, "We know how to fall." He then took the dipper from Ike and drank.

"Care to explain?" asked Teaspoon.

"The reason everyone is so sore is all the falling you had us do yesterday; Ike and me know how to come off our mount without getting hurt."

"This a special Kiowa talent of yours?" Teaspoon inquired.

Buck shook his head. "Ike taught me not long after we left the mission."

Teaspoon turned to Ike.

Ike grinned and explained, *My father made me learn before he would allow me to ride alone or go anywhere by myself. He told me it was the most important skill involved in riding; that it could save my life. * He once more shrugged to show that he wasn't sure what his father had meant.

Teaspoon nodded. "I remember hearing that as well," he said. "It's a lesson that can be applied to more areas of life than just riding." He turned and made his way back to the swing.

As Teaspoon left, Ike asked, *What does he mean by that?*

Buck shrugged. "I'm still trying to figure out what your father meant," he said. "I'm not even going to try to figure out Teaspoon."

A Tasty Surprise
by: Karen

Ike knew it was risky, but decided he needed to ask anyway. He wrote down his request so Buck wouldn't find out before it was time.

"If you can get me all the ingredients, I'll make you your cake," Emma told Ike. "You'll have to buy or trade for them on your own. I can't use the station's provisions on special favors, or we won't have enough to last the month. Understand?"

Ike nodded. *Write me a list of what you need, and I'll get them for you,* he signed, hoping Emma would understand. He really didn't want Buck to have to translate; that would ruin everything.

Emma took Ike's note and turned it over. She wrote out her list of cake ingredients and handed it to Ike. "Good luck," she said, with a smile.

Ike read the list. He smiled as he turned to leave Emma's house. He knew where to find almost all of these items without making a trip to town. There were some chickens that had gotten away from one of the neighboring farms, and Ike knew where they laid their eggs. There was a small forgotten bundle of wheat he could grind for the flour. The stream gave him water, and there were some strawberries growing wild on the way to the stream -- that discovery is what had given him this idea to begin with.

Ike continued to study the list. All he needed to purchase was some sugar and butter. His smile faded. Where did one purchase butter?

He knew he could get the sugar from Old Mrs. Hopkins who lived near by., He'd offer to do some chores in exchange for the sugar, but butter was a totally different matter. He stopped moving and returned to Emma's kitchen.

"What's wrong?" Emma asked when she saw him.

Ike pointed to the item that was causing him concern.

"Get me some heavy cream, and I can show you how to make it," the station mistress said.

Ike's smiled returned. He now knew what chore to do for Mrs. Hopkins. Now all he needed was a chance to slip away unnoticed.

It took him a couple of days, but Ike managed to get everything on Emma's list, except the butter. He did have the heavy cream she had requested.

He took everything to her. She put them away and returned with a strange wooden bowl that had a hole in its lid and a stick in the hole. She poured the heavy cream in the bowl. "You need to churn it," she said as she showed Ike what to do.

*How long?* he asked.

"Until it's butter," she replied and then left to begin preparing the morning meal for the rest of the riders.

Ike began to move the stick up and down as he'd been shown. He was glad he didn't have any of the early morning chores to do this week. He didn't want to get in trouble and miss the surprise he was trying so hard to arrange.

That evening, all the riders were pleased when Emma presented Buck with a birthday cake.

"But it's not my birthday," said Buck. "I was born in the fall."

Emma looked at Ike in confusion.

Ike grinned. *Running Buck was born in the fall; Buck Cross was born today.* When everyone just stared at him, he explained further, *It's been 5 years since Buck first entered my life and started his new one.*

Buck sat quietly thinking. "You remember the exact day I found the mission?" he finally asked as he realized what it was Ike meant.

Ike nodded. *You came on my little sister's birthday,* he said. *She liked strawberries too.*

Unsolicited Advice
by: Karen

The first few months of this new endeavor had been rocky, but it looked like things were going to work out just fine - at least at this on Pony Express station. Emma had to admit she'd been a bit nervous at first, but once they made it past the troubles with the Kiowa, and all the other riders had learned that Lou was really Louise, Emma had allowed herself to relax.

Maybe if I hadn't been so sure everything was fine, she thought as she made her way across the yard to the stock pen. She'd managed to have everyone away from the station except Buck. She needed to talk to him alone, and didn't want any of the others here to make him uncomfortable.

As she approached the pen were Buck was working with one of the new horses, she once more tried to think of what to say. She knew she had to be careful in order to keep him from shutting her out. Just when she'd decided this was a terrible idea, and that she wouldn't bother him with her unasked for advice, she saw the rose bush she had insisted be planted by the barn.

Taking a deep breath she moved forward. "Buck," she called. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

The young Kiowa nodded. "I'll be right there," he said. He slowly approached the horse he'd been working, speaking softly to it in his native tongue as he moved. Once he was close to it, he gently patted the animal's neck before removing the rope and setting it free within the pen.

He coiled the rope as he approached Emma. He had hoped to avoid the conversation he knew was coming, but realized that hope was pointless. At least she waited until we were alone, he told himself. No one else gets to watch.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, as he climbed over the fence to join her.

"Why don't we go up to the house where we can sit?" suggested Emma.

Buck simply nodded.

As they walked, he tried to think of what to say to convince her to let him stay. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't realize she'd spoken until she gently touched his arm.

"I'm sorry," he said.

Emma smiled and indicated that Buck should take a seat. "That's alright," she said. "I just asked if you'd like some lemonade."

"That would be nice," said Buck, as he sat. He wasn't quite sure what to make of her actions. Why is she being so nice if she plans on making me leave?

Emma returned shortly with two glasses. She handed one to Buck and took a sip of the other before speaking. "I wanted to discuss the events of this past week with you," she said.

Buck once more nodded and took a swallow of his lemonade.

"I want you to know that I think it was shameful the way…"

Buck didn't want to hear the next part - he knew it had been wrong of him to try and become involved with a person of Kathleen Devlin's status, but… "I'll leave in the morning," he said, as he stood to move away from Emma and this painful reminder of how unworthy he was.

"Why?" asked Emma.

"I didn't mean to bring shame to your house," Buck explained. "I just…" he stopped speaking, unable to give voice to what had caused him to think it possible that someone as rich and powerful as Kathleen Devlin would ever really care about someone as lowly as he.

"You didn't bring shame on my house," Emma said moving to stand next to him. "I think it was shameful the way Miss Devlin acted; not you. You did nothing wrong."

Buck sank back in the swing. "You mean you didn't ask me over here to tell me you'd like me to leave?"

Emma shook her head. She sat down next to the bewildered boy. "I just wanted to ask you not to let her actions keep you from trying again. There's someone out there waiting for you."

Buck sighed as he shook his head. "I'm not so sure," he said.

"I am," said Emma. "You can't be afraid to keep trying. It's like my Momma told me the first time I had my heart broken. She said, 'Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow, lies the seed that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes the rose.' You can't stop loving just because it sometimes hurts. If you do, you'll end up missing the beauty of getting it right." Emma reached over and placed her hand on top of Buck's. "Do you understand?"

Buck nodded. "Yes, Ma'am," he replied.

Emma smiled. She let go of his hand and stood. "I'm glad," she said. "I'd hate to go through life thinking you missed out on one of the greatest joys around because of someone as…" she let the sentence drift. Shaking her head and taking a deep breath, Emma finished, "because of the likes of her."

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