January 2010 Volley Challenges:

Picture

Word

Quote

Time

I prefer winter… when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth

From the Outside by: Dede Its Time by: Miss Raye By Its Cover by: Miss Raye
Waiting by: Karen Time by: Karen Our Little Secret by: Dede
Broken by: Miss Raye Winter Dreams by: Karen
A Snowy Day's Thought by: Dee
From the Outside
by: Dede

The seemingly joyous chatter and celebration were like needles digging into his skin. It sounded all wrong. This was why Jimmy was where he was, alone by the window. The fact that the sky was a pale blue, with soft, transparent clouds floating lazily by made him feel even worse. Thus, he stared out the window at nothing. And a lot of nothing it was. Some grass and sage brush, a lone tree, a tumbleweed dancing merrily across the land, and lots, and lots of dirt. He was content to just stare at the dirt.

It wasn't that he couldn't join in; despite of everything, he knew these people were his family and that they loved him. The happenings up to this point weren't forgotten but had just been tucked deep into everyone's mind so as not to dampen the festivities. They'd gladly welcome him with open arms. The reason Jimmy wasn't trading friendly taunts with Cody, teasing Lou and Kid, or playfully goading Teaspoon into another toast - he just didn't belong anymore. It really was that simple or so he believed.

The last week had been difficult at best, and devastating at worst. It was supposed to be a happy time, Lou and Kid were married and they all should be celebrating this. And yet that wasn't the case. Again, the sounds were off. The banter seemed stilted, the underlying sadness just below the surface waiting for something to be said to spring it from its confines. But for the family no one would let that happen. Yet another reason Jimmy stayed away, he couldn't pretend that down deep he didn't feel partially to blame for this. And thus couldn't keep quiet.

They'd buried Noah just three days earlier leaving another opened wound on everyone's hearts that would take a very long time to heal. That it had followed Ike's death by mere months made it all the harder to cope with. It seemed that losing Ike was the death knell to the happy family they'd been. But for Jimmy it happened before that, at Elias' hanging. He saw himself on that gallows and he couldn't shake the feeling it was his inevitable end. Maybe not by the noose but certainly by the gun. Perhaps all that had followed were the fates playing they're scheming games with his life.

The words he'd exchanged with Kid couldn't be taken back and Lou, being married to Kid, would stand by her husband. The rift was small but there, and truthfully he wasn't really sure he wanted to take anything back. Jimmy still felt Kid had no right to say the things he had. But Kid wasn't the only one. The silent recrimination in Cody's eyes annoyed Jimmy but not as much as the curt one or two word answers the blonde gave to anything Jimmy said. The worst was the disappointment in Teaspoon's eyes; that Jimmy couldn't bear. Oh the older man did his best to hide it but Jimmy could see it there nonetheless. And finally, the pity that stared out at him from Buck and Rachel. Why they would pity him, Jimmy didn't know or care. Jimmy Hickok didn't need anyone's pity.

"James."

The involuntary shudder at the sound of her shrill voice ran through him and he prayed she hadn't noticed. Her hand on his arm told him she hadn't, though he didn't move from his watch.

"We should be going."

A soft inaudible sigh escaped but he knew she was right. Lou and Kid were leaving the next day for Virginia as was Cody for his scouting post with the army. It didn't matter that they were going in opposite directions or would be on opposite sides, they were family and each understood the other's choice. But again, that didn't seem to include Jimmy. No one was happy that he was leaving with Rosemary and no one understood his choice. If he was honest, he was neither happy with his decision nor did he understand it. However, he'd never admit to that and thus couldn't and wouldn't back out.

"You should start saying your goodbyes."

Her constant 'instructions' grated on his nerves. He was old enough to take care of himself as well as carry himself in a social setting. The grimace pulled at the corners of his mouth before he could stop it.

"Oh James, I'm sorry but it's getting late and you know we need to go, we've got so far to go and…."

Her simpering apology was worse than the festive noises, turning the needles into nails. With all his effort, he forced a smile for her but said nothing. That seemed to satisfy her for the time being.

"So go say goodbye. We need to leave."

When he saw her pull on her gloves and walk away from him, he suddenly realized she had no intention of following him. It appeared she wasn't going to congratulate Lou and Kid, though she'd already done so grudgingly the day of the wedding, or was she going to thank Rachel and Teaspoon. Stunned, he watched as she walked past the group, to the front door. Without acknowledging anyone, she opened it and walked outside.

Oddly, Jimmy wished she was beside him. Not for the support, he didn't expect that of her, but at least so he wasn't alone with everyone looking at him. When looked from the door to his friends and family, he saw that indeed, everyone was staring at him. Each gaze was solemn but held no condemnation that he could see. A small lump formed in his throat as he walked towards the group.

"Guess we'll be going," he said softly. "Got a long way ahead of us." His eyes flicked around the room like a nervous bird looking for a safe place to land. Jimmy didn't want to meet anyone's gaze. Startled he felt a soft hand cup his cheek and his eyes snapped forward. It was Lou. He should have known. There were tears in her eyes and a sad smile on her face; he felt his heart breaking.

"Take care of yourself, ya' hear?" Rachel had moved to his side, squeezing his arm. Tears shone in her eyes as well. Not trusting his voice, he nodded.

"Let us know where ya' are," Teaspoon said, clearing his throat. It didn't fool Jimmy; he saw the shimmer in the man's eyes. This was his mentor, father, friend, and everything in between. The lump in Jimmy's throat nearly choked him but he swallowed it down.

"Yeah, well y'all do the same," he said, his eyes fixed on Cody's. Cody nodded once, his lips pressed tightly together but his eyes were bright. They were brothers and always would be; Jimmy saw that now. Over Cody's shoulder, Jimmy received a small, thoughtful smile from Buck. Of all of them, Jimmy was sure he'd see Buck again. He had no idea why he knew that, he just did. From the corner of his eye, he saw Kid approach.

"You'd better write, or I won't hear the end of it from Lou."

"You know as well as I do I ain't much on writin'," Jimmy said wryly. The two men's eyes locked and held. For a moment, no one spoke. At the same time, both men put their hands out and Jimmy felt the relief flood the room. Soon they all were shaking hands, hugging each other, and the two women were crying.

"I best be goin'," Jimmy said finally. One last round of handshakes and hugs, then Teaspoon walked Jimmy to the door.

"Son, you take care," the man said, his voice cracking slightly. "And know ya' always have a home here." He held out his hand.

Unable to put his thoughts and feelings into words, Jimmy just nodded and grasped Teaspoon's hand in his. He didn't want to let go but Jimmy had given his word to someone. Even if it was a hastily made promise, it was a promise and Jimmy would keep it. Taking a deep breath, he made himself turn and walk to the wagon parked out front. With one last look towards the door and Teaspoon, Jimmy climbed into the wagon seat.

"What took so long? I've been waiting."

Teeth clenched, he snapped the reins and began a life where he'd forever be outside of his family. He knew he'd live to regret it.

By Its Cover
by: Miss Raye

I prefer winter… when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth

removed by author :D

It's Time
by: Miss Raye

Teaspoon set the last box on the last bit of space on the last table in the Cross Roads Cantina. Arching his back he let out a little groan.

"Awww... poor thing." Polly's laughter only got a half-raised eyebrow from her husband. "I told you not to overdo." She stepped up to Teaspoon and wrapped her arms around his middle. "If you hurt yourself you won't be able to celebrate tomorrow when they finally open this place.

Looking about the room, Teaspoon nodded. "It's lookin' good if I do say so myself."

"Not quite the saloon that you have with that girl, Amanda."

Teaspoon gave a little frown. "You know I think of Amanda as a daughter, Polly." His smile returned quickly. "It's still nice that you worry over me."

"I worry, because she tried to cheat you once before." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "I'll forgive, but I won't forget."

"I'm glad I married such a caring woman."

Polly's sigh was colored with laughter. "Besides you 'have' a daughter right here," she gave him a playful shove, " besides Lou's more of a daughter than Amanda. That makes two here."

"Yes, yes..." a wagon passing out front caught his attention. "Ain't Buck and Jimmy back from the depot yet?"

"Nice way to change the subject, Sugarlips." She stepped away and picked up one of the boxes and looked in it. "This one belongs in the kitchen."

Teaspoon sighed. "I'm guessin' you want me to actually put it in the kitchen?" Polly's indulgent smile spoke volumes, but she added in a sweet tone a few words of encouragement. "I would consider it a... personal favor."

Sidling up to his wife he gladly took the box in his arms. "I do so love them 'personal favors.'"

Ignoring the twinge in his back he craned his neck to see over the box and work his way through the maze of boxes. As he cleared the door and paused, catching sight of Rosa standing on the other side of the room. "Well, sweetie, where should I put this box?"

She didn't look at him but he could hear her voice clearly. "Down."

"Down?" He looked from one counter to the butcher's block. "Where?"

"Down."

He heard a distinct edge to her voice and paused. "Rosa, honey? What's wrong?"

She turned to him, one hand on her lower back and the other on the top of her rounded belly. "It's time..." Her face contorted slightly as if she was in great pain... "the baby."

Teaspoon dropped the box at his feet. "Polly!"

Our Little Secret
by: Dede

January seemed like the most unforgiving month of the year; and this one was particularly spiteful. The winds had been harsh and angry for many of the days, as they'd whipped about, lashing out and stinging the skin. Lately the temperatures hovered in the teens; anything higher would have been a blessing. Snow had been a constant, settling in like it was an invited guest; barely a day had gone by without at least some falling. But for Buck, it was expected… and welcomed.

That he loved January and February, no matter how hateful those months could be, baffled his friends and family. As Teaspoon complained about his aches, and Jimmy and Kid grumbled about being cold all the time and having to go out in it, Buck embraced the weather willingly. He couldn't explain his reasons; he just enjoyed the cold weather. Perhaps it was the expectation of what waited at the end of the frigid conditions. There was one person that understood and shared his fondness for the chill that winter brought. Heartened by thoughts of her, Buck lifted his face to the light snowfall and smiled as he imagined her watching for him.

The collar of his jacket was pulled up over his neck to hold back the cold, thankfully the wind was calm, and his hat was pulled low. Two woolen scarves were wrapped around his neck, the dark green for actual warmth and the other… the pale blue solely for his mental comfort. The thick sturdy green scarf that Rachel had knitted for him served as the outer layer. It served its function, keeping the chilled night winds off his exposed face. Whereas the other scarf, full of slipped stitches and uneven patterns, he wore directly against his skin.

His eyes closed, he inhaled deeply and smelled her fragrance: a hint of cinnamon, rose, and lemon. This was why he never stayed in town even when the weather was at its worst.

The flakes were small but fell steadily, parting like a curtain as he rode on. No stars or moon were visible through the snowy sky. But that didn't matter to him, he'd traveled this path so many times with Sage, he could sleep on her back and she'd get him home.

"Almost there girl," he said, patting the horse's neck. The slight ridge appeared in front of them and just over it, the line of trees that lead to his house - no, to their house. As Sage crested the small hill, Buck saw the spirals of smoke that twisted from the chimney. A fire and her cooking waited for him just beyond the woods. If he had to put them in the order of importance, there was no contest. As long as she was in that house, he could do without the fire, the food, and any other need; she was his only necessity.

The branches weighed heavy with snow and dipped towards them as if bowing to their master's return. Throughout the wooded area was silence, save the crunch of the snow beneath Sage's hooves. Just as the house came into view, Sage snorted indicating she was happy to be home too. The only thing visible of the small white fence that surrounded the front was the points on top. He bowed his head beneath one of the lower hanging branches.

As he looked up, there she was, arms wrapped tightly around her chest, trying desperately to keep warm. When she saw him, the sight took Buck's breath away and warmed him from head to toe. Slowly Sage wandered through the gate in the fence to stand by the porch. Body aching from the cold, Buck sat up and stretched before climbing easily to the ground.

"Oh," she said, slowly walking down the steps towards him. "You must be chilled to the bone."

"Be careful darlin'," he said, quickly closing the gap between them. As if he'd known, she slipped on the second to last step but he easily caught her and pulled her to him. "Like I said," he whispered in her ear. The soft gasp that escaped from her sweet mouth was better than any blanket for warmth.

"Let me down you silly man," she said shyly, smacking his arm playfully. He did as she asked and she took a small step back. "Just look at you." Her hands cupped his face and he felt the heat radiating from her hands.

"I can't look at myself," he said, chuckling as he turned slightly to the right and kissed her palm. "Mmmm, feels good." Time almost stopped and Buck would have gladly stood there with her hands on his face, his arms wrapped around her waist. However, Sage was having none of it and snorted to remind her owner that she was very much ready to be in a barn with a warm blanket, some oats, and some companionship.

"Fair enough girl. I'll get you bedded down. Be right back," Buck said and leaned in for a kiss. Her lips were as warm and inviting as her hands. Unable to pull away, what was supposed to be a quick kiss turned much deeper. Again Sage reminded him that she was there.

"Go take care of her," she said, gently pushing him away. "The food is ready so I'll just get the plates on the table." She turned to walk up the steps and slipped again, falling back into Buck's arms.

"Seems like this is where you want to be," he teased, kissing her neck.

"Yes it is," she said, giggling softly. "But first tend to Sage and then you need to eat and get warm."

Scooping her up in his arms, he walked up the steps and placed her down. "Oh I intend to get warm, my dear." The smile that curved the corners of his mouth was enticing. The bright blush told him she had the same idea.

Opening the door, she started to walk in but turned and kissed him soundly. "Hurry up," she murmured.

The warmth that enveloped him from the inside of the house couldn't match how she made him feel. Practically skipping down the steps, he grinned at Sage. "Come on girl, best get you taken care of so I can take care of…" he glanced over his shoulder to see the curtain parted.

Winter really wasn't so bad. Perhaps he should impart his wisdom of the season on his friends. Buck chuckled deeply. Naw, it'll be our little secret.

A/N: I want to thank chyron girl for the lovely image in her fabulous "I'll Be Home For Christmas" of Lou knitting. That and the first sentence coming to me as I was actually shoveling snow from our deck helped form this little story. d;-)

Waiting
by: Karen

The view out the window was still beautiful. The mountains in the distance looked peaceful and inviting, but the emptiness in the foreground reminder her that she was alone. There was no one else here, no one expected home for dinner, no one who would even realize she was gone if she up and left. It would serve him right if she decided to do that - just leave without letting anyone know where to find her. It was basically what he had done to her. He'd left to go fight in this silly war despite the fact that she'd begged him not to. Then once he was gone, he'd been terrible at keeping in touch. She had no idea if he was even still alive. All she knew was that it was finally over, and he still wasn't here and so she was alone, waiting, looking out the window at the emptiness that was her life.

Time
by: Karen

It was something he always thought he would have, and suddenly it was gone. Now he'd never be able to do all the things he'd planned on doing with his life. If he'd only known that his time was going to end so quickly, he would have done things differently. He would have told the people around him how much they meant, just to make sure they knew. He would have tried to be a better person not counting on being able to fix things later. There were so many things he would have done differently for example, if he'd known he wasn't going to return from this little diversion, he wasn't sure he would have gone. He'd always figured that there would be time to make things right with her once he got home.

Winter Dreams
by: Karen

LThe young couple sat on the porch swing looking out into the yard of their newly purchased home. The snow covered the ground, and the bareness of the trees gave the place a deserted, abandoned feel.

"You sure you want to do this?" he asked as he pulled the blanket tighter around her.

"I'm sure," she said.

"It's going to be hard," he said. "Especially if the crops don't come in."

She smiled up at him. "You worry too much," she said. "The crops will be fine. They're just waiting. It isn't time for them to be growing yet; they'll come when it's time. That's the beauty of nature - you never really see the whole picture; it's always waiting, growing, changing."

A Snowy Day's Thought
by: Dee

Teaspoon sat by the stove in the marshal's office looking out the window. The temperature had dipped to well below freezing two days ago and winter had settled in with a vengeance. Clouds were beginning to roll in promising snow before sundown.

Leaning over he opened the door of the stove and tossed in another piece of wood. After he shut the stove he rubbed his hands together glad that he had gotten the boys to bring in a good supply of wood before the cold had set in.

He'd refilled the pot on the stove from the water bucket by the door and sat about making a pot of strong coffee. Good hot strong coffee was just about all a man needed on a day like this. He doubted he'd be called out for anything since most folks would want to stay by fireplaces and stoves during the cold weather.

A few moments later the first of the white flakes began to fall and soon it was almost a blizzard outside the window. Teaspoon sighed at the beauty of the falling snow. Soon the snow would blanket everything in white. Watching the snow fall he thought about how special the winter white made things. Even the most hard working men and women in town would take time off to sled with a youngster and the older boys would bring sleighs into town to take the young ladies for a ride. He hoped the boys finished the chores early so they might join in the fun. They worked so hard they all deserved a day off.

H e could just see his riders, not driving sleighs up and down the street like some of the boys their age but in a snowball fight like the younger boys would be doing soon. Maybe Lou would talk them into building a snowman but like as not she'd be in the snowball fight giving as good as she got. Heck she might even beat the others as smart as she was.

Teaspoon sighed and propped his feet up on the chair he'd sat in front of him. Smiling he contemplated the other good thing about the pretty white flakes falling from the sky. Folks were usually so busy enjoying it that seldom did they get into mischief that required his services as marshal-unless it was to referee a snowball fight. And snowball fights he had decided a long time ago were a lot easier to handle than gunfights.

Yep, snowy days were something special to behold.

Broken
by: Miss Raye

Useless. That's exactly what she was.

Rachel paced away from the window, lifting lid after lid from the pots on the top of the stove checking the progress on supper.

She doubted any of them would admit to being hungry, but sooner or later they'd eat if only because they'd be too tired to stand.

The table needed to be set, another chore to keep her mind from the worry… from the concern. She picked up the stack of plates and started. Teaspoon at the head, Cody, Jimmy, Noah- she nearly collapsed into a chair. No, Noah wouldn't be there… never again. No more smiling face and quick compliments to her cooking, no napkin placed to ward stains from those fancy pants of his. It wasn't fair.

She put his plate aside and set another on top of it. Jesse wouldn't need one either. He was running from the law and only part of her was hoping he'd stay ahead of it. There was that side of her that loved Jesse and then there was the side that hated him… blamed him for the latest link broken in their family.

"Rider comin'!" One of the relief riders from Parker Station blew in, sending up a cloud of dust outside her window as another left to carry on the mochilla to the next. She'd seen it a hundred times… no a thousand times before, but now it seemed as though it was only an echo. There would only be a handful of days left to them. There would only be a few more handoffs… it was like a part of her was dead, buried with Noah. Floating on the wind with Ike.

And here she was. Useless.

She'd seen them off that morning, watched as each greeted the other with mock formality as they readied their mounts. She'd touched hands and faces and wished them Godspeed, but she'd only been able to stand there and watch them ride off.

She wasn't the woman Lou was. She couldn't ride and shoot and fight to make her mark on the world. She was the passive one, content to stay behind and wait.

Content. It had been the truth, before. Now, it was a lie. She wanted to be there, see that those men that had taken Noah's life were dealt an appropriate amount of pain and suffering. She wanted to see them bleed.

Taking one plate in her hand she stared out the window at the empty corral, the stable doors yawning open. It was madness. She felt the crack of the plate as it collided with the wall, splintering into jagged edges and pale slivers of china. It was a waste, but then again, so was the time that Jesse had spent with them. What had he learned if he could turn his back on them so quickly?

The second plate, the same one that Noah had used on countless occasions, empty and it would stay that way. It found its way hurtling through the air crashing against a papered wall.

She should sweep up the mess, but she wanted to see the ruin on the floor. It helped ease her anger to see it there.

For now, all she would do in this house was look out the window and wait… and cook… and wonder if the plates that she set out would all be needed… or if she'd be crying over more shards before the day was through.

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