Darkness crept over the prairie, sending small animals scurrying for cover as nocturnal predators awakened from slumber and began to hunt for prey. The streets of Rock Creek were vacant of citizens, except for those folks who prowled the nights and frequented the saloons and bordellos in town.
On the edge of Main Street, the inhabitants of the PX station had settled in for the night as well. Inside the bunkhouse, six riders were sound asleep; another trapped in a nightmare she couldn't escape from.
Lou huddled between the dresser and the wall, her legs pulled up to her chest, arms folded around her knees, and head pressed against them. Her heart pounded as she heard the heavy sound of boots nearing her room at the back of Wicks' saloon. It skipped a beat as she heard the footsteps stop outside her closed door, and the knob began to turn.
"No!" Lou gasped, as she bolted upright in her bunk. She glanced wildly around, her heart pounding, and her breaths coming in a rapid staccato, as she fought against the flood of memories her mind had conjured up while she slept.
A moment passed, then five, before she became fully awake and realized where she was. Even knowing that she was safe inside the bunkhouse, didn't make the terror she was feeling dissipate entirely. Knowing she would not be able to get back to sleep, and not wanting to awaken the others, Lou slipped out of bed and dressed quietly. Once dressed, she tiptoed over to the door, opened it, and stepped out onto the porch.
Not wanting to leave the relative safety of the bunkhouse without her gun, Lou settled on the floor of the porch, her back against the wall, and drew her knees up to her chest. She folded her arms around them and lowered her head so that her chin rested on top of them, and wept.
She thought the dreams of the night Wicks had raped her would no longer haunt her now that the man was dead, but maybe she would never be free of them. Lou was so lost in her thoughts that she did not hear the door open or see Kid step out onto the porch.
Lou startled at the sound of her name, even though Kid had barely spoken louder than a whisper. Kid crouched down beside her. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to frighten you."
"I know." Lou said hoarsely.
Kid settled on his rear beside her and raised his hand hesitantly to place it around her shoulders. To his relief, Lou did not pull away from him, but instead shifted her position so that she could press her face into his shoulder. Kid wrapped his other arm around her and held her tight as she wept.
He did not ask her what the dream was about, he knew. Ever since Ephraim Wicks had made an appearance in town, Lou's life had been turned upside down. Not only had she been forced to face the man who raped her, but she had lost a dear friend, too.
The only good thing about Wicks coming to Rock Creek was Lou revealing to him and the rest of their PX family what he had done to her. No longer did she have to keep such a horrible secret to herself. Now she had the support of folks who cared about her, and would help her overcome the painful memories of the cruelty she had experienced.
Lou cried until her tears were spent. She did not know how much time had passed since Kid had sat down beside her. She lifted her head slowly off his shoulder and used the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her eyes. She eased back from him a little so she could gaze up into his face.
"I'm alright now. You can go back to bed."
"What about you?"
"I think I'll stay out here and watch the sun rise."
"Would you mind having some company?"
Lou was relieved that Kid wanted to stay with her. She really did not want to be alone. She shifted position so that she was leaning back against the wall again. Kid removed his arm from around her waist, and placed it over hers. He smiled as he felt her slip her fingers through his.
They did not talk much as they watched the sun ride. Lou was comforted by Kid's presence; and was content to be with her. Slowly Lou felt the last vestiges of the nightmare fade away, and peace settle within her once again. There was no telling whether or not she would dream again of the awfully night Wicks had raped her. With Kid ready to chase them away, and the others there to support, she knew she would never have to face them alone.