Lou's eyes traveled across the table to the vacant seat that was usually occupied by Jimmy. Hours had passed since he had mounted Sundancer and ridden out of town. She and Kid had not been too far behind him when he had left town, so both were surprised to find that he was not at the PX station when they arrived. She had wanted to go out looking for him, but Kid had persuaded her to stay put by telling her that Jimmy probably needed some time alone.
That had been hours ago. Lou was beginning to fear that Jimmy might never return, and it was all her fault. If she had not poked her nose where it did not belong, Jimmy would not have gotten involved with Sarah Gentry. She felt physically sick at how close Jimmy had come to being hanged for a crime he did not commit.
"Lou, are you alright?"
She glanced up to see Emma standing beside the table gazing down at her with a concerned look on her face.
"I'm fine," she lied, lifting her fork and taking another bite of the beef stew Emma had made.
Emma did not look convinced, but did not ask any further questions, for which Lou was grateful. She really would not be able to express what she was feeling inside anyways. All she knew was that she wanted Jimmy to walk through the door. Until he did, she would not be able to think straight.
She felt a nudge in her side and met Kid's troubled eyes. She was not the only one concerned about Jimmy, but she doubted Kid felt the same guilt she did. She gave him a slight smile and then went back to playing with her food. She managed to swallow down a few bites, before pushing it aside. She would eat once she knew Jimmy was alright.
Two more hours passed and still no Jimmy. Everyone settled down for the night, but Lou could not sleep. She tossed and turned on her bunk for awhile before deciding she needed some air. She slid out of bed and padded barefoot over to the door. She opened it and slipped out onto the porch just in time to see Jimmy ride into the yard.
Relief flooded through her. She resisted the urge to run across the yard and greet him with a hug, instead settling on the porch steps to wait for him to finish tending to Sundancer.
"What are you doing up?" Jimmy asked softly as he reached the bunkhouse.
"I couldn't sleep." She replied, and then blurted out, "You must really hate me right now."
Jimmy sighed and sat down beside her. "I could never hate you, Lou."
"I wouldn't blame you if you did. I should have never pushed you into pursuing Sarah."
"Stop right there, Lou." Jimmy placed a finger against her lips. "You didn't make me do anything I didn't want to do. What happened between Sarah and me has nothing to do with you."
"I'm so sorry about what happened, Jimmy." Lou told him. "I wouldn't wish the kind of hurt you must be feeling on my worse enemy, let alone a close friend."
"You have nothing to be sorry for. My pride's a bit wounded right now, and I don't think I'll be doing any 'pursuing' for a spell, but I'm alive, and eventually I'll be alright. Come on; let's go get some shut eye. Morning's going to be here before you know it."
Lou followed him into the bunkhouse, and a few moments later, both riders were settled into their bunks. Sleep soon claimed Lou, but for Jimmy it was long in arriving.