Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fighting For Love: Epilogue

Secrets Revealed (Jan 1, 1866)

Music: Any Other Day, Bon Jovi
El Amor Lo Cura Todo (Love Cures Everything), Juanes
Those Are My People, Rodney Atkins
Never-ending Story, Within Temptation

A knock at the front door caught Rachel as she was moving across the living room with a bowl full of freshly pulled taffy.

“Buck,” she called, “take this bowl on into the bunkhouse while I get the door.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Buck smiled as he grabbed the candy and immediately stuffed a piece in his mouth.

Rachel turned back to the front door and cautiously opened it, not wanting to let too much of the cold January snow storm into her house. Standing on the front porch was a slender man on crutches, one leg of his pants pinned up at the knee. Behind him in the yard between the house, now connected to the old bunkhouse, and barn stood a Conestoga wagon with a woman wrapped in a shawl huddled on the front seat.

“May I help you?” Rachel asked.

The man cleared his throat and asked, “Are you Mrs. Rachel Dunne?”

“It’s Tartovsky now, but yes, that’s me,” Rachel answered, confusion evident in her voice.

“So, ya did end up marryin’ him,” the man said in wonder, then shook his head. “Sorry Ma’am. I know ya don’t know me. My name is Virgil Price. I served with some friends of yours during the War. Kid and Lou McCloud?”

He paused, waiting for her to nod in recognition, then continued. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, ma’am. But I figured it’d be better than leavin’ ya wonderin’ what’d happened to ‘em. They both perished, ma’am, at the Siege of Petersburg in the summer o’ ’64. I saw ‘em fall myself.”

Virgil stopped speaking as he saw a grin growing bigger and bigger on Rachel’s face.

“Ma’am?” he asked.

“Why don’t you get that wife of yours on in here out of the cold,” Rachel said simply. “I think I’ve got some good news for you.”

Virgil nodded slowly, obviously confused, and turned around to wave to his wife, who quickly began scrambling down off the wagon. He turned back to Rachel as he heard her yell, “Hieronymus! Get on out here! You’ve got guests.”

Kid looked up from where he was popping popcorn at the fireplace and groaned. He knew this would happen if the rest of his family ever learned his real name. At least they reserved use of it for what they considered “special” occasions, although there certainly seemed to be a whole new definition of “special” recently. Handing the popcorn popper to Jimmy, who’d been sitting behind him on the sofa, Kid stood up and headed toward the open front door.

Virgil and his wife were walking in the door, accompanied by several flurries of snow from the inbound blizzard. He looked up at the sound of the approaching footsteps and stopped all movement in shock.


“Virgil! I didn’t expect to ever see you again!” Kid exclaimed, rushing to wrap the man in a hug of welcome. “What on earth are you doing here?”

“Well, I came to let your family know how you’d died! I saw you fall with my own eyes. How’d you ever manage to survive? And what about Lou? He went down with you!”

Kid laughed at Virgil’s shocked barrage of questions. “Come on in and get over here by the fire and warm up. I think we can answer all of your questions, starting with Lou. You two get….”

Kid stopped speaking suddenly as he realized who the woman with Virgil was. Now it was his turn to be shocked.

“Anabel? Last report we had you’d died in a Yankee attack on Berkeley Manor!”

“Ah’d actually left to visit a neighbor’s house with some medicine about half an hour before the attack. Samson had no idea Ah’d left. When Ah returned, the whole place was in ashes. So, I went to the Prices. That’s where my son, Thomas, Junior, was born,” she explained, revealing a sleeping toddler on her shoulder as she unwrapped herself from her winter clothes. “When Virgil came back after the War, Ah finally learned what had happened to Thomas.”

“She agreed to marry me and come West just a couple months ago,” Virgil added. “Now, what’s your story?”

By now Virgil and Anabel were seating themselves on the sofa Jimmy had quickly vacated. Due to their intent attention on Kid they hadn’t noticed Jimmy moving behind the sofa to make room for them. Jimmy had quickly recognized Virgil and now quirked a questioning eyebrow at Kid, who nodded in agreement. Jimmy turned and headed for the kitchen in what had once been the bunkhouse, while Kid sat down with the Prices and started talking.

“Lou back from the barn yet?” Jimmy asked the rest of the women gathered around the table and stove.

“Not yet,” Polly started to say just as the back door opened, letting Lou in with a gust of wind and snow. “Ah, there she is.”

“Hey, L-T, you’ve got guests,” Jimmy said, his eyes full of the humor of the situation as he took in the sight of the snow covered Lou dressed in a pretty blue dress for the holiday, her arms full of a bucket of milk.

“Well then get over here and take this,” she said grumpily. “I hate doin’ barn chores in a dress. Should’ve waited to change until after.”

“Well, you didn’t have to do the milking,” Polly said acerbically. “I’m perfectly capable of doing my own chores.”

“Nonsense,” Lou retorted. “It’s the holidays, you deserve a little time off.”

“’Sides, I think you’re perfectly dressed,” Jimmy said as he grabbed the bucket and began pouring it into the butter churn by the door.

Lou looked at him in confusion as she headed through the door to the hall that now connected the bunkhouse to Rachel’s house. “Wonder who it could be? Pretty much everyone I know in town is here.”

“You’ll find out,” Jimmy said, almost tripping on her heels in an effort to ensure he was witness to the coming scene.

Looking at each other in confusion, Polly, Standing Woman and Dawn Star quickly followed as well.

As Lou entered the living room with Jimmy right behind her, Kid stood up, interrupting his conversation with a couple sitting on the couch.

“Lou!” Kid exclaimed, “look who’s come to visit!”

Virgil and Anabel stood up and turned around, then stopped in confusion.

“Ambrose! Good to see you. But where’s Lou?” Virgil asked tentatively, looking at the now obviously pregnant young woman at Merriweather’s side.

“Actually it’s Jimmy,” Jimmy started to say, then stopped as Lou walked forward.

“Why Virgil! After all those staff meetin’s ya don’t recognize me? Guess Kid and me didn’t do a good ‘nuff job teachin’ ya to be a scout,” Lou said, dropping into the gruff voice she’d used as Lieutenant Lou McCloud and crossing her arms over her chest in her characteristic stance.

Virgil’s jaw dropped in shock. After taking a second to digest the information, Anabel let out a peal of delighted laughter that wouldn’t let up.

“Lou?” Virgil asked, questioningly.

“It’s Louise,” she said, relaxing her stance and moving forward to welcome Virgil and Anabel. “Though most just call me Lou.”

Kid came around the sofa to wrap an arm about Louise’s waist and said proudly, “In case you haven’t guessed, Virgil, this is my wife, Louise.”

“What? How?” Virgil sputtered, shaking Lou’s hand tentatively, obviously confused on how to treat her.

Jimmy joined Anabel in howling laughter. “I bet this is what Teaspoon looked like when he discovered yer secret, Lou!”

Lou playfully punched Jimmy in the arm. “At least it ain’t as embarrasin’!”

Rachel walked up and said, “Why don’t you all sit down and get caught up. I’ll go let everyone else know what’s goin’ on. We’ll be back in a bit to introduce the whole lot.”

Jimmy grinned and said, “With the way this family’s growin’, you might need to take notes.”

Virgil just shook his head in confounded amusement. “No wonder you never wrote him. We always wondered ‘bout that!”

Hours later, most of the family leaned back from the scrumptious feast they’d just consumed. That is except for Cody, who was still trying to finish off a last piece of Kid’s apple pie.

“Kid, I sure wish you’d a fessed up ‘bout your cookin’ skills back in the Express,” Cody said, savoring the last bite.

“Yeah, it woulda saved us from Jimmy’s awful cookin’,” Buck threw in.

They all laughed in fond remembrance of Jimmy’s porridge, the only dish he could cook without destroying.

“If I had, I’d’a found myself stuck in the kitchen with Rachel. I didn’t join up to cook and I wasn’t goin’ to do it!”

“You were just afraid we’d all think you were the girl in disguise,” Jimmy joshed.

“Naw, I had witnesses,” Kid boasted, winking at Lou, who tossed her napkin into his face.

As the cavorting continued around the table, Virgil looked at the hodge podge group. There were Isaac and Samson seated next to Rachel and her Polish husband, Janusz. Down the table from them sat the Indian, Running Buck, and his two wives. Scattered between these two groups sat a gunfighter, an Army scout, a woman who’d spent years dressed as a man and Kid, a man who’d taken his wife’s last name. That didn’t include the Potters, who’d joined the family and an irascible older storekeep who was obviously paying court to a giant of a woman they all called Tiny!

Virgil leaned over and whispered to Kid, “I don’t understand. Yer all so different, even fightin’ on different sides of the war. Yet here ya all are, like best of friends. How can ya do it?”

Looking around the table of happy people, Kid smiled and started the old refrain, “It’s like Teaspoon always said….”

Lou joined in, “We’re a family.”

Hearing them, the rest of the family helped finish their motto, “And family’s family. Ya stick together no matter what.”

Then Kid added his own take on the saying, “It’s a kind of love worth fighting for.”

Everyone else smiled and responded, “Like we always do.”

Historical Notes

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