Music: I'd Lie For You, Meatloaf
Tell Him, Celine Dion
Tell Him, Celine Dion
Lou watched as Kid took off on another run. Things were finally settling into a routine at the home station. It had been a week since she’d helped the other riders capture the men who’d shot and robbed her. Teaspoon, when he’d learned about her cracked ribs, had first read her the riot act for riding out with the others injured, then insisted she sit out a few rides to heal up. Just this morning he’d announced he was putting her back in the rotation. It would be nice getting back out on the trail again. Sitting around the station, with only limited chores to allow her ribs to heal, was giving her too much time to think.
She knew she needed to thank Kid for not spilling the beans, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without coming off as too girly or silly. She decided, however, that she needed to have something ready to say when he got back. With a sigh, Lou turned back to her morning job of mucking out the stalls. At least it was easier than lugging around the feed pails, like she’d been doing.
Lightning snorted as she walked into his stall, leaning over to nudge her side in search of the treats he knew she regularly carried for him. Lou set the shovel aside and dug the apple cores out of her pocket, laying them on her open palm so he could lip them up. She laughed as his soft nose tickled her hand.
“I know,” she whispered. “You’re getting’ restless, too. Won’t be long now.”
With a last pat on his nose, she gently pushed him away and retrieved the shovel to begin working.
Even as she scooped the horse manure into the nearby wheelbarrow, to be dumped later onto Emma’s large garden, Lou’s thoughts turned back to the Kid. He was the first thing she thought of each morning, the last thing at night and still occupied many of her thoughts throughout the day.
Now, though, it wasn’t just him, but fear of what he could do to her. When he was around, she worried he’d do or say something to give her away to the others. When he wasn’t around, she worried she might do or say something to give herself away. Why’d things have to get so hard just as she was settling in to this new life?
With a sigh, she dumped the last shovelful of manure into the wheelbarrow and then began to spread clean straw along the stall’s floor with a rake.
“So, what do ya think, Lightning?” she asked the horse. “Are we still gonna be able ta make this work?”
The horse whickered to her and nodded its head up and down.
“Is that a yes?”
Again, Lightning nodded his head. Lou laughed.
“Alright, boy. Have it your way,” she smiled, patting his haunches as she headed out of the stall. “We’ll stick around.”
As Lou lay in bed that night, listening to the other boys talking, she smiled. There was something real homey about sharing the bunkhouse with the boys, despite how nervous they still made her sometimes.
Ever since their run in, and subsequent fight, with that band of outlaws, they’d all begun sharing bits and pieces of themselves with the group. All except Lou, that is. She enjoyed listening to the others’ stories, though. Tonight, Cody was rambling on about his Ma’s world famous Christmas mincemeat pie. Lou smiled as his story reminded her of her own mother.
“Whatcha makin’, Ma?” nine-year old Louise asked curiously, standing beside her mother at the stove. She’d never seen her mother cook before. Her father hadn’t allowed it. But she’d been seeing a lot of new things ever since her mother had suddenly rushed the three kids out of the house on a bright Monday morning a couple months ago. Their father had just left on a business trip that was expected to last several weeks. Their mother had sported a black eye and was holding one arm at an odd angle. They’d ridden out of the compound on three of her father’s best horses, never looking back.
“Somethin’ called mincemeat pie, honey,” her mother said. “Assuming I’m followin’ this recipe Mrs. Coughlin gave me right.”
Mrs. Coughlin ran the restaurant at the hotel where Louise’s Ma had gotten a job cleaning rooms. They lived in a small one room shack behind the hotel. It was smaller than Louise’s whole bedroom had been back home, but here Louise was free to run and play, shout and cry, go to school and make friends, without worrying about what her father might say or do. She liked her little trundle bed that she shared with Jeremiah much better than the big canopy bed her Pa’d never let her jump on. She was even enjoying helping her Ma with the chores.
Pa had insisted they weren’t supposed to do things like cook and clean. That’s what the help was for. The only things she’d been allowed to do at home was study with her tutor, learn to ride horses and sew.
“Louise, darlin’,” Ma asked, “what’s next in the recipe?”
Louise squinted down at the handwritten note and read out, “Add one cup brandy and si… sim…”
“Simmer?” Ma suggested helpfully.
“Simmer for thirty minutes.”
“Good thing Mrs. Coughlin said we could substitute apple cider,” Ma smiled down at Louise, “cause there’s no way we could afford to get brandy.”
Louise smiled back up at her Ma and said conspiratorially, “I like cider better anyway.”
They laughed together. Louise was feeling so relaxed, she finally asked her mother the question that had been worrying at her ever since they’d left Pa.
“Ma,” she started out, “why’d we leave Pa?”
“Well, honey,” Ma said, putting a lid over the pot of simmering mincemeat and squatting down to look Louise in the eye, “there’s lots of reasons. But mostly, I had to do what was best for you and Jeremiah and Teresa.”
“Cause Pa hit us?”
Ma nodded sadly. “Your Pa used to be a good man, Louise. Or, at least I thought he was. But, he has a need to control everything around him, including people. And honey, you can’t control other people, only yourself.”
“Couldn’t you tell Pa that?”
Ma laughed softly. “Sometimes, people have to learn things the hard way. They ain’t willin’ ta learn by listenin’ ta other folks, they just gotta live with the consequences of their actions.”
“I hope I don’t ever have to live with con-see-qwen-sees,” Louise stumbled over the long, unfamiliar word. “They don’t sound like any fun atall.”
“Consequences,” Ma pronounced the word slowly and carefully so Louise could hear it better, “are just the results of what we say and do. They can be both good and bad. I made some bad choices when I chose to marry your Pa,” she said ruefully rubbing her arm still wrapped in a bandage, “and I have to live with the consequences of that decision. I left your Pa so you and your brother and sister wouldn’t.”
“Then I’m never gonna get married,” Louise declared decisively. “Then I won’t have to suffer the consequences.” This time she got the word out without stumbling over it.
Ma pulled Louse toward her in a hug. “Oh, honey, don’t swear off marriage and men just because I made a mistake. There are good men out there, like your Grandpa McCloud. You remember him?”
Louise nodded. Grandpa McCloud had died the year before. But she still remembered his warm hugs and how his beard would tickle her neck when he kissed her. She’d loved sitting in his lap and listening as he read her stories or playing checkers with him. He’d been the one to teach her how to ride.
“When you grow up and meet a young man you can’t keep out of your thoughts and who makes your heart race, just stop and think about your Pa and Grandpa McCloud,” Ma smiled. “If he reminds you of Grandpa, than get to know him better. Alright?”
Louise nodded, still a bit uncertain, but willing to take Ma’s advice. Ma smiled and stood up.
“And darlin’, once you’ve found that special young man, don’t let him get away ‘cause yer too busy playin’ games. Tell him how ya feel. It may work, it might not. But you’ll never know unless ya tell him.”
“Yes, Ma,” Louise responded dutifully, not sure she really understood what her Ma meant.
“Thanks, Ma,” Lou whispered. Now she knew how to thank Kid for his silence. Just tell him. As soon as he got back.
It was nearing sunset. Chores were done and the boys were finishing up supper. Kid had come in from his run earlier that afternoon. He’d left the table early to go check on his horse, Katy. He’d said something about her having an odd gait on the last leg of their run and wanting to make sure she was alright. Lou’d slipped away as quietly as she could a few minutes later.
She opened the barn door and peered into the gloomy depths. She didn’t call out because she didn’t want to attract the attention of anyone in the bunkhouse. Not seeing Kid, she walked into the barn and closed the door behind her. She made her way to Katy’s stall and found the paint contentedly munching from her feed trough. Lou smiled as she noticed Kid had placed an extra portion of oats there. He took such good care of his horse, just like Grandpa McCloud had always taught her to do.
Sighing, she moved on to the tack room. Kid wasn’t there either. Finally, she decided to head out to the corrals behind the barn. There, the Kid was leaning against the corral fence, just watching the sun set with a smile on his face. He looked so relaxed. She could feel her pulse rate picking up as she neared him.
When you meet a young man who makes your heart race… Lou smiled as her mother’s words ghosted through her mind. The Kid certainly did that. But the jury was out on whether he was mo re like Pa or Grandpa. She was definitely leaning toward Grandpa at this point, though. Kid certainly seemed to be more a McCloud than a Boggs.
Walking up to him, she gently touched his arm to let him know she was there, before stepping back.
“Kid?” she asked tentatively. She’d decided what to say but saying it was turning out to be a lot harder than she’d expected. Why was it always so hard to talk to him? She never had this problem with the other boys.
“Yes, Lou?” he turned and smiled at her.
Taking a deep breath, as inconspicuously as she could, she blurted out, “Thank you for keepin’ my secret.”
“I didn’t promise,” he reminded her.
“No,” she agreed. “But ya coulda said somethin’ and ya didn’t.”
Kid looked away for a moment, pondering something, then looked back down at her. “Ya got a right ta make yer own way,” he said. She smiled at his words, her heart warming even more toward him. “I won’t tell. I give ya my word.”
Definitely a McCloud, she thought. Something else her mother’d once told her entered her mind. Don’t play games, Louise. Tell him, show him what you feel. On impulse Lou looked around to make sure none of the others had come out of the bunkhouse and around behind the barn. Then, she leaned in and quickly, shyly pecked Kid on the cheek.
As she was pulling away, already blushing at her own effrontery, Kid turned his face and caught her lips with his. Oh! It felt so good. The soft brush of his skin against hers. The way the whiskers on his cheek abraded her smooth face. The movement of his lips as he gently slid them across hers. Her breath caught in her throat. She hoped this moment lasted forever. At the same time, she hoped it ended quickly. She couldn’t breathe. This was nothing like anything she’d ever experienced before in her life. She didn’t know how to handle it, what to do, what to say.
She pulled away to catch her breath. Unable to meet his eyes, afraid of what she’d see there, she stared at the ground. Now that the kiss was over, memories, awful memories, began to crowd into her brain. She quickly pushed them away. She wouldn’t let that man ruin this moment for her.
“Uhh,” she muttered, trying to think of something to say to relieve the silence that was becoming uncomfortable.
Kid smiled at her again.
“It’s gonna take some gettin; used to,” he said. “Now that you’re a girl.”
This brought her full attention back to him. She laughed slightly. Nothing about her had changed. Nothing at all.
“Ah, always been a girl, Kid,” she said, then turned to walk back toward the bunkhouse. Hah! Let him chew on that, she thought with a private, wicked smile.
Chapter 4: The Beginning
Chapter 4: The Beginning