Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sweet Pea

 Author's note:  This story comes after Bittersweet in the Sweetwater Romance series.  It falls between the episodes Face of the Enemy and The Exchange in season 2.

This is Part 3 of the Sweetwater Romance series.

Lou stood on the bunkhouse porch, wearily watching the antics of her brothers as they tossed Teaspoon’s baseball around in a game of keepaway, trying to bring a bit of normalcy back to Buck's life after his recent brush with the Army.  But there was nothing 'normal' about Lou's life right now and even Cody’s normally amusing behavior was grating on her. 

She snuck one hand into the pocket of her jacket, fingering the letter she’d just finished writing.  She’d tried following the advice of those around her, but none of it had worked.  Jimmy, Teaspoon, Rachel, Buck, even Ike and Noah had all failed to help, some more spectacularly than others, Lou thought sourly.  Hopefully an answer would come soon.  All this worry and confusion was giving her a headache to go with what seemed like a never ending heartache.

“Rider comin’!”

The familiar call rang out across the yard in Rachel’s dulcet tones.  Lou grabbed her hat off the bench behind her and jammed it on her head, already racing toward her horse.  Rachel was already there, holding the horse’s bridle to keep it calm while Lou vaulted into the saddle.  Lou stiffened, not wanting to take her current mood out on her friend.  Rachel had only been trying to help. It wasn’t her fault Lou had messed things up.

As Lou leaned forward to grab the reins, Rachel whispered up to her, “Lou, I know you’ve been avoidin’ me.  Avoidin’ all of us.  Please, Sweet Pea, you gotta talk ta somebody.  If not one of us, then who?”

“I’m alright, Rachel,” Lou muttered, refusing to meet the older woman’s gaze.  “Stop worryin’.”
Pulling the reins to the side, Lou turned her horse and started him galloping across the yard to meet the incoming rider and accept the pouch.


“Emma!  Emma!”

“Quit yer caterwaulin’, Sam,” the slim redhead muttered stepping out of the kitchen onto the porch of the large house she shared with her still newly minted husband, Territorial Marshal Sam Cain.  Wiping her hands dry on her apron, she watched her tall, handsome man bound up the porch steps two at a time.  “Now, what’s so all fired important I could hear ya callin’ fer me half a town away?”
Sam leaned in to peck her on the cheek before pulling his hat off with one hand and holding out a sealed envelope in the other. 

“You’ve got mail,” he said, flashing her his expansive ‘I’ve just hung the moon for you’ smile.
Reaching out to take the missive, Emma asked, “Who’s it from?”

“Well, ain’t no name on it, but it’s got an Express mark,” he grinned down at his new wife, reaching up to brush a few flyaway curls back behind an ear, still slightly amazed she’d finally given him the right to do that in public.  “Figure it must be from one of the boys.”

A frown wrinkled Emma’s forehead as she contemplated the letter while turning back toward the kitchen and the dinner she’d left bubbling on the stove.  The note wasn’t from Jimmy, he didn’t write often but she’d recognize his handwriting in a split second.  Nor was it from Teaspoon.  It was too clean for that.  It wasn’t the fancy paper Cody favored, nor the drawing paper Ike generally used.  Buck never wrote.  That left just the Kid or Lulabelle.

Emma let out a deep, mournful sigh and grabbed a knife.  She quickly slit the envelope open.  Coming from one of those two it couldn’t be good news.  She’d heard enough from Teaspoon’s short notes to know that without reading a word of this letter.  Carefully pulling out the single sheet of ultra thin paper, Emma shook her head.  Lulabelle, she thought.  Only her Lulabelle would’ve been so careful about the weight, and thus the cost, of the letter.

“Well?” Sam asked, resting his hands on her shoulders and leaning in to press his cheek against hers as he peered at the letter.  “Who’s it from?”

“Lou,” Emma answered with a smile.

“So, what’s your girl rider got ta say?” Sam asked, still a bit miffed Emma’d had to tell him about Lou’s secret.

“Hmmm, lemme see here,” Emma murmured as she scanned the letter, her heart sinking with every word.  Slowly, she sat down at the table, letting the letter fall to its finely polished surface.

“Uh oh,” Sam said, watching as her face paled with every word.  “Doesn’t look good.”

“Why that….” Emma gasped, suddenly outraged at something she’d just read.  “How dare she!”

“Um, I think I need ta get back ta the office,” Sam said, holding both hands in the air and slowly backing away from his wife who’s temper was quickly reaching full boil.

“Ooooh!  I oughta…!” So incensed was she, Emma couldn’t even finish her thought.  She never noticed Sam’s cautious retreat.  She was too busy reading about Lou’s recent problems.

I thought we were ready to move on.  So did Rachel.  She even helped us find the time and place for a little privacy.  But, Emma, things didn’t work out so well and now I think I may have lost the Kid for good.

I thought he loved me for me.  But, after we got ******

Emma paused to wonder at the blotted out word before continuing to read.  She was pretty sure what her Sweet Pea was hinting at and it made her blood boil.  To know that the one adult female influence left on Lulabelle had actually encouraged such activity made her so angry she felt moved to violence.

…close, he started treating me different.  Constantly trying to protect me, change me it seemed.  I ain’t ready to be that woman yet, Emma.  I tried to tell him, but he thought I was rejecting him.  Now, it feels like I’ve lost the only man I’ll ever love.

Please, Emma!  I’m so scared.  I can’t imagine life without him.  What if he’s in love with this other woman?  This Samantha?  I know she’s left town, but…

I sent him away because I thought he deserved someone better than me.  I couldn’t stand for him to think me weak, but the truth is, I am.  I can’t go on without him, Emma.  What do I do?

Emma shook her head as she read through the short, tear stained letter a second time.  How had those two managed to mess things up so badly in the few short months since she and Sam had left town?  Taking a deep breath to rid herself of her anger at this Rachel who’d encouraged her Sweet Pea to make such disastrous decisions, Emma stood up to pull out paper and a pen.

Removing the pot from the stove so it wouldn’t burn, Emma turned to more urgent business, straightening out the mess her Lulabelle had gotten herself into.


“Where’s Louise?” Teaspoon huffed as he sorted through the mail marked to stop for distribution in Rock Creek.

*She’s out in the barn doin’ chores,* Ike signed, a questioning look on his face.  *Why?*

Teaspoon held out a letter to Ike.  “She’s got mail.  Care ta deliver it fer me?”

*Sure,* Ike shrugged as he stood up, setting aside the boot he’d been polishing to accept the letter.  Looking down at the address he recognized Emma’s swirling handwriting.

Moments later, Ike peered into the depths of the barn.  He knocked rapidly three times against the barn door, the alert signal he’d set up with the other riders for when he needed to get their attention.
Lou stepped out of Lightning’s stall, a curry comb held loosely in one hand.

“Yes, Ike?”

Ike held out the letter. 

*You’ve got mail,* he awkwardly signed with his one free hand.

Lou looked startled for a moment, then suddenly excited and scared simultaneously as she rushed over to grab the envelope from him, dropping the curry comb to the ground in her hurry.  With barely an acknowledging nod for his delivery, she turned her back on him and disappeared once again into Lightning’s stall.  The stall door closed firmly behind her, shutting Ike out and Lou in.

A bewildered Ike bent over to pick up the dropped curry comb and moved back to the tack room to carefully put it away.  Shaking his head, Ike contemplated Lou’s odd behavior, coming to the conclusion he’d never understand girls.

Inside the stall, Lou leaned against the wall, breathing deeply, trying to calm herself.  She was eager to know what Emma had to say, but scared to death at the same time.  What if Emma told her to give it up, that she’d ruined everything and should just move on, like some of the boys and Rachel seemed to think she ought to do?  Lou wasn’t sure if she could handle it.

Sliding down along the wooden panels of the stall door, Lou finally sat on the hay covered ground.  Lightning moved over to nudge her with his muzzle, tickling her with the whiskers sprouting from his satiny soft nose, silently asking her what she was doing all the way down there.

Tears in her eyes, she pulled his head close, hugging him for comfort.  After a moment though, the horse shifted his weight and pulled away, moving toward his feed trough.

Sniffling, Lou wiped her face dry with the cuff of her shirt, then carefully slipped one finger into the envelope, tearing it open.  Pulling out the paper, she smiled wistfully as the smell of Emma’s Lemon Verbena scented water wafted up from it.  She’d give just about anything to have Emma here by her side right now.  The only one she wanted sitting with her more at the moment was Kid.

Timidly unfolding the paper, Lou began to read.

My darling Lulabelle,

I can’t say as I approve of some of the decisions you’ve made, but they were yours to make, not mine.  Lord knows I’ve made my own share of mistakes.  But they don’t have to be the end of the world.  Unfortunately, whether they’re the end of your relationship with Kid doesn’t just rely on your feelings.  It takes two to make things work.

Lou felt herself stiffening in rejection of the words she was reading.  There had to be a way to get Kid back.  There just had to be.

But there is hope, my Sweet Pea.  I’ve been where you are.  There was a time I thought I’d completely ruined any chances at a relationship with Sam.  You know how that worked out.  What you don’t know is how much work it took for us to get to where we are today.

Relationships aren’t easy, my dear.  And they start with sharing everything about yourself with him.  I know you’ve got secrets.  All you ‘boys’ did.  And I know there’s something you’re still holding back from all of us.  It’s up to you when and with whom to share it.  But, honey, until you do, you won’t be able to move on.

Lou sighed.  She knew exactly what Emma was talking about.  She’d almost told Kid a dozen times about that night.  But then she’d look into his eyes and imagine the disgust that would replace the love in them once she revealed her deepest, darkest secret and she’d chicken out.

But first, you’ve got to tell him what you’re feeling right now.  You shouldn’t be running to me, Jimmy, Teaspoon or even this Rachel woman…

Lou smiled as she could feel venom dripping from Emma’s pen in the shaky lines that formed the letters of Rachel’s name.

…when things are getting tough or you have a problem with Kid.  You need to tell him.  Tell him what you’re feeling..  Tell him what you’re scared of.  Tell him your hopes and dreams.  The truth can only set you free, it can never make you weak, only stronger.  Doubts and fears shared are doubts and fears halved.  And if you want to have a lifelong relationship with Kid, you’ve got to start sharing them with him.

Lou sighed as she felt things slipping into place, her stomach muscles relaxing, her headache slowly disappearing from behind her eyes as she accepted the truth of Emma’s words.  Yes, she should talk to Kid.

Rapidly reading the last few words, Lou smiled as she jumped to her feet.  Moments later she came barrelling into the bunkhouse, calling out Teaspoon’s name.

“Teaspoon,” she gasped, out of breath from her sprint across the yard, “where’s the schedule?”

Teaspoon frowned at her in annoyance.  He hated being interrupted while doing paperwork.  With a jerk of his chin he pointed at the paper posted on the wall next to the stove. 

“Right over there, like always,” he grumped.

Hustling over, Lou ran her finger down the schedule, looking for Kid’s name and hers.  Dang!  It would be a couple weeks before they were back at the station together.  He was on a special run to Fort Laramie and wouldn’t be back until after she left on her next run.  Well, that would give her time to think, figure out what to say and gather her courage to approach him.

One way or another, she was determined to reach out and just prayed he accepted the love she had to offer.

Tell  Him, Celine Dion/Barbra Streisand

I'm scared
So afraid to show I care
Will he think me weak
If I tremble when I speak
Oooh - what if
There's another one he's thinking of
Maybe he's in love
I'd feel like a fool
Life can be so cruel
I don't know what to do

I've been there
With my heart out in my hand
But what you must understand
You can't let the chance
To love him pass you by

Tell him
Tell him that the sun and moon
Rise in his eyes
Reach out to him
And whisper
Tender words so soft and sweet

I'll hold him close to feel his heart beat
Love will be the gift you give yourself
Touch him (ooohh)
With the gentleness you feel inside(I feel it)
Your love can't be denied
The truth will set you free
You'll have what's meant to be
All in time you'll see

I love him(then show him)
Of that much I can be sure(hold him close to you)
I don't think I could endure
If I let him walk away
When I have so much to say

Love is light that surely glows
In the hearts of those who know
It's a steady flame that grows (oh ooh oh oh)
Feed the fire with all the passion you can show

Tonight love will assume its place
This memory time cannot erase

Your faith will lead love where it has to go

Tell him
Tell him that the sun and moon
Rise in his eyes
Reach out to him
And whisper
Whisper words so soft and sweet
Hold him close to feel his heart beat
Love will be the gift you give yourself

Sweet Tea (#4)

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