Author's note: This is #9 in the Sweetwater Romance series, after Not So Sweet Freedom. It falls in the first half of the Season 3 episode, The Presence of Mine Enemies.
“You heard me,” he said quietly. “I ain’t escortin’ ya to the dance, Lou.”
“I… I don’t understand,” she finally said quietly, hurt deepening the tones of her voice. “Is this ‘cause of that kiss with Jimmy? I tol’ ya it didn’t mean nothin’. I wouldn’t’a told ya a’tall ‘cept we promised ta tell each other everythin’.”
“I know, Lou,” Kid sighed. “I know. And it ain’t that. Not really. Well, not completely, anyways.”
“So you are punishin’ me,” she stated, dejected as she slumped down onto her bunk. Shortly after moving to the new station at Rock Creek, Teaspoon had decided she should have the individual bunk, instead of sharing with one of the boys. She liked the freedom it gave her, no more worrying about banging her head on the ceiling and all. But she missed knowing Kid was asleep just below her, that sense of closeness they’d had, even when they’d been the furthest apart. Now, she could feel the chasm opening beneath her again and this time there was no lower bunk to catch her. She’d known she should’ve kept that stupid kiss with Jimmy to herself. “Wasn’t like I was even the one doin’ the kissin’,” she murmured to herself.
“I know that, Lou. Really, I do. Both you and Jimmy have made it perfectly clear. It’s just…. well….” he paused, not sure how to go on. “Well, it got me to thinkin’.”
“Heaven help us,” Lou muttered.
“Thing is, by the time you was old enough ta really be interested in courtin’, you was livin’ and actin’ like a boy,” Kid started trying to explain himself, pacing back and forth in front of her. “Then I found out and we started…. well… we started whatever this is we’ve got going. But…” he paused and turned to face her. “What if it’s just ‘cause I was the only one available? The safe one? The one ya knew wouldn’t tell?”
“Kid, it ain’t like that,” she tried to explain. “I mean, sure, ya had a few weeks over the others, but they knew pretty quick, too, and didn’t tell. I didn’t go runnin’ ‘round kissin’ all them, dancin’ with them, at dances or anywhere else.”
She stood up and reached out, grabbing the front of his shirt in one hand to stop his incipient pacing and pull him closer to her.
“You’re the only one I want ta dance with,” she whispered up at him. “Tonight, in town, in front of everyone else, or anywhere it’s just the two of us.”
Kid sighed and gently pushed her away. “That ain’t what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, Lou. I gotta know. I gotta know that what we got… it’s real. It’ll survive you bein’ out there around other men what see you like I do, as a pretty woman they’d like ta spend time with. I ain’t forgot ‘bout that insurance man ya took such a likin’ to.”
Lou pulled back, hurt at the zinger. “Maybe it’s you yer wonderin’ ‘bout,” she spat, taking refuge in anger to block out the pain. “Maybe yer wonderin’ if ya really want ta spend time with a tomboy like me. Ya want ta see what it’s like ta smile and flirt with all them gals in town that’re always battin’ their eyelashes at ya.”
She whirled around and dashed for the door, unwilling to let him see the tears fall that were already forming in her eyes.
“Lou!” he called after her, frustrated. But she ignored the pleading sound in his voice. He watched her run across the yard and disappear into the barn. Was she right? Did he want the chance to spend time with other women? No, he shook his head, ruthlessly suppressing the memory of a slender blonde with corkscrew curls and the guilt that went with it. She’d certainly forgotten him the moment he’d left the county. She was indubitably happily married to one of the rich swains in town, pleasing her persnickety Pa and playing house. But the memory also reassured him. He’d had real sweethearts before. He knew the difference between how that had felt and this. But how to make Lou understand, that’s what he couldn’t figure out.
“I don’t know why we’re even botherin’,” Lou grumped, as she stood on the step stool, Rachel kneeling at her feet, her mouth full of straight pins. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she added, “I might as well not even go to this danged dance. Cain’t go with the boys, Kid doesn’t want me ta go as his girl. Might as well go ahead and go in my Sunday suit, like usual.”
Rachel sighed and pulled the pins out of her mouth. “Would you stand still! I’ll never get this hem even if you get dancing around like that. Save the fancy footwork for the dance floor.”
“I give up,” Lou whined, stepping off the stool and plopping unceremoniously down on the settee in Rachel’s parlor. “It ain’t worth all this trouble. I’ll just take the run that day. Save everyone the headache of worryin’ ‘bout ‘Poor ol’ Louise.’”
Rachel put the pins back in her sewing basket then came over to sit next to Lou. She stretched one arm around the distraught girl’s shoulders.
“Want to talk about it?”
Lou just looked at her and then burst into tears.
“Oh, darling, it can’t be all that bad,” Rachel murmured, pulling the girl into a hug.
“He don’t want me no more,” Lou wailed. “He wants me ta dance with other boys. He thinks I don’t know what I want, just ‘cause I didn’t shoot Jimmy fer kissin’ me. I can’t shoot Jimmy, he’s my best friend.”
Rachel laughed softly, gently caressing Lou’s hair to comfort her.
“Somehow I doubt that’s what Kid’s after,” she said. “He’s been planning and plotting for this dance as much as you have.”
Lou sat up, shaking her head violently from side to side. “Not no more, he ain’t.”
“Tell me about it,” Rachel encouraged.
Soon, the words began spilling out of Lou’s mouth, tripping over each other in their eagerness to see the light of day. Lou told Rachel everything, from the trip escorting Elias Mills to his hanging, how he’d gotten to all of them, but especially Jimmy, how she’d tried to comfort Jimmy and ended up letting him kiss her, how she’d told Kid about it and now, how Kid was suddenly saying they couldn’t go to the dance together.
“Did you ever think maybe Kid has a point?” Rachel asked, as gently as she could.
“What do you mean?”
“Louise, have you ever even looked at another boy romantically?”
“Well….” Lou began to hedge, then stopped at the warning look Rachel gave her. “Not really. There was this boy I had a crush on back when I was in school, before my Ma left my Pa. His Pa worked for mine. He was…. cute.”
“But you were children.”
Lou shrugged, not willing to answer, to admit that maybe Rachel, and thus Kid, was right, but unable to deny the truth.
“Still don’t matter,” she muttered. “If I cain’t go with Kid, ain’t no sense in goin’ as a girl, in goin’ period.”
“Why not?” Rachel asked exasperatedly, sitting back to get a better look at Louise, who now sat, arms crossed over her chest, a mutinous set to her mouth.
Lou ducked her head, ashamed. Speaking to her toes, she said, “I cain’t dance.”
“What was that?” Rachel asked, leaning closer. “I couldn’t hear you.”
“I cain’t dance,” Lou practically shouted. “There, happy? I said it. I cain’t dance. I cain’t flirt. Heck, I don’t even remember most of the table manners my Ma taught me, I spent so much time fightin’ Cody fer my share of supper. I can barely walk in a dress. I’m so used ta pants I spend all my time trippin’ over my own skirts. The only reason I like dressin’ up right now is ‘cause… well… I like how Kid looks at me when I do.”
Out of breath, Lou let her tirade trail off. Rachel started laughing. She laughed so hard she had to hold her stomach. Lou looked at her in a mixture of betrayal and wonder. Finally, Rachel got herself back under control and, wiping tears from her the corner of her eye, said, “Well, if that’s all, I don’t see the problem.”
Lou just stared.
“You just come on over here to the house every evening after dinner,” Rachel said. “We’ll practice all the skills you need to properly set Kid, and all the other boys, on their ears next week.”
“And the dancin’?” Lou asked plaintively. “What ‘bout that? The only man I ever danced with was Kid…”
She stopped speaking at Rachel’s raised eyebrow and blushed wildly.
“Not that type of dancin’,” she hissed, almost more annoyed then embarrassed. “But, neither one of us really knew how ta dance. We just watched Teaspoon and then kinda made things up as we went along. I cain’t exactly do that with the boys from town.”
“No, I don’t suppose you could,” Rachel agreed. “But I think you’ve already hit on the solution.”
Louise quirked an eyebrow in question.
“Teaspoon?” Rachel explained. “I’d be willing to bet he’d be perfectly happy to teach you how to dance proper. I’d do it myself, but it’s always better for a woman to learn from a man, and vice versa.”
“Do you think he would?” Lou asked, suddenly eager.
Kid sighed as he watched Lou scurry off again after supper. It had been this way for the last week. Ever since he’d tried to talk to her about the upcoming dance, she’d been giving him the cold shoulder. When she’d been around, that was. He’d actually hardly ever seen her. It seemed if she wasn’t out on a run, she was running out, somewhere. He’d thought about following her, to see what she was up to, but was fighting hard to keep his promise not to hover and crowd her. It was hard though.
Even as he watched the barn door swing shut behind her, he felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder. Turning, he looked back to see Rachel behind him, a smile lighting her face.
“You ready?” she asked.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “Though I don’t know why I keep this up. Looks like it’s a waste of my time. She won’t even talk to me right now.”
“She’ll get over it,” Rachel assured him. “And be ever so pleased when you show her what you’ve learned.”
“If you say so,” he sighed. Holding out his hands in the stiff position she’d taught him, he waited for her to step into his arms, one slim hand resting in his, the other on his shoulder. She began to hum a simple melody and they moved in tandem to the beat.
Soon, both were singing the words to the song, “There’s a yellow rose in Texas, that I am going to see….”
“Nobody else could miss her, not half as much as me,” Teaspoon’s baritone rolled over Lou as he swung her around the barn floor. “She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart. And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part.”
Lou laughed, enjoying the feeling of floating on air that she always got when dancing. She’d thought it was being held in Kid’s arms. Turned out it was just the dancing itself. She loved it., almost as much as galloping across the prairie.
Eventually, the song ended and Teaspoon stepped back, holding on to her hand as he swept her a deep bow. She carefully fell into a similarly deep curtsey in acknowledgement. Luckily, she could use his hand to maintain her balance. Otherwise, she still wasn’t good enough to curtsey without falling on her own, it was such an awkward maneuver.
“I do believe you’re ready, my dear,” he intoned formally.
“Do you really think so?” she asked. “This is fun, but is this it?”
“Any boy asks you ta do any other dance and you give him what fer,” Teaspoon said in a playfully fierce voice. “Maybe you should wear yer Colt underneath yer skirts. Just in case.”
Lou laughed lightly. Although she was still miffed at Kid, she was definitely back to looking forward to tomorrow night’s dance.
Ike sat, staring down at the paper in front of him, looking up at his brothers and sister, all spiffied up for the dance, then back down to place a few careful pencil marks here and there.
Louise, impatient as always, shifted on the bench where she sat sandwiched between the Kid and Jimmy. Jimmy looked down at her with a raised brow. But she just ignored him. Reaching up with one hand, she again tried to tidy the hair she and Rachel had spent more than an hour arranging.
“Ike, I’m gettin’ tired sittin’ here,” she complained. Twisting her mouth in a grimace, she sighed again.
“Ike,” Jimmy called, trying to get their brother’s attention. “How long is this gonna take?”
Feeling the Kid moving on her other side, Lou looked over as he reached up with a handkerchief to wipe sweat off the back of his neck.
“I’ve been smilin’ so long I don’t think I can stop,” he half groaned.
“That’s alright, Kid,” she said in a superior tone. “I’m sure the girls will love it.”
He dropped his arm to turn and look at her in exasperation, obviously wanting to pick up their… discussion… from earlier, but reluctant to do so in front of their family. She smothered the grin that wanted to plaster itself across her face at that small victory.
The sound of Ike banging on the table distracted them from their brewing disagreement, to the relief of Noah, Buck and Cody standing behind them. Looking in his direction, they acknowledged his motions and reluctantly Kid put the handkerchief back in a pocket and Lou set the brush down on the table.
“Alright,” she sighed. “Alright.”
“Ike,” Noah spoke up from behind her. “You sure you don’t want ta come along now?”
“Yeah,” Jimmy encouraged. “Just ‘cause Emily ain’t comin’ don’t mean you can’t have a good time.”
Suddenly, Ike shifted backward in his seat, holding the drawing he was working on up to the light and nodded slightly to himself.
“Is that it?” Kid asked eagerly.
Ike looked up, smiled enigmatically and nodded again. Finally released from their poses, they all sprang up and rushed toward the door. Lou tried to catch a sneak peak at Ike’s drawing on her way out, but Ike pushed her away.
“You can do this, Louise,” Rachel encouraged, walking down the boardwalk slowly, arm in arm with the younger girl. “Just relax and be yourself. They’re going to love you.”
“I don’t care if they love me, hate me or anythin’ in between,” Lou said. “Just so long’s they’ll dance with me, they can think whatever they want.”
“Well, not all of them,” Rachel said slyly. “There’s at least one young man in there who’s eye you’re hoping to catch tonight.”
“Maybe,” Lou said loftily. “Ain’t so sure no more.”
Rachel laughed. “Oh, you’re sure alright, or you wouldn’t be so miffed about all this, let alone carrying that chip on your shoulder so high.”
Together, they stepped into the school house, which had been cleared out, all the desks and chairs carefully stacked up out back, for the dance. Stopping just inside the door, they took the time to survey the room. A group of townsfolk who played instruments had gathered at the end of the room, up on the slightly raised dais where the teacher’s desk usually sat. They were busily tuning their instruments and discussing which songs to play. Several ladies were setting out cakes, pies and other goodies on a table along one wall, while Teaspoon stood near the door, ready to stop anyone who tried to walk in with a gun and confiscate it. He was dapperly dressed in a black suit and hat, which he tipped to each of the ladies as they entered the room.
Suddenly, the music got underway and Lou unconsciously found her way to her usual spot during a dance, holding up a wall, swaying slightly to the delightful music.
Lou turned at the sound of a masculine voice coming from her side.
“May I have the pleasure of this dance?”
She laughed to see Teaspoon standing there, hat in one hand, the other held out toward her in supplication. She reached out and put her hand in his and curtsied.
Using her best southern bell accent, she replied, “Why ah would be honored to dance with you, sir.”
Soon, she found herself being twirled expertly around the room. She tried to keep track of all her ‘brothers’, not to mention, Kid. But the effort of keeping up with Teaspoon’s high spirited movements took most of her energy and soon had her laughing and breathless, all at the same time. Although at one point, she did notice Kid and Jimmy over by the punchbowl talking to some of the boys from town. The knowing grins on their faces confused her for a moment as she spun past in Teaspoon’s arms, but she let the thought go, enjoying herself too much to worry about them at the moment.
As the music changed from one song to another, she found herself spun from one side of the schoolroom to the other, out of Teaspoon’s arms and into Cody’s. Cody turned out to be just as good on the dance floor as Teaspoon was.
The night quickly became a blur of faces after that, as one young man after another asked her to step out with him. The first few she tried to remember their names, just to be polite, but eventually gave up. Since, by convention, no one man could dance more than once or twice with her in a row, without declaring his intentions, it was impossible to keep track of them all.
Once again the music changed. This time the familiar strains of The Yellow Rose of Texas began to ring through the room. Unexpectedly, Louise suddenly found herself pleasantly alone for a moment. Taking the chance to catch her breath, she moved over to the punch bowl and dished up a glass. Reminding herself to drink it in dainty sips, instead of gulping it down like she wanted, she turned slowly to survey the room and jumped when she found Kid right behind her.
Smiling down at her, he said formally, “May I have the honor of this dance?”
His words took her back to that first dance in Sweetwater, oh so long ago, it seemed. She’d been standing on the fringes, watching the girls in their pretty dresses, wishing she could be one of them. Now she was. Oh how times had changed. So many, many things had changed. But one thing, that hadn’t. She still couldn’t resist his plea, even though she should.
Ducking her head shyly, she whispered, “You may.”
Reaching out, he took her hand in his and led her out onto the dance floor. Soon, they were swinging around the room to the beat of the music. At first, they just enjoyed the dance, each surprised at the other’s sudden skill.
“When did you learn to dance?” Lou finally asked.
“Last week,” Kid grinned down at her. “Rachel taught me.”
She started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Teaspoon taught me,” she said. “Last week!”
That quickly, that easily, their tiff over the dance was over and all was right between them once again.
Nothing Sweet: Lou (#10)
The Yellow Rose of Texas
The Yellow Rose of Texas
There's a yellow rose in Texas, that I am going to see,
Nobody else could miss her, not half as much as me.
She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part.
She's the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your Clementine, and sing of Rosalee,
But the yellow rose of Texas is the only girl for me.
When the Rio Grande is flowing, the starry skies are bright,
She walks along the river in the quiet summer night:
I know that she remembers, when we parted long ago,
I promise to return again, and not to leave her so.
Oh now I'm going to find her, for my heart is full of woe,
And we'll sing the songs together, that we sung so long ago
We'll play the banjo gaily, and we'll sing the songs of yore,
And the yellow rose of Texas shall be mine forevermore.