Camille would have slept later than usual if it hadn’t been for the beating of rain on the roof that morning. The rain clouds obstructed the morning rays of sunshine through her bedroom window, that faithfully woke her at the break of each day. She could smell the aroma of brewing coffee and knew Rachel was beginning her day in the kitchen. The day before Rachel had picked a bushel of blackberries from the bushes just beyond the barn and the ladies spent their morning canning jam and making a few pies.
As the day progressed it appeared the rain was not going to subside, so Camille donned a rain slicker as she prepared to walk into town. She shut the door behind her then checked to ensure the basket she carried was protected from the rain. The sky was gray and overcast, an altogether miserable day, but she couldn’t help notice the fresh crisp scent the rain left in the air.
The roads in town were transforming into rivers of mud. If not for the boardwalks in town, her dress and shoes would have been a muddy mess. She felt herself giggle at her last thought as she noticed two little boys jumping through the puddles of mud. They obviously did not share her concern for remaining clean.
Having reached her destination, she turned the doorknob and entered the Marshal’s office. Teaspoon heard the door open and turned in surprise to see Camille walk through the door. “Camille, is that you,” he asked.
“It’s me,” she said as she removed the rain soaked slicker.
“Lord, child, what brings you out on such a nasty day?”
“I was a little restless, I guess,” she said as Teaspoon took the rain slicker from her, “Rachel and I spent the morning making pies and jam. I thought you might like to sample our handy work. How does blackberry pie sound to you?”
Teaspoon gave her a grin, “Well, well, I do believe that I could help you out there.”
“Good,” she said cheerfully. She placed the basket containing the sweet confection on a table by the front window of the office.
“Why don’t you sit a spell and have a piece with me?” he asked.
“I would like that,” she replied, as she removed the pie from the basket.
“How ‘bout a cup a coffee to wash it down?”
She nodded her head in response. “Perfect”
Camille began to slice the pie and serve it on the plates she had brought from home. Teaspoon returned to the table with a hot pot of coffee and two tin cups.
“Thank you,” she said as he placed the steaming cup before her.
Teaspoon went to sit opposite her at the small round table. “Did Buck leave for Blue Creek yesterday,” he asked.
She nodded, “I miss him already. Isn’t that silly? I just feel a little lost without him here.”
‘Now that’s not silly at all. It’s understandable with you bein’ around new folks and in a new town. Awe, he’ll be back before you know it. If I know Buck he won’t be wastin’ any time getting back here.”
“I hope your right,” she answered.
“I know I am. That boy’s got more reason than ever to rush back home. I have to tell you…it does my heart good to see him so happy. He’s experienced a lot of heartache in his life, more than most people have in a lifetime. It’s good to see him smilin’ again.”
“Is he really that different?” she questioned.
“Oh yeah! The last year has been a hard one for Buck. Maybe one of the hardest. The move here to Rock Creek wasn’t an easy one for him. People don’t always take easy to Indians…you know that. Until folk got to know him, he constantly had to prove himself. Anytime there was Indian trouble, folks seemed to forget he’s a decent citizen of their town and just saw an Indian.”
“Some people will never change, Camille” Teaspoon said as he took a big gulp of coffee, “But most people in this town are good folk and have come to know him and accept him as they would anyone else in this town. I’m sure you know as well as I do what a good man he is. Folks can’t ignore that for long.”
Camille was quiet for a moment as she pondered what Teaspoon had just told her. She knew that life had dealt some bad cards to Buck. She also knew that one of the worst was the death of his best friend. Buck had not offered to tell her about his death and Camille felt it better to let him tell her in his time. But she desperately wanted to know what had happened to Ike. She needed to know if she was to understand Buck’s pain.
She looked up at Teaspoon and asked, “Would you tell me about Ike?”
.“Buck, won’t talk to you about him either, huh?” Teaspoon didn’t seem surprised at her question. Buck had talked of Ike a few times in the days after his death. But since then, he had refused to speak of his friend. Teaspoon tried several times to encourage Buck to share his feelings, but to no avail.
She shook her head, “No, I don’t know if he can, Teaspoon. I haven’t pushed him because I know how difficult it is for him. We were raised to believe that we shouldn’t speak of the dead. If you did, their spirit would hear you and couldn’t rest in peace. I think that makes it hard for him to talk about Ike.”
“And Buck don’t easily set aside his Kiowa beliefs,” Teaspoon confirmed.
“No, and I wouldn’t want him to. That is why I haven’t asked.” She admitted, “But it causes him such pain, I can see it and I know it is because he misses Ike. I’ve seen it sometimes when he looks at Becky. I know he loves her, but she is a memory of Ike. And the other day he was in the barn brushing down one of the horse, he was so deep in thought that he didn’t even hear me come in. Teaspoon, I will never forget the painful look on his face.”
“Which horse was he brushin’?” Teaspoon inquired, even though he had feeling he knew the answer.
“The dark brown one with the blaze down his nose”
He let out a sigh, “That was Ike’s horse.”
“I thought so,” she said, then added, “please tell me about him.”
“Sweetheart, Ike and Buck had a unique relationship,” he said as leaded forward in his chair and rested his arms on the table. “They were quite a pair, as close as brothers. They always seemed to know the other’s thoughts. They relied on each other for support. As far as society was concerned, they were outcasts and I think they found a bond there. They provided for each other, what they both needed. For Ike it was a voice and for Buck it was someone to understand and accept him unconditionally.”
Teaspoon stopped to reflect a moment. “All my boys were orphans when they signed up for the Express, but it didn’t take long before we were as close as any blood relations. None of them knew each other when they came to Sweetwater, except for Buck and Ike. They had already been together for years when they signed on. So they were already like family to each other. That is why Ike’s death has been harder for Buck than anyone else. I’ll be honest with you darlin’, I am not sure Buck will ever get over his death.”
“I wish I could have known him, Teaspoon. I feel this love for Ike and I didn’t even know him.”
Teaspoon smiled, “Ike had that effect on people”
“How did he die?” she asked, wanting to know what had taken this great man from them.
Teaspoon proceeded to tell her about how Ike met Emily Metcalf and her father. He told her of how Ike and Emily struck an instant friendship and its inevitable progression to a more serious relationship. Camille heard of Mr. Metcalf’s inability to stay away from the card tables and his unfortunate encounter with a gambler named Neville. This led to a clash where Emily’s father tried to shoot Neville, but was shot by the gambler first. Emily was grief stricken, and obsessed with revenge. In an attempt to kill Neville herself, Ike got caught in the crossfire while protecting Emily.
“We all thought Ike would pull through, it didn’t seem possible that he would die,” Teaspoon said, “but I think Buck knew. He sat alone with Ike for awhile, then he left the Doc’s office and we didn't see him till later. Ike had already died.”
“ He wasn’t with Ike when he died?” she questioned.
“No,” Teaspoon answered shaking his head, “ I asked him where he was. He said he was prayin”
Camille looked at Teaspoon with understanding. She knew of the prayer ritual that Buck would have performed as Ike lay dying. She could imagine Buck knelt in the ring of Ike’s belonging and the desperation he must have felt. Even though it had been months since Ike’s death, Camille felt anger at the thought of Buck losing yet another person that he love.
She was silent. It was as if the events of that day were being played out before her in her mind. She could see it so clearly. But, it was another image in her head that caused her to cringe. She could only hope she was wrong about the events she’d visualized.
“Buck killed Neville, didn’t he?” she asked soberly.
Teaspoon looked at her astonished, “How’d you know?”
“ I know Buck,” she responded with confidence, “It’s exactly what I would expect him to do.”
“I told him to stay clear of Neville,” he said regretfully, “I warned him that a choice like that could haunt a man.”
“Don’t you see, he had no choice. It was the last thing he could do for Ike,” she pronounced, “I’m not saying that I agree with what he did. If I had been here I would probably have begged him not to do it. But, I know his mind and his heart…the shame of doing nothing would have been worse than Neville’s blood on his hands.”
This woman across the table from Teaspoon was amazement to him. The only other person to know and accept Buck so well, was Ike. Camille understood Buck’s need to remain true to his Kiowa heritage despite his decision to live as a white man. Even in the few years that he had known Buck it was obvious that this was the acceptance that the young man had been looking for all his life. After Camille had left with her fiancée last year, Buck fell into a sullen mood. Teaspoon discounted it as no more than dejectedness at having lost out on the girl. Now Buck’s despondency was much clearer to him, Camille was not just any woman. She was Buck’s soul mate.
A slow grin crept over his face.
Camille broke through his thoughts when she asked, “What are you smiling at.”
He responded, “A promising future.”
“Meaning?” she asked, not quite sure if that was a complement.
“Meaning…” He said, as he went to her side of the table to help her from her seat. He then affectionately put his arm around her, “That you, my dear, are very good for Buck. You love him and you understand him, and that is what he needs the most.”
Teaspoon gave her a loving hug, “Welcome to the family, honey.”
Buck and Camille set their wedding for two weeks from Saturday. Every one was thrilled and none were too surprised. They had all seen the bond between them, since the day that Camille came to Rock Creek. The love they had between them for years had only grown into something that was truly beautiful to behold.
Camille had adjusted well to the move to Rock Creek. Rachel asked her to help at the school as an assistant teacher. The town of Rock Creek had grown substantially in the last year, and with Becky to care for, Rachel was overwhelmed. The arrangement was a perfect one; Camille had a gift with children and she found great joy as she came to know each of them.
As the weeks past, Rachel and Camille became close friends. Since Camille had moved into Rachel’s house they’d spent hours sharing their past and many a late night dreaming of their futures. Camille would miss those late night talks when she moved into Buck’s place.
It was just after Kid and Lou’s wedding that the telegraph lines were completed and the Pony Express was closed permanently. Since Buck, Kid and Lou decided to buy the Pony Express station from Russell, Majors and Waddell, Rachel had remained in her home at the station. . Kid and Lou rented a small place in town, but after only a week they knew that town wasn’t the place for them. Between the Kid, Buck and Teaspoon it didn’t take long to build a comfortable two-story house with a long front porch. It was just perfect for Kid, Lou and Lou’s brother and sister. So Buck remained in the one room bunkhouse. After he and Kid removed the bunks, they replaced them with a desk, a small table, and a single bed. It was an adequate residence for a bachelor, but would need improvements to become a home for the young couple.
The old bunkhouse had become Buck’s place, but it would soon be their place. Camille had a lot of work ahead of her. She had to turn a cabin that once housed a bunch of rowdy young men, into a proper home to raise a family. Earlier in the week she’d purchased some fabric from the mercantile, it was pale yellow with tiny pink and blue flowers. At the time she had felt a little guilty at the extravagance of the purchase, but now as she saw them hanging from the windows, she was nothing but pleased at how they brightened up the room. As Camille hung the new curtains on the windows, she thought of how she looked forward to the day this old bunkhouse would become their home.
Camille was standing in the middle of the room, with her hands on her hips, admiring her handy work, when she heard footsteps outside the door. Suddenly, Buck came bounding through the door. He’d been away for the last four days, delivering a couple of their horses to the Stagecoach Station in Blue Creek. He was home a little earlier than expected and Camille was startled when he walked in the door.
He too was surprised to see her standing in the old bunkhouse, but immediately a big grin crossed his face as he said, “Hey”. He threw his saddlebag on the table then turned to hang his hat and gun belt on the pegs by the door.
“You’re home,” she said, as she thought how good it was to have him home.
Buck raised his eyebrow and said mischievously, “Yes I am. And so are you!” His answer confirmed his awareness that this soon would be her home too.
“I meant,” she smiled at him, “You’re back early.”
Grinning back at her, Buck sauntered over and wrapped his arms around her tiny waist. He buried his face in the creamy softness of her neck as her silky chestnut hair brushed his cheek. He took a deep breath that filled his lung with the divine fragrance of her. It was that familiar scent of lavender that was singularly hers.
“I had a good reason to get back this time,” he said as he began to trail gentle kisses up her neck, in a way that made her heart beat faster. Camille’s eyes closed as she felt the warmth of his breath on her neck. He’d held her loosely but as his hand moved up her spine, he pulled her closer to him. She felt the muscular hardness of his chest against the softness of her own. The pounding in her chest grew and she felt her head involuntarily sway while a tingling feeling poured over her body. It became harder and harder to breathe. She suddenly found herself acutely aware of every breath she took. Her fingers strayed through his silky dark locks as she wrapped her arms tighter about his neck. She could feel the moist touch of his lips on her ear and heard his delight at her gasp of pleasure. Unable to steady herself under this surreal sensation, she melted into his embrace. Through parted lips her breath came in short gasps, until suddenly her air supply was obstructed by the soft touch of his mouth over hers. She yielded her lips to his tender caress as her only desire was to be close this man she loved desperately. She welcomed him with an eagerness that only served to encourage him to partake of her sweet lips longer. Once his lips left hers, she took in a great gasp of air. “What a wonderful way to suffocate, “ she thought.
She placed her forehead against his. “I missed you,” she whispered.
“Hmmm, me too,” he responded, then lifted his head to gaze at her. Buck let out a little chuckle when he saw her, with a big smile on her face and her eyes still shut. She looked as if she had not yet wakened from a wonderful dream.
She heard him and opened her eyes asking, “What?”
“Nothing,” he answered with a broad smile.
“WHAT?” she insisted.
“Nothing…” he repeated as he began to tickle her, “…you ask too many questions.”
“BUCK, stop it…” she exclaimed as she tried to break away from his teasing hands.
“Stop…What?” he said, obviously making fun of her earlier question.
She was laughing and trying to squirm free at the same time.
“You…” she couldn’t stop laughing, “…you don’t play fair.”
“Your right,” he said with a smirk on his face, “its more fun this way”
With that comment her eyes got as big as silver pieces and with a newfound aspiration she gave him a good kick in the shin. Taken by surprise he released her and bent to rub his wounded leg. Proud of her achievement, she ran around the backside of the table for protection. He looked at her in astonishment and she informed him with a devilish grin, “You said we weren’t playing fair”
Her freedom was short lived. He grabbed her from across the table as she tried to run. She was right back where she started, captured in his mighty grip. They were both laughing as he teased her. But suddenly, he stopped. All he wanted now was to drink in the sight of her.
“It’s good to be home,” he said as he gave her a sweet kiss.
“Yes it is,” she answered softly, as she went to put a stray lock of his dark hair behind is ear.
“How did the sale go?” she asked.
“Just fine,” he answered, stepping out of their embrace to take off his riding jacket, “John Miller knows Kid and me, he used to run the waystation outside of Ft. Laramine. He was real happy with the horses and promised more business in the future.” He hung his coat on the chair.
“Have you told Kid?” Camille was elated! This was very good for the ranch. It meant that they had established a reputation for quality horses. But he didn’t answer her question because he had just noticed there was something different about the cabin. He looked at Camille and pointed to the windows.
She smiled her prettiest smile, “Do you like them?” she asked.
“They’re yellow,” was all he could find to say.
“I made them this week, I think they brighten up the room.” She waited for his response.
“That they do,” he replied awkwardly, looking around the room.
That was not exactly the response she was looking for. Her smile faded, “I should’ve checked with you first...you don’t like them.”
Once he noticed his blunder, he walked over to her and put his arm around her, “No, No, I like them, I really do...it just looks strange...” From the look on her face he knew that was not the right answer.
“Not strange...just different,” He was not doing well here. He gave it one more try. “This was a bunkhouse, Camille. I’ve lived with men most of my life. It’s just gonna take a little getting use to living with a woman.” She began to smile, then he added, “And pretty yellow curtains.”
She realized how true his statement was. “I promise to make the transition as pleasant as possible,” she said in a slightly seductive manner.
“I am gonna hold you to that promise,” he answered then gave her a smack on the behind.
She gasped, and smiled back at him. She did love him so much!
He started looking around the room, “I guess we could use a few improvements around here.”
“A few,” she answered, “but one in particular.”
“What,” he asked.
“Its...just that...” she was looking in the direction of the single bed in the corner, “It’s not exactly the kind of thing a lady talks about.”
He saw the direction of her glance, and flashed a roguish smile as he started walking toward her, “Cam, I’ve never seen you at a loss for words before, especially with me”
He had a wicked look in his eyes that made her step backwards as he closed the gap between them, “Alright then, if you can’t tell me then you could always show me”
He wasn’t going to make this easy for her, “Buuuuck,” she said, drawing out his name.
“It’s the bed,” she whispered.
“What about it?” he smiled still walking toward her like a cat staking its prey. The back of her legs were now against the bed and she had no were else to go.
She let out a big sigh. He was going to make her have to spell it out for him. “It’s too small,” she said in a slightly irritated manner.
He intentionally gave her a bewildered look. He was making fun of her now and she would not put up with it! “Where am I going to sleep,” she said flatly.
Buck leaned toward her, peering over her shoulder as if he had no other way of seeing the bed. When he looked back at her, they were nose to nose. “With me!” he said with a cockeyed grin.
She had no time to respond, for the next thing she knew he had pushed the two of them down on the mattress. He was laughed as he lay there beside her on the bed. She wanted to laugh but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Then unable to contain herself, she giggled and smacked his arm saying, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“If I’m going to make our new bed, I better check the size with the both of us in it,” he smiled very proud of himself. It was the way he said “our bed”, that sent Camille’s heart racing. Only a few more days and this really would be their bed.
Camille realized that he once again had her in a vulnerable position. She shook her head as she reprimanded him, “You… are being very bad today.”
“Doesn’t feel like I’m being bad,” he teased.
No sooner had he bent to kiss Camille, then Kid came bounding through the door of the old bunkhouse calling out Buck’s name. They both looked up shocked at the intrusion and the appearance of their compromising situation. But neither looked as shocked as Kid, whose face has begun to turn the shades of a fiery sunset. All three of them seemed frozen in place, as well as, not quite sure what to do next.
Kid finally found his voice. “Uh…I am really sorry…I shoulda knocked…I’m not used to….” He stammered. Finally, he realized it was useless and he gave up trying to get his words out. Instead, he beat a hasty retreat.
Camille and Buck just stared at the shut door for a moment, then began to laugh at the embarrassment of their friend.
“Hey, I just remembered,” Buck said as he jumped off the bed and walked to the table. “I got something,” he said and took a drawstring pouch out of his saddlebag.
She sat up on the bed, as he came back and knelt down on the floor beside her. He placed the pouch in her hand. Camille looked at him in a questioning manner, surprised to be receiving a gift.
“Go on, open it,” he said with anticipation.
She opened the pouch and pulled out a long silver chain. A shiny silver disc hung from the chain. He turned it over and then looked up at her to see her reaction. She looked at the pendant and there engraved in the silver was a running buck and a little bird, which were encircled in a thin band of gold.
Camille was riveted to the image engraved on the medallion. She passed her fingers gently over the finely etched lines. As she traced them over and over, she knew she was staring at the picture of all she had ever wanted in this world, but had accepted would never be. Through all the years of separation she had always known it was her truest desire to be one with Buck, but she’d long ago hidden it in the deepest recess of her heart. If she had not, the pain of their loss would have consumed her. Now, as she looked at the two images bound together within that shining circle of gold, she became aware of how amazing it was that they had found each other again. The breathtaking carving had been eternally embedded into the silver. It was a cherished gift that she would always wear. A reflection of the enduring union of their hearts.
Buck watched as her eyes turned glassy and welled with tears. “Do you like it,” he asked, proud of his gift.
“Very much,” she whispered, still staring at the pendant.
“Buck, where did you get it...”she asked.
He watched her run her fingers over the carving. “Last week I asked Mr. James to make it up for me,” he said referring to the Smith in town.
She finally tore her gaze from the pendant and looked up at him. Buck noticed her face was flush and there was a little tear that had just crested her cheek.
“Would you put it on me?” she requested. He nodded as he took the necklace from her hand and placed it around her neck. Once the clasp was fastened, he took the medallion in his hand and looked at it now that she wore it.
He had imagined giving the pendant to Camille and also how it would look resting around her neck. But he had not imagined the surge of emotion he would feel. As he viewed the images of them, he knew he was now complete. In the years they had been separated he had been interested in a couple of women, but none had moved him to make a commitment. Something had always held him back…. some unknown force had kept the gates of his heart closed. No one had consumed him the way Camille had. She had been the standard by which he had compared any other woman. Despite all the years apart he had not been able to let go of her. She was his woman, his best friend and the one person on this earth that knew him best. Their bond was as lasting as the carving on the silver disc he held. But the lives they led apart were now over. He would never allow anyone or anything to divide them again.
“Thank you,” she said as tears freely flowed down her face.
As his dark fingers brushed the tears from her face, he knew she was thanking him for much more than the gift.