|A Time for Love by Jeanette|
|Back at the station, Rachel was busy hanging some bedsheets on the clothes line with Lou. "I don't know Rachel. I just got all jealous when Kid just stood there looking at her, like he'd never seen a woman before. She's so pretty even with a bruised up face." she gave out a loud sigh. "Am I stupid for feeling that way?"
"Lou, love is never stupid. It makes us do and say stupid things, but to have a love like you and Kid have; there's nothing more precious. Kid loves you more than anything. Now just because he's committed to you, doesn't mean he's gonna have blinders on for the rest of his life. Just like how you won't. There'll always be beautiful women and handsome men in the world, but as long as you have eyes only for each other, and after a long hard day you come home and you just hold each other, that love will keep growing and no pretty face can come between that."
"You always make so much sense Rachel. Thank you." Rachel gave a motherly smile.
"I think I'm gonna have to apologize to her. I didn't treat her very nice."
"Riders coming!" shouted Buck. They could see it was Cody being followed by the wagon.
"Well here's your chance." Rachel said nodding in their direction.
Cody dismounted his horse quickly and waited for the wagon to stop. He made his way toward it and helped Victoria once again get down. "How was town?" asked Rachel as she approached.
"It was very interesting. A most educational experience."
"I hope these boys behaved themselves."
"They were wonderful. Thank you for letting them accompany me."
"Well we couldn't let a pretty lady like yourself go wonderin' into a strange town all alone."
Jimmy handed some packages to Cody and said, "Why don't you go wonderin' into the kitchen with these." Victoria could only smile. Cody took the parcels and went inside.
"You won't believe what I found in town today." she said taking Rachel by the arm, turning towards the house, when Lou called her. "Ms. Sutton, can I speak with you for a moment?"
"Sure Lou." she responded walking back to the small rider.
"I wanted to apologize for my behavior earlier. I wasn't very polite."
"It's okay Lou."
"Louise. I say I can't blame you. If Kid was my man, I'd keep an eagle's eye out too."
"Was it that obvious?" she asked embarrased.
"Let's just say only to another woman...now that that's all cleared up why don't you come with me and Rachel so I can show you what Mr. Cody picked out for me today."
Cody was in the barn tending to his horse. He went through the events of the day and wasn't at all pleased with the entrails he'd made with Victoria. Jimmy had obviously won this round. He fantasized about what he wanted this relationship to be. He was deep in fantasy land, when Buck entered the barn.
"So how'd it go today?" he asked but got no response. "Cody!" he said shaking his shoulder.
Cody was snapped back into reality. "Oh, it's just you Buck."
"I asked you how'd it go today?"
"In two words; bad and worse."
"It couldn't have been that bad; not even for you."
"Oh yeah? Let me tell ya. Jimmy got to spend most of the time with her, alone, while I had to run errands or scheme my way into gettin' a little of her time. This love stuff is sure harder than I figured. What do you think Buck?"
"I believe that if it's meant to happen it will. If it's not, no matter what you do, it's not happening."
"You don't really believe that do ya? I can't let things just go by chance! A man's future is in his own hands Buck! What I need is some elevated inspiration."
Buck handed Cody a hammer. "Good. Then you can start on the roof." Cody grimaced remembering the deal he'd made with Buck and headed out to start on the roof.
"Isn't it beatiful?!" exclaimed Victoria as she held the dressed in front of her.
"Cody sure has better taste than I imagined." said Lou.
"Believe me when he's interested in something he'll put his mind to it; though sometimes I wonder what's going on in that mind of his." Rachel said smiling.
"It seems to me that Cody has kinda taking a liking to you." observed Lou.
"No, I don't think so Louise. We've just met, he doesn't know anything much about me."
"You'd be surprised. Cody doesn't need much motivation. Just one look is all it takes for him."
Victoria tried to minimize the truth of Lou's comment even though she had noticed Cody's flirtations with her. "I haven't seen any evidence of that." she said putting the dress in its box.
"If he hasn't shown it as yet, oh he will." added Rachel.
"Anyway, changing the subject...I picked up some cherries and I was wondering Rachel that if you didn't have dessert planned for tonight already, could I indulge you all in some of my mother's homemade cherry pie?"
"Teaspoon would love that!" cried Lou.
"You-can-cook Victoria?" asked Rachel surprised, and with slow deliberate speech.
"Oh yes! My mama didn't raise no fool. She always told me, 'A man may always be attracted to your money Victoria, but unless you know how to cook, he won't really love you.' Words to live by I assure you. So I learned and I must say I do make a mean cherry pie."
"That's good enough for me." said Rachel relieved that dessert wasn't on her, at least not tonight.
"Great! Then I'll go ahead and get started."
The afternoon seemed to go by quicker than usual. Cody was busy repairing the hole in the roof of the barn which had been damaged during the storm. Even though his hands were busy at this task, his mind was consumed with thoughts of Victoria, being together with her, but more importantly how he could get her away from constant contact with Jimmy. If he could only have her for a couple of days all to himself, he knew he'd be able to make his big move. But how? When? He would have to show patience, which in his case was almost an impossibility. He knew Jimmy would be leaving in a few days on a run which would be the perfect opportunity he thought. 'Timing, timing is everything.' Suddenly a thought hit him like a lightning bolt.
"The dance. I'll ask her to the dance." he said, a wide grin appearing on his face. "Cody, you amaze even me." He felt as though he had won a major battle, but the war wasn't over yet. He had figured the how and when, but was she going to take the bait?
Suppertime arrived and everyone was seated enjoying another of Rachel's deliciously cooked meals. "So tomorrow's the big day huh Ms. Sutton." said Teaspoon.
"Please you don't have to call me that. I'd feel better if you would just call me Victoria."
"I think that's a fine idea, we should all be over with the formalities, right boys? They all agreed with Teaspoon. "We're all friends here." he continued.
"Thank you all so much again. Especially for making me feel so welcomed."
"Thank you for gracing us with your lovely presence." Cody added with a smile. Victoria blushed and saw Rachel and Lou also smiling, recalling their earlier conversation.
"So are you ready for tomorrow?" asked Kid.
She gave a big sigh before answering. "As ready as I'm going to be. I just hope everything goes well."
"So do I." added Teaspoon.
"Are you still expecting trouble Teaspoon?" asked Kid.
"We haven't seen or heard anything from the Adams boys." said Lou.
"That's what's troublin' me. In my experience, there's always the quiet before the storm and it's been too darn quiet for my taste. Now I ain't tryin' to scare you Victoria but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Tomorrow Jimmy, Cody and Kid are gonna accompany you to the bank to make sure all goes as planned. Lou, Buck and I will be nearby in case things don't go as planned."
"I guess I couldn't ask for better protection."
"You can trust these boys with your life Victoria. They'll make sure nothing happens." said Rachel comfortingly.
"Well! now that that's all outta the way, didn't I smell some cherry pie?"
"Why Teaspoon! you have the nose of an old bloodhound." said Lou.
"And don't you forget it."
Rachel got the pie and started dishing it out with Victoria's help. They all took a bite and the sounds of their tastebuds pleasures rang through the room.
"This is pure perfection Rachel." said Teaspoon as the smooth taste of cherries played within his mouth. They all nodded in agreement.
"Don't thank me, it's Victoria's perfection."
They all looked in her direction surprised. "Yes, I do know how to cook." she said answering the question they all had in mind. "Unlike what some people may think," she directed her comment to Jimmy, "we never had a cook or a housekeeper. My mother always felt that a woman should know how to care for her own household, even after my parents became wealthy. So much to my father's dismay, instead of horseback riding and knitting lessons, mother taught me more practical things like cooking and laundering and cleaning."
"Your mother sounds like a pretty amazing woman." commented Rachel.
"She was. She was so different from all the other mothers I knew. She wasn't into the fancy lifestyle, or showing off what we had or where we'd been. One thing she always told us kids was that things don't make a person. If material things ever became so important in life, you're either insecure or afraid. She kept our feet on the ground. She passed away shortly after the death of my brother."
"Was he ill?" asked Lou.
"He was killed on an expedition while with the army. They had crossed into southern territory to investigate an attack on some of their men when they were ambushed by southern soldiers. My brother was badly injured and died shortly after. The entire ordeal was hard on mother who was already ill herself. When we received news, mother just never recovered."
"I'm sorry. I read that war is quickly coming and could rip this country in two."
"You don't know how right you are Lou. We feel the effects of it up North already. The big issue of course, being the freedom of slaves."
"As I see it, the Southerners are trying to hold onto their way of life." said Kid.
"Does that mean stealing a man's freedom to attain a certain lifestyle? I understand you're from the South Kid, but you're on the wrong side of this issue."
"I didn't say I approved of it but I don't feel that Southerners should be judged because they choose to have slaves or not."
"Then let me ask you a question." he nodded. "The good book tells us that God created man in his image. It doesn't say he only created white men in his image. So to God we're all his children. All equal. So who are we to tell the good Lord that we aren't?! Open it up and see that it is not I or anyone else that is judging you, but the good Lord himself. If war is imminent Kid, the North will not lose."
All could see the seriousness in her face and tone of speaking. This was a very emotional subject for Victoria. It stirred in her ardent disgust at the audacity of those who thought themselves better because of their skin color and the abuses they incurred on others. Knowing her brother had lost his life defending the Northern cause made her determination to uphold her beliefs, unshakable. Excusing herself she went outside to get some fresh air to calm her nerves.
"You sure she's the one that needs protection tomorrow?" asked Buck.
Jimmy had gotten up quickly, unnoticed by the others and followed Victoria outside. He found her leaning on the porch looking into the dark night. He approached not knowing exactly what to say, but prayed for the right words to come to him. Hearing his footsteps, she turned in his direction and looked away.
"I'm sorry about your family." he mustered.
"Thanks. I really shouldn't get so emotional."
"Well I think everyone's got something they feel strongly about, willing to fight for."
"Maybe. I just can't help but to think how different my life would be if they were all here.
You know when we were kids," she started with a smile, "we had this big idea that we were
going to run away and join the circus. He was going to be 'Arthur The Magnificent Tamer of Tigers' and I would be his lovely assistant." She looked at Jimmy with sorrow in her eyes. "He was so young. He was my best friend. I mean I could talk to him about anything. When he died it was as if half of me died too. It left me with such emptiness. Then losing mother and now father...it's like I'm all alone."
"You ain't alone anymore." he said comfortingly. "I know there ain't nothing I could say to make you feel better. You seemed really close with your family and they'll always be with you...in your heart. I know what I'm about to say ain't much consolation but try to think of where you're headed now. You came here to Rock Creek and look at all the new friends you've made. Think of it as a new beginning. I know your life ain't gonna be the same without your family but we'd like to consider you a part of our family here."
"That's so sweet of you Jimmy." she said touching his arm.
Jimmy was sincere in his statement. Even though they hadn't known Victoria but a day, they felt a bond with her. They felt responsible for her well-being and she could be sure to feel safe with them. They would take her in. He looked into her beautiful brown eyes and felt compelled to apologize for his behavior earlier. She was right. How could he assume he knew what kind of person she was when he didn't know a single thing about her? He started to see that she wasn't at all what he imagined; another spoiled, overbearing rich girl. Instead he was beginning to see an inner beauty that she possessed. A beauty that added to her physical appearance; made her complete.
Their brief moment was interrupted when the rest came on outside, led by Cody who had realized that Jimmy and Victoria were both missing.
"Ah, there you are!" exclaimed Teaspoon looking at her.
"You're looking for me Teaspoon?"
"As a matter of fact, yeah." She waited for him to speak with a quizzical look in her eyes.
"Uhmm...We was all wonderin', what were your plans after tomorrow?"
"Well I hadn't given it much thought with all that's happened...I guess one of the first things I should do," she looked at Jimmy as she finished her sentence "is find a place to stay. I
wouldn't want to impose on your good will." she said turning her attention back to the others.
"Hogwash!" cried Teaspoon. "We'll have none of that. I think since we don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow it'll be best for you to stay here with us...being you're by your lonesome and all, ya' know, 'til you get things settled. There's no rush for yer' leaving. Don't we all feel the same way?" he asked looking around at everyone. They all agreed.
"You never know, you may wind up likin' it here." added Lou.
"For more than one reason I hope." said Cody after having stationed himself between her and Jimmy, hoping to let her know he wanted her to stay more than anything. Unbeknownst to them both, Jimmy was also very happy to hear Teaspoon's offer because he too would love to see her stay.
"I really can't..." she was cut off.
"Nonsense! It's all been settled Victoria, and I would feel personally offended if you refused my offer."
"I'll consider it under one condition."
"And-what-is-that, may I ask?" he said in his usual slow paced manner.
"You must allow me to carry my weight around here if I'm to stay."
"Well I don't see a problem with that, do you Rachel?"
"I could sure use the extra help 'round here."
"Yeah, we could use all the help we can get." added Buck with a smile.
"There is just one small request on my part." said Teaspoon
"That you will share some more of them delicious recipes of yours with us."
Victoria felt like crying but was able to hold back her tears. "It would be my pleasure."
"Good! Then it's settled."
"Thank you Teaspoon." she hugged him. "You too Rachel, thank you so much." she said giving her a hug too. "Thanks, all of you."
"Alright, that's enough with all the mooshy stuff. You boys need to get some rest, that goes for you too young lady. Y'all have a big day tomorrow."
They all shared goodnights and started heading their separate ways. Victoria was about to enter the house when Kid touched her arm to get her attention.
"I'm sorry I offended you."
"There's nothing to feel sorry about Kid. Just because we have differring opinions doesn't mean we can't be friends."
"Friends then?" he said extending his hand. "Friends." she responded taking it.
|On to Chapter 5|
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