Muses and Bruises

Wyatt flicked the reins, clicking in the side of his mouth to get the horse to move. The steep grade of the trail made him nervous, so why shouldn't Martin's horse be spooked, too? Martin. Wyatt reached back with his free arm to make sure the fur pelts hadn't shifted off the side of the wagon. He hated killing the sow, not to mention the two cubs, but they wouldn't survive on their own. Not with winter coming. And if he hadn't dropped "mama," when she finished shredding Martin, Wyatt would be next, of that he was certain. If only he'd gotten there sooner. If only there were more berries...more grubs...less careless humans isolating themselves deep in the woods. At least there would be meat for winter and the furs would prove warm, especially if what Abel's crazy gypsy wife predicted came true. The woman had to be a witch. Too many things happened in mining camp to be called coincidental. Good thing he wasn't going back until next June, if he returned at all. She said something about that, too. Crazy woman.

The barrel of of Wyatt's rifle tapped the top of the wooden box on the seat next to him. Inside, two bags holding enough gold nuggets to guarantee Martin's wife and son a train ride back to Philadelphia, to her family, and for Wyatt -- a choice. Stay, paint the house buttercup yellow, finish and whitewash the picket fence around the yard, or...pack the wagon and leave. Forget the dream, or trade it for a new one.

The house smelled of baked bread - a smell Wyatt hadn't savored in seven long, painful months. The loaf felt warm in his fingers when he pinched a piece from the heel. He picked up a log off the stack on the hearth and added it to the fire starting to burn low. A handful of wild daisies inside a jar sat in the middle of the kitchen table. Maggie definitely had a flare for details. Of course she did. Born and raised a regal southern belle, complete with a canopy bed in the top floor bedroom of a mansion, perched at the end of long ribbon of green lawn. 

When Wyatt asked Maggie to sneak away in the middle of the night and follow him to Colorado, he promised her a house painted pale yellow like the home she left behind, complete with a lawn and a white picket fence. So far, the house remained bare wood, bleached by a year of sun exposure. The fence only stretched along the front. When word came of a large gold vein on Red Mountain Pass, the front gate swung on one hinge and Wyatt disappeared from their marriage bed, leaving his bride asleep. Only a note remained on his pillow, weighted with a wild rose and a promise to be home in time to plant corn. The husks were now brown, the harvest long past. and a broken promise holding his life hostage.

A dog barked in the distance, taking Wyatt's view from the neatly made bed across the room to the yard behind the house. He turned his body slightly, moving out of sight in the shadows of the open door, but retaining a perfect view of the angel picking the last of the summer squash and placing it in a large basket. Wyatt froze, taken in by her beauty, even from behind.

She tugged a blue satin ribbon from her hair, freeing the cascade of nutmeg colored curls to twist into each other with the breeze. Wyatt watched Maggie thread her fingers through her thick mane and turn her face to the late afternoon sun. His eyes slowly followed the glistening strands to the small of Maggie's back, over the curves of her hips and followed the folds of her skirt to the frayed edge of her hem. He longed to press his hands on her waist, bury his face into her hair, kiss the length of her neck and feel her body lean into his curves. Seven long months. An empty goodbye.

Wyatt stepped onto the back porch, into the bright sunlight. He'd faced the end of gun barrels in the hands of jackasses wanting to steal his claim, a fire in the mine shaft he narrowly escaped, and an angry, hungry bear who killed his best friend. Yet, in this tiny fragment of time, his greatest fear threatened to stop his heart. What if her broken heart found someone else's arms to comfort her, or her anger had turned it to stone. What if she hated him for the way he left...didn't want him back.

Maggie's head turned when Wyatt's shadow covered her. He watched her eyes shimmer with tears and dimples form in her flushed cheeks.

"Wyatt? You're home! Oh how I've missed you!"

She dropped her basket of squash and Wyatt's eyes widened. The crazy gypsy told the truth! Wyatt's arms wound around his bride and over her rounded abdomen. She turned in his arms and kissed him.

"Surprise!" She whispered.

Wyatt kissed her waiting mouth, again and again. Her pregnancy proved the best surprise of his life, but he couldn't fight the smile against her lips.

"What?" she asked, suspicious.

"I was just wondering about something. How do you feel about twins?"

1 comment:

Calisa Rhose said...

Oh my! What a lovely story Joelene! I loved it.