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PostSubject: Short   Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:22 am

It's a new month and a new challenge. As February is a short month we have a suitable prompt. 


Short   St Patrick 58


That can be short of anything and everything; from stature, time, provisions, luck, a short fuse, short clothes,  short of cash, short temper, short-handed - you name it. The only limit is your own imagination (which I'm sure you are not or on).


Don't forget to comment on January' stories before moving on to February as comments are the only thanks our readers get.    

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PostSubject: Re: Short   Today at 12:15 am

        
One more piece of Marie's story.  Short, this time.  
 
    
The next time Marie saw him, she was convalescing in Colorado Springs.  The cholera that had swept the reservation had left her exhausted, but alive.  The Bureau had replaced her with a stout, sturdy man, and told her she needed to rest and get well before they would consider her for a new position.

She had been staying at a quiet boarding house, away from the main streets of lavish hotels, gambling establishments and bathhouses.  She had walked over to the lending library, that was close to the smaller, genteel spring house she frequented.  She had paused before crossing one of the main streets, as she saw a large group of men riding into town.  They were dressed well, in suits and bowlers, but she still noticed the guns visible under their jackets, or more obviously on those wearing gun belts.

She saw him riding among them, his dark hair longer than usual, and his smile brilliant, with his teeth glinting in the sunlight.

She ducked into the lending library door, slipping into a chair in one of their quiet corners, until her shortness of breath passed.  She had closed her eyes, until she heard someone approach.  Her eyes flew open, but it was not him, just a concerned librarian she knew well.  

“Mrs. Williams, you look so flushed!  Are you resting as much as recommended?  Perhaps you need to visit the baths more than all the reading you have been doing.”  She had spent most of her time simply sitting on the porch of the boarding house, going through book after book.

“I am alright Isabelle.  Just flushed from the warm breezes today.”  She smiled winningly at the woman.  “Let me catch my breath and I will be fine.”  The woman looked skeptical, but Marie did regain her composure enough to select two new books, spend some time sitting to start the first, before venturing out again.  She had accomplished her goal, since she did not see one of the Devil’s Hole Gang still on the streets of Colorado Springs.


It was two days later as she was finishing the book, that he came to the boarding house.  She was resting on a chase lounge, with her eyes closed, but she felt him as he walked across the porch to sit in a chair next to her.  After a minute or two, she opened her eyes, and he turned his gaze from the street to meet her eyes.  As always he smiled widely at her, but there was a tension in his body, that she had not seen before.

“Please don’t tell me you came all the way to Colorado Springs, just to find me.”  She smiled slightly at him, not knowing if she wanted that to be the truth or not.

He laughed back, genuinely she thought.  “I’d love to tell you yes, Marie, but no, not this time.  The boys needed some relaxation.”  He smiled at her, but then went back to scanning the street, before he turned to her again.  “I told you that you’d work yourself to death.”

“Not quite.”  She paused.  “What do I call you?”  She was genuinely curious.

“Joshua is as good as anything.”  He shrugged.  “It is my middle name.”

She nodded and closed her eyes again.  He took her hand and they stayed that way until Mrs. Sherman came out, to bring some lemonade, but really to figure out who was the gentleman caller on the porch with Mrs. Williams.

“Thank you so much for taking such good care of my wife,” Heyes smiled his winning smile at Mrs. Sherman, and she fell for his wiles, even though she knew she should not.

“I was under the impression that Mrs. Williams’ husband had … passed.”  She returned his smile.

“We just wanted quiet for Mrs. Williams, after our time ministering to the natives.”  Heyes turned to look Marie.  “And I’m sorry I didn’t come to properly introduce myself.”  He held his hand out to Mrs. Sherman, and took hers in both of his, once she offered, bending low over them.  “I’m Mr. Joshua Williams, Marie’s husband."



The days spun like gossamer, making their time together seem even shorter than it would be.  Heyes stayed with her most of the time he was in Colorado Springs.  They took walks on the promenade.  They visited the baths.  Mr. Williams even watched over Mrs. Williams every afternoon, as she rested.  Mrs. Sherman would bring them a pitcher of lemonade when it was time for Mrs. Williams’ nap to be over.  Mr. Williams was always resting in a comfy chair, reading a book when she arrived.  He was such a dear to let her sleep the two hours they were alone in their suite before she came with their cooling drinks.

If Mr. Williams was known to occasionally wander down to the gambling halls, after Mrs. Williams had settled in her bed for the evening, it was not anything most men visiting Colorado Springs had not done.  He was always home well before dawn, and did not cause any scenes, like some other guests had done in the past.


“Hannibal.”

“You’ve never called me that before.”  He caressed her hand.

“I’ve decided I need to stop avoiding the truth.”  She traced a scar on his palm.

He simply rested, enjoying the moment.

“When are you going to leave?”

He sighed, and his hands stilled.

“Soon.”

She nodded, seeing the end to their short interlude.



It had been two years since the last time she had seen Hannibal Heyes.  She had scanned the eastern newspapers during her time there, for news of the Devil’s Hole Gang, but they had seemed to disappear.  There had been an article or two about some robbery attributed to Heyes and Curry, but just as quickly it was found out that someone else was just trying to blame them.

She worried that they were dead, but knew that any bounty hunter that had found or killed them would have spread the news across the nation.  She thought maybe they had gone to Mexico.

Marie had returned to the west when Hannah was a year old.  She had answered an advertisement looking for a nanny well versed in French, geometry and deportment.  She had not used some of those skills in quite a while, but still remembered the French grammar she had learned at the finishing school she had attended before marrying Samuel.

In her correspondence with the wife of the rich Texas rancher, she had explained how Mr. Williams had contracted the cholera at the last reservation on which they had taught.  God had taken her husband to Heaven, but left her with a little piece of it in her daughter.

Hannah was a happy child, blending in easily with the children she had been hired to teach.  There was a nursery maid, who handily took care of the younger children, Hannah included, while Marie taught the older ones.  In the evenings, after the young ones were in bed, she taught French to both the eldest daughter, who was being groomed for an excellent match, as well as the nursery maid, who aspired to being a nanny, since it paid better.


It was during the eldest daughter’s coming out party, that she saw him again.

All the wealthy families in this part of Texas had been invited to the grand affair.  She had met the McCreedys before.  Carlotta Armendariz McCreedy was a lovely woman, and Marie had thought it sad that she had married too late to have children, as she was so kind.

When she heard that Patrick McCreedy’s nephews would be attending with them, she was honestly curious.  She assumed they would be the recipients of the great wealth the couple had amassed.  She had also assumed they would be either foppish eastern snobs, or rough western men.

When she saw the McCreedys enter the parlor in the company of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, she almost fainted for the first time in her life.  Since it was not her custom to faint however, she simply slipped into the corner and sat as a good nanny, and companion for an eligible young woman should.

As the evening progressed, and none of the young men attending seemed a threat to the young lady’s virtue, at least in front of everyone’s parents, Marie slipped out onto the veranda for a short moment of peace and a breath of fresh air.

It was not long before he found her there, and she was again worried she would faint.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, as they walked out into the starry night.

“Working.”  She turned slightly to look up at him.  “And you?”

“Visiting.”

“Are you really related to the McCreedy’s?”  She could not keep the surprise off her face.

“No, but Uncle Mac has claimed us, so we’ve found it just better to go along.”  He smiled down at her, and then led them further out, holding hands.

“Mr. McCreedy is somewhat a force of nature, isn’t he?”  She gazed out into the dark.  “It makes me wonder how he ended up with such a lovely woman as his wife.”

“I’d call Carlotta more impressive, but never doubt, she’s more than enough woman to handle Mac.”  He smiled down at her.  “But that’s another story.”

She looked up at him, curiously, but he continued.  “How did you end up here?”

“I answered an advertisement.”

“For what?”

“I probably was the only woman they found who could teach their daughter French, and was willing to come west.”

“You’re still teaching?”

She nodded, and smiled slightly.  “I’m not like some others who are acquainted with rich Texas ranchers.”

He shrugged.  “That’s yet another story.”  He huffed.  “You said you were going back east, after Colorado Springs.”

“I did.”  She continued to look out into the stars, but then sighed, looking back up at him.  “I answered the advertisement and came back, because I found I missed the west.  I found the east too stifling.”

He nodded.

“And where have you been?” she asked.  

“Around.”  He smiled that brilliant smile of his.

“I had not seen any news of you or your partner, while I was back east, or since I’ve returned.”

His eyes turned introspective.  “No.  We’ve retired.”

She looked up at him, surprised.  “Why?’

He shrugged diffidently, but then answered.  “Because we didn’t want to end up in prison or dead.”

“But you’re still wanted?”

He nodded.

She looked back into the deep, dark, starry night, wondering how short would be their time together.
  
   
   
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