Once Upon a Return
Posts : 574
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Once Upon a Return Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:29 pm|| |
Once Upon a Return
Hannibal Heyes woke with a start, cold, icy fingers of fear running down his spine. Something had woken him, something terrible. He lay breathing gently, listening to the silence. It wouldn’t have been the usual sounds of animals that had woken him. He was used to those. At first, he could hear nothing different.
Then, a low moaning penetrated the darkness. In the moonless night it was an eerie sound that made the hairs on the back of Heyes’ neck stand on end even while he tried to locate the source. He sat up and peered into the darkness, not sure what he expected to see and then suddenly he realised.
Kid Curry was curled into a tight ball. He was rocking gently and moaning softly. The sight and sound of his partner in such distress shocked Heyes more than anything else could. He crawled over to the Kid’s side.
Gently, he touched Kid’s arm.
“Kid, Kid.” Heyes whispered softly. “Wake up Kid. Wake up.” The rocking stopped, but Kid continued to moan. Heyes shook him and spoke urgently.
“Kid. Kid. Wake up!”
In the firelight, Heyes could see that Kid’s eyes were tightly shut, a frown on his face, which held the sheen of sweat. The Kid’s brown/blond hair was plastered to his forehead and Heyes could feel the dampness of his clothing. He was also shaking. Slightly desperate now, Heyes shook Kid hard and raised his voice.
“Kid! Kid! Wake up. Now!”
Finally, Heyes noticed Kid stir. His eyelids flickered and opened. The moaning had stopped but Kid’s eyes were unfocussed and glassy. Heyes continued to shake him and call his name. Slowly, Kid woke up. He uncurled his body, but his breath was ragged. Finally, his eyes focussed on Heyes’ face. A flicker of fear crossed the even features.
Heyes smiled at him and spoke softly. “Hey, hey, you okay? You awake? You must’ve been having a really bad nightmare!”
Kid muttered something unintelligible.
“Say again? Are you okay?”
Again, Kid muttered unintelligibly.
“Kid, what’s wrong? What were you dreaming about?”
In a loud voice, almost a shout, Kid suddenly spoke. His voice was harsh. “Leave me alone!”
Heyes sat back on his heels, surprised by the anger.
“You woke me!” he complained. I just wanted to know if you were okay.”
Kid Curry turned over onto the opposite side so he couldn’t see Heyes and Heyes couldn’t see him. He didn’t want to see the hurt and concern on his partner’s face and he didn’t want Heyes to see the fear and pain on his own. He certainly didn’t want to discuss his dreams, which had been getting worse and worse lately. Dreaming of Valparaiso.
Heyes reached out his hand and touched Kid’s back. Kid shrank from the touch.
Anger flashed briefly through Heyes. “Fine. No problem. If you don’t want to tell me.”
He started to move away and then stopped. His voice softened again. “Kid?”
Kid remained hunched up and silent.
“Kid? If you do want, well, you know. Just wake me. Are you okay?”
Kid sighed silently. Heyes was only trying to help. In a thick voice, he said, just loud enough for Heyes to hear, “I’m fine Heyes. I’ll be fine. Go back to sleep. Please.”
“Okay. If you’re sure. If you want me…….”
“I know. Night Heyes.”
Heyes lay back down on his bedroll.
Neither man said anything else that night. But neither slept either.
At first light, Heyes stretched and yawned. He got up and made a fresh pot of coffee, rubbing at his eyes. He checked the horses and, out of habit, gave Kid a light shove with his foot as he passed him and then immediately regretted it, suddenly unsure of how the Kid would react. However, Kid merely sat up and mumbled, “Coffee ready?” as he stretched and ran his hands over his hair, smoothing down the tousled curls.
So Kid was going to act like nothing had happened? Fair enough thought Heyes.
Heyes poured two cups out and handed one across to Kid. They sat silently sipping the hot liquid. Then, with practised ease, they broke camp and headed toward town.
Heyes tried to start a conversation. He talked about anything he could think of. Robberies they’d done, books he’d read, places they’d been and people they’d met. Nothing provoked a response. Finally, Heyes admitted defeat to himself and gave up. The two of them rode in silence for the rest of the way.
It was close to the end of the day when they entered the town. They headed first for the livery and then over to the hotel. For once, they had a bit of money in their pockets, they’d recently finished a job and been paid, so they had nothing to worry about. Except, Heyes was worried, about his partner. Kid hadn’t spoken for hours and stood silently at his shoulder while Heyes paid for a room and signed the register. Kid did take the key off the desk clerk though and headed for the stairs.
Heyes followed him. In the room, Kid threw his gear down on the chair and sank onto the bed.
“You wanna go to the saloon, get a beer? Or, you wanna get something to eat?”
Kid tipped his hat over his head.
“Hey, will you answer me?”
“Kid, whatever’s wrong, don’t take it out on me!”
“I’m tired, that’s all. You go to the saloon, if you want. Mebbe I’ll see you there later.”
Heyes stared at the hat for a moment and then shrugged. “Okay, I am gonna go to the saloon. See if they got any good poker games going. See you later?”
Heyes went to the door; with a last look at his partner, he left.
Heyes surveyed the room. It was noisy and busy. He could see no one he recognised and in the far corner, several poker games were going on. He watched them for a while and then, when an opening occurred, he stepped in.
For several hours he concentrated on the game. The chips and bills in front of him piled up. Playing poker was his way of escaping. The more he concentrated, the less he thought about anything else, and the better his poker. But eventually, the absence of Kid Curry became something he couldn’t ignore and Heyes lost a hand which he should have won. Reluctantly, Heyes realised that he had to go look for the Kid. He rose from the table, said his farewells and made his way over to the hotel, uncertain about what he would find.
As he opened the door, his heart sank. He could hear the same low moaning from the previous night. Heyes entered.
On the bed, Kid was curled up tightly, moaning. His hair was plastered to his face with sweat. Still dressed and lying on top of the bed, the bedclothes had become crumpled and knotted. His hat and the pillows were lying on the floor. The whole area was testament to his disturbed sleep.
Heyes sighed unhappily and walked over. He sat on the edge of the bed and put his arm round Kid’s shoulders. He shook him hard. “Kid, Kid! Wake up! C’mon. Wake up!” Heyes’ anxiety made his voice harsh and loud. He continued to shake Kid hard until Kid began to rouse.
Kid’s moaning stopped and he uncurled. He began to shake as his eyes fluttered open and stared, fearfully at something beyond Heyes’ shoulder. Heyes left his arm on Kid’s shoulder and softly repeated his name over and over. His persistence paid off and finally, Kid’s eyes focussed, the shaking stopped and he whispered, “Heyes?”
“Yeah, it’s me, Partner. How’d you feel?”
Kid Curry rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling for a while before answering, “Tired.”
“You ready to talk?”
There was silence, Kid stared resolutely at the ceiling.
“C’mon Kid, you have to tell me what’s wrong! You can’t keep” Heyes paused momentarily, then continued, “you have to get some proper sleep.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Why on earth not?”
Kid turned on his side, facing away from Heyes. Tears stung his eyes. He was scared, but too stubborn to admit it to Heyes. And he didn’t want to see the look on Heyes’ face.
“C’mon Kid,” Heyes wheedled, “You can tell me anything! We’re partners, we share everything and whatever it is, it can’t frighten me! I’ve been chased by posses, near died, hidden in banks while Sheriffs passed, been in floods and stampedes. What could be that bad? Heck, I even grew up in Valparaiso.”
Even as he said the word, Heyes saw Kid stiffen and flinch slightly. Shock widened his eyes.
“Valparaiso?” he whispered. Then, more to himself, “You’re dreaming about Valparaiso.”
“So what?” Kid’s voice was harsh, if a little muffled. “What if I am?”
“It’s fifteen years ago!”
Kid sat up, suddenly angry and upset at the same time.
“You think I’m crazy! I knew you would! If I told you, I knew you’d think I’ve gone crazy!”
“Kid! Calm down. I don’t think”
“I’m not crazy! I’m not!”
“Kid! Shout louder, so the whole town’ll know!”
Kid sank back against the bedhead. “I’m not crazy, am I?” he whispered sadly.
“You’re not crazy.”
Kid stared into Heyes eyes, searching them for reassurance, for proof that Heyes wasn’t lying to him. Heyes smiled at him and repeated, “You are not crazy.” Heyes stood up and walked around the room. “We do have a problem though. You can’t go on like this.”
Kid watched Heyes pace back and forth.
“When did this start?” Heyes stopped and looked directly at his partner.
Kid sighed and shrugged his shoulders. He was still slumped against the bed. Heyes noted how tired he looked, with dark circles under his eyes, which were hollow and glistening.
Heyes sat down on the edge of the bed and continued to watch Kid. Gently he said, “Kid?”
Hesitatingly and with a thick voice, Kid whispered, “A few months ago. I’d have a bad dream, but then it’d be days before another. But, its been getting worse and the dreams have become terrible nightmares.”
Heyes watched his face for a moment, seeing the pain etched there. He began pacing again. Kid Curry was nodding off when Heyes suddenly spoke, jerking him awake.
“I think I know what we need to do. We’ll set off tomorrow.” With that, Heyes undressed, got into bed and fell asleep, without another word. Kid stared at him and then settled down himself to try and stay awake.
Valparaiso had been a nightmare for the two boys, thrust there by the sudden and brutal deaths of their families. Excluded from the town they’d grown up in, taken away from everyone and everything they’d known and loved, what they had needed was a warm and friendly place to stay and come to terms with the change in their fortunes. What they got was a cold place where every boy fought for survival, the headmaster seemed to enjoy beating them regularly and they had no one but each other to care for. Heyes had been worried about his friend and afraid that the silent, staring child that he’d become the day his family died would return. Jed Curry hadn’t disappeared completely, but the joy of life had left his eyes, replaced by cold anger. Jed would get into endless fights, receiving many beatings as a result. When alone with Heyes he would be more like his old self, otherwise he was quiet and withdrawn.
Heyes found himself needing to fight against the cold regime, coming up with plans and schemes to challenge and frustrate the adults. He would sneak out at night, refuse to go to church or the ‘special’ dinners, steal food and clothing and always, Jed would accompany him somehow. No matter what was said to him. So, they’d become a team, with Jed getting into places that Heyes couldn’t or acting as lookout while Heyes opened locked drawers and cupboards. They would work silently, discussing their plans in the daytime and carrying them out wordlessly at night, fearing any sound would call down the wrath of their ‘carers’. It was something that had later stood them in good stead, in their chosen career.
Once they left the school, Kid Curry had never spoken much about it. Outside, the light had returned to his eyes. He’d been himself, relaxed and unafraid, laughing easily. Oh, he’d shown flashes of anger, at those who were brutal to him or others, or who challenged him or Heyes. But Heyes had believed that he’d put the school behind him….
Heyes woke a few hours later. Kid was sat by the window. He was bleary eyed and pale, the dark circles under his eyes even deeper.
“Did you get any sleep?”
Kid shook his head.
“Well, I’ll get dressed and then we’ll have breakfast, sell our horses and get a stage.” Heyes was up and dressing as he spoke.
“Stage? Where we goin’?”
“You ready?” Heyes was stood by the door, his saddlebags over his shoulder.
Kid shrugged. “Sure.” Picking up his own gear, he followed Heyes out.
Two stagecoaches and a train ride later, Curry and Heyes entered Kansas and a small town. When the stage stopped outside the hotel, Heyes climbed out. He turned and looked inside.
“I told ya. I ain’t doing it.” Kid Curry was sat inside, arms folded and a stubborn expression on his face.
“The stage isn’t going anywhere tonight. You gonna sleep in there or take a room at the hotel?” Heyes was smiling slightly, something which did not improve Kid’s mood any. The Kid stayed put.
“Suit yourself.” Heyes walked into the hotel. He’d finished signing them both in when Kid walked in. Heyes looked at him questioningly, amused.
Kid glared at him. “The driver said I had to leave, okay?”
Heyes handed him a key. “You want a separate room?”
“No I don’t want a separate room. I don’t want any room!”
“Thought so.” Heyes responded, calmly. He headed up the stairs. Kid stared after him and then turned on his heel and headed out onto the street.
He stood on the porch and stared around the town. Somehow, he’d expected it to be…different. It looked the same as the last time he’d seen it, breaking into the general store one moonless night. The store was even in the same place. Slowly, he walked to the end of the street and leaned on the rail. He stared out, past the last building, into the distance. Some way up there sat the Valparaiso School for Waywards.
Jed Curry stood in front of the huge desk for the fourth time that week. He’d lost count of the times he’d been in this office. The headmaster was shouting at him again, but Jed wasn’t listening. It was always the same thing anyhows. ‘Bout how he was no good and would come to a bad end. ‘Bout how he shouldn’t listen to ‘that Heyes’ boy. ‘Bout how it was wrong to lie and steal. Never nothing ‘bout how it was wrong to keep kids cold and starving and lock ‘em in cupboards. Not listening to him really got Mr. Judson going. He would splutter and scream ‘bout respectin your elders. But Kid Curry could no longer respect anyone, especially his elders. They lied to you and took everything away from you.
Jed stared out of the window, watching the branches of a tree wave gently in the wind. He imagined being out there and barely felt the blows from Judson’s cane across his back. Suddenly, he was yanked backwards by his hair and dragged out of the office. Struggling to stay on his feet, he was pulled along the corridor towards the cupboard at the end. Jed wanted to scream, feeling the terror swelling up already, but he clenched his teeth until his jaw ached, determined not to give Judson the satisfaction. His face set, he was thrown into the open cupboard. Back against the wall, he watched as the door slammed shut….
“Bet it’s not as far as we remember.”
A gentle voice broke into Curry’s reverie. Curry didn’t turn around as he said, quietly, “No, not far at all.”
Heyes looked hard at his partner. The Kid was pale and there was a haunted look in his eyes. Heyes had never seen him look so unhappy.
“Kid, I would really like to help. You know, it might be easier if you said what was bothering you. You know I’ll listen.”
Curry stared silently at him and then turned away.
“Well, think about it.” Heyes said, “I’m turning in. See you in the morning?”
Curry nodded. Pausing momentarily to observe his partner, lost in thought again, Heyes walked slowly to the hotel.
He’d settled down and was ready to turn out the lamp when the door opened and Kid came in. Without a word, Kid unbuckled his gun, placed it on a small table, pulled off his boots and sat down in the chair. For a moment, there was silence. Then Kid said, “You mind if I keep the light on?”
“Nope. You going to try and get some sleep?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“Kid.” Heyes stopped. Kid Curry wasn’t an idiot, he knew that he needed sleep and Heyes realised that he was scared of falling asleep. Gently he spoke, “They’re only dreams, they can’t hurt you.”
“I know, but, well, when I’m asleep, it’s not so easy to tell myself that!”
“I’ll see you in the morning then.” Heyes rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. It was hard to sleep though, as he listened for Kid and worried about the dreams his friend might have.
Posts : 574
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Re: Once Upon a Return Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:30 pm|| |
A scream of terror woke Heyes with a start. He hadn’t realised that he’d fallen asleep. Instantly aware that it must be the Kid, Heyes moved to his partner’s side. There was a frown on Kid’s face and his hands clutched the chair arm. Over and over, he repeated the name, “Han.” Heyes grimaced, it was a long time since he’d heard that name:
“Han, how far is the nearest town? Can we stop there?”
Tired, cold and hungry, Hannibal Heyes was wearying of his younger companion’s questions, the same two repeated over and over for hours now.
“Don’t call me that!” he snapped, angrily.
Kid Curry stopped short and looked at his friend. Han never snapped at him.
“Don’t call you what?”
“What’s wrong with it?”
Han stopped as well and looked back. “It’s, well, it’s childish, that’s what it is. We’re on our own now, we gotta be adults.” He continued walking.
Kid stood in the road, his face showing his concentration as he thought about this. He then hurried to catch up with his friend.
Reaching Han’s side he said, “Well, what do I call you?”
Without stopping or looking at Kid, he said “Heyes.” Hannibal Heyes had been thinking about the same question and, though he didn’t feel very adult at that moment, there was no going back.
Kid followed him for a while and then spoke up again.
Heyes stopped and turned around. “What?” he asked, roughly.
“You still gonna call me Kid?” There was more than a hint of pleading on Kid’s face.
Heyes sighed, “Whatever you want.”
“Well, I figure Kid’ll be fine.” his companion spoke staunchly.
“Okay. Now, can we please get going?”
“Sure Heyes.” Kid drew level with the older boy and fell into step. Suddenly, he didn’t know why, but Heyes felt taller and stronger and knew that everything would work out.
Hannibal Heyes drew his partner into his arms and sat rocking him, murmuring his name, trying to reassure the frightened figure, when he felt far from calm himself. Kid’s behaviour greatly worried, even frightened, Heyes and he was far from certain that a trip to the school would help. He could think of no other course of action though. Neither of them had ever wanted to return, but now, Heyes convinced himself that they needed to. Somehow, he had to find a way to drive these demons out. For now, holding the Kid seemed to provide sufficient comfort to relax and calm him and so that was how they spent the rest of the night.
After breakfast, the two men walked over to the livery stable and bought two horses with gear. Kid followed Heyes silently and unhappily. Neither man spoke about the previous night. They rode up the hill out of town toward the Valparaiso School for Waywards.
A half hour ride brought them to the crest of a hill; down below, in front of them, stood an imposing brick building. Large and rambling, surrounded by a high iron fence within which was contained a playground, a large grassy area, an orchard and other trees. Heyes grinned, a large oak stood near the fence and Heyes remembered many nights climbing onto that tree and dropping over the fence. It had also been their final escape route. Heyes had never understood why it hadn’t been cut down, but was always grateful it hadn’t!
“Heyes, the gates!” Curry said in amazement. It was then Heyes noticed that the large iron gates, always shut and locked when they were there, were standing open.
Heyes smiled, “Maybe they were expecting us?”
“I doubt it.” was Curry’s dour response.
As they approached, they noticed other things about the building. There were curtains up at the clean windows. There was a fresh coat of paint on the woodwork. The grounds were tidy and well kept and, though the wrought iron sign above the gates still said ‘Valparaiso School for Waywards’, a wooden painted sign at the side of the gates said ‘Valparaiso Children’s Home’.
The two men paused by this sign and stared at it, the name was followed by ‘Prop. Mrs J. Walker’. They exchanged a glance with raised eyebrows and then continued inside.
They dismounted at the front door, also bright with new paint and with a similar sign to the gate pinned to it. Tying the horses’ reins to a nearby post, Heyes knocked on the door.
A short while later, the door opened. Behind it appeared a matronly woman, in her forties, with her hair done up and wearing a white apron over a blue dress. She smiled at them.
Heyes returned the smile, his face dimpling. “Good morning Ma’am. We’d like to speak to the headmaster?”
The woman looked at them for a moment, then she opened the door. “Come in.” She turned and started to walk away. With a quick glance at each other, Heyes and Curry began to follow her down the corridor. They stared about them. Instead of the dark, cold place they remembered, the building was warm and bright. Running footsteps suddenly echoed down the corridor and a young girl came barrelling toward them.
“Marnie!” the woman called. “What have you been told about running?”
The child skidded to a walk. She grinned impishly, “Sorry!” she singsonged, sounding not the slightest bit sorry. She smiled at the two men, walked past and then broke into a run again.
“Marnie!” the woman called after her, then shook her head wonderingly and sighed.
The woman turned, “Yes?”
“Won’t she get into trouble for that?”
“Who, Marnie? Heavens no!” the woman laughed. “It’s impossible to stop the girl. Always in a hurry, is Marnie.” She turned back and continued down the corridor.
Heyes and Curry exchanged confused glances and followed her.
She stopped in front of a door, knocked and went in. A moment later, she reappeared.
“You can go in,” she smiled at them and left them.
Slowly, cautiously, Heyes and Curry went inside.
They entered a large and spacious room, with a desk near the window and a couple of comfortable chairs arranged around the fireplace. A few paintings were hanging on the walls, one of which was lined with bookcases, filled with books. At the desk, a woman was sat.
She smiled at them as they entered. “Welcome Gentlemen. What can I do for you?”
“Erm, we were wondering if we could speak to the headmaster.”
“Well, I hope I will suffice. I’m the headmistress, Mrs Walker!”
“Oh! I see, I’m sorry, I. I suppose I presumed…”
“That’s alright, Mr. ?” She paused and continued when Heyes didn’t fill in the blank. “Most people do. And do you have a name?”
Heyes and Curry exchanged yet another glance.
Again, Heyes spoke. “Hannibal Ma’am and this is Jed.”
Mrs Walker observed them shrewdly. “Did you want to take a look around?”
“That’s no problem, let me show you.” Mrs Walker stopped and looked at them again. “Hannibal and Jed? Han and Jed?”
Curry nodded again, before Heyes could stop him.
Suddenly, Mrs Walker laughed. “Well, goodness! I never expected you two to come back! I am so glad you have. Han and Jed. My, my.” She smiled at their expressions. “I guess you don’t remember me. I was about a year older than you, I worked in the kitchens. Jane.”
Heyes stared at her as recognition dawned, “Janey? Janey Parker?”
Mrs Walker nodded.
“Kid! I used to run into Janey a lot that last year. She never told on me either! You looked different then.”
“I was a quiet and meek child then, Han. You two have changed a bit too you know. Come on, let me show you around. I think you’ll find a few changes.”
Heyes nodded, “Yes, like children running in the hallways!”
“Ah, you met Marnie then? That child will never slow down!”
“This wasn’t the head’s office then.”
“No, I decided that a change was required. This room is much more pleasant, don’t you think?” Jane Walker was headed out of the room as she spoke.
Heyes walked by her side, asking questions and listening to the explanation of where they were. It was a practised guided tour. Curry trailed along behind, silently. Every now and then Heyes would glance back at him, concerned about his partner. The Kid was even paler and looked distinctly ill, the dark circles standing out on his face. After a few minutes, they turned round a corner into a corridor on which Judson’s office had been located.
Kid Curry froze. The world swam around him and he felt sick and dizzy. The corridor stretched out endlessly, narrow, with the sides closing in. At the end, a cupboard door opened…
Sensing that the Kid was no longer behind them, Heyes stopped and turned round just in time to see Kid Curry collapse onto the floor.
Kid slowly became aware of the familiar voice, whispering softly.
“Kid, how are you doing? You still with us? If you wanted a nap, you shoulda said! Why I remember a time, after that job in Vicksburg, when you went on and on about how you wanted to get some sleep”
“If you open your eyes and tell me you’re okay.”
Kid Curry opened one eye and then the next. Heyes was sat on the edge of the bed, level with the Kid’s shoulder. “I’m okay, now will you shut up?”
“Just one problem”
“What’s that?” Kid asked, intrigued.
“I don’t believe you.”
Kid sighed. “I have a real bad headache, that’s all.”
“Probably just hungry.”
Heyes stretched out his hand and placed it onto Kid’s forehead. It was slick with sweat, but not feverishly hot. Kid Curry brushed Heyes’ hand away.
“Will you stop being a mother hen? I’m okay I tell you.” He turned onto his side and took a look around the room. He appeared to be in small dormitory. Next to his bed was another one, with two opposite. The room was painted white and had very little furniture in it.
“Where am I?”
“In the school’s infirmary. Seemed the best place to put you, after you collapsed!”
“Will you lay off about that?”
Heyes stared, with a soft expression, at Kid’s back. It had been a terrible shock when he’d seen the Kid collapse. He wanted to help his partner, but had no idea how to go about it. He’d thought that coming back to the school would lay the Kid’s fears to rest, but all he seemed to have done was make the Kid worse.
“Try to get some sleep for a while, I’ll go see if I can rustle up something to eat. You’re probably right, you’re just hungry.”
Heyes headed for the door and paused to look back at Kid. Kid’s eyes were shut and Heyes could only hope that he was going to get some decent sleep this time. He left, to hunt down Mrs Walker.
Kid Curry opened his eyes as he heard the door close and stared at the bed opposite. He had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach, a feeling he hadn’t had for very many years – he was afraid to sleep, afraid of the nightmares returning, afraid of being here, in this place and it frightened him that he was afraid. He felt hollow and empty and so very tired. The muscles in his arms and legs twitched and suddenly he was restless, anxious to get away.
He practically ran from the infirmary, down the corridor and out into the back yard. He continued across the yard until he half fell against a railing. He leaned against it, gasping.
Something touched his hand, making him jump. He swung round. A young girl was standing next to him, she had reached out and touched him, but quickly pulled back when Kid had moved so quickly, his hand going to where his gun would’ve been. She looked up at him with wide, brown eyes. Kid’s heart was pounding but he tried to smile calmly at her. He saw her mouth moving but couldn’t hear what she said.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Are you alright? You don’t look very well. Perhaps you’d like to come inside and sit down for a while?” She took his hand and Kid found himself led up some steps into a wooden building.
It was a large one roomed building, through the porch. At the far end was a large desk and a large blackboard. Facing them were rows of small desks, occupied by children of all ages and sizes. It was obviously a school room. Kid recognised it straight away, he’d spent many hours inside this room himself.
As he and the girl entered, the teacher was seated at her desk and saw them immediately. She was about 30, her brown hair fastened up, wearing a white blouse with a high neck and a dark grey skirt. She would have looked severe but her green eyes twinkled with humour and the kindness in her face moderated her dress. Elizabeth Shutt noticed immediately that the man being led by Maisie was in some distress. She rose smoothly and approached the pair.
“Miss, Miss,” Maisie spoke urgently, “I found him outside.”
Miss Shutt smiled at her, “Thank you Maisie, I’ll take care of him, you can resume your seat and continue with the exercise please.”
Maisie reluctantly let go of Kid’s hand and scurried to her seat.
Elizabeth Shutt studied the man’s face. It was pale, his blue eyes dark and clouded; they held a faraway look. Gently, she laid a hand on his arm. Slowly, his eyes focussed a little on her.
She smiled, “Why don’t you sit down?” She gently pulled him back and down into a seat, “I’ll fetch you some water.”
The man didn’t acknowledge having heard her.
Elizabeth Shutt turned and saw that all the children were half turned in their chairs, staring. She frowned and clapped her hands and they scooted back round and bent their heads over their work. She fetched a glass of water and placed it in front of the stranger. She then left him, returning to sit behind her desk.
Jed shifted in his chair. He’d been through his times tables the night before with Han, but blowed if he could remember a single one now! He sat staring at the front of the classroom, his fists clenched as he struggled to work through the tables. Miss Hogan would whup him good if he failed this test as well. Jed shifted his gaze to stare hard at the back of Han’s head, as though he might be able to read Heyes’ mind and pick out the answers. As Jed stared at him, Heyes shifted slightly and the chalk board came into Jed’s view. The answers were written there, clearly visible to the young boy behind. That boy suppressed a grin and began writing. He was concentrating on this when a cane banged down in front of him, cracking his board. The colour drained from his face as he stared up into the very angry face of his teacher.
“Front of the class. Now!” she yelled at him.
Jed scrambled out of his chair around her and to the front of the class. Miss Hogan walked slowly up. All the other children stopped writing and watched, silently. She stopped by Han and picked up his board. She then continued on to her desk. She sat behind it, primly, hands folded. Without looking at Jed, she ordered him to write the answers on the blackboard. Jed bit his lip as he turned to face the sums. His mind was completely blank and his hand trembled slightly. Panicking, he wrote a number, any number, against the sums. Han watched him and groaned inwardly. He felt angry and hurt for his friend. If Jed could only hold back his fear, he’d know the answers but somehow, when pressed, he just couldn’t stay calm.
The only sound in the room was the scratching of the chalk and suddenly, it stopped. The room was plunged into silence. There was a moment’s pause, heavy with tension as the children held their breath. Miss Hogan slowly pushed her chair back and stood. She surveyed the answers and quickly made a red cross against every one. She grabbed Jed’s arm and dragged him to the corner of the room and stood him facing the class. Round his neck, she hung a board with a large, red D inscribed on it. Someone giggled but stopped when Miss Hogan glared. She beckoned to Han. He got up and walked to the front. Picking up the cane, Miss Hogan proceeded to hit Han as hard as she could across his behind. Han clenched his fists and gritted his teeth and, with a look, kept Jed silent.
When Miss Hogan was done, she rubbed out the sums and wrote “I must not cheat.”
To Han she said, “Copy that 100 times.”
Jed’s hands were clenching and unclenching. Han shot him another glance and proceeded to copy the phrase. The rest of the class watched…….
Posts : 574
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Re: Once Upon a Return Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:30 pm|| |
The children filed noisily out of the classroom. All but Maisie. She hung back beside the stranger, now shaking and staring at the corner of the room. Elizabeth Shutt came down the room, following the children. She stopped besides Maisie.
“Miss Shutt, you’re not gonna leave him are you?”
Elizabeth had been hoping that the man would come round, but he was apparently growing worse. She answered the child. “No, Maisie, of course not. Will you run and tell Mrs Walker that with have a visitor and that he needs the doctor.”
“Its not fair! It wasn’t his fault!”
The voice, gentler than she expected and filled with anguish, startled the pair.
“Hurry Maisie.” Maisie turned and ran out of the school room. Elizabeth crouched and spoke to the man.
“What wasn’t his fault?”
“Cheatin’ I was the one who couldn’t do it. But Han got into trouble. Han was always getting into trouble cos of me.” The voice sounded childish and plaintive.
A shadow darkened the doorway, causing Elizabeth to look up.
A dark haired man entered and approached. He joined Elizabeth in crouching next to the other. He smiled at her reassuringly and then spoke softly to the first stranger.
“Hey Kid, I’ve been looking all over for ya! What you talking about, getting me into trouble. As I recall, I managed to get into a fair amount by myself and caught you up in enough!”
“I couldn’t do the sums, I shouldna asked you fur help! And she hit you!”
“Well now, that was a long time ago and I guess I knew what I was doing. What say you and I head into town and talk about it over a beer?”
“It wasn’t your fault!” The blond haired man was getting increasingly agitated.
The second man laid a hand on his arm, “Hush Jed, I know that and it wasn’t fair, but it’s done. This young lady here,” he motioned toward Elizabeth, “needs to be getting on with her work and we’re in the way. C’mon.”
Heyes took a firm hold of Kid’s arm and hoisted him up. Looking at Elizabeth he spoke pleasantly to her. “Sorry if my friend disturbed your class. I thought he was in your infirmary!”
Heyes led Kid out of the classroom, followed by Elizabeth.
Outside, Heyes turned to face Elizabeth. “Thank you for your help. I can take care of it now. Would you please tell Mrs Walker that we left and thank her for her hospitality?”
Heyes turned to Kid, “Kid, let’s” He stopped, momentarily taken aback to see that Kid was no longer at his side but walking rapidly, though unsteadily, away toward the orchard.
Heyes caught up with him.
“Hey, where you going? I thought we were headed for town?”
“Can’t. Han wants me to follow him.” Kid continued walking.
Heyes stared at him, seriously considering whether Kid had gone mad. Han? There was no one else in sight.
Once again, he caught up with Kid.
“Er, Kid. Where’s Han?”
“There.” Kid pointed toward the trees.
“And Kid, who’s Han?”
Kid stopped and looked pitingly at him. “Why you are of course!” He started to walk again, but Heyes took hold of his arm and stopped him.
“Wait a minute. If I’m Han, then who wants you to follow.”
“Me?” Heyes was now truly confused and very worried.
“Well, not the you here, the you there.”
“Kid, are you okay?”
“I’m fine! What’s the matter? I have to go over there.”
“No, Kid, we have to go to the hotel.”
Kid shook himself free. “NO! I have to follow you, you know that.”
“I have to go back to the hotel, you have to follow ME”
Kid stood, confused. His head swivelled between looking at Heyes and staring into space toward the orchard.
Heyes took a deep breath, sighed and asked, hardly believing the words he spoke, “Why do you need to follow the other me?”
Kid’s face cleared a little. “Han misses Jed and wants him back.”
“This is unreal”, Heyes thought, feeling overwhelmed, lost and sure that for now he had to go along, he replied, “Where is Jed?”
There was a pause while Kid turned toward the trees. Looking back at Heyes he said, “Han says that he’s locked in the cupboard.”
“Isn’t Han surprised that I can’t hear him?”
“Oh, okay, I guess. So, why is Jed locked in the cupboard?”
“Han doesn’t know.”
“Why doesn’t Han let him out?”
“He’s tried, but Jed won’t come out.”
“Why?” Heyes was intrigued.
“Han doesn’t know.”
“How long has he been in there?”
“Doesn’t know.” Heyes spoke in unison with Kid, nodding his head, expecting this answer.
Kid stared hard at Heyes. “We can’t leave him in there!”
“We can’t leave them alone!”
Heyes examined Kid. His face was very pale and his eyes were very bright, the dark circles under his eyes stood out. He looked slightly feverish and Heyes noticed that his hand shook slightly when he pointed. Obviously, he needed to sleep, but until this, whatever, was over, he wouldn’t leave. If Jed and Han were real, what would he do?
“Kid, what if we go talk to Jed, find out what’s wrong, would that help?”
Kid cocked his head toward the trees. “Han thinks it’s a good idea.”
The pair headed back into the school and soon were walking back down the corridor in which Kid had collapsed.
“Is Han with us, Kid?”
Kid looked at him, wide eyed, “Of course he is, he’s just ahead of us!”
They reached the door of the cupboard.
Heyes knocked on the door. “Jed, can you hear me? Can I talk to you?”
There was silence. Heyes turned to Kid and asked, “What did he say?”
Struggling to remain calm, Heyes knocked again and repeated, “Jed, can I talk to you, please?”
Kid shook his head.
Heyes was perplexed. How to get Kid to talk about Jed? A thought occurred to him. Jed had never wanted to talk to the adults around the school, hadn’t trusted them.
“Kid, what if Han tells Jed that we want to help and that it’s okay to talk to me?”
Kid looked at a space next to Heyes for a while and then said, “It should be okay, Han told Jed it was okay.”
Heyes called again through the door, “Jed, tell me why you’re staying in the cupboard when it’s open.”
Besides him, Kid answered in a whisper, “Because I’m afraid.”
Heyes felt a cold shiver but continued, “Afraid of what?”
“Of being alone.”
“But why would you be alone if you left the cupboard?”
“Han’ll leave. I get him into trouble and he doesn’t want to stay but I’m too young to leave so if I stay in here, he’ll have to stay nearby.”
It made a sort of sense, Heyes supposed. He remembered how, for the first few months, Kid had fretted about Heyes being sent away or worse, Heyes running away and leaving him behind. It had taken some time for Heyes to convince him that he wouldn’t do that and now, it seemed that Kid had always continued to fret about it. Heyes thought carefully about how he could deal with this. Beside him, Kid leaned against the wall, exhausted.
“Jed, did Han ever break a promise to you?”
“No.” Kid’s voice was barely a whisper.
“If Han promises never to leave without you, will you come out?”
“Mebbe.” There was considerable doubt in the whisper.
“Han needs you out here though Jed, he misses you and wants to play with you. Why would he leave you?”
Heyes looked into space. “Han, will you make a solemn promise never to leave without Jed?”
After a moment, besides him, Kid said, his voice more normal, but anguished and questioning, “Heyes…” as he slid down the wall and slumped to the ground, unconscious.
* * *
Heyes entered the small bedroom. After his collapse, Kid had been carried to a room used for a member of staff. It had been decided that waking up in the infirmary would cause him to run off again. Heyes bore a plan and a tray containing a bowl of beef stew, biscuits and a pot of coffee, well laced with whiskey! He was not surprised to see that Curry had curled up again and was moaning slightly. In fact, by now, it would have been a shock to find anything else. He put the tray down and went over to his partner. He shook him awake, noticing how Curry had begun sweating.
Curry stared at him, bleary eyed.
“Brought you something to eat.”
Kid shook his head, “I’m not hungry.”
Heyes stared at him. “You? I don’t believe it. Anyway, you were the one who said you collapsed because you hadn’t eaten!”
“Well, now I’m not hungry.” Curry’s voice was flat and Heyes noted how tired he looked and how dull his eyes were.
“Well, they went to a lot of trouble to cook this, so you’re gonna eat it, even if I have to force it down you!” Heyes plonked the tray down. “Go on!”
“I don’t want to.”
“Well, drink the coffee!” Heyes demanded, satisfied to note that Kid complied with this order.
“That was very good.” Kid responded meekly.
Kid drank some more. Heyes continued to glare at him, arms folded across his chest.
Kid’s eyelids began getting heavy.
His voice slurred, he said “What was in that coffee anyway?”
“A bottle of whiskey.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Hey, life’s not fair, haven’t you learnt that yet? You know, that’s your problem Kid, you want life to be fair…”
“You’re my problem!” Kid said angrily.
“Me! When I’ve carried YOU all these years.”
“What about all the times I saved your worthless skin?” Kid responded, his voice raised. “Without me, you’d have been dead a dozen times already!”
“You can only be killed once.” Heyes said, infuriatingly logically.
“You know what I meant.” Kid said, irritated. “Not that it matters now.” He added, sorrowfully.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you’re hardly going to get into gunfights now are you? Now that you’re a respectable, law abiding citizen.”
“Well, that depends on what we do!”
“Gunfights aren’t respectable,” Kid slurred, tiredly, “Neither are gunfighters.” He closed his eyes and leaned back against the pillows.
The whiskey had done its work and loosened his tongue. “What now Heyes? You don’t need me hanging around, holding you back. Never wanted to be left behind. I was afraid that you’d run away and leave me there. And now I’m gonna be left behind.” He ended sadly.
Heyes sat on the bed. He placed his hand on Kid’s.
“Listen Kid, I didn’t leave you behind then and I won’t now. Like always Kid, like it’s always been, it’s you and me. Maybe there is no place for a gunfighter, but you’re more than that. You’re my partner!”
Heyes stopped. Kid’s eyes were glistening. Silently, Heyes squeezed his hand tightly and held it for a while.
Heyes stood, “Think about it and get some sleep!” He smiled encouragingly at his partner, watched while Kid’s eyes fluttered and closed and then left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.
Kid Curry slid down under the covers. The room was quiet and peaceful. The bed was warm and soft and Kid felt relaxed, a feeling he’d never had in this place before.
Soon, his eyelids grew heavy and the room echoed slightly to his gentle snores. When Heyes looked in on him later, he was sleeping deeply, quietly and dreamlessly.
Posts : 306
Join date : 2014-08-12
|Subject: Re: Once Upon a Return Thu Apr 04, 2019 5:35 pm|| |
Hi Sheila, hope you are doing well. Just read this again, very well told. I love the way Heyes is so concerned about Kid. It is hard to see Kid in such turmoil that he cannot share it with his partner. I am wondering if you submitted a video to Ben's website of a fan meeting in 2006 in Taunton England? They said it was submitted Sheila C. just curious. You should take up writing again, I always enjoy your stories. Take care. If You Can't Stand The Heat, still patiently waiting.
|Subject: Re: Once Upon a Return || |
Once Upon a Return