Never Forgiven, Never Forgotten
I watched as he climbed up the hill, each step solidly placed on the stone walk way. He has made his journey every day for the past month, spending more time at the family plot than the day before.
My heart breaks a little more each day as I realize there is nothing I can say or do to ease my husband's pain and grief.
The news was an unforgivable shock to him. Jed wasn't supposed to die first. Of course, that it was a bridge collapsing under him doesn't help. There were few survivors of the fiery train crash. Again, not much consolation.
The door opened and I automatically reached for the coffee pot, hoping he will feel like talking over a cup of coffee. I poured his coffee in his favorite blue enamel cup and pour myself a cup in my favorite china cup, the one with the tiny pink roses on it. That cup is my favorite because Jed gave it to me. "Thank you, darlin', " is his response as he sits down.
I sit there across from him and wait and hope. Dull brown eyes look up at me and I can see that he's trying to hide his tears again. I long to see his beautiful chocolate brown eyes sparkle and flash with laughter again. I long to see his dimples as they frame his grin. I know I will have a long wait, if I ever do see them again.
"Heyes, please, we need to go and see for ourselves. We need to see what happened. We need more than just a coffin in our family plot." I reached for his hand, stroking his knuckles as I softly spoke.
He closed his eyes and shook his head, "Can't." He slowly raised his tear-filled eyes to me and continued, "I can't. I can't face that yet." His voice was small and cracked with emotion.
I closed my eyes and nodded. I understood. I knew that if we acknowledged the wreck we would have to truly accept that the empty coffin that we buried is all that we would ever have to remember Jed by. Maybe it is for the best. Neither of us could handle knowing all that is left is charred remains.
*** **** **** **** ****
Neither of us heard the rider approach the house; nor did we acknowledge the calls to us from the doorway. We were lost in the abyss of memories and the raw pain of our loss.
Yes, it had been over a month, six weeks to be more accurate, but the hurt feels like it happened yesterday.
The front door opened and deliberate footsteps crossed through the house, across the parlor and then down the hall, finally stopping in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Heyes? Clem? Are you two okay?"
The voice startles me and I look deep into Heyes' eyes, wondering if he heard it too, or if I had just imagined hearing Jed's voice.
Heyes shook his had slightly, "This is not fair. The job was only supposed to be for two weeks, not forever. It was only worth two hundred dollars, not his life." Tears came again freely to his eyes and he tried to smile for me before he continued, "I thought I heard him, his footsteps, his voice." He closed his eyes and shook his head sightly, "It wasn't supposed to be like this. We were supposed to go together."
He crossed the room and sat at the table with us, unsure of who died, but knowing it was someone close.
I didn't really register him sitting there until he reached for my hand. I gave it to him and hoped for... what? That our nightmare would be over, that it would go back into the depths of H***. I just wanted Jed back and safe and alive.
His hand was warm. Therre was a callous on his palm. I absently brushed my thumb across his knuckle and felt a scab. I was jarred by that. I felt a scab. I felt a warm hand.
I turned my head slowly, unsure of what to believe, unsure of what I would see. My eyes met clear, deep sky blue eyes and a tentative smile.
I caught my breath and whispered, "Jed?"
He nodded and looked at Heyes waiting for his best friend to react.
Heyes looked down at the table and saw my hand holding Jed's. I felt him react to what he saw before he voiced his response.
"Kid?" His voice was shaky and broken. He wasn't sure what he could believe, only that he wanted to believe what he saw.
"Heyes." Jed kept his voice calm and quiet. He gave Heyes his full attention, "Do I want to know?"
"What happened? Where have you been?" Heyes was slowly adjusting and his voice was slowly getting stronger.
"Texas. At Mac's. I got to Dreyburn's and found myself getting shot at. I ended up with four holes in me and I found Mac in town when I got there."
He let go of my hand and I got up and got him a cup of coffee. I sat it on the table in front of him and he smiled at me.
"Mac heard a rumor that Dreyburn had set a trap for us. He was too late to stop the shooting, but he did help me get out of there. Mac took me down to Red Rock to recuperate." He took a drink from his cup and looked at me surprised. I had poured a generous shot of whiskey in his coffee.
"We tried to get word to you, but apparently nothing worked. I tried to send a telegram to you, saying I hadn't been on the train. We found out that Dreyburn found a way to make sure that nothing got through." Jed's voice was quiet and somber, almost subdued.
Heyes nodded. He let the words sink in and wrap themselves around his heart. Their impact was felt in his brain, but their meaning went straight to his heart. He looked at Kid, "Dreyburn still alive?" The cold fury and hatred was openly evident in his voice.
"Yeah, but not for long. He tried to shoot Mac. Mac had witnesses. Dreyburn was riding a stolen horse at the time. He's sitting in jail, waiting for the judge. The sheriff, marshall, and a Ranger all assure me that he won't be able to do anything." Jed took another swallow of coffee and added, "It's over, Heyes. He's finished."
I had watched Jed's eyes as he told us the story. They flashed and changed color as he relived his ordeal.
*** **** ***** **** **** ***
Jed's ordeal was over. He was home. The hard part came late that night. He had a nightmare. He dreamed that he couldn't get to us, no matter what he tried.
I heard him and went to his room, lit the lamp and waited for him to calm down. It took several minutes before he even registered where he was. I stayed with him, unwilling to allow himto be alone when he fully realized where he was.
"Clementine?" His voice was quiet and fearful.
"Ssh... it's okay. You're home, you're safe." I smiled for him and reached for his hand. He held my hand in a fear-filled tight grip.
He slowly calmed down, coming fully awake. "Sorry. I...I didn't mean to wake you up. I should have told you, I've been having nightmares lately."
I shook my head,"It's okay, Jed. You're home. That's all we care about. That's all we need. We will work out everything else." I kept my voice soft, trying to keep him calm, hoping he would relax enough to drift back to sleep.
He smiled for me and closed his eyes. "Leave the lamp lit for me, Clem. Just leave it on the dresser." His voice was quiet but very awake, very alert.
I shook my head and grinned, "If you're sure." I put the lamp on the corner dresser and crossed to the doorway, pausing only long enough to re-assure myself that he really was home. "Goodnight, Jed."
I went back to the bedroom that I shared with Heyes. "Is everything okay with Kid?" I started at the sound of his deep, sleep-filled whisper.
"I think so. I left his lamp lit, turned down low and on his corner dresser." I climbed into bed and under the covers, wanting to lose myself in my husband's arms as he held me close.
"Thank you. I'm glad that you understand. He means so much to me." Heyes' voice was soft but he was fully awake.
"Honey? I'm just glad that you're not jealous. I love you both and always will. I want you both to heal from this." I tried to keep my voice soft and quiet.
We both drifted off to a light sleep and we had each woken a few times during the night.
Morning came and I woke up first. I quietly dressed and went to check on Jed. He was asleep, but I doubted if it was a deep, restful sleep. I went to the kitchen and put the coffee on.
Heyes came down about twenty minutes later. "He was still sleeping, but... he wasn't sleeping easy. He was tossing a bit." He kept his voice down, hoping it wouldn't carry upstairs. He put his arms around me, held me close and whispered, "Good morning."
I smiled. I understood. "Love you, too, Honey." I turned in his arms and looked into his eyes, the gold flecks were again shining brightly.
"How about if we go on a picnic today? We can so over by Harper's Creek. I an make roast beef sandwiches, we have apple cobbler and cheese and pickles and..."
Heyes laughed, "Sounds fine. It sounds like you have it all planned out."
I grinned, "Not quite. I wasn't sure if you'd be willing, and I'm not sure what else to take."
"How about if we have a small fire and roast some potatoes and onions? We can have fresh coffee, too."
"Okay. Would you be willing to take your fishing lines, too? If you catch anything we can have it for supper tonight."
Heyes nodded, "Sounds fine." His eyes flashed and a mischievious grin played across his face, "We've been together too long. You're thinking and planning things out like me."
I chuckled at that, basking in the warmth of his teasing. Everything would be alright now. Heyes was feeling more like his old self and I needed that.
He laughed at my reaction. The sound was glorious. I had missed it so much. I love my husband and all of his moods, but I have to admit, I needed some relief from the somber gloom. A shadow must have crossed my face just then because he was concerned when he aske, "What is it? What is wrong?"
"Nothing." I reached for his hand and held him tightly, "Nothing but a shadow of a ghost."
I knew then that he would understand. He and Jed used that phrase when they had an unpleasant, rare thought of Valparaiso.
I heard faint stirrings from upstairs; within a few minutes Jed would join us. "I need to get breakfast on. Can you bring me in some eggs and milk?" I smiled for him, a smile that was his alone.
Heyes grinned and turned toward the door, "Do you need anything else from the springhouse?"
"Okay, eggs, milk and butter," he disappeared out the side door.
I heard Jed come down the steps. He is slower and pauses a few times. He finally comes into the kitchen and I tried to hide my reaction. He looks older and there is something missing from his eyes.
"The coffee is ready now. Breakfast will be in a few minutes." I keep my voice quiet and calm.
"Just coffee, " he replied with a distant voice, so unlike the voice I yearned for.
Heyes came in then and his smile lit up the room. "Mornin', Kid. Eggs and ham sound good for breakfast?"
"Just coffee." His voice was solid and strong, but the lack of happiness was easily heard. There was more to it, though.He looked haunted and clearly uneasy.
Heyes was taken aback. This wasn't what he bargained for, but he was grateful Jed was home. He sat at the table and I put the coffee pot between them. "How does a picnic sound? Clem and I were thinking about going over by Harper's Creek, maybe take the fishing lines."
"Not really up to it.You two go on ahead. Enjoy yourselves." Jed's voice was flat and sounded as though he forced every word out despite pain.
I put some day old muffins on the table and set out a dish of butter, and then the plates and silver. I turned back to the stove, worried that maybe I had somehow done something wrong last night. "How do you want your eggs?" I tried to keep my voice light as I asked both of them.
The ham sizzled in the skillet and I added a few slices as I pulled out some that was done. I know Heyes is watching me out of the corner of his eye.
"Uhm, how about scrambled?" I know what is on his mind, but I don't think it's a good idea. He looked over at Jed, "What do you think, partner? Is scrambled okay or do you want something else?"
Jed looked up from his coffee and I was almost scared by the look in his eyes. The beautiful sky blue eyes that were always so full of life and energy were now cold and almost lifeless.
"Coffee is enough." Again his words were curt and short. There was no anger, but there wasn't much else, either.
I caught myself as I was about to ask, to offer something else for breakfast. I shook my head slightly, knowing that if, and when, he was ready, Jed would bring it up. I scrambled the eggs for Heyes and me and went ahead and did two extra, hoping that somehow Jed might change his mind.
I put both platters on the table and sat down at the end of the table, between them. Heyes grinned and got up. I looked at him, worried that he had heard something. "I think I want some jelly with my muffin.
I relaxed. I was allowing myself to get upset and worked up over tiny things.
We decided to skip the picnic. It wouldn't be the same without Jed. Instead, we spent the day at the house, catching up on small chores that we had not bothered with while Jed was gone.
Jed wasn't hungry at lunch time, either. That just added to my worries. He was usually like a grumpy bear when he missed breakfast. He didn't even come to the table when we ate our lunch. I wasn't looking forward to dinner.
I needed the old Jed back, even if it was only for a short time. I knew that if the present mood that had enshrouded the house like a dark fog wasn't forced away soon, Heyes would return to the melancholy, somber, pain-filled man that he so recently had been. I wasn't sure if I could exist in that atmosphere. I needed to know that sunshine and happiness still existed.
The question was, did they?
We went on like that for several weeks. Heyes grew more somber and somewhat moody. Jed had withdrawn even more, if that was indeed possible.
I tried to write a letter to Mac. Heyes saw it on the dresser and got upset, "Leave it be, Clementine. When Kid is ready, he will tell us." I heard anger in his words and shivered. I nodded and tore the letter in two pieces before placing it in his out-stretched hand.
"Now, let's forget this happened. Let's just try to be a family again." He pulled me into his arms for a hug. I nodded for him, but didn't feel like agreeing.
I pulled away and them I knew. He simply let go of me.That wasn't normal, it wasn't what we did. He usually pulled me closer before he let me go.
I started to sleep in the guest room downstairs. I moved my things out of Heyes' bedroom and don't think he even noticed.
That hurt. Badly.
I took a deep breath as I looked up at the man who sat across the table from me. I didn't know Soapy very well, but hoped that I could trust him.
"That doesn't sound very good. It does sound like Heyes, though and how he would react
to losing Kid." He took a swallow of his Port wine and continued, "We need to get them some help."
"I left them ten days ago. I wasn't sure where I could go, but I hoped that I could trust you."
I kept my voice calm and steady. I felt lost and almost ready to cry.
"You did the right thing,my dear. I will send a few men to bring them here. It will take a little bit of time, but I think it will be worth it." Soapy smiled for me, "Now, let's finish our dessert. We can work out our plans later at my home."
I nodded. I took a deep breath and felt better. I hoped that I was right. I wanted my Heyes and my Kid back.
We finished dessert and rde in Soapy's private carriage back to his mansion.
"Allow me to handle this, my dear. The less you know about the details the better. Trust me, if Heyes is going to be furious at someone, it should be me."
I nodded and went upstairs to my room. Part of me wanted to know what he was planning,
but another part of me longed to have my husband back at almost any cost. I fell asleep wishing that Kid and Heyes were here to show me the sights of San Francisco.
That was three weeks ago.
When I first saw Kid I gasped. He has lost weight and is angry at everything now. He avoids me as much as possible. Meals are unbearable, and I have refused many, simply to give him the opportunity to enjoy the time with his friends.
Heyes has not forgiven me yet. He said that I betrayed him by coming to Soapy, and I abandoned him when I left. He, too, has lost weight.
Both of them are surly, nasty shells of who they once were. They no longer care who they frighten or intimidate.
I went to a lawyer today and started the procedure to get a divorce. I want nothing but to be free of them.
Heyes said that he will never give me the divorce, that I should plan on dying first.
My ship leaves tomorrow morning. I am going to sail to New York and then go on to England.
What's next? I just don't know. There are two of them and only one of me. All that I really care about is surviving long enough to sign my divorce papers.
Then, maybe I can look forward to the future. Right now, all that I want is to be able to go back in time, back to before Kid's ordeal, before he ever heard of Dreyburn. Back to when Heyes loved me.
Carolinewritten in June of 2008