Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Mary Fri Jan 15, 2016 2:45 am|| |
Thought I'd better post this before my story for this month's challenge story - Alcohol - so you know who Mary is.
Mary“Mary, have you been in the hardware store lately?” Sarah asked, casually. The three girl friends had met up in the café to share a pot of tea.
“No why should I? It’s not somewhere I regularly go,” Mary replied.
Sarah grinned at their other friend, Carol and they both leaned in eagerly.
“’Cos there’s a new man behind the counter in there.”
“Well I’d heard that Seth had got somebody in to help.”
“Oh he’s done more than that!”
Sarah and Carol giggled at each other. “He’s very handsome!” Carol rolled her eyes. They giggled again.
Mary smiled indulgently and reached for the teapot. “You’ve been in there then?” she asked, pouring a cup. She put it front of Carol.
“Oh yes,” she said. “I bought a sink plunger.”
“So did I,” Sarah squealed. “I didn’t know what else to ask for. What DO they sell in hardware stores?”
Mary rolled her eyes. “Probably a lot more than just sink plungers.” She pushed a cup in front of Sarah and put the teapot down.
“There’s somebody new in the livery too,” Sarah said. “I haven’t see him yet but Francine says he’s just dreamy. Blonde and blue eyes. Francine says he and the one in the Hardware Store are friends. She’s seen them together.”
Mary nodded. “I see. Interesting as this is, ladies why are you telling me?”
Sarah groaned. “Mary you haven’t seen anybody since Carl and that was four months ago!”
“I thought I’d give men a rest for a while. Concentrate on running the Hat Shop.”
“But Mary you must at least SEE these two before you go all nun like,” Carol said and looked at Sarah, who nodded in agreement.
Mary sighed. She knew her two friends would not let it drop until she showed some interest.
“What are their names then?”
“Well the one who works in the livery is called Thaddeus Jones. He’s very chatty and I think he likes the ladies,” Carol said and giggled.
“He’s the blond, blue eyed one?” Mary clarified.
“Oh.” Mary pursed her lips. Not really her taste. “And the other?” She took a sip of tea.
“He’s darker. More serious but when he smiles ….” Sarah giggled. “There’s two cute little dimples either side of his mouth!”
“Oh.” Mary nodded. Sounded better.
“Mary you have to see them both!” Carol said.
“No she doesn’t,” Sarah was firm. “The one in the livery is mine,” she smiled.
“You haven’t even seen him!” Carol protested.
“Don’t need to. He sounds just right.”
“Ladies, aren’t you getting a little carried away?” Mary asked. She gave her friends a reproachful look.
“Mary you just have to see …” Carol started and glanced at Sarah. “… the one in the Hardware Store at least.”
“And does he have a name? This paragon of female heart’s desire.”
Sarah and Carol looked at each other. “We think its Joshua Smith.”
Carol nodded. “Pretty sure.”
Mary sighed. “Well I guess it doesn’t matter.” She raised the cup to her lips. “I’m sure somebody will get to him fairly soon.”
Sarah looked disgruntled. “I’m not sure,” she said, slowly. “He’s very polite and well-mannered and everything but ….”
“He doesn’t seem very interested in any of us who have gone in already,” Carol finished with a mumble.
“Yes so if you do go in don’t ask for a sink plunger. That didn’t seem to work.” Sarah shook her head. “He wasn’t at all surprised.”
Mary laughed. “Oh so I have to think of something exotic to ask for do I? Something I probably don’t need?”
“I didn’t want a sink plunger,” Carol said, sadly.
“Me neither,” Sarah said, shaking her head. She turned to Mary. “All I’m saying, Mary is if you want to catch his eye ….”
Mary groaned. “Ladies, I appreciate your concern but I’m fine really. I’m sure I can live without knowing Mr Smith. Or Mr Jones.”
Carol sighed. “Be glad we told you. All I’m saying is that Mr Smith works in the Hardware Store, which is just across the street from the Hat Shop. Where you are all day.” Carol smiled. “Just look out of the window about 10.30. He’s started to go for a newspaper every mid-morning.”
“And how do you know this?” Mary asked.
“Oh.” Carol shrugged nonchalantly. “Somebody told me. Can’t remember who,” she said, evasively, smoothing an eyebrow.
Mary laughed and shook her head at her two friends.
By chance a few day later, Mary was changing the window display in the middle of the morning. She glanced across the street just as a young man came out of the Hardware Store.Remembering the conversation with her friends, she stopped and watched.
He stood outside the Hardware Store, looked up and down the street, licking his lips. He nodded and smiled at a passer-by. Then he smoothed back his dark hair before putting his black hat on. He took a moment to position it comfortably and was about to set off in the direction of the newspaper officer when something must have buzzed him. He swotted it away with a frown. Whatever it was wouldn’t go away. Now he took his hat off to persuade it to go more forcibly.Mary laughed to herself. Little critter dealt with, he shook his head, repositioned his hat and continued about his business.
Mary watched him walk up the street. She looked what she saw. Perhaps Mr Smith deserved a closer inspection after all. She just had to come up with a plausible reason to visit the Hardware Store.
That reason presented itself a few days later. She locked the front door of her house as she usually did when she left for the Hat Shop in the morning.
However, this morning she dropped the key before she could put it away in her purse. As she bent to pick it up, a thought struck her. What would she did if she lost it? She only had the one key. Even her father didn’t have a spare. She wouldn’t be able to get in. Oh she could smash a window and climb in she supposed. But what if she didn’t want to do that?
Then she remembered. A few weeks before, Seth had locked himself out of the Hardware Store. His new assistant, Mr Smith, had picked the lock and got them in. Mary remembered seeing the crowd gathered outside watching him do it.
“Hmm.” Mary smiled at her key. She suddenly knew what she could do.
She would go to the Hardware Store, pretending she had lost her key. Mr Smith would come and pick the lock and she would get to know him that way. Certainly different than trying to buy a sink plunger that she didn’t want or need.
She looked again at the key in her hand. She would have to hide it. Just in case, her plan backfired. She looked around. It would have to be somewhere plausible. To look as though she had dropped it by accident. Not too obvious that it would attract burglars. She looked around the lane at the front of the house. At the foot of the tree would be perfect. No, she couldn’t leave it there all day. She would hide it later, just before she started on her plan. Yes that would work. She dropped the key into her purse and went off the Hat Shop, smiling.
Heyes looked up idly from the newspaper he was reading. It was very nearly time to close up and he was just killing time until it was. He was leaning on the counter but now he straightened up, looking interested. A flustered young woman had just come into the hardware store. One he hadn’t seen before. He definitely would have remembered if he had. He’d seen many of the town’s young women in the store over the past two months. They had come in to buy sink plungers and other things with nice sounding names without any idea how to use them, or what their use was. Heyes had served them politely but he knew why they were there. In devilment, a few times he had caught them out, asking if they needed a flidget as well or a metal dranguler, neither of which of course existed. He had just nodded when they had looked blank. They had made their excuses and sidled out embarrassed.
The Kid had experienced it too, over at the livery. Ladies wanting to hire totally unsuitable horses because they had pretty manes or tails. Heyes conceded that perhaps he couldn’t blame them. Here he and the Kid were. Young, handsome and new in town. He was quite flattered but irritated at the same time. And it wasn’t just the young ladies either! Older ladies had flirted with him, those who really should know better. They were the scary ones because they knew the game and were more persistent. Seth usually made himself scarce at that point but Heyes could hear him hee hee-ing out back.
However, no one had caught his eye. That is until today. Today he was interested. But today Seth got to her first.
“Afternoon, Ms Fletcher. What can I do for you?”
She sighed. “I seemed to have locked myself out, Seth. Can you help me? I locked the house this morning and I’ve checked back in the store and …..” She shrugged. “The key is not there either and it’s the only one I’ve got. I must have lost it.” She looked upset but not about to cry.
Heyes frowned slightly and pursed his lips. He continued to turn the pages of his newspaper, although he wasn’t reading it now.
“Have you got something I can use to break in?”
Seth rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. Then he turned to Heyes. “Joshua, have we got something we can give Ms Fletcher so she can break into her house?”
Ms Fletcher looked across anxiously. Heyes swallowed and nodded. “Yes I think I can find something. I’ll just go look.” Heyes disappeared out back.
Seth grinned. “Don’t worry Ms Fletcher, he’ll get you in. He’s turning out to be a real handy fella to have around.”
“Oh I do hope so!” she sighed.
Heyes came back a few moments later. He had his hat in his hand and his jacket over his arm.He laid both over the counter and reached into the inside pocket of his jacket. He brought out his lock picking tools and walked towards them selecting one.
“Can lend you this,” he said, holding it out to her.
“Oh.” She looked at it and swallowed. “Thank you.” She was nervous and she winced. She went to take it and stopped. “How … how does it work?”
A smile slowly spread over Heyes’ face. “Reckon I could show you ma’am. If’n Seth don’t mind that is?” He looked at Seth.
Seth laughed. “Hee! Hee! No, I don’t mind a bit young fella. You get along and let Ms Fletcher into her house.”
She smiled broadly. Heyes turned and put his jacket on, before tucking away the kit. He snatched up his hat. He motioned for her to lead the way. Seth jumped to open the door. Heyes gave him a look as we walked passed him. Seth looked back innocently. Heyes heard hee hee as the door shut.
“It’s not far. You won’t be away long.”
“Oh I think I’ve finished for the day, ma’am,” he smiled, looking back to see Seth’s grinning face at the door.”
“Mary Fletcher,” she said, holding out her hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Mary Fletcher. I’m Joshua Smith.” He shook her hand.
She took a deep breath and Heyes motioned for her to lead the way. She started and nodded. He fell into step beside her.
“You’re new in town, Mr Smith?”
“Yes. Been here about two months.”
“And how do you like it?”
“It’s a real nice town. I feel quite at home here now.”
“Good. I run the milliner’s shop across the street.”
He frowned slightly, and then looked where she indicated. “Ah! The Hat Shop!”
She smiled. “Yes, Mr Smith. The Hat Shop.”
Heyes looked down at the hat in his hand. “Reckon I could do with a new hat,” he smiled, poking his finger through the hole in the front in emphasis.
“I only sell ladies hats, Mr Smith. Unless of course you want something exotic with feathers in?”She raised an eyebrow at him, playfully.
He chuckled. “Thank you ma’am but I’ll er pass on that.” He put his hat on.
They walked along for a while in silence, both trying to think of something to say. Mary went first.
“What made you come to Porterville, Mr Smith?”
“I’m an old friend of the sheriff’s. Got back in touch recently. He suggested Porterville might be a good place to stay for a spell.”
“Well you’ve certainly made an impact, Mr Smith.” Then she looked flustered. “I mean you’ve sorted out the hardware store. I’ve never seen it looking so clean and tidy.”
He shrugged. “It was a job that needed doing. I was happy to help.”
“Have you always been in hardware?”
“No ma’am. It’s my first time.”
“So what did you do before you came to Porterville?”
Heyes frowned. “Oh many things. I’ve had a varied life. So far,” he said, quietly.
Mary smiled at him. “So does that mean you’ll be moving on soon?”
It was an innocent enough question but for Heyes it felt like an impossible question to answer. He looked thoughtful.
“Not sure, ma’am,” he said, finally. “Ain’t exactly up to just me.” He winced. That needed more explanation. “Need to talk it over with my partner in the livery stable.”
Mary nodded but she seemed a little disappointed. Heyes saw and realised suddenly that it was important that she knew he wasn’t going anywhere just yet.
“But er we haven’t talked about it.” He smiled. “So I guess I’ll be here for a little while yet.”
Mary smiled again. “Well I hope so too.” Then covered by adding, “we don’t get too many new residents. It makes a change not to speak to the same old faces.”
Heyes nodded. “Yes it does.” He was thinking of the Kid as he said it.
They walked and talked for a few more minutes then Mary said, “we’re here.”
Heyes stepped up onto the porch and tried the door. It was locked.
He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out his kit. He bent down and peered at the lock for a moment.
“Hmm,” he said.
Straightening up he selected one of his tools then crouched down. After thirty seconds of wiggling or that is what it looked like to Mary, he was opening the door.
“There you go, ma’am.”
He was already climbing to his feet, tucking the kit away.
Mary blanched and swallowed. “That easy?” She took a deep breath.
He grinned. “Only when you know how.”
He was standing close now. Too close to be entirely respectable.
“Well, thank you Mr Smith. That was most kind of you.” She seemed embarrassed.
“Not at all. Glad I could help.” He looked down at her for a moment, and then cleared his throat.“Er perhaps we should look around and see if we can find your key. You might of dropped it close by.” He moved off the porch.
“Yes. Yes of course.” Mary seemed flustered again.
As Heyes suspected it wasn’t long before Mary “found” it.
“Oh! Here it is,” she called. She held it up as he came back to her. “Must have fallen out of my pocket. I was rushing this morning. I usually keep it in my purse.”
Heyes took it from her. As he did so, his fingers brushed hers. He wasn’t prepared for the way his stomach suddenly flipped. He glanced at her, cleared his throat and frowned at the key.
“Hmm. Well it’s simple enough. I can cut you a new one at the store.” He handed it back with a smile. “That way you’ll have a spare.”
Mary smiled. “Yes, thank you. I’ll …. I’ll bring it in tomorrow.”
Heyes nodded and started away.
“Oh, Mr Smith?”
He turned back. “
He nodded and started away again. This time he stopped. He swallowed hard, decided and looked back.
“Do you eat ma’am?”
“Pardon?” She seemed surprised.
He shook his head and frowned in irritation at his choice of words. He walked back the few yards to her, licking his lips. When he reached her, he took off his hat.
“Dinner, I mean.” He looked at her closely. “Would you like to eat dinner? With me? Tonight?” he stumbled over the last words.
She didn’t say anything. She seemed embarrassed and unsure.
“If …if not tonight? Some other time?” he tailed off. Then shook his head, furiously. “No. Perhaps not.” He nodded. ”I’m sorry ma’am.”
He put his hat on and turned away.
“Yes, Mr Smith. I do eat dinner.”
He stopped and looked round.
“And I would like to eat dinner. With you. Tonight.” She held her arms behind her back.
He smiled and nodded. “Then I’ll drop by around seven, ma’am.”
“Yes. That will be just fine.”
He swallowed hard and nodded again. He walked away with a delighted smile on his face.
Heyes was getting ready to go out when the Kid got back from work.
“Heyes, you in?” he called as he came through the door.
“In here, Kid.”
Heyes was in their small bunkroom. Heyes was all dressed up and he was pulling on his boots.
“Well now don’t you look pretty,” the Kid said, leaning against the doorjamb and folding his arms.
Heyes looked up and grinned. “I picked a lock today and it was legal!” he said, excitedly.
The Kid nodded. He was suspicious now but no further information was forthcoming. “Mind elaboratin’ a bit on that,” he encouraged.
Heyes told him what had happened.
“Mary Fletcher?” the Kid frowned.
“She’s kinda pretty.”
Heyes grinned and raised his eyebrows. “I kinda noticed that myself.” He stood up.
“She runs the hat shop.”
“Yes she does.” Heyes nodded and then frowned. “How did you know?”
“Oh I hear things in the livery y’know.”
“Like what?” Heyes was suspicious now.
“Like her father used to be the sheriff here before Lom,” the Kid grinned.
Heyes swallowed hard. “Well we’re free men now ain’t we? There’s no LAW against having dinner with the ex-sheriff’s daughter is there?” Heyes looked disgruntled.
“No. None at all.” The Kid was enjoying Heyes’ discomfort and he smiled smugly. “But you know how men are about their daughters Heyes.”
“I wouldn’t know.” It was Heyes’ turned to look smug. The Kid had been chased off quite a few times.
The Kid sobered. “All I’m saying, Heyes, is go easy.”
Heyes nodded, frowned and nodded. “How do I look?”
“Like a law-abidin’ pillar of the community.”
Heyes grinned. “Thanks. That was the look I was going for.” He walked out, the Kid chuckling after him. “See you later Kid,” he said, putting on his hat.
Heyes walked up the lane to Mary’s house a little before seven. He had wondered if perhaps he should have taken some flowers. Or chocolates. Then he sighed and thought no. That wasn’t really him. He was a grown man, not a love struck youth. He smiled to himself. He wouldn’t mind being though!
He thought about the woman that he was going to have dinner with tonight. Mary Fletcher, milliner. He had stopped by the newspaper office on the way home and looked the word up in their dictionary. Purveyor of female headwear, it had said. He had liked her immediately. He had been renowned in the gang for being quite particular about women. For him, Mary was right on the money. He frowned when he realised he had been in Porterville two months now and he hadn’t seen her before. He made a mental note to ask her where she had been hiding! Or not. She was by far the only young woman he had met since coming to Porterville that had even remotely interested him. He would reserve judgement until later but the signs were good. They were very good. Except for her father being the ex-sheriff of course. That might be tricky. He sighed. No sense in worrying about it Heyes, he told himself. Work that puzzle out when you need to. If you need to, he corrected himself.
“Right on time,” Mary smiled, as she opened the door before he could knock.
He snatched his hat off and smiled back. “Well I said seven. Thought it best to be on time.”
“And as you can see I’m ready too.”
She came out, turned and locked the door. Before he could offer his arm, she took it anyway. He smiled at her and nodded. This felt SO right. And normal. And nice. Oh so nice!
Two and a half hours later, Heyes walked Mary home again. They were relaxed in each other’s company now. They had laughed, joked and gossiped all through dinner. He was right about Mary. She didn’t have the coarseness of saloon girls; she was a lot more refined than that. Elegant and beautiful, she was interesting, funny, and educated. They had talked about a wide range of things: politics, art, music, books, the weather. And they had laughed at the same things. By the end of the evening, they were even finishing each other’s sentences and laughing again. She was independent, ran her own business and house; her father lived up the road. Heyes couldn’t remember what he had eaten. He just wished that the evening hadn’t flown by so quickly.
Now as they approached Mary’s house they fell silent. They stepped onto the porch and stood in front of the door. Heyes’ hand rested lightly on her waist. He wasn’t aware of it and Mary seemed not to mind.
She produced her key, holding it up in front of him and they laughed easily together. Heyes took it from her, deliberately touching her hand as he did so. Yep, his stomach flipped over again. He fitted it into the lock, taking a deep breath as he did so, and turned the key. He pushed the door open a little and his now free hand went to the other side of Mary’s waist.
They were standing close now. Mary’s hands were resting on his upper arms. Heyes smiled down at her.
“I’ve had a really lovely evening, Mary. Thank you for locking yourself out earlier.”
She laughed. “Why Joshua! Do you really think I did it on purpose?”
He just smiled knowingly. “You mean you didn’t?” He raised an eyebrow at her.
They laughed again. Heyes took off his hat and dropped it on a nearby chair. He smoothed back his hair before kissing her gently. He had intended it to be a brief, friendly chaste kiss but when she slid her arms around his neck, he knew it wouldn’t be. He pulled her closer and kissed her a little harder.
“I didn’t know how else to get your attention,” she whispered. His face was still close to hers.
“You could of bought a sink plunger from me. Half the female population of this town has.”
Mary laughed. “But I didn’t want a sink plunger.”
“Neither did they!” he grinned. He lowered his head and kissed her again. “I thought the plumbing in this town must be really bad at first.” He chuckled.
“Oh it is,” Mary assured. “It can be very bad and I think you might just be the man to fix it.”
Heyes smiled at her. “Well I could order in some more sink plungers?”
“You could but before you do …” She smiled back at him. She was enjoying the feel of his arms around her.
He raised an eyebrow at her when she didn’t finish.
“You could ….kiss me again,” she smiled, coyly.
Heyes did as was told. Then he breathed deeply. “Can I see you again, Mary?” he asked softly stroking her cheek.
She beamed and nodded. “Yes I would like that.”
She winced. “Pa wants me to make a four for whist on Saturday.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s been in the diary for weeks. Sorry.”
“I can do Monday,” she offered. “I could cook dinner here if you’d like?”
He considered. “Home cooking? Not had that for a while. ‘Least not that you can eat.”
She laughed. “Oh dear! Are you not a good cook, Joshua?”
“I think I’m getting better. Some of it is edible. Once you’ve picked the burnt bits off.”
“Oh stop!” Mary laughed. She touched his cheek, fondly. “Monday?”
He nodded. “Monday.” He kissed her gently again, then let her go. He swallowed hard. “I’ll look forward to it,” he said, with a nod.
He stepped back and put his hat back on.
Mary stood in the doorway and watched him walk away. She rested her head on the doorjamb and sighed. Yes, he could very well be the one.
Heyes heard the gun cock as he went into the bunkroom and he winced.
“Whoever you are stay right there,” the Kid said, in his best gunslinger voice.
“It’s me!” Heyes hissed back.
The gun uncocked. “Are you sneaking in or sneaking out?” The Kid lit the lamp.
Heyes stood glaring with his boots in his hands.
“Sneaking in. I was trying not to wake you,” he grumbled.
“Well you weren’t trying that hard!” The Kid put a hand to his head and sighed. “Did you have a good night?”
“Yes I did.” Heyes was firm. He sat down on his bunk to pull his socks off.
Heyes looked across in surprised. “I had a good night.”
The Kid glared. Heyes wasn’t going to tell. That must mean that he a GOOD night! He grinned.
“No!” Heyes raised a finger. “Kid! Get that look off your face!” He took his shirt off with a flourish and tossed it, in a ball, onto the chair. He furiously unbuttoned his pants.
“What look?” the Kid asked innocently.
Heyes sat down again to pull off his pants. “THAT look!”
The Kid grinned. Heyes sure was easy to take the rise out of sometimes. The Kid sobered. Especially if it was important to him. He watched Heyes toss back the blankets and bounce into bed, lying down on his back. He stared at the ceiling.
“I had real nice evening, Kid,” he said, quietly. He looked across. “That’s all I wanna say at the moment.”
The Kid nodded and reached out to turn the lamp out. He settled. “Night Heyes.”
Heyes turned over to face the wall. It had been a very pleasant evening. He thought about Mary. Why hadn’t somebody snapped her up before this? Ah, but she was strong willed. She wanted to be a man’s equal and she could be. Some men just didn’t find that attractive. But, he did. Yes, Mary Fletcher might very well be the one. If they could overcome the Hannibal Heyes problem. Heyes swallowed. He would have to give that some thought. But not tonight. Tonight he just wanted to dream of Mary. He went off to sleep with a smile on his face.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname