DISCLAIMER: The Young Riders is the creation of Ed Spielman, and the property of Ogiens/Kane productions in association with MGM/UA television. This Story is created for entertainment purposes only, no infringement intended. Not to be copied without permission from the author.
'Rachel you can't make us do this' Cody whined from his seat on the other side of the bunkhouse.
''Can't Cody, what do you mean can't' Rachel spoke firmly as she stalked around the table to stand directly in front of him. 'Young man if you want to eat here anymore I suggest that you think very seriously about doing this one favour I ask of you' she jammed her closed fists onto her hips to punctuate her words. She had known that the boys would resist her suggestion but she thought that her main resistance would come from Jimmy not Cody. She thought she had chosen her time well, Lou was away on a run and she had manage to corner all of the boys in the bunkhouse.
'Rachel you know that the girls that go to those academies are well....' he paused looking to the others for assistance, however, all he saw on the faces of the other boys were resigned smiles.
'They're what Cody' Rachel put her hands on either side of Cody on the arms of the rocker he sat in and leaned forward threateningly.
''I'd be real careful if I were you Cody' Teaspoon a broad grin on his face piped up from the doorway where he had just stumbled upon these proceedings.
''They're well... homely' Cody smiled pleased at himself for finding a non offensive word to explain his feelings
''Homely is it.' Rachel stood and began to pace backwards and forwards in front of the protesting young man
''I see, so you would deny Lou the chance to dress up, when she spends her entire life working like a man and smelling like a horse, you would deny her the chance to dress up and act like a lady just for a night, because you might end up spending the evening with a girl who might be the nicest girl in the world but she fails to meet your beauty queen expectations.' Rachel's hands were again on her hips as she faced him toe to toe.
''It's not like that at all Rachel' Cody saw the error of his ways and began to back peddle trying desperately to get himself back into Rachel's good graces. 'I was thinking of the girls, they might not enjoy spending a night with sweaty cowboys.' he tried in vain to find a plausible excuse.
''that my dear boy is why you will be taking a shower before the dance.' Rachel smiled knowing that she had Cody backed into a corner.
''Just give it up Cody' Buck spoke as he walked in and sat on the bench at the bunkhouse table.
''When do we get to meet these paragons of virtue Rachel.' Noah came to sit beside Buck at the table when he realised that the hostilities had ceased.
''The girls will be arriving tomorrow afternoon on the stage, that gives you all afternoon to get acquainted before the dance. The rest of the townsfolk will think that Lou is one of the girls.' she sat on the opposite side of the table and motioned for Ike, Kid and Jimmy to come and be seated before she continued.
''The headmistress and I have chosen a girl for each of you that we feel will be compatible for both of you. Of course Kid we didn't arrange for a partner for you'
''This sounds like matchmaking Rachel' Jimmy spoke sternly
'That's quite alright Rachel' Kid spoke with a smile in his voice
''Can't you tell us anything about them' Cody whined from his seat away from the table
''I can tell you that we have chosen a young lady named Rebecca for you to escort Cody. She's from New York her parents chose to send her to an Academy out west to get her away from the talk of War.' she started watching the boys warm to the thought of hearing about the companions that had been chosen for them.
''What about the rest of us Rachel?' Buck spoke the words for the rest of them
''Jimmy you will be escorting a young lady named Candiece, shes from St Jo, her parents sent her to the Academy because she's a bit wild and needs some discipline.'
''Hah, you get the tomboy' Cody laughed as he rose and patted his friend on the back
''Buck, Your young lady is named Jennifer, she has had a difficult life and was enrolled at the Academy to make a new start with new people. Noah, it was difficult to come up with the right partner for you, but we chose a lovely young coloured girl from Canada named Amelia, her parents enrolled her at the Academy so she could see something of the world before she settles down.' Rachel paused for breath watching the words she spoke sink in.
''Your partner for the evening will be a young lady named Sarah, she is from Missouri, and she has devoted her life to teaching young disabled Indian children to communicate.'
''How did you come to know about this Academy Rachel?' Teaspoon asked curious
''The headmistress, Annabella Strong, was my best friend when I was a girl, we haven't seen each other since we were about 12, but we correspond regularly' Rachel answered
''Have you told Lou yet Rachel?' Kid asked quietly, as he heard a horse approaching, and knowing that Lou was the only rider expected
''No, I thought that I could leave it to you.But I would like to see her in the house after you've spoken' Rachel spoke as she shooed Kid to the door to greet his beloved.
'Kid walked quickly down the stairs and crossing to the barn he entered silently as he listened to Lou singing softly as she tended to her horse.
''Good Ride' he spoke gently as he moved to lean on the rails behind her
''Not bad, but it sure is good to be home' she spoke as she walked across the hay strewn enclosure to sink into her lovers embrace
''I missed you' she murmured as she kissed him deeply
'He kissed her back and pulled her tighter into his arms 'Me too' he spoke
''Rachel has arranged a surprise for you' he started to explain and waited as she turned in his arms to look into his face
''What?' she asked with a smile
''There's a St Valentines Dance in town tomorrow night, she has arranged a partner for all the boys from a Ladies Academy so that you can go dressed as you should be' he paused watching the happy tears well in her velvet eyes.
''A lady, and we can dance together inside this time, not the corral' he watched as her emotional tears overflowed
''Rachel and the boys would do that for me' she murmured in awe of the place she held in the hearts of the boys.
''They all meet their ladies tomorrow afternoon, so I guess that you'll have o spend tomorrow night at the hotel with them, otherwise the townsfolk might guess that you are not one of them. Rachel has asked me to send you to see her in the house, so I can finish Lightning for you if you would like'
''Are you sure?' she murmured and at his nod she ran out of the barn and towards the house, leaving a bemused Kid shaking his head in her wake.
'Rachel, you wanted to see me?' Lou poked her head around the door and waited for a response
'C'mon in here Lou' she called from the parlour
'Rachel what's up?' Lou asked as she entered the house and walked into the parlour, her eyes widening as she saw the beautiful satin and lace gown, shawl, bonnet and gloves that Rachel had laid out on the parlour lounge
'These are for you Lou.' I hope they fit.' Rachel spoke, tears welling in her eyes
'Why?' Lou whispered, not sure what she had done to deserve the gifts she had received since her return
'Lou, I know how much Emma meant to you and I know that no-one can ever replace her in your heart, but you have become like a daughter to me. It kills me to see you dressing and working as a man, when you deserve the delicate gentle things in life. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for you to be a lady, if only for a night.' as Rachel spoke Lou walked into her embrace and they hugged tightly.
'Its beautiful Rachel, I love it, and I dont know how I'll ever be able to thank you for this.' she answered through her tears of happiness
'Just have a good time tomorrow night and dance with that man of yours.' Rachel smiled. "I'll take you out in the wagon, we have arranged for the stage to pick you up about a mile from town. Noone in town will realise that its you, and your secret will be safe'
The boys were impossible to be near all evening, it seemed that they were all on tenterhooks until it was time for the stage to arrive. Dressed and showered they all rode into town to greet the young ladies who would be their companions for the evening. Waiting patiently at the steps of the Sweetwater hotel Rachel couldn't help but laugh at the expressions on their faces.
'Why Cody I'd swear you were waiting for the hangman son.' Teaspoon laughed at the pained look in Cody's eyes. as the stage rolled to a stop in front of the hotel.
'I'm sure he must be awaiting some type of execution' Rachel chuckled as Cody shot her a chagrined look. His sharp retort was withheld as a beautiful woman stepped from the stagecoach
'Rachel!' her excited cry reached Rachel's ears and she ran to embrace her oldest friend
"Annabella' she replied as they hugged tightly 'thank you for coming'
'No thank you Rachel for inviting my girls out, there are so few escorts for them in these troubled times.' she surveyed the faces watching them expectantly 'Are these the lucky fellows?' she asked her eyebrows rising as she looked at the motley crew before her "these boys' she wrinkled her nose in mock distaste
'No Annabella, these may be a little rough around the edges but they are all good boys really.' Rachel stifled a giggle as she watched her boys begin to puff up like peacocks at her gentle praise.
'Should we introduce them to their companions for the evening, do you think?' Annabella teased a little more
'Aw c'mon ladies' Cody resumed the whining of the day before
'Gentleman let me present my students Louise, Candiece, Rebecca, Sarah, Amelia and Jennifer.' she spoke as the young ladies including Lou all stepped from the stage to stand obediently at their headmistress' side awaiting further instruction. 'While they are here they will be treated with the utmost respect and each couple shall be chaperoned at all times. Gentleman, Ladies, please feel free to introduce yourselves. I believe that Gentlemen Rachel has informed you who your partner will be' she concluded.
The boys were all stunned at the young women before them. Their bunkmate Lou had them all stunned, dressed in a purple satin and lace gown draped with a shawl and wearing a bonnet and gloves appeared radiant as Kid walked to her side and presented his elbow for her to take and walk up the stairs to the hotel foyer. Jimmy walked to the side of the second young lady to emerge from the stage. A petite redhead, with big mischievous green eyes and porcelain skin, dressed in a gown very similar to Lou's but green in colour and showing slightly more cleavage which brought a stern frown from her headmistress, she gladly took Jimmy by the hand and led him up to where Kid and Lou waited patiently.
Cody it seemed had taken one look at the girl who would be his companion and was smitten. She was the smallest of all the girls, with delicate features and colouring very similar to Cody's, dressed in a simple blue gown she blushed hotly when Cody fell to one knee before and taking her hand in his placed a kiss on her knuckles before walking her up to the porch. Much to Buck's surprise he already knew the beautiful blonde girl he was to escort, Jennifer Thompkins the daughters of Bill Thompkins the local storekeeper. She was unable to restrain her nature any longer and ran to Buck's side placing a gentle kiss on his cheek as she took his hand and they walked to the porch.
The final two girls it seemed were of a quieter and more reserved nature than the others. Amelia, a young lady of coloured descent stood demurely waiting to be claimed by her escort. Noah seized his chance and moved to greet the young woman who had travelled so far to meet him. The beautiful young woman with light brown skin and eyes of chocolate brown took his hand with a nervous smile and blushed delicately when he kissed the back of her hand.
The final girl stood waiting for Ike to come and claim his companion, whilst not quite as conventionally attractive as the other girls, she seemed to glow with an inner peace and beauty, something which Ike seemed to always find attractive. She smiled as Ike approached her, and whilst women were sometimes scared of him, the young lady quite competently signed a greeting to him. Ike smiled a wide happy smile and signed straight back at her knowing that they were going to get on just fine.
'Well that seems to have gone quite well.' Annabella spoke quietly as she watched her young charges having quite animated discussions with their part time beau's.
'Much better than I anticipated, I think we will have a successful evening don't you' she smiled at her old friend as they walked up the steps to the hotel entrance to make sure that the girls all found their way to their rooms to rest for a short time before the dance and barbecue began.
The couples by common consent walked along the boardwalks in front of the stores, whilst shy at first, were engaging in spirited conversation by the time that Rachel, Annabella and Teaspoon walked up the stairs to enter the hotel. Clapping her hands sharply, Annabella spoke in a firm but gentle voice.
'Ladies, we never raise our voices in public, especially when speaking with a beau.
Why for goodness sake, a man does not want a shrew for a wife.' she spoke and each of the girls nodded their heads in unison. Annabella, motioned for the girls to follow her into the hotel and obediently even Lou followed her meekly inside, to wait for their room assignment.
The other boys stood outside with Rachel and good naturedly ribbed Kid at the lack of obedience Lou displayed when he spoke.
One by one the girls returned to the boys, room key in hand and gently asked the boys to carry their bags to their rooms. With far more compliance then Rachel knew they possessed, the boys, smitten every last one of them carried the girls heavy trunks into the hotel and deposited them safely into their rooms to rest for the afternoon. All the girls stayed in their rooms with the exception of Jennifer, whom Buck walked to her fathers store.
'Were you surprised to see me Buck?' she asked softly
'"Of course I was, I thought you were back east.' Buck replied
'I was for a short time, but I couldn't stand being away from the land, so my mothers family agreed to a compromise, I could come back out west to the land I love on the condition that I attend a ladies academy.' she spoke softly gazing hungrily at the man who had 'saved' her from the Indians that had held her captive.
'I'm glad you came back Jenny.' he took her gloved hand in his and squeezed it affectionately as they reached the landing of her fathers store. He left her there to visit with her father and walked back to the bunkhouse to find the others and finish their daily chores and dress for the dance, his step lighter then it had been in some time.
The boys all worked hard and took their turn in the shower, primping and preening more than any nervous young woman would whilst preparing for an evening liaison. As the sun set the six of them set out to collect the young ladies from the hotel, Rachel on Teaspoon's arm following closely behind.
At the hotel, Annabella and her young charges were waiting patiently on the porch. The boys accepted their young ladies arms and they began the short walk to the church hall where the dance was being held.
For next four hours, the boys and the young ladies on their arms were almost in a fairytale. They danced happily and laughed and spoke together, none of the boys able to believe that their partner was so well suited to them, well all with the exception of Kid and Lou who already knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
As the dance drew to a close, Lou drew Rachel aside and spoke briefly to her.
"Rachel, I want to thank you for tonight, it is truly the best night of my life.' tears welled in her velvet eyes.'Nobody has ever cared about me enough to do anything like this before.'
'Nonsense Lou, and besides this was as much for the boys as for you.' Rachel lied as Kid walked up behind Lou and extended his hand for her to join him for the last dance of the evening
'Thank you Rachel' he mouthed over Lou's head as he spun her onto the dance floor, the two of them for once totally at ease with themselves and the people of their town.
Rachel walked beside Teaspoon behind the girls and their beaus after the dance had concluded, watching the boys walk the girls back to the hotel. After a gentle good night kiss, each of the boys emerged from inside the establishment to the waiting older couple.
"Rachel I don't know how you did that, but I for one want to thank you for a wonderful evening' Teaspoon spoke as the last of the boys bounded down the stairs to join them.
'Where's Kid?' he asked belatedly finding one of them missing.
'He and Lou had some things they wanted to talk about.' Buck spoke knowingly The rest of the boys snickered cheekily as they all turned to walk back to the way station.
At the station Rachel sank onto the porch swing , closely followed by Teaspoon.
'Boys I want to thank you for conducting yourselves as gentlemen and showing the young ladies Annabella teaches a wonderful evening.' she looked at the happy faces of each of the boys and smiled
Cody, ever the showman cleared his throat and spoke 'Rachel I think I speak for all of us when I say that, I don't know how you did it, but each of these girls was perfectly suited to us. It wasn't the trial that I thought it would be. So I think that we need to thank you.' he finished and each of the other boys said thankyou to her before they walked off in the direction of the bunkhouse.
Rachel and Teaspoon sat on the porch for a short time longer, silently enjoying the solitude and the peace that the evening had not yet afforded them.
'Do you think they enjoyed themselves Teaspoon?' Rachel asked
'You heard them Rachel, of course they did' he answered her
'Its just I think of them like my kids and I hate to see them alone on such a romantic day. I just want to see them happy.' she trailed off as Teaspoon took her by the hand and led her to the door of the house.
'Rachel they all had a wonderful time, don't worry about them.' he urged her and closed the door after her.
Rachel stood for a short time leaning against the inside of the door, smiling to herself marvelling at the good choices she had made for her boys, and most of all for the evening she had given Lou and Kid. Somehow she knew that she had done the best she could for her tiny flock and walked slowly up the stairs, turning down the wick in the lamp as she went, for the first time in a long time, going to bed happy, content and free to dream up her own prince charming.
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