By: Lady Angel

“Closed for the Night.”

I am astounded that I actually put that sign there. The only time the Standish Saloon has ever been closed to patrons. But as I look around the table, I realize that it does not matter how much money I am losing. Tonight, it does not matter if there are wealthy men outside those doors, ready to be fleeced. Tonight, all that matters is the family surrounding me.

Yes, these men, these women. They are my family. Deeper than blood, stronger than flesh. More tempting than cold hard cash.

The table is enormous. It must be for the sixteen people who have joined me for tonight’s repast. Smiling, I realize that this feast will be the first of many.

Mr. Larabee sits at the head of the table. His beautiful wife, Mary, sits at his side. It is befitting that Chris sits at the head of our table, for he is the one that leads us in so much more than into battle. He was the first to marry, and to set down roots in this town. It was as if Fate was saying that if the most troubled of our brethren could find peace here, then so could the rest of us poor wandering souls. Young Master Travis has claimed his stepfather’s lap. Thankfully, for once, I will not have to battle with the young man for the attention of my lovely Julia.

To Chris’s right, Mr. Tanner leans back into his chair, a whiskey in one hand and his other arm around Alexandra. Alex, lovely, intelligent Alex. Her laughter washes over the table as Vin whispers something in her ear. I am truly glad they have found each other. I once loved her but watching two such different people take joy in each other, I know that my love for her would never rival the intensity of the love that my friend demonstrates for our lady doctor. My friend is happy. . .happier than I have ever seen him and so is Alexandra. Fate has smiled on us all.

A boom of laughter attracts my attention. . .Josiah. As a child I could not image a more perfect father. Patient, strong, Josiah is everything I lacked. Just as Chris is the perfect elder brother for our family, Josiah is the ideal father. While both men are far from faultless, for our strange little family, they are just right. Mrs. Audrey King is the one making Josiah laugh. Audrey is just what Josiah needs in his life. She and her daughter, Lilith. Such a sweet child. . .one of the few people who can distract Billy from Julia. Such a wonderful girl-child.

Mr. Dunne is seated by Alexandra but his complete attention is currently engaged by the delightful Miss Wells. I worried once that JD would not live long enough to father his own family. But surveying those around me, I know that no harm shall ever come to the boy or his sweetheart. Not as long as one of us draws a breath. He whispers in her ear and they both laugh. Ah, young love. Was I ever that innocent? No, perhaps not. But watching the young lovers, I am regaining an appreciation for the innocence that was lost to me. We all are.

Mr. Wilmington and Miss. . .ah, Mrs. Wilmington sit across from Vin and Alexandra. I still cannot believe that they are actually married. Watching Buck and Inez fuss over their newborn daughter, I must wonder if my own mother and father ever lavish such adoration upon me. It doesn’t matter, I realize, as much as it once did. Now I have brothers who have assumed that most vital function. From Mr. Larabee’s constant “big brother” tendencies to Mr. Jackson’s mother hen fussing, I now know the concern of family that I have was missing all my life.

Speaking of Mr. Jackson. . .I return his smile as I pass him the salt. Nathan. . .a black man at the table of a good ol’ Southern boy like myself. I once would have never thought it possible, but as I reflect upon it, I realize that I cannot image my life without his friendship. Next to Nathan, Rain is talking to young Miss Wells. She is as lovely today as when I first saw her at the Seminole village. She has been a tremendous help to me these past weeks, assuming Inez’s duties with gusto and aplomb. I know for a fact that Nathan does not like his paramour working in a saloon any more than Buck does his wife. Perhaps this is why I have made a conscious effort to deflect any improper behavior by my patrons. I would do anything for my family.

A soft hand squeezes my own and looking to my left I see the love of my life. She had brought a refinement to this wilderness that I sorely missed. But she is more than just a than a woman of beauty, sophistication and elegance. She is strong. . .stronger than I could have ever imagine. Surviving here in the rugged West and taming my gambler’s heart. Every sunrise brings her flame red hair to my mind’s eye. And I know that where ever I am, as long as there is a sunrise, she will always be with me.

One day, I will settle down, marry Julia, and it will be here amongst our family that we will raise our children. Children that will know Chris’s stern but loving hand, Alexandra’s healing touch, and Josiah’s patience and soothing voice. They will learn from Audrey’s knowledge, Vin’s love of nature and Mary’s quest for truth. They will inherit JD and Casey’s enthusiasm for life, Uncle Buck’s charm, and Aunt Inez’s rapier sharp mind. Our children will know that one should never judge by the color of a man’s skin. For underneath may lay the heart of good people, like that of their Uncle Nathan and Aunt Rain.

I have finally found what I have sought for so long.

I am wealthy beyond compare.


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