|Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction based on characters created by Ed Spielman and owned by Ogiens/Kane Productions. Neither the author nor the webmistress claim any ownership or any profit from the creation of this work. This story may not be posted elsewhere except with the express permission of the author. This story has been rated PG15 by the Barkeep. :0)|
Chapter 1: A Breath of Fresh Air
From the very first, Kid had been intrigued by this woman. Her eyes matched his perfectly; this connection had already been observed and remarks about the whole situation were flowing out of Cody’s loose lips.
“What made her so amazing?" the Kid thought to himself. It was a combination of everything and at the same time, nothing at all. He loved the way they clicked and he was also enjoying the fact that he never had to walk on eggshells around her. At this point in his life she was exactly what he needed. She knew it, he knew it, they both showed it, and unfortunately everyone was there to witness it, even Lou. Initially, it appeared that Buck or even Ike would snatch this light-eyed half-breed, but there she was holding on tightly in the arms of her new companion. They danced in the moonlight to the soft songs of the evening wild life.
Well, Great Sky, I made it to Sweetwater. I hope I can find my sister or brother. I’m still worried about leaving home, though. Will Michigan forgive me? Will she understand my choice? Again, I’ve been inspired…
The greatness of the waters that surround me
The essence of the place I call home
A beauty that breathes pure safety
Remain wonders, I selfishly claim as my own
Being born and raised in this splendor
Courageously, wandering her shores
Searching for truth in her legends
And knowing I could always find more
Land of the “Big Shining Water”
Connects Lake Huron, Ontario and Erie
Up into Michigan and Superior
Where the water will forever, remain free
My love and I confided in you
We trusted in your land
Shall my playground ne’er be discovered?
Will you disguise yourself forever, Michigan?
My motherland, you are magnificent
And I hope you understand my choice
For leaving is not an act of forgetting
But using what you gave me…a voice
I shall start my search now. I will return to my homeland as soon as I feel I have accomplished my true goal.
"Mana" Manatawa or Mana, came to Sweetwater on a hunch, looking for her family. She sat on a bench outside of the Marshall’s office and closed her journal. A leather bound stack of papers that revealed age and torment. Inscribed lightly on the cover was, “Don’t forget your Homeland!” This journal was a gift from a tribesman, after her father passed away. Mana moved into a nearby town after her father died. To make the transition from reservation life to the white world easier, the local teacher, Mr. Brown, took her in to teach her some minor skills. She learned how to sew a white-woman’s clothes and even to speak and write English. She worked as a seamstress during the day and Mr. Brown tutored her at night. After a few years out of the reservation, she realized that she needed to find her missing sibling. It had taken nearly a year to reach Sweetwater, a place she didn’t even know she was headed for. But, there she was. She began her search in Illinois, and all of the signs pointed toward Sweetwater.
Manatawa wasn’t exactly sure whom to ask, so she started in the Marshal’s office, which is where she met Teaspoon Hunter. Teaspoon quickly took a liking to the woman. After explaining her long trip of the day, he invited her out to the station for dinner. “No, I couldn’t impose,” she replied shyly.
Although her dress matched that of a town’s woman, Teaspoon could tell that there was some native blood hidden in her. She wasn’t a tall woman, just the opposite actually. Her long light brown hair was braided loosely in the back of her head, with a few small curls falling lightly onto the side of her forehead, accenting her dark complexion. “Nonsense, Manatawa!”
“Please, call me Mana.”
“Ok, Mana, one more person ain’t nothin’ Mr. Russell, Majors and Waddell can’t handle. Besides, I was never one to pass up a pretty lady,” and with that, it was settled. The blushing woman nodded in acceptance of the offer.
“Well my-oh-my. What do we have here?” Cody asked as he nudged Noah in the gut. They both sat on the porch of the bunkhouse Noah shining his whip and Cody just resting, noticing Teaspoon drive in slowly with a beautiful passenger.
“Now Cody, that is what you call a lucky man,” Noah commented and the two riders shared a slight chuckle.
By the time Teaspoon reached the porch, it was filled with the rest of the riders, awaiting the new arrival. However, the buckboard never stopped at the bunkhouse, Teaspoon drove right by, ignoring all of the riders. He led Mana toward the house and guided her through the front door.
Introductions were made quickly in the bunkhouse at dinnertime. All eyes fell upon this beautiful woman. Hands and faces were exceptionally clean and shiny at the dinner table. Cody made first contact with the new woman, trying to make a good impression. Buck introduced Ike and himself; Noah politely removed his hat and Kid raised her hand gently to his lips and laid a soft kiss upon it. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he was stuck in St. Joe on a special ride for Teaspoon and would not return for two or three more days.
“Nice to meet you,” Lou said sarcastically as she quickly pulled her petite hand out of the grasp of this new acquaintance, and re-crossed her hands in front of her chest. Although the details were not clear, Lou knew that something was challenging about this woman. Maybe it was the blue eyes, or the long hair…but she wasn’t jealous, at least she hoped she wasn’t jealous.
“Likewise,” Mana responded not catching the hint of sarcasm, but realizing how uncomfortably the whole greeting was forced.
The dinner continued in this manner. Lou barely glanced at the woman that had stirred her emotions. She watched the way that the boys watched Manatawa. Lou noticed how Manatawa and Kid’s eyes connected, more than once. The tenseness inside her was too strong, so halfway through the meal she excused herself and joined Lightning in the barn.
Later that evening the riders found themselves in a heated game of cards,
and, at the same time, intently listening to Mana’s story. Rachel and Teaspoon
had both retired for the evening, and Lou was still nowhere to be found,
but only one person noticed her absence, and she was in no place to ask
“Teaspoon said you were looking for your family?” Kid commented. He smelled a great story hidden beneath the eyes of the woman in front of them. Mana looked away, and Kid immediately felt guilt set upon his heart. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry,” he said as he retreated.
“No, no need to be sorry. Teaspoon is right, I am searching for my family, a sister, I think. When my mother was only six months old, she was abandoned in the forest. My uncle, the chief of my tribe, found her and took her in. When she was 13, she was promised to Wild Fox, the chief’s nephew and they were married at the age of seventeen. I was born two years later. A fair-skinned, blue eyed half-breed was accepted as family, but I was still considered an outsider amongst most of the tribe.
"When I was eight, the white army came charging into our village in hopes to free the white ‘captives’. Many of the men were out on an extended hunting trip, including my father. My mother and two other white women were taken, and the remaining men went chasing after the gang. The tribal members stood no chance against the white army at daylight, so they waited until nightfall. The white women of the tribe, three in all, were being held in a small tent just outside of the army’s camp, and when everything was quiet, the women tried to escape. The massacre lasted no more than four minutes, and all the men were killed. My mother was the only woman who survived the escape and miraculously made it back to the village. She died shortly after she returned to tell her story. I barely remember the actual events, but I have heard the story so many times, I know it has to be real.”
The group took a moment of silence. “You said you were looking for your sister?” Buck asked. In the whole story he had heard no mention of another sibling.
“Yes, when my mother was taken, she was with child, and due any day…when
she returned, the baby was gone.”
Chapter 2: My, How Things Change
The rest of the evening was more of the same: Mana told stories of her past, and the riders taught her poker, a fair-trade in all of their eyes. Mana and Buck got into a great conversation about the history of her native people, the Potawatomi, during the card game.
“I’m part of the woodland Potawatomi tribe, from the land of shining water, in Northern Michigan,” Mana answered one of the riders questions. “Originally, we’re from Southern Michigan, but my tribe was forced north into the winter woods of the greater lakes. Further north, the colder weather put a great strain on the population of my people. With every winter storm pproaching, we worked hard to protect ourselves, but with little success,” Mana’s voice faded off, projecting some memory of the past.
“Did you lose anyone close?” Cody asked inquisitively.
“My father was lost to a strong storm when I was around 16 years old.
Before he died, he told me the story of my mother’s death, again, and how
my family had been mixed back into the white world. ‘A seed had been planted,’
he said. ‘…but
with out the proper fertilization, the ancestors would never be able to guide the child home.’ A life cannot be protected by the strength of the great sky, if one never knows that’s where they belong. That is why I’m searching for my sibling. Being apart in this life, is nothing compared to being apart in the next,” and with that, Mana stepped outside for some peace.
Eventually, she joined back with the group, and Buck went on to tell her the story of his own family life. They bonded quickly, but each noticed their differences, which kept them from completely connecting.
Kid was quiet during most of the story telling session, he just sat back breathing it all in. Noah seemed more interested in his whip, although he managed some nods here and there. Ike had gone to bed early, and Cody was being his usual “the big” mouth. Mana was enjoying her evening. It felt good to get those burdens off of her shoulders. What a nice family, she thought to herself. But, life hadn’t given her the luck she needed to keep her family together; maybe she’ll have better luck after she found her sibling.
Through out the evening, the riders sporadically got up and went to bed. After a while, Kid and Mana were the only two still awake. They conversed for a little while, but then it was time for them both to get to bed.
“Well, how about a ride home?” Kid asked sincerely.
“That would be nice,” she responded. She still didn’t know what to think of this Virginian, but she was enjoying learning about him and his past. Mana found herself in an in depth conversation with a man she thought she’d never even want to get to know. Who would of thought that two people in a group who had the least amount in common, would connect in such a way?
Kid was Mana’s escort back to town in the buckboard. Their conversations ranged from Kid’s life in the east to Mana’s first love; from Kid’s realization that Lou was a woman, to Mana’s desperation after her mother disappeared. Mana now discovered the truth behind the tenseness between Lou and herself. Lou immediately built a wall, not because she wanted to, but because she had to. Lou’s life-style depended on her masquerade as a man.
Although Kid felt a little guilty about revealing Lou’s secrets to this new woman, he didn’t feel like he could stop, he didn’t want to stop. He felt like he’d known this woman his whole life, a bond was made. When the buckboard stopped at the hotel in which she was staying, Kid helped her down and even kissed her hand, again.
“I had a really nice time, Kid. You have such a wonderful family,” Mana said comfortably.
“Well, you’ll have to come out again, soon. Would you like to go for a ride tomorrow?” he asked sheepishly.
“I would enjoy that. Meet me here, around ten,” she said assertively.
“I’ll be here.”
Mana walked into the hotel, as Kid watched her safely enter the building,
and then waited for a lamp to be lit before he left. His ride back was
quiet, but his face was gleaming with excitement. Maybe she was the one.
They had talked for hours, and hours about absolutely nothing…and then,
everything at the same time. He was sure she wasn’t interested in Cody,
Jimmy she hasn’t even met…he was confident in his maneuvering, but precision
would be necessary to catch this woman in his grasp. It was odd,
actually, before Kid moved to Sweetwater, he knew little about love, and now he was planning a plot to court a woman. My, how things change.
Chapter 3 Memories to Last a Lifetime
The next morning came early to the riders who had managed very little
sleep the night before. Lou was the first one out of the bunkhouse and
to the house for a quick breakfast before her relay ride to Blue Creek.
The day’s ride would be easy; it would be all of the thinking that would
make things rough. Life in Sweetwater would never be the same for Lou.
She was living with a man she loved, however couldn’t seem to grasp a hold
of. Lou and Kid had been broken up for a while now, but every time a new
woman came into town, her emotions ran wild with thoughts of “What ifs?”.
She knew that the separation was for the best,
but her feelings still consisted of hurt and confusion. She still lay awake at night wondering if he was doing the same. She’d peer over the side of the bunk maybe to catch a glimpse of his insomnia, but her actions only made his snoring more prominent. But, still, she’d memorized everything about him. His soft eyelashes lay so perfectly upon his tanned face, how he lay on his side with his hands cupped together, letting the Lord soak in his daily sins. Lou knew that these memories would be important…that they would have to last a lifetime.
Initially, she figured that Buck had the best chance with the Indian, because they seemed to have the most in common, or at least their culture was the most alike. Even if this wasn’t the “one” for the Kid, he would surely find her, and then Lou would be back where she started. Many nights she contemplated leaving the station and moving a little further west, east, south, or even north. If she couldn’t continue on with the express, she could find another job; hell, at the really low times, her old job at the brothel was looking great. But, Sweetwater was her home, her family; she would survive the heartache, she had to.
The rest of the riders began to get ready for their daily chores and
were listening to and repeating stories from the previous
“So, Kid, I heard you come in very late last night,” Cody commented naggingly.
“Yeah, get lost on the way home?” Buck said that jokingly as he dodged to miss a pillow that was aimed his way. Instead, the pillow hit Noah right in the gut.
“Hope you didn’t try that move on her, Kid, she’s a lady, remember?” Noah responded.
“I drove her home, is all,” Kid defended himself.
“Well, Kid, if I were you that is all I would admit to, too. Especially by the look on Lou’s face this morning,” Ike signed.
“Lou and me, we’ve made our peace. We both know that it just wasn’t meant to be. Besides, not like I’m planning on marrying this girl,” Kid commented as he looked away to hide his true thoughts. Even though he’d only known Mana for less than a day, he truly felt connected to her. What would life be like, if he spent the rest of his with her?
“By the way, Kid,” Cody interrupted his thoughts, “noticed her eye color was a lot like yours. Maybe you’re the missing sibling,” he concluded.
All of the riders got a big chuckle out of this comment, as Kid stormed
out of the bunkhouse and headed toward the stables.
He found Katy peacefully snacking on hay in her stall. Kid startled her, but she was glad to see him. He saddled her up quickly, and was off into town, to meet up with Mana.
Rachel was quick to notice Kid’s disappearance from the station. Although it was his day off of rides, she had a lot of chores planned for the boy. Instead, she found Ike and Buck ready and able to start chopping the wood, and Cody had a hand in cleaning the stalls. In the mean time, they all complained about Kid’s absence, but they were ready for more stories when he returned. Noah was resting for his ride that afternoon; Jimmy was still on his last ride, and Teaspoon was sitting comfortably in the chair of the local lawman in town, his own.
Kid entered Sweetwater and headed toward the Hotel. The desk clerk asked Kid if he could help the rider, and he responded with, “I’m looking for a guest. Her name is Mana.”
“Well, sonny, let me check my logs,” as he flipped through a book that lied on the desk. He found the unusual name, and directed the Kid to room 107. After walking up the stairs, Kid found room 107 with a delicate piece of paper folded, and sticking between the door and its hinge. The note was addressed to Kid, so he opened it to read:
I had a great night last night. Thank you for the amazing ride home. You inspire me:
On My way Home
On my way home
I glanced at your eyes,
And saw them glancing
Back at me. A mysterious eye,
You held on me. You seemed to hold
Nothing but curiosity. Look further, I encourage you.
On my way home, I lost my step,
And you reached out and
Caught me with concern. But, as you continued,
We both fell, you on top of me.
We lied there with anticipation,
But you picked me up,
And we continued
On my way home
You challenged my
as I did
Yours’. We giggled and joked
About our awkward meeting. It was nothing
Close to formality. As we walked home
In peace. A connection was made
Between you and me. We found a great
Place to be. Because that night,
Kissed my hand
And we shared each other’s
On my way home.
Meet me at the livery,
Chapter 4 No Place I’d Rather Be
Kid’s eyes twinkled after reading Mana’s poem. Her handwriting was beautiful.
He glanced once more at her written words,
then gently folded the paper, lifted his pant-leg, and slid the note into his boot, a safe place for anything. He then walked back down the hotel stairs, receiving many suspicious looks from the people around him. One man even let out a snicker at the young uneducated boy. Kid’s pant leg was still up, cheeks were flushed, and he carried a smile from ear to ear.
He walked briskly over to the livery, where he found Mana anxiously
awaiting. She wore a casual, yet elegant dress that
attached near the legs, to appear like pants. The riding dress was dark blue, with white roses delicately embroidered on the fabric. Her hair was down and wavy. Kid froze when he saw her, and took a moment to collect his thoughts.
At the same time, Mana was evaluating the situation. Is this really happening? I’m sitting here, looking at this man in front of me, that I only met yesterday, and seeing my entire future. His eyes remind me of home; his courage, of my father; his soul, maybe something my mother had that she could not share with me before her passing. “Come closer Kid,” she thought to herself.
At that moment, Kid’s mind cleared, and he came just inches away from her. He reached out his hands, as did she, and they stood, captured in each other’s thoughts, embracing each other’s warmth. “I loved it,” Kid said softly, and it was the perfect thing to say.
“You should, you wrote it,” Mana commented.
Kid was confused by this remark, “I wrote it?”
“Yes, you spoke to me last night…you inspired me. I could hear your voice in my heart as I wrote what you were saying,” she explained.
This made the Kid smile, and they could both tell that it was time. “Shall we go?” he asked.
“Yes, on to discover a whole new-world.”
Kid escorted Mana to her horse, a beautiful Dun Mare named Lucky. The petite horse was a light-brown color and the perfect size for Mana. With a long tail, but short mane, the horse’s eyes blended in with its facial coloring, and blackened nose. Kid went to help her atop the horse, but before he could, she jumped up and gave him a charming wink. Kid then mounted Katy and the two walked out of the stables, and headed west, out of town.
“Where are we headed,” Mana asked curiously.
“Does it matter?” Kid responded.
“I guess not,”she replied and they both giggled.
Lou made it to Blue Creek an hour after lunch and decided to immediately go back to Sweetwater to share her thoughts with the Kid. He must be willing to listen, and maybe they can even work on their relationship. She wanted Kid to know that her feelings were more powerful than ever. Besides, what did she have to lose?
Mana and Kid made it about two miles west of town, when they decided
that it was time for lunch. Mana brought out a fantastic picnic lunch that
she had prepared. Apples, sandwiches, and biscuits; although it sounded
simple, simple was perfect.
They were finished in no time, and put the picnic supplies away.
Then Kid leaned up against their shading tree, and invited Mana into his arms. He held her so gently, exactly what she needed. He rubbed her arm and breathed in her smell, memorizing the vanilla.
After about five minutes, Mana broke the silence. “What are you thinking, Kid?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just how perfect things are right now. How I’m spending time with you, a woman I only met yesterday, and how there is no place I’d rather be.
“That’s funny,” Mana giggled.
“I was thinking the same thing.” They both shared a little laugh, and
then Kid kissed her on the head. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Chapter 5 Caught in a Thunderstorm
Kid and Mana slept all afternoon. The sun began to set and suddenly,
Kid was awakened by a growling thunder that lightly shook the earth beneath
him. Startled, he quickly took in his surroundings and realized where he
was and who was in his arms. He looked down at Mana and breathed her sweet
smells in, again. He gave her a gentle, loving squeeze and then came the
rain. Mana woke up quickly as the downpour started. Although the tree they
were under provided some protection, in less than five
minutes, they were both soaked.
“Kid?” a louder thunder struck, and then a bolt of lightning lit up the sky above them. “Kid, what are we going to do?” she screamed into the twilight.
“I guess we’ll have to wait it out,” he yelled back. Another boom, this one even closer. The lightning flashed again, then a crackling thunder as the hard rain just came down. “It sounds like its getting closer,” he continued.
Kid loved storms. He and Lou used to watch them for hours out by the swimming hole. They’d go down in the afternoon to enjoy a nice, peaceful swim, and with no warning the rain would fall, as the sky grew dark. Kid would hold Lou in his arms, and it was like nothing could touch them, because at that time, nothing else existed. At least that was how it used to be. Kid still couldn’t pin point where the relationship faltered, but it had, and that could not be changed. What was important was where he was now, and whom he was with.
The thunder awoke him from his thoughts and a bolt of lightning stuck a jagged line through the clouds and down toward the earth. The loud sound of the lightning hitting the tree and traveling down to the ground spooked Katy and Lucky. A few sparks crashed around through the leaves, but no fire began. Thankfully, Kid, Mana, Lucky and Katy were all right.
Lou made it back to Sweetwater in time for dinner. Although wet, tired, and more confused than ever, she was bound and determined to have her conversation with Kid. She looked in the barn for him first, then the bunkhouse, and lastly the house, with no luck. “Rachel?” Lou asked as she looked around the house for any sign of life.
“Yes, Lou! I’m in here.” Rachel called Lou into the sitting room where she rocked while fixing Cody’s pants.
“Rachel, where’s Kid?” Lou asked in curiosity and concern.
“He’s been out today, all day. Said he had stuff to do. Buck said he was meeting up with Mana, the lady from last night.”
“Oh…” Lou looked off through the window.
“Why? Did you need something, dear?”
“No, no, just curious is all.” Lou paused for a moment, “Rachel, what are you doing?”
“Fixin’ Cody’s pants. He had a run-in with Thunderbolt today. The lightning spooked him and he jumped the gate. Cody ran after ‘em, chased for a ways, but he tripped on that old fence out on the hill, and tore his pants up something good,” Rachel laughed as she finished the story remembering the look on poor Cody’s face. “When he came back Lou, he was soaked to the bone, he had no horse, and his pants were ripped from the top of his waist to his knee. He nearly cried when he told me the story. Jimmy came back…”
“JIMMY’S BACK???” Lou interrupted her.
Rachel looked back to her sewing, “Yeah, he came back this afternoon,
right after the storm ended and just laughed at Cody’s
silliness.” When Rachel looked up, Lou was gone. She glanced at the door as it slammed back on its hinges. She glanced through the window and caught a glimpse of Lou running back to the barn. She thought for a moment and just shook her head
and continued her mending.
Lou quickly ran to the barn, only to find it empty, again. She walked
around the barn, glancing in all of the boys’ hiding spots.
Cody had this great spot near the haystack where he would catch a cool nap on the hot days. Buck would climb up into the loft and reflect on his days and concerns. Noah spent a lot of time near the back door, where he could look out onto the plain and see the greatness that his freedom granted him. Lou could always count on finding Kid in the horse stalls visiting with Katy, Kid’s only mistress she wasn’t jealous of. Then there was Jimmy. On those hot days, when he got so frustrated with life, he would climb into a secret spot that only the riders knew about. The spot existed between the stalls and the outer wall of the barn.
After she had peered into the different hiding places, she heard the gunshot; they were coming from behind the barn. Lou immediately grabbed her gun and sneaked out the back door. “Jimmy?” she whispered.
“Yeah Lou, over here!” he responded.
Relieved, Lou walked through the door to greet her friend. Jimmy had just been shooting cans on the fence in the back. He re-holstered his guns and gave his attention to Lou. “Jimmy, can we talk?” she asked.
“Sure, what’s on your mind?”
Chapter 6 The Hunt Begins
Jimmy and Lou started for a walk, out into the prairie past the barn. They followed the worn trail that had been dug by the occasional frustrated rider who needed a break from his horse, and the world. It was quiet for a while and then they just talked about their previous runs. Lou concentrated on her feet as Jimmy slowly walked beside her.
It took almost a half of an hour for Jimmy to get the truth out of her. He found out what was really bothering her when he brought up the wrong topic. “So, Cody said we had a visitor last night at dinner.”
“Yeah,” Lou commented and brushed off the question like it was nothing.
“Lou, what do ya think of her?”
“Don’t know what ta think. I know how she makes me feel. Ever since Kid and I…” she stuttered searching for the right words. “Ever since the Kid and I stopped being the ‘Kid and I’, there is nothing I’ve wanted more. This new lady comin’ to dinner just sent my heart in spirals. I was jealous for no reason. The Kid's a free man, besides it’s not like he’s gonna warm the bed of every passin’ body, but I don’t want that to be an option. I don’t want to feel anger and pain every time I see him with another woman. I don’t want there to be another woman.”
“Lou, from what I hear, you have no reason to be jealous. Kids had other interests before, and they never amounted to anything,” Jimmy assured her.
“What are you sayin’? Ya think me and the Kid were just nothin’? That we were too young to invest true feelin’s in each other?”
Although Jimmy didn’t mean to hurt Lou by the comment, the harm was
already done. He walked over to her feeling
ashamed because he didn’t mean to make her feel worse. “Lou, you know that’s not what I meant…and that’s not what I think. I believe you two were down the right path, but y’all took the wrong fork in the road. Time will tell whether the road
gets smoother or rougher. No one can predict love, that is why it hurts so bad.”
“Well, with Mana here, I’m sure it will get worse before the rocks and dust settle.”
“You don’t even know what the Kid thinks about her. All we know is that
they have spent the afternoon together. Why don’t you wait a little while,
see what happens. Heck, go talk to him and tell him how you feel. Things
aren’t gonna change unless
“Thanks Jimmy, and I think I will talk to him,” Lou concluded. For some reason her conversations with Jimmy and Rachel always helped.
The two continued their journey on the path until they ended up at the barn, again. By that time, it was dinnertime.
The next day, Kid had to make a ride to Willow Creek, but he made a promise to Mana to be back in time for dinner on the town. Kid also planned for Buck and Noah to help her start her search for her sibling.
“Mana, just one question, how are we going to know if we find her or him?” Noah asked inquisedly.
“I think I’ll just know. The folks in Illinois told me that Sweetwater was my best bet. They said that after most ‘freed’ captives of Indians ended up in some fort around here…they weren’t sure of the name.”
“That would probably be Fort Laramie,” Buck commented as Noah nodded his head in agreement.
“They have documents and papers on the people that have come and gone for at least the past twenty years. We can take ya there in a couple of days. I think there is a ride scheduled.”
“That would be great. So, I guess we’ll have to wait. What else do y’all do around here?”
Noah and Buck just laughed at Mana’s naivete. The group finished walking
down the main street of town and ended up in the marshal’s office where
Teaspoon was catching up on his sleep.
Chapter 7 As the Relationship Blossoms
Kid and Mana’s relationship blossomed as the days went on. They fished,
went for rides, collected flowers. Mana even taught
Kid how to make a basket; likewise, the Kid taught her how to do some trick riding.
Every time Mana showed up, Lou spent less and less time at the station.
She didn’t know how to deal with the situation; she needed to talk to Kid,
however it seemed every time she tried, Manatawa was there. It appeared
that the Kid was falling
in love with this new woman. Life continued in this manner. Lou’s runs were getting longer and further away.
Two weeks later, Kid and Mana met at their tree, for another picnic. It was near dark, so Kid had brought materials needed for a fire. They ate as the sun set in the valley below. They joked and laughed about the week’s events and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Before the darkness completely set in, Kid lit the fire and the two sat down to catch some warmth.
After five minutes of being held in Kid’s strong arms, Mana was ready to dance. "Kid, will you dance with me?” she asked shyly.
“I’d love to.” Kid stood up, grabbed Mana’s hands, and lifted her small
frame to her feet. Kid placed his weathered
hand around her waist and his other hand over her hand. At about that time, Kid looked up from his feet and noticed Mana’s bright blue eyes enveloped in his own.
They stood there for a moment focused on each other. Eye-to-eye, they
began to dance to the calls of the nightly wildlife. Although they had
never danced together, they moved perfectly with one another. The distance
between them grew less and
less by the step. They melted into each other’s arms. Kid slowly moved in for a kiss, and Mana caught his lips in a soft, tender touch. They stayed in that position for a long, breath-taking moment.
Kid pulled away to get Mana’s reaction and she dove right back in. Kid
pulled her closer to him and he breathed in her
softness. Mana delicately found his rippling back muscles and massaged them with her graceful fingers. Kid’s hands traveled down her backside and found their way up her blouse and tickled her curves. The kissing became stronger and stronger
as they made their way to the earth’s warm bed. His hands found their path out of her blouse, and to the front buttons in which Mana had already halfway undone. As the blouse came off, her small delicacies were revealed in the beauty of the night. The two then began to work on his shirt and then pants. When fully uncovered, the bodies immersed into each other. Their hands moved easily up and down the sweaty skin of the other. Caught in a total moment of passion and grace, they completely ignored their surroundings, and just concentrated on each other.
Lou’s ride back from Fort Laramie was taking longer than she had hoped
it would, but she just wanted to be home. The day had been long and tiring.
After being thrown from Lightning, missing dinner, and chased by a coyote,
a warm bed was
sounding more and more inviting by the minute. Over the trail line, Lou noticed a small fire burning. Worried someone might be in trouble, she went to investigate.
As Lou got closer to the site, she recognized Katy tied up by the old Oak tree. She thought she might finally get the chance to have the little talk she had wanted to with him. Unfortunately for Lou, Kid and Mana, Lou never noticed Lucky tied up behind the other tree.
When Lou realized that Kid was not alone, she sucked up her gut and continued her approach. But, when she noticed the naked bodieslying so closely together, she stood in shock and amazement. As Lou backed away her foot broke a fallen branch and brought Kid and Mana out of their slumber.
Kid looked up, his trigger cocked, gun aimed and ready to fire. He gazed into the darkness and recognized the figure that stood before him. “Lou?” Kid questioned into the night. Mana immediately grabbed her clothes and covered herself. Kid grabbed his pants and put them on as quickly as he could.
“Figures,” Lou commented sarcastically. She then stormed off toward Lightning, but before she had the chance to mount, Kid was right behind her.
He grabbed her shoulder and turned her around to face him. At that moment, Kid saw the anger and disappointment in her tear-filled eyes. “Lou?” he asked cautiously and that is when she blew up in his face.
“Is this how its gonna be? Huh Kid? Couldn’t handle not being married doing what we was doin’, so now you’re gonna get into bed with every half-breed, tale-telling, travelin’ hussy that passes by?”
“Lou, it ain’t what it looks like,” he tried to tell her, but that was a lie and they both knew it.
“Oh, it ain’t? Sure looks like it to me, but at least you’re original
in choosing a place. Ya think the watering hole would bring back too many
memories? Memories you was hopin’ to forget about? It doesn’t matter Kid,
how hard ya try ya can’t erase what’s happened. I’m still here!!!” her
tears finally began to fall and she quickly brushed them away, hoping he
wouldn’t notice, “I’m still here,” she repeated softer. At that time she
realized his grip had loosened on her, so she made a run for it and jumped
atop Lightning and took off.
“Lou!!!” Kid yelled on more time, but she didn’t even notice. Kid collected his thoughts for a moment and then went back to join Mana.
She had already dressed and just sat starting at the fire, thinking. Kid slowly approached and she invited him to sit next to her by the flames. “You all right?” she asked sincerely.
“Yeah, I mean NO! I don’t know”
“Do you regret it?” she asked as she stared into the flames, not wanting to see the look on his face as he answered.
Kid turned to face her, “absolutely not. She’s right though, in a way. I did feel guilty when I was with Lou, I just wanted to do what was right, but, now, what is right is being with you.”
This response brought a smile to Mana’s face. Gently, she leaned into
his side and he wrapped his arm around her and they
held onto each other. Kid lightly kissed her on top of her head and a while later, they were ready to head for home. Kid escorted Mana back to town, and quickly made his way to the station.
Chapter 8 Getting Away
When Lou returned to the bunkhouse that night, she awoke everyone with
her pounding boots, slamming doors and light
sobs. Lou went over to her bunk and started packing up her belongings, shoving the little she had into her saddlebag.
Ike noticed the commotion first, but it was Cody who got out of bed
to check on her, well, in his own moronic way. “Jesus
Lou!!!!!!!! Ya think it’s early enough?” Cody sat up in his bed and eased his way down from atop the bunk, “Lou, the sun ain’t even up yet.”
By that time, the rest of the boys had awakened and were noticing Lou’s bad mood and odd actions. But, when she nailed Cody with a hard blow in the left jaw, they were all shocked. This wild punch sent Cody flying onto Jimmy. Lou jumped on top of Cody, who was still on top of Jimmy, and started throwing fists into his gut. Buck, Ike and Noah were out of bed by that time and grabbed Lou to restrain her.
“Lou, calm down,” Jimmy yelled as she flopped and wiggled in the other riders’ arms. He was now restraining Cody who wasn’t putting up much of a fight (he wasn’t really liking the idea of getting nailed by Lou, but a physical response wouldn’t help the situation).
After about a minute or two of fighting the boys, Lou gave up. Buck, Ike and Noah let her go but remained close in case she went off again.
“She’s CRAZY!” Cody yelled into the dark room.
“Shut up Cody!” Noah yelled back at him.
“Lou?” Jimmy approached her calmly and quietly, “Lou, what’s wrong?” She had finally calmed down enough to sit at the table in the middle of the room. The other boys sat around her, as Cody lingered in the distance nursing his swelling cheek.
“What happened Lou?” Noah asked curiously. “You know if Cody did something against ya, you can just ask us. We’d be happy to take care of him for you,” he said jokingly, but Lou was not laughing.
“It ain’t Cody,” she replied bitterly.
“Oh, let me guess, KID?” Jimmy commented a little too sarcastically.
Lou said nothing and returned to her bunk, grabbed her possessions,
and ran out the door. Jimmy and Noah followed
as quickly as possible, but Lou had already jumped atop Lightning and rode off into the darkness. Then Jimmy ran to the barn, saddled up, and chased Lou in the direction she left.
The rest of the boys remained at the station and went to inform Teaspoon and Rachel of the recent events.
“What do you mean ‘She’s gone?’” Teaspoon asked through his gritted teeth.
“Well, she came home in a huff and started packing,” Noah replied.
“That girl must be so tied up inside,” Rachel added from the corner. She was quiet and just inhaling the information. Could Lou really have left for good? Would she actually leave without saying goodbye?
“We tried to stop her, but I think I just made it worse,” Cody delicately put.
“Of course you made it worse!!!” Buck rebutted harshly. “You don’t think she attacked you for nothin’, do ya?”
“Well, that doesn’t matter right now. It’s best that we find her. Where’s Jimmy?”
“Went chasing after Lou,” Ike signed.
“Ok, she’s in good hands then. We’ll see what happens in the morning,”
Teaspoon concluded. “Why was she so angry to
“Something to do with the Kid,” Cody answered.
“And probably Manatawa,” Noah added.
“Alright, clear out boys, I’m in good need of some shut eye.”
The boys went back to the bunkhouse and climbed in bed. Rachel headed
back up the stairs and into her room. Teaspoon remained in the sitting
room by the fire for a while, anticipating everyone’s next moves. After
about an hour, he was ready
Lou made it an hour out of Sweetwater before she had to stop and rest.
She set up a little camp, rested her head on Lightning’s
saddle, and cried herself to sleep. It was at that time that Jimmy finally caught up with her. He quietly eased his way into the site, not wanting to surprise Lou, but that plan didn’t quite work. On his way closer into the camp, Jimmy noticed
a large Oak Tree with a low branch. He lowered his head to miss it. Suddenly, a wild woman leaped from behind the bush and attacked Jimmy. She jumped onto his shoulders and started strangling him at the neck.
“Just what do you think you’re doin’ here mister? Think you can get the drop on a traveler?” the woman screeched.
“Lou! It’s me! JIMMY!”
“Jimmy? What are you doin’ here?” Lou jumped off of Jimmy and turned to face her friend.
“I came here after you. Ya didn’t think we’d just let you take off like that, did ya?”
“No, I suppose not. Can’t get away with anything around here.”
Chapter 9 Twilight Breeds New Love?
Lou was discouraged that Jimmy found her so easily, but not angry. She needed a friend at this point, and Jimmy might be the perfect cure. He lit a fire and they both sat down near the warm flames.
Jimmy held Lou lightly in his arms and rubbed her shoulders. “Lou, we’ve got to talk about this? What’s been botherin’ you? Why haven’t ya talked to him yet?”
“Not now! Please, not now!” Lou then unraveled. Her rage built up again and she stood up to vent. “I can’t take it anymore! I’ve been livin’ my life like nothin’ ever happened between the two of us. How can he move on so quickly? He might as well’ve made ‘love’, if you want to call it that, RIGHT IN THE BUNKHOUSE! I’m sure no one around would’ve minded.” Her voice went from high to low, sad to angry.
Jimmy didn’t know exactly what to think about the truths she was revealing. His head hurt from thinking, or so he though, and her temper didn’t help. “Lou? What are you talking about?” Jimmy stood up to hold and comfort her. He needed to read the look upon her face. Her tense body released and he caught her right before she fell. His arms squeezed gently around her small frame and the tears came with a greater force than ever before.
“I caught them, Jimmy. I caught them, together…” her words were barely
understandable, but James Butler Hickock knew
exactly what she was talking about.
“Ah, Lou! He doesn’t know what he’s missin’…doesn’t realize it at all,” he shook his head in confusion and disappointment with his friend from Virginia.
After a few minutes of holding, Lou glanced into Jimmy’s eyes and saw a whole new, world. He looked back with love and understanding. Lou raised on her tiptoes and brought her mouth up to his and he lowered, for the same out come. Their lips met with a tender and genuine caress.
“Jimmy?” Lou asked.
With no answer, he just went back into the kiss for a longer, sustained
moment. Their body temperatures rose. Their kisses were forcefully, yet
comfortably put on one another. Jimmy led Lou down onto the soft ground
of the valley and breathed
in her soft fragrance. They kissed and cuddled into the twilight’s beauty. “Lou, you know how long I’ve been waiting for this?”
“I know Jimmy, time has a way of working things out.”
Jimmy gave Lou another loving squeeze and was shocked when she returned it with a lick on the face. Turned off by this, Jimmy looked down to take in Lou’s facial expression, and realized he was snuggling comfortably with a wild dog. He rubbed his eyes to shake the image, but when he reopened them, the dog gave him another loving kiss.
“What the hell?” he said to himself. Jimmy pushed the dog away and looked
around to realize that he was lying in the middle
of the trail…right behind him stood a tree with a low branch. Lou was no where in site, only remains of what was her fire. It was then that Jimmy felt the lump on his forehead and the dried blood on his face. Sundancer was near, so he mounted up only to pass out a few seconds later.
When Kid returned to the station, he quietly made his way into the dark bunkhouse and crawled into bed. The thoughts in his head were churning. Did I make a mistake? I can’t believe Lou witnessed it. I should be ashamed…but I’m not. I think Mana and I will be great together…I can feel her in my soul. What else does life have to offer me? Just before dawn he finally beat all of the thoughts in his head, and managed to fall asleep.
Kid awoke the next morning to notice Lou’s bunk empty and realized that
it had never even been slept in. He also realized
that Jimmy’s bunk was empty. However, on the Sunday morning, the other riders were still resting comfortably in their beds. He didn’t even want to know what conversations occurred during his absence. He enjoyed the time he spent with his new companion. He was proud of the way he had expressed his love. They immediately connected, and although he did feel somewhat guilty for Lou catching them, and her reaction, he did nothing he was ashamed of. Love was a part of life, and if
Louise McLoud didn’t want to be involved in that part of his life, then he must move on. He had to. He got ready quickly and went to begin his chores out in the stables. After about thirty minutes of sweat and hard work the rest of the riders joined him.
“Hey, Kid, can we talk to ya for a minute?” Buck asked.
“Sure,” Kid replied. He never stopped doing his chores and never made direct contact with any of the others.
“Well, Kid, we just want to make sure ya know what you are doing,” Cody began.
“Lou looked awful upset last night, and we’re havin’ a hard time believing that you had nothin’ to do with it,” Noah added.
“Hey! What happens between Lou and me is none of your business. I know what I’m doing.” Kid threw down his pitchfork and walked off toward the house. “By the way, Cody, Nice shiner!” he yelled back.
After Kid had huffed his way back to the bunkhouse and slammed the door, an old familiar call was hear.
“Rider Comin’” Rachel yelled from the porch. The boys looked curiously
into the west to see Jimmy’s horse galloping
toward the station with Jimmy heaved over the saddle. “Oh my God, JIMMY!!!” Rachel yelled as she ran toward the horse.
Chapter 10 It’s All or Nothin’
Buck, Cody, Ike and Noah were ahead of Rachel. They pulled Jimmy down off of his horse and lied him on the ground.
Teaspoon heard the commotion and came running over from the barn. “What seems to be the matter here, boys?” he barked out as he made his way through Ike, Buck, Cody, Noah, and even Kid, that had now huddled around Jimmy. Teaspoon knelt down to Jimmy, passed out on the desert sand. Glaring down at him, he took his index finger and thumb and pried Jimmy’s eye lids apart, “Hmmmmm…that’s rather interestin’.”
The rest of the riders just looked at Teaspoon with curiosity.
“What? What’s interestin’,” Cody asked cautiously.
Teaspoon then felt the knot on Jimmy’s head. “hmmmmm…” again Teaspoon uttered.
“What?” the riders and Rachel spoke in unison.
Teaspoon stood up, stood over the young man on the ground and came to his conclusion, “He’s out cold.”
“WE KNOW THAT!” they all replied again.
“Well, eeeerrrrr, yeah….” he responded. The older man then reached deeply into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of cloth. He unfolded it to reveal a small, but putrid leaf. Placing two fingers over his nose to block the smell, he held the leaf down in front of Jimmy’s face. The rest of the riders stood back in disgust.
After a few waves, back in forth in front of his nose, Jimmy started coughing, as the rotten smell traveled down his trachea and into his lungs. “Cody, put your boots back on!” Jimmy yelled out, as he opened his eyes to notice everyone standing around him.
The boys let out a large sound of laughter as Noah gave a friendly slug to Cody’s shoulder. Jimmy took in everything around him; he noticed everyone was there, everyone but Lou.
“Ah, son, what happened out there?” Teaspoon asked curiously.
“Not so sure.”
“Jimmy, Where’s Lou?” Kid asked demandingly.
“Lou?” he replied.
“Yeah, Lou!” Kid responded harshly.
“Jimmy, you left last night runnin’ after her. Did ya ever find her?” Noah inquired.
“Last thing I remember, I’d found her camp…then, my mind goes blank…”
There was no way in hell Jimmy was going to
tell everyone about his dream! Kid would’ve knocked him out colder than he was before, and Cody would have never stopped laughing. Still, he thought about his dream…that “wild woman” must’ve been the tree branch. “I think I hit my head on a low tree branch,” he concluded.
“Yeah, that bump looks about right,” Buck replied.
Ike hit his chest, wanting to be listened to, “But the question remains, where’s Lou?” he signed.
“I don’t know, but I’m goin’ after her,” Jimmy said as he stood up and gently placed both feet firmly on the ground.
“What do you care?” Kid asked. “For all you know, you’re the reason she’s gone!”
He stepped a foot closer. “Couldn’t wait Kid, could ya? Can’t ya find no place more private than the old Oak tree?”
“Jimmy, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, but you’re treadin’ on mighty thin ice,” he responded.
Jimmy took a step closer to Kid, as Teaspoon took a step between the two. “Now boys! No more fightin’ between the two of you. Lou chose to leave, and there ain’t nothin’ can be done about that. But, maybe we could send a couple of ya’s to go look for her; to make sure every thing is ok.”
“I’m goin’!” Jimmy repeated.
“Me too, you’ll need someone to track her,” Buck chimed in.
“Ya can’t leave a job this important to a couple of knuckleheads, I’m goin’ too,” Cody added. Ike then put in his say.
“Four! Well, I guess we can manage with two,” Teaspoon announced, and the posse was complete.
Kid and Noah looked at each other the only two left out of the adventure, and then gave a puppy-dog look at Teaspoon.
“It’s all or nothin’, Teaspoon,” Noah said.
“We have to go,” Kid added.
“Alright, boys, but we can’t just shut down for a week while y’all are off gallivanting around the country side, so what do ya think we can do about that?”
“Call Russell, Majors and Waddell,” Noah responded.
“Tell ‘em we got problems here in Sweetwater that we need to take care of,” Kid added. “They can send replacements.”
“We’ll leave in the mornin’, first sign of daylight,” Teaspoon determined.
“WE?” Buck and Noah asked in perfect unison.
“Yeah, WE. Ya didn’t think I was gonna sit back with my feet on my desk
while you boys are out lookin’ around for her,
did ya?” The boys and Rachel looked around at each other with smirks on their faces, “Don’t even answer that!”
It was settled. They were off to find Lou, off to reclaim a member of their family.
The rest of the day was filled with packing and readying the station for substitutes. Ike and Buck were feverishly cleaning the bunkhouse.
“What is that?” Buck asked as Ike pulled out an object from underneath Cody’s bunk, with the end of a broom. A yellowish-green color, the object smelled like garlic, onions, and old leather.
Ike gave Buck an ‘I don’t know’ look and gently placed the object back underneath the bunk. “Just to be safe,” Ike signed.
“That’s a great place for it,” Buck concluded, and the two shared a light laugh.
Meanwhile, Noah and Kid were working in the barn. Noah had already stacked three bales of hay, to Kid’s one, and wasn’t too happy. “Kid, get your mind on your work! Keep up!” Noah remarked angrily.
Kid didn’t even hear Noah’s comment. He was looking out through the barn doors at an approaching rider.
“Rider comin’” was heard quietly coming from the porch of the house. Rachel noticed the rider, but decided it wasn’t Lou, and went back into the house to finish supper.
Noah watched Kid walk out toward the rider. It was Manatawa, and she didn’t look very happy.
Mana dismounted quickly, yet gracefully. Kid went to give her a ‘hello’ kiss, but she avoided the contact.
“Kid, we need to talk, can you come with me?”
“Yeah, let me get Katy.”
Chapter 11 Moments in the Twilight
By the time Kid and Mana rode out to their tree the sun was making its way into the valley. No picnic, no pie, no pretty riding dress. He had no idea what was going on, but knew the situation was not good.
“Kid, this can’t happen,” she said quietly.
“What do you mean ‘this can’t happen’? I don’t understand.”
“I thought about it all night, and all morning. I was curious why you brought me here, instead of some where else. Why would you bring me two miles out of the way…but still right on the trail? You wanted her to find us, didn’t you?”
“Absolutely not! You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Kid, I sit here and talk to you, but you don’t listen,” Mana screamed into the night.
“No, I hear you,” Kid rebutted.
“That’s just it!” she said as she choked on her next words. “You hear me, but you aren’t listening, your mind is somewhere else. You don’t see me!!! You don’t know me!!! You don’t LOVE ME!!! For you I’m just some doll that you are using to make your girlfriend, or whatever she is, jealous.”
Kid’s anger at this point had grown, but he was genuinely hurt by Mana’s words.
“You say you love me, we’ve talked about a future together, and you
my back…Why?” Mana choked out.
“I didn’t go behind your back! I don’t know what you are talking about! I genuinely don’t understand!”
“That’s one of the problems. This whole time, all of the days and wonderful nights we’ve spent together, your mind was some where else. Louise was always in your heart; she was in your soul where I wanted to be. I didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. You couldn’t even handle the truth, let alone my version of it. You belonged with Louise, and that hurt so bad. I didn’t know what to do with the love I had for you, so I ran to a place where I could release it, but that wasn’t enough. I never meant to hurt you, but I was tired of hurting myself.” Mana gave the man before her one last kiss on the cheek.
Kid could taste her salty-tear-stained cheeks as they brushed his. She mounted up, and headed into the night. He stood and listened to Lucky running into the distance. He watched as his world completely changed, and yet he was not upset. Confused, YES!, but not defeated. In fact, for the first time in three weeks, Kid knew exactly what he had to do.
The reasons Mana had chosen to leave were only know by Kid. The only
thing left to confirm that she ever existed at all were a few old pieces
of paper folded on the table of the bunkhouse, and scratched upon the surface
was “KID”. When he found the letter, he carried it over to his bunk, and
sat down slowly. The note read like this:
I know you have finally found your love; maybe you never even lost her to
begin with. You and Louise belong together, and I am just getting between two soul mates. For this reason, I have chosen to leave. Please don’t forget the time we spent together, for I never will…also, please keep this poem in remembrance of our time together. I will love and miss you always…
Though We May Be Parting
Though we may be parting,
The air does not smell of tears
Nor of nightmarish, salty fears
It breathes of freedom and life re-starting
Though we may be parting,
And crossing bridges further out
And dreaming dreams of life without
The reality of what is here and what is knowing
Though we may be parting
I will never regret our times together
And imagine it lasting forever
But I know that this time is ending
Though we may be parting
I will never say good bye
And until the day that I die
I know I’ll have this peaceful calling
Though we may be parting
You’ll still be one of my closest friends
For we never created a sudden end
Because I know we will not be just parting
Though we may be parting
I hope I have made a mark
Or somehow, lit a spark
That, forever, will be burning
I want to desperately capture this so perfectly
To show myself my time is right
And it is ok to go to bed tonight,
Even though we may be parting
Thank you again, Kid. I will never neglect my memories of you.
He refolded the paper and slid it under his mattress, where the few other poems she gave to him were buried with his love letters to Lou, the ones he’d never had the courage to give her. His life needed to move forward now, but a very important piece had been left behind. He knew in his heart that he had to find Lou…whether it took days, weeks, months, or even years…she was out there, somewhere, and Kid would find her.
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