Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knocking at the door.
Everything seems to be quiet around this little dust heap called Four Corners. I'm embarrassed to say I've been an emotional wreck for some of that time. I hope that I don't break down again. It's just been so long since I've found good people who treat me as equals. They talk to me as if nothing's wrong, but they still hint at some insecurities. I feel happy again, as if I was never in the asylum. I have found a new friend, his name is Ezra. He's very sweet, not to mention handsome, and he seems to know what to do or say when I get upset. He reminds me of John. Oh, I shouldn't mention his name, I'll just start crying again. I miss him so! Yesterday, I visited Truth in the livery. Her leg has made some progress, but I spotted hints of infection. The naughty thing keeps licking her bandage. I hope those grist mill wagon drivers get trampled by their own horses for what they put my dear Truth through. Unfortunately, in about two more days, the goons from the asylum will be here to whisk me off to another five days of solitary confinement. Heaven knows what they'll do to me when I return.... If the brave protectors of this town are true to their job description, I hope that they will help me.....
"Miss Williams, may we have permission to enter?" came a polite voice from behind the door.
Rebecca smiled and clapped her hands twice and the door opened. J.D. entered first, carrying a breakfast tray. Ezra followed behind. Today, he was dressed in a dark green dinner jacket with a matching checked vest. He removed his hat when he entered. Rebecca tried to get up from her bed to greet them, but she was told by J.D. to stay seated.
"We got you some breakfast, and Ezra made sure it was to your taste."
Rebecca beamed at the sight of cream and strawberries, thinly sliced and toasted white bread, a poached egg, and a potato hash. She started with the strawberries, and how sweet they were! She let the taste linger in her mouth before starting on the poached egg. All the time, Ezra sat attentively and watched her eat his creation.
"I knew that you wouldn't stand for another culinary abomination from our restaurant. I borrowed some kitchen time and created this meal." Ezra added as she finished off the last of the hashed potatoes.
She wiped her mouth and hiccupped as she savored the fine tastes.
Ah Ezra, a sweetheart in the kitchen as well, Rebecca thought.
"Uh, Ezra, I think we should leave now. She probably wants to dress soon." J.D. remarked as she finished the last drop of her tea.
"Quite right, I hope that you are in good spirits today," Ezra added. "We'all enjoy your company."
Rebecca handed the breakfast tray to J.D.. Ezra opened the door for the young man and smiled at Rebecca. She nodded her head in response. The door closed quietly behind them.
Well, now, that was truly sweet! It's a change from that crap they've been feeding us at the institution.
Rebecca laid out her dress for the day, which was the same one she had worn just the other day. She walked over to the washing table and splashed the cool water over her face and neck. She shook the droplets from her hands and toweled her face off. She carfully slipped out of her nightgown and prepared her slip. After she had all of her formalities put on, she slipped her dress over her head. Rebecca buttoned the front of her dress slowly. She meandered over to her dressing table and brushed her hair. She didn't like to fuss over her hair, so she just gave it a light caress. She wasn't in the mood to put on her fancy, button up boots, because they took so long to fasten. Instead, she pulled her riding boots on and grabbed her wrap and purse.
Rebecca opened the door to find Ezra waiting for her. She grinned at him and took hold of his waiting arm.
"I hope you don't mind," Ezra leaned close to her ear, "but we are expected over at the saloon." His warm breath tickled her outer ear.
Rebecca had never been in a saloon before. She could still remember when her mother told her that saloons were evil places. It was a warm summer day in New Orleans and Rebecca was toddling along with her mother. Before they passed in front of a saloon, the bartender threw a drunken man out into the street. The drunk staggered and tried to stand straight, but he ended up on his face, in the gutter. Her mother told her that everyone in a saloon was just like him.
As they entered the smoky atmosphere, Rebecca was taken back by the prevailing smell of whiskey. She looked around at the array of men in different stages of drunkenness.
Well, I think my mother was wrong, only about fifty percent of the men in this saloon are sloshed.
"Right this way, my dear," Ezra escorted the young lady up a few stairs to a card table. Three men were already seated and waiting for Ezra to begin dealing. Two of them were repeat customers from a few days ago. Ezra hardly ever lost a game, which made them all the more eager to get their revenge.
"Alright, gambler, let's see what you can do," one of the men taunted.
"Now, there seems to be a problem with this arrangement," Ezra said coolly. "This game isn't the same unless there's a fifth person playing."
"What about th' girl?" the other man asked.
"My dear, do you know how to play poker?" Ezra inquired. She nodded "yes" and sat down.
"Oops, little lady, we don't want you to sit next to him," one man interjected. "We wouldn't want to give him an unfair advantage." He pulled out a chair opposite to where Ezra was sitted. She sat down and pulled herself closer to the table.
"Very well, gentlemen. Let the game begin," Ezra said as he dealt the first cards.
So far, Ezra's hand was lousy. He had so many random cards that he couldn't decide which ones he would build on. After dealing the others replacement cards, he dealt himself two. He smiled internally. He was headed for a flush. Each of them one uped each other until one of the men seated next to Rebecca called. Each of the men showed their hands. Four of a Kind, Two pair, and Full House. Ezra's smile reached ear to ear as he displayed a flush. The men groaned in unison. Ezra reached across the table to collect his prize. He was stopped by the touch of a warm, soft hand. She fanned her cards at the men. Ezra's jaw dropped in amazement.
The other men almost laughed themselves off of their chairs. They eventually got up to leave. Each one congratulated her on breaking the gambler's winning streak. She smiled as she loaded the chips into her purse. She then reached across the table and gently shut his jaw.
"I do declare, you are full of surprises," Ezra slumped back into his chair. "Where on God's green earth did you learn such skills?"
She pulled a pocket notebook out of her purse and wrote, "John's father taught me a thing or two about the game."
"I guess so," Ezra said with a sideways smile.
She looked around the saloon and spotted Chris sitting a table having a few shots of whiskey. She jotted a message down in her notebook and handed it to Ezra. It read, "What's wrong with Chris?".
Ezra looked over at the black clad gun slinger, "He's chasing demons. His wife and son perished in a fire at his homestead while he was away. He never did recover. Hell, I don't blame him for being so melancholy. We've all got our problems.". Ezra thought back to his childhood years. All he could remember was being left at different relatives homes. Some were pleasant, others noisy with children, and some were cold, harsh. He found himself staring off into the distance and quickly shook his head.
When he looked up, he found that she was gone. He jumped up from his seat and hurried down the stairs and across the floor of the saloon. He ran through the double doors and out on to the sidewalk. He looked right and left for signs of the young lady. He took a chance and ran in the direction of the church. As he trotted past the front stairs, he heard Josiah's voice talking to someone, but Nathan was at the clinic, wasn't he. Ezra took the stairs two at a time and almost tripped on the upper landing because there was an odd number of stairs. When he regained his balance, he entered the church hall. Josiah and Rebecca stood looking puzzled at Ezra's hasty arrival.
Young lady, before you decide to take a stroll, may I suggest that you notify me first?" Ezra gasped.
"It's alright, Ezra. I was just showin' her around," Josiah said calmly.
She nodded at his comment. Ezra sat down in one of the pews. It had been a long time since he had done some running. Before he "joined the ranks of the employed", Ezra did a lot of running; away from police and angry crowds. It all came with his occupation of being a con man. In his teenaged years, he could catch up with a passenger train as dogs nipped at his heels. But now, since he became more honest, he was out of shape.
Josiah continued giving the young lady a tour of the church, "Now, hopefully, we'll have stained glass windows for the area behind the podium. And I'm gonna have to replace a lot of these window sills because they've been blighted by termites and dry rot."
Rebecca nodded as he pointed out various problems and improvements that he has made within the church. Ezra watched the two as they toured the small church. He noticed how the hard sun made a red halo around her head as she stood in front of a window. She was something special, he could feel it deep within his gut. He began to day dream. What would it be like to have her to himself? She had a peaceful disposition, but at the same time, she held a fragile image to him. Every time he was around her, he felt like patting her hand and saying "there, there everything is going to be just fine".
Although, she is a bit too young for him.... "Wait, Ezra! Are you out of your mind? She wouldn't want to marry you. Think of something else, " he thought. He was again awoken from his reveries by a hand on his shoulder.
He was startled, but quickly calmed down. Rebecca stood in back of him.
She pointed her thumb towards the doors and gave his arm a little tug. He looked at Josiah, who had taken up his tool box and began to pry the rotted window sills up. He got up with one smooth motion and walked around the pew to her waiting arm.
By now, it was mid-afternoon. Ezra didn't realize how fast time had flew when he was drifting off in flights of fancy. They just walked down the street, as comfortable as anything, and their appearance showed this. Ezra was beginning to enjoy walking with Rebecca. When she held his arm, it felt as natural as if his own arm was contorted around and resting on his other. He's held many ladies on his arms. Usually they were stiff with nervousness, or they'd just move it to reassure him that they were still holding on to his arm. But Rebecca just rested her arm on his, no movement, no stiffness. It made him feel calm and secure, something that didn't come naturally to a con man. And as fate would have it, as soon as he became comfortable with Rebecca, someone just had to interrupt.
"Ezra! Could you come here for a moment or two?" Mary Travis called from her shop door.
Ezra and Rebecca drifted up to Mary's shop.
"I know this isn't your line of work, Ezra, but the printing press seems to be jammed. I couldn't find Chris or any of the others. I have to get the morning edition out."
Ezra pursed his lips, then nodded, "Of course, Mary, it would be my utmost pleasure."
He released Rebecca's arm and entered the shop. Rebecca followed him as well. Mary pointed to the press. Ezra nodded in recognition and proceeded to push on the print block lever. Somehow, he couldn't push the lever down.
"Hmmmm. It seems to be stuck." Ezra said with a sly smile.
Mary gave a bemused smile and shook her head. He gave the lever a good push downward, but it didn't budge. He decided to give the lever a good push, one that would get it moving, even if it broke his back. He took a few deep breaths and then pushed down on the lever with all of his strength. There was a loud crack then the print lever crashed down.
"Oh, that's where my pencil went," Mary said as she picked up a halved pencil. "I must have dropped it near the gears. Thank you, Ezra."
"You are-ow-quite welcome," Ezra said as he tried to straighten up.
"Are you alright, Ezra? Do you want me to get Nathan?" Mary said in her usual, concerned voice.
"Thanks, but I will live," Ezra squeaked.
Rebecca put his arm around her shoulders and supported him. He tipped his hat at Mary and he leaned on Rebecca to walk out the door. As soon as they had passed hearing distance, Ezra let out a series of oaths and curses.
"...confounded printing press! Can she not remember where she puts her writing implements. Ouch."
She helped him back to the hotel. It took them over fifteen minutes to get him up the stairs. It hurt pretty bad, he knew that he must have threw his back out. As they slowly walked down the hallway, he counted the door numbers until they arrived at his. He stared up at he ceiling and winced. Rebecca poked him in the ribs and motioned for a key. He tried to reach into his right pants pocket but pain shot through his back and he howled in pain. She reached around his back and slipped her hand in his pocket. Without a second's delay, she found the key and unlocked his door.
She motioned for him to sit down on a chair by the dresser. He sat down, but moaned in pain as he tried to sit up. She carefully took his dapper green jacket off and hung it up in the closet. She unbuttoned his vest and took his pocket watch out of its pocket and placed it on the dresser. She took the vest and put it on a separate hanger. Ezra felt so helpless, he imagined that this is what it must have felt like for her to be caught in custody. She slipped his suspenders over the sides of his shoulders and unbuckled his gun belt. Then, she pulled on his arm to get him off of the chair. She helped him limp over to his bed and laid him down. She carefully pulled his boots off and placed them by the bedside. She pulled the covers over his ailing corpus and pushed the stray strands of hair out of her eyes. He stared at her the whole time.
"My dear Rebecca, it seems that I will be out of your service for a few days. Perhaps you should find someone else to escort you about town," Ezra said apologetically.
She smiled, shook her head, then pointed at him.
"I won't be very lively, mind you," he added with a laugh. She got up off of the bedside and walked around to the empty side of the bed and laid down. He sighed loud and long. Strange girl, she sure is a strange girl. He closed his eyes as he inhaled again.
Rebecca woke up a few hours after she helped Ezra to his room. She yawned and stretched. It was now dark outside and she could hear the horses whinny in the streets. Suddenly, she heard a knock at the door.
She was startled at first, but she heard a voice call from the other side,
"Ezra, it's me, Nathan. Can you get up and open the door?"
Rebecca rushed to the door and unlocked it.
"Sounds like you're feeling bet-" Nathan was cut off with surprise. "Oh, Rebecca, I didn't know you were in here." She put her index finger to her lips, a motion for quiet.
Nathan nodded. "I'll come back when he wakes up, " he whispered. "Good night." He nodded at her and she bowed in recognition. After he left, Rebecca felt her stomach growl furiously. Mmmmm. I'm hungry! I think I'll bring him back something as well. Rebecca gathered her things and left Ezra to sleep. She pocketed his room key, because he wasn't gonna get up soon.
She went down to the hotel dining area and wrote a note to the waiter. In the meanwhile, she wandered into the lobby and sat on the circular couch. The cool night air circulated through the room. It was not a cutting, cold breeze, but a refreshing one; one that made her feel almost free. Before she could assume that she would be spending time alone, Vin Tanner sauntered in from the darkness.
"'Evening, Rebecca," he said while tipping his hat. "Heard Ezra is laid up pretty bad. I don't think he ever works hard. Probably why he nearly killed himself fixin' the printing press."
She smiled and nodded. "Mind if I join you?" Vin coolly asked. She patted the couch next to her. He sat down, actually sort of slouched, next to her. They sat there in silence for a few moments until Vin spoke again, "I just received a telegram from the asylum personnel and they said that they would be here sooner than they expected." He paused. "They said tomorrow afternoon at the latest."
Rebecca breathed deeply and stared at the wall. Oh, my Lord. So soon? When are these men going to realize that I don't want to return to the asylum. It is not in my best interest do that. She looked at him with a questioning glance. Vin, please, don't let them take me, she thought.
He stared back into her dark eyes. "I'm sorry," he said apologetically. Tears began to well up in her eyes, but she was interrupted before she could burst out crying. The cook came into the lobby with a tray of soup and bread. She bowed to him, not letting him see her tears, and took the tray. "Good night," he said with a tip of a hat. She turned around and walked out the door and into the night.
To Be Continued...
Send Lydia a wire!
Back to Dust Trails