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Mail-Order-Bride Part II - a fiction short story
Six Weeks Later
Emma fell into bed exhausted. Every muscle and bone in her body was sore and aching. He feet were a mass of blisters from her "new" cowboy boots. She barely had the energy to undress. She worked to remove the boots and in doing so, her blisters broke and bled. She found some rags and ointment which she applied and wrapped both her feet. Never had she felt so weary in her life.
It was six weeks since Emma had arrived in Santa Fe and became the mail-order-bride of the esteemed rancher, Sam Preston, and new step-mother to Mark, Sam's ten year old son. She was also Mark's new teacher and tutor, although she didn't know who was learning more - her or Mark.
Mark was a wonderful boy and an eager and inquisitive student. He loved to learn and was easy to teach. He loved to read - unusual for a ten year-old boy, and Emma had introduced him to such books as Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn, and Gulliver's Travels. He seemed to enjoy reading them and Emma was pleased.
But, Emma would get frustrated. Sam was always interrupting Mark's lessons and studies with "ranch lessons." Sam wanted Mark educated to go back east to school at some point, but he also wanted Mark to be a rancher. But, Mark was a great kid and took to both diverse lessons well.
Then, there were Emma's lessons as well. Sam and Mark were teaching her to ride horseback and shoot a rifle - two necessary skills to have to be a ranch wife. She was finally getting the knack of horseback riding and controlling the horse, but she was so sore from it she still needed to sit on a pillow when in the house. She had caught Sam trying not to chuckle at her several times as she perched on her pillow at the dinner table.
And, shooting a rifle. The first time she did that, she fell flat on her back hitting her head on a rock. She thought she was bleeding to death as blood gushed from her head as Sam attended her head wound and wrapped her head in a bandage.
Sam had sent her straight to bed and had stayed with her one whole day and night keeping her awake in case of a concussion so she wouldn't slip into unconsciousness and then a coma. Emma was so embarrassed. Mark had brought her a bouquet of flowers and carried her meals to her in bed. Sam and Mark took turns first teaching her to play chess and then playing the board game with her to keep her occupied, She had felt ridiculous over the head wound but Sam and Mark took it seriously.
Later, she resumed rifle practice, but guns where not a favorite past-time of hers and she was reluctant about the lessons. But, Sam was impressing on her it was still important for her to learn as although New Mexico was a state now, there were dangers out there for which she needed to be prepared.
Sam and Mark both seemed to genuinely like her and were glad she was there. Well, she genuinely liked them both and was content where she was. . She and Mark were becoming good friends and settling into quite a nice relationship together. Sam, on the other hand, was more difficult. She and Sam were friends, but there was a wall between them that she couldn't get through no how. He was all business and preferred a marriage of convenience. They each retired to their separate bedrooms each night. Well, this is what she had signed up for, so she really couldn't expect anything more. She couldn't complain. She had gotten away from Chillicothe, Ohio and Theodore Bushbottom - and her father.
But, Emma was definitely attracted to Sam - strong, intelligent, handsome and with a twinkle in his eye. And, he was so kind and thoughtful towards her and her transition to ranch life in New Mexico. He ran the ranch flawlessly and seemed happy with the way Emma was running the household so far and teaching Mark.
During her first week at the ranch, she had realized she didn't have the right type of clothing for a ranch wife and he had taken her to town to buy new clothes and hats more in tune with New Mexico country. Her frilly, ruffled and lacy dresses wouldn't work for everyday wear.
But, Sam beamed with pride when she wore then for "official engagements" as Sam called them. There had only be two or three so far, but Sam had told her she was the prettiest woman in the room each time.
Sam and Mark had given Emma a huge party in her honor the third week she was here. Sam introduced the new Mrs. Preston to Santa Fe society. She had met the other ranchers and their wives and the new governor of the brand new New Mexico state. Judge Nelson, who had performed their marriage ceremony, was there, of course, with his "lady friend."
Emma realized how important and prominent Sam was in Santa Fe society that night. There was a Mariachi band and dancing and Sam and Emma danced the first dance alone. Who knew Sam could dance? It was wonderful to be held in his arms while dancing and Emma's heart and stomach had been aflutter. She wondered what Sam felt, but he held his emotions in and she had no idea how he really felt about her.
Emma yawned as her mind slowly began to stop buzzing from the day's activities and her eyelids began to droop and finally closed. Sleep finally came upon her. That night she dreamed of dancing with Sam in his arms. It really was pleasant dreams
The Next Morning
Emma groggily awoke to pounding on her bedroom door. "Emma, Emma, wake-up. Are you all right? You've slept in!" It was Sam. Emma sat up with a start and looked at the clock - nine-thirty a.m. She sure had slept in. She was always at the breakfast table by eight a.m. for breakfast with Sam and Mark. No decent rancher's wife was still in bed at nine-thirty in the morning.
She had fallen asleep in her clothing. Good grief! Her feet hit the floor and the pain shot from her swollen, blistered feet and right up her legs to her head. Great she was starting the day with sore, blistered feet and a headache to boot.
"Emma!" said Sam loudly.
"Sam, I'll be out in a few minutes. I did oversleep - I'm very sorry," said Emma.
"Mark will be out in the corral with me this morning," said Sam.
"Okay, sure," said Emma. She quickly splashed water on her face and around her neck and quickly brushed and tied her hair up. She then changed her blouse - the gaucho's she would wear again today. The boots. Emma sighed. She pulled the boots onto her wrapped feet that were so sore. At least wrapped up they felt a little better.
When she arrived in the dining room, she saw that breakfast had been cleared, so she went to the kitchen. Ana and Maria were making tortillas for lunch and the smell nearly keeled her over. That was another thing she had to get used to - Mexican food. Beans, beans, and more beans. Maria handed Emma a cold tamale on a dish.
"No thank you, Maria. I'll just have a roll this morning - no coffee," said Emma and she grabbed a day-old roll from the bread bin. Then she tenderly walked out to the corral.
Sam had Mark breaking in a new pony and the ranch hands were applauding his work. Emma just hated to see Mark breaking in ponies - she didn't want to see Mark hurt or injured, but Sam insisted he learn. Emma waved to Sam and he waved back to her. Emma winced once or twice when Mark nearly went flying off the wild pony and then she just couldn't watch any more. She decided to take a walk on this beautiful morning. Maybe her feet would work out some of their soreness.
Munching on her roll, she absently wandered off, so busy looking at the breathtaking beautiful blue sky and the cacti along the way that she nearly ran right into one of those dangers Sam was always warning about. She nearly stepped on a rattler - she heard the rattle of its tail and saw it coiled and ready to strike. Emma screamed and then stood perfectly still. She knew they were deadly. She didn't know what to do and just as she was beginning to panic, suddenly a shot rang out and the rattler went limp and silent.
"Emma, for God's sake, you know better than to wander off without your rifle with you," said Sam fiercely, reprimanding her.
"I'm sorry, Sam. Yes, you're right - I wasn't thinking - I just was caught up in this glorious morning . . . ."
"Emma, we're teaching you to shoot and handle a gun for this reason. Never leave the ranch without it," said Sam his eyes flashing. Sam held her by the shoulders and looked straight into her eyes, "I mean it Emma, do not leave the ranch without your rifle! Next time, I might not be close by to help you out," he continued.
"I won't Sam, I promise," said Emma. "Now, you're hurting me," said Emma as she tried to wiggle out of his grasp.
"Emma," he held her still,"You are no longer living in civilized, refined, Ohio. It is dangerous here with animals and reptiles out in the open that you are not used to; and, I can't always be interrupting ranch work to follow you and protect you," said Sam evenly. His warm brown eyes could certainly flash when he was serious.
"Now, I have work to get back to on the ranch," said Sam. "Walk back with me, please."
They walked back in silence. Would she ever "learn" all these new lessons? she thought. She hated being a nuisance to Sam, but really she had been so petrified of the rattler she didn't know if she could have shot it even if she had her rifle with her.
New Mexico was so different from Ohio. You could never leave your guard down in this New Mexican country. Some danger was always lurking nearby. She had learned to always wear her boots outdoors when she walked into a brier patch and spend half an hour picking briers and sticks out of her shoes and hosiery. Would she ever learn all she needed to to be a proper rancher's wife?
"Mark will spend the rest of the day with me," said Sam.
"Sure, Sam," said Emma. He probably thinks I'm an idiot thought Emma. This day had gotten off to a bad start all away around.
A Startling Discovery
Emma walked back into the house. At least it was cool here. She struggled to get her boots off. Ana walked by and saw her feet and shook her head. She immediately brought Emma a pail with water and epson salts for her to soak her feet in. Ahhh, that felt so good.
Emma sat in the great room soaking her feet. When she was done, she dried her feet. They did feel better. She then notice Sam's desk was a mess from earlier this morning, so she went over to straighten it up and clean it off. Usually, she never touched Sam's desk but then he usually didn't leave it a mess like this. Perhaps, cleaning the desk for Sam would make up for the rattlesnake blunder this morning.
The payroll papers, strewn across the desk, belonged in the desk drawer, so she opened the draw to place them in there and noticed a folder with her name on it. Franklin, Emma Pauline.
What's this? She opened the folder and began to read about herself throughout the papers inside. She felt herself blushing hotly. There were even photographs of her and Gerard together and various newspaper clippings. Emma was mortified. So, Sam knew of her indiscretion in Chillicothe. He knew of her affair with Gerard. He even had notes of what her own father thought about all of it. Sam even knew about Theodore Bushbottom!
He had hired the Pinkerton Agency to snoop on her! All about her! How awful and how unfair! Emma held onto the folder and walked back to her bedroom. She threw the folder on her bed How dare he! Emma trembled with anger. So, he had known all about her all this time. No wonder he only wanted a marriage of convenience. No wonder there was a wall between them. All she was to him was a housekeeper and governess - nothing more. Oh, yes, she was well compensated.
He never opened up to her about himself, no matter how gently she inquired. She knew nothing about his past. Nothing about Hannah his late wife. Emma was furious. She felt naked and betrayed. What he must be thinking when he looked at her with that twinkle in his eye! How could she go on here?
She looked outside the bedroom window and saw everyone was gone from the corral. Emma walked over to the wardrobe and pulled down her two valises from on top. She started pulling clothes out of her wardrobe and dresser. She began packing one of the valises. She didn't know where she was going to go, but she wasn't staying here.
Sam and Mark were on top of Chapparell Hill checking on the cattle. Mateo had come tearing into the ranch when they were all in the corral speaking so rapidly in Spanish, Sam couldn't understand a word. He finally got Mateo to calm down and speak slower and found out that Mateo had seen some of Sam's cattle dead on Chapparell Hill. Everyone at the corral had jumped on a horse and they had torn up the hill to see the cattle.
Sam bent down and called Mark over. "See, son, the dark sports along the neck? That's a virus cattle can get and they die quickly from it - any where within 24-48 hours. We'll have to get Doc Hardy out here. He has an injection we can give to the cattle to ward off the virus infection so they all don't catch this and die. But, we are all going to be very busy for the next week injecting all the cattle, son. I'm going to need your help and Emma's too."
"Sure, Dad. I want to help. I want to be a regular ranch hand, too. You can count on me!" said Mark beaming proudly. And, Sam knew he could. Mark was a great son and took to the ranch naturally, just as he naturally took to Emma's lessons. He was proud of his boy.
"Mark, you ride back to the ranch with Mateo. Explain all this to Emma and tell her for the next week I need both of you to help me with the cattle. Your book work is suspended until this cattle bacteria problem is taken care of," Sam said to his son. "I'm on my way to Doc Hardy's so it will be a while until I get back to the ranch - it might not be until later tonight."
Sam and Mark parted ways and Mark and Mateo started down the hill toward the ranch. Sam picked up speed to a gallop to get to Doc Hardy's as quickly as possible.
All the way all he thought about was Emma. He had be so hard on her this morning. She was still so delicate and fragile that he worried about her when she wasn't in the house or with him. She was so caught up in the beauty of New Mexico that this was all she saw sometimes. The incident with the rattler had rattled him. He came so close to loosing her in just a flash like that. Thank God, he had noticed her walking out into the brush and with no gun with her. He knew he had to follow her.
He hadn't meant to be so hard on her, but he was slowly growing to love Emma. Her sunny personality at breakfast each day made a great start to the day and the great way she worked with Mark - they had become so close over these six weeks. She knew how to work with Ana, Maria and Dolores and got more work out of them than he ever could. And, those three seemed to like her too.
She had become a decent horsewoman and was riding well. He knew she was sore from it, but she never complained. He shouldn't have been so hard this morning with the rattler incident. When he got back tonight he'd apologize for his sternness. But, he didn't want to lose her to something so banal as a rattlesnake bite. He hoped she would understand.
And she was beautiful. That tiny waist, her blue eyes, her soft brown hair and those lips mesmerized him. He was having a heck of a time keeping his hands off of her and keeping this a 'marriage of convenience.'
Sam saw Doc Hardy in his office and they both returned to the cattle on Chapparell Hill. Doc made his examination and told Sam he had been right about the diagnosis. He would be sending cases of a serum to give to the other cattle. Especially all the ones grazing on Chapparell Hill. The cattle on other parts of Sam's grazing land probably would not need the serum as they weren't in contact with these cattle.
The sun was starting to set as Sam began his journey back to the ranch. He was dog tired and hoped that Emma was up to sitting outside a bit tonight and he hoped it was a star-filled sky tonight. He wanted to talk to Emma about some important things.
As he guided his horse into the barn and started taking the saddle off the horse, Mark came tearing in from the house. "Dad, dad," Mark yelled. "Emma's left. Emma's gone - she took all her stuff and left," said Mark with tears in his eyes. "Why would she leave?" asked Mark.
"What? Are you sure Mark?" asked Sam.
"Yes, Dad. She cleaned everything out of her room - she's gone," said Mark. "And the wagon's gone too. She must of taken the wagon to leave," cried Mark.
Sam strode into the house with Mark following behind. She couldn't have been that upset with him over the rattler incident this morning. That wasn't like Emma. He went straight to Emma's room. Mark was right, Emma and everything she owned was gone.
Sam glanced on the bed and saw the folder marked Franklin, Emma Pauline lying on the bed. Emma had found his file on her.
Continuation to Part III
- Mail-Order-Bride Part III - a fiction short story
What will happen between Emma and Sam? What about Sam's son Mark?
© 2013 Suzette Walker