Happy Labor Day and welcome to Part 3 of the short story series, "The Way Back Home" by Sandy Kay Slawson, that's me. If you missed the first two parts, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2. If you are new and are wondering who I am, I encourage you to check out my website or my blog which has been a documentation of my writing journey, for the most part, so feel free to go back in time and learn more.
"The Way Back Home"-Part 3
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Violet stood outside the stagecoach station ticket in hand. Excitement over reaching the last leg of her journey coursed through her veins. She'd managed without Nora's help...so far. Between "Granny" and a lovely young missionary couple, she'd been well chaperoned.
After Granny, her strategy had been to find some respectable couple or family with which to align herself. This time she doubted the wisdom of her choice of companion, but she'd hardly had a choice. One other woman besides herself stood outside the stagecoach station. If any others were coming, they'd better hurry. The stagecoach could arrive at any moment.
"Miss Lawrence, hold Luther's hand while I take Lester out back to the outhouse. See you watch him good, he could find trouble in an empty room."
"Yes, Mrs. Howard." Violet took the hand of six year old Luther. Glancing down into his wide brown eyes, she smiled and brushed his sandy blonde hair off his forehead. "Are you a troublemaker, Luther?"
His eyes grew wider. He shook his head with a slow seriousness which made Violet giggle. His gaze travelled to something behind her. His countenance sparked with excitement. Turning to see what had caught his interest, she saw three men entering the office.
"Those were cowboys or maybe outlaws!" Luther tried to pull away to follow after the men, but she held tight to his miniature hand.
"Stay with me until your mother returns. We don't know who those men are," said Violet.
"They were wearing cowboy hats and boots and spurs and holsters and guns-"
"Yes, I know, but-"
Mrs. Howard came into view from around the corner of the building, effectively putting an end to their conversation. Violet handed the boy off to his mother when she reached them.
"I should probably visit the Necessary myself." Violet lifted the hem of her navy skirt and wondered why she bothered, considering the dust which had already gathered there. Mrs. Howard's voice reached her and brought her thoughts back to their agreement. She would help Mrs. Howard with her sons on the journey in order to have her as a companion. It had seemed to be a good idea at the time, but doubts niggled their way into her mind. Would she be able to handle the rambunctious fellows? What about their ill-tempered mother? Violet chastised herself for being uncharitable. Perhaps she too would be ill-tempered, in the same circumstances.
"Poor woman is probably exhausted, and her journey is just beginning."
When Violet returned, she found the stagecoach parked in front of the building. A man from the office handed the passengers' trunks and bags up to the stagecoach driver, Whip, as she'd heard them called. Her two trunks were already atop the stagecoach. Her valise still clasped in her hand. She refused to let it out of her sight. Her traveling money and a few of her small valuables stayed with her in the bag. Among her valuables, were a tin type of her father and mother before their separation and the last few letters from her father.
The four black draft horses at the front of the stagecoach stood still, heads down, resigned to their task. The last group of passengers moved away from the building and toward waiting wagons with their luggage in tow.
"Miss Lawrence, why aren't you coming to help me? It's about time to go," called Mrs. Howard.
Violet picked up her pace and held her peace. She'd been helping the woman for a little more than an hour and her critical tongue already tested Violet's patience. Maybe the hard part of the journey wouldn't be the boys, but their mother.
When Violet had almost reached the stagecoach, the three cowboys swaggered out of the station. She couldn't help but notice the differences. The first had his cowboy hat hanging by a leather string down his back. His shaggy, tawny hair stuck out in all directions, but his handlebar mustache took all the attention on his face. His tall lanky body climbed the ladder on the side of the stagecoach with ease, despite the rifle held in one hand. He swung himself over the railing and onto a bench in front of the area which held the luggage.
The second man was not much taller than Violet herself. His brawn and barrel chested appearance, along with his thick black beard made him look quite formidable, though. He turned left toward the three horses tied to a hitching post in front of the station. The third man, tallest of all and well proportioned, had his hat pulled low over his face, but she could see from his nose down, a clean shaven, chiseled jaw line. He spoke low in a deep resonant voice to the second man, which stirred some long forgotten memory within Violet's subconscious. She slowed her step to listen and see if she truly recognized his voice or simply imagined the familiarity.
"You sure you can handle all three horses, Clyde?"
Clyde spit on the ground and then wiped the trail of tobacco juice rolling down his chin with his sleeve. "Awww, shucks, you know I can, Mar-"
"It's not easy to pony one horse while another trails behind, but if your sure-"
"I'm sure. I ain't met the horse I couldn't handle yet"
Violet moved out of listening range. Confused by the exchange, she wondered why the two other men weren't riding the two horses instead of pulling them along. She had no time to think on it, though, Mrs. Howard waved furiously for her.
"It's about time. Give me a hand in and then help the boys up."
Violet held Mrs. Howard's lace gloved fingers as she took the steps into the stagecoach. Violet said in her most cheerful singsong voice, "Alright, boys, time to go for a ride."
Luther and Lester both jumped for the steps at the same time.
"Whoa! One at a time, please. Luther, you first." Lester pouted for the few seconds it took his brother to ascend, but then he jumped up after him with a shout of glee. Violet moved to follow but then found herself dwarfed by the third cowboy as he stood beside her, offering his hand.
"May assist you, ma'am?"
"Yes, I'd appreciate it." She took his hand and again had a sense of familiarity. The inclination to push his hat back so she could see his face tempted her better judgement. Resisting the urge, she kept her face forward, bent over, and entered the stagecoach.
To Be Continued...
Come back next time 9/21/20 (Lord Willing), to read Part 4. I hope you are enjoying my story so far. If you are, give me a shout out!
Whether you are new or a regular visitor, I am so glad you are here. I hope y'all have a very Happy Monday and a great week! I should have a newsletter going out this month, so be expecting that. Take care and stay safe out there! May the Lord God bless you and your families with faith, hope and love. In Jesus' Name.