Today we jump into Part 4 of my short story series, "The Way Back Home". If you have missed any of the parts, please follow this link to my website blog page and catch up to the rest of us. I hope you enjoy this week's installment.
"The Way Back Home"-Part 4
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Violet wrapped her arms around the valise in her lap and tried to make herself thinner. Mrs. Howard occupied the place to her left. A rather stout woman, she took more than her third of the bench seat. Mr. Stuart on her right, an elderly gentleman, tended to lean her way as he slept in sound oblivion, despite the bumping and rocking of the stagecoach.
Across the narrow aisle, the twins, Luther and Lester jostled, and fought for the position next to the window. Their mother leaned forward every few minutes to smack one of them with her fan and threaten to separate them. They would heed her for a matter of seconds, before the competition began anew.
The remaining passenger, the third man of the threesome, tried to stretch his lengthy lower limbs, but had no more room than the rest of them. Violet found herself watching the mystery man circumspectly. He kept his gaze out the window, not as if he simply enjoyed the view, but in a more watchful way. She still had not caught a clear glimpse of his eyes and had heard but one syllable of his name, Mar. Mark? Marcus? Martin? Marvin? She chided herself for her useless guessing game. Unless someone were to introduce them, she'd never know. Unlikely anyone would, though.
"Luther, Lester, let's play a game." Violet's suggestion caught their attention.
"What kind of game can we play here?" asked Lester with head tilted and confused frown on his young face.
"Yes, Miss, what can we play in here?" Luther parroted with a matching expression.
Violet felt Mrs. Howard's eyes on her. Still, she placed her valise on the floor by her feet, and then bent to unlace her boots. Sitting back with laces in hand, she tied the ends of each to itself and made two hoops of string. A movement to her right caused her to notice Mr. Cowboy's shaded eyes turned her way and a crooked grin on his rugged face. Heat singed her cheeks. She forced her attention back to the boys.
"Do you know how to make a cat's cradle?" she asked them.
"No, Ma'am," They answered in unison.
Violet spent the next five minutes demonstrating the string game and then handed her laces to the boys.
"It will be a challenge, but do you think you can make the cat's cradle, too?" she asked.
The boys were already too involved in their task to listen anymore. She watched them for a while, entertained by their concentrated efforts. Neither could work the string around his small hands to achieve his goal, but tried diligently. After awhile, they began to create their own designs. The simple game helped them remain in their seats in quiet occupation. Violet's goal...accomplished.
Mrs. Howard whispered, "They'll be loathe to give you back your laces. I hope you haven't caused more trouble for later."
Violet bit her lip, but nodded her head and replied, "Surely they are intelligent enough children to understand that I will need my laces returned."
Mrs. Howard harrumphed, folded her arms, leaned against the wall, and closed her eyes. Violet closed her own eyes and enjoyed breathing without the woman's critical gaze causing a marked strain on her nerves. "Dear Lord, please set a guard over my mouth and watch over the door of my lips," she prayed silently.
Violet awoke with a start. How long had she slept in view of...everyone? Her neck ached from the weight of her head as it drooped forward toward her chest. Mrs. Howard snored beside her. The twins slept, one leaning against the wall and the other leaning on his brother. Her laces or rather their string-toys still clenched in their hands. Mr. Stuart stared out the window to her right, pipe in hand, but as yet unlit. She begged him in silence not to light the retched thing.
Mr. Cowboy watched out the window, as he'd done most of the trip thus far. His standoffish manner at odds with her desire for conversation. Boredom had heretofore been an unknown sensation for her, but she thought it might rear its ugly head, if someone didn't converse with her soon. Instead of giving in, she decided to keep her mind busy with observation. She turned her attention fully on Mr. Cowboy. He'd adjusted his position, which left a gap between his shirt sleeves and his fawn colored leather vest. The shine of metal caught her attention. A badge? She couldn't tell what kind, but it definitely appeared to be a lawman's badge.
"Why would a lawman be riding along in the stagecoach?" she asked herself. Why indeed? She made the decision to ask him, introductions or not, the first chance she got. He looked her way and caught her watching him. Again her face heated, but she didn't look away. She offered a hint of a smile, and hoped it would encourage conversation.
"Do you know when we will have our first stop...sir?" asked Violet. She hoped he would introduce himself.
"Should be soon." His brief answer offered no invitation for more conversation or introduction.
She waited a short time to see if he would say more. Nothing. Disappointed with his lack of friendliness, she reached across the aisle to carefully retrieve her laces.
To be continued...
This has been a prayer of mine for awhile. It's so easy to speak when we should be silent. So easy to respond abruptly, when we should think first. So easy to say things that only make matters worse and bring regret in the end.
I am so glad you came. I am so grateful for you. I hope you'll come again next time and continue reading my short story series, "The Way Back Home". If you are enjoying my story, consider giving me a shout out and also sharing so others have the opportunity to see my work.
Have a Happy Monday and a great week! May the Lord God bless you and your family with faith, hope and love. In Jesus' Name.