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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
JenEllen Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver! (106* d) RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver! 04 Jun 06


When the sun came through the cabin window, Bill wasn't sure he'd made it through the night until he tried to blink and felt his eyelids drag mercilessly across his eyes. With some effort, he turned his head and saw her sitting in the chair by the cabin door. She'd probably been there all night, letting him lie in his filth with the same disgusted expression she'd worn since they arrived here last fall.

He and the Captain had seen to it that Jack had a funeral service as solemn and fitting as the fort could provide. He thought that would make her happy. She'd even unrolled that town dress from her bedroll. He cringed a little when he'd seen that, so clearly in his mind seeing her walk out of the whorehouse in St. Louis wearing the same thing. That day she'd been smiling, but at the funeral she was not. The Captain tried to warn him, but he hadn't listened.

After the funeral he'd walked past the kitchen and seen her crying. She was taking those papers she'd hidden in her saddlebags and throwing them into the fire. Later that day when the obligatory posse had been arranged, with himself leading, of course, he'd been so happy to see her come stomping into the Captain's quarters, demanding to be included in the ride. It wasn't until much later that he'd learned the truth.

His breathing now shallow, he asked her for water but she acted like she hadn't heard him. Her expression never changed and she kept sitting on that chair. He watched her for a minute, not sure if she were real or apparition, until she shifted slightly and the chair creaked. He let out a ragged sigh of relief and again asked for water.

He'd been a good man. He'd watched out for her all along the ride and he was proud of that. With their small band chasing imaginary hoof prints across the plains, it wasn't easy to keep up the lie. Maybe Emmet was this way? Maybe Jack's murderer went this way? One by one the soldiers in their band left for other callings, but she stayed with him, the same determined look on her face. He'd tried playing jokes with her, but she never laughed like she had with Jack, she only ever looked nauseous. In any other man, it would have withered and died, but not with Bill.

When the chill of fall had come, they camped in an abandoned line shack. The last remaining soldier that rode with them fell for a squaw and ran off before the first snow fell. It was at this time when Bill heard the news. She had burned all of those papers at the fort, but not before sending copies back to that St. Louis lawyer. She had hidden them in a Bible and even though the lawyer was long gone, his clerk had liked the looks of the Good Book and found the papers when he opened it. The young man had made quite a name for himself in publishing the scandal and when the news reached their humble outpost, he'd seen a flicker of laughter cross her eyes, just for a moment, but the moment was enough.

He'd only forced himself on her the once, and he regretted it immediately. That was the last time she'd ever spoken to him. They passed the winter in silence and it wasn't until the early spring when he came back from hunting and found her shoveling bloody straw into a hole that he knew she'd been with child. The foul-smelling tea in the pot by the fire told him everything he needed to know. He knew it was most likely a gift from that Kiowa squaw who skulked around by the river when Katherine did the washing up. It made him furious to think that she'd confide in anyone besides him, after everything he'd done for her, and made up his mind to take care of that squaw once and for all.

That evening when he'd lain down to sleep was when he felt the pains again. They had plagued him slightly throughout his hunting trip but he'd blamed them on bad grub and rough riding. His stomach turned and he fought the urge to vomit. That had been 2 days ago. Now he lay, blue-lipped and weakened, on a straw tick that was sodden with his own vomit and stool. She hadn't made any move to help him, even when his legs cramped so badly that he screamed and bolted upright in bed. She just sat and watched him.

The morning sun had finally cleared the window when his eyes glazed over. His breath began to rattle in his chest before she moved from her chair by the door. She dragged in some sage branches from the pile outside and threw them haphazardly toward the fire. When the spring sap bubbled and sparked she simply stood back and let the blaze consume the cabin. She wasn't there to see his last breath but it was enough to know that it had been taken.


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