Chapter Twenty Nine

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They stopped at the hitching post outside of Belulah’s Boarding House, he taking her hands and she looking up at him with a troubled face. Lights from inside Belulah’s made the front porch glow, but it wasn’t the shadows there that Virgil was considering. He was intent on something else entirely. Chloe could tell the whole time they were walking that something was going on, but Virgil wouldn’t speak of it.

“I want you to run on inside and don’t look back,” he whispered as he leant down, presumably to buss her cheek in a gesture of affection. His thick mustache was soft against her skin, but the turn of his face and glint of his eye let her know he wasn’t in a romantic mood at all. Something had alarmed him.

“What’s the matter?” she whispered back, but he ignored her.

“It was a mighty fine dance, darlin’,” he said loudly, as he straightened. He tugged at his hat brim in a courtly salute. “It was a privilege escorting you. May I call upon you tomorrow?”

“Yes, you may,” Chloe replied in formal tones. Virgil was trying to shield her from view from someone, it seemed, but the dark engulfed the street. Movement caught her eye – she thought she saw the figure of another woman coming toward them, but why would Virgil think that a threat?

“I had a lovely time as well. I will see you again tomorrow,” she added, distracted.

Virgil gave her a nudge and she knew him well enough by now not to argue with the look on his face, the look that said he was prepared to deal death to anyone who crossed him. She made her way up the steps, paused and turned to see him stalk away into the dark, frock coat flipped away from his hip, hand on his pistol. He was probably worried about the safety of that other woman, Chloe reasoned. Part of her wanted to go on inside – this was the life of a sheriff in this town, always at dangers’ call.

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Chapter Twenty Eight

Friday evening, First Week

screen-capture-23lacefanJim and Mattie were sitting at one of the small tables.

“Thanks for coming with me at such short notice,” he said. Mattie laughed.

“Now what girl would pass up the chance to be escorted by one of the Earps?”

“Apparently Lorraine. I just have to realize she’s available and a wonderful woman. Of course there’ll be more than one man wanting to court her.”

“She’s a good person.”

“And so aren’t you. Now, shall we get something to eat before we dance?”

“You read my mind,” she smiled.

Taffey


screen-capture-4pokerchipsGrady followed the music as he walked to the dance. He could see the gas lights circling the raised platform the people used for dancing.

There was a large section of seats circling the platform. Grady walked along the outer edge of the seats and made his way to the table serving beer. He paid for his drink and approached a table in the back. Before he could sit down, he saw Peaches sashaying in his direction. Grady figured she wasn’t coming his way just to say “Hi”. His experience was that a pretty girl approaching him usually had an ulterior motive.

And Peaches was a gorgeous creature. The deep blue dress she chose offset her auburn hair beautifully. Her smile was flirtatious and her green eyes were full of mischief.

“Hello,” Peaches purred.

“Howdy,” Grady replied. “What can I do for you?”

“You can buy me a drink,” she suggested.

“Okay. Then what?” Peaches was taken aback.

“What do you mean?”

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Chapter Twenty Seven

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Friday evening, first week

Penny and Morgan had just finished a waltz. He was surprised how much fun he was having with her. He had followed Cort’s advise to tone down his personality a bit. Suddenly Penny whirled around.

“Look, there’s Virgil and Chloe!” Well, he thought, let’s get this over with. Morgan put on a big smile and faced them. “Howdy Virgil! Miss Chloe.” Penny was beaming. “Oh, Chloe, your dress is so pretty!”

Chloe turned from watching the dancers swirl around on the dance floor, oblivious to the rest of the revelers. Virgil had already led her in a rather vigorous reel and both of them were catching their breath. She caught the expressions the two men had on their faces – Virgil and Morgan approached each other as if they were in some kind of standoff. They were so different from each other! Morgan was a fine man, as fine as his brother, but much too flamboyant for her taste. Virgil was sedate and subtle next to him. She was secretly glad Virgil was the one who had asked her to the dance. Morgan was fun to watch as he socialized, but she would have felt small and invisible in his shadow.

Giving Penny a bright “hello!” quick hug, she shook hands with Morgan, saying to them both, “it’s good to see you here.”

“Brother,” Virgil said, his mustache twitching in an amused smile. He could see Morgan was holding himself back and wondered how long that was going to last. Morgan glared at Virgil.

“‘Brother‘, yourself. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m having a wonderful time with Penny.”

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Chapter Twenty Six

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lacefan

Friday afternoon, first week

Freida was sitting at one of the poker tables. Half her attention was on the game, the other half was on the dance tonight. She had been warned by Rosalind that some of the citizens thought saloon girls were less worthy. But, for the most part, the townspeople were understanding of their situation. Or, at least, if they had negative feelings, they knew how to keep them quiet. She sighed deeply. If only she had the courage and confidence Peaches had. Just a few minutes ago, Freida saw her leave for the dance all dressed up and smiling. She shook her head and sighed again. She loved to dance but couldn’t imagine ever attending a public function and holding her head high. Freida felt someone watching her and glanced up to see a young cowboy looking her way. He must have slipped into the game when she was day dreaming. He had jet black hair and a long mustache. His smile was sweet and she found herself smiling back. It was his eyes that struck her. They were a deep shade of blue; but there was sadness in them. His attention returned to the game; and she forgot the dance.

Taffey


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Tom finished in the barn and walked slowly to the house. He knew Ann had been looking forward to the dance. Now, on top of being an old grump, he had ruined that for her. It wasn’t ever his intention to give her headaches or worries; he just seemed to fall into that pattern without any effort.

As he opened the front door, he caught her dozing in one of the chairs. It wasn’t fair that he made light of her dress shop—she worked hard. Ann opened her eyes as the door shut.

“Oh, dear, I guess I nodded off.” She had always been so pretty. Now there were tired lines under her eyes.

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Chapter Twenty Five

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Friday afternoon, first week

“Is Tucson always this busy on a Friday?” Chloe asked as Laurie pulled her long dark hair back from her face and gave it another thorough brushing. They were positioned before the large rectangular mirror a patron had donated to her business, with Chloe seated in a chair and Laurie behind her, performing those grooming rituals always necessary before venturing into the social pen of a community dance. It would be hours before the dance platform was opened up. They had finished their ablutions as well as sewing on final touches to their dresses; had plaited hair and dismantled again, experimented with various styles, and turned the sewing parlor of Laurie’s residence topsy turvy with chatter, fabric, and ribbons. Laurie’s assistants, Portia and Pauline were there as well, engrossed with their own preparations, watching Laurie and Chloe as though they were older sisters demonstrating the ways of womanhood.

“You can set your clock upon it,” Laurie replied. “And they may not act like it…as all men must let it be known they are not ruled by the slightest chance of foolishness…but they talk of it almost as much as we women. Sometimes I think they are bigger hens than we are!”

“We’d be lucky to have a dance a season, back in Spring Creek,” Chloe commented, her eyes closed as the rhythmic motion of the brush passing through her hair comforted her. “And everyone would get excited then, too. I don’t know why I’m so nervous about this.”

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Chapter Twenty Four

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Friday afternoon…….First week

When Ann Perkins arrived home, she could see Tom’s horse tied outside. She stopped the buggy and sat there for a few minutes. It was impossible to guess what kind of mood her husband would be in. True, he had found some temporary work; but, for some reason, manual labor always put him in a bad mood. He had been a bank teller once. Tom also tried his hand at farming and raising horses. She saw him come out of the house. He smiled when he saw her. That was a good sign. She got off the buggy and waved.

“Hello! How did it go?” Tom came over and took the reins, leading the horses to the barn.

“It went all right.” She tried to see his face, maybe read something there.

“Does Mr. Connor want you to come back?”

“Yes…tomorrow. He has another room for me to paint.”

“Good!” she said enthusiastically.

“Why is it ‘good’?” he asked, frowning. Oh dear, she thought. Now she’d have to watch what she said.

“Because you need the work and it’s something you are good at. We need the money as well.”

“I would have thought your fancy dress shop would have solved all our money needs.” Ann didn’t understand what had gone wrong. One minute he was smiling, the next he was moody.

“The dress shop does bring in money, Tom. But the money you make keeps us afloat. We couldn’t survive without it.” His face softened a bit. “Mr. Connor is a nice man, isn’t he?”

“He’s decent enough. He pays me like I’m a common laborer, though. Pounding nails and moving a paint brush around is not my real job. I was a rancher.” Yes, Ann thought, and now you’re a laborer.

“There’s nothing wrong with knowing how to build and paint. It’s honorable work. And, like I said, you are very good at it.”

“And I wasn’t a good rancher, is that it?” Ann could feel a headache coming on.

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Chapter Twenty Three

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lacefan

Friday morning – 1st Week

“Kenneth…” Mrs Kingsley said, hands primly folded in her lap, and brow furrowed in thought. Carla, in her flounced black and white servant’s dress, set a plate of eggs benedict and sauteed tomatoes before her, but Viola barely noticed. Maybe the butterflies in her stomach had completely eradicated hunger, maybe the smell of burnt toast had set her off her disgruntlement; so much had happened this past week it was hard to know where her focus of determination could land. She had been so busy with the arrival of the new teacher and planning the luncheon for the ladies to discuss the new library, and overseeing the teacher, and meeting with a prospective railroad mogul…well, it had all been a whirlwind. And already the grapevine had brought news yesterday that the upcoming week would have still further social obligations: the sister of a resident, a wealthy socialite, would be coming to visit! She’d made sure to pass on the news this morning during her ritual walk with her little Pomeranian, Yvett. But even sitting in a large carved wooden chair at the large carved wooden dining table with its silver candelabra and its elegant dishes and lace napkins, Viola felt something was missing.

“Kenneth!” she said a bit more sharply, as her husband hid behind his newspaper and clicked the mouthpiece of his pipe with his teeth in time with the various mutters and grunts he emitted whenever he read some particular news of interest. He half-folded one wing of his paper down to acknowledge her call, smoke puffing away from the bowl of the pipe like a railroad engine. “Did you hear me at all?”

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