Lorraine hurried along the wooden sidewalk planks, almost tripping on her green polka-dot dress. It was already 1:05 and she was still a few minutes away from Frenchie’s. She knew Ricardo Diaz would be waiting patiently. She stopped in front of the restaurant and glanced quickly at her reflection in the window. As she entered, he was waiting at the door.
“I saw you scurrying along.”
“I’m so sorry I’m late. It took a little longer—“. Ricardo laid a finger on his lips.
“Please, Senora McGinty, no explanation is necessary. These things happen. Besides, I only just arrived.” His smile was so warm and kind.
“Thank you for your understanding.”
“Come this way. I selected a seat by the window.” He led her to their table and pushed her chair in. “I ordered a glass of wine. Is that all right with you?”
“Oh yes. Thank you.” She felt her heart still beating and prayed she wouldn’t start sweating.
“Here is a menu; order whatever you’d like.” Lorraine glanced at the folded paper with the delicate blue printing and tried to calm her breathing. She knew he was watching her.
“Well, ham and potatoes sounds good. And I admit I’m hungrier than a bear.” Ricardo chuckled. She certainly was prettier than any bear he ever set eyes on. He waved the waiter over and ordered.
“How did it go with your errands? Did you get them all accomplished?”
“I still have to go to the general store and pick out some fabric. For some reason, I seem to feel the need for a new dress now and then.” She smiled. “Probably something men don’t understand.”
“Oh no, Senora McGinty, quite the contrary. Well, with me, anyway. I love to wear new clothes. I constantly annoy Conchita with new shirts or jackets. She feels she has enough to launder and iron. You should hear her grumble about my hats!” He attempted a woman’s voice and continued. “Senor Diaz, you have more hats than any woman I know! You only have one head!” They both laughed as though no one else was in the room. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.
“Thank you, Senor Diaz. I needed a good laugh.”
“I can’t imagine losing your husband was a very easy thing to go through.”
“Nor was losing your wife.” He nodded.
“Well, here is our lunch!” They ate and chatted like two old friends. When the meal was over, he walked her to her buggy and promised they’d share a meal again soon.
“Senora McGinty, before I forget. I wanted to ask you to the dance on Friday, should you not already have a companion for that evening.” Lorraine realized this would be a more public display and thought about it for a minute.
“I would love to accompany you, Senor Diaz. But you know people will see us together and talk.”
“I have no objections to their ‘talk’ if you don’t.” Lorraine smiled. She wasn’t sure if she’d regret it later; but right now, she wanted nothing more than to dress up and dance and forget that she was a widow.
“Then it’s settled. Let me know when you’ll pick me up and I’ll be ready.”
“Good, good. And one more thing. You must stop calling me ‘Senor Diaz’.”
“Okay…Ricardo.” He bowed slightly and tipped his hat.
“Enjoy the rest of your day, Lorraine.”
Tommy had left the Marshal’s office in a far worse mood than he’d entered – the last thing he needed was that barber’s clerk posing as a sheriff lecturing him about staying out of trouble. Didn’t he just tell them he wasn’t gonna do that? But Tommy knew appearances being what they were, he’d think the same thing if he saw him bowled over in the dust while known rustlers ran. He’d been made a cat’s paw and Tommy’s anger surged between revenge for Slake’s betrayal and Morgan’s patronizing.
Worse than that, how was he going to explain to the rabbi what happened to him? He’d promised a trip back to San Francisco to visit his Jewish friend and his new child, but only after he’d returned to Arizona to settle up some business. That business was keeping him much longer than he intended. He skulked the boardwalks of the businesses lining the main street of Tucson, lost in thought, until he heard the tinkling of a piano inside one building.
He needed a drink.
He was about to push aside the swinging doors when he saw the latest coach just arrived, a bustle of huge black trunks kicking up the dust around the carriage as two people disembarked, one a man of years turning to hand out a young woman. Tommy found himself staring in sheer admiration, drink momentarily forgotten. She was a pretty little piece, dressed in what the ladies back in San Francisco would gobble up with glee, golden hair shining like a halo around her face, coyly topped with a little bonnet in a color that brought out the blue of her eyes. What struck him most was how sweet the expression on her face – not hard and calculating like many of the women he’d found. She looked around the town not in contempt or disgust, but fascination.
A burst of laughter inside the saloon reminded him why he had come here, and with one last look, Tommy turned to go inside. The man and woman were entering the Grand Hotel, the kind of place a bank robber would dream of going to if he was successful in pulling off a heist. But he wasnt a robber anymore. And for all he knew that man was her husband, some dandified old man looking to start a legacy late in life.
Tommy tapped the top of the bar to get the barkeep’s attention.
“Whiskey,” he ordered and then wondered if he had enough money. He’d managed to keep a few dollars, in spite of his adventure, but it wouldn’t last him long. He turned to find a few of the saloon girls eyeballing him and returned their smiles with a cocky lop-sided grin of his own.
Bah. Tomorrow he’d have to recover his dignity by asking after a job. For now though…he’d take a chance on one of the saloon girls…
For someone who’d been worried that she’d not get any sleep her first night in Tucson, the sun shining into Chloe’s eyes was a little bit of a surprise, a new day bright and clear. Obviously, she’d slept with no problem at all. Chloe swung her legs out of bed and stretched, and blinked away the sleep as she tried to bring her brain into order. For the first time in a long time, she was not entirely certain what she was going to do that day – there was always some kind of chore or task to be managed, but as Belulah reminded her before she had gone to bed, she’d have plenty of work starting Monday. Until then, she was a free agent. In some ways that was more intimidating.
Her stomach growled and she got up to refresh herself. Her eye caught sight of the borrowed dress intended for the dance. In the sunlight it had lost a bit of its graceful glamor, and Chloe stared at it for several moments, considering. As a parting gift, Mrs. Renfroe and other friends had gifted her a few dollars of spending money, beyond the promissary that the Tucson elect had offered, money to use for her new life. The instructions had been explicit: none of it spent on supplies, only on herself. A school marm wasn’t expected to be a fashionable butterfly, but she should at least look neat and presentable.
Perhaps she could get some ribbon to wear around her neck and in her hair, to dress it up a bit? And if she were lucky, a bit of lace to tuck in around the plain edge of the cuffs? Only way to find out was to go into town…
Dressing quickly, she made her way downstairs to a table already laden with biscuits, gravy, sausage, ham, and a variety of other items that Belulah was whipping up for her guests. Then after running back up to her room, Chloe grabbed her reticule and set off to the main part of town.
It was quieter than she expected, after all the hustle of the day before, but shops were open and Chloe took her time browsing. She found a milliner’s shop and stood admiring the variety of bonnets, in colors she’d never dreamed would go on a bonnet. The few catalogues she’d ever seen were in black and white and she’d had to come up with color combinations of her own.
But it made no sense to get a bonnet if there wasn’t a dress to wear it with, so she reluctantly turned away. A bonnet would definitely be an extravagance, something she wasnt even sure her limited budget could cover. Even in frivolity, Chloe had to be practical.
She must have been too engrossed in her study of the bonnets to have noticed a person behind her, a fact brought into sharp recognition as the person gave a little gasp in surprise when Chloe turned.
“Oh please forgive me!” Chloe cried – was she doomed to meet everyone in this town through a mishap? “I didnt know you were there!”