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.
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.
“It’s okay,” he smiled. “Say, do you still want to go to the dance?” He smiled wider seeing her face light up.
“Do you mean it, Tom? I think we’d have such a nice time.”
“Then let’s get ready. They’ll be plenty to eat there.”
Josiah knew his sister, Garnet, was staying at the Crystal Palace. He couldn’t believe she was already in town. As much as he dreaded running into her, he felt he needed to get the introductions over with. He also wanted to try and reason with her. There must be something he could do to set boundaries on her behavior.
He knocked on her door and a sweet southern voice told him to come in. Garnet smiled when she saw him enter.
“Why, if it isn’t my dear brother. How are you?”
“Why are you here?” Josiah asked. Oh, dear, she thought, he’s going to be tedious.
“To see my brother.”
“Whatever do you mean?” Garnet asked with eyes full of innocence.
“Are you looking for another husband?”
“Maybe. What business is that of yours?”
“I have a good reputation in this town and want to keep it,” Josiah said with exasperation.
“Mercy, Josiah, I don’t want to marry you.”
“You aren’t my type.”
“I like my men with some fire—like me. As for your precious reputation, I’m not here to tarnish it.”
“Can you at least behave like a lady?”
“Fiddle dee dee! What do you think I’m going to do, become a saloon trollop and sing my way through town?”
“THAT would not surprise me!” Josiah could feel his blood pressure rising. Garnet smiled.
“You know, I CAN kick my legs up higher than those two-bit dance hall girls.”
“Can’t you pretend you’re happy to see me?”
“I WILL be happy if you behave.” Josiah had to admit she was a beautiful woman. He wasn’t sure where she got her looks from. Both their parents were very plain. He sighed.
“Why do we always have to fight?” Garnet asked finally.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way we were raised.”
“We were raised with a very short leash.”
“Precisely what I mean. Maybe it’s your rebellious attitude that makes me nervous.”
“I HAD to rebel. You remember how it was. Even when we were children. We couldn’t talk to anyone, play with anyone. Heaven forbid we sang, or danced, or laughed.” Garnet didn’t like exposing her underbelly; but this constant dissension with her brother was tiring. “What was I supposed to do?”
“Follow the example of your older sister?” Even as he made that suggestion, he regretted it.
“That sanctimonious witch?! She made our lives impossible! Or don’t you remember?” Yes, he recalled all too well how evil Victoria could be.
“I wasn’t suggesting you become like her. Just follow her example as to how she went about things. I don’t imagine she enjoyed not having any freedoms. But she waited patiently until she turned 21. Then she had money to do what she wanted with. There was never any scandal or ill will between her and our parents. I’m just saying that it made HER life easier.”
“And instead, at 16, I married the first man that came along.”
“I don’t know as he was the first man; but you get what I’m saying. You made life harder for yourself in the end.” Garnet looked at Josiah frowning.
“But I didn’t. Hamilton Spencer was a dear man. He treated me very well.”
“Our parents cut you off. You lost your inheritance.”
“Good grief! I don’t need their money. I’m sorry if my behavior made your life difficult. I only did what I thought was best for me. After all, I am selfish. I couldn’t have lived like that for much longer.”
“What about Philip Manson?” Josiah asked. Garnet walked to the window and fingered the lace curtains nervously.
“What ABOUT Philip Manson?”
“Did you let him court you and then blackmail him?”
“Well….yes, those two facts are correct.”
“Garnet, that’s what creates scandals. Unfortunately, they stay with you…and the family. Was the money worth it?” Garnet looked out the window, careful about what she was going to say next. She could just let Josiah think what he wanted to. Or she could tell him the truth. She slowly turned and faced him.
“Yes, those two facts are correct. It’s what happened in the middle of those facts that warrants serious reflection.”
“Meaning?” Garnet had never told anyone what that man had done. She still wasn’t sure she wanted to.
“That pompous piece of garbage had his way with me.” Josiah stepped back in shock.
“What?” Philip Manson was a respectable lawyer. His parents had done business with him. “What are you saying?” he asked.
“He raped me!” she snapped. “I thought I was clear.” Josiah couldn’t believe it. How could they have all misjudged this man? “Of course, it was my fault because I trusted him.” Josiah’s head was swimming. He knew she wasn’t lying about such a thing.
“We all trusted him,” he mumbled. “Why didn’t you tell someone?”
“Tell them what? Which of our pretentious parents would have believed me? Or cared? They were too concerned with money and public opinion. Do you know what a scandal it would have caused if I made such an accusation? It would all be blamed on me. Surely I knew he wanted to get under my skirt. I must have led him on. Well, YOU know how men talk. I know how women talk. I wasn’t about to be a part of anyone’s talk.”
“So you blackmailed him?”
“Not right away. A few weeks later I found out quite accidentally that he was married. The old coot was making advances to me when his own wife was sick in an asylum.”
“Wife?” Josiah sputtered.
“Yes. She’s in England at some insane hospital. Her sister found out he was passing himself around like a cheap dandy. She wrote me and let me know about his wife. I marched right over to that gigolo’s house and demanded money. Oh, he was more than generous once he knew I had that AND the rape on him.” Josiah sank into a nearby chair. “How did you find out about the blackmail?”
“I heard a rumor about it the last time I went home. It was vague and not flattering.”
“Those old crows don’t know how to be flattering. They’re so jealous, it’s amazing their skin hasn’t turned green.”
“Okay, I admit I might have been a bit hard on you, both to your face and behind your back. I had no idea all this went on.”
“It hardly matters in the long run. I am who I am. I’m willful and spoiled and sassy. And I can be embarrassing to be around. But I don’t care. I won’t ever be treated like a common whore again. I won’t make any claim to our parents’ money and I won’t be poor. So there you have it.” She turned back to look out the window. “What is your opinion of me now, brother?” Josiah got up and stepped behind Garnet. He put his hands on her slight shoulders.
“Yes, you’re willful and spoiled and sassy. But I guess I can’t blame you. Not all people are of the same spirit. I’m sorry I misjudged you.” Garnet found herself fighting back real tears.
“You weren’t that far off in your judgment,” she admitted. Josiah smiled.
“Have it your way. I don’t want us to fight anymore. Shall we agree to be different but civil?” Garnet turned and smiled.
“Yes! Let’s see how long we can keep it up.”
“Garnet, you’re quite impossible.”
“Shall we shake on it?” she asked, extending her hand.
“I’d rather a hug, I think.”
“Agreed.” They hugged the way a brother and sister should. “Are you going to the dance tonight?”
“I don’t usually. I’m not much of a dancer. Actually, I’m not much for conversation either.”
“Lordy, Josiah, you ARE boring. Go home and get spiffy. I just lost my escort a few minutes before you came. It would be nice for you to be there.”
“Maybe. We’ll see.” He left Garnet’s room feeling much happier than when he entered.
Ricardo Diaz was still a bit peeved that John Baumberger would have the pleasure of Lorraine’s company tonight. He knew he’d get over it. After all, he could always ask Lorraine to another Friday dance. Or, he could ask her to dinner one evening. No, he wasn’t going to let a book collector get the woman he admired. With that resolution, Ricardo decided he wasn’t going to the dance to watch her with another man. But he wasn’t going to let this spoil his evening. Maybe having dinner out would make things better. He decided to go to the Tucson Café. He was in the mood for some good Mexican foodl.
The restaurant was empty except for a couple sitting by the window. He smiled as the owner, Maria Delgado, greeted him.
“Good evening, Senior Diaz. How are you?” Maria was a very pretty young woman with long black hair and large brown eyes.
“Very good, Senorita Delgado. And you?”
“Good. It’s a slow evening so you can sit where you’d like. I will bring a menu.”
“Not necessary. I would like some beef enchiladas and red wine.” Maria smiled; it was what he usually ordered.
“With rice and beans?”
“Si, with rice and beans. You remember!” He picked a seat in a corner of the small restaurant. On one of the seats was a copy of yesterday’s newspaper. He was pleased he now had something to read. In a matter of minutes, he had almost forgotten about the dance.