Word Count 7,560
A Life Before Lancer Story : Johnny’s Life
A coming of age story about our favorite Cowboy. Rated R for sexual situations, but even Mr. Madrid had to start somewhere. . .
ABILENE, TEXAS. JULY, 1864.
Dusk. . .
The air was sultry as The Cowboy slowly rode into town. . . . .
He had been here before. In Abilene. But this time was different. He had, for the first time in a long time, a decent amount of money in his saddlebags. Blood money. But it would get him a few hot meals, a few nights in a decent hotel, and some needed sleep.
And it would give him time to think. And to sulk. And to try to mend his broken heart. Over her. . . .
Elizabeth. Or Lizzie, as he called her. They had been together for seven months. And although they shared love, if two people so young could actually be in love, he never felt he did her justice. So he had let her go just seven days ago. For her own good, he had told her. And she cried. And he did, too. But she deserved better.
Then four days later, his profession called for his services. And he was well paid. And his already broken heart was further saddened by the senselessness of what he did for a living. But it was a living. . . .
He decided he would check into the hotel. The last time he was here, he slept in the livery stable, with the horses and their smells, and the ever-present threat of broken sleep. But this time, he would treat himself to a nice room, a hot bath, a decent bed, and a securely locked door.
He left his horse in the stable, silently chuckling that this time, the horse would be there alone. He made his way across the street into the nicely furnished, pleasant hotel lobby. He rang the bell at the desk. Then he noticed the sign. And of course, as his luck would have it, the sign said “Out to Dinner. Please Check Back at 8 PM.”
He smiled wryly. The one time he was able to afford himself a luxury, and the hotel people weren’t there to serve him. Oh well, he would come back later. . . . .
He walked into the hotel dining room. Nice place, and he was hungry. And it smelled good, too. He was shown, reluctantly by the waiter, to a table. In the middle of the room. The dining room was not crowded. He asked for a table in the corner, in the back of the spacious room. With some help from the bills he pulled out of his jacket, the table he requested was his.
He asked for the finest whiskey the place had. And he got it. Along with a menu, and a rundown of the night’s specials. But he knew what he wanted.
A steak. With potatoes. And green beans. And everything that went with it. And, he would even treat himself to a rich, chocolate cake, with milk, for dessert. After all, he deserved it.
He was sickened at the thought of another night of stew, or beans, or rattlesnake meat. At a campfire. In the middle of nowhere. Alone. And although he knew water was the lifeblood of every living thing, the thought of the bland liquid with dinner just didn’t settle with him. So, when the waiter brought him a glass of water, he kindly declined.
As he waited for his meal, he savored the whiskey. It was a fine brand; smooth tasting, and strong. And warm as it made its way to his stomach. After only a few sips, he felt the warmth in his body, and he could feel his tired bones and muscles begin to relax.
He looked around the room, admiring its décor and beauty. He studied the few customers that were eating on this Tuesday evening, obviously a slow night in the usually bustling town.
There were two middle-aged gentlemen in a corner table, well dressed. Probably successful ranchers discussing some important projects that dealt with their livelihood. Then, near the center of the room, was a family. A mother, father, and daughter, about 17 or 18 years old. Pretty, sweet, innocent. Like Lizzie. It was obviously her birthday, as her parents presented her with gifts, and the remnants of a cake were at their table.
He frowned just a little at the thought of a birthday. And receiving gifts. And of being taken to a nice place for a special birthday dinner. He had never had that. Hell, his last birthday, his 17th, he had spent in jail, sleeping off some really bad liquor that got him into all kinds of trouble. And he grimly pondered whether he would see his 18th. . .
Then, he spied her. In a far corner table, under a dim light. What a fine looking woman, he thought. Very sophisticated. And older. Not old, mind you. Just older. Older than he was, anyway.
She had light red hair, fixed attractively on the top of her head. She wore a pale, long-sleeved green dress, and her accessories told him she obviously came from wealth.
But his thoughts about her were diminished when his meal arrived. It sure was good, and he savored every bite, enjoying it with all his being. And the whiskey. For the first time in a long time, he felt relaxed. And with the whiskey and full stomach, his heartache over Lizzie faded, just a little.
Then, his sixth sense kicked in. The feeling that he was being stared at, looked at, studied. He didn’t like it. He knew it could only mean trouble. But who? The ranchers in the corner? No. They were laughing and joking, and appeared to be ready to leave. The birthday family? No, they had left a few minutes ago, with only a sliver of birthday cake on the still uncleared table the only sign of their existence. No one was in the room except. . . .her.
He looked in her direction. Their eyes met. He smiled. She nodded, then looked away. He continued to stare. She looked up. He winked. She smiled shyly .
It was the familiar game he played so often. Pick and Choose, he secretly called it. He would walk into a saloon, or cantina, and knew that he could pick and choose any woman he wanted. For any woman would have him. Gladly. He would study each woman, decide what he was in the mood for. Blonde or brunette. Redhead? Sometimes. Young or younger. Or older. Big or small. Shy or aggressive. Whatever he was in the mood for, the Cowboy would get. And he would enjoy it. And so would his choice of the evening.
For besides being good at his profession, he was good at this, too. The act of love. Or, lust maybe? Learned at a young age when his mentor, Reveles, decided it was time a 14-year old boy experienced the true pleasures of life. That first time, he was scared. He didn’t know what the hell he was supposed to do. But the young boy learned that nature did take over. But he still had questions, which his mentor gladly answered.
And as he matured and perfected his talents with a gun, he perfected his other talent as well. When he joined Pardee’s gang, his second talent was well underway, and the women, yes women, Pardee introduced the young 16-year old to added to the legend of the young child/man.
So by the time he turned 17, his special way with women was almost as well-known as his abilities with a gun. But he always felt there was something lacking. Love. Some of the women he was with he could envision a life with, if circumstances were different, for both of them. Others, well, a one-night stand, and thank-you ma’am was all he wanted. But he had vowed never to get involved with anyone. For he never knew when he woke up in the morning whether he would be alive to go to sleep that night.
Until Lizzie. . . . .
Young. Naive. And pretty. . . . .
He had been sick with a stomach virus for over a month. A virus that wouldn’t go away, and he’d lost so much weight he had to take his gunbelt in three notches. She had found the sick cowboy, and hid him in the barn (where else did he spend half his life) of her parents’ shack, and secretly took care of him. Gave him soup. And herbs for his stomach. And he slowly got well. Well enough to leave. But wanting to say. Because of her.
And she wanted to go with him. Her mother had other children to look after; her father was drunk more than sober. And he did things to her. Things a father shouldn’t do. She wanted away from them. She would be safe with her Cowboy. Knew he wouldn’t do anything she didn’t want.
But she was only 16. And he, barely 17. He considered himself a man now, but she, well, still a child. It didn’t seem right. But neither did the life she had. So he took her along.
It had been exciting at first, filled with childish mischief, humorous adventures, and special secrets. It had been filled with cozy nights by campfires, where two young, lonely, people would talk. About their hopes and dreams. And fears. Where a young girl would cuddle up to the warmth of her young man. And, sometimes, when two bodies would become one. . . .under the moon and the stars.
But always, there was danger. For him. But she was with him. And he feared for her safety, for her life. And after she witnessed one of his gunfights, and the fear she felt for his safety, and the horror of what her Cowboy did for a living, things changed. . . .for him. They both still loved one another, but he realized he could not, would not, subject his precious Lizzie to the lowness of his life. So he found a Catholic priest, and asked him to please take care of her, to make sure she had a chance at an education. For a good life. The priest reluctantly agreed.
He had told Lizzie they were going to town to visit someone. And when they got to the church, he told her good-bye. She didn’t understand. “Why are you leaving me, Johnny? What did I do to make you hate me?” she cried.
“I love you too much, Lizzie. You’re too good for me. Please. . .don’t hate me…” And the Cowboy walked away. And took his broken heart with him.
Four days later, his services were requested. This one time, he didn’t really care if he won the fight or not. Death, he surmised, would feel better then the sadness he felt in his heart. But he had won, was nicely paid, and he found himself in Abilene, at this nice hotel, in this dining room, looking at her. . . .
With the cocky stride that was becoming his trademark, the Cowboy walked up to the pretty, red-haired lady. He nodded, smiled, and sat down, without being asked. He had considered calling her “Red,” but when he looked at her, he noticed her pale white complexion, and he was taken aback by her eyes. They were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. A light green. And sparkling. And her light coloring was quite a contrast to the dark, fiery Mexican senoritas he had so often been with.
They made small talk. She was “Green Eyes” to him. He was “Cowboy” to her. First names were not needed. Or wanted.
And as he studied her, he knew she was an older woman. The small creases around her eyes and mouth. But she was beautiful. And sophisticated. And he wondered why a woman of her age and obvious social standing and a down and out, half-breed Mexican gunfighter young enough to be her son, would be toying with each other’s affections.
He asked where she was from. It didn’t matter, she told him. Where was he from? Everywhere, he had smiled.
He bought her more wine, he ordered more whiskey, and they talked for hours. About nothing and everything. The waiter finally told them the place was closed. It was time to go.
“You got a room, Cowboy?” she asked, coyly.
“Never got a chance to check in. Might as well try to get a room now. Ain’t too busy, should be able to,” he answered.
“Why don’t you just stay with me? Room’s plenty big enough.” He didn’t have to think twice.
She had the best room in the hotel. The suite. With plush carpets and furniture. And a bed big enough for four people. And one of those fancy bathtubs with hot water. How he wanted a bath. “Well, take one. I won’t mind,” she told him.
So he stripped off his dusty clothes and boots. “I’ll take those. I can have the hotel laundry wash them for you,” she offered. He happily obliged.
He sank down into the deep tub, filled with the hot water. He closed his eyes, and between the heat of the water, the whiskey, and his full stomach, he was in heaven. He was relaxed, and the hot water went down to his sore bones and muscles. Better be careful I don’t fall asleep, sink into the water and drown. Now wouldn’t that be a way for Johnny Madrid to go, he chuckled to himself.
He sensed he was being watched. He opened his eyes and Green Eyes stood there. In all her natural beauty. With her pale red hair no longer pinned up, but down, past her shoulders. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Mind if I join you?” she teased. And at that, she crawled right in the tub with him. Behind him, with her long legs wrapped around him. And he lay his body against her breasts. And she took the sponge and squeezed the water over his chest. And his back. Then she got the soap and washed his back. And his chest. He asked what she wanted him to do.
She liked to have her long hair washed, she told him. So he squeezed the sponge over her hair, then lathered the soap on his hands and spread it in her hair. And rubbed her head. She enjoyed it. He rinsed her hair off, and spread his fingers through her wet hair. He chuckled as some of it became entwined in his fingers.
As he lay back against her, she wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders, her legs around his legs.
She noticed the silver religious medallion he wore around his neck. She took it in her hands and looked at it, twirling the chain in her hands. It looked well-worn, and small for his chest. She turned the medallion so she could see the back of it. There was no engraving or anything, but around the front of the medal were the words “St. Christopher Protect Us.” Somehow, Green Eyes knew her Cowboy needed protected.
“Catholic, huh?” she queried.
“Yeah,” he replied. “You?”
“Yes. Someone special give you this?”
“It belonged to my mother. When she died, I wanted something to remember her by. Didn’t really understand its meaning then, but as I got older, I realized its significance. Sure glad I have it, though. Makes me feel like she’s watchin’ over me. . . “
“When did she die?” she asked, curiously.
“When I was twelve.”
“Where’s your father?”
After a long silence, the Cowboy told her that as far as he was concerned, his father was dead.
Green Eyes realized she was treading on painful ground here, so she said nothing more, and the two bodies enjoyed the warmth of the bath.
When the unlikely couple had concluded their bath, they wrapped themselves in the large, fluffy towels and retreated to the large, comfortable bed. They sat in the middle of it and she removed the towel from around her body and dried her hair with it, then handed him a brush.
“I like to have my hair brushed,” she said.
So he took the brush and ran it through her damp, soft, hair. He could feel her body relax as he brushed, and he softly hummed. He even took her hair in his fingers and made tiny braids, just like he used to do with his mother’s hair. His mother’s long, beautiful black hair. And his mother would let him braid it because he liked the feel of braided hair. And the song he hummed as he playfully braided the red hair was a Mexican lullaby his mother used to sing to him. Funny, he hadn’t thought about that song in years. . . . . .
When he finished brushing, she turned to him and began to run her fingers through his dark, shoulder length hair. Green eyes met sapphire eyes, and he felt his heart race as his lips met hers. Soft lips, he thought.
And as his fluffy towel was hastily dropped to the floor and strong arms and tiny arms embraced each other, a lonely lady and a child/man lay back on the bed.
And the whole world stopped. . . . . .
And for the first time since they encountered each other earlier that evening, the Cowboy felt in control. He knew what women liked. What women wanted. Gentleness. And softness. And she responded. And he briefly wondered if this was the right thing to do. Sure, he had been with women before. But not one like this. A real woman. And so much older. But it felt so right. For him. And for her, he could tell. So it must be. . . . .
And at that special time in life when two bodies become one, Green Eyes and the Cowboy were oblivious to everything and everyone in the world, except each other. And the warm breeze through the open window was hardly enough to cool the heat of their bodies, as their passions rose and both were taken to a place they didn’t know existed. . . .
Could this be heaven on earth, he wondered?
And when that magical moment was over, when their hearts slowed down and he cooled her body with his breath, two tired people lay on the bed, she with her head on his chest, his arms around her. And they blissfully went to sleep. . . . . .
He awoke to her voice talking to someone. He sat up in bed, and she came toward him carrying a tray. She was dressed in a pretty, light blue negligee, and as he saw her for the first time in the light of day, she was more beautiful then he realized.
And as she saw him for the first time in the light of day, sitting in bed with tussled hair and sleepy eyes, she chuckled to herself that he looked like the cutest little boy she had ever seen. But she knew that the naked body under the sheet belonged to a man; a man that knew how to make a woman happy.
“I ordered us breakfast. Room service,” she proudly announced.
He smiled. “Good, I’m hungry.”
She teased. “Well, after last night, I can see why. . . . . .”
He looked at her, smiled his delicious smile, and blushed.
He had expected bacon and eggs for breakfast. With coffee. And some milk.
What he got were strawberries. And champagne.
“For breakfast?!” he asked, a little exasperated.
“You, Cowboy, obviously don’t know anything about champagne and strawberry brunches, do you?” she teased.
Well, the Cowboy learned. And enjoyed as he learned. He learned of a new way to eat strawberries. And drink champagne. . . . . . .
Green Eyes got dressed. She put on a pretty pale yellow dress. Not as fancy as the one she had on at dinner, but pretty just the same. The Cowboy asked her to keep her hair long, not to pin it up. He liked it better that way. She obliged.
Since his clothes were being laundered, he retrieved some clothes from his saddlebags. She thought they didn’t do him justice.
“A man as good-looking as you are deserves fancy clothes,” she told him.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with my clothes. I like ‘em. . .” he protested.
She smiled, then announced, “I want to go shopping.”
Shopping, he thought. Just like a woman.
But Green Eyes did not plan on shopping for herself. Some new clothes for her Cowboy were in order, and she was determined to see that he get them.
He bulked at first. “Ain’t never had no complaints about my clothes,” he bellowed.
“I’m not complaining, Cowboy. But everybody needs more than one or two shirts and pants.” He reluctantly agreed.
“Just don’t pick out anythin’ to fancy,” he whined.
“Cowboy, in so many ways you’re still just a child,” she chided.
“I ain’t no child,” he mumbled. Never was, really. . . .
When the shopping was completed, the Cowboy had three new pairs of pants, four shirts, new boots, and a new hat. He liked everything. Except for the shirts. The shirts were fine; it was the colors Green Eyes chose that he wasn’t crazy about. Salmon. And light pink. And soft blue.
“I’ll be the laughing stock of the border,” he protested.
But he was assured that he wouldn’t be. That the women would love it. And to at least give his new wardrobe a try. The colors were popular around the border and would be easily available for future purchases. And she suggested that someday, he try the pants with the studs up the side.
“When you’re a bit older,” she teased.
He looked at her, exasperated. “I’m old enough now. . . . . .”
They spent the day walking the town, she looking in shops, he waiting for her. At one point, she was taken up with something in one of the shops they were in. And so was he. The Cowboy wanted to buy a present for this special lady; after all she bought for him, it was the least he could do. He remembered how she loved to brush her pretty red hair, so he bought her a pretty silver mirror that matched the comb and the brush he had used on her hair. And he paid for it with the few dollars he had left from a job working on a ranch a few weeks back. The money he earned because Lizzie was sick and needed some medicine. And at that time, the services of his main profession were not needed.
Besides, he would never buy anything for someone he cared about with blood money. Hell, he didn’t even like spending it on himself.
When Green Eyes had her fill of shopping, the couple wandered to the livery. The Cowboy needed to check on his horse. They asked the man who ran the stable if they could borrow one of his buggies to take a ride. He agreed, reluctantly, only after the Cowboy had pulled the magic bills from his jacket. Blood money. Oh, well. . . .
He drove the buggy while she sat back and relaxed. They found a pretty spot outside of town, with some shade trees. And Green Eyes continued to surprise her Cowboy. Out of her pearled satchel came a small flask of some mighty fine whiskey. Just enough to quench one’s thirst on a hot day.
They sat on a log in the shade and talked. And drank. And probably because of their total ease with each other, and their relaxed state, they bared their souls to one another.
She had gently again questioned him about his father. And he told her the story. How he had kicked them out of his home and his life when he was only two. How their lives were ones of poverty. And he told her what he had never told another living soul. . .how he had witnessed the murder of his beautiful mother.
Then he told her about Lizzie. How he had loved her, but let her go. And how he hoped he had done the right thing. Leaving her at the Catholic church. But he couldn’t send her back to her father; he did things to her. And she couldn’t stay with him. She would be the one that ended up dead, he feared. While death would evade him and he would go on. . . .
She assured him he had done the right thing.
And Green Eyes silently cried for this young man. This Cowboy. And wondered how one young man could still be so gentle, kind, and vulnerable, after all life had dealt him. And how he deserved so much more. Maybe, in her own way, she could help him. She was older; old enough to be his mother. But her feelings for him were not that of a mother for her son; but rather, a woman for an attractive, sensitive younger man. But still, maybe, she could give him some words of wisdom that she knew he so desperately needed.
She asked him to consider, someday, meeting with his father. “If just to talk, for an hour,” she told him. “You may find something good that you don’t know exists. Find out his side of the story. If you don’t, you’ll always wonder what could have been. Because, my Cowboy, you deserve so much in life.”
He told her he’d think about it. But he knew he wouldn’t. If the man that sired him really wanted to meet with him, he would have to seek him out first. Then maybe, he would consider it. Stubbornness. . . . .
Now it was her turn. What was her story? Why was such a fine lady as Green Eyes traveling alone, in Abilene, of all places.
So she told him her husband of 20 years had died. Senselessly. Tried to break up a fight between two drunken cowboys, and was shot through the heart. She was returning from back east, where she spent some time with her sister, and stopped off in Abilene because the town brought back fond memories of her youth.
She had been young, 18, when she married him, and he was 10 years older than she. And she had a baby early on, but things went wrong. The baby died, and she could have no other. So it was just the two of them. For twenty years. . . .
And when he died, just six months ago, she realized, at 38 years old, she was completely alone. She had depended on him for everything. And she realized she had never been with any other man except for him. Until. . . . last night. . . . . . .
When she saw him. She told the Cowboy how she felt when she caught her first glimpse of him. So young, so serious, but yet, a maturity and cockiness that she found appealing. And innocence. And she noticed his eyes, even from across the room. And she realized how she never really felt the love of a man. And even though she had been married for 20 years, she discovered last night, in a hot hotel room in Abilene, how it really felt to be loved. And to love back. She felt like . . . .it was her first time. . . . .
As they rode back into town, they were silent. Alone with their thoughts. He was confused; he didn’t quite know what to think about this woman. Did he love her? Yes. And no. If only she were younger, he thought. But God, last night was the most wonderful night of his life, and age meant nothing. She was so different from his past women. Women who only wanted him for his body. And he for theirs. Who meant nothing to him really, except a good time. And a few hours of pleasure from the horrors of his life.
And she definitely wasn’t like Lizzie. His Lizzie. So young and sweet. The love they shared between them had been innocent and child like. The love that the Cowboy had with this woman last night was, well, indescribable. But he had loved it. . . . and loved her.
And she was just as confused. Did she have the right to make love to, to love someone, so damn young. Young in some ways, but mature beyond his years in others. She knew what he did for a living. He didn’t tell her; didn’t have to. She just knew. But she didn’t care. And God help her, she loved him. . . .
They returned to the hotel and prepared for dinner. She wore her pale red hair down over her shoulders, the way he liked it. And tonight, she wore an off-white dress with blue earrings, necklace, and bracelet.. And he wore the soft blue shirt she had bought him to compliment her jewelry.
They again dined in the hotel dining room, where they had first encountered one another only 24 hours before. The place was a bit more crowded then the night before, but they hardly noticed.
The Cowboy and Green Eyes were in their own world. A world where a lonely, middle-aged woman and a lonely, young gunfighter somehow found each other and gave one another the strength, courage, and the love to see each other through another day.
And although the Cowboy didn’t realize it, their time together was short. For Green Eyes knew they would have one last night together. That’s all she would allow. Because if she should allow herself to spend another day with this man, this child, this boy, she would never be able to leave him. For her feelings for him were already too deep, and in her heart, she knew it wouldn’t be fair. To her. And especially, not fair to him.
He presented her with the silver mirror after dinner. She was truly touched. And she knew that every time she used it, she would think of the young cowboy who had put some magic back into her lonely life.
They returned to her suite and a silence came upon them. They knew what they wanted. Each other. Just like last night. And she tried to resist. And so did he. But there are certain feelings that cannot, and should not, be denied. Like Passion. Like Fire. Burning in one’s soul.
So they embraced. And they kissed. And before they realized it, their clothes were on the floor, and they were on the bed. As one. And when that special time between a man and a woman again came to them, the Cowboy knew how it felt to love. To really love. To really love…a woman. Not a young girl, not some whore from the saloon, but a real woman. And it felt good. . . . . .
And she realized the feelings she had for the Cowboy were feelings she had never felt before, had never knew existed. Passion. Fire.
And she said the words that, in 20 years of marriage, she had never, ever spoken to her husband, even when they were in the very throngs of passion. For she never really felt the desire to whisper them, until now. . ..
“I love you,” she said, breathlessly, through tears.
And for the first time in his young, difficult life, the Cowboy felt real love, real desire, but most of all, a genuine affection and caring for someone. His Green Eyes.
“I love you too,” he cried to her, and tightened his embrace on her body and her soul.
And the earth moved. . . . . . . .
And when it was over, she placed her head on his chest, and he embraced her with his strong arms. He fell asleep. And she watched him sleep. And she smiled. The dawn of the new day shone on his handsome face, revealing the long lashes, and a small smile across his lips. And his breathing. Deep. Steady. Content.
“You must be exhausted, Cowboy. Sleep well.”
It was time for her to go. She had quickly packed her things the night before, when he was freshening up for dinner. She had her clothes ready, everything was in order. She had written the letter the night before, while he peacefully slept. For she knew then. . .
She quietly got out of the large bed they shared. She quickly and quietly dressed, and carefully wrapped the silver mirror he had bought her in her pearled satchel.
Then she placed a letter on the nightstand, along with a small box. Another gift for him. But something special. To remember her by.
She looked at him one last time. He moved and quietly sighed. She kissed her index finger and placed it on his forehead.
I love you, Johnny Madrid, she mouthed. She had known. All along. But it didn’t matter. For she realized that her Cowboy was special, and if given a chance, he could someday be all he could be.
She picked up her bags, turned around, and walked out the door. And cried. She would be long gone by the time he awoke.
The warm breeze, the daytime sounds, and the bright sunlight awoke him. For a brief moment, he wallowed in the pure ecstasy of the night before. He reached out to feel her. Her softness. Her very being. But she wasn’t there. . . . .
He quickly rose, and looked around the spacious hotel room. And he realized he was alone. . .in the bed. And in the room. And in his heart. Alone. Again. . . .
He spied the letter and the box on the nightstand and knew what it meant. Someone else had entered his life. And left. That seemed to be his calling. To meet someone, anyone. To become a friend. Or lover. And have that person leave. Or, as in Lizzie’s case, to have to leave them. And most of the time, it would be because of death. A senseless death. In a gunfight. Or a brawl.
Sometimes, they would just drift apart. And he would never know what became of them. Whether they were still alive or not. And it hurt. And he was tired of hurting.
And what of Lizzie. What would become of her? And Green Eyes. . .
Who was she, really? And had she really cared, or did she just use him, like all the others? And he wondered if maybe, he used her as well. But he knew he hadn’t; for he had truly loved her. But it didn’t make him feel any better. . . . .
He laid in bed for the rest of the day. Sulking. After all, that’s what he had come to Abilene to do in the first place. But over Lizzie. But now, the sweet girl was just another memory to him, and he sulked over what he now considered to be. . . .his first love. Green Eyes. .
Was it supposed to hurt this much?
He considered tearing up the letter and leaving the box behind. But he couldn’t. He wanted to read her words, hear her words, feel her words. To help him understand why she had left. Where she had gone, and maybe, who she was. . . . .
With tear-filled eyes, he opened the envelope. Her handwriting was pretty, feminine, just like her. And he could feel her presence as he read her words of love. . . .
My Cowboy. . . .
Thank you. Thank you for the feeling of life you have given to me. After meeting you, after talking and laughing and being with you, and loving you, I realize now that my life was just a shell of what it could have been.
You made me feel young again. And foolish. And happy. And all those wonderful emotions one feels when they realize, for the first time, they are truly in love. Which I am with you. I have never known anyone like you. And I don’t think I ever will.
I will always remember your voice, your soft drawl. Your self-assuredness. And your youthful awkwardness. And your eyes. You told me you got them from your father. Well, if you’re any indication, he must be a very good-looking man.
You are so young, and have so much to live for. I hope that someday, you find who, and what, you’re looking for. A family, perhaps?
You also deserve a young, beautiful woman who can share your life with you. She’s out there, you just need to find her.
As for me, well, I can now go on with my life, thanks to you. And the love I have for you, and always will have for you, deep in my heart, will sustain me. And get me through whatever my future holds.
And I will always remember our two nights together. Never in my life. . .need I say more?
And so, my precious Johnny Madrid. Yes, I know. I’ve known all along. But it doesn’t matter. For I know the real Johnny Madrid. Not the legend, not the boy. But the man. And he’s a good one. Always remember that. . . .
So I must leave you, I’m sorry. But I leave you a gift. To go with something you already have. From your mother.
May you wear it close to your heart. And know that through it, I will always be with you. Watching over you. Protecting you. Along with your mother.
I Love You. My Child. My Man. My……Love. Keep Safe, and Be Happy.
Forever and Always
Your Green Eyes (Annie)
So, Annie was her name. And she knew who, and what, he was. And it hadn’t mattered. For she had loved him. He made her feel….whole. And young. And fulfilled. That he could do that, that he could actually make another person feel good about themselves, just by being himself, well, wasn’t that something. Maybe, there was hope for him after all.
And he knew she truly loved him. . . .
He picked up the box and opened up her gift. A medal. Of St. Christopher. A beautiful, new, shiny, silver medal. And larger than the one he already had. She was right, he would take his mother’s medal and place it on the chain with the new one she had given him. And the two women he loved most in the world would be with him. Always and forever.
He looked at the back of the medal and she had it engraved. To Johnny. Love Annie. Forever. July 1864.
The mystery of Annie became even greater to him. But he decided it would remain that. A mystery. For to try to unravel the reasoning of the last few days, of the encounter, of the attraction, of the love, would probably just drive him crazy.
So, like everything else in the Cowboy’s life, he decided to let it be. It had happened. It was a part of his life. And he had to accept it. And he had to move on. . . . . .
It was early evening, and the Cowboy couldn’t stay in that room. Alone. Not with the memories of the good things that had happened there. So he decided to leave. He would eat at the local saloon, and get a room there. But he would remain alone this night. For the thought of one of the local girls wanting him just didn’t appeal to him right now. He knew that he deserved so much more. . . . .
He checked out of the pleasant hotel and checked in at the saloon. He ate and went up to his room. But he didn’t sleep. He just remembered. And smiled at the memories. Of her. And cried as well. But the tears were for things that could have been. Maybe. If he had grown up with his father. He had heard about the Lancer Ranch. Heard it was really something. And he had considered, from time to time, just riding up to northern California and getting a job as a ranch hand, just to meet the old bastard. And to see if the old man would know who he was. And maybe, someday. . . . .
As dawn came, the Cowboy walked over to the livery, retrieved his horse, and left Abilene. He could never go back there. Too many memories. But for once, happy memories. But he learned even happy memories can hurt.
As he came to the crossroads a few miles out of town, he pondered which way to go. He decided south. To Mexico. He felt at home there. And, a range war was brewing, and he was always ready to fight a good fight, for a good cause. To fight for the underdog.
But one thing he knew for sure. He didn’t want to get involved any more. At least, not now. Maybe when he was older. Like 18. Because between Lizzie and Green Eyes, or Annie, he just couldn’t handle it right now.
But what he had learned from her during their brief encounter—the friendship, the happiness, would remain with him always.
And he realized that if he were to die tomorrow, he would at least have known what it really felt like to be in love. For that had been her greatest gift to him. The Gift of Love. And he would be forever grateful.
And it would sustain him through his darkest hours. . . . .
She sat on the train headed east. To Boston. Her final destination. In life.
She had been headed there from her home in Nevada, where she had lived the past 20 years with her husband. A husband she was trapped with. Didn’t really love, never did. But circumstances in her youth had forced her into marriage; only to have that circumstance die at birth. But divorce was not an option, so the young woman was forced to live a life with a man, an old man at that, that she didn’t really love.
She had always wondered what it felt like to be in love. To be physically attracted to a young man. To feel giddy. To blush when he spoke to you. Or to have your insides turn upside down when he looked at you and smiled. Or winked. To wonder what he was doing when you weren’t with them. To feel all the things you should feel when in love.
She had never known. She had lived her life with him. It had been a financially comfortable life, but unhappy none the less. His drinking, his affairs, his temper, his roughness during times of passion, had taken their toll on her. And when he died, the result of a drunken brawl with another woman’s husband, she had been secretly relieved.
But then, two months after his death, she discovered her time was short as well. A blood disease, she was told. That couldn’t be cured. She was advised to go to Boston, where the doctors there were the best, and where her life could be prolonged a few more months, anyway. And she would be made comfortable and looked after there as well.
And since the thought of visiting Boston had always been a dream of hers, she decided she would go. After all, she had no other family . . . .
The stop in Abilene had been an accident. She became ill and needed to rest for a few days. So she treated herself to the best suite in the hotel. And pampered herself. She was feeling better and had planned an early dinner that night so she could leave on the early train.
But then, she saw him. The Cowboy. His youth. His good looks. Hell, his sensuality, just by the way he was. And for the first time in her life, she felt the things that one feels when they realize they have found their soul mate. The butterflies. The shyness. The rapid heartbeat.
She didn’t think he would notice her; after all, he was so young. But he had. And although she couldn’t of known it, he was just as lonely as she was. And, for whatever reasons, he felt those things, too.
And she had fallen in love. And would take that feeling with her to her grave.
But she had lied to him about her life. For she didn’t want his pity. Or his tears. For the Cowboy would never know that he had given a dying woman his greatest gift. The Gift of Love. And she would be forever grateful.
And it would sustain her through her darkest hours…
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