In memory of Marlene Campbell
Dedicated to Marlene Campbell, a Lancer Writer’s friend who left this earth in June 2016. To lose one of our Lancer lover’s fold is to lose a part of ourselves. Marlene, dear, you will be missed
Word count: 860
Miss Marlene stepped out of the dress shop and swished the hem of her long skirt aside just as the door closed behind her. She allowed herself a long moment to adjust the purse strings around her wrist as she scanned the entrances to the other storefronts lining the boardwalks of Morro Coyo. She could find the day to day activities of the small California hamlet quite tedious at times . . . however, on days like this she was quite happy that her father had chosen this particular place to settle.
The subject of her increased joy had just exited Baldemerro’s general store across the street. Marlene pulled at her purse strings again, opened the bag and fumbled over a handkerchief. She raised it to her eyes and dabbed at them slowly, as if being incessantly tormented by some infinitesimal speck of unknown origin. Fainting dead away was a passing consideration, should she be discovered in her ruse. Yet this did not stop her from peering above the kerchief at the true focus of her attention.
One of the Lancer boys was taking his own moment upon the porch to button his jacket. Johnny it happened to be . . . but she would have initiated her artifice for Scott Lancer as well. Both men intrigued her to no end, social proprieties becoming ever easier to disregard each time she spotted them. Born of different mothers, comparing the differences in Murdoch Lancer’s sons had become a preoccupation of hers, and she relished every opportunity to add to the list of each man’s attributes, gleaning all she could from girlish banter and furtive glances.
Scott Lancer was blonde, tall, thin but fit, and his posture faultless. Boston-bred like his mother, and an ex-military officer, Marlene found his impeccable manners, proper speech and eastern accent wholly enchanting.
Johnny Lancer had raven black hair, a medium but muscular build, and tended to slouch. Raised along the Texas border towns by his Mexican mother, his background as a former gunfighter left him with an air of deep mystery.
Both men exuded the utmost confidence – and had striking blue eyes.
Knowing she had but mere seconds or risk discovery, Marlene focused upon Johnny’s form of dress. His jacket was short in a Mexican style. As he fixed each button, she recognized the shirt beneath as one she had seen him wear many times. It was of an unnamable reddish hue. At this distance she couldn’t make it out, but from prior observances she knew the shirt featured delicate embroidery stitched along either side of the buttons. Both pieces of clothing showed signs of wear, but also comfort. They also gave Johnny a distinguishing style not easily duplicated. Johnny was, above all, his own man.
Marlene gave herself one more moment to gaze upon Johnny Lancer, and then forced herself to consign the kerchief back into her handbag. She turned toward the bank where she was to meet her father and began to walk, already cataloguing her new observations about the young man into her remembrances. She smiled wryly as she considered that neither of the Lancer sons had probably ever so scrutinized her, musing that most likely the men barely knew of her existence, let alone something as mundane as her name. She was young, and they were young, and time would tell . . . . ‘Girls are allowed to dream,’ she thought, and her smile warmed.
Johnny Lancer had never taken so long to button a jacket in his life. It was a ruse, yet this did not stop him from peering below the brim of his hat at the true focus of his attention.
Marlene Campbell stood at the door of the dress shop across the street, dabbing a kerchief at her eyes. He had seen the woman around town a few times now, but they’d not met formally yet. He was going to have to fix that soon, because Scott had noticed her too and was starting to bring her name up a little too much lately. The men hadn’t had to wrangle over any lady friends yet, and Johnny hoped to keep it that way. ‘There is a first time for everything, though,’ he thought, as he watched Miss Marlene finally put her kerchief away and start heading down the boardwalk. He recognized her daddy’s carriage parked in front of the bank . . . where he was supposed to meet up with Scott . . . .
‘Yep. First time for everything,’ Johnny thought as he bounded off the boardwalk onto the dirt street.
Marlene’s hand froze above the door handle of the bank. She knew who stood behind her, had heard that voice with its captivating drawl several times from afar, and many times in her dreams. She inhaled deeply, silently entreating the heavens that her own voice would remain steady. She turned, this time begging the heavens that her knees would not buckle.
“Mr. Lancer,” she said, her voice remarkably strong. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
‘Yes, girls ARE allowed to dream,’ she thought again, and once more her smile warmed.
To Marlene, from Maureen, June 2016
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