Word Count 2,802
I want to thank my beta Raian who helped me in editing once more this little story. She’s so supportive of my work that it helps me keeping in writing ! I’m French so I try to remain simple! I hope you’ll like seeing the four members of the family reunited.
” Johnny ! Johnny ! Hurry up ! ” exclaimed Teresa.” Scott ! Where’s Johnny ? We’re late ! “
“ I’m coming !” Came a distant voice from the first floor.
Scott nodded his head, a broad smile spread on his face. Teresa was so nervous it seemed she would explode. A new store was opening in town today and Murdoch had promised she would go the very first day in order to see EVERYTHING as she had stated. She waited in the entrance, all dressed, her hat on, and tapping lightly her feet on the ground. The last member of the trio, the said Johnny, was late, of course !
Scott went up the stairs, his long legs skipping a step out of two, to fetch his younger brother… who arrived running and bouncing into him.
“ Whoah !” cried Scott . “You make us wait and now you almost wounded me ! ”
“ Me ? ” Johnny displayed his most innocent look, a childish air on his face.
“ Now, come on down the stairs or our little sister’s going to hate you ! You don’t want that, do you ?” Asked the eldest Lancer son with a devilish grin.
Johnny snorted. Once in the hall, before she could say anything, he planted a kiss on Teresa’s brow, eliciting a smile from her. Then he rushed outside and jumped on his horse : “ You coming ? I’m waiting ! ”
Scott laughed joyfully. This expedition was the promise of good time spent together. Teresa shone like a sun, eyes sparkling and lightly red with anticipated pleasure.
Murdoch arrived from the stable and wished them fun. “Teresa, honey, don’t buy the whole store. Do leave something for the other women ! And boys, keep an eye on her ! That Teresa of ours is becoming a real lady. Don’t waste too much of your time at the saloon ! ”
“ Oh ! Murdoch !” Teresa turned red. Scott helped her climb on the carriage and took his place beside her. With a jolt the team started up.
The trip to Morro Coyo was a delicious affair. Teresa kept talking and talking all along the way. She described with a lot of details how she’d search for that and this ! Because there would be items she didn’t have, or she had thrown away as they were SOOOOO old and faded ! She explained to her brothers how her friends would be dead with jealousy when seeing the new shoes she’d buy …
Scott seated beside her mumbled words of assent, slightly stunned and inebriated by the flow of Teresa’s speech. He knew how women could be sometimes, but Teresa was…
Johnny looked at his brother and couldn’t help being in awe of him . How could he stand this ! Never ! He would never sit beside his sister on such occasions. As Teresa tugged at Scott’s sleeve because he didn’t listen carefully to her, Johnny burst out laughing.
Scott addressed his brother with an offended and inflamed blue look . Eyebrows up, he suddenly turned a surprised gaze toward Teresa who was shaking his knee to entice his interest. Scott rolled his eyes, a light and muffled chuckle floating on his lips. Johnny slowed his horse to laugh without restraint.
They joined the town’s bustle. The stagecoach had just arrived adding to the general hustle. Scott stopped the wagon along the sidewalk. Teresa was already up before he could take her in his arms to help her down.
“The store’s over there ! There’s plenty of people in front of it !” Teresa was overwhelmed by a growing joy.
“ There are plenty of Women !” clarified Scott.
” Brother, you’re afraid of women ?”
” No, Johnny, no. But it’s NOT only Women. There are Women doing Shopping, in the ONLY NEW STORE of this town. Believe me, we’d better leave her and go drink a beer. I’ll pay !”
” Won’t refuse !”
Teresa turned a confused face towards her brothers .” Won’t you help me with the parcels ? ” Her visage reflected a combination of disbelief and disappointment, a light touch of sadness in her eyes. Scott and Johnny exchanged a brief guilty glance. They sighed so discreetly that Teresa didn’t notice.
” But we can’t enter that shop full of …”
” Women ! The word is … Women, Johnny !”
” Of course not !” confirmed Teresa. “I don’t need you inside ! There’ll not be enough space if you two come in. You wait here. There’s a bench for that matter , see ?”
Scott grinned widely at his brother. ” See ? ”
” Ok, ok ! We’ll take your parcels to the wagon !”
Teresa disappeared into the queue, slowly swallowed by the shop. Both brothers stayed facing each other a questioning look on their faces.
” I’m gonna see the sheriff. Have something to ask him.”
Johnny turned around, casually whistling, and walked away before Scott could express anything. The blond Lancer remained dumbstruck and open mouthed at his brother’s audacity.
Time passed. Scott waited patiently. He watched people passing through on the sidewalk, greeting them with a nod, or a smile …
Scott loved those clear April mornings, when the world was enshrouded in a soft and lukewarm light. A delicate fragrance that came from nowhere fluttered in the still air. Even the sounds were different now : all around him had taken a special quality. As he was invited to laziness for at least an hour with his family’s consent, the young man told himself he could take advantage of those few hardly golden tinted rays in which a thin dust was dancing.
He pushed his hat on the crown of his head, stretched his long legs, crossed his ankles and closed his eyes. Behind this fine clear curtain, bright images wasted no time in dancing : verdurous and rippling hills under the cool breeze, crystalline waters winding between brushy rocks, herds spread in the pastures, Johnny and him working side by side under a blue-grey sky peppered with small white and milky clouds. He smiled : skies like those I used to paint as a child.
An hour or so later, Teresa scampered towards him with a package firmly settled under each arm. Scott stood up, relieving her from her loot, before placing it at the back of the wagon. Teresa was silent, as focused and … a little sad or disappointed.
” Will you help me with the other parcels ? ” She asked briskly, any hint of joy totally dissipated. ” Yes, of course ! ” replied her surrogate brother, frowning with concern.
Entering the shop was like penetrating a buzzing beehive ! Scott moved back a little quite unintentionally. There were probably no more than ten women or so, but a chaotic brouhaha inflated an excessive movement expenditure. It narrowed the room already quite small, creating an oppressive and confined atmosphere. All sorts of fabric, dresses, feminine undergarments such as girdles, panties, laces and ribbons in all shades of colours, covered two tables, trickled from a tall wardrobe and a wooden chest of drawers. Items of clothing flapped from two models settled in the far corners of the room. All those pieces of clothing passed from hand to hand. Hands in a rush, hungry to touch, hands that turned them over, that creased and gently smoothed them, that delicately shook them in order to admire the glimmering of satins and velvets, to test their heft, their softness and solidity. Some women even made the coveted fabrics glide against their cheek as an ultimate proof of their quality.
Flushed with pleasure they smiled in that universe only made for them. If some were joyful here , others wouldn’t come very often and even less buy anything : they had no time and no money for what they knew was only futility. Those last knew better than anyone where life was. Not in a shop, even if they dreamt of wearing this and that. They would afford themselves a new hat, a dress maybe and most of the time for a special occasion. They probably would come and purchase small and cheap items. But the new shop would attract women without contest and especially young girls. It would work.
Feeling like an intruder, Scott realised that he had become crimson as warmth burnt his ears. He followed Teresa to the counter where a pretty young girl addressed him with a very little shy smile. He took two other parcels in his arms, giving the lovely young lady one of his best dazzling and seductive smiles. His sister’s was one of very pale colour artificially stretched on her face.
Once the packages were properly placed in the wagon and covered with a blanket, Scott turned to face the young girl. She avoided his look again, and asked, ” Where’s Johnny ? I’ve finished, we can go home !”
” He’s gone to see Val … Teresa, is there a problem ? You don’t seem happy. What happened ?”
The young girl didn’t answer. Scott put his hands on her shoulders and placed her right in front of him. He lifted delicately her chin to find his doubts confirmed : his sister’s eyes were misty ! She escaped from his gaze once more, and once more Scott turned her around to face him. ” Teresa, I want to know what’s wrong. ”
She looked at him fixedly, climbed up on the wagon and sat down, hands crossed in her lap. ” We can go now. I’d like you to go and fetch Johnny.”
Scott remained flabbergasted on the boardwalk, arms dangling, hesitant. Very hesitant in fact. Then he turned on his heels and entered the shop. He headed for the counter where the delicious assistant folded up a flowery pink blouse.
” Miss…” He stammered a little, “my sister doesn’t seem quite happy with her purchases and that isn’t like her. Do you know what could have saddened her mood ? ”
Slightly embarrassed, the young and lovely girl frowned and wrinkled her very cute nose : ” Well… She would’ve liked to buy a dress but she didn’t have enough money. The dress is fashion made, very nice, with a colour that matched perfectly her pale complexion, black hair and blue eyes.”
” How much does it cost ? ” The pretty lady hooked a tiny forefinger at him so that he lowered his head. Then she very softly and tactfully whispered the price. It was a sum… ” May I see it ? ”
The shop assistant laid out a ravishing navy blue velvet dress. White flimsy but generous lace decorated collar and cuffs. Pearly white buttons went down to the waist in three tight rows quilted on the dark velvet. A large satin ribbon of a slightly grey-brown colour marked the waist. The skirt was lined with a white loose petticoat whose lace could hardly be seen. The dress was simple but elegant. The style of it lay in the choice of cloth and fabric of great quality, the cut and the tack work. Discreetness, simplicity, refinement and dearness .
Scott rubbed his chin, profoundly lost in his thoughts. He was annoyed. He looked through the window hoping for the familiar silhouette of his brother. They should discuss …
” Mister ! I have a woman here who’s interested in that dress,” said the beauty behind the counter regretfully.
“ I’ll take it ” He answered spontaneously.
He’d see if his brother could split the cost later. Scott didn’t want to embarrass Johnny with a gift that cost a price too high for him. He didn’t like showing any superiority with his money. But Teresa really deserved that gift. She worked as strongly as a woman at only eighteen. She helped with cooking, did a lot of dish washing herself, did part of the laundry too, she took care of the hens and had her garden, she mended clothes, helped in doing the beds, took care of errands, she was a nurse when they were ill or wounded, she never really complained … and she never forgot to bake chocolate cakes and apple pies for them. Oh yes, she was quite a little woman, but Scott didn’t want to hurt his brother with his generosity. Anyway he hadn’t the time to think more about it.
Scott approached the wagon with his package under his arm.
” Where have you been ? ” asked Teresa. Then seeing him holding his parcel she stared at him skeptically. ” What’s this ? ”
” Teresa…” He was about to say : I’m sorry, don’t be angry ! ” It’s for you. Don’t open it here .”
But Teresa had already torn open the paper : she grew pale and her eyes filled instantly with tears. She stayed open mouthed unable to articulate a word. She turned towards the young man breathless. Then she cried, ” Oh ! Scott ! Scott ! I can’t accept , it’s … it’s too much ! “
She stood up and literally threw herself in his arms. The blond Lancer received her against his chest and laughed at her happiness. He was glad she was so pleased !
” Scott, I’m so ashamed for the blues ! It’s nonsense , I’m not a little girl you know …”
” I know.” Replied her very blond brother with a deep and soothing voice which wouldn’t concede any argument.
” What’s the matter with you two ? “
” Johnny, look ! Look what Scott bought for me ! “
Johnny gave his brother a questioning look . He grinned slightly at Scott’s shy and a little discomfited smile. Johnny pushed his hat upward, his grin spread widely across his face. He turned on his heels and disappeared in the shop as his brother had done previously.
” Johnny ! No ! We must go home now !” cried Teresa .
Scott was laughing frankly now seeing the contrite look on his sister’s face . Would she be delighted or would she get cross ? Because she knew Johnny would come out with a parcel in his hands.
” Scott ! Stop laughing like this ! ” And she gave him a light tap on his arm.
” Young girl, you won’t go home without a reminder from each of your brothers ! “
Johnny came back holding a small parcel in his hands that he held out to Teresa. Very serious and a tad shy, he said , ” For you .”
The young girl answered with a light smile and slowly opened it. Scott’s head came over the content as he wanted to see too and Johnny gently pushed it back ” ‘s not for you brother !”
Teresa giggled with pleasure at seeing their friendship. Inside the paper several items were neatly gathered : a set of lovely dark and clear blue satin ribbons, two very nice bun combs, one with blue velvet, the other with a white little knot. They would be perfect with the dress.
Teresa became red with confusion once again. She jumped to Johnny’s neck then stepping back she stared at those two young men : not only were they handsome, but they were kind, really, greatly, deeply kind . So different and so alike and she felt rising in her, an immeasurable pride and joy.
The return to the ranch was a very happy one ! Teresa exulted on the seat, looking at Scott, then Johnny, then Scott , then… The gifts weren’t that important to her and she was still a little annoyed by her childish reaction as if she had asked for the items in a way ! But the worry the two young men showed in making her pleased, both of them, went directly to her heart. Like true brothers, they couldn’t bear seeing her saddened by anything.
They arrived for lunch and Murdoch was snatched by a Teresa more excited than a horse attacked by a whole swarm of hornets.
” Darling ! Darling ! Calm down ! ” Murdoch laughed, savouring his ward’s happiness, his sons confusion and joy. He savoured all the youth come into his house, all the generosity with it, all this good-natured ruckus. With the boys homecoming Teresa had recovered a new health . Before their arriving she was sad and he was a bear. An angry sad bear ! His sons had suffered, badly and he knew it. Yet or because of it, they were willing to belong at Lancer now and he would be hugely and forever grateful …
” You saw the shop assistant ? “
” Oh yes, she’s real pretty ! I caught her eye. “
” I caught her…” Both brothers burst out laughing !
For several weeks Teresa received a certain amount of little gifts from the shop and from both her brothers. They never answered her question ” Why ? ” with anything more than a slight embarrassed smile or a nod followed by mumblings.
One day the gifts ceased without her being able to say which one had won the pretty young girl’s heart. ” What a shame ! ” she thought…She felt like a little rascal as she had gathered quite a nice collection of small colourful ribbons, pearly, velvet and satin buttons, small knots to sew, pieces of lace in different hues, hair combs and ornaments …
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