Sounds of Life
The quiet loneliness made Esther May want to scream. Thank goodness for the animals making their equine sounds: shifting hooves, huffing nostrils. They hadn’t been affected by the loss of four of their kind, drowned in the flood.
Esther May needed their companionship. When the muddy water closed over the top of Easterly, it left her the only person in hundreds of square miles. To what purpose? She lost her daddy trying to reach the Arizona Territory, found a friend and lost him too.
Something, fate maybe, kept her from her dream. Would walking away across the prairie solve her problems? Turn her back on everything? It was tempting.
She knew she was on the verge of hysteria caused by solitude.
Why she lived when others died was beyond reason. What quirk of fate placed her on high ground away from the rushing water? Why wasn’t she killed on the Rio Grande?
Memories she thought were suppressed came back.
She had tried to forget the treachery.
She threw her arms around her horses’ neck and pressed her face against him. Inhaling the gelding’s scent and feeling his warmth and strength grounded her.
The scene played in her mind in exquisite detail causing her heart to pound as hard as it had during the shooting and beating. She had survived and claimed the dead men’s possessions.
There was the young cowboy near her age, Easterly. He seemed attracted to her. She hadn’t encouraged him but now wished otherwise. In the space of an hour, half of everything, including Easterly, was destroyed in a flash flood.
Life wasn’t fair.
A sob escaped her throat. Hugging the horse tighter, Esther May tried to force her thoughts in a different direction. She had a team, a wagon filled with supplies, and extra horses. She could still pursue her goal of ranching in Arizona.
Just as soon as she finished weeping.
Easterly cussed himself. What would his Navajo friend think? Throwing away a shirt because it was muddy and missing buttons wasn’t a good idea. He could have used it to wrap his bare feet or cover his head from the sun. Doggone it, he might even have made a trap to catch a quail. At the rate he was hobbling up the wash he was bound to be hungry before he got back to the road crossing.
Well, that’s guessing. Easterly wasn’t sure how far downstream the water had carried him.
He jerked his head up as an idea hit. The flood must have washed him farther than the heavy wagon. He’d search for it as he made his way back. Most of the supplies would have to be inside it.
Relief as physical as a cleansing bath lightened his mood. His situation wasn’t so bad after all. He’d find the wagon and get resupplied, or maybe Esther May would find him first.
She was looking for him, of that he was certain. They’d have hot biscuits and beans for supper; then he’d impress her with his modest tale of surviving the torrent. She’d have to respect that.
Easterly couldn’t help writing the story in his head. He would be the hero, of course, and Esther May would be breathless in adoration of his exploits.
His tender feet reminded him that he wasn’t invincible. But if Esther May saw some blisters, they would show how he suffered to reach her. Oh, yes, she’d be moved to care for him.
A weaker man would have cried for his mama when he thought he was drowning, but Easterly didn’t. He wouldn’t. Never happened. His memories were taking shape with the tale in his head.
Easterly felt the mud cracking on his face as he smiled. Things were looking up.
He stepped on a strip of exposed quartz and cut the bottom of his foot from ball to heel.
Two different realities. What will they do? Leave a comment.
For help overcoming loneliness, try looking here.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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