Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 -


by DJ Black
Published: Jun 19, 2013
Words: 27,502
Category: western
Orientation: M/F
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The Denver train pulled in with a screech of iron on iron that jangled the nerves of every cowpoke in town and might even have roused one or two of the residents on Boot Hill. Then with a judder and a hiss it came to a full stop in a great cloud of steam.

In the old days people used to come for miles to greet the train, but that was back in the '70s after the War Between the States. Nowadays few people paid it any attention.

Rachel Bedford had been just a girl back then, not that she would have been allowed to run with the other kids. Her parents thought that such behaviour was too undignified for a daughter of theirs. Well she didn't feel so dignified now, and not so very much older, she had come to realise.

At 25 she had come home, to whatever was left of it anyway. The porter dropped her trunk onto the rough wooden platform and extended his hand for a tip. After a glance at the trunk, perhaps her only worldly goods now, Rachel forced a smile, gave him one of the last coins in her purse and stepped onto the station.

"Oh my God," someone cursed, "she's back."

Rachel cringed. She had entertained a fantasy that she could re-enter the town unnoticed, but the town was too small for that. Two women threw her a look of scorn and whispers passed between them as they hurried away as if from the devil.

"Rachel Bedford is back," someone behind her took up the cry of the first voice and soon loud-hushed voices and the clatter of chatter, serenaded her as she considered what to do next.

"Best leave that there Mrs Bedford," a kindly voice said. It was old Mr Martin, the station keeper. "Leastways until you know what you want done with it. I'll send it along."

She nodded uncomfortably, especially at the implication that she might not be welcome at the ranch. She heaved a sigh that threatened to become a sob, which she hastily suppressed.

"Your husband is over at the saloon," Martin said casually. Then he added quickly, "The Lucky Strike, I mean."

The Lucky Strike was the more respectable of the town’s two bars; the other being for ranch hands, single men and widowers. Was the comment meant to be significant? What if it was? Rachel nodded and forced another nervous smile.

"I guess that's where I'm heading then," she said in a quiet voice to no one in particular.


Over at the Lucky Strike word reached John Bedford without anyone daring to approach him. The news had spread like a prairie fire and the streets were buzzing with it. One or two men at tables near him offered up pitying looks, but most just wore polite masks of curiosity.

I should never have married a woman more than half my age. The thought was a familiar one by now, an old friend he greeted every day.