Through a character's eyes

by Nancy Schultz


North and South

She stared at the page of paper before her. Blank, except for the salutation to her brother. Really, she wasn't even sure why she was bothering to write him, since she was more likely to get back to Prescott than ride on, once their business was done in this place. Of course, that business had just gotten a lot more complicated too. It seemed to be the way of things, at least for her life.

Even as the thought crossed her mind, the latest, er, complication in her life walked into the makeshift saloon where she was trying to write. Glancing around, Kyle saw her and gave her a nod before he made his way over.

"Bad news, Jessie." He said by way of a greeting as he came to stand by her table. "The other horse that Carnegie's friend had drugged was yours. The Old Man isn't going to be very happy for a while, but I think he'll get through it well enough. I'm going to head back, make sure he's okay, and that none of these trigger happy fools have done anything to John's horse or Watcher's."

She nodded, giving him a smile. "Pliny can take care of himself, of course, and I think most people 'round here can see that."

He smiled back and touched his hat politely before turning and heading back out towards the horses.

Guiltily, she turned back to her letter. She had told Michael, last time she saw him, that she wasn't going to let her feelings for Kyle go any further than friendship. She'd even promised the ghost of Kyle's grandfather the same thing. But telling herself that the feelings she had for a man who'd stood beside her against undead Apache's, Giant snakes, claim jumpers and the Laughing men (among other threats) were just those of a friend was just plain lying. And lying, even to herself, had never been Jessie's strong suit. On their way out here to help Silent Watcher in his pursuit of the man who killed his father, Jessie'd decided she'd had enough of twisting up her stomach with the lies. However much time God wanted to give her riding with Kyle, she was going to accept with thanks, and when the time came for him to return East and North, she couldn't forget that well, when that day came, she'd accept it too. There was nothing back east for her anyway. Her family had died not too far from where she sat trying to write.

She blinked as she realized that it was only six months ago that they had died, torn apart by whatever it was that had destroyed the old town. If it hadn't been for the trigger happy nature of the miners now here, she might have left off her writing to go look for the remains of the town, if only to assure herself that the nightmare had been real. But under the circumstances, she wasn't so sure that snooping about, even for something she thought she hoped was unrelated to whatever it was that Carnegie and his partner were trying to wrestle out of the earth, was that good an idea. Maybe after a day or two, when they'd had a chance to settle down after seeing Kyle. Maybe then she could try to find the grave she'd put her family in, and pay them some respect. A dry chuckle came unbidden as she wondered if the spirit of her mother might come to give her advice the way Kyle's grandfather was watching him and "protecting his investement".

But for now but that was it. Now was what she could use her mother's advice for. With the discovery of Carnegie and his partner, Kyle had just gotten a reminder of what he'd left back in New York, and Jessie had to think about what that might mean for Kyle's continued career as an iternerent-do-gooder and part-time bounty hunter. The last thing she wanted to do was hold him back from whatever it was he felt he had to do, but at the same time, she'd been treating him badly ever since she'd found out about J.T. and his fortunes back east...and that he expected Kyle to find himself an heiress to marry, rather than a preacher's daughter from some tiny little hill town in Kentucky that didn't even exist any more, thanks to the war. True, it wasn't like the ghost had come out and said those words... at least not the ones about her, but she knew that they were there...and that he was right to some extent. Kyle came from a different world than she did. Even with trading Kentucky woods for Arizona desert, her life hadn't changed much coming out here. Tracking and hunting most days, helping out at the church others, helping folks who needed it... though out here it was more likely to be a town run afoul of scum like the Laughin' men than a misplaced Yankee or Reb soldier who needed somewhere to hide and heal up. The only luxury she really missed from back in Tuck's Hollow was being able to take a bath in the creek behind her house every other day. But for Kyle, she figured the difference must have been a lot more. Giving up a soft life in some Yankee city well, she knew now New York for the dust and heat of the cattle trails must have been a rough change for him, and it's not like she could blame him if he wanted to go back.

What she didn't want was for him to go back thinking that... well, she didn't rightly know what he thought of the way she'd been acting. But there was no easy way to tell him the truth of what she felt. She'd promised J.T that she wouldn't hold Kyle back here. That if he didn't go back East and take over the family fortune, it wouldn't be because of her. That and it wasn't right to just spring something like this on a man. Might make him feel trapped, or scared, and she didn't want to do that. She just wanted to clear things up. To let him know that she wasn't mad that he turned out to be some Yankee Heir, with a life waiting for him back east, when all back east held for her was ashes and bad memories. That wasn't Kyle's fault, and she didn't want him to think that she felt that way.

She looked down at the letter again, still blank except for the greeting she'd started to her brother. It was going to have to wait. She didn't have any more idea what to say to her brother than she did to Kyle. What she did know was that Kyle was a lot closer than Michael, and that the camp saloon was starting to fill up as the day's shift ended, and that the one place she did not want to be was alone in a tent full of drunk miners as the only female for miles, no matter how good a shot she was with a gun.

With a sigh she stood, sweeping her writing into a pouch. There just was nothing to it but to talk to Kyle, and see where the conversation went. She went out, and found him where she expected, tending to the horses including the Old Man. She gave him a nervous smile.

"Walk with me? I want to talk to you..."



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