Saturday, July 16, 2022

Moon Feather: Part 48: Terms and Conditions


Joey

By the end of the next week, Lavina had delivered one of the dresses Everett had ordered. It was a pretty plaid of emerald green with bands of yellow and white through it. True to her word, Lavina had kept it simple, although she had embroidered black chevrons above the sleeve cuffs and along the hem of the skirt for a bit of flair, along with some black velvet buttons down the front of the bodice. She had also provided a sleek black leather belt with a silver buckle embossed with a bear’s head. And, of course, hidden within the voluminous skirts were some rather impressive pockets. 

Joey shoved her hands in those pockets, eyeing herself in the mirror in their bedroom. She still wasn’t used to all the layers, and the heat of all the underwear and the dress was a bit oppressive during the afternoon, so she had kept to her buckskins mostly since Sunday. Everett didn’t complain too much, as it made it easier for him to undress her. 


In the week since her debut at church, Everett had received word that his father and at least one of his brothers was coming to visit. Everett said to expect them in about two or three weeks’ time. He had also received some reports about sheep theft up in Saguache. He had left the day before with Jompson and Terrell to look into it and was expected to be gone for a few days. 


Everett had wanted to send her into town to stay with the Albrittons, but she refused. It had been a pretty decent row.


“T’ain’t no way I’m leavin’ ya out here by yourself with no protection and no help if’n somethin’ happens! You’re goin’ ta town,” he’d said as he packed his saddle bags. 


“I am more than capable of fending for myself, Everett. Managed not to die out in the woods by myself,” she said, crossing her arms. 


“Yeah, with a good bow arm. Can’t shoot a bow right now, can ya?”


“I mean, I could, but you hid it and threatened to bust my ass if I went diggin’ for it. If you’re so concerned, leave me a pistol.”


Everett scoffed. “I sure ain’t leavin’ you with no pistol so’s ya can blow your own head off.”


Joey rolled her eyes. “Oh ye of little faith.”


“You watch them eyes, missy. Ain’t too much of a hardship ta tan ya afore I go,” he warned, slamming the flap on the saddle bag. “And it ain’t about faith.” He pointed a chiding finger at her. “It’s about no one bein’ nearby if’n ya get hurt or if’n the Durhams come by and decide to snatch you up. There ain’t nobody here knows ta go after ya. And by the time I come back from Saguache, ya may be good as dead already. I won’t allow it.”


Joey huffed and grabbed the chair by the dresser and sat it in front of him. She climbed onto it so she could look him in the eye. “There’s somethin’ you need to understand. There are things you can force me to do by virtue of your greater strength. There are things you can coerce me to do with enough pain or negative consequences, or seduce me into with adequate incentive. But if there is something that requires my active participation, and I don’t want to do it, there is literally nothing you can do to make me.”


His eyes flashed with irritation at the challenge. “You want incentive, Jaybird? I’ll give ya incentive.”


She snorted. “You can. I won’t fight you on it. It’d be a waste of my energy to try, but you’ll be wasting your efforts too. Because, the instant you’re clear of town, I will trot my happy ass back here no matter how much said ass hurts.”


“You’d run off on Henry?”


Joey patted Everett’s cheek. “Honey, I barely obey you. What makes you think I’m gonna listen to some dandy I met once?”


He frowned in consternation, dark brows converging like two angry caterpillars. His hands came up to cradle her face, but it felt more like being caught than a gentle gesture. “There’s somethin’ you need ta understand. This place here may seem civilized, but that’s ‘cause I have worked awful hard ta make it that way. Hired good men ta keep the peace. Kept the ruffians out so’s it don’t turn into some mean place the likes’a Fort Worth, where people’re strung up in the streets or shot for lookin’ agee at a man.”


Plucking her off the chair, he had sat her on the bed so he could lean over her and cage her in with his arms. “I got Utes to the north, Mexicans to the south, and Apache to the south east. I don’t give a lick how much sand ya got, you’re still just one lone woman, little and lame. Even you ain’t up ta dealin’ with the horns’a this place. Not on your own.”


Joey licked her lips in frustration, looking away for a moment. “I understand that.”


“I really don’t think you do,” he said with narrowed eyes. “Not even five years ago, there were a man, Felipe Espinosa, runnin’ around these parts murderin’ gringos for land down in Conejos. Just two weeks ago, you was shot by such a man. Your stiff neck and brassy attitude won’t stop a bullet cuttin’ you down or a knife from slicin’ your pretty throat.”   


Her eyes came back to his as she lifted a hand to tuck a lock of his sable hair behind his ear. “Do you believe me when I say I come from another time?”


Suspicion crept into his expression. “I do. God help me, but I do.” 


“Then look at it this way. If I die, I was always gonna die. If I disappear, that was gonna happen anyway. If I’m meant to be here—if I’m meant to have your babies—” Everett jerked as if she’d just slapped him. “Then I’m not gonna die. Not now. You’re a God-fearing man, Everett. Live and let God.”


He tore himself away from her with a furious growl. He faced the door, hands on his hips, head down so she couldn’t see his expression. Joey jumped when he slapped the wall in sync with another tortured yell. “Dammit!” he whispered, kicking the door frame.


He stood there silently for a while, taking deep calming breaths. Joey finally got off the bed and went to him, placing a hand on his back. 


“You will be back in this house at least a full hour afore dark,” he said to the open doorway. “You will not leave it again afore full sunup.” He turned around, stepping forward, forcing her to back up. “You will have a knife on ya any time ya leave the house. If’n ya go ta town, Wilson must escort ya back. If’n ya can’t get back an hour afore dark, you’ll stay in town. Am I clear, little girl?” 


The back of her legs hit the foot of the bed and she fell backward onto it, landing with a soft poof on the feather tick. Everett crowded her again, leaning over her until her back met with the quilts. 


“Yes, Daddy.”


~

If you would like a glossary of western slang used in this story, here is the reference I'm using: Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West     


Wicked Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. You know exactly how to make an interlude like this hot and so interesting to read! Thank you for that :)
    ~ Marie xox

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