But, as I said last week, this one is a more serious western. It's no longer connected to the story it was originally part of and I'm kind of wanting to use it independently now.
Who knows, maybe I will.
But, as always, no promises.
Anyway, here it is, the western I promised you:
I want to throw up as the trapdoor opens under Pa’s feet and the rope around his neck grows taunt. I’ve seen men dance at a necktie party before but this is the first time I’ve made someone the guest of honor.
A horrid feeling rises in me, a mixture of bile and guilt and confusion. It burns my throat before settling down again and burning deep in the pit of my stomach.I want to turn away but I can’t seem to. My eyes are glued on the sight before me. I need air but my lungs can’t seem to find any. My mouth is dry and I can’t swallow, though I certainly try hard enough.
I didn’t expect it to be this way. I thought my telling the truth would send Pa to jail, not to the gallows. I didn’t think it’d go this far.
I just didn’t want to lie.
A heavy hand lands on my shoulder and I don’t have to look to know who it belongs to.
He’s ten years older than me- nineteen- and a good two feet taller. Pa took him in two year before and raised him like a son- the son I could never be.
“I didn’t want to lie,” I whisper, wondering what he’s going to do to me. I know he loved Pa and the two of them had been drilling the lie they wanted me to tell in court for weeks now.
I wonder if I would have chosen differently if I’d understood the outcome.
Jake doesn’t say a thing and when I glance up at him, I find he isn’t even looking at me. His eyes are fixed on Pa and the gallows before us.
“It ain’t my fault,” I say quietly.
Jake glances down at me and the look in his dark eyes scares me. His face graces a scowl that’s cloudy and filled with dreadful promises. But he doesn’t reply to my words. Instead he says, “Let’s get on home.”
Home. The last place on earth I want to go. I don’t want to be alone with Jake, not now, not while he’s this angry. He’s never hit me much before but then, there’s always been Pa there to do it. Now, I don’t know what he’ll do to me. And, I know what he’s capable of when riled.
“Please, Jake,” I whisper, not even sure what I’m asking.
His grip on my shoulder grows harder. “We’re going home.”
He herds me toward his horse and mounts before pulling me up to ride in front of him. His arms wrap around me as he leads the horse and I try not to shiver at the touch.
We ride out of town toward the homestead Pa was never any good at tending. As we ride the air around me grows hotter and hotter. My world spins and I’m suddenly thankful that Jake’s holding me. Otherwise, I might fall off.
I wonder if I’m going to pass out. I’ve never passed out before and I know Jake won’t appreciate it if I do now. The rocking of the horse makes me feel even sicker. I need to stop, need a chance to breathe better but I’m too scared to ask Jake.
“Katie, what’s wrong?” I hear him demand irritably. His voice sounds kind of funny, far off like, even though he’s right behind me.
“I don’t feel so good,” I say but it comes out so quietly that I’m not sure if he hears me.
He gives me a little shake. “I don’t got time for this.”
I try to stop feeling the way I do. I close my eyes but when I do all I see is Pa’s form dangling in the wind. I open them again quickly and blink back the tears that well in my eyes.
“Shape up, Katie,” Jake says with a grumble, shaking me again.
The shaking doesn’t help me feel better, just makes it worse. I want to tell him that, but I’m too scared of him now. Jake’s always been sort of nice to me- in the way big brothers can be nice to their kid sisters, I suppose- but now he’s the man of the family and I’ve done something terrible.
I’m gonna be in for it.
I never really loved Pa, though I know I ought to have. After all, he was my pa and all and he took care of me. I’m just so dreadfully rotten and so Pa was forever having to punish me for doing wrong. I deserved it, I know, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t resent him for it.
And then, after all the times he took it out of my hide when I lied, he wanted me to lie for him. He’d ordered me to even though lying’s wrong.
At least, that’s what I thought when I told the jury the truth. But, now I wonder if I was right.
I’ll never know now.
Jake ignores me the rest of the way home. I try not to be too much of a nuisance and not to feel so sick. It doesn’t go away entirely, especially the churning in my stomach that says Pa’s hanging isn’t going to be the worst thing of the day.
The moment Jake gets me home, I know I’m going to be in for it.
We reach the homestead and Jake slides off the horse, pulling me down after him. He leads it to the barn without looking back at me, without saying a word, so I’m left standing outside the house wondering what I’m supposed to do.
If it were a normal day I’d have supper to make. So, I figure that’s what I ought to do, even if it isn’t a normal day.
I’m just setting the table when Jake comes inside. He shrugs out of his coat and hangs it up, his back to me, his silence saying more than his words could. I wonder when the reckoning will be.
“Are you hungry?” I ask quietly. “Supper’s just about ready.”
He whirls around to face me, his eyes cold, his scowl hateful. “Hungry?” he practically yells. “After what we just witnessed- because of you- and you want to talk about food!?”
“Jake, please…” I don’t know what I’m asking. I don’t know what I want. He’s right. How can I talk about food at a time like this?
I begin to shake and I can’t stop it. Giant sobs escape me and I cover my mouth with my hand. What was I thinking? How could I have told the truth in that court? How could I have turned on my own pa? What kind of a low-down skunk am I?
“Oh, hush up, Katie,” Jake demands.
Yeah... sorry to end it there! I don't have any more written and I've no idea what happens to the poor girl. But, I'd like to find out someday!
Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! And, make sure to stop by next week for more of my old writing.
In the meantime, last week for the Here's to Heroines series. Hope you'll stop over for that as well!!