Last Friday I promised you a western and a western you shall get.
Bella's story has changed drastically in terms of characters, but at its core it's very much the same. A man arrives at place he just bought only to find that there are already people living there. Except, instead of being called Bella and the Boys, it's called Bridger Home for Wayward Kids because it's not just boys who live with Bella. There's girls now too.
But, I adored writing this scene and I'm so happy I get to share it with people. Because, due to the changes I've made, it doesn't fit in the story anymore. So, without this series, the world would never get to read it. Which isn't a huge loss, but it makes me happy that I have a change to share it. Because, as I said, I love it.
So, here it is, the opening to Bella and the Boys:
“Bella, someone’s coming!” Poke says, hurrying around the side of the soddie. I drop the axe I’d been using to chop wood lickity-split and grab for the old rifle leaning against the side of the house. We ran out of bullets months ago, but whoever’s coming doesn’t know that.
“Who is it?” I ask.
Poke shrugs. “Dunno. Never seen him before.”
A man. Well, in general, men are easier to scare off than women. Men have the sense to be scared of a gun whereas women just get concerned as to why a girl my age is toting a weapon and then they start meddling. And, the last thing I need is someone meddling in our business. I’ve got enough trouble trying to raise the boys and keep them fed without some do-gooder poking her nose in.
“Get inside with the others,” I tell Poke. “And, tell ‘em t’ keep down. I’ll be in in a minute.”
Poke nods and runs for the house, his feet kicking up dust as he goes. I stack up my wood, so as not to make it look like I ran off in a hurry, and hurry inside, rifle in tow.
My boys are waiting inside, though they are hardly keeping down like I instructed.
“Keep away from those windows,” I snap at them as I shut the door. I’m hoping the stranger will just ride passed if he thinks our place is abandoned. If he does, it will save us a lot of trouble.
They don’t listen to me and continue to peek outside. I take a deep breath and use my stern older sister voice this time. “You get back from those windows or I’ll tan the hide off every one of ya!”
It works. They all know I mean it and so they jump back.
“Gosh, Bella,” Dusty says, “we just want t’ see who’s a’comin’.”
“Don’t say ‘gosh,’” I say, peering out to see if the stranger’s come into sight yet.
“Yeah, Bella, ya don’t have t’ be so snippy,” Neddy says.
I don’t respond to him. He’s wrong of course- being snippy’s the only way they’ll listen to me- and, I know he’s just using that word to impress me. The boys know all my favorite words now and use them whenever they want to get on my good side. Unfortunately, that’s the only time they use them.
The stranger comes into sight. He’s walking, leading his horse behind him, and heading straight for the soddie. His hat’s pushed back on his head and he walks with an easy gait, like one with not a care in the world. He’s walking pretty slowly, a nice meander that’s going to take him weeks to get here.
I don’t have that long to wait.
“Keep back,” I hiss to the boys, waving them toward the other side of the soddie. “And, keep down.” I give them a pointed look to remind them about my threat. They seem to get it.
I step outside. “That’s far enough, Mister,” I call.
The man looks up and his easy manner is quickly replaced by shock as he eyes my gun. But, still he has the audacity to reply with, “I don’t think so, little missy.”
That gets my dander up. I may only be fourteen but I have four boys to take care of and a home I’m looking after. I am most certainly not a little missy.
“I say it is,” I snap. “And so, you’d best be movin’ on. Pa don’t take kindly to strangers cuttin’ through his land.”
I’ve found it always helps to make the person think I’ve got a pa. Especially one who lets me tote a gun.
“Well, now, little missy, you just show me where your pa’s land is and I’ll be sure to stay away from it.”
I glare at him for calling me by that terrible name yet again. And, for not seeming to be daunted by the gun I’m pointing at him. “You’re on his land, mister.”
He reaches up and pushes his hat back even more. “I’ve got a piece of paper that says otherwise.”
“What paper?” My gun lowers a little. He can’t mean what I think he means.
“The deed to this place.”
He means it. This place had been abandoned for so long before me and the boys stumbled across it, I never did I think someone would come with the deed. But, someone has.
I’m not going to give this place up without a fight though. It’s not much, but it’s all we have and no one- and I mean no one- is going to take it away from me.
“No one wants your deed ‘round here,” I say. “You just keep right on goin’.”
He takes a step toward me. “I think that’s something I’ll discuss with your pa. Where is he?”
My bluff has never been called before. I stare at him, unsure what to say, my mouth hanging open. He steps closer. “Keep back,” I say, finding my voice as he comes nearer and nearer. “Keep back or I’ll shoot!”
He’s right in front of my now, close enough to for me to look into his blue eyes. To really look into them. And, so I can’t shoot. I’ve shot at people before when they meddle too much or stay on my land too long, but never anyone who’s staring me in the face, practically breathing on me.
And, then I remember I don’t have any bullets anyway.
He yanks the gun from my grasp and that brings back the fire. I may not be able to actually shoot it anymore but it’s mine and he has to right to take it away. I reach for it, but he’s too tall and is able to hold it out of my reach.
“Give me back my gun,” I snap.
“After you take me to your pa, little missy,” he says.
Maybe it’s because he stole my gun, and maybe it’s because I’m mad enough to spit fire because he keeps calling me little missy, and maybe it’s because I just don’t know what me and the boys are going to do if he takes our home. But, whatever it is, I open my mouth and let, “I ain’t got a pa” come out, real harsh and emotionless like.
His face softens and I read pity in his eyes. Pity. I hate pity.
“I don’t need a pa,” I say. “Me and the boys, we do just fine.”
Except that you haven’t got a house anymore a little voice in the back of my head says. But, I push it aside.
“Boys? How many of you are there, living here?”
“Five, counting me,” I say.
“And, you’ve got no one looking out for you?” he asks.
I glare at him. “I do all the lookin’ out that’s needed. So, you really got yourself a deed t’ this place?”
He nods as he continues to eye me with a look of concern.
“Well, let’s see it.”
He shifts his hold on my rifle and reaches into his inside coat pocket, pulling out a piece of paper. I take it from him and look it over, my mouth going dry and my heart sinking.
“You sure do,” I say. “I- I guess me ‘n the boys’ll be movin’ on then, if you’ll just give us a little time t’ get our things packed up.”
We don’t have much to pack, but it will still take us a bit of time to get it together. Plus, I’ll need to talk to the boys to keep them from ambushing this man.
He ties his horse up at the hitching post and makes like he’s going to follow me inside. Which isn’t a good idea, not with four soon to be livid boys to cope with.
“Maybe you better hide out back,” I suggest.
“Hide?” he says, gawking at me like I’ve gone plum loco.
I nod. “Yeah, when I tell the boys they’re bound to be a bit… um… put out… so, it might be good if they don’t actually see you. It could get messy. It’ll only be for a little while. We’ll be out of here lickity-split.”
The man sighs. “Listen, little missy,” he says. I glare at him but he doesn’t seem to notice. “I can’t tell you how bad I feel about putting you out of your home. I didn’t know anyone was living here when I bought the property and-”
“Mister, we’re squatters,” I interrupt. “You don’t have to be nice to us. By all rights, we’re nothin’ but squatters.”
And there you have it! Next week will feature a short story instead of an excerpt, but I hope you'll come by for it anyway.
And, Monday will bring the first post of a new series. So, be sure to come by for that.