Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 4

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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Saturday, July 25, 1896

 

It was three days before Mama’s 50th birthday, and Sandy was heading home after far too long away. He’d seen no one since turning off the Laramie road some time ago. That didn’t surprise him, as the long drive that led to the big house was only accessible through the back corner of Creighton’s land. He was passing between Mr. Jim’s cabin and the stable when a young girl darted out of the stable’s open door and planted herself in his path.

“Stop!”

She was a little thing, couldn’t have been more than four or five years old. Her face was tanned, her straight black hair dangled in two long braids tied with bright bows, and her dress was dusty and straw-strewn as though she’d been playing in the hayloft.

An unexpectedly physical pain streaked through him. Rose? It had to be.

“Who’re you?” his daughter demanded, hands on hips, hazel eyes narrowed.

Dismounting unsteadily, Sandy choked out the lie he’d prepared ahead of time. “I’m . . . I’m your Uncle Sandy. I live here.”

Her head cocked to one side in a motion so like his mother and big sister. “That’s a fib,” she informed him tartly.

“Why do you say that?”

“ ’Cuz your words are all black and fuzzy.”

Oh mercy. Of all the Talents in our family, she had to get that one.

She didn’t seem to notice his dismay though because she’d turned back toward the stable and was hollering, “Jack!”

A boy came at a run, a smaller girl on his heels doing her best to keep up, but falling behind him. “What’s wrong, Rose?”

Even if she hadn’t called him Jack, Sandy would have known the boy for a Steele anywhere—tall for his age and lanky, a thatch of straight black hair and bright blue eyes. “This man,” she jabbed a finger in Sandy’s direction, “says he’s our Uncle Sandy and lives here, and that’s not the truth.”

Careful now, like you’re talking to Mama. “I did live here, a long time ago, back before any of you were born,” he explained to the trio of children. “I’m Robert and Danica Black’s son. Katja is my big sister. So if you’re Kat’s kids, that would make me your uncle.”

The other girl, a dimpled little blonde tot, giggled. “I’m a Marshall, so you ain’t my uncle.”

Before anyone could question him further, a voice screamed out his name.

“Sandy? It is you!”

From the front porch, Maggie let out a squeal before racing across the yard. His little sister wasn’t so little anymore. She’d been a kid when he’d left. Now it was definitely a young woman who threw her arms around him, bubbling happily, “You’re back! Oh, I’m so happy to see you!” Arms still around him, she twisted about to face the kids. “This is—” She stopped abruptly, mouth half-open. A quick swallow, and she finished, “This my big brother Sandy.”

Sandy was returning Maggie’s hug gladly, but his eyes remained glued on Rose.

His daughter stared back at him a few minutes longer, looking rather confused. Her face fell. “I guess my Truth-Sight messed up again. I’m sorry, Uncle Sandy,” she apologized. Then she gave him an uncertain gap-toothed smile. “By the way, I’m Rose. Rose Winter Steele.” She bobbed a little curtsy then snagged Jack’s sleeve and pulled him to her side. “And this is my brother, Jackson Samuel Steele. We’re twins.”

Sandy’s heart nearly broke at her words, and he struggled to think of something to say in return. But Maggie was tugging on his hand impatiently.

“Come on, let’s go find Mama.”

He resisted gently. “Just a minute, Mags. Where’s Da?”

She waved a hand westward. “He’s riding the fences along Sand Creek. He found a few cut sections last week and he wants to make sure there aren’t more.”

He nodded distractedly, disentangling himself from her hold and climbing back into his saddle.

“You’re not leaving again, are you?” his sister asked, voice anxious.

“Nope. Just need to talk to Da for a bit. Go ahead and let Mama know I’ll be here for supper,” he added, grinning at her whoop of delight.

As he turned Pete toward the creek, he thought, Fences aren’t the only things needing mending around here. I’ve put this off far too long.

 

To be continued . . .

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