Sobersides by S.

Takes place after “Angel Day” and “The Knot”.

Word count: 1,503

“Teresa, what are you doing?”

The brown-haired girl swiveled around to face Scott with an embarrassed jerk of her head. “Nothing.  Just. . .just tidying up my garden.”

The lean-figured young man slowly walked over to stand next to the kneeling woman.  At their feet was the partially overgrown grave that Teresa had once believed to be her mother’s last resting place.  Frowning, Teresa just stared at her dirt-covered hands.  “I know she isn’t really dead, but sometimes it seems like it so I thought I’d come out here and remove some of the weeds like I do for my father’s grave.”

“Finding out the truth must have been difficult for you,” Scott sympathized.

The young woman nodded.  “It was easier to mourn when I thought she was really gone.”

Scott knelt down by Teresa’s side and took her hand.  “Teresa, I know it’s not really my business, but I believe that Angel Day isn’t a bad woman–unhappy, easily taken in by a scoundrel, restless but not bad.  She made a mistake, several of them in fact, but I do think she cared about you.”

“Cared?  She ran off and didn’t even come back until her. . .husband,” the young woman spit out the word with disdain, “until her husband thought he could make money off me.”

“How is that any different than what Murdoch did to me?”

“What?  There’s a great deal of difference.  Murdoch . .he thought he was doing it for the best.  That you’d have a proper upbringing and. . .and a real home in Boston .”

“What makes you think your mother didn’t want the same for you?  Maybe she knew she couldn’t give you the love you needed but your father could.”

“She tried to extort money from Murdoch!”

“Yes, yes she did, but I don’t think she wanted it for herself.   Teresa, I’m not saying that your mother wasn’t in the wrong to just leave you, but the woman I saw was more to be pitied than despised.  She paid a high price for loving an unworthy man.”

“I. . .I don’t know about that.  I only know that it hurts to think that she didn’t care enough to want to be with me.”

“Absolutely.  And it hurts to think that Murdoch didn’t want to be with me when I was growing up.”

“It’s was your grandfather’s fault,” she protested.  “He just grabbed you and. . .and Murdoch thought that you would be taken care of!”

“Teresa, Murdoch can’t have it both ways.  If he truly believed that leaving me in Boston was in my best interests then he has to concede that my grandfather was not some villain who just stole his son away for his own nefarious purposes or I assume he wouldn’t have chosen to leave me with such an evil man.”

“Of course he wouldn’t, but he didn’t want to put you through a court fight.”

Unconsciously, Scott began to pluck some of the weeds from the empty grave.  “Perhaps you have a point, but a part of me will always wonder if that was only an excuse because he didn’t want to be away from Lancer that long.  Maybe if I had been older and the judge would have asked my opinion then I would have been aware of the magnitude of the case, but at five I can’t help but believe I would have been sheltered from the worst of it.”

“And if Murdoch had won?”

The blue eyes unfocused for a moment before Scott replied, “It’s almost impossible for me to imagine what it would have been growing up out here with you and Murdoch.  I’m sure I would have hated being torn from the only person I loved, but children are much more adaptable than adults so maybe it wouldn’t have taken me too long to adjust.  I think I’ve done a fairly good job in the time Johnny and I have been here.  I just wonder if Murdoch would have told me about having a brother somewhere.”

“I doubt it.” The young woman carelessly flicked a strand of hair from her face.

“Why?”

“Murdoch doesn’t like to. . .dwell on hurt.  Johnny’s mother hurt him and I think he buried it deep, just like he buried any thoughts about you.”

Scott smiled at her.  “I’ve always felt that you know him better than anyone.”

“I try.”  Smoothing her skirt, she admitted, “I suppose every little girl sees her father as perfect.  Well, in some ways I had two of them.  Your father treated me like a princess and when I heard that you and Johnny might be coming to live here, I was frightened.  I was prepared to do battle for him!”  Grinning, she confessed, “I saw myself as one of those knights you read about in books.  I couldn’t stand to lose Murdoch too.”

“No surprise there, but I can’t really see you in armor.”

“A woman doesn’t need armor, Scott, but it didn’t matter anyway because neither of you were quite what I had imagined.”

“Oh, and might I ask just how you envisioned me?”

“A snob who didn’t know the meaning of work and who would want all kinds of fancy cooking.  That wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but I thought you might be here to just claim part of Lancer and then you’d go back to Boston , laughing at our primitive ways.  That would have devastated Murdoch.  He needs to believe that you and Johnny value this ranch as much as he does.”

“And as much as you do?”

A flush of pink filled the lovely face.  “That’s not a secret, is it?  I know it’s silly, but to me Lancer is the center of everything.”

“I don’t think that’s shocking or silly.”

“No, I suppose not, but at least I was surprised by the two of you–pleasantly surprised.”

“In what way?”

“Well, before Murdoch invited you both here, he told me what he knew about the two of you.  I confess I was somewhat startled to hear that Johnny had been a gunfighter, but truthfully I was rather excited about that.  It sounded so. . .adventurous.  As for you, I was sure you’d be a snobbish dandy and although you did wear some strange clothes, I have to admit that really wasn’t true.  Instead I discovered what my father would have called a ‘sobersides.’

Scott chuckled at the words, “SPIN called me that too.  She said it was a compliment, but I wasn’t sure.”

Teresa shyly glanced over at the blond man.  “It’s just that sometimes you seem so much older than you are.  I know part of it is that you’ve become a peacemaker between Johnny and Murdoch, but it’s more than that.”

“SPIN used to say that even when she first came to live with us, I was more like a short adult.  I suppose it was growing up in my grandfather’s household.  I had friends and I enjoyed games and sports, but I was always serious—and the War only added to it although I did have my moments.”  Scott’s blue eyes gleamed as he remembered Barbara’s flirting ways.

“I can understand that.  My father didn’t have the time to coddle me so I learned about ranch life early.  I know what responsibility is and I’ve tried not to disappoint Murdoch. Blushing, she added, “I suspect my knowledge about romance is somewhat lacking though.  That one time when I. . .when you were shot. . .I was scared.  That boy seemed so young and yet he was dangerous.”

“There’s time for you to learn about love and romance.  Believe me, it’s not easy even being a man and living in a big city.  I know you must be unsure at times, but you have three people who care and want only the best for you.”

Teresa reached over to give Scott a small hug.  “I know and that means a lot to me.  I never realized how much I missed being an only child.”

“Maybe that’s why the three of us get along because we all know what that feels like.”

“Yes and I also know that I had better get inside and start working on tonight’s dinner or a certain young man, who shall remain nameless, will be coming in and complaining that he’s on the edge of starvation.  If you’re ‘sobersides’, he’s the ‘walking stomach’, but don’t tell him I said that or he’ll go into his routine!”

“You mean the one where he sticks out his lower lip and gets a particular look in his eyes?  You can ignore that; it’s just belated colic!”

Teresa’s trill of laughter filled the air as Scott helped her to her feet.  Together they went into the kitchen where they found Johnny stuffing down the last of the cake from the day before.  At the loud peal of laughter from the two young people, Johnny—mouth full of cake—snarled, “Never seen anybody eat cake before?”

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-end-

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