And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives were better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance
Word count: 1,364
The soft lowing of the cattle filled the night air, while the yellow flicker of the campfire flames illuminated the faces of the men whom had gathered around it. Murdoch Lancer, an older man looked at each of his sons as a wistful smile dance on his lips. He was content with what he had. More than a lot of men had – two fine sons, who under the most trying of circumstances had been united with each other and reunited with their father.
‘How quickly the time has gone’, Murdoch thought to himself. ‘Has it really been five years since my sons came to live with me at Lancer?’ he questioned silently. ‘I guess the old adage proves correct once again – time certainly flies when you are having fun.’
From the tumultuous beginnings to now each of the Lancer men had undergone drastic changes. None more so than Murdoch. He’d had to learn to be a father to his sons, he knew that he couldn’t make up for the past and what each had endured but given time he had hoped to break through each of their hardened barriers and show them that he did love them. Two sons had born of different mothers. Two very beautiful women that he’d had the privilege to call each a wife, a lover and a confidant. Each woman as her offspring had been different in her own right.
His first wife, Catherine, had been by western standards a fragile woman and not conditioned to the harsh and unforgiving surroundings that the Californian area had offered. Against her father’s wishes she had traveled with Murdoch to conquer the new land. To help him establish a home that would support them both and any children she bore. As a young married couple they had been blessed with a child, a child that Catherine was to never hold. Childbirth had claimed her life before she had the chance to hold her new born son to her chest and shed tears of happiness. The tears that were shed were ones of grief and despair.
Murdoch had been called away with business and had left his new bride in the care of a midwife and her father, Harlan Garrett. In his absence, Garrett had decided to take Catherine back to where he thought she belonged, with him in Boston. During the journey to Boston, Catherine had succumbed to illness and too weak to cope with childbirth, lost her tenuous hold on life. Murdoch had learnt that Harlan had left for Boston even before Catherine had been given a proper burial. The midwife had given him the news – the news that had broken him in two. He’d lost not only his wife but also his son.
Heartbroken and defeated he’d returned to Lancer and thrown himself into building his empire, certain that nothing could replace the loss he felt. Time was to heal the hurt and with it came a new love. Another chance to love again and be loved.
The first two years of marriage with his Mexican bride, Maria was heaven sent. He had been given a second son and for a short time he had been able to enjoy the experience of fatherhood. As the ranch had begun to expand in growth, Maria had quickly tired of being housebound and craved the call of the towns that had begun to develop and thrive. During the time that she had been married to Murdoch, Maria had offered her attentions to another man who had called on her several times in Murdoch’s absence.
Murdoch had returned home to find both his wife and son gone and a quickly scrawled note that had read that his wife had chosen to give her love to another man who had promised to give her his undivided attention and to also love their son. Devastated Murdoch plunged himself further into his work, seeking solace from seeing his land develop through the blood, sweat and tears that he poured into it. He’d tried to find Maria; to reason with her and to fight for custody of his youngest son, to give him a life that he so richly deserved.
He’d finally given up all hope of finding either of them several months later when the last lead he’d had of her turned into another lost hope. Six border towns as in many months were when the realization finally became one of acceptance. Maria didn’t want to be found and it had become apparent to him that she must have changed her name along the way. No one had heard of Maria Lancer or Maria Vasquez, her maiden name that he thought she might be using again. Broken beyond words he’d returned to Lancer and concentrated his every waking moment on the only tangible thing he had left in his life. Three years later he had tried to contact his firstborn son, Scott. He’d made the arduous journey from California to Boston to reason with Garrett to let him bring his son home with him. No matter how much he pleaded and discussed with Garrett the merits of Scott returning to Lancer with him, Murdoch had suffered another agonizing blow. For the third time he had traveled back to his ranch a sad and beaten man.
Having his sons come to live with him was not to happen for several more years and in that time Murdoch had become a harder visage of his former self. No longer was he the sort of man who could be fobbed off with second best. The words ‘no’ and ‘can’t’ were no longer a part of his vocabulary. He was a man that had worked hard to build a comfortable life for himself, had seen a lot of misery and had taken over the care of the daughter of his deceased foreman. A close friend who had paid with his own life to protect Murdoch from the land pirates who had threatened to take his land, his home and the people he’d come to care about.
With the help of the Pinkerton Agents he had enlisted his prayers had finally been answered and his two adult sons were returning home to him. By nothing short of a miracle both sons had been located, the first in Boston, escaping the wrath of a lover’s father and the second in Mexico, moments away from certain death in front of a firing squad. The initial meeting had not been easy, given the circumstances – Lancer was in the middle of a war fought against land pirates. His sons had been given a promise of one thousand dollars each to come to Lancer and a further offering of a third share in the ranch and its holdings if they were to stay and fight with Murdoch. It had been a test of loyalties for Murdoch’s youngest son, Johnny, for he had ridden worth Day Pardee and now he was pitched to fight against him.
“Murdoch? Hey, you all right?” called a soft spoke voice, a voice that broke Murdoch out of his reverie.
Called back to the present, Murdoch raised his head and nodded at his sons. “Lost in my own thoughts, I’m afraid.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?” insisted Scott and exchanged a concerned glance with Johnny.
Murdoch raised his hands in surrender. “I assure you that I’m alright … in fact, never better.” He looked at Scott and then Johnny in turn and added, “in fact I was just thanking my lucky stars that I have you two round to be with me.
“Well, Murdoch,” Johnny grinned, “you better get used to it. We intend to be round for quite some time.”
Scott physically seconded Johnny’s sentiment and taking his cup he refilled it from the kettle. “Care to tell us what you were so lost in thought about?”
“Maybe – someday,” replied Murdoch and looked up at the stars that littered the night sky. “For now let’s just say, some things are better left to chance.”
Confused by Murdoch’s statement the brothers shrugged their shoulders while Murdoch raised his own cup in a small toast towards the heavens and whispered a silent thank you.
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