Hollie has been a writer for many years. She's published a children's book, took multiple writing classes & now hopes to publish her novels.
A Fresh Start... Or so i thought
He was staring at me. His fiery eyes seemed to pierce my very soul. His thick, dark eyebrows drew in together. I pretended not to notice as I looked out the stage coach window. The town was slowly beginning to come into view, far in the distance. The town of Cedar was settled in the foot hills of a towering mountain and it couldn't have looked any more beautiful. The perfect place for me to take refuge.
Without realizing it I let out a sigh. There was so much I was leaving behind. Looking back to the man who sat before me, I saw that his gaze, still affixed on me, hadn't lost its intensity. Suddenly, I became much aware of the hot, still air that lingered in the bouncing cabin of the stage. My face felt so warm, my eyes began to water and my throat was extremely dry.
The floor became quite interesting to me, as my eyes quickly lost their contact with his. Never had I felt so uncomfortable to be looked at before. I stared down at his old, worn, dirt caked boots for quite some time.
Did I know him?
Have I seen him before?
Do I have something on my face?
These questions and more were spinning out of control in my mind. I began to feel faint.
He cleared his throat, rather loudly. I jumped in surprise.
A small snort came from the man's nose before a small laugh echoed across the span between us. Hesitant to look at the stranger, I slowly allowed my eyes to pan up from the floor. A faint sparkle of something sticking out of his coat pocket caught my attention.
My heart skipped a beat.
The man began speaking to me before my mind could process what it could be. It was the first he had spoken to me the whole 2 hours we had been riding. But his voice was much more gentle than I would have expected it to be.
"I'm sorry to have scared you, ma'am."
His accent was a rich, deep Irish one. It hadn't even dawned on me until that moment that he was Irish. He wasn't a small leprechaun of a man that lived in the marsh of Ireland, like I used to hear stories about as a child; on the contrary, he was very large. Not fat by any means, but tall and strong.
I didn't know much. But I knew this one thing. I wouldn't want to ever get on his bad side. Although, I had a strange feeling that I might already be. His eyes were softer now. His eyebrows were back in a normal position, no longer tense and angry.
I stared at him for only a moment before looking again at the object that peaked from his jacket pocket. He noticed and pulled it out. There was no denying it now. It was a golden star. A Sheriff badge.
My mouth dropped open. I couldn't help it.
He must know who I am for sure.
What if he thinks that I did it?
Should I run?
Again, more questions came flying through my mind.
Contemplating the thought of opening the door of the stagecoach and jumping, made me feel sick. Before I even had the chance of turning my outrageous thoughts into a reality, the last thing I wanted to happen, happened.
The stage took a huge jump and came back down with a "BANG". As the vehicle came to a sudden halt, I found myself on top of this man. His face only inches away from mine.
He grinned. His eyes sparkled. I stood with a gasp. Unfortunately, we had lost a wheel which made the stagecoach lean quite dramatically. So, when I stood, unaware of the new position our carriage had now assumed, I lost my balance.
I wish I could say that I steadied myself and didn't embarrass myself even further. Sadly, that's not how it happened. As I mentioned before, I lost my balance, and toppled over against the door.
I wish I could say it ended there. But, it did not. I hit the door with a hard thud. This caused the cheap door of the rig to pop open. Yes, you guessed it, I fell out and I fell hard.
I wish I could say that that was the end of it. It wasn't. It was rather unfortunate that it had rained earlier in the day. If it hadn't I probably would have had a better ending to my fall. But, the mud puddle I hit with a splash left me completely soaked.
The stranger towered over me from the doorway of the stage. His face was a look of shock, as I'm sure mine was too.
"Are you alright," the stage master asked as he was climbing down the side of the coach.
Before I could answer, the loudest guffaw I had ever heard echoed through the hills. The sheriff was laughing so hard that he was on the verge of tears.
Never had I been so embarrassed in all my life. I wanted to cry. My life had been turned upside down only weeks ago. I was forced to come to this God forsaken country which took a train ride for many days, then a stagecoach for hours with a man who had no manners at all and now this?
The stagecoach driver offered me a hand, pulling me out of of the sticky mud.
"I'm... fine," I answered him shakily, after he asked me once again.
The sheriff continued his laughing, that is until the stage master shot him a dirty look.
"Why don't you just shut up," he exclaimed, "can't you see she's embarrassed enough as it is. "
My heart was warmed by his kindness.
He looked back at me, "How do you feel about riding bare back?"
This Sheriff just might cause trouble for me...
Glancing over my shoulder to the town that I hoped to be a place of safety, I felt an even stronger urge to cry than before. How could something so close feel so far away. Could it be that I wasn't meant to move to Cedar? I slumped atop the back of one of the mare's that, only minutes before, had been pulling us along the old worn road. As we left the broken down stagecoach, I felt unsure of leaving most of my belongings behind, especially my large trunk which held pretty much everything I held dear.
How could this day get any worse?
I knew better than to think that way. Every time I thought like that it always got worse... This time was no exception.
It began to rain.
And it began raining hard.
So hard that the droplets stung every part of my body that was exposed; my hands and my face.
I couldn't hold it in any longer. I cried. The pouring rain hid the tears that ran down my face, hidden among the midst of rain droplets.
The town was hardly two miles away, which gave me hope to believe that nothing more could go wrong before we got there. As I reflected back on the past few months of my life I became sickened. My life was truly a mess.
A deep, Irish voice pulled me from my thoughts as the stinging rain slowed to a soft drizzle.
"So, what's your name," The sheriff asked, as he slowed his horse to align himself next to mine.
My heart skipped a beat, again.
"Mist..." I cleared my throat, "Excuse me... Missy... Missy Lewis."
I didn't bother looking at him. I had no interest in getting to know this man. There was no need to ask him for his introduction anyway, he volunteered it freely.
"It's a pleasure, ma'am. I'm Rowan McCalihan."
I was silent.
"I would also like to apologize for not speaking during our ride."
Pausing, he seemed to be expecting a response. There was none on my part. I only stayed focused upon the back of the kind stage masters head, who lead us toward town.
The sheriff, Mr. McCalihan, continued on.
"You just look awfully familiar, Miss... I'm sorry, you said Lewis?"
In a moment I went from annoyed by this man, to paranoid.
Would he know what I was going through? Did he know my family somehow? How could he? We were so far from my hometown back East. Surely news didn't travel that fast.
"So, what brings you out to these parts, Miss?"
With a lump in my throat, I responded, "I'm going to be the teacher in Cedar."
"Well, what do ya know? I live next door to the school house."
Of course he does...
The rain began to pick up again forcing our conversation to end. I guess the rain wasn't bad luck after all.
I allowed my head to hang as I stared at my hands which were grasping the wet, scratchy rope used for reins. Water dripped from my face and hair, some said down my neck into my dress. I shivered.
If only I had a rain coat, I thought.
It wasn't but a second later I heard the sheriff yelling through the rain. I looked up.
To my astonishment he was holding out his coat towards me. He was speaking to me, but the rain was too loud to hear him. It was clear what he was intending though. He was trying to be a gentleman. I don't know where this spark of kindness had come from and I honestly didn't know how to take it coming from him.
I supposed he felt sorry for me. The thought, for whatever reason, made me angry. So, stupidly, I shook my head and declined his offer. I chose not to take his coat and instead would continue to be beaten by the stinging rain. He appeared to be disappointed, which made me somewhat pleased.
My dress, by this point, was soaked and clinging to my freezing skin. My hair was no longer fashioned into a large bun atop my head. The weight of the water now had my hair hanging in dripping strands, some clung to the back of my neck. I shivered again.
Realizing that my stubbornness against Mr. McCalihan had been rather foolish, I glanced back at him. He had put is jacket back on and was staring at me in the same way as he had in the coach ride. I wondered what he was think as he looked at me in that way. I became annoyed with him again. What made him think he could just stare at me like that? I glared at him but he was unfazed.
I hit my heals against the flank of my horse and pulled up alongside the stagecoach driver and his horse. He looked over at me and gave a nod, along with a kind grin. He was a rather handsome man, with grey streaked, black hair and a strong, muscular build. It's not like I stared at him very hard or anything but his beauty was a bit hard to miss.
I could feel the sheriffs eyes burning a hole into the back of my head as we trotted into the little town of Cedar. I wondered if this Mr. McCalihan would cause trouble for me. I sighed. I didn't want to spend my entire life running.