Threads of Grace
Doc leaned closer to Adam and took a deep sniff. “Nope that isn’t it.”
“That isn’t what? What kind of doctor are you going around sniffing people like you were some kind of dog?”
“Trying to figure out how you got that little girl to sneak you a jug of apple jack. Thought you must be drunk.”
“How long have we known one another, Abe?”
“Too long. And don’t ask me what kind of first impression you made. If I recall, Abe Rawlings had you bent over a table while he pulled cactus thorns out of your bony rear end. You howled like a banshee when Adam poured rum over your behind so you wouldn’t get infection.”
Adam smiled. “And Alice screamed in the background because she was saving it for her Christmas cakes. Yeah, I remember. But you know I don’t drink, so stop your sniffing.”
Doc plunked into the nearest chair and braced his foot against the side of the bed. “Tell me this whopper of a tale one more time. If it matches, then I’ll know you’re telling the truth.”
“It’s no whopper. I named this ranch after the only woman I’ll ever love—Kathleen Isabella Martin—KIM—and now that little Lily-girl voiced a question I’ve had since the day I first laid eyes on and heard the name Trey Martin.”
“The name is a coincidence. Surely you know that. Didn’t you say you had a letter from this woman’s pa that said both she and your child died? You best leave her in her grave, Adam.”
He attempted to turn to his side but pain restricted him. Doc was the best friend he had. Couldn’t he understand how difficult it was to confess his long-unspoken questions? Did he see the resemblance and not want to admit it?
“Fred, what if he lied. Kathleen’s pa was determined to keep us apart. Wouldn’t he be even more determined to keep me from our child? What if Trey Martin is my son, and I’m treating him like a hired hand? What if Kathleen is still alive?”
“That’s a lot of what-ifs, my good friend. Trey isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so you’ve time to address this whole mess later. For now, you need to rest. I’m not cutting you any quarter, Adam. You want to keep that leg, your behave yourself.” He walked to the door.
“No more, Adam. I don’t want to hear any more until I’ve chewed and swallowed this piece of news.”
The click of the door announced the departure of his audience. If that was how he wanted it, then fine. He’d just have to find out the hard way that Trey and SueAnna were married. Likely Miss Lily would announce it soon enough.
She rushed to get everything done in time and when she rang the bell for breakfast the sun had just peeked its full face over the hills. Trey was the last one to the table. If his neck were any stiffer he could use it for a flag pole. She bit her tongue to keep from smiling. How many ways could one man manage to ignore a woman? Wouldn’t the men be—
“Annie, I needs help.”
One by one the men stopped talking and all heads turned to the doorway. There stood Lily. She wore the blue dress Naomi Bittman had given her, her hair piled on top of her head, though SueAnna could not imagine what held it up there. And she was barefoot.
“Oh, Lily,” SueAnna groaned.
“Why, Miss Lily.” Ben scooted his chair away from the table and stood. “Won’t you come and join us?” He motioned to the empty chair beside him.
“I can’t come in.” She twisted from side to side
“Lily, please come in a sit down.” SueAnna trembled. Ben grinned, but Trey had a scowl deep enough to get stuck.
“I can’t because I couldn’t reach the buttons and my skin shows.”
Rough hands covered grins.
SueAnna moved to the girl, buttoned the dress, tied the sash and gave her a pat on her bottom. “Now sit and behave yourself,” she whispered.
Lily didn’t flinch but walked with her head held high to be seated next to Ben.
“That surely is a pretty dress you have on today, Miss Lily. You goin’ somewhere special?” Ben winked at her as he tucked a napkin around her neck.
Lily giggled.”You seed this before, Ben. This is the dress I wore when Annie and Mr. Martin got married. Don’t you remember?”
SueAnna dared to look at Trey. His eyes shot arrows are her, and she would bet they were poisoned.
“Hey, Trey. You been holding out on us?”
“When were you going to tell us, boy?”
“Does Covington know?”
“Why are you still sleeping in the bunkhouse. Don’t you know that’s no way to treat a wife?”
Lily pushed loose hair from her face and an ivory comb fell and landed in her plate. “Annie says Mr. Martin can’t sleep with her ’til they get babies. Can I have a biscuit please.”
Forks stopped mid-air and eyes roved between Trey and SueAnna.
She covered her face with her hands and raced from the dining room. She took the steps two at a time and flung herself on the bed. She couldn’t be mad at Lily. She was just a little girl. But would Trey ever believe she didn’t put her up to such an announcement?She burrowed her head into her pillow and sobbed.
“Miss SueAnna. It ain’t fittin’ for me to come in your room, so would you step out here in the hallway so we could talk?”
Ben’s voice startled her. Had he heard her crying? She dried her eyes and stepped out of her room. “Did Trey send you?” She wrapped her arms around her middle.
“No, ma’am. I done sent myself. I…well, you know Lily didn’t mean no harm.”
“I do know that, Ben. But what must those men think of me? And what about Trey? I can’t go back down there and face them.”
“You don’t have to face nobody. Trey, he lit out like the prairie was on fire. And the men…well, them men is just as worried about seein’ you as you are them. They done left and went about their business.”
“Lily, she’s finishin’ her breakfast. Then if you don’t mind, I’ll take her with me. I got supplies to deliver to line four and she can ride along in the wagon. Probably should change her clothes, though.” He winked. “A girl shouldn’t be ridin’ a dirty ole’ wagon in her weddin’ dress. Got a fence to fix around the corral, too. I’ll watch her.”
“Lots of fences need mending around here, don’t they Ben?”
He sighed. “Yeah, I reckon so. But you gotta find all the places that are broke before you can fix ’em. Fix just one hole and it still leaves more for the critters to crawl through.”
SueAnna mulled this over. Ben was right. You had to know where the holes were before you could mend them.
Right now there was a great big hole in her heart. And nobody seemed to care.