Force Fantasies Fiction
~ Hospitality ~
Mary always tended the vegetable garden starting early in the morning. Now, as midday approached, the heat would soon be intolerable. She rose and clapped her hands together to loosen the soil. Drawing some water from the well, she washed her hands, and took a drink. "Mmmmm," the water was cool and refreshing.
As she had so often before, she paused to look at the horizon before returning to the cabin. Lum had insisted on building in this isolated spot and, sometimes, when she looked at the open, azure sky, she thought she understood why. She really missed old Lum. She brushed away a tear.
"Oh hell," she muttered. There was a rider approaching. He was very distant, but if she'd seen him, he'd probably seen her.
She gathered her few tools together and ran to the cabin. Once inside, she locked the door, got the shotgun, and made sure it was loaded. "He probably doesn't mean any harm, but it doesn't pay to take chances," she thought in cliché.
She watched through the front window as the man and horse slowly approached. Closer... Closer... Her heart felt like it was dancing in her chest. Closer... He seemed to take an inordinately long time. Finally, when he was about 25 feet away, he pulled the reins and dismounted. He removed his hat and approached the well.
"That's all right. Won't begrudge you some water," she whispered as if he might hear her. Then he turned to look in her direction, the ladle reflecting the brightness of the sun. She blinked and stood absolutely still. She knew that the curtain wasn't parted enough for him to see her, but there was something about his eyes that chilled her. It was as though he COULD see her.
She could see him clearly: very tall, broad-shouldered, sandy-haired, and nice looking. He was unshaven, covered with the dust of the trail, and generally had all the attributes of a saddle bum. He turned to water his horse.
"Mary girl, this'll soon be over. Just you calm down," she tried to soothe herself.
"Oh shit!" she gasped as he walked toward the cabin. As he stepped up on the porch, he was out of sight from the window, but she could hear his boots thumping on the wood planks and his spurs jingling. Jesus, he was a big fella! He paced on the porch back within view. He was even more handsome close up, but there was something in his look she didn't like. His eyes were that pale sort of blue that bored right through you.
He paced away from her, out of view again, stopped, and rapped at the door. She was expecting this but still jumped at the sound.
"Knock all day if you like," she thought.
After a while, she heard his boots' report as he moved to the far end of the porch, then a thud as he jumped to the ground. She couldn't hear his footsteps against the dirt, but his spurs still jangled faintly. He was going round back. She removed her shoes so as not to make any noise and walked to the back of the cabin into the bedroom.
"Shit!" she hissed as she caught sight of the open curtains. He coughed. He was very close. She moved quickly and flattened herself against the wall beside the window. She'd heard his cough, so he might have heard her exclamation.
She stood very still for a while, then lowered herself to sit on the floor, shotgun across her thighs. She was wet through with perspiration, heart racing. Then she heard his spurs. They became fainter as he walked farther away, but she couldn't tell in what direction.
"He probably just wants something to eat," she continued trying to comfort herself.
She worked up her nerve, stood, and, staying against the wall, carefully looked out the window. Nothing. He must have gone back round to the front.
She returned to the front room and peered through the curtains again. He was on his horse and riding to the east, out of sight.
"You see, it's over," she laughed.
She felt a little silly for being so frightened. Still, she wasn't opening that door any time soon, and she'd keep her old friend, the shotgun, close at hand. She settled into Lum's armchair. Maybe she'd just read a book. No, she didn't want to light the lamp and, with the curtains drawn, she couldn't see to read.
So she'd just sit there about an hour and then decide what to do next.
* * *
She stretched as consciousness returned. The sun had gone down, so she'd slept awhile. That day's tension must have drained her.
Well, that was that. She got up and lit the lamp. She was hungry, but she didn't want to heat up the house, so she settled for a biscuit and water. Thankful for the chickens and eggs, she thought about the big breakfast she'd have in the morning.
She picked up the water bucket and started toward the door. She paused, thinking maybe she should wait until morning to go outside.
"Goose! That fella's long gone," she said and smiled.
She continued to the door, unlocked, and opened it. The man stood at the threshold. Her reflexes kicking in, she tried to close the door in his face. His hand shot out, pushing the door and her with it. She stumbled back. Her heel caught the hem of her skirt, and she landed on her backside. She saw the shotgun lying beside the armchair and scrambled for it. He kicked the gun away, lifted her, and sat her in the armchair.
"We won't need this," he said, picking up the gun and throwing it outside.
Of course, she was terrified at the presence of an intruder. But there was more. The masculinity this man emanated heightened her fear. He was massive in size, with a thick beard and a deep, resonant voice. She wrapped her arms around her shivering self. She had nowhere to go, so she shrank back in the chair.
He closed the door and stood in front of her. With the lamp behind him, she couldn't see his face very well.
"Please..." she said.
He placed a forefinger over his mouth. "Shhhh."
Copyright 2000 Credited Author and
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