Flashback

By Sasquaw

 

Part 1 - Lily

        

She couldn't get over the look in the cowboy's eyes; they were so intense, yet soft. They seem to look right through her, but at the same time, seeing her only.

She stood in her room above the saloon, looking out her window at the dusty road that wound through the dirty little town. She tried to remember how long she had been there, but then it hurt too much to remember. All she knew was, it had been too long, and it was time to move on. But, what if he came back? He said he wasn't, but the look in his eyes told her different.

She turns away from the window, "Who am I kidding?" she says to herself, "He was just another horny cowboy, he paid his four bits, took his pleasure and left."

She thought of the night he came into the Lazy J saloon looking for the men that had killed some friends of his. She was standing behind the big one, who was involved in a card game, and who had just paid her for a night of pleasure. He said he wanted to finish the game first and she was to stand beside him for good luck. Big mistake, cause that's when the cowboy came in, and everything got deathly quiet. All eyes went to the cowboy, including hers.           

He was dressed in buckskins, wore a beard, and his gun was hung low. He made eye contact with her, motioning for her to move away from the big man. His eyes bore a hole right through her, at the same time he was being taken in by her piercing blue eyes.  She moves slowly away and the two men have words, the cowboy wants to know where his friends are, the big man is not talking. In a flash, the big man draws first; the cowboy draws and shoots him in the chest.  His friends are only too eager to tell the cowboy where the others are.         

The sheriff runs in to see what the ruckus is all about, the cowboy shows him the bounty papers and the other men are escorted to jail. She thinks, that's the end of it and the cowboy will walk away, instead he turns to her. He looks into her eyes, he's never seen such a color, and her dark hair made them even bluer.  She's beautiful despite all the layers of makeup, her look is soft, and she smells good. He smiles faintly, "Sorry to have messed up your evening ma'am."

She looks at him, and she can't believe the man is apologizing for what he thinks has ruined her evening. Being with the big man was not what she was looking forward to. She smiles back at the cowboy, looking him up and down, "Maybe you haven't ruined my evening at all--just the opposite." She nods towards the body of the dead man, "He's already paid his four bits---you may as well reap the benefits." She starts up the stairs slowly, then stops and

looks back at him. He watches her for a second, and then he starts up the stairs behind her.      

They step into her bedroom, and he turns and faces her, "Just for the record," he lays a gold piece on her night stand, "I pay for my own pleasure."

She smiles and starts taking his shirt off, "Whatever you say cowboy----any preferences?"

As they start to kiss slowly, he gently pushes her back and touches her face with his fingers, "Just one preference."

"Name it cowboy, I'm here to please."

"Take the makeup off----you don't need it."

She steps back and looks at him, "I have had some weird demands, but this one takes the cake!"

             

They stand there looking at each other, "The man is serious!" she says to herself.

"I'll be right back," and she goes to the washbasin and starts wiping the makeup off. She watches him as he undresses, and marvels at his body, solid muscle. He slips under the sheet and watches her as she starts to undress walking towards the bed. Her body is to die for, with long silky legs, her bosom is full. Her lips are not as full and pouty as he would prefer, but the determination in those eyes and the way she looked at him, would more than make up for that inadequacy. He reaches out to take her quickly, his manhood has reached its peak, he can't wait any longer. She watches as he rolls away from her and within minutes he's asleep. Even though their encounter lasted only minutes, the woman could feel the tenderness in his kisses, the way he held her body was different from the others she had been with. He was quick, but he wasn't rough like the others, and before he rolled off her, she could see in his eyes that he would want more. She turned over and got up from the bed, retrieving the gold piece and walking towards the mirror. She pulled on a loose board behind the mirror and there was hole about 10 inches in diameter, she shoved the gold coin in, and quickly closed the mirror back. She tiptoed back to the bed, and gently slid under the sheets.     

She watched the cowboy as he slept, he had beautiful masculine shoulders, and his waistline was trim, stomach flat and tight. She loved the feel of those arms around her, even if it was just a short time. He felt good on top of her, his lips were soft, but commanding. His hands were all over her body, groping and kneading, she liked his smell. He had the musky smell but not sweaty like the countless others, his hair was long, going over his collar, and curling up on the ends. When he looked into her eyes before he rolled off, the eyes were soft and almost pleading like. They were a warm blue/gray, his lips were soft, despite the haggard look and wrinkles that he showed from too many harsh summers and winters. He didn't snore, just a quiet rhythmic breathing.

He rolls over to see her looking at him, her finger up to her mouth, in a contemplating gesture like she's trying to figure him out. She smiles, and her eyes light up, he loves those eyes.  He raises up on one elbow, looks at her and then reaches over and kisses her long and sensuous …she gasps as his kiss deepens, drawing her into him closer and reaching under the sheet to caress her naked bottom. He trails down her neck and to her shoulders, kissing her softly, and cupping her breasts. Each caress makes her skin tingle, she's not used to being handled so delicately.

He takes her breasts into his mouth and gently twirls his tongue around the nipples, while his right hand goes down in between her legs and massages her mound. He brushes his hand back and forth across the top; her body is starting to answer by taking his hand and moving it towards her opening. He gently shoves his fingers in and out, she groans. His lips have found hers again, and their tongues are hungry for each other as in unison, their tongues are darting inside each other's mouths and his fingers are doing a number on her soft  mound.

She gently pushes him back, "Wait a minute, cowboy, I'm suppose to be pleasuring you" and then she goes down his stomach kissing and touching him in only areas he could dream about being pleasure zones. He's been with her kind before, and he's been with seedier, but always being careful to pick who he wanted to bed.  He would find release when the urge hit him, sometimes even at his own hand. None of the others he had been with were worth taking his time to give them pleasure, and he would never look them in the eyes. He didn't want to know their faces or their stories, they were just there for the taking and four bits was all he would leave behind in those seedy little rooms. 

She was taking his manhood to heaven and back, she knew how to pleasure a man, there was no doubt. But, this time he was in no hurry to release his fluid as he pulls away from her, and lays her down on the bed, and going down between her legs and taking her mound completely in his mouth. His tongue darting in and out, his teeth gently pulling on her vaginal walls till she's about ready to cry out. He takes his fingers and shoves them into her vagina while he bathes her with his tongue.  She's jerking back, not quite sure how to take this new way of lovemaking. With the others, it was fingers shoved into her a time or two, and then they would mount her hurriedly and pump her till she thought she would go through the mattress. Some of them would leave her black and blue, and she could hardly walk, but she knew she would have to keep a clear head long enough to stop them from coming inside her.  Some would refuse to roll off of her in time, and the fluid would fill her, running down her legs. She would run to the little washroom as soon as possible and shove a rag up inside her, soaked with vinegar, to try and kill the seeds that might take residence. Her insides would burn, but the precautions had worked, except for that one time, and right now she didn't want to think about that.

Her whole body was afire as the cowboy kept up his onslaught of tongue and fingers, she could feel herself getting ready to explode, this was a first, she had never felt like this. She always managed to fight the feelings, more less just faking them so the others would leave her as soon as possible. She was in no hurry for this to be over with, as she continued to hold his head to her mound. She can feel her juices start to trickle, as she urges him to come up to her, he spreads her legs with his knee and enters her.  He's bigger than the first time and she has to strain to accommodate his size. He waits for her to adjust, and then he shoves his manhood into her deep, withdrawing it to the tip and back again. She has her arms around his massive shoulders and pulling him down to her with each thrust. Their bodies are on fire, as he continues to take her breast and suck until she cries out. He goes back to her lips and shoves his tongue deeper, as the unison of their bodies keep in cadence with each other.  Her whole body is starting to jerk, but she doesn't want it to end as she keeps holding him tighter, till he can no longer hold the hot fluid that threatens to explode. She has plenty of time to make him move from her body, and she will service him to completion, but she refuses to push him away. He soon collapses on top of her, his fluid filling her quickly.

They lay in other's arms and he tenderly kisses her, and then just as abruptly, he pulls himself up from the bed and starts dressing.

She pulls herself up to the end of the bed, the sheet barely covering her, her right leg sticking out in a seductive manner. She pushes her damp dark hair back and watches him as he dresses. She's still breathing heavily, as he crosses to the window and looks out.  She keeps running her tongue across the top lip, still tasting him there. She hasn't made any attempt to wash his body fluids from her, and she softly says, "What's your hurry?"

The cowboy keeps his back to her, "Got to be on the road before daybreak."

She lowers her eyes and smiles, gently sliding out of the bed and walking up to him, the sheet barely being kept up by her trembling hand.  He asks about the big man and if he said anything about where the others were. The ones that had been carted to jail did not know the whereabouts of the main one he was after.

She teases him, as she rubs up against him, "Wouldn't you like to know?"

He grabs her, their faces only inches apart, "Yes---I would like to know----if you heard anything--tell me!"

She tells him about the conversation of the big man with the others and their rendezvous place.  He ponders her answer, as she moves closer into him, her hand coming away from the sheet and going to his chest, "We’ve still got lots of time, daybreak is hours away."

He looks into her eyes, he can feel his manhood coming to attention again, surprising even him. This woman definitely has a way of arousing him, he knows he won't be able to resist her as he pulls her closer and their lips meet. Her body is still hot from their encounter and getting hotter as he reaches down and pulls her up into his arms, kissing her passionately and taking her back to bed.

He lies on top of her, pulling the sheet away from her body,. They go into each other’s arms, even hungrier than before.

Just before daybreak, he's dressing again and she's still watching him. "Will you be coming back through here, will I see you again?"

He puts his gun belt on and barely turns to look at her answering, "Probably not!"

She kicks out her leg in defiance, "Good, I hate waiting."

He's ready to leave, when she calls him back, "Hey, cowboy---take care of yourself—okay?"

He looks at her, the vision of her sitting there on the bed, playing with her long dark hair, and those eyes will linger in his mind. He's already made one mistake, by looking into her face. He turns to walk away, then turns back, "What's your name?"

Her heart skips, "What does it matter"? She looks at him and smiles, "My name is Lily, what's yours?"

He smiles at the mention of her name, "The name's Cooper---Hayes Cooper!"

 

It had been almost a week since she saw the cowboy, she was standing at the bar, thinking about the night she shared with him. Things had been slow since that night, as she was grateful she didn't have to turn any tricks. She told her boss she was in her time of the month so he hadn't been pressuring her to take the johns. But, it was also time for Big Mo' to come into town and she was dreading it.  He was a traveling salesman, selling bottles of medicine to the farmers, and was even dealing in firearms. He would come through about once a month and he would always look her up. She hated the thought of his fat, sweaty body on top of her, so she would try to take him to completion in other ways. It never took long for him to spew his seed, she just couldn't stand the procedure. He was always rough, and his body would stink from cheap whiskey and cigars.

Afterwards, she would wash her body till she thought the skin would come off, and it would be days before she could get the taste of him out of her mouth.

She looked around her, there was no one else at the bar, and Colleen, the other saloon girl was talking to some cowhands.  She turned her back, and reached down into her bosom, taking out the locket, and opening it. Staring back at her was a picture of a small boy, with dark hair and eyes. The tears began to swell as she gently run her fingers over the picture. Her heart was about to break, as she hadn't gotten to see him in how many years? Was it 3 or 4 now?  He would be having a birthday, the 10th of June, and it was coming up soon. She wondered if his father would acknowledge the day, or would he continue to see it as a

woman's sign of weakness.

"Lily----you got company," a voice yells out.

She turns around and sees Big Mo' coming through the swinging doors, her heart drops as she motions for Colleen to come to her. "Please, do this for me--please---I can't take being with him tonight----I don't feel good."

Colleen looks at her and frowns, "You've been saying that for a week now---how long do you think the boss is going to let you get by with saying you're in your period----besides that Big Mo' doesn't care--he doesn't mind the mess!"

Lily pleads with her, "I will give you ten dollars---please---take him off my hands!"

Colleen smacks her gum, "Okay, you owe me---you just remember, I know your secret----it's going to cost you big time, I want $50!"                  

"Fifty?" Colleen---I don't have that kind of money!"             

The blonde looks back at her , "Okay, $25---up front!"                 

Lily nods, "Okay, just keep him away from me."

 

Part 2 – Lily Cont.

 

Lily looks over Colleen's shoulder and sees Big Mo' heading towards them, "Remember what you promised, keep him away from me and don't let the boss know what you're doing."

"Don't worry about me, sweetheart, I know what to do, you just get me my money---now!"

Lily nods as she heads for the stairs, Big Mo' grabs her arm, "Where you going lily, I've been missing you, and so has my friend," he reaches down and rubs the front of his jeans. He's a big man well over 300 lbs, beady little eyes, and always a 3 or 4-day stubble of beard. She can't stand his breath, as it always smells of stale liquor. She fans the air, and tries to pull away from him, but his grip tightens.

Colleen comes up to them and gently pulls the big man away, "Come on honey, let's party!"

He jerks his arm away, "I want to party with Lily."

Lily looks at Colleen, pleading with her to do something, "Well, you don't want to party with Lily tonight, she threw up on the last ‘john’, threw her whole insides up, big chunks of meat going everywhere----not to mention the sour milk!"

Big Mo' is still staring at Lily as Colleen steers him away, and Lily runs up the stairs to her room. Colleen looks over at the piano player and nods to him, he gets up and follows Lily. Colleen takes Big Mo' up the back way of the stairs and to another room.

The piano man slows down as Lily gets to her room, looking around cautiously and then entering, locking the door behind her. The piano man goes into Colleen's adjoining room, takes a picture off the wall, exposing a peephole. He watches as Lily takes the board away from the mirror, takes out a wad of money, counts out Colleen's part and shoves it down the front of her dress. He waits till he hears her leave, jimmies the lock on her door, and heads straight for her stash, taking it all. He's not aware he's being watched.

 

Lily waits till she can approach Colleen, and then slips her the money. A storm is moving in, there won't be any business tonight, no tired horny cow pushers, and everything is quiet. Colleen goes to the piano man, and he hands her a music sheet, inside is $200. "This is it, that's all she had?" she whispers.

The piano man nods and goes back to his playing. Lily is busy cleaning off tables, her mind a million miles away and seeing a little boy with dark hair trying to run and keep up with the other boys. She can almost hear his little voice, begging them to slow down, which they never do, and then the taunting begins and the crying starts. She can feel her own tears running down her cheeks, she has to stop and wipe her face, because she can't let her boss see the tears. If he knew her secret, he would kick her to the streets, just like the others before him.

 

She goes to the bar and pours her a drink, as Colleen walks over and leans up against the bar backwards with her elbows bracing her. She looks at Lily and smirks, "Big Mo' was very generous today, he only made me give him 'head' twice, the big jerk!"

Lily downs the drink, thinking to herself, "Better you than me," she doesn't hear the doors open up and a lone figure dressed in a yellow slicker comes in, knocking the water off his hat. Colleen looks at the man, "We got a bite----you want him?"

Lily doesn't even turn around, "You can have him."

Colleen smiles, and looks back at Lily, "Gladly," she mutters.

Lily starts to pour another drink as she glances up into the long mirror across the bar, she watches as the stranger starts taking off his slicker, wiping his bearded face, she gasps, "It's Cooper.

She turns around to look at him and Colleen is all over him, rubbing his chest and encouraging him to take his wet clothes off and join her upstairs. She's pulling him in the direction of the stairs, he's not budging as he looks to Lily. He stands there staring at her, Colleen sees the eye contact between them, and her temper is flaring. She pulls on Cooper's jacket, "Come on cowboy---I'll take you to heaven and back."

Cooper looks at the blonde, she too has layers of makeup plastered on her face, tons of eye makeup and false eyelashes that make him think of a spider, He looks at her face and sees the small sores around her lips, and he doesn't like the way she smells, entirely too much perfume that is gagging him. The sores around her mouth tell him there are bound to be elsewhere as well, he frowns at the mention of her taking him to heaven and back.

He quietly replies, "Sorry, but I don't feel like going through hell first in order to get there."

Cooper walks away from the blonde and heads for the stairs, looking back at Lily. She goes to the stairs after him. Colleen does a slow burn as she walks back to the piano player.

Cooper waits at the top of the stairs for Lily to join him, he steps aside so she can enter first. She turns to him slowly, "I didn't expect to see you again."

He starts taking his wet clothes off and throwing them in the corner, "Didn't expect to be coming back this way---figured as long as I was here, I would collect on the rest of the gold coin that you owe me."

"What? I don't owe you anything------"

Cooper takes the remainder of his clothes off, stands there buck naked and says, "You charged the big man four bits---I gave you a dollar, I still have four bits to collect."

Lily's temper is flaring as she stares back at his nakedness, "I should have known , you're like all the rest---well. I'll tell you what COWBOY, I will give you your change and you can get the hell out of here!"

She turns and heads towards the mirror, seeing that it hasn't been completely closed, her heart stops as she reaches for the loose board and pulls on it, everything is gone! "Oh no---no---where is it?"

Cooper just looks at her and walks over to the bed and slips in. He lies back with his hands behind his head, watching her. She's starting to cry and then she starts throwing things, and cussing in a language that he's not quite sure of.

Calmly he asks, "Problem?"

 

She turns and sees him laying in her bed, "Get out---get out of here."

He sighs, "Where's my change?"

Lily is walking in circles, "I don't have your stupid change---I don't have anything anymore---it's all gone!"

Cooper smiles, "Well, in that case--I'm staying the night---I figure the four bits that you owe me is more than enough for the price of a room for the night, and I am exhausted, tired, wet, and sleepy."

She stomps towards the bed and yanks the covers back, "You're not staying here, get out or I will call my boss and have you thrown out!"

He pulls the sheet back up, "You do and you'll never see your money again!"

She glares at him and then to the mirror, he must have seen her put her money behind the mirror when she thought he was asleep. Now she's furious as she dives on the bed and starts attacking him, again cursing him in that foreign tongue. She's slapping out at him and he's trying to pin her arms back, she's stronger than she looks and it's taking him longer than he anticipated to get her under control. She's kicking out and he 's trying to protect himself from being kicked in the genitals. Finally, he subdues her saying, "I didn't take your money---but I know who did!"

"Who----Who took my money?"

He's holding her down on the bed, she can be a regular little spitfire. "Your friendly little piano player, that's who, I watched him come in earlier, right after you took out money to give to your friend---it was all a set up!"

She tries to get out of his grasp, "Let me go---I got to get my money back."

He still continues to hold her down, " You better think twice about that."

She looks back at him, her lips set in defiance, "What's there to think about, I want my money back---I got to have it!"

"First of all, you're not thinking straight, if you go down there and say they stole from you, your boss is going to want to know how you saved up so much money from just turning tricks."

Her voice trembles, "It's my money, I didn't cheat anyone---I've saved every penny and dime I got from tips, and sometimes-----a "john" would give me a little extra---but I earned it."

Cooper rises up off her and lays back, "Maybe next time, you'll create a diversion, by having another hiding place that holds the real money."

She wipes the tears from her eyes, "Well, it's too late for lectures---I got to get my money back---it's my only way out of here!"

Cooper looks at her tenderly, "How much did they take?"

"Nearly $500," she sniffles.

He stares back at her, and she blurts it out, "Okay, so I'm not a saint----I stole some of it---there! Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Cooper thinks back to their night together, he had over a $100 on him besides the gold coin, she never attempted to go through his pockets as he watched her when she thought he was asleep.

"I'm not judging you---you got your reasons," and then he scoots further down into the bed and rolls over.

"What are you doing---you can't go to sleep ---what about my money, aren't you going to help me?"

 

Cooper yawns, "I told you, I'm tired. Besides, your friends aren't going anywhere----we'll talk about it later---goodnight."

Her mouth drops open, "I can't believe it, you are such a male chauvinist, if that were your money, you would be doing something about it----instead you go to sleep---I can't believe how wrong I was about you!"

Cooper turns over and faces her, "You were thinking about me?" he teases.

"Big mistake!" Lily pouts, folding her arms across her chest, "You're just like all the rest, egotistical, self centered, who only thinks with what's below your belt!"

Cooper thinks about what she says, "You sure use a lot of those fancy words just to describe me, didn't know I made that big of a impression on you!"

She reaches out and hits him with a pillow right between the eyes, "Oh shut up----go to sleep!"

He turns back over grinning to himself, "Try staying on your side of the bed, four bits only pays for the room and I'm all out of change." He can feel her eyes burning into his backside, and the mumbled curses. He falls asleep with a smile across his face.

When he knows that she's asleep, he crawls out of her bed and dresses quietly, crosses to the window, raises it and slips out into the night. It's still pouring down rain as he climbs over the balcony and into the adjoining room, belonging to Colleen. He walks quietly up to her bed, where the piano man is sleeping with her. He puts his hand over her mouth, she's startled, and then sees who it is and smiles. "What's the matter cowboy," she whispers, "Lily not all you thought she would be, decided to come to a real woman?"

The piano man snorts and turns over, Cooper has his fist doubled up in case he awoke. He looks at the blonde, wondering if she ever bathed, especially before going to bed. Her perfume is turning stale, her breath is even worse. Cooper reaches down inside his boot and brings out a small knife with a long skinny blade and holds it up to Colleen's cheek, bringing it slowly down.

"I'm going to ask you just one time where is the money you and your boyfriend took from Lily---and before you answer, you better think how you're going to look with a scar running down your cheek if it's not the right answer!

Colleen 's eyes dart to the piano man; he's sound asleep. She looks back at the bearded man and says softly, "There, in my jewelry box."

Cooper walks over to the jewelry box and takes out $200, he looks back at the blonde, "Where's the rest?"

She arches her brow, "That's it, that's all Benny gave me, said that was all she had."

Cooper brings the knife back up in front of her face, "I swear! That's all he gave me!

Cooper nods to her friend who is still fast asleep, "Your friend is holding out on you, Lily says there was $500!"

Colleen mouths the word, "$500?" She turns and slaps Benny as hard as she can, "You son of a bitch---you lied to me!"

The man is trying to wake up, when she slaps him again, Cooper walks over to the other side of the bed, reaches down and grabs his genitals through the sheet, "Okay, music man-- start singing-you got five seconds, where is Lily's money?"

The man's voice starts changing as Cooper starts twisting, the man squeals, "In the bed post!"

Cooper releases him and goes to the bedpost he's pointing at, unscrews it and finds the remaining money. Colleen looks at Benny, "In my own bedpost, ---you hid the money from me in my own bedpost," again she strikes out and hits him across the face, then comes back with another fist and hits him again. Cooper frowns, "This town sure has some hot tempered women!"

He starts to the window, and then turns around to them, they stop fighting long enough to listen, "Not a word of this to your boss, or Benny, I will be back, and I'll break it---understand?" Colleen reaches down and swats him, he yells out.

"Also, Colleen, this goes for you too, you don't have just a whole lot working in your favor--like a bath once in awhile wouldn't hurt, and a scar down your cheek would really decrease your chances with the 'johns'. All of the makeup in the world won't be able to hide the scar I'll give you----understand?"

She nods weakly, so does Benny. Cooper crawls back outside the window and he hears Benny squealing, Cooper smiles. "Sounds like he's having a ringing good time!"

He crawls back into Lily's room, she's still sound asleep. He walks around to her side of the bed, and puts the money under her pillow. He undresses and crawls back into bed, "Now maybe I can get some sleep", he says to himself.

The morning sun awakes Lily as she turns to look at the cowboy, sleeping peacefully. She thinks about the night before and remembers losing her money, and the anger comes back as she swings her leg over to get out of bed. Her pillow falls to the floor and money falls everywhere. "What the----, she stops and looks back at Cooper, he has one eye open, watching her reaction.

 She's crying again, softly she asks, "You got my money back for me?"

 He rolls over on his back, "Well it was either that or listen to you curse in that foreign language---what was that?"

 She climbs back on the bed and slips under the sheets, "French, actually, French Canadian!"

She starts reaching for his manhood, "And you know what the French are famous for---don't you?"

He cocks his head, teasing her, "Yeah---bad tempers!"

She giggles and they go into each other’s arms, "Do you still want your change back?" she asks.

He kisses her long and hard, "What do you think?"

They lay in each other’' arms, "Why did you come back, what was the real reason?"

"The man I'm after will be trying to get his friends out of jail, I heard he was headed back this way."

 Lily sighs, "Oh---figured it was something like that---what other reason could it have been!"

Cooper nods to the money, "Your friends are not going to keep quiet for long, if you're planning on leaving---you better do it soon before they come after it again."

 She rolls over and strokes his chest, "I will, I've just about got enough saved up, then I have to pay someone a visit, then hopefully I'll be on my way back to the Saskatchewan mountains."

"Is that where you're from---Saskwatn----how do you pronounce it?"

 She laughs, and kisses him tenderly, "Never mind----just Canada will do."

She becomes silent, he nudges her, "What's wrong?"

"Today's the 10th of June, isn't it?"

 Cooper shrugs, "Beats me---dates don't mean anything to me---what's so special about the date?"

 

She pulls away from him and sits on the side of the bed, then reaches into her night stand and brings out the locket. She hands it to him, "My son----it's his seventh birthday today!"

Cooper looks at the picture and then back to lily, "Where is he?"

She hesitates, "He's with his father!"

Cooper stares back at her, "You're married----you have a husband?"

She goes on the defense, "Yeah---I'm married---what--you don't think someone like me can be married?"

Cooper is getting angry, he had no idea she was married, and now she tells him she has a kid. "You could have told me!" He snaps back.

She grabs the locket, "I'm not in the habit of telling my 'johns' that I'm married, it sort of spoils the mood."

Cooper starts getting out of bed, reaching for his pants, "You can say that again---I don't fancy the idea of a jealous husband coming after me!"

He's pulling up his pants and she throws his shirt to him, "And, that's another thing---how can a husband allow his wife to work in a place like this, or does he even know?"

She stands there shaking her head at him, "He knows, are you happy?"

"What about your kid, don't you care what he thinks, his Mother sleeping with other men?"

She screams back at him, "It's because of Jean-Luke that I work in a place like this, to make the money to take him away from his father and get him into Canada, I'm doing the best I can. No, I'm not happy doing this kind of work, I don't like sleeping with all kinds of strange men having their stinking bodies all over me----sweating on me like filthy pigs------just get the hell out----I don't want to ever see you again!"

 

Cooper grabs his hat and heads for the door, "Don't worry---you won't!"

For the next few days Lily and Cooper don't see each other, he's left town again, looking for the man called Dawson. She knows he'll be back to pick up his bounty money from the sheriff. She tries to go on with her business as usual.

The trail drives are coming in, the cowboys will have money, she's depending on their generosity to make up for what she needs to get out of town. Colleen and Benny avoid her, but she watches them very closely.

It's the eve of the fourth night since Cooper left again, the saloon is starting to get busy as the cowboys are starting to come in. They've been on the trail for six weeks, without a woman, they will be more than anxious to part with their money. Lily is dressing in her best dress, a pale blue with darker blue around the cleavage. The side is split, showing off her long silky legs with the net stockings. She has applied more makeup and darkened her lipstick, the cowboys like the painted look. And then she thinks of Cooper and how he never wanted her to wear but just a touch of rouge, a light layer of makeup, and very little around the eyes. He always said she looked more beautiful without all the war paint. She smiles, remember how their last night together was, they made love for hours, their bodies not getting enough of each other, as they both spent their fluids repeatedly. Then she had to spoil it all by telling him she was married and had a son. Her anger flares as she recalls how fast he did an exit, he couldn't get out the door fast enough. She curses him and applies even more makeup, and sprays even more of the toilet water onto her body, every inch of it. She made sure she had plenty of vinegar on hand, and she even kept some by her bedside. She looks around the room, and makes one final check on where her money is hidden. Then she starts downstairs.

 

The music is playing and the girls are dancing. A huge card game is being played, the stakes are high, and tempers are starting to flare. Lily is being careful to pick her 'johns', waiting for just the right ones and maybe she will only have to service a couple instead of going all night with the ones that don't have as much money. She sets her sight on a tall cowboy that is winning big at the poker table, hundred dollar bills are being thrown around. She waltzes over to him, and slips her arm around his shoulder, "Buy me a drink, handsome?"

The man turns around, "Sure thing baby---- and then maybe you clean my organ grinder!"

All of the men burst out laughing, Lily frowns, "Whatever you say cowboy---if the price is right!"

The man looks at her, his eyes going up and down her body, he squints, "Don't I know you?"

Lily looks at the man, "Maybe not now, but later tonight you will."

She's getting a funny feeling as the man is looking at her, now she has the feeling that she's seen him before. The others are prodding the man to either play or fold. He goes back to his game, still looking at her. Lily does not see Cooper come in, as he walks up to the end of the bar, on the other side of some cowhands. He orders a drink and stays in the shadows watching her.

Suddenly the man turns around to Lily, "Now I know where I've seen you---it was at the Cowpatch in Wichita, Kansas---you were a dancer there!"

Lily's heart sinks, she remembers the Cowpatch and she recalls being asked to leave, or rather TOLD to leave. She starts shaking her head, "No, wasn't me cowboy, never been to Kansas!"

The man's voice is starting to rise, "The hell you haven't------I remember you----I don't forget too easily-----you had a kid with you!"

Cooper watches the look on Lily's face, wondering if the man was another unsuspecting 'john' that finds out about a husband and a kid. Her face is turning pale as the whole saloon stops and watches her. The man stands up and gets in Lily's face, "Yeah---it's you alright---I'll never forget those eyes, and I won't forget that kid of yours----the half breed son of a bitch!"

The saloon becomes quiet as the man continues, "Heyyyy, everybody, she's got a kid that's half Indian---- what's the matter sweetie, white men ain't good enough for you?"

Lily turns to see everyone staring at her, Colleen and Benny start to smirk. The tears start to swell, but she knows she can't break down, she knows it's all out in the open now. She sets her mouth in defiance , "So what?"

The murmurs go around the saloon, they start hissing at the word "half breed", they look back at Lily in disgust.

Cooper takes his drink and moves to the front of the bar, he watches the drunken cowboy and then he looks to Lily. She's not backing down as she goes up to the cowboy and spits in his face. "I got news for you Cowboy and all of you hypocritical bastards---my son is not a half breed---he's three quarters Indian, because I am half Cherokee and half French!" She looks at the men, some of who have been her 'johns'. She walks up to some of them, and laughs. "How does it feel to know you were sleeping with a squaw------at the time it didn't much matter , did it? As long as I was spreading my legs and you were enjoying the pleasures there------it didn't matter-----I could have been from another planet!"

The tall one wipes the spit from his face and then backhands Lily. Cooper runs towards the man and punches him in the mouth, and the two start fighting. Lily goes over and takes a gun out of another cowboys holster and fires two shots up into the ceiling, the two men stop fighting. She looks at Cooper, "I don't need you to fight my battles-----you showed where you stood, now get away from me!"

Cooper picks up his hat and heads back to the bar, and Lily turns to the crowd. "You Americans are all a bunch of hypocritical bastards, you think if you're not white and American, then your skin doesn't matter. Yes, I'm part Indian and I'm part French, and I was trying to hide behind the white man's image, passing myself off as just another white woman. Knowing that if I was found out to be a half breed, I would be chastised, well you know what, it's time I stood up to you prejudice people and say---yes I have a son with a Redman and I'm damn proud of it!!"

The manager of the saloon walks over to Lily, "You just go right ahead and be proud that you've spread your legs for a Injun, but you won't be working here anymore---get your things and get out!"

Lily looks back at the man, "I'm not through yet----I'm not leaving till I've had my say!"

"The hell you aren’t," the boss grabs Lily by the arm and starts dragging her to the swinging doors, Cooper again goes to her defense, then other men start jumping on him and then the free-for-all starts. Bottles are being broken overheads, and Cooper is taken to the floor by four of the cowboy's friends.

Lily jumps onto one of their backs and takes a big chunk out of the cowboy's ear. He stands up and knocks her across the floor, and she comes back at him with a chair. Just when he thinks she's going to swing out with the chair, she stops and kicks him right in the groin. The man goes down on his knees, grabbing his wounded area, then she hits him with the chair!

The fight continues till the sheriff and his deputies break it up. The saloon owner wants Lily to pay for the damages, saying she started it all by admitting she was sleeping with a Redman. Again Cooper goes to her defense, saying it was the cowboys that started it. Eventually, it's agreed that each pay half, and Lily is again told to leave. She looks around the saloon, everyone but Cooper, is staring and making remarks toward her. She swings her full shirt around, "I don't need this stinking job, and all of you can go to hell!" She storms up the stairs to get her things, Cooper goes up the stairs after her.

They argue, she tells him to leave, he refuses. He grabs what few bags she has and starts downstairs, and she follows. Cooper is walking towards the hotel with her bags, yelling at her to come with him. She runs up to him and grabs his arm, "I'm not going with you---let me have my things, I will find a place to stay----on my own!"

He jerks his arm away, "FINE----you just do that," and he walks away. Now she has the task of finding a place to stay till she can get out of town. She leaves her bags sitting in front of the saloon and heads for the train depot. She inquires about a ticket to Oklahoma City, the next train out is in two days. Now she has to find a place to stay. She goes to the hotel and inquires about a room, they're full up and the owner tells her that even if they weren't, she couldn't stay there, they don't 'cotton' to Injun lovers and half breeds. Cooper is standing by the door; she sees him and walks right past him.

He runs after her, jerking on her arm and turning her around, "Where are you going to stay?"

"That's none of your business---I'll sleep in the barn if I have to----it won't be the first time!"

She heads back towards the saloon, the drunken cowboys have found her bags and tossing them back and forth, one of them breaks open and all of her 'undies' fall on the ground. She screams at them and runs to retrieve her things, one of the cowboys grabs her and starts kissing her.

"You know---if you close your eyes--you can almost forget that she's a half-breed loving Injun---and she is pretty little thing, I hear she's real good at cleaning out organs!"

All of the men start laughing and snickering, as she throws her things back into the bag and huffs off towards the livery stable. Cooper follows behind at a safe distance. The stable man says she can stay, and charges her an outlandish amount. She starts to argue, then backs down. He shows her the last stall, she refuses it and looks towards the loft, "I'll sleep up there!"

The man stares at her and drinks from his whiskey bottle, "Whatever you say missy." He reaches out to touch her, she draws her fist back and hits him in the mouth, "Listen---you old fart---that's just a taste of what you're going to get if you got any ideas to come calling in the middle of the night---I'm a light sleeper and if you try anything with me…" she reaches over and grabs a pitchfork, "I'll ram this right through your balls---you understand me?"

The old man stumbles back, rubbing his cheek, nodding. Lily grabs her bag and the pitch fork and heads up to her 'new' residence. Cooper is watching the old man. He leans up against the door and calls the old man over to him, he gives him a dollar and tells him to leave. Then Cooper goes over to one of the stalls, heaps the straw up to make a bed and lies down. He has a feeling that once those cowboys know where she is, they'll try to come calling, and he's going to be ready for them, whether she likes it or not.

Cooper's hunch was right, after midnight and several bottles of whiskey to build up their courage, they head for the delivery stable. There are four of them, all laughing and making lewd remarks as to what they will force Lily to do. The old man has told them she's sleeping in the loft, from the look in Cooper's eyes, he thought better of telling them about him. "Let'em find out about him on their own," he chuckles.

As soon as they sneak into the stable, Cooper hits the first man with a shovel, right in the face! The other three pounce on him, he kicks another one to the chin, and his elbow hits the third man in his chest, as Cooper brings his knee up into the man's face, and then a right hook to the jaw. The fourth man jumps on Cooper's back, Cooper runs backwards, jamming the man into the wall. He then turns and delivers punches to their head and stomach. Two of the men run out of the barn, as Cooper grabs his gun and puts it under the chin of the fourth man. "Listen, and listen good, if you and your friends come back, I will personally blow your head off----leave her be---understand?"

The man nods nervously, and he and the other one run out. Cooper looks up towards the raft, he crawls up the ladder, moving very slow---remembering the threat to the old man about the pitchfork. He glances around and then he sees her, she's fast asleep. He watches her for a few minutes; she's sleeping like a baby. Cooper smiles, "Light sleeper---huh----dynamite wouldn't wake her right now!"

Cooper goes back to his stall, and lays down. He can't stop thinking about what just developed and to find out she's married to a Redman, and they have a son. He keeps trying to sort it all out, it's obvious she cares for the boy, so why isn't he with her? His mind is racing! Lily has one hell of a temper and she sure doesn't mind who's on the receiving end of it, him included.

 

 

 

Part 3

 

Lily awakes to the smell of coffee, and rises up, wiping the sleep away. A hand reaches out and hands her a tin cup of hot coffee. She recoils and starts to reach for the pitchfork when she hears a familiar voice.

"Hold on, it's just me!"

Cooper is sitting there with his arm outstretched, and handing her the coffee. She refuses it, shoving his hand away, "I don't want your stinking coffee!"

He looks at her, taking the cup back and drinking it himself, "Fine----be that way---see if I care!"    

She stares back at him and lowers her head, looking around at the loft and remembering where she is. Cooper is staring at her, sipping the coffee slowly and then he offers it to her again, she takes it.

"Thank you," she mumbles.

"You're welcome."

"What are you doing here, I figured you to be long gone by now?"

Cooper scratches his beard, "Nope---figured I would stay around till you get out of town safely!"

"I told you before---I don't need you to protect me, I can protect myself."   

He frowns, "Yeah, you sure did that last night---you slept right through it!"          

"What are you talking about," she looks around, "What happened last night?"                

Cooper tells her about the four cowboys that came calling, and he gave them a farewell party. She shakes her head, and rubs her eyes, "I must have really been out of it."

He nods his head, "You could say that----but you had your trusty companion by your side," and he nods towards the pitchfork.

She smiles faintly, and bites her bottom lip, "Thank you---but why, why do you think you have to look out for me, after the other night I thought you would never speak to me again?"        

"Well, we all make mistakes, and I made one by misjudging you, I can see now that you're a very strong hearted person--and I must say---you’ve got one hell of a temper!"

She smiles back at him, shaking her head, "Must be my French---we're noted for having them."      

Cooper returns her smile, "I told you that the other night when you tried to castrate me!"

She hands him back the tin cup, "My train doesn't leave till Thursday morning, are you going to be my guardian angel till then?"

"Only if you want me to."

She stands up and begins walking around the loft, "I don't know what I want, I don't even know if Oklahoma City is the right choice, I just want to get as far away from this damn place as possible!"

Cooper is sitting with his legs crossed in front of him, "Want to talk about it?" 

She goes on the defense again, "What's there to talk about, you know everything now, you know I'm a half breed and I have a son with a redskin, what do you want to know---the gory details?"

He stares at her, "I just thought maybe you needed a friend to talk to, but I can see I was wrong about that---so just forget that I even asked!"

                   

She bites her lip again, "Look, don't take it personally---I just can't talk about it right now----I've got to get out of here."

Cooper stands up and walks over to her, "You mentioned a place in Canada, Sacawatch, or something like that----why don't you go there?"

She looks at him and smiles; she still can't figure him out. He started out as just another 'john' but after a couple of nights of being in his arms, she knew he was more than that. He gets upset when he finds out she's married and has a kid, running out the door like he was shot from a cannon. Then he comes to her rescue in the saloon, not once but twice. She tells him to go to hell and again, he plays hero with the four cowboys that were sneaking into the barn. She shakes her head, "You're a regular Prince Valiant, Lancelot, and Joan of 'Arc, all rolled into one, aren't you?"              

Cooper arches his brow, "Isn't that last person a woman that you're comparing me to?"

She laughs out loud, her blue eyes lighting up her whole face, "Yes, but regardless of gender, she was a true hero in every sense of the word---so don't feel slighted---okay?"

He loves it when she smiles, and he loves the fresh look upon her face without all the makeup. Her dark hair is a little messed up, but to him, she's beautiful. He nods his head, "okay, if you say so, now what about that place in Canada?"

She has a far away look in her eyes as she repeats the name, "Saskatchewan."

Cooper tries to pronounce it again and she repeats it again, very slowly,

"Sas-catch-e One, it's a beautiful little place up near Edmonton, Canada, way back in the mountains. The water is so clear you can see the bottom of the lakes, the fish are so plentiful, and the mountains are breathtaking. At night you can hear all kinds of nightlife, and the air in the springtime is like an angel waking you up to the soft rays of the rising sun."

Cooper is lost in her voice as she continues to talk about this strange place, he can almost feel the air as he listens to her talk. She has a look in her eyes that he's never seen before, her eyes sparkles like the water she describes.

"And, in the winter--the snow is so white, the mountains are covered, and you smell fireplaces burning with the smell of hickory, the snow crackles under your feet as you walk, and the nights are so long, as you cuddle under the piles of blankets, never wanting to leave your warm bed."

She stops and looks at him, he's leaning up against the wall on one shoulder, his arms folded in front of him and he, too, has that far away look. The look on his face is of sheer oblivion. He doesn't realize she has stopped talking as he stares at her blankly.

"Cooper-----are you okay"?

It takes him a second to clear his head, "Yeah---yeah-----it sounds---real nice!"

"Have you ever been out of Texas"?

"Sure---up in Oklahoma."

Again she has to laugh, "Texas, Oklahoma---what's the difference----- if you ever saw Canada, you would never come back here----Canada is like a whole new world, and you will never know heaven till you've seen the Saskatchewan mountains!"

Cooper smiles to himself, and recalls their nights together, he thought he was in heaven---with her. Then he thinks back to Sarah, the woman he’d asked to marry him only just a few months before, and then when his friends were killed and he went after their killers, she refused to marry him. She asked him to give up his guns for good, he knew he couldn't do that and they parted ways. His feelings for Sarah were genuine, but deep down he knew something was missing.

With her, their love just touched the surface of being intimate before they could exchange vows.  He wanted her many times, but he never tried to cross that line. He was surprised at how quickly she faded from his thoughts, he just knew that the fire between them wasn't there, and he hoped she was happy When he looked at Lily, the fire raged, he could never remember wanting a woman as much as he wanted her. But, now things had changed, she was still a married woman and she had a child, he had to respect that.

The slamming of the stable doors brings him back to reality, the old man is wanting to sweep up, and he wants his two occupants out, so he can do so. They climb down the ladder from the loft, the old man snickers at what he thinks was going on up in the loft. Lily turns to him, "Listen old man---I better not find any of my things missing or I will come after you---with the pitchfork!"         

Cooper looks at the old man and grins, "And, don't think she won't!"

They walk out into the streets, as the town is just starting to wake.  Cooper turns to her, "So what now, what will you do until time for you to catch that train, unless you've changed your mind about going?"

"I don't know what I will do, but I know I have to do something quick, before it's too late!"

Cooper knows that she's hiding something from him, "Too late for what?"              

Lily pushes her hair back, "Do you know a man called Caddo?"               

Cooper's face turns rigid, "Caddo---the Comanchero---how do you know him?"

 

Part 4

 

Cooper looks at Lily in shock, "Why do you want to know about Caddo, he's a cutthroat killer that will slit your throat without blinking an eye?"           

Lily looks back at him and nods, " I know who he is----I've had dealings with him before---I know what he's capable of---believe me I know!"            

They stand there on the sidewalks of the dusty little town, he shakes his head, "I don't know what it is that makes you tick, there are so many mysteries about you that I'll never know, but I do know one thing, if you know the likes of Caddo---- you're in big trouble!"

She doesn't answer him, she just bites her bottom lip and looks at him with those eyes. "Maybe---it's better you don't know----you've never wanted to know anything about me before--why now?"              

"Beats the hell out of me, you wouldn't give me a straight answer even if I asked you!" He starts to walk away then turns back, "I'm going to the sheriff's to collect my bounty money and then I'm leaving---what are you going to do?"

She pushes the hair back out of eyes, and for the first time he can see that she's really confused and scared. "I don't know----guess I'll hang around here----I don't know!"

Cooper hesitates and then he says, "Well, you know you're not welcome here and they can really make things rough for you if you hang around."

"You said you were leaving, where are you going?"

He rubs his beard, "Down around East Texas, near Waco."

"What's there---or should I ask who's there," she teases.

Cooper smiles, "A woman named Becky, she can bake the best sourdough biscuits that you ever tasted, her beef stew is to die for, not to mention her apple pie!"

                    

Lily's smile turns upside now as she mumbles "Oh----your wife---or girlfriend?"

"Neither," he replies, She and her husband are good friends of mine, I plan to visit them."

"What about that man you were after that killed your friends, are you still looking for him?"

"Oh yeah," Cooper grits his teeth, "I'm still looking for him, he's got a date with the hangman's noose---if I don't kill him first!"

Lily looks at his face and sees the determination, "Sounds like I'm not the only one keeping secrets----these friends of yours---who were they?"

Cooper thinks back to that horrible day that the Wilson’s and their little boy were gunned down in cold blood, he answers slowly, "Just some real good people that didn't deserve to die that way." He looks towards the sheriff's office, "I'm going to see about my money----I'll see you around---good luck!"

She watches him walk away----"Wait a minute--Cooper --I need your help----I'll pay you to get my son back---the whole $500---it's yours!"

"Is that what you were going to offer Caddo, you were going to pay a thieving, lying, murdering Comanchero to get your son back?"

Lily's eyes start to water, "I would pay the devil himself to get my son back, and that's just what it's going to take to get my son away from his father and Caddo is the one that can do it--because he's not afraid of my husband---they are bitter enemies!"

Cooper is getting angry, "I never said I was afraid of your husband---I'm afraid of no man!"

                

She raises her eye brow, "Oh, excuse me---then when you left our bed and ran out, it wasn't because you were afraid----you were just having second thoughts about sleeping with a married woman-----like you haven't ever shared the sheets with someone else's wife before!"

He stares back at her, his temper is starting to get the best of him, he clenches his fists, "Not intentionally----I do have some morals---even if you don't!"

The sidewalks are starting to get busy as people are walking around them, and staring. They continue to stare at each other, neither of them wanting to be the first to give in. Finally, Cooper lets out a swear word and turns to walk away. He turns, "I'm leaving as soon as I get my money---you can go with me or you can stay here-----I really don't care!"

Lily's eyes light up, "Does this mean you're going to help me to get my son back?"

He doesn't say anything till he's halfway across the street then he yells back, "Be ready to ride in one hour!"

When Cooper comes out of the sheriff's office, Lily is waiting, bags in hand. She's still wearing the same dress and leading an old nag that looks like she's seen her better days. Cooper shakes his head in disbelief, "You can't ride all the way to Waco, dressed like that----and that horse won't make it five miles without giving out."

"The man at the stables said she was all he had----I don't have any riding pants---and you didn't exactly give me time to find some to buy!"

"I gave you a whole hour, how long does it take to buy some pants at the feed store?"

She looks back at him in disgust, "I hate pants----I will do just fine the way I'm dressed---now are we going to stand here and argue, or do we get on the trail?"

He shakes his head, "Suit yourself---but by the end of the day, your butt is going to be rubbed raw from all of those petticoats--------but what do I know?"

He mounts up and watches her as she tries to mount the nag with her full skirt.

The horse keeps backing away from the sound of the rustling and she's cursing her in that French tongue. Cooper watches the fiasco, then finally he grabs the reins and holds the horse so she can get on. After several attempts she finally makes it.

He pushes his hat up and stares at her, "For someone who is 3/4 quarter Indian, you sure don't know much about riding a horse!"

She swears again, "I hate horses, and just because I'm Indian doesn't mean I have to like them, they stink!"

"You can ride----can't you?"

She doesn't answer as she reaches down and slaps the horse with the reins, and the horse takes off with her bobbing up and down. Cooper sighs, "I guess that answers my question-----it's going to be a long and interesting ride!"

By the middle of the evening Lily is having a hard time staying in the saddle, her petticoats are not only bundlesome, but they're causing her to keep sliding out of the saddle. He watches her for as long as he can stand it, then he grabs the reins and tells her to get off. Again, it's just as difficult as getting off the horse as it was getting on. She can't see to get her foot in the stirrup right, misses it all together and falls flat on her butt.  He puts his hand out to help her up, and she slaps it away.

She gets up and starts rubbing her backside, Cooper walks over and tells her to take the skirt off, she argues and he takes his knife out and starts slashing the skirt, "Take it off---- and get rid of those damn petticoats!"

They're finally on the road again; it didn't take her as long to mount this time, and she's looking more at ease in the saddle. She's riding along thinking pleasant thoughts when all of a sudden, a shot rings out and her horse starts to bolt. Cooper grabs the reins, and holds her back. Lily sees the smoking gun in his hand, and he nods towards a rock about 50 ft away.

"Supper----nice fat rabbit."

She glares back at him, "how about a little warning next time?"

"Sorry-----but the rabbit wasn't going to wait, he was heading for his hole!"           

They camp for the night, and as he gathers wood for the fire, she attempts to dress the rabbit out. Cooper finally takes it away from her, "Don't suppose you can cook either?"

Supper is eaten in quiet, as Lily keeps rubbing her back. She tosses her bedroll as far away from him as possible. He just grins and tells her she better sleep closer to the fire, as the mornings are really going to get cold. She refuses to listen, "I was raised in Canada, remember? We have real winters up there---not these little Texas northerners as you Texans like to prefer to as cold. I'll be just fine---thank you."

He sips the last of his coffee, "Whatever you say---miss-know-it all, what does your Canada upbringing say about rattlesnakes?"

She winces, "Don't try to scare me with talk about rattlesnakes-----I'm not stupid----snakes go underground when the air is cool---there are no rattlesnakes----give me a break"!

He nods, "That's true, but then they start looking for a warm place, and that bedroll is going to be mighty tempting to them---but you're the expert, being 3/4 Injun and all---I'm only a quarter---so what do I know?"

She looks back at him surprised, "You never said anything about being any part Indian?"

"Maybe that's because I don't go around bragging about it, sometimes it's better not to talk about it---you get into less trouble that way!"             

"You mean---not admitting it---pretending to be all white, isn't that it?"

               

He frowns at her, "You're a fine one to be talking---how long did you work in that saloon till it finally came out about your heritage? If that cowboy hadn't recognized you, you would still be denying it----so don't go on any glory wagon and try to bring me down!"

She gets up and walks back to the campfire, "Any coffee left?"             

He pours her about half a cup, "That's the last of it."

They sit quietly for a few minutes, listening to the coyotes howling in the distance, "What tribe are you?"

"The same as you---Cherokee on my Grandmothers’ side, the other part of me, I don't know----never seen any reason to keep up with it---you are what you make of yourself, blood is one color for all races---red!"

"Maybe easy for you to say, because you're a man--but for a woman it's different. You saw how those people treated me after they found out I was a half breed----" "and married to a redskin!" Cooper finishes.

"Yeah---that too, it's hard for a woman to find a job when she's labeled---not to mention being a whore too!"

He glares at her, his face gets tight and he says very low, but angry, "You are not a whore!"

She sips her coffee and looks at him, shaking her head, "The dictionary defines the word "whore" as someone who is paid for sexual intercourse ----I think that just about defines me pretty clear, doesn't it?"

Cooper jumps up angrily and grabs his blanket, heading for his bedroll, "Get some sleep----we move out at sunrise----there'll be no time for breakfast---be ready to ride!"

He throws his blanket down and crawls inside his bedroll, turning his back to her. She watches him, and then she feels regret for making him angry, she has the knack for making him lose his temper, and he sure loses it fast. She smirks and says to herself, "Wonder if he has any French in him? She throws the remainder of her coffee into the fire and then heads for her bedroll. She looks back at the fire, the wind is chilly, so she pulls her bedroll in closer. Within minutes she's asleep.

Cooper lies there thinking about her being only a few feet away from him. Just thinking about her causes his manhood to swell, why should he care that she's married, she obviously doesn't have any feelings for the man! He knows she wouldn't refuse him; he could have her, just for the taking. He slams his fist into his blanket and swears. "Damn it----why does she affect me this way." It's a long and restless night as Cooper continues to argue with his conscience.

By noon the next day they have reached the Stanton farm. His good friends Will and Becky welcome him with open arms. The couple's four kids all gather around him and he speaks to each one, tousling their hair and pulling the pigtails of the little girl. Lily is introduced to them. Will Stanton wipes his hand off and offers it to Lily and smiles. Becky smiles weakly, and then she invites them in for lunch.

A couple of hours later Cooper has gotten a fresh horse from Stanton and he's packing his saddlebags. Lily comes out of the house and stares at him, "You're leaving----so soon?"

He barely looks at her, "Yep----want to be on the trail as soon as possible-----Will says that my man has been spotted down around Del Rio, that's a good two days ride!"

Becky comes out and hands Cooper some sourdough biscuits and sausage, "Something to eat while you're on the trail!"

Cooper takes the package and reaches down and kisses Becky lightly on the cheek, thanking her. Will and the kids come out to say goodbye and then they all back

go in the house. Cooper looks at Lily, she has tears in her eyes.             

"I'll be back in about a week."

She brushes the tears out of her eyes and snaps at him, "You mean if you don't go and get yourself killed----what about me, you said you were going to help me to find Jean Luke?"

They stare at each other, "I am going to find my friends' killer, no matter how long it takes me to do that, that is my first priority-----then if the good Lord sees fit to let me survive, I will be back for you and we will look for your son." He starts to mount then he turns to look at her, "but-----when I get back, I want some answers Lily------and you better be prepared to answer, or the deal is off! No more surprises----understand?"

She nods slowly as he mounts up and turns to ride away, she shouts to him, "Hey cowboy---you be careful!"

For the next ten days Lily is busy helping Becky, Becky teaches her how to make bread. The first couple of tries end up with flour flying everywhere and the women getting into a friendly dough-throwing match. Soon the kids get involved and when Will Stanton comes in from a hard day in the fields, he tries to pretend to be mad at his wife for wasting the precious flour. Lily comes up behind him and dumps the remaining bowl on top of his head.

The kids start howling with laughter. Becky puts her hands up to her mouth, not knowing what her husband will do. He turns to his wife and throws flour in her face.  The cabin rocks with laughter as all of them start throwing the flour, they don't see the figure standing in the doorway.

Suddenly Will stops throwing the flour---"Cooper!"

Everyone stops and stares at him, he stares back at their faces all white, the globs of dough in Lily and Becky's hair. The kids are scooted outside and the women start hustling to get things back in order.

Finally supper is on the table and Cooper is starved for Becky's home cooking. A chicken has been killed for the occasion, and there are dumplings with heaps of collard greens, potatoes, and corn. Afterwards, a pie is served, or at least it has the intentions of being called a pie. Cooper looks to Becky, "Looks good," he says, meekly.

He takes a bite, the taste buds hit him and it's all he can do to stop from spitting it out. He grabs his coffee as everyone is watching him, he tries to clear his throat, "Good," his voice almost squeaks.

Will Stanton takes a bit and he does spit it out, "Becky, what in tarnation did you do to the pie?"

Becky looks to Lily, and Lily's face turns pale. Lily looks at the men, "Maybe I used a little too much salt."

Both Will and Cooper speak at the same time----"SALT?"

Becky looks at Lily and smiles, "You don't put salt in a pie----you put sugar!"

Lily looks back at them, "I'm sorry, I thought you said to use a pinch of salt?"

Becky reaches over and touches Lily's arm, "I meant in the crust, not the filling."

Cooper starts drinking more coffee and Will pushes his plate away from him, "Hogs are going to eat good tonight----at  this rate I won't have to worry about curing them."

Cooper looks to Lily, and shakes his head, smiling faintly.

Will breaks the silence, "So you got him, huh Coop? You got the last of the ones responsible for the Wilson’s and their little boys' murders?"

Lily looks to Cooper, "A little boy was murdered, too?"

Cooper doesn't say anything, Will nods his head---"Yep, a little 8year old boy named Jeb, wasn't he, Coop?"

                

Becky scoots the kids off to bed, "Thank God--his murdering hide is dead---my husband and I have tried to be good Christians, but what that man and his friends did to the Wilsons’ was un-acceptable. Killing a little boy---in cold blood!"

"The bible says that vengeance belongs to the God almighty---but sometimes the Lord needs a little help in sorting out the rift raft, right Cooper?"

Cooper continues to sip his coffee, then he answers, "I'm tired---it's been a long trip---I'm turning in!"

Will gives Cooper some more blankets to take to the barn, "I'm sorry there's no more room in the house, Cooper---you could sleep in front of the fireplace---if you prefer?"

"The barn will be just fine, Will---thanks," and Cooper heads to the comforts of the barn.

Will calls out to him, "Better take the far stall, in case it rains, so the roof won't leak on you!"

Lily follows him to the barn and helps to make his bed, she's wearing one of Becky's old dresses, and she can feel Cooper looking at it. She smiles and smoothes out the skirt saying, "Quite a difference from what you 're used to seeing me in, huh------kind of old, and drab looking."

Cooper smiles, "Well, it's not as flattering as the dresses I've seen you in, but I like it. I also like it that you're not wearing all of that makeup that makes you look like a clown. You're much more beautiful this way----the natural look that God intended you to have."

She still can't figure him out, "You've made it very clear on where you stand on makeup---but I was painted up the first time you saw me. Why were you attracted to me, if you don't like the painted look?"

He throws his saddle bags down, "I never said I didn't like to see a woman wear makeup, I meant not so much of it. A woman as beautiful as you needs very little, and you should be thankful that God has given you such a natural gift."

She smiles to herself and says, "Grateful, huh? Yeah, he's been more than gracious, I could have used some of that generosity earlier in my life, where was he then?"

Cooper continues to stare at her, and then he starts making excuses for her to leave, "I'm tired---we'll talk in the morning."

There's no mistaking the wanting in his eyes, but she’s not to going to be the one to force it. He's also made it clear where he stands on married women and she accepts his decision. She turns to leave, "Good night," and then she's out the door.

A storm has moved in and the sky is like the 4th of July, the horses inside the barn are nervous and Cooper is trying to calm them. Finally a nice steady rain begins to fall, and Cooper walks over to the window and watches it come down. He loves the smell of rain, and the sound of it. He wonders if Canada has these types of rainstorms. Sure that place that she's always talking about sounds great, but Texas has its good points. Hot, scorching summers, where you can almost fry an egg on a rock. Winds that can knock you right off your feet, droughts, and don't forget the tornadoes! There are the blue northerners where the weather can change at the drop of a hat and on the flat lands you can freeze icicles to your beard, he knows, it's happened to him a few times. Texas has good fishing spots, as long as you don't mind sharing with the mosquitoes, buffalo gnats, and all of the snakes. The water doesn't have to be all that clear to catch a mouth-watering catfish, they like the murky waters of the Red River and the Rio Grande. Texas nights are okay, too as you listen to the coyotes howl, and if it's a still night, you have the June bugs trying to land in your hair, not to mention the mosquitoes and the gnats again. He smiles, Canada is sounding better and better.

He turns away from the window and he's startled to see Lily standing there, dressed in only a nightgown. The light from the lightening silhouettes her body through the gown, as she has nothing on beneath it. He watches her as she walks slowly towards him, reaching up and taking the gown up and over her head. He's frozen as he stares at her, as she reaches up and puts her arms around his neck, pulling him into a long and hungry kiss. His arms go around her waist as he returns her kisses and feels her naked skin, and gently starts pulling her down to the blankets on the floor. His hands go to her face cradling it and looking into those blue eyes that never fail to hypnotize him. He holds her face and kisses her eyelids softly, then her nose, saying her name over and over. He can feel his heart pounding, as hers answers just as loud. He pulls back and looks at her naked body, his hand caressing every inch, his eyes devouring her. His hand goes lightly to her mound … she gasps as she looks into his eyes, begging him not to stop.

"God---you're beautiful-----you do things to me that no woman has ever been able to, you stir feelings inside me I never knew existed------ I want you so badly."            

She feels that he's going to back away, she grabs his hand and puts it to her heart, "I want you too, Cooper,  can't you feel it, my heart feels like it's going to come right through my chest-----you can not deny that you have feelings for me too----and not just in a sexual way. I can feel your heart beating just as loud, the fire that is burning in your eyes, it is not wrong for us to feel this way---Cooper, make love to me---please!"

He kisses her long and sensuous, taking her lips slowly and then going to her neck and to her shoulders, then back to her lips. She starts pushing his shirt back and reaching to touch his chest, massaging it. She's getting anxious for him to shed his clothes as she pushes the shirt back over his shoulders and then reaches for his belt buckle. His breathing gets heavier

and he kisses her harder, sucking her lips in and then going to her breast, sucking the nipples harder and harder.

She slides his pants down over his buttocks as he kicks out of them, returning to her body like he’s never seen her body naked before. The storm outside is raging, as Cooper trails down to her waist, kissing and sucking her skin, his right hand goes to her mound and moves back and forth across her soft dark hair. She is groaning, wanting more, as she pulls him down to her. His lips start caressing her tenderly, pulling her vaginal lips together, releasing, and then back again. Lily pushes back on his shoulders and then pushes him back on the blanket, straddling him. She runs her hands up and down his whole torso, while her lips kiss and tease him. She lays him back with his arms outstretched, telling him to relax; it's going to be a long night.

She goes to his lips and kisses him softly, never taking her eyes off him, her blue eyes burning into his, and smiling softly. Her dark hair falls down around her face, she shakes it back and sits up on him, taking her hands and twisting her hair back around her neck. Her breasts are at full erection, her nipples are hard, as she bends down to kiss his waist, her tongue following his hairline down to his genitals. Cooper sighs as her lips gently touch his manhood and her hand encircles it and commences up and down strokes. She keeps her eyes on his face as he sucks air through clenched teeth, his hands twisting the blanket. He looks down at her, and his hands go to the top of her head and pushes down gently. Now her lips are going up and down his manhood slowly  and then going to the tip, going back and forth over the top, teasing, all the while watching his face.  She stops and looks at him, "Are you ready to go to heaven, Cooper?"

             

His eyes are about to roll back in his head, as he nods slowly.  "Only if you're there with me".

She smiles, "You'll never be able to think of heaven any other way without remembering this night, I promise you. Whenever you think of angels, you'll think of my lips as the wings, and those wings will have you soaring to heights that you never dreamed existed, I promise to take you to heaven and back."

He watches her as she begins to take his manhood into her mouth and goes all the way down to his genitals and back up, slowly at first, then her tempo picks up. She gently twists his manhood as she goes up and down and then to the side, taking first one testicle, then the other. He jerks back as each time she squeezes harder and her lips suck harder. She has him at full erection as she pulls herself up his body and sits over his manhood, taking it in her anus, going very slowly as her body stretches to take him in. He puts his hands under her buttocks and holds her up so he can get the rhythm started.

Her legs are pulled up as she is almost sitting on them, her hands behind her, bracing while she sets the tempo, Then the rhythm starts picking up pace as he starts to groan as she comes down on his manhood harder each time. She rides him for as long as they both can without spilling their fluids. She rises up, his manhood sliding out, she takes it and guides it into her vaginal walls, as she lies down across his body, kissing his chest and caressing his nipples. She goes to his neck and gently sucks as her vagina sucks his manhood deeper into her. He's groaning louder and louder, making her take him even deeper. She sits back on him and continues to caress with her hands, her buttocks going from side to side, then up and down.  Cooper is soaking wet from perspiration, the sweat dripping down off his brow and off his chest hairs. Lily takes her tongue and gently licks up the sweat, going back to his lips and kissing him hard, her tongue going inside his mouth, searching for his tongue. His hands go up her backside and down to her buttocks, as he massages each one as his thrusts go deeper inside her.

He can feel her getting hotter, and her fluids are starting to trickle down his thigh. He takes his right arm and swings her up and then under him, putting both his hands under her buttocks and pulls her up to him, and back.  He kisses her breasts, taking one and then the other, pulling the nipples gently with his teeth, and then inhaling them again. Lily is groaning, she has never been to this ecstasy before and she does not want it to ever end.  She closes her eyes and tightens her arms around his neck, and her legs tighten around his buttocks as he is breathing deeper to keep up with her upward thrusts. She's whispering for 'more' as his tempo exceeds the limit, as he explodes inside of her. She rocks back and forth with him inside of her, spreading her hips wider and bringing him back to erection. She screams out and her legs start to tingle, and then cramp. Her backside is starting to feel the hardness of the barn floor, but she's not caring as she continues to pump him, till again he spews his fluid and then collapses on top of her. Their bodies are soaked with sweat and body fluids, their hearts feeling like they're going to burst.

"Cooper-----Cooper----" and then she screams again as he takes some last thrusts deep inside her.

Her last scream takes Cooper by surprise as he rolls off of her, thinking that he has hurt her, "Lily-----what's wrong---did I hurt you, I'm sorry."

She tries to get her voice as she keeps shaking her head 'no' and then she pulls him back to her, her arms going back around his neck, kissing his shoulders.

            

"No, you didn't hurt me," she murmurs.

"Then why are you crying-----I did hurt you, didn't  I?"

She laughs, "These are tears of joy----not pain---oh, Cooper, sometimes you can be so naïve."              

He breathes a sigh of relief, "There you go again with those fancy words----- in other words I didn't hurt you."              

She strokes his beard and kisses him tenderly, "No. "

Cooper looks down into her blue eyes, "I 'll never hurt you Lily, never!"

Her tears start again as she looks back into his eyes, and answers quietly, "I know----I have never met a man like you before----why couldn't you have come into my life years ago----when we were both still innocent?"

Cooper turns and lies on his back, Lily turns on her side, her left arm going across his chest. "Do you want me to answer those questions now"?

He pulls her in closer and kisses her forehead, "No---I don't want to spoil this night, I want you to talk to me about that place you call heaven, that place in Canada."

She kisses his chest, "What do you want to know?"

He sighs, "Everything----I just want to hear you talk, your voice soothes me,  and I like watching the look on your face as you talk about it. Your eyes take on a dreamy look, and they must be as blue as those waters you describe----I just want you to talk to me---all night---about that place."

She looks at him confused, "Cooper, why talk about it-----go with me. Go to Canada with me---we will find Jean Luke and the three of us could live there---oh please---Cooper, you would love it there---I know you would. We could be so happy-----I'll make you happy there----I promise!"

His eyes turn misty as he looks into hers, "I could be happy anywhere, as long as I'm with you Lily. "She raises up and looks back at him, a smile as big as Texas across her face--"Then it's settled-----you'll go with me?"

"As soon as we get your son, we'll go to those Sakatch a one mountains or however you pronounce it!"

She laughs, her whole face lighting up. "Yes," she whispers, "I will see my mountains again, I will start living again. I've got just two wishes, Coop."

He smiles back at her, brushing her hair back, "And what's that?" He asks.

She lays back down his chest, "To make you happy----to maybe give you a son someday and to live out my last days in the mountains, the same place I was born."

Cooper looks at her and smiles "A son?"               

"You would like to have a child with me---wouldn't you?"

He kisses her, "More than anything else in the world----that would be my wish-----to have a child with you."

They fall asleep in each other’s arms, with her telling him about the place that he has promised to take her. He hangs on every word as she describes the mountains more clearly to him, telling him about the little valley that winds through the mountains. About the waterfall that overlooks a gorge, and, below it, all of the wildlife, and flowers that live there. He closes his eyes and visualizes the two of them walking hand in hand through the fields of wild lilies. Her hair is being teased by the wind, she's looking at him softly and then she's touching her belly, and caressing it. Her blue eyes look into his, everything is good.         

 

Part 5

 

The next few days are spent helping the Stantons put a new roof on their cabin. Cooper and Will are on the roof, and the oldest boy is taking them their tools and something to eat. The women are busy catching up on the laundry, the baking, and watching the rest of the Stanton kids at play.

Becky watches the looks between Cooper and Lily, she smiles remembering when she and Will were in their "sparking", and how just the looks between them could drive them crazy. She never thought she would ever see that kind of look in Cooper's eyes, but it was very clear he was in love with this woman, and she was in love with him. She thought back to Sara, the woman Cooper was engaged to, but she refused to marry him because he wouldn't give up his guns. He never looked at Sara the way he looked at Lily. She knew that Lily was sneaking out to the barn to be with him, when she thought the rest of the house was asleep.  She didn't exactly approve of their midnight rendezvous, but at least they were trying to be discreet about it, even Will didn't know about the meetings in the barn.

Sometimes in the evenings after supper Cooper and Lily would walk off down by the lake, sometimes they would be gone for hours, and other times, they would be gone for most of the night. They are at the edge of the lake, and Cooper is lying down with his head in Lily's lap. She has been talking about Canada again, and like all the other times, her voice lulls him to sleep.

She strokes his beard and plays with his long, dark auburn hair, twirling it around her fingers. "Cooper----it's time".             

He wakes up and looks around in a daze, he looks up at her, "Time? Time for what?"

Smiling back at him, she replies, "Time to answer those questions that you are dying to ask me."

He sits up beside her and sighs, "Oh yeah----those questions----I've been afraid to bring up the subject----but I guess this time is as good as any."

She looks back at him, "Where do you want me to start?"

He doesn't know how to answer her, "Start at the beginning---I guess."

She leans over against his shoulder, "Then I will start---with my father----because besides you, I have never met a man that makes me happy, makes me whole, makes me proud to be who I am, That was my father, Jean/Claude Monet."

"My Father was a scout for the 7th Calvary, under General Armstrong Custer, and he was there at the battle of Little Big Horn, he survived the massacre."

"How can that be Lily, the history reports said there were no survivors---everyone was killed, including Custer!"

"No, my love---my Father survived, but because he did survive, he had to go into hiding, not only from the Sioux, but from the U.S.Government and your president. My Father was married to a full-blooded Cherokee with the name of Tall Trees. He too, was of Cherokee blood, but mostly French. He took my Mother north to Canada, to the Saskatchewan Mountains, a few months later I was born. My Father took up trapping and game hunting; sometimes he would be gone for months at a time. It was very lonely for my Mother and me, we were way back in the mountains, not seeing another living soul for months, sometimes as long as a year.

I remember my Father coming home with stories about the country he seen and huge masses of ice that would break off mountains, I think he called them glaziers. He would talk about the game that he would hunt, the moose, caribou, and Kodiak bears. I would sit up all night listening to him talk, the way he could describe things made me feel as though I was right there with him on his trips. I loved the country even then. I was the happiest though when my Father was home. But soon, his trips started to get longer and longer, and my Mother was growing to hate the mountains and was yearning to return to her people. I was about nine when she decided she would not wait for my Father to return, she packed us up and we began the long journey back to her village in the black hills. The tribes were all being split up, again by order of your president, as he again feared retaliation against the white man because of Little Big Horn. Stories were being told about Custer and his credentials as a honorary man were being questioned, and so was the actions of the guides that were with him.

The Cherokee, Choctaw, and many of the less threatening tribes began to migrate south, along with the Apache and Comanche. My Mothers' people ended up in parts of Oklahoma. My Mother was a tall and gracious woman, very beautiful and sought after by many of the young braves. She was welcomed back with open arms, but I was not. I was not of full Cherokee blood they shunned me."

Lily turns and looks at Cooper, "It's ironic that the one thing that you praise about me the most---the color of my eyes, was always my downfall to the Cherokee people."

He smiles back and touches her cheek with his forefinger, "That's their loss, that they couldn't accept you for what you are inside---which proves only one thing, there was prejudice on both sides, not just the white man."

She nods her head and continues, "My Mother found another man, and they married---back then divorces were just a breaking of warrior's lance placed across the portal of the so called ‘widows’ teepee. She had no time for me, her new husband didn’t want me around, and so I was sold to a fur trader and his wife. At the age of eleven I was working in their store, selling and trading hides, working from sunrise to sundown for my room and board. Days were spent working, and nights were spent trying to stay out of the clutches of the fur

trader. His wife didn't care that he was trying to bed me; she was more concerned that I would get pregnant and have little half-breeds running around. So she showed me ways to keep from getting pregnant, which must have worked because she never bore him any children. The precautions with the vinegar would burn me inside and later it proved to be almost barren. I was about sixteen when "HE" came into my life."

A small band of Indians approached the fur trader, and was trying to make deals on some furs that were in really poor shape. They argued, the one in charge accused the fur trader of cheating them, it was then I walked into the store and they all turned to look at me. Their leader was tall and very handsome, he was the most handsomest man I ever saw--------" Lily looks at Cooper and smiles---"present company not excluded of course."

"He ended up buying me to be his wife, and soon I was on my way to another life, to be the wife of Grey Wolf, son of Cochise---the Apache warrior! At first he treated me good, but he wanted a son in the worst way! Months turned into a year and I still hadn't conceived, which infuriated him. He would beat me, humiliate in me in front of the other women. Then he started taking other women and not caring that I knew. He was fathering many sons, but he still felt like I was making a fool of him, because I was not giving him a son. He would be seen as a weak man, and not being able to "seed" me, made him just that---in his eyes! For four years the beatings went on, and then one day my life was to change again. Renegades were being chased across Oklahoma territory, the Mexicans were having their independence taken from them, and they started coming further north. They started their own kind, the Comancheros! And soon, Caddo was coming into our village.

        

At first he and Grey Wolf were friends, they rode together on many raids. Caddo wanted to buy me, so Grey Wolf sold me to him. Caddo had to leave the Oklahoma territory and head further north to get away from the blue coats that were chasing him. He told Grey Wolf he would be back for me in the meantime Grey Wolf still took pleasure with me." Lily stops and looks to Cooper with tears in her eyes, "I became pregnant-----I did not want to be  with child---I'm sorry but that's the last thing I wanted! I had visions of getting away, a child would slow me down."

Cooper looks at her, not knowing what to say, just touching her hair.

"Caddo came back for me, and Grey Wolf would not give me up and since I was carrying another man's baby, Caddo didn't want me either. Not that I wanted to be with Caddo, he was a sickening man; he stunk. I'm not saying from body sweat only, he would not think twice about messing in his pants, and going for months without changing them. He and Grey Wolf fought, a very long and bloody fight, ending with Caddo losing an eye! Grey Wolf was a strong warrior, but he also relied on his braves to help fight his battles. They ganged up on Caddo and forced him and his band of murderers out of the village.

Things changed between Grey Wolf and myself, he actually treated me good through the pregnancy, but again, my life would change. On the night that Jean Luke was born, I started having terrible cramps, the other women were telling me that my baby was turned sideways and they would have to help to pull him out. Grey Wolf saw this as weakness on my part, and I shouldn't have to have help in delivering a baby, none of his other women had to have help. At first he refused to let them help me, I screamed till I thought I would pass out--and there was so much blood. Finally, he let the mid wives help me, and they did more harm than good. They got Jean Luke turned the right way, but they were pulling so hard on his left leg that it was twisted at an odd angle. For days my baby cried, I prayed he would die, he was in so much pain. Grey Wolf ranted and raved, saying I had not given him a healthy son---it was all my fault! The beatings started again, and I was afraid that he would soon start hitting the baby as he would scream into Jean Lukes' face!"      

Lily dabs the tears from her eyes, Cooper tells her she doesn't have to continue and begs her to stop talking about it.

Lily grabs his shirt, "No, I have to finish---if I stop now--I will never be able to get the strength to tell you another time."

"My life changed so much after my baby was born, I felt born again. I showered all of my attention on my son, I learned how to love, and it felt good. But, the happy times were few, in the first few months Grey Wolf stayed away from us, and I had to rely on my own skills to feed us, which weren't good, as you have found out. The other kids would tease Jean Luke and make fun of his lame leg, Grey Wolf humiliated him even more by calling him Lame Wolf! I was not to call him by his Christian name, which I named him after my father. I had to call him Lame Wolf and how that hurt not only him, but me, as well. Jean Luke was almost two before he could stand and take his first steps, his left leg had healed some, but it still hung at an odd angle and it made walking very difficult for him. Of course the other kids would tease him even more, Grey Wolf started to beat him because he couldn't run. Jean Luke would cry, Grey Wolf would beat him more, saying that crying was a woman's weakness. I begged Jean Luke not to cry in front of his Father, so at night he would do all of his crying when it was just the two of us. I would tell him that it was not a sign of weakness for a man to cry that tears were angels' kisses, cleaning the soul.

         

For the next year Jean Luke and I would hide scraps of food down by the river, we were making plans to make our get away. On the night of a big raiding when all of the braves, including Grey Wolf, were stoned out of their heads on the white man's whiskey, we left in the middle of the night. We headed north, I wanted to go back to the mountains, I just didn't know how to get there. We just kept heading north, then I started to have to work to make our passage and to feed us. I took a job doing the only thing I knew how to do and that was to give pleasure, and so my career as a salon girl started. I spoke French so everyone assumed that because of my dark hair and my skin being dark from the harsh sun, that I was from France. It fascinated them, the men loved the accent, I made good money. Jean Luke stayed in the basement during my working hours, and when I was through he was allowed to come to my room.

This continued for almost a year, I was saving money, we were going to ride the iron horse to  a place called Montana, then we would have to go by horseback the rest of the way. My boss was after me in my off hours, I kept refusing his advances, he made us leave, but not before taking all of the money that I had saved. We had to start over again, and we ended up in a place called Wichita, Kansas, and the Cowpatch. About six weeks later, Grey Wolf found us! He and his braves stood out in the middle of the road, and screamed back into the saloon that he had come for his wife and child. The owner of the saloon soon figured it out who he was talking about and literally kicked me and Jean Luke out into the street, telling Grey Wolf to take his Indian whore and half breed son and get the hell out of town.

He made us walk the whole way back to his village, over 200 miles. Jean Luke tried very hard to keep up, I would carry him, and his Father would beat both of us. He would not allow Jean Luke to cry, by this time my son was getting very good at hiding the tears, and he would comfort me. My little man, and he was barely four years old. Then right before we got to his village, he told me to leave, but Jean Luke could not.  Again, I was on my own. My heart broke, leaving my little boy behind. All I had left was that picture in my locket----the one you saw. A photographer  at a carnival took the picture and gave it to me. I cut it down, and kept it on a long chain that no one else could see, unless I wanted them to. I ended up at the Lazy J saloon, Colleen knew about Jean Luke---and we both know how she ended up  turning on me."

Lily turns to look at Cooper, he's silent. He thinks about the "so called man" that took pleasure in beating a woman and small boy, his temper is rising, the veins stick out on his forehead. He looks at her, "I will find your son for you, and the three of us will find that heaven that you talk about, and yearn to go back to, I promise you Lily!"

They spend the rest of the night at the lake, with neither of them caring that the night is getting colder and they will have only their body heat to keep them warm. He wraps his arms around her, cursing under his breath, the man called Grey Wolf!!!!

Cooper and Lily are packed and ready to leave the Stanton home, they are all saying their goodbyes, with the food Becky packs for them. They will leave the town near Bovine and head to the Oklahoma badlands.

They've been on the road for three days now. They have talked to hunters along the way and they've inquired about Gray Wolf's village. They are told that the blue coats are after him, and Grey Wolf has taken his people further North This pleases Lily, knowing they are going in the direction that will take her closer to her Canada. But, there have been signs of Caddo's destruction, so she knows he's around, waiting. Cooper senses his presence too.

They ride all day, and when the nights come, they are exhausted as they fall asleep in each other’s arms. On the third night Lily wakes to see Cooper staring straight ahead of him, staring --not seeing anything. She knows he's thinking of what he will do once he meets Grey Wolf, she does not like it that he's letting his feelings show so clearly. Grey Wolf will act on those feelings, and Cooper is showing himself to be vulnerable.

She touches his face, "Cooper---look at me! You have got to hide those feelings, you can't face Grey Wolf this way, he will tear you limb from limb!"         

"How am I supposed to feel, Lily?"           

"I understand those feelings, but Grey Wolf will see them as your weakness and he will use them against you!"            

He stares back at her, "I am more than ready to face Grey Wolf---I will face him man to man, then we will see what kind of "man" he is----he likes to hit women and children---because they can't hit back, I will hit back!"       

Lily shakes her head, "NO!----He doesn't fight fair, he will not face you--one on one----he will let his braves fight you first, wear you down, then he will kill you. I've seen it happen my love, that's the way he fought Caddo!"

Cooper's mouth is set in determination, "He'll fight me Lily----he'll have no choice-----and only one of us will be walking away!"

She turns back over, with her back to him, "Now I wish I hadn't told you any of this------because you're going to get yourself killed with that attitude and it will be all my fault!"

"How am I suppose to be reacting to what you have told me," Cooper snaps back at her, "if I didn't have reactions, you would think I didn't care---I show my feelings and now you say it's sign of weakness----what the hell do you want me to do Lily---tell me!"

She rolls back over to him and throws her arms around his waist, squeezing him. "I want you to start thinking rationally----you have to out think Grey Wolf with your mind, not just your strength. You have to have a plan, and we will work on that."

"I have been a law officer off and on for some ten years now, and I've hunted bounty--I have been up against all kinds of vermin, I don't need a woman telling me how to fight someone like Grey Wolf and plans-------------"

"You see!" She pushes away from him, sitting up, "You refuse to listen to someone who is trying to help you, because it's a woman telling you. Would you refuse to listen if I were a man? NO----of course not----but you are showing your chauvinist side---just like all men!"

"There goes that fancy word again---why can't you just tell me what you really think of me, instead of using all of those words that I don't understand!"

She looks back at him, and very quietly asks, "Do you know what it means when someone says ‘you're a horses' ass’"?

Before he can answer, she falls back on top of him, "You're also mule headed, stubborn, has to be right about everything, and thinks that only a man can make the right decisions, that the women's place is in the kitchen, and the only thing we're good for is making babies----now do you understand all of those words?"

He puts his arms around her, holding her down on top of him,  "You lost me when you mentioned being in the kitchen---cause if I had to rely on your cooking---I would starve---the rest of your description was fairly accurate-----I don't have to be right all of the time----just most of it!"

They start laughing and rolling around on the bedroll, they look into others' eyes, She knows he wants to ask her something that he's pondered for several days since that night in the barn, when she told him she wanted to give him a son. She touches his lips with her fingers, tracing them back and forth.

"I'm sorry-----it just hasn't happened yet."

                 

"But, how do you know for sure----maybe when we get to the next town you can see a doctor, maybe------"

She smiles back at him, "I will know, my love---a woman knows these things---and believe me when it happens I won't have to tell you---you'll see it in my eyes."

He smiles back at her, "I hope it's soon."

She goes into his arms, "Me too."

The next three days brings them to what is left of a little town in the north part of Texas, the Indians call it Whee she taw, by the falls. Actually, they are not falls at all, just little brooks, and the name will be changed to Wichita Falls, The Red River is just 15 miles away, and then they will cross into Oklahoma territory.

They look around at what is left, Caddo has been through here, and he has burned the town to the ground and taken everything of value, including the livestock. An old hotel is at the end of the street, the sign is barely readable "-olt Hotel", the "H" is missing, one hundred years from now it will be billed the "smallest skyscraper" in the history of this little town. Lily walks toward the remains, looking around slowly, and spots something that catches her eye. She smiles to herself as she looks over at Cooper who is searching for something to eat. She stares at it, her mind goes to a happier time, and she hears herself as a little girl, laughing. Cooper walks towards the other end, searching for anything that they might be able to salvage. He's found a few cans of beans that Caddo and his men overlooked, he goes into the old barber shop, the chair is still upright and the strap and razor are hanging down at the side. Cooper looks at himself in the broken mirror, rubbing his hand over his beard and says to himself, "I could use a trim". He looks around for some soap and finds only a small bar, not big enough to serve his purpose. He takes the strap and razor and goes in search for Lily.

He finds the old hotel, and calls out to her. At first she doesn't answer, then he sees her coming down the old stairs, smiling and motioning for him to join her. He looks at her puzzled, what could she have found that has put that smile on her face? The stairs crack and break way as he makes his way up, she's standing in front of a ragged curtain, she pulls it back and there is an old Victorian bathtub. It's still in one piece, erected on four porcelain legs, the back of the tub sweeping up in a curve, and it's incredibly long and deep. She looks at him teasing, "We could both use a bath--what do you say?"

He looks at her, "And how are we going to get the water up here"?

She runs across the room, pointing to the well----"THERE! And, look here, there's a rope, that is how the owners of this place got the water up here, they drop the bucket into that well, and pull it up."

He walks over and looks out, "It's going to be a long and tiring chore-----are you sure about this?"

She puts her arms around his waist and starts pushing his shirt up, "I found some soap, and there’s a little bit of rose water over there, maybe enough to get some bubbles going------the question is------are you sure you want to pass this up? "She starts kissing his neck and moving towards his ears, nibbling. He pushes her back, "Where's the buckets?"

They finally have the tub full and start climbing in. Cooper pulls the strap and razor over to the side of the tub, "Might as well trim my beard while I'm at it."

"Not now----let's enjoy the water before you get it all full of hair----and besides I want to shave you."

             

Cooper puts his hands up in a defensive gesture, "NO WAY----you're not shaving me."

She puts her hands under the water and starts scooting towards him in the tub, "Cooooooper," she taunts, "Come on---let me shave you---later---okay?"             

He frowns as her hand touches his manhood" You're wicked Lily Monet, you don't cheat right!"

"I don't cheat, right? Now who is talking in grammar that I don't understand?"

He groans as her hand grips him harder, "Can't help it---- can't think or talk straight when you start playing dirty----now calm yourself, before I have to get rough and dunk you under the water!"

She rolls her blue eyes at him, "I must warn you, I can hold my breath for a loooooong time, and you would be fueling the fire if you try to hold my head under water, because then you would have to hold your breath, in ‘turn about is fair play’. How long can you hold your breath?"

Cooper pretends to think about it, then he reaches out and shoves her head under. She's taken by surprise and starts gurgling the water and trying to laugh at the same time, and then she starts choking. He laughs at her, and starts throwing water in her face. She's reaching out towards him blind and pulls his head under water, and starts scooting to the end of the tub. He doesn't make any effort to come up for air, as he finds her mound and starts kissing.  Lily just lays back and stares up at the big hole in the roof, making it seem like they are almost outdoors. She moans as he comes up for air, "Does that answer your question?"            

She pouts, "I want more."

"Okay, but first I want to bathe you----every inch of you, first with the wash cloth and then my tongue---how does that sound?"

She purrs back at him, "What are you waiting for----I'm more than ready".               

He sits up in the tub and pulls her towards him, letting her legs straddle him, his hands lingering over her hips. He reaches out to kiss her while his hands pull her hips in tighter. Her arms go around his neck, returning his kiss. She pulls back and looks into his eyes, "You make me so happy, Cooper---I never ever thought I would feel this way about a man, after being with Grey Wolf and all those other…"

He puts his finger over her lips, "That makes two of us---I never thought I could feel this way, you make me angry, and then you make me laugh. You make me feel good inside, I just want to be holding you constantly, but Lily I need you to promise me something!"

"What---anything---just ask."

"I'm aware of your past and the things you have been forced to do, it bothers me to know that you've been with so many men------but I have to accept that, I know it wasn't all to your agreement. Lily----I don't want to hear you talk about that part of your life anymore----that's in the past---let it lay. I don't want to hear about the other men, ------it hurts to hear you talk about them, I don't like it!"

She strokes his face,  "I'm sorry, my love---I never told you those things to hurt you---I just wanted you to understand where I was coming from."

"I understand that----but, let's not talk about the past---let's talk about the present and the future---from this day forward---no more talk about your past----okay?"

The tears come into her eyes, "Yes---yes, I promise."

"I'm your future Lily, I will take care of you, there will be no need to look back, only forward. You will never want for anything, I'll hang the moon for you, if necessary, if that's what you want. I just need to know that I will be the only man in your life from this day forward, that I will be enough to make you happy."

The tears are now streaming down her face, as she kisses him long and tender, leaning back in the tub, taking him with her. "I love you Hayes Cooper, I have never said those words to any other man in my life---I love you!"

"I love you Lily----and I want you to be my wife."

She's crying uncontrollable now, "Yes!---I accept."

He pulls back and looks at her, "These are tears of joy, right?"

She slaps him in the chest playfully, "Yes--you big lug--don't you know the difference by now?"

He kisses her back, "With you, I never know. I've been confused since the first day I met you, and the confusion hasn't let up-------and I have a feeling that I will go to my grave being confused where you're concerned."

"Oh shut up----you talk too much!"

"You're usually saying I don't talk enough, now you're telling me I talk TOO MUCH----see, there's no pleasing you!"

She stops and looks at him, "You have five seconds to shut up and start making love to me---or I'm getting out of this tub!"

He smiles, "And you're bossy too."

He pulls her back up to him and again her legs straddle him as he starts to kiss long and tender. His manhood has definitely been aroused as she slides down onto it taking it to the hilt. He pushes her up and brings her down onto him harder, his arms going around her waist tighter, whispering her name. Their climax comes quickly as their anticipation of being together forever excites them. They laugh as they continue to gently rock back and forth, as her laughter fills the room. He loves to hear her laugh, he promises to always make her laugh.

"Okay, cowboy, turn around----I want to shave you now."

Cooper hesitates, "That's okay, I can do it later!"

"No butts---come on , turn around."

Reluctantly he does so, backing up to her. "This is a first-----with my back to you," as he reaches back to touch her.

She wraps her arms around him, bringing the straight razor out in front of him, she nibbles his ears, "Careful, I'm the one with the razor, so you better be careful where you're putting your hands."

He sighs, "The hands are going up on the sides of the tub, and they will stay there till you're through---after that---I'm not making any promises!"

                   

They finish with the tub and move to an old mattress, as they fall asleep thinking of the future.  They both have dreams about going to that far away place. In his dreams they are still running in that field of wild flowers, her hair is blowing in the wind, and she looks at him in a special way now, and touches her stomach. This time he sees a different look, is this look she was telling him about?

Her dream is being near the waterfall, picking flowers. He "floats" up to her, with his hand out, he touches her stomach, he feels something move, and he smiles. Lily wakes up, she feels his arms around her, and she feels different. She caresses his hands and smiles as she looks over her shoulder at him.

"It's finally happened---my love."

Part 6

 

Cooper feels something up against his cheek, at first he thinks it's Lily teasing him awake, but this feels cold, like steel. It presses deeper into his cheek, as he bolts awake. Three men are standing around them, one has a rifle butt pressed up against his cheek, the others are just standing there staring, ---at Lily who is still sound asleep. They can tell she's not wearing anything, as her shoulders are bare. They snicker back and forth, as one of them reaches out and gently starts pulling the blanket back, revealing more bare skin. Cooper starts to move and the one with the rifle hits him in the head with the stock. He falls backwards, waking Lily and then she sees the men.

She starts scrambling for the blanket, they jerk it completely away from her, now she's completely nude and catcalls begin.  Now they are reaching for her and tossing her back and forth between them, fondling. She screams at them and tries to grab the blanket, and then she starts screaming for Cooper. He's shaking his head, trying to get his bearings straight, and then he lunges for the one with the rifle. They start fighting, one of the other men stops manhandling Lily, walks over and hits Cooper with his gun butt. Cooper falls to the floor, and Lily tries to run to him, but she's held back and the man continues to fondle her.           

The sound of a shotgun rings out, and a voice boom, "Let her go."      

Lily looks towards the voice, and recognizes it as Caddo!! She pulls away from the man holding her and runs to Cooper.  Caddo walks over to her and throws her clothes to her, "Stop worrying about your boyfriend, and worry about yourself-----nice to see you after all of this time, Lily."

Cooper is coming around again, as Lily starts dressing and trying to help Cooper to stand. She feels the blood on the back of his head, "Cooper---are you okay?"

Caddo snickers as he walks over and sits down in old chair, he makes lewd gestures at his men and then to the mattress laying on the floor, and what had been happening there. They all laugh, Lily stares back at them, "Sons of bitches------it's just like you Caddo, you haven't changed!"

Caddo stares back at Lily, "And you're just as pretty as the last time I saw you----and still a little spit fire, aren't you, Lily?"

Cooper squints to look at the man, called Caddo. He's never seen him before, but he's heard the stories about this man who is half Comanche and half Mexican---a Comanchero. The man leaves no witnesses, he loves to torture, and he loves to kill. The man stares back at Cooper with his one good eye. A hideous scar runs from his forehead down to his top lip, the scar is deep and looks infected. The man has a thin moustache and goatee, his mouth is filled with rotting teeth, and tobacco juice oozes from the side of his mouth. Lily was right---he stinks!!!

Caddo turns his attention to Lily, "What are you doing here Lily---with a white man?"

She's trying to stop Cooper's head from bleeding, "Looking for my son, if that's any of your business."

Caddo laughs and spits the tobacco juice at her, "That little cripple----Grey Wolf has probably killed him by now!"

Lily gasps, Cooper looks at her. "Have you seen him----have you seen my son?"

"Yeah, I saw him about a year ago, or was it two years ago? Hell, who cares, the boy is still the same----a cripple and a mute---he can't do anything---Grey Wolf should have put him out of his misery a long time ago!

"He's not a mute! He can talk!"             

Caddo looks back at Cooper, "Whatever you say Lily------gringo---who are you?"

Cooper returns his stare, "Cooper--Hayes Cooper."

Caddo ponders the name over and over, "I know you----you're a Texas Ranger, aren't you?"

The others turn to stare at Cooper, "Hot Chihuahua---a real honest to goodness Texas Ranger," one of them says. Another one speaks up, "Texas Rangers  kill a lot easier, and when they die---they sound like squealing pigs!"

They all laugh and Caddo nods his head. "Yeah, I've heard of you, gringo----they say you are not a man to be messed with----is that right?"

Caddo doesn't wait for an answer as he reaches out and hits Cooper with his fist. Cooper comes flying back at him and the two of them are slugging it out. Cooper is getting the best of him, when one of Caddo's men puts a gun to his head and clicks the hammer back. Lily screams "NO" and runs to Cooper, getting in between them, "He's not a lawman anymore----he gave it up," she pleads.

Caddo gets up from the floor and backhands Cooper, Lily goes after him with her claws showing. The men start to cheer, as Lily is scratching and kicking at Caddo and cursing him in her French tongue. Caddo reaches out and knocks her feet out from under her, landing her on her butt.  Cooper again goes after Caddo and the men are in another battle. Two of the men grab Cooper by his arms and Caddo hits him repeatedly, then he grabs Cooper's face, "You're going to die, gringo, take him outside and kill him!"

Lily runs to Caddo, and pleads for Cooper's life. He shoves her backwards and motions for the third man to hold her. They take Cooper out to the middle of the road, the men take turns hitting him and kicking him. Lily is screaming for them to stop, they pay her no mind. They continue their beating and Cooper is walked over to the well, they shoot him and throw him over. Lily screams as she breaks away from the man holding her and runs to the well, Caddo pulls her back.

"He's dead-------now Lily---you are coming with us. I should have had you years ago, but thanks to Grey Wolf I didn't get that chance--but now you're mine!"

Lily is screaming out Cooper's name and trying to get to the well. It takes all three of the men to pick up her screaming and kicking body to try and subdue her. Finally Caddo walks over and hits her right in the mouth.

Almost a week has passed, Caddo and his men have decided to turn and go South, taking Lily with them. She has cried constantly and when Caddo has attempted to take her, she has fought him with every ounce that her body can conjure. She has begged him for time to mourn, promising that she will make it up to him. Promising that it will be better for the both of them and he doesn't have to fight her, relying on the fact that he's probably never had a woman that gave herself willing. Caddo is angry, but he's also intrigued with the thought that he won't have to dodge her kicking feet that have almost disabled him on several of his attempts to take her. For now, he will wait.

On the eighth night, Caddo and his men get into a fight with the blue coats, and only Caddo and one man have survived. They leave Lily behind and turn tail and run, to Mexico. The blue coats have rescued Lily, she tells them of Cooper, they promise to go back to the town and look for his body. She demands to go with them.

When they arrive in the town of Whee she taw , Lily runs to the well, it's caved in! She screams, going down on her knees and hitting the ground. She had hopes that he might have survived, but now she won't even be able to claim his body. There's nothing left. The soldiers try to help her up, but she pushes them away. She stands up on her own and walks to her horse, mounts and rides north. She will continue to look for Grey Wolf's village, to find her son, Jean Luke, and to wait the birth of Cooper's child. As she rides, she touches her stomach, and whispers' It's a boy---my love---you have a son!"

Lily finds Grey Wolfs' village about a month later. At first he refuses to let her stay, she begs to be close to Jean Luke and she will give herself to Grey Wolf in order for her to stay. The first night they are together and he sees her belly, he turns her away. "You are still a disgusting whore---who have you spread your legs for this time---or do you even know?"

Lily is allowed to stay, but she will be the soul provider for her and Jean Luke, and the others will not speak her to. Winter is coming on and she must learn to trap her food and fish. The days are spent teaching Jean Luke how to talk French as well as the English language that Grey Wolf has forbid him to speak. The boy is learning quickly, his eyes show all of the years of pain that he has endured, but he refuses to show emotion. She can see her father in her son's face; it is good that he doesn't favor "his" father.

At nights she and Jean Luke talk quietly and Lily tells him of Cooper and what a kind and loving man he was. She takes his little hand and puts it on her stomach, "This is Cooper, Jean Luke, this is your little brother---promise to always take care of him."

The boys smiles, "I will Mother---I will take care of Jean Cooper!"

It's a beautiful June morning when Jean Cooper comes into the world. Lily has no trouble birthing him, as he comes into the world kicking and screaming.. Jean Luke has been beside his mother all the way, and Lily hands the baby to him to hold while she cleans up the mess of afterbirth.  The boy smiles, "I think he likes me Mother."

"And, why shouldn't he like his big brother--- you will be his guardian angel---and as soon as Cooper is old enough to travel, the three of us are going to Canada!"

Jean Luke smiles down at his little brother, "Yes, Mother I've been hiding the food, just like last time. But, this time I have learned to ride better and I will be of more use to you when we travel---I will take care of Cooper!"

Lily smiles, "Jean Luke do you know what today is?"

"It's my birthday Mother, and it's Cooper's too!"

"Yes, it is---my two little men--born on the same day eight years apart, and I have a gift for you."

She hands him a small package that contains a book on medicine.  "Read it Jean Luke, and you will learn how to take care of those little animals that I have seen you trying to heal.  Books are the future, and when we get to Canada, we will both have books galore to read---I promise you!"

Three days later Grey Wolf comes to see the baby, Lily has no idea of what to expect. Will he now tell her to leave, she's nervous as he walks over to where the baby is laying. He stands there for the longest looking at Cooper and then he picks him up. Lily's heart drops, not only is she afraid for her baby but she doesn't want another man holding Cooper's son.

Grey Wolf turns to her, "What is he called?"

Lily has not told him who the Father is, she replies, "I named him for my father---he's called Jean Cooper!"

Grey Wolf looks the baby over, "He is healthy----he has strong bones, he will be a great warrior!"

Lily is petrified as she grabs Cooper away from Grey Wolf, "NO---he's not going to be a warrior!"

Grey Wolf grabs the baby back, "You will not call him by your Father's name----I am naming him---he's to be called Running Wolf---at last I have a son that is not a cripple---he is my son---to make up for the one you gave me."

He shoves Cooper back to Lily, "Never let me hear you call him anything , but Running Wolf. When he is older, I will start teaching him the ways of the Apache."

He turns to leave, almost knocking Jean Luke down.  The boy goes to stand beside his Mother, as Lily starts to cry. That night she rocks Cooper, and whispers to him, "You have a Father----Grey Wolf will never have you---I will die first before I let him destroy your life." She touches Jean Luke's face, "We leave tonight---do we have enough food?"

The boy nods,  "Yes Mother, and the horses have been picked out---I have them hidden in that ravine you told me about."

Lily starts making the last preparations for their journey. Their departure is interrupted by noise outside and Jean Luke comes hobbling to his Mother, "There is a small raiding party, they have taken hostages---Father--I mean Grey Wolf has gone to talk to the slave traders!"

"Hostages? Did you see who they were, are they white?"

"I couldn't tell Mother---they have been beaten--it's hard to tell."

"Stay with Cooper----I want to see for myself."

Lily makes her way to the main part of the village, she can hear the braves hollering, she edges closer. There are six of them, four of the hostages are wearing what is left of the soldier's uniforms, one is an old Indian guide and the other one has long auburn hair. She stares at this one, trying to get a better look, he has his back to her, her heart starts beating faster---could it be? One of the braves hits the one with long hair, he goes to the ground, they jerk him back up---Lily sees his face---"Cooper" she almost screams his name out.

Grey Wolf waves to them to take the hostages and tie them up.  Lily runs back to her lodging. Jean Luke cannot understand his Mother's behavior. He has Cooper bundled and ready to go. Lily is crying as she tells Jean Luke that Cooper's Father is still alive.

Lily is crying and laughing at the same time as she takes Cooper from his brother's arms. She looks at him, brushing his dark auburn hair back, his eyes are turning a blue/gray. She kisses him repeatedly and grabs Jean Luke, kissing him. "Oh my God, he's alive Jean Luke----after all of this time, Cooper is still alive!"

For the next few days Lily watches to see what they are going to do with the hostages. She has tried to get close enough to get Cooper's attention, but it's no use, he's continually beaten, and the only ones permitted near him are the young ones that take them water. Jean Luke begs his mother to go, but she refuses.

"We can't go now, Cooper needs us----I have to get near him, Jean Luke---get the braves to let you take water to the prisoners---talk to the one with long hair---tell him that I am here. Can you do that, Jean Luke?"

After a few attempts the braves let him take water to the prisoners. He lets the others drink first, then he approaches the man with long hair and beard. He stares at him, he's not used to seeing facial hair. He has seen his father and the others pull their face hair out and use some of kind of mud to slow the hair from growing back. He holds the gourd of water out, the man takes it and swallows it fast. He looks back at the boy, their eyes lock and Cooper mumbles a "thank you". The boy cannot answer as he turns to walk away. Cooper sees the boy limping, dragging his left foot. Cooper strains to remember the boy's name, but his mind is confused, he can't think straight. All of the beatings to his head has left him with poor memory and black out spells.

Jean Luke runs back to his Mother, "he scares me Mother, his eyes are like that of a dead man--he sees me---but he doesn't!"

Lily begs him to go back the next day, but Jean Luke refuses. "He will not hurt you son, it's the beatings that have taken his soul and his spirit---please you have got to tell him that I am here---and take this," she hands him the locket that she showed to Cooper many months ago, the locket with her son's picture in it.

Jean Luke approaches the long haired man again, and as Cooper reaches for the water, he slips the locket into Cooper's hand. By instinct, Cooper closes his hand around it and drinks the water before the braves get suspicious. The boy hobbles away. Cooper glances down at his hand and unfolds his fist; he opens the locket and sees the boy's face. He does not recognize the boy. His head hurts as he puts the locket into his pocket and lays down to rest.

Again, Jean Luke begs his Mother for them to leave, and again she refuses to leave the only man she has ever loved. Another week has passed, the braves continue to keep the prisoners tied, and the beatings have stopped. They are not being guarded as closely and Lily sees her chance to try and get to Cooper.

He's tied to a tree; his arms encircle the trunk. He's bare-chested and she can see where he's been beaten, her heart stops, but she knows she must try to talk to him. This might be her only chance. She walks up behind the tree and touches his hands.

He feels the soft hands as his eyes flicker to stay open; his head is pounding. She whispers his name, "Cooper---it's me----I'm here my love."

Cooper's heart starts to race, the voice is familiar, he tries to talk. She tells him to be silent and she continues to touch his hands and rub them.  "Cooper, it's me, Lily, you have to remain silent. I will get you out of here----trust me."

She comes out from behind the tree for just a second so he can see her, his eyes are almost swollen shut, "Lily---Lily---is it really you?"

She ducks behind the tree again and reaches for his hands, she's crying, "Yes, my love---it's me!"

For the next week, the prisoners are allowed to walk around. They are given very little food, a corn mesh and water. One of the soldiers has died, Cooper takes what is left of his tunic, it will keep him warm, as the nights are still cool. Lily watches him from a safe distance, she cries silently, wanting to touch him, to feel his arms around her. She thinks about the many nights they spent in each other's embrace, laughing and making love for hours. She loved the feel of his strong arms holding her all night, and waking her gently to the morning sun.

At night she has Jean Luke sneak the hidden food that was hidden by the lake to Cooper. The boy is not afraid of Cooper anymore, but he's still afraid to say too much, hobbling back to his mother as fast as he can. Lily cannot stand it any longer, she tells Jean Luke to watch his brother, she will risk everything to try and talk to Cooper again.

It's in the early morning hours, when Cooper feels her presence. He keeps his back to the tree and stares ahead so the guards won't suspect. Lily inches up to the tree, and reaches out to touch him. His whole body quivers at her soft touch, his heart is pounding as he leans back against the tree.  He puts his left hand back slowly and she takes it, he can hear her crying. His eyes begin to mist, "Lily---I've looked for you for so long."

She continues to stroke his hand, "I know, my love-----I thought you were dead but I never stopped thinking about you----I thought about you every waking hour and you were always there in my dreams!"

            

She continues to hold his hand, and reaches down quickly and kisses it. The guards are starting to move around, she reluctantly leaves his side, promising to return.

She goes back to her lodging, feeling even more alone, her heart is breaking. The tears come uncontrollably as Jean Luke tries to console her. She reaches for him, holding him tight and then reaches for young Cooper, rocking him back and forth.

Jean Luke looks at her, his dark eyes staring at her. "Did you tell him about Jean Cooper?"

Lily sniffles, and wipes her eyes, "I couldn't tell him, not just yet. If he knew there was a baby, there would be no holding him back. There's no telling what he would try and do, and they would surely kill him. I will tell him as soon as I can."

It has been almost two months now since Cooper was brought to Grey Wolf's village. Cooper has regained most of his strength, the slave traders will be coming soon, and he will surely be traded to them. The old guide was killed in a "friendly" game of tomahawk throwing.  They used him for target practicing, putting him up against a tree and throwing the weapons at him. Cooper watched as one of the younger braves hit the old man in the head with the tomahawk, splitting his head, and then laughing about it. Cooper wants to grab the young brave and break his neck his temper is getting the best of him. He keeps remembering what Lily had said about keeping his feelings intact. He lowers his eyes as the braves start towards him. They kick him and then they move to one of the soldiers. Another friendly little game will start.

The prisoners are being taken to the river, they will be permitted to wash, and their wounds will be taken care of, this will bring more money from the slave traders.  Lily follows them to the river, some of the women have been ordered to clean their wounds. Lily darkens her face with the mud and moves closer to Cooper, nudging the one woman away from him. The woman does not argue, she does not like being around the white man. Cooper has not recognized her yet, as she starts to massage his body with the warm water. Her hands on his flesh are starting to waken old feelings, as his body starts to tingle. He starts to say her name, but she silences him. They stand there looking at each other, their eyes finally seeing each other after so very long. He can barely see those blue eyes that he loves to look into, now he sees pain and hurt. They no longer sparkle, but the love for him is still there.

 He longs to touch her, as his eyes look into hers. She sees the gash on his forehead, under his hairline.. She reaches up and touches his forehead, and cries, "What did they do to you?"

He takes her hand down and holds it to his chest, and she can feel his heart pounding. "That's where the bullet grazed my head, before falling in the well". He tries to laugh, "You always said I was hard headed-----I think the fall down the well hurt more than the bullet."

She looks around at the guards; they are busy trying to flirt with some of the younger women that are tending the soldiers. Lily pulls Cooper towards the shelter of some trees and when she believes they are out of sight of the guards, she very slowly goes into Coopers' arms. She kisses him hard, and his tied hands try to hold her. His lips return her hungry kisses, but he wants to hold her so badly he thinks he will scream.  She holds his face and kisses him slow, her lips moving over his slow and tender.

"I love you so much, Hayes Cooper-------I want you so badly."       

Cooper's whole body is starting to quiver, it has been so long since he's felt her skin against his, his body is dying for hers. "I want you too, Lily," as he struggles to get his tied hands free.  The voices of the braves bring them back to reality, as the braves are moving back in their direction.

            

Lily rushes to get Cooper back to the spot they were in, she washes him and cleans the wounds on his back.  The braves look at her suspiciously, before they grab Cooper and shove him back in the direction of camp. She stands there watching him as they shove and push him. She bites her bottom lip, she can't stand the thought of being away from him for one more day .

When she gets back to her lodge, Grey Wolf is waiting. She hurries inside to see Jean Luke holding little Cooper, Jean Luke has a busted lip. She runs to him, and then she turns and runs after Grey Wolf, cursing him and swinging her fists. She is no match for him as he reaches out and slaps her. She grabs her face, and looks at him with all the hate she can conjure up comes to a boiling point. She looks at her son and then to Grey Wolf, "Why do you continue to hurt him---he's your son---your flesh and blood?"

Grey Wolf stares back at her, "You say he is my son, but how do I know that he is----what brave did you spread your legs for?   All of my other sons are healthy---but this one is not---he can't be my son!"

Lily rubs her face---"One of these days Grey Wolf-------"

He bends over to take little Cooper from Jean Luke, "You will do what Lily, what will you do?"

Lily is scared as she edges close to him, "Please---leave my baby alone----he's never done anything---he's just a baby for Christ's sake ----don't hurt him!"

"SILENCE----you are like an old woman---crying all the time-----that is why Lame Wolf is weak---you have made him weak." He looks down at Cooper, and then to Lily----"Who is his Father----tell me!"

Lily stands there for the longest, Grey Wolf   takes his knife out and holds it to the baby's throat, "Tell me----or he dies!"

Lily's hand goes up to her own throat, she's trying not to cry, "His Father is dead, Caddo killed him!"

"His name Lily, what is his Father's name?"

Lily looks to Jean Luke, the boy is looking at Grey Wolf in a strange way, she has never seen this look in her son's eyes.  Lily sobs, "His name was Cooper---that's all I know about him---I met him at one of the saloons, he wouldn't leave me alone, he got into a fight with Caddo and Caddo killed him!"

Grey Wolf sneers at her, "You are nothing but a whore----The boy has got good bone structure, he will make a fine Apache! I will show him how to ride and fight like an Indian---he will learn to hate the white man---he will despise his being half white---you will see Lily---Running Wolf's name will bring fear into all the white man and he will curse you---I will see to that!"

Grey Wolf shoves the baby into Lily's arms, and she cuddles him. Grey Wolf turns and walks out. Lily swears under her breath, "I will kill you Grey Wolf if you ever try to hurt either of my sons again."

Jean Luke looks to Lily, with that strange look and he softly says, "You will not have to worry about killing him Mother----because I will kill him. Some day I will put a gun to his head and he will never hurt a living soul again!"

Lily is in shock as she looks at her oldest son. He's got a distant look about him, a look that scares her. After all of these years of being abused by his Father, the look of hatred is coming through. Jean Luke doesn't have that scared look, instead Lily sees a look of content   and suddenly she doesn't see an 8yr old boy standing in front of her anymore. The

frame of the boy is there in all of its youth and innocence, but the eyes of a man are looking back at her.

She calls him to her, touching his face. "Oh, Jean Luke----please don't be thinking like this---you are just a boy."               

He takes her hand down from his face, "I am not a boy---- and Grey Wolf will find that out--someday when I am strong enough to fight him ---like a man!"                

That night the dreams come to Lily, but they are not happy dreams. She is running to be with Cooper, but she can't catch up to him.  Jean Luke is fighting his father and Grey Wolf is mocking him, holding him by his head at arms length and laughing. She can no longer see little Cooper's face; it is covered with war paint. Her beautiful Canada is no longer the way she has pictured it and she sees herself in a small confinement, scratching to get out. The tears wake her up; she has never felt so all alone. She thinks of Cooper and all the nights they laid in each other's arms, she has to be with him, one last time. She's got to see the look in his eyes when she tells him that he has a son. She looks to her sons and sees they are both sleeping, she rises from the floor and throws a blanket around her, she has to be with Cooper, the feelings are too strong to resist.

She makes her way back to the area where they are holding Cooper and the other two men. He is leaning up against the tree, with his head down and resting on his knees. She sneaks up to the tree as quietly as possible and whispers out to him. He raises his head slowly and backs up more to the tree. The only guard that is watching them is sound asleep. The other two soldiers are asleep as well.      

"Cooper, do you think you can ride-------can you stay in the saddle?"

His head still pounds, and he still has the dizziness. "I will stay in the saddle," he whispers back, "What have you got in mind?"

She reaches out and takes his hand, "We are leaving this hell hole, tonight!. I will get Jean Luke and we will be ready to ride within the hour---are you sure you can ride well enough?"

"You just get the horses and help me get on, I'll stay in the saddle---I promise you."

Lily gently pulls on his arm, "Come, I will hide you down in the ravine till I can get Jean Luke."

Lily helps to take Cooper to the ravine, it's a good three mile walk and helping to keep Cooper on his feet is very tedious. She wants to stop so he can rest, he urges her to keep them going. Finally they are at the ravine, and she brings the horses to them.

"There's only two horses, it is too dangerous to try and get another one, we will have to ride double till we are out of danger, I'm going for Jean Luke now, be  ready to ride, okay,, my love?"

He's sitting on the embankment, she leans down and kisses him tenderly, "I will be back as soon as I can."

She runs back to her lodging, her heart is pounding; she's smiling again.  She is so excited that soon that soon they will be gone from Grey Wolf's village, she will have her sons together, and she will be in the arms of her one true love. She races inside to wake Jean Luke; he's sitting there looking at her, with that blank look on his face. She turns around slowly and she sees Grey Wolf, and standing beside him is Caddo!!!!

Grey Wolf has little Cooper, he turns with the baby and hands him to another woman. "Take my son to my lodgings."

Lily screams and goes after her son, trying to wrestle him from the woman's arms, "NO---he is not your son---let me have my baby-----he is my son."

             

Grey Wolf reaches out and grabs Lily, throwing her to the ground. "You lied to me, whore! You said the baby's father meant nothing to you, but he is here----he's one of the prisoners!"

Caddo is sneering and looking down at Lily-----" Oh----the long haired gringo means very much to her---they have shared the sheets many times, and willingly. Haven't you, Lily?"

The woman has left with little Cooper, and Lily is crying harder. Jean Luke walks over to her quietly and then looks at the two men, his eyes go to the floor, he says nothing.

Grey Wolf reaches down and grabs Lily by the hair and pushes her outside, "We will go to see this man that has fathered your son, and then we will kill him!" He looks at Caddo, "This time the man will die---no excuses!!"

 

Part 7

 

Grey Wolf has sent his braves to the ravine and has brought Cooper back. They throw him down in front of Grey Wolf, laughing. Caddo walks over and kicks Cooper in the side, "So you lived to see another day Gringo----well not for much longer!"

Lily is being held by two of Grey Wolf's braves, and Jean Luke is standing beside her. Cooper is bound and determined that he will not stay at Grey Wolf's feet, he pulls himself up and stares at the man he has learned to despise. He stares back at Grey Wolf, "So, you are the ‘so called’ man that hits on women and little boys----fight me Grey Wolf---show me what you can do---fight me---one on one!"

Caddo looks to the chief, "See- I told you he was an idiot, doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut!"

"Silence!" Grey Wolf stares at Cooper. The man can hardly stand, and he's challenging him----he's either very brave or stupid. Grey Wolf thinks of the baby, and sees this man's strength running through Running Wolf's spirit.  He calls Caddo to him, "You will finish what you started with the white man, if you do not kill him this time, I will kill you!!" Caddo now wishes he hadn't returned to Grey Wolf's village, but when he had heard that the white man had survived the fall into the well, he would chance getting Lily back. Grey Wolf paid for the information very well, but now Caddo was facing his bitter enemy again. This time he knows Grey Wolf will have him killed if he doesn't kill Cooper first.

Lily screams and tries to break away, "No----he's not well, it won't be a fair fight!"

Caddo walks to Cooper, "Hear that Gringo, you and Caddo will fight to the death!"

Cooper spits at Caddo, "I thought I smelled horse shit!"

Grey Wolf and the other braves laugh, "Yes----he does have spirit," Grey Wolf mutters to himself.

Cooper turns to Grey Wolf, "I will fight your piece of horse crap, but if I win----I get to take Lily and Jean Luke away from here---is it a deal?"

Grey Wolf walks up to Cooper, he's almost a head taller than the bearded one. "You do not make the decisions, white man!"

Lily sees the look in Cooper's eyes, he's not going to back down. "What's the matter---am I so much of a threat, that you fear me even if I take Lily and Jean Luke far away from here? What are you afraid of Grey Wolf----you fight me!" Cooper starts circling the chief and taunting him.

Lily is begging him to be quiet, Cooper keeps up his taunts---"Fight me Grey Wolf---show your braves just how brave you really are!"

Grey Wolf  stares back at Cooper, "If you live----you can take your whore and leave----Lame Wolf stays here."

Caddo looks at Grey Wolf "What about me------after I have killed the "gringo" can I have Lily?"

Grey Wolf stares at the Comanchero, "If you live, I may let you walk out of here---alone!"

Grey Wolf motions for his braves to bring the weapons, it's Caddo's choice, he chooses the tomahawk.  Lily again pleads for Cooper to be spared, "It's not a fair fight--please wait till Cooper is stronger!"

He walks back to Lily, "Do you fight his battles too? Be quiet Lily, or not only will I kill the white man---I will kill both your sons," he hisses back at her.                 

Cooper has not heard the conversation between Lily and Grey Wolf, but he just knows that she has been threatened. Lily draws Jean Luke to her side, "Pray with me Jean Luke," she whispers. The boy looks at her and then to Grey Wolf.               

"God can't help us---he's never helped us in the past!"

His eyes are cold and distant as he stares at the man that gave him life, but yet refuses to allow him to call him ‘Father’. "We make our own  prayers, Mother, and some day Grey Wolf will need more than a prayer."               

Lily can't believe the words that are coming from the lips of her 8year old son; he has completely changed in just the last 24 hours. She looks to Cooper, he's still weak, but she knows his stubbornness and he will fight with every last ounce. She feels a coldness, and suddenly she's very alone.  Maybe Jean Luke is right, maybe this is the way it will end, with no one winning!               

The fight has begun and the tomahawks are raised. Caddo goes after Cooper, sliding on the ground and knocking his feet out from under him. Caddo then goes for Cooper slashing out at the bearded one, Cooper just barely staying out of his reach. He's still dizzy, and he shakes his head sometimes seeing two of Caddo. Grey Wolf is amazed at Cooper's strength; he's surprised that Caddo hasn't been able to split his skull yet. The fight continues and both men are tiring, the fight has lasted a good hour as both men are struggling to stay on their feet. And, just as Lily predicted, Grey Wolf tells one of his braves to weaken Cooper even more.

The brave jumps on Cooper's back and knocks him to the ground. Caddo laughs as he sees Cooper trying to get up, he holds the tomahawk back and lets it go straight towards Cooper's head. Lily screams and runs towards him, sheltering him with her body. The tomahawk hits Lily in the back, and she falls on top of Cooper.

He yells out her name, as he feels the blood splattering all over him. He scrambles to get out from under her and scoops her up in his arms, screaming her name over and over. Jean Luke sees his Mother fall and he runs to her. Cooper holds Lily up to him, "Lily ---Lily------don't you dare die on me."

Caddo looks at them and sneers, and then he sees the look in Grey Wolf's face, "I didn't know she was going to do that-----she stepped in the way----wasn't my fault!"

Cooper looks to Caddo and lays Lily down on the ground. He goes after Caddo cursing him as he picks up the tomahawk and hits him with it over and over again . Grey Wolf does nothing to stop it and he waves his braves away. Cooper has Caddo on the ground and he's hitting him in the head till his head cracks open. He continues hitting him, till he has no strength to hit the bloodied corpse anymore He pulls himself up and walks back over to Lily's body. She's barely alive as he takes her in his arms, gently pushing Jean Luke' away.

He sits there on the ground and rocks her back and forth, the tears streaming down his face. Jean Luke looks at him; he's never seen a grown man cry. He looks down at his Mother and then to Grey Wolf, he's fighting back his tears. He knows what will happen if he cries.

"Cooper," Lily smiles, "I can see the mountains---they are so beautiful and it's so warm."

Cooper holds her tighter, kissing her hair and pulling it back from her face, "Shhh---don't try to talk----I'll get you a Doctor-----you'll be okay,"                

She's gasping harder, trying to catch her breath, "No, my love----there's no time, I need to tell you something."               

Grey Wolf comes up beside them, and she can feel his presence. She looks up at Cooper and stops talking. "What Lily-------what were you going to tell me---I'm here my love---what is it?"                

She reaches up and touches his face, and she knows if she tells him he has a son, Grey Wolf will kill him, and the boys. It's a secret she will take to her grave. She reaches out for Jean Luke, pulling him close and whispering, "promise me you will not tell Cooper that he has a son, or all of you will be killed."

The boy nods his head slowly. "And promise me---you will look out for your little brother, you will not let Grey Wolf hurt him---promise me Jean Luke"!!!!

Cooper is straining to hear the conversation as he looks to Lily and then to her son. Grey Wolf has a satisfied look on his face, Cooper lunges for him. "What are you threatening her with now---you son-of a bitch?"

The braves pull him back, Lily screams out, the last bit of life draining from her. "NO---------" yells Cooper as he crawls back over to her, taking her in his arms, "NO-----don't leave me----I have to take you back to Canada---Lily---you can't die----L-i-ly-!"

Long after her life has left her, Cooper continues to sit on the ground, rocking her back and forth, his shoulders heaving, the tears flowing. Jean Luke sits and watches the man holding his mother, the man is not embarrassed to show his feelings, he cries openly. Jean Luke reaches over and kisses his Mother's cheek, then he stands up and backs away. That's the only emotion the boy will be allowed to show.

For hours Cooper sits there with Lily in his arms. He has cried all he can. He lays her down on the ground, her blue eyes are staring back at him, he closes them gently. "I will take you home Lily------I will take you back to your mountains---I will take you home."

Cooper  stands up to face Grey Wolf, "I want to take Lily back to her Canada-----let me take Jean Luke."

Grey Wolf shakes his head, "The boy stays."

Cooper looks at Jean Luke---"Why? You don't want him---let him come with me---I will raise him as my own-- it's what Lily would want!"

Grey Wolf looks at Jean Luke, "Do you wish to go with the white man?"

Jean Luke's heart is racing, he would like very much to go with Cooper, but he remembers the promise he made his mother. He can't leave little Cooper, he has to protect him.  He made that promise, and he knows he can't mention the real reason why he can't go. He looks to Cooper and shakes his head, "I will stay here!"

Cooper walks towards him and goes down on one knee in front of the boy, "Your Mother would want you to come with me. I will take care of you Jean Luke---no one will ever hurt you again. Are you being forced to stay----what kind of hold does he have on you now?"

Jean Luke looks into the eyes of the man his mother loved and gave up her life for, the man is kind, he has nice eyes. "My place is here----goodbye."

              

Cooper watches as the boy limps away, and then he stands to face Grey Wolf. "It's not over between us----I'll be back and when I do---you will fight me. You can name the weapons, I'll fight you anyway you say, and only one of us will be walking away. Then you will not have any hold over Lily's son, Jean Luke will leave with me, and I'll raise him as my own!"

Grey Wolf stares the white man down, "If you try to take Lame Wolf, I will not only kill you but I will kill him as well!"

"YOU SEE, you have no love for that boy, let me have him," Cooper pleads.

"You will leave now, white man and never return. Now go before I change my mind and slit your throat, right where you stand!"

About six braves come up behind Cooper, he sneers, "You always have to have someone backing you up-----the day will come Grey Wolf, and it's going to be just you and me."

Cooper walks away and moves slowly back to the body lying on the ground. He takes a blanket and covers her. He will start making the "travois" out of timber. Two pieces of timber that tie to the sides of the horse, going back in a criss cross, laying her body on top and ties it down. He leaves Grey Wolf's village. He turns to look at Jean Luke who is hobbling away and then he turns to Lily's body.

"I tried Lily---I tried to get him to come with us---but Grey Wolf has some hold on him."

Jean Luke turns to look at the long haired man with the beard and says to himself, softly, "I will take care of your son-----and someday we will meet again. Someday I will visit this Canada and see where you have buried my Mother----for this--I will never forget you."

It's a long and tiring vigil as Cooper heads northwest. He stops in the town of Apache Wells to have a coffin built for Lily. The blacksmith has promised to have it ready in three days, Cooper will stay while it is being built. He is tired but he will not stop to rest till Lily is in her mountains. He watches the blacksmith as he is sanding down the wood for a smooth finish. Cooper is drinking heavily, he's eaten very little, and he keeps the bottles close to his

chest as if he's holding his precious Lily. No sooner than he finishes one bottle, he's starting on another. The stable boy is more than willing to run back and forth for the bottles. The blacksmiths' wife comes in and offers to brush Lily's hair back and put a little makeup on.

Cooper is screaming at her to leave the makeup off and not to touch Lily---"Leave her alone---I don't want that war paint all over her!"

He takes the hairbrush from the woman and brushes Lily's hair, until it shines. The woman watches Cooper and then looks to her husband, she whispers "I’ve never see a grown man carry on this way before."

It's another 100 miles to Wichita, Ks before they can board the iron horse. Cooper buys a buckboard, loads Lily's coffin, and then takes off. He drives all day, just stopping long enough for the horses to rest. He walks around to the back of the buckboard, and touches the pine box, talking to her like she is sitting right there, listening to him. He tells her how far they've come, and how far they have to go. At night, he turns to the bottles, and drinks himself to sleep. He sleeps with one hand across her coffin, probably envisioning that he has his arms around her, just like all of those nights they would fall asleep in each other's arms.

By noon the next day, they have to cross a small river.  Cooper is tired and he's stoned, crossing the river will be dangerous. He's about half way across when one of the wheels come off and Lily's coffin is thrown into the river. He jumps in after it, the current is taking him further down stream, and the coffin is a good 100 feet ahead of him.  Finally the coffin hits a tree limb and Cooper catches up to it. It takes all of his strength to pull

the coffin out of the water. After resting, he goes back in search of the buckboard; the horses have broken loose and ran off. He takes what he can salvage from the buckboard, including some rope. That evening he has the ropes attached to Lily's coffin, and tied around his chest like a harness, and he starts pulling.

Later that night a couple of figures watch him from the distance, they can smell the coffin and they start towards the man pulling it. They circle Cooper, growling and snapping, he takes out his gun and shoots them. He knows there will be more coyotes, and he has to stop and make a campfire. He makes a circle of fire around the coffin and sits down next to it, gun in one hand, and a bottle in the other. They come in the middle of the night; the fire is doing its job in keeping them away. Cooper shoots as many as he can, until they finally give up and leave.

It takes Cooper three days to pull the coffin just 75 miles. He sleeps in the heat of the day, walks when it's cool. At night he stumbles around, talking to himself and to Lily. His beard has grown almost to his chest, his hair is matted, and he's still wearing the clothes he had when he left Grey Wolf's village. He's down to his last bottle as he drags the coffin into Wichita, Kansas. The people stare at the man dragging the coffin down the main street. He does not care as he finds the train station and buys their passage. He will stay in the baggage car with Lily. He's only taken time to buy more bottles, and he still doesn't eat. The rest of the trip will take weeks before they finally reach the small town of Billings.

He sits in the baggage car, talking to her. He tells her of the country that they have passed through, and tries to describe the countryside to her. The bums that are riding for free have moved to the far end of the car, not only because they fear the beaded man who talks to coffins, but because the coffin is starting to smell. Cooper pays them no mind, and does not notice the smell. If one of the bums does accidentally get too close, Cooper screams and starts acting like a mad man. He has lost so much weight, but continues to drink.

In Billings he will make another "travois" and the last leg of the journey will begin. As soon as he crosses into Canada, he starts talking louder and louder to his Lily, "You're here Lily----can you see the mountains? They are just as beautiful as you described them." It takes him another week to reach the Saskatchewan Mountains. He can't believe how beautiful it is, just like Lily described it, even more so.

He takes her as far into the mountains as he can go.  He sees a waterfall and starts towards it. He finds a small area under a big shade tree, with wild lilies growing nearby; this will be her resting place. He digs her grave very carefully, talking to her the whole time. The grave is dug and she's laid to rest. He takes two small limbs and makes a cross. He takes out his knife and carves out her name, LILY---MY LOVE. That night a gentle rain begins, and Cooper's tears began to flow again. He smiles remembering what Lily said about tears being angels' kisses. 'He sits down beside her grave, "The angels must really be showering me with kisses, because I can't stop the tears." That night he sleeps in the pouring rain, the rain helping to wash his tears away.

Cooper stays in the area where Lily is buried, making a home just a few feet away. He traps his food, he eats, and then he goes to sit by her grave and talks to her everyday.  He's been in Canada for six months when he just can't take the loneliness any longer. He makes one final trip to her grave to say goodbye.

"I can't stay here any longer Lily, the pain is just too much---I'm going back to Texas---but my heart will remain here---goodbye, my love!"               

It's been a little over a year now since his Mother was killed, and Jean Luke is doing everything in his power to care for little Jean Cooper. He tries to spend as much time as possible being with him. Grey Wolf's women nurture Cooper, Jean Luke is permitted to play with him, but never to mention their Mother's name.

Jean Luke is left pretty much on his own, having to fend for himself. The boy is growing stronger, not only physically, but mentally as well. One of Grey Wolf's oldest sons has taken pity on the boy and helps him as much as Grey Wolf will allow.

Cooper/Running Wolf is being taught how to ride before he can barely walk. Grey Wolf has starting teaching him the ways of the Apache, using the bow and arrow and such. Jean Luke plays with his little brother until "his" father comes to take him out for his teachings. It hurts Jean Luke to see all of the attention being showered on Running Wolf, but he knows that his little brother is not to blame and he has made a promise to always look out for him. He wonders what protection can he offer his little brother when in all reality he's never been able to protect himself.  But, Grey Wolf has feelings for Running Wolf, he would never hurt him, of this Jean Luke is sure.

For the next year the two brothers will be close, and then Grey Wolf will start turning Cooper against Jean Luke. Teaching him how to taunt Jean Luke, and even encouraging him to hit his brother. Jean Luke will turn his cheek and walk away, he will not raise his hand to Jean Cooper, for one part he would have to face Grey Wolf's wrath, on the other--because he's his brother.

In Bovine, Texas a rancher and his small family are welcoming back an old friend. Cooper has returned to hunting bounty and he's paying his old friends a visit. It's been nearly two years since they've seen him. He's a different man now, not at all like the friend they remembered, he's been invited to dinner, but Cooper refuses.

 

Part 8

 

Will Stanton looks at his friend, knowing he's still hitting the bottle, his features are  old and wrinkled.

"Coop----it's been nearly two years since you lost Lily---you can't go on this way----she wouldn't want you to live like this."

Cooper yells back at his friend, "How do you know what she would want me to do----you barely knew her!"

"That's true---but I knew her long enough to know that she loved you---and she wouldn't want you to be mourning her like this---it's not normal that you should be without a woman for this long!"

Cooper takes a long drink from his bottle, "I don't want another woman----that part of me has died----I'm just waiting for the rest of my body to die with it!"

For the next few months Will Stanton will continue to include Cooper in invitations to dinner and to start going to church. They are standing on Will's front porch when Cooper again denies there is a God. They argue and Cooper leaves saying he will not be back.

Cooper has picked up his bounty money and preparing to leave Bovine, he goes to the hardware store to get supplies and he sees three men hassling a young woman. He tells them to leave her alone, a fight breaks out and he ends up killing two of them. The woman runs away without even thanking him. Cooper thinks nothing of it and leaves Bovine. A month later he returns with another bounty to collect, and again Will Stanton invites him to a cook out, Will refuses to take "No" for an answer and Cooper agrees to go to the Stanton ranch.

              

He's staying off to himself when Will tells him to go fill up his plate with the barbeque and all the trimmings. Cooper refuses and turns to his bottle. Will shakes his head and walks off. The smell of the food is starting to reach Cooper's nostrils as he edges closer to the long table that is holding all the food. He picks up his plate and starts to fill it up when he hears a voice asks, "Would you like some potato salad with that?"           

Cooper shakes his head and goes on down the table, not even bothering to look up at the voice. He takes his plate and heads for the privacy of an old tree. He didn't realize he was so hungry and the food is delicious. Will walks back over to him.

"Well, that's a good sign."

Cooper is trying to talk and eat at the same time, "What's a good sign?"

"That you're eating--that's what! That Althea Morgan is a mighty fine cook, isn't she?"

"I suppose---a man will eat just about anything when he's hungry."

They continue to talk, and Cooper is still hungry. They walk towards the table and Cooper starts filling up his plate again, this time a double helping of the potato salad. He hears her voice again talking to someone else in front of him. He looks up and sees a woman with reddish blond hair , and her eyes are blue. He drops his plate, and the food goes everywhere!  He recognizes her as the woman in the feed store that was being hassled by those three thugs. She turns to look at him, and then he turns and walks away.

Its now later in the evening and the dance has started. Cooper is standing in the shadows watching everyone dance. He sees the woman talking to Will Stanton's wife. He leans up against the tree, drinking his whiskey and looking at her. She's tall, her hair is a strawberry blonde and she has it swept up on top of head with some kind of clip holding it back. She's very pretty, and she has a little mole at the side of her mouth. She's wearing red lipstick, not too dark, just enough to make her lips look wet and inviting. She smiles easily, but rather timid like, and those eyes, those eyes are what did it, they reminded him of Lily, but hers were more like a blue green.

He stands there watching as several men ask her to dance, and she keeps refusing them. He downs the bottle, "Guess she can't dance either," he mutters.

Will comes up beside him, "Oh she can dance alright--the right man just hasn't asked her yet."

Cooper stares back at him and then looks back at the woman, "Well, don't look at me---I'm not going to ask her to dance!"         

Will slaps him on the shoulder, "I wasn't asking you to---I'm going to ask her to dance myself," and then he heads for the dance floor. He walks up to the woman, curtsy, and they start dancing. Becky sees Cooper and walks over to him.

"Come on Cooper, dance with me!"

He waves her away, "I can't dance Becky----I got two left feet."

She grabs him by the arm and starts to the dance floor, "Half the men here have two left feet---you'll fit right in."

Cooper keeps trying to pull away but Becky holds him tighter, "Come on, just one time around the dance floor."

He gives a sigh and starts trying to follow her steps. He's looking down at his feet when he hears Will say, "Time to change partners." The next thing he knows, the blonde is dancing with him and Will is dancing with his wife. Now Cooper is really nervous and the woman is trying to follow his steps. "I'm afraid I'm not too good at this, "she says.

               

Cooper looks at her, "You're not too good? What about me, I feel like I've got wash tubs for feet!"

She laughs and Cooper smiles back at her. The rest of the dance is sat out by both of them, she goes back to her circle of friends and Cooper goes back to leaning up against his favorite tree, and back to his bottle.  He steals a look in her direction, she looks back---and smiles.        

For the next month Cooper has been on the trail of another bounty. The nights are still the same as he continues to drink himself to sleep, and then the dreams of Lily start. He can still see her running through that field of lilies, but the look on her face is not happy, but sad. He's run it over in his mind a thousand times at what was she trying to tell him that day in Grey Wolf's village. He thinks of Jean Luke and hopes the boy is okay. His dreams of Lily are just as strong as they were when she first died, he wakes up with tears in his eyes, and then he curses God for taking her away. Towards morning he's dreaming of something different. He and Lily are walking beside the waterfall; she turns to him and then her face changes to that of the blonde woman, Althea! He doesn't like this dream and he forces himself awake.

For the next couple of weeks, Althea will keep coming to him in his dreams and Cooper can't explain why. He hasn't seen her since the dance and hasn't made any attempt to see her, he knows she works at the feed store part time but he's always managed to go when she's not there.

But this time, he can't avoid her, as he has to stop for supplies before going out on the trail again. She's very cordial to him, taking his list and filling it very slowly.  He looks around at the new supply of clothes and decides to buy a new shirt, then decides he needs new jeans too. She wraps the things for him, and says very quietly, "Must be an important date."          

"What?" Staring back at her.

She smiles, "When a man buys new clothes---he's usually got something big planned."

"No---no plans--just need some new clothes," he answers quickly.

He pays for his things and starts to walk out, he almost blurts it out, "Would you like to have dinner with me?"

Althea is taken back by the invitation, but she replies that she would.

When Cooper stops by the feed store to pick her up, she almost doesn't recognize him. He's all gussied up and he's shaved his beard off. They have a nice dinner, and Althea keeps looking at him.

"Something wrong?"

She starts to say something and then she stops, then finally she asks, "Why did you shave your beard off?"

Cooper touches his face and looks at himself in the reflection of the fork, "Guess I figured it was time for a change----don't you like it?"

She smiles weakly, "It's not my place to say----but "No" I think I liked the beard better."

He smiles back at her, "I kind of liked it better myself---I feel naked---without it."

Cooper will see Althea several times in the next few months. Their relationship is moving very slowly as Cooper is still fighting his feelings for Lily. She still comes to him in his dreams, but he's also starting to see Althea in those dreams, too.

Althea is a widower; her husband was killed in a bank robbery about ten months before Cooper came back to Bovine that first time. They had only been married a month. He was an older man, Althea said he was a good Christian man, they were very happy. Cooper has not mentioned Lily to Althea, not by name, she just knows there was someone he cared deeply about, but refuses to talk about her.

They've been to another dance and he is seeing her home. He's only tried to kiss her on the cheek, but this night he kisses her long and tender on the lips. She starts to return his kiss when he kisses her harder, his tongue going inside her mouth, searching for hers. She pulls away from him; her eyes are staring back at him in shock.        

"What are you doing?" She snaps at him.        

Cooper is stunned as he looks at her cautiously, "I was kissing you---I thought you wanted me to!!

Her face gets flushed, she doesn't know what to say, "You were-----you were putting your tongue---------inside-----"

Cooper is now speechless, "What's wrong-----with that?"

Althea is frantically trying to think of how to answer, "I never----I've never had someone ever do ----that---before!"

Cooper arches his brow---"You've never had a man kiss you like that----are you serious?"

Now Althea is completely rattled, "No---I have not and furthermore I don't like it---I got to go---goodnight!"

Cooper watches as she goes inside her house and slams the door. He shakes his head, and walks away. All that night he dreams about Althea and how she reacted to the way he tried to kiss her.  She made it sound like it was unacceptable and almost ---dirty! He thought about how her husband must have been, straight from the old school, he had never "Frenched" her, now he's really wondering what kind of life she was used to.  He smiles to himself, "Althea-----you are going to be quite a challenge."

                                                                    

Will Stanton stands in the middle of the one room shack looking at Cooper and then the condition of the room. There are clothes everywhere, dirty dishes, and empty whiskey bottles. He frowns and looks at his friend, he's pouring whiskey into a cup of coffee, he offers Will a cup. Will shoves it away, "I'll take it black, thank you. If I came home with whiskey on my breath in the middle of the day, Becky would castrate me!"

Cooper shrugs, "Suit yourself."

Will finds a cup and wipes it clean with his shirttail. "What's going on Coop, I thought you had put the red eye away? Last week at the dance, I thought you and Althea were getting along real good, you looked mighty happy when you left to take her home?"

"PLEASE! Don't even mention that woman's name!" Cooper reaches for his whiskey bottle.

Will scratches his chin, "What in tarnation can you be upset with Althea about? She's a sweet, innocent, beautiful young lady, ----why Becky and I were both commenting that if anyone could get you off the bottle, it would be Althea!"

Cooper takes a long drink, and then growls back at his friend, "She's the reason I started drinking again!"

Will frowns, "What are you talking about?"

Cooper shakes his head, "Never mind.-----I thought you said that Sam McCoy came by your place a few days ago, what did he want?"

Will smacks his lips and reaches for Cooper's whiskey bottle, "No offense----but your coffee tastes like its three days old---just one little drop of this to get my taste buds back."

"Careful, Becky might smell it on your breath," Cooper smirks. "And the joke's on you, I made that coffee last week!"              

Will rubs his shirt sleeve across his face---"Figures!"

"Well? What did Sam McCoy want?"

He was asking me if you had sobered up yet, I told him you were well on the way, but--- judging from the looks of this place---I think I spoke too soon."

Cooper looks around the room, "What's wrong with the way it looks?"

His friend looks back at him in disbelief, "Come on Coop---the place is a pigsty----my hogs wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this---it's filthy!"

Cooper pours himself another drink, "Looks fine to me, it's just a place to sleep and hang my hat."

"I think I'd be careful where I hang my hat, some varmint might decide to nest in it."

"Are you going to tell me what Mc Coy wanted, or not?"

"I'm getting to it Coop----he wanted to know if you were coming back to the rangers--I told him he would have to talk to you about that. You can still talk, can't you---you still got a tongue—right?"

Cooper thinks back to his date with Althea and the way she behaved when he tried to kiss her, "A certain person might have something to say about that."

"What are you talking about now?"

"Nothing," he answers slowly.

"You know Cooper, having a conversation with you is always a challenge---a challenge to get you to say a whole sentence---that makes any sense that is!"

The two men sit and finish their coffee and then they head out to the barn. Another shack that resembles a place to shelter his riding horse and the pack mule.

From the barn they can look down to the river, when the water is up they can hear it cascading over the rocks. There are plenty of shade trees and there are wild flowers growing all around.                

Will hesitates to say anything, then he speaks, "I see you down by the river a lot, sometimes you're just sitting there, other times---you're walking around and acting like you're talking to someone-----who you talking to Coop?"            

Cooper takes a deep breath, "I can't stop thinking about her Will, it's been over two years, and I still think about her----every day, every night. I still have those dreams where she's trying to tell me something and Grey Wolf is there and she goes silent. I don't know what she was trying to tell me, and it's killing me!"          

Will nods at his friends' confusement, "What about the boy, Jean Luke?"

"I think about him too, and I pray that he's okay, that Grey Wolf hasn't hurt him any more!"

"What was that I heard, you said you ‘prayed’ that he wasn't hurt?"

Cooper gets angry and faces his friend, "It was just a figure of speech---I'll rephrase it---I mean I ‘hope’ that the boy is okay, is that better?"

"Now, don't go snapping my head off---I was just hoping that…"

"That what? That I would get my faith back in HIM? It will never happen----he took the only woman away from me that I ever loved----I'll never forgive him for that----NEVER!"

Cooper storms away and leaves his friend standing there. He heads towards the river. Will watches him as Cooper walks back and forth, picking up stones and throwing them angrily in the water. He'll sit down on the rocks and then gets up again, walking back and forth. Will sighs and looks up to the sky, "He didn't mean it, Lord, he's just hurting a powerful lot---Lily was his life---he loved that woman so much. Just have patience with him Lord, he'll find his way back to you---I know he will!"

It's been almost a month since Cooper has seen Althea, but again he will have to go to the feed store for supplies, and there will be no avoiding her. When he reaches the store, Althea is nowhere around. He gives his list to the young man and casually asks about her.

"She's over at the bank, talking to some lawyer about her dead husband's bank account."

Cooper decides to hang around , he's trying to look busy as he sees Althea coming back across the street. She looks like she's been crying. He waits till the young man takes out his supplies and then he approaches her.

"Althea--what's wrong?"

She's startled and embarrassed for him to see her crying, "Nothing----everything is fine."

"You don't look fine-----what happened over there, why are you crying?"

It takes her a few minutes to get the words out, "They say that my husband was taking money from the bank---illegally. Embezzling funds from other accounts------Edwin would never do that---he was an honest man---now they say that they will take the money from my savings to pay all of it back."

Cooper doesn't know what to say, "I'm sorry Althea, can you afford it--to pay it all back, I mean?"

Althea looks at him, "I'm not worried that I have to pay it back, I mean----that's not the most important thing------clearing my husband's name is more important."

She starts crying again, and Cooper reaches out and touches her cheek, wiping a tear away. "What can I do, to help?"

"There's nothing to do---I will take care of it, right now I have to get back to running my business, thank you!"

He takes the remainder of his supplies and starts to walk away, as she's wiping her tears, "Are you leaving again?"

"Yeah, going up to the Dallas area.........looking for a man about a job, maybe going back to the Texas Rangers."

"When will you be back?"

He shrugs, "Don't know---maybe a week or so."

They stand there looking at each other, he feels very uncomfortable being around her, he doesn't understand the mixed signals she's giving out and he feels she doesn't understand them either. He turns to leave.

"Would you like to have dinner, a home cooked dinner, I mean?"

He thinks about it, "I don't think that would be a good idea----we didn't exactly get off on the right foot a couple of weeks ago. I might get you angry at me again, and I'm already dizzy from climbing up and down off that damn wagon!"

She looks at him puzzled, "What wagon?"

She's done it to him again, has left him completely at a loss for words, he stares back at her, "Never mind---what time--for dinner I mean? When I do get back---that is?"

She smiles softly, "I'll get back to you on the time."

They have their dinner at her place, Cooper is being very cautious as what to say and how to act. They say very little through the meal. Her problems with the bank have been cleared and she will have to pay the money back in installments. Cooper is listening to her talk as he continues to shove the food down. She is one hell of a cook, chicken and dumplings--his favorite. The dumplings are so light, and they are dripping in butter and chicken broth. There's also corn on the cob, red beans and rice, fried okra, cornbread, and gallons of ice tea.  For dessert she has apple pie, he eats almost half of it, she wraps the rest up for him to take home, along with what is left of the dumplings.

              

"I can't believe that you can eat so much and still stay in shape …I mean … I didn't mean…"

He looks at her and smiles, "That's okay, now we're even!"  

She breathes a sigh of relief and walks him out, nervously smoothing out her skirt and folding and unfolding her arms.  He reaches over and kisses her cheek, "Thanks for a wonderful meal---my treat next time."

"You mean you can cook?"

Cooper is walking down the steps and sniffing the food, "Of course----I can cook the best mouth watering catfish---you ever tasted----next weekend---my place?"

It's now the middle of the week and Cooper hasn't done anything to try and clean up his place, he hates cleaning as most men do. He picks up the dirty dishes, frowns, and throws them into an empty box that will be carrying other garbage to be dumped. He doesn't even own a broom, much less a mop! He sighs, "Why did I have to go and invite her out here for

dinner----stupid, ---stupid."

He looks around the one room shack, and shakes his head, "I can't let her see this dump-----she'll keel over from embarrassment." Then he stops and sits down and reaches for his bottle again. "What do I care what she thinks----she is one weird woman---I can't figure her out. First she comes on to me and then she acts like----like she's afraid to be touched. She's been married, but she acts like she's------like she's a virgin". He throws the bottle of whiskey over against the wall without even thinking.

"DAMN IT----that was my last bottle----that damn woman has got me so damn confused I don't know what to think or do--------Well, I know what I'm going to do----I'm going to forget all about this weekend and the fish fry------I'll just say it completely slipped my mind-------what mind I got left after being around that woman! That's what I'll do----I'll just say I forgot it and that will be that!"

The next day finds Cooper at the Stanton place asking Becky to borrow her broom and a mop. She watches as he takes the cleaning tools to tie on his horse, she's fighting hard to keep from laughing. He turns around to her.

"Do you think maybe I could borrow some dishes as well, mine sort of got broke?"

She giggles and nods her head, "I'll see what I can rake up for you, what about utensils?"

Cooper sighs, "Those, too."

The next two days Cooper is cleaning and throwing things out the door. The dust is flying everywhere. He picks up another box of garbage and heaves it out the door, he hears someone scream and he runs out to see Althea trying to get up from the ground. He runs to her apologizing that he didn't know anyone was around. He extends his hand and pulls her up.

She looks around at all of the garbage laying in the front yard and then sees all the dust coming from inside. "What are you doing?" she asks cautiously.                  

Cooper hem haws around," I was cleaning house," he answers quietly.                 

She looks towards the front door, "Is it safe to go in?"

Cooper runs up the steps, "You don't want to go in there-----I don't have things quite ready yet."

She walks past him, the air is stifling her as she fans herself. "Cooper, have you ever thought about putting a window up ----to help get rid of all this dust?"

He rushes over to put the window up, but it's not budging. He keeps pushing and pulling on the window, Althea is now coughing, and her face is getting red.

Cooper looks at her, then takes his elbow and breaks the window. "It' was stuck," he explains sheepishly..

Althea looks at him and walks to the other window on the opposite side, pushes back the lock and eases the window up. Cooper looks at her and then back to the window that he just broke. He looks at the lock and flips it back and forth, he frowns, she's done it to him again, put him in a position where he can't think logically.

"What are you doing here?" he finally asks.

"I came out to see if there was anything I could help you with, I obviously came at a bad time---I'm sorry."

"It's o.k-----I wasn't making much progress," he stammers.

She looks at him and smiles, seeing that helpless look that most men have when it comes to trying to do a woman's job. She takes the broom from him, "Why don't you get rid of the garbage and I'll try to clean up in here?"

She watches as he starts gathering the garbage to burn, she will not mention that Becky Stanton had told her the day before that Cooper had borrowed the broom and mop. She told Becky she would just casually drop by to see if he needed any help. He definitely needed help as Becky looks around the room, not knowing where to start and was a little worried about the varmints that Will Stanton had teased her about. She looks out at him and he's staring back at her, he quickly turns away.

She looks around the room, there's only a table and two old chairs. There’s a washbasin, and some boxes that he has a change of clothes in with blankets piled up on top of them. She sees the plates and silverware that Becky Stanton loaned him the day before. In one corner is an old fireplace, but there's so much debris shoved up in there, she doubts it would ever be safe to start a fire. She looks around and wonders where he sleeps, because there is no bed. She's still shaking her head when he walks in.

"I guess it looks pretty bad, huh?" He walks over and takes the broom from her, "You don't have to do this---I can do it----"

Althea takes the broom back "Can't you find something to do, what about the fish---have you cleaned them yet?"

"Cleaned them? I haven't even caught them yet!"

She lowers her head and looks at him, "Then maybe you should get busy?"

He walks down to the river with his fishing poles, muttering to himself. "It's too early to catch the big ones, I was going to do this tonight, I planned to be up all night fishing."

About an hour later she joins him, "Have you caught any yet?"

He motions towards his line that's in the water, "Keep getting nibbles---they're just not biting yet, it's too early."

She watches as he pulls his line in and puts another worm on, she grimaces, "Yuk-----that's your problem right there----you're using worms!"

He looks back at her, "Yeah, I'm using worms and minnows---they're just not biting!"

Althea starts looking around on the ground, she pulls her skirt up to her knees, reaches down and picks up a grasshopper---"Try this," and she hands the insect to Cooper.

"No thanks---I'll stick with my own bait," he frowns back at her.

"Got an extra pole?"

Cooper arches his brow, "You mean you want to fish? And you expect to catch something with a grasshopper?"

He pulls the other pole out of the water and hands it to her, she slides the worm off and impales the grasshopper, not even flinching. He laughs to himself, and then he decides to have a little fun. "You know that you got to clean what you catch---you know that, don't you? It's the fisherman's code---clean what you catch!"

Althea nods her head and throws the line in, "What about the other fisherman's code----the

one that catches less does all the cleaning?"

Cooper is grinning from ear to ear, "That applies too---hope you know how to filet."

Two hours later and Cooper is cleaning fish! Althea is still pulling them in, Cooper shouts to her that they don't need anymore, that they have plenty. Besides, his fingers are bleeding from the fins of the catfish cutting him.  She walks over to him with her latest catch, at least a ten pounder!      

"What about this one----should I just let him go?"

Cooper just looks at her and sighs. The biggest one he caught didn't even weigh probably five pounds, and she's talking about throwing a ten pounder back!

She sits down on the bank while he continues to clean the last of them, She turns to him, "Need any help?"

He slams the knife down on the ground, and snaps back, "No---I don't need any help!" He's totally embarrassed that a woman has out fished him. Finally he goes to sit down beside her, she's looking out at the water, dreamy like. They sit for a long time, as Cooper cleans his knives and puts them away in a pouch. She marvels at the way he takes care of his knives, if only he would use half the effort to care for his home. He smells of his hands and looks down at his clothes with scales and blood all over his pants. "Guess it's time to take a bath," and he starts pulling his shirt off, then reaching for his belt buckle.

"COOPER!"

He stops and looks at her, "You can take a bath too----I don't mind," he teases her.

She starts getting up, "I got to be going----it's late---and I've got a long ride ahead of me."

He grabs her hand and pulls her back, "I was just teasing-----I wouldn't embarrass you!"

"I really do need to get back, it's getting late."

"You don't have to leave---you can spend the night here."

Her face flushes, "What?   I can't spend the night here----what would the townsfolk say?"

"Who cares what they think----look----it's a long ride back and you're coming back out here tomorrow anyway---so just spend the night."

She starts to back away, "I don't think so----that wouldn't be appropriate."

He shakes his head, "I’ll sleep outside---if that will make you feel better---you can sleep inside."

" I don't know------it just doesn't seem right."    

Cooper sighs, "Okay, suit yourself------give me a few minutes to clean up, and I'll follow you back into town."

She starts to argue, "You're not riding back into town alone---now just wait till I take a quick bath and get out of these stinking clothes----okay?"

She waits while he takes his bath in the river. She tries not to look in his direction, but she catches a glimpse of his body as he comes out of the water to dry off. He is built so solid, his body is like that of one of those Roman gladiators that she saw a picture of in a dime store novel. She feels her body getting warm, the same way she felt that night of the dance and he kissed her.  She was taken by surprise as his kiss deepened and his tongue was starting to sliver deep inside her mouth. She had pulled back, being very offensive at the kiss. She had never been kissed like that in her whole life. Her beloved Edwin wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing such a thing.  She had read in the other novels about that type of kissing, it was called "French kissing". Before that night, she could only picture in her mind what it was like and why would anyone want to move their tongue around like that? Her thoughts go back to that night, and she puts her fingers up to her lips and relives how it felt.  His lips were soft, and she was dying for him to kiss her, it felt good and then she started having thought sat what was happening and she drew back.  She was sure of one thing, Edwin had never made her body tingle the way Cooper did.

He stayed in the cool water longer than he wanted to, there was no way he could come out in his condition. He looked over at her, she had turned her back to him and was picking up some flowers. Again he tried to figure this woman out and every time he got more confused. But there was no confusion to the lower part of his body, as he was completely aroused, for the first time in a very long time.

Since Lily's death he hadn't wanted to be with another woman, but Mother Nature kept letting him know that he was still human with human needs. He tried visiting whorehouses, but it was no use, the feelings for Lily would surface, he would feel lousy, and end up leaving. He wondered how many women must have thought he was impotent, the way he would change his mind and leave. He would go back to his bottle till he would drink himself to oblivion, and then the dreams would start again. He looked at Althea, she was a beautiful woman----he had a hard time believing that she could be so innocent to the ways of life. She had been married only a short time before her husband was killed, but she acted like she had never had sex. Maybe that was it---maybe he was impotent? But, why would she want to marry someone like that? She was too beautiful not to be touched. He wasn't the only man that had been giving her looks, there were several in town and at the dances they attended that would like very much to get to know her. He suddenly feels a twinge of jealousy, but then he shakes it off. He sighs, "I can't stay in here all night---I just hope it's not that noticeable------but then again----she's so naive---she probably wouldn't even notice." He starts to get out, glances down in front of him and groans," she would have to be blind not to notice." He goes back into the water.

The Stanton’s come to the fish fry but they don't stay long, little Timmy has come down with the chicken pox.  Cooper is finishing up the last of the cornbread and collard greens. Althea watches him eat, he has gained at least ten pounds since she met him. She remembered how gaunt he looked at the Stanton's cook out, and his appearance. He was looking a lot better, he kept his beard trimmed, his clothes were cleaner, and he was starting

to use some men's cologne. She watches as he wolfs the cornbread down, first dunking it in milk. She studied his eyes, they were such a warm blue/gray, but at times they looked so sad. Becky Stanton had mentioned a woman in Cooper's life, but she wouldn't say anymore than that, saying that Cooper would have to tell her what she needed to know. She could see in his eyes that this woman had to have meant a lot to him, and he was obviously still mourning her.  At times when he would look at Althea, she wondered if he was looking at her or looking through her and having thoughts of this other woman? She also wondered if it was this woman that Cooper was thinking of on that night he kissed her, and was wishing it was her that he was holding.

After the Stanton’s leave, Althea asks him to walk with her down at the river. They walk for a long time before either of them speak. He keeps looking at her, not knowing how to start the conversation, "The food was great," he blurts out.

She smiles and nods, "Thank you."

He stops, and looks around him, "Althea---I need to ask you something---but I don't know how to ask you without maybe getting my face slapped!"    

She raises her eyebrow, "Must be some question----is it really that hard to ask?"

             

"For me---it is---it's kind of personal-----it's about that night of the dance----when I tried to kiss you?"

She brushes her hair back, and looks to the ground---"I remember----what about it?"

He stands there for the longest, trying to put the words together, "I don't know how to ask you this, but------did I really offend you by that kiss? You acted like I had done something----dirty? Do you really feel that way about being kissed, or was it just me?"

Her voice is low, as she answers, "I've never had that kind----of ---kiss----I've never done ---that before!"

"Then it wasn't me-----you weren't angry with me--personally----just the kiss—right?"

She nods her head slowly, "You just shocked me---that's all---I didn't know that men and women actually did that---I've read about it--in those novels ---but I never-----never thought they really did that with their tongues---in the mouth---like that!"

Cooper looks at her in confusion, "Althea, there's nothing wrong with it----it's not ---dirty----men and women touch when they embrace---didn't your husband ever------?"

"No! Never like that, my husband would never do such things!"              

Cooper shakes his head---"Your husband sounds like he was -----"                

"Don't you talk about my Edwin that way---he was a perfect gentleman! And he always treated me like a lady, he would never attempt to try such barbaric ways of ----of---of---''

Cooper sighs, "Making love? Is that what you're trying to say? Hell, Althea---you can't even say it! It's called ‘making love’, it's when two people care about each other and they want to express their feelings by touching! What's wrong with that?"

"Well, I am sorry that I am such a big disappointment to you---maybe you should stop wasting your precious time on me and go to see one of those whores that works at the saloons, and maybe they wouldn't mind-------"

"SHUT UP," Cooper yells back at her.

She stops and looks at him, his eyes are glaring back at her, his fist is rolled up, his chest is heaving up and down, and his mouth is set. He very slowly undoes his fist and puts his finger up in her face, "Just don't say another word---or so help me Althea---I will--------"

He turns and walks away in a huff, Althea is speechless---"What did I say?"

She walks back up his place and watches as he goes inside and slams the door, she has never seen him so angry. She walks up to her carriage gets in and rides away.

Cooper is furious! He stomps around inside his shack, cursing Althea under his breath. "How dare her------what gives her the right to say those things about my Lily"? He stomps over to the table and with one sweep he knocks all of food into the floor. The dishes break, and he kicks out at them. He's like a madman as he goes from one side of his shack to the other, throwing things. "DAMN HER".

A week has passed, Cooper refuse to go to the feed store, instead he pays a little boy to pick up his supplies, with the reward being a big , shiny, nickel.

He takes his supplies and heads down towards the Brazos area, picking up some prisoners. He has gone back to the Rangers, but Sam Mc Coy has warned him about his drinking. He's down to one bottle a day, and he usually downs that after he's gone back to his shack, or else he goes down to the river to talk to Lily.

He's picked out a bend in the river where the shade trees are plenty, and he can walk out into the river on the rocks and sit down. He sometimes sits there for hours, talking to her. He sits with his bottle, and remembers their times together. Sometimes he can almost hear her laugh, and when she would laugh those blue eyes would light up her whole face. He thinks about her Canada, and the place where she is buried. He looks around him, a storm is coming in and it's been raining off and on for three days. The nights are starting to get cool for September. He pulls his shirt tighter around him and looks up at the sky. "I still think about you my love, every minute of the day and you're the last thought on my mind before I go to sleep."

Althea can't believe the looks on Will and Becky's faces as she tells them what happened at the fish fry and what she said to Cooper. They stare back at her, their mouths are wide open. Will rolls his eyes up in his head, "I can't believe you said that Althea, why would you say such a thing?"

Althea is in tears, "What do you mean? What is it you're not telling me?"

Becky pulls Althea over to the table and has her sit down. She tells Althea about Lily and how much she meant to Cooper. She's devastated, not knowing what to say. Becky looks at Will, "Well. if you ask me---Cooper should have told Althea about Lily a long time ago, and none of this would be happening!"

Althea is beside herself, "I have got to apologize, I have to let Cooper know that I didn't know about Lily, how was I suppose to know that she worked in a saloon----I didn't know!!"

Becky tries to console Althea, Will decides to pay Cooper a visit.

The rain is coming down pretty hard as Will catches Cooper just as he's coming in from picking up another prisoner. Will glances towards the river, it's starting to swell. He looks to Cooper, "You're going to be wishing you had built this shack up on higher ground if it continues to rain like this!"

Cooper pays him no mind as he walks in and slams the door behind them. "The damn river can wash this place away for all I care!"

Will is getting riled, "Well, that's a fine howdy you do----you didn't think it was so bad when I gave this piece of land to you?"

Cooper pops the cork on his whiskey, "You're not giving me this land, because I refuse to take it---if I can't pay for it----I don't want it!"

Will tries to talk to Cooper about Althea, he's refusing to listen. "Damn it Coop----you're in the wrong. Althea would never have said those things if she had known about Lily. Althea is just torn up over all this. You owe it to her to at least listen to her apology----you owe her that much!"       

"I don't owe her anything!!! I don't care if I ever see her again!"

Cooper stops and looks at Will, they didn't hear the carriage come up and Althea is standing there in the doorway. Will walks over to her, "Althea, you shouldn't be out in this rain, come on, I'll see you back to town!"

Althea shakes her head, "I came here to apologize, and that's what I'm going to do." She walks over to Cooper, "I apologize for all the things I said. I did not know about Lily's----past-----I would never have said those things if I had known. We both were saying things we didn't intend to say, and I would never do or say anything to hurt you, had I known---I'm sorry."

Cooper says nothing as he takes another drink, staring at her. "You've said what you wanted to say---now leave."

Will yells back at his friend, "Coop--for Pete's sake----"

Althea grabs Will's shoulder, "He's right--I said what I came to say---and now I will leave."

 

 

Part 9

 

A week has passed and the rain won't let up, the river is coming over the banks. All up and down the river the neighbors are filling up bags of mud, trying to keep the river back. Cooper has been helping to damn up the river upstream, they've been at for two days now and everyone is exhausted. Cooper and Will sit down on one of the rocks, Becky and another woman have brought them coffee. Will is still upset with Cooper for the way he talked to Althea, they sit without talking, listening to some of the guys joking around. A couple of the guys Cooper has recognized from the dance that was wanting to dance with Althea and she was refusing them. The big one had gotten a little too persistent with her till they saw that she was with Cooper and he wanted no part of the bearded one. Their voices are getting loud and they start laughing, looking in Cooper's direction. He ignores them and goes back to trying to drink his coffee before the rain dilutes it too much.

The three men start towards Cooper, and the voices are getting louder and more intentional for him to hear. They are talking about someone being a "little slow on the uptake" and the other man is saying he would like to be on "her uptake, tongue and all" Cooper looks to them and the one man flicks his tongue out at Cooper, mimicking a fly's tongue darting back and forth.  The men all laugh, Cooper's temper is starting to rise. Will looks at the men and back to Cooper.

"Don't pay'em any mind Coop---leave it be."            

Cooper throws the last of his coffee out and he and Will start back to filling up bags again. One of the men hollers out, "Hey Cooper------what's wrong----couldn't get into the ladies' panties?" The men all start laughing.

Another man chimes in, "Hell, she probably wouldn't know what to do with it, even if he did get inside her?"

Cooper throws down the bag and walks over to the three, "Just for the record----who are we talking about?"

The men laugh louder, and one of them says "Althea ----who else?"

Cooper stands there and looks at them, slowly grinning, nodding his head up and down, "Althea, huh---I thought we were talking about your sister!"

Before the man can answer, Cooper hits him in the stomach and when the man doubles over, he brings his knee up into the man's chin. The other two men rush Cooper and soon they are rolling in the mud, as Cooper backhands the one and then kicks the other in the groin. They stay down, but the one with the big mouth and flickering tongue has come at Cooper again.  Cooper back steps and kicks out sideways to the stomach. He then goes after him with a flurry of punches, then takes the man's face and shoves it into the mud. The man can't breathe, as Will shouts to Cooper to let him up. Cooper ignores his friend and pushes the man's whole head into the mud. Will and two others pull Cooper off the man, Cooper breaks out of their grasps and goes after the man again, putting his knee into the man's back and pulling back on his chin. "What were you saying, big man----wanna repeat it-----the others here didn't hear what you said-----I can't hear you!!"

Now it takes five men to pull Cooper off and to get him under control. Will shakes his head at his friends' temper, then walks over and kicks the man, "Get out of here---you piece of scum---or we'll let Cooper loose, ----and take your friends with you--we don't want you around here!"

Cooper walks back and starts filling the bags again, Will just looks at him and smiles.  "You have feelings for Althea,---you're just too dang  stubborn to admit it."

The rain continues well up into the night, now the roof on Cooper's shack is starting to leak. His blankets on the floor are starting to get wet, so there won't be any sleeping on the floor tonight.  He pulls the two chairs together, and fights to get comfortable. He starts to dream, but his dreams are mingling together. He will see Lily and then Althea, and the dreams are not making any sense. Lily is trying to tell Cooper something and then Althea is pulling on his arms. Cooper is trying to go back to Lily, but Althea won't let him go. He forces himself awake, then stays awake and listens to the rain.

The next day Will and Cooper have to go get more sand bags from the feed store. There has been such a demand for them that they now have to empty flour and sugar sacks, and using them to hold the mud. The rain has gone into the tenth day, some of the farmers have already been forced to move out on the lower part on the river. They've packed up their things and heading west.

Althea is helping them to get the bags emptied into the big whiskey barrels. Cooper keeps looking at her, she keeps avoiding his looks and directs all of her attention to Will. Cooper waits till Will has gone to the wagon and Will is deliberately taking his time to arrange things, giving Cooper time to try and talk to Althea. She very casually hands him the bill, "Twelve dollars, please."

Cooper reaches into his pocket and brings out four, "Will, will take care of the rest."

"I'll put it on his account---like always."

He sighs, "Look--I'm sorry about the other day------I know you didn't mean to say those things---and if I had told you about Lily-----maybe none of this would have happened."

She looks back at him, "You were very rude to me."

"I know, and I'm sorry----I just get crazy --sometimes----I'm sorry, could we sit down and talk about this ---real soon?"           

She brushes her hair back and answers softly, "You mean you want to talk about her ----Lily?"

"I need to explain some things, can we talk?"    

Will comes running in just as Cooper reaches for Althea's hand, "Coop--we gotta go---the dam has busted, the whole south end of the basin is flooding, and your part of the river is next!         

It's another 48 hours of fighting the river, the townspeople are coming out to help, including Althea. While the men are filling up bags and salvaging every piece of timber to try and build another dam, Althea and some women have gone to the lower basin to take food and clothing. They see families sitting on top of their rooftops, waiting for help as the water is pouring in through their homes.  Althea takes the carriage as far as she can, then she and the other two women walk in the mud, sometimes knee deep. It takes them all day to get the food to the needy families. Althea is exhausted but she insists on going back for more supplies. The two women try to talk her out of going, she will have to cross the river again, and it's getting too high.

"I will try to get past Will Stanton's place, and cross over there, the river is not so wide.  If I can get past there---everything else will be easy------wish me luck!"

Cooper and the other workers have got the river damned up again, the rain continues to come down.  The husband of one of the women comes running over and tells them the flooding is getting worse down river, the river is rising fast.

Cooper looks to the man, "Did everyone get out okay?"

The man yells back that Althea left alone and is trying to cross the river, just past the Stanton place. Will yells back, "Oh Lord-----she'll never make it Cooper---the water is rising too fast, that carriage is too light, the water will knock it right out from under her!"

Cooper runs to his horse with Will right behind him. The horses are having a difficult time fighting the mud, Cooper goes down one side of the river, and Will takes the other. Cooper sees the carriage, it's flipped over, the horse is trapped. Cooper starts running to the carriage and calling out Altheas' name. He can't see her anywhere, he reaches over with his knife and cuts the horses' reins, he jumps up and takes off. Cooper is still yelling out her name, then he hears Will screaming "I see her!"

About thirty feet out in the water, Althea is holding on to an old tree limb. Cooper calls out to her, but she doesn't answer.  He swims as hard as he can, the water keeps pushing him back, he tries again till he reaches her.  He reaches her just as Will swims up from the other side and together they get her back to the bank, She's shaking, and she's cold. Cooper picks her up and runs with her back to his horse, Will holds her while Cooper mounts and then he takes off with her. Will catches up to them, "Your place is the closest Coop---take her there---I'll try to round up the doctor."

Cooper gets Althea back to his place, he kicks open the door and rushes in and sits her down in one of the chairs. She continues to shake, and her lips are turning blue. He rushes over to get a blanket and wraps it around her, but she won't stop shaking. He can barely hear her voice, "I'm ----so cold---I'm freezing."

Cooper runs to the fireplace and starts digging out the debris, there's no telling what kind of varmints have taken refuge in the chimney, he curses himself for not cleaning it out earlier. He looks back to Althea, "Hang on Althea, I'm getting the fireplace going----just hold on."

He's got it cleaned out as much as he can, and now he will have to find wood. Again he curses himself, he hasn't taken the time to chop firewood, he hasn't needed the fireplace, as it hasn't been cold enough for him. He knows he will not find any outside that hasn't been saturated by the rain. He runs over to the table and starts busting it up. He looks to Althea; she's about ready to fall out of the chair. He runs over and grabs her, "You gotta stay awake

Althea---please---don't go to sleep---you’ve got to get those wet clothes off!"

She's not hearing him as she falls to the floor, almost taking him with her. He desperately tries to find a place on the floor that is dry enough to lay her down. He takes one blanket and folds it so the floor won't be so hard and to add a little cushioning.

"Althea-----I got to get those wet clothes off you!" Her teeth are chattering and her eyes are looking back at him, she nods. He commences to take her dress off, cursing the many buttons, His hands are cold too, but he finally gets them all undone. He pulls the dress off of her and throws it over a chair. He then starts taking her corset and slip off. He looks at the corset for a second and mutters, "What does she need this for?" Then he tosses it over with the rest of their things. After he takes her hosiery off, he runs back to his pile of clothes and gets his cleanest dirty shirt and slips it over her head.  He takes the second blanket and wraps it around her.

Just as he's going back to the fireplace, Will and Becky come running up the steps. Will closes the door as Becky runs to Althea with extra blankets. Will runs to the fireplace and he and Cooper start trying to get the fire going. The smoke starts pouring in, and Will shouts at Cooper.

"Damn it Coop---you don't have the damper open, you're going to suffocate us"! Cooper reaches in through the fire to pull the metal plate open, his sleeve catches on fire as Will pulls him backwards. "It's okay, it's okay---you’ve got it!"

Cooper is tearing his sleeve off as Will runs outside and gets a wad of mud, slapping it onto the burn. "When you don't have butter or cooking grease---you use what Mother Nature gives you---MUD---like we don't have plenty of that---huh Coop?"

Cooper doesn't answer as he walks over to Althea, "Where's the doctor---is he coming----how is she---is she okay?"

Becky pushes Cooper away, "One question at a time Cooper---here---heat this soup up---we’ve got to get some warm liquid into her!"

Cooper sets the pot of soup down inside the fireplace, Will shakes his head and retrieves it with the poker stick, "Honestly Cooper----if you and a turkey were both caught out in this rain storm, I wonder which of you would drown first----you put the pot on the end of the poker so you get it out when it gets hot!"

Cooper's temper is getting the best of him "Where's the damn doctor---is he coming, did you find him?"

Will puts his hands up, "Calm down Coop---before you have a cow---no--the doctor isn't coming! He's helping out down in the basin-----several people have the fever----and some have died. Doc Willis is trying to get that under control!"

A couple of hours later, and the shack has warmed up. They have gotten the soup down Althea but she's still shaking. Becky is worried about her temperature, "She feels too hot----I need you guys to bring me plenty of wet rags and we will take turns in trying to get this fever down."

Cooper stands there and looking down at Althea, "Fever-------she's got the fever-----Will has said that people have died ---from the fever."

Becky stands up and takes Cooper's hand, "Listen to me Cooper ------Althea is sick, but we don't know for sure if this is the same fever those people down in the basin have, now all we can do is try to get the fever down----please! I need wet rags---now!!"

They take turns wiping her brow with the cool rags, but Cooper can see no change in her condition. It's late and Becky and Will have got to get back to their kids.

"I'm sorry, Coop, we've done all we can," he shakes his head sadly, "It's up to "him" now---if that fever doesn't break soon----" he looks to Cooper and lays his hand on his shoulder, "A prayer wouldn't hurt".

Cooper turns and starts pacing around the room, looking at Althea and back to the Stantons---"A prayer?-----What good will that do, "HE" never listened to my prayers with Lily-----and what is this damn storm all about? Is this another way of showing us his goodness----it sounds more like an act of revenge, people are losing their homes and their lives------ and we should pray to him----for what?"

Becky tries to stop Cooper from pacing, "Cooper, God doesn't owe you or anyone else a reason for what he does------we are just here for a short time, we do not question his reasons."

Will gently pulls on Becky's arm, "Come on, we got to get home to the young'uns------we'll be back tomorrow Coop--with more blankets and soup!"

Cooper sits with Althea all night, propping her up against his chest and feeding her the soup, and then wiping her forehead and neck with the cool rags. The rain is still coming down and Cooper has to keep moving Althea away from the holes in the roof. He's exhausted, but he manages to climb on the roof and nail up a piece of burlap, it's the only thing he has to try and slow the rain. He's running low on firewood, so he busts apart one of the chairs and starts throwing it into the fireplace. He goes back to holding Althea, her body feels warm, but she's still shaking. He tucks the blankets in tighter around her, then walks to

the window and looks out. The river is coming over the banks now, he can't afford to stay there much longer, but he's afraid to try and move Althea, and if he could move her, where would he take her? The doctor is not in town, and all of the roads are flooded.

He curses the rain, as he slides down the wall, sitting in the floor, just staring at the fireplace. He feels fatigue taking over, and his eyes are getting heavy. He thinks he sees a bright light coming from the fireplace; he squints and puts his hand over his eyes. A form is taking shape and he hears a voice.

"Cooper------I'm here my love."

Cooper's eyes get wider, as his mouth drops open, "LILY----Lily is it you?"              

The form comes closer, he can see her so clearly, she's wearing a white dress, and her long dark curly hair is pulled up on the side with little flowers, lilies--in her hair. Her eyes have never looked so blue, and she is smiling at him---so sweet.

She seems to "float" towards him, he reaches out for her, but she keeps backing away. "Have you come for me, Lily----can I go with you?"

"No, my love----it's not your time----you have to stay---you have a purpose for staying behind, but you have to do something for me!"

Cooper keeps squinting his eyes, the light is so bright---"What---what do you want me to do-----I'll do anything for you Lily----you know I will!"

The vision of Lily "floats" over to where Althea is laying,  "You know what you have to do, my love-------she's a part of your life now---your future."

Cooper starts shaking his head, "No---no---you were my life Lily----I want to go with you, let me go back with you."

The vision starts to fade, and the voice is getting faint----"You have to ask for forgiveness Cooper-------if not for yourself----then for her---he will listen, he always listens!"

"He wasn't listening when I asked him to save you, he took you away from me!"

The vision comes forward, Cooper can almost feel her hand on his face, "He didn't take me away my love, and Caddo ended my life as we know it."

Cooper shouts back, "He could have saved you---if he's so damn powerful, why didn't he stop Caddo?"

"We do not question him, it was time for me to leave, it was time for me to go to another place, but I'm still with you---in your heart." She turns and looks at Althea, "I only occupy a small part of your heart------she will have your soul. And soon, you will think of me less and less as your lives go forward. There's not much time, my love----you have to go forward -- you have a purpose in life---it's waiting!"

The vision fades as fast as it materialized, Cooper wakes up to the fireplace losing it's flames. The room is starting to get colder, he breaks up the last chair and throws it in. He stands there looking at the flames and then to Althea. He still refuses to pray.

The Stanton’s haven't made it back with the supplies, Cooper knows that the river must have gotten to them. Cooper hopes they are all okay.

The fire in the fireplace is going out again, he has nothing left to burn, and Althea has only about half a cup of soup left. Cooper hasn't had anything to eat in over three days. The river is still rising, by morning he will have to make the decision to leave. He walks back to the pallet on the floor, picks up Altheas' hand and holds it. Her hand is feeling colder and her fever still hasn't broke. He starts wiping her brow again, as she's starting to mumble things he can't understand. He jumps up from the floor and starts pacing like a madman, "I will not give in to you----you refused to help me before---I will get Althea through this--I don't need your help!"

Cooper goes back to the fireplace and stares at the flames that are starting to die. He slams his fist into the wall, and the timber cracks from all the rain.

He starts pulling the timber out of the walls, "SEE----I told you---I don't need your help!"

Cooper yanks the timber out, the cold air comes through, but he knows he has to keep the fire burning. He throws the wood into the fire, and some old clothes to fan the flames. The fire roars and Cooper yells out in victory. Then all of a sudden, the fire goes out completely. He tries unsuccessfully to get it going again. The rain and the wind are coming through the hole he just made, and Althea is taking a turn for the worse! He runs over

to her and pulls her up to him, "ALTHEA---don't you die---don't you dare die on me too---ALTHEA!"

The whole room turns cold and Cooper can feel Altheas' life slipping away---the same way he felt Lily's. He starts holding her tighter and screaming her name, and then he hears a voice.               

"Cooper----time is wasting-------you can save her---you know what you have to do---do it my love----hurry!"

Cooper looks around the room, he can't see anything, and the vision is not to be seen. He looks down at Althea; her face is getting so pale. He pushes her hair back and kisses her forehead, "Please----please God---don't take her from me----I am begging for forgiveness-----I'll do anything you ask---please God---bring her back to me!"    

He holds her close to him all night, pulling the blankets tighter around them. He soon falls asleep with his arms tightly around her waist. He feels something bright, he thinks it's the vision He opens his eyes, he sees sunlight, the storm has broken, the rain has stopped! The fireplace is going full blast and Althea is waking up. He's still holding her as she looks at him, their faces only inches away from each other’s. He can only smile, touching her face, "Welcome back!"

                          

Part 10

 

All day long neighbors have been fighting the mud to bring what food and clothing they can to Cooper and Althea. Althea is getting stronger but she's still not out of danger yet. The fever has broken, but she still has spells where she shakes uncontrollably. The neighbors have brought soup, salvaging through their gardens for every last bit of vegetables they can find. Cooper can't get over the way that they have come to his aid, knowing they don't have much more than he does, some have lost their homes, they still come, sharing what they have left.

The men help to fix the hole over the fireplace and they've fixed the roof as best they can. Someone brought in the top of an old table, and piled blankets up on it to make a bed for Althea, getting her off the cold wet floor. The doctor manages to stop by for only a minute, checking Althea out.

He says she still needs plenty of rest and to keep the fluids in her.  She has slept most of the day, she wakes to see Cooper sitting beside her  in an old chair that someone dropped off. He's about half asleep as he opens one eye and smiles at her.

"How do you feel?"

She smiles back at him and looks around the room at all the things the neighbors have brought. "I feel better----how about you---you look exhausted."              

He gets up to get her some tea that Becky has brought over.  She drinks it down; it feels so good to have something besides soup.

"Well, I feel pretty good knowing that you're okay---you gave me quite a scare----I thought I was going to lose you."

She looks into his eyes, they're different---they're much softer now, and he's looking at her in a whole different way. "Was I really that much trouble?"               

He takes the cup from her and sits on the side of her newly acquired "bed". He takes her hand in his, "You weren't any trouble---I'd do it all over again, if I had to---I had lots of help."

She loves the feel of his hand holding hers, she looks up at him, "I thought I was dreaming at one time----I thought I heard you yelling at someone----and then your voice was---strange-----was I dreaming, was there someone here?"

He squeezes her hand tighter, "Someday I'll tell you all about it, I'll tell you everything.---But right now, you need to get some more rest. We’ll probably have to get out of here tomorrow the river is still cresting. Will and some of the neighbors are bringing in bigger wagons, taking the people out. They should be here sometime tomorrow, so get some rest---okay?"

He starts to get up, but she won't let go of his hand, "I'll rest---on one condition," she says softly.

"What's that?"       

She pulls gently on his hand and moves over in the bed, "That you get some rest too----and I don't mean sleeping in that chair."

He watches her as she goes over to the far side of the bed, he wonders if she's aware that she only has his shirt on and nothing else under it. He pulls his boots off and climbs into bed with her, with his clothes still on. She goes closer to him. He puts his arms around her, and she very slowly puts her arm across his waist.  His eyes are getting heavier, as he nestles his face against her hair, gently stroking till they both fall asleep.

Cooper only sleeps for a short while, as Althea has started shaking again. He pulls her closer to him, realizing that he's becoming more and more aroused at her closeness.  She is nestling deeper and deeper into the protection of his arms and chest, and her arms tighten around him. He looks down at her and kisses the top of her head, pulling her hair back over her left ear, he starts to tilt her head up to kiss her when he pulls back.  He gets up from the bed, with the excuse of putting another piece of wood in the fireplace. She watches him as he kneels down to put the wood in, and he keeps looking back at her. She rises up and leans against the wall, her eyes still looking into his. He can feel himself burning up with desire; his heart is racing faster, as they keep looking at each other. Finally, he can’t take it any longer; he stands up and starts tearing his shirt off as he walks back to her. He reaches out and grabs her face and kisses her long and hard. At first she doesn't respond, then she throws her arms around him and kisses him back. He opens his mouth and kisses her softly, then he slowly lets his tongue go inside her.  She's not withdrawing this time; she's starting to respond by letting her tongue do it's own exploring.

He lays her back gently, his right hand going up under his shirt, reaching for her breasts. He cups her breasts quickly and then he takes his index finger and draws it gently down her body. He can feel her withdraw a little, as his hand goes back up and to the small of her back, pulling her into him. Their kisses are getting more intense as he pulls away from her lips and goes to her neck and shoulders.  He encourages her to take the shirt off, and she does so shyly, almost wanting to put her arms over her naked breasts. He pulls them away gently, as his hand goes back to her breasts and gently massages it. She keeps looking at him, those blue/green eyes trusting in him. He takes her right breasts into his mouth and ever so gently he teases her with his tongue, going slowly around the nipple. She opens and closes her eyes, she swallows over and over again, her breathing is getting heavier.. He stops and moves up to her, taking her face in his hand, he kisses her softly, and then caresses her cheek with his thumb, looking into her eyes.         

"I'm not going to hurt you Althea-------I will go as slow as you want me too---okay?"

She nods her head slowly, touching his hands with hers-------"I've never done these things----before. I don't know what to do-----what you want me to do?"

He continues to kiss her tenderly, "Do you want me to stop?"

She shakes her head, "No----just show me what to do----I don't want to disappoint you!"

He pulls back from her, looking into her eyes----"You won't disappoint me Althea---you've already done what no other woman has been able to do----since I lost Lily---I haven’t wanted another woman since she died, and that's been over two years now. But, you've managed to change all of that."

Her eyes are still looking at him nervously, "Me?"

His right hand goes back to the small of her back and then down to her buttocks, as he continues to kiss her. "Yes-----Althea------you-------and I want to show you all the ways that a man and a woman can enjoy each others' bodies. There are so many ways to give pleasure rather than just receiving----okay?   Are you okay with that----you're not afraid?"

She shakes her head, "I'm not afraid---not with you."

His hands continue to explore her body very slowly, giving her time to accept the directions in which he's going. He caresses her other breast, kissing and teasing the nipple till it begins to stand up, and then he goes to the other, His right hand going up and down her body and pulling her buttocks closer to his body. He keeps going down her body with his kisses, and her navel is next as he sucks very slowly.  She is gasping, as she watches him go lower. She closes her eyes as her body is starting to respond. She’s never had these feelings with Edwin, not anywhere near what she was feeling now. With Edwin it was a kiss or two and then he would try to enter her, and it would hurt. He wasn't trying to be rough with her, it's just that for an older man, he didn't know the first thing about making love, and neither did she. She just knew there was no enjoyment to it, she just accepted it as that was how it was suppose to be, and you wasn't suppose to enjoy it---you just did it!

"Cooper----wait," Althea starts pulling back, "I can't -----I don't know what I'm suppose to be feeling, I am so confused at how to feel."

Cooper never takes his tongue from her as he trails back up to her lips, kissing her long and sensuous, "You don't think about what you're suppose to be feeling----just let yourself go--------your body will tell you how it feels. These feelings that you're having are normal, Althea-----didn't you ever have these feelings with your Edwin?"

"No," she answers low, "never."

Cooper's arousal is starting to droop, never has he ever been in a situation like this.  He's never felt like this, even when he lost his virginity for the first time. And, at his age he never thought he would be trying to make love to a---virgin.

He lays back down on the bed, his manhood is hurting like hell, he turns away from her, till the swelling goes down. He's totally confused. Here is a beautiful and sexy woman, and she's never experienced these kind of feelings, something isn't right. "Maybe you would feel better, if you talk about what it is that scares you."

Now she's getting offensive, "There is nothing to talk about----I just never have been with a man besides my husband-----I'm not a  promiscuous woman."              

Cooper gives a long sigh, "Great----more fancy words-----why can't you women just say what is on your mind, and quit using all of those damn fancy words?"

She looks back at him, pulling the shirt back up around her, he's surprised that she hasn't insisted on getting dressed. Instead, she's sitting there with just his shirt in front of her breasts. "What do you mean?"

He groans, turning over with his back to her, "Never mind----let's just get some sleep."

She gets in under the blankets, being careful not to get too close, as she can feel his anger. "Are you mad at me?"

"No, Althea," he answers quietly, "I'm not mad."

"But, you're disappointed----aren't you?"

Cooper can still feel his arousal, through his jeans "Yeah Althea----I'm just a little bit disappointed!" He snaps back at her.

He hears a soft "I'm sorry."

Cooper is now not only disappointed, but he he's frustrated, he lowers his voice, "Althea---I asked you if you wanted me to stop----and you said "no"----then I get all hot and bothered and then you change your mind, not only is that very frustrating for a man---it can be dangerous!"

He turns over to face her, "Do you know what I'm talking about?"

She shakes her head.

"Althea----you don't lead a man on like this---and then change horses in mid stream---it's called "teasing" and what if you tried this with someone else besides me---another man might not try to be so understanding----and could end up forcing them selves on you---now do you understand?"

She bites her bottom lip, "Yes! I understand---I'm not stupid!"

Cooper turns back over, "Forget it----just get some sleep."

He can feel her tossing and turning----"What's wrong now?"

"I'm sorry ---I just can't get comfortable."

He turns halfway over, "Would you like for me to get up, so you can have your "bed" back?"

"NO---you need your rest---I'll get settled soon----the bed feels lumpy!"   

Twenty minutes later and Althea is still tossing and turning, "Would you be still? I would like to get some sleep sometime tonight"?

A few minutes pass, "Cooper?"

Cooper is getting irritable, "What?"

He feels her hand reaching back to touch him, "I feel something touching the back of my leg, is that you?"

He sighs, "No Althea---I have my back to you----I'm not that well endowed!"

He feels her rolling over and the blankets go up, "Well, something is in the bed with us----I felt it!"

"It's just your imagination, go back -------"     

"OH MY GOD----it's a snake----Cooper!"

She's pushing him out of the bed while she's scrambling to get out of the covers. She literally flies across the room, dragging her shirt behind her. Cooper walks cautiously towards the bed, and she's hanging on to him, "Althea---please---let me see what it is."

"It's a snake, I know a snake when I see one---is it a rattlesnake? I hate snakes---they are so slimy -I hate snakes!!"

He pulls her hands down from his shoulders and backs her up to the fireplace, "Stay there---I'll see what it is."

He grabs the poker stake and throws the blankets back; the reptile is staring back at him. He reaches out and impales him with the iron bar, Althea runs to him, "I told you it was a snake---didn't I?"

She's holding onto him again,  "Althea---let go of my arm so I can throw the critter out."

He walks over to the door and tosses him, He turns around and he sees Althea standing there, completely nude and not caring that she has nothing on as she begins to pick up the edge of the blanket very carefully. He walks over to her, pulling her hand back, "It was a water moccasin, and where there's one, there'll most likely be others----they're coming up from the river!"     

She goes and sits in the old chair that the neighbors dropped off, she pulls her feet up under her, still holding his shirt up to her. Cooper starts going all over the shack, looking for more visitors. He doesn't find anymore. He continues to look at Althea, she's scared stiff as her eyes dart back and forth over the room.  "Are you sure they're all gone?"

He nods his head, "Yes. I'm sure."

He walks over to the chair, holding out his hand, "Come on---let's go back to bed. She takes his hand as he walks her back, his shirt is hiding very little of her backside and he can feel himself getting aroused again. He tries to laugh it off, "You know for someone who was so sick just yesterday---I have never seen anyone move so fast."

She lays back down, he just stands there and looks at her, debating on whether to get back into bed with her. "Maybe I'll just sleep in the chair---things will be less complicated that way!"

She puts the shirt over her head and pulls it down, "Okay----maybe you're right."

He takes one of the blankets and heads back to the chair, "Are you sure it's warm enough in here---want me to put another log on the fire?"

"It's fine," she mumbles.

He finally gets himself settled when she whispers, "I'm sorry Cooper----I'm sorry you've been so disappointed with me."

"Forget it----just get some sleep."

"What if another snake comes in?"

"You got my permission to hit it with the poker stick."

"Cooper?"

He sighs, "What now, Althea?"  

"Please come back to bed-----it's cold and I know you can't be comfortable sleeping in that chair."

He murmurs to himself, "I'll be less comfortable sleeping next to you, and not being to touch you."

"What?"  

Cooper throws the blanket off and stomps back to the bed, this time removing his pants, and climbing in. They lay there looking at each other, their faces are only inches apart.   She reaches over to him and pulls the blankets up around them, and then she kisses him softly. He's trying hard not to respond, but his lower half is going to full attention.  This time he will not stop, no matter what she says, as he reaches out for her and takes her down into the bed, kissing her repeatedly. He finds her breasts eagerly and goes from one to the other quickly. He's not going to give her any time to change her mind this time as his hand goes between her legs, and begins to probe. He can feel her moisture, it's all he needs as he pushes her thigh back and starts to enter her.. She pushes gently on his chest as she feels him entering her. Her eyes grow bigger as she feels his size, she's saying to herself, "I'll never get all of that inside me," but at the same time she's more than anxious to give it a try.  She groans as he keep pushes it in deeper, her body is on fire, as she instinctively starts to relax her muscles, taking him in. He pauses for a second, waiting for her to adjust and he

shoves it the remainder all the way in.

Her whole body jerks, and she gasps out loud. He starts to thrusts deeper and faster, and she follows his pace. The shirt is getting in his way as he has to keep pushing it up to get to her breasts. He pulls it up and she continues to pull it the rest of the way off. He goes to her right breast eagerly, there is no gentle teasing. He takes the whole breasts into his mouth and sucks, while his right hand reaches under her buttocks and brings her up to his body, thrusting deeper and deeper. Althea feels her whole body responding, even her toes are stating to tingle. Her hands are at the back of his head pulling him tighter to her bosom.. He releases the right and goes to the left, sucking and pulling on the nipple. He then stops and moves up to her lips, looking into her eyes. She's staring back at him, and then she reaches for him, kissing him long and deep, her tongue is now searching for his. Cooper is breathing hard, as his tempo picks up the pace; his thrusts are deeper and faster. He starts kissing the side of her neck, causing her body to arch upwards against his manhood. He comes completely out of her and then shoves it back in, repeatedly.  She's gasping louder with each penetration, whispering his name. Cooper knows he can't hold it much longer, and he's trying to get his mind clear if he should come inside of her. The decision is made for him as he can hold it no longer and the fluid fills her. He's trying to roll off her, but Althea is holding on too tight.  They both are spilling their fluids, and Cooper knows he can't withdraw now, if he wanted to. Her body is too hot, and too responding. Cooper is again confused at her response to making love, but he's sure not going to question it. His whole body starts to jerk, as he continues to release the fluid, and she's making no movement to leave him. Their bodies are glistening with sweat, as he lays on top of her, kissing her gently. They lay for a long time and then he gently rolls off of her, she snuggles up to him and within minutes, she's sound asleep. He lays there, looking at the ceiling, and blinking his eyes, still not sure of what just happened. He shakes his head and looks down at her, he smiles softly and mumbles "I was right Althea----you are quite a challenge-----------but I think I like it."

The next day Will and the wagons come to move Cooper and Althea out. The river is out of his banks and in some places it's almost three feet deep. The wagons have to stop on the higher ground and ropes are thrown out to Cooper, he and Althea will have to hold on to the ropes and make their way to higher ground. Cooper lets Althea go first and when she's safely to the wagons, he follows. They stand by Will and the others as they all watch the water creeping closer to the shack.  Cooper puts his arm around Altheas' waist, he knows that in only hours the shack will be gone. They look at each other as Will tells Cooper he can rebuild.

Cooper nods, and looks to Althea----"Yep, and this time it will be built bigger and stronger----the way a home should be built." He looks into her eyes, "But it won't be a real "home" unless you're there to share it with me------will you marry me, Althea?"

Will and the other men look at Althea and then to Cooper. She smiles real big and throws her arms around him, "YES, YES I WILL MARRY YOU."

Cooper smiles back, picks her up and swings her around, "We'll get married as soon as we can find a preacher".

Will starts clearing his throat and the other men laugh. "Uh, Coop------I think since I do sermons on the weekends, that qualifies me to do a little 'marrying", wouldn't you  think?"

Cooper grins, "Whenever you're ready Will----you can marry us."

The congratulations are being given and everyone is slapping Cooper on the back, Will speaks up------"Well, first of all we got some unfinished business to take care of with this river----and the holy bonds of matrimony will just have to wait. We got more people to pick up and move to higher ground." Will's voice gets sad, "We also have some neighbors to bury----and we’ve got homes to rebuild. Livestock to round up----but the main thing is---we have to thank the good Lord for his mercy. Tomorrow morning is Sunday------we will meet at the mound where the church used to be---and we'll give thanks.------Cooper, Althea----will you be there?"

Cooper nods, tightening his hold around Althea----"We'll be there Will----you can count on it!"

A month has passed and the new cabins are being built with the lumber that is coming down from the North. Everyone has pitched in, the town people and all the ranchers are working side by side to rebuild, starting with the church first. The loss of life was six, countless livestock was missing, and the last of the carcasses had been buried. The river was almost back to normal. They worked all day, putting up the sides to the new homes, and at night everyone would share their food.             

The new roof is going up on the church as Althea brings food to the hungry builders.

Cooper sees her coming and climbs down off the roof to greet her. He kisses her cheek and reaches for the food basket, wolfing down the biscuits. He stops and looks at her, she's smiling from ear to ear. He looks into her eyes, "What's wrong?"

"Cooper---I'm pregnant!"

His face lights up as he drops the biscuit and reaches for her, "Are you sure?"

She nods, "I just saw the doctor-----I'm one month along!"             

He starts laughing and smiling, brushing his hair back and saying, "WOW" Then he reaches over and kisses her long and hard, all the men stop working and making wolf calls. Cooper starts yelling back at them, "Hey everybody---Althea is pregnant ---we're going to have a baby!"             

Althea grabs Coopers' arm, "Cooper----do we want them to know----we're not even married yet?"               

He picks her up and swings her around, "Well, we're going to be -----just as

soon as the church is ready------I don't care if the whole town knows it---in

fact I'll tell them again-----WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY-EVERYBODY HEAR THAT?"            

Everyone starts cheering, and Cooper kisses his 'bride-to be'.  He looks into her eyes, "I've wanted to have a family for so long----you will make a great mother, Althea, and I promise I will make you happy!"              

 

The young boy watches as the man reaches down to lift the smaller boy up on the back of the pony. The smaller boy is riding as well any of the older boys and the man is proud. Showing very little emotion, but it's there. The older boy is fighting back his emotions, as mixed as they might be. He feels happy for the smaller one, and at the same time, he feels hurt. He watches the man as he watches the boy riding the pony, the man grunts----"A fine warrior you will be, Running Wolf-----a good Apache!"

Later the boy is taken off his pony and the man takes him for his lessons, in knife and tomahawk throwing. The tomahawk is as big as he is, but the man still insists that he learn to throw it. The boy doesn't laugh too much, he's very somber when he's around the tall man. The older boy watches for a while and then he returns to his lodging. Winter is coming and he will have to catch his food, and preserve it. At night he goes to his books, and stares at the pictures. He has read each book from cover to cover, some of the books are in French, and he’s mastered the English and French very well. He studies the books' pictures on anatomy and the skeleton pictures. He touches each part of his body and names the bones and their purpose. This helps him to mend the bones of the small animals that he finds. He's fixed broken wings and helped to mend the foot of a small fawn that he found back in the forest. He looks down at his own foot and sees how it still points in the opposite direction. He smiles to himself as he reads a passage in one of the books, "Physician---heel thy self."

He lies on the floor and looks up through where the tent poles cross, and he can see the stars. He dreams of being a Doctor, so he can help mend the bones of humans as well. Maybe one of these days he can help to straighten the bones in his own foot. He remembers his Mother's words that books are the future.  He feels sad remembering her and the tears threaten to come, he will not let them come, as he recalls the bearded man that wept for her. He has learned to write his name and he scribbles it out on the dirt floor---Cooper.  He writes his own name next to it--Jean Luke.

In the next few months Jean Luke's life will change and so will Jean Cooper/Running Wolf.  A stranger has come into the village and he knows the ways of the Apaches very well. He seems to be friends with Grey Wolf, but at the same time there is a hatred for him. The man is of medium height, dark hair and eyes, he says very little. Grey Wolf has paid the man for hides, saying they are some of the best he's ever seen. The man refuses the offers Grey Wolf has given him, the chief is anxious to settle up----telling him he can take his choice of any woman and many horses. The man still refuses, saying he will take the hides to other tribes.  Grey Wolf has called a meeting to get rid of the stranger and take his hides.

Jean Luke has heard the discussion and he warns the stranger. The stranger is grateful and offers to take Jean Luke from the village, but he refuses to go. The stranger questions his reasons for staying, as he has seen Grey Wolf hit him for no reason. For the first time, Jean Luke reveals why he can't leave, he has a little brother to protect. The stranger can't believe that Grey Wolf would turn upon his son in order to raise another boy who was part white and part Cherokee. The boy shows him his twisted foot, "I am a big disappointment to my father---I mean Grey Wolf---I am weak---he doesn't like those that are weak!"             

The stranger puts his hand on Jean Luke's shoulder----you are not weak ---just different---and God has a place for special people like you. I see that you like to read--don't ever stop reading the books---they are the future, and they will take you away from this place." He goes to his packhorse and takes out some books and gives them to Jean Luke, "Read them, my boy, and don't let anyone take their teachings from your mind. If you ever decide to try and leave here, I will be back within the year for more hides to be traded---if you want to come with me----I will take you to a place called Utah---have you ever heard of that place?"              

Jean Luke shakes his head, "No, is it near Canada---I would like to see Canada---I want to see my Mother's grave?"               

The stranger smiles, "It's a good ways from your Canada---but I have a feeling that you will get there someday Jean Luke----and you will make something of yourself."

The stranger turns to leave, and Jean Luke grabs his arm, "One more question----do you know a man called Hayes Cooper---a Texas Ranger?"

The stranger thinks for a minute, "No son, don't think I do----is he important to you?"

Jean Luke thinks about the bearded man asking him to come with him to Canada, saying he would raise him as his son but Grey Wolf 's threats held him back. He had to protect young Cooper, he had made a promise to his Mother as she lay dying. He looks up at the stranger and says quietly, "Yeah, he was the closest to a father's love that I could have ever imagined possible."

The stranger's heart is tearing for the boy, "Then don't give up hope of finding him---I'll keep my eyes and ears open and if I run across this Hayes Cooper I'll let him know you're looking for him."

The stranger rides away, and Jean Luke hobbles back to his tent as fast as he can. He will hide the books, taking them out only when he knows it's safe to read them. During the day he spends time with his brother, young Cooper is already looking more like an Indian than Jean Luke. His auburn hair has darkened, and so has his skin. His eyes are a dark blue at times, looking almost black. But Jean Luke can see his real Father's eyes, a warm blue/gray. He wants to tell his brother so many things but he knows he can't. If young Cooper repeated these things to Grey Wolf, there would be hell to pay. Every time young Cooper says the word "pache" Jean Luke cringes. He says to himself, "You are not Apache---you are half white and half Cherokee French."

           

Cooper has finally been able to start on his new home. He was staying with the Stantons through the week, going into town to be with Althea as often as he could. He has been telling her of the rooms he will build, and an extra room for just the baby. "I think in the bigger cities they call them nurseries, "Althea says teasing him."

He holds her closer to him as they lies in her bed, his hand massaging her belly. "Whatever they call them, the room will get plenty of use," he replies kissing her cheek.

"Just think, we have been married for almost four months. Are you tired of me yet," Althea asks.

"If I were tired of you Althea Cooper, would I be talking of making another baby with you?"

She laughs and goes into his arms, "I want to give you plenty of babies---I hope I conceive as fast the second time as I did the first."

"Well, if not, I'll have to go and get another snake to place in our bed---I'll always be grateful to that water moccasin, if it hadn't been for him, we might not have gotten that second chance to make love."

She kisses him tenderly, "And the first time was all it took."

He returns her kiss, "Do you know what it is----I've heard women talking and sometimes they say they know what the baby will be----is it going to be a boy or a girl?"

"I don't know, sweetheart--I've never been pregnant, I don't know what to compare the feelings with, and besides I think those women are just guessing."

"Darn----I just can't stand the waiting---I wish there was someway we could tell."

She strokes his beard, "Well, honey until they can invent some way of looking into a woman's stomach---you'll just have to wait and see."

Cooper sighs, "Big chance of that ever happening, huh?"

She sighs, too and goes into his arms, "About as much chance as the invention of a pill that can stop a woman from getting pregnant."

He kisses her, "That! ---We will have no use for-------I want a whole passel of kids--I want so many I'll be tripping over them!"

She rubs noses with him laughing, "Do you plan to keep me barefoot and pregnant?"

"I don't know about the barefoot part---but pregnant---yes!"

 

Part 11

 

Cooper and Althea are waiting the arrival of their first born. The Stanton’s have come to the Cooper home to help in the delivery. They have finally made Cooper leave the house and wait out by the barn, to just to get him out from underfoot.

Cooper is pacing around the corral and Will is teasing him. "Come on Coop---it's always the first ones that cause so much trouble----the next ones will pop out like watermelon seeds!"

"You're a lot of help, I'm sure you were just as nervous as I am when your first one was born----and I don't think I want anymore----it's too nerve racking."

Will looks back at him and grins, "Nope---I wasn't nervous at all---passed out---I slept through the whole delivery!"

Cooper starts to say something and then he hears a baby cry, he looks to Will, "It's here---did you hear that?"

Will says very calmly, "Nope---didn't hear a thing!" Then he runs past Cooper shouting to him "Don't just stand there---your baby is here!"

Cooper starts running after Will and they hit the front door at the same time, neither can get in. While Cooper is pulling on the door, Will is pushing--finally they both fall through the screen door and land at the foot of the bed. Becky Stanton laughs and shakes her head, and Althea tries to rise up from the bed, with the little bundle in her arms.

She smiles at her husband and gently motions for him to come and hold the baby. He stands there frozen and Will prods him, "Go see your kid, he ain't got no teeth yet--can't bite ya!"               

Cooper starts towards the bed, rubbing his pants. He reaches out to take the baby, then draws back', "My hands are dirty."

Althea smiles, "I don't think she'll mind."

Cooper's eyes get wide, "She? We have a little girl?"

Althea holds her out to him, "She's not going to break---just hold her gently."

The Stanton’s watch as Cooper takes his daughter and holds her up to him, "She's beautiful----just like you Althea."

Will scratches his chin, "Thank God she takes after you Althea----don't think we could take it if she looked like Coop!"

Becky slaps her husband playfully. "Well duty calls, I got to get back to work, being the new mayor is a very tiring job---we'll see the three of you in church on Sunday."

Cooper sits down on the side of the bed, and they both caress their baby. The baby starts to whimper again and Althea begins to nurse her. Cooper watches as the baby pulls on her Mother's nipple till she gets it just right to suckle.

"Does that hurt?" he asks.

She looks back at her husband with that "look"---"Not anymore than when you do it."

He laughs, kissing them both. "What are we going to name her?"

Althea sighs, and looks at her husband tenderly, "Would you like to name her Lily?"

Cooper shakes his head slowly, "No---that wouldn't be fair to you---no---you name her!"

Althea thinks a minute, "I like the name ‘Jane’----do you like it?"

Cooper repeats the name a time or two, "Yeah---yeah I like it---Jane Cooper!"

Without realizing it, their daughter's name is only a few letters different from the name of the son that Cooper doesn't know he has.

 

It's been almost a year now since the stranger told Jean Luke that he would be back, the boy secretly waits for him. Jean Luke is almost twelve now, and little Cooper is almost four. Jean Luke is being pushed further and further out of Cooper's life. Grey Wolf has forbid Jean Luke to play with his brother anymore, saying there is no time for play, Running Wolf

is too busy learning the way of his ancestors. Young Cooper has no time for his big brother because he can't do the things that the other boys do, the riding and shooting bow and arrows.  Cooper is being taught to hunt, and they leave for weeks on hunting trips, just Cooper and his father--Grey Wolf.

Jean Luke spends more and more time with his books. He has read all the books that the stranger has left him, his mind craving for more knowledge. At night he has dreams of finding Canada, he will take young Cooper and they will travel there to find where their Mother is buried. His dreams all end the same--Grey Wolf is standing over him, daring him to try and leave.

Grey Wolf and Running Wolf have been gone for days, when they return they have many kills and Grey Wolf brags on his ‘sons' ability to kill. Jean Luke is standing in the shadows listening to little Cooper brag about how he shot the deer with his bow and arrow. Grey Wolf sees Jean Luke standing by the tree, and he whispers something to Running Wolf/Cooper. The boy puts his bow up to his chin and lets the arrow fly. It narrowly misses Jean Luke and Grey Wolf laughs.

Young Cooper starts to laugh and then seeing the hurt look on his brother's face, he stops laughing. Grey Wolf sees the looks between them and backhands Cooper. The boy falls to the ground, and Grey Wolf is over him, telling him not to be weak like his big brother.

"Again--Running Wolf---and this time---hit your target or you will get more of the same."

Jean Luke is forced to stand at the tree, while Running Wolf reloads. He aims at his brother and hits him, the arrow hitting just above his elbow. Jean Luke does not flinch and does not cry out. Grey Wolf and the other braves are all shouting and cheering and slapping young Cooper on the shoulder. They all walk off and Cooper stops to look back at his brother as Jean Luke holds his arm and goes down to the ground in pain. A single tear forms in Cooper's eyes, and then he too walks away.

Hours later find Jean Luke down on the river washing his wound, he does not show any emotion or remorse towards his brother. He hears a voice call out to him softly, he turns and the stranger is in the trees motioning for him . Jean Luke hobbles over to him and the man helps to clean his wound, cursing Grey Wolf.

"Are you ready to leave now boy?"

"I can't leave---I promised my mother that I would always look out for Jean Cooper, I made her that promise as she lay dying."

The man shakes his head, "Jean Luke---you were only a small boy when you made your mother that promise. I'm sure that your mother meant well, but she had no right laying all of that responsibility on the shoulders of a 8year old boy. If she knew what just happened here, she would tell you what I am telling you. You can't help your brother, Grey Wolf has taught him the ways of the Apache, he's too far gone for you to help him. Help yourself, Jean Luke. Make something out of yourself. Come with me Jean Luke, before it's too late."

Jean Luke starts to tremble, "I can't leave my brother."

                 

The man puts his hands on the boys shoulders, "There will be more games like the one in which your brother was forced to play---next time you might not be so lucky."

"What if we take Jean Cooper with us---will you take us both to that place?"

"He will not come with us Jean Luke---but--I will give you till midnight to decide what you are going to do. I leave at midnight---with or without you!"

Jean Luke tries to talk to his brother but Cooper is too busy to listen. He is putting resin on his bow strings and bragging about getting another kill. He turns to his older brother, "Is your arm okay? I didn't mean to hurt you."                   

Jean Luke nods, "It will heal--just like all of the scars---I am leaving Jean Cooper--come with me."                    

"No---I am Apache----this is my home!"      

Jean Luke looks at his little brother, "You are not Apache---and Grey Wolf is not your real Father----a man called Cooper is your Father---and he's a white man."

Cooper turns around angry, "You lie---I am not white---I am Apache!"

"Please, Cooper, listen -----"

"Do not call me that---I am Running Wolf."

Jean Luke grabs his brother and throws him to the ground, scaring himself with the physical strength that he has gained. "Listen to me good---you are not Apache----your Father is white and he's a good man---he doesn't know about you because Grey Wolf threatened to not only kill the white man, but us as well---you and me---and you were just a baby when he made that threat!!! Our mother died trying to save Cooper's life, so we could all go to her Canada, our mother was of Cherokee and French.  I have the Apache blood that runs through the man that you call ‘Father/--I am Apache---not you---do you understand me, little brother?"

Running Wolf jumps up from the ground and starts calling for Grey Wolf, Jean Luke tries to silence him, but the boy takes off running and screaming. Jean Luke grabs his books and starts running as fast as his lame leg will allow him. The stranger is waiting with the horses, he helps Jean Luke to mount and they take off as fast as the horses will carry them. They

head west.    

The first few days that Jean Luke and the stranger travel, has the boy gasping at all of the scenery around him. He had never been more than 5 miles away from Grey Wolf's village, now he is taken in by a whole new world. The stranger watches him as Jean Luke's eyes try to take in everything around him. He calls out to him.

"If you think this is beautiful---wait till you see the place I'm taking you to, there are huge lakes in this place called Utah, one especially is very big and breathtaking."

Jean Luke smiles, and he laughs---the man is pleased.

At night Jean Luke has mixed emotions on leaving his little brother behind, and the stranger sees this sadness. He watches the boy walk around on his lame leg, and then he goes back to his writing. Jean Luke walks over to the man as he is using a small instrument against a piece of paper, making words show up.

"What is that---how do you make that make words?"

The man smiles and hands the object to Jean Luke, "It's called a pencil, here you take it."

"What do I do with it---how does it work?"

"You know how to do your name in the dirt----well, this is almost like that---except smaller---here I will print your name out on the paper, so you can see."

The man prints the boy's name and shows him what it looks like on paper----"You see----now you try it."

For hours the boy tries putting his name on the paper, "Smaller letters Jean Luke---that's it--you've got it."

Jean Luke's eyes grow big, "I can put anything on this paper that I want with this----pencil?"

The man laughs, "Yes Jean Luke---anything. That's how the words got into all of those books that you read. Then back in the big cities the words are put out in ink, as they go through these machines called printing presses and then they print out bigger pieces called newspapers and books!"                    

Jean Luke's eyes grow big as he continues to listen to the man, "Is that what you're doing---writing a book?"                   

The man takes off his spectacles and looks at Jean Luke, "No---this here is just a journal, it's something that I write into every day, it stores dates and interesting things that I do every day. Someday, maybe it will be a book, but I don't see it happening in my time---but

maybe some day---in your lifetime. You too, need to start a journal Jean Luke, and keep those memories alive that you have stored in that mind of yours."

Jean Luke nods his head, "Yes---yes---a journal---but I will put down only the good things so I don't make anyone sad."

"Have you mastered writing your name yet, Jean Luke?"

The boy shows him the paper with his name, beside this is the name COOPER. The man smiles and gives his approval, "What about your last name Jean Luke---can you print it out?"

"No----I don't know how to spell it------it's called Mo-nay---but my Mother was French, does that sound right---Mo-nay?"

"Your Mother probably pronounced it Monet, the French have different spellings from the English, just like your name of Jean Luke---in English your name would be pronounced like a girls' name, in French it's pronounced as John or Sean."

The boy looks at him, "What is your name?"

The man reaches out to shake Jean Luke's hand, but the boy does not know what to do. The man puts his hand into his and gently pumps it up and down, "This is called a handshake Jean Luke, it's the way two men greet each other, and become friends, my name is Sam---Samuel Clemens, and it's nice to know you Jean Luke."

The boy shakes his hand "It's nice to know you too-----Sam."

They laugh, "Can I be your friend, Jean Luke?"

The boy thinks a minute, "I've never had a friend before-----yes."

They talk late into the night, Sam tells Jean Luke about a place called Salt Lake, and the beautiful lakes surrounding, one huge one in particular. He'd met a man years earlier called Brigham Young and Sam Clemens wants to talk with him more and learn about the Mormon religion.

A year has passed and Jean Luke has been with Sam Clemens in Salt Lake. He is going to school and learning more and more about what all there is around him. He has taken to reading, writing and spelling as natural as breathing. Now he is learning figures and how to add, subtract, and even dividing. The new world of Arithmetic and biology are opening up for him. Sam takes him on trips to visit with friends that are doctors, and they take him under their wing, and let him watch as they perform minor surgeries. The boy is soaking up the knowledge like a sponge, asking all kinds of questions.  Mr. Clemens is proud.

Now Jean Luke's life will change again as Sam and other colleagues confront Jean Luke about going to Europe to become a doctor. The boy is confused about leaving, knowing it will take him further away from Canada and Jean Cooper. The time has come for Jean Luke to make up his mind, the boat leaves in just three days.

Jean Luke is sitting in his room, and Sam approaches him.

The man takes a pipe and starts smoking it, his hair is turning gray now and he wears his beard shaped almost to a point over his chin.

"Jean Luke, I have a deal to make with you."

"What's that?"

"If you will go to Europe and learn all you can about doctoring, when you get back I will take you personally to Canada, and together we will look for your mother's resting place?"

The boys' eyes light up, and become misty, "You will?"

"Yes Jean Luke---I promise you. This trip to Europe is going to be for several years---it takes time to be a doctor----but you have so much knowledge inside of that mind of yours, I have no doubts you will make it----my friends at the institute say you are more than ready for the challenge---what do you say Jean Luke?"      

"I've been thinking about something for a long time."

"What Jean Luke?"

"If I make something of myself, then maybe I can come back and take my little brother far away from the man he calls ’Father’---maybe I can take him to Canada!"

"That's the way I like to hear you talk----all dreams are possible---you hold onto those dreams, boy---they're the future---I should know---one of my dreams is coming true."

"What do you mean?"

The man takes his pipe and hits it on the bottom of his boot, "Remember that journal I was writing while we were on our way here----well---someone back east has taken interest in it----they're going to print it."

"That's great Sam----yes---I will go to Europe and I will make you proud."

Sam reaches out and touches the boy's face, "You've already made me proud Jean Luke and I know your mother must be bending the ears of all of the angels, bragging about you. I have never met anyone that has influenced my life the way you have. I study you and your innocence, I see a boy with so much gusto and yet you're like a butterfly that is still trying to break out of it's cocoon. I think there's a story in you, and believe me the way my mind is working, don't be surprised if I don't create one of my future characters after you!"

"A character in your books---about me?"

"Yeah, I see you as a very mischievous boy, in another time, another place. Don't ever give up on your dreams Jean Luke----don't stop looking for this man called Cooper. You will find many crossroads in your life, but they will prepare you for what's to come. I learned many tricks of the trade in wanting to be a writer, and you will find yourself doing many trades to get you to your destination. In order for me to write, I had to feel first hand what was out there, that's how we met---was my ability to trade furs and hides. I had many teachers along the way, they were all instrumental in what I've accomplished.

The same goes for you Jean Luke----your dreams are there for the taking, take only what you are capable of handling and do it well--Just leave a few dreams for someone else to reach out for, okay, Jean Luke?

Jean Luke will travel to Europe, and now young Cooper is fighting his trials and tribulations as the voice of his older brother begin to haunt him.

He now has doubts about his ability to become a good warrior. He has not told Grey Wolf about Jean Luke telling him his father was a white man. He continues his duty to be a great warrior and to make Grey Wolf proud, but at times his heart is not in it. He spends more time away from the other boys, thinking about what Jean Luke has said. He looks at his skin, he's just as dark as the other boys, but it can't be Apache blood. Jean Luke said there was no Apache blood running through him, then means the dark skin had to come from his mother's Cherokee and French. His eyes were blue at times, other times even lighter. Jean Luke had told him of his Mother's piercing blue eyes, and her warm smile in one of the few conversations he shared with his little brother. He talked about the man called Cooper and how much his mother loved him, and he loved her. He jumps up from the ground when he sees Grey Wolf coming towards him, it is time to lay the daydreams aside---it's time to be good Apache!

The next five years will have Jean Cooper having even more doubts about his life. By day he is a fierce competitor vying for his "Father's" approval, at night he is spending more and more time alone, sometimes going off in the woods for days. He thinks about the man that Jean Luke says is his real Father, he wonders what he looks like, what kind of warrior is he? He must be a fighter, for Jean Luke says he fought a Comanchero named Caddo and could have beaten him, had not Grey Wolf let his braves interfere.  Jean Luke says his Father was a Texas Ranger and you have to be tough to be one of those. He also said the man had nice eyes, that he could be trusted. It's been almost nine years since his Mother died, he wonders if his Father is still alive.

             

"Dat burn it Coop----is that all you're going to ever have, --is girls?"

Will is teasing Cooper again on the birth of Cooper's third daughter, who is almost 3 weeks old.

"You don't question what the good Lord gives you Will----- I have three beautiful, healthy, daughters----I feel blessed!"

"You can say that again-----won't be long till my Rachel will be having thoughts about boys----and you know what that leads to, don't you?"

"Boys?-----What are you talking about, your Rachel is only about 12 or 13 now----you going to start letting her think about boys at that age?"

Will looks at his friend and frowns, "Coop----I'll let you in on a little secret---we don't "let" our daughters think about boys----they do that on their own---and you're going to find that out real soon when the boys start coming around your Jane!"    

Cooper has been plowing fields all day, he stops to rest and Will hands him a glass of lemonade. He wipes the sweat from his forehead, "Well, I got news for you, Jane is only eight and it's going to be a long time ---a l-o-n-g time before I allow boys to come "sparkin" her.  If any boy tries to get out of line with any of my daughters, they'll answer to me and my double barrel shotgun!"

Will laughs," I pity any young man that tries to court your girls, so what did you and Althea name this one?"

Cooper hesitates, "We named her Lillian --- Lily---for short."

Will scratches his chin, "You think that was a good idea, naming her after your Lily?"

"It wasn't my idea, it was Althea's. ----Althea knows that I love her, she has no doubts about that----she's very secure in  my love for her----there's no room for jealousy in a name."

As Will is leaving he sees young Jane coming to the fields, bringing a basket of food. As they pass he reaches down and pecks her on the cheek, she blushes, then goes running to her father.  He reaches out and swings her around with the basket still in her hand, she squeals with delight and gives her Daddy a big hug and a kiss.

"Mama said for me to make sure that you eat all of your lunch, so I am going to sit with you till you eat---all of I!"

Cooper rubs his hands together as Jane opens up the basket, "Now when do I have to be forced to eat your mother's cooking? Your mother is the best cook in all of Texas!"

They sit together and Jane shares a sandwich with her favorite guy. "How is your little sister?"

"Which one, I have two now, Daddy?"          

"Both-----is Abby helping your Mother to take care of Lily?"

"Yes, Daddy---what time she isn't trying to primp--and priss around in Mama's old dresses. She put lipstick on today---and Mama told her to take it off that you would get mad!"

"You're darn right about that----I'll tan her hide for wearing all of that war paint!"

"Oh Daddy---you won't tan her hide, Mama says that you've never spanked either of us!"

Cooper reaches out kisses his daughter's cheek, "Well---if she doesn't stay out of that makeup----I might just start----tanning her hide!"

Jane laughs, and Cooper looks at her and smiles. She was his little girl, and he was more partial to her, maybe because she was the first born, or maybe because she looked so much like Althea.  She had her Mother's reddish blonde hair and her eyes were blue/green, just like Altheas'. And, just like Althea she was so naive. He wondered if Althea had told her about the birds and the bees, at the same hoping she would continue to be shy. He was in no hurry for the boys to come around and just the thought of one of them taking advantage of her made his blood boil. When she was first born, he hid his disappointment from Althea about wanting a boy first. It didn't take him long to be completely wrapped around her little finger.

He finishes his lunch and kisses his daughter goodbye, "Tell your Mother I want to finish this field, it will be late when I get home----and Jane---tell your Mother I have to see a man ‘about a snake’!!"

Jane looks at her Father and he winks back at her.  She giggles, she's very familiar with the story about the snake.  But, she feels a lot of the story has been left out, cause every time Daddy says something about the ‘snake’ her Mama gets a flushed look, and Daddy has a silly grin on his face!

 

Jean Luke is now returning from Europe, he has spent nearly seven years there. He has gone to all of the finest schools of medicine, Sam Clemens has seen to it that Jean Luke gets all of the financial support he needs, and he will continue to support him when he comes back to the states. Jean Luke is one of the youngest students to go through La Salles Institute of Medicine, and to get a degree.  He will go into practice with another one of Clemens' friends  in Calgary. Sam hasn't told JeanLuke that his practice will be less than 400 miles away from his Mother's birthplace in the Saskatchewan Mountains Sam Clemens meets Jean Luke in New York City and from there they will travel across Canada till they reach their destination. They both listen to each other’s stories about their lives. Sam looks at Jean Luke with pride, he has turned into a handsome young man, the dark hair and eyes enhance his good looks. He's tall, well over six feet, he's put weight on that skinny frame that Sam remembers and when he talks, his whole face lights up with all of the things that he wants to tell his good friend. Sam listens intensely and nods his head.

When they reach Edmonton, they travel by dog sled to the mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, just the way his mother described it. He can almost hear her voice talking to him, just the way she would talk when he was a little boy. It takes them weeks before they can find the burial place. They have searched all over the mountains, and finally a fur trapper tells of a small cross near a waterfall, bearing the name "LILY". Jean Luke is ecstatic; he can't wait to get back on the trail again. By the end of the third week, they find it. The brush has grown up around the burial spot and it's unclear exactly where she's buried. They find the cross, but it's barely readable. Jean Luke touches the wooden cross, gently rubbing his fingers across it. Sam walks up to him, "I would believe that this Cooper would have wanted her to face the waterfall, and yet be close to all of the wildflowers that grow in this area. There are some wild lilies growing over there, and the trees are plentiful-----what do you think, Jean Luke---about this spot?"

Jean Luke nods as they pick out a place to put the cross back in the ground.  Sam watches him as the boy kneels down to place the cross. He touches his shoulder, "The cross will be replaced by a tombstone Jean Luke, I have one ordered---you can put the inscription on it."

Jean Luke looks up at the man that has been like a father to him, "Can I have a few minutes alone---with my Mother?"              

Sam nods and steps away. He watches as Jean Luke refuses to let the tears come, he walks back over to him. "Remember what your Mother said----tears are angels' kisses---they clean the soul---you've held your emotions back long enough Jean Luke---let it go, son-----let it go."

Sam walks away as Jean Luke's shoulders shake, the boy finally cries. He has almost twenty years of grief bottled up inside, the tears come freely. Sam Clemens wipes his eyes and looks up at the sky. "Your mother is smiling down on you Jean Luke----and the angels  are here--- with their kisses."

They stay in the mountains until the tombstone is ready. Jean Luke has it engraved: LILY,MY LOVE--ALSLEEP IN THE ARMS OF ANGELS

Jean Luke will resume his practice, and Sam Clemens will go back to New York, but later travel down to the southern states, around Mississippi and the Bayou country. His books are getting more attention, and he still has visions of a young boy---free as the wind, riding down the Mississippi river---on a homemade raft.

               

Young Cooper is growing into a strong warrior. The muscles are starting to bulge and he too is turning into a handsome young man. His hair is turning light from too much sun and when the sun hits it just right, it has a red color. He also notices that he has to pull his facial hairs out more often than the other boys, his eyes are turning a lighter blue, and this infuriates Grey Wolf.

Cooper has built his body stronger, and he can whip any of the other braves. He has turned more and more to fighting with his hands, and not relying on weapons. He talks very little and he stands up to Grey Wolf when he's challenged. Grey Wolf is still the stronger, but Cooper never walks away. Instead he will take the loss as just another way to improve himself, and each time he faces his "Father", the fights last longer. He has learned to use his mind to out think his opponents, knowing what they are going to do, before they even know

themselves. Grey Wolf sees the strength in Running Wolf, and he remembers how the white man fought Caddo when he could barely stand. The white man gave Grey Wolf reason to be afraid of him, and now Running Wolf was reminding Grey Wolf that he too, was to be feared.

It's Running Wolf's thirteenth summer and he is to become a man, he will lose his virginity to the woman of his choice. Grey Wolf has picked only the most beautiful of the squaws, and the most experienced to take his son into manhood. The other 13 year olds can't make their choice till Running Wolf has made his. He makes his choice of a tall and beautiful woman, about twice his age. Grey Wolf agrees with his son's choice. When Running Wolf has had his fill of the woman, then Grey Wolf will take her. Running Wolf and the woman go into her lodge, and they will stay till Running Wolf has his fill.

Three days later, they emerge and the shouts and cheers go up. Now the other boys can take their choice, and Grey Wolf summons the woman to his lodging. Young Cooper looks at the woman and she turns to look in his direction. He says nothing, walking over and taking Grey Wolf's hand from the woman.

"She is mine-----I will take her again-----when I feel the urge."

Grey Wolf shoves Cooper, but he stands his ground.  "I will have my way with her now----she comes with me!"

The fight begins and Cooper is fighting as though his life depends on it. Grey Wolf is beating him bad, Cooper will not give in, as he continues to fight his ‘Father’. They both are dripping wet with sweat, neither wanting to give in. Finally, Grey Wolf makes eye contact with his braves and they charge at Cooper, beating him unmercifully. Grey Wolf walks over to the woman and literally throws her into his lodge. He closes the flap, and

watches as the braves continue to beat ‘his son’.

Jean Luke will leave Canada after almost two years, he wants to try and find Grey Wolf's village, and again, he will try to talk to his brother about leaving. He will head for the Oklahoma badlands. Sam Clemens has traveled to Texas, in search of new writing ideas. He stops in a small Texas town called Bovine.

 

Part 12

         

The town of Bovine is growing; the railroad has finally come through, much to the happiness of the stranger that has stopped in the little town. A small problem in the engine room and they will soon be on their way. The stranger decides to look around and maybe jot down a few ideas in his journal. He hears the old timers talk about a flood that came through their little town, almost wiping it off the map. The man listens intensely.

Will Stanton has been Bovine's mayor for almost 15 yrs now, he watches the stranger as he goes from one man to the next asking questions about the flood. He introduces himself and asks the man to come back to his office. The man sits down, and takes out a pipe, hitting the bottom of his shoe first, and then lighting it.

"Folks don't like to remember the flood----it brings back too many sad memories!"

"Understandable----but it would be good reading for the people back in Virginia City and further north---not that they would like to read about someone else's hardship, but technology is changing and new inventions are being made on how to build dams, and so forth."

Will scratches his chin, "Are you one of them writers?"      

"Guilty!!! Guilty as charged my good man, ----I've been known to dabble to put pictures and words on paper, and into books----yes, I am a writer----my name is Samuel Clemens!"

The two men shake hands, and Will is grinning from ear to ear----"I've heard of you-----my kids are reading one of your books in school, something like a prince and a beggar boy?"

The man laughs, "Prince and The Pauper-----yes---I wrote that----did your kids like it?"

"Are you kidding? They've read it over and over again----now they are reading something about a boy----painting fences?"                   

They've been talking a good twenty minutes when a young blond headed girl comes in. She excuses herself, "I'm sorry Uncle Will, but Daddy says he's going to stay home with Mama a little longer----she's still crying."

Will reaches out and comforts the girl, Sam asks, "What's wrong----why is her Mama crying?"

Will puts his arm around Jane and introduces her to Sam----she recognizes the name immediately and is overjoyed at meeting him, but her happiness is shadowed. "Jane here---is our sheriff's oldest daughter----and her Mama is upset because she just lost a baby a couple of days ago--it would have been their fourth child."

"I am so sorry to hear about your loss--Jane---is it? But, you do have the good fortune to have brothers and sisters?"                  

"I have two sisters----and my Daddy says that we have to be grateful for what the good Lord gives us, we are not to question------we're just here on earth for a short time and we will not wallow in self pity-----and to be grateful for what we have."              

"Well, your Daddy sounds like a very smart and wise man." He reaches out and wipes a small tear from Jane's eyes, "You know someone very dear to me always says that tears are a angel's kiss ----------''

"And they cleanse the soul!" Jane finishes his sentence.

The man nods-----"You've heard the saying."

Jane smiles, "Yes----many times."

A man comes in to tell Sam the train is ready to leave so he gets up and shakes both Will's and Jane's hand. Will walks Sam to the train depot and Jane heads back to Aunt Becky's to finish her sewing.

Sam is lying back in his seat, his papers all laid out in front of him. He will nap as soon as the train pulls out. Another delay and Sam is still sitting in his club car. The train starts to pull out slowly and he watches as he sees young Jane coming out of the seamstress' parlor and runs towards a man that has long hair going over his collar. The man has a beard and is wearing buckskin pants and suspenders over a denim shirt. He hears a voice call out --------"Hey Cooper!"

Sam bolts forward in his seat, takes his glasses off and stares at the man in the buckskins, Cooper turns around and walks towards the man that called him, Jane walks beside him.

Sam starts running towards the back of the train as it's picking up speed and leaving the terminal. He grabs one of the passengers, "Do you know that man?"

The first passenger says 'no', the one next to him says, "I know him----that's our sheriff, sheriff Cooper!"                 

"Hayes Cooper?" asks Sam

The man nods his head and Sam yells for the conductor to stop the train. The train continues to pick up speed as the conductor says he has no authority to stop it, and the train will not stop till they reach their next destination.

"And, where is that?" yells Sam.

"TUCSON, Tucson, Arizona."                

Cooper, Jane, and the man they are talking to becomes smaller and smaller as the train pulls away. Sam leans on the railing at the back of the car, and says quietly, "I found him, Jean Luke, I found your Cooper!"                  

Three days later the train pulls into Tucson and Sam rushes to the telegraph office, sending a wire to Jean Luke in Calgary. He tells Jean Luke that Cooper is the sheriff in a town called Bovine, Texas. The wire will miss Jean Luke by one day, he has left Canada and is heading towards the Oklahoma badlands. He will try again to talk his brother into leaving Grey Wolf's village.

Ten days later, he's on horseback overlooking the village that he left nearly twelve years before. The memories start to rush at him, memories of his Mother, the times Grey Wolf would beat her and him, the humiliation and name calling because of his handicap, and the day his little brother was born. They had the same birth date, eight years apart. The hardest part was remembering that his Mother had died here; she was killed trying to save Cooper's life.                

Jean Luke shakes it all off, he can't dwell on the past; he must go forward. He rides into the village, sitting up as tall as he can, looking straight ahead. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the young braves approaching him, they grab his horse's reins. They look him over, his hair is short and brushed back, and he's dressed completely in black. They see the black bag hanging over the saddle horn.

"Who are you white man----what do you want?"

Jean Cooper looks straight at the man doing the talking, and recognizes him as Tall Wolf-----one of Grey Wolf's oldest sons. "I am here to see Running Wolf."

"He is not here white eyes---now go---you are not welcome here."

Jean Luke thinks twice about telling Tall Wolf who he is, and he must be careful not to let him see his lame leg---or he will guess. The man continues to look him over, "I know you white eyes------who are you?"

Before he can answer, another brave knocks Jean Luke off his horse. He tries to stand, his left leg dragging as he tries to get his balance. Tall Wolf then grabs him by the jacket, "You are Lame Wolf----my father's crippled son-----why do you come here?"                

Jean Luke starts to speak, another brave knocks his feet out from under him, they all laugh. Tall Wolf takes out his knife and goes down on one knee, grabbing Jean Luke by the neck, "We thought you were dead----now you will surely die."

"ENOUGH" Screams a voice.              

The braves all stop and look to the voice, as a figure comes up on horseback, the sun behind him. Jean Luke can't make him out as he puts his hands up over his eyes. The figure dismounts and walks towards the group, and they all step aside. The figure stands there for the longest, looking down at Jean Luke. The figure reaches out and knocks Tall Wolf down, the brave gets up and starts towards the figure. The figure takes him by the neck and shoves him to the ground, putting his knee into his chest.               

"If you ever touch my brother again----I will kill you!"                 

Tall Wolf is allowed to get up, and Running Wolf/Cooper stares him down.  He looks at young Cooper with hatred in his eyes, but Cooper is not afraid of him. He towers over Tall Wolf, his muscles are bulging, his chest is massive, and every inch of his body is solid muscle. All of the braves are afraid of him, they know what he is capable of, and he has learned to take on as many that will dare challenge him. He and his "Father" have clashed many times, and Cooper holds his own until Grey Wolf calls in help. The last time they clashed was over a woman that had taken Running Wolf's virginity, and Grey Wolf wanted her afterwards. Running Wolf refused to share, Grey Wolf's braves beat him till he couldn't stand. After Grey Wolf was through with the woman, he killed her, and dumped her at Running Wolf's feet.

The braves walk off, and Cooper reaches down to help his brother up. "You are a fool for coming back here---Grey Wolf will kill you."

Jean Luke stands up beside his brother, they are almost the same height, and Jean Luke can see that Cooper's "real father" is showing through. His hair has a red tint when the sun hits it as it is doing now. As much as Cooper tries to darken and cover the chest hairs, they are coming through.  It's becoming harder and harder to pull the facial hairs out, and Cooper has the makings of a five o'clock shadow.             

They walk off to the river to talk, Jean Luke immediately starts in on him to leave the village and go back to Canada with him.

"I found our Mother's grave, Cooper-----my friend and I put a tombstone on it. Your father made a cross for her, she's buried near a waterfall----it is so beautiful in Canada----come with me little brother-----you're a man now----Grey Wolf can't force you to stay!"

They argue, Cooper says he will not be accepted as a white man---he's lived too long as an Apache.

"I've been accepted---and I have darker looks than you----most people believe me to be French---I just don't tell them of my Indian blood. Your Father's looks are coming through Cooper, all you have to do is cut your hair and dress like the white man---they will never know."

"You mean to deny that I am Indian---to live a lie in the white man's world--is that what you say?"

"Cooper---you have been living a lie since Grey Wolf took you and raised you like an Apache----you are not Apache-----you are of Cherokee and French on our Mother's side, your father has some Cherokee blood, and he is white!"

Cooper looks at his older brother, " I know my heritage---and yes, I've lived a lie being Apache, but I have not forsaken my Cherokee heritage---come with me---I have someone I want you to meet."

They leave Grey Wolf's village and they travel back into the woods till they come upon a cave. Cooper motions for his brother to follow, and they go deep inside the cave till Cooper shows him the person he wants him to see. Lying on bearskins is a young woman, obviously in her last months of pregnancy.

Cooper walks over to the woman and kisses her forehead and then says something to her, Jean Luke does not understand it to be Apache, but Cherokee.

The young woman smiles at Cooper, she is beautiful with big dark eyes and long lashes, her hair is extremely long, black and shiny like that of a raven. She smiles at Jean Luke and whispers "Brother?"

He nods his head, looking at Cooper----"Yes---yes he is my brother----I am Jean Luke."

Cooper takes her hand and kisses it tenderly, "This is my wife---this is Morning Dove" and then he touches her swollen belly---"We are with child."

Jean Luke laughs, " I can see that, and from the looks of everything---you're going to have that baby---any day now!"

The three of them laugh, it is so good to hear his brother laugh. He runs out to his horse and gets his medical bag; he will examine Morning Dove. Cooper tells his brother that Grey Wolf knows nothing about his having a wife, and least of all, her being Cherokee. He tells him how she was rescued from a raiding party, and for months he hid her out in the cave, and then secretly they made their own wedding vows.          

For the next week the brothers will talk about their missing years.  Jean Luke tells Cooper about Sam Clemens and how Sam put him through medical school in Europe, of their journey to Canada, and putting of a tombstone on their mother's grave. Cooper's life has not been as exciting, he has spent the last twelve years fighting to stay alive, the constant clashes with his "Father" and then the day he met Morning Dove.

"My life changed when I met her, Jean Luke-------isn't she beautiful?"

The brothers look at Morning Dove, Jean Luke says to himself," she is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"My life was nothing till she came into it-------I have had many women and I suppose I have other children----but Jean Luke since the day she came into my life, I haven't wanted another woman. I am so anxious for my child to be born, how many more days do you think it will be?"

Jean Luke smiles, "Any day now Cooper---it could be any time!"

Jean Luke starts in on Cooper again about leaving, he still refuses. "We need to look for your real father!"

"You keep saying that---but how do you know that he wants any part of me? He's probably got a family of his own, he doesn't want a half breed for a son!"

"Listen to me Cooper------if you could have looked into that man's eyes when he begged me to go to Canada with him to bury our mother, you wouldn't be asking that question----I'm not even his son---but he said he would raise me as his own!"

"Words! Just words Jean Luke-----the moment his white friends find out you were half Apache, he would desert you!"

"I don't believe that-----and if he had known about you--------"

"That's another thing---if this man is so great--why didn't he come back for you---even though he didn't know about me?"

"Do you not listen----the man was threatened, not only with his life---but ours---you and me----The man is hot tempered, he would have fought to the death if he had known about you---Grey Wolf almost killed him then."

They argue well into the night, Jean Luke decides to leave at daybreak. "Where will you go?" asks Cooper.

"There are some small towns in East Texas that are in need of doctors, I will work my way across to California, and then, who knows. Maybe I will be a famous surgeon some day"?

Jean Luke says goodbye to his brother and to Morning Dove. "I will see you again, my brother and you take care of that little nephew or niece that I'm going to have."

He reaches out to shake Cooper's hand, Cooper frowns, "That's a white man's handshake, we will shake hands--Indian." Cooper takes his hand and grabs Jean Luke's forearm, and he does the same. They look at each for the longest, "Goodbye---my brother."

"It's not goodbye Cooper-- we will see each other again---I know we will."

Jean Luke starts to mount and Cooper pulls him back, grabbing him and they both hug each other---"Another time big brother!"

 

It's now three months later and young Jane is going to the Doctor's office to pick up some medicine for her Daddy's toothache.  She's talking to Dr. West when a young man in his early twenties walks in. He's dark headed and has dark eyes, a very handsome young man. He waits till the Dr. gives Jane the medicine and the directions on how to use it. She keeps looking at him and he looks back at her and winks. She blushes and runs out the door. When she gets home that night and trying to help her Mother put supper on the table, all she can do is swoon. She makes the mistake of telling her sister Abby about the handsome young man in Dr. West's office.

"Okay, girls-----supper is almost ready----why isn't the table set?" Althea asks.

"Because Jane has a crush on the new boy in town." Replies Abby, "And she says he is sooooooo handsome."

"Are you girls talking about me again?" Asks Cooper as he walks over to give Althea a kiss, and to let his hand sneak up under her right breast for a quick squeeze." She pushes back against him "Stop that," she whispers.

He laughs and gives her another squeeze and a big kiss, "Can't help it---you bring out in the animal in me."                 

The girls giggle, they're used to the touching and kissing that goes on between their parents. That was one thing they had plenty of--love and affection, and their parents showed it openly. Cooper grabs a carrot stick and makes a nibbling sound as he goes down Althea's neck. The girls all laugh, even the 6 year old, Lily. "Cooper----will you please get out of my kitchen so I can get supper on the table?"               

He continues to tease her, "And, what will you do if I don’t?"

She waves the big wooden spoon in his face and whispers, "I will swat the snake."

Cooper makes a groaning sound and walks with his knees together, "Ooooh that hurts," he  replies.

The girls are all laughing and Cooper runs over and sweeps Lily up into his arms and starts kissing her belly, causing the girl to squeal even louder, "What you laughing at----is Mama trying to be funny?"

Supper is eaten and the dishes are being put away, as Cooper is trying to eat his second piece of pecan pie, but his tooth has starting hurting. He's trying to hide it from Althea, but she has noticed and again she tries to get him to go see Dr. West and get it pulled. He refuses to go, he doesn't want to let go of the dollar that the doctor would charge him.

"We can't afford another bill, Althea---the girls will be needing new shoes soon, and what about that dress you wanted---have you ordered it yet through that fancy book?"

She shakes her head, "No----I have not ordered that dress---you need to get your tooth pulled sweetheart, and besides I can make that dress cheaper than what they are asking? Do you believe that catalog is asking $6.00-----I can make myself and all the girls dresses for a fraction of that!"

He reaches out and pulls her closer to him, "But, how long has it been since you had a store bought dress? I couldn't even afford to buy you one to get married in 15 years ago. I promised you a store bought dress Althea, and you are going to get one!   No more arguing, order that dress, and order it in baby blue!"

She kisses him, "Baby blue----are you trying to tell me something?"

He grabs her buttocks and the girls giggle as they are putting dishes away------"Yes Althea, I'm trying to tell you something-----the snake is still pretty much alive-----and it's time we started thinking of having another baby!"

Althea pulls away, she's still not over losing the last baby only months before. He sees her sadness and walks over to her putting his arms around her-----he motions for the girls to leave. They all run outside

"Honey--------you can't keep thinking about the baby we lost----it was God's will----he had a reason for taking it away."

Althea starts crying, "But, what if I can't have anymore?"

"What does the doctor say----did he say there couldn't be anymore?"                

She shakes her head, and he tilts her head to look at him, "Althea----if the doctor says it's okay and God is willing to give us more----then why are you upset?"                 

"What if----I can never give you a son? What will you do?"              

He laughs and pulls her into his chest, "Is that what you're worried about, that I will be upset if we have another girl?  Another girl will be just fine with me, that way I don't have to build on another room---for a boy," and then he tries to make her laugh, "boys are such a nuisance anyway, I wouldn't know how to act if we had a boy!"

Two weeks later and Cooper's tooth has gotten infected, now he has no choice but to get it pulled. Jane has gone with him to the doctors, and she's surprised that the dark headed young man is still there. Dr. West takes Cooper to the back room, and Jane watches the young man, as he is busy writing away in a book.  He looks up to see her looking at him, "Hello again-------what are you doing here?"                   

Jane's heart is racing, thinking he is so handsome. "My Daddy is having his

tooth pulled."                  

The young man gets up from his desk and walks over to her, and she notices a slight limp.  He looks deep into her eyes, he's almost hypnotized by the dark pools. "What's your name?"                 

She stammers, "JJJJ---Jane."

He smiles at her, he thinks to himself that she is very pretty----and very young. He puts his hand out to shake hers, "My name is ---Jean---"

A young man running in and calling for the doctor, saying his friend has just been shot, interrupts him. The dark headed man grabs his medical bag and runs out.

Jane stands there, and repeats his name---"John----what a nice name."

All night Jane will think of the dark headed man she believes to be called "John", she only heard the first name, she doesn't know his name was French, she just knows it sounded like "John" to her.                

At Dr. West's office, he is praising the young man for taking care of the man that was shot.               

"I know one thing, they better get their act together about who shot who and why before the sheriff gets hold of them."                

The young man looks at the doctor and laughs, "I haven't met your sheriff yet, I hear he's not to messed with."                 

"That's for damn sure-----everyone around here knows to steer clear of sheriff Coop ----if they know what's good for them?"

"Coop? Is that his name?" asks the young man.                   

The doctor takes his bag and heads for the door, "I got to run out to his place now and  give his wife a examination, she's pregnant again, and since losing her last one---she's a bit nervous----can you hold down the fort?"                 

The young man nods---"Sure---no problem."

An hour later the young man is going to the bank and Jane is coming out, they run right into each other and Jane ends up on her butt. He apologizes and they start talking. They've only talked for a few minutes when some friends of hers call out to her. She walks away and the young man watches her. Some men are watching him and they start to laugh.

"She's a a little young for you, don't you think?"

Another man pipes up, "You best leave her be, boy------her Daddy will send you into next week if you got any ill intentions towards her."

The third man snickers, "Hell----Coop would skin him alive if he knew he was even looking at her!"

The young man walks over to them, "This Coop----that's her Daddy---your sheriff?"

One of the men spits a wad of juice at his feet, "You must be new in town---yep that's one of his daughters----and when it comes to someone trying to mess with his wife or one of his girls---old Coop gets just plain crazy!"

He looks at the men, "Coop---is that a first or last name?"

The men laugh again, and one of them answers, "It's short for Cooper-----Hayes Cooper!"

The young man stands there and stares at them. He says the name over and over again to himself, his eyes grow big, he doesn't know if he should laugh or cry. The men look at him like he's gone crazy, he walks around in circles, starting to say something and then he keeps saying "I don't believe it-----I don't believe it-----he's here----in this town?"

The men look back at forth at each other. He looks at them, "And that was his daughter-----Jane is his daughter?"

Hours later and Jean Luke is still in shock. He's found Cooper---how long has it been--17--18 years!!!!! Now he's got other thoughts going through his head, what about Jean Cooper? Should he tell him that he has a son? How will he react, he has a family, he has another baby on the way, what do I say to him? Maybe young Cooper was right----what if he doesn't want anything to do with me anymore? Jean Luke does not get any sleep for the next three nights. He desperately wants to talk to his good friend, Sam, but he doesn't even know where he is. The last he heard Sam was heading down to Mississippi.

The next day he keeps wanting to ask Dr. West about Cooper and his family, he doesn't want to be too obvious about his questions, so he casually asks about Cooper's wife.

"OH, she's doing fine----good woman, that Althea! And, Coop sure does think the world of her----never seen a man so much in love with his wife, just plum crazy about her!"                  

"And, they have kids?"

"Yep----three girls----you met the oldest one, Jane, now she's real pretty----just like her Mama. And, old Coop----he's a mite partial to that one----I pity the day that some young man tries to spark her-----her Daddy will rake him over the coals good---you can count on that!"

Jean Luke thinks about Jane, thinking how pretty she is, but then he shakes it off, she's too young for him, there's got to be at least ten years between them. He thinks about the young girls he met in Europe, he dated a little bit, but he was too wrapped up in his studies to get serious. He didn't lose his virginity till the last year he was there, and he wasn't too impressed with the  whole thing. The girl laughed at him, but in his opinion, she was just covering up for her own in--experience.

The Coopers attend church and young Jane is straining to see if John is there.

She spots him, a few pews ahead and on the left side. Althea keeps looking at her and into the direction Jane keeps staring. She watches as a dark headed man turns and looks in their direction. She sees Jane's face blush, thank God that Cooper hasn't noticed. He's helping the rest of the men erect a tent for the cookout later.  Cooper has already been asking Althea if something was wrong with their daughter, the last couple of weeks she's acted differently and was starting to wear a little makeup.

She remembers Cooper frowning as he saw Jane put on a little rouge and then lipstick. Althea could see her husband's jaws setting tightly. Cooper never let Althea wear much makeup and he hated it more on his daughters. Just a little lipstick and a smaller amount of rouge was all he would allow Althea to wear.

"I don't like all that warpaint----I want the natural look---the way God intended you to look!"

Cooper has heard Abby and Lily talking about Jane having a boyfriend and he's literally coming unglued. He thinks it young Timmy Stanton, and he's furious.

"That boy is about 18---he's a young man---he's too old for Jane----And Jane is too young to be thinking about boys----why are you allowing this to happen Althea?"

It's one of the few times that they have argued, and Althea is holding her own, "I am ‘not allowing' for anything to happen----and Cooper--you have to realize that Jane is 15 now---and very much a young woman---she has ideas of her own!"

Cooper is furious at the thought of his daughter having a boyfriend----"I forbid it-----I don't care that Will Stanton is my best friend---I don't want his son coming to court our Jane----is that clear?"

Althea gets right back in his face---"Yes----it's clear----it's not Timmy Stanton that Jane is gushing over!"

"Then who is he---who is this boy----do you know him---who is he?"

"I don't know----all I know is, his name is John, and apparently he's new in town----nobody knows much about him. "                

Now Althea knows who the boy is and she's not pleased, he's much older than Althea realized-----Cooper will have a cow! If he thought Timmy Stanton was too old at 18, what is he going to think about this young man? She breathes a long sigh as she sees him coming back to their pew, and sits down beside her, taking her hand. He looks at her and kisses her cheek.

"You okay, hon, the baby kicking?"

She just squeezes his hand tighter and smiles. She looks to Jane and she is looking at 'John', but 'John' seems to be staring nervously at Cooper. She says to herself "Good, maybe he has been told what a hellcat her Father is and maybe he will have second thoughts and move on!"

Later that evening as the cook out starts getting underway, Jean Luke is edging closer and closer to the Coopers. Then he will stop and walk away. He doesn't want to cause trouble for Cooper and his wife----and he will definitely open up old wounds if Coopers finds out who he is. He watches them as Cooper constantly has his arm around his wife's waist, and occasionally pats her tummy.   He would stare into her eyes and he would kiss her gently. Jean Luke remembered the way he looked at his Mother, he gets angry. He wonders how long it took him to get over his Mother and fall in love with someone else. Then he remembers the doctor saying they had only been married 15 years and before that Cooper had a drinking problem.

"Hi John."

Jean Luke turns around quickly and sees Jane looking back at him  "Hi Jane----how are you?"

They talk and Jane invites him over to meet her parents. He refuses saying that he's not staying for the cookout and then he leaves.

Weeks pass and Jean Luke is busy trying to stay away from the places that Cooper might go. He laughs to himself, "for 18 years I have looked for this man---now I've found him ---and now I’m avoiding him----I have got to face him---get it out into the open---that's what Sam would do!"

Jean Luke has seen Jane at the seamstress’s, where she works part time with her Aunt Becky and then she rides home, sometimes with her Daddy and sometimes she takes the carriage by herself. He knows he should stay away from her all together, at least until things are out into the open. He knows she's attracted to him and he's got to admit, he's feeling something for her too.   At times he waits for to her to leave, and if she's alone, he pretends to run into her on the trail.

This day he is pretending to have trouble with his horse's hoof, taking a couple of strands from the tail of the horse and tying them around the horses' leg causing him to limp. He had listened very closely to the stories Grey Wolf would tell about how to surprise their victims by pretending their mounts were unrideable, an old Apache trick.

Soon Jean Luke and Cooper will meet, and again lives will be changed.

 

Part 13

 

They've been meeting on the trail for several weeks now, and Jane has started packing little lunches for them. She would wait till her Daddy had left for work, and her Mama would go lie down for a while. Althea was getting close to her 8th month now and she was tiring more with this one, than the other three. Cooper had left strict orders with the girls not to let their Mother do anything, and all three of the girls were doing double time with their school work and taking on more house chores. Jane was dismissed from doing as many house chores because of her job at the seamstress in town. She's putting together the last of the sandwiches, and she doesn't hear Althea come up behind her.

"Jane----what are you doing?"

Jane is startled as she tries to explain the sandwiches----"I…I… I was making sandwiches for Daddy, to take to him at the sheriff's office----he doesn't like to eat in town ---he says the food is too greasy!"

Althea looks at her daughter suspiciously, "But, I just packed your Daddy's lunch …like I always do … what's going on Jane?"

Jane just looks at her, "Nothing----I get hungry on the way home!"

Althea sighs, she knows that her daughter is hiding something, the girl eats like a bird, and she sees four sandwiches and fruit.

"Okay, young lady, I'm only going to ask you one time, and then I will let your father handle it, What is going on, who are you taking those sandwiches to----is it that John?"

Jane says nothing, and Althea shakes her head and moans. She has to sit down.

"Are you okay,. Mama----is it the baby?"

"I'm fine--the baby is fine---but you're not going to be fine when your Daddy finds out what you've been doing!"

"I haven't---we haven't been doing anything---we just talk----honest Mama--that's all!"

Althea rubs her tummy, "Jane---he is too old for you-----he's got to be at least ten years older than you! Do you know what your Daddy will say and do when he finds out about this?"

"We're not doing anything wrong, Mama---we're just talking---John is so smart----do you know that he's been to Europe, he studied all over, he's seen lots of country, he…"

"Your Father is not going to care about how smart he is----Jane he is a grown man---you are just a child, you're only 15 years old!"

"I'm not a child Mama, and I'm almost 16----I'm a woman and I've been a woman for several years now-----ever since I started my cycle----remember Mama you said I was a young woman?"

"Jane, you have to be careful. This John knows things that you don't and he will try to talk you into things that you're not ready for, he's a man ,Jane, and he knows how to sweet talk you."

Jane gets very quiet, "What about you Mama, is that what happened with your first husband? He was a lot older than you----but you fell in love with him and married him."

Althea sighs, "Things were different back then, and I was all of 22 years when I married Edwin, that's a far cry from being 15!"

"It's just numbers Mama, and you said you were naive about a lot of things till you met Daddy---and I can count Mama, I know it takes nine months for a baby to get born, you and Daddy were married in late September---I was born less than eight months later."

Althea looks at her daughter and reaches out for her hand, "Oh honey, we never kept that a secret and you know it. When you were old enough to understand we told you the truth, we wanted you to know that you were conceived out of love the same way your sisters were, and this baby-----And, what is all this talk about marriage?"

"Nothing Mama. Mama if you and Daddy could just meet John--and talk to him…"

"Out of the question! Your Father will not agree to meet him----or anyone else, You are too young to be courting!"

They argue for a good hour, and Jane knows she'd better back away before her Mother gets too upset with the baby coming and all.

A week passes before Jane sees Jean Luke again. He nods his head, "Your Mother is right-----I'm too old for you Jane----it's best we just stop seeing each other…"

Before he can finish, Jane throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. He pulls back-----"Jane----what did you do that for?"

"I felt like it, that's what for----and don't you try and say you didn't like it!!!"

Jean Luke just stares at her, "I won't say I didn't like it-----it's just that you---- took me ---by surprise----that's all."

Jane backs up and lowers her head, "Well, if I waited for you to kiss me----I'd be waiting till doomsday----and don't say you haven't wanted to!"

Jean Luke grins, "I don't need to be saying anything, because apparently you know everything that I want to say -----or do------and yes----I've wanted to kiss you. But one thing keeps stopping me!"

She looks up at him "What?"

"Not what-WHO? Your Daddy, that's who! I hear he keeps a double barrel shotgun near by at all times----for times like this."

She edges up close to him, "What times, John----what do you mean---times like this?"

She continues to get closer, their faces are almost touching, she turns her face up to him, tip toeing to reach him, he kisses her quickly and then jumps back. 

This is what he was afraid of, he shouldn't have let it get so out of hand. He backs up further, "We can't be doing this, Jane----it's not safe, you better go."

She turns around, starts back to her carriage, "It's not over, John, I know you like me and I like you----it's not over!

"The next couple of days finds Jean Luke missing Jane more than he ever realized he would. He can't let this go on any longer, he will go out to the Cooper farm, he will meet Cooper face to face and everything will be out in the open. Once he's let it all out, then he will tell Cooper he wants permission to see his daughter. "Sure----sounds easy enough," he says to himself, "Who am I kidding---he'll never let that happen----I'm too old for her!"

The next day finds Jean Luke riding out to the Cooper farm. He first has to tell Jane who he is. He sees two little girls trying to hang up laundry; they must be Jane's sisters. They stare at him as he rides up and Abby, the older one whispers to Lily, "That's that boy that Jane has the crush on." and they both start running up the steps to their home.

Althea comes to the door, and seeing who it is, she tells him to leave. "You better leave before my husband gets through with his plowing, ------"

Jane comes running to the door, "Mama---invite him in."

Jean Luke is pulled inside the house by Jane, Althea looks at her daughter-----"Your Father is not going to like this."

Jean Luke breathes deeply----"I need to talk to your husband, Mrs. Cooper-----I have some things to say."

Althea looks at the young man, and he is a handsome one---just as Jane said he was. "Look, John-----my husband has a short fuse where his daughters are concerned, he doesn't know about those little meetings between you and Jane---if he did----you wouldn't be standing here in our living room----you best leave!"

"Mama," begs Jane, "please------it won't hurt for you and Daddy just to talk to him."

Althea starts towards the door, "Jane, he has to go …now…"

Althea groans and grabs her stomach, "Ooh, God…not now…no…"

The girls scream and Jean Luke reaches out to grab her, he shouts to Jane to get his medical bag.

Althea looks at him, "You're a doctor?"

"Yes ma’am," as he walks her over to the sofa and tells her to lie down. Her water has broke, and the baby is coming. Jean Luke starts rolling his sleeves up and shouting for hot water and towels. Abby runs to get them and Jane tells Lily to ride out to the fields and tell their Daddy that the baby is coming.

Jean Luke looks at Jane when he hears the name of ‘Lily’, ----"He's named a daughter after his mother----he can't believe it."

His attention goes back to Althea as he talks her through the delivery, the baby is turned, he has to help turn it around, and very gently he pulls the baby out!

Cooper sees young Lily riding up to him screaming something about the baby, he throws the harness down and runs up to Lily and mounts up behind her. She is babbling about the doctor being there and a boyfriend, Cooper is confused.

He runs up the steps taking them two and three at a time, calling out to Althea.

He sees her lying on the couch and runs right past the young man. Jean Luke backs up and starts washing his hands in the washbowl. Jane goes over to stand beside him. Cooper goes down on one knee as Althea turns to him and he sees the baby at her breast. Althea smiles at her husband, "It's a boy------Cooper, we have a son!!!!"

Cooper reaches over and touches his son, "Are you both okay?"

Althea nods towards the young man, "We are now-----the baby was turned----"John" had to turn him around----and then he just popped right out."

They all laugh and Cooper turns to Jean Luke and walks towards him, putting his hand out, "Thank God---you were here, thank you."

Cooper stops and looks at Jean Luke, there's something about this young man that is familiar  "Do I know you---from somewhere?"

Jean Luke stands up as tall as he can and shakes Cooper's hand and then he steps forward, the left leg not moving as fast as the right. Cooper looks down at his leg and then into Jean Luke's eyes, his face goes pale and he shakes his head back and forth, whispering "Jean Luke?"

Jean Luke nods slowly and Jane looks at him and then to her Daddy, "Who is Jean Luke, I thought your name was John?"

Althea looks to her husband and then to the young man, "You're Lily's son?"

"John----what is going on----do you know my Daddy?"

Jean Luke turns to Jane, "I will explain everything---right now I think your parents would like to be alone with their son----we'll talk later." He hurriedly goes out the door, and Cooper is running after him.

"Wait a minute-----we have things to talk about----when did you leave Grey Wolf's village---where have you been?"

"I know you have questions to ask me---and I will answer them, but not now---we both need time to get our thoughts together----tomorrow---we'll talk tomorrow!"

That night Cooper and Althea are talking and Jane is asking them questions. Cooper explains everything to her, about Lily, their relationship, taking her back to Canada and mainly about Jean Luke. Later Cooper is lost in his thoughts about the past 18 years. The thoughts of Lily come rushing back, and he can almost feel her presence.  Althea watches him as he walks out of the house and towards the barn.  He stops by the corral, his shoulders slump, and she turns away from watching him.

The next morning Cooper is standing at the doctors' office, waiting for Jean Luke to arrive. When he comes in, Jean Luke motions for him to sit down and they talk.

They talk for hours, Jean Luke tells Cooper about the last 18 years of his life and then he tells him about finding his Mother's grave.

"I saw the cross you put on her grave----I hope you don't mind, but there's a tombstone there now, and I put on there the same words you etched out with a knife, LILY MY LOVE and then I added ASLEEP IN THE ARMS OF ANGELS. I hope you don't mind."

Cooper has his back to him looking out the window, a tear comes into his eyes, "No----I don't mind, Jean Luke. Your mother would be so proud of you and how you've made something of your life." He turns around to him, "I have thought of you every day----hoping and praying that some way you could get away from Grey Wolf----I wanted to come back after you----but I was so wiped out on the whiskey I wouldn't have been any help."

"Dr. West said you had a drinking problem----you seem to be okay now."

For two years I drank myself silly, half the time I didn't even know where I was or cared. I grieved for Lily so much I wanted to die----but I didn't have enough strength or nerve to even take my own life-----I was weak. Finally, Althea came into my life and it was through Lily that I found my faith back in the Lord and most of all---how to love again."

Jean Luke is hesitating to tell Cooper he has a son.

"I have to ask you something, Jean Luke---what was the hold that Grey Wolf had over you--why wouldn't you leave and go to Canada with me? He asked you if you wanted to leave and you said 'no'----I could see that you wanted to come with me---what was holding you back?"

"Do you remember my Mother whispering something to me, just before she died?"

Cooper nods "Yes----I remember---I've always felt the two of you were keeping something from me---and then Grey Wolf came up beside your Mother and she stopped talking. He threatened her or you, didn't he? What was it, Jean Luke---what did she tell you?"

Luke breathes very deeply, "You are going to hate me for telling you this after so many years."

"What? What Jean Luke---tell me!"

"You have a son," he answers softly " his name is Jean Cooper!"

Cooper is stunned, he can't believe what he is hearing, "I have a son? Lily gave birth to my son---we had a child together?"

Jean Luke nods his head and Cooper drops down on the couch, his hands going up to his face----"No-----Lily would never have kept anything like that from me-----she would have told me----you're lying!"

"I'm not lying-----Jean Cooper was born on my birth date, June 10th. Just about a week before Grey Wolf's braves brought you and the blue coats into the village. You were half dead----you were talking out of your head. Mother wanted to tell you but she couldn't---you were in no condition to accept the news and later when you fought Caddo, she knew that if you did know, you would have fought Grey Wolf and he would kill you. Grey Wolf then threatened my Mother saying if she told you about Jean Cooper that he would not only kill you, but us as well. My Mother died taking the secret about your son to her grave. She made me promise not to tell you—she knew that you would fight Grey Wolf, even though you were already half dead."

Cooper jumps up from the couch and starts throwing things around, "That bastard------- I will kill him----and where is my son now?"

Jean Luke tells Cooper about how Grey Wolf raised Jean Cooper as an Apache, and until he was four he didn't even know that Grey Wolf was not his Father. Cooper 's rage is getting the best of him and for the first time in 15 years, he's wanting a drink. He storms out of the office and heads for the saloon. Jean Luke runs after him as fast as his lame leg will carry him!

Cooper storms into the saloon and up to the bar, "WHISKEY!"

The bartender looks at him and laughs, "Yeah sure Coop---was wondering how long that holier than thou attitude would hold up."

"Shuttup and pour----leave the bottle!"

Jean Luke knocks the bottle away, and then knocks the shot glass from Cooper's hand. Everyone gasps, Cooper reaches for the bottle again and Jean Luke takes Cooper's gun out and shoots the bottle of whiskey. Cooper glares at him and then back to the bartender, "ANOTHER ONE".

"No!!!! Jean Luke yells out----"You are not going down that road again."

"And, what do you plan to do to stop me?"

Jean Luke looks back at him, to the bartender and all of the customers who are all in total shock at Cooper's behavior. "THIS" and he hits Cooper over the head with the gun butt.

Jean Luke catches Cooper before he hits the floor and he throws him over his shoulder. "I'm taking him home-----he'll be okay."

A few hours later and Jean Luke is standing at the corral at the Cooper farm. He's walking back and forth, like a nervous animal. Jane walks up to him and looks at him in total disbelief.

Her blue/green eyes stare at Jean Luke and her mouth drops open, "I can't believe that you hit my Daddy over the head ----and with his own gun."

"What was I suppose to do, just stand back and let him start drinking again?"

She shakes her head, "No-----but my Daddy is going to have one heck of a headache when he wakes up!"

Jean Luke looks back at her in terror, ---------"He's not awake yet"?

"You really whacked him good, John----I mean Jean Luke."

He grabs his black bag and heads up to the house, when he gets inside he sees Althea and the girls are looking at the back of Cooper's head. They stop as Jean Luke walks over and looks at it, "I don't think it will need any stitches--- it will be sore---but you're okay."

Cooper continues to glare at Jean Luke, and Althea turns to the girls and tells them to put supper on the table. She brushes Cooper's hair back gently, saying she has to nurse their son. She turns to Jean Luke and asks him to stay for supper, and Jane prods him to stay. Cooper sees the eye contact between the two of them, then he takes in a long breath, letting it out slowly.

After supper is over the two of them walk outside, Cooper is still seeing double as he shakes his head. For a long time they stand and look at each other and Cooper grits his teeth, "If you got any ideas about my daughter-----you better get rid of them real quick-----you're too old for her Jean Luke-----I forbid it!"

Jean Luke nods his head, "Yes sir----I know that-----and you're right----I won't try to see her anymore."

"See that you don't." Cooper growls back.

"There is something else I need to tell you----about Jean Cooper----I saw him several months ago-----we talked."

Cooper's eyes soften, "Is he okay-----has Grey Wolf hurt him?"

Jean Luke thinks back to young Coopers' physique and the fear that was in the eyes of the other braves. "I believe they still have their clashes----but your son can take care of himself."

"Then why does he stay in Grey Wolf’s village, why doesn't he leave?"

"I tried to get him to leave, he doesn't think he'd ever be accepted into the white man's world----and there's another reason he chooses to live away from the white man---he has a wife-----and probably a child by now."

Cooper leans up against the corral for support, "I have a grandchild?"

Jean Luke nods, "When I left them, Morning Dove was due any day ----Jean Cooper was getting anxious. He's changed a lot since I left him, he's started thinking for himself, and Grey Wolf feels threatened by him----the same way he feared you!"

"I have to find him, Jean Luke, I have to find my son----will you go with me."

Jean Luke nods, "Yes, I will go with you" He looks back to the house, "Have you told Althea about him?"

Cooper rubs his head, "I will tell her now-------we leave at daybreak."

Five days later, they are on a hilltop, looking down at Grey Wolf's village. They have stopped only long enough to rest the horses, Cooper has said very little. Jean Luke watches him, as he knows the memories are flooding Cooper. He wonders how Jean Cooper will react to his real father---if they find him.

The morning of the sixth day they head their horse straight for the village, Cooper has given Jean Luke a sidearm. He looks at him, his head still hurts at times, "Let's see if you know  how to use the other end of that gun."

Jean Luke swallows, he will not tell Cooper that the one and only time he ever held a firearm was when he hit him in the head with his. Shooting the bottle of whiskey was just pure luck, besides he was only about a foot away from it when he fired, he had to hit some part of it.

They walk their horses right into the village. Jean Luke sees Tall Wolf coming out of his lodging, he and the other braves start walking towards them. They try to stand in front of their horses to make them stop, but Cooper nudges his horse forward, Jean Luke follows They head for the largest and most decorative lodge and stop in front of it. They wait, Jean Luke breathes deeply, looking at Cooper and then to the teepee.

The flap opens slowly and Grey Wolf appears. Cooper is fighting the urge to just shoot him where he stands. He grits his teeth as he recalls how Lily would tell him of the beatings that Grey Wolf would inflict on her and Jean Luke. He can feel his heart racing faster, he clenches his fists together, his eyes bore into those of the man he despises.

The braves gather around their leader, Grey Wolf looks to Cooper and then to Jean Luke. His eyes go up and down, looking at the way Jean Luke is dressed, the dark hair brushed back, he laughs. "You are still weak, Lame Wolf---now you dress like the white man."

Jean Luke stares back at him, "My name is Jean Luke---not Lame Wolf----and don't ever call me that again!"

The braves laugh, and then they turn back to Cooper. "Where is my son, Grey Wolf?"

"You have no son---he is mine----I raised him---he's Apache," Grey Wolf screams back. Cooper dismounts and gives the reins to Jean Luke whispering, "Be prepared to get out of here."

Cooper walks up to Grey Wolf and stares him in the eyes, "I have come for Jean Cooper----I'm not leaving here without him!"

"You talk big white man, but you are still an idiot---leave my village and take that cripple with you!"

The anger of 25 years has snapped in Jean Luke as he takes a flying leap off his horse and into Grey Wolf's chest, knocking him down. The braves go after Cooper and the fight has began. Jean Luke is hitting Grey Wolf will all he can. He hits him in the face, yelling, "This is for my Mother!"

The braves have Cooper down on the ground, punching and kicking. It takes two braves to pull Jean Luke off Grey Wolf, but he pulls away from them and goes after Grey Wolf again. Grey Wolf hits him and Jean Luke goes down. Again, he gets up and screams at his father, "Fight me Father---fight me like a man-----you don't need your braves to help fight me----I'm just a cripple------ what's wrong---are you afraid of a cripple?"

Grey Wolf laughs as he goes over to kick Cooper while he's trying to get up.

"Now you will die white eyes-----both you and him---you will die----slowly."

The braves’ pull Cooper up and continue to hit him. Jean Luke tries to go to him and Grey Wolf hits him from behind. He steps down on Jean Luke's back and pulls his head back, "I should have killed you the day you were born----you have been nothing but a disgrace for me-----now I will slit your throat!"

Grey Wolf starts to pull the knife across Jean Luke's throat when he is suddenly pulled back and thrown to the ground. A foot reaches out and connects with Grey Wolf's chin. Grey Wolf jumps to his feet as he sees who it is that has hit him.

"Running Wolf------you defy your father to fight for the white man and your crippled brother?"

Running Wolf/Jean Cooper spits in his Grey Wolf's face, "This is what I think of you, FATHER---------and now you and I will fight----it will be just you and me---they are not going to be to able to help you----not anymore!"

Grey Wolf laughs, "My braves will not desert me ---they will fight for me and you will die first"!

Cooper is trying to stand as Jean Luke runs to help him, he keeps shaking his head and looking at the man that is his son.  Young Cooper throws up his arms and more braves are coming forward, but they are not Apache---they are Cherokee.

They surround Grey Wolf and the other braves. Young Cooper walks up to Grey Wolf and hands him a tomahawk, "Here--------it is only fitting that you should die the same way you let my Mother die-----you will fight me Grey Wolf--- just you and me!"

"NO!!!! Screams Cooper as he runs towards his son and Grey Wolf, he looks back at his son and they stare at each other. They look at each other for the longest, each of them not wanting to take their eyes away. Cooper reaches down and takes the tomahawk from his son, "I will fight Grey Wolf----this is my fight---not yours"!!!!

Young Cooper stares at his real father, and slowly backs away. He motions for the other braves to make a circle, he walks around to the apache braves and speaks, "No one will interfere----if you do---you will die instantly----I will kill you personally." The braves back up, Jean Luke touches his sidearm for  assurance.

Grey Wolf snickers as he watches Cooper get the feel of the tomahawk. It feels heavy to Cooper, he has not had one in his hands since the day Lily died. Grey Wolf taunts him, "Are you ready to join your Lily, are you ready to die white eyes"?

Cooper returns the taunts; "I'll see you in hell, Grey Wolf."

They rush each other and the fight is on. The tomahawks are swishing through the air and their bodies are fighting for a steady hold. Grey Wolf makes contact first as he hits Cooper in the leg, a gap opens up and Cooper goes down on one knee. Jean Luke is gasping as the blood shoots out of Cooper's leg. Young Cooper looks to his brother and then back to the fight.  The men are at it again as they have their tomahawks tangled up, their upper bodies straining against each other. Cooper pushes away and hits Grey Wolf in the stomach with his fist. He barely feels the hit as Grey Wolf continues to laugh and taunt.

"You hit like a woman, white eyes----- is that all you have?"

Cooper swings out with his weapon, Grey Wolf ducks, and when he does Cooper kicks him right in the teeth. Blood splatters out of his mouth and he's lost a couple of teeth.  Grey Wolf comes after Cooper, swinging the tomahawk for all it's worth, Cooper sidesteps and the tomahawk ends up splitting a tree behind Cooper. Cooper brings up his knee into Grey Wolf's groin, not once, ---but twice! The chief goes down on his knees holding his manhood, Cooper takes his weapon and turns it around and uses the wooden handle across Grey Wolf's face, "How does it feel, big man? It doesn't feel so good, does it?"

Cooper continues to hit the man across the face, the tomahawk splits in half and Cooper grabs the ax part and hits him repeatedly. Grey Wolf's face is being split open and Cooper keeps yelling at him, "You felt big---when you were hitting women and small kids----you don't feel so big now---do you?"

Jean Luke runs to Cooper and starts pulling him away-----"Stop it Cooper-----you're going to kill him"!

Cooper shoves Jean Luke away, "I ---plan to kill him."

Jean Luke looks to his brother and they both pull Cooper away, "He's not worth it Cooper---he's a beaten man-----you've taken his spirit and his pride----his braves will have nothing to do with him now-------this will hurt him more than anything."

The brothers are pulling Cooper away, Grey Wolf is making a last effort to stand,  "She was a whore-------Lily was a whore----she would spread her legs for any man."

Cooper goes down on one knee gasping for air-----"You bastard------I … I'm going to kill you…"

Young Cooper walks over to the tree that has the tomahawk wedged into its trunk, he yanks it out, looks to Jean Luke. Jean Luke looks back at him, takes the gun from his holster and at the exact moment, a bullet goes into Grey Wolf's brain, while the tomahawk hits him in the chest. Together the brothers walk over to Grey Wolf, he's still alive as his eyes plead for them to finish him off. Jean Luke stares at him, "I always said I would put a gun to your head and blow you away------but this way you will suffer, you will remember the pain that you put us all through-----and our mother's name will never cross your filthy mouth again."

They walk back to Cooper and help him up, taking him to the shelter of some trees. Jean Luke treats Coopers' leg and then he walks away leaving Cooper and his son alone.

Later that Morning Dove and their child are brought to the village. Young Cooper picks up his child and carries it over to his father and places the baby in his arms. A beautiful little dark haired girl with piercing blue eyes, stares back at him. He has tears in his eyes, "What is her name?" Young Cooper smiles, "We call her Blue Bird!"

For the next couple of days Cooper will visit with his son alone. They walk down to the river and Jean Luke watches them. He feels happiness, and then he feels sad as he watches Cooper reach out and embraces his son.

They have asked Cooper to come back with them to Bovine, but he still refuses to leave. "I have a wife and child now--------maybe someday I will try the white man's world----but I have a responsibility here ----for now I must stay here."

"I want you to meet your other family Jean Cooper, you have sisters and a little brother-----at least say you will visit us?"

Jean Luke stammers, " Yeah-----you could come for the wedding?"

Cooper looks at Jean Luke "WHAT WEDDING?"

Jean Luke swallows, "My wedding----mine and Jane's!"

Young Cooper looks at his brother and then to his father, his father is staring at Jean Luke like he's got two heads, "You're pretty damn sure of yourself, aren't you?"

Jean Luke stands up straight, "Yes sir, I am!!!!!-----I've asked Jane to marry me and she said yes-----and so we are getting married----whether you like it or not!"

 

Part 14

 

Cooper can't believe what he is hearing, Jean Luke is telling him that he is going to marry Jane whether he has Cooper's approval or not. He glares back at him, Jean Luke is not giving in. Young Cooper is staring at his brother and then to his father.        

Cooper lets out a sigh, "Well----I guess----we got a wedding to plan!"

Jean Luke breathes a sigh of relief as he embraces his brother, "That settles it---you, Morning Dove and little Blue Bird will come to Bovine for the wedding, right?"

Jean Cooper speaks to Morning Dove, she smiles, "We'll be there brother---just let us know when?"

Cooper looks at JeanLuke. "Yeah, I'd like to know when all of this going to come about too, and I would like to know if you two plan on staying in Texas, or do you plan to drag my daughter off to another state?"              

"We haven't discussed that yet------but we'll let you know!"

Cooper nods, "Thank you," he answers slowly.             

They say their goodbyes. Cooper kisses Morning Dove and his little granddaughter---"Wait till Althea sees you ----you'll melt her heart----I just remembered---I have to get home and name my other son."

As they are mounting up, Cooper reaches over and slaps JeanLuke on the shoulder, "Come on son----let's go home."

Jean Luke smiles, and Jean Cooper nods in approval, "We have a real father, now big brother, one we are proud to call  FATHER!"

               

Back home, Cooper is still having his doubts about letting Jane get married so young. He's watching as Althea nurses their son, Hayes Monet Cooper. Althea watches her husband as he paces back and forth. The wedding is only two weeks away.

"Sweetheart, are you worried because it's almost like a flashback to the kind of marriage I had if so, you are worrying for the wrong reason!"

"How so? She has never been in love before, she's never even dated ---how can she know that Jean Luke is the right one for her?"

Althea smiles, "There has to be a first time for everyone, and I didn't know what love was till I met you. But, Jane has more to build on than I did. She and her sisters have been raised to know what love is suppose to feel like, because of the way you and I show our feelings to each other. We have always been open about expressing our feelings, not only to each other, but to them. I had none of that affection when I was growing up and when I married Edwin, I knew nothing about how love should feel----- I didn't even know I was suppose to have those kind of feelings."

Cooper walks over and kisses his wife, "Yeah---I did corrupt you, didn't I?"

"Just a little bit," she answers.

"A little bit? Althea, I can remember when you didn't want to make love in the middle of the day, now you want it morning, noon, and night!"

"Are you complaining?"

He takes the baby away from her and lays him down in his little bassinet---"Come here woman and I'll show you how much I'm complaining!"

She giggles as she goes into his arms, "Is the snake back?"

He starts kissing her tenderly, "You better believe it, and he's really hungry-------and hard."

 

The wedding between Jean Luke and Jane was small with only the Stantons and a few close friends Cooper didn't want a lot of strangers around, afraid it would make Jean Cooper and Morning Dove nervous. The wedding is over and everyone has left to go home. It's the cool of an October evening, and a lone eagle has made her way to the Cooper farm. She perches on the corral fence away from the humans. She looks around, but not for food. She watches the two women on the front porch nursing their young. She watches as the two little girls go running through the yard, playing tag, and she watches the young couple that is standing only a few feet away from her, completely lost in each other’s eyes. Then she cocks her head sideways at the sight of the bearded man walking down to the river, a younger man is walking beside him, He's tall and muscular even in the white man's clothes he has chosen to wear on this day. The eagle watches as the two men laugh and the bearded one puts his arm around the shoulders of the younger one. The silence is broken as the dark headed young man breaks away from the eyes of his bride and starts running as fast as he can and jumps up on the backs of the two men walking side by side. The three fall to the ground and start wrestling, their laughs, are heard by the two women on the porch, and they smile. The wrestling match ends with the two younger ones picking up the bearded man and throwing him into the water. The laughter continues as the eagle gives out a single shriek, flaps her wings and flies away. She circles the farm, looking down and the sunlight hits her eyes-------they are a piercing blue. She can rest now----her family is together.

Jean Cooper and his wife will have two sons, one continues to stay on the reservation and learn the ways of both his mother and father. The other son leaves for the lure and temptation of the circuses that have come to the bigger towns.  He will marry a Cherokee woman and they and their small son will travel with the circus. He is called Stone Eagle and he has learned to walk on hot coals. The ringmaster has added more touches by putting rings of fire around his act. The news reporter that follows the circus bills him as "THE MAN WHO WALKS THROUGH FIRE".  Stone Eagle will pass his skill down to one of his sons the act becomes more famous and more daring. The reporter writes up the act and by the time the story hits all the newspapers, the name has changed to FIREWALKER. His son's name is Eagle Eye, but he has to register a more Christian name in the files of the Cherokee Reservation in Oklahoma. He chooses the name John. He leaves the lure of the circus and starts following the rodeo, bull riding. He rides under the name John Firewalker.

It's now around 1940 and a tall Native American is walking through the exhibits in Lawton, Oklahoma. He is pointing out pictures of his ancestors to the five-year-old boy walking beside him. An old man in a wheel chair has spotted the young boy and he watches as the boy asks his father question upon questions, some of which the father can't answer. The father looks down at his son and says, "I'm sorry son, but there's a period of years that were lost to me. Things about my grandparents that I'm not sure of."      

The old man in the wheel chair follows closely behind as the boy and his father continues to look at exhibits. He listens as the little boys' father tells him stories that his father used to tell him about his grandfather walking on hot coals in circus acts. He tells the boy about how his great, great, grandmother came from a place called Canada. He stops and kneels down to look into his son's blue/gray eyes. "I don't know much about your great, great, grandfather----I was told he was a lawman in the old west. The family split up as families often did in those days and contact was lost between them-----after that I can't tell you much more about your ancestors. As you grow older, maybe you can find out more about them."

The old man smiles to himself, his memory has faded in his 104 years, but some things he remembers very clearly. Like the color of her eyes, the warm smile, and she made him happy. He remembers another woman that he had loved, he was married to her for almost 54 years. He buried her in Bovine, Texas----many years before. His kids married and scattered, the grandkids would come and visit, and then they came less and less, soon he lost all contact with them. When his beloved wife died, he stayed on the farm as long as he could, and then he had to go to an old folk's home, and that's where he lives today. The "home" has taken him and several patients to the exhibits. He loves coming here, remembering.

He's jolted back to the present when he hears the young boy cry out in pain. He wheels his chair towards the young boy as fast as he can. The boy has gotten his finger caught in the door and it's bleeding. The boys' father runs to get a cold rag, the old man wheels up beside the boy who is fighting to keep from crying.

The old man reaches over and says, "Don't be ashamed to cry--------tears are like angel kisses--------------" The boy looks up at him, "and they clean the soul," he replies.               

The old man looks into the boys' eyes, a smile crosses his face, it's been a long time since he's had something to really smile about, and he touches the boys' face and whispers "Lili"?

A young woman comes up to the old man, "Time to go now, handsome----you ready"?                

The old man looks at the woman, "Is it time to go back to the home now"?

She nods and commences to wheel him away. They are going out the front entrance, when he makes the chair stop and looks back at the boy who is staring back at him. They stare at each for a few minutes and then he is gone. The boys' father comes running back with the cold rag and puts it on his son's finger.

The boy looks up to his father, "Father, who was that old man in the wheelchair?"

The older man turns and looks around the room "What old man, son----I didn't see any old man."                     

The boy looks back to the front entrance and walks over. The old man is nowhere in sight. His father walks up beside him, putting his hand on his shoulder, "we’ve got to go, son, your Mother is waiting."

The boy continues to look for the old man. Again, his father nudges him, "Come on Cordell, we’ve got to go!"

 

****************

 

"Walker, honey----wake up."                  

The bearded man rolls over towards the voice, the book he was reading falls to the floor.  He sees his wife staring back at him, her piercing blue eyes looking into his. "Did I fall asleep again?"                     

She smiles and kisses him, "Yes---you did----did you finish that book yet?"                  

The young man called Cooper ---gave the book to Walker, the week before at a baseball game, in Sage, Texas. The book mesmerized Walker and at night he would read while his wife would lay her head on his shoulder. Sometimes he would read aloud till she would fall asleep.                      

He picks the book up LIFES AND TIMES OF HAYES COOPER.

"This was one hell of a book" and then he kisses his wife, turns off the lamp, and goes to sleep.

 

THE END

June 10, 2001