The Ridge

 by Fran

 

countrygirlfran@aol.com

 

 

He sat upon his horse, his gaze transfixed on the horizon where the sun was just beginning to peek over the ridge.  The air was chilly for an early September morning.  The wind danced around him, but he took no notice.  The call of a lone eagle broke the stillness.  The cry came again.  He listened intently in anticipation of the return by its mate.  Only silence.  He knew the loneliness, felt it deep within his soul.  A single tear ran down his cheek.  He remained motionless a moment longer, then nudged his mount, directing him left and down the hill. 

 

Trivette checked his watch, tapping its face.  “Where the heck is Walker?”  In all the time he had known him, Walker had never been late.  In fact, he was just the opposite, always the early bird.  Concern was building in him as he picked up the phone and once again dialed the ranch.  Still no answer.  “Damn!”  Trivette said slamming the receiver down.  Things had been extremely tense lately, with threatening calls and letters.  He shuddered at the thought that maybe Walker had been caught off guard and hurt…or worse!

 

Trivette drove over to C.D.’s, hoping he had seen Walker or spoken to him.  “No Jimmy, I haven’t seen or heard from him either.  I’m pretty worried myself.  You know he always pulls away at times like this.  But darn that stubborn boy, he needs someone to help him through this one.”  C.D. shook his head, then added with a sigh, “You know Cordell.”  Trivette looked inquisitively at C.D.  “What do you mean-times like this?  What am I missing here?”  “My God son!  I thought you’d heard.  Alex…well…she’s GONE!” He said in a guarded tone.  The shock surged through Trivette’s body, his heartbeat becoming rapid and strong.  He sank into the chair, physically shaken, tears welling in his eyes.

 

At the ranch, the phone rang.  Walker sat quietly, oblivious to the interruption, his mind far away.  He was lying on a blanket under a star lit sky, the warm body of his one true love beside him.  Her soft caress sending tingles through his body, warming his heart and soul.  He turns to face her, looking into her twinkling blue eyes.  He smiles as he gently strokes her hair.  She returns his smile.  Leaning toward him, she lightly kisses his forehead.  She opens her eyes wide, in that fawn-like quality of innocence, wonder, and yearning.  Meeting her gaze, he can feel the emotions welling inside of him.  He pulls her tightly against his body and passionately kisses her.  Their lips finally part, and he slowly opens his eyes, able at last to say the words he has kept hidden inside for so long.  “Alex….I lov……Where…” But she is gone.

Walker sat up, startled at first, searching for her, and then realizing the truth…  The phone rang.   He ripped it out of the wall and hurled it across the room.

 

Looking at Trivette, C.D. could see that Jimmy had misunderstood the meaning of what he had said.  He took Trivette by the arms, directing his attention toward his own eyes.  “Jimmy!  Alex is not dead!!  Trivette let out a deep breath.  Still shaking, his heart pounding, he leaned back uttering, “Dear God! Thank You!!”  “I’m sorry son.  Guess I wasn’t quite clear.  You OK?”  Trivette nodded his head, still trying to regain his composure.  C.D. clarified, “Alex LEFT last night.  Said something about she had a new job and she was leaving Dallas.”  “What new job?  Alex never mentioned anything.  Not to me anyway.  And I’m sure not to Walker.  I’d have noticed right away.”  “Don’t know son.  She met Cordell here about 5 last night.  She didn’t look to good, and he noticed right away.  He asked what was wrong, and she just….took a deep breath….. spurted out about leaving for a new job and said goodbye.”  Trivette’s eyes widened in astonishment at the suddenness and apparent lack of emotion.  He shook his head slowly, his mouth slightly agape. “And she just… left?”  “Yup!  Said ‘Goodbye Walker.  I’ll always keep you in my mind and in my heart.  Take care.”  End quote!  No hug.  No kiss.  No fuss.  No nothin’.  Just got up and hurried out.”

 

Trivette could not believe what he was hearing.  That didn’t sound at all like Alex.  She was strong, but she couldn’t hide her feelings or tears when Walker had to leave for even a few days.  What had happened?  He was completely at a loss for any explanation.  The hurt was clear on C.D.’s face, he continued shaking his head,  “Poor Cordell!  He was so stunned, he couldn’t even move.  By the time he shook the cobwebs away, she was gone.”  C.D. slammed the table with both fists.  “Hell, I shoulda’ gone after her myself.  But she had me just as dang dumb founded as Cordell.”  Trivette could only stare at C.D., his eyes asking ‘WHY’????”

 

Alex gazed out the window.  Her eyes catching the reflection of her tear stained face.  “What have I done?”  She had wrestled for nearly a month over the decision to leave, weighing the situation time and again.  She loved Walker, she was sure of that.  And she was sure he loved her.  But he just couldn’t commit himself, not even to say the words.  What was he so afraid of?  She thought about all the good times they had shared.  The parties they attended, the evening walks in the moonlight, the quick lunches he always made time for, and the practical jokes.  Then there were the rough spots.  The canceled dates, the late nights, the worry, the fear.  He was always her pillar of strength when she needed one, her shoulder to cry on and loving arms to protect her.  She had never let any other man see her so vulnerable. He was the one, the only one to touch her so deeply.  Was marriage that important?  Was the cost of losing that one special person worth the piece of paper that made it all legal?  The feelings don’t change.  She agonized over the mixed feelings and questions she experienced yet again.  “How could I have made this decision, and still feel this way?  ‘What is it really?” She asked herself. 

 

It was the inadmittance of the feelings, or the inability in him to express them that made her wary.  The fear that one day the pressure would become too great and he would end it.  That frightened her.  She couldn’t bare that pain, that rejection.  ‘”oh what do you do—trade your own feelings for his.  Do to him what you are so afraid of having happen to you.  He’ll never forgive you.”  She felt the pain anyway, deeper and stronger each time she thought about it.  She spoke aloud as she tried once more to rationalize her decision.  “So!  If he loves me so much, why didn’t he come after me or try to stop me?  God knows he wouldn’t have had to go far.”  Alex had barely made it 5 blocks, when she finally had to pull off the road.  It was 45 minutes before she could control the sobs and regain enough composure to drive on.  At that time she had thought about going back, but she just couldn’t give in.  “Oh, but no, not him!  ‘Let her go if that is what she needs to do’…..Mr. Selfless.  He didn’t even say a word, show any feelings!..…..How could he?  It wasn’t like I gave him the chance.  I could have at least approached it honestly, compassionately, allowing him time to relate his feelings.  “NO!  I couldn’t do that!  That was part of the plan.  Not to hang around and look for another excuse to stay.”

 

Alex kept mulling over everything, and it became apparent to her that she had made the biggest mistake in her life.  It took making it to realize the truth.  But now what could she do?  Walker wouldn’t just accept an ‘I’m sorry, I screwed up, forgive me.”  Alex’s eyes filled with tears as she whispered, “I’ve broken all the trust he has ever had in me.  How can I ever expect him to love me again?”  She curled up on the bed.  “If I don’t have him, who can I call?”  Again her emotions overtook her.

 

“C.D., do you think Walker might have gone to the reservation, maybe to see White Eagle?”  “I thought about that Jimmy.  But no one has seen him there either.  I spoke to Sam and he’s gonna’ keep an eye out for him.”  Trivette knew how much Walker loved Alex.  More than anyone else, he knew.  He was Walker’s partner, his confidant.  They’d talked a lot about the relationship.  This had to be tearing him apart.  He needed to find Walker and be there for him.  “I gotta find him Big Dog!  Before leaving, Trivette tried the ranch one more time.  He was sure he wouldn’t get an answer, but….  Trivette’s heart jumped.  The call wouldn’t go through.  “Oh man!  C.D.!!”  His cry was so loud and urgent that C.D. dropped the coffee he had been sipping.  “For God’s Sake Jimmy!  You tryin’ to give me a heart attack or somthin!”  “The phone’s out at the ranch!  I’m going out there!”  “Be careful son!  I’ll be right here if ya need me!” 

 

Trivette sped to the ranch, skidding to a stop and kicking up a cloud of dust as he pulled up to the house.  With gun drawn, he worked his way cautiously to the front door.  His instincts told him to burst right in, to find his friend, but he had to approach this as he would any other call he was responding to.  He peeked in the window and saw a tuft a reddish hair protruding just above the top of a chair.  Trivette’s heart quickened.  He could feel the adrenaline rushing through his body.  He took a deep breath.  Kicking in the door, he rolled to cover announcing, “TEXAS RANGER!”  Trivette checked the area, gun poised and ready.  He moved to Walker, and seeing that he was not injured, followed his training rather than his heart and methodically checked the house.  No sign of entry or struggle, and no intruder.  Trivette moved toward Walker now, more compassionately, observing him closely.  “Hey partner.  You OK?”  Walker made no attempt to respond.  His head remained bowed, his eyes fixed upon the object he fingered.  Trivette squatted down in front of him and spoke in a quiet voice.  “Walker! You wanta’ talk about it?”  Trivette, now eye level with Walker, could see the anguish behind his friend’s red eyes.  He didn’t press for an answer.  He stayed quiet, waiting for Walker to make the next move….. 10 minutes had passed, and still Walker remained quiet.  Trivette moved only to shift his weight from one knee to the other now and then.

 

Finally the silence was broken.  In a soft, almost distant voice, Walker started.  “Have you ever been to the ridge at dawn?  Alex and I spent time there once….  It is absolutely the most beautiful place….  So quiet.  Devoid of all the bustling sounds of the city….  The peacefulness engulfs you almost immediately….You can hear the wind whistle through the stand of trees….and the trickling of the brook below….You watch in awe as the first rays of sun break through the blackness, and darkness retreats to its resting place….  A ray of hope for a new day.”  With a deep sigh he added softly, “I had hoped it would be ours.”  Trivette’s heart ached for his friend.  He had never heard him so serious and philosophical before, and it made him uneasy.  “The animals come alive, their songs welcoming the new day and then…..then a burst of color glows before you, and you know that this is a special place.  A place where all miracles come together at once.”  Walker raised his head and met Trivette’s eyes.  “That moment…I knew I was holding a miracle in my arms.  One who didn’t run from me because of my job, but instead encouraged me to continue.  Someone who understood the need to be alone, or the need to be together even in silence.  A person so supportive….so giving in unconditional love……..”  His voice trailed off in a quiet whisper, tears beginning to well in his tired eyes.  He struggled to hold them back as he lowered his head once more.  In a gesture of reassurance, Trivette laid his hand on Walker’s knee.  He could find no words to soothe his partner’s suffering.  He only hoped his presence would help ease the pain.  After a few moments, Walker held out his hand, his index finger slightly extended.  On it rested a beautiful diamond ring.  Simple in design and yet the most striking his partner had ever seen.  Trivette knew immediately whom it was meant for.  His composure somewhat recovered, Walker quietly spoke.  “I cleared my schedule for the weekend.  Hers too.”  “Hers?”  Walker had never referred to Alex as ‘her’ except in jest.  “I had everything planned.  I was gonna’ drive us to the ranch Friday evening, fix her favorite dish and have a nice quiet dinner together.  We haven’t had many of those lately.  I’d pack up the horses while she relaxed.  Then we’d ride to the ridge and camp out for the night.  The weather promised to be perfect.”  A few moments passed before Walker continued.  “Just before dawn, I planned to wake her and take her in my arms.  Together we’d watch as the miracles unfolded…..And at that moment, I was gonna’ tell her how I felt about her….how strong she is…how loving and giving…how much she means to me……how much I LOVE her……..I was gonna tell her for the first time ‘I love you Alex Cahill”….”Then I was gonna ask her to spend the rest of her life with me.”  Trivette’s eyes filled with tears as he looked at the brokenhearted face of his best friend.  “I’m here pal.  I’ll do everything I can to help.  I promise!”  As Walker looked into his partner’s eyes, he could see the hurt he felt for him.  He felt a bit guilty, but he had to talk to someone.  “I blew it Trivette.  I waited too long, and now it’s too late.”  They sat silently, reading each other’s faces, sharing the burden of pain and loss.

 

Alex lay awake on the bed, her eyes still damp and swollen.  She had finally stopped crying and started to think, but her thoughts were a jumble.  “I can’t call Walker.  He probably wouldn’t even speak to me.  C.D. is probably madder then a hornet, and Jimmy might not even know I’m gone.  And if he does, he’ll just be upset with me too.”  Alex thought awhile, then picked up the phone and dialed.  “Hi. Dad.  It’s me…..Oh I’m fine…..No re…..You’re right Dad, I’m not……I’m in Denton…..No, not on business……No..No Wal…ker’s not with me.”  Gordon noticed the break in her voice, and instantly knew there was something wrong….. “Oh Dad!  I’d love to see you….I really need someone to talk to…..Are you sure?…..OK!……Yes….I’ll meet you there in the morning…..Dad..Thank you!…..Good night.” 

 

C.D. was beginning to pace.  He had done everything he could to keep his mind clear and at ease.  Now there was nothing left to do, and he was getting antsy.  The phone rang and C.D. pounced on it before it could sound again.  “Hello, C.D.’s.”  “Hey Big Dog.  I found him.”  “Thank Heavens!  Is he OK?”  “He’s not hurt…at least not physically, but man is he broke up inside.  I’ve never heard him talk this way.  I’m really worried.”  “Poor boy!…  What can I do son?  Does he need anything, has he eaten?”  “I don’t think he’s up to eating right now, but we sure can do something.  We gotta find Alex.”  “Son, I know you mean well, but do you think that’s a good idea right now?”  “C.D., he has a ring for her.  She just left three days too soon.”  “A ring!  As in engagement ring?  Cordell?”  “Yeah C.D.!”  “Well I’ll be damned!  I never thought it would happen.”  “That’s exactly why we have to find her Big Dog.  Or it never will.”  “What do ya need Jimmy?”  “Check to see if she returned to her apartment, or the HOPE Center.  I’m gonna call a few of the gals from the women’s group, and pay a visit to the DA’s office.”  “Will do.  I’ll call you as soon as I find out anything.”

 

Trivette returned to the living room.  Walker looked as though he had dozed off, but he opened his eyes as soon as Trivette sat down.  “Well partner, it’s time to take action.”  Walker looked puzzled.  “What do you mean?”  “Do you still want to have that special weekend?”  The answer was in his eyes, but he felt it was hopeless.  Before he could answer, Trivette spoke up.  “OK, then, we go find Alex!”  “Huh?… Right…No one knows where she went off to…I checked.  She obviously doesn’t want to be found.”  “So?”  Trivette answered in a confident tone.  “How many people do WE go after that do?”  Walker looked at him as though he were crazy.  “Trivette, those are criminals with things to hide and reasons to run.”  “Well it seems to me Alex had something to hide, and probably had her reasons for running.  And this is a crime.  A crime of love and passion.”  Walker looked at him, his eyebrow raised.  “Trivette...you’re nuts!”  Trivette looked at Walker, a bit shocked that he wasn’t up to the challenge.  Trivette picked up the ring, which Walker had set on the table.  “You hold onto this buddy.  You’re gonna need it real soon, I promise!  I understand if you don’t want to jump in right now, but I’ve already got things going for this investigation.  I’m gonna go chase down some info.  You need anything before I go?”  “No.”  “All right then, I’ll stop by later with some dinner.”  “I’m not hungry Trivette.”  “Later,” Trivette hollered back as he swung open the door.  Walker breathed deeply.  If Trivette did find her, he didn’t know what he was going to do or say.  The only thing that crossed his mind was, “WHY?”

 

Alex didn’t sleep at all, and it was apparent to Gordon as soon as he saw her.  “My God, Honey!  You look terrible!”  “Thanks a lot Dad!”  “Let’s get a table and some coffee first, then we can talk.”  The waitress brought two cups and a fresh pot of coffee to the table.  “Getcha’ anything else this mornin’ honey?”  Although Alex protested, her father ordered some eggs and toast for her.  “You’re going to eat!  Now, what’s wrong sweetheart.  What happened between you and Walker?”  ‘How did he know it was something between Walker and me?”  Alex sipped her coffee, and at first just made small talk.  “Don’t go beating around the bush darlin’, cause I’m an old bush-wacker.  Tell me what’s bothering you.”  Alex took another sip of her coffee and put down her cup.  She wrung her hands as she started to tell her father what had transpired over the last few weeks.  Several times she had to stop, unable to control the torrent of emotions.  Gordon moved into the booth next to her and hugged her tight, wiping away her tears.  “It’s OK honey, it’s OK!  Let’s take a break and you try to eat something huh?”  “I’m really not hu… Alex stopped in mid sentence, the look on her father’s face told her she had better listen to his advice.  She ate the toast, but only picked at the rest of the meal.  Gordon finished, and as he thanked the waitress for the round of coffee, he looked at Alex.  “Feeling better Honey?”  Alex just nodded her head.  OK...So what you’re telling me is that you feel you’ve made a huge mistake, but can’t figure out how to rectify the situation, right?”  “Well…Yes.”  “Do you love him Alex?”  “Yes.”  “And does he love you?”  There was a slight hesitation in her voice.  “Well…I’m not sure…after this….” Gordon took his daughter’s hand.  “Does he…Truly?”  Alex paused, searching her innermost feelings before replying, “Yes, I believe he truly does.”  Her father looked into her eyes, and with wisdom and experience he said confidently, “Then go back to him.”  “What?”  “Honey, true love never turns its back on you.  It understands mistakes and forgives without prejudice.  Be honest, about everything, and it will all work out.  I promise.”  He gently kissed her forehead and smiled that reassuring smile she remembered from her childhood.  He had never steered her wrong.  Alex hugged him tightly, a few tears dropping onto his shoulder.  “Thank you Dad.  I knew I could count on you!”

 

C.D. had no luck at Alex’s apartment or at the HOPE Center.  He gave Trivette a call.  “No luck Jimmy.  What do you want me to do next?”  “Well, I checked with a few of Alex’s friends from the group, and I still say they know something, but are keeping it in confidence.  I called the DA’s office and they said something about Alex going to Denton for some personal business.  She’s suppose to call with the hotel number in case the Huber trial gets moved up.”  “Why that lying lil’ lady!  She ain’t got no new job.  How could she put him through this?  I’ll go to Denton myself and give her a piece of my mind, and I might even give her a good smackin’ where it’ll do the most good!”  “Hold on Big Dog!  We have to think about this.  She obviously had her reasons, and we should find out what they are before we go accusing her.”  C.D. was all fired up.  “What do you mean, give her a chance?  Good or bad reasons, she had no right to treat Cordell like she did!  He deserves better than that!  And before you go in that direction, I’d say, and do, the same to Cordell if he did something like this to Alex!  They’ve been through too much together to be so…so…cold!”  “Relax C.D.!  We can’t be the judge.  They have to do that themselves.  Right now we both know they belong together, so we have to get them to sit and talk this out.  Don’t you agree?”  C.D. grudgingly answered, “Yeah, I ‘suppose.”  Then added, “But I’d still like to give her a damn’ good ‘talkin’ to’ on her tactics.”  Trivette chuckled, “I’m sure you will Big Dog!  I’m heading for Denton in the morning.  Could you call some hotels there and see if you can find out where she’s staying?”  “Yeah, no problem.”  Trivette could tell C.D. was still in a huff, and hoped he’d wait til morning to start calling.  If he found out anything tonight, he might just give Alex that ‘piece of his mind.’

 

Walker sat on the porch, staring out over the ranch and trying to sort things out.  He couldn’t have expected her to wait forever, but he always dreaded that day ever coming when she would say enough was enough.  The pain had been so great at her leaving, and the approach she took in doing so, that he hadn’t been able to think clearly.  Although he didn’t sleep well last night, he felt somewhat focused today.  He knew he owed a lot to Trivette.  Being able to release the bottled up emotions helped tremendously.  Now he sat calmly, analyzing the circumstances.  He knew they hadn’t had much time together lately.  His schedule had been grueling, keeping him busy day and night, and at one point, away for three weeks.  Her time was tied up too, with the peaking of the Huber case and the preparation of the witnesses.  This one was especially hard.  The women involved had been afraid to testify because of the brutality George Huber had inflicted upon them, and the threats they had received.  The extra time she had spent getting them all together at the Center paid off though, and they finally agreed to do their part in nailing this guy.  If one had time to spare, it certainly didn’t coincide with the others.  He had felt guilty not being able to be there for her when he could see she really needed someone.  Was it this that finally pushed her over the edge?  He remembered how upset she was when he had to leave.  How she hugged him so tightly telling him to be careful, and how her teary eyes said goodbye through the window.  Then when he’d returned, she had been angry that it had taken longer than planned, that he had taken a great risk and gotten injured….but she was so thrilled to see him, that she could not stay mad.  That’s when it hit him.  He knew now why she had left the way she did.  She couldn’t have done it if she had looked into his eyes, or heard his voice.  She had to just do it quick and go.  He felt great relief and his hope was restored. “Alex still loves me…she does!”  A huge smile crossed his face and a small tear formed in the corner of his eye.  It was just a matter now of making time to sit and talk things out and make it right. 

 

Alex had driven back to the hotel, and now was relaxing in a hot tub.  The soothing warmth of the water erased the tension she had been feeling in her tired body.  She closed her eyes and breathed deeply.  It was time to think about the best way to approach the situation of returning to Dallas and to Walker.  “A phone call perhaps or a chance meeting at C.D.’s?  No! A preset meeting at C.D.’s?  Or a visit to the ranch?……Which would provide the most privacy and the best atmosphere for the very serious discussion they would be having?  Not C.D.’s.  ‘He’ll probably half-kill me before Walker even sees me.  But I can’t just show up at his home,” she thought out loud.  “A phone call to offer an apology and to set up a time to talk things out?  Yes, that was best.”  She leaned back, submerging herself in the warm water and closed her eyes. 

 

Trivette had gotten up early and was headed toward Denton when the cell phone rang.  Trivette, expecting C.D., answered, “Mornin Big Dog!  Whatcha got for me?”  The voice on the other end asked, “Is this James Trivette?”  “Yes,” Trivette answered, wondering who was calling.  “I thought I had the wrong number for a second.  This is Gordon Cahill.  How are you Jimmy?”  “Gordon!  I’m fine, and you?”  “I’m good thank you.  I wanted to let you know I spoke with Alex this morning.  I’m sure you’re aware of what happened yesterday?”  “Of course!  Gordon!”  He should have thought of him.  “It made perfect sense for Alex to call her Dad, when she felt she had no where else to turn.  Jeez Gordon, I’m glad you called.  How is she?”  “Well, she’s doing better than she was earlier I’m sure, but I think she may need some help getting the nerve up to come back to Dallas.  We had a long talk, and I told her to talk with Walker about everything.”  “What was this all about anyway Gordon?  C.D. and I are so confused, and Walker is totally beside himself.”  “I’ll let Alex explain, but I’m going to give you her number at the hotel.  If you could call her and encourage her to come back…”  “Gordon, I’m on my way to Denton now.  Where is she, and I’ll meet her.  Maybe face to face I can persuade her.”  Gordon agreed, and gave Trivette the information adding, “You never heard this from me OK?”  “I’d have gotten it anyway, you just saved some time.  Thanks Gordon.” 

Trivette hung up and immediately called C.D. with the news, then he headed straight for the hotel. 

 

She had felt hungry when she got out of the tub, so she had ordered room service.  Alex was finishing brunch when a knock at the door made her jump.  “Could you come back later to clean the room, I’m busy right now?”  “Alex, It’s me Jimmy.  Can I come in for a few minutes?”  Alex stood up in alarm.  What was he doing here?  How did he find her, and was he alone?  “Uh…Jimmy, I uh….I’m not dressed….just give me a minute.”  Trivette waited, hat in hand, as Alex quieted her nerves, then slowly opened the door.  “Hey Alex,” he said quietly.  “Could I talk to you a few minutes…please?”  He was alone.  Good!  “Sure,” she said a bit uneasyily.  She gestured for him to come in then closed the door behind them, clicking the lock.  Alex turned around to meet the reassuring hug of one of her closest friends.  “We’ve been worried sick about you lady.  You OK?”  The comforting arms around her lifted a portion of the weight off her shoulders.  At least he wasn’t after her head.  “Yeah,” she whispered.  “Alex, sit down and tell me what happened.”  Alex felt him out before committing herself.  “Jimmy, I’m sorry I put you through so much worry.  You and C.D. must be ready to hang me?”  “No Alex, we just want to know what’s wrong, to understand what you’re feeling.  Well….Maybe C.D. will give you one of his famous lectures, but he’s just as concerned about you as I am. But if he comes near you with a hairbrush, I’d run.”  Alex laughed out loud, for the first time in a long while. She relaxed some, feeling relieved by Trivette’s answer.  “I can’t blame him…..either of you.  I was just a fool Jimmy.”  She went on to tell him briefly what had happened, not getting into too many details.  Those were left for Walker.  She confided in him about the meeting with her father, but Trivette gave no indication he already knew about it.  “Alex, your Father’s right.  I know Walker, and I know how he feels about you.  You two can work this out.  Just be honest and patient.”  That word ‘patient’ came up all the time in discussions concerning Walker.  But it didn’t bother her this time, in fact it finally clicked that patience was a big part of Walker, and his patience was one of the many virtues which drew her to him.  “Well Jimmy, I want to go back, but I’m not sure exactly how to approach him.  I thought maybe I should call him and set up a time to discuss this, but……I’m afraid the last time I did that……”  “I know you’re worried, but call him.  Set up a time and a place before you leave.  This gives him time to think too.  If it makes you feel better, let him pick the place.”  Alex agreed.  She picked up the phone, then hesitated.  She placed the receiver back into the cradle.  “It’s OK Alex, Trivette said as he placed his arm around her shoulder.  She picked it up again and nervously dialed the phone at the ranch.  “The call won’t go through!” Alex said with anxiety in her voice.  “Oh!  I forgot to mention, Walker had a bit of a disagreement with the phone….and it lost.”  He grinned slightly.  “Try his cell phone.  Maybe he turned it on.”  As luck would have it, Walker had just gotten off the phone with his Captain, making ‘mutual’ arrangements to take the rest of the week off.  The Captain assured Walker that Trivette would receive the same as his end of the bargaining.  He answered, “Walker.”

 

A long pause followed, then a shaky voice responded, “Hello Walker?……I’m….I’m sorry…... I know I hurt you terribly….could we get…..could we find time to talk about things…..maybe…please?”   His heart accelerated at the mere sound of her voice.  Although she had been the one to walk out, he felt bad when he heard the apprehension in her voice.  However, he was glad she wanted to talk.  If he had been correct, things would work out just fine.  And speaking of right, damned if Trivette didn’t break a record on this one.  He answered in a concerned yet slightly sensitive tone, “I think that would be a good idea.”  Her heart skipped a beat as she listened to the words.  Perhaps she was jumping the gun, but she felt the weight lifting  from her, believing what Trivette and her father had said about it working out.  “You pick the time and place.  I promise I’ll be there…and no surprises.”  He thought for a moment.  “Can you meet me here at the ranch tonight, anytime?”  Alex checked the time and answered, “It’s still early, I’m only about 40 minutes away.  Would 5 o’clock…..Uh, 6 o’clock be all right?”  5 would be fine Alex.”  “I’ll see you then…. and Walker… Thank you.”  Almost simultaneously, Alex and Walker thought, Thank you God for another chance.  Walker was pacing as the clock grew closer to 5:00pm.  He noticed that his palms were sweating.  Alex was incredibly nervous as she pulled up to the house.  This was it.  She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  She made her way to the door, and taking one more cleansing breath, she tapped on the window.  Walker’s heart stopped for just a moment.  He walked over and opened the door.  “Hi, Alex.”  The look of uneasiness on her face made him yearn to hold her, but he fought the urge.  Alex wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms, but felt that was inappropriate at this time.  “Hi.  Thank you for taking the time to …well…”  “Walker replied, “I made time Alex, this time I made time.  Come in and sit down.  Would you like some coffee?”  Why did he have to be so nice, so civil?  “No thank you.  Walker, this isn’t going to be easy for me.  I realize I’ve put you through so much pain and confusion…I’m really sorry.”  She could already feel the emotions surging, and continued slowly and deliberately.  “Of all the people in my life Walker, you have been the closest to my heart.  Your strength and comfort….your understanding and your wisdom….and your humor, all touched me more deeply than you could imagine.”  She struggled to find the words to say, to make things clear.  Walker took her hands and looked deep into her eyes.  “It’s OK Alex, take your time.  Words have never come easily for me either.  I understand.”  His touch could still melt her, but she tried not to let it show.  “Walker, I needed a commitment from you…no, an admittance from you….The words, I just needed to hear the words.  I know it sounds silly, but….”  She took a few seconds to think, then continued.  “You never could say them and I was….was….afraid that the pressure would drive you away.”  She could no longer fight the tears, and buried her face in her hands.  “I am soooo selfish.  I was afraid of the pain, so I left it up to you to have to fight it.”  Walker moved closer and put his arm around Alex’s shoulder.  “Is that why you left the way you did?”  She leaned into him and softly answered, “Yes….  Walker I love you so much, that if I ever gave you the chance to talk this out then, I’d never have had the strength to go.”  She tried to regain her composure.  Wiping her eyes, she noticed a slight look of guilt on Walker’s face.  “You never should have been made to feel that way,” he whispered compassionately.  “Oh Walker!  Please don’t feel that this had to do with you.  It’s my insecurities that caused this mess.  I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life not trusting the feelings I knew and felt were there.  Wanting ‘proof’ in words.  I don’t know if you could ever forgive me.”  Walker gently lifted her chin and look directly into her eyes.  “Alex, don’t take all the blame for this.  I had just as much to do with this as you.  Everyone I have ever loved has been taken from me, and I built walls around me so I would never feel that pain again.  Because of those barriers, I was never able to tell you how I feel about you.  We both had insecurities to overcome.”  She looked at him softly, catching the sparkle in his eyes.  He looked at her purposefully.  “Alex, I admire your strength and courage, your ability to give all you’ve got to something you want and believe in.  The understanding and compassion you show for those around you amazes me.  You have been my strength to go on in so many instances.  I finally realized those barriers could not hold you at bay.  And…I never wanted them to….  Alex Cahill,  I love you …with all my heart and soul.”  She stared into his eyes, tears filling her own. Walker pulled her to him and tenderly kissed her.

 

It was near 9 when Walker finally looked at the clock.  They still had time to make it to the ridge tonight.  And he didn’t want to wait any longer.  He woke Alex with a gentle kiss.  “I’ll be back in a few minutes.  I’ve got to get some things together.”  “What things?”  “It’s a surprise.”  Alex was very curious.  She got up and walked over to the window, watching Walker move toward the stable area. “‘I hope he isn’t thinking of riding tonight.”  When Walker returned, he asked Alex to get her coat and follow him.  The horses were ready to go, and he told Alex he would like to take her to the ridge and camp out there.  “Don’t you think it’s a little too late for that?”  “No, I believe this is the perfect time.  I don’t want it to be too late.”  She looked at him wondering what was up, but agreed.  They made it to the ridge with few problems and set up camp.  Walker did not sleep, but instead drifted into the tranquility surrounding them.  As dawn approached, he carefully moved Alex so that she was sitting between his legs and leaning against his chest.  He wrapped his arms snugly around her and closed his eyes.  Alex pressed into him and smiled.  “This is nice.  I could get use to this…. I still remember the time we spent here…it was so beautiful.”  They were once more captured by the awe and beauty of this place as the new day dawned.  “Alex?”  She turned to face him.  “Yes Walker?”  “Alex, this place is filled with miracles.  Miracles of life and nature, of things we cannot understand or control.  It is filled with new beginnings and new hopes.  That’s why I brought you here.  In hopes of our new beginning, together.”  He paused for a moment, then continued, “Alex, you are my miracle, the one I know I cannot live without.  I would be both honored and blessed if you would be my wife.”  Alex was stunned.  She could not believe what was happening, what he was asking.  But as she looked into those sparkling blue eyes, she knew it was true.  Alex looked down as Walker gently took her hand and slipped a simple diamond ring upon her finger.  Alex gazed back at him and with tears of joy answered, “I love you Cordell Walker!…The honor would be mine.”  As they embraced, a lone eagle glided overhead, his call breaking the stillness.  And soon it was joined by a distant cry on the wind, the call of it’s mate.

 

The End.

 

All the Usual Legal Disclaimers.