Driscolls Lady – a contemporary western romance by Paula Freda
…After supper that evening Seth went to the stalls to check on the horses. The night was cold and the sky clear and very close. The stars appeared so near that he needed all his power of reasoning not to reach up and attempt to grasp one. The illusion paralleled his relationship with Leatrice. Yesterday when he’d held her in his arms, the promise of lasting happiness had hovered within his grasp. But the promise was a lie. Leatrice would never cut it. Linda was the reality. She stood for logic and permanence. She was the grit of the earth, born and bred a Montanan, like himself. If she failed to heat his blood as Leatrice did with but a brush of her lips against his, in the long run it would not matter. A man needed a partner to help him, comfort him, to share his good times and bad, and God permitting, to rear sons and daughters with. He needed a companion with whom one day to share his old age. Linda fit the picture. She was the logical choice. Yet sometimes in the middle of the night, when all was silent except for the occasional baying of a wolf in the distance, he would think how utterly and completely content he might feel if Leatrice were the logical choice. When he returned to the house, carrying a fat cardboard box, a fire crackled in the hearth inside the parlor – Leatrice’s doing. The lights were off and the entire room shimmered in soft tones of amber and maize. A long-playing record on the phonograph’s turntable spun golden sounds of Christmas melodies. Seth carried the box into the parlor and placed it in front of the couch. He sat down and sank into a flowered cushion. Motioning Leatrice to join him, he pulled open the interlocking flaps on the box and began drawing out small wooden figures of angels and Santa Clauses and reindeer. “I carved these myself when I was a boy,” he said. The thought of that accomplishment still excited him. Next he removed a leather satchel containing hand-sized white satin cushions edged with fine lace and dotted with tiny bows, each bow a different pastel color. He announced proudly, “My mother sewed these.” From another satchel he took a large white satin star stuffed to the points with cotton. “This was a gift from my grandmother,” he said, reverently. He held the ornament up for Leatrice’s inspection. The white satin caught the light from the hearth and glowed. “There are also store-bought ornaments in the box. Want to trim the tree?” he asked eagerly, boyishly.
Together they walked over to the tree that had been set up in an obliging corner of the room. Once again they became as children, frolicking and teasing each other as they decorated the tree. And later, with the room reflected from a dozen angles in the eggshell-thin, brightly colored Christmas balls hanging prettily on the branches, Leatrice and Seth relaxed on the couch, side-by-side, yet discreetly apart. Leatrice’s eyes were closed. Her mind was on the future, and moments like this that would never be hers again after her allotted year came to an end.
Seth watched the firelight shilly-shallying across her features, casting them in dark shadows one moment, then brilliance the next. Very soon he would want to make love to her even though his future was pledged to his country sweetheart. The thought frightened him to the point of anger. He rose abruptly. “Everything is lovely, Leatrice, but I’m beat. We had no luck finding that crazed bull. He broke through the fence to the south pasture. I’ll be leaving early in the morning to resume the search. Good night, Leatrice.”
Leatrice smiled and he saw in her eyes resignation and an unrequited love that refused to die, yet accepted his decision without ill feeling. This was not the reaction he expected, not from Leatrice. She was fire and brimstone, or ice and snow, not this shimmering peacefulness.
“Good night, Leatrice.” He said, unaware he was repeating himself.
(Copyright by Paula Freda)
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