Commit Thy Way Pt. 2

Read part 1 here

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Beth Johnson was shaking so hard she could hardly stand up. Memories came flooding into her mind, swift and debilitating, and she felt her knees begin to buckle under her. The man that towered over her moved swiftly as she started to sway, and settled her into the chair he had been occupying.

“You alright?”

Beth nodded, gripping her hands together tightly in her lap to still their trembling. She waited a second, forcing the fear and anxiety down deep, and then braced herself to stand.

Jed reached out and gripped her wrist, intending to help her to her feet, but when she gasped and pulled away, he looked down at the bruise that was already forming there. He lifted her hand and shoved the cuff of her blouse up to examine the discoloration; but it wasn’t the bruise that had the blood rushing from his head. The scars that circled her thin wrist had his eyes rising to hers in shock.

Beth shrank back onto the chair and yanked her arm away from the stranger. She pulled the sleeve of her blouse down over the faint white lines that reminded her every day of a past terror that still had the power to awaken her in the middle of the night.

Jed dropped his hand and stepped back, mind reeling. What had happened to this girl? The answer seemed to be all too obvious and Jed wasn’t quite sure how to handle the revelation.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He spoke the first words that entered his mind, as he swept his gaze over her and then looked into her tormented brown eyes. “Are you alright?”

Beth dropped her eyes from his penetrating gaze and darted a glance at the doorway to the kitchen. She wished with all that was in her that she was back there, in the safety of the cozy warmth with Margaret.

The pile of broken dishes was all but forgotten as she eyed the distance between her and that gateway to sanctuary, weighing the advisability of pushing past this mountain of a man and rushing across that expanse of floor.

As she sat there, contemplating escape, something suddenly rose up within her and strengthened her spine. She had survived all those years ago, she was not about to let this man intimidate her into hiding in the kitchen like some weak-kneed ninny.

“Yes, I am quite alright,” she answered with a quiet dignity that seemed so far beyond her years, it almost had Jed smiling.

Almost.

He studied her, seeing the strength and resiliency that had taken up residence in her lifted gaze. He had watched the transformation with amazement, wondering which was the real girl. The trembling, terrified child that had dropped her tray of dishes, or this young woman with a backbone to rival that of a grown man.

The paradox had a fleeting wish to remain in town to find out skipping through his mind.

And then she stood, forcing him to step back, and he was once again struck by how small and fragile she looked.

“Excuse me. I must clean up this mess.”

She stepped around him and bent to begin picking up the pieces of pottery that had scattered across the hardwood floor, and Jed knelt next to her, gathering up the larger pieces and laying them on the tray.

“Do you have a broom?”

His quiet question rippled through the silence that had fallen between them and she nodded as she stood to go into the kitchen. Jed could hear the quiet conversation through the door and a minute later he heard the door swing on its hinges. His back was to the door and he did not see who had joined him.

“Young man, what are you doing?”

The sharp question would have brought Jed to his feet with an explanation; but it was the voice that had his head turning and his eyes widening in shock for the second time in the past thirty minutes.

The tiny gray haired woman stared at him in amazement.

“Jedidiah? What are you doing here?”

Jed was reaching for her even as she stepped toward him, arms out in joyful welcome.

“Aunt Margaret?”

© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2018

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Commit Thy Way – A Sequel to “Thy Will Be Done”

A few years ago I wrote a 12 part story entitled “Thy Will Be Done”. This is the continuation of that short story. If you want to go back and read “Thy Will Be Done”, follow the links under Inspirational Fiction in the header above.

 

Here is Commit Thy Way Pt. 1 —

Jedidiah Brown set his mouth in a tight line and lifted his chin in determination as he stared at the station master. He was not about to let a little thing like a missed train upset his plans.

“When will the next one arrive?”

“Not until 10:00 tomorrow morning, sir.”

Jed narrowed his eyes, giving the small man the sense of being pinned to a stake. The man swallowed hard, but refused to be cowed by the giant that towered over him.

“Any place I can stay the night?”

“There’s a hotel over on Bealer Street, sir, that might still have a room to let.”

“Might?”

The question rumbled deep in his chest and sounded for all the world like thunder rolling across the heavens to the man that found himself grateful for the counter that stood between him and this mountain of a stranger.

“Cattlemen, sir. A group of ‘em arrived today to visit the stock yards. May’ve filled up the hotel, sir.”

Jed sighed and bit down on his irritation. What else was going to go wrong?
“How do I get there?”

The station master gave him clear, concise directions and Jedidiah stepped back out into the cool night air. As he stepped off the station platform and headed into the tiny town, he found his irritation ratcheting up a notch or two at the delay. If it hadn’t been for the other delays along his route, he would have been at his destination in California already.

He stopped in the middle of the town and turned to look at the doorway of the saloon across the way. He was thirsty but found he didn’t care for the drunken atmosphere that floated out that doorway and into the street. He ran his eyes over the buildings that flanked the dusty avenue and stopped when he found a small restaurant a few doors down on the left. The lights showed the place was still open and he crossed the street and stepped up onto the wood sidewalk.

The quiet atmosphere of the establishment was in stark contrast to the raucous noise that spilled out of the saloon down the street. Jed settled at one of the tables in a back corner and watched the young girl that was gathering up the remains of a meal left on a table at the front near the door.

She was young, too young to be working, even in a clean place like this. Jed couldn’t help by wonder what her parents were thinking to allow her to come into contact with the men that might find their way in to get a meal. As he studied her, he realized the top of her head wouldn’t even reach his chin; and again a frown crinkled his brow at the idea of one so young being put to work in a restaurant.

The loud laughter and crude comments that preceded the opening of the door brought Jed’s eyes to the entryway and had them narrowing on the drunken cowboys that all but fell into the room.

“Well, hello there darlin’.”

The slurred comment was directed at the girl, and she shrank back away from the three men.

“Whatcha’ got good, girly?”

This question came from the dark-haired one that had inched his way around the room and trapped her between the three of them. The vulgar requests that came from the other two in answer to this query had the blood first rushing into her face and then draining away to leave her pale and shaken. She tried to back away from them, but the dark haired one stepped forward so she backed into him.

The inebriated man shot one arm out and grabbed her around the waist. Using the other hand he gripped one slender wrist tightly, sending the tray of dishes that she held clattering to the floor. The tiny whimper that reached Jed’s ears had him lunging to his feet and swinging as hard as he could at the guy’s face.

He could feel the shattering bones in the man’s nose as the blood gushed out and down the whiskered chin. The man’s howling cry drowned out the angry threats from his comrades, but Jed ignored it all and pulled the girl safely behind him.

“I suggest you leave her alone and get out while the gettin’s good.”

They lifted their injured friend and carried him out onto the street all the while flinging threats back at Jed and the girl.

Jed turned to look down at her and felt himself sliding into her deep brown eyes.

 

© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2018