TITLE: A Heart's Journey - Chapter 9
By Michele Fleming
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The sounds of a horse in apparent distress and the shouts of several men woke Ana from a deep sleep. She flew to her open window to investigate and saw Noah in the middle of the coral atop a bucking, black horse. An audience of about six men stood along the coral fence, two of which she recognized to be Thomas and Joe. Josie and Lucy came from around the corner of the house to watch the show and took their own spot alongside the fence.
Ana continued to watch from her window amazed at how brave and strong Noah seemed to be. The horse was putting everything it had into trying to throwing him across the coral, but Noah kept up the fight. Every jump and twist made caused her heart to race faster as she waited for him to fly through the air. Before she knew it, the horse began to calm and Noah began to have complete control of it. The onlookers gave a little cheer and their congratulations as well.
When Josie and Lucy turned to start back toward the house, Lucy looked up and spotted her sister in the window.
“Did you see that, Ana?” She hollered.
“Yes, I did. “
“Get dressed and come on down.” Josie instructed.
Ana ducked back inside to do as she was told. Only when she saw the grandfather clock in the living room did she realize that it was already lunchtime. Ana could not believe she had slept that late, much less, been allowed to. The wonderful aroma of beef stew simmering on the stove greeted her as she headed toward the kitchen.
“Ana! I didn’t think you were ever going to wake up!” Lucy exclaimed as she walked through the door.
“I can’t believe I slept this late.”
“Aunt Josie said I couldn’t wake you.” Lucy pouted.
“You should have let her. There were probably things that I could have been helping you with.” She told her aunt.
“There will be plenty of things for you to help me do, and plenty of time to do it in.” Josie began. “I felt you needed the extra rest.”
“Thank you. I do feel refreshed. It’s been a really long and stressful week.” Josie made her way to Ana’s side and wrapped her in big hug.
“I’m so sorry for the things you have had to endure…only with this trip, but with everything.” Ana knew she was referring to Mother.
“I’ve dealt with things very well, I think.”
“You most certainly have. You are a very strong and independent young woman. I feel that you have lost some of your childhood and I want to make sure you get a little of it back while you’re here with me.”
Hearing these words from Josie and seeing the sincerity in her eyes gave Ana a feeling of warmth and contentment that she had not felt since her mother passed. All she could do in response was to embrace her aunt in a big hug of her own.
They were still in their embrace when Thomas came through the back door.
“Oh, Ana,” he started, “I’m glad you’re up! Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, I did. Thank you. Is that a telegram?” Ana asked realizing he was holding some papers in his hand.
“Yes, two actually,” he said opening the first one. Everyone gathered around the kitchen table as Thomas began to read.
GLAD TO HEAR YOU REACHED FLINT CREEK SAFELY STOP FIGHTING STILL SPORADIC IN NORTHEAST STOP MANAGING TO CONTROL BEST SUPPLY ROUTES STOP SERGEANT DALTON IN SHREVEPORT HELPING WITH INVESTIGATION STOP WILL BE IN TOUCH WITH NEWS ASAP STOP COLONEL JAMES LAWSON STOP STOP
“It sounds like things are a little better back home.” Josie said in her attempt to comfort a crying Lucy.
“I miss Papa!” Lucy cried.
“I know you do, honey.” She told her as she scooped her up in her arms.
“What is the other telegram, Thomas?” Ana asked him.
“It is actually a telegram addressed to you.”
Puzzled Ana took it from him and was surprised to see that it was from Jacob. She looked up at Thomas and was equally surprised to see him standing there with a teasing grin on his face. Wanting to read her letter in privacy, she asked to be excused and headed out the back door and around to the swing hanging from the oak tree out front.
Once there she took a seat, opened the missive and began to read.
IN SHREVEPORT LOOKING INTO CASE STOP THOSE MEN WILL PAY STOP ALREADY HAVE LEADS STOP SEND CORRESPONDENCE TO ME HERE STOP HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON STOP JACOB DALTON STOP STOP
Ana closed the note knowing in her heart that what Jacob said was true. Those men were going to pay for what they did to her sweet Liza. Jacob would make sure of it. Ana’s heart also was doing funny things with the knowledge that he really did want her to write to him.
When he mentioned it on the train, she figured he was only being nice, but he really expected her to write. Ana would have to ask Josie for some supplies so that she could get a letter off to him as soon as possible.
Ana headed back inside feeling more than a tad bit giddy, but luckily she was able to get her emotions under control before anyone noticed…or so she thought. During the meal, Ana kept noticing Josie watching her, realized that she was curious, and would probably be questioning her later.
The meal ended and Lucy asked Thomas to take her out on horseback.
“Only if Josie says it’s okay.” He told her.
“May we please…Aunt Jose?”
“That’s a wonderful idea! You should take a couple of fishing poles with you and try your luck down at the creek.” Josie suggested.
“Can we, Thomas?”
“Sure, sounds like fun!” He told her as he stood and took her hand. “Where can we find the poles, Josie?”
“Out in the shed behind the barn,” she began, “and you will also find a small spade to dig for worms and a coffee can to put them in.”
“Great! You ready, Lucy?” Thomas asked, all the while knowing the answer he was going to get.
“Yes, yes, yes! Let’s go!” Lucy squealed as she began to drag a laughing Thomas toward the door.
“Would you like to go too, Ana?” He managed to ask as Lucy pulled him out of the door.
“No…not this time, I have some things I want to do around here.” Ana told him, having every intention of working on some writing.
With that, they were out the door and own their way, but not before Thomas and Josie shared a little smile that sent Ana’s mind to racing.
“What was that all about?” she wondered to herself.
Ana looked to Josie and saw that she still had a small grin on her face.
“What are you grinning about, Josie?”
“What makes you think I am grinning about anything? Can’t I be grinning because I feel like grinning?” Her defensive behavior caused Ana to laugh.
“It sounds like the lady doth protest too much.” Ana told her quoting a play that she had read once.
Josie gave her a funny look, but turned and went back to the dishes they were washing together. Ana decided to let the matter drop, for now anyway, deciding to ask about the writing supplies that she needed.
“Josie, do you have any supplies that I could use to write a letter?”
“Yes, of course,” she informed me, “in the roll-top in the living room. Take what you need.”
She stopped what she was doing and looked at the younger girl.
“There is some fancy paper and envelopes in the top draw also…if the letter needs to be a little more special.”
This caused Ana to stop drying the plate she was working on to look at Josie. It was obvious by the twinkle in her eyes, that she was intent on some teasing of her own.
“The telegram you received. It was from that solider that helped to get you out of Chattanooga, right?”
“Yes.” Ana could feel the heat rise in her face. She could tell that Josie had figured her out.
“Well…,” Josie let the word hang in the air, clearly wanting her to go on, but Ana was suddenly very embarrassed by the whole thing.
“Listen, if you don’t want to talk about it, its okay. I understand. Thomas told me that Dalton was a Godsend during that time, and that he was the one that your father sent to Louisiana to look for the men that killed Liza. He said that he believed Dalton to be a very good and upstanding young man.
“Thomas also told me that he overheard you two talking about writing each other. It really is okay with me, and…well…” she paused looking a little frustrated.
“I know I’m rambling…I’m sorry. I have never had kids of my own or really been around any as they were growing up except for Noah, and…”
Ana tried to hide her laughter from her aunt with her hand and when Josie realized what she was doing she started to giggle herself.
“No really, I’m not used to all of this. I really want you to feel like you can talk to me and here I am rambling on like a daft woman. Your mother would not be pleased.”
“Mother would most definitely be pleased, Josie. Knowing that we are here with you probably has her dancing in the streets up in heaven. She used to talk about you all the time. And always had plans of us all getting together someday…” this thought caused them both to choke up.
“You sound exactly like her when you talk, did you know that? You are like her in so many ways and I have no doubts that she is so proud of you. I want to make her proud of me too, by taking care of you girls precisely as she would.”
The two cried on each other’s shoulder and when the embrace was over, Josie spoke.
“Listen, I don’t want to meddle, but I was serious about wanting you to feel like you can talk to me, about anything.” She said as she wiped the tears from Ana’s cheek.
“It would be nice to have someone to talk to. So, since you offered…” Ana finished with a grin.
A big smile crossed Josie’s face and she grabbed Ana’s hand and started leading her to the sitting room.
“Oh…wait! Let’s get ourselves a glass of lemonade and maybe a plate of those cookies that Sarah sent over.”
Ana could tell she was excited, so she played along, still a little unsure of opening up to anyone. They loaded a tray with lemonade and cookies then made their way to the sitting room each taking a seat on the love seat. After gathering their glass and cookie plate, Josie looked at Ana with anticipation, so taking a deep breath she began her story.
“When I was first introduced to Jacob, I figured him to be like all the other soldiers I had met. I did think him to be handsome, but I would not allow myself to think on it any further—that is until we were on the train.
“I saw the way he handled himself when the train started being fired upon…” Cut short by her gasp, Ana realized that Josie did not know the whole story.
Ana filled her in on all the details—from the time Father told them he was sending them away to their arrival in Flint Creek. The talk went from there… to everything else they could think of.
They talked until they realized it was almost suppertime. Ending the conversation, they headed to the kitchen and began the evening meal. The two of them promised today was only the beginning of many talks together.
It felt so good to have someone with whom she could talk. Since her mother passed, Ana really did not have anyone. Yes, there was Liza, but Ana never felt like she could open up to her the way she had her mother.
Ana had a few girlfriends, but with Father being gone most of the time, did not spend time with them outside of school. For Ana, having Josie was the best thing ever.
They finished with supper a little while later and Ana headed back to the sitting room to collect paper, ink and a pen and then excused herself to her room to begin the letter she had waited all afternoon to write.
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