The Past Is Never Forgotten

by Kit

Summary: A woman comes to Four Corners with a very troubled past. Not looking for anything but a new life she finds seven new friends and a new beginning instead of an end to her life.

Comments: This story I had in my head for sometime and thought might as well put it down on paper in the hopes that people may enjoy it. Mind you, some may not feel that what I wrote one would call accurate to the show. But we’ll never what could have come about with the town, people, etc. Anyway, the story involves all seven and I just hope enjoy the read.

Feedback is always welcome. I am very interested to know your opinions of the story.

The Standish Tavern seemed to be in a bit of a dilemma as Jane Townsend entered. The bar was crowded with too many men and dirty unclaimed plates and cups. They were stacked aside the men as they received full new plates of food. Each table had men sitting much too tightly together and if the table wasn’t full of food and a mess it was just full of a mess. As she tried to take in the situation it appeared there was one lonely man doing all of the work. And from the way he appeared…she was surprised to see him engaged in such menial labor. He looked like a "gentleman". With the exception of the apron tied about his hips and touches of gravy and flour that were spotted here and there on his clothing, he was dressed very smart. His paisley suspenders were accompanied with a white cotton shirt that had ruffles both on the collar and the sleeves. The bottoms of his dark blue pinstriped pants gathered at his shiny black boots those too were now spotted with touches of food. He certainly didn’t seem to care what he was doing and the patrons were not helping in the least by yelling orders at him and complaining each time he walked by a different table offering another comment.

Finding a lonely table, Jane sat herself down like the others…her table was full of an unkept mess. She couldn’t’ help but feel sorry for his plight he needed assistance but would he be willing to take hers? Taking another look about…the place was a little less to be desired. Bits and pieces of food were on the floor. Spots of what she guessed to be coffee and what ever else accompanied it. Also, it looked as if it hadn’t been swepted or washed in however long. She needed a job in the worst way. Just arriving in town and getting off the stage pretty much that moment she knew there weren’t going to be many offers and options. As she saw that he was making his way towards her she braced herself.

"Hey Standish!!!…Where’s my food?!"

Comes a loud bark from across the room full of people.

Ezra Standish couldn’t help but cloud his mind with private thoughts. Why on earth did he open the doors? He should have just left the place to rot! And to open it with out help or knowing how too cook…he had know idea what he’d gotten himself into. Snapping a glare over his shoulder. "You’ll wait your turn!" He spits back.

Now he placed his attention on her. "What is it I might be able to assist you with?" He asked out of breath, one hand he kept on his hip and the other he used the back to roughly wipe the sweat from his brow.

He held a rich and quiet southern accent. As he stood waiting on her reply, without even knowing, he complained to himself while touching and pulling at the stains on his clothes that no doubt were brought on as the day progressed. His temper really flared when he noticed a cuff link was missing from one of his sleeves. At first words didn’t come out she just stared up at him. He really didn’t fit the part as a waiter and quite frankly she didn’t want to bother him. He seemed busy enough. "A cup of coffee?" She finally blurted out.

In frustration he threw up his arms. "The single fixation I have not had occasion to prepare!"

Her mouth fell agape at his quick remark and again found herself a loss for words. He didn’t frighten her she just didn’t know what to say. Not knowing the gentleman words escaped her.

"I do apologize," he offered in a more relaxed tone. Pulling out the chair that was empty in front of her he roughly sat down and ran a hand through his short brown locks.

"Truly you must absolve my actions. I am not always so disagreeable." Searching for more words he did his best effort to put on a smile. "This is most categorically not my region of expertise. I am unaided I most undoubtedly do not have an inclination of the duties that are required for such a position…"

Not knowing pretty much anything he said but not wanting to sound dim witted she felt it best to play along. "I understand." She did in the sense that one didn’t always get what they were best at in employment and had to take what was thrown their way. "You seem like you could use some help. Are you looking for some?" She felt uneasy blurting out the offer but right now she didn’t have time to be proud. She was alone and there was no one else to help her out with money.

For the first time in the course of the day and for some time he found a true smile come to his face. "Indeed I am. I am in desperate need of assistance." He couldn’t help but chuckle. "What is your name?"

Putting a hand out for him to accept. "Jane, Jane Townsend and yours?"

He accepted her hand with a soft but firm grasp. "Jane." He nodded with approval. He then grinned widely. "I thought perhaps it would be acquainted with the heavens. Again, I must apologize for my loss of etiquette I am Ezra Standish and I have possession of this god forsaken establishment."

She couldn’t help but blush at his compliment. He was charming. Trying to hide her embarrassment she gave a quick look around and turned back to him. "Well Mr. Standish I think with some extra time and imagination this could be a lovely place." Once again, she couldn’t help but think how he looked like he belonged in San Francisco, New Orleans or somewhere fancy not here, in this no mans land. He seemed early to mid thirty’s his short brown hair held no touches of gray but one could see where the sun had naturally worn in streaks of blond. He had a few lines under the lightest green eyes she’d ever seen. He was a blindly handsome man. She felt for the ladies of the town.

"Did I detect a Texas accent? Your manner of speech is not unlike Mr. Tanners." As he took in her appearance he could see she wasn’t a young woman. Not old by any means but a few years younger than he must. She was an attractive woman. A few strands of gray showed through her thick chestnut mane of hair that was pulled back in a tight bun. She wore a dress that was light blue calico.

She sat silent and said nothing in regards to his comments. Obviously Mr. Tanner was a friend of his but how he figured Texas….

Her amber eyes had warmth but also a hint of warning. When she didn’t answer on his remarks he figured he best leave it alone. He knew he was going to like her. Getting up from his chair. "Might I be so bold as to suggest you start at this very moment and I insist that you call me Ezra not Mr. Standish."

"Beginning now would not be a problem." And as she got up from the table, she followed him and stated. "And the first thing I’m going to do Ezra is make a pot of coffee."

+ + + + + + +

As the day was coming to a close one man was left sitting and eating as Jane cleaned everywhere but around him. He seemed very much to himself. Even when he brushed in with his tall lean form and with the exception of the silver concho belt that adorned his gunbelt his wardrobe was full black. She knew enough to just serve him and leave the small talk.

"I’m finished."

She turned as he stood up, then taking some coins out of his pocket placed them on the table. His soft blue eyes locked on hers. He couldn’t have been more than forty. He was ruggedly handsome and looked very dangerous if provoked. After he placed his hat on his head of short blond hair, he tipped the rim. "Goodnight ma’am." He nodded, turned to go out the door. The sound of his spurs added a hit of intrigue in regards to this man. Before he reached the door, he looked over his shoulder to her. "The food wasn’t Mexican." It was more of a statement than a question.

"No," She whispered picking up his dishes. "I can’t cook like that. I only know the types of foods from the North." She tilted her head slightly to a side and grasped the dishes more firmly with both her hands. "Sorry if you didn’t like it." She had a feeling people might not be pleased with a change of menu in the area but it was a risk she and Ezra would have to take.

"On the contrary…It was very good. Guess since sounds like you’re from Texas, I assumed it would be Mexican. Anyway, best meal I’ve had in a long while." With that he went out the door.

She didn’t think her accent was that recognizable. She just hoped the town would work out. She placed the dishes on the table, took out a chair and sat. She was tired. What a day she’d had. Having to throw out all the food that was prepared from the lastemployee she of course had to prepare new and more food. Ezra had given no explanation as to why the person had left and she didn’t ask. Besides with cleaning and serving as well when she could to help Ezra there really was no time for talk. Earlier in the day, Ezra had taken her luggage over to the hotel; he said he’d have her checked in so that she wouldn’t have to worry about not getting a room. He was so kind, he insisted on paying since he had her start that very day. If he only knew about her past she wondered if he’d be this good to her. She was a woman over thirty and to common people she was a spinster and most likely the ones from the past that did know her found her loose. It didn’t matter now. Pushing herself up from the chair, she collected the dishes and was relieved that they were the last to be cleaned. As she walked towards the kitchen she took another look about the place…yes, she nodded in approval this really does have character it just needs attention. And she knew she’d have to offer some.

+ + + + + + +


All but jumping out of her dress, not to mention drop the key that belonged to the tavern onto the boardwalk as a voice came from behind her. Turning slowly she came to face a very handsome man in buckskins. As soon as she turned he tipped his hat and gave a warm smile.

"Didn’t mean to startle ya." He stood with his thumbs in the top of his breeches; she could see his suspenders peeking from the inside of his jacket his gunbelt and guns hung low on his hips. He had hair just about he color of her but a bit lighter. He was about the same age as Ezra.

"Names Vin Tanner." He watched as she gave him the once over and wondered if he frightened her. She didn’t’ appear to be afraid of him just a bit shaken by his abrupt interruption. "Ezra asked that I walk you to the hotel."

So this was Mr. Tanner. Well Ezra was right he definitely held a Texas accent it was much more noticeable than hers was though. She hoped his memories of Texas were more pleasant than the ones she held. "Ezra is so kind," she whispered. She couldn’t begin to wonder if every man in this town were handsome.

"Yeah," He chuckled lightly. Lifting his elbow. "Sounds like we’re from bout the same parts?" Peering over at her. "Texas I mean."

Excepting his elbow. "Thank you. "I’m Jane Townsend." She really didn’t want to discuss Texas. "I’m originally from the North only the last few years did I live in Texas."

"Grew up and spent my whole life there well up till now that is."

Wanting the subject to quickly change. "Well, I don’t’ really call anywhere my home."

He was getting her meaning. Obviously she didn’t want to talk about herself so he’d amuse her. "Well Miss Townsend," They began their walk to the hotel. "Ezra, me and about five others take care of this town.

"Really?" She was intrigued she’d never heard of such law tactics. "Who are the other five men?"

"Well there’s Chris Larabee, Nathan Jackson, Josiah Sanchez, Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne. JD is what you might call the official Sheriff." Again he chuckled. "Didn’t want you thinkin Ezra’s in charge cause I’m here at his request. It’s just we do things for one another."

"Oh," She didn’t realize she was the prize in a raffle.

As if sensing her thoughts, he continued hoping to put her mind at ease. "It ain’t that I didn’t want to walk you to the hotel it’s just…" He sighed loudly. Mercy if he wasn’t good around women. "Never mind."

"It’s alright Mr. Tanner." She petted his arm. "Really you don’t need to explain. I wouldn’t want the job of babysitting some woman either."

Stopping them in their tracks. "No," He was getting frustrated with himself. "I just ain’t good around women. I never know what to say." Looking at her he could see she wasn’t taking anything he’d said to heart. Ezra was right…she was a good person and he was lucky that she ended up at his tavern instead of the hotel that day.

Again they began to walk.

"Ezra is very good to me," she laughed lightly. "Well at least from what I’ve gathered. We really haven’t had much time to talk."

"I hope you come to like all us. You’ve met three so far."

Looking at him dumbfounded. "I’ve only met two, you and Ezra."

"Nope, He shook his head lightly. "You met Chris too. He’s the fella that held you up from leavin."

"Oh." It was all she could think to say. "He looked more like the type to disturb the peace than to keep it.

"I’ve been keepin an eye on ya. Never know what someone might think to do with a lone woman working at night." He shrugged his shoulders. "As for Chris well, he’s a good enough fella once you get to know him," he stated as a matter of fact.

As they reached the hotel he tipped his hat. "You sleep well now Miss Townsend," he had to admit…for once Ezra was right she was attractive in all ways.

Taking on a wide smile. "It’s Jane. And you have a good evening Mr. Tanner and thank you so much for seeing me to the hotel."

He winked. "Been a pleasure and call me Vin."

With that she made her way up the stairs and to the door of the hotel. Out of curiosity she turned to see if he’d left….indeed he’d stayed, he wanted to see that she safely got inside. It had been some time since she’d seen a man pay that compliment.

+ + + + + + +

It was a rainy Sunday morning as Jane made her way over to the church. As the soft rain turned into a down poor, she ran through the muddy main street and finally up the stairs and into the shelter of the dry church.

After she was done running her hands through her damp hair and smoothing down her dress that now had a full line of mud at the bottom of it. She took a look about and was shocked to see that she was alone. It was a small establishment that needed lots of work but it appeared someone was taking care of that. The only light came from the candles that were about the altar and the stairs that lead to it.

Hearing footsteps that were light then turned heavy the closer they approached. She turned in the direction of the sound and there stood a bear of a man. With what looked to be a carpenter’s box full of tools. At first he did not notice her but after a moments time he looked in her direction and put on welcoming smile.

"Good morning," he greeted with a warm husky voice.

"Hello." This couldn’t be the preacher. Dressed casual, he had on a light blue cotton shirt, his solid dark brown pants were tucked his tall black boots. He wore two necklaces one adorned with assorted colored beads and the other…a large crucifix and with exception of the crucifix he looked like he was entering a saloon not a house of god. He had to be in his early fifty’s, he had short, wavy thick salt and pepper hair.

"I’m Josiah Sanchez," He placed the toolbox on the floor and brought his arms upwards. "And this is the church," He dropped his arms and chuckled lightly. "Well we hope someday."

That was four of the seven she’d met. She liked his voice, it seemed comforting and seeing the size of him…it was an advantage with people she was sure he would never be aware of. "I’ve come for Sunday service." From looking around the room…it didn’t look as though that were going to happen.

"Now that’s a new one…you are the first to flock to my," Mockingly clearing his throat. "Congregation."

"Oh," She couldn’t help but be disappointed. She really could hear some words of inspiration.

Placing his hands on his hips, he tilted his head to a side. "Aren’t you the young lady that works for Ezra?"

"Yes, I’m Jane." She was tired of saying her full name besides it appeared her presence in town was somewhat the latest news.

"Folks I hear seem to like your food. I myself haven’t had the time to test it. Been on the road."

"Do you mind if I sit and pray at least?" Might as well. The other option was back out in the rain and to her boring room.

He waived a hand at the empty pews as an offering. "Be my guest."

Taking a spot in the middle isle she sat and then took her rosary beads from her purse, she then knelt and worked on her conversation with the lord on her sins.

Josiah took a seat in front. He placed an elbow on the top of the pew placed his chin on his palm and watched her pray. She certainly did seem to have allot on her mind. Not bad on the eyes either. He wanted to offer her confession but of late….not too many people wanted to share their inner most feelings or thoughts with him.

Peering up from her prayers she couldn’t help but notice him watching her. "Is there something wrong Mr. Sanchez?"

Shaking his head lightly. "No, just wondering if maybe you might want to offer confession."

"Why would I want to do that?" She snapped. She didn’t know why took such a quick defense. He was just offering his help. Being on her own for so long didn’t help her lack of manners in the socializing department.

"Suit yourself," he stated getting up and retrieving his toolbox again.

"I’m sorry. I had no right to talk to you like that." She really didn’t like being rude to people it’s just she had a hard time talking about herself.

He stood grinning down at her with his toolbox in hand. "Apology accepted."

"Mr. Sanchez, it’s just what I have in my head I really am so scared to confide in anyone." Her eyes turned full of sadness. "And since you’re not truly a man of god…well, I’m afraid what you might think of me."

"No, I’m not a priest but I like to think with all the wisdom I’ve come to gain from my time with the Indians," He chuckled. "I won’t boar you with those stories. Anyway, I feel I’ve done my time to be accepted as a man of god or at least a spiritual advisor of sorts."

Sitting back she wrung her hands in her rosary beads. "How much time do you have Mr. Sanchez?"

Dropping the toolbox lightly on the pew he had occupied. "All day…as much time as you need. And the names Josiah."

He went over and sat beside her but he kept his gaze forward not saying a word.

She knew he wanted her to start when she was ready…if she didn’t get this out now…she knew she never would. "I don’t know where to start." Her voice cracked a bit. Why she felt so full of emotions she wasn’t certain.

He shifted his eyes in her direction briefly and then back forward. Bringing up the past was something she had to do on her own and without interruption. It was best he listened until she was through with her tale.

Peering up at him. "I’ve been running a long time Josiah," she confessed and then placed her gaze back to her hands that held the beads firmly in her grasp as if they would protect her from the backlash she was sure to receive once she was done.

He nodded vigorously. "I know all about that." If this woman only knew the heartache and horror he’d endured both personally and professionally she wouldn’t feel so shameful about her own turmoil.

"Well," She breathed. "I’m originally from Boston," Snorting lightly. "Most folks hear you’re from those parts and think you’re from money. Well I wasn’t." Turning to him. "Josiah I had a horrible child hood, my teenage years weren’t much better. My father worked and what he made…well he drank. My mother was scared of her own shadow." Sitting back she shook her head slightly. "Anyway, I’m sure you can get the idea of how things were." Turning to him she gave a smug smile. "Here’s were the good part comes in. My father sent me to live with my uncle in Texas. From the time I arrived money was very tight…they were nice enough people but my Uncle was a farmer and with a wife and six kids of his own as time wore on it got tougher and tougher for me to be living with them. I did my best to help him out in the field and my Aunt with the house, kids, cooking….well after about five years I just couldn’t impose any longer. I went into town and looked for work there. I got lucky and found a job working with the wife of the storeowner as a seamstress. One day I’m minding my own business working and along comes who I began to believe was my knight in shining armor…."

After this comment she became quiet. For sometime there was nothing said.

"Are you sure you want to go on?" Josiah offered as he broke the silence. He could see she was doing her best to be brave but sharing these types of memories were unpleasant enough to endure let alone talking about them aloud with a perfect stranger.

Slowly she nodded her head. "Yes," Giving him a quick yet painful smile. "It’s got to be said. I have to tell someone. I know to many people at my current age I’m considered a spinster but at the time I was with Jarod. That was his name Jarod Chisholm. I was already a woman in my twenty’s."

"Not the Jarod Chisholm!" Josiah couldn’t help but interrupt her that time. Everyone was familiar with the name Chisholm. Living in the west, east, wherever they were undoubtedly the wealthiest cattle barons in Texas and most likely New Mexico Territory’s.

She couldn’t help but laugh at his out burst and his surprised expression. "Yes the Jarod Chisholm. Anyway, I didn’t know anything about him or his family wealth the land anything. Little by little he charmed me…one thing lead to another and…" Her voice became small. "We eventually became intimate." Steeling a glance she saw that he didn’t seem to condemn her…yet. "He promised and promised that we would be married. So I constantly fell for his excuses. We were a couple for quite a while…he never once introduced me to his parents. Well, I began to get sick quite often. Jarod talked me into seeing the family doctor." Her voice now began to crack with emotion. "I um…I found out I was going to have a baby." She could feel the tears beginning to work their way down her cheeks. She wiped them away with the back of a hand.

"Do you want to stop?" Josiah couldn’t help but press that she reconsider her confession. She was breaking his heart.

"Yes," She assured him while sniffing back more tears. "I need to do this. I didn’t see Jarod for almost a week after I agreed to see the doctor. He came to my room one night. He was drunk." Her voice seemed to fade as if she were visualizing the event unfolding in front of her. "We talked around the subject for a while and then finally I just told him I was going to have a baby…" She dropped her head to her chest and began to sob. "He said he knew and it wasn’t his." Fiddling through her purse she finally found a handkerchief and lightly blew her nose several times. Her attempt to laugh failed her. "He then went onto say he was getting married. His family arranged it. The girl he was marrying was from an adjoining ranch…they were going to merge the families like their cattle."

"I’m sorry." Was all he could say. He was sickened by her story. How could a man do this to a woman…any woman?!

"You haven’t heard the whole story Josiah."

He nodded as an inclination for her to continue. "If you feel you should." If this man did anything further he and the others were going to track him down and kill him…Jarod Chisholm or not!

"I was devastated. He left of course. And when I say left…I mean left. A week passed and I was at odds with myself. I had no money, husband and no family not really. The townspeople knew of Jarod and I, my reputation would have been ruined if it hadn’t already been. My options were limited."

She was quiet for a while. And with the quiet she heard the rain and until this time had forgotten how it poured down on her not too long ago. Realizing now that she was in a daze, she then turned to Josiah with eyes full of shame. "I was desperate you see."

He took one of her hands and stroked it lightly. He still remained silent so that she could finish her horrific tale.

"At first I thought of taking laudanum…I thought of everything and I came to the conclusion there was only one thing…so, I went to the top of the stairs at the hotel and without even mussing a hair…I threw myself down them. I drifted in and out of consciousness for weeks. Jarod’s doctor was the one who nursed me back. I think he knew all along what was going to happen and what Jarod was…when I got well enough the doctor was kind enough to give me what money he had in his bill fold and here I am."

Josiah was truly stunned. "I have no words," he breathed. He thought he had heard it all but this woman just proved to him there was still allot to learn about people.

"I know." There certainly was no explanation needed. What could he say?

He turned to face her. "What do you want? I mean now?"

A faint smile came to her lips. "It’s over now….would you pray with me?" There was nothing she did want other than peace of mind.

"Of course." How could he refuse such a simple answer?

And with that, side-by-side both began to pray for a clean soul.

+ + + + + + +

Diligently washing the floor and blowing once again at the strand of hair that annoyingly insisted on dropping in her eyes. Jane had to admit she was exhausted. The job took so much out of her. Ezra offered that if she could find someone she felt she could work with he’d bring him or her on. To her there was no end to his kindness. She had to admit…if her past hadn’t been such a sickening experience she might entertain the notion to pursue him but be that as it may…she would not. She was through with men.

A quiet whistling of a passer by caught her attention. She stopped pushing the mop long enough to spy Casey Wells make her way past the doorway. Casey was from what she’d heard from the patrons was the granddaughter of Nettie Wells a prominent member of the community. The seven came to their rescue on an occasion and although Casey hated to admit it…she and JD were an item. At least that’s what she gathered from the gossip. Dropping the mop she made for the exit.

"Casey!" She yelled breathlessly as she trotted after the young woman.

Turning on her heals and eyeing the woman as if she were a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket Casey couldn’t’ place her. "Do I know you?" She was sure she’d seen her around town but just didn’t know where. She was pretty enough. Casey liked how the sun complimented her red highlights also she didn’t feel threatened by her.

Jane came to stand in front of her. "Well, not really," she admitted. They’d never met. "I’ve seen you around town." Casey was young, sixteen at the most. She let her shoulder length hair to blow in the cool breeze. She wore a white cotton pin stripped shirt and brown pants. No doubt, she was a tomboy. Jane knew she must look awful due to the cooking and cleaning and she also knew she probably smelled a mixture of both food and cleaning products. She was definitely a mess.

Casey was eyeing her suspiciously. "What do you want?" Nope…she couldn’t place her.

This young lady certainly got down the point of the matter. Placing a hand over her chest. "I’m Jane. I work at the Standish Tavern."

"Oh!" Casey’s’ mood lightened severely. Stomping a foot on the ground. "That’s were I’ve seen you. I knew I’d seen ya around town."

Jane couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. At least the girl didn’t think she’d seen her in an insane asylum. "I was wondering well," She'd better get out the question. Casey had that look on her face again. "I could really use some help and Mr. Sta—I mean Ezra said if I could find someone willing to help me out…"

"What would I have to do?" Casey wasn’t sure with that Ezra she could only imagine what he’d have them doing. He was a character that one.

Jane was beginning to feel hopeful she might just have help. "Cooking…cleaning that sort of thing."

"I don’t know…"

"Oh, please Casey?!" She felt awful begging the girl but she needed help badly.

Casey frowned. "I can’t cook but I guess I could help you clean up the place."

Jane clasped her hands in triumph. "Casey you’re a an absolute doll."

"Yeah?" She’d never been told that before. She had a feeling she was going to like working with Jane.

"When do you think you could start?" She knew today was out the question but as soon as possible was a must.

"I’ve got to talk with my Grand-Mother and then I’ll get back with you." She went to walk away and then turned back. "How much will I get paid?"

"I’m not sure." She’d have to talk with Ezra when he returned. "I’ll speak with Ezra and we’ll come up with a figure, ok?"

Casey nodded. "Ok."

With that Casey Wells went on her way. Jane couldn’t be more pleased. There really wasn’t anyone else she would consider working with. Not that she knew the young girl but every other woman certainly didn’t seem co-worker material. Making her way back to work she knew the day would go by easier then the past ones. She was finally going to get some of the work load off her and maybe even find some free time to herself or at least a more at ease atmosphere.

+ + + + + + +

A shadow cast a dim in the sunlight from the doorway as Jane was wiping down the bar. As she brought her gaze to the form walking towards her he took his hat from his head and let it rest on his back. He walked with such a confidence in his step. He was the literal tall, dark and handsome man. With his thick dark brown hair and mustache adorning his top lip. A red bandana hung from around his neck, his jacket and pants were both light brown and as he placed his hands on his hips, his suspenders came into view.

She couldn’t help but be captivated as he stood there smiling at her. It wasn’t just any smile but the most boyish yet seductive smiled she’d ever seen on any man. This town should be renamed to have something to do with handsome men she thought stunned by yet another looker.

"I’m Buck Wilmington," he announced with pride as he watched her stare at him. It had been a while since he’d seen any women come into the town that weren’t either high and mighty or just down right unattractive. He was pleased at the fact he decided to feed on the curiosity after hearing Ezra brag about his new associate. Vin, Chris and Josiah seemed to approve of her too so he figured he best find out for himself if she was worth a bother.

Nodding her head at what she now counted to be the fifth of the seven she’d met. "Mr. Wilmington. I’m Jane." It wasn’t that he made her feel uneasy, well not in a scared sense just a nervous one.

Finally he made his way over to the bar and leaned over so that they were face to face. He liked what he saw, especially her hair color and soft white skin. "Jane huh? Don’t get many red heads." He was giving her an approving once over. "You look like a real live prairie flower."

At first her face grew crimson from embarrassment at his bold stares in regards to her body. But then she had to wonder if he was for real with the lines. With the looks he had he didn’t need them. "Thank you Mr. Wilmington," she managed.

Slapping a hand on the bar. "It’s Buck darlin!" He then took a quick look about the room and back to her. "This place sure looks a heap better since you come along. Ol Ezra was about goin out of his mind without any help," he laughed out loud. "I told him with out Inez he was gonna be one sorry fella. But did he listen to Buck?!" Noooo…."

"Who’s Inez?" She couldn’t help but ask. It was the first time she’d heard the name.

Again he leaned in closer. "She worked here before you." Leaning even closer he whispered. "Ezra didn’t feel she was….well…let’s just say Ezra felt it best she move on."

Leaning back from his constant ardent glare. She couldn’t help it…he certainly had no problem in showing his attentions to a woman. "He never mentioned her." Now she was curious if Ezra had a problem with women working with him or perhaps there was something romantic between him and this Inez? It didn’t matter time would tell with hers and Ezra’s working relationship and as far as his past…well who was she to judge?

He shrugged off her comment. "I’m not surprised. He doesn’t talk about her period." Waiving a hand as if to waive off the subject. "Well, she’s gone now and you’re here." He brought on a lopsided grin. "And that’s what matters."

"Mr. Wil--Buck I mean. I don’t know if you’re aware but I was just cleaning up and getting ready to leave…the tavern is closed."

"I know that…I told Ezra I’d be the one walkin you to the hotel tonight."

She let out a frustrated sigh. "I’ve explained to Ezra I can walk on my own but he insists on taking me or putting one of you through the bother." Over and over she’d done her best to assure Ezra she could make her way to the hotel was only a few steps down the street but he’d have none of it.

Giving a quick laugh. "Never thought I’d say this but Ezra’s right a woman shouldn’t be walking around this town at night." Tilting his head to a side. "Specially one as pretty as you."

"Buck," She took on a serious tone. "Please believe me when I say this and don’t take it the wrong way but." She began to feel her palms getting sweaty; she began to wipe them on the apron to keep them dry. "You seem like a nice enough man." Seeing his grin not diminishing she felt a bit more at ease. "It’s just I’m not interested in getting involved with any man…not for a long while…perhaps not ever again. So I’m asking you to please let me be." She noticed that he was slowing becoming more serious. "Unless of course you’d consider being friends. Because I would really like that, I’d like being your friend."

It wasn’t often he got this type of response from a woman. But when he did, he didn’t like to but he’d respect her honesty. "Well I’ve never made a woman do anything she didn’t want." He replaced that devilish grin that he had on his face when he first entered. "But I’ve never had too much trouble changing one’s mind neither."

She couldn’t help but laugh. "Well I guess that’s all I can ask for Buck. Let me just finish up and we’ll go."

"I’ll just take me a seat." He motioned a thumb over his shoulder at the back row of empty tables and chairs. "And get comfortable until you’re wantin to go."

"I appreciate that." Beginning to wipe down the bar again, she couldn’t help but smile to herself. He certainly was a chameleon. She liked him. She liked them all.

+ + + + + + +

As Jane collected the usual items for the house at the General Store, she couldn’t help but think back again of how Ezra’s generosity showed no bounds. Week’s back at what seemed to be a typical afternoon, Ezra had gone to the bank to make his daily deposit the visit turned out to be much more than the norm. As Jane and Casey were preparing for the dinner crowd Ezra came rushing in and explained his well her good fortune. While waiting his turn for the bank manager he couldn’t help but over hear him and the other man talking. It appeared the man wanted to sell his home that resided just out of town. He went onto to tell of how his wife had passed and he planed on moving back with his family that lived out of state. Ezra took the initiative and interrupted the two men’s discussion. After a brief meeting the three went to the house were Ezra looked over the establishment and made them an offer on Jane’s behalf. Of course after Ezra got through telling her the news she had mixed feelings. She was thrilled but how could she afford it? Ezra insisted that with the financial agreement he planned out for her she could have no other option but except the house. When Ezra brought her to the homestead and she saw it she began to weep. She new it was meant for her. It was a small white one bedroom; all rooms held generous amounts of space. There was an inviting sit down porch and a welcoming windmill to the side of the barn. To both their surprises she embraced him and gave a quick peck on the cheek. They couldn’t help but laugh as they both were stunned by her reaction. He was undoubtedly the best friend she’d ever had.

The sound of two men talking brought her back to the present. Her smiled faded into a frown. While looking through the limited quantity of interesting books at the General Store one could do nothing but be disappointed.

"I ordered those books weeks ago."

"It’s not my fault Nathan. I have no control over when deliveries come."

Jane peeked over her shoulder to witness a quiet argument was enveloping between the shop owner and a young and very handsome black man.

Shaking his head in frustration the man the shop owner called Nathan made his way over to the book section along with her. Other then his dark blue shirt he was dressed in all dark brown. Taking his hat he set it to rest on his back.

"Ma’am." He nodded as he brushed past her and trying to sound pleasant.

Nodding a hello she placed her eyes back on the book she had in her hands.

He was having a heated discussion with no one other than the books that he was pushing about. "Nothing ever comes when you need it, have to work on folks and what’s the thanks you get?"

Jane couldn’t help but giggle at his fit. To her surprise she saw that he had turned her way. She hoped he didn’t think she was laughing at him...only the situation. "I’m so sorry. It’s just I talk to myself all of the time as well."

At first his face remained blank, then he began to laugh as well. "I’m sorry Miss it’s just I’m always needin things for the clinic…folks always got different ailments and without books I can’t find out what’ wrong with em."

Taking a couple steps in his direction. "You’re the doctor?" She had to admit…she was amazed a black doctor!

Putting his hand out. "Names Nathan Jackson, I’m not a doctor I just do my best to heal folks."

Eagerly she took his hand and shook. "My names Jane. I work for Ezra Standish." So this was the sixth of the seven? Wow what an eclectic group they were.

"Ezra huh?" He laughed lightly. "He best be good to you. I know how he can get." Ezra was always looking for an angle. Lately, however, Nathan had to admit he’d gotten better. He also had to admit…Ezra never took advantage of women.

Immediately coming to her employer’s defense. "He is Mr. Jackson. I assure you." Why was it all these men held what appeared to be a grudge or lack of respect for Ezra? He was the sweetest man she’d ever known.

He laughed. "It’s Nathan. Please don’t call me Mr. Jackson. That was my daddy’s name. I ain’t nearly his age."

She laughed as well. "No you certainly are not old Nathan."

Walking over to him and the books. "If I may?" She began going through the pile of books that were in front of him. "I just know I saw a book on chemistry in the pile. "Uh, yes," Picking up the thick black book she had set aside earlier on her quest for literature. "Here it is…" Placing it in his hands. "I don’t know if it’s exactly what you need but it may help some what."

Nathan leafed through the pages for a few seconds. He then shut the book and held it up. "I imagine it can at least give me somethin to look into till my others come along. Thank you," he said with a shake of the book she’d found for him.

"You’re welcome Nathan. I hope it helps."

"You have a good day now Jane." He placed his hat on his head and tipped the rim. Lightly brushing by her, he then made his way up to the desk and paid for the book and reminded the storeowner to let him know as soon as his books arrived. Before leaving he turned at the door and gave her another warm smile, he then made his exit.

She couldn’t believe these men that protected the town. She also wondered how they all were able to be friends…they were all so different.

+ + + + + + +

Life was definitely getting more pleasant for Jane. With Casey helping her out as many hours possible every day. The cooking was pretty much her only burden other than managing the business. Casey did most the cleaning in and out of the kitchen. She also turned out to be much more of a co-worker than she could have ever dreamed. Never complaining she worked as hard as Jane did and they were becoming fast and good friends. Taking matters into their own hands; Jane and Casey persuaded a number of the older boys and girls to come over after school let out and help, as servers and busboys and getting their own tips it didn’t take much arm-twisting. They even found that one of the students was excessively good with mathematics so they took him on to balance the books going forward. Talk of the menu and service of the tavern began to spread like wild fire and people were coming in bunches to see what all the talk was about. With the extra money coming in the girls would have touch ups done inside and outside the establishment. Indeed the place had brought on a new character and making more money then its owner hoped possible.

"You two lady’s have saved and I must say advanced my finances in a paramount sense." Ezra was going through his cash box with childish glee.

They were all sitting down at the same table. Both Jane and Casey were having a well- deserved cup of coffee and Ezra held onto the cash box as if the two women were potential robbers.

"Well you know Ezra," Casey piped up. "We deserve more of that money too."

"Casey," Jane whispered a warning to her and quick uneasy glance at Ezra. "Ezra has been good to us."

Taking a slurp of her coffee. "He could be better." She didn’t care. She’d known Ezra longer and new he could be tighter than a lady’s corset with his money.

Shaking his head slowly. "Casey is accurate." He leveled his cool green eyes on her. "However, her manner lacks a genteel quality."

Shrugging her shoulders. "You givin us more money or what Ezra?"

"I must say," He brought on a wide grin. "Genius, pure genius. Students!" He looked from one woman to the other. "No banker remuneration…You lady’s were sent from above!"

Casey was getting bored. "I want more money." Shifting her eyes to Jane and then back to him. "And she should get five times more than what she’s getting now. None of this would’ve happened if she didn’t come to this moth eaten town. Every bit of your new found money is her doing…I just did what she asked."

Jane was embarrassed. She wanted to say more to Casey but it would have been in vain. These two always argued. It must have just been their way. "Really Ezra," She tried calming the mood. "You’ve been very generous to me. You’ve given me a job, brought up my salary more than once and not to mention found me a home and a mortgage deal that is unimaginable. I’m quite content." He was so thoughtful…it upset her when people made unkind remarks to and about him.

Casey snorted loudly. "No you’re not. And neither am I." Leaning forward she locked eyes on his. "You ante up some of them profits or I’m gonna tell the rest of the fellas how you’ve been holdin out on two women."

Ezra’s face turned crimson with anger. "Casey you and Jane’s best interests are always in my thoughts. I have placed trusts in both your names at the bank. Yours is under your grandmother’s care and Jane’s is under her own. Two women as you so eloquently put it should not be casting their wealth about…they could indeed find themselves in peril."

After staying silent for a time Casey finally whispered. "I’m sorry." She would have never guessed he would have considered their financial security on his on behalf. "But you gotta admit Ezra you ain’t one to show generosity."

"No," he had to admit. "Not the precedent, however, I feel at hand my stay here in what I hope to be a growing opportunity of a municipality, has brought me to notice the error of certain--shall I say weaknesses. However, I have had to strive firm in resolving those certain trivial inconsistencies of my nature."

Jane frowned. He really did use such big words at times she felt as if she might need a handbook to read by as he spoke. "Ezra, I’m sure you do your best to take care of Casey and I. We appreciate all you do for us. I just want to say on a personal note that I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed my life so. Since I’ve come to Four Corners nothing but good things have happened to me and I want to thank you for that." She turned to Casey. "If Ezra hadn’t given me a chance Casey…then truly none of this would have happened. As far as I’m concerned it is all his doing."

"As much as I’d like to take the credit for that Jane." He smiled so that his gold tooth showed. "Casey is correct in this scenario. It is because of you I’ve come into such fortuitous and lucrative good tightings.

"I say we just agree that we all took part in the success," Casey spoke up.

Jane nodded in agreement. It was a team effort.

Slapping his hands loudly together. "Well lady’s I say we put on a unsullied pot of stimulant and go over the figures until we come to an agreement upon which you both would find as a respectable and acceptable offer of a new increase in pay."


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