The Texan’s Promise (A Short Story)

Mary Willow believed Garrett Connors when he left Texas, promising to come back for her. Now, four years later, he’s home, and it seems he doesn’t even recognize her. Was his promise a lie? Did she mean nothing to him? Or is there another reason why it took him so long to return?

Read an excerpt …

Texas, 1867
     The wagon bounced over another rock, the jolt jarring Mary Willow’s bones and rattling her teeth. Then she heard it. She knew that sound, the unmistakeable crack of wood splintering.
     Without warning, the wagon shifted and toppled on its side, throwing her off the seat and tearing her hands off the reins. She landed hard in the drought-hardened dirt. Her gingham skirt billowed around her thighs, and a cloud of dust mushroomed into the hot August air. The supplies she’d so carefully packed in the wagon bed spilled around her.
     For a few moments, she didn’t move, concentrating only on getting some air back into her lungs. Finally, she gingerly shifted her arms and legs. Didn’t feel like anything was broken, she thought with a sigh of relief. This far from town, a broken leg could be fatal. She could be dead for days before anyone found her.
     She muttered a very unladylike curse as she rubbed the bruise she knew was already forming on her backside.
     Of all the rotten luck … She didn’t have time for this. She had meals to prepare, laundry to take off the line, animals to feed. At least the bags of flour and sugar hadn’t burst open. She supposed she should be thankful for that at least.
     Clambering to her feet, she scanned her surroundings, letting her gaze drift across the vast expanse of bluebonnets and paintbrushes covering the prairie. She glanced up at a few wispy clouds floating in an azure sky, while the unrelenting rays of the sun shone down. Butterflies and bees darted among the flowers, and birds chirped overhead.
     If she wasn’t so annoyed, she’d have taken a few minutes to appreciate the beauty around her.
     But she didn’t have time to dally. Soon enough, the sun would disappear beyond the horizon and the prairie would be pitch black. She didn’t want to be caught out here alone.
     She hated to leave her wagon unattended, but what else could she do? She couldn’t change a wagon wheel by herself, even if she had a spare in the wagon bed. Which she didn’t. She was more than two miles from town, but that was closer than continuing on to the homestead. No, she’d have to walk back to town and hope the blacksmith had time to ride out and fix the wheel.
     She slid a glance at her horse, calmly munching on some prairie grass. She could unhitch him, but she had no saddle. She’d never ridden bareback, and with the way her day was going, he’d likely throw her and she’d be worse off than she was now. No, she had no choice.
The sun rode high in the sky, its rays searing her skin as she trudged along the trail for what seemed like hours. Buzzards circled overhead as if they were waiting for her to collapse.
     Finally, she saw the false-front buildings of Calico Creek in the distance. One main street lined with businesses. One cross street with homes and rooming houses. One church. One school. And ranches and homesteads dotting the surrounding countryside.
     Yes, the town was getting bigger and more crowded every day. She wasn’t sure she liked that idea.
     Picking up her pace, she marched along the trail, her mind wandering. Suddenly, she stopped. What was that? It sounded like a horse nickering. She turned around. A man on horseback was approaching. She had her rifle, yet a tremor of fear still snaked up her spine. While most Texas men were respectful of women, outlaws and carpetbaggers had no such morals.
     The horse stopped a few feet back, the man’s face in shadow beneath the brim of a stained, worn Stetson. “That your wagon back there?”
     That voice – she’d recognize it anywhere.
     Brett Connors.
Another sensation washed over her, a fluttering in her stomach that had nothing to do with fear. That alone made her angry. Angry with him, but even more angry at herself for having any kind of reaction to his voice. He was a low-down, lying snake, and there was a time she’d fallen for his sweet words like the water that rushed over Thunder Falls.
     She hadn’t seen him for almost four years, not since the day he’d kissed her goodbye and ridden away with a promise to send for her.

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