A Lucky Woman    
Liz S.  

I sat under the starlit sky, enjoying the evening and casually observing the festivities from afar.

The three young men approached, playfully pushing one another in their eagerness to join the fun. I was too far away to hear their words, but every so often laughter would float over on the evening breeze.

They walked towards the large barn doors. The music from inside had finally become an irresistible pull. Even I couldn’t help tapping my toe to the lively tunes.

As the men came closer, I watched them intently. They were too caught up in their teasing and playful banter to notice me, or so I thought. The youngest, at least I think he was the youngest or maybe I should say the shortest, stood between the two taller men. I must have caught his eye because as he passed he tipped his hat to me. I bowed my head in greeting. He stopped just past me, and I could sense what he was thinking; a woman always knows when a lothario is on the prowl. He turned on his heel, leaving his companions moving ahead by themselves.

“Ma’am,” The green-eyed youth said to me.

“Sir” I answered back, a smirk threatening to spread across my face.

“You must be new to these parts. “ A Cheshire cat smile grew on his lips. “My name is Joseph Cartwright.” He held out his hand towards me.

“Please to make your acquaintance Mr. Cartwright.  I’m just passing through your fair town.” I let him take my hand, blushing some as he placed a gentle kiss just above my wrist.

The young man looked around “You’re traveling unescorted?”

“Yes. Well, I’m unconventional that way. I had planned on spending an evening in my hotel room but the town was abuzz about this barn dance and I just had to come and see for myself.”

“This here dance is a yearly thing; darn near every soul in the area comes.” The largest of the three had come up behind Joseph, placing a rather forceful hand square on his back, forcing the air from my would-be Romeo’s lungs, killing the air of sleek sophistications he was attempting to project.

I laughed. It was obvious these two were close, maybe best friends?

“Ma’am” The hulking man removed the largest ten gallon hat I had ever seen in my life to reveal wisps of soft blonde baby fine hair. His cornflower blue eyes and gentle manner touched me; in my travels I have often found that the larger and more imposing the man looked the kinder he was. A loving heart inside the body of a bear, as my grandmother would say. It was evident this sentiment was very true for this man.

“My name is Hoss.  Hoss Cartwright. ”

“Ah, so they were brothers, not much of a resemblance…hmmm,” I thought. “Nice to meet you, Hoss.”

He smiled once again and flushed slightly as he too took my hand and kissed it sweetly, not with the same practiced grace as Joseph, but in earnest.

I invited the two to sit down beside me. I adjusted my skirts, making room for them. The three of us giggled as we struggled to keep the proper distance and fit on the small wooden bench.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Are these two ruffians bothering you?” A soft baritone voice stopped me in my school girl foolishness.

Looking up, I saw man that had been with them. Tall, handsome with raven hair, dressed in black save for his white shirt in stark contrast to the rest.  I bit my lip to keep my jaw from dropping as the man grinned at me. A hint of devilishness sparked in his hazel eyes.

“No, no sir,” was all I could stammer out. Any sly or witty comment I could have said had skittered from my thoughts as my heart started to pound. The man standing before me nodded his head in greeting. I quickly looked at the ground. How foolish, a grown woman letting myself be flustered by a simple glance from the tall dark figure standing before me.

Hoss gave me a gentle nudge, stirring me from my reverie. “Miss, this here is our older brother Adam,” he said.

“Yeah! Our OLDER brother Adam.” I glanced at Joe, his tone sounded much more contrite than needed; my look wasn’t lost on the young man. He ducked his head sorrowfully.

“Nice to meet you Sir, I’m Eliza,” I said he took my hand and with a natural grace and style he too kissed my hand..

I felt a stir of butterflies in my stomach. I stole another glance at Adam standing before me, his eyebrows raised and his teeth on full display with a sardonic grin aimed right at Joe.  I’m not sure but I thought I saw defeat in Joe’s eyes. If I had it was only momentarily. In a flash his eyes lit.

“Miss, how come you aren’t inside sweeping the men of Virginia City off their feet?”

The trio waited for my answer.  I may be unconventional for traveling by myself, but I am not about to open myself up to disapproving looks from the “finer” people of this town, stranger or no. Anyway, in some places it is downright illegal for a woman to attend a social gathering without an escort. I guess I was just contented to enjoy the goings on from out here.

“A woman alone at such a function is not considered to be in good taste,” I said with a hint of sarcasm

“Well, I reckon we’ve taken care of your problem in triple,” Hoss said as he stood offering me his arm.

Joe stood at the same instant and he too offered his arm. Adam stepped back and bowed, letting the three of us walk by. I glanced back to see him following close. He winked casually at me, and at that moment I was happy I had two strong men to hold on to as I felt my knees grow weak. I turned and faced forward. How could a man of so few words cause my heart to do flips with the simple opening and closing of his eyelid?

As we entered the barn, a lively tune was being played on the fiddle. I was surprised at the mix of people. Some twirled with partners on the dance floor while others stood sipping punch talking amongst friends and neighbors.  There were fancy ball gowns worn by the most stunning of women, right next to equally pretty girls dressed more simply. Men in silver brocade stood next to men in their best Sunday dungarees. Hoss was right; everyone in territory was in attendance.

I had seen a few of the girls that were dressed to the nines earlier when they walked past me with their noses in the air as I sat on my bench alone. It didn’t bother me; I was a stranger to them, but now, for some reason, as we crossed the threshold a satisfaction came over me. Those very same girls stood in astonishment as I walked arm in arm with two of the three most eligible men in the town. I heard a chuckle behind me; Adam saw the girls and seemed to enjoy the look of envy showing plainly on their faces.

Joe and Hoss led me to the punch bowl and Adam offered me a cup. I thanked him kindly. It was wonderful - the music, the people and, most of all, the company. Our conversation was light and jovial; the three kept me laughing as they played off of one another. Mostly it was Joe and Hoss, but Adam would interject some wry comment or scathing remark, almost making me choke on my punch.

A lovely looking woman sashayed her way to where we were standing. Politely, Joe nodded. “Evening, Miss Kimberly,” he said to her.

She was beautiful - her hair done up, a few soft curls hung loose around her face. She glanced at me and for the first time I was aware of my appearance. I had quickly done up my hair, mostly to get it off my neck and face, tying it in a nice but plain ribbon. My dress was full but calico, not satin and lace like hers. The icy stare she gave me caused my spine to tingle with a sudden chill.

Adam spoke up. “Miss Kimberly, I’d like you to meet Miss Eliza.”

She gave me a withering look. Miss Kimberly was obviously not pleased I was monopolizing the attention of these very popular men. A quick look around the room revealed that she had been elected from a group to come and find out about me.

“I haven’t seen you in town. Are you new here?”” Kimberly had cut right to the chase. She had no time for pleasantries, she had to get her information and return to where her cohorts waited.

“Miss Eliza is just visiting; she’s our guest while she is here.” Adam spoke, and his voice had an edge of irritation to it. 

I saw from his demeanor that he had little patience for this type of woman…..I smiled inwardly. The music slowed to a waltz and Adam took my hand. “Shall we dance?” he asked.

I let him lead me to the dance floor, leaving the fuming woman in our wake.  He put his arm around my waist and waltzed me around with almost no effort at all, his timing and rhythm impeccable.  “Thank you,” I said, wanting to thank him also for saving me from that woman.

“Thank you for what?” he asked. “It is me that should be thanking you for keeping from having to spend my evening with the likes of Miss Kimberly. Your company is more enjoyable by far.”

I could feel my face once again grow crimson. There was no doubt about it; this man had swept me off my feet.  I was floating on air dancing with him. I looked into his eyes as he gazed in mine. We didn’t need to speak; words weren’t important, not at that moment. It was if he was reading me like an open book, absorbing my thoughts as he turned me around the dance floor. When the song ended I felt sure he knew everything about me without ever asking a question.

I never had time to recover. Next the band struck up a lively high stepping tune and Joe took me up.  Off we went, prancing in time with the music, laughing as we struggled to  keep our pace for the entire song. We almost collided with several people in our fits of laughter.  The song came to an end and Joe escorted me from the dance floor.

Hoss was waiting as another reel started. I held my hand and Hoss handed his hat to Adam. Off we went, thankfully at a slower pace then with Joe. For a big man Hoss was remarkably light on his feet. He held me as if he was afraid he was going to break me. Once again I was traveling the dance floor with a Cartwright and it was the best time of my life.

As the song ended, Hoss bowed to me. I smile and curtseyed. We walked back toward his. It was obvious they were having as good as time as I was.  I dabbed my forehead. Suddenly, the room felt a bit warm and stuffy. A black broadcloth clad arm was held out to me.

“Would you like to step out and get some air, ma’am?” Adam asked, his voice music to my ears.

“That sounds just lovely,” I said as I took his arm.

Adam donned his hat and touched the brim. “Gentlemen,” he said to his brothers.

Suddenly Hoss and Joe look crestfallen; they knew the meaning of their brothers words….find a new partner to dance with.  I smiled sweetly to both of them and let Adam lead me out.

The click of the barn door surprised me as we step outside. I am greeted by a sudden gust of cool air as Adam guided me to the bench where I first met these wonderful men. He placed his suit jacket over my shoulders and I appreciated its warmth.

“The breeze picked up quickly didn’t it?” I asked in a lame attempt at small talk.

“Yes it did,” he said, leaning a little closer to me.

I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to kiss a man I had only just met. Even though it was someone I barely knew, it somehow seemed like I had known him since I was a child. I felt as if I had known them all since before I could remember. I looked at Adam, trying to place why he was so very familiar to me. He smiled and moved his face closer to mine. Propriety be damned! I was going to kiss him; it WAS the right thing to do. I closed my eyes waiting for the electric contact of his lips; I felt his warm breath on me.

I heard him take a breath, as if he was about to say something.

“Goodbye sweetie. I’ll see you later.”

His words struck me as odd. His soft baritone voice had been replaced with a very casual tenor. I opened one eye to steal a peek. There before me was my husband, his travel mug in one hand and his backpack in the other. He bent over and gave me a kiss goodbye. My favorite chenille bedspread was up around my shoulders to keep the fan from blowing on my sleeveless arms.

“Having a pleasant dream?” He asked.

I nodded my head, a small smile played across my lips; he winked at me and turned to leave.

I let out a small sleepy sigh, “Goodbye, have a good day at work. I love you.”

As he left the bedroom I quickly snuggled back down, hoping for one last glimpse of the men I had danced the night away with


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Liz S.

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