I started this before the complete rules for the challenge were issued; therefore, this does not take place on a dark and stormy night.  Also, I chose to use all of items that were suggested for the word list.  These are: pot of rouge, feathers, bullwhip, a busted wagon wheel, a pair of spurs, a wardrobe trunk, and a baby diaper.


Title: Chivalry Gone Awry
Author: Desert Sun

It all started with a simple chivalrous offer.  No one could have guessed the outcome.  After all, how difficult could it be to give a stranded lady a ride from Tucson to her uncle's ranch?  Cal Brinson only lived ten miles out of town in the same direction as John Cannon's place.

 "Are you sure I won't be too much trouble?"

 "Sí, Senorita.  I am sure," said Manolito Montoya with a smile and a slight shake of his head.  He couldn't imagine how Alison Brinson could possibly be any trouble.  She was the most delightful young lady he had ever seen.

 With the help of his nephew, Manolito soon had Alison's wardrobe trunk settled into the back of the wagon with the supplies.  He then helped her to the seat and declared that he would do the driving while Blue Cannon followed along on horseback.

 All went well for nearly five miles.  Alison kept up a steady stream of chatter.  Her voice was a song, and her sparkling eyes sent Manolito's spirits soaring higher than the eagle flying overhead.     

 Manolito laughed.  Never had he been in more charming company; and, for the first time in his life, he found himself in danger of abandoning his wild ways for a pretty señorita.

Alison touched Manolito's arm, her dainty, purple-gloved hand lingering as though it belonged there.  "I do hope you will come to call once in a while," she said.  Her long lashes, the color of cream, momentarily hid her emerald eyes before rising as generous lips parted into a smile that took his breath away.

Words generally came easy for Manolito, but they failed him now.  Left speechless with his heart racing, he did the one thing he could do.  He returned the smile with a dimpled one of his own and then lost all track of time as he gazed into Alison's eyes.   

A crack, like the snap of a bullwhip, cut through the plodding of shod hooves and the jingling of the harness.  The wagon suddenly lurched before coming to a jarring halt.

Manolito grabbed for the seat as his upper body pitched forward and Alison's hand slipped from his arm.  The next thing he knew, he was astraddle the rump of one of the horses.

Not accustomed to a man on his back, the horse bucked.

The sensation of flying through the air ended with a jolt.  Manolito heard a scream coupled with a groan and then slid into a dark pit.

"Mano, are you all right?"

Manolito struggled to open his eyes.  The voice sounded so far away.  He needed to see a face to determine whether or not he knew the speaker. 

Pain pierced his skull as light filtered through the slits between his eyelids.  Manolito rubbed a hand over his eyes and willed his world to hold still.  Finally the feeling of the ground rolling beneath him ceased, and he was able to see.  "What happened?" he asked with a grunt, looking upward into Blue Cannon's worried face.

Blue sat up straighter.  "One of the front wheels of the wagon busted off the axle."

"Can we fix it?" asked Manolito, his mind slow to comprehend the enormity of the situation.

"Not without a new wheel and axle."

Manolito nodded. Then wishing he hadn't, he closed his eyes and willed the throbbing in his temples to go away.


This new voice wasn't familiar.  Or was it?  Mano wasn't quite sure.  Had Blue taken him home?  Was that Victoria's hand on his cheek?  No, the touch was like feathers gliding over his skin.  His sister had never been so gentle with him before.

Again his name was called in a lilting tone.  Manolito forced his eyes to open and then stared in disbelief.  Was that an angel with shimmering strands of spun gold draped about her shoulders that he saw kneeling beside him?   

"Blue, I think he's waking up," said the angel.

A pair of spurs jingled.  "Looks like it," replied Blue.

Manolito tried to sit up.  A firm hand gripped his arm and steadied him as Blue leaned closer and told him to take it easy.

"What happened?" Manolito asked for the second time.

Blue's explanation brought back vivid memories.  However, Manolito felt something was missing from the picture.

Alison!  The name echoed through Manolito's mind.  What had happened to the girl?  Had she fallen, too?  Was she hurt?

The angel disappeared. At least she seemed to.  For she was no longer kneeling beside Manolito.  Alison had taken her place.

Manolito noticed a deep crimson splotch below the young woman's left eye.  The color reminded him of the pot of rouge he had given to Rosita Espinoza two months earlier.  "You are hurt," he said, reaching up to lightly caress Alison's cheek.

Alison insisted that she was fine, and that the scrape was nothing.  Although Manolito wasn't sure he should believe her, he didn't argue.  That would have to wait for later when they were out of their present predicament.

Unhitching the team from the wagon and riding the horses to Carl Brinson's was not an option.  The animals had already demonstrated how they would react to having anyone on their backs.  Therefore, since there was only one saddle horse, Manolito insisted upon staying with the wagon while Blue took Alison to her uncle's.      

Manolito's proposal met with instant opposition.  Alison promptly pointed out that she had never been on a horse before and would only slow Blue down.

She was right, of course, but Manolito refused to give in without an argument.  In the end, however, he relented and Blue rode out alone.

Carl Brinson had both a wheel and a spare axle, and the Cannon wagon was ready to roll within three hours.  Manolito felt a heavy sense of sadness at the thought of parting with Alison.  In the short length of time that he had known her, she had wormed her way into his heart.

Alison, also, seemed reluctant to be helped up to the seat of her uncle's wagon.  She clung to Manolito's arm, her eyes gazing into his with an intensity that he had never seen in any other woman's eyes before.  "I will see you again, won't I?" she asked.

"Sí," Manolito replied in little more than a whisper.  He would like to have said more, but Blue was reminding him that darkness was going to overtake them if they didn't get going.

When Alison's hand slipped from his arm, Mano reluctantly stepped back.  He forced a cheerful smile, said his farewells, and then waved as Carl Brinson drove away.

"You ready to go?" asked Blue, his words slowly breaking through the barrier of Manolito's thoughts.

Manolito clucked to the horses and slapped their rumps with the long reins.  The team surged ahead.

As the wagon rolled along, Manolito's thoughts wove a picture of the future.  There was a big hacienda.  He sat with his arm around Alison's shoulders.  She made him laugh.  His heart swelled with unquenchable desire, and he showered her kisses.

The vision changed to include children.  There were strong, handsome sons, who would make any man proud, and doting daughters to fuss over him.  On his knee, he bounced a gurgling baby.  Life couldn't be sweeter.

Then the pleasant scene dissolved.  Manolito shuddered, remembering the plaintive cries of another baby.  Victoria had left the sleeping child in his care.  "Only for an hour," she had said before handing him a folded diaper, which shouldn't be needed.  But it had been needed.

Darkness swallowed the day along with the pleasant dreams of earlier.  Manolito sighed.  Perhaps he was being too hasty.  A man should never rush into anything so permanent as marriage.  He really knew nothing about Alison.  Her honey sweetness might be a trap.  Once the knot was tied, she could turn his life into hell.

By the time Manolito followed Blue through the gate and halted the wagon outside the Cannon casa, he was convinced that he should take his time in getting better acquainted with Alison.  Marriage would mean no more flirtations with the lovely Rosita Espinoza, no more kisses from Luisa Martinez, no dancing with vivacious Maria Hernandez, or moonlight rides with Angelina Santiago.

'I am much too young to settle down to one woman,' he told himself as he eased his aching body off the wagon seat and down to the ground.  He had plenty of time to choose a wife.  Perhaps in a couple of years, he would give the subject more serious thought.  Who knew, if someone had not stolen Alison's heart, she might be the one he chose.

A slender beam of light spread as the door opened.  "About time you two showed up," said the man who then stepped out onto the porch.  "We was about to come lookin' for yuh."

While Blue launched into a hasty explanation of all their troubles, Manolito pushed past and entered the house.  He didn't even pause when Blue's uncle Buck Cannon called out, "Was she pretty?"

Weariness hit Manolito with full force as he moved into the room and saw his sister, her face filled with questions.  "Tomorrow," he said, raising one hand and shaking a finger.  "I am tired and I am hungry."  Then as Victoria hurried him off to the kitchen, he thought, 'Sí.  Tomorrow is soon enough to think of the future.'


The End