Kate’s Challenge Response

 

 

Items I have chosen to use:

 

  1. A purple glove
  2. A broken wagon wheel
  3. A baby diaper

 

 

 

It was a dark and stormy night. Torrential rain streamed from the turbulent clouds, splashing onto the parched earth below. Dusty and dry from months of hot and arid weather the ground seemed almost to suck up the moisture as it fell as if quenching its thirst.

 

Blue Cannon was wet and uncomfortable. This deluge might be a blessing to the dusty land, and Lord knows, it would be good to see the river running high again, but he was already longing for a break in the clouds.

 

As pulled his hat down lower over his face and dashed a hand at the rain that dripped from the end of his nose, he wished fervently that he had stayed in the warmth and comfort of the Tucson saloon where he had been drinking earlier. A promise was a promise however, and he had assured Victoria that he’d be home early tonight.

 

Lost in misery, he didn’t notice the wagon by the side of the trail until he was almost upon it. The vehicle was stationary, listing violently to one side, and appeared abandoned.

 

Curious, Blue reined in his horse and looked the wagon over, seeing immediately the broken wheel that was the reason for the strange angle of the vehicle. It seemed it had probably been cracked on one of the large boulders it stood among, and he wondered why the driver had left the trail.

 

Drawing closer, Blue drew his gun, well aware that this could be some kind of trap. “Anyone there?” he called out loudly.

 

The reply was faint and he barely caught it above the splashing of the rain on the earth. A woman’s voice, strained and frightened. “Please . . . help me!”

 

Wading through the pools of rainwater that surrounded the wagon, Blue cautiously pulled aside the curtains at the back of the vehicle and peered inside. A wan lamplight flickered wildly as the wind caught the flame, but it was enough to see the young woman who hunkered there, hair dishevelled and eyes wide with terror.

 

“Please,” she whispered as she saw him, hands pressed to her swollen belly and obviously in pain. “My baby . . . my baby’s coming.”

 

**********

 

Water coursed down the oiled leather of Manolito Montoya’s rain slicker as he ran across the yard, dodging the puddles, and headed for the shelter of the ranch house.

 

“Stay there!” Victoria ordered, looking up as the door opened to see her brother standing, dripping, in the doorway. “Take off that wet coat and your dirty boots before you come in.”

 

Casting a rueful look at the water that already spattered Victoria’s clean floor Mano obediently backed out onto the porch and pulled off his slicker and boots before going into the house.

 

“Ay yi yi, I have not seen rain like this in a long while,” he observed settling down in a chair and bending to remove his socks, which, despite the protection of his boots, had still managed to get thoroughly soaked. “It does not look like it is set to stop anytime soon, either.”

 

“At least it is an end to the drought,” opening the door again, Victoria picked up the discarded slicker and shook the last of the raindrops from it, peering out into the night as she did so. “Is Blue not back yet?”

 

Manolito looked up in surprise. “I have not seen him. I thought he would be home by now.”

 

“No, and I am getting worried. He promised that he would be home early.”

 

“He probably decided to stay in Tucson until the storm passed. It is not a night for man or beast to be out in.”

 

Victoria shook her head, her dark eyes troubled. “He would not do that, he promised me, and Blue would not break a promise. Something is wrong, I know it.”

 

**********

 

 “I’ll go and get some help, ma’am.”

 

“No,” she held out a hand to him entreatingly, “please, please don’t leave me.”

 

“But you need someone,” Blue could see now that the woman was really little more than a girl, probably close to his own age. A fine boned pretty blonde who was obviously terrified at what was happening to her. “I’ll bring my father’s wife, Victoria, she’ll know what to do.”

 

“There’s no time,” the girl gasped, and Blue could see the tears streaking her face. “It’s coming now. You have to help me.”

 

“But I don’t know anything about . . .” His words were cut short as she gave a guttural groan, squeezing her eyes shut and gritting her teeth as pain swept through her.

 

Nervous, but knowing that he had no choice but to do what he could, Blue clambered up into the wagon and knelt at the girl’s side. “My name’s William Cannon,” he said softly, “and I’ll do the very best I can for you ma’am.”

 

As her pain subsided for a moment the girl managed a weak smile and reached for his hand, squeezing it tightly. “Anna,” she whispered gratefully. “My name is Anna.”

 

*****

 

“Big John would not be happy about this,” Manolito grumbled as he steered the buggy along the Tucson trail, thankful that at last the rain had stopped and moonlight now lit the way.

 

“He would not want me left alone at the ranch.”

 

Mano raised his eyes heavenwards at his sister’s reply and shook his head, not even bothering to point out that there were plenty of ranch hands at The Chaparral to watch over her.

 

“Look,” Victoria cried as they travelled a little further down the trail, pointing a purple gloved finger at the road ahead. “Is that not a wagon?”

 

“Si, and Blue’s horse beside it!”

 

Cautiously, Mano halted the buggy a little way from the wagon and, hand on gun, began to dismount, when the night air was suddenly rent with a squalling wail, the cry of a newborn child.

 

“A baby!” Victoria gasped and, before Mano could stop her, she scrambled from the buggy and hurried toward the wagon.

 

“Let me go first,” Manolito advised, catching hold of his sister’s arm, as he caught up with her. “You don’t know what you might find in there.”

 

With a nod of agreement, Victoria stood back, waiting impatiently as Mano approached the wagon, but his gasp of surprise as he looked inside had her rushing to join him.

 

“Hey there,” looking up to see Manolito and Victoria staring at him in astonishment, Blue grinned widely and gently rocked the tiny, naked child he held in his arms. “Meet my namesake. This here is William Jackson.”

 

*****

 

With Anna, exhausted from her exertions, sleeping soundly in one of the Chaparral’s bedrooms, Victoria happily cradled baby William as Blue told them what had happened.

 

“Anna’s husband is waiting for her in Tucson. She was on her way to join him. When the pains started she ran the wagon off the trail and cracked the wheel,” he shook his head as he thought of what awaited Mr. Jackson when he and his wife were finally reunited. “He doesn’t even know she was going to have a baby.”

 

Mano grinned, teeth white against his olive skin. “This is going to be a very big shock for the poor hombre.”

 

“Oh, but he is so beautiful,” Victoria cooed, gently stroking the baby’s soft cheek. “I’m sure he will love him straight away. I just wish John was here to see him,” she looked up at her stepson. “and if he was, he would be very proud of you for what you did.”

 

“It was nuthin’,” Blue mumbled, reddening at the praise. “Just glad I was there to help.”

 

“There is a little something more you could do for young William,” Victoria told him, shifting the baby a little on her lap. “That is, if you think you are able?”

 

“Sure. Anything.”

 

“Then, here . . .” Victoria held the baby out to him. “I think your namesake needs a clean diaper.”

 

“Er . . .” Blue backed away and Mano and Victoria laughed at the look of panic that flickered in the young man’s clear blue eyes. “Anything but that!”