by Psyche-b

Chapter 18

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The temperature dipped slightly after the sun set. The stars shone in a cloudless sky, with the moon nearly full. It would soon be what was called a Lover's Moon. The perfect time for one heart to finish the journey to it's mate. Maude sat by the bed and watched as the two women slept. The lamp was turned down low, so just a faint light fell on them. She felt exhausted, but knew she would be unable to sleep. She wanted to be close by in case either woman woke and needed anything.

Cassie had been subdued since Doc had told her what could happen. His words had shocked her beloved child. No matter what Doc had said, his words did not touch the gleam in Cassie's eyes. She had a lot to think about. Maude did not agree with Cassie's decision to ask their lawyer to defend Rebecca. She accepted the decision, but no amount of discussion would ever convince her it was the right thing to do. Rebecca started this war.

After all it was Rebecca's possessive jealousy that caused this problem. Maude thought. She sent that damned telegram to let Victoria's father know where she was. She brought this down on them. I am grateful she stopped the men from doing any more damage but is gratitude enough to overlook what she did and forgive her? NEVER. Cassie might be able to, but I can not. Does that make Cassie a better person? And why does she want to keep Victoria's father here? I know Victoria want to see him, but why wait. Let the sheriff bring him here tomorrow then get him on the next train out. Why draw this out any longer than necessary. Why does she want Alex to come here? If it is just to defend Rebecca, that could be done over the telephone. Why bring him all the way out to the ranch? Unless, unless there is something else Cassie needs to talk to him about. But what? Does she think there is a possibility that her injuries are... No I can not deal with that right now on top of everything else.

Her tired mind could not handle any deep thoughts. She tried to think of happier things without success.

Both women had eaten dinner and did not mention the attack. It was like neither wanted to bring up the subject. Cassie's pride would not let anyone help her, but Victoria. I know children never outgrow the need for a mother, but Granny was right. There comes a time when a mother need to take a step back and let their partners help. Partner, I do like the sound of that.
She saw for the first time, the full extent of the damage that animal had inflicted. She cried when she saw the bruises on her breasts, arms and legs. It tore my heart out. She looked so lost. I held her and comforted her as much as she would allow.

"I will never get rid of him and the feel of his hands on me."

"In time child. It will take time. The bruises will fade and in time so will the memory."

"Oh God what if..."

"I knew what had just occurred to her. "No Victoria, Granny made sure if that."

"She did?"

"That was the first medicine we gave you when we got you both back here."

"Thank you Mrs. Jones."

"You are very welcome, dear. Now lets get you into that tub."

I helped her into the hot water and while she washed I grabbed clean sleep clothes from the closet. She dunked her head, rubbed soap into her hair and dunked again. She grabbed the wash cloth and scrubbed. It look like she was trying to scrub the skin off any part he touched.

"Victoria, there is one thing I would like to talk to you about."

"Is something wrong, Mrs. Jones?"

"Nothing is wrong, except that I think it is time for you to stop all this Mrs. Jones nonsense."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you can call me Maude, mom, mother, whatever you feel comfortable with, but no more Mrs. Jones.""

"I would like that very much. Thank you, Mrs. I mean mom."

"Good. I am glad that is settled. Now time to get you dried off and back into bed."

"I know I just washed, but I still feel so dirty."

"Time, Victoria. It will take time."

Granny was waiting for them when they returned. She handed each of them a cup. "For dreamless sleep" She told them as both cups were drained.

Maude's thought were interrupted as Granny entered the room. She handed a cup to Maude.

"I made you a cup of tea, Miss Maude." She said and sat down next to her.

"Some of your sleep tea?" Maude asked.

"No just plain tea. Although you should get some rest also, while they are sleeping."

"I know I should, but I am not sure I can turn my mind off. It did not take them long" She looked at the two sleeping women. "You know, when they are awake, the most I have seen them do is hold hands. Once they both fell asleep that is how they ended up." She pointed to how Cassie had her arm around Victoria's shoulder while the younger woman's head rested on Cassie's shoulder.

"Their hearts took over when their minds relaxed."

"I know we do not say this often enough, but thank you Granny for all you do and have done for us."

"There is no need, Miss Maude. It is all part of the payment for the debt, I will never be able to fully repay."

"What debt?"

"The debt from when Old Mister John found me. He took me in. He did not have to. I was a stranger and an Indian. Yet he brought me to his home. His family nursed me back to health. They saved my life. They gave me a home and a place where I belonged. When one person saves the life of another, in the Indian custom, they own a piece of that person's soul. That debt is never fully repaid until that person does the same in return."

"If that is the case, you have repaid that debt, many times over. You have saved my family and the people of this area. We owe you. You debt is repaid in full."

"It is not that simple, Miss Maude. I could do nothing to save Mister John or Nathan, but I made a promise to your God and the Spirit Gods that I would do everything in my power to help you and Cassie. Over the years, you have stopped being my friend, and have become my family. Not the one I was born into, but in here." She touched her chest over her heart. "You are the family of my heart"

Maude felt hot tears fill her eyes. "You are not to blame either death. We lost Nathan in an accident. And John..." Maude stopped and took a shaky breath. She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "You will always have a home here with us." Both women smiled. "I do have a question for you."

"What is on your mind?" Granny asked.

"I know you have many herbs and plants for just about anything, do you have anything to help them forget? Especially Victoria?"

"Interfering with memories is not something that can be taken lightly. I have some herbs, but there can be side effects. I will think about using some of them."

"I just wondered. I want so much to make them forget the attacks."

"I know, Miss Maude. There are so many things I would want to change, but, there are times when I have to stop and ask myself if it is better to interfere or let nature take its course. There is no good answer and it is never an easy answer. Will the easier way be better for them Or will allowing Nature and their hearts see them through this, the better course of action. My heart tells me one thing."

"But what does your mind tell you?"

"My mind tell me another. I have a lot to think about, but not tonight. It is time for bed. I am getting too old for this sort of excitement. The morning will be a better time to think this out. I will pray for guidance when my head is clearer and not doing such battle with my heart."

"I think I will go to bed also." Maude told her. "They seem to be set for the night. I am also getting to old for this sort of excitement."

"They will not awaken until morning." Granny told her and slowly stood up.

Maude stood also, turned off the lamp as both older women made they way out of the room and went to their own. The night grew quiete as peace descended.

The stars filled the night sky as to hearts started their journey to each other.

To be continued...


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