Disclaimers: still can be found in chapter 1a and will probably never ever change.

Mountain Love
by Psyche_b

Chapter 1b

       The road spread before her, long, dusty and lonely.  She longed to stop, but couldn't.  She was still to close for comfort.  Had it only been a week since she left? Just seven short days since she stole away in the middle of the night just before her arranged marriage.  She both loved and feared her father, and as much as she wanted to please him, ahe could not bring herself to marry a man she didn't and couldn't love.  Her marriage would join the neighboring ranch with her families, making it the largest in the area. A union that would help give her father water rights to help alleviate the drought that threatened their livelihood and take the ranch from him.  A section of land that covered both ranches has been set aside for the couple.  The house and barn were completed.  Stock grazed in the fields.  It was a good start for the union that would join the two families.
      The youngest of six children and the only girl, Victoria Montgomery inherited  the best and worst of both her parents.  She had her father's blonde hair, her mother's green eyes. Her father's will, her mother's grace, his fiery temper and stubborness, her thirst for knowledge and spirit of adventure all combined to get her to the point she was at now, running from her family.  Running for her very existance.  She was educated at a time when educating a woman was considered a waste of time and money.  Beyond reading and writing a woman didn't need to have a lot of education to raise a family and care for a house and keep her husband happy.Education just gave a woman ideas.  Made her think she was as good or smart as a man. Except those women who were school teachers, who had little hope of ever marrying, few women were educated beyond the primary grades. Those few who did marry quit their positions immediately.
      Not Victoria.  She knew there was more to life than just being a wife and mother.  There was a big world out there that she was determined to see and experience before....
      "Before What" she thought.  "Before she settled down?"  The tought of settling down with a man, any man sent a shiver up her spine. She knew she didn't want the life her parents had.  Thoughts of living and sleeping with a man sickened her.  Thoughts of his kisses and touches repulsed her.  When thoughts of the marital act filled her head, she glanced quickly behind her and spurred her horse to a faster pace.  Her heart hammering in her chest.  She ran her horse for a long time before she felt comfortable to allow her to slow down to a walk
      Weeks of trying to talk with her father came to nothing.  His mind was set.  She would obey his orders and marry the man of his choice.  She finally pleaded with her mother for help.  Begging for her help to keep her from the same life her mother had finally wore her down and with her mother's blessing, the money she was able to save from her teaching position and the little her mother was able to give her, she left.  Carrying only what necessities she and her horse could safely manage, she fled.  That was seven short days ago.  She longed to know what happened the morning of what was supposed to be her wedding day.  Did her father give up or was he at this very moment tracking her. If he was trailing her, she could only hope that she had left a confusing enough trail.  Dressed in men's clothing, she cut her long blond hair to be better able to disguise the fact she was a woman.  Thankful that she learned to shoot a gun she was able to stretch her meager supplies and money. She had been taught as a young child how to live off the land or there would have been many cold and hungry nights as she carefully avoided the small towns unless absolutely necessary.  Being early summer there was abundant game and water.
      Ever since she left home she had a reoccuring dreams of an old Indian woman.  Her only words were "go to the mountains"  The picture of the old woman would then be replaced with that of a young woman with dark hair and brilliant blue eyes.
      She had long since left her home state of Virginia and travelled North West.  The direction the old woman told her to go.  The mountains she saw in the distance beckoned her.  The mountains meant freedom and a new life.  She felt deep inside her heart that it was in the mountains that she would find peace, her destiny and quite possibly love.

      As the summer progressed, there was no rain.  Lakes dwindled, fast moving rivers turned into sluggish streams and had long since stopped rushing by. No longer pushed by the melting snows in the mountains
      they slowed.  Mosquitoes were abundant around the now stagnating puddles that were once lakes and streams.  Grass turned brown and brittle as the sun continued it's relentless scorching of the earth below.
      Food and water became scarce as even the smallest of creatures hid from the harsh sunlight of day.  Venturing out only in late afternoon for what little food and water they could find.

      It was through this area that Victoria now travelled.  Many times she regretted her decision to follow the direction  the old woman in her dreams told her to follow.  She had gone as far as to turn around, but the face of the old woman would flash in front of her and she would continue to followher to the mountains.. She had entered the mountains from her dream  several days ago.  She searched for the face that haunted her dreams at night and now even her waking hours. Victoria sat by her small campire and pulled a battered book from her saddlebag.  Her pencil was only only a stub.  By the dim light of the fire she continued to write of her journey.  She checked backed on the date she first left home.  She had been travelling for five weeks.  She wrote of the places she had seen, the towns she had seen when she couldn't avoid it and the people she met. So far she hoped she had been able to fool everyone into thinking she was a boy.  She picked up her pencil and wrote  "I've been in the mountain region for several days, yet the woman keeps calling to me to go farther.  Still no rain, food and water are getting harder to find.  The heat has been brutal.  One good thing that has made this journey bearable is that I don't have to deal with a corset, five pounds of petticoats, and those high necked, long sleeved, touch the ground dresses.  Today I saw more mountains in the distance... I know what else is new, I'm surrounded by mountains. But these seem more like the ones from my dreams..
      The old woman  has been speaking again.  Now she is saying,  come home.  Love is waiting for you.  Come home to the mountains we are waiting for you.... But how much farther is home and who is the we she speaks about????  I am getting so tired of travelling.  And love??? Who is my love?  Who is the dark haired woman I keep seeing?  Tomorrow I'll continue on...."
      Victoria read over what she had just written.  Satisfied she closed her journal and settled down for the night....



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