I am so tired of Matt. Honestly I wish he would just leave me alone. Strange strong words coming from someone who all of Dodge thought just waited on and wanted him. I love and hate him.

The last time he rode out was when his arm was so injured that he could barely get on his horse. What am I supposed to do? Just wait like I always do? Well forget it. I'm done. I'm done waiting and wanting. I hate myself more and more everyday and what's worse, it's making me hate him more and more.

I've lived my whole life for other people. My father, my mother, Matt, Doc and even the Long Branch has always come first.

My father abandoned my mother when I was young and then tried to steal what I made on my back when I was older. His failures as a man, husband and father set me up for heartbreak with every other man I've ever known. The funny thing is that I like and don't like men because of him. I like how men smell, talk and how they act. At the same time, I don't like them for exactly for the same reasons. Why is it on some men it works and others it doesn't? I only know that I don't trust any man because of him. Men, they all hurt and disappoint and end up showing you that you don't mean that much to them. Sadly this has been true much of my life. If I was truthful, men don't have a monopoly on being untrustful. Women can be bitches. Myself included.

Mother, are you more than a sweet memory of love and comfort? Did your own unwise choice beckon me to mine? When I was younger I didn't understand why you loved Father. Now that I am older I see my reflection in you. You refused to see the real man. The man unsuited to be a husband and father. You looked past his weaknesses and loved him even though he didn't deserve it. Did you teach me to love like that on purpose knowing that some day I would love a man that was equally unsuitable and unattainable? I repeated your mistake. No way I am going to allow that to happen to my child.

My child. Matt's child. The dream child I gave up so long ago. Does he fathom the depth of my grief over that child? No explanations he says. God damn him. I NEED explanations and want them. But I won't get them because he's not here. He's never here. And honestly I lack the courage to force him. I'm afraid I already know the real answer.

Matt. God I love and hate you. My body aches for your touch but my mind and soul balk at being near you.

Sex with Matt is wonderful, frantic, intense, painful, soulful, exquisite, and lonely. After all these years I haven't come up with a word that adequately describes it. Sometimes it's enough but more often than not, its not. In the morning when he leaves my bed and me alone, bitterness overwhelms me. My anger and shame at needing him blinds me to the love that we just shared. My poor Cowboy doesn't understand it any more than I do.

Sex it's what has kept us together. I am so weak. All these years of being private in public has enabled me to keep my weakened heightened senses in check but it doesn't stop my body shaking in anticipation when I'm in his presence. Many a time Matt couldn't stay longer than to say "Hello" and yet those words were enough to send me to my office alone and take care of my needs. My center burns and wets for him. It's unladylike and since I am no lady I enjoy and ride the sensation. I once I shocked Matt by telling him that. It made him blush. I still smile at that memory.

My confidence in everything is gone. My friends and looks are gone. My only constant is the Long Branch, my other lover. Matt and I both cheated on each other. Him, with the badge and me, with that shoddy building. I gave it my youth and energy and watched with pride as it grew and prospered into the Long Branch legend. Without it I would be just some whore, just some other unknown woman in a town of forgettable women. My hopes and dreams lay shattered and bloodied like the men who have died there. Still the Long Branch is mine to love and protect but not for much longer. Like any proud parent, there is a time to let go and let someone else love your child.

I gotta get out of here. I'm going to end up killing someone. I can't stand myself, Matt, Doc, Festus, Newly, Dodge, life. I want to leave before I end up really truly hating Matt. He doesn't understand me any longer or my anger. I tried to get answers from him and told him the scales were outta whack and that it was hard to throw away so many years together. Instead of being honest, he just said that I knew how he felt and that it was my decision. But damn it, it's not. It should be ours. He never understood that.

Matt for god's sake, please just say it. I know you don't love me anymore.

"Kitty", Doc says as he reaches the table where I sit and wait the day after Matt left. I look up and smile.

"Hello Doc. You want coffee?" I am surprised how calm and normal my voice seems. Doc. He has protected me, loved me and kept my secrets for so many years.

"Did you see Matt off?" Doc asks quietly, waiting to see how I answer. He watches me all the time.

"Yes" is all I say. I can't give him any ammunition into my thoughts. Not now. Matt is destroying another relationship. Not mine and his, but Doc's and mine.

I smile at Doc and try to redirect him. "Curly, we both know there is nothing we can do to change his mind so lets not worry. The coffee is hot and strong and there is wonderful sweetbreads for breakfast". Doc's eyebrow's go straight to his forehead and meet his hat.

"Kitty."

"Doc, lets not do this anymore. Let's pretend that everything's normal. The sun is shining and that everyone that should be here is." That of course is lie. Not only is Matt not here but also so many others, my mother, Chester, Quint, Thad. Just because some aren't actually dead, doesn't mean that I don't think of them that way. They are so empty in my life that they might as well be dead.

Doc doesn't understand but he does what I ask.

"Well, young lady, what is on your agenda today?" as he reaches for a blue and white coffee cup. I smile at his pet name for me, young lady.

"I have whiskey drummers coming this morning and an a friend of mine should be along sometime this week. You remember me speaking of Hannah?"

Doc murmurs "Yes", but actually doesn't remember her. Could he have missed Kitty talking about her or was Kitty confused? He thinks that something is up as he watches her closely. She is paler than normal and her breathing seems to be a bit quicker. It could be the stress of Matt leaving without knowing where he is or it could just be a normal physical response to the heat and early morning. He knows that sleep is not her friend now.

"What about you, Doc? Where are you off to today?" I ask not caring. Hoping I can slip into a non-listening coma.

The next couple of weeks pass quickly and agonizingly slowly. I keep to a normal routine and hope that no one picks up my increasing nervousness and changes to my body. "I gotta get out of here." is my mantra. I really want to wait for Matt but I can't much longer. I can and will leave him but I need to see him in person. I want his touch to remember and to keep me sane without the longing I know will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Hannah and I finished our business. I can't believe how easy it was for me to let go of the Long Branch. My home, my life and love for 20 years. Matt is so mixed up with the sale that I feel like I sold him too. I want people to get to know Hannah and get used to her being behind the bar and not me. I take a couple of short trips to the Ronniger's, just to be gone and have Doc, Festus and Newly and everyone get to know her and more importantly, come to the Long Branch without seeing me there.

My heart breaks a bit when I realize that they are used to seeing her and not me behind the bar even though it's what I want. I place my hand on my stomach and smile. I don't really care I think honestly. I have what I want.

My child. He's finally real. He's finally here. I am constantly smiling. Years of practice of keeping my emotions to myself help keep my giddiness in check. My new love how you outshine every other love I've known. Oh my god. I am so happy that you are finally here. I don't even regret the other love I have to leave behind to make you sure that you are safe. That's a lie. It kills my soul but it's a price I am willing to pay to have you here with me.

Matt, I wish I could tell you about him. I want to see your smile break slowly across your face and then into your heart. I pretend that you will be happy and you will sweep me up in your arms and say, "Kitty, I'm so happy". Although you may hate me, you know that keeping you apart is the smart play. You may think you are hurt when I am gone but could you image your pain if something happened to our child due to the badge and the violence of our lives?

I am willing to have you hate me when I leave you. That hate will enable you to keep your edge and keep you alive. It will kill our love and I can live with that as long as you are alive. Alive, Matt. You must stay alive. Then I can think of our far off someday. Someday when you will be able to join us. Oh my god, Matt. I want that so much. But our lives don't allow us any that type of happiness. One of us will always be hurt and unhappy.

Smiling I walk into Jonas's store to pick up my latest order. I have been stockpiling shirts, pants, socks and toilettes for Matt so when I am gone he doesn't have to worry about it. I have taken care of his needs for so many years that I am not even sure he is aware of it anymore. It's just something else I do for him that he doesn't pay attention to. He still has a room at Ma's and I prepare the room for his eventual homecoming. I pay the room off for the next year. Ma and I have reached an understanding. She knows and accepts our love and is one of the few people who Matt trusts with that. He will need her when I am gone. I make sure that his rye whiskey is by the bedside table and that his favorite soap is available in the washroom.

While I take care of Matt, I am also taking care of Doc, Festus and Newly. I drop hints about my friend who is having a baby who is in poor health and that I will be going to her soon to help out and that I may be long awhile. "Awhile? What does that mean Miz Kitty? When are you leavin? Does Matthew know?" Festus, my dear, sweet and too often savior, asks furiously. Newly keeps his silence and just watches all of us. I always feel calm when I am with him. His calm is a salve to my often-troubled soul.

"Festus." I smile at him and put my hand on his arm to settle him. "I don't know how long I will be gone but Hannah is here and will take care of you. If you know what I mean." I say and wink at my three boys. Doc and Newly understand but Festus is still lost in his world and slowly understanding I won't be in it much longer.

"Miz Kitty, I don't need no other sheemale taking care of me." He declares.

Smiling, I say "Festus what I mean is that the beer will be on me until I get back. And knowing how much you like beer, you know that I can't afford to be away long." Doc laughs at that and Newly smirks above his free beer. I can't remember a time that they actually paid for anything here.

"Shoot Miz Kitty, you know I would pay." he begins. "I know, I know Festus. It's okay." And deep in my soul it really is.

"Now gentlemen, if you excuse me, I have some things I need to take care of." I say to get away from the men who for so long loved and protected me. Choruses of "Miz Kitty and Kitty" follow me as I make my way to the stairs. I turn and see them huddled together trying to figure out what's happening. God I will l miss them I think when I hear an argument intensifying. Newly is the first to look up and take notice. He stands to start over to the table. I am already on my way to calm the waters.

"Gentlemen" I start to say trying to calm the situation when the guns come out.

"Men" I think to myself. "They're so stupid. How does this solve anything?" As soon as I think that, I feel a sharp pain and as I fall I see Matt's face at the batwing doors.

"Miss Kitty" Newly reaches me first since he was already on his feet.

By the time I am on the floor Matt has already taken care of the man who shot me and would have shot the innocent dealer. He was just a bad poker player.

"Matt" I whisper.

"Kitty, honey, Miz Kitty, Miss Kitty" Calls of my name in all its forms hit my ears. There is only one voice I want. "Matt"

"I'm here honey." His voice low and hurt says. "Doc? Newly?" The same voice asks more uncertain. Before the pain takes me I hear Festus asking for people to clear back and away.