Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, and to A&E.Born Again By Ashley M. Jenkins Chapter 1: Where is She?
"Where the hell is she?" Hank demanded as he threw Horace up against the side of the telegraph office. His cheeks were practically glowing red from anger while his fists flew furiously at Horace's face. Horace stumbled back as Hank pulled him away from the wall and shoved him toward the horse trough. Horace sputtered for a moment, blood trickling from his busted upper lip.
"I told you, I don't know where she is!" Horace exclaimed as his face received another beating from Hank's knuckles. He stumbled back, his head aching, his eyes watering. His right eye was beginning to swell tremendously.
"Don't you lie to me, Horace! I know you've got a thing for Myra. She wasn't in her room this mornin'. I got the feelin' that you took her away from me. Where is she?" He pushed Horace down into the dirt. Having heard the disturbance, Dr. Mike rushed out of the clinic and joined the crowd of people who had gathered around Hank and Horace. She pushed her way through the crowd.
"Let me pass!" She found Horace lying in the dirt with blood escaping from various cuts on his face. "Horace!" She threw herself over him, knowing that no matter how tough Hank was, he would never hurt a respectable woman. He had come close to hitting a lady before, and he was rough with his prostitutes, but he knew that if he would try to hit a woman in public, especially one of Michaela's status, the townspeople would turn their backs on him, even Jake and Loren. They were set in their ways, but they also had morals.
Loren and Jake had made their way to the front of the crowd, secretly hoping they hadn't missed anything good.
"Stay out of this, Michaela," Hank warned, his chest heaving in deep, angry breaths. "It's none of your business."
"What's the meaning of this?" the doctor demanded, standing up and helping Horace stand on his own two feet. Horace rubbed his sore jaw, hoping Hank hadn't broken anything.
"He's hidin' Myra!" Hank accused. Michaela looked at Horace. She wasn't sure Horace was hiding her, but she also knew that Hank wouldn't stop beating him until he got answers from someone.
"It ain't true! I don't know where she is! But if she ran away from him, it's probably the best thing she could do!" Michael helped Horace stand. "If she's hurt, Hank, I'll never forgive you." Hank rolled his eyes and turned his back.
"I'm keepin' my eye on you." He walked back into his saloon and his girls followed him cautiously. They knew the penalty for running off. Myra knew it too. They got extra customers and no pay for a month. None of them had ever risked running off, because they knew Hank would be mad as hell. They were afraid to find out how far Hank would go if he got drunk enough.
"Come on, Horace. Let's get you to the clinic," Dr. Mike offered slowly. Horace shook his head and walked back into the telegraph office, closing down for the day for the first time in years. Dr. Mike watched as the crowd broke up and went about their own business. She was left standing in the dust as the noon sun beat heavily down on her. She realized that she needed to be getting home because a storm was coming. She knew the children would come straight home after school because Matthew offered to pick them up.
"Dr. Mike?" She turned as she was walking over to her wagon to see Sully walking toward her. Wolf was following behind loyally. Dr. Mike smiled as she saw the man she loved.
"Sully," she said with a smile. Sully caught up to her and put his arm around her, walking the rest of the way to the wagon with her.
"I heard there was a fight."
"Yes," she answered with a nod. "Hank accused Horace of hiding Myra. Apparently she ran away."
"Can you blame her? Look at the life she's living." He pointed to the saloon where one of the girls was talking with some potential customers. Dr. Mike shivered. The thought of the business Hank ran made her feel ill. She felt sorry for the girls who worked for him, especially Myra. She had someone who loved her with all of his heart, but Hank didn't care much at all for that. He was greedy and only wanted money. That's all those girls ever were to him. Money.
"No, I can't say I do blame her. I'm concerned though, because it isn't like Myra to run off."
"Maybe somethin' bad made her run off. Would it make you feel better if I went to look for her?"
"Yes. Thank you," she answered with a nod. Sully leaned in to kiss Michaela's cheek before he helped her up onto the wagon. She rode off, and he watched her disappear around the bend before turning to go search for clues to Myra's whereabouts.
She crossed the bridge and found herself looking down toward the homestead. She knew that place would welcome her because Dr. Mike lived there. It was only a matter of time before Hank sent out a search party. She had left earlier that morning and rested in the afternoon with some food she had bought at Grace's the night before. She left at first light, just in enough time to escape Hank checking in on her. She hated when he would come to her in the middle of the nights. Sometimes it was unexpected, other times it was like clockwork.
She wished she could have gone to Horace, but she knew that was the first place Hank would look. Hank hated Horace simply because of Myra. Myra cared for Hank in the sense that he had fed, clothed, and sheltered her when no one else would, but her heart belonged to Horace. He was the one man who would look at her and see her for the person she really was, not for her profession.
Myra hurried up to the homestead and knocked on the door.
"Dr. Mike?" she asked in a whimper, tears stinging her eyes. "Dr. Mike?!" There was no answer. "Colleen? Brian? Matthew?" She suddenly realized that the children were at school and Matthew was probably at work. She sighed heavily and hurried over to the barn. She let herself in and climbed up into the loft, dragging a heavy suitcase with her. The hay was a nice bed, nearly nicer than the bed Hank had had her sleeping on for years. A few months ago, the bed finally collapsed and he had bought her a new one.
Myra laid down on the pile of clean hay, and she closed her eyes. The sound of the wind whistling through the rafters of the barn kept her awake, but she wanted nothing more thank to sleep. She hadn't had a decent night's sleep in ages, and it was time that she rested. She knew she had to rest. She knew that in order to keep herself healthy, she had to rest and eat. It wouldn't be too long before she'd leave. Maybe she could stay in Dr. Mike's barn for the night and head off in the morning without saying a word. Oh, she couldn't do that. Dr. Mike had been too good of a friend to Myra for her to leave and not say goodbye.
After awhile, Myra dozed off, but about fifteen minutes later, she woke to the sound of a wagon drawing near.
Dr. Mike slowed the horses to a stop as soon as she reached the homestead. She grabbed her medical bag and jumped down onto the ground. She breathed deeply and inhaled the scent of the countryside. She could tell that the boys hadn't cleaned the stables out in a few days and made a mental note to remind them later. She was about to go into the homestead when she heard whimpering from the barn. At first she thought it might have been Colleen, but she remembered that the children were still at school for another hour and a half.
Cautiously, Dr. Mike walked toward the barn and opened the doors. She wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe a child got lost and found the barn for a place to rest. Maybe someone was hurt and knew to come to the house for help. She knew she had to be careful, but she also knew that whoever was in the inside might be frightened as well.
"Hello?" she asked. She heard the whimpering subside a little.
"Dr. Mike?" came a quivering voice from the loft. Dr. Mike looked up to see Myra looking down. She felt relieved when she saw her friend's face. She took a deep breath.
"Myra? What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry, Dr. Mike. I didn't know where else to go." Dr. Mike climbed up into the loft. She saw that Myra had a suitcase full of things at her side. She knew Myra was fully intending to run away.
"Myra? Hank thinks you ran off, and I can see that he's right."
"Oh he must be mad as hell."
"He gave Horace quite a beating."
"Oh . . ." Myra whimpered. "See, that's exactly what I didn't want to happen. I just figured that things would get worse if I stayed."
"Do you want to tell me about it?" Myra began to tear up again.
"I s'pose I have to tell somebody, and you're probably the only person I trust in the whole town besides Horace."
"Well, you're right. You can trust me. What's the matter?"
"I'm . . . I'm pregnant!" Myra exclaimed, dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief. Dr. Mike's eyes widened with surprise and she cleared her throat.
"Myra, are you sure?"
"Well, I'm almost positive, but that's another reason I came here. I figured that you could tell me for sure. I haven't had my monthly yet. It doesn't feel like the time I had the tumor either. I'm pretty sure, Dr. Mike." Dr. Mike sighed and put a comforting arm around her friend.
"It's going to be alright, Myra." Myra shook her head.
"I'm not so sure about that."
"Come on. Let's go into the house and I'll be able to examine you." Myra nodded and followed Dr. Mike out of the barn and into the homestead.
Dr. Mike finished washing and drying her hands as Myra finished dressing.
"Myra?" Dr. Mike asked.
"What is it?" Myra asked as she walked out into view. "Am I pregnant or not?"
"You are," Dr. Mike answered with a nod. "You're going to have a baby, Myra." She smiled a bit, but Myra couldn't. How could she smile about something that was going to change her life forever. Sure, she loved babies, but she couldn't take care of one while she was still working for Hank. Her contract was almost up, but she would forever be reminded of being a prostitute. That wasn't something she wanted her children to know. She didn't want her children to be teased about their mother when they were in school. It wasn't fair to anyone for her to be a mother. On the other hand, she knew that she could love a child and give it the things she never had as a child. She could point it on the right path and keep it from losing its way.
"I wish I could be happy about it. I've always wanted to have children. I never thought it would happen like this." Her heart was starting to break. She wanted terribly to see the light in the eyes of a child of her own, but she didn't know how to raise a child without a father. What if Horace didn't want anything to do with her after this?
"Myra, I'm sorry."
"It ain't your fault."
"It's not yours either. It isn't your fault that Hank won't let you out of your contract until the year is over."
"But it's partly Hank's fault that I'm in this condition, Dr. Mike," Myra replied, looking away.
"That's what I'm saying. If he had let you out of your contract when you wanted out, you wouldn't be pregnant right now." Myra knew that Dr. Mike wasn't getting her meaning. She cleared her throat and looked away.
"That's true, Dr. Mike, but what I'm sayin' is that Hank's the father of my baby."Chapter 2: Father's Day
Dr. Mike looked at Myra for the longest moment before she reached out and put her hand on the young woman's shoulder.
"Hank is the father?"
"Yeah," Myra replied, looking down gently. "What am I gonna tell Horace?"
"Are you sure Hank is the father?"
"I'm positive, Dr. Mike," Myra responded. "See, over the past month or so, Hank's been puttin' me off limits to the customers. I've been all his. I can't say no to him, Dr. Mike. My contract is almost up, and if I cooperate with him, it'll make things easier when I leave."
"Oh Myra, I'm sorry this happened to you."
"Horace ain't gonna want me now. He and Hank hate each other. If Horace knows that I'm havin' Hank's baby, he's not gonna think the same of me. I wouldn't blame him."
"Horace loves you. It's not your fault this happened, Myra," Dr. Mike replied. "I'll help you tell them both if you want me to."
"I don't want to face them. Dr. Mike, can't I just stay here until my contract runs out?" Myra asked. "By then I can make up my mind about if I want to stay or not."
"I wish I could let you do that, Myra," Dr. Mike said gently. "But you could get into a lot of trouble if you run away from your contract. I don't want to condone the kind of business Hank runs, but I don't want to see him send the law after you." Myra looked away.
"I know," Myra whispered. "I want to have a baby, Dr. Mike, but I don't want it to be like this. Is there anyway I could just . . ." Myra nearly choked at her own thoughts. "No. No. I don't want to think about that."
"I'll be here for you, Myra. I'll help you break the news to both Hank and Horace."
"I'm so ashamed. I almost wish I never met Hank. My ma had big plans for me when I was little. I was gonna go to college and become a teacher. But when that didn't happen, Hank took me in and this is where he got me."
"You could always give the baby up for adoption when it's born. Hank never has to know it's his."
"He'll know," Myra replied. "You remember how mad he was the first time I thought I was pregnant? Well, it'll be worse this time, because I think he has feelin's for me. Dr. Mike, I want a baby. I don't want Hank to be the father."
"He doesn't have to be. You and Horace can still be together, raising the baby as your own. I've seen it happen several times."
"I don't want Hank to raise it. I don't want my baby growin' up around that saloon. It ain't a good place, and that's why he sent Zach away. But with this baby, it'll be somethin' he can hold over Horace and try to keep us apart with."
"That won't happen. If Hank doesn't treat you right, let me know, alright?" Myra nodded. The door opened and Matthew, Colleen, and Brian walked in.
"Oh, sorry Dr. Mike," Colleen said quietly. "We didn't know you had a patient."
"It's alright. We're just heading back to town," Dr. Mike answered.
"The storm's gonna hit pretty hard in an hour or so," Matthew warned.
"I'll be back in no time," Dr. Mike promised. "Come on, Myra." Myra followed Dr. Mike out of the homestead, got into the wagon with her and headed off toward town.
The wind was starting to howl outside as Dr. Mike pulled her wagon up to the clinic. Horace, who had been standing outside of the telegraph office, and Hank, who had been sitting outside of the saloon, both saw Myra and Dr. Mike and headed over as quickly as they could.
"Myra!" Hank hollered. Myra looked at Dr. Mike. The doctor squeezed her patient's hand and they got out of the wagon. Myra headed into the clinic while Dr. Mike waited on the porch. She kept her hand on the doorknob and Hank waltzed over and glared at her. "You've been keepin' her from me?"
"No, Hank," Dr. Mike answered. "But there's something Myra has to tell you." She looked up at Horace who was listening too. "You need to hear it as well, Horace." The men walked into the clinic behind Dr. Mike. Myra was standing behind the exam table, her hands rested firmly on it to keep her balanced.
"What the heck is goin' on?" Hank asked.
"Myra, honey? Is everything alright?"
"There's somethin' I need to tell you both. I ran away today . . ."
"That's as plain as day," Hank replied, crossing his arms. "Why did you run off, Myra?"
"Did Hank do something to you?" Horace asked, glaring at Hank.
"Well," Myra started. Horace started to swing his fist at Hank, but Hank ducked away. "Stop!"
"Gentlemen, please! Myra is trying to tell you something that is very difficult for her to say!" Dr. Mike interrupted. The men quieted but Hank scoffed at Horace's lousy attempt to swing at him. Myra turned to Horace and took his hands.
"Horace, I need you to know somethin'."
"You can tell me anything, Myra," Horace said with a nod, kissing one of her hands.
"I'm gonna love you forever, no matter what," she started.
"And I'll love you forever no matter what," Horace promised. Myra swallowed hard. She let go of Horace's hands and looked down.
"What?!" Hank asked angrily, his fists balling up at his sides.
"What?!" Horace asked in shock. "Myra . . . are you sure it ain't like the last time?"
"I've examined her myself," Dr. Mike explained. "She's telling the truth."
"How could you let this happen, Myra?" Hank asked, glaring at Horace.
"Don't look at him, Hank. Look at me," Myra urged. She looked at Dr. Mike. The doctor gave her patient and friend a gentle nod.
"Go on," she whispered.
"You know Horace and I haven't . . . been together," Myra started, her voice cracking.
"Nobody has, Myra. Not lately anyway."
"Except for . . ." Myra urged. Hank's face grew pale and he looked at Dr. Mike, Horace, and then Myra.
"You mean it's mine?" Hank asked, swallowing hard. Myra nodded.
"You know it is, Hank. You haven't let any of the customers come near me lately, not even if they offered to pay double. You know it's yours."
"Myra . . ." Horace started, looking as if his heart had been ripped from his chest.
"I'm sorry, Horace. I am so sorry," she sobbed. "You know I love you, but I understand if you don't want nothin' to do with me anymore."
"Of course he ain't gonna have nothin' to do with you, Myra. You're havin' my baby, so you and me are gonna get married."
"What?!" Myra asked, her eyes widening in horror.
"Hank," Dr. Mike started.
"Stay out of this, Michaela," Hank warned. "As soon as Myra's contract's up, we're gonna get married.
"You can't do that!" Horace protested. "Me and Myra are engaged!"
"Step aside, lover boy. Myra and me are havin' a kid, so we're gonna get married. It's proper."
"What would you know about bein' proper, Hank?" Horace asked. "You never treated Myra with respect. You can't give her a good life. I'm willing to change her life."
"I'm the reason she's lived this long. If I hadn't taken her in, she would have died on the streets."
"Why don't you let Myra decide what she wants?" Dr. Mike suggested.
"Because Myra belongs to me!" Hank exclaimed.
"Myra is her own person, Hank. Nobody has the right to own another person. Just because she has a contract with you doesn't mean you own her. She works for you, but other than that, she can make her own decisions."
"Why don't I just renew her contract?" Hank asked.
"You can't do that!" Dr. Mike exclaimed. "Hank, you are being childish."
"Childish, Michaela? I'm tryin' to do the right thing in marryin' Myra. Who else is gonna want to marry an ex-whore with a baby?"
"Myra and I are gonna get married, and I'll be a good pa to her baby," Horace replied, stepping up beside Myra. Hank turned around furiously and lunged at Horace.
"Hank! Stop it!" Myra screamed. Hank went for Horace's throat, knocking Myra out of the way in the process. Myra groaned as she hit the floor, and Dr. Mike ran to her side. The door to the clinic burst open and Sully rushed in. He pulled Hank off of Horace and threw him toward the door.
"Sully!" Dr. Mike exclaimed.
"Make it outside," Sully warned. Hank stood and walked out into the street after Horace. Sully shut the door and helped Dr. Mike help Myra up onto her feet.
"You okay?" Sully asked Myra. Myra nodded.
"Myra, I want to check and make sure the baby wasn't harmed."
"Alright," Myra said with a nod. Sully turned to leave. "Thanks for breakin' up that fight." Sully nodded.
"Do you want me to find you a place out of town?"
"No. I need to face my life now. I need to be able to be strong for my baby, because soon, I'm sure it'll just be the two of us. If bein' with Horace means him bein' hurt, then I should stay away." Sully left and Dr. Mike looked at Myra. "Do you still think it's gonna be alright, Dr. Mike?"
"I'm not sure, Myra," Dr. Mike replied honestly. "But Sully will make sure Hank doesn't do anything like he just did again." Myra nodded and got up on the exam table so Dr. Mike could make sure Hank's little outburst hadn't done anything to hurt the baby.
"Dr. Mike? Do you think the baby's alright?"
"I'm sure everything's fine, Myra. Just relax."
Outside, Sully was standing on the porch of the clinic, watching Hank and Horace fighting in the street. He knew he should break it up, but he also knew that the sooner they got it over with, the sooner they could all get on with their lives. A crowd was starting to form again, and the reverend walked up to stand beside Sully.
"You should do something."
"There's nothin' I can do, reverend. This is somethin' they've gotta work out on their own. If I get in the middle, it'll always be that way."
"What's this all about, anyway?"
"Why don't you ask them? It ain't my place to say," Sully replied, walking off to tend to his traps.
"Everything's fine, Myra," Dr. Mike assured her patient. Myra sat up and sighed with relief.
"Thank goodness." She shook her head. "I don't see why Hank just can't let me outta my contract early. He ain't makin' a profit off of me anyway."
"Maybe I can talk to him."
"It won't do any good," Myra replied. Dr. Mike looked out the window and turned back to Myra.
"It appears that the reverend talked some sense into Hank and Horace. They're walking off in opposite directions."
"Good. I hate seein' them fightin'. Hank's not the nicest person in the world, but he did give me food and shelter when I needed it."
"Well, if I were you Myra, I'd be thinking about my unborn baby's safety above anyone else's. I know you love Horace, and you feel like you owe Hank, but what you really need to focus on is you and your baby right now."
"I can't do that till I'm free from Hank."
"Well, you go upstairs and rest. I'll go over to Hank's before the storm starts. I'll try to reason with him."
"It ain't gonna work, Dr. Mike."
"Well, it won't hurt to try, will it?" Dr. Mike gave her friend a reassuring smile and left the clinic to talk to Hank.Chapter 3: Reasoning with Hank
Loren Bray and Jake Slicker, two of townsmen who stood against Dr. Mike with Hank most of the time, were seated at the bar of the saloon, drinking back shots of whiskey. Hank was puffing on one of his cigars, whispering something into one of his girls' ears and chuckling as she headed toward the back of the saloon. Dr. Mike usually had to hold her breath when she walked into the filthy bar, but today, most of the poker tables were empty, and only the town's heaviest drinkers were faithfully seated in their usual seats. The only smoke rolling was the smoke from Hank's cigar.
As soon as Hank saw her face, he stood straight up and walked out from behind the counter.
"What are you doin' here?"
"I see that business is slow today," Dr. Mike replied.
"No thanks to that no good whore and her lover boy."
"Well, maybe it's that, or maybe it's the storm. But I'm certain that many people are staying away because of the way you treated Myra. I'm sure most of the town has heard about how you knocked a pregnant woman to the ground."
"Now hold on a minute," Hank warned.
"You claim that you're going to marry Myra and raise that baby, Hank. But she deserves so much better than you if you think you can treat her like one of your girls. Myra is pregnant, and she does not deserve to be manhandled. No woman does. Nor does any woman deserve to have a man force his way into her bed." Dr. Mike turned to walk away.
"I never forced my way into her bed," Hank replied angrily in a hushed whisper. Dr. Mike turned back to face him. "She never complained."
"She was probably too afraid to complain, Hank. She works for you, Hank. That's all." Dr. Mike left the saloon and Hank looked at Loren and Jake. They looked away, took a last shot of whiskey, and left before the storm hit.
Hank walked over to stand by the swinging doors. He saw Myra greet Dr. Mike at the door, glance over his way, and disappear back inside the clinic with the doctor.
"Everybody get out," he said, pointing toward the doors. The men pulled a few dollars out of their pockets and put them down on a table for Hank before they left. Hank closed the outside doors before he disappeared back inside of his saloon. He poured a drink into a shot glass and sat at the bar, staring into the russet liquid. One of the girls named Beth came out of the back with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders.
"You closed up, Hank?"
"What's it look like?"
"The girls and I were talkin' and decided somethin'."
"Oh? What's that?" Hank asked with an amused smirk.
"We think you ought to let Myra out of her contract."
"Oh you do, huh?"
"Yeah," Beth replied with a nod. "She's expectin', and it ain't right to keep her here."
"She's expectin' my baby," Hank replied. "She's stayin' with me."
"I sure wish you'd reconsider. She deserves to raise her baby some place good. She shouldn't have to work and take care of a baby at the same time."
"She ain't gonna work, Beth. She's gonna be my wife."
"That might be what you want, but you should think about what she wants."
That evening, Dr. Mike, Sully, Colleen, Matthew, and Brian were sitting around the dinner table at the homestead.
"That was awful nice of you to let Myra stay at the clinic for awhile," Sully mentioned.
"Yeah ma," Brian replied. "Is she gonna stay there for good?"
"For a while," Dr. Mike responded.
"She could come stay with us. Miss Myra's real nice."
"Brian, we ain't got no room. Plus, Myra's gonna have a baby, so we'd have to give it your bed."
"No!" Brian exclaimed. Dr. Mike and Sully smiled at each other.
"Excuse me. I'm gonna go to bed. I've got to be at the ranch early tomorrow morning," Matthew said, standing up from the table.
"Okay. Good night."
"Night," Matthew replied. He left the house and Colleen and Brian got up.
"Ma, can I stay up and play outside with the puppy?"
"No Brian. You have school tomorrow."
"I know," he grumbled. Colleen took her brother's hand and pulled him towards his bed. Sully stood and helped Dr. Mike clear the dinner table. Dr. Mike was quiet with a look of concentration on her face.
"What are you thinkin' about?"
"I'm thinking about how Hank could be so cruel."
"That's the way he is. That's the way he's always gonna be."
"That's unfortunate for Myra. I want to help her, but she's determined to stay and make a life for her and her baby. How does she expect to do that with Hank around?" Dr. Mike walked out to stand on the porch of the homestead. She rested her hands on the rail and leaned into the winds. The storm had passed and left behind a cool wind. Sully pulled his arms around Dr. Mike, holding her close to him. She leaned into his chest and he heaved a heavy sigh.
"I feel so lucky, Sully. I have three beautiful children, my clinic and my practice, my wonderful friends . . . and you." She turned into his arms and he smiled down at her. "Myra could have had a good life too. If it wasn't for Hank, she could have been a teacher like her mother wanted her to be."
"Things happen for reasons nobody knows about."
"You're saying Myra's life turned out like this for a reason?"
"Maybe. It's possible. I'm just glad that your life turned out the way it did. It brought you to me."
"Sully," Dr. Mike whispered. Sully leaned down and kissed her softly upon the lips. When they parted, their arms wrapped around one another, protecting each other from the cold wind, but at the same time, both feeling grateful that they had one another.
Myra was sitting in a rocking chair out on the balcony at the clinic. She was looking over the town as everything winded down for the night. The sun had set and all that was left in the town was the faint sound of horses in the distance, the cries of babies in nearby homes, and Loren's bickering down the street at the mercantile.
A light was on in Horace's bedroom window, and Myra wondered if he couldn't sleep because of her. What if he was in pain because of the beating Hank gave him earlier? She wanted to go see if he was alright, but she knew that if she did, Hank would find out and have a fit.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Myra confessed in a whisper. She put her hand on her stomach. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I feel like you're the only person in the world that I've got. Sure Dr. Mike is my friend and all, but she's never had to deal with what I'm going through right now. I feel like I'm drowning and I can't stop. I want to get you out of here someday. Maybe we'll go find some of my family. We could go to St. Louis or to Boston like Dr. Mike. I hear it's real pretty."
Myra looked out toward the mountain when she heard a coyote howling. The moon was rising big and bright over Pike's Peak, and it gave Myra a sense of security.
"When I was little, my ma and pa didn't have a lot of money. I was sick a lot, but every time I got to feelin' poorly, I'd look up at the moon, make a wish, and the next morning, I'd feel better. Maybe someday, you and I will sit out on our own porch and look up at the moon together." She smiled a little. "I'll try to be a good ma to you. I'll love you no matter what happens."
The cold was starting to get the better of Myra as she started to shiver. She got up and went back inside the clinic, shutting the door to the balcony behind her. She crawled into the big, comfortable bed and pulled the covers up around her.
Before she had the chance to doze off to sleep, she heard banging coming downstairs. She pulled a robe around her tightly and hurried down the stairs. She threw open the door and saw Hank standing there with a bottle of whisky in his hand.
"Hank, you're drunk," Myra began.
"I haven't had a drink," he replied. He handed her the full bottle.
"Hank, what are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here? The question should be, 'what are you doing here?'"
"You know what I'm doing here."
"You belong to me, Myra. That contract ain't expired yet."
"I don't care. You can have me arrested if you want. I'm not coming back to the saloon. My baby ain't gonna grow up around that kinda life."
"You want our baby to be born in a jailhouse?" Hank asked.
"You wouldn't dare have me arrested. And stop sayin' 'our baby.' It's my baby, Hank."
"It takes two people, Myra. That baby is just as much mine as it is yours."
"What would you do with a baby, Hank? You can't be a pa and run a saloon." Tears began to form in Myra's eyes. "Please don't hold this contract over my head. I just want to have a family with Horace and my baby."
"Hell will freeze over before I let Horace be a pa to my kid."
"Hank, you don't have a say in this. Not if you're gonna act like this." Myra went to shut the door but Hank put his foot in the way. "Hank! I mean it! Go home!" She managed to close the door and lock it while Hank banged on it.
"You ain't gonna marry him, Myra! He ain't good enough for you!"
"I ain't good enough for him, Hank. He deserves much better than me, but he chose me. I love him and we're gonna get married. You'll be a good pa someday, Hank. Just not to my baby." Myra rushed upstairs and shut the door to her room, hoping to get some sleep before the sun came up. The only thing she couldn't get off her mind was her baby, and what was best for it. She knew Horace could give her a good life, but was it really right to keep Hank away from his own child?Chapter 4: Trouble
Dr. Mike entered the clinic the next morning to find Myra dusting the cabinets with a feather duster.
"Myra?" Dr. Mike asked with a smile. "What are you doing?"
"Oh, I figured that since you were kind enough to let me stay here last night, I'd clean up a bit for you."
"That was very nice, thank you. But you didn't have to do that."
"I needed to keep my mind off of Hank and Horace anyway."
"I understand," Dr. Mike replied with a nod. "Myra, why don't you go over to Grace's and eat something? You need to keep your strength up."
"I think I will," Myra answered. She put down the duster and headed outside. She saw that Hank hadn't opened the saloon yet. She could faintly see through the window of the telegraph office, and Horace was sitting at his desk, paying close attention to the telegraph he was receiving. She wanted to go over and talk with him, but she knew that things were going to be tense for a few days.
She caught the stares of several of the townspeople. As Jake Slicker swept the dust and dirt off of the barbershop's porch, he looked at her coldly, practically blaming her for the situation she was in. It wasn't her fault. At least it wasn't all her fault.
She passed Robert E. who tipped his hat to her. She smiled at him and walked over to Grace's. Grace smiled pleasantly at Myra, who was dressed in a dress Dr. Mike brought over for her when she helped her settle in the day before.
"Mornin', Myra," Grace said with a nod. "What can I get for you?"
"I'll just take a cup of tea and some gravy."
"Comin' right up," Grace replied. She walked off to fill Myra's order. Myra took a seat at an empty table. It was still early, so Grace's customers hadn't left their homes for breakfast yet. Myra realized that most of the families sitting around were families with only a pa. She recognized some of them as men and families who had lost their wives and mothers. Seeing the quiet, solemn families made her wonder what would happen to her child if she died while he or she was still young.
"Mind if I sit down?" came a voice from behind. Myra turned to see Hank standing there. She sighed heavily.
"Hank, I don't . . ."
"Myra, I just wanna talk."
"Alright then." Hank took a seat across from Myra. He had a paper in his hands. "What's that?"
"It's your contract," he replied. Myra didn't know what Hank was trying to pull. She didn't answer him, so she simply nodded slowly. After a few moments of silence, she decided she had better speak up.
"What are you doin' with it, Hank?"
"I'm offerin' to give it to you."
"What?" Myra asked, caught off guard.
"You heard me."
"You're givin' me my contract?"
"On one condition," he replied. Myra knew it had been too good to be true.
"What condition?" Hank paused for a minute and took a puff on his cigar.
"If I give you this contract, you gotta to swear that you won't marry Horace." Myra closed her eyes and shook her head.
"And if I won't?"
"Then you'll work for me until the contract is paid off."
"If I gotta pick between the two, I'd rather work than be without Horace." Hank slammed the contract down on the table.
"When are you gonna understand, Myra? I'm tryin' to make the best out of a bad situation."
"No, Hank. You're only tryin' to get your way. It ain't gonna happen. I told you before. You can have me arrested. I don't care. I'd rather be arrested than be without Horace. To tell you the truth, I'd rather be arrested than work for you ever again."
"Suit yourself," Hank replied. "I'll wire the authorities." He stood up and stalked off toward the telegraph office. Myra didn't move. She waited on Grace to bring her food, ate quickly, left a bit of money, and hurried off to talk to Dr. Mike.
Hank walked into the telegraph where Horace was sorting the mail.
"I wanna send a telegraph," he said quickly.
"Where to?" Horace asked reluctantly.
"I want to wire a sheriff."
"For what? That's none of your business."
"It is my business if I'm sendin' for a sheriff. Plus, I have to know what you want the sheriff to know, so I can put it in the telegraph."
"Fine," Hank replied. Horace began to write as Hank spoke. "Have it say: Sheriff needed. Prostitute broke contract. Come immediately." Horace looked up at Hank.
"I ain't sendin' it," he said crumpling the paper he had started to write on.
"You gotta send it, Horace. It's the law."
"What would you know about the law? Now, if you wanna send a telegraph, you'll have to find some other way to do it. I sure ain't gonna help you." Hank glared at Horace, but he knew there was nothing he could do. He sure couldn't send the telegraph by himself. He didn't even know how to read.
"Fine, Horace. I'll find a way to get a sheriff here. I'll have her locked up even if I have to drag her to Denver to be brought to justice myself." Hank turned and stalked out of the telegraph office.
"You won't touch her, Hank!" Horace called after him. As soon as he saw Hank heading to saddle up his horse, he knew he had to warn Myra.
"Hey Uncle Horace," Lewis greeted his uncle as he walked into the telegraph office. Horace jumped up.
"Lewis, can you take over the telegraph until I get back?"
"Sure, what do you need me to do?"
"Just run the place. I'll be back as soon as I can." Horace grabbed his hat and ran to the clinic as soon as he saw Hank go inside. He knew Hank was getting ready to take Myra away, and Horace couldn't let that happen. He hurried across the street to the clinic and burst in. Dr. Mike was sitting at her desk, and was completely surprised when she saw Horace rush in.
"Horace? Is everything alright?"
"Is Myra here?"
"Yes, she's resting upstairs."
"I have to get her out of here."
"Hank's gonna take her off to Denver because she won't work for him."
"That can't be . . ."
"It's true. I have to get her out of her, Dr. Mike."
"If you do that, he'll send a posse out for you too."
"I don't care. I love Myra, and I'll take care of her." Myra, having heard the commotion, opened the door and saw Horace.
"Come on, Myra. I'm gonna get you out of here."
"Why? What's goin' on?"
"Hank's gonna try to take you off to Denver."
"What?" Myra asked, her voice shaking slightly.
"He's gonna take you to Denver for breakin' your contract. He says that since I won't send the telegram, he'll take you by himself." Myra glanced at Dr. Mike and then back at Horace.
"Horace, you actually want to run off with me?"
"I'd do anythin' for you, Myra. I love you, and I'll be a good pa to your baby." Tears formed in Myra's eyes.
"I love you too," she whispered. Horace leaned down and kissed Myra gently. Dr. Mike sighed and looked out the window.
"You can use the back door. Hank's coming," she replied quietly. "Go to the homestead and wait there. I'll bring you some food from Grace's before you leave."
"Thank you, Dr. Mike," Myra whispered. "Horace, we're comin' back, right?"
"As soon as your contract is up, we're comin' home." He turned to Dr. Mike. "Thank you, Dr. Mike. I didn't mean to drag you into this, but I had no choice."
"It's alright. I understand. Sully and I would do the same thing for each other if we were in trouble." Myra hurried over to hug Dr. Mike before taking Horace's hand and hurrying out the back of the clinic with him.
Chapter Five: On the Run
"You'll be careful?" Dr. Mike asked Myra as she and Horace prepared to head out into the woods.
"I'll take good care of her, Dr. Mike," Horace promised.
"I don't like the thought of you two going out there all alone. Maybe I should have Sully go with you for awhile."
"That won't be necessary," Horace responded. "As soon as Myra's contract is up, we'll come home."
"That's not until before the baby's born, Horace," Dr. Mike explained.
"We're gonna be alright, Dr. Mike," Myra whispered with a nervous nod. "Horace is gonna take good care of my baby and me. We're gonna have a good life as soon as my contract's up."
"Don't you think Hank's still going to come after you both once the contract is up?"
"I don't know," Myra replied. "But at least I won't have to worry myself before the baby's born. You said yourself that worryin' is bad for the baby." Dr. Mike nodded and shrugged her shoulders. She looked up at her friends and took a deep breath.
"We will," Horace promised. He and Myra took off on one of Matthew's horses. Sully, who had been in the barn, came walking out. Dr. Mike looked at him and he pulled her into his arms.
"Do you really think they'll be alright?"
"I think they're doin' what they think is best."
"I hope it is best, Sully," Dr. Mike replied. "I hope for their sake it's best."
"Horace, can we stop?" Myra asked after awhile of traveling on horseback.
"Is it the baby?" he asked, slowing the horse to a stop.
"No. The baby's fine. I'm just a little tired is all." Horace hopped down off of the horse and helped Myra down. He helped her sit down on an old fallen tree. "Horace, you don't have to be so careful with me. I'm not gonna break."
"I'm sorry, Myra. I just don't wanna see you get hurt."
"As long as I'm with you, Horace, I feel safe." Horace put his arms around Myra and held her close. After a few moments, Myra spoke again. "Do you think we'll get away with this?"
"What do you mean?"
"What if Hank doesn't give up? What if we come back and he comes after you?"
"Then I'll fight him for you."
"I don't want you to get hurt on account of me."
"I won't get hurt, Myra."
"You can't promise somethin' like that, Horace. You know you can't." Horace looked away.
"As soon as we get to St. Louis, I'm gonna buy us a nice house where you can rest and wait for the baby to come. I'll get a job at a telegraph office, and I'll make enough money for us to live on until the baby's born."
"Then what? We're comin' back to Colorado Springs just as soon as the baby gets here. Horace, I just thought . . . Hank's gonna have people lookin' for us. What if someone recognizes us? We can't keep runnin' forever. Maybe . . . maybe we shouldn't leave."
"What are you sayin'?"
"I'm sayin' that maybe we ought to go back
to town and work somethin' out with Hank."
"Myra, Hank's not a bargainin' kind of man . . . not when it comes to you."
"Hank does feel somethin' for me, Horace, but I love you. You are the man I wanna marry. We can't run from that like we're ashamed."
"You really wanna go back into town?" Horace asked. Myra took a deep breath and finally nodded.
"I wanna do what's best for my baby. I don't think runnin' from the law is best. We better go back. I'll talk to Hank. Maybe I can talk some sense into him."
"I don't want to see you get hurt, Myra."
"I'll be alright," Myra promised. "Let's go."
Dr. Mike was sitting at her desk at the clinic while Colleen was upstairs replacing the bed sheets in the recovery rooms. Brian was across the street at Mr. Bray's mercantile, most likely purchasing gumdrops or licorice, while Sully was repairing a broken hinge on the clinic door. Dr. Mike had been trying to read her medical book, but Sully had become a distraction. She couldn't help but stare at him as he worked.
Sully looked up to find Michaela watching him. She realized what she was doing and blushed.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, nearly choking.
"There's nothin' to apologize for," Sully replied, putting down his tools and walking over to kneel beside Dr. Mike's desk. She smiled and leaned down to kiss him. "Either you were really concentratin' on something, or you were daydreamin'."
"Maybe both," Dr. Mike admitted. She stood up and walked over to gaze out the window. Sully walked up behind her and put his arms around her waist.
"Do you wanna tell me what's on your mind?" Dr. Mike sighed heavily and turned to face Sully.
"I feel so guilty, Sully."
"Because you and I love each other and we're happy. Horace and Myra love each other too, but Hank won't let them be happy."
"It's not your fault. You don't need to feel guilty for bein' happy, Michaela. I love to see you happy. I hate to see you upset."
"I'm lucky I have you, Sully." Sully pulled Dr. Mike into his arms.
"And I'm lucky to have you." A moment later there was a commotion outside. Dr. Mike turned in Sully's arms.
"What's going on?" They hurried outside to see Horace and Myra riding back into town on a horse. Horace helped Myra down and they walked over to Dr. Mike.
"What are you two doin' here?"
"I decided I couldn't run away. It's not good for the baby," Myra answered gently.
"Come on, Myra. Let me take you home," Horace said gently.
"I don't have a home, Horace. I need to do something before I can start my life with you." She started off toward Hank's saloon. Horace started after her, but Sully held her back.
"Let her go," Sully whispered. "She's got to do this, you heard her."
Myra walked into Hank's saloon while he was wiping down the bar. He always closed down for an hour in the afternoon to clean up for the evening shift. Myra knew this was the best time to talk to him, because she could talk to him one-on-one. He didn't look up when she walked in.
"Hank?" Myra asked, her voice cracking. Hank looked up quickly, nearly getting the urge to grab his gun. But when he saw Myra's face, he took a deep breath and suppressed his anger.
"I thought you ran off again."
"Why the Hell did you come back? I have a posse out lookin' for you."
"I know," Myra replied with a nod. She slowly walked over. "I decided it wouldn't do my baby any good to keep runnin' away."
"You did the right thing."
"Did I?" she asked. "Let me see my contract."
"I want to see it."
"You can't read, Myra."
"You don't know much about me then, Hank. I've been learnin' from Horace. He's good for me."
"He can't give you what I can." He opened up his lock box and pulled out an old, yellowed piece of paper. Myra read over it, gripped it tightly in her hands, and ripped it to shreds. "You can't do that, Myra!"
"I just did," she replied. "I don't want my baby to know what its pa did to me. I don't want my baby to know that its pa made me work while I was carryin' him."
"You don't understand."
"I understand. I understand that now that this contract is destroyed, you've got no proof that I ever worked for you. I'm done. I'm goin' to be with Horace."
"I won't let that happen."
"You ain't got no choice!" Myra yelled. With that, she doubled over in pain, clutching her stomach. Hank felt his heart skip a beat. He jumped over the bar and went to her side.
"Myra? What's wrong with you?"
"It's the baby! Hank! You gotta help me!" Hanks swallowed hard and picked Myra up into his arms as she started to fall unconscious. "Please don't let our baby die." Tears fell from her eyes as she fell limp in his arms. Tears sparkled in Hank's eyes. He held Myra close and hurried her across the street to Dr. Mike's clinic.
Chapter 6: A Change of Heart?
Hank was sitting on the bench outside the door of Dr. Mike's clinic. Horace was pacing frantically, waiting for word on Myra and the baby. Sully was sitting on the porch, leaning against the wall beside the door, chewing on a piece of straw. Wolf was lying lazily at his master's feet. Sully was only there because Michaela had asked him to stay. Myra had had some complications with her pregnancy, and Dr. Mike knew that someone had to keep an eye on Hank and Horace in case they started to fight again.
Sully watched Horace and was amazed at how much the man had changed in just a couple of days. Sully had never seen Horace as a fighter, but he knew he was strong because he would take beatings from Hank just to prove his love for Myra. Sully hated the fact that people had to fight to get what they want, but he also knew that he wouldn't have Dr. Mike in his life if he hadn't fought for her against the outside forces and his own inner demons.
"Hank, you better hope Myra's alright."
"I didn't ask for this to happen," Hank pointed out in self-defense. Sully figured he'd let them talk as long as they didn't start yelling or move toward each other. "I care about Myra."
"You care about her alright, Hank. You care about her so much that you're willin' to have her arrested. You caused this."
"I didn't know she was gonna have complications, Horace. She shredded up her contract and I started yellin' at her for it. Next thing I knew, she was on the ground in pain."
"Why can't you just let her go? She's not yours and she never was." Hank decided it'd be best not to say anything else. He knew he couldn't begin to express what he felt for Myra to Horace. Hank wasn't the kind of man to express his feelings to the public. He had had a hard enough time telling his son's mother how he felt about her. But when she died, he tried to shut his heart off to everyone around. But Myra had been something else. He had fallen for her years ago. He knew he had been selfish in making her work for him when it was clear she didn't want to be doing that. He always used the excuse that she couldn't break her contract, but more than that, he had just wanted her to be around so he wouldn't have to feel lonely.
Sully continued to watch the two men, making sure they didn't start anything. He was surprised when Hank didn't respond to Horace's comment. He was even more surprised when that comment seemed to send Hank off into a deep thought.
"Ain't you listenin' to me?" Horace asked. Hank didn't seem to hear him. Sully looked at Horace and shook his head.
"Just let him be," Sully warned. A breeze whirled past sending clouds of dust in the road swirling along. Sully watched as the rest of the town seemed to go along with their day, passing them by while time stood still on the porch of the clinic. Mr. Bray and Dorothy were counting the produce in the bins outside of the mercantile while the faint sound of Robert E's hammer and anvil clinked like a distant bell. Sully suspected that the reverend was inside of the church, preparing for Sunday's service. Sully could see Jake giving one of his regulars a shave inside of the barbershop. Everything was going on normally in everyone's lives except for Horace, Hank, and Myra at that very moment. Myra's life was possibly hanging in the balance while two men who didn't want to let her go argued with each other and prayed for her at the same time in their own ways.
"You boys look like you could use something to eat." Sully, Horace, and Hank looked up to see Grace carrying a picnic basket, filled to the brim with biscuits and the day's special.
"Thanks Grace, but I ate already. Horace and Hank look like they could use the food more than me," Sully explained.
"I ain't hungry," Horace said quietly.
"Me either," Hank replied.
"Hank?" Grace asked. "I've never known you to pass up a free meal."
"I said I ain't hungry," Hank replied. Grace nodded.
"Alright, but when you get hungry, you know where to find me. I'll just give this to Robert E." She walked off and everyone sat in silence once again. A few minutes later, the door to the clinic creaked open and Dr. Mike came out wearing her apron. It was blood-free so that was surely a good sign. Sully, Horace, and Hank all stood and stared at Michaela, waiting for news of Myra's condition.
"How is she?" Horace asked.
"She's fine, Horace. She's asking for you." Horace hurried into the clinic without any more questions. Hank stood there, the blood practically coming back to his previously pale face. He took a deep breath, relieved to hear that Myra was doing all right. The only thing he feared now was news of the baby.
"And the baby?" Hank asked. Dr. Mike nodded.
"The baby's fine. Myra was just under a lot of stress. She needs to take it easy and rest for a few weeks until she gets her strength back." He noticed the way Dr. Mike was looking at him. He knew she was warning him about how he was acting toward Myra and Horace.
"Can I see her?"
"You can wait until after Horace leaves. If she wants to see you, I'll let you know." Dr. Mike walked back into the clinic and shut the door behind her. Hank sat back down on the bench. Sully quietly got up and left him alone, knowing there was nothing he could do or say. Wolf yawned, stood, and walked off behind his master.
"Myra, honey?" Horace asked as she slipped into Myra's recovery room. Myra was resting in bed with the covers pulled up over her. Her face looked pale and scared.
"Horace," she whispered. Horace shut the door and sat down at Myra's bedside. She pulled a hand out from under the blanket and Horace took it. "I'm glad you're here."
"I'll never leave," he whispered. "I'll always be here for you."
"I know," Myra replied. She took a deep breath.
"I didn't ask Dr. Mike how the baby was. I
figured you'd want to tell me."
"The baby's fine," she answered. "Dr. Mike says I just have to rest for a little while. I tore up that contract, so I won't go back to work for Hank."
"If he has any heart at all, he'll let go of you, Myra. He'll stop makin' things so hard on us."
"That's just not the way Hank is, Horace. I've known him for a long time, and I know that no matter what, he'll fight tooth and nail for what he wants as long as it makes him happy."
"Myra, I promise you that when you're feelin' up to it, we'll have a nice church weddin' and all of our friends will be there. We'll raise the baby together and protect it from harm." Myra smiled. She sat up a little and Horace kissed her forehead. "Are you hungry?"
"A little, but I would rather not eat anything
right now." She took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her
hair. Her hand moved to rest on her belly. She smiled and closed
her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, it was because she felt
Horace's hand rest on top of hers.
"You're gonna be a good ma, Myra." Tears began to form in her eyes and Horace pulled his hand away slowly. "What's wrong?"
"I need to see Hank."
"I need to talk to him."
"No, Myra. Tryin' to talk to him was what got you in here in the first place."
"Please, Horace. I need to talk to him. I need to make him understand!" Tears were starting to fall now and Horace stood. He nodded.
"Alright, honey, I'll go get him. But I'll be just outside the door."
"You're gonna be such a good pa, Horace. And a good husband." Horace leaned down to kiss her gently before he left the room. He headed down the stairs and into Dr. Mike's office.
"Horace?" she asked as he entered the room.
"She's askin' for Hank."
"Would you like me to tell him?"
"No. I'll do it," Horace replied. He left the clinic. Hank looked up at him.
"How's she doin'?"
"Do you really care?"
"What the Hell is the point of tryin' to talk to you anyway?" Hank asked, standing up. He started off for the saloon.
"She's askin' for you, Hank," Horace called out. Hank turned around and stared at Horace for a minute.
"She wants to talk to you."
Hank stepped into the dimly lit room. He saw that the curtains to the balcony doors were drawn so that the sunlight wouldn't disturb Myra as she rested. He saw that her eyes were closed, so he shut the door gently and took a seat in the chair beside her bed.
"Are you sleepin'?" he asked.
"No," she answered quietly. She opened her eyes to look at him. "Dr. Mike just wants me to rest."
"I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry this
"Of course I am, Myra. I didn't know . . ."
"I know," Myra replied. "You don't know how to be a father, Hank. I'm sure that some day, you'll be a really good one, but I want my baby to have a good pa that will be there when she or he is sick. I want a husband that will love me for who I am and not for how much money I make for him."
"Will you let me talk for a minute?" Hank cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "You're out of your contract. You don't gotta come work for me anymore. I want you to be happy, and I know I can't make you happy. I made this happen, Myra. I'm the reason you nearly lost the baby."
"Hank . . ."
"I'm ain't finished," Hank continued. "I want the baby to have a good pa. As much as I hate to say it, I think she'll be happy with you and whoever you choose. If it's Horace, I ain't gonna be happy, but I know that she'll be safe."
"You mean it?"
"I guess I do."
"You won't mind havin' another man raisin' your baby?"
"I'll mind, Myra. That's why I want to be in his or her life."
"Yeah. The baby will live with you and . . . Horace, but I want to be in her life as her real pa. Those are the conditions. Take 'em or leave 'em." Myra thought for a moment and finally let the tears flow and a smile spread over her face.
"I'll take 'em."
Epilogue: A New Beginning
Several months had passed since Hank, Horace, and Myra had worked out a deal. Horace and Myra were blissful honeymooners much to Hank's chagrin, but everyone was anticipating the birth of the baby. The town was against the situation at first, but with time, they began to understand and accept the delicate compromise.
Horace hadn't wanted to leave Myra while she was so close to giving birth, but he was called to Soda Springs on urgent business about the telegraph. Lewis was in charge until he got back, but Myra had moved to the clinic so she would feel better until Horace got back. He was supposed to be back tomorrow and the baby was a week away. She felt so tired and achy, and all she wanted was for Horace to be there with her. Dr. Mike was kind enough to lend her a room, and Sully slept at the clinic during the night in case Myra needed him to go to the homestead to get Dr. Mike.
It was mid-afternoon, and Myra was sitting at Grace's café. Grace had been a little jealous of Myra's pregnancy at first, but she had eventually grown to accept that her friend was having a baby. She was so happy that she had been helping Myra making blankets and close to keep it warm in the winter. Myra had been very thankful because she had never had much time to learn how to knit.
"How are you feelin' today, Myra?" Grace asked as she took a break and sat down across from the exhausted young woman. The customers had mostly left, so Grace figured she could rest her feet for a few minutes.
"To tell you the truth, Grace, I'm feelin' poorly. I ain't been able to sleep at night because my back hurts. I can't sleep in any other position because my belly gets in the way. I can't see my feet, and they've been hurtin' somethin' awful lately. Horace used to rub my feet but he ain't been around. I just want this little one to come out. I'm sick of bein' pregnant! Am I a horrible mother?" Grace had to suppress a laugh.
"Of course not! All pregnant women come to a breakin' point. Believe me, I've seen it hundreds of times."
"I just hope it comes soon."
"I don't see how you're gonna do it."
"Have two fathers for that baby. One man in my life gives me a headache, but two?"
"Well, Hank's just gonna come visit sometimes. He ain't gonna be there all the time like Horace. Hank's just gonna be there because of the baby."
"If you say so. Well, I see some more customers. I best get back to work." Myra stood and put some dollars down on the table. She started off toward the clinic and was surprised to run into Hank on the way. He had been coming around the corner of the saloon, heading towards Grace's café.
"Oh! Hank, you scared me!"
"I was just comin' to look for you."
"What is it?"
"I wanted to check up on you."
"I'm fine. So is the baby."
"Are you alright alone at the clinic at night?"
"I'm fine, Hank. Sully stays at the clinic at night in case I need Dr. Mike." Hank slowly reached out and put his hand on Myra's belly.
"That's all this baby ever does," Myra said with a stressed sigh. She put her hands on her back and leaned into them, hoping to relieve some of the pressure. Hank took her hand and led her over to sit on the bench at the clinic.
"You ought to stay off your feet. I remember Zach's ma tellin' me that she had to stay off her feet as much as she could when she was carryin' him."
"You remember that?"
"Course I do."
"I'm scared, Hank."
"Scared of what?"
"I'm scared of givin' birth. I've seen several babies born, and not a one of 'em looked pleasant."
"You'll be alright, Myra. You're strong."
"I don't know how you can say that," Myra replied, rolling her eyes. "I cry all the time because I can't see my feet. Heck, I cry when the wind blows sometimes. I can't control it."
"Maybe he's just tryin' to get you ready since he'll be cryin' all the time."
"Maybe. You seem pretty sure it's a boy."
"There are lots of boys in my family. My grandpa and his wife had all boys. My pa and ma had all boys. Zach was a boy, so I'm sure this one is too."
"I don't care what it is as long as it's healthy." Myra stood and started to walk towards the door when something inside of her sent pain to every part of her body. "OH!" Hank immediately stood and helped Myra stand up straight. Her fingernails dug into his arm and he picked her up into his arms. Dr. Mike, having heard Myra's exclamation, hurried out of the clinic. "Dr. Mike! I think it's time!"
"I think you're right, Myra," Dr. Mike said with a grin. "Colleen! Get some warm water and clean towels!" Colleen, who had been standing in the doorway, nodded and hurried off to do as her mother had asked. Hank carried Myra into the clinic and put her on the table. Myra adjusted herself and Dr. Mike asked Hank to step outside. Hank did as he was told and Dr. Mike turned to Myra.
"It's going to be alright, Myra. Women have been having babies since the beginning of time."
"I want Horace!" Myra cried.
"I wish I could get him for you, but you'll have to do this without him," Dr. Mike replied. "He'll be very surprised tomorrow, don't you think?" Myra cried out and Dr. Mike began to examine her. After awhile, the doctor knew that Myra was definitely in labor.
"Dr. Mike, you gotta help me! I think I'm dyin'!" Dr. Mike knew Myra was perfectly healthy and in no danger, but she also knew that anything could happen.
"You'll be fine, Myra. Just relax, and I'll go help Colleen."
"I don't wanna be alone!"
"Alright, I'll stay here."
"No. I don't wanna be alone during the birth!"
"You want Hank in here with you?"
"Is that illegal?"
"Absolutely not. It's just that most fathers would rather wait outside."
"I want Hank in here! I want someone here with me. I don't want to do this alone!" Myra was in tears now and Dr. Mike nodded. She walked over to the door and opened it up. Hank stood up.
"What's goin' on?"
"Myra's definitely gone into labor. She says she wants you in there with her."
"She doesn't want to do it alone," Dr. Mike explained.
"But men don't go inside when the woman's havin' the baby."
"It's not completely unnatural. In Boston, some fathers have gone into the rooms while their wives were in labor, and some have stayed though the birth. Some men have even delivered the babies." Hank looked a bit green in the face, but he nodded, knowing he couldn't let Myra be alone. Jake Slicker came walking over.
"What's Hank doin' in there?"
"He's going to be with Myra. She's gone into labor."
"He's gonna stay in there the whole time?"
"If Myra wants him to. Excuse me, I need to get back to my patient." Dr. Mike went back into the clinic. Brian came walking over.
"Hey Mr. Slicker. What's goin' on?"
"Looks like a baby's on the way."
"You mean Myra's baby?"
"Yeah. Hank's in there with her." Brian ran off to tell everyone that Myra was about to have the baby. A crowd soon formed outside of the clinic to hold a vigil until news of the mother and baby came.
"Where's Hank?" Loren asked.
"He's in there. Dr. Mike says he's gonna stay with Myra."
"For the whole thing?" Loren asked, cringing. "That ain't natural! The men are supposed to wait and pass out cigars!" Dorothy rolled her eyes.
"If Myra wants Hank in there, I say she should get what she wants. After all, she's the one doin' all the work in bringin' a new life into this world."
"Aaaaaaaahhhhh!" Myra screamed as her contractions became closer together and more painful. Hank was holding her hand while she bore down. He wasn't someone who let it be known when they were in pain, but the pain his hand was feeling was quite overwhelming. He yelped when Myra squeezed it again.
"Doc! I think she's breakin' my hand!"
"Come on, Myra! Push! I see the head! Come on!" Dr. Mike urged. Colleen had had to re-heat the water a couple of times since Myra's labor began. Dr. Mike was surprised at how fast Myra's labor was progressing. In just a few minutes, Myra would be a mother and Hank would be a father again. Meanwhile, Horace would also be a father and not even know it yet.
"Get this outta me!" Myra shouted in desperation. After a few more pushes, the cries of a healthy baby were heard. The townspeople outside began to celebrate the birth of a new baby; a new life. Dr. Mike grinned and held the baby up for it's wide-eyed parents to see.
"It's a boy!" Dr. Mike announced. Hank smiled at his son for a moment before his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he passed out cold on the floor.
"Oh!" Myra exclaimed. "Is he alright?"
"He'll be fine. Colleen, get the smelling salts," Dr. Mike said quickly.
"I know Hank will be fine. I meant the baby."
"Your baby appears to be in perfect health. Congratulations." Myra smiled and relaxed on the bed while Dr. Mike cleaned up the newborn baby boy.
Myra was holding her newborn baby in her arms when Hank walked into the recovery room. He had a bandage around his head because he had cut himself when he fell. Other than that, he looked like a proud papa.
"How you feelin'?"
"Much better," Myra whispered.
"How's he doin'?"
Myra said, sniffling. "He's so beautiful."
"I told you he'd be a boy."
"Yeah you did," Myra replied with a grin.
"We should name him Henry," Hank suggested.
"Oh no," Myra laughed. "If we call him Henry, you'll get to call him Hank. Horace wouldn't like that."
"We ain't callin' him Horace either," Hank replied.
"I know that," Myra replied. She kissed her baby boy's forehead. "I've already come up with a name that both you and Horace better agree on."
"Quinton. Quinn for short."
"Oh now you're gonna give the doc a big head."
"She's been there for me for a long time, Hank. The least I can do is this. Besides, I've always loved that name."
"Well, you're the ma."
"Do you want to hold your son?" Myra asked. Hank swallowed hard.
"Alright," he said quietly. Myra gently handed the baby over to Hank. Hank held his son close and rocked him gently.
"He looks like you," Myra whispered.
"Nah, he looks like you," Hank replied. "He's got your nose and your eyes."
"Looks like he's gonna have your hair." Hank chuckled at Myra's comment. The baby's hair was light brown and thick. "But don't think my son's gonna have long hair. He'll be visitin' Jake on a regular basis for a haircut." Hank laughed and smiled at Myra.
"When I look at this kid, I know that he's gonna do somethin' with his life. I suppose that havin' Horace as a second pa won't do him any harm. I know you love this boy, and I know you love Horace. As long as he treats my boy right, I'll accept this."
"You don't know how much that means to me," Myra said, becoming misty-eyed again.
"I ain't really gonna like it, but I ain't gonna start no fights with Horace anymore, if I can help it." Myra laughed.
"Thank you. Thank you."
The next morning, the stagecoach pulled into town. Hank saw Horace getting off the stagecoach and he had to suppress a laugh. He and Myra had come to an understanding. Hank wouldn't be rude to Horace anymore, and Horace wouldn't come looking for an argument. Myra had to talk to Horace about that, but she was sure that things would be fine.
Hank had just come from seeing Myra and the baby, and he figured someone would run over to tell Horace that Myra had had the baby. But everyone was bustling around, fretting about their own schedules. As soon as Horace walked into the telegraph office to relieve Lewis of his duties, Hank started over toward the office, putting his cigar out in the dirt.
Horace was sitting down to catch up with the latest telegraphs Lewis had written down when Hank walked in. He looked up and saw Hank leaning on the counter with a smirk on his face.
"What do you want?"
"I came to ask if you know where your wife is."
"She should be restin' in bed," Horace replied. "I was about to go over to the clinic and check on her."
"Well, you better get over there quick."
"Why? What's wrong with her?"
"Well, if you want to see my son, you'd better get over there and see him."
"Oh my gosh! Myra had the baby?" Horace asked, jumping up and running over to Hank. He had a big grin on his face and Hank nodded. Horace hugged Hank and Hank pulled away.
"Sorry. I'm just so excited!"
"Well, go see your wife and my kid."
"That baby's just as much mine as it is yours and Myra's."
"I know," Hank replied. "Myra and me talked and we got to an understanding. Now, go over there before Myra worries herself to death!" Horace hurried over to the clinic, burst in, and headed up to see Myra before Dr. Mike could get in a word. Sully, who was working on fixing a cabinet door, looked at Dr. Mike.
"I guess he found out about the baby," Sully pointed out. Dr. Mike laughed. She stood and walked over to Sully. He put his arms around her and kissed her softly. "You ever think about havin' babies?"
"Sully!" Dr. Mike exclaimed. "It's a bit early to discuss that. We're just courting."
"It never hurts to discuss it."
"Well, of course I think about it," Dr. Mike said, blushing. "Do you?"
"After Abagail and my daughter died, I never thought I'd find love or have children again. Now that I've found love, I know I definitely wouldn't mind becomin' a pa again." Dr. Mike grinned and hugged Sully close, dreaming of her future with the man she loved.
Hank gently tapped on Myra's door. He was so excited, but he knew he shouldn't burst in. The baby could be sleeping.
"Come in," he heard Myra call. He carefully opened the door and saw his beautiful wife lying in bed, nursing their son. "Horace!" Her eyes lit up and she grinned happily.
"Hank just told me about the baby," he said softly.
"Isn't he perfect?"
"No! The baby!"
"Oh, him! Yeah. He's perfect. It's a miracle too, considerin' who his real pa is." Myra rolled her eyes.
"You hush," she whispered. "You can't be sayin' things like that about him anymore. This baby is Hank's too."
"This is the strangest family I've ever been a part of, and that's sayin' a lot." Myra laughed.
"It's funny how things work out. But Quinton here . . ."
"I named him Quinton, Quinn for short."
"That's a wonderful name. Have you told Dr. Mike?"
"No. I'm gonna surprise her later," Myra replied with a smile. Horace kissed Myra's forehead.
"I love you, Myra."
"I love you too, Horace." She handed the baby to him and he held him as if he were going to break. "Horace, he ain't gonna break."
"I know. I just can't believe he's really here." Myra smiled.
"I know it might sound silly, but after marryin' you and havin' him, I feel like I've been born again."
"That ain't silly. You have a new life now." Myra smiled and took a deep breath.
"You know, this baby's real lucky."
"Not only does he have a mama who loves him, but he's got two papas. I think that's pretty lucky if you ask me." Horace, deciding it was time to get used to Hank being a part of his life, smiled and nodded, knowing that he had a whole lifetime to be a pa to this boy and a husband to Myra. He hoped Hank could be as happy with a woman and a family some day. Horace knew that Hank would always be around, but maybe he'd have the love of a woman and he wouldn't be lonely anymore.
"I think Quinn's still hungry," Myra whispered. Horace handed him over to his mama and he began to eat again. Hank was standing in the hallway, watching his child, the woman he loved, and her husband. He knew Myra was happy and so was his son. As long as they were happy, nothing else in the world mattered.