Things I Could Never Say
Written by, Julie Griffith and Ashley J.
Written December 18-, 2005
As his carriage pulled away, Katie brought her fingers to her lips, still tinged from the bite of his kiss. She now had a week to herself before the wedding, and she didn't even try to justify the rush of calm that swam over her, as he disappeared behind the plum trees that filled their front yard.
She turned back to the house, big and lonely. Everyone was gone, and her parents weren't scheduled to return until late that evening. Despite the fact that they had just returned from Wyoming less than a week ago from Sully's survey work, Sully and Michaela had turned around and had gone together to Denver for Michaela's latest medical conference. Katie didn't really understand them most of the time. That kind of devotion to one single person confused her—she reveled in her time alone when Roger had to leave.
The sun hit the diamond on her finger creating light beams. She walked up the porch steps, getting out of the sun. There was so much to do, but she had the sudden urge to jump on Midnight and let everyone else fuss and fawn over the wedding without her. She'd just assume show up for the ceremony.
She sighed, knowing her mother would wring her neck if she hadn't gone through some of the "to do" list before they got back. She walked inside, slamming the door behind her. She grabbed the list off of the dining room table.
1. Air out the wedding dress.
So it wasn't all torture. She loved her mother's wedding dress—the pictures of her and Colleen were exquisite. And being a girl wasn't so bad. Sometimes. She would never want to dance in buckskins, that was for sure.
She mounted the stairs and raced into her parents' room. The tall pine wardrobe stood there waiting for her. The dress was in there somewhere; she just wasn't sure where. She opened the doors and peered inside. Fine dresses were mixed with regular day dresses, and to top that, the few extra clothes that her pa donned were mixed with her ma's nightgowns. "Good grief," Katie exhaled, as she began to dig through the wardrobe.
Finally, in the very back, she found the large white box pressed standing upright against the wood. Carefully, she opened the lid and lifted the tissue paper encrusting the dress. The dress had lost some of its brilliance, but it was still beautiful. The lace was in tact, and she lifted the dress up, pressing it to her body.
Suddenly, a pack of papers flew down from the front gathering and slid across the floor. She stared at the carefully tied pack of letters, in tact but dated with a yellow tinge, almost forgotten, unlike the dress. She bent down and slowly picked it up. Just as she was about to put the bundle back where it belonged, she saw a name on the front in her mother's handwriting.
Sully, it said. Just Sully. Nothing more, nothing less.
Without thinking, Katie slid the first letter out from under the twine that bound them together. It was sealed shut. She looked to her father's nightstand, remembering that he sometimes kept his gutting knife and tomahawk there, so she quickly walked over and opened the drawer, finding a blunt instrument that would slice through the top of the letter without ripping it.
Just as she was about the throw the knife back in the drawer, she spotted his worn copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. She smiled to herself and picked it up. She flipped through it nonchalantly, but then stopped as she noticed her father's handwriting on every single page, between every single line.
She stared at the open letter in her hand and the book filled with her father's words. Were these what she thought they were? She plopped down on the ground, her feet spread out in both directions, and she leaned against the bed, as she pulled out her mother's letter. The paper crinkled under her touch, and she squinted to read the beautiful curves of her mother's handwriting.
"Mama," she breathed softly. Did she really want to read whatever her mother had to say to her father that could only be said on paper? She wasn't sure it was right, but she couldn't tear her eyes away. She had the courage of both of her parents and the strong curiosity of her mother. She couldn't not read it!
"Dear Sully," she began, "the first time I saw you, I didn't know what to think. I think, in my heart, your eyes were the bluest I had ever seen, and as I stared into them, I didn't know how to feel or think. My heart pounded like it never had before, and I tried to pass it off as fear. After all, our first meeting involved a soldier, and Indian Chief and a growling wolf that scared the daylights out of me. I didn't know what to make of you, and when Charlotte pulled me away, I couldn't help but want to stay and speak with you." Her eyes scanned over the words again. Was she actually reading about her parents' first meeting? Was it really as…as frightening as her mother made it sound?
She took a deep breath and glanced back down at the page to continue on. "Being new in town was difficult, and Charlotte was the only one who would accept me." Charlotte. She smiled sadly. Brian, Colleen and Matthew's mother had been someone she had learned about from early on. She only wished that she could have met her. She sounded like a wonderful woman. She already knew how much she had done for her mother, and how her death and changed her life completely. "Just knowing that I had one person on my side was enough to keep me going, and when you offered to let me rent your homestead, I felt a sense of security in knowing that you seemed to be on my side too. Not very many people would offer to rent their home to a woman doctor from Boston. You'll never know how grateful I feel for that. The house is small but beautiful, and when it's not full of smoke from the oven after my sad attempts to cook, it's filled with the faces of Charlotte's children; my children." She laughed a little. She had never known her mother to be bad at cooking, though her siblings certainly had stories, some of which she never could have believed. But, she knew her mother well enough to know that she adapted well to many things. Katie sighed. She only hoped that she could adapt to being a married woman and everything that came along with it.
"Taking the children on has been difficult, but we've managed, and it was especially frustrating at the beginning. When Brian ran away, I had never been more terrified. You don't know how much it meant to me, when you agreed to help me look for him. I wish I could have fully expressed my gratitude to the Cheyenne for agreeing to help me. I was lost and confused and in desperate need of something solid in my life. I felt as if I was standing on a precipice with no place to go except forward and straight down." Katie sucked in a sharp breath, her mother's words rolling around in her head. Standing on a precipice…
"I hadn't shared such close quarters with a man before, and when I was put into that situation, I didn't know how to act. But, you eased my worries and were a complete gentleman. For that, I am grateful, because the sheer vulnerability I felt that night may have caused me to give in to whatever feelings came over me." She suddenly felt as if she was an intruder in a very private conversation. Thinking of her mother, her proper Boston mother writing out her feelings for a man she barely knew made her scratch her head. She knew her mother was very traditional in the sense that she waited until her wedding night before ever being intimate. But, she never thought of her mother actually having had these burning, innermost thoughts like the ones she had written on the paper she had sealed away. "I found you handsome and sweet and very honorable that night, and I appreciated your kindness and courtesy. I only hope that someday I'll be able to repay you for helping me save Brian's life." It was hard to believe that her big brother had been such a little mischief-maker. She had always known him as the goofy older brother who was completely overprotective and independent. She had looked up to him for so long, though she always felt such a distance due to their age difference. Nevertheless, Brian was the sibling she was closest to.
"It's been a difficult year for us all, and your extended kindness to us all will not be forgotten. I'm sitting here, watching my children enjoy the Christmas presents you brought to them. I must say you brightened up the year just a little more. Brian is especially thankful. He has named the puppy Pup, and it's a joy to see him with a faithful companion." Her eyes stung, but not with tears. She felt awkward reading such a personal account of a life before hers. They were all there. Her entire family was there except for her. Why didn't it make any sense? Why couldn't she have such memories? All she knew was a life after the drama and angst. She knew a happy mother and father. She knew an older sister that she rarely saw. She knew two brothers who were already busy with their own lives, as she was just beginning hers. "I only wish you had stayed a bit longer. I've barely even begun to know the real you, and my heart wants to know more. I can't help but feel that there is so much about you that I need to know. You're the first man that I've even thought about so much since David. I'll never forget him, but I know he would want me to move on. Seeing you, knowing that you're grieving over Abagail and Hanna makes it all come together." The thought of a sister she never knew; another older sister made her sad. She was the first of Sully's birth children to survive; the second to be born. It made her feel almost guilty. Why was she able to be born and have a chance at life, while Hanna was taken away before her father could even hold her? "You're still mourning, and I should have moved on long ago. I know it's something we both need to do on our own. I know that you need a friend as much as I do. I only hope you'll see how much you mean to me, even though I'm not sure I'll ever find the courage or the words to tell you out loud. Michaela."
Katie's breath had caught several moments ago, and her eyes were glazed over with tears that had yet to be blinked away. She couldn't move. She couldn't believe that her mother had written such words so shortly after meeting the man she was destined to marry. Yes, her mother was certainly a romantic, but she never would have thought that Michaela would have dared to write such a thing. What if he had found this? What if he had read it? Would it have completely changed the course of their lives? Would they have ended up together sooner or even at all? Would Katie have even been born?
She shook her head, trying to compose herself, as she put the letter back in the envelope. She needed to compose herself somehow. So, she opened her father's book. She stared at it, realizing what her father had done. He had written a letter inside of a book. Had her mother known? She was doubtful. She wasn't sure how to take it all in, but she knew there was only one way to try.
"Dr. Quinn," Katie began reading indulgently, her eyes taking in her pa's hesitant penmanship, as he crossed out her mother's formal name and replaced it with, "Dr. Mike."
She leaned back against their bedside table, with her mother's wedding dress draped unceremoniously across her lap, and dozens of tied, sealed envelopes covering the white gown like snow on snow. She tucked herself underneath the dress, tying the letters back in their proper place, as she began to follow her father's words that ran directly above Walt Whitman's. Every free space was filled with his words, and they were all addressed to her mother.
"I should have stayed with you that first night." Katie read the first line and stopped, closing the book immediately. Her face felt warm, and she got up quickly, putting the book face down on her parents' well-made bed. She wasn't so sure anymore if she should be prying in their…his things. She turned to her mother's letters, so carefully penned, with only his name on it. All closed, except for the first letter she had read. No, it hadn't been for her to read, but her mother's words touched her in ways she could hardly express. But her father… He had never been as verbose as her mother. He just said exactly what he meant and that was it. Would his entire book be filled with such simple, candid confessions? She bit her lip, curiosity taking its hold on her. What else could they write but never tell each other? She slowly walked back to the bed and picked up his book, turning back to the first page he had written. She sat down on the edge of the bed and began to read it again.
"I should have stayed with you that first night. I wanted to. But it was easier keeping a distance. I had to walk away, because when I saw you in my homestead, all I could think was thank God, thank God someone's home." She had never seen that home. She didn't know how to feel about that. It had been burned, like much of the past before she came along. She touched her father's handwriting. So much of his past had been burned, yet he picked up and continued to move on with such incredible resilience and loved them despite everything.
"It was only until I was halfway to the Reservation that I realized what I had done. I put me before you, because I was scared. I couldn't tell you that though. I didn't even tell myself," Katie read over his words twice. What had he done? His words were slightly obscure, not putting his grievances permanently on paper. She frowned and wondered. She had thought her father was perfect until the day she began to go courting. Then she discovered how stubborn and frustrating he could really be.
"But you came to me. We stayed in that teepee together. I knew then that it would have been alright for me to stay that first night." Katie swallowed. All the teepees around Colorado Springs were gone now. Something happened between them in a teepee, but there was no return to it. That moment was only captured in her pa's words. "Everyday after that, I made it a point to be closer to town, to the homestead, to you and the kids. You didn't always see me, but I was there. I'm still here, waiting for you." The passage wasn't dated, but she could feel every day he had waited for her.
Katie closed the book and sat back, astounded by her father's words. She didn't know if she dared to read another word without telling them. What would they think? Suddenly, she heard footsteps on the staircase, and she quickly tried to shove the letters under the bed, as she heard her named called out, "Kathy! Kathy? Where are you!" Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of his voice. It was thick and rich with only the slightest hint of a Southern drawl. He had gotten that from his mother despite the fact that her life in New Orleans had been over a decade before he was born.
She pushed herself up and gathered the dress up. She took great care putting it back into the wardrobe, though the bundle of letters and her father's book remained only slightly hidden on the floor. She turned toward the door, her eyes waiting for his appearance.
"In here," her voice replied, not too loud but not quite soft enough. His footsteps grew more impatient, and he barreled through the open door, his dark brown eyes finding hers. She greeted him with a half-smile, her heart never too full to add more room for him. She reached out, and he came to her, pulling her into a friendly embrace, one that made her want to cry.
"Elijah? What's the matter?" she asked fretfully, her mother's tendency to worry showing that it had been passed on to her. "Is everything all right? You? Your parents?"
"We're fine," he replied. "I was only worried about you. I saw Roger pullin' away…"
"He has business," she replied. "He'll be back in time…"
"For the weddin'," Elijah replied, his eyes downcast. She smiled again, feeling her heart pound a little differently. She couldn't help but notice the flatness of his voice. She couldn't deny that he objected to her marriage, but she also knew that he wanted her to be happy. That's what she loved about Elijah. He was always there for her, and he supported her. He wanted her to be happy above all else, even if that meant sitting by and watching her marry a man he couldn't stand. "You're sure you haven't changed your mind?" Katie didn't roll her eyes like she usually did.
"I hope…I hope you'll learn to accept this, Elijah."
"I don't see it, Kathy. You know I don't." She nodded.
"I know you don't. We've seen things the same way…since we were toddlin' around, stealin' each other's toys." Elijah smiled a little and diverted his eyes to the floor, where he immediately saw the book and the bundle of letters, partially obscured under the bed.
"Oh, uh…" Before she could finish her sentence, Elijah was stooping down to pick them up. Katie watched him, as his eyes studied the objects in his hands. He looked to her, and she smiled sheepishly.
"I take it these are your ma and pa's?" She nodded slowly.
"They fell out of the wardrobe, when I pulled my mother's dress out to air." Eli looked around, not seeing the dress. She fidgeted nervously before taking the bundle and book into her hands. She placed them down on the quilt that lay over her parents' bed, and she moved towards the wardrobe.
"Let's see it."
"The dress?" Her pulse quickened, and he studied her expression, a smile creeping up the corners of his mouth.
"Come on. As your best friend, I think I'm entitled." She nodded. It wasn't as if he was the groom. It still made her awkward to share such a private moment with a man who didn't want her spending the rest of her life with the man she was about to marry. Finally, she nodded and pulled the delicate garment from the wardrobe. Her eyes didn't meet his for a moment. She could hear him suck in a deep breath, and when she glanced at his face, the expression pained her.
"You don't like it?"
"It'll suit you," he replied. "But, I'm just wonderin' how you're going to keep it clean. Ya never were one to wear a dress more than five minutes without getting it dirty." Katie grinned a little and shook her head, taking the dress toward the window. She hooked it up to let the breeze air it out, and the sun caught the delicate stitches.
"That's probably because you were the one always dragging me through the mud."
"I think we have different memories, Kathy," he replied with a laugh. "I recall you doing most of the dragging." Katie turned her back to Elijah for a moment, looking down at the ring on her finger. It had been a long time since Roger had given it to her, and she still couldn't get used to the feel of it against her skin. She had never been the kind of girl who was dazzled by jewels or fancy things. She honestly didn't know why Roger wanted to marry her. She certainly hadn't made his pursuit of her very easy.
Elijah turned his attention back to the items he had picked up off of the floor. He now moved toward the bed and took the bundle into his hands. He noticed the broken seal on the first envelope, and his eyes glanced at the back of Katie's head. He smiled, knowing exactly what she had been doing. He knew her well enough to know that she was curious and always looking for adventure. Reading these had probably been too hard to pass up. But, he didn't want to tease her. Somehow, he knew it wasn't the time for that.
"What do you say we go into town and get some meatloaf from the café?" he suggested. When she turned, he winked. "I know the owner, after all." That brought a grin to her face, but she shook her head.
"I have so many things to do before the wedding." He nodded, backing down again.
"Well, I'll leave ya to it." He smiled at her, his eyes glassing over. She saw it and shuddered, as he tossed the bundle back onto the bed and started toward the hallway. She looked back down at the ring on her finger and to the letters on her parents' bed.
"What?" Elijah stopped and smiled, keeping his back to her upon hearing the urgency in her voice.
Katie sauntered up behind him, forcing a bright smile on her face, and placed her head on his shoulder. She asked as sweetly as she could, "What are you up to today?"
Elijah raised his eyebrows and lowered his voice. "You tryin' to ask me somethin'?"
She pushed off his shoulder and sashayed in front of him, catching his skeptical eyes. "Well, I was thinkin'…"
He crossed his arms in front of his chest. "No way. I know that look."
Katie dropped her sweet smile immediately. "Elijah…"
"And don't you start poutin' either. That may work on Roger, but I know all your connivin' ways, and I am not committin' a federal crime with you."
She looked at him, completely shocked. "Who said anythin' about a federal crime?"
Elijah walked back to the bed and lifted the bundle in his hand. "Are these letters addressed to you?"
Katie examined them thoughtfully, an innocent expression donning her face. "I don't see any postmarks, do you?"
"I'm a result of these letters, Elijah. They haven't even been touched since they were written. This book… just look!" She picked it up and began flipping through page after page of Sully's words. "You can't even read Whitman's words, because my pa had so much to say. And it's all to my ma."
Elijah shook his head, obviously uncomfortable. "It's their private thoughts, Kathy."
"I think my pa loved her right away. Can you imagine loving someone that long and not sayin' a word?" Katie sat on the edge of the bed and opened the front page of the book. Her eyes scoured the pages, and she exhaled, showing Elijah the pages. "Isn't it incredible?"
However, he wasn't looking at the book. He was looking at her. "Yeah. It is."
"Come on. Read them with me." She pulled on his sleeve, cajoling his arm.
Elijah sighed. "Why?"
"Because… I can't explain it really. I just need to know what it was like, ya know? And I want to hear it from your voice." She held out her father's book and waited. He met her eyes slowly. He could fight her pout, but he could never deny those dark blue eyes.
He took the book and sat next to her on the bed. "Alright. You win. Where do we begin?"