Paulita rose at dawn and dressed quickly. She awoke Telesfor and ordered him to dress and be at the breakfast table in ten minutes, or miss any food.
They sat at the table as Deluvina poured fresh coffee and served up hot bacon and eggs.
Deluvina sat herself down and joined them in eating.
"Voy a perder tanto de usted" she sighed sadly.
Paulita reached out and touched the woman's arm gently. "Yo sé" she said softly, comforting her dear old friend. "No estar tristes, Nos reuniremos de Nuevo." Paulita smiled warmly and Deluvina looked at Telesfor, a sad smile finding its place upon her lips.
Just after the sun had fully risen, Paulita and Deluvina made their way outside with trunks of belongings and clothes. They hauled them up into a small wagon and made ready the two horses that would pull it. Paulita turned to Deluvina and embraced her warmly; she pulled away and met the older woman's eyes with her own.
"Gracias" she said with meaning, and Deluvina pulled her once more into her arms and hugged her tightly.
Paulita looked up as three figures leisurely walked over, she grinned as Doc, Yen and Chavez smiled back at her.
She embraced each one in turn.
"Thank you" she whispered, grabbing the two men's hands in her own and squeezing gently. "For coming to see me on my way."
"Take care of him" Doc said, nodding to Telesfor who was already sat in the buggy, impatient to be on his way to new adventures.
Paulita nodded, "I'll guard him with my life."
Chavez nodded, "Find your happiness; I know it already awaits you." He gave her a knowing look and smiled warmly.
She embraced Yen again, "Take care" she whispered, and Yen held her close as tears welled in her eyes.
"Come on Ma!" Telesfor cried tired of the emotional goodbye. "Not like we ain't gonna see Chavez or Uncle Doc and Auntie Yen again!"
Paulita glanced at each of them, half of her wanting to stay in this familiar place she had grown to love so much, but she knew she couldn't, in her heart she knew her future did not lie here. Doc pushed an old Colt into her hand and smiled, silently telling her to use it if she must upon the trail.
"Things have been hard these past seven years, but I know you can make it all worthwhile, both of you." He smiled again.
Chavez nodded. "We'll come and visit when things have settled."
Paulita smiled through tears that pooled within her eyes. "You take good care of Yen, write me about your life from time to time let me know how your children are growing."
Doc grinned and Paulita pushed her lips together unable to say more without tears.
She stilled herself and with a last sad glance at her old life she turned, and with a little aid from Telesfor, she heaved herself up into the buggy and gave a last wave to each of the people that had come to say farewell. The small group of people waved sadly as Paulita picked up the reins and then urged the horses into motion. The buggy rumbled along the old dust roads taking her through the old crumbling archway of Fort Sumner and away from her old home.
The path was bumpy and unpredictable, Paulita felt slightly reassured by the weight of the gun in her lap for although the West certainly had lost some of its wildness, the Indians and bandits were still a threat and although she couldn't hit the side of a house, the threat of it was usually enough to make most back away and leave them well enough alone. She glanced at Telesfor and he grinned back at her, reassuring her all was well with his presence as he always did.
They followed the familiar trail that they took every year, just the two of them on this long journey. But this time they would not be coming home to Fort Sumner after their two weeks of leisure were at an end, this time they would be going further and Paulita doubted if she would see Sumner again, her heart ached at the thought and even before two hours of travelling had passed she felt homesick.
They continued on at a steady pace, reaching their destination late in the evening, the sun still shone down upon them and foretold that they still had a good amount of light left before darkness fell. Paulita eyed the dilapidated shack up ahead and her head swam with memories of years past, of spending time here, of being happy.
She pulled the horses to a stop outside and urged Telesfor to jump down.
"Watch out for rattlers in the house, ya hear!" she called after him as he raced up the porch steps and into the house.
Paulita struggled with the horses until they were free and then took them around to the back where there were patches of grass for them to feed upon. She patted one of the beasts tenderly and then fetched two buckets of water from the nearby well to quench their thirst. Once the horses had been watered she sighed and looked across the parched plain, her eyes grazing across two wooden grave markers. She searched the horizon for a moment and then made her way up to the house. The cobwebs had become thick on beams and in corners, she walked into the empty kitchen and ran a finger absently along the fireplace and studied the dirt upon her fingers. It seemed to get worse every year and this would be the last time she saw the place. She glanced around at the familiar house and smiled.
"Mama, can I go play outside?" Telesfor asked, racing into the room excitedly.
Paulita nodded, "Stay close by, where I can see you."
"I will!" he said, as if she were acting like an old mother hen, and without another word he was away outside to play whatever game his imagination deemed. She watched him a moment enjoying the warm sun that streamed in through the open doorway.
Paulita slowly made her way outside to the buggy and rummaged in one of the bags for a moment until her fingers brushed against what she searched for, she pulled out a large square tin that had once housed a decent sized cake. She made her way back inside and pulled out an old wooden crate to sit upon, she dusted it with an old rag nearby before sitting down. She pried the tin open and placed the lid on the ground beside her before pulling out the clean white linen package inside.
She smiled as she ran her fingers over the soft material, her memories coming back to her within this small moment.
She unfolded the clean cloth carefully and brought out a tintype. The details were still crisp and bright; she smiled sadly at the young couple smiling out from it, the young girl in her pretty off the shoulder taffeta dress and the man, devilishly handsome with a cheeky smile. Paulita remembered vividly the day she had promised to do this, she had promised the young girl in the photo that she would come out here with Telesfor and remember for her. That upon this day, the day she decided to leave, the day it was safe to start her life properly... she would come to this place one last time with this photograph and lay the past to rest. She ran a finger tenderly across the sealed letter that sat at the bottom of the tin.
She quickly fetched a rusty knife and began to pry one of the floorboards up, being careful not to get any splinters of wood in her skin. When this job was done she checked for any rattlesnakes and then dug at the moist earth underneath until a good sized hole had been made. She wiped her hands on a tattered bit of blanket that lay upon the floor and sealed the tin up once more. She held it to her chest, remembering that young girl… Bess.
She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, knowing that Bess was no longer here now. She slowly opened her eyes and laid the tin into the hole before covering it carefully back up, tears welling within her eyes.
She replaced the floorboard, not bothering to nail it shut, knowing that this place would not last another winter anyway. She gazed down at the spot she had just hidden the tin within and let a tear slip down her cheek… now it was over.
"If anyone finds you," she said in a whisper, "then God will have wanted the truth to be shown; but the truth of the past will be all there is." She prayed silently and turned, wiping at her wetness on her cheeks. She went back to the buggy and struggled a moment with the old wooden rocking chair she had so loved, had tended Telesfor in as a babe and she could not bear to leave behind.
She placed it upon the porch, glad that it was so light and she could make a comfortable seat for herself.
She settled into it and let her mind drift as the warm summer breeze blew gently across her skin. She smiled contentedly to herself and rocked the chair slowly.
The sun lowered in the sky but it was still too early for sunset. Paulita opened her eyes and looked out at Telesfor who had become captivated by an ants nest a way off, he sat hunched near it watching the ants at work and Paulita smiled.
"Oh Mama!" he called. "You should see them all" he commented, before turning to look back, his dazzling blue eyes finding her face and he grinned.
Paulita laughed and Telesfor joined her with his usual long winded chuckle.
"I'll go give the horses some hay, huh Mama?" he said looping his thumbs through his braces in a familiar pose that made Paulita smile with fond remembrance.
She smiled and nodded before letting her eyes slip closed again.
She gently dozed until a sound of boots scraping across the wooden planks and the soft jingle of spurs made her eyes flutter open and she looked up.
Her gaze met beautiful clear blue eyes that glinted mischievously. The man walked towards her, a grin playing upon his handsome face as he flipped his overgrown hair out of his eyes, his spurs clinked and his holsters clinked. He shoved his thumbs under his braces and came to a stop, studying the young woman in the rocking chair.
He grinned again and laughed impishly, "Hey Bess."
She met his eyes with her own startling green gaze and with a small bite of her lip she smiled.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Elizabeth Bonney wife to William H. Bonney aka Billy the Kid.
I know now I was just a fragile flame in the whirlwind that was Billy the Kid's life, I was damn lucky that whirlwind didn't blow me out to nothing…but I loved him.
I know many people will want to know the truth of what happened on 14th July all those years ago but all I will say to you is this, Billy still rides the plains and will forever do so but Billy the Kid the legend is gone, you can see in that what you like, you won't get anymore from me on the matter.
Mrs. E. Bonney
Voy a perder tanto de usted - I will miss you both.
Yo sé - I know.
No estar tristes, Nos reuniremos de Nuevo - Do not be sad, we will meet again.
And so we reach the end of my story. I never thought when I began writing this that it would be so long or that I could even write something of this length. I'm sad it's finished I will miss Billy, Bess and the rest of the gang. I hope anyone that has read this has enjoyed it and I thank you all from my heart for sticking with me and I also thank anyone that reads this story at a later date.
Now onto the ending :) I'm sure many of you guessed that for protection Bess took on the name of Paulita and was kept by the Maxwell's in secret for many years, she changed her son's name from William to Telesfor to protect him from harmful people. But was Billy still alive? Did he sneak into Sumner at great risk to bring Bess back from the drink? and was Billy, after many years in hiding, riding out to the old shack to meet his wife and son and start a new life in Old Mexico now the heat was off?
Well, that is up to you to decide...
On a side note, I am currently writing a Young Guns/Streets Laredo crossover. The first chapter should be up soon and I'd love it if you let me know what you think.
Well, Hasta la vista :D