She could barely open her eyes to face the blue hour of twilight, the dream lingering in her mind as it had on many occasions. It made her chest swell and her limbs tingle, and rolling over on the bed, Mattie buried her face in the pillow as she examined the imagery that sunk quick into the pit of her stomach. It had been several years since she rode to find Chaney, but the memories were still as sharp as the tools that severed her arm. Even after all of the horrors she had endured, nothing haunted her dreams so vividly as the Texas Ranger. Hardly in the vain of a nightmare, she wondered why the dream ached her so, and putting logic ahead of emotion, she resolved never to think of it again- a plan that proved to be difficult as the dream recurred night after night. Residual images aside, she hadn't seen LaBoeuf since Cogburn left him on that hill and she often thought about how he would have made his fire low and without company, probably talked himself to sleep. The very idea made her chuckle under her breath until the dream resurfaced and the bittersweet memories balled tightly in the back of her throat.
The dream was always the same. Groggy flashes of LaBoeuf sitting impatiently and then throwing himself off of the chair to pace about the room. Under his brow, his eyes would look down on her, and it was then that Mattie realized he was again at her bedside, though she knew she was far from the boarding house and certainly not tucked in her very own bed. There she lay unable to move, trapped in a body feeling so foreign from her own. The pain consuming her was insurmountable, but LaBoeuf's presence calmed her and when he neared, the scent of black powder, neatsfoot oil, and tobacco filled the warm, stagnant air.
A nurse entered, and drew him away along with the myriad of flavors in the man's stench. She was strangely pale and bright-eyed- or at least that's what Mattie could make of her through the amber glare of the window- and as she guided LaBoeuf back into the chair, he followed willingly and almost eagerly, as her milky fingers brushed along his face and perched on his jaw. Upon her instruction, he opened his mouth wide and she peered inside, her lip curling in scrutiny as she examined the laceration on his tongue. Her voice was nothing but a soft murmur and as LaBoeuf closed his lips, he met her with an enchanting smile. And when the nurse left (lingering a little longer than she should have), he leaned casually in the chair, brought his hands back behind his head, and exhaled through a growing grin. Leering at the doorway, LaBoeuf pulled a flask from his side, and when he took a nip, the sting of the liquor in his wound made him wince and some whiskey dribbled down his chin in a most unbecoming manner.
Always and without reserve, Mattie readied herself to speak, for the Ranger looked like a fool and deserved to be called as such. But no matter how quick her tongue, her mouth remained slow and her words were reduced to an inaudible whimper. He no longer looked towards her or came close, though she wished he would so she could become enveloped once again in his soothing gaze. But from then on, he only stared over the threshold with starry eyes until the darkness settled over everything and all Mattie could hear was the jangle of his spurs as he walked out the door, leaving her to the cold, lonely night.
It was this that woke her so often and as reality blended with hysteria, she questioned her recollections. Whether LaBoeuf's presence was factual or merely a specter keeping his memory alive, she did not know. The ether was strong and she remembered little after the surgery, but despite the vague inclinations, no one ever mentioned the arrival or departure of a hardly inconspicuous Texas Ranger. So to keep of sound mind, Mattie never spoke of her dreams or dwelled over the intentions repressed deep within her, as responsible women never succumb to blatant fantasy. But in the occasional moment of weakness, she took solace in the thought of LaBoeuf standing over her before his attentions roamed elsewhere. And as her mind wandered, she began to wonder who the nurse was, if she was real, and if LaBoeuf ever watched her as she slept.