The Power of Goodbye

Chapter One



One hundred ten, but it felt hotter than that as Margaret Greene sat outside her house. She fanned herself trying to keep the temperature from bringing her blood to a boil. She stared out towards the horizon at the bright blue sky, to where it met with the land. The bone dry land. There was a mounted horse in the distance that was approaching, but Margaret didn't move. She didn't have the energy to. As the horse approached, she could see Ben Cartwright atop. "Morning, Margaret," he said to her.

She was still fanning herself as he dismounted and walked up on her porch. "You must be crazy, Ben," she said. "Riding that poor horse all the way out here."

"I didn't see you down by the lake with Tess . She's down there with the boys."

"It's too hot to even think about moving from this spot."

"Come on, Maggie. You're not gonna sit here alone all day. Come on."

"Ben, I..."

"Come on, get your horse." She looked at him motionless. "It's cooler down by the lake, get your horse."

Margaret slowly rose, still fanning. "I don't know how you do it, Ben." she said as they began to walk towards the stable. "I just don't know how you do it."

They guided the horse out to the front of the house and mounted, beginning to ride, silently at first until Ben spoke.

"I can't remember it ever being this hot." he said.

"You could say that again." The lake came into view and they could see the four bodies splashing around in the water. As Margaret and Ben approached the water and dismounted their horses, Adam was heard.

"You see, Tess," he said. "I told you that Pa would get her down here."

"And you said he couldn't do it," said Hoss. Tess splashed the water up into Hoss' face. He returned her attack with a powerful force of water, putting all of his weight into it.

Margaret and Ben took a seat on the grass under a nearby tree. "Hop Sing fixed us extra sandwiches." Ben said pushing the basket towards her.

"Oh, I couldn't eat a thing," she said leaning back. She laughed as Tess ran out of the water, Hoss chasing her.

"Don't you come any closer to me, Hoss," she said turning as she came to a stop beside her mother. Hoss still came towards her. "Hoss," she said taking off again. He followed her to an area out of everyone's sight.

Hoss sped up to grab hold of Tess. He turned her around and smiled. "Ya think ya can get away with that water business, do ya?"

"Yeah," she smiled back.

"Oh, yeah?" He turned her back towards him and drew her close, his large arms around her waist. She turned her head and smiled again as his head gently went down and met with her's.

Back by the water, Ben and Margaret still watched, this time Little Joe jumping onto Adam. They laughed as Adam carried Little Joe out of the water on his back.

"How come you never carry me around like this at home?" Little Joe asked as Adam let him down.

"Because, Joe," Adam explained. "Right now, it's just too hot to argue with you." Adam rubbed him playfully on the head.

"Hey, Pa?" Little Joe said. "You think it's gonna be this hot tonight too?"

"Sure was last night," Adam said.

"And it will be again tonight, boys," Ben said. "I'm worried about the fields and the grazing land. We're going to need some rain soon."

"That would at least cool things off a little. If not for us, for the animals."

"I sure did pick a good time to give my ranch hands some time off." Margaret said fanning herself again.

"You ladies are in that house all alone?" Ben asked.

"Not another soul around."

"That must be nice, just you and Tess."

Margaret perked up. "Where is Tess, anyway?"

"And Hoss?" Ben began to stand when Hoss and Tess appeared. Adam nudged Little Joe.

"Something the matter, Pa?" Hoss asked. Margaret and Ben smiled weakly. "What?"

"Nothing," Ben said as he rose and helped Margaret up. She brushed off her dress. "It's starting to get late, we should start heading back."

"I agree," Margaret said. "We should go feed and water the animals."

"Boys, saddle up your horses. We'll ride you home, Maggie."

"That's nice of you, Ben." Margaret said. "But we can ride home. "There's no need for you to tire your horses riding out of your way."

Are you sure?" She nodded. "Alright."

Hoss stood with Tess by her horse. "I could come by tomorrow if you want." he said.

"I'd like that," Tess said smiling. Hoss leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. He then took her hand and helped her onto the horse. "I don't know what I 'm gonna do with you Hoss." she said. " I'll see you tomorrow."

Hoss watched Tess ride off back towards the ranch with her mother. Adam walked over to him, giving him a gentle push. They then all mounted their horses and rode back to the Ponderosa.

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There was a soft rap on Margaret's bedroom door. "Ma?" Tess said as she slowly entered. "I can't sleep it's so hot."

"I know it is, but just think, it won't be so hot once you fall asleep." Tess sat down on the edge of her mother's bed. "Plus, I understand that Hoss might come callin' in the morning." Tess' face brightened. "Go on, get to bed." Tess stood and kissed her mother.

"Goodnight, Ma." Tess walked back to her room and closed the door. She walked over to the small window and looked outside. A think haze kept the stars from shining in the sky. Tess walked back over to her bed, and it wasn't long before she fell asleep.

Outside, the crickets chirped loudly and everything was peaceful and serene, until the unthinkable happened. A dry patch of grass at the corner of the house caught fire. The Greenes slept as the fire grew and began to engulf the bottom floor.

Margaret tossed in her bed. She coughed, sitting up, only to see smoke starting to fill her room from under the door. "Oh, my God." she said jumping out of bed and running to the door. She flung it inward and was bombarded by a thick cloud of smoke, and a bright orange fire that glowed down the hall, near Tess' room.

She ran down the hall and turned the doorknob to Tess' room. It wouldn't budge. Margaret banged wildly on the door. "Tess, wake up! Fire!" she cried. "Tess! Tess!" She pushed on the door harder. Tess heard her mother's cries and ran to open the door, but it wouldn't open for her either.

"The door's stuck!" Tess screamed. "Get me outa here, Ma. Please, get me out." Margaret felt the fire getting closer, it was getting harder to breathe. She kept pushing at the door. "Please, Ma. Please help me! Get me out!"

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It was dark out, but Adam couldn't sleep. It was still way to hot for him to even lay in bed. He sat out on the porch and stared into nothingness.

"Adam?" Ben said as he walked out onto the porch.

"I couldn't sleep." Adam said. "I thought I'd just sit out here for a while." Ben nodded.

"It is hot in there." Ben said. "Isn't it."

"Hoss' snoring doesn't help much either." Adam laughed. Ben leaned up against the side of the house and looked out at the horizon. In the distance he saw a faint orange glow. Adam noticed it also. "Wild fires?" he turned to his father.

"I don't think so." Ben walked away from the house a bit and almost leaned into the view.

"That's awful close to the Greene ranch."

"Oh, God." Ben said. "That's right on top of their ranch." Adam jumped up. "I'll get the horses, Adam. Wake your brothers. Go, now!" Adam ran into the house and to the bedroom.

"Hoss! Little Joe!" he said. "Get up." The boys turned in bed. "Fire at the Greene ranch, Get up!"

"What was that?" Hoss asked half asleep.

"There's a fire at the Greene ranch, Get up. Both of you." He smacked Little Joe in the back of the head. "Hurry up." Adam ran back outside. Ben had gotten the horses to the front of the house. Shortly after, Hoss and Little Joe stumbled out.

The fire had begun to glow brighter in the distance. Ben turned to his sons. "Joseph, I want you to ride into town and wake the people. tell them we need help, fire at the Greene's. Go, Joe." Little Joe jumped on his horse and raced towards town. Adam and Hoss got on their horses and the three of them rode to the Greene's. As they got closer, the house's outline became clearer. "Oh, God." Ben said. He quickly looked around. "They must still be in there."

Hoss jumped down off of his horse and raced towards the house, pushing through the door. The fire shot through the air, but Hoss continued forward. He covered his mouth and nose with his shirt.

"Hoss!" Ben called to him from outside. No answer. "I'm going in there."

"No, Pa." Adam grabbed for his father as he walked swiftly towards the house. Ben had not yet reached the house when Hoss appeared in the doorway carrying somebody.

Ben stopped as Hoss approached him. Margaret was lying completely limp in his arms. He went to hand her over to his father.

"Tess' still in there," Hoss said. "I have to go back in."

"Let me go," Adam said.

"The door is stuck, you'll never get in there," Hoss said as he ran back towards the house.

The flames seemed to be hotter than before as Hoss found his way towards Tess' room He pushed at the door. "Tess!" he called out as he tried to get the door open. "Tess!" Hoss gave the door one last push with his shoulder and it flew open.

Hoss stumbled in, peering through the thick black smoke, but he couldn't find her. He bent close to the floor and began to feel around with his hands. He felt nothing at first, but then he came upon her, sprawled, motionless on the floor. Hoss picked her up and headed out of the house.

Outside, Ben and Adam watched in horror as pieces of the house began to collapse. Ben jumped up, but Adam grabbed hold of him. They could see Hoss in the doorway once again, this time with Tess in his arms. He brought her over to his father and brother. He placed her down and stepped back, pushing the hair back on his head. He stumbled a bit and rubbed his eyes.

Hoss sat down on the ground, coughing from the smoke. Adam went over to him and placed his hand on his back. They could hear the fast approaching gallop of the horses and soon saw the townspeople coming to help. Ben stayed with Tess and Margaret as Shelby dismounted her horse. Hoss and Adam watched as she bent down, putting her fingers on both necks.

"Get the wagon over here!" she called as she moved from Margaret to Tess. Big Dan approached with the wagon and he and the others put Margaret in the back. He then looked over at Shelby with Tess. Shelby looked over to Ben who in turn glanced back at his sons.

No words were exchanged amongst them, but they all seemed to know. Hoss looked back at his father and shook his head, a look of disbelief on his face and a tear in his eye.