The author borrows plot and characters from the classic TV and radio drama Gunsmoke. It was conceived with no intent for profit and purely for my own amusement.
Beads of cold perspiration bubbled against her forehead. "You're wrong Bessie. It's impossible." Her feet felt like lead. She stumbled to the elaborately carved parlor chair, which sat in a corner by the window looking out to Front Street. Gracelessly, she lowered her body to the cushioned frame. "No." the soundless word formed on her lips.
Bessie Roniger turned her back to Kitty Russell; she hadn't intended to upset her friend so. Running a stout hand across her face she pushed a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. Moving to the side table she poured two glasses of brandy. As a rule, the farm woman wasn't a drinker, but on this morning she felt a strong need for a bracer. Turning back to Kitty she walked the short distance to the window and handed her the drink.
"The symptoms Kitty … believe me I know them well, it all adds up. You're in the family way."
This time the word was audible, and said with force as if in doing so she could scare away the truth of Bessie's diagnosis. "No … no."
Bessie took hold of the matching chair and placed it in front of the saloon woman. She sat down and took Kitty's trembling hands within her own. There was a hint of a smile in her voice, "It's not the end of the world you know."
Kitty's head had dropped, and her shoulders sagged. Dark splotches were forming on the skirt of her blue sateen dress from the tears that slipped in twin streams down her face to fall on the fabric below. "You … you don't understand…"
"I think I do, you're nearing forty, not married and you believe your livelihood depends on face and figure - the sum of which doesn't add up to the end of the world." Bessie gave the hands in hers a shake, "There is a man who loves you with all his heart, a townfull of folks who respect you not only for what you've accomplished but for the good and kind deeds you've done along the way. You have friends who will support you in anyway we can. Kitty, Kitty a baby is a blessing, a gift from God."
"Not this baby …"
The tone of Mrs. Roniger's voice was one she might have used for her ten year old daughter, "I won't stand for you talking like that, I know you're a little emotional right now, but once you've talked this over with Matt, I'm sure he will agree with me, after all you've been through, this is a gift for the two of you." She dropped one of Kitty's hands to lift her own to the tormented face of her friend, "Kitty, you're going to be a mother! You and Matt are going to have a child!"
As one fighting against a great pain, she closed her eyes tightly. Her lower lip was beginning to bleed from where she was biting it. She raised her head to meet Bessie's eyes, "It isn't … it isn't Matt's child."
Bessie stared at Kitty in stunned silence until the terrible truth hit home, "Dear Lord … my dear Lord … the dog soldiers, Kitty …"
"Matt and I haven't been together … not since …Bessie I couldn't, every time he came near I pushed him away … after what they'd done … I didn't know how he could still want me."
"Three months … you haven't had your … time of the month since? You and Matt haven't … but before that … Kitty it could have happened before …"
She shook her head, "I always took precautions to guard against an unwanted situation. Beside's Matt had been tracking the Dog Soldiers for weeks, we hardly had time for a glass of beer together and a few moments alone, before he was back on Jude Bonner's trail." The saying of the man's name brought back the violent images. She felt her early morning coffee, mixed with the glass of brandy churning in her belly. A wave of nausea swept over her and she dashed for the chamber pot.
Bessie waited for the retching to end, she moistened a hand towel and applied it to Kitty's forehead while leading her to the bed. "Lie down." She ordered as she repositioned the cloth. "I'm going to get Doc. Before we go jumping to wild conclusions … we should know what we're dealing with. Why … I may be all wrong… "
"Yes … get Doc…" the words were said with the resignation of one who sees no way out of an ultimate fate. She remained where she was until the door clicked shut and Bessie's footsteps could be heard walking down the hallway and then panic and fight took over. It took only seconds for her to spring back to her feet and fly to the door. She pulled it open and called from the balcony, "Wait, Bessie, come back."
Mrs. Roniger looked up from the bottom step. She was always a bit uncomfortable in the saloon and to have attention called to her presence there made her all the more embarrassed. A few heads turned as she hefted her ample body back up the stairs.
Kitty was waiting at the open door of her room. Neither woman spoke until they were both back inside. "What is it?" Bessie questioned.
"I don't want Doc to know. I don't want any one to know, not until I'm sure."
"Kitty you can't be sure unless Doc examines you. The more I think about this the more convinced I am that we're just worrying over nothing. I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation for your symptoms."
Kitty's face still held an unhealthy tint highlighted by red-rimmed eyes. "I'm sure there is too, but until I know for certain I'm not going to worry anyone else."
Bessie raised an eyebrow and gave her friend a wary look, "What have you got in mind?"
Like an animal caught in a hunter's trap, Kitty Russell's first instinct was to escape, "I'm taking the early east bound train in the morning."
"I'm not sure – someplace where I can get the answers to my questions… someplace where I can come to grips with what's happened, someplace where I can make the choices I need to make."
Bessie's voice was plaintive; "You don't have to go through this alone … not when there are people who care about you."
"Yes, yes I do, don't you see, it wouldn't be fair to any of them to see this through … and you've got to promise me you'll keep this between the two of us."
Backing away and shaking her head Bessie said, "I don't know Kitty…"
"I want your word, I'm counting on you." Kitty's stance became firmer and her eyes took on a hard edge.
Still Bessie hesitated, "Alright … I don't like it, but you have my word."
Kitty's lips turned up in imitation of a smile, "Go finish your shopping, your husband will wonder what's become of you."
"This isn't right …"
"No," Kitty agreed, "it isn't right, but I'm going to set about making it right. Good bye Bessie, thank you for being my friend."
Alone again Kitty returned to the parlor chair, the view looked down on Front Street. Holiday wreaths still hung from the lamp posts. She could see Bessie hurrying down the icy boardwalk to the General Store, where their farm wagon and her husband waited. Kitty picked up the bottle of the homemade tonic Bessie had dropped off that morning thinking it might be `just the ticket' to perk Kitty up. She opened the bottle and took a whiff of the contents. With a sigh she replace the lid, as she mentally replayed her symptoms. Denial can be a strong ally until it turns on you. The missed periods, mood swings, tender breasts, these things she'd ignored were now coming into a clearer perspective, magnified by Bessie Roniger's insightful evaluation of her condition. How could she have looked past it? Without thinking she placed a hand on the swell of her stomach. Fate was a cruel enemy.
Kitty Russell had always been very careful. Leading the kind of lifestyle she had, she'd been privy to the various ways to guard against an unwanted pregnancy. She faithfully practiced them. It was something she and Dillon had discussed early in their relationship. He had told her frankly there was no room in his life for a family not while he wore a badge. She had agreed, she had no wish to be a mother, she enjoyed her freedom too much, and any time spent amid Bessie's wild progeny confirmed that belief. There had been no opportunity for practicing birth control while being raped by Jude Bonner's Dog Soldiers. She shook her head feeling a tinge of pity for the child conceived by such a union. How could there be any kind of life and hope for a baby fathered by evil?
Methodically she pulled her carpetbags and trunk from the storage closet, and began packing them with her belongings, leaving behind all but one of her elegant evening gowns. She had no idea how long she'd be gone and realistically she wondered if she really would be coming back. After a time, a knock on the door disrupted her task.
"Everything all right Miss Kitty?" Sam, the bartender questioned from the outer hall.
She opened the door and waved him in. "Yes, Sam everything is fine, but I need you to go down to the train station and purchase a ticket for me, something's come up," she ran a tongue across her lips, "and I have to leave Dodge for a time."
After he'd left she pulled on her wool hooded cape and grabbed a pair of gloves and her handbag. She left by the back stairs and headed over to the bank. She withdrew a sizable amount of her savings, enough to see her through in comfort for many months, longer if she lived frugally.
She was filling in at the bar that afternoon when Dillon came in. The big man had a frown on his face, "What's this I hear about you leaving town?" He wanted to know.
She felt heat creeping up her neck, even though she had practiced this lie it was not easy telling it, "Something's come up. Do you remember me talking about my friend Ann Smith, she's having some health problems and she asked me to stay with her."
He propped an elbow on the bar so he was even with her face; he kept his voice calm even though he had a strong intuition something was wrong, "Ann Smith? I never heard of her? Where does she live?" His scowl deepened, "Kitty, do you really think you're up tothis? You still haven't completely recovered from … October."
She ignored his concerns focusing instead on the lie, "She lives in Chicago; we worked together a few years back." Picking up a bar glass, she began shining it with a clean rag; "The change will do me good. Maybe when I get home … well, maybe things can get back to the way they used to be between us … before …"
His voice was low, "They could be that way right now honey, if you'd let them."
She studied the glass, afraid for him to see the truth in her yes, "I won't be gone long …"
"Is that why you withdrew ten thousand dollars from your savings?"
She looked up and then down again, "I thought information like that was private."
"Mr. Bodkin always informs me of a suspicious withdrawal."
She arched her back setting her shoulders at a straight angle, "There is nothing for you to be concerned about; I'm a big girl and can take care of my self."
"Are you sure Kitty?" he asked.
"I'm sure, now if you'll excuse me, I have to talk with Sam about business." She saw her words had wounded him. The hurt was visible in his eyes, the pain apparent in the set of his mouth. He inhaled before attempting one last try at a connection. "I'll see you off tomorrow, what time does your train leave?"
In the space of a short conversation she'd lied to him more than in the nineteen years they'd been together, "It's the afternoon train, departing Dodge at 1:30."
"Fine, we'll have dinner at Delmonico's before you leave. I'll be by around 11:00. We'll have Doc and Festus join us."
"I'll see you then." She replied. She watched as he turned on heel and walked out of the saloon, aware this was the last time she would see him - at least for a very long time. It was better this way; a clean break without any sentimental good-byes, for by the time he came to pick her up tomorrow she would be hours and miles away.