A/N: My update timing is bad, and I should feel bad.
Je suis désolé, mis amigos.
"We are all gathered here today to grieve and remember someone very dear to our hearts—Elizabeth Quinn."
Colleen raised her gaze to watch the reverend perform his eulogy and brought a handkerchief against the corner of her left eye. She exchanged a solemn look with Andrew before laying her head against his shoulder.
"Elizabeth was a caring daughter, mother, wife, and grandmother, who was and will be looked upon in remembrance of her greatly affectionate character. Let us commend her to the mercy of God as we bow our heads in prayer."
Through her peripheral vision, Colleen caught sight of a woman clad in black attire approaching the ceremony. Figuring she was just a late guest attending to pay her respects, the girl closed her eyes and clasped her hands together.
The woman lowered her feathered hat and watched with interest as the small crowd of people joined the pastor in prayer. She slipped into a seat in the back of the group and pulled her overcoat more tightly around herself, keeping her head down but scanning the people surrounding her.
"…In our sorrow, make us strong to commit ourselves and those we love to Your unfailing care. In our perplexity, help us to trust what we cannot understand."
The woman saw at least seven figures in the front row of the gathering—four sisters, a husband, and a young couple. They were all wearing the same dark clothing, but she was still able to recognize them nonetheless.
"And in our loneliness may we remember Elizabeth in love, trusting her to Your keeping, until the eternal morning breaks."
An older girl, perhaps in her early twenties, stood up to place something on the coffin, and the observer felt her heart skip a beat. Yes, she would know Colleen anywhere.
"We therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth…"
The crowd began to stand up as a few well-built men picked up the coffin and proceeded to lay it in a hole that was dug beside another gravestone.
"…Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…"
A few of the people who were sitting in the front row looked on as the undertaker started to pile dirt back in-between the coffin and the ground with a shovel.
"…In the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life."
Tears sprung to the woman's eyes and she hastily wiped them away, staring foolishly as the grass was once again sealed up and rocks were piled atop the now-buried coffin. A young man suddenly turned around and the two exchanged eye contact, shortly before the woman panicked, whirled on her heel, and began to walk briskly away.
"Michaela?" the man murmured, dumbfounded. He felt his mouth drop open to form a slight 'O'.
Colleen laid a hand on his arm and stared at him curiously. "Andrew? What is it?"
"Wait here," he instructed, his awestruck tone quickly slipping away to a stern one. He gently set her aside as he tore off across the field after the woman.
His escapee glanced behind her to see him in hot pursuit. Her copper irises widened and she picked up her dress, breaking into a full and un-ladylike sprint. Andrew's own hurried strides increased as he began to run after her. Soon she'd reached the side of the road.
"Michaela!" the doctor shouted, but his voice was drowned out by the sound of a carriage approaching the scene. Within half a second, a man's arms had reached out of the buggy to pull the woman inside. The last glimpse Andrew caught of her was her black hat falling off to reveal long, reddish-brown hair piled on top of her head. Then the carriage door closed and the horses galloped down the busy street in the direction of the train station.
Andrew came to a stop in front of the edge of the street and bent over to pick up the woman's hat. He let out a huff of frustration as he examined the headpiece between his trembling fingers.
"Andrew!" Colleen called as she came towards him. In a moment she was at his side and staring into his eyes in confusion. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing," he panted, remembering her reaction when she'd heard her mother's name two weeks ago. "Just thought I saw… someone I knew."
"Who?" his conversant asked.
Andrew shook his head, inwardly disappointed with himself. "It doesn't matter." In a swift motion he drew his arm about her shoulders and threw the hat down in the grass behind them. "Come on; let's get back to the ceremony."
Colleen continued to look at him with concern. She couldn't help but feel as if he were hiding something from her, but tried to shake off the feeling as they found their way back to the group of mourners.
"After sending Michaela all those letters, I thought she would at least have the audacity to attend Mother's funeral," Claudette Quinn said, dabbing the corner of her mouth with a napkin. She elegantly raised her knife and fork to cut off another piece of steak.
Rebecca stared down at her own dinner, which had barely been touched, before looking up to meet her sister's gaze. "Perhaps there was something urgent back in Colorado Springs that she had to tend to."
"Yes," Marjorie agreed with a nod. "You know that she's very devoted to her patients—"
"Please," Maureen cut in, taking a small sip of wine. "Nothing could be more important than her own family."
"You were just in the town, weren't you, Dr. Cook?" Claudette turned to the young man, and he froze in mid-chew. "What has she been up to?"
Andrew's face colored slightly and he cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well, I… hadn't really been in town much."
"His clinic is on the outskirts," Colleen put in, exchanging a glance with him. "You know, in the fancy hotel that was just recently built."
"But, uh… as far as I know," he continued, swallowing and looking downwards, "She wasn't in any trouble. Of course, an epidemic could've—"
"See?" Claudette said triumphantly. A smug smile crossed her face. "Michaela just ignored the letters out of pure selfishness."
Rebecca frowned and cut a small piece off of her meat. "You can't be certain of that."
"Which is why I'm going to see her," Marjorie announced. Everyone seated at the table grew gravely silent and turned to stare at her oddly.
"Aunt Marjorie," Colleen began, "I don't think—"
"Shh, shh," she said, waving her hand to silence the young woman. "I've already bought the train tickets, so you can't talk me out of it. Besides, the girls and I were thinking of paying Colorado Springs a visit." She smiled. "From what I've witnessed during my previous stays, I think the town could use a bit of… prohibition."
"So you really did join that temperance league," Maureen said in disgust. "You're a fool to think that it will get very far, Marjorie—alcohol's here to stay." As if to emphasize her point, she raised her wine glass to her lips once more.
"If I had wished to hear your opinion, Maureen, I would have asked for it," Marjorie shot back. "I'm taking the afternoon train tomorrow, and there's nothing you can say to change my mind."
Andrew and Colleen exchanged another look and the former opened his mouth to protest, but once again the saucy woman had more things to say.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish packing." Marjorie set her handkerchief down on the table before standing up, turning on her heel, and heading upstairs.
"She becomes more and more like Michaela each passing day," Claudette remarked, breaking the silence that had ensued.
I hope not, Andrew couldn't help thinking. His eyes once more met Colleen's as their faces displayed subtle expressions of worry, wondering just what Marjorie Quinn would discover upon her arrival in the West.
Ooh, a guest visit from our favorite doctor! Drama amongst the Quinn ladies! What do you think Marjorie will find in CS?
Dunno when I'll update next. I'm aiming for this Wednesday.