Lucy stood in front of her grandmother's treasured full length mirror admiring the long fancy dress her she and her mother had made. They spent most of the last three weeks making it. It was frilly and fine. It was perfect for a young woman making her debut, even if it was in a place that didn't hold such traditions. She twirled around a few times letting the skirt of the dress flare out and swish back into place. She had been admiring the pretty lavender fabric in Tompkins' store since it opened. Her mother had secured her hair off to one side with a beautiful heirloom silver comb. Her mother also spent hours last night tying Lucy's hair in rags to make the dramatic curls that draped down from the comb and past her shoulder. Lucy usually disliked her hair. It was a common shade of brown and straight as a stick. Now it was glossy and perfectly coiffed.
Lucy and her friends, Cecilia and Phoebe had all turned sixteen last month and this was the first dance the town was holding this season. The girls had decided that they would celebrate their coming of age at this social even if they were the only ones who knew. They had giggled and planned this night for ages. All their mothers were involved in helping them with their dresses and they would all get together often to work on them. Cecilia's mother regaled them all with stories of cotillions she went to as a girl in North Carolina. Lucy had only known life on the frontier, but dreamed of the fancy dress balls that happened in the civilized and gentrified east.
With all their preparations for the dance only one thing could distract the girls. A new group of Pony Express riders had moved into town. The young men were dashing; especially the ones named Jimmy and Kid. They had all been introduced to the charming William F. Cody. Lucy couldn't take him seriously, but she thought perhaps Phoebe did. That made her smile. Phoebe was the shyest of her friends, while Cecilia was the boldest.
The three girls had been watching the boys at the station since they arrived in town. They were all handsome boys. The girls did not dare look too seriously at the colored boy or the half-breed boy, even though Lucy thought they were very handsome and friendly too. Their parents would be fit to be tied if they were ever caught looking at them. Lucy sort of found it exciting to sneak peeks at them though. That just left the scrawny one and the bald one. They seemed like nice boys too, but really none of the boys compared to Jimmy and Kid.
Lucy was to meet Phoebe and Cecilia at the dance early. Their mothers would be there with the Ladies Auxiliary setting up the dessert table anyways. Lucy quickly found her friends waiting for her. They had gathered some chairs with a perfect view of the door. Lucy quickly sat between her two friends. Phoebe's blonde curly hair was styled in a loose updo with tendrils of hair framing her face. She was wearing a gorgeous cornflower blue dress the same shade as her eyes. She looked shyly at her feet and every noise near the door caused her to look quickly at it. Lucy was sure she was hoping to see Cody step through the door. Cecilia on the other hand wore her dark red hair down with just the top pulled into a ribbon and was wearing a dress in a most enchanting shade of dark green. She had one her most mischievous looks on her face. Her brown eyes looked darker than usual and that scared Lucy just a little bit. Lucy admired Cecilia's sense of adventure and knew her friend was up to something and it would most likely be daring.
"What are you up to Cece?" Lucy asked her plotting friend.
"I heard my mother talking with the dance master," Cecilia said in hushed tones, "They are going to have a ladies choice dance."
Lucy's jaw dropped slightly as she thought about who she would ask and then smiled as she thought about Jimmy and Kid. She looked back at Cecilia, who could barely contain herself with glee. She didn't like that look.
"That's not all though is it?" Lucy asked.
Phoebe looked again at the floor and Lucy looked over at Cecilia. "What are you planning?" she asked pointedly at Cecilia.
"I was just thinking it would be fun to let fate decide who we ask," Cecilia blurted out.
"How so?" Lucy asked skeptically.
"Well if we had our choice we would ask one of the Express riders right?" Cecilia posed.
"I would ask Mr. Cody," Phoebe said dreamily.
Both Lucy and Cecilia looked at their friend and giggled supportively with her.
"Ok, you can ask Mr. Cody," Cecilia decided, "But Lucy and I will let fate have a larger hand."
Lucy thought about it and she was very uncomfortable about what Cecilia could possibly mean. It probably wouldn't be bad to trust her. She had rarely been wrong about having fun adventures. Lucy nodded her consent.
"We have to shake on it," Cecilia warned, "That will make it binding."
Lucy swallowed hard and hesitantly offered her hand. Cecilia took and they shook hands.
Cecilia then addressed Phoebe.
"Lucy and I are going to flip a coin," Cecilia explained, "Heads gets to ask the first rider through the door and tails asks the last one."
"But only if it isn't Cody," Phoebe insisted.
Cecilia giggled, "Ok, if Cody is first through the door we ask the next one and if he's last through the door we ask the one who came in right before him."
"Agreed," Phoebe said.
"Ok, Lucy gets to flip the coin first," Cecilia said to Lucy. "You flip to coin and decide my fate."
"Ok," Lucy agreed.
Lucy flipped the coin. "It is heads," she said, "You get the first rider through the door!"
"Provided it isn't Cody," Phoebe reminded her.
"Provided he isn't Cody," Cecilia assured her.
"I guess that means I get the last rider through the door," Lucy said and added quickly when Phoebe's mouth opened, "Provided it isn't Cody."
The three girls spent the early part of the evening staring at the door wondering who their dance partner would be. Lucy was nervous and was having doubts as to whether or not this was a good idea. She had been thinking that she and Cecilia were waiting on just Jimmy and Kid, but what if one of the others was the last to walk in? What would she do?
The band started playing a lively reel as people started to walk through the door. A few people started dancing right away while the rest went straight to the refreshments. The whole atmosphere was charged with excitement. Lucy could hardly sit still.
Cecilia squealed when the first rider walked through the door. She grabbed Lucy's wrist and smiled big as Jimmy Hickok looked around the room. Lucy's nerves went from nagging to positively alarming. She started to pray silently that Kid would be the last rider through the door. She was slightly relieved when Noah came through. That would have been hard to explain to her parents and Noah was too nice a man to get into trouble like that. Ike and Cody were next followed by Lou. Kid and Buck looked like they were both going to get to the door at the same time, but at the last minute Buck stopped and allowed Kid to walk in, in front of him.
Lucy gasped. She couldn't ask Buck to dance. She looked over at Cecilia whose hand was covering her open mouth in gleeful alarm.
"I can't," Lucy nearly squeaked. "What will people think?"
"You have to," Phoebe said in wide eyed shock, "You shook on it."
Lucy studied the young man as he glided across the room to a place in the back of the dance hall. He was dressed in a crisp white shirt and string tie with a nice suit jacket. He still wore the same buckskin pants he usually wore and his hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail at the base of his head. Buck seemed to take in the whole scene from his spot in the back corner. Noah stood near him. Lucy frowned knowing the two young men would probably hardly move from the spot. They wouldn't ask anyone to dance and nobody would ask them either.
"Hmph! They'll let anyone into these things," Lucy heard a woman say from somewhere behind her.
Lucy looked back to Cecilia and Phoebe. "I'll be ruined," she whimpered as tears gathered in her eyes.
"So what?" Cecilia asked. "I don't think I'll fair much better seen on Mr. Hickok's arm."
"Yes you will," Lucy argued. "Mr. Hickok is an acceptable dance partner. My parents will drag me out of here before I can even ask the Indian boy to dance."
"He is rather handsome though," Phoebe observed.
"That's beside the point, Phoebe," Lucy said exasperated. She looked back over to Buck. Phoebe was absolutely correct. Buck was rather handsome and it was such a shame. She shook her head to get the impure thoughts from her head. "There isn't any way I can do this and still have a reputation left."
"Well you have to at least ask him to dance," Cecilia said. "He doesn't have to accept. That wasn't part of our deal."
"What am I supposed to do?" Lucy asked near panic. "Explain the situation and hope he declines my invitation? I'll look even worse if the town half-breed won't even dance with me."
"Maybe he'll duck out by then?" Phoebe offered. "Then you wouldn't have to ask him."
"We left it up to fate though," Cecilia lamented. "We have to trust it."
"That's easy for you to say, Cece," Lucy snapped. "I bet you would be whistling another tune if Buck walked through the door first."
Cecilia opened her mouth and closed it quickly. "You're right, I would be," she said. "I'm sorry, Lucy."
"I don't know what to do," Lucy said still panicking. She looked over at Buck and accidentally caught his eye. "I think I need some air."
Lucy got up and went outside. She hadn't noticed dropping a lace glove on her way out. She stopped at the hitching post to try and catch her breath.
"Excuse me miss," a rich baritone voice said from behind her. "You dropped this on your way out the door."
Lucy turned around and found herself face to face with the Indian rider. His kind eyes sparkled in the moonlight. She didn't know what fate was playing at, but she thought she might swoon.
"Um, ah," Lucy said completely flustered and grabbed the lace glove from Buck's hand. Their fingers touched and Lucy felt her stomach flip. She locked eyes with him and felt like she was on the outside of her body looking in. He seemed nervous to her. It was always nice to know a when one made a gentleman nervous. He didn't let go of her glove the two of them just held the woven lace glove between them. Up close Buck was even more handsome than she had ever noticed before. That made her blush.
"I should get back inside," Buck said shyly and started to turn.
"Wait," Lucy said quickly. "Where are my manners? Thank you, Mr.?"
"Cross, Buck Cross," he answered. "I ride for the Pony Express."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Cross," Lucy said sweetly never letting her eyes leave his. "I'm Miss Lucy Halston. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Likewise, Miss Halston," Buck replied.
Lucy smiled at Buck before he turned to go. Lucy suppressed a giggle as he turned back and sheepishly let go of her glove.
She watched as Buck walked back into the dance hall. She all of the sudden wished that life wasn't so cruel. Buck was a very handsome boy and if weren't for his background she would be free to be with him if he chose to pursue her. A part of her hoped he wanted to pursue her anyway. She had never felt so nervous and exhilarated before. Perhaps it was because he was forbidden and that made the possibility of being near him dangerous to ponder.
Lucy shook herself back to the night at hand as soon as she saw Cecilia and Phoebe rush outside.
"We saw him pick up your glove and come out here!" Phoebe blurted out.
"What did he say?" Cecilia demanded excitedly. "What did you say?"
Lucy blushed some more. "He returned my glove and I thanked him."
"Then what happened?" Phoebe asked impatiently.
"He went back inside," Lucy lamented.
"He looked like more than that was exchanged," Cecilia teased.
Lucy smiled contently. "I'm going to ask him."
Phoebe blanched as Cecilia's eyes got as round as saucers.
"You're not serious," Cecilia said in utter shock. "I was just teasing before. You don't have to go through with it."
"Think of your reputation," Phoebe stammered. "You were right when you said you'd be ruined."
"I don't care," Lucy decided. "He is an absolute gentleman and I want to dance with him."
Phoebe and Cecilia let out a small gasps and then looked admiringly at Lucy. Lucy started to walk back toward the dance then suddenly stopped and turned around.
"Are you coming?" she asked.
Phoebe and Cecilia looked at each other and quickly followed their friend back into the dance hall. When they walked into the room the music had just stopped and the dance master had announced that the next dance would be the ladies choice dance. The girls looked at each other and giggled. They looked around the room anxiously to see if anyone was threatening to approach their intended target.
Phoebe felt all at once bold and timid. She spied several ladies eyeing Cody. Lucy saw it too and gave Phoebe a gentle push toward the blond rider. Lucy felt so much happiness for her friend as the smile on Cody's face grew as Phoebe came closer to him.
Cecilia grabbed Lucy's arm and they huddled together giggling quietly as Cody blushed. Then he held his arm out for Phoebe and led her to the dance floor.
"You better move too, Cece," Lucy said as she noticed a gaggle of other girls eyeing Jimmy.
"Watch and learn how it is done," Cecilia said confidently.
Cecilia sashayed over to Jimmy who was taken completely by surprise. Lucy laughed as Jimmy became tongue tied in front of Cece. Poor Jimmy didn't stand a chance. Soon the couple was dancing together near Cody and Phoebe.
That only left Lucy. She looked shyly over to where Buck had once again stood holding the wall up. She wiped her palms on her skirt and let out a deep breath. The walk over to him seemed to take forever. She stood in front of him and he didn't seem to notice her until she cleared her throat slightly. Buck looked at her in surprise and then the corner of his mouth curled into a slight smile.
"Pardon me, Mr. Cross," Lucy said. "I was wondering if I could have the pleasure of a dance with you."
Lucy watched as Buck looked around perhaps checking to make sure it wasn't a joke. He blushed slightly and looked down at her.
"Sure," Buck answered shyly and then quickly remembered to put out his arm.
Lucy took his offered arm and they stepped onto the dance floor. She looked around and so far no one had made any disapproving faces at them, in fact the remaining riders and the marshal were all smiles.
The way Buck held her in his arms made Lucy want to sink into a beautiful dream. She tried to let everything about the dance become part of her. The music was lovely but she was so overcome with sensations she couldn't pick out the tune of the violin as it played sweetly with a mandolin and concertina. Lucy thought she was a goner as soon as she looked into the dark, soulful pools of Buck's eyes. She was sure she would drown in them. His scent was unlike any other she has smelled. It was a combination of soap, sage, and leather. She found herself inching closer to him, closer than was proper for a first dance, but she didn't care. She just wanted to be as close to him as she could. She felt her pulse quicken as they swayed and turned to the music. Lucy inched closer still until her body was pressed up against his. The world seemed to fall away and Lucy was sure they were the only two people left in the room. Lucy's arm slid up behind his neck and she gently pulled his head down to hers. Her eyes closed as Buck's lips touched hers and she was sure that time actually stopped. His kiss was warm and seemed so perfect and natural.
Lucy let out a contented sigh at the conclusion of the kiss and moved to rest her head on Buck's shoulder, but she was violently pulled away instead. It was then that Lucy realized the music had stopped and there were many faces looking at her and Buck.
"You take your hands off my daughter, Indian!" Lucy heard her father yell.
"Mr. Halston, why don't you and your wife take Miss Lucy home," Marshal Hunter said intervening in any potential violence.
Lucy's father looked at Lucy and then at his wife and decided that he would do as the marshal suggested. "I'll go get the wagon ready," he said and glared at Buck.
The marshal nodded to a couple of riders, Ike –the bald one and Noah, to take Buck back to the Station. Buck looked at Lucy apologetically and Lucy looked longingly back. There was so much left unsaid between the two of them. Lucy desperately wanted to get to know Buck better.
Lucy's mother went to pick up her dessert dishes and left Lucy alone. She was in a daze and barely noticed when Cecilia and Phoebe raced to her side.
"I can't believe you kissed him," Phoebe said in amazement.
"So how was it?" Cecilia asked.
"It was magical," Lucy said dreamily. "I have to see him again. I just have to."
Cecilia and Phoebe exchanged a concerned look between them.
"You have to help me!" Lucy said as she grabbed both of her friends' hands. She dropped their hands quickly and pulled out the lace glove she dropped earlier. "Can one of you get this to Buck? I want him to know I don't regret the kiss."
"I guess maybe I could have Jimmy get it to him," Cecilia said. "We seemed to have hit it off."
"Thank you, Cece," Lucy said and hugged her friend. "We'll talk and plot tomorrow."
"Yes, we will," Phoebe said. "I want to see more of Mr. Cody too."
Lucy's mother gave her daughter a stern look and Lucy headed out the door. Lucy climbed into the back of the wagon and shared one last lingering look with Buck as he stood and stared at her from porch of the Pony Express bunkhouse.
A/N: This story just started out of the blue. I hope you all enjoy it. I'm almost done with another chapter of Dark Dreams so hang tight.