The Preacher's Wife

Chapter 7

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14

Sunday morning

Julia had gladly accepted Kitty's offer to recuperate at her place. Doc had told her she would be fine but needed to rest and take it easy so that her bruised ribs and battered face could heal. He had wrapped her rib cage and put iodine on the cut, and Kitty was instructed to give her laudanum if the pain was preventing her from sleeping. But Julia decided she didn't need the medicine—she was going to sleep just fine.

Kitty brought a tray of biscuits and coffee into her room Sunday morning after hearing her stirring around. Julia was happy for both the nourishment and the company. Kitty had not pressed her for more details, believing that she had been through enough and not feeling up to talking about it herself just yet.

Doing a fine job of making small talk, Kitty commented that her lip already looked better and the day was promising to be sunny and crisp. Julia looked at the clock and said, "Church would be starting right about now, if they had a preacher."

Since Julia had opened that door, Kitty decided she might as well walk through it. "Julia, how did this happen? Do you want to talk about it?" She dreaded hearing the details, almost certain that the argument had started because of her.

"I don't mind talking about it," Julia said. "I told him that I've been seeing someone else behind his back since we moved here and that I was leaving him because of it."

Kitty's mouth flew open, unable to believe what she had just heard. "You what?! No, you couldn't—I mean, who?"

"You," she replied.

"Me?" Kitty said, completely confused. "I don't understand."

"Well, he didn't know we were friends, so I was seeing someone behind his back. And what he was doing to you and the Marshal…I prayed awfully hard over that, and I felt like God was telling me it was OK to leave. I didn't lie to him, Kitty. It's not my fault if he got the wrong idea from what I said," she explained.

"But why would you mislead him like that when he was always accusing you of looking at other men? Didn't you know that would provoke him?" Kitty asked, the answer hitting her like a ton of bricks as soon as the words left her lips.

"Yes," Julia said. "And now he's sitting in jail instead of giving that sermon. We're both free."

"Oh Julia, how could you take a chance like that? He could have killed you," she said, still in disbelief over what this woman had done.

"Frederick's a lot of things, but I don't think he's a killer" she said. "And if it turned out he was…well, that life wasn't much worth living anyway. It was a chance I had to take. Even if it only helped you, it was worth it."

Kitty's eyes welled up with tears. "You are quite a woman, Julia Wright," she said.

"Julia Clemens," she corrected, referring to her maiden name. "I just wish I could have seen the look on Frederick's face when the Marshal arrested him," she said, slightly smiling.

"Me too," Kitty had to admit. "I was a little worried when Matt left to go after him, knowing how Frederick feels about Matt. I thought he might try to put up a fight."

"Oh, I doubt it," Julia said. "He might be crazy but he's not stupid. Marshal Dillon is a much bigger man than he is. In every way," she added.

Kitty smiled at the comment. Indeed, he was.

"Kitty, what is it like to be loved by such a good man?" Julia asked. She truly didn't know, in any sense of the word.

"Oh…well…I, um…" Kitty sputtered, caught completely off guard. Her relationship with Matt had been the catalyst for this whole nightmarish sequence of events, and they had never really talked about it.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry," Julia said. "It's just…well, I noticed the way he was looking at you at the restaurant the other night. I mean, you're a beautiful woman and I'm sure lots of men look at you, but it wasn't like that. It wasn't a lustful look…it was like his whole world revolved around you."

Kitty felt a little flutter in her stomach.

"Well, maybe there was a little lust there," Julia continued, quickly bringing her hand to her mouth as if she couldn't believe she had said that out loud.

They both dissolved in laughter, the first time Julia had laughed that hard in a very long time. Kitty put her hand on the girl's arm and gently squeezed it. "One day there will be someone in your life who deserves you. And he will have to be a very special man."

The afternoon stage was ready to leave, and Matt and Chester heaved two large suitcases onto the luggage area. It had been just over a week since her ordeal, and Doc had declared Julia well enough to travel. She was going to stay with her sister and brother-in-law in Wichita for a while, until she got on her feet. She and her sister had been close growing up, and she was looking forward to them getting reacquainted. Then, she had decided, she was going to find a job—maybe as a seamstress, she loved to sew and was good at it. She wanted to know what it felt like to take care of herself.

Matt tipped his hat and nodded as he faced the woman who had risked everything to help a friend. "Goodbye Julia," he said. "I wish you the best of luck."

"Thank you, Marshal," she said warmly. "You take care of yourself."

With that, Matt left Kitty to say her goodbyes. They hugged tightly, the saloon owner and the preacher's wife—two women who could not have come from more different places, but who had shared a common desire to change the courses of their lives, and the uncommon courage to do so.

"Are you sure you're OK with all this?" Kitty asked, knowing that Julia was heading in a direction she could not have possibly imagined a few months ago.

"I am. I know my Pa isn't going to approve, and I'm sorry about that," she said. But I can't worry about what other people think. I have to follow my heart and be in charge of my own happiness. You taught me that, Kitty. You have been a Godsend."

"So have you," Kitty said through tears. "Promise you'll keep in touch."

"I promise," she replied.

Matt and Kitty watched the stage pull away together. "What's going to happen to our friend, Reverend Wright?" she asked, not particularly concerned about the answer.

"He has a hearing tomorrow. I expect he'll get a fine and time served," Matt said. He'll leave town before the new preacher arrives, he'd be too embarrassed not to. I'm pretty sure we've seen the last of him."

Kitty sighed, then looked up at him and smiled. "Buy you a drink, Cowboy?"

"I never turn down a drink from a pretty lady," he replied.

"Are you free later tonight? I know something else you never turn down," she teased.

Matt shot her a quick wink as they headed over to The Long Branch together.

The End.