You and Me and Rain on the Roof
I stood next to Kitty on the Boardwalk outside the Long Branch watching Lily Baskin, the farrow dealer she'd hired, and Johnny Cole embrace in front of the stage depot feeling pretty satisfied with myself for keeping the two of them together. That's when Kitty spoke up.
"Gonna take the day off tomorrow," she announced.
"Day off? What for? I asked.
"'Cause we're going on a picnic."
Even knowing what she hoped to achieve, I readily went along with her suggestion. I love her and any chance we have to spend time together is welcome, but as long as I wear this badge I've got to stay true to the oath that comes with it. Besides, I can't subject her and any children we might have to the dangers of being a marshal's family. I can't give any of those killers and spoilers a chance to get to me through them and I sure as heck don't want to leave a widow and orphans. The job's too dangerous; I could die at any moment. Kitty could raise them, thanks to the money she earns from the Long Branch, but it's just not fair to her to put her in that position. She understands and I understand why deep down she wants more from me than I can give her. That's why, if she finds someone who's capable of giving her everything she wants and deserves, I won't stand in her way.
The next morning, with fishing gear already stowed because she so enjoyed it, I met her in front of the saloon with a buggy. Kitty had the picnic basket ready and let me take it from her to stow under the bench. I couldn't help but notice the blue gingham dress she had on that matched her eyes as did the ribbon tying her red tresses, which she wore down, to keep it off her beautiful face. Maybe, if we're lucky, we'll catch enough for supper and won't have to return home until after dark.
I drove at a leisurely pace out toward a favorite spot of ours along a spur of the Arkansas River, about three miles west of town. It's in a part of the creek shore with barely enough open space to spread a blanket in the sun and make a fire next to it, but with enough cottonwood trees and rocks to provide shade, a comfortable back rest while fishing and privacy despite being close to a side trail. I reckon even as slow as we're going, it won't take much more than an hour.
When we arrived I fetched the poles and a pail containing the hooks, extra line and a jar of worms I'd dug up earlier that morning and kept alive. I carried these and the champagne bottle down to the water's edge while Kitty spread out the blanket in a flat area encircled by the trees, placing the picnic basket on top of it. While she set out the plates and utensils for our meal I unhitched the horse, after pulling the buggy under the trees so it wasn't readily visible from the road, securing him to a tree limb where he could reach the water. Since it was only 10:30, and, despite the unseasonably warm temperatures, only early May, the champagne would be well chilled by the time we wanted it.
"Oh, Cowboy," she cooed as I sat beside her and put my arm around her to hug her close. "You remembered the fishing rods. There are times I almost believe you're not as clueless as you pretend."
"Is that a fact?"
"That's a fact. I may tease you about how little you know about women, but you are learning ever so slowly thanks to that well hidden romantic streak you displayed with Johnny and Lily."
Ever practical, I peeked into the basket to see what she'd brought for us to eat. There was chicken, hardboiled eggs and peach pie along with everything else we might need to enjoy our picnic and a fish fry. We walked with our arms around each other's waist down to the water. Taking up the fishing gear, we leaned comfortably against a large tree trunk. While providing shade, the tree's overhanging branches weren't so close together that the sun couldn't filter through them. Everything was perfect; it was quiet, warm, my girl was by my side and the catfish were biting. Best of all nobody would bother us, even Chester – I hoped.
After landing the fourth fish, I leaned over and planted a kiss firmly on Kitty's lips. She responded in kind until she felt the fish I still held in my right hand against her back. We broke apart as her giggles started, gradually turning into raucous, infectious laughter. I was soon laughing too. It sure would be nice if this was more than a quiet interlude, but we've got our responsibilities. Finally, calmed down from our laughing fit, I decided further embraces and kisses would have to wait. My practical side took over, actually my stomach, and I began to clean the fish with my knife so Kitty had no choice but to return to the blanket to set the food out on the plates.
Once the fish were cleaned I left them in the water in the pail that had held the worms and spare fishing line to keep them fresh, rinsed away the fishy smell and retrieved the champagne bottle. I popped the cork and poured the bubbly liquid into the glasses she'd provided. We toasted our day to ourselves before digging into the food she'd so beautifully laid out before us. In keeping with our mood, we entwined our arms in such a way that the only thing we could do was feed and give sips of champagne to each other.
Postponing our natural inclination until after the dishes were washed and put away in the basket and the chicken bones buried in a small hole I dug for them before putting the now nearly empty basket back in the buggy, we lay back on the blanket next to each other. Not wanting it to be in the way, but wanting it close just in case, I removed my gun belt and set it aside within easy reach above my head. For a time we gazed silently at the blue sky above us. We've been a couple long enough that, although no discernable signal passed between us, we rolled onto our sides so we faced each other, drawing closer until our lips met without the distraction of a fish.
In our passion we rolled across the blanket, our arms encircling each other pulling us closer and our lips locked in an ever-deepening kiss. Our luck held. Nobody interrupted us. That first embrace led to more of the same as well as short spurts of talking and laughing. Somehow, we managed to keep our clothes on, although we were on the verge of removing them as our intimate time together lengthened, allowing us to shove the consequences of being found out from our minds until they almost didn't exist.
That's when I heard a rumble that was too close for comfort. Instantly alert, I grabbed for my gun, but soon we were both laughing when the sound repeated. It was thunder, not gunfire. The sky was now covered with thick, dark storm clouds. We set about packing up to leave. Even so, the fish were packed away in the buggy with the leftovers in the picnic basket and the horse hitched to the buggy before we realized it had been raining long enough for us to be soaked to the skin.
"Kitty, we need to find somewhere dry or at least out of the rain. If we don't, we could both catch our death and never hear the end of it from Doc."
"I think my brain's been soaked as well as my clothes. For the life of me, I can't think of anywhere we might find shelter before we're back in Dodge."
"That's where you're wrong, honey. There's a place not a quarter mile from here. It's back a bit from the creek, hidden in a little grove of trees."
We were getting wetter by the minute, so it was lucky my memory wasn't faulty. The house was a burnt out shell with just the fireplace remaining, but the barn was mostly intact. Almost a month ago an overturned lamp led to the fire that destroyed the house, but ironically it happened the day after lightening struck the barn. The nesters who'd staked a claim on the place had used scrap metal they'd found to provide it with a tin roof while the house had an ordinary sod one. Those folks moved on, taking only what they needed, leaving a barn full of clean hay and a small stove in an area cordoned off by blankets that served as a place for the temporary hired hand they'd thought they'd finally be able to afford to help with the harvest come fall. His bed was a simple pallet of soft hay.
I drove the buggy as quickly as possible inside the barn and soon had the horse in the stall. To our surprise, there was even some grain for the horse and wood for the stove as well as coffee in a small cabinet. I soon had the stove lit. Kitty boiled up a pot of coffee while I saw to our horse.
"Kit, it looks like its you and me and rain on the roof, caught up in a summer shower. Reckon we can ignore the fact it's still spring 'cause this sure feels and sounds like a summer shower.
"Matt, once this stove gets going good we can be dryin' while it soaks the flowers. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda hoping that maybe we'll be caught for hours."
The warmth of the coffee going down our throats made us realize just how cold and wet we were. We knew we had to get out of our wet clothes so the heat from the stove could dry them, not that we really minded. Finding a large blanket to wrap around ourselves we proceeded to strip. Once we were bare, we remained close to each other in our blanket as we spread our soaked things to dry. Not that we minded the forced proximity, especially in our current state of undress, but it surely would have turned the heads of certain ladies back in Dodge to see a naked, unmarried man and woman together. Once our clothes were taken care of we grabbed a couple of towels Kitty'd found and used them to dry each other's hair.
There was nothing left we could do except relish our time together. At first, we sat gabbing away, carrying on a dreamy conversation about what might and could be if our lives were different as we sat in the hay in the private area surrounding the pallet. I told her of what I would like if it wasn't for the responsibilities that came with the badge and she let it be known what she dreamt of in that far off someday when I was no longer a lawman.
Neither of us bothered to look at our watches. Hers was in her rooms back at the Long Branch. She hadn't bothered to pin it on this morning so she wouldn't have any temptation to keep track of time. Mine was sitting on a hay bale, next to my gun belt, a short distance away, far enough so I couldn't read the watch without going over to it, but close enough so I could grab for my gun if that proved necessary.
"Honey, how long was I laughing in the rain with you?" I said as I began to laugh thinking of our laughter back by the creek and picturing myself stark naked pointing my gun at an intruder while Kitty wrapped herself tightly in our blanket. "'Cause I didn't feel a drop 'til the thunder brought us to. Fact is, it took somewhat longer for us to realize we were being rained on."
"I don't really know, Cowboy. It might have been as long as an hour. Does it matter? We're together now with nothing between us."
I couldn't wait any longer. Nobody was gonna find us in this abandoned barn in the rain. I let my end of the blanket drop and, stepping closer to her, pulled her end away. The blanket dropped to the ground as I pulled her into an embrace and we fell onto the pallet of soft hay. My hands and mouth began to explore every inch of her body as our mouths opened to each other for a passionate kiss that seemed to last forever. We continued what we'd started back along the creek only this time we could ignore the thunder and rain while all thoughts of someone discovering us were dispelled.
We made love as freely as we'd ever done in the big brass bed in Kitty's rooms. We'd raise each other to the point where she called for me to enter her and I had to do what she asked or burst. The heat we created as our bodies became one over and over soon dried us and left us with a warm, tingly feeling. Listening, it seemed the rain might have slacked off a bit, although it was still pouring outside. Here we are, I thought, underneath a roof of tin sharing a comfy feeling how the rain ain't leakin' in.
Kitty must have read my thoughts because she burst in on them saying, "We can sit and dry just as long as it can pour, 'cause the way it makes you look makes me hope it rains some more."
We made love all over again. Only by the time our passion was spent, the rain had stopped. We stood up and walked over to our clothes. They were now dry. We dressed and I picked up my watch to put it in my vest pocket. It was nearly five. Kitty found a fry pan and began to fry the fish for supper, using what she found in the cabinet that held the coffee and what she'd brought in the picnic basket to season them.
We were back to sitting in the hay finishing off our fish supper when we heard a rider approaching. I drew my gun and told Kitty to get behind me. A tall, thin figure with a limp burst into the cordoned off area where we were.
"Don't shoot Mr. Dillon. I was hopin' it was you an' Miss Kitty when I saw the smoke comin' outta the chimney. There's trouble back at the Long Branch. A couple of cowboys fought it out and then a bunch of others joined in. Sam finally got 'em quieted down with his shotgun but I don't know how long he can hold 'em. There's three dead and a bunch that needed Doc. I reckon you're the only one who can straighten it out so's I know who to lock up."
"Chester, you drive Kitty back in the buggy. I'll take your horse. It'll be quicker. By the way," I added as I started toward the barn door, "how'd you find us?"
"When you an' Miss Kitty didn't get back before the rain, I kinda figured you didn't picnic along the Arkansas but at that place by the creek that has some shelter. I was just about there when I saw your smoke."
"What if it wasn't us, Chester?" Kitty asked. "It could have been the people who used to live here."
"Well forevermore, Miss Kitty. I knowed they left after their house burnt. I seen 'em getting' some things from Mr. Jonas an' they tol' me they was goin'."
Two months later Johnny and Lily set a wedding date. Both of us were invited. Kitty even bought a new dress.
"Kitty, I'm sorry, but I've got to be in Iola for a trial. I'll have to miss the wedding. Sam will fill in for me as best man."
"I might have known. Despite all you did to bring Lily and Johnny together, despite our picnic and all we talked about as we sat under that roof of tin in dreamy conversation and serious lovemaking waiting for the rain to stop and for us to dry, nothing's changed. You're still married to that badge of yours. Is it asking too much of you to put it aside long enough so you could have walked me down the aisle in a wedding ceremony that wouldn't have taken place if not for you? I hate to say it, but it might be the closest I'd have come to us walking down the aisle of the church together. If you won't be there, there's no point in my going. I'll tend to the Long Branch while Sam's busy at their wedding. He can escort the alternate maid of honor. I know you too well, Matt Dillon. I lined up a substitute too. She's almost as understanding as I am or Sam is. We're lucky Johnny and Lily are even more understanding and that's a fact."
After her long speech, Kitty shoved me out the door. It was two days before she spoke to me, and three before she would allow me in her bed. By then it was a week until the wedding and only four days until I left for Iola. Still, once again she understood that the job had to come first. Too many people depended on me to do what nobody else could.