It was in the afternoon, and Kid didn't know how long he had been on the spot. Lately he really seemed unable to get the feeling of time going by. Every day was the same for him, and there was nothing to look forward to tomorrow. He really couldn't tell how long Lou had been gone; it seemed like ages but also it seemed like yesterday he had been talking to her. The only comfort he got every day was coming to her grave. Kid was glad that in a way she was here with him on his ranch. He usually spent hours here at the end of the day, and he felt as if he could sense her. He usually stood in silence, feeling the wind and listening to the birds. Lou would sure love the place; it was somehow like her, wild, fresh and beautiful.
Suddenly, he heard steps behind him and turning around he saw Rachel coming towards him. It wasn't a rare occurrence to see the woman as she came here often. Kid smiled faintly as Rachel placed a small posy of wild flowers next to the mark. She came next to him and rubbing his back affectionately, he asked, "I know it's a dumb question, but how are you, Kid?"
Kid shrugged his shoulders and letting out a deep sigh, he said, "I don't know. Bad, I guess."
Rachel looked ahead as if fighting with her own demons and finally she said, "You know, when my first husband died, I felt so alone. In the daylight, I could find something to busy myself with. But when the sun went down, I got so cold. I turned to something that could have meant my ruin if I hadn't stopped in time." She paused for a brief moment. "Kid, don't let your pain follow any road where you can get yourself lost."
Kid stared at her, feeling guilty for the way he had tried Rachel. He knew that he didn't need to say anything for her to know that he was sorry for his past behavior towards her. "Thanks, Rachel. But as a matter of fact, it's the night that I look forward to every day," he said, and turning his gaze down to the cross marking Lou's resting place, he talked with his eyes fixed on the spot, "it's at night when I dream of her, and I never want to wake up."
"But now it's time to wake up," Kid heard her say.
"What?" he said, surprised by her words and as he turned his gaze towards her, the image meeting his eyes slapped him hard on the face.
"It's time to wake up now," she repeated, but the image and voice weren't Rachel's, but startlingly he was seeing Lou and hearing her voice.
Realizing that his eyes were playing tricks on him, he closed them tightly. When he opened them again, something didn't feel right. The blue sky that had been hovering above all day long had disappeared, and Kid found himself surrounded by darkness. There was only a faint light but Kid couldn't make out where it came from. He turned his head to the right and through the window facing him he could see the heavy rain trickling down the glass panes and claps of lightning lighting the dark sky.
Again a voice called, making him almost jump off his skin. "It's time to wake up, Kid."
He jumped into a sitting position and only then he realized that he was in a bed. And then he saw her. Were his eyes tricking him? He stared at her as if he were seeing a ghost. She came towards him and leaning on the foot of the bed she said, "Kid?"
He kept staring at her with big eyes and unsure of his own voice he asked fearfully, fearing that everything would vanish if he spoke up, "Lou, is it you?"
She let out a peal of laughter and said, "Of course it's me, well, unless you have another wife hidden in the wardrobe or under the mattress, I'm the only one here."
She lit a lamp on the dressing table and among grumbles she began picking up his clothes that were scattered around the room. "Buck will be here any minute now, you know what he's like, so you'd better hurry up," she began without stopping her tidying-up. "I know you told Miah that he could go with you today to that horse auction. But honestly, Kid, I'd rather he stayed home with this foul weather. I'm not looking forward to nursing any colds." While she kept babbling about, Kid stared at her in silence. Noticing his strange expression, Louise turned to him and asked, "Kid, what's wrong?"
He looked at her intently and kept in silence for a few minutes before uttering her name in a whisper, "Lou."
She stood before him, her arms full with his clothes, and smiled tenderly. "You ok?" she asked again and at his hesitant nod she added, "You've been turning and tossing all night long. Have you had another one of those dreams in which your world turns inside out because you, one man, decided to stay with your family instead of fighting this war?" Lou asked not very pleased. She knew where her husband's thoughts sometimes turned to, and it made her afraid that he would change his mind.
"No," Kid muttered, his gaze never leaving her. "This … this was different." She turned her back to him and opened a drawer to place the garments still in his arms inside it. She stopped as Kid spoke behind her. "You… you were dead. I lost you, and I never felt more alone. It was so real, Lou, so real."
She turned around slowly and walking the few steps separating them, she sat down on the bed across from him and took his hand in hers. She rubbed his calloused palm with her thumb, and Kid could feel the warmth of her hand in his. "Kid, I'm fine, we're fine," she began, "I know you're worried with the baby due any day now." She paused and he looked down to see her swollen belly where their baby grew. Kid reached to touch her middle and smiled happily. Feeling his warm hand Louise beamed pleased and added, "I tell you, no wonder you're having nightmares with all that palaver from Cody last night. I'm glad to have him here after being wounded and I'm really happy for him if he's smitten with that nurse he met in the hospital he stayed in. But I honestly can't stand all his detailed babbling about the newest treatments in medicine. I wonder if the baby also had nightmares last night."
Kid laughed and felt more relaxed for the first time, but he still kept staring at her, fearful that she would disappear into thin air in any minute. Lou smiled at him, and added, "I love you, my worrywart." She leaned over and planted a kiss on his lips. Lou pulled away suddenly and brushing her hand against his cheek she exclaimed, "Oh Kid, you're trembling! I'll make you some tea."
Louise was on her feet in no time but before she had time to turn and leave, Kid grabbed her by the wrist and said, "Don't go. Please, Lou, let me hold you." She smiled at his loving words and let herself be drawn into his arms. Kid held her as if it was the first time, and after a moment he whispered in her ear, "Lou, if this is a dream, I don't wanna wake up."
Lou smiled and reveling in the warmth of his arms she said, "Neither do I, Kid, neither do I."
Thanks to those who have read this story and left a comment. You know, you can choose where you would like the story to finish, in chapter 13 with Lou dead, or in this chapter in which everything has been a dream. The story is full of references to dreams and nightmares, and there are clues here and there that merge Kid's dream and his reality at home. Thanks a lot again!