"You sure that letter didn't say what the surprise was?" Rachel asked Teaspoon.
"You've read it yourself," he reminded her, "You didn't miss anything I caught. He just said he was coming in today and had a surprise for us. Mentioned he bought himself a place to live. Maybe that's the surprise…he's moving back to stay."
"That wouldn't be much of a surprise, Teaspoon," Lou said crossing the threshold of his office. "If he bought a place here and all."
"Wonder what it is then," Kid pondered.
They stood there waiting and not able to think of a single thing to talk about. Actually they could think of a topic but the only thing on their minds was the already played out topic of Jimmy's impending arrival. Luckily it wasn't an unbearably long time before they saw the wagon stop out front and their old friend jumped down and then turned to help a woman down.
"That's some surprise, Jimmy," Lou said fighting a giggle. Why she should giggle she didn't know but something about Jimmy surprising them with a woman struck her as funny.
Jimmy turned with a trail-weary smile on his face.
"This is Martha…my wife."
Jimmy pulled the chair out for Martha before he sat down himself. The others watched and at first wondered about the change in him but then decided it was kind of sweet. Rachel still furrowed her brow. Something still struck her as strange. Martha seemed nice enough but something in Jimmy's demeanor was just different. Maybe she could talk to him. They hadn't seen him in a while and surely not all news of what had happened had come to them. Something terrible might have happened to him in the time he'd been away. Or maybe he was just Jimmy brooding. She hadn't seen him in so long; maybe she had forgotten how much he brooded.
"So," Lou piped up, "How did the two of you meet?"
Jimmy opened his mouth as if to answer but Martha's hand on his arm stayed his tongue.
"Let me tell, sweetie," she said smiling at him and then to those around the table. There was a hint of excitement in her voice and maybe something conspiratorially mischievous as well. As if this was something she relished.
He just closed his mouth again and nodded his head sideways at her to direct the attention.
"Well it was funny really," Martha began, "I was working in a seamstress shop. I guess from appearances it was a dress shop but really there were more men in that town without women to mend for them than women needing dresses so you can guess what most of the work was. Anyway, I was up on a ladder in the store trying to get a box down off of the shelf. It was stuck and when I finally dislodged it, I guess I pulled too hard. I went tumbling right off the ladder. Well, who would be right under that ladder right then but Wild Bill Hickok? I had heard he was in town but I hadn't seen him. Guess he needed some shirts mended. He dropped the shirts and tried to catch me. We both toppled right to the ground. I'm afraid my knee might've hit him someplace sensitive and his hands ended up somewhere improper."
The others were snickering as Jimmy's face flushed a deep red.
"Since we were already so well acquainted, we started spending time together and the rest is history as they say."
Around the table the others laughed uproariously and even Jimmy had to join in the laughter. He knew that it had been a comical sight when Martha had come crashing down on him. In fact, once they had realized that neither of them were too badly hurt and she had removed her knee from his crotch, they had laughed themselves. It hadn't been too bad of a day, really.
And it had brought Martha to him. She was pretty in a less obvious way. Not skinny but far from fat…pleasing he would say. Where his hands had landed told him exactly how pleasing her shape was. Her eyes were a slate grey that could look at times like a storm building in the distance and then others lighten to the pale color of a winter sky. Her hair was brown, maybe not a head turning shade but when she let it down and brushed it out, it shone and all he wanted was to tangle his fingers in it.
He looked up to see the laughing faces off those around him. Lou was wiping her eyes. She didn't cotton to strangers always and was especially suspicious of women who got tangled with "her boys" but she was laughing and placing a hand on Martha's shoulder.
"And you still gave the oaf a chance after that?" Lou laughed.
"Well, he does have certain…redeeming features."
The two kept laughing and Lou collected herself enough to regale the table with a few of Kid's less than flattering moments. Jimmy caught Kid's eye and they both sort of smiled uncomfortably. It was good to see the women bonding but they both wished it wasn't over their own embarrassments.
Once the merriment over Jimmy's and Kid's faults died down, Teaspoon complimented Rachel on a wonderful meal.
"Yeah it is good, Rachel," Kid added.
"Better than we get some nights, right Kid?" Lou said with a gleam in her eye.
"Most nights we do alright but neither one of us has completely mastered cooking."
"Probably don't help that I hate doing it," Lou said, "Don't think you like it too much either. If we didn't have to in order to not starve…"
"Jimmy does most of our cooking," Martha said with something resembling pride. "I can but I don't care for the chore much either. He's not bad—not much for variety but then I guess if I get bored of what he makes I could cook something myself or buy him a book of recipes."
They all chuckled at that, even Jimmy did in spite of himself. The little cluster of people talked on into the night until Kid and Lou stood and said how early it seemed morning came and that they would have to go. Jimmy looked to Martha and raised his eyebrows.
"Yes," she said as much to him as the rest. "We probably should go too."
Jimmy stood and helped pull out her chair and offered a hand to her. Then he quickly retrieved her wrap. They all huddled at the door saying their goodbyes and Teaspoon caught Jimmy before he walked out.
"I think you found yourself a keeper, there. Strong woman like that."
Jimmy nodded with a loopy smile as he walked out of the house.
Okay...so it's not a play. I thought the titlewas more interesting that way...had more of a ring to it. I know the chapter is short. They all will be...all three...let me know what you think. Of the story, of Martha...whatever.-J