The General's Daughter

somewhere west of Colorado Springs, Colorado

Plains Nation

Rachel Matheson sat down next to Miles, who gave her a look. "Usually, you avoid me as much as possible." he remarked.

"Not entirely true." she smiled. "Besides, we need to talk tonight."

"About what?"

"I have something to tell you. Something I probably should have told you a long time ago but didn't. I had my reasons then and I have my reasons now."

"Okay. I'm listening." Miles really didn't like the way Rachel started the conversation but figured it would be worth it to listen.

"We used to be together. It was not the best decision of my life but it is what it is and I regret it now."

"No, you don't. Stop rationalizing it. And please, don't tell me you're going to spend the next hour telling me about your regrets."

"I loved Ben very much. That relationship wasn't fair to him."

"You weren't married to him yet."

"Yes, I know that." She took a deep breath.

"Get to the point, Rachel, if you have one." Miles was getting irritated.

"Charlie is your daughter." she said, quickly.

"I'm sorry, what?! I must have heard you wrong."

"No, you didn't.

"What exactly do you mean, Charlie is my daughter?" Miles repeated, stunned.

"I need to spell it out for you? Surely you know how babies come about. " Rachel answered, dryly.

"Wait, wait, this is impossible." He got up and began to pace around the fire.

She laughed softly. "Hmm, no, it's not, and you know it very well."

"Did Ben know?"

"I never told him but he may have suspected. He was a smart man after all."

Miles' eyes narrowed. "I seem to recall Charlie being early or something. Like Danny was."

"No," Rachel shook her head. "Charlie was full term, a perfectly healthy beautiful baby."

"Why are you telling me this now, anyway? It's not like it would really matter now, she's twenty one years old."

"It is going to matter. I just don't know how or why exactly but it is going to matter that Charlie is the general's daughter."

"So?" Miles wished for a drink. Anything would do, just something strong enough to erase the previous five minutes. Or really, the previous five months. He'd could be tending his bar, Ben could be tending his crops, Danny would be alive, Charlie would be wreaking havoc in some little village he'd never even heard of before she came marching into his bar convinced her Uncle Miles would fix everything. Well, he hadn't and he couldn't.

"Trust me on this." Rachel insisted.

"Rachel, I need more then that! Why now? Why after all these years?" A new thought struck him. "Does Charlie know?"

"Charlie doesn't know. Doesn't even have any idea. As far as she knows, Ben was and is her father. And, Miles, he was. Ben was the one who raised her and loved her."

"Because you never gave me a choice! And what? I don't care about her? Because let me tell you, I care a whole hell of a lot about that girl!"

"When she was six, she fell out of a tree and broke her arm. Ben had to set it because there was no doctors around, and no pain meds to be found. He sat up with her every night for a week while she cried."

"Rachel, I'm not going to play that game with you. You missed a lot yourself." Miles' words hit their target well.

She looked away and sighed. "None of that really matters right now. I just needed you to know the truth now."

"After more then twenty years," Miles replied, sarcastically, "it is now apparently necessary."

"Would you have cared then?"

"That's what doesn't really matter now, isn't it? I don't even know what to say!"

"Say nothing. I married the responsible brother, the one who would give Charlie a father and a future."

Miles gaped at her as she stood up and walked away, toward the tents. He really had no words.

He sat back down on the log, staring into the night for a long time, thinking. He supposed nothing really changed between him and Charlie. However, there was Rachel. Would she find it necessary to tell Charlie,too? Why had she broken her silence after all these years, why would it matter so much? Miles didn't know and wasn't sure he was ready to know the answers.