Journeys West - Chapter 19 - Going Home

Chapter 19 - Going Home

By Monica Rose and Marina Kelly
Proofread by: Qmodo

Mary Sue strode happily out of the Liberal Arts building and onto the quad. Dropping onto a bench, the afternoon sun felt great. Now that the summer heat was in the offing, but not quite here yet, it felt good to take a few minutes to just enjoy the afternoon.

The lion's share of organizing her notes and all of the typing of evidence and conclusions was done, so she could begin the task of proofreading and editing. She already felt that she was close to being done and her faculty advisor agreed with her. Once her dissertation was accepted all she had left was the daunting prospect of defending her thesis at a ‘viva voce’, Latin for an oral examination, in front of a panel of experts.

She had been meeting weekly with Professor Freidman to discuss her progress on her thesis and his attitude was a marked change from before she had driven out to Laramie. While he still had the same opinion regarding the original focus of her paper, the addition of Yolanda's experiences seemed to engage him. He did make suggestions for changes that she did not agree with, but he was not upset when she did not incorporate them.

When she asked him about his attitude change, he readily explained why he was willing to support how she was changing her thesis. Many years ago, he had done his own work on Edward Hyde, the governor of New York in the early 1700's. The man was reputed to have been a transvestite and was known to wear woman's clothing to formal functions. Despite this small personality idiosyncrasy, the man had been a brilliant politician and a great governor.

Mary Sue thought for a second then said, “I have heard about him. He would dress as a woman in hooped skirts and lurk behind trees to pounce on unsuspecting victims and laugh.

The professor smiled and said “Exactly, it gave himself a decided advantage in negotiations. When asked why he did that his reply was classically way before his time, “I represent the world's greatest woman, the Queen and in all respects I ought to represent her as faithfully as I can."

The professor felt that Mary Sue's thesis touched on subjects that were avoided or just not pertinent to other historian's focus. This could help energize other scholars to look at historical figures in a new light. She recalled the disdainful attitude her faculty advisor had taken when she described the original focus of her thesis, but that attitude changed when he read her new thesis proposal and her very rough first draft. Having her advisor supporting her in this change meant that the review committee would be unlikely to reject it.

She had been back from Wyoming for a few weeks now and she intentionally kept herself busy. Between working on her paper and spending weekends working at the casino, she saw Evelyn once or twice a week, but Evelyn was preparing for her own exams and did not have much time for socializing. Being able to talk to her roommate helped to manage some of the sadness that still hit her when she wasn't expecting it. She had cried out all of the tears she was going to on the flight home. It was times like this though when she would think about her new friends in Laramie and, of course, Patrick.

She wondered what life would have been like if he had asked her to stay. She had been more than half-willing to give up her degree to stay, if only he had asked her to. She had done everything short of coming right out and telling him exactly that too. They had enjoyed being around each other and he had been attentive when they were together. She had to assume that he did not see her as someone to spend the rest of his life with.

With the completion of her degree finally in sight, Mary Sue had to start thinking about what she was going to do once she graduated. History had always held a fascination for her. It allowed her to study how the world came to be the way it is today and understand the way the people of those times had thought.

Many people would have accused her of hiding from reality by studying the past. She could very well have agreed with them, but any misgivings she might have had in that regard had been washed away with her field trip.

Discovering that Yolanda had probably been transgender brought home the fact that this was not a phenomenon that was unique to today's world. She wondered how many people throughout history had been like Yolanda and the problems they must have faced with the need to stay hidden. She felt terrible thinking about how alone those people must have felt.

That still did not answer her dilemma about what she was going to do next.

Realistically, the only place her degree was good for was as an educator. She was already qualified as an instructor, but was that what she wanted? Her part time work as a cocktail waitress had shown her that she was comfortable around people and her weeks researching her paper was enough to make her cringe at the thought that she would end up in a classroom for her foreseeable future. If she could find some way to make a living off of just doing research she would be a happy camper.

She could always continue her education to pursue a different career that would allow her to use her current degree. Right now, she was more than a little schooled out. Maybe she needed to take some real time off to think about what she wanted out of life.

She really did not want to go back to Iowa to do her thinking though. While she loved her brothers, their attitudes and opinions were far too hardline for her. They had made their opinion known that, with her mother getting along in age, she had an obligation to return home and take care of her father and brothers as they worked the family farm. She would be grinding her teeth within hours of getting home. Her parents would have been easier to take, but they too had been rather conservative. How had she ended up the way she was when she considered her upbringing? All she could do was shake her head in amazement and be glad that she wasn't so hidebound.

What would have happened if she had told Pat she loved him? Would he have rejected her? They had made love twice in the few weeks she had been there. The way he had treated her made her think that he would not have let her go if he knew how she felt. She would have gladly given this up for him. Should she have put herself out there and told him how she felt? She wondered how much a librarian made anyway. In a fit of wishful thinking, she even did a computer inquiry into teaching positions at the University of Wyoming.

She mulled her future options and her past choices. There were definitely things she would wish to do differently, but only if it did not keep Yolanda’s story from being told. That meant that she was supposed to have made the choices she had. All she could do was live her life from this point and make better decisions.

She had been there for quite some time, so lost in her thoughts that she was not paying attention to whoever crossed the quad in front of her or along the covered path behind her. She did not notice that the scraping of shoes behind her did not continue moving along the walk. New York was not a place to not know what was happening around you, even in the middle of the afternoon on campus.

When the man who had stopped behind her spoke and asked, “Excuse me, but is there a library around here,” she gave out a squeak and jumped. The fact that she knew that voice sank in a moment later.

She turned to see Pat Summerfield smiling at her. He was probably the last person she could have expected to see and she could only stare in shock.

Pat's smile became a bit tentative as he said, "Hi. How are you?" Her expression was not what he was expecting, but he didn't realize that Mary Sue was in fight or flight mode.

Mary Sue nodded jerkily a couple of times before answering, “I’m fine. W-What are you are doing here?" She was thrilled to see him, but she couldn't believe it either. At least this apparition spoke to her instead of dropping a book in front of her and vanishing.

"You forgot something in Laramie and I brought it to you," Pat said, walking toward her.

Mary Sue was puzzled. She had done a thorough inventory a couple of times while she had been packing and she knew that all of her notebooks had been accounted for, as well as Yolanda's journal.

"What did I leave behind?"

"Me," he replied. "I wanted so badly to ask you to stay, but Laramie just can't compare to New York. I didn't think that you would have wanted to stay. On that last night, you said that you wanted to do something special for goodbye and I just thought that it was a fling to you. Liz told me about how big a fool I've been and I knew that I had to be here to tell you that I love you."

Mary Sue actually felt a bit dizzy at hearing Pat's statement. "I love you too," she said. "I didn't think that you wanted me to stay." Her eyes filled with tears at knowing that she hadn't been rejected like she thought. She was thankful that she had shared her feelings with Liz and that the woman was enough of a busybody to want to fix her 'friends' love lives.

She wasn't aware of how it happened, but she was suddenly holding Pat in a tight hug. They held each other for a few minutes as if keeping the other from being pulled away. They eventually had to come up for air from the kiss that their hug had morphed into.

"Does this mean that you're going to move to the New York?" She hoped that was not the case. She could end up anywhere after she finished school. While she had spent the better part of two years here, she certainly did not want to stay in New York.

Pat shook his head. "No, I'm afraid that I can't leave Laramie now. I actually came here to ask if you would ever consider settling down there."

Mary Sue stepped up to him with a smile and said, "I was always willing to live in Laramie. It's a place that really feels like home."

Pat added, “Even when you were getting shot at?”

Mary Sue smiled gently at him. “Pat, take a look around. This is New York City; we have more gunfights here than in old Dodge City. I know that we knew each other for a few days, but there was something about the two of us together that felt right. I grew up on an Iowa farm. Laramie would be wonderful to live in. We could get anything we want over in Cheyenne. I think that living in your house would be lovely."

A thoughtful smile passed across Pat's face for a moment.

"We wouldn't be living in my old house anymore. It is in the process of being declared a historical landmark because of its age. It's one of the oldest homes in that part of Laramie."

She frowned at him. "You mean that they took your house away from you? Where are you supposed to live?"

She was working up a good case of indignant and it showed in how her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. How dare they put him out of the house he had grown up in? Pat put his hand on her arm to settle her back down.

"No…no. I donated the house to the Historical Society. They will make sure that it stays in good shape this way. There would have been no one to take care of this place otherwise."

Now she was even more confused than before. "Where did you move to then? Did something happen to the house so that you can't live in it?" She had actually liked the place. It had not been the typical small frontier house but more of a spacious rambler."

"Let me explain," Pat said as he maneuvered her around and gently pushed her down to sit on the bench before he took a seat beside her.

"I moved out of the house because I had to move into the ranch house on the Kaylock estate."

He watched Mary Sue's expression go from confused, to surprised, and back to confused again. It was obvious that she did not understand what he was talking about.

Taking pity on her, Pat grinned and said, "I know this might be hard to take in, but I own the ranch now."

Now she frowned, trying to make sense of it.

He could see that his statement made no sense, so he tried to explain himself. "Okay, let me walk you through it. I was present for it all and I barely grasped it the first time."

He took a breath and started.

"Ron was charged with manslaughter in Tom's death and held without bail. He was considered a flight risk because of the people he had business arrangements with. His lawyer tried to argue that Tom's death was accidental or even involuntary manslaughter so that he could get bail but the court didn't go for it.

"The court left the foreman in charge of the ranch because Ron would not be allowed to manage the ranch from jail. Because of the legal situation, the courts got involved in deciding with the resolution of the estate. One of the first things that was done was to have Tom's office safe opened.

"They found his will, but a few other documents as well. I understand that Tom's lawyer objected to having the contents of the safe revealed, but he didn't have a leg to stand on. The court overruled him because Tom was gone and his son was in jail. That meant that control of the land might revert to the state and everything needed to be completely transparent."

"So what was so important that the lawyer was upset?" Mary Sue prompted.

"They found hospital records and some other official documents." Pat's voice trailed away.

"Yes?" She could see that there was a lot more to the story and Pat was actually enjoying the telling.

"Well…They found a birth certificate in there with my mother's name on it and my birth date. It seems that my father was Tom Kaylock and I was born several weeks before Ron.

"That makes me the older brother, even if I am illegitimate. I am now the owner of the Kaylock ranch until such time as Ron is found not guilty and in a position to contest things. Even then, he would probably have to share ownership of the ranch with me." Pat grinned broadly at the thought.

"I'm surprised that they even came to you and put you in charge," Mary Sue said.

"It didn't happen right away. I was notified by the court about the situation, but the Kaylock lawyer tried to block things. I don't think that he believed that the birth records were real and he demanded a DNA test. It took a week or so, but it came back and the judge read it out in a final hearing. You should have seen the look on that lawyer's face when the report stated that I was undoubtedly Tom Kaylock's son. Then…considering that I was older than Ron, I was legally one of Tom's heirs. Because Ron is in jail and probably on his way to prison, I am in charge of the estate."

"Will Ron be released any time soon?" Mary Sue asked.

"It was his actions that caused his father to be injured and die, so it was not truly an accident. Even if they argue it down to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, he would not be allowed to inherit. The law says that you cannot benefit from a criminal act. That means that I am probably going to remain the sole heir of my bastard father, Tom Kaylock." He paused and grinned, "Of course, technically I'm the bastard."

"So Tom's will didn't name Ron as his heir?"

Pat nodded and said, "It did state that Ron was to inherit, but that was considered invalid by the court because Ron is accused of Tom's death."

"What are you going to do about Ron? It sounds like he is going to prison."

"I'm a bit torn about what to do for him as there is no friendship between us, let alone love. But I can't just throw him to the wolves. I think that the estate can at least pay for his defense."

Pat looked her in the eye and asked, "What do you think? Could you handle a life of being a rancher’s wife?"

Mary Sue gave him a sidelong glance, “Are you asking me to be your wife?” She smiled as she snuggled into his side. "I could deal with it. Remember, I declared my love for you before I knew that you were rich. I would still marry you if you weren't."

"Yes, about that," Pat began. He took out a small box from his pocket.

Her eyes lit up at the sight of the box. It was not the way she had hoped that someone would propose to her, but she didn't care, this is what she wanted with all of her heart. Her prince had followed her to declare his love.

He said, "I know that it is probably too soon in our relationship to ask you to marry me, but will you wear this as a form of engagement ring?"

He opened the ring box to display a beautiful ring. Instead of just a diamond in the center, it prominently displayed a round, faceted emerald surrounded by smaller diamonds. It was all set in dark yellow gold. From a class project she had done, Mary Sue recognized it as a very old engagement ring, approaching almost 200 years old.

"I was told that it belonged to a Russian tsar before he gave it to my grandmother. My mother would have worn it herself before passing on to you. She was never married and she felt that it was improper for her to wear it. I know that she would have loved you." His smile drooped as he thought of his mother.

"You mean that you are Russian royalty?" She smiled at the thought.

He shrugged as he said, "My grandmother was not royalty because of how the marriage laws were written back then. I have received some letters over the years that mean that I could be in line for a title of some sort. Who knows, you could be the wife of a land baron and a tsarina."

She looked up in shock at Pat's broad smile. "I would dearly love to wear your ring, any ring, Pat. But this ring is far too precious for me to ever wear. It belongs in a display case. It would rip my heart out, if I were to damage it while I was doing housework."

"I understand," he said, pulling Mary Sue into a tight hug. "But who said you will be doing all the house work?"

"Oh, do you plan to hire a maid?"

"Not exactly. I view a marriage as a true partnership. I plan on doing my share of the work too."

Mary Sue smiled at the thought of Pat scurrying around the ranch in a French Maid outfit, while she sat on porch sipping tea.

Pat interrupted her daydream when he said, "Would you let me buy you a conventional diamond engagement ring?"

He slipped onto her hand, the ring fitting snugly on its traditional finger.

She tugged at it for a moment and said, "I don't think that I am going to be taking it off any time soon. We could consider this to be our engagement ring for now."

They hugged each other tightly and exchanged kisses for a while longer before they decided to head off to the apartment she shared with Evelyn.

* * * * *

Evelyn was home when the lovebirds arrived. She took one look at Pat and knew immediately who he was.

Her smile could have split her face in two as she said, "I'm glad you came to get her. Whenever I saw her, she looked like she had lost her best friend." She stepped forward with her hand out to finally introduce herself. "I'm Evelyn, the roommate and I suspect that you will be the new roommate."

Pat returned her smile and took her hand. "Yes, ma'am. At least I hope so."

Evelyn glanced over to where Mary Sue was watching and saw how she was stroking the ring on her left hand. She grinned again and pointed out, "I think that is a foregone conclusion. If you could hear how she has talked about you, there would be no doubt at all."

"Well, I am feeling very good about my future," Pat responded. "I was about to ask Mary Sue to accompany me to dinner. Would you like to join us? I don't think that Mary would mind greatly if I took you both out." He looked over at Mary Sue. "I'm sorry I didn't ask you first."

Mary Sue hugged his arm in response and said, "I don't mind at all dear. Eve and I have been like ships passing in the night for weeks now. If she's free, I think it would be wonderful if two of my most favorite people could go to dinner with me. Besides, I'll have you forever. I don't mind sharing you for an evening."

Mary Sue got Pat situated on the sofa and then joined Evelyn in hurrying to get ready to go out. It only took three-quarters of an hour before they were ready.

Both women looked beautiful, neither had tried to make themselves look like fashion models, but Pat thought that they could give a model a run for her money.

Mary Sue had opted for a light blue knit dress that hugged her curves nicely and came down to just above her knees. She was wearing heels for the first time in quite a while and they brought her up so that she could look into Pat's blue eyes much more easily. Her dark brown hair had been brushed back and caught so that it flowed down the middle of her back. This exposed her ears to display the emerald earrings she had found in her jewelry box. Her makeup was elegantly done to make her eyes pop, making sure that she would stand out in a crowd.

Evelyn had done well for herself as well. Her blond hair was styled so that it framed her face before streaming back to her shoulders. Her makeup was done in what she called New Your City chic. It had been done to make her greenish-brown eyes almost glow as well as complement the steel-gray knit dress that she wore. It almost appeared as if the two women had purchased the dresses at the same time.

Actually, they had. Evelyn had dragged Mary out for some retail therapy to cheer her up the week before.

Standing in the living room as they stepped out of the small hallway, Pat felt extremely underdressed in comparison.

In response to their silent question, Pat smiled and nodded in appreciation. "Ladies, you both look absolutely beautiful. When I look at you, I feel like I should be wearing a suit and calling myself James Bond."

That was obviously the kind of compliment the ladies liked to hear. Mary Sue stepped up to him and kissed him.
"Thank you. We have not had much of a chance to get dressed for quite a while. It's good to hear that you think that we are even halfway attractive."

Pat walked out with a beautiful woman on each arm and thought he could get used to this. He had used YELP to select someplace romantic and already made reservations at a restaurant in the tourist district, obviously hoping that he would be escorting Mary Sue to dinner. He didn't think there would be an issue with adding Evelyn. Even if there was, the proper gratuity would solve any objections.

Pat escorted the ladies down to the taxi stand and they headed off to dinner. They spent the evening talking and laughing about a variety of subjects, with Eve confirming a humorous side to Mary Sue he had just caught glimpses of. He got them back to the apartment well before last call, having consumed a celebratory bottle of champagne. When the tables around them heard that Pat and Mary Sue had just become engaged, he had not been allowed to pay for the bottle he had ordered. While he could well afford it, it would have been rude to decline the gift, so they thanked their new friends and enjoyed themselves.

Once they were home again, it was not difficult for Mary Sue to convince Pat to stay the night.

* * * * *

One of the first things Mary Sue did was phone her boss. The casinos were accustomed to losing employees so they were not overly upset when Mary Sue called to explain why she would not be working the coming weekend. Her supervisor actually congratulated her on her engagement.

It was a wonderful week before Pat was forced to return to Wyoming. During the day, Mary Sue put the finishing touches on her thesis and Pat enjoyed a busman's holiday by talking with the librarians responsible for the university's various collections. Seeing how things were actually done at the university was much different from learning about it as you earned your Masters' degree. Of course, it was doubtful that he would be using his credentials as a librarian for quite some time.

Eve gave them plenty of space as she was also working on her thesis. She was thrilled for her friends, but she was wise enough to avoid intruding upon their happiness.

In the evening, Mary Sue showed Pat around some of the more fun places in town. While everyone thought that visiting Broadway for a show was the end-all of New York, Mary Sue took him to see some other sights first. To give him some perspective on the differences between Laramie and New York, she took him to Grand Central Station where he could appreciate how he would have to deal with the sheer mass of people passing through each day. The terminal was not just a place where people came and went though, she knew that he would love the architecture as well.

Knowing that this might be the only time that they were going to be in the city, she showed him Central Park, the Met, and she was lucky enough to get them both tickets to the Lion King on Broadway. Just because everyone else goes to see a play, doesn't mean that you shouldn't too.

The nights were spent in Pat's hotel suite, cuddling. Mary Sue would have had him staying at the apartment, but Evelyn was still working on classes and the apartment wasn't private enough for lovers.

All too soon, Mary Sue had to take Pat to the airport and bid him goodbye, for just a little while. This time, their farewell was much more tender and filled with more tears from them both. It made them feel better knowing that they would be together again in a month's time. On the other side of security, Pat turned and waved one more time before heading off into the tunnels leading to the planes. Mary Sue found herself as the one watching as he disappeared down the corridor. This time, her tears rolled down a smiling face.

* * * * *

Mary Sue and Eve relaxed into the sofa, each with a glass of white wine in their hand. Now that they had both finished their degrees, they could take it easy and think about what they would do next.

Commencement ceremonies were low key as their families could not attend. Evelyn's aunt and uncle were too old to travel while Mary Sue's brothers had responsibilities to manage their agricultural businesses. Everyone did send their congratulations and best wishes though. They both wished that their parents could have seen them reach this milestone.

The only sour note that sounded for Mary Sue was Professor Friedman's speech to his graduates in which he took credit for the way Mary Sue had written her thesis. It had been Evelyn's urging to introduce the human element into Mary Sue's thesis, Friedman claimed the concept and the very focus of the paper for himself. Mary Sue was surprised that the man actually admitted that she had performed the investigation and analysis of the facts she had gathered. It appeared that the man really was a jerk.

Mary Sue had not worked very hard to find academic positions for herself this final semester. She knew that she would need to be contacting schools across the country and she had been too busy working on her thesis and its presentation to think about that. Then she had been struck with the 'virus' of second guessing herself. Patrick's appearance and declaration of love pushed her future to a side burner for the time being.

Evelyn's situation could not be more different. She had finished her doctorate in psychology and had been offered a residency at a hospital in Minnesota as a result of her first and only interview. She really did not need to work unless she wanted to because of the trust fund she had inherited from her parents, she was already set for life. She chose to work in the field to help people who might experience some of the problems she had as a result of her parents' deaths.

"Do you need to get to Minnesota right away?" Mary Sue asked.

"Not really," Evelyn replied, "but I want to get settled before I have to start working."

"I wish you could come out to Laramie with me," Mary Sue said wistfully. She wanted to share her experiences with her friend.

Evelyn smiled at her. "I should be able to take some time off after a few months. They actually have a pretty good benefit package for medical practioners. We will only be a couple of states apart, so we can plan visits."

The two women chatted far into the night talking about their plans.

Making the decision to pull up stakes and go west required some organization, very much like the work the pioneers two centuries before them had done. They gave their notice on their lease and Mary Sue arranged for a rental truck to be picked up on moving day. Evelyn's boxes and furniture would be loaded on to a professional moving van bound for Minnesota at the same time. Their remaining time was spent in either packing up the apartment or disposing of the things that they would not be keeping.

* * * * *

Mary Sue's trip out to Wyoming was uneventful. The girls had hosted a pizza party for the friends that they had asked to help them move out of the apartment. After the normal jokes about being shanghaied into being unpaid labor, everyone had made short work of getting boxes and what furniture they wanted to keep into the rented truck. A fun time was had by all, although Mary Sue had a small meltdown when she broke a fingernail. She was trying to grow them out. She associated long nails with femininity and wanted to be the perfect wife for Pat.

After putting Evelyn into an airport bound taxi, Mary Sue headed out of town herself. Driving straight through on the interstate freeways this time would only take a couple of days, but she knew not to push that hard. She would have stopped off at home in Iowa, but her brothers would all be busy running their farms. She usually only saw them on the holidays anyway. She was still working on a way to tell them she was moving to Wyoming and not coming home to Iowa.

She retraced the path she had followed a few months before, without all of the stops she had made to talk to people or look through cemeteries. She timed crossing of Nebraska so that she stopped before she reached the area that was probably the stomping grounds of her savior cowboy-turned-masher. She was armed with pepper spray just in case, perfume was too good to waste on a jerk like that.

Sure enough, the next morning, Mary Sue saw the pickup truck that she remembered from last time. It was parked at a garage along the frontage road, probably where he worked. She recalled his reaction when he ended up with a face full of White Diamonds. She couldn't help but laugh each time she thought about it. It was probably the best he had smelled in a very long time.

She stretched her fuel a bit to make sure that she was well down the road before she had to stop, the likelihood that he would come this far out was pretty low. Over lunch, she looked her maps over. It looked like she only had a few hours left to drive, so she made a quick call to Patrick to let him know where she was. Then she settled down for the last leg of the drive.

The road was smooth and she made pretty good time to reach the outskirts of Laramie. The small section she had found so comfortable looked exactly the same when she arrived in afternoon. With the notable exception of the group of people standing in the parking lot of Fred's diner.

She must have made an impression upon more people than she realized because Pat, Liz, and Samantha were standing in front of several others. Everyone was smiling and waving as she rolled the truck into a parking spot.

Everyone stood back until Pat and Mary Sue came out of their tight hug and kiss. While they had talked to each other every night, they no longer had to wonder about how the other felt about them and they were still making up for lost time.

"I'm glad that you're here," Pat breathed into her ear.

She rubbed her face into his shoulder as she replied, "Me too." The feel of his Pendleton shirt against her cheek felt wonderful. If she were to hold the cloth in her hand and brush it against her skin, it would not feel anything like this.

Seeing that the two lovers were talking instead of kissing, Liz with her normal irreverence, said, "Now that you two have come up for air, why don't we go inside for something to eat?"

Pat and Mary Sue grinned at her, refusing to be embarrassed. "It seems like I had breakfast just a couple of hours ago. But I could do with something to eat."

Most of the welcoming committee melted away to return to their jobs, so it was just herself, Liz, Samantha, and Pat to head on into the diner. Everyone bade her goodbye and promised to see her later. Hiram looked like he would have liked to join them, but he reluctantly returned to his garage.

It had already been agreed that Mary Sue would stay in Liz's apartment as she had moved in with her lover Samantha. Interestingly enough, the house actually belonged to Sam, having been passed down through her family. Her soon-to-be ex-husband actually owned nothing, not even a car.

While Mary Sue might be spending a lot of time with Pat, either at the library or the ranch, she still would not be spending the nights there. It might have been acceptable for the two of them to live in the house together when they had been sequestered from the violent elements present at the time, but those times were past and they felt that it would be better to observe the proprieties. She would not be moving out to the ranch until they were married. A decision that Pat reluctantly agreed to, but he could see the wisdom in maintaining decorum.

* * * * *

Life quickly settled into a routine around their small part of Laramie. Mary Sue did not have a degree in library science, but she had taken courses as part of her Master's degree. She put that knowledge to work managing the library in Pat's place as he now had a huge ranch to oversee. Mary Sue spent her time organizing the archives and studying some of the artifacts that were stored in the closed section of the library.

Pat and Mary Sue were sitting on the porch swing one evening, each of them had finished their respective jobs for the day. Snuggling up against Pat's side, she sighed in contentment and sounded a bit like a purring cat.

"This is nice."

Pat smiled. Even though Mary Sue could not see his face, his happiness and contentment came through in his voice as he agreed with her.

"I'm glad that we discovered each other," he said as he turned to kiss her cheek.

"I'm not so sure that we found each other by sheer accident," Mary Sue replied quietly. Into his questioning silence, she continued, "Ever since I came across that book of Mitch Bridger's in the library, I feel as if I've been guided to be here." She sat up to face him. "Do you remember when I told you that a girl dropped that book in the library and that gave me the idea to research the wagon train?"

"Yes," he answered. "Your description sounds very much like a gypsy. Do you think that someone in Yolanda's family knew the truth and wanted you to come here and discover what happened to Yolanda?"

In a hushed tone, Mary Sue said, "No. From what I saw in my research in Missouri, Yolanda had no brothers or sisters. It's possible that she had cousins though."

"So everything else was just a coincidence?"

Mary Sue was quiet for a couple of minutes. Still in her quiet voice she said, "I know that this will sound silly, but I don't think that Yolanda had any cousins either. I think that we have been brought together by Yolanda herself." She hurried on before Pat might start laughing at her. "Have you noticed that violets have been around us almost all of the time? Violets were Yolanda's favorite flower. Someone or something has been with us right along."

Patrick sat quietly for a few minutes, mulling over what Mary Sue had just said. The idea that their lives had been somehow manipulated bothered him. To think that agency was a ghost was pure fantasy. Pat didn't know it, but his attitude was the same as Mary Sue's had been when Yolanda had gifted her with Mitch Bridger's journal.

"I can't say that I believe in ghosts Mary, but I can't come up with any other explanation for things either," he said. "I haven't seen anyone unusual around town who would be doing this to us either."

Mary Sue kept her silence as she looked at him. There was no reason to press her argument with Pat. He would either see things the way she did or he wouldn't.

Mary Sue smiled and nodded. Whether he refused to consider her idea or not, at least he wasn't calling her crazy or making fun of her.

"We're here now. That's all that matters to me," he said.

"Me too," she said softly.

"What do you think we should do then?"

She frowned. "What do you want to do?"

He hugged her and said, "I think that we should get married. If we ended up together by accident or because Yolanda's ghost wanted us to meet, it doesn't matter to me. The important thing is that we are together."

"Pat, do you remember what the caretaker at the cemetery told us? That Yolanda was buried somewhere out on the prairie and not on holy ground?"

"Yes," he answered. "Are you thinking what I think you are?"

She smiled up at him, nodding. "Can we find her grave and lay her to rest beside her husband?"



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