A Desired Woman

Contributor: John Laneri

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I arrived in Santa Fe by stagecoach, the trip marked by sweltering heat, constant breakdowns and potholes deep enough to swallow a man whole. All of which prompted me to rest up for a few days before continuing on to Texas where a job offer awaited me in Fort Worth.

Laura came into my life on the second day while I was having dinner at a local cafe. Our mutual attraction had been immediate.

In appearance, she was a pleasant looking woman with reddish-brown hair highlighted by a captivating smile. She was also the reason why I had extended my stay for another few days when I realized that I had never met a woman who enraptured me so completely.

Several days later, while waiting for her near the town square, I saw her hurry in front of a horse drawn wagon then step quickly in my direction. She appeared shaken, her blouse torn and her hair tossed about as if blown by a strong wind.

In her right hand, partially hidden between the folds of her skirt, I noticed a Colt forty-four revolver.

What are you doing with that thing?” I asked, as I stepped in front of her and reached to take it away.

She released the weapon then cautiously looked about saying, “I just shot a man.”

“Who... why?” I asked quickly, my surprise obvious.

“One of the local troublemakers.”


“One street over, in a side alley.”

I started her away. “Was he someone you knew?”

“No...” she replied, as we moved out of sight between two buildings. “He was some bully that's been annoying me for weeks, making suggestive remarks. A few minutes ago, he threatened me with a knife. He wanted to take me.”

She pointed to her torn blouse, tears filling her eyes. “I can still feel his dirty hands groping my body touching everything.”

“Is this his gun?” I asked, turning the thing over in my hand.

She paused to dry the tears then said, “He was too busy pawing my breasts to notice me take it. At first, he backed away, but then suddenly, he came toward me like a mad man and grabbed my hair. That's when I hammered the thing then pulled the trigger and shot him in the chest. You have to understand, I was fighting for my life.”

She turned away. “The smell of liquor on his breath still makes me sick.”

“We need to keep moving,” I indicated, as I nudged her further along.

Once safely in the shadows on another street, we stopped to catch a breath.

She glanced my way, “My heart's still pounding. I've never shot a man.”

“Take a moment to relax. You'll get over it.”

Once calmed, her eyes steadied on mine. “Yesterday, I mentioned that I wanted to ride with you.”

“I remember.”

“Now, I need to ride with you.”

“I told you that I don't travel with women. The trail through Texas is too dangerous. The Comanche are everywhere.”

“So they say.”

“You need to listen up and understand that white women are much desired by the Indians. The plains are teeming with raiding parties looking for trouble.”

She touched my hand, her tone softening. “I can't stay in this town after what's just happened. The man had friends that are just as mean and nasty as him. Take me with you. I'm easy to please.”

I reconsidered the dangers and said. “You'll need a horse.”

“We can easily buy a horse and put together enough provisions to last a few days – something to get us started.”

“Did anyone see you shoot him?”

She paused to think back. “I'm not sure. I remember one of his friends was across the street in front of the saloon.”

“Did he make a move toward you or indicate that he knew something had happened?”

“He looked to be asleep. I think he was too far away to see anything. The alley was out of his direct line of sight and no one was nearby to witness the shooting. And besides, gunshots are common in this town. I hear several everyday.”

I knew the odds of making a long journey through Indian territory with a woman would be difficult, but I had no choice if I was to keep Laura in my life as well as protect her from people that would eventually seek retribution for the loss of their friend.

Finally after several minutes, I relented, “We'll leave tonight when the air is cool and pray for the best.”

She hurried to me and threw her arms about my neck, pressing her body freely against mine. “I'm so grateful,” she whispered, as her lips went to mine, her warmth penetrating my core, melting my concerns.

Once on the trail, our days passed easily. For entertainment, we sang melodies and related stories of people and places we had known. At other times, I taught her how to watch for signs that would indicate the presence of Indians.

Our happiest times were the conversations we shared when we talked of our dreams for the future. At night, we slept under the stars, sharing our love, our bodies curled into one.

To us, the world had became a joy until that day a raiding party attacked and left me for dead, hopelessly pinned beneath a dead horse with an arrow in my back and my confidence broken.

To this day, I still remember laying in the dirt feeling the agony of loss cut through me like a ragged blade, as I watched a band of renegades ride her away, their shouts of jubilation sending chills along my spine.

From that moment on, I knew that I would never again see her or feel her or taste her sweetness, for I understood the way of the Comanche and the fate that was surely hers.

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John's writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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