We've all heard stories of individuals who on their deathbed see and talk to loved ones who have passed on. My uncle did and I so hope it's true. It's reassuring to think we'll be ushered over, if not by Jesus himself, by someone dear to our heart. The story I'm sharing today touches on this concept. If you have experiences to share, I'd love to hear them.
Texas Ranger Caleb Johnson slumped atop his horse, swaying to the pace of his sorrel mare. His head bobbed with the gait as he struggled to stay in the saddle and catch a few winks of sleep. It was a ritual he and Red were accustomed to. He’d ridden many miles while asleep and his horse hadn’t tossed him once. Some weeks it was the only sleep he got. Now wasn’t a good time not to be aware of his surroundings. He was alone, wounded, and weak. The pain from his shoulder injury screamed with each movement.
The captain ordered him to stay in camp until he could send him home with an escort. But, Caleb wouldn’t have it. Hell, he was shot, not dead. He’d stolen away in the middle of the night. All he wanted was to get home to Amy. It’d been five years since he’d seen her. Maybe he no longer had a wife. Rangers weren’t good marriage material and she’d not wanted him to join up. They’d had a terrible row. Her blue eyes flashed fire as she screamed, “I won’t be here when you decide to come home.”
Contrite over her scalding words, Amy wrote him faithfully at least once a month. It’d been a year now since he’d heard from her. Every time he thought he’d get home, his division was dispatched to another area and he couldn’t go. He shuddered. Was the tremor from his wound or fear? Something was wrong at home. He could feel it in his bones.
He struggled to stay awake, but fatigue, blood loss, and now with a raging fever, illness won out. His chin hit his chest and darkness clouded his consciousness. Dreams whirled through his mind—Amy on their wedding day, her shiny brown hair piled high on her head, ringlets curling around her face. Eyes spitting fire the day he left, her face red, almost as dark as the freckles that covered her pert nose. Oh, she was a corker. He loved her spit and vinegar.
Red kicked up her heels, sending him forward, jolting him awake. Like a drunk woken by the nudge of a boot, blurry eyed, he glanced around and noticed three Indian braves on the mesa top to the west, a half a mile away.
He wrapped the reins around the saddle horn, pulled his Winchester from its scabbard, and propped the butt on his thigh. He’d show them he was armed. Hell, he was so weak he couldn’t shoot a rabbit. Hopefully they hadn’t seen him swaying in the saddle like a drunk. His knees tightened around Red. She sprinted forward but didn’t break into a full gallop. Don’t let them think you’re afraid and running. They’ll be on you like ants.
War whoops echoed behind him. He raised the rifle with one arm, propping the butt at the juncture of his shoulder, turned and shot wild. A bullet slammed into his chest. He hit the packed earth. Red broke her stride and returned to him, nudging him with her nose and whinnying for him to get up.
Shouts of victory surrounded him. Red’s reins were grabbed by a young brave. She fought against the restriction but the Indian coaxed her forward, gently stroked her muzzle and whispered in her ear. Soon, she quieted and stopped struggling though she snorted and stamped her hooves in agitation at the smell of blood.
Vision fuzzy, Caleb spotted his valued star adorning the shirt of an older brave. Several men poked him with their rifles. He didn’t feel pain, only a roaring in his ears, and a calming sense of peace. The war party rode away in a flurry of triumphant shouts.
Bright light enclosed him. A form stepped out and knelt at his side. Pink lips, accompanied by a pert freckled nose and blue eyes, smiled. She leaned down and kissed him sweetly on the mouth. Her lilac scent filled his nostrils and joy filled his heart.
“It’s time, Caleb. Time for you to come home.” Amy helped him rise and took his hand. “Come, my love.” Together they walked into the light.
Thanks for Reading!
Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Desires of the Heart, My Heart Will Find Yours, Flames on the Sky10-9, The Wild Rose Press; Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom 7-9, Champagne Books.