In From The Cold by Jane-Louise

Word Count 1,110

I don’t own any rights. I have only borrowed them for a while. I make no money from this.

I would like to thank Suzanne for the idea that was her January challenge 2019. And I would like to thank SandySha for going over it as my beta. Thank you both and I hope you all enjoy.

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Slipping out of the kitchen, into the greying light of the early dawn, the young man was hit by the frigidity of the air; not frost, but almost. His eyes drifted out over the yard to the corrals beyond, with its sleeping occupants. A stillness surrounding them, most with their legs resting and heads lolling. The scene reminding the young man of the porcelain statues on the bookcase in the Great Room.

Not a sound could be heard. The stillness of the morning could almost be felt. Smoke rose lazily from the cookhouse chimney; only to hang in the air not far above the bunkhouse roof. The only sign of life, a single light glowing in the window, alerting the observer that the cook was up.

Out past the buildings to the pastures, was the glistening silver grass, heavy with morning dew. A whiff of misty haze hovered some feet off the ground. Not a dense mist, just a hint. Its fingers moving slowly across the valley bottom. The foothills on the far side of the valley still dark, untouched by the morning rays. Behind, the mountains raised their heads into the low cloud; the new light refracted in the atmosphere making them look like a bed of hot embers. The fiery orange startling against the deep blue sky.

The young man relaxed his shoulder into the cold pillar as he studied the changing light; lost in its beauty. Brought back to the here and now by a footfall behind him on the stone slabs.

“I didn’t think to find you out here in the cold brother” The newly found sibling handed his brother a cup of fresh coffee. Its aroma filling the senses. “I thought you liked it a lot warmer” Now Brother that was taking a bit of getting used to.

“It gets cold at night in the desert Boston” The young man bowed his head.

Now, wasn’t that true. All those nights on those back, border trails. Cold. His eyes drifted to the right and up the slope to the small stand of trees. He’d been cold up there too, what was it now some ten years earlier. His only protection was a tattered old poncho he tried to draw tighter around his thin shoulders.

“I’ll leave you to the cold then,” his brother turned and went back inside.

“Thanks for the coffee, Boston,” the young man said, bowing his head.

A “Your Welcome” drifted back.

Left alone with the cold biting in at his skin, he took a deep breath of the air to help clear his shaking heart as the memories invaded his head. The coldness stung his lungs, making his eyes water.

He put both hands around the cup to try and draw from its warmth, bringing to his lips, but he didn’t drink. His mind trapped on those far ago days he had sat up on that ridge. The mornings had been just like this, bone-chilling. When the air had robbed any warmth, he had ever had, invading his being; wrapping itself around his heart.

The cold pricked deeper as he remembered that first night he’d ventured down from his perch. He had slipped around the outside of the building like a shadow to look in through the large window. His heart had been turned to ice as he watched the man that had been pointed out to him as the Patron sat before the warmth of the fire with a dark-haired girl on his lap, reading to her as she cuddled into the safely of his shoulder. With him on the outside, shivering.

He had flitted through the house later that same night, after all had become still; touching, looking, yearning.

It was the picture on the old man’s desk that had almost been his undoing. He didn’t expect it to be there, his mother’s beautiful features looking out at him. Just three months before he thought he would see her again only in his haunting dreams. The boy had sunk to the floor by the desk. The cold of the stone floor invading his bones, tears damping the floor and grief twisting his heart.

Spending the next eight days up on the ridge and the surrounding area hadn’t been hard. The spring round-up had brought many new faces into the valley. When confronted a time or two his sharp wit and quick mouth had kept him from getting caught out. Everyone was too preoccupied to worry about a kid.

Slipping into the house at night he had dined well on beef, bread, and cheese. It was the first time he had tasted chocolate cake. He’d helped himself to other things also: a good bedroll and saddlebags amongst other things. Carefully, he concealed his acquisitions until his departure. All the time the cold dug deeper, freezing his heart. His watchful blue eyes turning to ice, numbing his soul.

On the last night there he had taken a nice little buckskin, a decent saddle, and a bridle, not caring if he was caught. Defiance had reigned supreme. He considered it his right. He had also taken a partly broken rose grey filly. She had sold well just north of Nogales.

“Your brother’s door was open, have you seen him, Son?” the voice deep and enquiring behind him in the kitchen.

Maybe he’d tell the old man someday.

“John. Come in from the cold” the voice boomed. “You’ve only just cheated death; you’ll be giving yourself pneumonia.” Now didn’t the booming words rattle the rafters?

Well, maybe he wouldn’t tell the old man. That was sure to put the old man in a pucker if he found out that a Lancer filly had put the first gun into Madrid’s hand. The young man’s eyes narrowed. Like the Old Man said maybe the past was best dead and gone.

Pushing himself off the pillar wall, he winced as the newly healing wound in his back pulled. Tossing his untouched and now cold coffee into the dirt in front of him, he lifted his eyes once more to the mountains. The orange glow had faded. The clouds now a fluffy white against the lightening crystal sky. The darkness of the night had given to the light of the day.

He turned and entered the kitchen.

“Well, Brother, have you come in from the cold to join us?” And didn’t the warmth of the kitchen and his brother’s low tones wrap its self around you like a warm blanket, touching his skin and thawing his heart.

Maybe it was time to come down from the ridge and in from the cold.

Maybe not the end but a beginning

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~ end ~

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