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Bubble Baths and Bullets

by Hadley Frances 3 years ago in fiction
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Hosea Tribe leaned back in the steaming copper tub filled to the brim with clean bubbly water and exhaled a long ragged breath. It had been eighteen days since his last bath, and that had really only been a dip in the river with a bar of borrowed soap. Stolen soap really… but he had put it back by the washer women’s pans and boards before dawn, so it didn’t seem to him to be much of a crime. Not a crime worth counting anyway. He had plenty of those tallied up already. Breathing in and out deeply Hosea’s aching muscles began to relax into the sudsy water. He let his mind wander over the events of the last few days. By god but it had been insanity. Unbidden, her face floated before Hosea’s mind's eye. Round hazel eyes, hair the color of dark honey, heart shaped face and a full figure, curvy and soft looking. Not that Hosea had gotten the chance to test the theory of her softness… She had barely begun to warm to his smile, before the movements of a greater story had pulled them apart. The men to whom Hosea and most of this piece of the West answered to had changed things in with a swift finality that left the residents of the little township Kingston and the surrounding county reeling. The fact that Hosea was able to relax in a bath at the Kingston’s one and only Hotel had more to do with his exhaustion then any real security he might have. Perhaps the very knowledge that the door could be kicked in and he shot to death there in the tub at any moment made the relaxation and thoughts of her more delightful. Rose Lillian Carson. Rosie, as her friends called her.

Hosea had met the young women the first day he had come to Kingston, two weeks, four days ago. He had ridden in just after sunrise on a Sunday, having washed in the river with the unknowing washer women’s help, and smelling, if not godly, at least respectable. And there she had been, walking down main street with two other girls, Hosea had not bothered to remember their names, though he was certain he had been told them during introductions after the church service. Hosea Tribe was not a church going man, but on that Sunday morning as he saw Miss Carson enter the white washed chapel, he felt there was no better place to be then two pews behind and just to the left, where he could see the delicate pearl-drop earring quivering with each movement of her lovely head. She was not pious. That much Hosea had gathered, she and her friends were stifling giggles for half the service, suffocating their mirth each time Mr. Carson turned his dark eyes on his daughter and her companions with a quelling gaze. Hosea had demanded that his friend and contact in Kingston, Sam Cousins, introduce Hosea to Mr. Carson, who in turn, as etiquette dictated introduced the attractive young ladies to this newcomer. There was to be a picnic, and would Mr. Tribe please join the Carsons for it? And bless him but didn’t Hosea Tribe, some time outlaw, man of the Wild West, follower of only his own rule, say why yes he would indeed enjoy joining the Carsons at the church picnic that afternoon.

The next two weeks were of a strange dream. Each day was not complete without a sighting of Rose Lillian Carson. Sometimes he let her see him, and sometimes not. Once he brought her flowers, though he made it seem as if it had been an offhand thought, come to him only after he had absent-mindedly picked the wildflowers by the wayside. Mr. Carson, though wary at first, had begun to like Hosea. Invited the younger man to join his surveying crew and even stuck up a friendship, if only honest on his side. Hosea played his cards close to his chest. Three counties over, wanted posters with a fairly accurate drawing of his face were plastered on every fence post and the bulletin boards outside the sheriffs office. Hosea knew his days of peace in one place would always be numbered, and moving on to be an inevitable part of the life he had chosen all those years ago, looking down at his parents freshly dug graves. He was only a boy of fourteen at the time, but he tracked their killers same as his father had taught him to track game. It took, a year, a long year of near misses, bar brawls and odd jobs. Hosea Tribe caught up with the Smith brothers and shot them both, right there in broad daylight, on a bright morning in a town no bigger than Kingston. The then fifteen year old announced out loud how his parents had been murdered, for the simple act of being in the gangster’s path.

He pulled the trigger, once, and twice. The Silas and Sam Smith were so drunk they probably didn’t even recognize the boy whose family they had destroyed. They died badly, not sober enough to defend themselves from the boy-child challenging them. Hosea, so full of rage and heartbreak, could not understand why this was a bad thing. For it, he had paid the price, a wanted murderer and an outlaw from that moment on. Taking jobs with bank robbers and smugglers, refusing to seek out a home or any semblance of peace.

Until a job took him to Kingston, and to Rose, and now possibly to the end… He knew he should have left that first day, he had made the drop with Cousins and had another appointment to keep with one of the boss’s men, on a farm, South of Kingston. Hosea should have gotten right back on his horse and left town that Sunday evening, but damn if her hips didn’t look inviting, the way they swung under her thin cotton skirts, and the way her smile reveled slightly crooked, small perfectly white teeth. It was hard to get her to smile at him, but he did it once at the picnic, and immediately he wanted to make it happen again. Rose had one dimple on her right cheek whenever she smiled. She stirred in him a feeling of not just desire, but protectiveness, a need to be near enough to her that if so much as a ugly mutt barked in her direction he could toss the beast into a pond to be drowned. Hosea was being an idiot and he knew it.

A loud knock on the door aroused him from his lovesick thoughts. A vaguely familiar voice asking gruffly, “Hosea Tribe?”

“Who is it?” he answered, wary and already reaching for his gun-heavy holster belt.

“Silas Smith!” the voice replied as the door busted in.

Hosea’s mind reverberated with shock, thinking numbly, even as he leapt from the tub drew his gun and heard a bullet blast a leak in the bath pan; 'He’s dead. I shot him, shot them both. They’re dead.'

fiction

About the author

Hadley Frances

Long honey-brown hair and just one dimple.

Loves: pasta, rivers, other people.

Writer by night, or rather by the hours I do not spend at my day job, or hunting for thrifted treasures...

Read on, folks!

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