Fiction: Tangled

“Seems the bit of merriment you boys had got the lieutenant shot,” said the veteran doctor.

Buck swung his legs to the side of the bed. “I have to see him.”

“No, I’m afraid not, son. Fahy won’t want to see you. He’s upset and angry, poor devil. Says you both stole horses and deserted him—even set him up somehow.”

“We didn’t steal anything! It was Fahy himself who put us atop those damned horses!” said Buck.

“But you left the camp and put everyone in danger,” the doctor said.

“But we were drunk,” said William. “Even the lieutenant was fuddled. Why would we set him up?”

“Well, of course when you’re recovered you’ll have your chance to give your side of the story, boys.”

“Are we under arrest?” Buck asked.

Buck laid back on his pillow and the doctor unwrapped his head. The old West Point wound still looked worse than the new injury, and it concerned him. “The Apaches turned in the fool who shot Fahy, so that’s done. It’ll be kept quiet. No one wants any civilians taking revenge. Fahy’s in trouble with creditors. He’s very popular at Fort Grant, but one of his men here blurted out something about fixing the rationing scales.”

Buck glanced William’s way.

“Do you boys know anything about it?” the doctor asked.

Neither of them said a word.

A commotion outside the door distracted them. The door flew open and Thankful ran to Buck’s bedside. “Oh, Buckie! I came as fast as I could!”

Buck pulled her close. “Thankful, I’m so sorry for you!”

She smoothed Buck’s hair from his inflamed temple. “You’re such a silly pet! Buck, will you ever stay out of trouble? But you’re all right now, aren’t you? At least you’re still alive. The telegram was so vague. Won’t you reconsider the army?”

“No, of course not. But—well—you know about the lieutenant?”

Kenyon made signs that she didn’t, but too late.

Thankful pouted. “Lieutenant Fahy hasn’t written in weeks and I‘m sore at him.”

Kenyon came to her now and took her hand.

“What’s happened to him?” Thankful asked.

“Dear girl,” Kenyon began but turned to the doctor to finish. The missionary hated bad news.

“Miss Crenshaw, the lieutenant has been very severely injured.”

“How? But he told me it was safe here for him!”

“I’m afraid Lieutenant Fahy was shot by a young Apache—very intoxicated and foolish.”

“No. But they’re friendlies—that’s what I was told.” Thankful’s voice quaked.

“Fahy followed us up into the mountains after the party he gave in Buck’s honor—and got caught out,” William explained.

“I knew it!” Thankful cried. “I knew you were involved in this! Your stupid behavior has gotten poor Buck hurt and my future husband—I hate you! You’re selfish and reckless and so stupid!”

“Thankful, stop it!” Buck said. “It’s not his fault. I chased after Willy and so did Fahy. We were all reckless and drunk.”

“Everyone has to chase after you and follow you and rescue you, William! It’s disgusting that I ever loved you!” Thankful slapped her hands to her mouth, having said more than she wanted to, and cried bitterly.

William hobbled over against Buck’s silent protests. “Thankful … I wish I’d known it sooner—I love you too.”

Thankful stared up at him. “I said I once loved you, but you’re hopeless now.”

“I can change if only you’ll have me.”

Thankful laughed. “Don’t ever dare ask me to be responsible for your behavior. Who are you? A man should be responsible for himself. Just leave me and my family alone. What sort of man considers himself when another is suffering because of him? I would never desert Lieutenant Fahy!”

William’s blood boiled. “He’s no great shakes.”

Thankful jumped up and slapped him hard. A fly buzzed at the window, and men a long way off laughed at a joke. Thankful turned to the doctor. “Please take me to him.”

“Of course, Miss Crenshaw. ”

The doctor’s face scared Thankful then, and she turned to Buck. “Won’t you come with me?”

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Featured Image: “Portrait de Femme au Chapeau Noir” by Gustave Jean Jacquet

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Thankful is also proving hopeless. I’m not sure where her loyalties lie, nor convinced she knows either. She certainly doesn’t have a handle on directing her best interests. A sad story at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankful’s parents really did a number on her — and she was her father’s favorite! It’s always frustrating and painful to see people who we think should know better make messes of their lives. The “sins of the father” really do saddle children with a whole host of dysfunction.

      At the time I wrote this I had the sense that Thankful valued her true self hardly at all. Now, a few years into the foster care world I see that the scars left by parents are worse than I even imagined. I’ve heard so many stories of generations of abuse. The poor young adults have no sense of value in many cases and seek pleasure and love in the worst possible ways.

      What I’m really curious about now is how the siblings of children who are singled out for abuse are affected. Thankful carries a lot of guilt for not being Buck (the singled out one).

      But I believe there’s hope — sometimes it just takes an annoyingly long time to arrive.

      Liked by 1 person

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