Vin had enjoyed hearing about Buck and Chriss first proper kiss with a woman, but he had broken out in a sweat now that it was his turn to have all the attention on him. He was hoping he would get away with saying nothing, but it looked like they would string him up first.
"Come on Vin .not shy are you ." teased Buck, knowing quite well the tracker would be squirming in his seat at having to reveal such an intimate secret to his friends.
"Need a drink."
Before the words were fully out of his mouth his glass was topped off, giving him no excuse. He took a large gulp and hoped it would settle his nervousness.
"Ya kissed a gal then?" asked JD from across the table, fully aware that this would get the tracker riled.
Vin glowered at the kid through his long hair, which thankfully had fallen over his face to partially conceal his embarrassment. "Course I done that, and plenty more," he boasted with a tone made raspy by his agitation.
"Well come on then, dont keep it a secret cowboy, do tell," Chris teased Vin knowing he could get away with it and nudged him in the side to encourage him further.
Vin sat quietly and thought back to that first kiss, so unexpected and so quick. Not in the same league as Buck's or Chris's had been, but it was just as intense. He just hoped they wouldnt laugh at him when he told.
"Not sure how old I was...."
Buck started to speak, his eyes wide in amazement. He was ready to tease the tracker, but a glare from Larabee was sent around the table that dared any of them to interrupt Vin. They knew for sure, if they did, they would never hear the end of Vins story, or hear the end of it from their illustrious leader. They were all aware of what that glare could mean if they decided to disobey it.
"Maybe was 11, but not sure, coulda been twelve." He quietly told them about his kiss and was pleased when he was not interrupted. The tracker knew that Larabee must have had something to do with that for sure.
He was small in height for his age but had become well muscled by working with a bunch of buffalo hunters over the last year or so. They had treated him reasonably. There were not too many cuffings, and none of them had attempted to abuse him. They had fed him well, and he had new clothes for the first time he could ever recall.
They were in some two-bit town after selling their hides. The money had been split between the men, and Vin had been given a dollar to spend all to himself. He had eaten with them after they all had bathed in the bathhouse and bought new clothes, Taggart had bought him his boots, Jed his shirt, and the rest had pitched in and got him his pants and drawers and hat. He felt really good when he was told to behave while they all trooped into the nearest Saloon ready for a drinking binge.
He had seen them drinking before, but this was the first big haul of hides they had gotten and the price had been good for a change, so they were all generous to him. He didnt wish to sleep in the rooms they had gotten at the hotel, so he had told them he would stay with the horses at the livery.
He purchased some candy to indulge his sweet tooth and pocketed the remains of his money securely into his pants pocket as he walked to the livery. He was stopped by a quiet female voice calling to him.
"Hey mister .what ya doin?"
Vin looked round wondering who the girl was talking to, not realizing it was him.
"Hey, ya deaf or somfin?"
"Me?" he squeaked pointing to his chest.
"Yeah, you." A soft chuckle came from the darkness and a girl approached him warily. "What ya doin?"
"Ya new here?"
"Candy." Vin grinned as he saw her eyes grow big, and he looked into the deepest green eyes he ever laid eyes on. He couldnt help but chuckle himself.
"OOOh, Candy yer pa rich?"
"Not got a pa."
"Yer ma then?"
"Not got a ma."
"Did ya steal it?" Her eyes grew even bigger as she whispered this as she walked alongside Vin.
"No .." seeing her curious look he smiled again and took the bag of candy from his pocket and asked her, "Da ya want some?"
The girl looked overjoyed to have been asked, but she lowered her eyes and shook her head. She still walked with him into the livery barn. Vin re-pocketed the candy to keep it safe and wondered why she didnt take some.
He went up into the hayloft where he had placed his bedroll earlier in the day. He sat and looked out of the large window, staring out into the moonlight into the clear dry night, with the smell of hay that he loved all around him.
He thought she had gone when he felt the ladder beneath him move and a small tangle of blond curls come level with his feet and she asked, "Can I come up please?"
He nodded to the girl but didn't move to help, sure she was capable if she had climbed without his aid so far. She sat quietly and waited for him to speak.
She was half asleep when Vin asked her. "Dont ya like candy?"
"Then why didnt ya?"
She shrugged her shoulders and then looked up at him with a trembling lower lip, and he watched as tears sprang into her eyes. "Nothing ta give ya."
"Dont need nothin," he replied as he retrieved the bag of candy once more and offered her a piece. They soon were settled up next to each other soaking the toffee in their mouths and getting to know each other.
Her name was Grace. Her parents were dead, and she had recently moved to live with her Uncle who had taken her in. He liked to drink and when he came to town on Friday and Saturday nights she got dragged in too, to help him home because he would be too drunk to drive the cart home. Vin could see that her dress was shabby, and must have been mended by her own hands, but she appeared clean enough to him although others in the town thought her a sad grubby child.
Shouts and hollering were heard coming from one of the saloons and Grace sat bolt upright listening.
"Whats wrong?" asked Vin, joining her to look out the window to get a clear view of the street below.
"Maybe my Uncle hollerin' fer me."
Then they heard a loud drunken roar and she looked at Vin with a grin. "Sorry gotta go now!"
"Uh huh!" She was standing next to him and before he knew what was happening she reached across and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek then rushed off with a giggle. "Maybe see ya tomorrow night."
She was gone before he could reply, but he grinned as he watched her fly at breakneck speed, gathering a cart and horse in the process, toward the shouting and howling drunkard. He laughed as he saw men assist her Uncle into the back, and she turned the cart to come back in his direction. She waved as she passed him with a smile on her face. He waved in return but was unsure if she had noticed.
The next night he was sitting on the boardwalk playing with a spinning top he had bought for a couple of cents. He was moping around while his companions were back once more in the saloon. He hadnt seen much of them, but he knew that soon their money would be mostly gone, and they would need to go out to hunt for more hides, hopefully taking him along once more.
"Hey Vin!" Grace shouted, as she reached his side and plunked down next to him. "How ya doin?"
They spent the next couple of hours in the Livery talking and eating what food she had brought with her for her supper. She had insisted on sharing it with Vin, pleased now to give him something in return for the candy he had given her. Both were lonely and didnt have friends their own ages. Although Grace was a little older than Vin, he liked her company.
"Wont be back in town 'til next Friday," Grace whispered when sitting relaxed against him and looked into his face as she said, "Will ya be still here, Vin?"
"Nope." He knew that come tomorrow afternoon they would be lighting out for somewheres else after Taggart had been into the store that afternoon to stock up on supplies.
"Gonna miss ya, Vin," she whispered, startling him.
Vin felt strange at her softly spoken words and knew he was going to miss her company too. He had enjoyed speaking to her like this over the last two nights. He noticed she was really pretty, and her green eyes always gave him a tingle. He really liked her.
"Ya know, Im gonna miss ya too." He smiled weakly back at her and saw a shimmer of tears in her eyes, and his heart leapt at the sight. His hand shook slightly, but he couldnt refrain from reaching up to touch the corner of her eye where one tear had trickled free. "Hey, dont ya cry on me!"
She tried to chuckle back at him, but at his touch she couldnt help but wrap her arms around him for a hug. Her warmth crushed him, and it brought back a sudden memory of a lost feeling from long ago, one that he had craved for in his dreams but never realized 'til now what it was, .it was, love. Vin had forgotten how much his mother had loved him until now, and Grace had brought that warmth back into his soul.
They held each other in a fierce embrace. No words were needed, and they were both brought back from their grief at their parting by a holler that both recognized. She broke free and looked deeply into his blue eyes that had tears falling just as freely as her own.
"Oh, Vin, I better go, ..dont want ta go..."
"Dont want ya to go."
Another howl, much angrier now, left her name floating on the night air, causing both of them to shudder.
"Gotta go, Vin."
She stood up quickly and broke free from his hold to run for the ladder, but she turned back to him when he followed her down to the ground. "Stay here Vin, dont come out!"
He reluctantly nodded and waved his hand in farewell. "Bye Grace!"
"Bye Vin!" She turned to go as another holler was launched out into the night, the angry tone seemed to abuse her gentle name. She suddenly stopped, turned, and rushed back at him to toss her arms around him and hold him tight for the last time. She whispered in his ear, "Love ya Vin!" Before he can reply he finds her lips pressed tightly against his with her arms wrapped around his neck.
Vin knew little about kissing, but he felt that he should do something. He could only think to wrap his own arms around her and return the warm kiss. She broke free from his tightening arms and pushed herself backwards. She ran, stumbling and crying out into the night leaving behind a very lonely young man, who shouted after her, "Love ya too Grace!" He didn't know for sure if she heard his words, but he hoped she did. When Vin finished his story relating his first kiss, he blushed hotly as he took in his friend's grinning faces. He hadn't mentioned to them of their admission of love. That was private between just him and her.
Breaking the silence first, Chris asked gently, "Ever see her again, Vin?"
"Nope.'bout a year later heard her uncle got killed in a bar brawl. No one knew where she had gone."
"Seemed like a nice enough gal there, Vin," smiled Josiah.
Vin nodded with a smile of thanks.
"I thought this was to be a proper kiss; didnt hear nothing about ." started Buck, but a dark flash of green eyes halted him in his tracks.
"Mr. Wilmington, were you not listening to our companion's encounter and of the young lady's exquisite farewell? Have you got mud stuck between your ears?" teased Ezra for Vins benefit. Vin was rewarded by seeing the Gunslinger squirm under Ezra's serious gaze.
Vin grinned and flashed a rare smile toward the gambler, silently thanking him for watching his back on this occasion. From out of the corner of his eye, Tanner caught a fleeting grin from Chris Larabee, which was also directed toward the gambler.
"If you have trouble hearin Buck, maybe, ya need to let me take a look see later," chuckled Nathan, grinning broadly and showing large sparkling white teeth.
"Nothing wrong with ma hearin," grumbled Buck.
"Thought it a real nice memory to have Vin," JD stated in a soft whisper, blushing across at his friend, knowing exactly how Vin felt .well, he just hoped Buck would keep his mouth shut when it came to his turn.
Vin was pleased to see his other friends, apart from a disgruntled Buck, understand how he felt, and he felt real good knowing the others knew about Grace.
Part Five - Nathan
They all took a much-needed break to eat some food that Ezra had brought over from the restaurant. He had even paid for it all himself, much to the amazement of his fellow peacekeepers. Full and relaxed, with fresh drinks set before them, all eyes turn toward Nathan.
Nathan was very unsure what to say. If he told the whole truth, it would probably cause some discomfort to himself, but a half lie did not sit easy with him. So, he decided to take it a bit at a time and depending on his friend's reactions he would determine which route to go.
"Got to remind ya all that I was a slave when this here incident took place." They all nodded in understanding. They had already presumed that had been the case, but they had kept silent. They all knew how Nathan rarely spoke about his youth and the time he spent on a plantation as a slave.
"Was helpin the master to unload some wagons, musta been around 13 at the time, plenty growd though." Titters come from around the table, but died under a withering glare from Larabee.
"Was hot and was taking stuff from the wagon into the store." He looked around evenly at his friends and saw their interest, and they gazed at him unwaveringly, even Ezra. He sat up straighter in his chair and took a quick gulp of beer before he resumed his story.
The weather was hot, dry heat with no breeze, he was around 13 years old, tall for his age and maturing well, mainly due to the heavy work that he did that had built up heavy muscles and sinew onto his athletic frame. Unloading the heavy goods made him sweat profusely and he rubbed his arm over his forehead to stop sweat from trickling into his eyes. Feeling hot under his cotton shirt he removed the garment and tore off the bottom to wipe his brow and thrust it into his pocket. Working hard continuously to unload the wagon took all of his attention, and he did not know he was being observed.
He was just about finished when he heard the rattle to signal end of work for the day, but knew to continue unloading until the job was finished. He had learned the hard way never to leave a job half done, and he had the scars to prove it and as a constant reminder.
He nearly dropped a sack of grain when a feminine chuckle came to his ears with, "Not finished up there, boy?"
He turned, without dropping his burden, to stare toward the voice and quickly dropped his gaze to the ground when he recognized the female as being the Master's Niece who was visiting from a nearby plantation. "No, miss," he replied and turned quickly to resume his work with fresh sweat breaking out all over his body. He had been warned things like this might happen, but he had never been approached like this by a white woman before, and this was the Master's niece of all people; he would have to be careful.
Warily, he came back and tried to complete his work quickly, but she stood to one side still watching him closely. This unnerved him and made him struggle to complete his task without falling over his own feet in his anxiety. He was aware he could be facing a whipping for even daring to speak to the lady, but he was forced to, not that that would make any difference to the end result.
His back poured sweat like a river as he let out a final groan when he dumped the last of the items in the store and shut and bolted the door. He knew the overseer would come in to check the items later. Nathan walked to the wagon and hitched the backboard up and locked it tight.
One of the livery slaves would be along to pick up the wagon later, so he turned to pick up his shirt before heading for his supper, and he groaned inwardly at the sight in front of him. The lady was holding his shirt in her hands and waving it teasingly out in front of her just out of his reach. If he wanted his shirt back, she was going to force him to go and retrieve it.
"Oh, Lord help me!" he prayed inwardly, as he saw a glint in her youthful eye as she teased him suggestively.
"Here, Boy!" she dragged her words out in a low tone. "Come on Boy, here is your shirt!"
"Justn wantin' ma shirt Miss, Ill pick et up."
"No, Boy, you must come to me and get it."
Nervous he moved toward her, looking to see if he was being watched, but no one else was around.
"My boy, dont be so nervous. Im not going to scream or nothing like that!" she giggled and waved his shirt again.
Nathan took a couple of tentative steps nearer the lady. His mouth had clamped shut, and he could hardly breathe he was so scared.
"You Nathan, Boy? That yer name?"
"Yes, Miss," he managed to rasp out still keeping his eyes to the ground as he spoke. An early lesson he learned when young, never to look anyone who was white or in authority in the eye as it could result in a beating or worse.
"My Nathan, you shy, how old are you?"
"Think Is 13, Miss."
"My, my, my, only 13 and such a well yes my, only 13 you say."
Nathan wished the ground would swallow him whole as his heart raced, sweat poured from him and even admitting it was difficult. Lord was he scared, so scared at what this white lady could do to him. He felt his feet rooted to the spot as he sensed the shirt right in front of his nose, and he gulped as he tried to clear his throat in the effort to breathe.
"You want yer shirt Boy, you will have to do something for me for it." She grasped at his arm and caught it quickly between her gloved fingers. He knew not to pull away.
"Miss, please dont. Youll get into trouble," he pleaded softly, still walking with her tugging at his arm.
"Me, in trouble, Boy!" She laughed deeply and hauled harder leading him back into the store after she had unlocked the clasp. "All I have to do is scream for your Master, my Uncle, and you will be dead. Do you understand me, Boy?"
Oh, he understood really well. He was dead whether he went with her or not; either way he was a dead man and both of them new it.
Back in the Saloon all was silent as Nathans words sank in. So far, it was not the story that they had all anticipated from their healer.
"Yer still alive?" Whispered JD in awe, staring at Nathan.
Nathan nodded with a grin and quipped back at him with a wink. "Last time I looked, JD."
"Hush up there Kid. Carry on Nathan." Buck slapped JD playfully on the shoulder and Nathan started once more.
His heart was thumping, and his legs were feeling decidedly weak when he was hauled inside to the gloomy depths of the store. She knew by his glistening sweaty body and fearful eyes that he was truly frightened for his life.
She seemed pleased to have this power over such a man. He said he was a boy, but he definitely had the body of a man.
"Know who I am, Boy?"
"Know my name?"
"Nathan," she spoke softly now for the first time and urged, " Nathan, call me by my name please." She had softened her voice and all the previous harshness had gone.
He was surprised by her tone. No white lady had ever used that tone with him. Why now he wondered, but managed to reply. "Yes, Miss Lucy."
"Thank you, Nathan. Try not to be so scared."
"Sorry, Miss Lucy, Ill try."
"This will be the last time I visit here, Nathan, you know that?" she asked softly.
"No, Miss Lucy."
"Nathan, dont keep putting your head down to your feet. Please look at me."
He shook his head, afraid to do as she asked. "Cant, Miss Lucy, not allowed."
"Fuss and nonsense, Nathan." She growled with spirit and stamped her foot indignantly. That made Nathan look up sharply, not directly into her eyes, but away to the side.
She talked to Nathan in a clear friendly tone, as if she has known him for years. She explained she had watched him since he was small. Nathan tried not to react to her words, but he found it a bit unsettling to say the least.
"I am being sent away by both your Master and my Uncle Charles as they both disapprove of my beliefs. They are marrying me off to a rich Englishman who wants me to live with him in England of all places. Nathan, I wanted to speak with you before I went, as I noticed you have a strong countenance and are very intelligent, more so than some white men I know." She giggled at his shocked look. "Aw, Nathan, dont look like that. Us white people can be ignorant too; some are very foolish. My Uncles think I am foolish because I disposed of a large part of my fortune without any of them knowing about it, and that is why Im being sent away."
Nathan nearly jumped ten feet in the air when a white cotton gloved hand pressed under his chin and moved his head up and back toward her own face. He was amazed to see her smiling at him unabashed and not looking down at him.
"Oh, Miss, please dont." he started with tears springing into his eyes.
"Nathan, its okay, I dont wish to hurt you, honest. But, I wished you to know what I have done. Please let me tell you, but you must promise not to tell a soul until the right day dawns, and you will know when that day will be. Okay?"
|He nodded, not understanding, but allowed her to tell him. She had parted with a substantial sum.
"How much exactly?" asked Ezra, interested to hear the figure.
"It was never revealed to me, exactly, but huge by the way she was talking."
Ezra leaned on his elbows, now deeply interested and opened his mouth to speak once more but was cut off by Chris Larabee. "Shut up, Ezra."
Nathan sips at his beer again and continues.
She hated slavery of any form and wished her money to be use to free the slaves. She refused to condone it to both her Uncles and their families, and she hated being around people who were not their own masters. She had secretly, over the years, helped to create a movement to start a campaign to free all slaves in America. Unbeknown to her Uncles, her new husband to be was also involved in a similar program in England. She wasnt keen to go to live there but if it would mean her being free from her Uncles and having to live under their rules, she was sure she would be much happier. But, now she wanted Nathan to know that someone cared for his people and their plight. She mentioned many people up North who disapproved of people owning other human beings no matter what their color, and they were hoping to enlist such people to join their cause.
"Some day, Nathan, I know you will be a free man. You will be able to do what you wish, go where you please, and marry who you love."
He felt a pressure on his face, and he opened his eyes to look into hers. It was the first time he had looked directly into a white person's face. He was frightened at first, but on seeing her unmoving gaze and clear smile he relaxed.
"Now, Nathan, before I give you your shirt back, please do something for me."
He nodded knowing not to fear her anymore, and his own smile touched his lips. He felt his own eyes searching hers, but he found only happiness and a clear soul.
"Nathan, please call me Lucy, not Miss Lucy, just Lucy okay?"
She smiled broadly back at him. "Right Nathan, now remember this; you are not alone in your plight. You will be free, maybe not this year or next year, but I put my hand on my heart and swear to god that I will vow to do something to free you in my lifetime. Do you believe me?"
"Yes .M ..Lucy."
"Thank you, Nathan. Remember, when you are a man you will be free some day, you remember that for me please and dont give up. Promise me, Nathan"
"I promise, Lucy," he said in a clear tone and smiled at her without fear for the first time in his life.
"Thats what I wanted to hear before I left. Heres your shirt, Nathan, and I am sorry for causing you to be frightened at first, just had to be sure no one was watching."
"I understand, Miss."
Nathan put his shirt on and buttoned it. She made her way to the door and was about to push it open when she turned to him and asked. "Nathan would you indulge me in one thing before I go?"
"Yes, Miss Lucy." He smiled broadly, slightly unsure of what she wanted, but he was relaxed enough to let her come closer to him.
Very gently her gloved hand traced down his cheek to his lips, and she halted her meandering at his mouth and smiled at him. "Nathan you are a very handsome young man. Have you ever been kissed?" Her question was so unexpected that he couldnt stop the blush that heated under his dark skin. She obviously recognized the glow that appeared on his face and chuckled at his embarrassment.
"Well, I guess by that blush Sir, that you have not been kissed by a woman yet. That right Nathan?"
Deeply embarrassed he nodded his head and lowered his eyes, but he heard her tutting at him. He brought his eyes back up to face her and she was still smiling merrily at him, not tauntingly, just happily.
"Nathan would you allow me the honor of being the first Woman to kiss you?" He is shocked at her request, but he saw the sincerity in her eyes that said she is not doing this just out of fun or curiosity; she really wished to kiss him.
"Yes," he replied in a whisper and blushed again. He knew that if they were caught he would surely die.
The kiss when it comes is not rough, or forceful, but so gentle that it takes the breath right out of him. Her lips press gently to his, no other part is in contact with him, apart from her gloved hands holding each side of his face and caressing his cheeks. Her mouth moved over his, and he looked deeply into her eyes. The warmth that he saw there made his heart beat so much faster. He knew to kiss a white woman was wrong, but this didnt feel wrong to him.
She was in charge, and she very delicately brushed her lips across his, making him relax. His lips parted slightly, and he drew in a deep breath when her tongue probed around his mouth until she had pushed gradually inside to allow her deeper access to caress his tongue with hers. That sent him spiraling with sudden warmth as he began to return her kiss, very gently at first. With her hands now wrapped around his neck, and her body now forcing him backwards, he found himself leaning up against a stone wall while she worked at his mouth in a fierce kiss, moaning with pleasure.
Finally, she broke free from his strong embrace and smiled at him. She put her finger to her lips to silence him and whispered to him. "Hush now dont talk. Good bye, Nathan. May god be with you, and remember me when you are sent free for I will rejoice on that day with you and all your people. And remember this kiss, because one thing's for sure, Nathan, I will never forget it."
She walked out of the store without a backward glance and without another word. Nathan leaned against the wall while he got his breath back. He came slowly back to his senses and then quickly brushed over the dirt floor, in case someone recognized her shoe prints, before closing and firmly bolting the store door.
He made his way back to get his supper and washed at the pump as usual before sitting down at the bench with his fellow slaves. He was late, but he wasnt particularly hungry as he glanced at the meager portion he was doled out. No one asked why he was late because they had seen him unloading the wagon and knew it would be long after the call for supper before he would appear.
"Did you speak of this to anyone, Nathan?" asked Josiah. He had never heard Nathan relate such a thing to anyone before. He thought he knew the healer best out of the assembled people and had his confidences on many matters prior to this.
"No, Josiah," sighed Nathan, taking a deep swig at his beer to empty the contents down his parched throat. "Couldnt tell anyone while I was a slave. I would have been hung for even speaking such lies."
"But I thought you said .." interrupted JD innocently.
"Sorry, JD." Nathan leaned toward him. "What I told you was true, but if I related it when a slave they would have said I lied, because no white woman would kiss a black man or slave, no matter what proof I could have come up with."
"Would they have hung you, Nathan?" he whispered, not fully understanding what Nathan had gone through.
"Yes, JD. They didnt need a reason to hang any of us slaves; just even by looking the wrong way could get you killed."
"But thats ." JD stood up anger appearing on his face.
"Sit down son," Josiah called to JD, seeing how upset he had become. "Nathan went through a lot before he became a free man, and we know as his friends how much we trust and care for him, but not all people believe like us."
"I know that," blurted out JD. " Sorry, Nathan, for asking such dumb questions."
"JD, dont apologize." Nathan replied with a grin.
"Ever hear from her again?" asked Buck, with a twinkle in his eye.
"No, not directly, but I did hear that she and her husband were behind a lot of the money and influential people that aided the war to stop the slavery."
"Ever kiss another white woman when you got your freedom?"
Nathan let out a huge chuckle. "Might have known yad ask that, Buck." He grinned again. "No, done that once and never been asked again, but think what I remember will do just fine."
"Mr. Jackson, did you remember that kiss on the day of your liberation as you promised the Lady?" asked Ezra.
Nathan stared across at the gambler, surprised he had asked this of him. He nodded and grinned as he replied, still staring directly at Ezra. "Yes, Ezra, indeed I did remember Miss Lucy on that day. How could I forget her words to me or indeed as you suggested that kiss!"
Nathan had a huge smile on his face as if remembering the day of his freedom, with much happiness. Or, was it the remembrance of the kiss that brought such a smile to his face and gleam to his eye?
Part Six - Josiah
Josiah decided he needed more than beer to be able to tell his story and requested some whiskey, which was soon dispensed to all but JD, who stuck to the beer.
"Must be some story my friend if you need this ." Nathan picked up the bottle of whiskey and tapped it, "to help you along."
"Yes, it is not the easiest of stories to tell but since all of you have been so honest .." his voice trailed off, and he hesitated for a moment before continuing. "It is not the pleasantest either, so if it disgusts you, I apologize in advance."
"Huh?" started JD
"Sorry, JD. But, if you dont wish to hear this ."
"No. Sorry, Josiah, didnt mean just not sure what you're talking about thats all."
"Sorry son, it may upset you in places, but I will try to be easy with my words."
All are very attentive toward Josiah, and Chris was worried that what Josiah would reveal might have a bad effect on their youngest member's sensitivities. But knowing Josiah, Chris was sure he would halt if it got to be too much for the kid.
After taking another two shots of whiskey, Josiah started on his first kiss revelation.
"I was working with my Pa, setting up a tent for another meeting, new town, new people but same problems."
Josiah had already told them about his father's temper, and that he had to bare the brunt of many beatings because of his father's frustration at the lack of people's trust in the Lord.
It was after such a beating that he decided to run away for the umpteenth time, but his father caught him and tied him in their wagon as punishment for two days. He was loosened to go to the privy and to eat but that was all, before he was bound hand and foot again and a gag placed over his mouth to stop him from shouting for help.
It was while one of his father's Gospel meetings was taking place in the tent, and while Josiah remained tied up in the wagon, unable to free himself and powerless to resist, that his first kiss took place.
He was 14 years old, and although used to mixing with people, he was constantly under his father's gaze. He never got much freedom to speak alone with people his own age, unless it had something to do with the Lord's work. He had been dozing, listening to the hymn singing, when he heard the rustle of cloth at the wagons side and sat up listening to hear what had made the noise. He saw a hand loop up to catch hold of the rear of the wagon. His heart beat wildly, and his breathing increased to short gasps, as the dark form climbed up into the wagon and stood glaring down at him.
"Hello, now what have we here all trussed up like a chicken?" croaked a very large man. He wore a dark cloak and didnt have to keep his voice low, because the singing and other noises from the tent nearby drowned out his words to all but Josiah.
He shook as the man came nearer and felt frightened as his hands reached out to touch him. Josiah tried to struggle from the questing hands, but since he was bound and gagged it was difficult to avoid this uninvited touch
"Hey now, boy, dont have to hurt ya none, now do I? Well, not if you keep still."
Tears sprang into Josiahs eyes as he felt the tight grip on his shoulders as it dug into his flesh through his shirt. The man turned to light the small lamp behind him, where it hung from a hook at the back of the wagon. "There now, thats much better Josiah. Now I can see that lovely face of yours!"
Josiah was shocked when he recognized the form that he could see clearly now in the brightness from the lamp. He shuddered afresh as he recognized one of his father's friends who constantly followed them around in the summertime. He had always given Josiah the creeps, and he shuddered again violently, fearing for his own life as the man pushed himself up against him.
"Ah, Josiah, I see that you recognize me." He laughed up close to Josiah's face and bile rose into his throat at the warm breath that passed over him, followed by an aroma of spirits, possibly whiskey. The mans hand reached down and grabbed at his pants close to the crotch, making Josiah jump and howl under his bindings because he had caught hold of his cock and tugged hard.
The men around the table shifted awkwardly in their seats. Some had some idea of what was about to come, but JD, being the innocent, was not sure what to expect. Josiah took another slug of whiskey and continued, but he still watched his friends. He was worried about JD and wondered if he should tell all ..well, they only needed to hear as far as the kiss ..probably would be best for the kid not to hear what happened after that.
Josiah had made up his mind and continued in a soft tone that shook slightly as he related to his friends what had happened next.
"Still tied up, I struggled like a animal to loosen my bindings and to howl for help through the gag. But, it only left me hot and exhausted, hardly able to breathe, and my heart pumped so wildly that I thought it was going to burst."
Dan Dodds pushed his body over Josiah's and pinned him down so he could hardly move, but he still moved his large callused hands to hit him in the face to stop him from squirming. He hissed in his face, sending spittle onto his cheeks. "Now, you listen to me, you little piece of shit. You have the devil inside you and that is what has brought me here!" He growled and shook him some more and continued. "Now, you're going to lay still and not fight it. Hear me holy boy? Or .." To threaten Josiah into submission he placed a large knife directly across his throat. He eased it back to poke the point into his skin and draw blood to show Josiah that he meant all that he said.
"Now, you little bastard, behave or I will kill you!"
He had no choice, and as tears flowed down his cheeks he allowed that piece of garbage to maul him. Josiah was shocked that a man would wish to touch another man like this, in so intimate a fashion, and he cringed inwardly as the rough callused hands touched him through his clothes. He knew he didnt dare mention any of this in front of JD.
Dodds pressed the knife into his skin again and released the gag. "Not a sound, ya hear me?"
Josiah had no choice but to nod and obey or lose his life.
He mentioned about the kiss when it came. He told about the disgust he felt as the man placed his unshaven face to his, and how it scraped at his skin hurting him, and then to have his mouth press hotly against his so hard that it made his lips hurt. He was utterly disgusted when Dodds thrust his tongue inside his mouth, and he tried to pull away. But, he felt a prick of the knife on his skin to tease him into submission once more. He tried to ignore what was happening to him so it wouldnt hurt so much. The young Josiah felt sick and gagged at this violation, but got a hard hit on the side of his face as a result.
Josiah halted his story, and when he saw the look on Chris Larabees face he knew that he neednt continue.
"Not quite the innocent kiss you all expected to hear about eh?" he whispered, still shaky, and gulped down the whiskey that Chris had topped off for him.
They remained silent for a while, unnerved by Josiahs revelation, and they were not sure how to respond. JD broke the silence and the rest, including Josiah, were grateful for it because it relieved the tension in the room. "Josiah, sorry it wasnt a gal kissing you and all but ..I'm sure that the next one was much nicer?"
Josiah beamed at JD and breathed a sigh of relief at not having to explain more to him about that first encounter. But, he was happy to tell him, "Yes, JD the next kiss I had was much warmer and given to me by a very pretty lady, and yes, I enjoyed it much more."
"Why didnt you lie and just tell us about the nice one then?" asked Nathan.
"Yes, we wouldnt have been able to tell it wasnt your first kiss."
"Maybe not, Buck, but, .I would know .and that would be a lie not only to myself but to my own friends who had been honest with me."
"Could have told one of them white lies, ya know," murmured JD
"I could have done that and made Dodds out to be female .but it all boils down to the same thing, JD. I trust you to tell me the truth " Josiah glanced around at each of his fellow peacekeepers and grinned. "You all have been in trouble with me at some time in the past for falling short ." He grinned when he saw most of them blush. He got a swift glare from Chris, and saw Ezra slump more into his chair. "Wouldn't be right; it would make me a hypocrite."
"Huh?" came the expected response from JD, which brought a chuckle to all their lips and a groan from JD when he realized he was the only one who didnt fully understand Josiah.
"Mr. Dunne, what Mr. Sanchez is referring to is that if he had lied he would be deceiving us, and he would be a fraud to his own beliefs, especially after condemning us in the past for not providing accurate information to him and having reprimanded us for that fact."
"Ezra, thank you." Josiah grinned and let escape a chuckle when he saw JDs still blank expression. But, he was unsure if the kid was as innocent as he appeared. "I will explain it to our youngest member later, if he doesnt completely understand."
JD grinned across at Josiah and even had the cheek to wink at him when Josiah leaned across and knocked his hat from his head.
"Hey!" Buck chuckled, picked up JDs hat, and brushed it off before replacing it firmly back onto JDs head. "Thats my job, Josiah!" While he spoke, he knocked the hat off with his own hand causing all the men in the room to splutter with laughter.
"Hey, Buck? Not going to pick up my hat for me again then?" JD looked to where his hat lay on the floor nearer to Bucks chair legs than his.
"Heck no! Pick up your own damned hat, lazy kid!" Buck taunted and then proceeded to slap him across the back of his head for his cheekiness.
The tension was all gone and they all howled with laughter while they watched as JD retrieved his own hat and placed it firmly back onto his head before sitting back down with his friends.
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