Old West Christmas Series
Chris Larabee sat at his usual table in the Standish Tavern sipping on a glass of whiskey and quietly observing the cheerful activity going on around him. It was Christmas Eve and the respectable citizens of Four Corners had arranged a number of events to celebrate the holiday, culminating in this evenings party. He hadnt wanted to come tonight but had been unable to come up with an excuse to give Mary Travis when she had asked him to be her escort.
He hated holidays, especially Christmas. They were all family oriented and painful reminders of all that he had lost. Sarah had loved the holidays. Christmas had been her favorite. She would deck the house out in wreaths, mistletoe, and pinecones. She would begin baking treats weeks before Christmas for him and Buck Wilmington to sample, before deciding on which ones to make for that special day.
He had managed to avoid attending any of the prior events by escaping to his cabin outside of town or opting to do patrols so that his fellow peacekeepers could attend them instead. All six of the men who had become his friends, no brothers, had individually cornered him over the last week and made him promise that he would be at their private celebration that would take place the following evening.
Marys invitation had come as a surprise. Shes caught him alone the evening before as she was leaving the Clarion office and he was returning to the jail after patrolling the town. They had exchanged pleasantries and he had started to step away when the Marys question had come. He had turned back to her in surprise, and she had rushed to assure him that they would be going as friends, and he had reluctantly agreed.
Chris had to admit that he had enjoyed the surprised looks on his fellow peacekeepers faces when he had arrived at the saloon with Mary on his arm. Their surprised looks had turned into grateful smiles that they flashed at Mary. He and Mary had shared a few moments of small talk and even one dance, before she left to mingle with the other party attendees, and he settled himself into his current position.
As he listened to the lively conversations around him, and watched dancing couples swirl around in time to the upbeat music being played, and families interacting with one another, his longing for Sarah and Adam grew. Abruptly he drained the last of his whiskey, stood up and strolled toward the batwing doors. He knew that he would have to make up his leaving to Mary at some later date, but he didnt care. He just needed to get away, to be alone to drown the pain he was feeling in a bottle of whiskey.
He was almost to the doors when his eyes fell upon a pretty young woman swaying to the music, hand resting upon her rounded belly and found himself being swept back into a Christmas past.
Whats all this? Chris asked as he stepped into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Sarah sat smiling on the end of their bed, her hand resting on a corner of a tiny quilt. A small stuffed bear sat on top of it, alongside the Pa spelled out with bits of colored ribbon.
Whats all what? Sarah asked, rising from the bed and moving toward him.
That. Chris said gesturing with his hand at the tiny items on the end of the bed.
Those are part of the last present I have to give you. Sarah replied.
I thought we already had exchanged gifts.
Sarah shook her head at him. Chris Larabee, for someone so smart as I know you are, you can really be dumb sometimes.
Dumb? Me? Chris protested.
Yes! You! Sarah jabbed him lightly in the chest with her index finger.
Chris wrapped one hand around her finger to keep her from poking him in the chest anymore, and snaked his other hand around her waist as he gazed over her shoulders at the bed. Dawning realization to what Sarah had been trying to tell him began to sink finally into his head. A slow smile appeared on his lips as he gazed down at Sarah.
A baby? he whispered the question to her.
Sarah nodded, gazing lovingly up at her, tears of joy standing in her brown eyes. Are you happy?
Chris let out a loud whoop and spun her around, then lowered her quickly to the ground and hugged her tight. Ive never been happier. He was quick to assure her.
Im glad. You are going to make a good pa.
And you are going to be the best Ma. Chris replied, lowering his head towards hers.
Sarah lifted her head up to meet Chris lips with her own.
+ + + + + + +
Chris? Are you alright?
Chris was brought out of his reverie by the sound of someone speaking quietly to him. He turned to see Mary standing beside him, gazing at him with concern.
Im all right. Chris told her quietly. I was just remembering a Christmas past.