July 11 is Cheer Up The Lonely Day
L * A * N * C * E * R
Sure she was a pain in the ass and could irritate anyone she met in less than 10 seconds, but he felt sorry for her. After all the hateful comments, always turning her back to him, and constantly referring to him as the gunfighter; still he felt sorry for her.
L * A * N * C * E * R
The whole town was still buzzing about the Widow throwing Emelyn out of the store and into the street. At the same time they heaped praise on Murdoch for gallantly lifting the woman to her feet.
Now Emelyn found herself the one ostracized. She was used to people trying to avoid her because she was never above informing them of their short-comings, but this was different. Whenever she approached someone they would hurry away or turn their backs on her. The loneliness was becoming unbearable; she was even considering moving to Stockton.
L * A * N * C * E * R
Yet there was one person who knew how Emelyn was suffering, and he decided to do something about the situation.
Johnny knew that deep loneliness that made everyday a battlefield and forced one to wonder, is it worth living or would it be easier to just give up? Well, he had fought those battles and decided he wasn’t going to give up. He had a family now and the deep loneliness was easing. Not sure she would listen to him but knowing only someone suffering that same emptiness, that same loneliness, can understand. Johnny shook his head and scuffed the dirt with the toe of his boot, he understood all too well. So even if that someone considers him an enemy, he had to try.
L * A * N * C * E * R
The church social was in full swing; the men were milling around in small groups, Johnny was sure they were talking business even if it was Sunday. He smiled as he passed the women setting food on the tables; he rubbed his stomach and hoped they didn’t hear the rumble. Children, happy that the service was over, played under the trees in the church yard. A young boy nearly ran into him while fleeing the ‘it’ in the game of tag. Johnny grinned at him as he scurried off to avoid being caught. He continued to scan the crowd, and sighed in relief when he spotted Murdoch and Scott talking to the Minister.
Knowing he wouldn’t be missed at least for awhile, he slipped out of the church yard. He wasn’t surprised that Mrs. Anker was absent from the festivities, he had heard how she was being shunned. It was time, he had decided to finally have a private talk with his nemesis.
When he arrived at the small house, his first thought was-it sure looked like a lady’s house with the white picket fence, lace curtains in the windows, and the well tended flower garden around the porch. “Well,” he sighed and whispered to himself, “let ‘er buck.” Johnny climbed the steps to the porch, straightened his shoulders, and knocked on the door. After what seemed to him to be a very long time, he decided she wasn’t going to answer and turned toward the street. He as on the top step when a small voice from behind the door stopped him.
“Who is it?”
“Johnny Lancer, ma’am.” He returned to the porch and waited. Fully expecting to be berated and ordered away; he was surprised when after a few moments the door cracked opened. The gap was wide enough to see a gray head and a pair of brown eyes. Leaning forward slightly, “I was hoping ya might talk to me for a minute.” There was no response so he shrugged and turned again to leave, but stopped when he heard the door open and a voice…
Johnny turned, removed his hat, and followed Emelyn into a small, cluttered parlor. She motioned him to a chair while she sat in the one farthest from him.
“What do you want?” Her head bowed she nervously twisted a handkerchief.
Johnny placed his hat on the floor by the chair, and stared at the bowed head. “I was hoping ya might tell me why you hate me so much?”
Emelyn continued to stare at her hands. “You don’t belong here, a killer among decent people, and…”
“And… I killed someone you knew… or family?” He had dreaded this might be the reason for her hatred. He always carried that regret, running into family or friends of someone he killed in a shootout or a range war.
“No,” she practically shouted as she looked at the gunfighter, but then just as quickly back to her lap, “I…” She pulled even harder on the handkerchief. “Well… I’ve heard people talk and those awful books about gunfighters and…”
“Look ma’am, I never killed anyone that wasn’t trying to kill me. I always tried to stay on the right side of the law. And those da… darn books are mostly lies.” Johnny paused hoping she would say something, and he was getting tired of looking at her bowed head. “Ma’am, will ya at least look at me?”
Hesitant at first, she finally raised her head and stared at the gunfighter. What she saw shocked her to the core. For the first time she really looked at him and saw an expression she knew all too well. It was a reflection she had seen in her own mirror since her beloved Clarence had died. It was loneliness, a deep almost smothering loneliness. A loneliness that made her life unbearable.
“Ma’am, sorry to have bothered you.” Misunderstanding her reaction to him, he grabbed his hat and started to rise.
Startled into action, Emelyn held out her hand, “No please, sit.”
Nodding, Johnny sat and wondered why she was staring at the picture on the table next to her.
Her beloved Clarence; she stroked the frame and prayed that the image could somehow give her the right words. Feeling bolstered that he had answered her; she looked at the young man sitting opposite her.
“I’m sorry.” She shook her head in frustration, “I mean… I am sorry, I wish there was a better word.” She picked up the frame held the picture to her heart. “I wasn’t always this way… Loneliness turns a person into someone…”
He glared at his right hand and clinched his fist, “I know ma’am, it made me a gunfighter.” Then added, “Well not just the loneliness…”
Before he could continue she spoke for him. “Prejudice?”
Johnny nodded, “Yes ma’am, Anglos don’t want a half Mex and Mexicans don’t want a mestizo.” At her confused expression he explained, “You call it half-breed…” but stopped when he saw her expression change again. When he start to rise she waved him back down.
“Guess ya figured a gunfighter couldn’t be lonely, well, just because there are people around you…”
Again she continued for him. “Doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely.”
“Yeah, gunfighters don’t have a lot friends and I didn’t think I had any family that wanted me. I know people are still worried about me being here, gunfighters are supposed to leave when the job is done… But I found out the truth, Murdoch didn’t throw us out.” It just slipped out before he could stop it, he hadn’t planned to tell her…
“You thought your father didn’t want you?” Shocked and saddened at the revelation, she watched the dark head nod, yes.
Johnny needed to move away from unwanted sympathy. He didn’t come here for that… he didn’t want pity.
“But I have a family now and people are starting to see me as Murdoch’s son and not Madrid. I have a brother…” Johnny smiled at the thought, “I always wanted one when I was a kid.”
Amazed how the smile had changed him from a dangerous gunfighter to a handsome young man; she could see what others saw-Murdoch’s younger son. All those times Johnny had been defended by town’s people and ranchers. All the times she had been told, ‘he always helps someone in need’. All the times she had been told, ‘Johnny is a good man’. Finally, she knew it was all true.
Overcome by her own short-sightedness, “I have been horrible toward you.” Her hand trembled as she turned the picture frame toward Johnny. “Clarence would be so ashamed of me, he…” a tear ran down her cheek.
Johnny rose and crossed the room, knelling next to her chair he gently took the frame and placed it on the table and held her hand. “We all make mistakes. I wanted revenge against Murdoch for throwing away mama and me, I was wrong. Now I’m home and finally have a family.”
A distraught Emelyn could only nod as another tear flowed down her cheek.
“Ma’am, I believe in second chances.” He squeezed her hand then grinned at her shocked expression. She hadn’t realized Johnny was holding her hand. Emelyn looked at his tanned hand holding her pale one, but she didn’t pull away.
“I’m a perfect example of a second chance. Sure there’ll always be some Madrid in me, but I’m mostly Lancer now.” He aimed his best ‘charm the ladies’ smile at her, “See second chances do work.”
Trying to hide the blush, she raised the wrinkled handkerchief to her face. Oh, Clarence, how could I have been so condemning of this boy? She knew in her heart that Clarence would have liked Johnny.
“You’re willing to give me a second chance? After all the horrible things… After the horrible way I have treated you…” She wanted him to forgive her, “I… I am asking you to…”
Realizing her turmoil and relived at the hope he heard in her voice, he pulled her hand to his lips and winked. “Yes ma’am, now how about we go down to the church social and have some of that good food?” He grinned, “I know for sure the beef roasting on the spit is the best, ‘cause its Lancer beef.”
“No one wants me there.” She pulled her hand free.
“Well, I don’t know about the rest of them, but I want ya there.” Not about to accept another denial, he pulled Emelyn to her feet and moved her hand to his elbow. “Ready?” He blue eyes twinkled.
“Yes, I’m ready.” Grateful for his forgiveness, she smiled and squeezed is arm.
As they walked toward the church she wondered why…
… why hadn’t she noticed before that Johnny’s eyes twinkled like her Clarence’s.