Out the Window
A challenge story
A special thank
you to Vicki who posted a story for this challenge with the same story line. She
graciously encouraged me to finish this story and post it.
Scott Lancer stood and stretched his lean form. He glanced down at his brother who was deeply involved in reading the Sacramento newspaper. Scott smiled fondly at the younger man and headed toward the French doors.
Peering out into the dusk, he commented, "lovely night."
"Yes, nice and cool. Why don't you open the doors, son?"
Scott nodded and brought the doors open wide, letting in a wonderful breeze that wisped through the room. Johnny straightened the paper where the wind had folded it over, obscuring his view.
"What has captured your interest so, brother?" Scott smiled at Johnny's concentration.
Johnny looked up and grinned. "New saloon just opened in Sacramento. Only they call it a cabaret."
"A cabaret? That should be interesting," Scott nodded.
"Sounds pretty fancy for a place to eat and drink," Johnny shrugged.
"Will they have music?"
"Says "live music". Guess that's opposed to 'dead' music?" Johnny chortled.
Scott opened his mouth for a retort then stopped and turned toward the open doors. A frown crossed his face as he sauntered over.
"Who could that be this time of night?" Murdoch wondered.
"I don't know. I hope nothing's wrong," Scott answered wanly as he peered into the darkening night.
Johnny got to his feet, laying the paper down and crossed to stand behind his brother. He peered out over Scott's shoulder but couldn't penetrate the night either.
The surrey pulled up and a silhouette climbed down with a soft grunt. The shadow stepped nearer to the French doors and Scott actually gasped.
"You!" he whispered.
Scott.” The blond woman said coolly as she reached out with one hand covered
in a gray fawn skin glove in subtle greeting.
recovered quickly just as Johnny nudged him. “Barbara...it’s Barbara.”
you going to ask me in?” The woman asked.
course.” Scott stammered as he took a step back into Johnny.
woman walked through the door into the living room to the curious stares from
Murdoch and Teresa. She surveyed
her surroundings and turned back to Scott, “What a lovely home you have here
barely recovered his composure enough to introduce her.
“Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa, This is Barbara Evans...from Boston. Barbara,
this is my father, Murdoch Lancer.”
stepped forward and offered her hand. “Mr. Lancer.
I apologize for the unannounced visit.
I do hope I am not intruding. It
is very important that I see Scott, and well...time is of the essence.”
friend of Scott’s is welcome in our home Miss Evans.”
call me Barbara.” Barbara looked at Johnny with curiosity and stated, “You
must be Scott’s brother Johnny.”
ma’am.” He took her hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
turned to Teresa and was amused to catch her staring at Barbara. “Teresa, this
is Barbara Evans...an old friend of mine. Barbara, this is Teresa O’Brien.”
cheeks flushed pink as she realized she’d been caught out practically gawking
at the woman. Recovering swiftly,
she stepped forward and was aware of her tanned hand as it was grasped by
Barbara’s pale, soft fingers. “It’s
a pleasure to meet you, Miss Evans.”
me Barbara, may I call you Teresa?” The older woman smiled at Teresa’s nod
voice interrupted the introductions, “I’m sure Miss Evans, I mean Barbara,
and Scott have a lot to talk about. Teresa will you go make sure the guest room
is ready? Johnny go help her.”
went immediately to comply with Murdoch’s request, but when Johnny opened his
mouth to argue, Murdoch’s hand signal silenced him and he turned on his heel
and left the room.
as it’s getting late, please be our guest for the night. I’ll have someone
attend to your buggy. Scott,
perhaps you’d like to take the lady’s coat and offer her a seat.”
Murdoch’s mouth twitched at his normally polished son’s stunned expression
at the appearance of this young woman. He was looking forward to Scott’s
explanation of his old friend’s unannounced visit.
Murdoch left, Scott regained some of his composure. He cleared his throat,
“May I take your coat?”
you.” Barbara began unbuttoning the long row of buttons from her stylish
overcoat. “I’m sorry to barge in on you and your family Scott, but I just
didn’t know what else to do.”
took the coat and walked to the entranceway to hang it on the rack while saying,
“I don’t think I follow you, Barbara. What’s the problem. Is it your
started back into the living room and Barbara had seated herself on one of the
blue wing backed chairs. He trailed
a hand on her shoulder as he settled on the couch.
Scott! I’m so sorry! I’m making
such a scene of this.” Barbara burst into tears and was fumbling through her
hand bag for a handkerchief. Scott pulled out his and knelt on the floor next to
whatever it is. It’s going to be all right.” He assured the distraught
wiped her face and looked up at him hopefully. “Scott, I’m pregnant.”
Scott was immediately on his feet looking at her as if she’d grown two heads.
stood up and Scott could immediately see it was true even though her stylish
clothes had been carefully tailored to hide such things as was proper. It was
obvious she was quite a ways along, now that he knew what to look for.
felt totally at a loss when a sudden realization came over him.
“Are you saying it’s mine? How?” Words failed him once again.
she drew his name out as she let the news sink in. She sat down once again as
she watched Scott pace around the room. She
knew how it felt to have to deal with this news, and that Scott needed time to
absorb the shock.
stopped in front of her and looked at her with a frown and started pacing once
again, before coming to a halt in front of her.
He placed his hands on his hips and his mouth was a grim line. “We’ll
get married. Right away. Don’t
worry, I’ll take care of everything.”
Scott. I knew I could count on you. Father said you were a gigolo and you’d
run out on your responsibility, but I knew he was wrong.”
suddenly felt the familiar anger with her father, “Did he send you out here
I left. I couldn’t take it
anymore. When my father found out,
he went to your grandfather and they had a row. Your grandfather said no Garrett
would ever leave a woman with child outside of marriage and he accused me of
making it up.” Tears started to leak down her face once again, and she dabbed
at her eyes.
took her in his arms and hugged her. He was at a loss, but at least he could
offer her some comfort. Finally she
pulled herself together. “Is there anything I can get you?”
I’m fine, but I wouldn’t mind retiring to that guest room, if I could.”
took her by the arm and escorted her to the waiting guest room and bade her good
night. Alone, he returned to the
living room and poured himself a double shot of whisky.
think that’ll help brother.”
Scott almost dropped the glass
in surprise at his brother’s comment.
not exactly. Just happened to pass
through when she told you.” Johnny was silent a minute before adding, “You
took a big gulp of the whisky and shook his head as it burned its way down.
“The timing’s right, so I do believe her.”
gonna marry her?”
heard me, so why ask?”
scuffed his boot on the fringe of the throw rug and confessed, “I didn’t
actually hear much, so…are ya gonna do it?”
stared for a moment into his brother’s penetrating blue eyes. “Yes, I’m
going to marry her.”
hope you know what you’re doing brother.
I mean it didn’t work out all that well for Murdoch, if you get my
didn’t work out all that well for Murdoch?” Their father’s voice caused
both sons to jump in surprise. Getting no answer, Murdoch planted himself in
front of Johnny, “Johnny? What exactly did you mean?”
decided he may as well break the news to his father now and get Johnny off the
hook at the same time. “Murdoch,
I have something to tell you. Something
good I hope.” He waited until he
had his father’s complete attention. “Barbara
and I are getting married, and we’re expecting a baby.” There it was out and
Scott felt relief as he watched the emotions play across his father’s face.
well son, this is quite a surprise. I
suppose congratulations are in order.” He reached his hand out to shake
Scott’s hand. “I ah ... we ... didn’t realize ...” He trailed off at a
you sir.” Scott said awkwardly. “I’ve
known Barbara my whole life. If you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.
It’s been…well…a busy evening.”
course. Goodnight Scott.”
went over to pour himself a drink. He offered the decanter to Johnny who shook
his head no.
paced slowly while he chewed his lip before finally settling in front of his
father. “So what do you think of that.
Scott gettin’ married all of a sudden like that?”
looked at Johnny and recognized the worried look on his younger son’s face.
“I suppose it’s the right thing. The only thing to do actually.”
he doesn’t love her.” Johnny reasoned.
don’t know that.” Murdoch pointed out.
come on Murdoch! You can’t think
this is a good idea. He’s making
a big mistake.”
this is none of our business. Scott
is old enough to make his own decisions and he’s making the responsible
choice. Now that’s the end of
I said I don’t want to discuss it!” Murdoch slammed his glass down and with
long strides, left the room.
flopped down on the couch and chewed his lip in frustration at the situation
that was being forced on his brother.
days later, the family was dressed in their Sunday best in preparation for the
Scott and Barbara’s wedding. Judge
Roth had agreed to marry them in a private ceremony in the Lancer living room.
walked through and looked with a baleful eye at the arranged chairs and garlands
strung throughout the room. ‘You’d think this was a real weddin’ he
thought as he ran his finger over the soft satin covering Murdoch’s desk.
Don’t touch that! I’ve just
gotten it all arranged.”
turned to see Teresa standing there with her hands on her hips in obvious
annoyance. “Sorry Teresa. Boy,
you sure look purdy. That new dress
makes you look like one of them high society women.” He teased, and gave her
long hair a little pull as he went by.
behave yourself. This is an
important day and a solemn occasion so don’t start joking around!”
Scott’s as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs.”
relented, and giggled. “He had on two different shoes this morning. Did you
was Johnny’s turn to chuckle. “Yeah,
I wasn’t going to tell him, but figured I’d catch he...heck, so I told
smoothed the satin one last time and checked the room over as she watched Johnny
pace once again. “Do you have the
rings?” She asked more to distract him than anything else.
yeah.” Johnny replied as he checked his pocket once more, just to be sure.
both looked up as Murdoch walked in followed by Judge Roth. “This will do
nicely, Murdoch.” The judge took his place behind the desk as Teresa lit the
long tapers and once again arranged the garland of roses just so.
took up his place at the right side of the desk and tried not to shuffle his
feet as he waited for Scott.
guess its time.” Teresa said as she took her place on the other side of the
turned to watch Scott walk stiffly across the room in his back east suit as
Johnny thought of it. “Ready brother?” he asked.
took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He
squared his shoulders and said evenly, “I’m ready.”
turned when they heard Teresa sigh to see Barbara in a flowing gown being
escorted by their solemn father.
stood stiffly throughout the brief ceremony and later couldn’t recall hearing
any of it until his brother nudged him, “Johnny, the rings!”
hurriedly took them out of his pocket and gave them to the Judge. “Here ya
go.” He grinned at Scott’s raised eyebrow, but was soon lost again as the
ceremony continued without interruption until the Judge pronounced the couple
man and wife.
Scott and Barbara turned around, the judge announced, “It gives me great
pleasure to introduce, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Lancer.”
smiled and hugged first Scott then Barbara.
Scott turned expectantly to Johnny who after a long moment offered his
hand, “Congratulations, Brother. Never
thought you’d get hitched before me, just goes to show you I can be wrong once
in a while.”
laughed and gave Johnny a playful slap on the cheek before turning to grasp
Murdoch’s hand in congratulations.
newlyweds made their way to the feast prepared to celebrate the event.
toasts were long over and well wishes three months behind them as the reality of
trying to build a life with someone you are not in love with set in.
Scott found himself working longer hours and spending time in the
farthest reaches of the ranch.
knew he needed to start staying closer to home as Barbara’s time was growing
near. A part of him was detached from the reality that he would
soon be a father. He attempted to
speak to Murdoch about it, but found the whole conversation too awkward for both
of them and gave up without finding out if what he was feeling was normal.
thought about talking to Johnny, but this was something he didn’t think he
could explain even to his brother, whom he could talk through most things.
herself had been having mood swings that only made him want to distance himself
even more and he hoped that once the baby was born, she’d settle down and take
an interest in something more than herself.
He’d tried to get her interested in the ranch and he’d taken her on a
picnic and a drive to show her some of the more breathtaking views, but nothing
seemed to interest her of late. Teresa
had tried to get her involved in the household, or gardening, but Barbara always
claimed to be too tired to help out. He
fervently hoped she’d settle in once the baby came.
head jerked up and he dropped the limb he was clearing out of the stream when he
heard Johnny’s shout. “Scott!”
rode up hard on Barranca and pulled the horse into a sliding stop. Johnny jumped
off his horse and ran the last few feet to his brother.
He put one hand on each of Scott’s shoulders as much to steady himself
as to get his attention. “Scott.
It’s time. Barbara’s havin’ the baby.” Johnny gasped as he tried to
catch his breath.
moved back toward his horse. “Thanks Johnny.”
He mounted and glanced at Johnny who was still catching his breath.
“Are you coming?”
go ahead Scott. I need to walk
Barranca some to cool him off.”
a nod, Scott turned his horses and galloped off.
arrived back at the ranch and slowly took care of Barranca.
His feelings were still mixed at Scott’s decision, even though he knew
deep down that Scott had done the honorable thing. Everyone knew they didn’t
love each other and Johnny wondered how this was all going to work out.
well knew the outcome of two parents who couldn’t get along and he worried for
the child his brother and his wife were bringing into the world.
With a shrug, he headed slowly for the house.
he came into the living room, he saw Scott pacing uncharacteristically in front
of the couch as Murdoch sat at his desk trying to work on the ranch ledgers.
she doin?” Johnny said quietly to no one in particular.
didn’t answer, so Murdoch spoke up, “She’s fine son. These things take a
while sometimes.” He stood up and stopped in Scott’s path, effectively
blocking him. “It’s supper time and Maria left a stew on. I believe she
baked some fresh bread also. Let’s
go eat as I think it may be a long night.”
words proved fortuitous as Scott all but wore himself out alternately pacing the
living room and climbing the stairs to check on her progress.
Johnny was dozing on the couch and Murdoch was slumped into the blue
armchair when Teresa called, “Scott. You
can come up now.”
took the stairs two at a time, almost falling in his haste to get to Barbara.
His heart was singing in anticipation of meeting his new son or daughter.
As he reached the landing, he realized he had his answer, he was ready to be a
father and he could hardly wait to assume his role.
slowed to a walk as he took in the scene in the room.
Teresa was sponging Barbara’s face as she lay against a mound of
pillows and Maria turned toward him with a tiny bundle tightly wrapped. Scott
heard the tiny mewling coming from Maria’s arms as she walked the few steps
toward him. “It’s a girl.”
hands shook as he took the baby, his daughter in his arms for the first time. He couldn’t believe something so small was really a person.
‘His daughter.’ He thought as he looked into her dark brown eyes. She
was red faced and looked like a prune but to him, she was beautiful.
From her cap of dark hair to her tiny hands, Scott felt himself truly
fall in love for the very first time.
and Murdoch sat at the table in the kitchen alone nursing strong cups of coffee.
Both felt dog tired, but neither was ready to go to bed.
Johnny said what they’d both been thinking since seeing the baby, “Murdoch,
that ain’t Scott’s kid.”
tired eyes rested on Johnny and he spoke quietly, “I’m afraid you’re right
son.” He took a sip of the cooling coffee, “We have to support your brother
in whatever he decides to do. Now, I’m going to bed, and I suggest you do the
sat there lost in thought as he heard Murdoch’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.
‘Sleep.’ He craved sleep, but his mind was still too full of
unanswered questions and until he had them, he knew he wouldn’t get much rest.
He took another sip of coffee and grimaced as he realized it had gone
stone cold. He pushed back his
chair and retrieved the coffee pot and poured himself a fresh cup as Scott
walked into the kitchen looking haggard.
Scott’s nod, Johnny poured Scott a cup and he kicked out a chair indicating
his brother should sit.
took a small sip of the hot coffee and then blew on it to cool it some more
before taking another sip. “I’m
okay Johnny. Just tired.”
sat back down across from Scott and looked at him with concern. “I mean with
the baby and all. You know…”
looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. “My daughter you mean?”
felt awkward, but it needed to be said, “Are you okay with her not bein’
yours? What did Barbara have to say?”
resting. And to answer your
question, it was a bit of a surprise but it doesn’t change the fact that
she’s my daughter. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going back upstairs.”
started out of the kitchen when Johnny’s voice stopped him. “Scott, she not
your daughter. Some other man is her father.”
watched at his brother turned to him in what could only be described as cold
rage. His fists were clenched and for a moment Johnny thought Scott
was going to hit him. Instead, he
swept the coffee cups off the table and shouted, “Never, ever say that again!
This is none of your concern! Stay
out of my life brother or you’ll be very sorry.” With that he turned leaving
his brother staring opened mouthed in shock.
spent the next week riding the ridges and camping out at the farthest line
shacks. His thoughts were still unsettled as he tried to cope with
the rift he had with Scott. They’d
had arguments before, but this was different.
He had crossed a line and he didn’t know how to take back the truth and
make it right with his brother once again.
for his part had been holed in the room with the baby and Barbara and not
speaking much to his family. Johnny
heard from Teresa that they had named the baby Alexandra after Barbara’s
grandmother. ‘A big name for a little baby’ Johnny thought but figured
she’d grow into her name as she got older.
planned to go back to the ranch that night and hoped he could make things right
with his brother. If Scott was
going to make a go at his marriage, especially now, he needed the support of his
whole family. Even though Johnny
felt it was wrong of Barbara not to tell Scott another man could have been the
baby’s father, Scott had made it clear to Johnny, he wasn’t to second guess
just wanted his brother to be happy and if raising this little girl as his own
would do that, then Johnny was all set to play uncle.
He just hoped for that little girl’s sake it all worked out.
fire in the fireplace crackled and popped as one by one the Lancer’s left the
room heading for bed until just Johnny and Scott remained.
Johnny got up and poured his brother a glass of whisky and handed it to
him as a token peace offering.
Scott gave him a half smile before returning to stare into the fire.
Johnny’s soft voice was almost covered by another pop from the fireplace.
sat on the ottoman in front of his brother and looked into the face he knew so
well. He couldn’t help but notice his brother looked older in the
flickering fire light. “I’m
sorry Scott. It wasn’t my place to say anything.
I just want you to be happy.”
wants an annulment.”
Johnny asked in surprise. “She wants to cancel the marriage?”
drained the glass of whisky in one long swallow and set the glass on the end
table. “That’s what she says.”
do you want?” Johnny asked a little afraid he was again stepping over some
boundary he didn’t know existed in light of his brother’s earlier reaction.
sighed, rubbed his face and ran his fingers through his hair before answering.
“It’s a funny thing. Right
up until Alexandria was born, I had doubts. Doubts about our marriage, about
being a father, everything.” He looked to see if Johnny understood what he was
trying to say and he could clearly see that his brother knew what he was talking
about. “Once the baby was born, nothing mattered. It’s still amazing to me
how much that little girl changed how I think and feel. All I know is I want a
chance to make this work.”
chewed his lip for a moment before answering, “Well brother, I guess you have
to use that Lancer stubbornness and tell Barbara what all this means to you.
Tell her what you just told me now. Let her know you care and maybe she’ll
care too.” Johnny spoke from his heart, “Just know one thing brother, blood
counts, but it’s what a father does and how he shows it that’s important. Alexandria is a very lucky girl to have you for her papa.”
smiled fully for the first time all day. “Thanks Johnny.
You’re not half bad for an uncle, or a brother either.”
Johnny stood by Scott as they watched Alexandria walk slowly toward them. He felt Scott’s pride radiating for his beautiful little girl as she bravely made the walk to meet them.
Today, she was wearing an ornate off white dress and was carrying a basket. Her long dark curly hair was pulled back and tied with a dark navy blue bow. She was wearing a little half smile for her father and uncle as she caught their eye. Johnny could tell she was trying to remember everything she’d been told, but he knew she really wanted to run the rest of the way to meet her father.
He glanced over at Murdoch and watched with amusement as the older man smiled in pleasure at seeing the little girl. His father reached out his hand and squeezed Barbara’s as it rested on her stomach swollen with child.
Alexandria made her way the final steps to Scott and she gave him a smile that was only for him. She turns and waits for Teresa to join her.
Teresa seems to float as she walks toward them and Johnny is struck once more by what a beautiful young woman she turned out to be. She takes her place next to Alexandria.
Johnny felt his pulse quicken as he saw her walking toward him; white gown flowing as she walked on her father’s arm. He only had eyes for her from that moment on, and she for him as it had been since the first day they met.
Her father gave her to him in trust to keep for a lifetime, to be happy and raise a family together.
Johnny glanced at his brother and returned his smile before he stepped forward and started down the path to his future.