When Naomi entered the hotel, she heard a commotion upstairs: voices and what sounded like furniture scraping across the floor. She called out to her sisters and they answered excitedly.
“We’re up here, Naomi!”
“Come see what Mr. McIntyre has given us.”
Was this the gift he’d mentioned? Tired of the emotional rollercoaster he caused her, she trudged up the stairs and turned the corner of the rail to discover her sisters and an underfed, young Mexican boy assembling a massive pencil post bed. [THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE SEE EMILIO. HE PLAYS A MUCH BIGGER PART IN THE SEQUEL.] Lying next to it was a gigantic mattress, factory-made and apparently stuffed with something other than cotton rags or corn shucks.
He hoped she’d think of him every time she used it? The audacity and lewdness of the comment shocked Naomi. Had the man no decency whatsoever to say such things to a widow? She was utterly appalled. [AND THAT’S JUST THE POINT. MCINTYRE HAS NO DECENCY, OR ATLEAST IT’S BEEN BURIED SO LONG DIGGING IT UP WILL BE AN ACT OF GOD.]
Eager to forget Mr. McIntyre, she looked around the vast, open space of the upstairs floor which was intermittently broken up by the sparse, unfinished skeletons of walls and one stone fireplace. The area was warm and dry, though, and would sport a real bed in a few minutes. It was enticing, Naomi admitted grudgingly. Maybe she would actually sleep tonight.
When Hannah looked up and saw Naomi, she dropped the bed rail she was holding and ran to her sister. “You must see this,” she sang joyfully, leading Naomi over to the mattress. “Lie down on it.” She pulled Naomi down to the mattress and forced her to recline on it. “Isn’t it wonderful?” Hannah flopped down beside her, giggling.
Naomi had to agree it was far more comfortable than the ground underneath a wagon and even beat their cloth tick mattress back home. She closed her eyes and tried to lose herself in the relatively soft bedding, the way it supported and comforted her. Then there was the image of Mr. McIntyre and she sat bolt upright.
She hadn’t slept well since John’s death and the stress of it was beginning to show. The nights were hideously long. She dreaded the darkness, the silence, the loneliness of them. Would this bed be a magic carpet to Dreamland? Would she sleep through the night without waking and reaching for John? Tempted, she lay back on the mattress again and gave into the experience.
“Naomi, this is Emilio.” Rebecca spoke from the other side of the almost complete bed, tightening a screw in the headboard. “Emilio, this is my sister Naomi.”
Naomi and Hannah both sat up. Just a gawky teenager, about the same age as Hannah, he dipped his chin and grinned sheepishly. “Hola, Senora.”
“We just couldn’t help ourselves,” Rebecca rushed on. “When the marshal told us about the bed, we came right up and started putting it together. I can’t wait to sleep in it.”
Naomi stood up and pulled a folded piece of paper from her waistband. “I don’t know if we own the bed, but we own this hotel.” She walked over and set the deed on the dusty windowsill. She decided not to share the story of why they didn’t own the land upon which the hotel sat. That could wait.
She turned back to Hannah. “Why don’t you and I start unloading the wagon and let them finish here? But don’t worry, Rebecca, we’ll save the heavy stuff until y’all come down.” Naomi looked at Emilio. “Thank you for your help. We appreciate it.”
The boy bobbed his head like an excited bird. “De nada.”
As Hannah and Naomi marched down the stairs, Naomi was curious about the boy and how he had come to live in Defiance. “Does Emilio speak any English?”
“A fair amount from what I could tell.” Hannah answered. “He seems to get by−”
A knock at the front door as they reached the landing stopped their progress. They could see the shadow of a man through the frosted glass of the French doors.
Hannah quirked an eyebrow nervously. “Our first guest?”
Not likely, Naomi thought, headed for the door. Wishing she had her gun on her hip, she opened it to discover the marshal fanning himself with a book. He greeted her with a cocky tip of his hat. “Ma’m. Mr. McIntyre asked that I drop this by to you.” He handed her a Montgomery Ward catalog. [IN RESEARCHING THIS, I WAS SURPRISED TO FIND OUT MW IS OLDER THANT SEARS.]
“Oh,” Naomi gasped. She was as pleased to see it as Hannah, who squealed with delight and took it off her hands. “Thank you, Marshal,” Naomi quipped, unable to hide a grin over her sister’s enthusiasm. Some normalcy in this new life was comforting and Hannah did love to shop, even if she couldn’t buy. [AS I’VE MENTIONED, HANNAH IS BASED ON MY SISTER SUSAN. SUSAN DID LOVE TO SHOP. SHE COULD WEAR YOUR FEET DOWN TO NUBS WALKING A MALL.] “I’m surprised. Are we able to get Montgomery Ward to ship here?”
“Ma’m, there’s a sayin’ in mining towns: if you’ve got money, men and mules, you’ve got the world. There’s a saloon over in Eureka that sports a real chandelier, come all the way from London, England around the horn to San Francisco to here. Not one crystal was broke.” He smiled as if remembering the grandeur of the light. “The saloon over in Animas Forks has an I-talian sculpture of a naked lady−oh, I do apologize, ma’m.”
“Thank you, Marshal. You’ve made your point.” She appreciated the apology. Obviously it wouldn’t have fazed Mr. McIntyre a bit to share such lewd information. “But why is it that all the finer items go to the saloons?”
The marshal shrugged. “I reckon ‘cuz the saloon owners are the only folks plannin’ on stayin’. Most folks are just passin’ through, lookin’ for that big strike.” Naomi chewed her lip, pondering the violent, unwashed, ill-mannered population of Defiance. As if reading her mind, the marshal added, “Also, ma’m, I just wanted to remind you that if you’ve any errands to run, it would be best to get them done before dark. After that, you might be mistaken for…”
[MONEY, MEN AND MULES. THIS CONVERSATION CAME OUT OF A REJECTION LETTER I RECEIVED FROM A PUBLISHER. THIS PARTICULAR EDITOR FOUND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT A SALOON IN A REMOTE MOUNTAIN TOWN WOULD BE SO RICHLY APPOINTED. ANYTHING COULD BE SHIPPED AND DELIVERED BACK THEN IF YOU HAD THE TOOLS.]
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