Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chapter 135: Broken

The whole time I'm writing this, I'm thinking of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands...that would be Sin Nombre, by The Refreshments, and from what I consider their best album, The Bottle And Fresh Horses. I don't know why. My brain decided it fit. Thinking about it, I have to agree. 

This is a rough recording, but it's the best one I could find. Upon further reflection, though, the rough, unpolished performance of this song underscores the power of it.
Anyways, enjoy. Maybe you'll think it's fitting, too. 

Saint couldn’t decide if he was so nauseous because he was half crazy with fear over what what was happening to Jesse, or if it was the after-effects of being coldcocked with a ladder-backed chair.

Either way, he felt sick. 

The discovery that none of the blood all over his shirt and face was his had been a huge relief to all three of them. The fact that Hungerford hadn’t had to pull a bullet out of him had put the farrier into such a good mood that he’d actually staunched and taped Roderiguez’s broken nose after he’d tied the man to the tree. 

His hands shook as he fumbled in the dark, fireless camp Hungerford and the Little Miss had made up in the cliffs, loading his Colt. Hungerford had retrieved the gun from Rodriguez, and then had securely tied the big Mexican to a piƱon pine in their camp. The ache in his shoulder was worrying. He was pretty sure he wasn’t dangerously injured, but the deep bruises hampered his movement, made him suck in his breath through his teeth. 

Bring it. Pour it on. I deserve it. The pain was like a penance. He wished it was worse. Maybe it would give me something other to think about than how bad I ballsed this up. If Jesse ends up dead...

Hungerford was getting their horses ready to go. He hadn’t said much, but from the look on his face, he felt as bad as Saint did. Evidently, he had plenty of guilt that he hadn’t argued when Saint and Jesse had decided to go on to the Rocks that night without them. In fact, he’d agreed it was probably the best way to get some information on the situation.

We both screwed up. But at the heart of it, was my damn idea...

“Saint.” Lily’s voice was hollow, wooden. Acid once again clawed its way up the back of his throat as he jerked his head around to look at her. Pain from his stiff neck muscles rocketed across his scalp.

Her eyes were swollen, red rimmed in the dark shadows of her face. “How do you feel?” She asked, her voice flat and hoarse from crying.

“I’ll live. Nothin’ important’s broken.” he muttered, spinning the barrel on the Colt and snapping it shut. “Little Miss...” He holstered the weapon and looked hard into her eyes. In the cold silver of the moonlight, they were his quiet center of the storm. The candle in the window he needed to guide him through this. To get me unlost.  “Sweetheart...are you alright?”


“Lily.” He took a few deep breaths, trying to collect his thoughts. He opened his mouth, then closed it, thinking. “Lily...”he tried again. “I”m sorry. I didn’t...” He reached for her shoulder and was surprised at the force with which she slapped his hand away.

“Don’t.” she said in a shaking whisper.

His guts twisted inside him, a palpable, wrenching ache. Words died on his lips and he realized he hadn’t the first idea what to say to her that wouldn’t sound pointless and stupid. All he knew was that the way she was looking at him hurt more than just about anything that had ever happened to him. He wanted to throw himself at her feet, beg her forgiveness, anything that’ll make her stop lookin’ at me the way she’s lookin’ at me right now.

It wasn’t the first time she’d looked at him with hurt in her eyes. But it was the worst. And he knew beyond a doubt it was going to be the last. A knife made of ice twisted inside him. She's done with me.

“I know it’s my fault.” he whispered, feeling desperate, like a man confessing for a torturer. “I don’t expect you to forgive me...but we’ll find him, Little Miss. I promise you.”

“I know you will.” She nodded. “I know that’s who you are. And it’s all our fault. We all did this.”

He flexed his hands, desperately wanting to pull her into his arms but not wanting to find out the hard way if she would rebuff him again. If she did, it would hurt too much, and at this very moment, he knew he was too weak to bear it. It would finish him. His eyes grew heavy and hot in his aching face. “We’ll...find him.”

Her face twisted, tears starting to once again course down her cheeks. “And I almost forgot who else you are, Pete.” She choked. “I guess I wanted to forget about it.” She was crying now, pulling off her silver spectacles and mopping her face with her apron.  “About how the road ends just this.” She gestured clumsily at his bruises and aching head. “And I knew better, too. If this is anybody’s fault, it’s mine. For...letting myself...” Pushing her glasses back onto her face, she paused and her voice trailed off. “For letting myself forget.” She decided to say.

“Little Miss..." His face burned and he took a deep, steadying breath. "I don’t blame you for hatin’ me.”

Her eyes narrowed, a look akin to disbelief etched across her features. “Hate you?” She uttered, the words both a sob and a laugh, bitter and mirthless and broken. She grimaced, shaking her head, turning her face from him.

He watched her walk away, feeling her drag his breath and his heart and his soul out and leave them torn and shattered on the rocks as she went.

His fingers went numbly to his pocket, falling on the tobacco pouch and he felt himself habitually falter, as he often cursed himself for doing in her presence. Cursed himself for not just being a grown man and doing what he wanted. For caring what she thought.

For not wanting to hurt her.

He realized with a start that the heat on his face was tears, and he leaned back against the rocks, rubbing his eyes with his fingers. His breath shuddered in his throat, silently convulsing against his attempts to get control of the agony he felt.

He had been wrong about so many things. He knew that now. And most of all, he knew he had been wrong when he’d said that nothing important was broken.


Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuugh you need to post again /soon? this is /terrible/ please move the story /along/ now, auggggggggggh......

(disadvantage of reading serials)


Amy M. said...

I'm interested to see if you give us Lily's perspective on this. I'm thinking her thought process probably involves something about her uncle being dead?

That is a nice song, but for some reason I have "Shelter from the Storm" stuck in my head after reading this chapter.

On a different note of wild speculation: Does Hester have any kids?

Regina said...

I looked up "Shelter From The Storm" and good call on that one.

I'd say you're right in Lily not wanting to go through what she went through with her uncle again. She has quite a few thoughts about all this, none of them good. And seeing Saint lying on a saloon floor didn't help.

As for Hester, I ain't saying. All I'll say is I can tell you've been thinking about this, I can see where your thoughts are, and I'm impressed. ;-)

And anyways, you're going to get your wish. Evidently this chapter was not as clear as I thought it was. I guess remembering that the readers do not see the big picture as I do is something that I need to work on as a writer.

As for the disadvantage of reading serials goes, don't I know it. I keep telling myself I'm going to wait to read so I won't have to read it one excruciating page at a time, but I NEVER DO. I always go there every time she posts because I can't freaking wait. :-DDD