Beyond His Control
Dan looked across the river for the twelfth time that day. He had lost count of the many times he let his eyes wander east in the year since she'd left. Hundreds of thousands, if he had to guess.
Dan Rourke owned a decent sized cattle ranch just west of the Mississippi River; his land butted up against the shore, the windows looked out over the muddy water. And across the river was Amelia Davis' farm, which she had inherited little over a year ago and was the reason she had left.
Since then Dan had lived in a dream bordering on a nightmare. His life was empty and not even the steady work of his ranch could help him.
It had all happened quickly. Amelia and her aunt had needed a place to stay while they waited for legal matters to clear up before taking possession of the farm across the river, and at the time Dan's mother and sister were still living with him. They opened their house to the women, not knowing what would happen in the weeks to come.
Amelia wasn't afraid of hard work and would join Dan when he went to check on his stock. Her aunt saw this, and that they were falling in love, which was no surprise to any save themselves. Amelia was a sweet girl, loving and intelligent; Dan was a good worker, a kind man with great intelligence himself. They were a good match, and Dan's mother and sister hoped that there would be a marriage soon, replacing the need for Amelia to take control of the ranch across the river. Amelia's aunt was against that as she had her own ideas for what was good for her niece, and in turn, herself.
Time passed, and with a bit of prodding from sister and mother Dan went out on a limb and confessed his heart to Amelia. It was more than he had hoped: Amelia returned his affections and was willing to, no, wanted to marry him. He chose an inopportune place, however, and her aunt overheard the whole, passionate exchange. Before anything could be done, her aunt stole into town and expedited the paperwork. They could take possession of the immediately. They had to, or it would go by default to another relative on the east coast.
Dan and Amelia were oblivious to all that. As far as they were concerned, they were the only two people in the world, and that night they did the unthinkable. After everyone was asleep, Dan appeared outside of Amelia's door.
"Come with me," he whispered. Amelia nodded and pulled her shawl around her shoulders.
She didn't ask where they were going, simply held his hand as he lead her out of the house and down a well worn path to the barn. It was a warm night, with a full moon and thousands of stars. He quickly shimmied up the ladder to the hay loft, reaching down to help Amelia up. There, with only the light from the moon as illumination, they consummated their love. As they lay in each other's arms, they vowed that nothing would ever separate them. As soon as the preparations could be made, they would marry.
Such dreams were rudely awakened the next morning. Amelia's aunt broke the news that they would be leaving before noon. Dan's mother and sister were horrified by the lack of tact showed by her aunt. Amelia was distraught; at the time there was no bridge near enough to make regular visits. In fact, it would take a day to reach the farm, travelling thirty miles up river to the nearest bridge, then another thirty down to the farm. Amelia looked to Dan, but his face was impassive.
"But, Aunt Davis, I wish to stay here. Mr. Rourke and I would like to marry."
"Impossible," Aunt Davis said. "Your father wanted you to take the farm and keep it running. If we do not take possession of it tomorrow then your good-for-nothing cousin will take it and that would dishonour your father's wishes."
"Then let him have it!" Amelia cried. "My father would want me to be happy, and I am happy here!"
But Amelia's aunt was not to be placated, and by noon the trunks were packed and she was gone. Dan had done nothing to stop her, because he couldn't. He was in shock didn't know what to do. So she had left, with one last look over her shoulder.
A year had passed, and he had not forgotten her. His sister had married a man from the town, and his mother moved in with them. Still, daily, he looked across the river toward the woman he loved and lost. Since then the town had decided to build a bridge across the river and it was almost finished.
The day came and the whole town celebrated. A wagon bearing a load of wool was first across, signalling lower prices on woollens and other such goods.
Dan saw the label on the cart. Davis Farms. Amelia's farm. He decided then and there to visit. It wasn't a difficult decision; he had been debating the matter since he heard of plans to build a bridge. The cart made his mind up for him.
The next morning he saddled his horse and rode as if the dogs of hell were behind him. After so long the hope of seeing Amelia again drove everything from his mind.
It wasn't hard to find the farm. Again he was robbed of speech. He rode up to the house and was greeted by Aunt Davis.
"You aren't welcome here, Mr. Rourke," she said quietly, the edge quite sharp in her voice.
"I'll ask Amelia that myself," he replied as he swung off the horse. "Where is she?"
"She's inside, tending her child," Aunt Davis said. "She married. A year ago. You've been forgotten. It's best if you go now. Don't ruin her life."
Dan heard Amelia singing inside the house, a tender lullaby, and Dan's heart broke again.
He rode back to his ranch. There was nothing for him now. The woman he loved was forever gone from him. A rival rancher had made an excellent offer for his ranch. He could take the money and move further west, into Oklahoma or even to California. He could start over, and hopefully forget about Amelia.
Before he made any decisions he went to bed. It was the middle of the afternoon, but he was suddenly fatigued beyond his recollections. He slept through the night and well into the morning, when the barking of his dogs woke him.
"Yes?" he asked, opening the door a crack.
"Oh, God, you look terrible!"
"Amelia?" Dan gasped in disbelief.
He wrenched the door open and there she was, as beautiful as ever, a small baby in her arms. Amelia stepped into the house, cradling the baby as if it were made of gold.
"You didn't stay," she said.
"Your aunt said you were married."
"But the child-"
Amelia blushed. "My aunt is well practiced with lying. She wishes me to marry a man from town, a banker. She told him I was a widow, that my husband had been killed in an accident back east. A neat explanation for the child. Your son."
She pulled back the swaddling and Dan looked into a face that greatly resembled his own. His dark hair, his blue eyes. The infant smiled.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked quietly.
"I tried. Aunt Davis found the letters and destroyed them. I couldn't ride in my condition, and the farmhands are all frightened of her."
"But- You're here now."
"I left," Amelia said, setting her chin. "Everything. Everything but the boy. She wouldn't tell me you had come, but I saw you. She wouldn't let me follow you then, so I left before dawn. I won't be going back."
Dan sighed and looked at the baby. "He's my son?"
"I don't know what to say."
Her head fell. "Then- I'll go east."
"No, you won't!" Dan said, taking her in his arms. "Amelia- I'm not good with words. I love you. I can't live without you. Please, tell me you'll stay."
The baby cried as they embraced, uncomfortable between the two lovers. They broke apart with a weak laugh and tears on both their cheeks. Dan held his child and stared with wonder at the life he had helped create. His heart was mended, never to break again.
© 2004 Copyright held by the author.