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Published on Saturday, March 23, 2013

Urilla

By Ray Duchene

 

Urilla's lips were close, almost touching my ear.

"I love you Wyatt," she whispered.

I reeled back slightly, surprised by the sudden sound of my wife's voice. I turned around in my chair and saw her standing in the center of the room, holding our son.

I eased myself up and walked to her, then wrapped her into a warm embrace - careful not to crush the bundle between us. After a few moments, I held her out at arm's length and looked her up and down.

"I've missed you, Urilla," I said. "You have no idea how much."

Urilla looked at the bundle that was nestled in her arms and began to rock it back and forth as she paced the room. She walked to the partly open bedroom door and peered in at the half-naked woman lying sprawled out on the bed.

   

"It doesn't seem so."

My face turned red with embarrassment. I hadn't seen Urilla since Dodge City, and that had been a couple of years ago.

"Well Godammit Urilla," I said. "It's been over two years since I..."

"Shhhhh..." She pulled one hand off of her bundle and lifted her index finger to her lips. "You don't want to wake your wife; do you?"

I crossed the room and closed the bedroom door.

"We don't have to worry about her," I said. "When she takes her medicine, sometimes she stays in bed for days. Besides, we ain't married."

Urilla seemed to like this answer. She gave me a pleasant smile and then strolled over to me again, holding the baby out. I took a couple of steps back and her smile faded.

"He's your son Wyatt."

"I know," I said. "I know he is. But... well Goddammit Urilla, he's dead! Don't you see that?"

She uttered a half chuckle that would've evolved into full blown laughter if she hadn't looked down. The baby was half formed. Its skin was devoid of moisture, and the color of black reserved only for extremely ancient things. She let out a gasps and dropped the bundle. When it hit the floor, it exploded into a puff of ashes - then she screamed.

Holding my breath, I ran to the bedroom door and cracked it open a bit so I could look inside. Mattie was still laid out in the same position that I had left her in; dead to the world. I let out my breath and closed the door again.

When I turned around, I saw that Urilla was now sitting at my desk; the chair turned around facing me. She had her face in her hands and was crying softly. I walked over to her and knelt beside her, placing my hand on her arm.

"Urilla," I said. "You know that our son was never born. I don't know why you always show up with him."

When she pulled her hands away, her tears had stopped falling. The expression on her face was pure contempt. She grabbed a hold of my hand and threw it away from her, then stood.

"You were supposed to protect us, Wyatt!" she said.

Without waiting for me to respond, she walked past me and looked out of the open window. I stood and followed her, then embraced her from behind, buried my nose in her hair and breathed in. I had always loved her smell. It was the one memory I had of her that hadn't faded at all.

"There was nothing I could do Earlie," I whispered. I sometimes called her that. "Sometimes good people and babies die. I wish they don't, but they do. That's just how it is, I suppose."

My tears began to flow then. They lit a trail down my cheeks and were quickly absorbed by her hair. She reach up and placed her hands on mine; pressing them in toward her chest.

"What are you going to do about her?" she asked.

I thought about it; waited to respond until I was sure that my voice wouldn't be taken over by my emotions.

"I dunno," I said. "I expect that she'll just go away like all of the others."

I closed his eyes again and took another deep breath of her hair. I hoped that my answer would be enough to satisfy her. I didn't really love Mattie; not really.

"Not her," she said.

She pointed out of the open window at a woman who was crossing the street, approaching the saloon on the other side.

"Her."

I looked out the window, in the direction that Urilla was pointing. Just as I saw her, Josephine looked up and waved at me; smiling. She approached the saloon double doors, then turned back and blew me a kiss before walking in.

"Is she just going to go away?" Urilla said.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't think that Urilla knew about Josephine. How could she? I released my grip on my wife and returned to my desk. Instead of sitting on the chair, I sat on the desktop. Urilla followed right behind me. Even sitting on the desk, I was still a good foot taller than she was standing. At that moment though, I felt as if she was towering over me. I snatched my hat off of the desk and put it on, then pulled the front of it down to hide my eyes.

"Do you love her?" Urilla asked.

I didn't answer her. I pulled out my knife and began to clean my fingernails; ignoring her. Urilla reached out and snatched the hat off of my head and threw it back on the desk. I acted as if I didn't notice.

"Do... you... love... her?" She asked again. "Answer me you son of a bitch!"

I didn't know what to say. If I told her that I wasn't in love with Josephine, she would probably not believe me. If I told her that I did; I didn't want to think about that.

"I don't know," I said.

Urilla let out a loud chuckle and began to pace again around the room. On her third pass, she snatched the knife from my hand and began to twirl it around as she walked. She was still smiling at me when I looked up at her. She stopped walking and began to talk to me again; motioning at me with the blade of the knife every time she said a word.

"Do you know how many times I have saved you Wyatt?" she asked.

"Urilla, I..."

"Do you know how many bullets had your name on it; and if not for my inclination to help you, would have ended you?"

I didn't want to make her angrier. I got up from the desk and slowly approached her, and then I placed my hand, gently, around the hilt of the knife. At first, it didn't seem like she was going to let it go, but then her grip slackened and I pulled the knife away from her.

Her fury seemed to melt away when I pulled her against me. I ran my fingers through her dark brown hair. I didn't know what to expect; whether or not she would attack me, but my anxiety loosened a bit, when I felt her tears wet the side of my neck.

"If you marry that woman, Wyatt, you're on your own," she said.

"I don't plan on marrying anyone"

Her tears flowed generously; our embrace tightened. I felt her lips on my neck, kissing me all the way up to my ear.

"I should've let you die Husband. Then I could have had you with me all this time."

At certain times in my life, I had wished the same thing. I loved my wife until her dying day, and every day since.

"Will you?" I asked. My voice was cracking under the pressure of an emotional floodgate.

She pulled her face away from my neck and gazed up at me with those soft brown eyes of hers.

"No," she said. "I just couldn't bear it."

"Wyatt!"

The sound of my Brother Virgil's voice drifted up through the open window.

"Wyatt! You up there?"

I released Urilla, walked over to the window, and looked out. Down on the street, my Brothers Virgil and Morgan were holding shotguns; looking up toward the window.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's the McLaury's and the Clantons!" Morgan shouted.

"They were seen down by the O.K. Corral," Virgil said.

I gave them a puzzled look.

"So?" I said. "That ain't no crime."

"They're armed Wyatt," Virgil said.

"Ahhh damn," I said to myself. "Why today?"

"We're going to take away their irons," Morgan said. "You coming?"

"Yeah," I said. "I'll be right down."

I turned from the window and looked at Urilla, who didn't look at all concerned.

"I gotta go take care of this," I said.

I walked past her, to the coat rack and pulled down my long coat and put it on. Then I grabbed my pistol belt off of the desk, fastened it around my middle, and then located my hat. Dressed for duty, I pulled down my shotgun from its usual place on the wall.

Urilla came to me, wrapped her hands around the back of my neck and pulled me to her. Our lips met, followed by our tongues. When the kiss was done, I didn't push her away. It was her who nudged me toward the door.

"When will I see you again," I asked.

"I have no idea," she said. "Hopefully soon."

"Well, if this don't go my way, it might just be real soon!"

She gave me a final kiss before I walked out of the room, and then smiled up at me.

"Not today," she said.

I smiled back at her, tilted my hat, and walked out, closing the door behind me. I imagine that Urilla stayed by the door for a few seconds before vanishing, listening to my footsteps as I walked away.

I met Virgil and Morgan in the middle of the road. We checked our shotguns and shooting irons to make sure that they were fully functional and loaded then began to walk in the direction of the O.K. Corral. Before we took more than three steps, the doors of the saloon burst open and Doc Holliday came stumbling out. He staggered up to us, and then fell in line. I thought that Doc may have been just a little too drunk for a fight, but I would never tell him so. Before moving out again, I cast a final look up to the second story window of the room that I shared with Mattie, but Urilla wasn't there. Then, I looked at the saloon window, and saw the framed, beautiful face of Josephine staring out at me; her eyes were wide with fear. I tilted my hat toward her, winked, and then set off again toward my destiny.

THE END

 

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