Category: The Big Valley
Word Count: 3600
It was just after 1:00 in the afternoon when Victoria and Audra drove their buggy into the town of Stockton. “I’ll drop you off at the dressmakers Audra, and then head over to the general store to pick up the supplies we need.” Victoria told her daughter.
As Victoria entered the store she heard the store clerk, Mavis, tell some customers that they were in Luck. Then Mavis beckoned Victoria to come over.
Victoria shook the man’s hand ” I am Victoria Barkley.” She then turned to shake the hand of the young lady. There was something familiar about the girl, but she could not place it. The young lady couldn’t have been more than 5′ tall, with a petite frame. Her brown hair was pulled up into an attractive bun, and her brown eyes shone with life. She looked to be in her mid twenty. In her arms she held a pretty blond girl with blue eyes. The little girl was about a year old.
Lilly extended her hand to Victoria, ” It is good to meet you. We are looking for a Heath Thomson and were told that he lives on the Barkley Ranch.”
“That is correct. If you would like you could follow my daughter and me back to the ranch. Heath is out on the range working, but he will be in for supper. You can join us for supper?” Victoria offered.
“That would be very kind Mrs. Barkley, but we don’t want to be any trouble. We just want to talk to Heath.” Lilly said.
“Oh nonsense it will be no trouble at all, and probably the best way for you to catch Heath. He is awfully busy this time of year. I just have to get some supplies here and then pick my daughter up at the dressmakers. Where do you have you buggy parked?” Victoria asked. ***
Mavis had watched and listened to the conversation between Victoria and the other two. When she heard that they were looking for Heath, she took one look at the little girl in the woman’s arms and came to her own conclusions as to why they were looking for Heath. She told everyone who came in the store.
“Boy howdy! Is it ever hot today.” The blond cowboy said as he wiped his hand across his brow. Nick and Heath had been working all day rounding up stray cows. The day was one of the hottest this summer and both boys were hot and thirsty.
Yeah! It sure is a scorcher. What do you say we knock off early and head into town for a drink before super.” Nick yelled over his shoulder as he headed Coco toward town.
“You won’t get an argument from me.” Heath answered as he turned Charger, to follow Nick.
As the two boys rode into town, Heath noticed people on the street where staring at them and whispering. “Is it just me Nick or is everyone watching us?”
Nick looked around and agreed that people did seem a little interest in the arrival of the two men. “Just ignore it Heath let’s get that drink.”
Heath and Nick dismounted and tied their horses to the hitching post in front of the bar. When they entered the bar everyone stopped talking and turned to watch as the two boys walked to the counter to order their drinks.
“Have we spouted wings or something?” Heath asked under his breath. The blond man was beginning to feel very uncomfortable with the attention they were getting today.
“I said to just to ignore them. Give us two mugs of beer Al.” Nick ordered as he pushed his younger brother toward one of the stools in front of the counter.
Heath sat down thanking the barkeeper for the tall mug of cool beer, which was placed in front of him. Heath had just taken his first gulp of his drink when three men, who where sitting in the corner of the bar approached them.
“I hear there is congratulations to be had, Heath.” One of the men said, as he handed Heath a cigar.
This Man was John an ex-employee of the Barkley, who could not accept taking orders from “A bastard”. When Heath first arrived at the Barkley Ranch John was amongst a group of hands that caused problems for Heath. Finally Nick told every hand that Heath orders were as good as his own and if anyone had a problem with it they could pick up their pay. John was one of the hands to leave the ranch that day. He went to work for a neighboring ranch. But he never stopped looking for ways to cause problems for Heath. ing about?” Heath asked.
“Well the way I hear it there is this pretty little filly totting a little blue eyed, blonde girl, looking for you. Since the lady came with her father it looks to me like there is going to be a shot gun wedding in the Valley soon.” John sneered.
“Hey Nick, It looks like your Bastard brother has his own little Bas…” That was all John could get out before Nick shut him up with his fist. Then the other two men with John rushed toward Nick and Heath, soon the whole bar exploded into a barroom brawl. A gunshot caused everyone in the bar to stop fighting. at is hree brothers rode home in silence. When they reached the ranch they tended to their horses and headed to the hoe.
On the way to the house, as Heath lagged behind his two brothers Nick filled Jarrod into the cause of the bar fight. Jarrod gave a low whistle under his breath. The three brothers entered the house.
“What happened to you two.” Victoria asked Nick and Heath when she saw their ripped clothing and bruised faces. nd Audra could tend to the cuts on their faces. Reluctantly the boys did as they were asked.
“Oh, Heath there is a man and woman here to see you. Since they were tired from their trip I told them to use a couple of guestrooms for a nap. They will be joining us for supper.” Victoria informed her son. Heath Stiffened as Victoria told him this.
“And she has the cutest little girl with her.” Audra added. At this Heath bolted out of the chair he was sitting
“The kid ain’t mine. I don’t care what lies that woman been telling you.” Heath hissed.
” Are you sure Heath, after all father didn’t know. Jarrod asked.
Heath glared at his brother. “I am not my father! I wouldn’t leave a woman to raise a child of mine alone. I’d make sure of it. That kid ain’t mine.”
“No one is claiming that she is” a rough angry voice came from the entrance to the sitting room.
“My daughter’s late husband is the father of the child. My daughter isn’t the kind of woman that you are implying. Sam had just gotten up from his nap and was heading down stairs when he caught the tail end of the Barkelys conversation. It infuriated him to hear what this man thought of his daughter. He just wanted to go get Lilly and Sarah and get out of here, but he had promised Lilly. On the trip to the ranch Sam once again tried to convince Lilly to forget about talking to this fellow Heath, but Lilly insisted she want to meet and talk to this man. Sam once again gave into his daughter’s wishes, but insisted that he was to be the one to meet Heath first. He would explain everything to this man. Then and only then would he allow his beloved daughter to meet him? Lilly reluctantly agreed to her father’s wishes don’t see what any of this has to do with me.”
“I am getting to that.” Sam hissed back at the impatient blond cowboy standing before him. Again he wish that he could just forget the whole thing.
“As I said, we never told Lilly she was adopted so it came as a shock to her. She kept asking my wife and me about her real mother. We refused at first, but after a couple months of Lilly’s angry questions and tears, we gave in and told her as much as we knew about her birth mother. All we knew was that Lilly was born on May 25, 1852, in a little mining town, called strawberry, to a unwed woman named Leah Thomson.” Sam said ave now!”
Sam pulled out some papers from his vest pocket and held them out to Jarrod. “We’ll leave, but first look at these papers. They will prove what I say is true.”
Jarrod let go of Heath’s arm and took the papers from Sam. He then carefully read the papers. When he was done reading he handed them to Heath. Heath refused to take the papers from Jarrod.
” I won’t read any of his lies.” Heath snarled as he pulled himself out of Nick’s grip.
“These papers are legal adoption papers. They show that Lilly was born on May 25, 1852 and was adopted by Mr. Miller and his wife on November 29, 1852. They have your mother’s signature at the bottom.” en .”
Heath turned away from the others and walked over to stare out the big bay window. “My mother would not give away a child like a puppy or kitten just because the litter was too big. But if these papers are true then that is what she done. I don’t understand how could she could just give away her daughter.” Heath’s voice was hoarse and his shoulders were shaking.
“Neither could I.” Came a soft gently voice from behind him. Heath turned. As he stared at the petite woman before him, all doubt of what Sam had told him faded away and he knew it was the truth. Lilly was the spitting image of his Mother, when she was twenty-five. Heath backed up and leaned against the window.
“But then I found out she didn’t.” Lilly said as she approached Heath.
Sam tried to stop his daughter, but she shrugged off her father’s hand. “I promised to let you tell him about me and the adoption, but I will tell him what we found out in Strawberry.”
Nick walked over to Heath and placed a hand on his younger brother’s shoulder. He stood protectively between Heath and the young woman. Over the last year that Heath had been living with them, they had all learned of the hardships and pain that town had cause Heath. Nick hated that place. He hated it even more when something or someone showed up to cause Heath further pain. By coming here and claiming to be Heath’s sister this woman was causing Heath enough pain. Now she wanted to tell Heath something else that happened in that stink hole of a town. Nick just wanted to tell this woman to pack up and leave his bother alone. He noticed his mother giving him a warning look that said not to interfere. Nick stood by Heath to give him as much support as he could. a had th, he needed to know.
Lilly stood looking at the tall blond cowboy, and could not stop telling herself that this was her brother. He was a part of her real family, a connection to her past. She wanted to run to him throw her arms around him, but he stood defensively staring at her. When her brown eyes meet his dark blue eyes she saw his pain, confusion, mistrust, and a sense of betrayal burning through them. She understood all these feelings, for she herself felt all of them when she found out the truth about her adoption.
“After my adopted parents told all they knew about my birth mom, I was determined to come Strawberry and meet her. I had too many questions that only she could answer. My father insisted that he would accompany me.” Lilly began her story.
“Oh, Miss Leah! You come to take me home.” Mistaking Lilly for Leah, Hannah believed that her time on the earth was over and that Leah was sent to take her to meet her Lord.
“No my name is Lilly, I am Leah’s daughter, and I’m looking for her.” Lilly answered. She was confused by what the woman had said. .”
“I wasn’t lost. She gave me away.” Lilly snapped
“Oh no child, she did not give you away. That no account brother of hers stole you away when Leah was sick with fever. His wife past herself off as Leah and signed the adoption papers. After Leah was better she found out what her brother did. She went to the sheriff, but he wouldn’t help. He just told Leah that her brother did her a favor and if she was smart she would get rid of the other child too.”
Thinking of how she would feel if someone took away her own daughter, Lilly’s heart cried out to her mother. “Where is my mother I need to see her.”
“She’s here.” Hannah said pointing to grave she had been kneeling besides. Lilly collapsed by the grave and wept. Sam with Sarah in his arms walked over and put his arms around his little girl. Oh how Sam wished that they never came here. He also wished that Lilly had never found those darn papers. At least it was over now. They could go home and Lilly could heal.
Lilly stood up, wiped tears from her eyes and looked straight at Hannah. “You said that the sheriff told her she should get rid of the other child as well. What other child?” Butw?” Lilly asked
“He lives with the Barkelys in Stockton now.” Hannah answered. Lilly thanked the woman and turn to her father.
“We have to go to Stockton. I need to meet my brother. ” Lilly told her father. Sam tried to talk Lilly out of going, but she insisted, so they headed to Stockton.
When Lilly told Heath about what Uncle Matt and his wife did to his mother and Lilly. It was more than he could take. The anger and hate he carried all these years toward his Uncle exploded within him. In an angry rage he screamed “That son-of-a-bitch,” as he drove his right fists through the bay window he was standing by. Glass flew everywhere. Nick grab Heath’s injured arm. Blood poured from two very deep cuts.
“Jarrod, go get he doctor” Nick order his older brother, but Jarrod was already racing for the door. Heath tried to pull away from Nick’s grip on his forearm.
“Stop it Heath, we got to stop the bleeding.” Nick told Heath, but Heath did not care all he wanted was to get away turmoil that raged inside of him. Again he tried to pull out off his bothers strong grip. When Nick wouldn’t let go Heath threw a left hook and caught Nick in the jaw. His punch forced Nick to let go of Heath’s arm as he fell to the floor.
With his arm free, Heath bolted to the door. Nick jumped up and tackled the retreating blond. Nick finally managed to pin Heath to the floor. Heath tried to free himself, but he was too weak and tired from the loss of blood. As Nick held the injured man down, Victoria rapped the towels, that Audra had gotten from the bathroom, around her blond son’s forearm to stop the bleeding. Then Heath lost conciseness from the loss of blood.
“Can you help us move him to his room Mr. Miller?” Victoria asked Sam.
Sam and Nick carried Heath to his room while Victoria kept direct pressure on Heath’s cuts. Audra ran ahead of them to pull back the sheets on Heath’s bed.
Lilly followed the procession up the stairs. When she reached the top of the stairs she heard her daughter, Sarah, crying from the guestroom where the little girl had been left sleeping. She was torn between going to care for her daughter and staying with her brother. Knowing she would only be in the way with Heath and that at this moment her daughter needed her more, she went to Sarah. She entered the room crossed over to the crib, that Victoria had brought down from the attic for her to use, and picked up her daughter.
As she took care of Sarah’s needs, she couldn’t stop thinking about Heath. As long as she could remember, she had felt that there was something missing from her heart. Now she knew that the blond man lying in the other room was the piece that made her heart whole. She kept seeing his pale face as he lay on the floor as blood poured from his arm. What if he bleeds to death? She couldn’t lose that part of her heart again. “Oh God!” She prayed” “Let him be alright.” n Samk turns sitting with Heath.
When Heath awoke Lilly was sitting with him. When he first awoke and saw Lilly he mistook her for Leah. “Mama.” He croaked
“No, its Lilly” she said as she brushed a piece of his blond hair from his face.
“You sure look like her you know.” Heath said
“I am getting that impression.” Lilly smiled as she asked. “What was she like?”
“She was the finest woman you would ever meet. She was kind, gentle and so full of love. She had a hard life, but never complained. She sacrificed everything for me.” Heath stopped and looked into the face so much like the woman he loved. What kind of life would this girl have had if she grew up in Strawberry? That place had taken Leah’s life. Would it have taken Lilly’s too? . I just hate the pain that man caused mama.” Heath said.
Lilly leaned forward and hugged Heath. “I am sorry he hurt her too and I am sorry I will never get to meet her, but I am glad I found you. You are he missing part of my heart.”
“I glad you found me too, Sis.” Heath said returning the embrace. The two twins held on to one another as if their lives depended on it.
Walking by Heath’s room Nick heard Heath and Lilly talking, so he entered the room. “What are you lying in bed for boy? We got work to do.” Nick joked.
Lilly did not realizing it was a joke. She stood up and faced Nick. “My brother is in no shape to be working today MR. BARKLEY.” She yelled at the intruder tell Lily that Nick was only teasing but she cut him off.
“No! It is not okay. Any employer that insists on an injured man working is lower than a snake in the bottom of a wagon rut.” Lilly screamed as she advanced toward Nick like lioness protecting her cub. She poked Nick sharply in the shoulder causing him to back up into the corner of the room.
When Sam, Victoria, Jarrod, and Audra heard Lilly yelling they all came racing into the room to see what the problem was. What they saw was Nick backing away from a very angry, petite woman and Heath doing his best not to laugh.
“What wrong.” Sam demanded
“I will tell you what’s wrong.” Lilly screeched. “This, this SNAKE.” Lilly fumed pointing angrily at Nick. The look Lilly shot Nick caused him to back up even further into the corner. That was all Heath could take and he broke out laughing. At the sound of his laugh Lilly stopped her attack on Nick, turned and glared at Heath. is.” He whispered in her ear.
When what Jarrod said finally sunk in Lilly burst into tears. She had started this journey looking for her mother. In Strawberry she found her mother dead and a trail that led her to her twin brother. In finding him she found her father’s family, her family.
When Lilly finally stopped crying, Mrs. Barkley told her of Heath’ entrance into the family and welcomed Lilly also. the running of the ranch.
Alone in the sitting room Victoria stared at the picture of her husband. “Your daughter is home now Tom where she belongs. I promise that I will love her as I love all your children. You have a granddaughter now Tom. She is the sweetest little girl. You would love her.” She said out loud to the picture.
Victoria then sat down and wrote a long letter to her youngest son, Eugene, who was working for a professor of his in Boston for the summer. In the letter she told him that everything and everyone at the ranch was fine and that he now had a new sister. every customer in the restaurant.
“Its good to meet you.” Silvia stammered and then walked away.
After she left the Barkleys had a good laugh. “I think that we should have a party and introduce Lilly properly to the Valley.” Victoria stated.
“That’s a great idea mother.” Audra squealed.
Heath leaned over toward Lilly and whispered. “You will find that they will use any excuse for a party.” Audra playfully slapped Heath.