Thoughts (by Debbie B.)

Summary:   A story in six voices.

Rated:  PG
Word Count:  9253


 

Thoughts — from the Man in Black

 

 I felt like an utter fool, being so gullible and all. But for some strange reason, I just couldn’t help myself; she was beautiful and I reacted like a little kid in the candy store. I think what surprised me the most about myself was how I felt when my family found out just how badly I’d made a fool out of myself. I wouldn’t admit it to them because I’m the kind of man who keeps his deepest emotions to himself, but I found myself hurt by their reactions. I mean…me, Adam Cartwright, brought to the verge of tears by the wiles of a young woman…that isn’t me, not in the least. That is, until this time.

 Maybe I was in love with Leilani; perhaps that’s why this has hurt me so much. Then, the fact that my middle brother showed such concern and pity for me…pity…I hate that word almost as much as I hate the emotion, especially when it’s given to me! Hoss tried his best not to let it show, but the big man is so easy to read, like an opened book. It was in his eyes, it was in the tone of his voice, and even showed in his actions. He pitied me, plain and simple. The situation with Hoss was almost as unbearable as when Leilani looked me eye to eye and burst out laughing, mocking me, belittling my love for her, as if I’d been nothing more than a play toy for her. Someone to wile away her lonely hours, someone to hold her in the darkest hours of the night, someone to make…love…to her…someone to use for her own gratification, only to be tossed aside when she had enough of me, or became bored with me. Damn…it’s times like this that I wished I’d never been born…no…I don’t really mean that. My life hasn’t always been a bed of roses, but it certainly hasn’t been hell on earth either. I do wish however, that I had left home a year or so ago…only because had I, my family wouldn’t have become so caught up in my private affairs.

 And then there was Little Joe. He laughed at me! That stung; it hurt. Oh, my kid brother didn’t mean to hurt me; in fact, he has no clue how his laughing affected me. In my heart of hearts, I know Little Joe isn’t the sort of young man to who goes around mocking his older brothers or one who gets pleasure out of seeing one of us hurting. I just think that Joe simply didn’t think…or maybe didn’t realize…how deeply I had fallen into love with Leilani. Joe probably thought I was only seeing her because she was so lovely, so desirable… Being but 18 years old, those are the reasons Joe would have chased after such a beautiful young woman. But it shouldn’t have been the reasons I did so. I’m not even sure why I did… I honestly think…now that I can look back at it without stars in my eyes…that I was so fascinated by her charm, her mannerisms and her beauty, that I found myself caught up in a sort of dream I must have had about possessing her. Little Joe had even gone so far — in the beginning of the courtship — as to ask me what, beside her strikingly good looks, did I see in the woman. Well, hell Joe, I remember thinking at the time…look at her! Pa always told us that hindsight was 20-20. Looking back to that beginning, now I see myself reacting much as Little Joe might have reacted, had he seen her before I had. He would have pursued her as ardently, if not more so, than I. I don’t know why I did…I’m such an idiot. I can tell you this much…it won’t happen again…ever again. If I learned anything, I learned that the old saying “Beauty is only skin deep” is certainly the truth. Leilani was as fake as any woman I’ve ever met. And she certainly proved that her beauty was only on the surface and that beneath that lovely exterior laid a harsh, cruel and bitter young woman.

 I’m not sure how I missed seeing or sensing that the very first day I spent with her,  I can honestly admit to myself — God, I’d never admit this to another living person…ever for I’d never hear the end of it. But Miss Abigail Jones is ten times more the lady than Leilani. Miss Jones might not be the looker that Leilani is, but what she possesses within her heart and soul is something that the beautiful Leilani could learn from, if she’d the desire, which I’m positive she doesn’t. I feel guilty now for all the times that I’ve shunned Abigail and thought her flighty and fought against her true emotions. I feel twice the fool when I think about how she feels towards me and I toward her and how differently I’ll treat her from now on. I will show more respect for her feelings…NO…I will not become involved with her, but I will be kinder. I’ve been broken inside by someone I thought I loved…I’ll not do to Abigail what Leilani has done to me.

 Pa…God bless the man. He’s been my strength since I was a baby. I’ve spent so much of my life patterning myself after him, wanting to be the kind of man that he is, and I find myself falling short of the task so many times. He’s a tough act to follow. Pa told me one day, many years ago, that as I grow, I must shape myself into the kind of man that is right for me. He said it was all right to pattern myself like him, but it was only through life’s trials and tribulations that I’d become who I was really meant to be. So I gave up trying to ‘be’ Ben Cartwright and started to take what I had learned from him and whatever life tossed my way and using those tools along with the Good Book. I slowly began to learn to be myself. I can’t say that I’m ‘there’ yet…especially after what has happened here. I almost feel as if I’ve taken a few giant steps backward into my more youthful days rather than the steps forward needed to reach manhood. But at what point in life does a man feel the freedom to deem himself a man? I mean, look at me…I’m thirty years old, certainly not young, like my kid brother. I should have acted more like a thirty-year-old instead of an eighteen-year-old. I simply should have known better than to fall for a pretty face and shapely figure. I should have…known better. I keep telling myself that over and over and over, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. I didn’t…and I can’t explain it.

 And then Pa came to my room last night. I was lying on the bed, wishing I could drop off the face of the earth. Hoss’ pity burned in my gut, Joe’s laughter ran in my ears, and then Pa knocked on the door. I know when he pushed the door opened and saw me on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, that he heard me groan. He knew that I knew he was there to lecture me about all of this. I knew his intentions were good — he knew I understood that — but I knew he knew I wasn’t looking forward to one of his speeches. I even told him so.

 “Pa,” I said to him, “I’m not ready for this…I don’t want to talk about it…”

 And Pa simply answered with, “I know. So, I’ll talk, you listen.” And then he said to me: “Adam, just listen; you won’t have to say a word until I’m finished, if you want to…and if not…that’s okay, as long as you hear what I’m going to say to you.”

 I rose up and turned myself around until I was sitting on the edge of my bed, looking across at my father. He had pulled up a chair and sat facing me. “Adam, life can at times be cruel…like right now. But as we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn’t supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than just once and it’s harder every time it happens. You’ll break hearts too, son, so remember how it feels right now as you try to mend this broken heart. You’ll fight with your best friend, even with your brothers and probably with me. You’ll blame a new love for things an old love has done. You’ll cry because time is passing too fast…and you’ll eventually lose someone you love…because of death…or simply because they decide to leave you. It happens, Adam, but that’s the way with life.

 So, my advice to you is to make too many good memories, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt, because for every sixty seconds you spend upset and moping around, wishing you can change something that cannot be changed, is a minute of happiness that you’ll never get back. It’s gone, son…it’s wasted…don’t waste precious time grieving about something that cannot be. Somewhere down the road of your life…is exactly what you’re searching for…trust me, Adam…I’ve traveled those same roads before and I know what I’m talking about.”

 Pa’s words hit me like a ton of rocks. I just looked up at him without uttering a word. It was hard to see him clearly, for my eyes had misted over. I felt his strong fingers squeeze my shoulder and then heard the door close behind him. He had left me to ponder over his words and to give me a moment to compose myself. I hung my head and let the tears drip slowly from my eyes. It had been a long time…a very long time since I had allowed myself the privilege of crying. When I was finished, I was surprised at how much better I felt. Getting up, I walked to the window and pulled back the drapes. Pa, Hoss and Little Joe were finishing up the nightly chores. I could only suspect that my brothers had done mine for me. Pa had probably suggested to them that they do…and being as how they’re really good kids, they complied willingly…well, at least Hoss would have. I can just hear in my mind Little Joe, though, putting up a protest, knowing fully well that he’d do them just the same.

 Whew…it’s over…done. I might as well put it all behind me. There certainly isn’t any use crying over spilled milk…or lost love. But was it ‘love’? Not according to how I’m feeling. Didn’t someone once say that love isn’t suppose to hurt? That’s bull…it does hurt…but when it’s right, the hurt is good, not bad like this kind of hurt. I rinsed off my face and dried it, buttoned my shirt and put on my best face. It was time to meet the family for supper. From this moment on…I start living my life according to Pa’s words. I’m going downstairs and make Little Joe laugh –I love his childish laughter — and I’m going to make Hoss look less pitifully at me. And Pa…well, he’s given me a special memory. He’s given me his…life…his love…his wisdom…all I can give him is the same. I’ll cherish the memories, and I’ll make more…happier ones, so that when I lose those that I love most…they, in a sense, will always be with me, for no matter what happens, no one can take the memories I hold dear, away…and those bad memories…well…I’ll have to work on ridding myself of them.

Think positive…and remember what you have to be thankful for…family, friends…loved ones…memories!

 Adam Cartwright


Thoughts  — from Little Joe

 

Golly, I was surprised when Adam and his lady friend stopped seeing each other. When I saw Adam riding into the yard that late afternoon, I could tell by the expression on his face that something had happened. I wanted to ask; my older brother dismounted and stomped by me so fast that all I had the time to do was open my mouth. Adam must have seen me inching towards him ‘cause all he said, without so much as glancing my way, was to shut up. So I did. And I went about my business, keeping my thoughts to myself. That is until Hoss ventured out to the barn where I’d gone to work. When I saw my middle brother, he looked…well…troubled, so I asked him what was wrong.

“Nuthin’.”

“Yeah right,” I snarled back and went back to work.

Later we were sitting at the dinner table waiting for older brother to come down and join us.

“Can’t we go ahead and eat?” I remember grumbling. My food was getting cold, and I hate eating a cold supper.

“NO!”

I raised my brows slightly and cast a sideways glance at Pa.

“Sorry,” I remember muttering and then wondering to myself what on earth had put Pa in such a bad mood. And then ‘he’ came down the stairs. I looked up at him and thought…he looks as if he’s going to the gallows.

I started to open my mouth to say something to him, but Hoss kicked me under the table, so I thought I’d better keep my mouth shut.

Well, Adam sat down with barely an acknowledgement to any of us and picked up his fork and started eating.

“I thought you were bringing your lady friend home to supper?” I remarked.

Man…the looks I got from Pa were enough to make me wish I’d been born without a tongue in my mouth. I gulped hard and tried to swallow.

“Leilani couldn’t make it…not tonight or any other night…”

Adam’s statement was straight to the point and he never even looked up at me, but sat there and kept eating. I couldn’t stand the suspense, and though I knew I should have minded my own business, Adam’s business seemed a little more exciting at the moment than mine. I had to ask. “Why?”

Hoss kicked me harder, hurting my shin. I glared at him, but when Adam dropped his fork, I turned quickly to look at him. He shoved back his chair and stood up. The dark fire in his eyes told me that in no uncertain terms I had crossed the line.

“Because she…dumped me…that’s why…if you must know!” Adam shouted at me.

I was stunned and I know my mouth dropped opened. And then it hit me…it began as just a wee grin but spread across my face without me hardly realizing it. The gurgling down in my gut erupted then and my giggling burst forth like an exploding volcano. I couldn’t believe my ears…my brother was dumped by a girl! I don’t know why I found that funny…Adam’s the one who usually dumps the girl…and then I looked up into his eyes and saw it. He was hurt…Adam was actually hurt over the fact that Leilani…or whatever her name is…dumped him first!

But I could have told him it would happen. I saw through her deceptiveness on day one. I don’t understand how Adam missed it. That woman, though beautiful to look at, was like a venomous snake. Oh, her voice was sweet…too sweet, to tell you the truth. And her mannerisms bespoke of being lady; even the way she dressed screamed LADY! I had a bad feeling about her from the moment I first laid eyes on her. And I was stunned that Adam even went so far as to give her a second look, let alone allow himself to become involved with her. I mean, after all, my older brother is a dadburn good-looking man…almost as handsome as I am…so he could have any girl he wanted, just like me. Why he wanted Leilani was a mystery to me and one that I’ll probably never know the answer to. I’m not even sure I want to know the reason. I know, it sounds strange; I can’t explain it. Who knows what makes Adam do the things he does?

Adam stormed from the house and the front door slammed when he shut it. I felt like a heel. When I glanced over at Pa, his eyes were dark and he was frowning. I looked across the table at Hoss but he had his head bent low and wouldn’t even look at me. I watched for a second or two how he pushed his food around his plate with his fork.

“I’m sorry,” I said in a soft whisper.

I didn’t know what else to say. How on earth was I to know that Adam was actually in love with this woman? He certainly hadn’t taken me into his confidence and told me so. Shoot, I just thought he was having himself a fling…though I better not say that in front of Pa. Ben Cartwright doesn’t take too kindly to one of his sons having themselves a ‘fling’. Not that I’ve ever had one, mind you.

Honestly, I feel bad for Adam. After taking time to think it over, I realize now that Adam probably didn’t care what Leilani was really like. My older brother is usually a fine judge of men — or women in this case — but he isn’t judgmental of people. Adam takes a person at face value. That’s probably how he felt about her in the beginning…and then as time passed by, he forgot using his mind to think with and started thinking with his heart instead. And that led him down the road to heartache.

Damn…I wish I hadn’t laughed. Now Adam probably thinks I think this whole mess was funny and probably believes that I’m glad it happened to him this time instead of me, like it usually does. And he’ll be thinking I’ll rag him all the time about it and not let him live it down. But nothing is further from the truth. Adam can be a pain sometimes, but he’s still my brother…we have the same blood flowing in our veins and I’d rather it had happened to me than to him. He’s got so much pride. To have it crumbled up into a little ball and thrown in his face…well…he’s bound to have taken it hard. The look in his eyes, his demeanor…it screams of a broken heart.

I’m such an idiot…I guess it’s true what Pa always tells me — that I never know when to shut up. When will I ever learn to keep my trap shut?

I promise…I’m going to apologize to Adam for laughing. I didn’t mean to add to his hurt…honest. I just didn’t know that he’d fallen so hard for this woman…I just didn’t know! I’ll give him time to cool off…and then I’ll go have a talk with him…I’ll say to him, “Adam…er…I’ll say…’Hey Big Brother…she wasn’t worth all the pain.’ NO…I can’t say that; obviously he thought she was. I’ll say, ‘Adam…I…didn’t mean to hurt your feelings by laughing…I…wasn’t laughing AT you…I was laughing because…’ NO…I can’t tell him that either. Aww dadburnit…I’ll just say it straight out. ‘Adam, I’m sorry…’

That’s it…just straight to the point and then I’ll tell him that I didn’t know how much he cared for the young lady and that I’m sorry things didn’t turn out like he hoped they would. Yeah…I’m sorry…that’s about all I can say. I’d never intentionally hurt him or Hoss or Pa either. I…love my big brother and I don’t care who knows it…even him!

Now, all I have to do is sit back and wait…

Joe Cartwright


 

Thoughts — Hoss’s Own

 

Dadburn Little Joe…why’d he have to go and laugh at Adam? Sometimes I think that boy was born without a brain. Couldn’t he see how hurt our big brother was? No…he just had to keep pushin’ Adam…he had to keep runnin’ his mouth. I should have reached across the table and slugged him instead of kickin’ him in the shin! And Pa…golly bumfuzzles, I thought for a moment there Joe was gonna get it good, right there on the spot! I can’t remember seein’ Pa’s eyes so dark; why, they looked like black thunderclouds and behind them, I knew a storm was brewing! Little Brother better thank his lucky stars Pa didn’t say anythin’!

 And Adam…the poor thing, hurtin’ like he was. That dadburn female…I oughta…NO…it ain’t none of my galldang business! I’ll just have ta let Adam deal with her. It ain’t likely, though, seein’ as how he’s sufferin’. He probably never wants to see that filly again. And I can’t say that I blame him, she bein’ like she is and all…all fancy smancy and such, thinkin’ she’s better’n the rest of us. I ain’t never yet figured out what Adam seen in her anyway. He’s better off without her, but I can’t tell him that. Why, the poor boy loved that girl. It was as plain as the nose on ya face. He was smitten all right. He fell for her like a fish after a worm on a warm, sunny afternoon.

 Whew…it’s times like this that I’m glad I ain’t no good lookin’ man. I ain’t never had to worry about no female hookin’ me like Little Joe and Adam are always gettin’ tangled up in them love affairs. I mean, I ain’t no prize for sure, but I’ve had a few women whom I’ve liked…better’n some. I just ain’t made a fool outta myself like my older brother and my kid brother. Shoot, I’d rather have a good horse under me than a flighty woman…I MEAN…ere…I should have said, I’d rather ride a good horse than…NO…oh, SHOOT…dadburn it!! I’m so confused, I ain’t even thinkin’ straight!

 I felt so sorry for Adam…I tried not to let it show…but then I ain’t never been too good at hidin’ my feelin’s. I knew every time that Adam looked my way that he knew just what I was thinkin’. He knew I was pityin’ him and I know he hates havin’ anyone pity him, even his brother…or worse, our Pa. Adam’s always been a man to keep his feelin’s to himself. He’s hard to understand at times. Most folks hereabouts think he’s got a dark side…but he don’t. I know him better’n most men…I know, behind that mask he wears daily, that there’s a tender side to my older brother. And it’s hard for him to let anyone get that close to him, but apparently this Leilani woman managed to. Look at what it’s cost him…his pride, his humility…his heart. They’s all broken. I ain’t so sure that they’ll mend, either. I mean, after all, when you give your heart to someone, you’ve given them the best part of yourself…and that’s what Adam’s gone and done. He gave that lady…and I use the word lightly…everything he had to offer…and she tossed it out the window like it weren’t nuthin’ but garbage!

 My older brother has always been an inspiration to me. I mean, besides Pa, if ever I wanted to be like someone, it would have to be Adam. He’s the best. Oh, Little Joe and I are close, probably closer in a way than Adam and I, and certainly more so than Adam and Little Joe… But Adam…well, he’s just different. But in a good sorta way. He’s a gentleman all the way, and that blasted woman cut him down like he weren’t more’n one of Pa’s tall Ponderosa pines. All I can say for her is she had better be glad she’s a female instead of a man, ’cause if she were a man, I’d wring her pretty little neck!

 I just happened to have in the kitchen when Adam came home that afternoon. Pa was at his desk and I heard the door slam. I went into the living room ‘cause I was gonna ask Adam if’n he wanted to go fishin’ with me and Joe the next day, but soon as I entered the room, I stopped. Adam had already started ranting and raving to Pa about this and that…things that didn’t really matter. Pa finally got big brother calmed down enough to find out that Miss Leilani wouldn’t be comin’ to supper that night…or any other night.

 I felt my brother’s pain in that instance. He dropped into a chair, and for a moment, I thought the poor boy was goin’ to burst into tears. I just knew that if he did, I’d lose it as well, so I had to get out of there. I went straight to the barn so I could be alone, but Joe was there working,’ and I know when he asked me what was wrong, I snapped at him. I hurt his feelin’s and I didn’t mean to. But I couldn’t get the look on Adam’s face off my mind. He was like a dyin’ man and I felt so helpless ’cause I couldn’t help him. Shoot, I wouldn’t have known how to help him if I could have. One thing I knew — I couldn’t bear to see the pain that showed in Adam’s face and in his expression. I had to get out of the house…so I did.

 Then, the next mornin’ when Adam came down stairs, I could see he’d suffered a bad night. His eyes were drawn, his hair was mussed, even his shirt tale was hangin’ out his pants…so unlike my normally neat, well-kept older brother. It was obvious that Adam hadn’t slept any at all. When he got to the table and sat down, he never bothered to look at any of us, let alone speak to us. He just started eatin’…and I could tell that he didn’t even realize what he was eatin’; his actions were just by habit.

 Oh Lordy…then Joe opened his mouth…well, the rest is history. Later that night, Pa went upstairs and had a little talk with Adam. I ain’t got no ideay what Pa said to Adam, but by supper Adam was dang near himself. It sure was good to have ’im back. I can’t stand to see any member of my family hurtin’…it tears me up inside. So in that case it was hard to hide my pity. But Adam was better, and since then, he’s pretty much put the incident behind him. He won’t talk about her…not yet…guess it’s too soon and the pain too raw, but in time he will, I just know it. And when he’s ready, I’ll be there for him to lean on. See, I got big shoulders and I can pretty much support any man…especially if that man happens to be my brother.

 Hoss Cartwright


 

Thoughts — Joe’s Apology

 

Adam seemed so…different. The last few days, since he and Leilani went their own ways, has surprised me. In the very beginning, Adam was quiet…withdrawn…angry…and hurt. Since my older brother has always been the quiet one, I wasn’t totally taken back by his actions on that part of his personality, and since most folks think he’s a withdrawn individual, that didn’t faze me much either. But the anger…well, I can’t say that I blamed him. I mean, after all, the poor boy gave his heart away. How was he to know beforehand that she’d rip it into a million pieces and then throw it back in his face? I knew she was a hussy from the very beginning…too bad big brother hadn’t seen it. Now…if he had only asked me…well…Adam wouldn’t have; he thinks of me as a kid still, and for sure wouldn’t ask or even WANT my advice on women…not that I had much experience in that category.

 And then there was the hurt…and I think most of that was my fault. Remember? I laughed at him that evening at the supper table. Oh…I didn’t mean to…and to be honest, I wasn’t really laughing AT Adam…I was laughing because I found it odd that HE was the one getting dumped this time instead of ME! But Adam hadn’t seen it that way and when I saw the pain in his eyes, I instantly regretted opening my mouth in the first place. That’s always been one of my many vices…speaking first and thinking later.

 But a day or so later, Adam seemed to have put the entire matter behind him. I suspect that it must have been because of the talk Pa had with him. I’m not sure, but I was glad to have my brother back. Oh, I still felt guilty about my part in hurting him, and though he made point after point to make me laugh when we were together, I just couldn’t find the courage to broach the subject to him. Inside, I felt like a heel…a traitor… and I so wanted to tell him that I was sorry, but something kept holding me back. Too bad that unexplained ‘something’ couldn’t hold my mouth shut when it needed shutting!

 And then last night I was out in the barn putting my horse up. I noticed that Adam hadn’t come in yet, so I lingered, finding little things to keep me busy, hoping that Adam wouldn’t be too late in getting home. After about half an hour, I heard him ride into the yard. I was standing in the shadows when he led Sport into the barn and stabled him. I watched for a moment as Adam unsaddled his mount. He looked tired and I wondered if perhaps his sadness wasn’t still lingering just a bit, inspite of the fact that he put on a happy face when one or all of us were about.

 Anyway, I stepped from the shadows and said hi to him.

 Adam spun around, pistol drawn and pointed at me. I was startled!

 “Hey big brother…you ain’t gonna shoot me now, are you?” I said in a trembling voice, recognizing my mistake of not letting my presence be known the instant my brother had entered the dimly lit barn.

 For a moment, a dark angry glare crossed my brother’s face but the expression died instantly when he realized whom he was pointing his gun at.

 “You little fool,” he said with a twinge of annoyance lingering in his tone. “That’s a damn good way to get yourself shot!” he stated as he turned to finish grooming his horse.

 “Yeah…I know…I didn’t mean to take you by surprise…I’m…sorry.”

 “Forget it, kid…just don’t do it again,” Adam said, this time lightly as he cast me a lopsided grin. “How come you’re out here…you aren’t waiting for me, now, are you?” Adam said teasingly.

 “NO,” I said too quickly. I have no idea why I denied it; I had been waiting for my brother. “I was…um…working…yeah, that’s it, I thought I’d get a head start on the tack room…it’s my turn to clean it, you know.” I knew I was stumbling over my words, but did he?

 Adam stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me. I felt the guilt I’d been carrying, wash over me like a dose of cold water.

“You, Joe? Working when you don’t have to…no…” he said, leaning against the wall. “Why don’t you just come out with it…and tell me what’s on your mind?”

 I lowered my head…damn this guilt…damn my big mouth!

 “Alright Adam,” I said, knowing my voice was low and soft. “I was waiting up for you…I…was…er…um…”

 “Come now, little brother…don’t tell me that you’re having trouble saying what’s on your mind? You sure haven’t had that trouble anytime in the past?”

 I looked up at him then, stunned. Was he referring to me laughing at him? God, I hope not. I felt the words rushing into my mouth and all I had to do was open wide and they spilled out, like milk from the bucket when the cow kicks and knocks it over.

 “I’m sorry, Adam…I didn’t mean to laugh at you and…I…I didn’t mean to hurt you. Anyone with any common sense — except me, of course — could tell you were hurting and it wasn’t my intention to make you feel worse than what you were already feeling. I’m sorry; I don’t know why I can’t keep my shut. I’m always blabbering when I should just shut up, just like Pa says; I’ll never learn when to talk and when not to. It’s been eating me up inside, how I made you feel and I’ve even lost sleep and I can’t eat…I feel just plain stupid and I can’t stand the guilt anymore… I’m sorry. Did you hear me…I said I’M SORRY! Damn it, Adam, say something!”

 He surprised me then and HE started laughing. I know I must have looked like an idiot…I certainly felt like one. But then he surprised me further when he came over to me and placed his hand at the back of my neck and pulled me close to him. We were eye to eye.

 “I will say something…now that you’ve managed to stop talking,” Adam said and then grinned at me. I noticed his dimples and I relaxed some, lowering my head.

 “Joe, I know you didn’t mean to laugh…and I know that you didn’t intentionally mean to hurt me. Oh…at first it did hurt, but it wasn’t because you laughed. The hurt was caused because…well…because I knew exactly WHY you were laughing. You saw, for the first time, me…in a situation more fitting for yourself…well…it’s true…” Adam snickered then. “I brought all of this on myself…I know that…now I know it. I acted like…a kid…I reacted to Leilani more so like…you would have. I should have known right from the start what you…even Hoss… knew; she was…rotten to the core!”

 I felt myself start to giggle. When I looked up into my brother’s eyes, they were dancing with merriment. “I’m sorry, Adam…honest.”

 “I know, pal.”

 I felt his fingers gently squeeze my neck and then Adam did something he hadn’t done in many years. He pulled me into his embrace and hugged me tightly. When we pulled apart, he was still grinning at me.

 “You know, Joe, I did learn one thing…”

 “What’s that?” I remember asking.

 “I learned that just because something is beautiful, shaped well, and smells nice…doesn’t mean it’s all rosy. Even roses have thorns!”

 “Heh?” I muttered. “Oh…I get it…I think.”

 Adam blew the lamp out and slipped his arm about my shoulders. Together we walked to the house. I knew that he’d forgiven me and things would be right between us once again…at least until the next time.

 When we got to the porch, he stopped me. “Well,” he said with surety. “It was fun while it lasted!”

 He left me standing alone in the dark.

 “What was fun?” I called after him and then hurried inside. I was dying to know…what had been fun…did he mean…NO…Adam wouldn’t do THAT…would he? And if he had… WHAT on earth would Pa say if he found out that Adam…my quiet, reserved, private older brother had had himself a “fling”?

 “ADAM…” I had to know the details…for future reference, of course!

 Joe Cartwright


 

Thoughts — Ben’s

 

It’s been nearly a month now since my oldest son Adam and his lady friend Leilani went their separate ways. I won’t lie and say that I’m broken up inside because of their decision, because I’m not. Again, I’m not lying when I say that right from the very beginning, I had my doubts about that young woman. Not that I think my sons are above anyone else’s sons, but I have always had a deep yearning for them to have the best. Not of worldly things… ‘things’ don’t make people happy. True happiness comes from within, yet, to be truly happy, men must have a sense of well-being that stems from those around us. It’s hard to understand, I know, and perhaps I’m not making myself completely clear as to what I’m trying to say. Happiness is self-made…people around us add to or take away from that happiness. We need people in our lives. People whom we love…and who love us in return. Unfortunately, though, there are those that come into our lives that are set on destroying us from within and from outside. Like Adam and Leilani. She broke his heart. He loved her inspite of the fact that he gave of himself from the deepest core of his being. She didn’t care about him…only about what he could do for her…she destroyed my son from within…but had he married her, she would have also destroyed him from outside. He would have given her the world…because that is how deeply my eldest son gives of himself, once he’s found that special someone that he deems worthy of giving of himself to.

 Had Leilani remained in the picture of Adam’s life, in his mist, her presence would have cost him, his home…his family…his pride and dignity…and maybe even his own life. I’m sorry to berate the young woman so badly, but I’ve lived a very long time and I’ve experienced just about every type of woman out there in the world. I know Leilani had a shaded past…and I won’t pretend that it didn’t affect my trust in her; it certainly did, but only because my son was involved. I don’t usually listen to idle talk, but this time the talk came from some of my dearest, closest — and even lifelong — friends who knew the facts. And I checked them out…every last thing that all these people were telling me was true.

I could have chosen to present the facts to my son, but I chose not to. Adam is not a youngster, like Little Joe…and he is not usually gullible, like Hoss. I have complete trust and faith in Adam. I was sure, beyond a doubt, that he would in time, see through her mock gentleness, her lady-like mannerisms and her soft-spoken voice. Love is blind, they often say. A wolf in sheep’s clothing…a she-devil hell-bent on getting what she wanted, when she wanted, and how much she wanted. I’ve been in love many times at different stages of my own life, but never – never — have I allowed myself to be so blinded — as totally blind-sighted — as Adam allowed himself to be in this instance. It was a shame…it broke my heart to see him in such a state of despair, so sad…so unhappy. Yet I kept my mouth shut. I had to. Do you realize what damage I could have done to our relationship had I said to my son, ‘I told you so’? No, I’d never do that to him, or to Hoss, or Little Joe, not when they’ve given the most valued part of themselves to another human being. It would have destroyed any pride, any trust that my son had ever held in his heart for his father. It would have been more devastating to him than what ‘she’ had done to him. I couldn’t, nor would I, do that to my beloved son.

It is extremely hard for a father to stand back and watch how another person causes the walls of humility in one of his own to be crushed and then crumble, and not speak out in defense of our own loved one. When Adam was a boy, I never stood back and watched as someone else tried to destroy my son…in any fashion. But then, as Adam grew older and struggled with himself into manhood, I realized that there were times that I’d have to back off and allow my son to make the calls that would determine his lot in life. I had to recede into the background so that my son could emerge from boyhood into manhood and be proud of who he was and of what kind of man he had become. Adam has done that. He’s a fine man, a good man…an honest man and I as his father could not be prouder of those facts than what I am right now.

Time heals all wounds. I did tell my son that, just the other night. He looked at me with sadness lingering in his eyes as he agreed with me. He said though, ‘sometimes, Pa…it takes a very long time…and I’ve an idea that this is gonna take me a very long time to get over…her’. I understood what he meant. God knows I’ve suffered heartaches of my own. And I know that at times like this — when a man gives his heart away — that the time to heal seems like a lifetime. But I assured Adam that it would happen and that it was even possible that one day he’d look up and some other young woman would appear seemingly out of nowhere and he’d realize that the hurt, the pain, the loneliness would suddenly be gone and he’d wonder where and when had it disappeared. Life is for the living…remember that, I muttered to him. Those that come into our lives and those that go out of our lives do so for a deeper purpose than perhaps we were meant to understand. We’re only human…only men, I said softly.

Adam’s smile began slowly and then he turned and looked at me. I saw, for the first time in weeks, a gleam…a glitter of hope spring into his eyes. He laughed softly in his gentle manner and nodded his head.

“I know, Pa,” he uttered, “but sometimes, I wish…I wish I were still a little boy…is that fair? I mean, is it fair of me, as a man, to want to miss this kind of hurt…or to prolong not being hurt as such?”

It was an honest question. I knew he expected an answer…so I tried my best.

“Son…Adam…a man cannot live his life…his entire life…without being hurt. Life isn’t always a bed of roses…it cannot always be the way we want it to be. If it were…if we never experienced a little hurt or unhappiness along the way…how would we be capable of true appreciation of what goodness the Lord gives to us. It is our responsibility to accept the bad along with good in life and learn from the lessons that such experiences offer to us. It is what builds character; it is what determines how we behave and how we respond to others…how we respond to God. Is it fair to want to be excluded from such inner pain? Would you really want to be, Adam? Haven’t you learned anything from all of this?”

“Yes…”

“What?”

I saw the boy’s lips straighten and tighten.

“I learned that when a person loves another…the other may not always return that love. I learned that love is highly valued by some and not so valued by others. Therefore, the next time, I will tread more slowly before I commit my heart to another…because I learned that honesty and respect is a must…but must not be misused.” He paused and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before continuing.

“And…I learned that no matter how badly I mess up, I have a father and two brothers who will always stand with me and who will never give up on me. I’ve learned…how much my family respects me and how much I respect my family…and depend on all of you. I’ve learned, Pa…that someday…I want exactly what you’ve got…a family like ours…”

I could barely speak, the lump in my throat threatened to choke off my words. But none were needed; I slipped my arm about Adam’s broad shoulders and together we walked into the house.

Little Joe and Hoss stood in silence as we entered, looking a bit worried. Obviously they had been talking amongst themselves. Adam laughed, brushing off the awkward moment as he rubbed his hands together and practically shouted at them…

“I don’t know about the two of you…but I’m starving…let’s eat!”

I watched the fearful expressions slowly dissipate and be replaced with broad grins. Hoss laughed out loud, Little Joe giggled in his boyish manner, as I glanced upward and whispered a quick prayer to God for the goodness of His love…and for the pain that had once again brought my family closer. For together, through the grace of the Almighty, we, Adam, Hoss, Little Joe and myself had weathered yet another storm.

Ben Cartwright


 

Thoughts — Leilani Speaks Out

 

It was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever, in my entire life, been compelled to do. There was no getting out of it…I had to break it off between Adam and myself. Never before had I experienced such an emotional upheaval. At first, I saw Adam as a challenge, then I thought of our affair as a game. Then, as time went slithering by, I kept telling myself, I didn’t love him…I didn’t love him. But then, I saw something in his eyes…I could hear it in the way he said my name. I felt it in his touch. He loved me! I was in a state of disbelief. Me…Leilani…in love with a man who actually loved me in return. And for all the right reasons!

I’ll admit I’m no angel…no saint. If Adam knew that, I didn’t know…but if he did…well…I can honestly say that it didn’t seem to matter to him what I was or had been. We saw the looks on people’s faces…we heard the whispers. I saw the shocked look on his father’s face the first time Adam introduced me to him. Oh, Ben hid it, but not before I saw. I’m not sure if Adam noticed or not, but his brothers did…they knew right from the start what I was…

I tried telling myself that if it didn’t matter to Adam, then it shouldn’t matter to me. But it did. For the first time in my life, I felt…dirty…used…I found myself wondering what would happen to Adam if I married him. Could I stop being who I really was? Could I change enough that, in time, people wouldn’t look at us as if he was taking out the trash? How would it affect his relationship with his family? I knew they were a close-knit family. I knew that Ben Cartwright expected the best for his sons…something that I certainly could never take claim to being. I loved him…more than I had ever allowed myself to love anyone. But was love enough?

I’ve traveled many miles over the passed weeks. When I first left, I headed for San Francisco…I had friends there…my kind of people. But once I reached the city and met my friends, they seemed different…boring…unattractive…or was it just me? I somehow didn’t fit in anymore. The things they did…the things they said…even the places we went…nothing was fun anymore. Maybe I have changed. So, I left San Francisco and headed to Sacramento. I worked there for a week or so, but still, something deep within me gnawed at me to move on. Once again I climbed up into the stage. I was going back east…back home. I had suddenly wanted to see my family; I wanted to let them know that I…I loved them. Maybe seeing Adam’s family and how devoted to one another they were gave me a yearning to have the same with my own family. I don’t know how I’ll be received. My father may refuse to see me. My mother will likely shun me; my two sisters…I don’t know…they probably hate me. My baby brother won’t likely remember me. But I knew in my heart that loving Adam and having him love me in return had changed me…inside…in my heart of hearts!

I knew that I could not be for Adam all he wanted me to be. My past would always show up when we least expected it. I knew that it followed me as closely as my own shadow; my past had become my shadow and I believed that, even though I yearned to be different, I could not change enough that I’d ever be good enough for Adam Cartwright. I loved him enough to want the best for him…I knew I wasn’t that person. He deserved better. He deserved more. I had to let him go.

Hurting him as I did was only to prove to him what kind of a woman I really was. If I married him as he wanted, it would have destroyed him. I couldn’t do that to Adam. He’s fine, honest, gentle man; married to me, he would have become a crude, callused man…distrustful and angry. I didn’t want THAT added to my already burdened conscious. So, I let him see me for what he knew me to actually be. I let the man I loved more than life find me in the arms of another man. The look of pain…the hurt in his beautiful eyes…the well of tears…and the angry expression as he grabbed the man and flung him from my room gave me insight to what our lives would have been like, because I wasn’t sure I could change…until that night.

Once the gentleman was gone, Adam turned to me, glaringly as he grabbed both my arms and melted his body against mine. I felt the fire burning between us as he kissed my lips long and deep. And then he shoved be back onto the bed. He stood over me…I thought ‘he’s going to kill me!’ But then he turned and walked out of the room…and out of my life. I had succeeded in my mission of forcing him to hate me. I had no idea how very much that would hurt me. I buried my face in the soft folds of the bed linens and cried for hours…all night. The next morning, I hurried and dressed, and when the stage left, I was on it. I think I caught a glimpse of him on the ridge as we passed the road that led to the Ponderosa. I leaned out the window just in time to see a rider turn away and ride down the hill on the opposite side. My heart told me it had been Adam.

Adam…Adam…my heart screams his name. My mind’s eyes see his handsome face, my body recalls his tender touch…and then I see the pain…the hurt…and I die again inside. How many times in the last month have I asked myself why had I chosen such an immoral lifestyle? Why had I let my wild desire for freedom…my impulsiveness at running away from my family, from my home…lead me down a road of remorse and repulsiveness that I allowed to cheat me of the one thing I wanted most in life…and that was to be loved. I had been wrong, all those years back, to do what I have done. I see that now. And it was only because of my love for Adam…or I should say, his love for me…that I realize the error of my ways.

I had to free Adam…thus I had to hurt him. I hope that someday he’ll find it in his heart to forgive me for the hurt I’ve caused him. I’d like to believe that one day I could return to Virginia City…meet Adam and allow him to see me as I would like to be then…a lady, a true lady. I don’t think it’ll happen. My papa used to tell me that you can’t change the spots on a leopard, that once you’ve made a name for yourself…it sticks. If that’s so…oh God…I hope not… I don’t wanna die and go to hell because of the way I’ve lived my life. Do you think that just maybe God will look down on me and say to me, ‘Leilani, for once you’ve done something right…you’ve loved someone so much that you’ve thought of what is best for him rather than for yourself’. Do you think God…as well as Adam Cartwright…could find it in their hearts to forgive me?

Adam will always remain in my heart and my thoughts…I just hope that all of you can understand why I had to hurt him. I wish his father understood…and his brothers. They think of me as a bad person…and maybe I was. But if I had married Adam, I would have ended up destroying him…and I could never forgive myself if that had happened.

Forgive me for putting this family through so much heartache. But believe me when I say this was mild compared to what it might have been. Just know that what I did, I did because I loved that man, and what you think of me…well…that’s your privilege. I won’t dwell on it. Remember, though…be careful of what you do, what you say, where you go and with whom you do those things with. The night has a thousand eyes…and the eyes can’t help but see; people talk. And something else that I learned a very long time ago…your reputation precedes you. What you say and do today will have a drastic affect on what you do tomorrow or in your future. I know…it happened to me; it cost me the love of my life. Don’t let it happen to you………….

Leilani

 

***The End***

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