Summary: A short Valentine’s Day story with a little surprise in it.
Word Count: 1036
Sheriff Roy Coffee walked down the street making his rounds enjoying the evening more than the usual Saturday night. Somehow the Valentine’s Day Dance had a way of making things calmer than usual. It probably helped that it was February, and although mild for that time of year, it was still rather cool which kept more men off the streets and at home where it was warm. As he neared the social hall, he saw the Cartwrights leaving the dance for their long ride back home. All four were smiling. The dance had been peaceful and even young Joe had managed to avoid any kind of altercation.
“Good evening, Ben, boys. Did you enjoy the dance? Did you meet that new schoolteacher that come in to take poor Mister Wilkes’ place?”
Ben smiled broadly. “Yes, I did. In fact, I got to dance with her, and we had a very pleasant conversation.” Ben remembered that conversation very well. He had kidded her a little about her name and she had sighed.
“My parents named all of us that way. My brother is Daniel Samuel, and my older sister is Hannah Amanda. I guess that Melissa Patricia isn’t so bad when you think of some of the possible combinations they might have chosen. I could have been Matilda Isabella.”
“Or Sophia Lavinia.”
Both had chuckled then before Ben had talked about naming his sons as well as extolling their virtues of course. She was about Hoss’ age and suitable for marriage to any of his sons. Ben was thinking that playing matchmaker might be the only way to get any one of those sons of his to the altar. He was gratified later to see that his sons danced with her more than once each. He could see that all of his sons made a good impression, and one seemed to have made more than that.
Hoss spoke up next. “She’s a right nice addition to the scenery around here, Roy. I sure liked dancing with her.” Hoss especially liked that she had spoken warmly to him and asked about the things that he liked. It was going to be the next day before he wondered how she knew he liked fishing so much as well as woodcarving. They had talked about pets and how his father wouldn’t allow a dog in the house. Each time he had danced with her, the dance was always over too fast.
With a broad grin, Little Joe had to add in his commentary. He had enjoyed her laughter and her bright personality. “She was more impressed with me than these older guys. I had her smiling every time. She appreciates charm and enthusiasm. If she wasn’t so polite, I could probably have had every dance for the rest of the night, but she felt that she had to dance with Adam, and then of course she had to dance with Hoss and Pa again. If they would have given up their turns so she could have had the one she really wanted, wedding bells could be ringing soon.”
Ben rolled his eyes as Hoss and Roy laughed. Adam had his usual smirk in place. Joe only looked affronted, and his father had to say something.
“Joseph, how is she different than any other beautiful woman you’ve met since you’ve been, oh, about eighteen?”
“Sixteen.” Adam smirked even more as Joe frowned at him.
Bristling with irritation, Joe couldn’t let that go. “Oh, yeah. I suppose you think you made more of an impression on her than I did? How about a bet. I bet you that I get a kiss from her before you do.”
“That’s enough. Why don’t you and Hoss go get the horses? Adam and I will wait here for you.” Ben’s tone and look made it clear that it was an order and not a request. Ben didn’t know what Adam was thinking, but he could guess.
As Hoss and Joe walked to the stable with Joe grumbling a bit, Hoss put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s a good thing you didn’t make that bet.”
“Cause I think you already lost.”
“She and Adam was outside together for quite a while. If they wasn’t kissing, then our older brother done lost his touch.”
“I never saw them go outside together.”
“They didn’t. She’s got a reputation to protect. He walked out first. She walked outside a few minutes after. She came back in first later. He came back in a few minutes after she did.”
“He is sneaky, isn’t he?”
“He was being nice. He never said nothing neither although I think Pa guessed, and that’s why he sent you and me to get the horses.”
Later as the four of them were riding home, Joe did his best to make amends with Adam. “She’s a nice lady. I hope the two of you can make a go of it.”
Nodding, Adam expressed his thanks but said nothing more. He preferred to keep the rest of the information to himself. He had kissed her but that hadn’t been the first time although it was the first time in a long time.
“Thank you for letting me know about the teaching vacancy here. Poor Mister Wilkes falling and breaking both legs.”
“Fortunate for me though. It’s going to be much nicer having you here instead of in San Francisco.”
“I did what you asked. I danced with your father and both of your brothers. Do you think it worked? Do people think we only met tonight?”
“People probably believe that. Pa isn’t so easy to fool, but that won’t matter. You charmed him, and from what you said, he was hoping that you might find one of us an appropriate suitor.”
“Is that what you will be doing then? Calling on me as a proper suitor?”
“If you’ll have me?”
“It’s a little late to ask that question.”
She smiled demurely, and it was then that they kissed on their first Valentine’s Day in Virginia City.