Pushed Away (by BettyHT)

Summary:  Some of Adam’s brooding thoughts about events before he left the Ponderosa.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  4019


 

There are so many times I’m grateful that I have these journals. The negative thoughts and feelings I have inside churn around so much and the bitterness and anger spew out at those I love. I don’t want to hurt them, and I know that I do. Without this outlet, it would be far worse. Releasing my thoughts on paper is the only way I have to cope with how I feel. I’ve never been one who can easily cry nor ask for understanding. I wish I could, but it isn’t the man I am.

*****

It’s hard for me to accept that my youngest brother would accept the word of a woman he hardly knows over mine. Melinda Banning made a ridiculous accusation, and Little Joe is willing to believe her that I kissed her. She kissed me and in a way she never should have if she supposedly is willing to marry him. At least Pa believed me although he seemed reluctant to do so at first. I don’t know what is happening in this family. They should know by now how important my integrity is to me yet they will question it at the first opportunity. I’m glad for the chance to get away for a short time. Hopefully time and distance will help heal the divisions. I had thought it was only the issues of the War that divided us, but apparently the fissures are deeper than political disagreements.

*****

For weeks, I’ve been having that same nightmare only it’s true. I shoot my little brother. It’s an accident, but no one believes it. I’m afraid that’s closer to the truth than I want to admit. Yes, I know that even Little Joe has said he forgives me and that he admits he was responsible too for not following good hunting practices that day. Yet the look in his eyes and the way he says what he says don’t match the words. I have that same war going on within me. I want to forgive myself, but I cannot. The mistake I made was too awful. It was an unforgivable error of judgment, and I don’t think Little Joe or my father or Hoss are ever truly going to be able to offer full forgiveness to me for that. I fear that in this instance it is my own action that has driven a wedge between me and my family.

*****

Toby is dead. I remember the last conversation I had with him. We were bantering back and forth before we heard horses and the outlaws showed up.

“Hm… I won’t argue that. There’ll be no stage, I missed it’s connections… I had to stay here all night… Straw to sleep on… bugs to bite me… and you snoring. And to top it all off, I had to get up first this morning and make the coffee.”

Why did he have to run after those men with his gun? It couldn’t be a much worse day now could it. Toby, almost like a grandfather to us when we visited with him, is gone, and I still have his blood stains on my clothing. How can I ride home to tell my family that and tell them I did nothing to stop him being killed? All I could do was offer some small comfort as he lay dying.

Worse, how do I say I know who did it, and know it’s a friend of mine. He isn’t a close friend, but we have done business together, shared meals, and I have been a guest in his house. Still, Bill Enders has to pay for this. Justice has to be done, and I don’t care who fights me on it because I know they will. He’s a well-known man, a businessman, an investor. People aren’t probably going to be willing to listen to me when I say he’s a thief and a murderer too.

Damn, how can I face his wife and say these things? I can already see the pain it will cause her, but I have to do it.

For Toby, I must push this issue until people believe me or I die trying. This is a debt of honor and friendship as well as a test I have to face. If I don’t do this, I won’t be able to face myself in the mirror in the mornings. I have no illusions about this. I know it will be difficult and that Bill may kill me. It has to be done.

*****

Maybe I should have expected a negative response, but I never imagined it would be my father who gave me such a difficult time about accusing Bill Enders. Even after I gave him all my reasons and my thoughts, I could see his doubts.

“C’mon Pa. Of course I know I’m human. I make mistakes…but not this time.”

It wasn’t good enough for him. I would have thought I earned his trust by now. It was as bad as facing a prosecutor. By the time he finished, he had made me feel like he had the impression I was doing something wrong, and maybe that is the conclusion he has drawn. That is what bothers me more than anything.

I’m feeling more alone than a man ought to feel who lives with his family. My brothers said nothing. I couldn’t read their expressions either. It’s not a good feeling to be that lone pinon fighting the zephyr winds on the ridgeline. I hope I’m up to the task because Toby is dead, and someone has to fight to get justice for him. It’s all there is now.

*****

Each night, sleep is elusive as all I see are Toby’s accusing eyes when I close my own. I know he didn’t understand. He thought I was a coward for not fighting back and not chasing after those armed men. I knew I didn’t have to do that because I had recognized Bill as one of the outlaws. Sleep is getting tougher and tougher to get too. Sheriff Coffee didn’t want to believe me either, and when Bill managed an alibi and then challenged me to fight, Hoss and Pa both doubted my courage when I wouldn’t fight him. They don’t understand that if he kills me, he gets away with killing Toby and that innocent man in jail will hang as well for the crime that Bill committed. For me though, the lack of trust by my family and my friends is the worst pain I can endure. The wounds from this will take a long time to heal.

*****

I had some hope there was familial support when my family didn’t object much about a skilled rider making the ride from the station to town to see if he could do it fast enough to derail Bill’s alibi. It all seemed like it was going well until the rider didn’t get the job done fast enough. My family, especially my father, wanted me to give up what they seemed to consider the foolishness then. Oh, he didn’t use that word but I could read it in the way he looked and the way he waved that watch in front of my face. When I said that I wasn’t giving up and would find a way to prove it was Bill who murdered Toby, the look of disgust was there too. He held his watch there as if I didn’t know how to use one and looked at me as if I was a recalcitrant child, and I knew he wanted to deal with me as he would have if I was that child. I tire of this type of treatment, but first, I need to get justice for Toby. Right now, he’s the one who matters most.

*****

Hoss has let me down so far in this fight, and I didn’t have that big shoulder to lean on. But when it began looking the most bleak, he came around and was there as I hoped he would be. We found that there might be a way to do what seems impossible, and therefore I’m going to try. We scouted out an alternative route through some rugged terrain. It’s possible for someone to make that ride. Makes me smile when I think about telling Hoss that. Didn’t even blink. That’s the brother I count on, which is what I needed because I wasn’t so sure myself even when I said it.

*****

When Bill’s wife tried to seduce me in order to get me to stop trying to prove her husband guilty, it was what I needed even more to bolster my confidence. That was proof right there even if no one could use it in court to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. I still have to make that ride and do it fast enough. That won’t be easy, but a lot easier than succumbing to her charms especially when I knew what she wanted. All I had to do to have her was give her my integrity and my reputation. No, Toby was dead, and I needed to get justice for that man. Mary’s efforts to seduce me were proof of Bill’s guilt. No innocent man would have his wife do such a thing.

When Sheriff Coffee didn’t want to believe that it was Bill Enders who killed Toby, I could understand that though it was painful to have a friend doubt me so. Bill is an upstanding citizen by all appearances with a wife, a business, and substantial investments. He did arrest him, but released him as soon as two women came forward with a story that could be an alibi. I could still see why Roy let him go then and why he pressured me to give up my quest for justice.

But I cannot express the pain I felt when Roy believed that I would try something with Bill’s wife no matter what she said. I know she’s attractive, but Roy has known me for such a long time, I thought he would have known I couldn’t do such a thing.

Something like this can test friendships. I’m beginning to wonder if I have any.

*****

I made that ride, but I feel cheated. All that work, and I had a fall that could have hurt me severely, but it seems like it was for nothing. Well, not for nothing at all because I found that my brother Joe can be a rock when you really need him. Although I don’t know when he came around to my way of thinking or if he actually had, but he was steady at the end. I’m not used to leaning on him, but I’m seeing him in a new way now. He’s a man, and it’ll be easier to think about leaving knowing he doesn’t need me any more. Hearing a cheer from him bolstered me when I needed it most too.

However, I got to town, and Bill was already shot and in custody, Mary had told the truth, and Roy was at the Doc’s office.

I wanted to ride in and show everyone I was right, but instead they already knew it, and most had walked off to their homes with some embarrassed looks perhaps but no acknowledgement of what I had done. I guess I should be grateful, because even though Toby is dead, I did this for him, and the man who killed him will face the penalty for that.

When it was over, Pa told me that it was a good ride all the way and that it took courage to hold onto my convictions. I don’t think he understands that he was the one who made it the most difficult. His lack of faith in me and lack of trust in my judgment was the hardest to face in all of this. I hope I can get by these feelings I have, but a few kind words and a slap on the back don’t take the sting away at all. He doesn’t respect me as a man.

I know I’ll be looking at people with a bit more of a jaundiced eye now holding back more of how I feel and what I think. I’ve got my mask in place already so I doubt they suspect my innermost thoughts. I can’t completely trust even those closest to me, and I’m not sure what I did to get myself into this predicament. I got justice for Toby Barker, but at what cost? The ride that brought that for Toby may be the beginning of a journey for me. The feeling is odd. There’s distance now between me and the members of my family. They haven’t seemed to notice I’m already leaving even though I’m still living here.

*****

I made another huge mistake in judgment in how I handled things with Regan and Hoss. When I went out to the garden to see Regan, I wasn’t sure which persona she was going to be using. At first, it was the demure one she had exhibited when I had first arrived home surprised to find her there and then thunderstruck to hear from Hoss that he intended to ask her to marry him. Doubts about her troubled me and caused me to lose sleep at night because of what I knew of her past. There was a party scheduled for that night for Hoss and Regan to announce their betrothal. Before that happened, I had to know if she was toying with my brother or if she had genuine feelings for him. Even if she did, I wondered if there still was a game she was playing in which my brother was a pawn. Somehow I doubted that she was capable of a transformation great enough to be happy married to Hoss. Our conversation went about as I expected until she surprised me although I should have been ready for that too.

“Regan.”

“You startled me.”

“I didn’t mean to. I thought we should talk.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

“I think you know.”

“What did you hear about me?”

“I think you know that too.”

“I suppose you told Hoss.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Thank you for that. At least you gave me that courtesy.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I did that for Hoss. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I don’t want to let you hurt him either.”

“I wouldn’t hurt Hoss.”

“Then why don’t you stop amusing yourself at his expense. Why don’t you go back to San Francisco where I heard you enjoyed amusing yourself with a number of men.”

“It’s not true. I did nothing to encourage those men.”

“It’s not consistent with what I heard. What about my brother?”

Putting her hands on the skirt of her plain shirtfront dress, Regan was plaintive. “Look at me. Does it look like I’m doing anything to beguile or entice Hoss or anyone?”
For a moment, I wasn’t so sure of what I had thought to expose in her character. I had to know how she’d react though. “All right. I’ll tell Hoss and let him decide.”

“Why? Why would you try to ruin everything? I came here to get away from all of that. I came here to get a new life, to find someone who would love me and not want me as a possession, someone who was real and genuine.”

As she talked, she stepped closer and her voice wavered as fear and sadness seemed to infuse each word. “Can you offer forgiveness? Can you understand? Is that too much to ask?”

Hearing the pain in her voice did get to me, and I reached to her and turned her so she would look at me. “Yes, I do understand. I guess you do deserve another chance.”

“You do understand, don’t you, Adam, that all I ever wanted was to be loved.”
Putting her hands on my shoulders, Regan moved in close pressing her body against mine as I leaned against the tree in her garden. As she moved closer and attempted to kiss me, I raised my hands to her shoulders and pushed her away.

“It almost worked, but you really can’t change who you are, can you? You can’t say you love a man and then try to kiss his brother.”

The slap resounded loudly as Regan’s anger exploded. I turned back to her and saw her eyes grow wide as she looked behind me.

“Hoss, did you see what happened? Did you see what he did?”

“Regan, I saw and I heard some. Adam, would you mind leaving? I got some things ta say ta Miss Regan, and they’re gonna be a mite ugly.”

“Hoss, I’m sorry.”

“I know you are, but we gotta talk. You ain’t likely to like what I got to say, but right now I got to talk to Miss Regan.”

When I turned away, my shoulders dropped. I knew I had done it all wrong and that I had caused pain where I had meant to prevent it. I might have caused more because now Hoss was hurting because of Regan and because of me. It was clear he was going to break off his relationship with Regan and probably her why leaving no room for doubt. She might cry real tears, but I guessed they would be more for her lost opportunities than for the harm she had caused Hoss and the pain in his heart.

*****

Waiting for Hoss to ride home for the second difficult confrontation of the day for him, I told Hop Sing that he should tell Hoss I was in the bunkhouse. I didn’t want to drag Pa and Joe into this. My guess was that when had seen us together, jealousy had flared, and I was lucky he had retained his common sense and enough self-control to know what had happened. But as he rode home, I didn’t know what anger might be brewing in him. When he finally saw me in the bunkhouse, he wasn’t ready to accept what I had to say. I apologized again.

“I ain’t ready to say yes to that.”

Nodding, I backed up and then turned because of the look Hoss had. I had waited at home for over an hour before he arrived. I know his brother has a temper and have been on the receiving end of it more than once. When Hoss took off his hat, I knew my apology wasn’t likely to be enough and waited for whatever I had coming. It didn’t take long. Hoss hit me with a strong uppercut that sent me flying across the room.

“I ain’t a boy needs you to look out for me. You owed me the truth. It wasn’t your place to go see Regan. What happened there was as much your fault as hers. It would never have happened if you had told me what you knew.”

Wiping my bloodied lip with my sleeve, I offered the only explanation I had. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“You think this was better? I’m no boy any more needs my older brother to look out for me. Ifn I make a mistake, it’s up to me to fix it or live with it. You know something from now on, you tell me. You kept the truth from me with Helen and now with Regan. I don’t need you no more. You hear me?”

“I hear you.”

The message Hoss sent was greater than he intended though. Those words that he didn’t need me any longer were still echoing in my mind hours and even days and weeks later. My father needed me less and less as my brothers had gotten older. My relationship with my youngest brother has always been contentious. The one constant had been my close relationship with Hoss. Now it seemed I had fractured that. It was the beginning of thoughts that I hadn’t seriously considered for over ten years. I once dreamed of traveling and of making my own way in the world. Although I had given up my dream because my family needed me, I began to think that was an option I should consider once more. I was very quiet much of the time and kept those thoughts to myself. I kept more and more of my thoughts to myself.

That night in the bunkhouse, Hoss had seemed worried that he had hurt me physically because of his blow when I didn’t say much to him. With no idea that it was his words that had done the damage, he reached out to me. I said I was fine.

“I guess we ought to tell Pa there ain’t gonna be no party, huh?”

“I think I ought to clean up a bit before that happens so he doesn’t ask too many questions.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry I hit ya. I got so mad riding back here that I wasn’t thinking too well when I walked in here and saw ya. I only remembered what happened and how much it hurt to tell Regan it was over. I wanted to hit something or somebody, and you were right there.”

“It’s all right. I deserved it.”

“Aw, don’t go blaming yourself. Why don’t you go get cleaned up and then come on in and have a drink with us while we talk it all out?”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.” I had no intention of doing much talking then or perhaps ever again with my family.

*****

I didn’t make the decision to leave the Ponderosa for a couple of years. There were other events that contributed to that and now it has finally happened. Perhaps the most troubling event for me was what happened with Toby Barker and my claim that it was Bill Enders who did it. That set me on an inevitable path to departing my home. Each thing that happened after that weakened the ties that held me to the only home I had ever known until it didn’t feel like a safe haven but more of a place from which I had to escape. The constant reminders that I didn’t belong and wasn’t trusted were daggers to the heart until I can’t take the torment any longer.

*****

It was two more years after the trouble with Regan and three years after that with Bill Enders before Adam left, but that night that Hoss hit him, he began pulling away from his family. He became even more solitary and certainly quieter. Although it happened gradually, Ben saw what was happening but never knew the reasons why it did.

Years after Adam left and they had lost contact with him, Joe found old journals Adam left behind, and in those dusty volumes, the truth was revealed. Rummaging about in the storage area, he noticed the small trunks that Adam said he would send for but never had. His curiosity had always been untamed so he gave in and opened them. The simple locks were easy to pick. One of the trunks held drawings, mementoes, pictures, and various things that Adam had collected over his time on the Ponderosa. The other had more personal items, and among those were several leather-wrapped journals. Looking at the dates written in Adam’s unmistakable and rather elegant style, Joe chose the last in the series. He opened it and paged through it until the entries made him stop and read more and more. The entries were sporadic from the last three years of Adam’s life on the Ponderosa. When Joe finished reading, he set the journal back in the chest, closed it, and sat staring at the closed trunk wondering what he should do next. He had read the most private thoughts of his oldest brother. All these years, he had been upset with Adam for leaving never realizing how he and the rest of the family had unintentionally helped push his oldest brother out.

***THE END***

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