Romantic Flash Fiction 14:
It had already been a two-day ride through the desert country, miles upon miles of sand, cacti, and tumbleweed. As twilight slowly descended upon us, mesas and mountain chains drew up out of the desert like sleeping giants of rock. Our wagon banged along the rocky roads heading west to Frisco at a feverish pace. The windy plains joined with the dust cloud from the spinning wooden wheels that made a foggy trail to the rear of our ride, and the sounds of hoofs from four strong galloping horses pounded on the desert sand.
In spite of the noise and shaking inside the carriage, I was in heaven. Shasta Daisy and I had gotten to know each other from the moment the wagon had left town. I learned that she was my age, worked as a nurse in the last town, had family on the east coast, and was heading to Frisco to meet up with her boyfriend whom she talked about with a sparkle in her eye and a song in her heart. They were supposed to build a farm there – a home and a life together. I shared my adventures that I’d had in Mexico and she took a keen interest in everything I said with wide-eyed childlike wonder. By the first evening that we camped out in the desert, we’d already grown attached to each other, like close intimate friends, chatting and flirting throughout the night, while the fire crackled and the coyotes serenaded us with their howling.
On the third day, as the wagon shook and rumbled along the road, I smiled as I watched Shasta Daisy sleep in the seat across from me. Her eyes were closed and her face was the picture of serenity. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to reach over and fix the loose hanging fringe over her forehead, smoothing it back, and perhaps pecking a kiss on her silky skin.
But then suddenly and quite unexpectedly, the front wheel of the wagon snapped in half in a loud splintering crack, sending the wagon careening to the ground at an awkward angle. Thinking quickly, I rushed to the seat across from me and grabbed Shasta Daisy around the waist, pulling her to myself, shielding my body over hers as the coach toppled over. As the side of the coach hit the desert sand with a thud, my back crushed against the inside wall of the coach, and I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t grabbed her, she would have been the one hitting the wall face-first. For what seemed like an nightmarish eternity, the carriage was being dragged through the sand by the spooked horses, which our coach driver was fighting tooth and nail to control. As we were pulled along, I held onto Shasta who couldn’t even scream, for shock had taken over her senses. Finally, the coach came to an abrupt halt as the horses stopped in a cloud of dust.
Thankfully, we were both unharmed as we stood up out of the wreckage and surveyed the damage. Our luggage had been thrown everywhere. The coach had been smashed beyond repair and the wheel was in shattered, splintered wooden pieces.
“I’ll have to head out over that ridge to get help,” the driver explained. “There’s a town over there that I was hoping to make before nightfall. I’ll ride one of the horses. The others will be fine here. If I’m not back in a while, go ahead and make camp without me. I’ll try to rustle us up a new wagon and come back for you at daybreak.”
“You’re going to leave us here?” Shasta Daisy asked in desperation. “We’ll come with you! There’s bound to be a hotel in town where we can get a change of clothes and a shower.”
“Someone’s gotta stay with the wagon and the luggage,” explained the driver. “If you’d like to come with me, you’re welcome, but I don’t recommend it. The ride is hard over that ridge and it’ll soon be dark.”
There was an awkward silence between us. Finally the driver nodded. “I’ll get back as soon as I’m able.” Then he spun around, mounted a horse, and took off in a dust trail down the road, leaving just the two of us.
Almost as soon as he was out of sight, my shoulder started to ache with a sharp pain. I moaned and tried to massage away the pain.
“You’re hurt,” said Shasta. “Here, sit down. Let me look at you.”
Sitting beside her on a plank of wood from the broken coach, I pulled off my shirt and felt the coolness of the desert evening settling in. Although I was in pain, I wasn’t unaware of her eyes on me, appraising my lean muscles and taut physique. I gazed into her eyes and she turned away shyly, switching on her professional nurse look and touching my shoulder with both hands. When she touched me, I winced in pain, but beyond that, an electric current of joy flooded my soul. I wanted her to keep touching me and not to stop, and not just on the shoulder, but I restrained myself and relaxed under her care.
“What’s the diagnosis, Doc?” I teased.
She sighed. “No broken bones. But you took quite a fall. You’ll have to rest it tonight. Some ice would have helped but… we’re kind of out of resources here.” She waited a moment while I stared deeply into her eyes. Then she spoke, “Thank you for doing that on the coach.”
I didn’t know what to say. How do you say that in two days you’ve fallen in love with someone who loves someone else? I chose to remain silent.
“Davey,” she said. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes, of course,” I replied in all sincerity. “Without reservation. Since the day I met you, I knew you could be someone I could trust forever. Maybe even more.”
She grinned. “What’s greater than trust?”
I gazed into her eyes, into her soul. “Love.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” she asked, sliding effortlessly into my personal space. In the distance, the sun was setting over the mountains and splashed shades of red and purple across the desert sky. Her face reflected the colors and softened in the light.
“I don’t really have a boyfriend in Frisco,” she admitted slowly, almost ashamedly. “I just tell everyone that to protect myself.”
Feeling my heart hammering within me, I reached out and held her waist, tugging her close to me so that I could feel her breath on my mouth, her warm body on my skin. She didn’t move away in the slightest. “Shasta Daisy,” I said, “I have a feeling that when you get to Frisco… you’ll have one.”