The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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BeckyW

 

 

Strays

This story popped up in my head in October 2019 when I learned that the Lancer Writers group was having difficulties with yahoo and that it was about to change to groups.io. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage that change. I’m not very good in computer things and, not being a native speaker, I was afraid I might not understand the English that told me what I would have to do to make the change. So I talked to Suzanne and told her about my problems. She reassured me that she would help me if necessary and that she would look out for me and make sure that I would not get lost.
It’s a little tongue-in-cheek-story and one could say it’s for Suzanne who I think is a great list mom.
Many thanks to my beta Dora, who again did the English corrections. What would I do without you?
Remaining mistakes are mine.

I rein in my horse, wipe a handkerchief across my face, rearrange the wide brimmed hat on my head and squint my eyes at the merciless burning sun. I turn in the saddle, look around and scan the vast empty country. Nothing but hills and rocks, as far as my eyes can see. Loneliness encloses me like a thick blanket and I can hardly breathe.

“Hellooo? Is anybody out there?“

My voice sounds raspy, like the voice of someone who hasn’t spoken for a long time. Well, I haven’t said a word for a very long time. Who should I talk to - apart from Miranda, the horse I’m riding? I reach for the bottle in my saddlebags and take a sip. At least I’ve always found enough water for Miranda and me. We have been on the road for quite a while now. We are tired and worn out, both of us.

Where is everybody? Our place used to be so crowded and busy, full of talk and laughter… Uneasiness starts creeping up my spine, but I shake it off.

I stroke Miranda’s neck and bow my head to her ear. “Where are they, Miranda?“ Sighing, she hangs her head. She doesn’t know, either. Softly, I nudge her into motion. Can’t be helped, we must go on searching.

Clack – clack – clack – clack – monotonously, Miranda’s hooves find their way along the small trail. Her gentle movements rock me into a light doze. I hear voices around me, anxious women’s voices.

“What shall we do now?“

“Our home will be closed …“

“We’ll lose everything…“

“Our family will be scattered in all directions…“

“Naaaw.“ That is the voice of Big Mum. “Don’t you worry, we’ll find us a new home. You’ll see, everything will be just fine.“

“A new home? But where?“

“How do we find it?“

“How can we go there?“

“It’ll be very easy. I’ll show you.“ Big Mum again. “The only thing you must do is bring your personal key along.“

Easy. Ha. I’ve been wandering around here for days now, trying to find anything that looks like that new home. At least, I haven’t forgotten to take my key with me, and some day I will find our new home. Or so I hope.

I open my eyes, realizing that the clack – clack – clack has stopped. Miranda stands still, head low. The sun is setting. I must’ve been dozing in the saddle for sometime.

“Okay, girl, let’s stop here. You’re tired, and me too.“

I feed and water Miranda, eat some biscuits myself, then take the saddle for a pillow and fall asleep.

******

There are voices again, this time the voices of men.

“Who might she be?“

“She must be one of the ladies.“ A voice like a cello string being played.

I open my eyes. Two faces are wavering in the mist above me, one framed by raven black hair and one framed by hair as light as a wheat field in the sunshine. Two sets of eyes are staring down at me, one like dark deep blue pools, one grayish blue like a stormy ocean.

“Good morning, Ma’am. Are you okay?“

That voice…!

Holy cow. I struggle to sit up and try to fight off sleepiness. I rub my eyes and look again. They are still there, it’s not a dream. THEY are here, by my side. Oh my gosh. Look at the state I’m in, unruly hair and covered in dust ... at this of all moments.

Can’t be helped. I run my hands through my hair and flatten my clothes. I try the most charming smile I’m capable of. My heart starts racing and bucking like a wild horse. I’m about to talk to the boys.

“Good – good morning, boys. Thank you, Scott, I’m fine. How are you? I’m … I’m very happy to meet you... I’d never have imagined that I’d meet you here …“

I know I’m talking nonsense and my voice has a strange squeal to it. I wish I had anything to hide behind. I‘m not at all prepared for this.

They don’t seem to care. They act as if nothing unusual has happened.

“She knows us“, Johnny says.

“I told you she must be one of the ladies.“ Scott regards me. „You are one of the Lancer Ladies looking for their new home, aren’t you?“

These eyes … “That’s … that’s right. I’m Becky W. from Germany“, I manage to say.

“That’s why she knows us, she’s written stories about us, mostly about you, Boston.“  Johnny smirks. “I remember her name.“

I feel even more embarrassed than before. It’s one thing to write stories about people, but meeting the people you’ve written about afterwards is a completely different and very delicate matter. I clear my throat. “Hum,..yes. I’m afraid I’ve written stories about you. I … I hope you don’t mind.“

Johnny waves his hand. “That’s fine with us. We’re used to being written about. You’re one of hundreds of writers.“

Relieved, I let out a breath. They behave so naturally that I begin to feel much better.

“Speaking of writers“, I say. “Do you happen to know where the new home of the Lancer Writers is? I’ve been looking for it for a couple of days now. I can’t find it.“

“Actually“, Scott says, “we do know where your new home is. That’s why we are here, skimming the pasture and …“

“… looking for strays“, Johnny interrupts his brother. “That’s what he is good at, our Boston here. Looking for helpless ladies and taking them home with him.“ Grinning at Scott’s scowl he nudges Barranca away from his brother’s punch.

“Some never grow up.“ Scott shakes his head. “Well, as I was about to tell you, Big Mum has sent us to look out for ladies who are lost and can’t find the new home. There are some who haven’t shown up yet. We are supposed to take them there.“

I’m delighted at this news.  “So – you can take me there now?“

“Our pleasure, Ma’am.“

*****

I still can’t believe it. I’m riding along with Johnny and Scott. I have pinched myself   several times to be sure that I’m not dreaming. But it’s real. I relish the boys‘ company and hope that the new home is far away and that we’ll have a long time together.

All too soon a long high wall appears in the distance.

“That’s it. Behind that wall is Groups.io“, Johnny says, motioning with his finger.

“Oh, already?“ I’m barely able to hide my disappointment. “It looks real big.“

“It is big. There are many rooms to it. Many tools to work with. You’ll like it.“

My heart beats faster. I’m nearly there, I’ve reached my goal. I’ll be able to write stories again and to talk to the ladies like I used to…

As we draw closer I make out a portal in the wall, with a small flap in it. In my home country ancient convents or castles are surrounded by walls and portals like these. We rein in our horses in front of the portal and dismount.

“You must ring the bell“, Scott says, motioning to a bell pull to the right of the portal. I do as he tells me. A deep bell sounds behind the wall. The small window opens and the face of a strict looking woman appears.

“That’s Suzanne, our Big Mum“, Johnny whispers into my ear. He looks reverential.

“Who is it?“ asks the woman.

“It’s me, Becky W. I’m a member of the group and I beg to be let in, please.“

“Ah, Becky. What a surprise. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard from you. I’m glad you have found us.“ Big Mum motions to the keyhole of the portal. “I can’t let you in. You must use your own key. I hope you’ve brought it.“

I nod and reach for a long item fastened to my saddle. Johnny stiffens at once, alarm written all over his face. I laugh. I have watched him regarding this item with wary eyes all the way long.

“Don’t worry, Johnny. This is not a weapon, it’s my key.“ And I unwrap the unwieldy thing.

Johnny relaxes and whistles. “Uh! It’s big!“

Scott raises his brows. “It must be very old. My I have a look?“

I hand him the key and he regards it with respect, turning it over and over in his hands. My eyes are glued to these big slender hands. Through a fog I hear him say, “It is very old. Grandfather has brought a key like that from his family’s estate in England.” With awe, he hands it back to me. I’m so engrossed in staring at his long fingers that I almost forget to take it. Pull yourself together, Becky.

I take the key and shrug. “It‘s always been my key for the Lancer Writers Group.“ The key is warm where he has touched it. The warmth seems to burn my fingers, I feel myself blush, sweat breaks out all over my body. Oh my gosh…

“Ahem…”

Big Mum behind the clap clears her throat.“Can we go on? Please try the key now, Becky.“

I pull myself together and, my heart beating, I put it into the keyhole. It doesn’t fit. The hole is too small.

“Oh no!“ My spirit sinks.

“Don’t you worry none, Becky.Obviously, your key must be adjusted. I can do that. Wait a minute.“

And Big Mum disappears, only to come back with a long bar in her hands. The bar is glowing and changes color by the minute. I feel my eyes grow big. Big Mum has got a wand …

“Lift the key.“ I do as I’m told, bring thekey to the clap and Big Mum touches it with the tip of her wand. A fizzing sound, a shower of sparks, and my key has shrunk.

“Now try again.“ I put it into the hole, turn it around and – the portal opens.

“Dios!“ Johnny says. “That’s magic.“

Big Mum smiles and opens both wings of the the portal. “In our group a little bit of magic sometimes does the trick. Come in, Becky. Welcome to Groups.io.“

I step forward, leading Miranda by the reins. I can’t believe what is happening – I’mback  in the group - finally!

Then I hear rustling behind me and turn around. There are the boys, standing side by side, craning their necks, trying to look past Big Mum and me, a wistful glimmer to their eyes.

“Can we come in, too?“ Johnny asks. “I’d like to scan the surroundings and make sure that no outlaws and other scum have slipped in…”

“And I’d like to look around, make sure everything is okay… check your tools, maybe… lend a hand if necessary…” Scott’s voice trails off at Big Mum’s expression.

“Thank you, boys, but you know you can’t come in. I’ve told you more than once. You can’t help here, your help is needed on the range. There are still ladies missing. You wouldn’t want anyone to get lost, would you?“

They hang their heads briefly, then Scott straightens. “Of course not.“ He grabs Johnny by the arm. “Come on, Brother. We must do our duty on the range. More ladies are waiting for us.“

Johnny sighs and nods. “Yeah. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.“

They mount up.

I take a step in their direction. Sadness creeps up inside me. I don’t want to let them go, but I know I have to.

“Thank you, boys, for showing me to the group. It was such a pleasure to meet you in person,” I manage to say.

They tip the brims of their hats. “Our pleasure. Bye, Becky.“

They turn their horses toward the range again.

“Make sure to return home to Lancer after you’ve brought the ladies here. Murdoch is waiting for you – and besides, we ladies need you to go on with your ranch life so we can write stories about you,” Big Mum shouts after them.

The boys wave their hats. “Aye, Ma‘am!“

Big Mum closes the portal and smiles at me. “Again, welcome, Becky. I’ll show you around so that you can make yourself at home.“

“Thank you.”  As we enter the group’s house a familiar noise meets my ears and joy spreads form the pit of my stomach all over my body. I hear the chatter and laughter of the ladies again. I am home.

 

 

~ end ~

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