Regrets – Postscript
“I’m killin’ myself from the inside out and now my head’s been filled with doubt… It’s easy to forget when you choke on regrets.” – J. Rzeznik
More than a year later – Southern Texas
Ann Morgan followed the railroad tracks south from Austin. The sun, sometimes a fierce opponent, seemed warm and friendly on her face today. She raised her eyes to the sky. Big, blue, open. No sign of rain. Maybe, with a little luck, she’d make San Antonio before nightfall. Luck? Ann scoffed to herself. Good luck seemed in short supply these days.
The sole of her left boot flapped, making a clip-clopping sound against the hard-packed earth and her stomach growled, reminding her how long it had been since she’d eaten a proper meal. Ann dug deep in her bag, searching for the last piece of jerky she knew was stashed inside, and gave a glance toward the sole of her boot, wondering briefly which of the two would be tougher, the boot or the jerky. She was hungry and thirsty.
“Rest, Ann. You gotta rest.”
Maybe she could afford a few moments. A nearby clump of trees would provide cover from any train passenger’s view and maybe she could find something in her bag to tie up the sole of her boot. She plodded off the track to the safety of the shady grove and flopped down at the base of a tree.
Ann let out a long sigh, then drank from her canteen before finishing the last of the jerky. She closed her eyes and let her head fall back, leaning against the tree’s strong trunk. She smiled at the image of her son, ever foremost in her mind.
Memories of Will Morgan were welcome. They kept Ann company throughout her waking hours. Kept her moving. Kept her alive. She wrote him letters as often as she could, sometimes daily, but always held off in mailing them until she was leaving a town for good.
Another shadow lurked, just beyond the threshold where wakeful musings meet the realm of dreams. The shadow appeared again, as he did so often lately. Ann had been successfully pushing all thoughts of Kid Curry down deep for more than a year. Why was he back now, stalking her each time she closed her eyes? But his words of experience gave counsel to her weary mind. “You gotta be vigilant, Ann. Stay awake!”
“Stay awake!” Ann jerked from her slumber, not sure if she’d repeated the Kid’s words aloud. The earth was rumbling beneath her with the approach of a train. She pulled her bag closer, taking care to make herself unnoticeable. Remembering again the sole of her boot, she opened the bag, digging for string, ribbon, something, anything that might serve to hold the ragged thing together until she got to San Antonio.
When her fingers brushed the letter, she could almost feel its searing heat, like a flame, burning at the slightest touch. She had begun writing it several days earlier, even though she’d never written him in all the time she’d been on the run. Will? She’d written him hundreds of letters. The Kid? Not even one. Not until now.
Dear Kid, it began. Ann had the letter memorized, having scrutinized it so many times in trying to choose exactly the right words.
Don’t suppose you expected to be hearing from me. And if you’re reading this letter, it’s going to be the last time you hear. You got a whole year of living free under your belt now and I’m happy for you. I wish you only the best. I expect you got a bunch of women swarming around you, buzzing like bees around honey. Nothing wrong with that. Just see to it, when you pick the one you want to marry, it’s someone who’s going to make you a respectable wife and give you a kid or two. Seems awful sad to me, you missing out on so much of Will’s growing up.
The train passed by and Ann listened carefully. Quiet. Nothing but quiet.
I’m tired, Kid. Running ain’t easy. I don’t have to tell you that. And seems this one bounty hunter’s got it in for me real bad. It’s all I can do to stay one step ahead of him, but he’s closing in quick. If I can just hold out to Mexico, maybe I got a chance. Right. Slim, maybe none.
I’m going to tell you something. A secret I wouldn’t share with nobody else, and I sure don’t want you telling Will. I think I’m losing my mind, Kid. Maybe I’m as crazy as those people back at the prison said I was.
See, lately, every time I close my eyes, you’re there. It ain’t like a dream. You’re there. I can see your smile and feel your fingers, gentle on my face. Sometimes, I just hear your voice, whispering my name, like you used to do when we were, well, when things were different between us.
Sometimes you tell me which way to go or what I ought to do and usually, you give real good advice. Until last week, when you told me I needed to get my hands on a gun. That’s when I got scared. No matter how much I need you, hearing you means I’m crazy, so you got to stop. Please, get out of my head and leave me be!
A flock of birds suddenly took flight, drawing her attention. At the click of a weapon behind her, Ann closed her eyes in resignation.
The voice of the bounty hunter yelled out instructions. “Get on your belly and put your hands behind your back!”
Every sense was on full alert. Ann’s hearing was keen. So keen that she heard the familiar voice, even now, when she was fully awake. Ann nodded, heeding the whisper audible only to her. She stood up slowly, with one hand still inside her coat.
“You hear me, woman?” the bounty hunter called. “I said get on your belly!”
Her back was to the man who had hounded her across more than half the West.
The Kid’s voice was calm and reassuring. “It’s over, Ann. He’s won. You don’t have to run any more.”
“Over.” Again, Ann nodded, but this time she turned to face the bounty hunter and pulled a gun from her coat.
One shot fired.
“Stupid woman!” the bounty hunter cursed to his partner. “Would’a been easier makin’ her walk to San Antonio, ‘stead of luggin’ her body back.”
“Yep. She sure was stupid! This gun o’ hers ain’t even loaded.”
I won’t be the one mailing this letter, Kid, but I expect some lawman will get it to you, once he finds it. Like I told you before, I won’t go back to prison, so if you’re reading this, you’ll know I’m dead.
I got one last thing to ask you. It’ll be easier for Will, hearing this news from you, rather than reading it in some letter from the prison. So, please, tell him. And remind him how much I love him. And his pa too.
The sun was still on Ann’s face but its warmth was diminishing. The sky above was still as vast, but its vivid color, quickly fading. Breathing was becoming more trouble than it was worth. Maybe, if she just closed her eyes, with a little luck, the Kid would be there, waiting.
“You did good, Annie. Real Good. You can rest now.”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.