For any of you who are reading any of my other stories, I sincerely apologize for not updating them. The computer that contains their upcoming chapters is still in surgery and has been for some time. And the files just won't transfer to this computer. Anyways...
This story is based on a dream I had. It is set in the 1920s.
I am waiting for my husband to get back from prison. He will come home today. I have missed him.
Sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch of my grand house, I close my eyes and sigh, remembering things about him, about Abner. First I think about how he looks. It has been almost a year since I last saw him, but I can still remember. He is a lean man, with sinewy muscles, not a very large man at all. His skin is tan, his hair pale blonde, and his eyes… They are like turquoise, long-lashed and dark-browed. His eyes are beautiful. He wears a little beard sometimes, and usually, his short, thick hair is uncombed and unruly. I like to comb it.
Next I remember the last time I saw him. This makes me frown and feel cold. Hugging myself, I remember the way he ran to me, bright eyes haunted. "Mary, get the kids inside. They're coming for me."
"Abner, what's happening?"
"Mary, I killed him. He's dead."
I saw the pistol in his hand. He loved that gun. "You killed that man? Bart?"
"Yes." He was shaking.
I obeyed my husband and sent the kids in with our maid, Violet. We have two children--Drew, who is a toddler, and Hannah, who is five.
I'll never forget the sight of the policemen dragging my husband away from me. He fought them the whole way (of course). As they were shoving him into one of their cars, he shouted, "Mary, I love you!"
"I love you, Abner!" I cried. "Don't leave me!"
And he was gone.
Now I wait for him to come back.
The police found out that he had killed Bart Brandon in self defense. My husband has been a model prisoner, which surprises me a bit. He has always been a passionate man, a man of action. I have always assumed he would be quite volatile in prison.
Then I see a cloud of dust at the end of the road. I stand up, heart pounding, and shade my eyes against the pale autumn light.
My godparents, Trent and Annie McKinley, come out behind me. Trent is frowning. He never liked Abner. Abner is not from a wealthy, prestigious family like I am. He is a working man. He works at the docks, loading and unloading the ships.
Doctor Ashe comes out on the porch as well, carrying Drew and holding Hannah's hand.
I turn to frown at him.
Drew reaches for me. "Mommy!"
I take my son.
Hannah runs to me and hugs my skirts.
I know that Trent and Annie wish I had married Forrest Ashe instead. But I didn't. I married Abner, whom I love. As soon as Abner went to prison, they kept saying that they told me so. And they invited themselves and the doctor to my house nearly every day. They even spoke of divorce! I have never been so disappointed in anyone as I have been in my godparents. They, of all people, should know that I would never leave my Abner.
The dust cloud is looming closer. I can see now that it is a bus.
"Is that Daddy?" Hannah asks.
"Yes, dear. I think it is." I strain to keep my voice calm. I am trembling with emotion. I have missed Abner, my love. He was the first man I kissed, and he will be the last man I ever love. I don't care what they say about him. I love him.
"Dr. Ashe, go tell Violet to set the table for seven," I order imperiously, not even looking back at the pale, bug-eyed man, keeping my eyes on that bus.
"Yes, Mary," he says, going inside. He is careful to always use my first name. Most improper. To spite him, I have always called him by his title.
"You don't have to be so unkind to him, Mary, dear," says Annie, frowning at me. "He has been so helpful to you in…" She swallows, grimacing at the words she has to say. "…your husband's absence."
"In what way, Annie?" I ask, not looking at her either. "He's only been another mouth to feed."
Trent clears his throat rather loudly.
"I'm not leaving Abner," I say defiantly, tossing my head back. My golden bobbed hair swishes against my chin. "I don't care if you don't like him or if Dr. Ashe has more money. Abner is my husband."
"He is a murderer," Trent says.
"And he seduced you!" Annie adds dramatically.
"Those are lies," I retort. I know they care for me, but they don't know the truth about my husband. I set my son down on the rocker and cover my daughter's ears. "Nothing happened between us intimately until our wedding night," I hiss at my godparents, knowing Drew is too young to understand. "And he is not a murderer."
"Mary!" Annie exclaims.
"It's the truth." I uncover Hannah's ears. "Hannah, dear, take your brother to the porch swing, and you two swing awhile. Until your daddy gets here."
"Yes, Mommy." Hannah takes her brother's hand and leads him to the swing Abner set up for them on our big porch. He is a wonderful father.
"Trent, Annie… I'm sorry I snapped at you, but…" I finally look at them. "You don't know Abner like I do. He is a wonderful man, far better than that weasel of a doctor will ever be."
Dr. Ashe chooses that moment to step out on the porch.
And the bus pulls into the yard.
I hold my breath, one hand fluttering against the base of my throat.
The door swings open.
I am visibly shaking now.
Annie gives me a look of concern.
"I'm fine," I whisper.
Then he steps off of the bus. He blinks in the light, then his eyes of turquoise settle on me. He smiles crookedly. He is exactly the way I remember him.
"Abner!" I cry. I leap down from the porch, ignoring Annie's yelp of protest, and run across the front yard, flinging myself into Abner's arms.
"I've missed you, love," he says. His voice is low and deep, and his chest vibrates with it.
"Oh, Abner. Don't ever leave me again!" I bury my face in his shoulder.
He kisses my neck softly, then steps back from me, taking my face between his hands. "You are more beautiful than I even remembered," he whispers.
I blush lightly. "So are you."
And he kisses my lips. I kiss him back. We are soon wrapped in each others' arms, kissing passionately.
I hear laughter.
"Mommy! Daddy!" Hannah is there, flinging her little arms around our legs. And Drew is hopping around us in circles. He doesn't really understand what is going on, but he knows that we are all happy.
Abner and I smile at each other, then look down at our children. He picks up both of them in his slim, strong arms, laughing and twirling them around.
I think how much Hannah looks like her father. Her eyes are turquoise, and her hair is very pale. Drew looks more like me. He has green eyes and golden hair.
Abner puts the kids down and tells them to go inside and help Violet with dinner. Then he turns to me, and his eyes are very serious.
I know that look. I touch his shoulder gently. "Abner, what's the matter?"
He says nothing. He just takes me in his arms and holds me tightly against him. I feel something cold and hard against my hip.
I draw back from him slowly, grasping his forearms. "Abner, what are you going to do?" I wonder how he got his pistol back.
"Justice must be served, Mary," he says quietly.
My breath is coming faster. I feel close to panicking. "I don't want to see you in prison again."
"You won't." He kisses my hand. "I promise." Then he walks past me toward the house. "Follow me. Stay close."
I follow behind him, having to jog to keep up, holding on to my skirts to keep from tripping. I realize how similar his mood now is to the one he was in when he went out with his pistol that night so long ago… I know that he would have killed Bart Brandon anyway, even if that evil man had not fired his gun first. It was because of Abner's dream. I wonder if he has had one now.
It was our dreams that brought us together when we were young. We both thought we were going mad. He dreams of the past, true events that no one else knows. I dream of the future, of possible futures, futures I can change.
And that night, almost a year ago, he had gone out to kill Bart Brandon. His dreams had shown him that Bart was a murderer, that he had killed a pregnant woman just for spite. My husband found the girl's family and husband. They still thought she was missing. And her killer was roaming free. As usual, Abner took matters of justice into his own hands. He set out to avenge the death of the innocent girl and her unborn child. She had been my age and similar to me in looks. That had made him even more angry. But Bart had somehow learned of Abner's coming, and he fired the first shot.
I wonder if Bart had the dreams, too, dreams like mine, dreams of the future…
Suddenly, I remember. I dreamed last night! I grab Abner's arm. "Abner! Stop!"
He turns around, that dark, stormy look still in his eyes.
"I dreamed last night!" I cry, hoping to stop him before it's too late. The memory of my dreams is rushing back to me in a dizzying, heady flow. "First I dreamed that you went after Trent--and he killed you! Then I dreamed that you went after Dr. Ashe, and he wounded you, and you were sent back to prison for assault! In my last dream, I talked you out of attacking either of them… Then I woke up. I don't know what happens after that."
The dark light in his eyes is fading as he looks at me. He believes in my dreams, just as I believe in his. "Sweetheart, I dreamed, too." His voice is quiet, intense. "Your godfather and your doctor friend--"
"He's not my friend," I interrupt. "I can't stand him."
"I'm glad." He smiles finally, then the smile is gone. "They spoke against me in court. And they spoke against you to each other. That's what makes me angry." His long, slender fingers are fiddling with the handle of his pistol. "They talked about you right after I was taken away. They agreed that you are mad, insane, and that I am a bad influence on you. They planned to make you forget me, to fall in love with Ashe. The way they talked about you makes my blood boil…"
"I didn't fall for him," I say sincerely. I take my husband's hand. "I'm still yours. I always will be yours. You don't have to--to hurt them for my sake. And please… Don't do it for yours. It will only hurt us all."
I can see that he is reconsidering his reckless plan for revenge.
"It says in the Bible that vengeance is God's," I add quickly. My husband and I both love to read the Bible.
Abner's eyes suddenly look very sad and haunted. "And He's given me a piece of it," he says quietly. "The dreams. I think He means for me to uphold justice. Isn't that in the Bible, too? To uphold justice and defend the fatherless and the weak?"
"Yes," I whisper. I remember then how he took care of me, a fatherless girl, on the day we first met…
"I won't hurt them. I promise." He squeezes my hand. He smiles a crooked smile. "I only hurt the murderers."
We walk hand in hand to the porch. The McKinley's and their doctor friend are waiting.
"Good evening," Abner says politely, nodding to them.
"So you're back," Ashe says coldly.
"I'm back." Abner smiles at him.
"We-- I'm sure Mary is glad to see you back," Annie says quietly, trying to be kind for my sake.
"She is," Abner replies, putting a protective arm around me.
I smile up at him and wink.
We walk together into the house.
Violet, a big, beautiful black lady who works for us, comes bustling up to us. The children are laughing and clinging to her skirts. They love her, and she loves them. "Supper's on the table," she announces, smiling brightly. "So glad to have you back, Mr. Abner."
"Glad to be back, Violet." His eyes are scanning our big house, taking in the old familiar sights--the curving staircase, our parlor in which resides my grand piano, our foyer through which you can see the dining room. "Glad to be back." His eyes come to rest on me. He looks at me from top to bottom, then back up again, grinning crookedly.
I blush and bite my lip, smiling.
Violet raises her eyebrows at us and winks, then heads back into the dining room chatting with our children.
Abner whispers something in my ear, something that makes me giggle. Then he kisses my ear…
The door behind us slams, and my husband and I whirl around.
Trent, Annie, and Dr. Ashe are standing there.
"Let's go to dinner then, shall we?" Abner announces. He is trying really hard. Moments ago, he was going to shoot these people, and now he is being the polite host, all because of me. That's how much he loves me.
"Nice pistol," Ashe says dryly.
"Why thank-you kindly, Forrest," says Abner. "My father gave it to me."
Trent coughs. I know he's thinking of Abner's father, a common railroad worker.
Dinner is awkward. Abner tries to be nice, tries to start conversation, but my godparents and the doctor are not participating. So my husband and I chat with each other. It is nice to see him at the head of the table again.
I can hear the children laughing with Violet from their table in the breakfast room.
The silence of Trent, Annie, and Dr. Ashe starts to bother me. I stand up and look at them. "My husband is back. And I am glad. Either you be glad, too, or you leave my house."
Trent forces a smile. It looks ghastly on his broad, wrinkled face. "Welcome home, Mr. Knight."
Abner raises his glass in reply.
Dr. Ashe is having none of it. He decides to make one last, bitter bid for my hand in marriage (following, of course, my divorce from Abner). He stands and plants his fist of the table. "Mary! This man has caused you nothing but--"
"Happiness," I interrupt, trying to stop the impending disaster. "Another biscuit, doctor?"
"He's caused you nothing but pain!" Ashe exclaims quickly, before I can interrupt again. "He is a criminal, Mary, dear. He belongs in prison."
"It was self defense, Ashe," Abner says quietly. That dark, dangerous light is back in his eyes.
"Dr. Ashe, if you are here only to insult my husband, you may go," I declare.
"I'll do more than insult him!" the doctor exclaims. He has really gone over the top. His buggy eyes are fairly bulging from his head. He is a large man, but his features would better befit a smaller one. "I challenge him!" He points a meaty finger at Abner. "You are not fit to be the husband of one such as Mary!"
Abner is on his feet now. "And who's to say that you are? I love her! She loves me! So there!"
"What kind of host are you? Insulting your guests--"
"As I recall, doctor, you are the one who started all this!" I exclaim. "So get out of my house!"
"Mary, he's your guest!" Now Trent is standing up.
Annie, left sitting alone, decides to stand as well.
"Mr. Knight, I'd like to see you outside," Dr. Ashe says.
I know Abner would love to pound the larger man into the dirt. He would probably also like to shoot him. And that is what I fear. I don't want to lose my husband again. "Abner… The children…"
Hannah and Drew are standing in the doorway between the dining room and the breakfast room, eyes round, shocked at the anger emanating from the dining room.
"Violet, get the kids washed up and have them play upstairs," Abner calls.
Violet, quickly assessing the situation, speedily obeys.
Now, unfortunately, Abner has no excuse to not box the doctor's ears.
No excuse except me. And his love for me. He knows what I fear. He remembers my dreams. So he hesitates…
"Shall we go to the parlor?" Annie suggests. She is, at heart, a peace-loving creature.
"Yes!" I pounce on her suggestion eagerly.
We all end up in the parlor. Abner and I are sitting on the love seat, sitting close. Trent and Annie are on the sofa. And Dr. Ashe is on the chaise lounge, glaring.
Obviously, the doctor has some self control issues. He jumps up suddenly, jerkily. "Get away from her, you scoundrel!" he shouts at my husband.
Abner stands up, hands on his hips. "I have every right to be near her. She is my wife."
That, obviously, is the issue with Dr. Ashe. He suddenly steps forward and backhands Abner in the face.
I scream and catch Abner as he staggers backward. He straightens up and faces Ashe. His lower lip is bleeding. "Abner, are you all right?" I ask.
"I'm fine." He wipes his mouth on his sleeve. "Dr. Ashe--get out of my house."
"Is it really your house? Or did you let your wife buy it because you don't have enough money?" the doctor retorts.
Abner starts forward, hands balled up into fists. I know he could beat Ashe in a fight… But he steps back, controlling himself. "Get out."
"Not until Mary tells me to leave." Ashe crosses his arms.
"Leave," I say acidly.
The doctor is surprised. I don't really know why. He should know by now that I am loyal to my husband. He doesn't care. This time, he punches Abner in the jaw.
"Stop it!" I shout as my husband falls to his knees.
"You're mad, Mary. You need professional care," Dr. Ashe says. "And this man that you call your husband… He is no good for you."
I see what he's doing now. He's trying to get Abner to fight back, trying to get him in trouble again, so that I will be free. He's also trying to tell me that I'm crazy.
"Stop it!" I scream again.
Trent and Annie are clutching each other's arms in shock and fear.
Dr. Ashe draws back his foot and kicks Abner hard in the stomach, knocking him back against the love seat.
I crouch at my husband's side, drawing him into my arms and glaring up at Dr. Ashe. "Abner, are you all right?" I whisper.
"Ugh… I think so." He is holding a hand against his stomach. His lips are still bleeding, and there is a dark place on his jaw.
"Get back from him, Mary," Dr. Ashe orders.
I shake my head, stroking Abner's hair.
Dr. Ashe suddenly reaches down and grabs my arm. I kick at him, but he is stronger. He lifts me up and tosses me behind him, where Trent and Annie have the decency to catch me before I can crash into the grand piano.
Now Abner is mad. He stands up, wincing as he straightens, and balls his fists in front of him. "Get out of my house, you fool, before I kill you." His voice is cold and hard, and we all believe him.
All of us but Dr. Ashe. The big man with the buggy eyes chuckles. "Come on, little man. Show me what you've got."
Abner swiftly punches Ashe in the mouth, then the ribs.
The big man staggers back. He drops to one knee. I see the look in his eyes and know that he is up to something, pretending to be hurt worse than he is.
Before I can cry out a warning to Abner, my husband steps forward. Dr. Ashe stands up quickly, punching Abner in the gut, then knocking him in the side of the head. Abner falls, curled up in a ball, eyes squeezed shut, gasping for air.
I jump up, filled with rage, and rush at Dr. Ashe. I grab a handful of his hair and jerk his head back. I'm screaming something at him, but I'm too berserk with anger to know what it is.
Then he turns on me. His big hands are gripping my upper arms--hard. I give a cry of pain.
Then there is a click.
Dr. Ashe turns around, jerking me around with him.
Abner is standing there, his pistol pointed at Dr. Ashe. "Leave. Let my wife go and get out of our house before I shoot you."
Ashe believes him this time. He lets me go, and I rush to Abner's side. He puts an arm around my shoulders.
The doctor backs out of the room. We can all hear the door slam behind him.
Abner suddenly sags against me. I help him to the love seat.
"I had no idea," Trent says, sounding hoarse. "I had no idea that the man had such a violent temper."
I am bending over Abner. His eyes are closed. He is panting for breath. His pistol clatters from his trembling fingers.
"Abner, my love! Are you all right?" I cry. My heart is pounding so hard, it almost hurts.
He nods quickly, swallowing. "I'd just like an aspirin right now," he says. "Everything hurts."
"Annie! Go get Violet! Tell her Abner's hurt!" I sit down and lift Abner's head and shoulders gently into my lap. This isn't anything new. Violet and I have tended to him after fights before. He is always getting into scrapes, usually defending someone who's helpless or standing up for justice. I love this man.
I gently stroke his face, waiting for Violet. I hope she hurries. I've never seen him hurt this bad before.
"I love you," I whisper.
"I love you, too." He opens his eyes and tries to smile, but it hurts his split lip and turns out as a grimace.
I kiss his cheek. "We'll get you all fixed up."
"I know. You always do."
"Thank-you for rescuing me from Ashe," I say, squeezing his hand.
"You're welcome." He settles his head against my chest and closes his eyes.
"I'm so glad you're home," I whisper. God, thank-You. I'm so very glad he's home…
(A/N: So what do you think? I'm experimenting with present tense. I've never written in that tense before, so if it sounds a little awkward, that's why. Next chapter will reveal more on how Abner and Mary first met. The next chapter is also when the real adventure begins for them. Let me know what you think about this, and hopefully, I'll be inspired to update pretty quickly. Actually, I'm having a lot of fun with this one so far.)