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A Glimpse of Paradise


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Mature Content: Nope.

Author: Arabella Mudd

With: Mike Wentworth & Clara Redmond.
Location: A sanctified spot on the streets of Kalispell.
When: April 1876
Time of Day: Late Morning.

 

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Sometimes God was just a little too slapdash with His bounty: and when everything seemed to be going a little too well, it made a body nervous and turned the mind to the calamities ahead that must inevitably be exacted to pay for the good times. But Arabella wasn’t too concerned about that on this fine Spring morning. She was, in fact, in Seventh Heaven just to be strolling along the boardwalks of Kalispell, shopping basket in hand, at exactly the same time as her self-styled bosom friend, Clara Anne Redmond. This was a rarity, and Arabella drank in every minute of the pleasure.

 

When Arabella had discovered that Clara worked just across the road from the Saloon, in Emeline Blakesley’s pie shop, she had feverishly imagined the two of them playing hooky from work and going on madcap adventures about the town every other afternoon, but it was not to be. Clara was far too sensible and duty-bound for that, and every time Arabella escaped from Cookie and popped her head through the back door of the diner and into the delicious smelling kitchen, she was usually shooed away by the Redmond girl. The only other girl who she could pal around with in town was a tall red haired lass, older but even more noodle-headed than herself, known as ‘Squeaky’ Bridget Monahan; but she was definitely not bosom friend material and barely managed to hold the position of second reserve on Arabella’s friendship bench.

 

It just so happened today that the two girls, Clara and Arabella, were both headed in the direction of the General Store. Arabella had been forced to run along the boardwalk a little to catch up with Clara, who hadn’t seemed to see or hear her, even though she had shouted to her quite loudly from behind.

 

“Howdy Partner!” she panted, catching up with the other girl at last “Thought you’d gone deaf, dumb and blind for a minute, there! You goin’ to the General Store? Me too, look I got my basket with me. Cookie’s all out of Molasses and baking soda and, oh, a whole passel of stuff, I got a list here somewhere or, oh, I did! Oh, there it is! What you buyin’? What’s Miss Em’ cookin’ today? Did you tell her I said she should make bear sign* and everyone would come for miles to buy some of that? ”she asked, full of questions, as per usual.

 

Despite her familiar use of the diminutive, she had never actually met Emeline Blakesley, but from the way Clara shooed Arabella from that kitchen on pain of being caught by the woman, the pot girl assumed that she must be an mean and stern tyrant of an employer.

 

They walked on at a pace with Arabella breathlessly informing Clara about everything under the Sun, when all of a sudden she let out something between a gasp and a shriek and, despite the Redmond girl’s frequent admonitions that Arabella should not try and hold her hand, take her arm, put her arms around her or especially kiss her on the cheeks (which is what French Ladies did, apparently) she skidded to a halt and grabbed onto Clara for dear life with a hoarse cry of “It’s HIM!”

 

 

 

*doughnuts

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Mike stepped out of the General Store and walked towards the buckboard that was parked out front.  It had been a long winter and he was glad to be back working outside.  They had just finished the spring roundup and it was time to tackle the repairs the ranch needed.  There were fences and line shacks to be repaired but they needed the materials to get it done.  He was in town getting what he could and ordering the rest.  Now, that the snows were melting, the freight wagons were back on schedule.

 

Pulling out his notebook and pencil which had the list of supplies that he had to get, he checked the wagon and ticked off each item that had already been loaded.  Dan Wilson, the general store owner was still finishing off the order.  Sam, who had come into town with him was also in the store talking with a townsman about the upcoming elections.  Seeing that all was well with the load so far, Mike started to head back into the store, trying to remember the name of the man, Sam was talking to.  He had been too pre-occupied with making sure the orders were being taken down, that he had failed to take notice of what his brother had said.  Usually, he paid attention to these things but today he was busier than usual due to the large amount of supplies they to get and the limited time to get it done since the days still short.

 

As he turned to go back in, he heard a loud cry.  Looking around to see where it came from, he was perplexed as the people around him hadn't seemed to notice or if they did, they had ignored it.  Shrugging his shoulders, he was about to give up when he saw Clara approaching the store with some girl clinging to her arm.

 

@Wayfarer @Javia

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Clara was deep in thought as she walked the boardwalk basket in one hand, book in another. It was nothing in particular but rather a jumble of details pertaining to both her job at the diner and her chores at home.  That said, it was her life and she was seldom one to grumble. Suddenly next to her was none other than Arabella.

 

“Howdy Partner!” the girl panted, catching up with the other girl at last “Thought you’d gone deaf, dumb and blind for a minute, there! You goin’ to the General Store? Me too, look I got my basket with me. Cookie’s all out of Molasses and baking soda and, oh, a whole passel of stuff, I got a list here somewhere or, oh, I did! Oh, there it is! What you buyin’? What’s Miss Em’ cookin’ today? Did you tell her I said she should make bear sign* and everyone would come for miles to buy some of that? ”

 

"You are positively chattering away. And asking far too many questions too rapidly," Clara observed dryly.

 

"Good day to you too, Arabella," she then nodded.

 

Just then the girl skidded to a halt and grabbed onto Clara for dear life with a hoarse cry of “It’s HIM!”

 

Clara had no recourse but to pause as she also cast a scan in the general direction the child was facing. Him could mean a number of men - oh and the Morrison lad - as what passed for the main street in this town was alive with folks going about their business.

 

"Who? What is the problem?" now she looked down to the drama queen that was Arabella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"You are positively chattering away. And asking far too many questions too rapidly," Clara observed dryly.

 

“Oh, I’m just so tickled t’ see you, Clara Anne Redmond!” she beamed, resisting the urge to take the other girl’s arm. “Well, I’ll just go through all my important questions one by one and keep it orderly like! So, first of all, Good Day to you, Miss Redmond!”

 

"Good day to you too, Arabella," she then nodded.

 

Arabella started to enumerate her other questions and comments on the general state of the nation but just then the girl skidded to a halt and grabbed onto Clara for dear life with a hoarse cry of “It’s HIM!”

 

"Who? What is the problem?" now she looked down to the drama queen that was Arabella.

 

Arabella made a sort of moaning noise and leaned heavily on Clara with a gasp of “Hold me up, my legs has turned to jelly!”

 

Thus stabilized, she pointed surreptitiously at Mike Wentworth. “It’s HIM! The feller as dug me out of that House what fell on my head last Christmas!” she took three long panting breaths, as if she’d just run around the block and then made a further demand of her bosom friend: “Oh Clara! This might be my only chance to talk to him, ever… but I’m too scared: push me t’ward him!”

 

In the end it was more a case of Arabella dragging Clara with her, but either way, the love-sick girl wasn’t going to go into battle alone. When she got in range of the man, she gave what was meant to be a dainty “Oh!” of delighted surprise. Instead it came out as a strangulated bark of horror.

 

As he turned to go back in, he heard a loud cry.  Looking around to see where it came from, he was perplexed as the people around him hadn't seemed to notice or if they did, they had ignored it.  Shrugging his shoulders, he was about to give up when he saw Clara approaching the store with some girl clinging to her arm.

 

Arabella tried again, acting as if she had just noticed the tall, dark, handsome man.

 

“Oh!” she said, jumping a little in fictional surprise and putting on her best Southern Belle airs. “Please pardon my intrusion, kind Sir, I know that we haven’t been formally introduced…” she started, giving what would have been a textbook curtsy, if she hadn’t been entangled in Clara’s arm and her shopping basket.

 

“… but your face is somehow familiar to me. Could it be that you are the heroic gentleman what rescued me from certain death some months past, in that curs-ed town of Whitefish?” she concluded this well-rehearsed speech by tipping her head slightly to one side. She was hoping to render the impression of a cute and curious puppy, but she overdid it a tad and ended up looking more like she’d woken up that morning with a crick in her neck.

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Mike shifted a little.  He wasn't quite sure what to say.  The disaster at Whitefish was unexpected and there had been a lot people needing help that day.  In fact, those few days were now a bit of blur as he had already forgotten most of it and had moved on to other things.  The young girl was apparently one of those he had rescued, and since he did want to to disappoint or make her upset, he just smiled graciously and tipped his hat, "It was the least I could do in the situation, ma'am. I'm glad to see that you have recovered from your ordeal."

 

Looking over to Clara, he smiled at her, "It's nice to see you again, Miss Clara.  When I heard you had taken a job at the Lick Skillet, I was surprised and I wasn't the only one.  In fact, it was the talk of the bunkhouse for about a week.  Most of the hands thought you were content with teaching the Thornton children.  No-one expected you to leave."

 

@Wayfarer @Javia

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Her rescuer? Well, that explained it, a little. Clara could certainly understand Arabella's feeling of gratitude but not the historionics. Of course she wasn't going to let the child collapse to the ground but suddenly Arabella found new strength and strong legs, not to mention a tight grip as she practically dragged Clara to move up closer to this heroic figure of a man.

 

Wait she knew the man, the foreman of the Lost Lake Ranch, Mike Wentworth, he with the many brothers. The one owned the hotel, she only knew of him. Then there was Sam who was a thorough gentleman and a distinct pleasure to engage in conversation with. But then there was also the youngest of the brothers, Charlie. That young man had it in for her from the very beginning, it seemed he delighted in tormenting her with his nasty provocations. And this despite her attempts to be nice to him.

 

Arabella now put on a surprised act as if they suddenly just happened to almost bump into each other. She first verified it was indeed her noble savior. And the man seemed a bit slow to recognize her but then did acknowledge his role in it.

 

And of course he also knew Clara, "It's nice to see you again, Miss Clara.  When I heard you had taken a job at the Lick Skillet, I was surprised and I wasn't the only one.  In fact, it was the talk of the bunkhouse for about a week.  Most of the hands thought you were content with teaching the Thornton children.  No-one expected you to leave."

 

"How do you do, Mr. Wentworth, nice to see you. You are looking well, it seems the job of foreman agrees with you. And I am sure that frees up Shade for more time to pursue his ... latest infatuation," Clara forced the most insincere smile.  She could not even bring herself to say 'schoolmarm'.

 

"The Thornton children are wonderful, I miss them every day. But I suddenly found myself in a situation where my continued presence was most uncomfortable. I felt it best for all involved if I found new employment and I am very happy at the Lick Skillet."

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"The Thornton children are wonderful, I miss them every day. But I suddenly found myself in a situation where my continued presence was most uncomfortable. I felt it best for all involved if I found new employment and I am very happy at the Lick Skillet."

 

Arabella frowned, this was meant to be her big moment, and yet Clara insisted on making it all about herself. She regretted bringing her along, now. Time to bring the focus of the conversation back to its proper object.

 

“Oh, Mr Wentworth!” she cried out “Fancy you knowing Miss Redmond! Why do you know that it was Clara here who nursed me back to health, after you so very bravely carried me to safety? I’m so glad I ran into you, for I have been sewing a commemorative sampler of the event which I wanted to present to you as a small token of my great esteem and thanks, and yet imagine my embarrassment that I did not even know the name, let alone the location, of my Knight in Shining armour!” she beamed her uneven smile, hoping that the conversation wouldn’t return back to Clara, or the hideous sounding ‘Thornton children’ or Ms Emeline’s silly old pie shop.

 

If they were going to talk about anyone’s place of work it should be hers: after all, there was always some exciting new hairum-scarum activity going on there: bar fights, arguments, bust ups and wild bets and drunken dancing and, well, you just name it! The most exciting thing that happened at the Lick Skillet was Miss Em’s buns not rising, or a customer asking for an extra slice of tart.

 

Then a thought struck her and she grabbed her companion's arm.

 

“Oh Clara, you silly old noodle-head – you forgot to properly introduce me to Mr Wentworth, why his head must be spinning, wondering who exactly I am!” It was important that the man know her name, and it was somewhat infra dig for her to have to say it out loud herself. Clara would formally introduce them, she would hold out her hand, and Mr. Wentworth would gently and lovingly kiss it, while she herself executed the deepest curtsy a Southern Belle ever made!

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Sampler? Knight in shining armour?  Mike frowned before quickly schooling his features.  He wasn't sure why the girl was going on about wanting to thank him or remember the event.  What he done, he would have done for anybody who was in trouble.  "There's no need to thank me, miss.  I only did what I had to do."

 

The girl then turned to Clara and asked her for an introduction.  Seeing that Clara was starting to get annoyed, or maybe she already was, he couldn't really tell as Clara was always very serious and sensible, he decided to save her the trouble and introduce himself.  It had a been a while since he had formally presented himself to anyone, he simply tipped his hat again and smiled, "Mr. Michael Wentworth, at your service, Miss?"

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Arabella did not give poor Mr. Wentworth time to respond to her explanation as to why she was now working at the diner and had left her employment at the ranch. The child chattered a bit then suddenly expected her to do some sort of formal introduction.

 

Now Clara was all for such traditional niceties most times but she hesitated this time. It was indeed an unusual moment to find her at a loss for words. The reason was simple enough though. She did not recall Arabella's last name!  She had only heard it once during that initial flood of words back at the farm and never had cause to say it aloud.

 

"Well....." she started.

 

The foreman unknowingly came to her aid though, he simply tipped his hat again and smiled, "Mr. Michael Wentworth, at your service, Miss?"

 

 

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"Well....." she started.

 

Clara was turning out to be no use at all in her role as interlocutor in this historic meeting of hearts. Arabella realized that it was her own fault for not briefing the Yankee girl properly in the duties incumbent upon her, should she happen to be present at such an encounter. If the boot was on the other foot, and she and Clara met someone that the Redmond girl was interested in, Arabella would strain every fiber of her being, and every hair on her head, to make sure that the object of her affection was overwhelmed with good reasons to fall in love with the farm girl.

 

The foreman unknowingly came to her aid though, he simply tipped his hat again and smiled, "Mr. Michael Wentworth, at your service, Miss?"

 

Arabella left the safety net of Clara’s arm and stepped forward, right in front of Wentworth, and held out her hand like a dainty swan-neck, palm downward, for him to take and kiss.

 

“I am Arabella Sumpter Mudd, of the Tazewell County Mudds, Old Dominion.” she almost sang it.

 

“Are you by perchance, doing a little shopping, Mr Wentworth?” she asked, looking at his wagon full of supplies from the General Store, although if he wasn’t shopping, then he must certainly be robbing the place! “Oh, how helpful for your wife!” she added with a gay and surreptitiously probing air.

 

At the risk of her bosom friend selfishly taking over the conversation again, and talking endlessly about Thornton children and Pie Shops, and trying to hog all of the beautiful Mr Wentworth’s attention, Arabella turned and invited Clara to “Come and look at all of Mr Wentworth’s wonderful things.”

 

Looking back up at the handsome man, she tried to keep the conversation going with a inane statement along the lines of “Clara and me are shopping too.” Before adding a more personal note: “I hold a position at the Stardust Saloon, and am just picking up a few things for our cook. Have you ever been there, Mr Wentworth? I don’t imagine you make a habit of imbibing strong spirits, but there’s many an innocent chuckle to be had there over a beer and a harmless game of chance, or listening to the piano forte, which I do tinkle upon for the general merriment of the customers, when my duties allow.”

 

She realized that she was talking too much.

 

“Oh, how I do run on Mr Wentworth, you must think me a terrible chatterbox!” she cried, fishing for him to say how she wasn’t.

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