As she took her first glance at the town of New Hope, Elaina Todd knew that her life would never be the same. Not just because her mother had died but because she was going to live on the Colorado frontier. She looked through the musty train window as it approached the station.
“SCREEEEEECH!” the train went to a jerking halt. She grabbed her bags and followed the rest of the passengers off.
Elaina looked around and saw a tall, thin woman waving at her,
“Aunt Becky!” She yelled and immediately ran to her, “Oh Aunt Becky!” Tears began to form in Ellie’s eyes and as her beloved Aunt embraced her she felt once again how good it was to be loved. They walked side by side, linking arms and talking about all that had happened while they were apart.
“I have heard,” said Aunt Becky, “That your dear mother is no longer living...”
“Yes.” Ellie said sharply, “But I would rather not remember why I came, only that I am here.”
Becky nodded her head in agreement as she opened the door to the town’s boarding house.
“Well, this is where I live Ellie. I don’t have a house anymore....haven’t had one since Robert died and my girls moved away.”
Ellie carried her bags up the small narrow stairway and waited for Aunt Becky to find the key in her purse.
“Aaaaah, here we are!” Becky said.
She walked up the stairs and over to the door at the very back of the building. She thrusted the key in the hole and turned it slowly. The door popped open to reveal a small, cozy room. It was complete with two twin sized beds and a chest of drawers.
Ellie laid her bags on the bed nearest to the window. Becky sat down on the other bed and watched Ellie quietly as she unpacked her things.
“You look so much like your mother.”
Ellie glanced over at Aunt Becky and smiled, “That is what father used to say.”
Aunt Becky immediately got up and grabbed Ellie’s hand, “Come on Ellie, lets go and introduce you to some people. You could use some cheering up!”
Ellie nodded in agreement and they walked swiftly down the stairs and through the boarding house door. The street was fairly busy, with a few wagons coming through and horses being tied up. As people walked by Becky would make a friendly gesture and introduce them to Ellie. They walked around the town until they came to the telegraph office.
“Why dont you go over to the livery and pick out a horse to travel on. I need to send a telegram.”
Ellie was astonished, she had never owned a horse before and figured she never would. Becky waved her away and she excitedly walked towards the livery.
She looked around her and realized how different New Hope was from her home town. In San Francisco the streets were so busy that no one could ever go one day without yelling at another person to get out of the way. Here, everyone knew everyone and there were no harsh words passed from one person to another.
All of a sudden there was the sound of a horse whinnying franticly. It took off galloping down the street. The horse was racing in Ellie’s direction. She glanced the other way as it neared closer and closer. She turned her head just as the horse was about to trample her. Suddenly she felt a shove that sent her flying towards the side of the street.
She turned her head to see who had pushed her out of the way. There in the middle of the street was a girl about her age. She was on her knees. Her left hand looked bloody and bruised. Ellie got up and walked over to her.
“A-a-are you ok?” Ellie asked, “your hand looks bad.”
The girl looked up and Ellie saw two fearless eyes staring at her.
“I’m fine,” she said, “My hand just got caught in the wheel.”
She got up and began dusting herself off.
“My name is Elaina Todd,” Ellie said.
The girl looked up, “I’m Alex Kindredd.”
“Alex? Is that not a boy’s name?”
“No, it’s not. Excuse me, but I have to go,” Alex said with contempt.
Alex ran off towards the general store before Ellie could even suggest a visit with a doctor. She watched curiously as Alex vaulted onto a small paint pony and kicked him into a full speed gallop towards the racetrack.
“Ellie!” Aunt Becky yelled, “I heard what happened. Are you ok?”
Ellie smiled and walked towards Aunt Becky, “Yes, I am fine. That girl, who pulled me out, who is she?”
“Oh, you mean Alex?” Becky said, “Actually her mother is my niece. You two are cousins. Now come on, lets go get that horse.”
Ellie and Aunt Becky walked over to the livery where the blacksmith was cooling down a newly made horseshoe. Ellie looked at all the horses that were tied up to posts. There was a sign that said “For Sale” in front of them. A big white horse caught her and she walked over to him.
“Willis! I need to buy a horse from you,” Aunt Becky said to the blacksmith, “Are there any nice, gentle horses that I could buy?”
Willis wiped his face with a rag and pointed to the white horse that Ellie was petting, “That one has got a real nice temperament. Real good at pull’n a wagon too. Ain’t broke to ride though.”
Aunt Becky shook her head and began stroking a young colt’s face.
“Then that one won’t do. What about this one? He looks strong and willing.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong ma’am. He sure is strong. Strong and stubborn as an ox!”
Ellie walked along the line of horses and stopped at the spot where a Chestnut horse was. He had a half moon on his face that gleamed like the moon itself.
“What about this one? I like him.”
“Why young lady, he’s got the kindest heart! Wouldn’t hurt a fly ma’am. I’d say he’s the best choice,” Willis said while rubbing down one of the horses.
“How much?” asked Becky.
“How ‘bout 2 bits and then make me one o’ your dandy signs that says “Livery” on it ma’am. Then we’ll call it even.” Willis said.
“Aunt Becky? You make signs?” asked Ellie curiously.
“Sure do, sweetheart. Found my calling with paints and brushes. I made all the signs in town,” said Becky with a wink.
Ellie watched as Willis put a small saddle on her new horse.
“That should fit you miss,” Willis told her.
She took the reins and with Willis’ help, mounted a horse for the first time.
“What is his name Mr. Willis?” she inquired.
“Well now Miss. I read someth’n in the paper ‘bout one o’ them “Solar Eclipses”. Someth’n ‘bout the sun and the moon. Well, I figured that since he’s the color o’ the sun and he’s got that moon on his face, I should call him “Solar”.
“Hey, Solar!” Ellie said excitedly as she kicked him into a walk.
She bid farewell to Becky and went into a bouncy trot towards the racetrack. She was curious as to what Alex was doing. As She approached the track she saw a line of horses about to take off.
“Take your marks....get set....GO!” The caller yelled.
She watched as the rider in the lead tried to push off the rider next to him. They fought for a while until the other rider fell with a thud. His horse was quickly caught. Again, the current leader tried to make the rider next to him fall. The leader did this every time another horse caught up to him, and every time there would be another horse to catch.
As the horses neared the finish line she suddenly recognized Alex and her little paint pony. They were racing up towards the lead.
“Oh no!” Ellie whispered to herself. She expected Alex to be shoved to the ground just like the others.
Ellie’s horse pranced in place as he watched the other horses race by.
“Relax, Solar,” Ellie said nervously. She still wasn’t quite used to being in the saddle yet.
She watched as Alex caught up to the leader. She saw his arm punch in her direction, but she ducked just in time. Again he tried to shove her off her pony, but every time she dodged him. They were a few strides away from the finish and that was when Alex made her move. She spurred her pony on and they raced ahead.
“Aaaaaaand.......Alex Kindredd and Dublin are the winners!” yelled the caller excitedly, “Timothy Jones and Razor in second........Harry Reed and Destiny in third!”
Ellie couldn’t believe her eyes. That paint pony was like a streak of lightning.
“DING! DONG! DING! DONG!” the church bells rang loudly.
“Oh dear, 6 o’clock already? Must be time to fix dinner!” she said worriedly.
She turned Solar sharply and they went off towards the boarding house in a lively canter. She halted her horse in front of the house and dismounted with some difficulty. While tying Solar to a hitching post she yelled, “Aunt Becky! Sorry I was gone so long!”
“Oh shush child! You’ll annoy the whole town. And you were gone all but 10 minutes so do not fret Ellie,” said Aunt Becky while putting her arm around Ellie and herding her inside.
“Miz, Rebecca Marie Todd! What in heavens name are ye bally doin’!” said a short woman that was strutting down the steps, “I was just tak’n a good ol’ rest and ye have to wake me up! I am not a spring chicken anymore miz but I will wallop ye if I have to!”
“Oh, Mrs. Darlington! I am terribly sorry ma’am! My young niece was just excited. It will not happen again I promise you ma’am!” Becky said with the utmost respect.
“Oh, you bet ye it won’t! That is a fact! Or I will get out me bally switch and give ye a good ol’ fashion wallop eh, wot!” Mrs. Darlington said menacingly, her British accent making it even more frightening.
“Mrs. Darlington, I am terribly sorry I disturbed you from your rest. I will never do such a thing again ma’am,” Ellie said kindly.
“Awwww, dearie. It’s alright! It isn’t your bally fault that ye’ve got a flipp’n child for an aunt!” She said as she glanced quickly over at the blushing Aunt Becky, “And as for you miz Rebecca! I’ll kick ye out o’ my board’n house if’n it comes down it! Don’t think I wont!”
Mrs. Darlington then turned on her heel and walked confidently up the stairs.
“Aunt Becky, she sure is frightening!” Ellie said while hiding a smile with her arm.
Becky nervously took a chicken out of the boarding house oven. She carefully set the pan on the counter and said, “She scares the living daylights out of me Ellie. Goodness gracious, what a woman!”
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