Velvet found herself on a stage coach heading southwest to Alderado. Months ago, her cousin had invited her to come visit her and her husband. At the time Katherine had extended the invitation Velvet's mom had been very ill, and Velvet didn't feel like she could leave. Her mom had passed away six month ago. And before Velvet's very eyes, her father had withered away. After he passed away a month ago, the bank moved in and foreclosed upon the small farm they lived on. Velvet asked Katherine if the invitation still stood. Velvet needed to refocus her life and figure out what she wanted to do.
Velvet had held a teaching job back home. She hoped that she would like Alderado and perhaps find a similar station. At twenty, she felt like an old maid. She'd worked the farm with her parents and her teaching job. Her parents had made sure she was well educated and some men found that intimidating. So while Velvet had her share of suitors she never found one she wanted to stay with forever.
Alderado seemed a dust bowl when Velvet stepped off the coach. She herself was covered in dust from the long ride. Dust sprang up under the horses and peoples' feet as they dashed here and there. Velvet saw Katherine waiting for her and she waved!
Katherine rushed forward and embraced her in a warm hug. "Velvet! You made it!" The anxious relief in Katherine's voice had Velvet momentarily pondering if riding by stage coach was a dangerous opportunity. It had been exceedingly rough and fast paced, but Velvet had enjoyed peering out the window and watching the scenery pass by.
They'd grown up close together and been good friends until Katherine moved away five years ago after marrying Kevin. Velvet wanted nothing more than to pour out her whole story to Katherine. "Thank you for inviting me."
"It's an open ended invitation. You're welcome to stay with us as long as you want. I'm so happy you decided to come. I had feared you'd try to hold off those bank people on your own!"
"I thought about it, but without mama and papa the place really held no value anyway."
"Well, I'm glad you're here!" Katherine hugged her again.
"I'm glad to be here. I'm so excited to be able to meet your kids too."
"They're going to love you!"
Kevin, Katherine's husband, came rushing up to them. "Hello, sweet Velvet." A square, dark haired man, he leaned in and kissed Velvet's cheek. "We've missed you. Haven't we?" The love that shone from the dark eyes he focused on Katherine made her smile.
"Sorry I was late. I got sidetracked by Ike. You know how he is. I'll your bags, Velvet." Kevin moved away to get the bags from the coach.
"Who's Ike?" Velvet asked.
Katherine frowned. How to explain Ike? "He's the town drunk." Funny how everyone took him for granted now but that wasn't how it was when he arrived.
"I'll put your bags in the rig. Come on, ladies, we better start for home."
Velvet climbed into the back seat of the two seated buggy after they stowed her bags. Kevin started the matched bay team down the street. Ahead of them a man weaved precariously along the wooden boardwalk in front of a store. A woman, clearly trying to avoid him, dodged one way and then the other. The drunk did the same and their dance was almost comical had the woman not looked so mortified. The man tipped his hat to the woman and in the next instant, tipped off the edge of the boardwalk and ended in a crumbled mess at the bottom step.
The man struggled to his feet and stepped out directly in front of Kevin's horses. Kevin quickly reined in causing the bay team to half rear and the buggy to come to an abrupt halt.
"Are you trying to run me down, Kevin?" The man clutched his way along the horses harness for balance as he moved backwards towards the buggy.
"You are in the middle of the street, Ike!"
"Was I?" As he talked to Kevin, the drunk braced a casual hand on Velvet's knee. Velvet held her breath and tried not to react. Ike looked around. "So I was! Sorry my friend!" Before Ike walked away he met Velvet's shocked gaze. He winked and then staggered off.
"Well, now you've met the infamous Ike," Katherine said with a laugh.
Velvet watched him go. He dressed shabbily in well worn and stained pants, scuffed boots, and a torn work shirt that hung off wide shoulders. His hat looked like it had been trampled under a dozen hooves. What fascinated Velvet so much was the way he moved. He appeared to be drunk, but his swagger seemed too smooth. Even the way he'd fallen had appeared practiced. But the thing that had caught her attention most was his eyes, such a light hazel they appeared almost yellow. When he winked at her, he'd held her gaze for just a split second but his eyes had been clear.
As the days flew by for Velvet, she decided she loved lived with Katherine, Kevin, and their two children, Leah and Andrew. Leah was a petite little girl of two with blond hair and green eyes. She loved her dolls, mommy and daddy, but most of all she loved her big brother. Andrew, who was five, resembled his father with his dark hair and rich dark eyes, but that's where the similarity ended. Andrew's quiet and serious personality far closer resembled his mom's spirit than his dad's outgoing and exuberant character. Andrew loved to invent things, particularly things that amused his younger sister.
While Velvet enjoyed staying with the family she felt as if she shouldn't impose forever on their lives. It had been her hope to find a teaching job in one of the surrounding towns. It seemed that fate had answered her when Katherine reported that the town's school teacher had run away with a man and moved back east to Chicago.
Velvet interviewed with a nice older gentleman who assured her that with her prior experience she'd be a shoe in for the job. The man told Velvet the job came with a small two room house that stood behind the small school on the outskirts of town. The town would take a vote and let her know within the week if they're been any other applicants.
"Velvet, Kevin's in the field today. Would you mind accompanying me and the kids to town to buy some supplies?" Katherine could tell that Velvet wouldn't relax until she'd heard about the job. She needed something to take her mind off things. Katherine wished that Velvet would stay with them, but she knew that Velvet needed her own life. The poor thing had put her life on hold to help out her parents forever. Velvet deserved a nice family and children of her own. She was so good with Andrew and Leah.
Velvet agreed and helped Katherine hitch up the horses to the buckboard. Once they arrived at the noisy little town, Katherine exchanged her eggs for credit at the mercantile and ordered her supplies. Velvet treated the children to penny licorice from the jar. As they loaded the supplies into the wagon, a hush fell over the town. People stopped moving on the boardwalks and the street opened up. Two people stood approximately fifty feet part, squaring off in a gunfight.
There was no one to stop the fight for the man standing nearest to them was the town Sherriff.