We buried Uncle Billy on the ranch under a large oak tree. It was just a simple wooden cross with his name on it. But, it's where he would have liked to rest. From that spot, you could see the ranch in all directions. And in the mornings, as the sun peaked over the distant hills, the land seemed to shimmer as if it were coming to life.
I had gotten into the habit of riding to his grave every week, picking wildflowers on the way. I gave me time away from town, and a time to think. Travis had been courting Grace these past few weeks. She hasn't exactly rejected his advances, but I could tell she wasn't in a hurry to marry the man either. I believe she was testing the waters, so to speak. She was always the picky type.
Most of my time was spend at the school house. I usually stayed there long after grace had gone home. It was beautiful. The windows had been replaced and the doors fixed. The outside was whitewashed and a small golden bell was fixed next to the front door. I loved it there. It felt more like home than the little house we had on the edge of town.
During the next few months, I flowed through life quickly, barely noticing the world about me. I went to the school house and taught the children every day, and went home and helped Grace with supper every night. Christmas and the New Year came and gone, nothing worth recalling.
It wasn't until spring that things took a turn for the worst. I was just returning to the schoolhouse from the general store when I heard arguing from inside. I went around to the side and saw Grace and Travis inside the school arguing.
"Why won't you marry me? I am a very wealthy man, and you will want for nothing."
"I'm sorry Travis, but I just don't love you."
"Given time, you will grow to love me. You won't have very good prospects out here. I am the best offer you will ever receive, I can assure you."
"I could never marry without love, but perhaps if we just waited for awhile, there might be a chance for us."
Travis grabbed her arm, "Stop teasing me, Grace. What is it you want from me? I could give you everything you ever wanted, and yet you deny me? How stupid could you possibly be?"
I was furious. How dare he talk to my sister that way? I rushed around to the front door and burst into the school.
"Leave her alone. She said she doesn’t want to marry you, Mr. Stetson. I suggest you be on your way now."
He turned his eyes on my, and it seemed like the room grew colder. He smiled at me, but it didn't help the ice that I felt from his stare. "I apologize Miss Carson. Love makes us do crazy things. Grace, we'll continue this conversation another time."
He bent down and placed a light kiss on Grace's hand before brushing past me and exiting the room. I heard a horse gallop off back into town.