Rightfully Mine.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This isn't a continuation to the story. It was finished with the last chapter. But someone commented that John's reaction to Kat seemed sort of sudden. So these extra chapters I will be posting will be from John's POV. I'll give the corresponding chapter to the story, at the top.

John's POV Chapter 7

Chapter 18 (v.1)

Submitted: April 26, 2013

Reads: 124

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 26, 2013



It was one of those nights. The kind where I should be able to sleep, since I was exhausted, but I couldn't stop thinking.

Grandfather had died far too soon. He'd only been sixty-five. I hadn't been ready to take over the ranch then, and nearly a year into the task, I still didn't feel ready. It was too much responsibility for someone my age.
If it was only Jenny and myself that I had to worry about, I might feel semi-competent. The responsibility would still be overwhelming, but at least it would just be our welfare on the line. But there were a lot of people depending on me to succeed. If not for Larry, I'd be totally lost.
Larry was an invaluable overseer, but at the moment, I couldn't help but wonder if it was the wisest decision to buy those extra cattle and hire those extra ranch hands the way he'd advised. Grandfather never expanded because of the risk it posed. Larry thought he was being unnecessarily cautious, but he did run a successful ranch for forty years. Was I going to run it into the ground before I'd had it for five?
I turned over in the darkness and noticed that Jenny wasn't asleep either. Her back was to me, but she was too still and I didn't hear the soft snoring that usually accompanied her sleep.
"Jen," I whispered, wanting my arms around her. Things had been rough between us for a while, but it always seemed like we'd be alright when I held her.
Jenny didn't respond and she didn't move other than to stiffen slightly.
Now what was her problem? Every day she seemed to come up with something new to fight over. Yesterday she was angry because I told her that we couldn't afford new furniture. Again. The day before, she was upset that I didn't notice the new quilt she finished. The day before that, it was something else that I couldn't even remember. I was losing track of all the things I was supposed to do or did wrong or didn't notice.
"I know you're awake, Jenny," I said, irritated.
"Good for you." Her voice wasn't loud, but I could plainly hear the malice in it.
I heaved an aggravated sigh. "Now what are you upset about?"
"Oh nothing," she snipped. "I won't bother you with my petty concerns."
I rolled my eyes. Apparently, she was still angry about my remark the other day. It seemed like all she ever thought about was frivolous, petty things, and I hadn't been able to keep from pointing it out at the time.
I'd had a particularly trying day dealing with the ranch and had felt more incompetent than usual. I'd gotten in an argument with Larry and had been wondering if we were even going to stay afloat for the rest of the year, and that's when she bombards me with some nonsense about a new bonnet and some foolish trip to the city.
I couldn't blame her for wanting to go somewhere since we hadn't really gotten a honeymoon, but she should understand how tight money was right now, and that I couldn't just leave any time I felt like it. I'd made no secret of either fact. Yet she insisted on harping on these things that didn't really matter.
Had she always been like this? Why had I never noticed? Before we were married, she seemed so sweet and agreeable all the time. Now it was like she purposely looked for things to fight over.
Well okay, maybe she wasn't always agreeable, I thought honestly. But she never seemed disagreeable, if that made sense. She had a way of voicing her complaints so that I'd just want to fix whatever the problem was. I didn't care if it was something stupid or petty because... well, I'm not sure why I didn't care, actually. I just didn't.
Now, however, I couldn't help thinking that maybe we should have waited those two extra years to get married, like her father had wanted. Maybe she was just too immature to be a wife. Maybe I was too immature to a husband.
"I'm really getting tired of these games, Jenny," I said in frustration, pushing up on one elbow. "Obviously something is bothering you, now tell me what it is."
"If you don't know, John, maybe that's the problem."
"In case you haven't noticed, I have a lot on my mind with the ranch. I'm trying to keep us from going bankrupt and losing it all. I don't have time for this childishness!"
Her only response was a muffled whimper that told me she was about to cry again, if she hadn't already started.
Muttering a curse, I pushed out of bed and decided to go downstairs. I wasn't in the mood for this. Once she started crying, there was no reasoning with her anyway.
Storming out of the room, I barely remembered not to slam the door. I didn't know if the noise would carry to Kat's room, but I didn't want to risk disturbing her.
I made my way down the stairs and through the darkened house, managing not to kick that stupid table in the hallway the way I usually did.
When I reached the kitchen, I was momentarily surprised to find the room aglow with light from a lantern on the counter. A second later, I realized that Kat was sitting at the table, holding a cup of something.
"Oh," I muttered. "Hi."
I didn't know if running into her was a good thing or not. On the one hand, I didn't want to involve her in my marital problems. On the other, she was my best friend and had always been comforting to talk to. Besides, judging by the way her lips twitched when she greeted me, she was already aware of the fact that things weren't perfect between Jenny and I.
I wasn't about to go back to bed so soon either. I planned to stay away long enough to give Jenny time to get to sleep. Or at least, time enough to calm down so that she could pretend to be sleeping when I did make it back.
Sitting in the chair opposite Kat, I rubbed my eyes, feeling a little better just being near her. She was so very different from her sister. Always kind and unselfish, and so patient with everyone. Which was a miracle considering the fact that she grew up with Jenny. In all the time I'd known her, I'd hardly ever heard her raise her voice to anyone, including her sister. Whenever I spoke to Jenny, I had a hard time keeping my voice down most of the time.
Even Kat's presence here was for someone else's benefit. She was living here so her mother could be free to marry again. She went so far as to insist that it was what she wanted, but I knew that leaving her home probably wasn't something she'd been eager to do. Especially considering that she would likely marry Andrew at some time in the near future and would have to move all over again. But she'd done it.
She must be itching to have her own home by now, and I doubted that she was totally at ease here. Even if we were family. But she never so much as hinted at a complaint. And she worked hard, no doubt feeling like she had to earn her keep.
I wouldn't have asked any such thing of her, but of course, she didn't wait to be asked. If I'd suggested that she not work so hard, she'd just ignore me.
Honestly, I just liked having her here. I'd always enjoyed being near her, and she made a nice buffer for Jenny. During the day time, at least.
Plopping my chin in my hand, I looked across the table at my best friend, suddenly wanting to commiserate.
"Your sister is impossible," I grumbled. It was something she undoubtedly knew already.
She grinned. "I could have told you that, years ago." Yes, there no mistaking her expertise of just how difficult her sister was. Or her amusement at my cured ignorance on the subject.
"Yeah well, why didn't you?" I suppose I'd asked for her mockery just now, but I wasn't in the mood for it.
Kat's eyes went to the table, her smile disappearing. "Because you wouldn't have listened."
"I might have," I said stubbornly, not fully believing myself.
Kat looked at me, all trace of humor gone. "No you wouldn't. You didn't see anything except what you wanted to see."
Was that true? Had Jenny always been this way and I just hadn't realized it? Kat would know I suppose, but had she thought Jenny wasn't good for me? Why wouldn't she say anything? She was my best friend. I would have listened. Wouldn't I?
Even if she'd tried to warn me, Kat wasn't one to gloat or say 'I told you so'. So what was she getting at now?
"Kat, what...?"
She suddenly looked tired for reasons other than the late hour.
"I could have told you she was... any horrible thing, and it wouldn't have made any difference. All you could see was her beauty. Nothing else mattered."
All you could see was her beauty. The words echoed in my mind and I didn't know how to respond. I knew Jenny could be petty and shallow, but was I the same way?
"You've known Jenny as long as you've known me," she said. "But you're only now seeing that she's spoiled and selfish and... impossible. But I bet you can tell me what my faults are. You've probably known what they are for a long time."
Kat blushed as she looked down, and I couldn't help making comparisons. I did know what her faults were. She was stubborn, mainly. Once she had an idea in her head, she never let it go. She was too unselfish, if that could really be counted as a flaw. But Kat went overboard with it, sometimes choosing to suffer so someone else could be happy, or even just comfortable. She was... I had trouble naming any other major faults in her. And her stubbornness couldn't truly be counted, since usually it was to benefit someone else. Unconditionally loving someone, for example. Refusing to believe something bad about them that she didn't see for herself, or choosing to overlook the bad things she knew to be true and finding the good in them.
Maybe it could be argued that she was a little naive, but that wasn't exactly a flaw.
I'd always known that she and Jenny were different from each other, but it was striking me as if for the first time, just how extremely opposite they were. Like night and day.
Jenny was spoiled and immature, Kat wasn't. Jenny was selfish, Kat wasn't. Jenny was antagonistic and plain spiteful at times, while Kat was probably one of the easiest people in the world to get along with.
Everything about them was totally and completely different, right down to their looks. Jenny had light blonde, mostly straight hair and deep blue eyes. Her skin was clear and fair, and her body voluptuous. She had always been considered the most beautiful girl around, by just about everyone, myself included.
Kat's hair was a rich chestnut brown that always curled at the ends and irritated her by tangling easily. Her eyes almost matched her hair and somehow seemed deeper than a lighter color would. She didn't appreciate her freckles or the way her skin would bronze in the summer sun. I'd honestly never paid much attention to her body the way I noticed Jenny's, but I knew she was taller than Jenny, and a little slimmer. Looking at her now, in her
nightgown, I knew she wasn't unappealing in the least. What I could see of her over the table, anyway.
"I'm sorry," Kat muttered. "I'm just a little crabby tonight."
Her voice startled me, and I brought my eyes back to her face moments before she met my gaze. My neck felt warm as guilt rose up inside of me from the way I'd been watching her. Particularly because I appreciated what I saw.
How had I never noticed that she was beautiful?
Jenny's beauty, which was undeniable, seemed to pale next to her sister's all of a sudden. I didn't know if it came from knowing the kind of person Kat was that made her so much more attractive or if I'd just never allowed myself to notice before. I might even go as far as calling Jenny pretty while saying that Kat was beautiful. It was a completely different kind of beauty. More mature maybe.
Kat blushed deeper, looking back at me and I couldn't help thinking how lovely the effect was. Her eyes widened slightly before she hastily pushed away from the table and brought her cup to the sink.
My eyes followed her automatically and I got a good look at everything I couldn't see while she was sitting at the table. Most notable was the faint outline of her body through the thin material of her nightgown, easily seen due to the position of the lantern.
Before I knew what I was doing, I'd gotten up and moved to stand behind her. She was furiously washing out the cup, and I saw that her hands were trembling. Did she feel this sudden pull the way that I did?
"I think the cup is clean, Kat." I smiled at her effort and then grinned bigger when she jumped. Yes, she definitely felt the same attraction that I did.
Rinsing the cup one last time, she put it in the basin to dry before gripping the edge of the sink tightly, seeming afraid to move.
I wanted to know what she was thinking, and for just a few minutes, I allowed myself to really look at her, wishing that it was from a better angle.
I knew it would be more pronounced in the sunlight, but even in the considerably dimmer lantern light, I could see the reddish highlights threaded in her hair. I never noticed before, but her freckles extended well beyond her face, spilling onto her ears and neck, and I wondered how far they actually went. Her ear was curved in a particular way that struck me as being cute, almost childlike.
My eyes traveled down and I was disappointed that the frill of her nightgown interrupted my view. It didn't prevent me from getting a rough idea of what lay beneath, but it irritated me.
Remembering her words, I realized that she had actually been scolding me. The thought was amusing. She'd never done that before. At least not about anything serious. She might have told me not to kill a bug once or twice, but a minute ago, she seemed almost angry. It was such a novelty - Kat, angry - that I nearly laughed.
"You're angry with me?" I leaned in, not quite touching her.
I brushed away the guilt I felt, watching the evidence of her labored breathing with interest. 
"You've never been angry with me before," I moved closer, feeling the warmth of her arm on my chest. "You've never scolded me before."
"I'm not..." she tried. "I didn't mean..."
"What faults are you afraid I've seen, Kitty Kat?" I evoked the old nick name, enjoying her flustered state.
Her hair was in a long braid down her back, and I found my eyes on the exposed skin of her neck again. I didn't even try to fight the powerful urge to touch her there. Tentatively, I slipped my hand under her braid and began moving my thumb in circles over her satin soft skin.
She stiffened and gasped at the contact, and I was sure she was about to smack my hand away. But a few seconds went by, and rather than slapping me, she relaxed and even closed her eyes, clearly enjoying the feel of it.
I knew it was wrong. I was getting awfully close to that uncrossable line, but part of me really didn't care.
"I don't see any faults." Some magnetic pull drew me closer to her. "I just see someone who's sweet and beautiful and who loves everyone around her."
A small moan slipped from her lips and her cheeks brightened once again.
"And someone who likes having her neck rubbed," I added with a grin.
In a second, my smile was gone as I thought about the effect I was having on her. It was exhilarating. Needing more, I closed the small distance between us, touching my lips to the spot on her neck, just above my thumb.
Almost instantly, whatever spell she'd been under seemed to break. She pushed away and stared at me with wide eyes. Her breathing was ragged as she shook her head, apparently too stunned to say anything.
"I never realized how beautiful you are," I confessed, feeling as if I could get lost in her eyes.
Obviously, I hadn't thought any of this through, but the anguished look that crossed her face, surprised me.
"Now?" she cried. "You're noticing this now?"
"What...?" I couldn't even begin to think of what to say to that. Now, what? I could admit that I should have noticed her beauty long before this, but why should that be the first thing she thought of saying?
"Ten years, John!" She really was angry now and her eyes welled up with tears. "You had ten years to notice me, and you do it now?"
Of course she was angry. Why shouldn't she be? Her sister was my wife, and here I was, acting like that wasn't the case. Even if we were both completely unattached, my behavior still would have been inappropriate and appalling.
"Okay look, I'm sorry," I huffed, before her actual words sank in. Ten years? She wasn't just angry about tonight, but about the last ten years?
"Wait, what?"
Her shoulders sagged and she closed her eyes. "Forget it. It doesn't matter."
"No, I won't forget it. What about ten years?" I demanded.
She raised her chin and I saw the effort it took for her to meet my eyes again.
"I loved you from the first time I saw you, John. You could have had me any time in the last ten years. And you decide to notice me now." Her lip was quivering and a tear slid down her face.
I stared at her, completely stunned.
She really had been feeling all of those things I was a minute ago, only for her, it wasn't all new. If what she said was true, she'd been feeling them for a very long time.
All that time? She loved me?
I suddenly felt sick, remembering the things I'd been thinking. The guilt of what I'd done to Jenny was definitely there too, but the foremost thought in my mind was what an idiot I'd been.
Unbidden, the idea came to me. What if I'd married Kat instead? From what she just said, all it would have taken was for me to notice her instead of Jenny. If that had been the case, would I be happily asleep in my own bed with my wife in my arms, never having to worry about all the stupid, petty fights I had so often now?
Yes, I knew without a doubt, that would be the case.
"You really didn't know?" Kat's small voice cut through my thoughts.
"How would I know?" I snapped.
"It wasn't exactly a secret," she mumbled, looking away.
"You should have said something." But I wondered if it would have done any good. I'd been enamored with Jenny for so long, and clearly Kat knew it.
"When?" she demanded.
"Any time! Like you said, we had ten years!" Was I really so blind for so long?
Her momentary anger vanished and she just looked sad. "When John? Before Jenny, you didn't even like girls, and you never looked at me. I just thought I had to wait for you to finally see me and then... but you didn't. You saw Jenny. And now it's too late." The tears were falling down her face in earnest now.
Too late. Those two words left a bitter taste in my mouth.
"You should have told me," I insisted. Maybe I would have listened! Maybe I would have tried to look at her differently!
But probably not, a little voice whispered in my mind.
"I had the right to know," I said obstinately.
"The right?" She was suddenly furious. "You have no right to do this now! You made your choice and you have no right to make me feel this way again!"
She tried to leave, but I needed to know what all this meant. Grabbing her arms, I crashed my lips to hers before she could think of stopping me.
She melted in my arms and responded to the kiss with fervor. I found myself getting lost in the sensation of it all. I simply reveled in the feel of her in my arms, and of the warmth of her hands against my chest. Her lips were soft and sweet, and kissing her was like nothing I'd felt before. I certainly hadn't felt this way in the last few months, but it was completely possible that I never had.
I knew then that I'd made a terrible mistake. I loved Jenny, but it wasn't the way it was supposed to be. It wasn't the way I loved Kat. Or at least, it wasn't the way I could love her if I hadn't been such an idiot.
Stunned over my revelation, I pulled away and we stared at each other, trying to catch our breath. I hadn't had enough, though. I needed more. But before I could kiss Kat again, her hand came across my face, hard.
Instinctively, I released her and she ran out of the kitchen. I watched her go, feeling dazed. 
What had I done? What should I do now?
What I wanted to do was to go after Kat, partly to beg her forgiveness for being such an idiot, and partly in an attempt to pick up where we'd left off with that kiss.
Knowing I couldn't trust myself, and that it was entirely likely that she didn't want to see me, I stayed put for a while before extinguishing the lantern and making my way back to bed. I wasn't counting on much sleep tonight,
though. I felt more awake than I had in a long time.
In all the time I'd known her, how could I have neglected to notice Kathryn before tonight? She'd been right in front of me, patiently waiting for me to open my eyes, and I stupidly ignored her.
How very typical of Kat though, to never utter a word about her own feelings because she thought it might upset someone else. I was definitely putting that quality in the flaw category now.
She quietly stood by and watched it all happen. She watched me court her sister for three years and then marry her. Never once did I suspect the jealousy she must have felt.
I strained my mind to remember if there was anything that should have been obvious, but it all seemed like a blur to me. Perhaps it wasn't surprising that my clearest memories over the last few years, were of Jenny.
Had I really been blind to everything because of her beauty? The idea seemed ridiculous to me now. Especially since I now realized that Kat was possibly more beautiful than her sister.
The one memory that surfaced in my mind was the night that Jenny and I announced our engagement. I remembered thinking that it was strange of Kat to leave so quickly, and without congratulating me. Then when I found her, she seemed so... broken, I suppose. I didn't understand it then, and I didn't believe what she said about being upset because things were changing. Idiot that I am, I didn't push for a real explanation. I was too excited and happy. Too blinded. Too self-centered. Instead I said something about Andrew proposing, to try to comfort her. She must have thought I was so stupid.
Poor Kat. All this time.
Had Jenny known? The thought made me sick.
Kat said that her feelings weren't a secret. Did that mean that her sister knew?
I peeked at Jenny who was feigning sleep again, mostly out of spite. She did a lot of things out of spite, I realized, and it wasn't hard to imagine that she'd acted as she had, regardless of anything her sister felt. Maybe even because of it.
Had I been some sort of prize for her to win? A way to beat her sister at something?
I thought of the way she'd been lately. Maybe she really was looking for petty fights because she was bored. Because all the fun was gone from her game of marrying the man her sister wanted.
Did she even love me?
But that wasn't exactly fair, I suppose. I couldn't make the claim that I was a perfectly loving husband either, but at least I wanted to be. I'd come into this marriage without an ulterior motive.
Anger and frustration overwhelmed me. How could Kat have never opened her mouth, even once? How could Jenny do what she did, knowing her sister's feelings? Why was Kat so selfless while Jenny was so selfish? And why was I so completely blind to all of it?
What was I supposed to do now? Kat was absolutely right. I had no business doing the things that I had tonight. I was married to Jenny and could never have Kathryn. Neither one of them deserved what I'd done.
But how was I supposed to go through life like this? Loving my wife's sister and never saying a word about it. Never acting on it. Suddenly our hasty marriage seemed more foolish than ever.
If you could even call it a marriage anymore, that is. When we were around other people, Jenny acted the part of the perfect wife. But when we were alone, she barely spoke to me, other than to fight, of course. And she almost never let me touch her anymore.
I couldn't help wondering if that wasn't the reason I'd been so aggressive downstairs. Certainly it had been the reason that I was there in the first place. All I'd wanted when Jenny started this particular fight, was to hold her in my arms. If she'd been an adult for a change, I would have never gone down there. And if she hadn't been so cold to me over the last few months, I wouldn't have been feeling neglected and needy. 
That's what really prompted me to do what I did, though I hadn't thought about it at the time. Kat had actually been responsive and didn't make me feel like I wanted to thrash her or scream at her. It was a refreshing change.
Guilt rose up inside me again as I remembered how receptive she'd actually been. I knew she never would have been that way with just anyone. She wouldn't have been that way with me if she hadn't been in love with me for so long. And I took advantage.
She tried to run from me and I kissed her. I had no business doing that. I knew it at the time and I'd done it anyway, because I was frustrated and curious. And selfish.
What must she be going through now?
I couldn't forget the anguish in her eyes when she told me she loved me. It looked almost physically painful, and that was before I kissed her.
If someone else even dreamed of toying with her the way that I had, I'd hunt him down like a dog.
I almost wished that she would hate me. It would be torture for me and she would be much better off. But I knew she never would. She probably blamed herself. It was just like her to expect perfection from herself but no one else.
All my instincts were telling me to go to her, to make this right somehow. But anything I attempted would only make things worse. Besides, if it had been wrong to be in that kitchen, it was beyond wrong to go to her bedroom.
No, I was just going to have to live with this now. I'd made my choice, as Kat so painfully pointed out.
I only wished that she didn't have to live with it as well. It wasn't fair.

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