... sweethearts or strangers, where do we go from here, I'll leave it up to you...
Ahhhh... ! The lyrics of that sweet old country ballad from the 1930's came drifting back on Memory's Tide as I started to write this story ... hence the title.
June Richardson wrapped her arm protectively around her daughter's shoulders. They stood watching a lone rider riding away from the wagon train. A few minutes later, he was just a small speck on the distant purple horizon.
"Mommie, do you think he'll ever come back?"
"I don't know, Honey," her mother replied honestly.
"Will we ever see him again?"
"Maybe someday," the mother replied, scolding herself inwardly for shading the truth.
How can I tell her that Emmett Lacey is a tumbleweed? Sarah misses him now, but in a week or two she'll no doubt forget all about him, June thought, trying to give herself some justification for the half-truth she had just told her daughter.
The Richardson family located on the outskirts of the Barbary Coast section of early San Francisco, where they put down roots. Later, even after the death of her husband, Jack, June Richardson had remained undaunted, somehow managing to keep her little family together.
Twelve years later, still a widow—she, Jimmy, and Sarah, had survived. Jimmy grew up and married a girl he had met, a sweet gentle girl named Faye. June had felt gratified when Faye had graciously insisted that both she and Sarah should come to live with them. Fate makes a way, she often thought.
Then in a matter of a week, things changed... , definitely for the better.
A man she had met, and had admired during the time she and Jack were making their way across the prairie in Jeb Baxter's wagon train, had appeared at her front door.
Although June Richardson had loved her late husband Jack very much, when Frank Hardin had taken her for a buggy ride and proposed marriage, she had immediately felt it was the right thing to do. She had gladly accepted his offer of marriage.
My new man sure is a fast worker, she thought, smiling in admiration. However, I guess I can forgive him for being in such a hurry. He has been in love with me ever since we first met on that wagon train.
She had always been aware of his love for her ever since those long ago days crossing the prairie. She knew Frank Hardin was a good man, an honorable man. She had never lost one minute of sleep worrying that he would do something foolish and jeopardize her marriage.
I'm a widow, for goodness sakes... ! She thought. Why do I feel as giddy as a new Bride? Am I getting skittish in my old age? She had scolded herself.
They were scheduled to be married that coming Sunday. Both caught up in the happy excitement of their coming nuptials, they were thrilled when their old friend, and Frank's sidekick, Emmett Lacey had agreed to come to San Francisco and be Frank's Best Man. The only sad note was that soon after their wedding; Emmett would be leaving them, to return to his boyhood home in West Texas.
For her Maid of Honor, June Richardson had asked the woman who was her very best friend—her beautiful daughter, Sarah. They decided it would be a simple private ceremony, with just the family and a few close friends present.
The Wedding Bells ring...
The wedding went off without a hitch. Looking at her new husband's handsome face, June could sense the desire and anticipation to consummate their marriage in the biblical sense was on his mind.
I won't make him wait long, she thought. He has been waiting patiently for me all these years. I'm not going to make him wait one minute longer than necessary, she quietly vowed.
After the wedding ceremony, which had been presided over by Frank's friend, Judge Gatewood, the happy couple and their party lingered on the steps of City Hall?
"Congratulations, Father of mine," Sarah had said, teasing him. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to desert my mother, saddle up your horse and take me for a ride up in your saddle like you used to when I was a little girl."
Frank laughed. I have a daughter again at last, he thought. "Well, my darling daughter, I don't think you and I would both fit in that saddle anymore," he replied. "Besides, now that I'm married to this woman... ," he said, taking her radiant mother, June, by her arm, " ... no one is ever going to be able to chase me away—not even with a stick," he said, laughing.
"Well," Sarah said, with a mischievous glint in her brown eyes, "If I'm going to truly be your daughter, I better be sure that I get this next part right. So here goes..."
"Frank, come a tank, come a ram stick hank come a two-legged, eye-legged, bow-legged Frank."
Frank Hardin was a man who never cried. However, standing there on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall, tears of happiness slid down his cheeks.
"You remembered... , Sarah, after all these years," he said, his voice husky with emotion. "You remembered."
"Frank, darling," June said, hugging him, "Your daughter will be entertaining her own children with that little rhyme of yours someday."
"Hey," old Pard'," Emmett said, "Isn't the Best Man supposed to be allowed to kiss the blushing bride?"
"Honey," June said, laughing. "Will you let me answer that?"
"Okay," Frank said, wondering what she had in mind. "Go ahead, Sweetheart."
Stepping into Emmett's arms, June looked up and said, "I should smile you can!"
After he had kissed her, he whispered affectionately in her ear. "You sure you're not from Texas," he said, teasing her with a sly little grin.
"No, it's just that some of that Texas drawl of yours must have rubbed off on me," June said, teasing him right back.
"Okay... , since this is my lucky day," Emmett laughed, "I need to ask Sarah something."
Sarah, looking radiantly happy, turned to him and said, "Sure, ask me anything."
"Well, I was just wondering if the Best Man is allowed to kiss the Maid of Honor?"
Following her mother's lead she stepped into Emmett arms and said, "I should smile you can," she said, lifting her beautiful radiant face up to his to be kissed.
"Be careful Emmett," June said, looking at the two of them and laughing. "Once a Richardson woman falls in love—it's for life."
Emmett smiled. "I should be so lucky," he said, and meant it.
Emmett could not quite get over how the little girl he had been so fond of years ago had changed. Sarah was now a beautiful healthy young woman, with a slender sensuous figure that stopped men in their tracks. He never grew tired of watching her smile. He loved just looking at her delicate pretty face.
She's pretty as a field of bluebonnets, he thought. The way she loves horses and the wide-open prairies, she would love West Texas. And... , how Texas would love her... ! He thought.
Emmett never knew just when he began to care for her in that grown up way. He found himself thinking back to their days on the wagon train, when Sarah and Jimmy had slept out on the ground—with him and Frank sleeping on each side of them.
Little Sarah had adopted him, bringing him coffee and always trying to do little things for him. He remembered how when the campfire gradually died down each evening, and the Richardson children were fast asleep, how he would often raise up on his elbow and watch little Sarah sleeping that dreamless sleep of children. He had often thought. There is nothing more beautiful than an innocent child's repose.
The fondness he had felt for Sarah as an innocent little girl—he suddenly became aware—had now been replaced by his feelings of a growing love for Sarah, now all grown up.
My God... ! He thought. I'm falling in love with little Sarah. More and more, in the coming days when he looked at her, he no longer saw Sarah, the scrawny little girl—but the beautiful vibrant grown up Sarah—who was rapidly becoming the object of his affections.
Emmett still recalled the day he had rode away from the wagon train after many months of traveling across the prairie with the Richardson family.
He remembered how her little girl questions had made him uneasy.
Emmett, why do you want to go?"
Sarah had asked him innocently, her beautiful brown eyes registering her sadness.
He had looked at her, as if seeing her for the first time. Looking at her standing there, her lovely light brown hair combed so neatly, he found he was at a loss for words. He didn't know how to answer her. He didn't know what to say.
"Will you ever come back?" she said, pressing him relentlessly, wanting to be reassured.
"Yes, Sarah, someday you and I will meet again. I'll come back especially just to see you," he had promised her.
Just before he mounted his horse, he had picked little Sarah up, lifting her off her feet, he hugged her. He still remembered her innocent little girl kiss, so full of love, affection, and trust.