A Note (and Warning) From Your Author: This story is meant for an adult audience. There may be (will be) offensive language and themes.
Summer had settled over the land, and everything sweltered. The brush grew brittle and brown. The earth cracked open. Even the flies seemed to be getting lazy, barely hopping a few inches anytime Zetti tried to swat one off her arms or legs. Though she sat on the porch, there was no escaping the heat. She cooled herself with one of Dove’s lacy black fans. It felt out of place in her hand, too dainty and feminine for a woman like herself. She missed her pipe something awful.
It had been two months since Louis brought her to Dove Speller’s house. Dove had herself a fit when she saw Zetti with her swollen eye and more bruises than she cared to count.
Louis didn’t linger. As soon as he got Zetti down from the horse, he hopped back up and tipped his hat at the two girls. “She’s stronger than a bear,” was all he said to Dove as Zetti limped inside.
Of course, Dove already knew that. Zetti saved her life over a decade ago, and they had been the dearest of friends ever since.
She stayed longer than she meant to, waiting for her body to heal. Some things never did get quite right again. Her ring finger was still crooked. There was a fresh, pink scar next to her left eye. Sometimes that damned rib still shot pain through her chest if she sneezed too hard.
The whole time she waited, all she could think about was Teru. Her perfect, strong Teru. On days like this, she sat on the porch and imagined his voice, his touch, his black eyes. Most of all, she thought about how he fought. He moved as fluidly and effortlessly as water. That’s what attracted her to begin with.
The first time she saw him fight was outside a saloon in Little Gulch. He fought with Big Hank, the town’s biggest, dumbest brute. All Hank was good at was drinking and fighting. He was always picking fights; he always won. The locals liked to take bets, knowing they were safe bets. As they gathered outside to watch Big Hank pick on the foreigner, they started calling the fight in his favor.
Zetti watched from where she sat on the porch. She overturned her pipe and tapped out the old herb. Whatever folks were expecting, she figured they would be disappointed. She took one look at the foreigner and knew right away he could fight better than Big Hank. He stood unmoving and quiet while Big Hank worked up the little crowd. His expression was smooth and unreadable. She made a bet on the stranger, then sat back and smirked.
The silence made Big Hank grow bored quickly, and without much warning, he charged. Teru moved so fast that hardly anyone believed it when Big Hank fell face first. At that, Zetti locked eyes with him and smiled big, a rare gesture for her.
Teru didn’t pay much attention to the insults and anger being hurled his way, and Zetti was mesmerized by his calm. She had never seen anyone fight quite like that before. It had been so measured, precise. She followed him back into the saloon where he tapped the counter, drawing the attention of the old bartender.
“Drink,” he said but the word came out funny. That’s when she knew for sure he was from somewhere else.
When she walked right up to him and asked him where he learned to fight like that, he didn’t understand what a wily little woman like Zetti wanted with him. She had wild black curls and cold gray eyes, wore men’s clothes and cowboy boots. Still, he smiled down at her. “Drink?” he asked. She paid for it with the money she won, and that got some raised brows.
They sat in comfortable silence next to each other with their drinks. He didn’t understand much English, and she didn’t understand what he had to say either. At some point, she took hold of his hand and led him back to her attic room. Why he followed her to begin with, she didn’t know. Maybe it was the alcohol buzzing in their ears.
There, she poured them both yet another drink. She touched his arm and met his gaze once again, alcohol warm in her belly. He said something in his language. Then, they undressed each other for the first time.
Their love didn’t take much more than that, it didn’t require many words or explanation. Whatever she felt for him, he felt it too. He held her in his arms for a long time after they made love, and Zetti let him. She never let any other man do that before. She normally just kicked them out on the street when she was done with them. If she had them at all to begin with.
“Yer thinkin’ ‘bout him again, ain’t ya?” Dove slipped onto the porch with a glass of some foggy liquid in one hand. She was a fair-skinned woman with strong arms and hundreds of freckles. She had wispy, mouse-brown hair that she constantly tucked behind her ears. It never stayed there.
Zetti nodded and stared out into the brush, eyes distant. The glass clicked against the wood table next to her, and she looked down at it. “I don’t want that stuff,” she said.
Dove shrugged. “Then ya don’t have to drink it.”
Despite her own words, Zetti picked up the glass and downed it in a few gulps. She stuck her tongue out as the weird, chalky medicine slid down her throat. Whatever it was, she knew it would be good for her. Dove was near magical when it came to medicines.
“I’m gonna leave soon, Dove,” she said once the bitter taste passed. “You’ve been good to me, but I’ve been takin’ up yer time too long now.”
The other woman shrugged again. Dove had known Zetti for years and had patched her up on more than one occasion. “You ain’t no burden to me, Zetti Sweetwood,” she said. “Where are ya headed to?”
“I can’t tell you that exactly. But I can tell you that I’m gonna kill Nels Moraday and his boys.” She swatted at a fly with the fan. It snapped against her knee. “I’m gonna find them, Dove, and I’m gonna make them pay for what they did to Teru.”
Dove’s lips went thin, and she stared hard at Zetti. “Ya think you can take ‘em?”
She didn’t answer. It hadn’t gone well the first time. She couldn’t deny that, but she had been unarmed then. Angry and blind. “A bullet is a bullet no matter who shoots it,” she said, but her mind had already drifted to Teru’s sword. She longed to put it through Nels. But she had to get it back first.
“I’m comin’ with ya, Zetti.” Dove said this with calm certainty, and Zetti’s head snapped up. “Now, Zetti—”
“I don’t want you gettin’ in the middle of this!” She jumped up to her feet to level her gaze with Dove’s hazel eyes. The chair she had been sitting in clattered backward against the cabin.
“I ain’t askin’. I’m comin’. If nothin’ else, I just want to make sure you’ve got someone to patch ya up.” Dove crossed her arms. “Teru wouldn’t want you to go alone.”
Those words felt like a little thorn in her heart. Zetti huffed. “How would ya know what Teru would want? You don’t speak a lick of Japanese.”
“Neither do you but… he never left yer side, did he?”
Hot tears filled her eyes, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. She was getting tired of crying. “I suppose not,” she said quietly.
Dove smiled. “Besides, Zetti. I got somethin’ for ya.”
Zetti followed her friend inside the cabin. Muted sunlight lit the space through the greased paper windows. Bunches of herbs hung from the ceiling, and Zetti had to duck beneath them to follow Dove to the big cabinet in the kitchen. There, Dove opened the doors and stood on her tiptoes to pull a long, wooden box from the top shelf. From the way she held it, Zetti could tell it was heavy.
“It was my Pap’s,” she said as she placed it on the corner of the kitchen table. She pushed aside a big bowl and a pitcher so she could open the box. Zetti’s eyes lit up when she saw what was inside. Dove picked it up gingerly, the weight of it seemed uncertain in her hand. “Said it’s the quickest trigger anyone ever made.”
Zetti took the revolver and immediately began inspecting it. It looked taken care of, though she couldn’t remember Dove ever pulling it out. “You ever shoot it yourself?”
Dove blushed and looked down at the table. She was a healer, not a killer. “Pap made me. Said I had to know how to protect myself.”
“Ya got ‘munition?”
Turning back to the cabinet, Dove reached her hand up to the top shelf and felt around. She slid a box down and placed it next to the gun box. Next, she fetched a holster.
Zetti grew still and thought for a few long moments. “We’ll go to Little Gulch first. There’s a few things I’ll be wantin’. Then, I’m gonna find Cassidy and get Teru’s sword back.”
Read Chapter Three
Thank you for reading! Be sure to like, comment, share, etc. It helps me out as a writer more than you imagine. ;)
Check back on Tuesday for chapter three. Zetti will be confronting one of those Moraday boys.
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