Hat Creek Trouble

The One about Breaking Things

A few hours later, we got to town. Newt parked the wagon in front of the general store and told Needle we’d be back after a while. I linked my arm with Newt’s and he walked me down the road until we came to the same little dress shop we’d been at before.

“Good morning. What can I help with?” The lady behind the counter, Angelica, said.

“I’d like to buy the miss a dress, if she’ll let me.” Newt said, glancing at me.

“And I told you I’d graciously accept.” I told him, to which he nodded.

“Oh, you’re too cute.” She said, coming around the counter and taking three different measurements. “You have lovely proportions, dear. Let’s just see what we have in your size.” She said, sweeping away to the far wall to go through a rack.

Newt sat with his fingers crossed and I looked at him oddly. What was he crossing his fingers for? But when she came back from the rack, I understood. He was excited for the red dress that Angelica had in her hands.

She showed me into the little dressing room behind the counter. “Would you like help with getting this old thing off?” She asked, seeing how dirty the dress was.

“Yes, please. I played hell just getting it on.” I said, remembering I’d told her that last time.

She smiled at me, like she’d heard that a few times. “I’m glad the sir is buying you a dress. If you’d come in here looking like this without him, I’d have bought you one.” She said, helping me out of it. “I’m Angelica, by the way.”

“Selene.” I said with a small smile. I said nothing more as she helped me into the same yellow dress. I told her I thought it washed me out a bit. After a moment’s consideration, she agreed and pulled the garment off me. She then slid a midnight blue dress over my head and I looked at it in the mirror. It was gorgeous in a flattering way, without being revealing.

I pulled back the curtain and took a breath as I came around the counter to look at Newt. He stood up, looking me over. Slowly, his eyes moved up to meet mine and I did a little twirl for him. “What do you think?” I asked, since he hadn’t said anything.

“Gorgeous, ma’am.” He said, fingering his hat.

I smiled. “You really think so?” He nodded, looking a little stunned. I walked over to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek before returning to stand next to Angelica in the dressing room.

“He’s a cute boy. How long have you been together?” She asked.

I thought about it for a moment while she helped me put on the red dress. “About two weeks now, I suppose.”

She smiled. “I married my husband after a week’s acquaintance. My mother was horrified, of course. But he was a gentlemen, despite how we met.”

I smiled. “How did you meet?” I asked, despite the fact I knew the answer already.

“He came out of the saloon one night while I was on my way home and he tripped me. I was terribly mad at him, but he came and apologized the next day.” Angelica smiled. “We’ve been married nearly fifteen years now.”

“That’s an awful long time.” I told her. “You still like him I assume?”

She smiled. “He can be hardheaded in his opinions, but there’s not a man on the planet I’d rather be with.”

I thought about it for a moment while she finished helping me. “Did you know he was the one when you met?” I asked, looking at her.

Angelica smiled. “Not when we first met. But it takes a man a lot of courage to apologize to a woman; especially for something he didn’t remember doing. When he apologized, I knew we’d be married before the week was out.”

I just stood there, looking at the dress in the mirror, thinking.

“Do you not like the dress?” She asked.

“No, no. I love the dress. I’m sorry. My nerves are all shot.” I said with a smile. “I think Newt plans to marry me. Is it bad if I don’t know whether I’d want to marry him?” I asked, turning to her.

She smiled at me. “Love is not a complicated thing. People make it complicated. If you love him, marry him. If you do not, then don’t. Don’t make it difficult for both of you by throwing in excuses for one thing or another.” She said, setting her hand on my shoulder.

I nodded. “I should show Newt.” I told her, pulling back the curtain. I stopped at the end of the counter, seeing Newt talking with two other men, both in suits. He paused his conversation to look over at me, before he excused himself from the two men. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” I told him.

He smiled, ignoring my comment. “I adore you in that dress, Miss McCrae.”

I blushed a little bit. “Do you really? You’re not just saying that?” I asked him.

“No ma’am, I’m not.” He said, still smiling a bit.

“Is it alright if I get this one and the blue one? I really like them both.” I said, watching his reaction carefully.

“Anything for the lady.” He told me.

“You’re just a darling, Mr. Dobbs. I’ll let you get back.” I told him, walking back around the counter.

“How about you wear this blue one out of the store and then you can get this green one washed? It’s quite a sight.” She told me.

I smiled. “Would that be ok? I’d love to, if it’s alright.”

She smiled and gave me a little hug. “You’re a little darling. And it’s none of my business,” She said, while helping me out of the red fabric. “But that Newt boy is one lucky kid if he does get your hand. You’re a dear to him and I can imagine he’s the same to you.”

“Oh, he’s just the best. He found me out in the woods when I got all turned around and my horse ran off. If not for Newt, I don’t know where I’d be at all.” I told her as I finished putting on the blue dress.

She gave me a grin as she collected the red dress, leaving the yellow one hanging. “Do what feels right and everything else will follow.” She said, holding the curtain open for me. I went back around the counter as Newt was still talking with the two men.

“That’s quite a dress on you, ma’am.” One of the suited men said.

I looked over and smiled. “Well, thank you sir.” I told him.

“Miss McCrae, these men own land to the east of us. Neighbors, I suppose.” Newt said.

“Miles Staton, ma’am. This is my partner, Charles Black.” The taller of the two men said.

“Nice to meet you both. Selene McCrae.” I told them and they seemed to look at me for a moment.

“Ma’am, if I may. Are you by chance any relation to that of Captain Augustus McCrae of the Texas Rangers?” Charles asked me.

“Um. I’ve heard the name a great many times, but no direct relation that I’m aware of.” I said.

“Well, Mr. Dobbs, we best get back out to the ranch. It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss McCrae.” Miles said, tipping his hat and following his partner out the door.

“Why do they seem so familiar?” I asked Newt.

He thought for a moment. “You haven’t met them before that I’m aware of.”

I brushed off the thought and when I turned back around, a black cowboy hat with a loose brim sat on top of the two dress boxes; just like the one Newt was playing with. “What’s this for?” I asked, picking up the hat.

“Humor me?” She asked with an excitement I couldn’t turn down.

I sighed and slipped the hat onto my head, then turned to Newt, who nodded. “Yeah?” I asked. “Yeah.” He confirmed. I smiled and leaned into him a bit. He pulled out a different money bag then he’d had the last time and I knew he was paying for them with his own money. “Have I ever told you how much I appreciate you?” I asked him as Angelica rang up the order.

He glanced over at me with a smile. “Don’t suppose so.”

“Well, I very much appreciate you, Mr. Dobbs.” I told him.

“Well, I very much appreciate you, Miss McCrae.” He told me with a smile as he paid the lady.

“Please, please, please,” Angelica begged. “Wash this garment before you put it on again. It’s a sight.” She told me, putting it in its own box.

I smiled at her. “I will indeed.” I told her as I made a grab for the boxes. Newt was faster. In the time I’d leaned over the counter, he’d dropped the money bag in his pocket and grabbed both boxes. I couldn’t help but smile. “Newt Dobbs, you will never stop surprising me.”

“Good. Best to keep you on your toes.” He told me, holding the boxes with one hand as he held the door open with the other.

“Thank you so much, Angelica.” I told her one last time before she waved to us as we left. “Thank you, Newt.” I told him.

“Ain’t nothin’.” He told me with a smile.

I got quite a few looks on the way back to the wagon. It seemed to make Newt a bit surly, but it didn’t mean anything to me. Needle came out of the store as Newt set the dresses in the back of the wagon. Needle gave a low whistle when his eyes fell on me. I gave him a little twirl, making the skirt fly out a little. “Do you like it?” I asked him.

“I’ll be honest ma’am. If Newt don’t intend to marry you soon, I just might have to do it myself.” He said with a teasing smile.

“I don’t suppose that’d make Newt too happy.” I said, even though Newt was smiling from the joke.

“Did I miss anything?” Needle asked, directing his attention to Newt.

“Bacon.” I said over my shoulder as I watched a few people come out of the saloon.

“How did she know that?” Needle tried to whisper to Newt, who just shrugged.

“I’ll be right back. Stay away from those two men before.” He told me.

I just looked at him. “It’s not as if I asked them to come over and harass me.” I told him.

He nodded. “Just watch out. If they come back, just get off the wagon and come find me.” He said.

I nodded and he went into the store with Needle. I sat there for a few minutes, watching people move up and down the street. About three businesses up, I saw the two men from before, the ones that had called me a whore. Feeling a little bit of panic, I tried to calm myself as I jumped out of the wagon. I refused to let myself look up the street as I walked inside the store.

Newt looked up at me, slightly alarmed.

“They’re coming down the street and they look mad.” I said, as quietly as I could, since he wasn’t done with his transaction.

“Needle, can ya go stand by the wagon for me?” Newt asked, looking over at Needle.

He looked between us oddly, but then nodded. “Sure boss.” He said, returning to stand in the back of the wagon off the loading dock.

I stood close to Newt with my back to the loading deck. I cringed when I heard their voices. They were throwing insults at Needle, who brushed them off and tried to get them to just move along. Newt finished paying. “Newt, they’re looking for a fight. Please don’t give it to them.” I said, looking up at him.

His jaw was set. He wasn’t going to promise something he couldn’t keep, so he walked over to the two men and I stood near the counter. “You boys best move along, if you’re movin’ along.” Newt said.

“Why would we do that?” The shorter one asked.

“We’ll move right along if we can have your little pretty there.” The taller one said, pointing to me.

Without thinking about it, I took a step back.

“No, you can just move along down the road and leave us be.” Needle told them both sternly.

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere without the whore.” The taller one said, taking two steps towards me.

Newt moved in front of him and threw his fist so hard, there was a crunching noise. I hoped it was the other guy’s face, not Newt’s hand. Needle took one shot at the shorter one, who came towards him, and he just keeled over.

“Newt. Oh my god. Are you alright? Tell me that was his face, not your hand?” I said, rushing over to him.

He gave a nervous chuckle and I saw he was holding his right hand in his left, protecting it. “Would ya believe it was both?” He asked, trying to play down the situation.

“Needle, we’ve got to get him to the doctor. He broke his knuckles.” I told him.

“You take him to the Doc’s and I’ll pull the buggy around. All the way at the end of the road.” Needle said, pointing past the dress shop.

“Oh Newt.” I said, putting my arm on his as we walked.

“How do you know my knuckles are broke?” He asked, wincing when he moved too much.

“It hurts to move your hand and you look pale.” I told him, watching carefully for the sign for the Doctor’s Office.

“But that don’t tell me how you know. You done it before?” He asked.

I shook my head as I opened the door for him.

“What can I do for you two?” The doctor asked.

“Doc, he broke his knuckles in a fight just moments ago.” I told the man. “Can ya patch him up?”

The doctor sat Newt down on a bed and pulled a chair close. Newt clenched his teeth and groaned when the doc tried to even move his hand. I leaned over Newt and pulled the money bag out of his pocket.

“Where are you going?” He asked, looking pale and panicked.

“I’m going to give Needle a few dollars to buy you a bottle of whiskey. It’ll help the pain alright? I’ll be right back.” I said, kissing him on the forehead as I met Needle at the door. “How much is a bottle of whiskey?” I asked Needle.

He shrugged. “Two dollars, I suppose.”

I handed him two dollar pieces and a fifty cent piece. “This is Newt’s money, so hurry back. He’s going to need it for the pain.”

Needle nodded and took off at a jog to the saloon up the street.
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