Chapter 43 Morpheus
Bret ran as fast as he could, back up the street to Doc's office. He burst through the front door and was out of breath. Jody was in the front office waiting for him, and she jumped up and down excitedly. "He opened his eyes! He opened his eyes!"
Bret threw his arms wide and she flew into them, clinging to him like a child. Rather than putting her back down on the floor he just carried her with him into the exam room. Doc was sitting on a chair next to the cot, quietly talking to Bart, and Beau stood right behind him, trying not to look like a kid with a new toy. Bret and Jody both had to calm down to hear what Doc was saying.
" . . . . it's been almost five days, Bart. You've been unconscious and we've all been waiting for you to wake up. Do you understand what I've told you?"
There was a weak sound of some sort from the cot. Doc looked up at Bret and Jody and mouthed "I think so." Then he motioned Bret over to his chair; Doc got up and Bret took his place.
"Bart?" Those deep brown eyes looked at him with no hint of recognition. "Bart, it's your brother Bret. Are you there somewhere?"
The eyes looked around the room, then back at Bret. No reaction from his brother. Jody moved behind Bret's chair and bent low, to look right at the man on the cot. "Hi, Bartley, it's Jody. You were gone for quite a while. Are you coming back to us?"
For just a moment there was a flicker, a glimmer of something. Then blank again. Just like the first time he'd woken up after the beating. Bret rose from the chair and let Jody sit down, then turned to Beau.
Bret shook his head. "Nothing. Just like before. Like he's not even in there."
Doc pulled them both aside. "Don't put too much in what you just saw – or didn't see. He's bound to be disoriented for a while – he was unconscious for the better part of five days. I'm just plum thrilled that he's alive and breathin'. At least he's got a chance now."
Bret looked at the doctor with skepticism. "Does he Doc? A real chance? To be himself again? And just who is that anymore?"
"Bret, you can't expect him to just wake up and be right. His brain suffered a traumatic injury of some sort. The man should have been dead months ago. He's come through two attacks that would have killed most other men. And he's here. That boy's got the strongest will to live of any man I've ever seen. Give him a chance."
Bret looked down at the ground, then at Beau; finally at the Doctor. "I can't do this anymore, Doc. I can't sit here and wait to see if my brother is really alive. I don't mean just breathin'. I mean alive and livin' the life he was born to live. I've got to go."
Bret started to turn and walk away. Beau reached out and grabbed his arm and Bret pulled away, angrily storming out the back door. He had to get out of here and go – anywhere. He slipped down to the livery and saddled his horse. He threw an extra blanket under the saddle and mounted, tearing out the livery doors and through the town like the devil was after him. It didn't matter where he went; he just had to ride. He let the horse go wherever he wanted to go. There was no time, no direction, no thought – just paralyzing cold and the wind stinging his face. After a while the horse slowed down to a walk and Bret wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and just let him. Before he knew it his head was in his hands and he was sobbing. Everything he'd been holding in for months came pouring out, and he cried until there were no more tears.
The horse continued walking until he found shelter from the wind in a grove of trees. Bret sat there for a few minutes, while the horse nibbled on some bushes, then he slowly dismounted and pulled off the saddle. He felt totally drained of all emotion. All he wanted was sleep.
He propped the saddle up against a large boulder and tied the horse to a tree. He laid one blanket down on the ground and used the spare as a cover. He didn't bother with a fire, he was too tired. If some wild animal wanted to come and eat whatever was left of him, so be it. He rested his head against the saddle and covered his face with his hat. And he slept.
Beau looked at Doc, then at Jody, who was silent, still sitting by Bart's side. "I'm sorry," Beau explained, "There's just too heavy a load for him to carry. He'll be back as soon as he works it all out."
"I wish he'd a listened," Doc Washburn replied. "I tried to tell him anything could happen. You can't expect miracles. It's like burnin' all the oil outta a lamp and then excpectin' it to burn bright without gettin' refilled. You gotta give it some time."
Jody stood up from her chair. "He's closed his eyes again. Is that okay, Doc?"
The doctor turned towards Jody. "Probably. Too much happenin' at one time; he can't comprehend it all. Probably just sleep now. Not gonna do any good bein' here tonight, the both of ya. Go on home, Miss Jody," and here he turned back to Beau, "and you go get some sleep in a real bed. I'm stayin' right here tonight, got another blanket and I can use the exam table. One more night won't kill me. Go on, git, both a ya."
Jody nodded her head and Beau offered his arm. She took it and they walked out into the crisp night air.
"You really love him, don't you Jody?"
She lowered her head shyly. "Yes, Beauregard, I do. Like we were kin. We're connected somehow." She stopped and looked at him. "Not that I don't love you and Bret, I do. But it's different with Bart. First time I ever saw him I knew it." She started walking again. "You think Bret's alright?"
He answered her truthfully. "He will be. I've seen him do this before. He takes it all on himself, like it's his fault and responsibility, and nobody else is to blame. Then he just keeps taking more on until he can't handle it and he breaks. He always works it out. Course he's usually got Bart to bounce things off of; I guess he'll just have to settle for us."
They walked a ways down the street in silence. Then Beau finally asked "Are you going home or the saloon?"
"Home," she answered. "Do you mind?"
"Nope, not at all."
"Have you talked to mama yet?
"Sort of. I told her there was something I wanted to talk to her about and wanted to know if we could discuss it when this was all over. She said yes."
"Well, isn't that romantic. Sort of like proposing to propose. She's not a schoolgirl, you know. She'll figure out what you want to ask and then she'll have all sorts of reasons for turning you down."
"Really? She'd turn me down?" Beau was confused by Jody's remark. He loved Georgia. He knew that she loved him. Why would she turn him down?
Jody explained. "Georgia Mayfield has only loved one other man her entire life. My father. When daddy was killed she swore she'd never marry again because she couldn't possibly find another man to love as much as she loved him. Time went by, I grew up, Aunt Jessie died and she didn't have the saloon any more. She was lost, alone and lonely. And then three charming rascals came to town and befriended her and it was like she woke up from a deep sleep. But she's afraid it won't last. Especially with a roving gambler like you. And she'd rather hurt now than later."
He listened to Jody's explanation and understood her reasoning. But Georgia had to know he was different. He'd really loved only once before in his life and he'd lost her to cholera. He wasn't about to let Georgia go.
They'd arrived at the Mayfield home. There was a single light in the window, which meant that someone was home and asleep. What he had to say would have to wait for morning. He held the gate open for Jody and walked her up the stairs to the porch. "I won't let her go, Jody."
Jody looked up at him and prayed he was sincere. "I hope you mean that, Beauregard. She deserves to be happy."
"Yes she does." Then almost to himself, "Yes she does."