“I love you Wyatt.”
Surprised by the sound of my wife’s voice, I turned and saw her standing in the middle of the room, holding a small bundle in her arms. I eased myself from behind my desk and went to her, wrapping her in a tight embrace, ever mindful of the bundle between us.
“I’ve missed you Urilla,” I said. “You have no idea how much.”
She broke my embrace and glided across the room, rocking the small bundle in her arms and humming a sweet lullaby. She went to the partly open door of the bedroom and peeked inside at Mattie, who was still naked from the night before and lost in an opium induced sleep.
“It doesn’t seem so.”
I felt my face flush. I hadn’t seen Urilla since Dodge City, and that had been a couple of years before.
“Well Godammit Urilla. It’s been over two years since I…”
“Shhhh... You don’t want to wake your wife, do you?”
“Her? Oh, don’t you worry about her. When she takes her medicine she stays in bed for days. Besides, we ain’t married.”
Urilla seemed to like this answer. She gave me a pleasant smile and drifted to me again, holding the bundle out to me. When I took a step back, her smile faded.
“He’s your son, Wyatt.”
“I know he is, but…aww… dammit Urilla, he’s dead. Don’t you see that?”
She uttered a half chuckle that probably would have evolved into full blown laughter if she had not looked down just then. It was as if she had seen him for the first time, that thing that was supposed to be our son. He was half formed, his skin devoid of moisture, and the dark ashy grey reserved for extremely ancient things. She let out a gasp and dropped the bundle. When it hit the floor, it exploded into cloud of ashes.
I rushed to the bedroom door and peeked in. Mattie was still lost in her slumber. I let out my held breath and closed the door.
When I turned around, I found Urilla sitting behind my desk. Her face was in her hands and she was crying. I walked over to her, knelt beside her, put my hand on her arm.
“Earlie, you know that he was never born. Why do you always show up with him?”
Her face twisted into an expression of contempt.
“You were supposed to protect us, Wyatt.”
When I did not respond, she rose from the chair and floated to the open window. I followed her and embraced her from behind as she peered out at the living world, ignoring me. I buried my nose in her hair, breathed her in.
“There was nothing I could do Earlie,” I said. “Sometimes good women and babies die. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.”
My own tears began to flow then. They lit a trail down my cheeks and were quickly absorbed by her hair. She turned and placed her hands on mine, held them against her chest. She jerked her head towards the bedroom door.
“What are you going to do about her?”
I let out a long sigh.
“I dunno. I expect that she’ll run away in time, just like all of the others.”
I hoped that my answer would satisfy her. After all, I didn’t love Mattie… not really.
She pointed out of the open window, drawing my attention to a woman approaching the saloon on the other side of the road.
Shit, Josephine. How does she know about Josephine?
“She won’t run.”
I didn’t know what to say. I returned to my desk, but Instead of sitting on the chair like before, I sat on the desktop. Urilla followed close behind me.
“Do you love her, Wyatt?”
I did not answer her. Instead, I pulled out my knife and began to clean my fingernails. She snatched my hat off of my head and threw it across the room. I acted like I didn’t notice.
“I don’t know.”
It was true, I didn’t.
She returned to the window, looked outside for a moment, then came back to the desk, snatched the knife from my hand, and began to twirl it between her fingers.
“Do you even know how many times I’ve saved you, Wyatt?”
“How many bullets had your name on them and, if not for me, would have ended you?”
“I suspect a few.”
“A few?” A few dozen, more like. Of all the fights you’ve been in, you’ve never been hit, not a single time, Wyatt. But, me…oh, I’ve been hit. I’ve been hit many times. If you marry that woman Wyatt, you’re on your own.”
“I don’t plan on marrying anyone.” I said, still not looking at her. “I love you, Earlie. I always have, always will.”
She leaned over until her lips were less than an inch from my own.
“I should’ve let you die, Husband. I could have had you with me all this time, with us.”
At that, my eyes finally met hers.
“Will you? The next time, I mean - will you let me die?”
“Wyatt!” The sound of my Brother Virgil’s voice drifted up through the open window. “Hey, Wyatt! You up there?”
I rushed to the window and looked down to the street. My brothers Virgil and Morgan were both looking up at me.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s the McLaurys and the Clantons,” Morgan said.
“They’re down by the Corral,” Virgil said.
I gave them a puzzled look.
“So? That ain’t no crime.”
“They’re armed Wyatt,” Virgil said.
“Ahhh damn,” I said.
“We’re going to take away their irons,” Morgan said. “You coming?”
I didn’t want to leave Urilla just then, but I didn’t really have a choice.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll be right down.”
I closed the window and turned to my long dead wife.
“I gotta go.”
She glided to me, wrapped her hands around my neck, and kissed me. When our lips parted, I did not want to let her go, it was her that nudged me towards the door. I opened the door softly, so as not to wake up Mattie.
“Wyatt,” Urilla called after me.
I turned just as she threw my hat. I caught it and put it back on my head, giving her a small dip of the brim.
“When will I see you again?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, if this don’t go my way, it might be soon.”
She wiped a solitary tear from her eye. Then she smiled and gave me a little wink.
“Not today,” she said.