A Young Riders Fanfiction

“Louise…”

The name called was barely louder than a breath, from the disease stricken figure lying upon a bed of smelly, tattered rags sewn together into makeshift blankets.

A fit of coughing followed the solitary word, alerting a sleeping child of about ten or eleven from an equally smelly and tattered pallet on the floor beside the bed. Disheveled, shoulder length auburn hair pushed back away from a dirt-streaked, rounded face with an upturned nose and large doe eyes.

Dark shadows lined the bottom lid of the eyes, a sure sign that the child, had been sick as well or at least hadn’t had enough sleep to make her youthful face take on a more healthier shine.

Louise’s tired eyes widened in alarm as she rose quickly to a standing position and hurriedly moved over to a chipped, rust stained basin and poured the last of the fresh water into a cracked teacup and hurried back over to the bed.

“Easy, Mama. Easy…” Lou said tenderly as she set the cup down upon a crate and helped to shift her mother into an upraised position so that she could drink from the glass. With one arm firmly around her mother’s neck, the freed one picked up the filled cup and lifted it to her mother’s cracked lips.

Mary Louise gratefully swallowed some of the cool water, finding it soothing to her scratchy throat. Another coughing fit seized hold of her fragile body, and shook it violently; causing some of the water, she had just swallowed to spill out of her mouth and trickle down her chin to wet the torn lace of her worn nightgown.

Soon the coughing had ended and she was able to drink the rest of the water down to the obvious relief of her eldest daughter. Mary Louise could not keep a smile from curving her lips as she glanced up into the scared countenance of Louise’s face and was filled to overflowing with love and pride…and eternal sorrow.

Louise was so young, too young to be shackled with the burden of trying to keep food into the bellies of her younger brother and sister, coal to warm the tiny one room shack they shared on the edge of St. Joe and tend to the numerous needs of diseased mother.

(Oh what a sorrowful…sorrowful burden for such a spirited young girl too be saddled with,) Mary Louise thought. Her Louise should have been outside playing with her brother and sister, sharing secrets with other girls, getting school learning, dreaming about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, she was saddled with responsibilities that she should not have to have bared until she was far over than her tender years.

“How ya feeling, Mama?” Louise asked softly, so as not to awaken Jeremiah and Theresa who lay sound asleep on the pallet that she had recently vacated. “Want me to go fetch some more water?”

“Louise…there is something I want you to know in case, “another fit wracked Mary Louise’s form, causing her to pause in the middle of speaking.

“Ssh, Mama, don’t talk, just try to save your strength. You can tell me later when you’re feeling better.” Louise implored her Mother, feeling the familiar clinching of her heart tightening.

“I’m not going to get any better Louise…,”Mary Louise said softly, “There’s things…that have to be said, things that I have to tell you. ”

“No, Mama. You are going to get better. You just have too!” Louise exclaimed, throwing herself into Mary Louise’s arms.

“Ssh, child, Ssh…my sweet Louise…” Mary Louise murmured, pain unrelated to the nasty disease wracking havoc on her body, filling her chest and bringing tears to her eyes…

“I ain’t going to last much longer. I know it, and I think you know it well. How it pains me to have to say goodbye to you so soon…How I wish that I could see all three of you young’uns grow up, get married, and have babies. How I’ve dreamed of growing old and rocking my grandbabies…” Mary Louise licked her cracked lips, ignoring their sting, as one hand lifted to stroke comfortingly through Louise’s hair.

“I loved you from the moment I first set eyes upon you, Louise…I couldn’t believe you actually belonged to me. That I had helped to create such a perfect, beautiful daughter. You have done me proud Louise…I know these last years without your pa around have been hard. You’ve had to give up so much to help me with Miah and Resa.There’s more tough times ahead of you once I’m gone…and I’m so, very sorry for all the broken promises.”

These last few words escaped from Mary Louise’s lips in much the same way that the first word had been spoken a short time before…as mere breaths… and then there was nothing…

Louise raised her face from off of the smelly rags, and looked into the still face of her mother and let out one solitary, agonized cry, “NO!”

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