If not for the jealousy, she would have felt bad for them both. The woman, she could tell, didn’t really deserve the punishment she had been given secondhand from the man, whose smile would forever be marred by pain and the burden of knowing that he would forever be a stifling weight on his bride. But she was jealous of them, even with his crippled, now useless leg, and the desolate life that awaited them. Because even if it was a desolate life, and one marked by hardship, it would be a life that they wanted to share together.
It would be a life that they had sacrificed everything to share together. And what could be more beautiful than that? What else could inspire the tremors and trembles of even a stone heart than the tragedy cursing two lovers?
She watched as the young man struggled to his feet and struggled even harder to smile brightly as he had once before with such ease and freedom that it had seemed only flippant to her. She watched as he leaned heavily against the railing of the porch, limping and stumbling as he dragged his foot after him. The Doctor had done his best – or so she had been told. But she knew in the eyes of the men who had told her – of his friends and her allies – that this was far from the truth. Once bitten, no one could escape Death. Not here in these lonely deserts and dry valleys. They were too far removed from the East, with its structured ways and intellectual pursuits, and far too close with the West to risk going into any one of the metropolitans for some exotic medicine.
She supposed the only poultice that could be given was one of pity and sympathy on their part and regret on his for agreeing to go into town that hot afternoon. Perhaps some guilt and shame on her part too. But pity for sure for his squandered youth and spoiled potential.
The man fought his way from the shade of the porch and out into the bright light as the horse hooves scattered and tore at the grass. He looked up at the man who had ruined him for the rest of his life, his silhouette blocking out the sun as they stared at one another. A breeze whispered through the valley, and all present held their breath – the two young women standing witness, the flowers, trees, birds, all signs of life – until the ruined man offered the other a smile and his hand.
C.C. still didn’t like him. As they left the valley, she could still feel the odd spike of annoyance at him for his forgiving nature. How could he not hold any grudge? How was it that he felt no resentment towards the one who had sent him to his desolation?
But though she felt this, she also couldn’t help but admit – grudgingly so – that while she was still irritated with him, she also felt something she had never before felt for that stupid fool. And perhaps that would be enough for the both of them.