Chapter Two: Finding

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They walked outside to a small black buggy with a teenage girl at the reins. She had bright blonde braids wrapped around her head and the same sparkling blue eyes that Keith did, and she looked to be about sixteen. Smiling, she raised an eyebrow playfully at the girl walking beside her brother.

"Find a wife in Colorado City, Keith? My, my, won't Mama be pleased." She was teasing him, but Mary still felt the scarlet creep into her cheeks.

"This is Miss MacEilan, Ava, and we're taking her to Sally's. She needs a place to stay." He said it with such nonchalance, such grace, and Mary was very impressed at how easily he took things into his stride- being run into on a braking train, having the girl beside him called his wife.

Keith climbed into the buggy and held his hand out for Mary. She took it and hopped into the buggy, careful not to catch her skirts on the wheel. They sat, Mary stowing her bag at her feet.

Ava shrugged. "Fair enough. Well, even if you're not married to my brother, I figure introductions are in order. I'm Ava and I can drive the horses better than Keith can." To prove her point, she cracked the whip above the bay horses' heads. The pair clopped forwards.

Mary turned to Keith and cocked her head. "Is that true?"

"Yes, ma'am, it is," cried Ava before Keith could say a word.

"No, it's not, don't believe her," he protested. "I just don't get to drive often; I'm almost always working."

The buggy stopped smoothly in front of a brick two- story house. "This is Sally's, Miss MacEilan. I'll take you inside." Ava put the reins down and hopped out of the buggy, smoothing out her blue skirt as her feet hit the ground. Mary stood and picked up her bag, then stepped down and onto the gravel. She turned to Keith. "I appreciate all of this, Mr. Little. I wasn't sure what on earth I was going to do here alone, but you've helped me more than you know."

"It was my pleasure, Miss MacEilan. God bless you." He smiled once more and Mary smiled back before turning and walking with Ava to the door of the house, through a tiny front yard.

A bell tinkled as Ava pushed the door open. "Morning, Sally," she said to the thin old lady that was sitting in the front room.

Sally smiled. "Who's this, Ava?" Standing, she went over and reached for Mary's hand.

"Mary MacEilan," she said, giving the lady's hand a polite shake. "I just need a place to stay for a while, and I was told that you ran a house of good repute...?"

"I like to think that I do. Of course we can take you in, miss. You'll have to room with a Miss DuBois for a few days, though she's getting married in a week so it won't be too long. Is that a problem?"

"Of course not," Mary was beyond relieved to have found a place to stay so easily. God bless Keith Little!

"I'll let her know- or no, she won't come back from the store until three. I'll take you up right now so you can put down your bag. This way."

"Thank you for your help, Ava. Please thank your brother for me as well," Mary said gratefully before she turned to follow Sally, who was headed towards the stairs.

"Isabelle's a good young lady, very neat and clean. I hope she won't be an issue." Sally turned right at the top of the stairs, and then sharply right again towards a door. Producing a ring of keys from her pocket, she began to hunt for the right one.

"I have lived in a two-room cottage with five other girls for several years. I am certain that this Misd DuBois won't be an issue in the least."

"If you're certain. then, Miss. Here you are, you'll take this bed."

Mary looked around the small, neat room as Sally walked towards a narrow bed at a window. The other bed, at the other window, was made up, but the coverlet was a bit wrinkled and the pillows were just piled on. The white eyelet- lace curtains were half open, showing a view of the street and the general store across the way. A few books were on the desk between the two beds, slightly dusty in the sunlight but fairly tidy nonetheless- to Mary's standards, at least.

Not that she really cared.

The only reason she'd ever made her bed at home or did the dusting was because Anne had told her to. Mary had loved her little sister, but had always hated the fact that responsible, well- mannered Anne and Emma were always in charge. Mary'd always been far too unladylike, too loud, not orderly enough to be trustworthy.

Not that she really cared.

It was order and structure she was running away from, after all- she wanted her own order. Which included rumpled coverlets.

"Thank you, Sally. How much? I'm still looking for a job, but I have some money to get by until then."

Sally thought for a moment. "I'll give you three days to get a job before I'll charge you. Then it'll be two dollars a week, including breakfast and supper. But I'll give you three days."

Mary was touched. "I'll try my hardest. Thank ye."

Sally smiled. "Supper is at seven every night, and breakfast six every morning. I'll let you alone now. Here's a key, don't lose it."

Mary took the key and slipped it into her dress pocket. "I won't."

Sally stepped out the door and closed it, leaving Mary alone in the room. She set down her bag on her bed and quickly put away the few contents on the mostly- empty closet. Only a white wedding dress and a few day dresses hung on the hooks- if this Isabelle was to be moving in a few days, of course most of her belongings would be at her new home.

She looked out her window, parting the curtains to see better, and looked at the general store across the way. A few other people milled about the streets, and a carriage or two went down the way.

"I suppose now is as good a time as any to go for a walk," she sighed to herself. "If I'm to spend the rest of my life in Denver I may as well get to know it."

Mary stepped out of the door, making sure it was locked behind her. The large clock in the parlor chimed eleven as she descended the stairs slowly, careful not to disturb anyone. Whether or not there were other people in the boardinghouse she didn't know, but she did not want to be known here as the loud, obnoxious new boarder.

She walked out of the boardinghouse with nobody in the parlor, and onto the brick sidewalk. The sun shone brightly as Mary walked down the road. She saw the bustle of Fifth Street, with at least three general stores, two hotels, a restaurant, a dozen tenant buildings, and assorted shops. The street wasn't terribly busy, not compared to some bits of the Galway she'd been raised in, but it was still busy enough, it being a Saturday where few people were working. Women milled about, going from shop to shop, some with baskets and rough clothing, some with fine dresses and parasols. Men loitered about, laughing and puffing on pipes. Children chased each other about, shrieking and laughing. Mary smiled at it all. How long had it been since she'd seen the activity of a real town and not a hamlet like Running Creek?

Oh, she was so impossibly happy. Here she was, standing in the bright sunshine, amongst people who weren't related to her or robbing her, and she loved it.

Today began a new day, the start of a new beginning. Mary drew a deep breath. Anything was possible.

Even running into Keith in front of the general store across from her window.

"Miss MacEilan, fancy seeing you in front of my store," he laughed after the initial impact.

"We keep seeming to meet this way, Mr. Little, and I must say it's odd." She was blushing, rather embarrassed to have hit him again.

"It is indeed. Are you here to apply?"

Out of the corner of her eye she saw the sign in the window that read 'Hiring.'

Mary smiled. "Yes, as a matter of fact."

Keith gestured to the door and opened it for her. "Step right in, miss, I'll tell my father an applicant's here."

If I get this job, Mary thought to herself, today will have been the best day in my whole entire life.

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