Chapter Six: Knowing

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June 1878

Mary got on the train for the first time in eight months, her bag in hand and her hat- the same green one that she had arrived in Denver wearing- perched on her head. She had the two- dollar ticket in her hand, waiting for the train to Running Creek.

Keith waited with her on the platform. Things hadn't been awkward between them- they continued to take outings together, they saw each other every weekday that Keith was in town and Sundays at church. Now they waited together at the platform that Friday. Mary was going home- just for a week or two, then she'd be back in Denver. Keith was headed to New York for a week and then London after that. He'd be gone a whole two months.

"Are you ready to go home?" he asked her simply. 

"No." She shook her head and looked down at the ground. "I'm not ready to leave here, to go back to the cramped little house and mad children. "

He chuckled. "That bad, eh?"

"That bad." Mary looked at him for a brief second, then let her eyes check the clock. Only another minute or two until her train, just another minute or two with him for another two months. "I'll miss you too, you know," she added softly. "I've gotten so used to you always bein' around. I'll miss that."

A shrill whistle from far off.

"You will?"

Their eyes met, both somewhat clouded. "Yes," she whispered.

In the bustle of people moving about the train station, they were an isle of calm- as the train to Running Creek pulled in and screeched to a stop, they stood still, and the world stood still around them.

Before she knew what was happening, she was caught up in his embrace, her face in his shoulder and her arms around his neck, eyes squeezed shut. A sob worked its way out of her throat. "Oh, Keith," she whispered as they held each other. "I'll miss you so very much."

She savored his warmth, the feel of his traveling coat against her face. They pulled apart as the conductor's whistle blew.

Mary didn't bother to wipe away the tears that ran down her face. "Goodbye," she called to him, picking up her bag and going towards the door, behind a balding man with a cane. 

"God bless you, Miss MacEilan," he responded, waving one hand in adieu. "I'll be waiting for you. I promise I'll always be there."

Mary sat in a seat heavily and did not hesitate to let her tears flow freely, covering her face with the white lace handkerchief in her pocket.

"Something the matter, miss?"

A middle- aged lady in a burgundy gown sat across from Mary, who hastened to wipe her eyes. "Oh," she continued to sob gently as the train lurched forward. "I feel as though my heart is being ripped in two."

"Tell me, miss, for I was young once too." The lady looked kindly into Mary's face with gentle, baby- blue eyes. "It's that man there, the tall one that bid you farewell, isn't it?"

Mary nodded. "He's goin' away to London for a while to do business," she lamented. "I'll come back to Denver in just a few weeks and have to wait an eternity and a half to see him again."

"Your fiancé?"

"No. He's not really even formally courtin' me." She dabbed at her eyes again. "I told him not to ask my brother yet, I told him I wasn't ready to commit myself to that- but I am. I didn't realize it 'till now, but I reckon we never really understand what we want until we can't have it. Now there's nothing I can do."

"You can wait for him to come back from wherever he's going."

"I can't face him again. I don't want to have my heart broken by a man like my sister had done to her. I don't want to even run the risk."

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