Summary: Marie would do anything to protect her sons, anything…including this.
Word Count: 737
Hard Headed Woman
“Marie Cartwright, what did you do?”
Setting aside the latest copy of Godey’s Lady’s Book, I glanced up at my husband. “I did what any good mother would do, mon cheri: I protected my son.” I said as calmly as possible though I could feel the coals of ire stirring to life within me.
A spark of anger flared in his black eyes. “Somehow I doubt that Phoebe Goldstein posed much of a threat to Hoss. She is, after all, a good Christian woman.”
“Oh I strongly disagree.” I stood, shaking the wrinkles out of my skirt even though it was a futile movement, the material was mussed so badly that only a hot iron would set it to rights once more.
He folded his arms across his chest. “Marie, you can’t just go around attacking people for no good reason. Phoebe’s talking about pressing charges. Maybe if you just—”
“Come on, you have to—”
“Stop being so stubborn, woman! If you would only apologize—”
The fraying thread of control I had over my temper suddenly snapped. “Apologize? Apologize? If anyone should be apologizing it’s that…that…ugh! There is no word in French or English harsh enough to call that woman.” I stomped my foot, hoping that the gesture wouldn’t make me look like a petulant child—the last thing I needed was for Benjamin to tell me how immature I was acting. “I have put up with her snide comments about me time and time again because I know that she says those things out of jealousy, but the moment she opened her mouth against my son….” I wrapped my hands around the metal bars of my cell and squeezed until my knuckles turned white.
A fly buzzed somewhere in the background and suddenly I realized just how hot it was inside the jailhouse. The back of my dress stuck to my sweaty skin; blonde hair which had been perfectly coiffed before leaving the ranch now hung in limp curls about my face.
“She called him ugly.” I whispered, tears pooling in my eyes.
Ugly, the word hung in the air between us. Oh, it was true that Eric was not the most handsome of children, but outward beauty didn’t matter. It was a fleeting thing. Inwardly though, now that was another story entirely. I had never before met a person who was genuinely good and sweet-tempered until I got to know my husband’s little boy—my step-son. He was caring, gentle, and sensitive. He never had a mean word to say about anyone.
I shook my head. “She called him ugly right to his face, mon cheri, she made him cry. That hag may call herself a Christian, but I’ve known heathens with more Christian charity in their little fingers than Phoebe Goldstein has in her whole body.” I wiped a wayward tear from my cheek. “When I heard her say that, I-I couldn’t help myself. I hit her. I’m not proud of it, but I would rather burn in hell than apologize to that shrew!”
“I know, I know I shouldn’t say such things, but it’s the truth! So, let her take me to court. Once they hear what she said to a five-year-old, there is no jury in the world that would convict me.”
Ben shook his head. “Oh, my love, what am I going to do with you?” he said, fond exasperation coloring his words and I gave him a coy look.
“Well, paying the fine to get me out of this cell wouldn’t go amiss.” I said.
He snorted. “I’ll go talk to Roy and see what can be done about that, my little spitfire.” He turned to go back into Sheriff Coffee’s office, but he paused in the doorway to glance back at me. “You do know that you broke Phoebe’s nose, don’t you? The doctor says she’ll have a permanent bend in it.” He struggled to prevent the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips, but it was of no use.
“Yes. Yes, I did.” I glanced at him from beneath my lashes. “And you know what? She should probably thank me for it.”
He raised an eyebrow at my comment. “Yes, she should, because I do believe that that broken nose will make a marked improvement in her looks.”
All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
This was written for a Bonanza Boomer’s writing challenge called “Bonanza Ballads”. My song title was “Hard Headed Woman” by Cat Stevens.
I like to think that this story takes place a week or so before Marie finds out that she’s expecting Little Joe–which makes sense with her mood swings in this tale. 😉