Lost in Time (by DebbieB)

Summary:  Adam has a once in a life time experience of meeting someone who reminds him of his youngest brother, Little Joe, but is that person from his world or another?

Rated: G  (9,000 words)

 

Lost in Time

Adam excepted the soft white towel that was handed to him as he rose slowly from the once warm soapy water in the large wooden tub and began drying his body. It was then that he realized that someone had given him the towel rather than him taking it from the peg on the wall. Slowly he raised his head and looked into the greenest eyes that he had ever seen.

 

The young woman wore jeans, ‘unusual,’ thought Adam, ‘but nice.’ The jeans fit her body much in the same way that gloves fit to your hand, every curve was finely outlined and Adam smiled inwardly to himself at the picture she poised.   She had on a green checked flannel shirt that matched the color of her eyes. The shirt was unbuttoned to just above the rise of her bosom, another feature that struck Adam as odd, but again, nice. Her boots were of the best leather, a bit on the worn side, her hat was definitely a Stetson, and around her neck she wore a large gold heart shaped locket. Adam wondered briefly what picture she might have hidden within its enclosure.

 

Not being the least bit ashamed of his body but having been taken totally unaware by the young woman who stood with arms crossed about her chest, he allowed the lower end of the towel to drop down enough to cover the lower part of his anatomy.

 

When he smiled, his face dimpled giving him the appearance of being younger than his twenty-five years. “Excuse me, but who are you? And why are you watching me bathe?” he questioned quietly as he continued to use the top half of the towel to dry the upper portion of his body.

 

She tossed her curly auburn hair back with a slight swing of her neck and glared at the naked man. “I might ask you the same thing. That is my bath water you just dirtied and this is my cabin.” She moved to add another log to the fire. “Please, put your pants on,” she said as she turned her back to Adam and allowed him time to dress.

 

She turned again when Adam had his trousers on and she glanced briefly in his direction. “And just to set the record straight, I was not watching you.”

 

Adam continued to put his clothes on but stopped when she spoke and looked up at her. His laughter caused the young woman to stop what she was doing and stare at him.

 

“I suppose that is why your face was so red?” Adam teased a slight smile beginning to play at the corner of his mouth.

 

“My face was not red, I have seen plenty of naked men in my life!” she shot back. “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, I mean…well, I mean…my brothers…I have seen…Oh never mind, I don’t have to explain anything to you,” she stammered and stomped her left foot in frustration.

 

Adam could not help the smile that finally crossed his face. She was beautiful and she intrigued him. “You’re right, you don’t have to explain to me about…um…the naked men…I think you said…brothers,” he laughed out loud.   “I would like to know what you meant about the cabin though.” Adam moved to the table, took a seat in the cane back chair and watched the woman move about the kitchen area.

 

She halted her steps and turned sharply to face Adam. Silence hung in the air as she took in the sight of the handsome man. He was tall, dark, and those eyes. A woman could become lost in them if given a chance she thought. He was well built a fact that she had already drawn for herself when he had stood from the tub. And he seemed pleasant enough she tried to assure herself.

 

“Excuse me?” she heard him speak.

 

She felt her face turning red, she had been lost in thoughts and had forgotten that he had asked her a question. “I’m sorry, what did you ask me?”

 

Adam smiled his easy smile, causing his cheeks to dimple again. Damn, she was gorgeous, and she was just as taken with him as he was of her, that fact he was sure of. Laughing to himself, he thought, ‘this could get very interesting.’

 

“I asked what you meant by this being your cabin.” Adam crossed to the stove and using a folded towel, removed the coffeepot from the burner. “Do you mind?” he asked as he reached for two of the blue flaked tin cups that rested on the wooden shelf next to the stove.

 

“No, please help yourself,” she said and joined him at the table. “You asked about my cabin. I don’t understand, what do you want to know?”

 

Adam sipped at the hot brew and looked into the emerald eyes that questioned him. “This cabin, you said it was yours. How so?”

 

The young woman sat her cup down and smiled. “It belonged to my father. He used it on his hunting trips years ago. We used to come up here a lot, back when daddy was alive. I always wanted to live here but of course daddy never would agree to it. But now, well…daddy died about six months ago and I figured this would be my chance. So I came up here last week and plan on spending the rest of the spring and summer here. I might even stay through fall, I love that time of year.”

 

Adam sat speechless for several minutes trying to collect his thoughts. He looked up at her trying to decide if she were disoriented or had somehow lost her memory. She looked as if she were telling the truth and even looked as if she believed what she was saying, but he knew that couldn’t be, this old cabin was one of his father’s line shacks that they used when up here working cattle, which is why he was there.

 

“Ma’m, I’m not sure what is going on, but this cabin is one of several line shacks that belong to my father. We use it when working in the area and…” but Adam was interrupted.

 

“What?” shouted the woman, stomping her left foot for the second time. “Who do you think you are? This place has belonged to my father since before I was born and to his father before that. It has been in my family for generations! How dare you sit there all smug like you were something and tell lies like that, Mister…Mister…whoever you are!”

 

The young woman stood facing Adam and Adam saw her eyes turn a deeper shade of green as she advanced on him. Slowly he backed up until he felt his back rubbing against the door. As she swung at him he was forced to duck but when she swung her arm around the second time he grabbed hold of it and stopped her before she was able to make contact with his face.

 

“Whoa…calm down, I’m sure there has to be a logical explanation to this. Let’s just sit back down and see if we can find what it is.” Adam gently turned both of them around and headed back to the chairs. He then reached and picked up the second chair from where it had fallen when the lady had jumped to her feet.

 

“You’re right of course. I’m sorry, I do tend to lose my temper rather quickly. Daddy always told me it was the reason I got into so much trouble.” For the first time, she smiled at him as she sat back down.

 

“I know all about quick tempered, green eyed people. My younger brother is the same way, always acts first and thinks later,” Adam laughed; glad that the lady had seemed to have calm down.

 

“Miss, as I was saying, this cabin is in on my father’s property, the Ponderosa…” Adam started.

 

Suddenly the young woman jerked her head up and starred dumb founded at Adam. “Did you say the Ponderosa?” she asked, her voice quivering.

 

“That’s right, it’s the name of our ranch, why? Have you heard of it?” Adam asked.

 

“Yes, of course, everyone has heard of it. What did you say your name was?” the lady asked, worry lines beginning to form on her pretty face as she began chewing on her lower lip. A fact that did not go unnoticed by Adam. She began feeling the knot forming in the pit of her stomach and silently prayed that she could hold back the bile that was rising to the top.

 

“I didn’t say. But for the record, it’s Cartwright, Adam Cartwright; my father is Ben Cartwright. Do you know him?” Adam inquired innocently.

 

Adam was taken by surprise when the lady fell from her chair as she fainted. Quickly he gathered her into his arms and moved her to one of the small cots that sat in the corner. When he was satisfied that she was comfortable, he poured some clean water from the water bucket and taking a clean cloth from the kitchen he returned to wipe the forehead of the woman. Slowly the woman came around and when she opened her eyes, she could see the man’s face inches from her own and her nose picked up the scent of the bay rum after-shave he wore. Her head began to reel again but this time she fought harder to control it.

 

“Are you okay? What happened? What caused you to faint?” Adam asked, worried that she might indeed be ill. He felt her forehead but found no trace of fever. He then checked her pulse, it was somewhat fast, but that was normal when the heart begins to race. He thought about leaning down and listening to her heart but thought better of it, best not excite her anymore than he had already done so.

 

“Your name,” she whispered, not sure if she had heard correctly or not.

 

“Cartwright. Is there something wrong with being a Cartwright?” responded Adam.

 

“No. No, of course not, it’s just that…well…you said your father was Ben Cartwright, it sorta took me by surprise,” she confessed.

 

Adam continued to place cool cloths on her forehead. “Why should that surprise you? My father is an honorable man, as am I and my two brothers, I might add.”

 

“Oh, I know that…ere…I mean, I’m sure they are…you are,” she stammered.

 

Adam pulled one of the chairs up to the side of the cot and sat down. “Miss, I am at a loss, why don’t you just explain all of this to me?”

 

“I don’t know if I can or not, I am so confused,” she said and Adam noticed the tears that began to gather in her eyes. She reached up and wiped them away with the sleeve of her shirt. “I’d really just like to lie here for a spell if you wouldn’t mind.”

 

“All right. You rest for awhile and I’ll see to my horse,” Adam told her as he rose from his seat next to her cot.

 

The young woman turned quickly to Adam and called out to him as he reached for the door. “Adam?”

 

Adam turned to face her and his breath caught in his throat at the site of her lying on the cot. She seemed so young; and a stray curl had escaped from her hair and had fallen to her brow and he struggled with the urge to touch it and put it back in place.   Something familiar tugged at his mind but he could not put his finger on it. “You need something?” he asked.

 

“If you don’t mind, would you see after my horse as well? I put her in the shed, there’s plenty of room for your horse if you’d like to stable him there as well,” she informed him.

 

Adam smiled, “No problem, I’ll see to both of them. You rest and then when I’m finished I’ll start us some supper,” he stated and reached for the door but stopped before going out he turned back to face the young woman and he spoke again. “You never did tell me your name. I need to call you something,” he laughed softly.

 

Adam noticed the trembles that shook her body as she tried to turn her back to him. Softly as if in a whisper she told him, “Rosa Marie.”

 

Adam stood at the door without speaking. ‘Rosa Marie’, he thought to himself, ‘suits you to a tee’. And then to Rosa he said, “Well, Rosa Marie, that is a very pretty name, very pretty indeed,” he added quietly, more to him self than to Rosa and shut the door behind him.

 

Rosa listened for the door to close and as soon as the handsome man was out of site, she jumped from the cot and went to wash her face. This had been some day for her, she was uncertain about what to do in regards to the man named Adam. Obviously, he had no intentions of leaving and she knew for sure she was not going anywhere, she had planned for half her life to make this old cabin her home. For years she had sat and listened as her father and grandfather told tells of her ancestors who had staked their claim on this land more than a hundred years earlier. She had sat for hours at the feet of her grandfather as he told her tales of the times he had spent in this very cabin and that on certain times of the year he could feel and sense the presence of his father and grandfather. Many times he told her that at dusk imagines of his uncles could be seen in the moonlight that always shown brightly in the night sky at those times of year when the long ago ancestors would be working in this area.

 

She shuttered when she thought how she had laughed at such things when she had been a child. But as she grew older and her love of this land and this country grew in her heart the more she had been determined to return to the place of her heritage. Rosa returned to her cot and lay back down. Hopefully, Adam would forget about asking her what her full name was. How would she ever explain it to him? She could lie, she thought, but then thought better of it. Her father had always detested lying, he had explained to her that throughout the generations, lying had been looked upon as a mortal sin, punishable by a good cleansing of the mouth with lye soap.

 

Adam led Sport to the shed. As he entered the darkened building, he paused long enough to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim light inside. He was shocked to see Rosa’s pony at the other end of the shed. The horse turned her head toward Adam as he neared. Adam could see the horse better and was startled to see that the mare held a great likeness to Cochise, Little Joe’s own horse. Mixed thoughts ran through his mind, confusing thoughts that left him feeling weak. This is almost like a bad dream he told him self as he worked at settling the animals for the night.

 

He had nearly completed his tasks when the shed door was opened and Rosa entered. “I couldn’t rest. I thought you might need some help,” she offered and moved toward her horse. When the horse heard the sound of her mistress’ voice the pinto nickered softly, wanting attention. Rosa moved to the horse’s side and began rubbing the mare’s neck and speaking in soft tones to the animal. The horse responded by nudging the girl who seemed to Adam to be one with the pinto.

 

“Hey Cooch, ya wantin’ a treat?” Rosa spoke in a near whisper. Adam had suddenly stopped in his tracks at hearing her words, not wanting to believe what he had just heard.

 

“Rosa,” said Adam as he came to stand next to the girl. “What did you just call your horse?” he spoke in a soft but shaky voice.

 

Adam faced the girl not sure if he really wanted to know what she had just said. A fear of something he could not put a name to began growing in his stomach and making its way into his heart. ‘This is too much,’ thought Adam.

 

Rosa smiled up at Adam unaware of the fear that tugged at his heart. “Cooch, that’s what I call her sometimes. Her name is Cochise, why? Don’t you like the name?” Rosa asked and turned back to the mare and resumed giving the mare her rub down.

 

Adam was at a loss for words and stood silently watching the girl and her horse. The hair on the back of his neck rose slightly while he watched the girl’s movements and suddenly he realized that she was using her left hand. Adam’s knees began feeling weak and he moved to sit on a bale of hay before he fell. A few minutes later he rose and without saying a word to the young woman he left the shed and returned to the cabin.

 

Later in the evening as Adam and Rosa sat in silence eating supper, each watched the other out of the corner of their eyes. When Adam could stand it no longer, he sat his fork down and leaned back in his place. His sudden movement caused Rosa to raise her head and look into his eyes.

 

“Is something wrong Adam?” Rosa asked.

 

“I’m not sure. In fact, there is a lot that I am not sure about since my arrival here.” Adam told her.

 

Rosa looked down, not wanting the man to see the uncertainty in her eyes. “Such as?”

 

“Like who you really are, where you come from and why you are in my father’s line shack, that by the way, you claim to own.” Adam stood and walked to the fire. Turning to face Rosa he continued, “Why I feel as if I have known you for years, but know that I have never before seen or met you.” Adam returned to his chair, picked up his cup of hot coffee and sipped slowly. “I am right in that, aren’t I? We have never met before have we?”

 

Rosa saw the worry lines that had embedded themselves in the handsome face and she felt guilty for not confiding in the man who she knew was not really real. Or at least not now, not in her time. She had wondered how this had happened, but knew that it had not been the first time. Her father had once told her of seeing his grandfather and his great grandfather together in this very cabin. She had grown up with such stories but she seriously doubted that the man who shared her table tonight had ever experienced such things. Without thinking, she reached up and gently caressed the gold locket that she wore around her neck. Briefly she wondered what Adam would think if he were to see the photos that she had so lovingly placed in the golden heart years ago. The locket had been a gift to her great grandmother from her great grandfather on their wedding day. It had been past from her great grandmother to her grandfather on his wedding day then to her father on his special day and finally to her, the only daughter born to the family in over one hundred years.

 

“No Adam, we have never met,” Rosa said and resumed her eating.

 

Adam pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to rid his thoughts from his mind.

 

“I think I will turn in. I rode all day and haven’t found the first steer. I just cannot imagine what has happened to all of them. Good night Rosa,” Adam stood and as he passed by the young woman he reached out and gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder.

 

“Good night Adam,” she returned the smile.

 

Later after Rosa had finished cleaning the dishes left from supper she quietly entered her room and closed the door. Her trunk sat in the corner of the room and she went and kneeled in front of it. Carefully she pulled up the top and began unpacking the treasures that she had brought with her to the cabin. First she pulled the ragged old bear from the trunk and holding it at arms length made little dancing moves as she wiggled it from side to side. It was her most treasured keepsake. The little bear had been her great grandfather’s, made for him by his mama before his birth. With loving care she placed the bear between the pillows of her bed, giving him the place of honor. “Well now little Bo, you have come home at last, well, almost home,” she said and blew Bo a little kiss.

 

Next from the truck she carefully unwrapped the gold frame and smiled at the picture of the beautiful green-eyed young woman. Rosa Marie recalled the day many years, before when her grandfather had told her that she held a great likeness to his grandmother, her great-great grandmother for whom she was partly named. The picture was the only one known to be in existence. It was her second most valued keepsake. Rosa rose from her spot in front of the old seaman’s trunk, placed the photo on the side table next to her bed and returned to the trunk.

 

Her next item past to her from her father and grandfather had been a leather bound journal, hand written by her great-great grandfather. She had spent hours reading every word, time and time again. It was the story of when great-great grandfather had married his third wife and brought her home to be mother to his two young sons. She had been shocked at first when reading how Adam had first treated his new mother. Later as she had read, she had been relieved to find out that Adam had finally excepted his stepmother and had even grown to love her before her death. Her heart filled with admiration for the man in the other room when she read how he had sworn to Marie that he would always do his best to take care of his youngest brother. Rosa returned to her night table and laid the leather bound journal next to the picture of the green-eyed beauty.

 

Dipping deeply into the trunk, Rosa pulled out the worn leather scabbard and untied the knot that held it closed. Being careful and trying to be quiet so as not to wake Adam, who slept in the front room on the cot, she pulled the silver engraved rifle from its holder. Rosa raised the rifle to her shoulder and took imaginary aim at an unseen object. In a caressing manner, she ran her hands down the length of the barrel and back down until her fingers came to the silver engraved C on the stock. The rifle had been given to her father on his twenty-first birthday by her grandfather who had received it from his father when he too had become of age.

 

Rosa Marie stepped to the old fireplace in her room and placed the rifle on the two pegs that had many years ago been driven into the wall above the fireplace and used to hold similar items.

 

Continuing with her treasures, she removed a rolled up tube and withdrew its contents. Spreading the document on the bed, she leaned over and surveyed the old map of the Ponderosa that had once hung on the wall in her great-great grandfather’s office at the old home place. The paper was yellowed now and worn; she carefully stood on the bed and placed the map above the head of the bed where she would be sleeping. Rosa smiled to herself; Adam would love to have this she thought; he had spent all night drawing it for his father when they had finally staked their claim to this land. The map was a masterpiece in her thinking.

 

The last thing that she pulled from her chest of treasures were the matching eppes that had belonged to her great grandfather. She laughed to herself when she recalled the stories told to her by her grandfather about how many times these eppes had gotten her great grandfather into trouble. She recalled one story in particular that had involved the man sleeping in the other room. Better hide these for now she told herself. She didn’t think that it would be a good idea for Adam to see them just yet. And with that she returned them to the chest.

 

Finished at last with her unpacking she surveyed the room, satisfied with seeing her treasures displayed about her room. Some how having them in full view gave her a measure of comfort. ‘Now,’ she thought, ‘just have to make sure that Adam does not venture to wander into her private quarters.’ With that thought in mind, she crawled into bed and fell into a peaceful sleep.

 

 

The next morning, Rosa Marie woke to find the cabin empty. As she crawled out of her warm bed and made her way into the main room she could smell bacon and coffee. Adam had left her a plate in the warming oven, the coffee on the burner and a note stating that he would be back by noonday. That would give her time to do what she planned on doing this morning. Quickly she ate her breakfast and cleaned up after herself. When that was finished she changed from her nightgown into a pair of faded jeans, a red checked shirt and pulled on her boots. As she hurried from the cabin, she stopped just long enough to grab her Stetson from the peg by the door.

 

Rosa Marie had Cochise saddled and was riding through the woods just as the sun made its appearance on the horizon. It took her the better part of the early morning to reach her destination and as she rode into the yard of the old home place she slowed her horse to a walk. Stopping in the middle of the yard, she remained seated in the saddle and enjoyed looking at the old home. She had always loved to come here as a child. The place held a special spot in her heart; it was as if she had always belonged here somehow. Just being here was a calming factor to her during troubled times. Slowly she dismounted and tied Cochise to the old hitching rail next to the house.

 

Rosa dug in her pocket for the old key to unlock the front door. The modern door lock had been added many years before in hopes of forestalling anyone who might try to enter the house. When she had the door unlocked and opened, she stepped inside and instantly her heart was filled with a sense of belonging. The great room remained much the way she had last seen it. The fireplace had a couple of stones missing that had broken loose over the course of time, but still maintained that inviting presence to the room. Great- great Grandfather Ben’s old longhorns still graced the wall above the now worn mantle that sagged a little above the fireplace. Rosa could see cobwebs that had spread from one horn to the other and went in search of something in which to knock them down. From the kitchen she found a very worn homemade broom and carrying that in one hand and the old stool she had also found, she returned to the fireplace and cleaned the longhorns as best she could.

 

The house stood empty now of its contents, silenced by the missing voices and laughter that had for many years rung loudly throughout its walls. Rosa climbed the stairs slowly, savoring each minute and with each step felt as if she were being pulled backward into time; a time long ago, a special happy time, lost forever now into history, her family history. She envisioned the family members that had once lived here. Great-great grandfather Benjamin Cartwright, honest and hardworking. He had carved his empire in this land, this wilderness. He had lost three wives in the doing but had managed to raise three fine sons each of which he was proud. First there had been Adam, born in Boston educated in Boston, who had finally come home after years of being away.   Adam had traveled across the country in the back of a covered wagon and stood proudly at his father’s side to help his father fulfill his lifelong dream. Adam, who at this every minute was searching for a herd of cattle, that would never be found. She wondered at what he would think if he knew the truth. She couldn’t explain it to him; she had yet to figure it out for her self.

 

Second there had been Hoss, large and strong, yet gentle and kind. He had been a loving and devoted son who had held a special love for the land and the animals that lived on it, but had died as a young man. His death had been an untimely one and had sent his family into the depths of sorrow that took several years to overcome.

 

Rosa Marie smiled when her thoughts turned to her great grandfather, Joseph Francis Cartwright. Grandfather Benjamin Eric Cartwright, Joe’s only son, had laughed when he told her how much his father detested his name. It had always been a sore spot for him and he had had to endure much teasing because of it. Every one who had known Grandfather Joseph, Little Joe as he was known by most, had always told her that she was made in his image and carried nearly every trait that he had. Her father had on more than one occasion told her that she should have been a boy because she was so much like him.

Daddy told her that even her eyes were the same shade of green.   Her laughter was like his, one that sounded like a hyena in pain was the way her father once described it. Her father said that many times throughout the years when he had heard her laughing, he had to turn to look just to make sure it was Rosa and not Little Joe.

 

Rosa could feel the love that still emitted from every room that she entered and suddenly wished that she had been able to know this wonderful family, especially her great grandfather Little Joe. He had been the heartbeat behind the family she had been told. He had also been the one to keep his brothers on their toes, giving them more trouble and worries than most boys managed in a lifetime. He had also been the one who gave his heart most freely; the one who was least afraid to show his true feelings. He could go from cold to warm in the matter of a heartbeat. Firey and quick tempered yet just as quick to forgive and forget, that had been her great Grandfather Joseph.

 

Rosa smiled as she locked the door behind her and made her way to her horse. When she had been told that Little Joe had had more than one pinto named Cochise, she had decided then and there that she would keep the tradition going and had given the same name to her mount.

 

Rosa rode hard to make it back to the cabin but by the time she returned, Adam had already made it back and had lunch waiting for her. When she opened the door she stopped and smiled at the sight of him, he stood next to the stove, flour on his handsome face and wore her white cotton apron.

 

“My, don’t we look like Little Susie Homemaker,” she laughed removing her hat and placing it on peg.

 

Adam who had not heard Rosa enter, nearly dropped the skillet of fried ham when she spoke. “Little Susie who?” he said as he turned and looked up at her.

 

Rosa realized instantly what she had said and knew that Adam would have no cue as to the meaning. “Oh nothing. Boy this smells good, need any help?” she offered making an excuse to change the subject.

 

“Please, I never have been much good in the kitchen. I manage the coffee pot and that’s not saying much,” he laughed. “If not for the cooking wonders of our cook, Hop Sing, I dare to say the four of us would have parished by now.”

 

Rosa noted the sparkle in the dark eyes when he laughed and something within her heart stirred. God how she wished she had known this beautiful man at another time and place in her life. Sure he was related, but so distantly that by now it hardly mattered and she briefly wondered what it might feel like to be kissed by him. She had heard those stories before also and being one hundred per cent pure woman, she could only fantasize about it. ‘Maybe she would give it a try, why not?’ she thought, ‘who would know except for the two of us?’

 

 

Later that evening, Rosa and Adam sat in front of the small fireplace. Neither spoke a word to the other, as both were lost in thoughts of their own making. Adam moved a little closer to the fire and Rosa picked up once again the scent of his bay rum after-shave. She loved that smell; it reminded her of her grandfather.

 

“A penny for your thoughts,” whispered Adam and smiled at the shocked look that played across the beautiful face.

 

“You really would not want to know,” she quickly answered, hoping that her desire for him was not showing on her face or in her eyes.

 

“You’re blushing again. Perhaps I would like to know,” he smiled bringing the dimples into play. “Did you know that you are beautiful when you blush?” Adam teased but moved forward in Rosa’s direction until he sat very close to her.

 

Suddenly Rosa stood up and started to move away from him, his nearness was causing her to have trouble thinking clearly. Adam rose and placed both hands tenderly on each of her arms and held her in place.

 

“Rosa, please, don’t go,” whispered Adam and when she did not resist, he lowered his head and brought his lips down to touch those of Rosa’s. She stood on her toes to close the gap in height as she tilted her head upward to receive the kiss and wrapped her arms about his neck. Adam had anticipated this moment for the last couple of days, the young woman had sent his senses reeling from the moment he had first seen her and now here she was, in his arms.

 

The moment that Adam’s lips first touched Rosa’s he knew something was definitely not right. Quickly he jerked his face from hers and turned his back to her. As he glanced back over his shoulder, he was surprised that she had done the same thing and was wiping at her mouth with her hand. Adam moved the back of his hand across his own mouth as if trying to remove the taste of her lips from his own. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘I feel as if I have just kissed my kid brother.’

 

Rosa turned to him then and headed for the door. “Rosa,” said Adam as she attempted to pass him, “you stay here, I’ll go outside for a while,” he told her and went out the door.

 

Adam crossed the yard and moved to sit beneath a large pine away from the house. Disturbing thoughts haunted him as he tried to piece together certain facts that had seemed to cause his world to become unglued.

 

Rosa Marie was a beautiful young woman, of that fact he was sure. She was desirable, or at least she had been until he had attempted to kiss her. When Adam looked at her strange feelings of having known the girl before picked away at his brain but he was positive he had never met her before coming to the line shack. Which brought up other questions that seemed to have no answers.

 

‘Rosa reminded him of someone, but who?’ Adam thought. The door to the cabin opened and Adam watched as Rosa Marie walked to the shed. He was sitting behind the tree and was unseen by the girl. The way she walked. ‘That’s it,’ Adam suddenly thought, ‘she walks just like Little Joe. It’s as if I am looking at a slightly older female version of my younger brother.’ Adam began comparing the similarities between his youngest brother, Joe, and the girl named Rosa Marie.

 

‘Both are left handed, not uncommon, both have green eyes, again not uncommon,’ thought Adam. ‘Curly auburn to brown hair, not uncommon, but they both stomp their feet, both quick to anger, both chews on their bottom lip, both favor pinto ponies, and both named their horses, Cochise.’ Adam shivered in the darkness as the similarities between the two came to light. ‘How?’ he continued thinking. ‘How could something such as this happen, for that matter, what did happened? Why does it seem as if my whole world just turned upside down?’ Adam, a logical man by nature had never had to face something as this before and he was disturbed. For the first time in many years, fear gripped at his heart. Suddenly, Adam wanted to go home, home to his father and his brothers. Home where everything was right and things were as they should be.

 

Adam watched until Rosa returned to the cabin and giving her enough time to compose herself, he returned also. Rosa was just going into her bedroom when the front door opened and she turned at the sound.

 

“Good night, Adam,” she said and hung her head. Suddenly she felt cheap, as if she had done something so very wrong. She had wanted Adam to take her into his arms and kiss her, but somehow it had turned out so horribly wrong, and she knew the reason why.

 

“Rosa, wait please,” asked Adam as he came near to her. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened, really I don’t,” he tried to explain. “This has never happened to me before. I’m sorry, honest.” Adam didn’t know what to say nor how to explain what he had felt when he kissed her. For that matter he could not explain anything that had happened to him in the last few days.

 

Rosa turned sad eyes up at Adam and again he felt as if he were looking into the face of his baby brother. This time he saw the tears that pooled there.

 

“I think I can tell you what happened,” she said and continued, “you probably would not believe it, I’m not sure I even believe it myself.” Rosa turned to walk back to the kitchen and sat down in one of the old cane backed chairs and propped her elbows on the table while she rested her chin in her hands.

 

Adam came back to the table and sat down facing the young woman. “Why don’t you try?   I might just believe anything you say right now. There are too many strange things going on and I would welcome some answers.”

 

“Okay Adam, I’ll try, but remember, I don’t have answers to all of your questions, nor can I tell you how some of these things happened. What do you want to know first?” Rosa asked.

 

Adam studied the face before him and wondered again at the emerald eyes. “I think my first question would be, where did you get all of those things you have displayed about in your room?”

 

“You went into my room? You snooped? How dare you!” yelled Rosa.

 

“Now wait a minute. I didn’t mean to snoop, I was just looking for you. When I got back from looking for the cattle, and couldn’t find you, I thought that perhaps you were napping. So I opened your bedroom door and peeked inside. That is when I found my baby brother’s bear, my father’s rifle hanging over the fireplace and my stepmother’s picture on your night table. I would like to know why you have them.” Adam tried to cover the anger that had suddenly and unannounced seemed to consume him. ‘Was this beautiful young woman a thief?’ he asked himself.

 

Rosa watched the dark eyes take on an intense glow and knew what he was thinking. “I didn’t steal them. I can explain, if you will just give me a minute.” She began chewing on her lower lip, something she always did when she got nervous.

 

It did not go unnoticed by Adam. “Will you please stop doing that? It’s getting on my nerves.”

 

“Stop what?” Rosa asked.

 

“Chewing on your lip. I can’t stand seeing someone do that,” explained Adam. “Thank you. Now, how did you come to have my family’s possessions?”

 

“Adam, they were past down to me from family members. No, wait until I finish telling you everything, please,” she begged holding up her hands to silence him and then continued when Adam made no move to speak.

 

“I don’t know how this happens, but every once in a while a person, who has past, can become caught in between worlds. I think this is what has happened to you,” Rosa started to continue but was interrupted.

 

“Hold on a minute! Are you saying that I am dead?” The look of shock and disbelief was clear on his face.

 

Rosa hurried on, “I said, I didn’t know Adam. I don’t know if you are dead or just stuck in some sorta of time warp thing. I already told you that I couldn’t explain it.” She was reluctant to tell him of the family cemetery up by the lake.

 

“Ok, just for the record then, what year is this?” Adam was almost afraid to find out.

 

“1995,” Rosa watched his face. It appeared to turn to stone and she watched as the color drained from the handsome features.

 

“Go on, please,” he barely whispered.

 

She quickly gathered her thoughts and decided to get straight to the point. “Little Joe, your youngest brother was, is my great grandfather. He married much later in life; he and his wife, my great grandmother Rose, only had one son. They named him after your father and middle brother, Hoss. His name was Benjamin Eric. He had only one son also and he was named after Little Joe, they called him Joseph Francis. He was my father. I am the only girl to have been born into this family since your father’s sister.”

 

“What is your last name? You never have said and I haven’t thought to ask, until now.” Adam inquired, his color slowly returning to his face.

 

“Same as yours, Cartwright.”

 

“Rosa Marie Cartwright. It fits you. I take it you were named after Little Joe’s mother, Marie?” asked Adam.

 

“Yes, Marie and Little Joe’s wife, Rose, I think they added the a to my name just because everyone related loved the Ponderosa so much, they decided to stick it on me,” she laughed and her laugher reminded Adam of his baby brother’s.

 

“You are a lot like him you know, Little Joe, I mean,” Adam told her. “Well, at least I know now why I felt like I was kissing my own brother,” and Adam laughed this time. “I’m sorry it was so unpleasant for you.” This time Adam’s face was the one to turn red.

 

“Adam?”

 

“Yeah Rosa?” Adam had the feeling he was talking to Joe again.

 

“I still can’t tell you why you are here. By rights, you should have died years ago. But whatever the reason for you being here, I’m glad,” Rosa looked up at her great-great uncle and smiled shyly.

 

Adam’s laughter filled the cabin, and he reached out and gathered the young woman into his arms and onto his lap. “So am I my dear, so am I,” and he kissed the top of her curly head. This time the kiss felt right.

 

Later after several cups of coffee, Rosa made a special request of her uncle. “Adam, are you getting sleepy?”

 

“Not really, are you? You can go to bed if you like. I think I will stay right here for now,” he told her.

 

“No, I’m not the least bit sleepy. I was wondering if you would tell me some things about your family. Grandfather Benjamin Eric always said you were a great storyteller. Do you mind?” Rosa asked.

 

“I can’t wait to meet him. So my little brother has himself a son. That is so great, I hope the little scamp gives Joe as much trouble as he has given to our father. He deserves some pay back and I am glad to know he is going to be getting some,” laughed Adam.

 

“What do you want to know?” Adam asked. After listening to Rosa Marie’s request, Adam began a long night of stories and tales, sharing with Little Joe’s great-great granddaughter many of the family secrets. They laughed far into the night and just before dawn Adam called a halt to their story time.

 

“Rosa, I am going home later today. I just wanted you to know it,” Adam said as he walked to her bedroom door with her and kissed her cheek.

 

“Do you have to?” she asked as the tears formed in her eyes.

 

“Yes, as much as I hate leaving you, I must go. I’m needed back home. Would you like to ride part way with me? Maybe even go to the house with me and meet them for yourself,” Adam suggested.

 

“Oh Adam, I would love to ride with you, but only part way.” She knew that she could not go all the way to the ranch with him; for her it was only an empty house, for him it was home. It was where his family waited for his return.

 

“There is something I would like to show you though, before we part. Would you mind?” she asked.

 

“Okay Rosa, you show me what it is you want me to see and then you ride part way home with me. Good night little buddy,” he stated and then laughed. Rosa’s laughter followed his, causing him to laugh again, ‘just like Joe’s’ he said to himself as Rosa closed the door.

 

 

Later that afternoon, Rosa and Adam started toward home, Adam’s home. The air was crisp, a gentle breeze was blowing and new flowers were just beginning to break through mother earth. Everywhere mama birds could be seen carrying worms and bugs to newly hatched babies. The young couple rode in companionable silence until they came to the lake.

 

“Adam, this way. I want you to see this,” Rosa called out and took the lead, guiding Cochise through the woods until they came to a sight known to Adam.

 

Adam stopped his horse at the well-known graveside of his stepmother, Marie. He had to dismount to view the other graves, which he was surprised to see. Just last week he and his family had brought a picnic up here to their favorite spot and only one grave had been there, Marie’s. Confused, he slowly walked to each grave, reading every headstone as he moved from one to the other.

 

Beside of Marie lay his father, Benjamin Cartwright and on his marker were the words, Beloved father of Adam, Hoss and Little Joe. At the bottom two words were carved into the stone, “Let’s Ride!”

 

On Ben’s right was the marker for Little Joe that read: Joseph F. Cartwright, “Remember me with laughter” and then his wife, Rose Cartwright.

 

At Ben’s feet a marker stood with the name of his middle brother, Hoss, “A gentle giant, Gone but never forgotten.”

 

Next to Hoss, Adam stopped and stared. He was looking at his own headstone. Chiseled into the stone was his name, Adam Cartwright, “First born son, and best friend to his father.”

 

On his marker Adam noticed that he was the last of his family to have past and he felt the hair on the back of his neck and on his arms rise as he shivered, causing goose bumps to appear. One more grave lay among his family and Adam stopped to read the stone.

 

Hop Sing, ‘Beloved friend and always a part of the family’.

 

Adam felt the tears pooling and over flowing from his eyes but he made no attempt to stop them. Rosa stood quietly in the background, allowing Adam time to come to terms with what he was seeing.

 

Moving down the line lay Little Joe’s son and daughter-in-law, Benjamin Eric and Tess Cartwright, next was Joseph Francis Cartwright and wife, Martha. Adam noticed that the last grave was fairly new, and Rosa explained that it was the grave of her father.

 

Minutes past before Adam returned to his horse. Before mounting up, he turned to Rosa.

 

“Thank you for bringing me here. It’s sorta nice to know that we are all going to be together,” said Adam softly.

 

“Rosa?” Adam said as she came to stand next to him. “Whoever has been taking care of this place, tell them thank you, will you?”

 

“I tend to them Adam. I love this family, even those I have never met. I feel a kinship with them every time I come here. Adam?”

 

Adam turned to face the young woman and she reached up, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I love you Uncle Adam,” and her tears wet his face as they held on to each other.

 

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

 

 

They had ridden just to under an hour when they reached the forks in the road and Rosa pulled Cochise to a halt. “I don’t think I should go any further Adam,” she told him and dismounted.

 

Adam pulled Sport to a stop and also dismounted. Both stood facing each other, neither knowing what to say. Adam was the first to find his voice.

 

“I suppose this is good-bye,” he smiled showing his dimples one last time. It was a sight that Rosa would hold dear to her heart.

 

“I guess so. I wish it could have been different. But you can’t change what’s meant to be.” She returned Adam’s smile with one of her own.

 

“I still can’t believe this is happening. No one will ever believe me if I tell them,” laughed Adam.

 

“Maybe you shouldn’t tell them. Perhaps it isn’t for them to know, it could have been meant for you only,” suggested Rosa.

 

“That’s a thought.” Adam moved to gather Rosa into his arms to hug her. She slipped her own arms around his neck and for several minutes they stood clinging to each other. At last Rosa pulled back.

 

“You better go, your family is waiting for you. I’ll never forget you, Adam.” And with that she quickly kissed his cheek and mounted her horse. As she turned and waved Adam’s boot kicked something in the dirt and when he stooped to pick up the object he was surprised to see Rosa’s gold heart shape locket.

 

Raising his head to yell at her to stop, he saw nothing in the distance. No trace that the young woman had been standing next to him could be found. Adam thought surely there would be tracks next to his but try as he might, none were found. It was as if she had never been there with him but rather as if he had been standing alone at the forks of the road.

 

With nothing more to do and anxious to get home, Adam mounted up and headed in that direction. As he approached the small rise that over looked his home, he stopped and watched the scene in front of him. In the yard his baby brother, Little Joe who was thirteen was being chased by Hoss who was nineteen. Adam laughed when he saw Hoss catch the younger brother and tossed him over his shoulder. He laughed again when the least of the two screamed in fake terror as he was dropped into the water trough. His father made a sudden appearance into the yard and while scolding Hoss, he made an effort to remove his dripping son from the cold water.

 

“Get inside, both of you, now,” Adam heard his father shout in make-believe anger. Both boys ran to the house, laughing every step.

 

Adam started to nudge Sport forward but stopped when he remembered the locket he had put into his pocket. Removing it from his vest and rubbing it gently on his shirt to clean away the smudges, he carefully opened it. The locket unfolded in his hands, having two hearts on each side. When he saw the photos that had been lovingly cut to fit the shape of the heart, he smiled. On one side sat his father holding in his lap a young Little Joe. On the opposite side of that sat his younger brother Joe, as a young and handsome man. In his lap sat a small boy of about nine who was a carbon copy of Little Joe. On the other side of the locket, Adam had to study the faces and realized that the young man whose face smiled back at him was Little Joe’s son, Benjamin Eric and in his lap sat his own son, Joseph Francis. The locket opened one more time and this time Adam had no problem recognizing the faces. Joseph Francis sat with Rosa Marie carefully held in his lap. Smiling, Adam closed the locket and placed it back into his pocket knowing that someday the locket would find its way back to its proper owner, his great-great niece, Rosa Marie Cartwright.

 

“Come on Sport, let’s ride.” And with that, Adam left the future behind and headed down the hill to the present.

 

The End !

November 2001

 

Tags: Adam Cartwright

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