Summary: When a possession of Inger’s finally gets returned, it spurs some new feelings and long-forgotten memories for Adam.
Rating: K / Word Count: 2015
Written for the Back to the Future Challenge.
A Waterlily From Inger
Ben looked up from where he was reading on the front porch at the sound of a carriage riding into the yard. Most people would be concerned with an unexpected visitor, but Ben was used to it. It wasn’t the first time an unknown person arrived on the Ponderosa and it probably wouldn’t be the last.
Putting his book down and standing up he could see that the carriage pulling into the yard contained a young lady probably in her mid to late thirties. Her light brown hair was neatly pulled back into a tight bun while her plum-colored dress made her green eyes stand out. Ben quickly stepped off the porch and headed over to greet the lady.
“Hello, ma’am. Can I help you?”
“Hello, Sir. I’m looking for the Ponderosa and the home of the Cartwrights. I thought I was headed the right way, but all these trees look exactly the same and I’m afraid that I might have gotten turned around a little. Would you mind pointing me in the right direction?”
“Well, you don’t need to look any further. This here is the Ponderosa.” Ben reached up to help the lady out of the carriage and onto the ground.
“Oh, wonderful! I was told Adam Cartwright lived here. Do you know him?”
“I do. Adam is my son. He’s not home at the moment, though. Are you an old friend of his from out east?”
“I wouldn’t say that exactly. My name is Cecily Lawson. I’m an old acquaintance of Adam’s, at least I think I am. I have some business I’d like to discuss with him, but I’d like to talk to Adam privately to make sure I have the correct person before I go into too many details.”
Lawson. That name sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place where he had heard the name before. “I understand. He should be home soon, probably within the hour. You’re welcome to wait inside the house for him to arrive.”
“Perfect. And thank you.” Cecily gave a small smile to Ben before turning and heading towards the house.
Ben nodded in response just as Hoss and Little Joe rode into the yard getting a glimpse of the unfamiliar carriage outside along with a brief view of a young lady walking into the house. They quickly dismounted and settled their horses for the night. In the meantime, Ben had returned to his seat and book on the porch. He looked up once again as his two youngest approached.
“Hey, Pa. Who was that young lady there?”
“Oh, her name is Cecily and she thinks she may have known Adam in the past. She says she has some business with Adam when he gets home.”
“A lady friend of Adam’s? I didn’t know Adam had any lady friends.”
“Stop it, Joe. Adam has plenty of lady friends. He just don’t go around broadcasting it to everyone like you do.” Little Joe scowled but made no other remark, so Hoss continued. “Did she say what kind of business?”
“No, I’m afraid she said she only wants to talk to Adam right now. I’m definitely as curious as you boys. We’ll just have to wait until Adam talks to her and he decides to share the information with us.”
A frown grew on Joe’s face at that statement. “Knowing Adam, he won’t share any of it with us. We always miss out on the good stuff around here.”
Adam returned to the ranch about an hour later and Ben met him in the barn. He let Adam know there was a young lady inside waiting to talk to him.
Adam cautiously entered the house. Hearing the door close softly behind her, Cecily stood up from where she was seated on the settee and turned around to face the front door and Adam. “Hello, ma’am. My name is Adam. I hear you think we may know each other. I can’t say that remember anyone with your name, but hopefully you can enlighten me to how and when you think we once knew each other.”
“Of course. It’s been many years since we’ve seen each other and you might not even be the correct Adam Cartwright I’ve been looking for all these years. Unfortunately, it smells like supper is almost ready and I’m afraid my story will take longer than a couple minutes.”
“Very well. We’ll sit down after supper and talk then.”
After supper, Adam excused Cecily and himself from the table. Escorting her outside, they each took a seat in one of the big wooden chairs on the porch.
Adam looked over at Cecily waiting for her to begin talking. When she didn’t start right away, he took it upon himself to get the conversation started. “So, Cecily, are you ready to tell me your story about how we might know each other and why you have come looking for me?”
“I am. First off, I have to ask if you are the son of Ben and Inger who traveled out west several years ago? If I remember correctly, Inger had a baby while on the trail and then was fatally shot with an arrow.”
As far as he remembered, he didn’t have any friends that were girls on that trip. Yet she had to have been there if she knew these intimate details. Adam was curious to see where this story was headed. “Yes, that’s me. And that baby you speak of is now that giant named Hoss who you met earlier at supper.”
“Well, I was in one of the wagons on that train. I was probably about 12 or 13 years old and traveling alone with my father and older brother. Between the age difference and being quite busy doing all the cooking and other trail chores, we never really got to know each other. I was quite taken to your mother, though, and she took me under her wing so to speak. She showed me how to make simple meals and helped me with some of the other basic chores. I have been searching for you so I can return something that once belonged to Inger.”
She reached into her tiny handbag and pulled out something wrapped in a piece of white cloth. Cecily saw the curiosity grow on Adam’s face, so she quickly unwrapped the item. It was a beautiful hairpiece that contained a mother-of-pearl inlay of a water lily on it. “One day, I saw Inger wearing this beautiful hairpiece in her hair. I told her how pretty it made her and she kindly allowed me to wear it one day. It just so happened that the day she let me wear it was the day we arrived in Ash Hollow. After all the chaos that happened there, I had forgotten it was still in my hair until that night. I had planned to return it the next morning to your family, but by the time I got up, you had already left.”
Cecily handed over the hairpiece to Adam. He gently fingered it while a flood of memories came rushing over on him.
“Thank you so much, Cecily. I didn’t even know it was missing until now.”
“I have been trying to track you down for years now, but your family hasn’t been exactly easy to find.”
Adam gave a small chuckle at that. It was true. They moved around quite a bit before settling down here in Nevada, plus they weren’t exactly in a booming metropolis. No wonder it took several years for her to find them.
“It may just be a simple hairpiece, but having this back means more to me than you will ever know. It was one of Inger’s most prized possessions.”
“If you don’t mind, Adam, I’d love to know the story behind it.”
Adam gathered his thoughts and emotions before he began the story of the hairpiece. “Back when we still lived in Illinois, Inger enjoyed going to the local pond. She would sit there for hours just staring at the springtime sun glittering off the water and the lily pads floating on the surface. Sometimes I would join her in this special outing. We wouldn’t say much to each other, instead we just enjoyed being in each other’s company and peaceful solitude. Walking home from the pond one day, she told me how much she loved water lilies. She said that in her heart they were a symbol of hope and new beginnings. I kept that information to myself. One day I was at the local general store searching for the perfect present for her birthday. It was the year before we left to head west and I wanted to give her something really special. That was when I found this hairpiece. It was a bit over my budget, but Pa chipped in so I could get it for her so she could remember one of her favorite pastimes but more importantly to remember the new beginning of being in our family and hope for the future. As she opened it, her emotions overtook her. She pulled me into a big hug telling me it was one of the prettiest and most thoughtful things anyone has ever given her. She said she’d cherish it forever. It was one of the happiest days of my young life to know I brought someone so much happiness.”
“Wow. I figured it was important to her since she wore it almost every day. I just didn’t realize how meaningful it was to you. It makes me glad I finally found you and returned it. You can now pass it on to your own wife.”
Adam hesitated as sadness slowly crept across his face. “Yes, maybe one day.”
Cecily was clearly confused at that statement. She would have thought he would be anxious and excited to give it to his wife as soon as she left.
Adam saw the confusion on Cecily’s face, so he elaborated. “I haven’t been graced with a wife yet. But I will hang on to this and once it happens, I plan to give it to her.”
Adam gave a gentle smile to Cecily who readily returned it with a smile of her own. Adam couldn’t help but think that despite being away from each other for so long and never really talking in the past to each other, it’s like they were long lost friends and never lost touch. He felt a special connection to her. Maybe it was only because they both once knew and loved Inger. Then again, maybe it was something more. Would he regret it in the future if he didn’t at least attempt to pursue this feeling and relationship? He decided he couldn’t let her slip away without at least trying.
“You know, I’ve been thinking Ms. Cecily that you should stay here on the Ponderosa for a few days. You traveled a long way and I’m sure you would enjoy the short break from traveling before you head back. Plus, I’d love to show you around this wonderful place I call home.”
Cecily was happy Adam asked her to stay. Sure, she could use the break as Adam stated, but she felt something more pulling her to get to know him better. If he was anything like Inger, she knew a friendship between the two of them would come easily. “That’d be lovely, Adam.”
A few days quickly turned into a week, which then turned into several weeks. Their friendship grew deeper each day and quickly become more than just a casual friendship. Several months later, Ms. Lawson became Mrs. Cartwright and Adam gave Inger’s hairpiece to her.
Years later, Adam believed without a doubt that Inger was somehow mysteriously involved in allowing a simple hairpiece to reconnect two long lost friends and start a lifelong relationship. He smiled to himself at that thought. It was just another sign that showed him that Inger loved him and was always looking out for his best interests. And for that, he was eternally grateful.
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