Palomino Ch. 12byLadyRoscoe©
The wheels screeched as the brakes were put on and everything jerked. One of the horses screamed as the trailer was drug off the road and the railing was torn off with it. A woman screamed helplessly, and as soon as the truck hit the bottom of the ravine, everything went black.
Wesley jerked awake, panting hard. A cold sweat covered him from head to foot. He'd knotted his hands into the sheets. He felt movement beside him, and looked, wide-eyed. For a moment he thought it had all been some horrible nightmare. Then he saw a wisp of blonde hair, and it all came back to him. No... what had happened had happened. It was Lacey King lying next to him. He felt a sinking feeling of disappointment, but then chided himself. He hadn't been bothered by the dreams for quite some time. Why had they suddenly come back? He heard thunder rumble in the distance.
Lacey stirred gently in the bed beside Wesley, his movements causing her eyelashes to flutter momentarily before shifting and curling closer to him. She murmured softly before the rumble of thunder permeated her light sleep and she opened her eyes, wondering momentarily where she was as the unfamiliar room loomed around her. She glanced around before her gaze settled on the man next to her, somewhat confused, before a smile of recognition crossed her face. But then she saw the look on his face and pushed herself up somewhat, propping up on her elbow. "You okay?" she asked huskily.
Wesley frowned a bit. "Yeah.... yeah, I'm fine. I didn't mean to wake you." he said as he rolled onto his back, attempting to disentangle himself from the blankets he'd been wrestling. All he could see was what he'd seen the night of Anne's wreck. He could still hear the scream from the dream ringing in his head.
Lacey watched him for a long moment, a sinking feeling beginning in the pit of her stomach. It was obvious what had happened, and she couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible for the nightmare he had obviously had. Maybe he wasn't ready to move on. Maybe he never would be.
She gently inhaled deeply and then offered him a soft smile before slipping out of the big bed. "Try to get some sleep. I'll be right back," she said, standing and taking a sheet with her, wrapping it almost protectively around her nude form as if she wrapped it tight enough, it would protect her heart too. She stepped away and disappeared into the large bathroom and out of sight.
Wesley sighed and rolled to his side. He ached inside. He wished desperately it hadn't happened. Why tonight? Why, when he'd felt so good just a few short hours ago? Why, when things seemed to go so right, he was slapped hardest? He hadn't had a dream in months, and now it was like it happened yesterday. He shuddered and buried his face into the pillow. He hated what this was doing to him, an to Lacey. God... what would she think? Would she run away? "Anne.... I can't do this. I can't..." he muttered into the pillow, fighting the intense sting of tears. He wasn't doing this tonight. Not again. Again thunder rumbled over the sky. A storm was moving in over the mountains.
Lacey stopped before the mirror over the large vanity table that sat in the bathroom, the moon's light filtering in through the glass cubes over the large garden tub and just stared at herself for a long time. What had she been thinking? She shouldn't have stuck around last night after dinner. She shouldn't have come up to his bedroom. She shouldn't have slept with him. Not on her first night back after almost three months apart. He wasn't ready. Now, maybe she had inadvertently made the damage worse. She sank down into the vanity chair and covered her face with her hands as her thoughts turned to Anne and what she must have been like. She wondered if she could see what was going on, and then vaguely, wondered if she could give Lacey some kind of sign what she was supposed to do. Brushing away a tear, she ached inside. She needed help and didn't know where to turn to get it.
When Lacey looked up again, Anne was reflected in the glass. Her spirit was felt everywhere in the house, and had been for years. She sat there, gazing gently upon Lacey as she worked things over in her mind. The woman had long dark hair and a genuine smile. She was all around pretty and gentle.
Lacey startled for a moment, jumping up from the seat and backed away, her hand covering her mouth as unshed tears slipped down her cheeks. The moment of fear passed quickly as Lacey suddenly realized who it must be, and wondered momentarily if she was losing her mind. Blinking uncertainly, tears rolling silently down her cheeks, Lacey stepped forward once more as she gazed at the woman in the mirror, her heart feeling like it was being torn in two. Sinking back down into the vanity chair, Lacey just looked at Anne's reflection for a long time before gingerly reaching out to touch the mirror with trembling fingers. "Anne?" she whispered softly, the sound barely audible.
The reflection nodded and smiled comfortingly
Lacey drew back her fingers quickly, gasping as her other hand covered her mouth and then once again reached for the mirror, touching the reflection gently as her tears flowed freely. "Oh god, I'm so sorry. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to help him. Or if I'm supposed to help him. I'm so sorry for being here. I'm not trying to take your place, I swear." The soft words were tumbling out of her mouth, not making a lot of sense as her fears seemed to just explode and come out in scattered, confused voices to her thoughts. She sobbed softly and crossed her arms on the vanity table before her and tucked her head down, crying softly as she hurt for Wesley inside, ached that she had walked away, and feared what tomorrow would bring.
Lacey felt a soft caress to the back of her head, like fingers through her hair, but it was wispy and light. "Don't give up on Wesley, Miss Lacey King. He's a stubborn man." there was a small pause, and it sounded like laughter. "You're not here to take my place. You're here to take another place. Just love him. I will do the rest."
Lacey glanced up at the reflection in the mirror, her eyes brimming with tears as she regarded the woman looking back at her. "I ... I do love him, Anne." She reached up, slender fingers brushing away the tears and swallowed past the lump in her throat, looking down a moment before looking back at the reflection in the mirror once again. "I need your help Anne. I can't do it alone."
The reflection just smiled and nodded again. "Just love him, no matter what. Don't lose heart when things get hard. I will be here until I am no longer needed."
Lacey nodded gently, wiping her tears with her fingers as they slowly subsided. "I will ... I promise. I won't let go." She sighed gently and shifted her gaze back in the direction of the bedroom, her heartache lightening up a bit as Anne's words permeated her heart and mind.
"Now go... he needs you." the voice was fading as if the spirit was pulling away, leaving it to the living to do what they needed to do.
Wesley was asleep again. Or at least partially. He'd managed to close his eyes and relax. The images from the dream had subsided, and his fears were silenced by pure will. He couldn't break down. Not now. Not when things were going so well.
Lacey watched quietly as Anne's image filtered away and she was left alone once more in the huge bathroom and for a moment, she wondered if she had just imagined it. But her heart was at peace, and she knew, despite how unlikely it might seem, that she had had a comforting encounter with Wesley's wife's spirit. Smiling gently, she whispered softly, "Thank you," before she rose once more and padded quietly back out to the bedroom. She stood for a long moment by the bed, watching as Wesley laid there, Anne's words tumbling around again and again in her head and heart before she quietly let the sheet slip to the ground and slid into bed beside him. She moved close to him, spooning up against his back as he lay on his side and gently laid an arm around his waist as she pressed a soft kiss between his shoulder blades.
He shifted a bit as he felt the warm body pressed against his back and he moaned softly, turning over to see her and he gazed into her eyes gently. "Are you alright?"
Lacey shifted back as he moved until they were laying face to face and she smiled gently, nodding a bit as her hand reached up to gently caress his cheek with the back of his fingers. "Are you?"
He lowered his eyes, relaxing against her touch and he murmured softly in pleasure then nodded. "I had a bad dream was all. I'm sorry I woke you."
Her fingers gently brushed over his cheek again, and then towards his ear, brushing over the edge and then toying gently with the hair that curled slightly there. "Don't apologize. I'm a light sleeper," she said with a soft smile, her eyes watching his face. "Want to talk about it?" she asked softly.
His face darkened a bit at the question. He'd never talked about it much. Even to Lance he'd hardly had half a conversation about it in the three years that had passed. Before he could over-think anything, he spoke. "I saw Anne die."
Lacey's fingers moved gently in his hair over his ear as her eyes never broke contrast with him, their blue shade comforting as she gently prodded him. "In your dream?"
He stiffened a bit at being prodded but he didn't close off. He stayed relatively relaxed, though there was a pained expression on his face. His eyes were closed. Mostly to avoid having to look at anything in particular. "I only saw the wreck later. Lance was the one who watched it all happen. He's the one who called me."
Lacey gently stroked his hair, lying before him, their faces just inches away from each other. She watched him quietly as he slowly opened up to her, feeling Anne's touch, and remembering her words as she simply lay with Wesley, being there for him. "There's nothing you could have done ... nothing Lance could have done. Some things happen for reasons we just don't understand." She kept thinking about what Anne had said about Lacey not taking her place, but instead, filling in another place.
His grasp tightened on her a bit. It felt good to be able to open up about it, but at the same time it hurt like hell. It was like admitting to himself that Anne really was dead, that she'd never come back. "They didn't want me going near the accident. Treated me like I wasn't able to handle it. I finally pushed through and went over to where it'd happened. That ravine was easily 250 feet deep." He shuddered softly, struggling to keep his voice and breath even. "The trailer had hit the side and been torn from the truck... it'd landed on its top. Its front was crushed in. The truck was further down. I could hear the screaming of one of the horses...... I asked why they hadn't put it down. They said because they weren't prepared to deal with the scene yet. They had to wait for a highway trooper to clear it."
Lacey sighed gently, her fingers moving to the back of his head as he pulled her closer, tighter as he spoke. She knew it hurt him. She could see it on his face, hear it in his voice. But she also knew that he was carrying around guilt, and had been for years, for something he had no control over. "You can't blame yourself Wesley." She lifted her other hand to gently touch his f ace, as if trying to get him to look at her and understand what she was saying. "It's not your fault. And if you had been with Anne, she'd still be dead, and you would be, too." Her fingers gently caressed his face, brushing his cheek lovingly with the back of her fingers. "But you were spared for a reason, just as she was taken for one. And it's no one's fault. Especially not yours."
He shuddered softly as he held onto her. She could feel his tears against her chest where he'd found a haven to hide his face as he slowly opened up. "I used to wish I was with her when it hurt real bad, and I was in this big house alone. I couldn't understand. I still don't. When I asked the officer how far away the trooper was, he said easily half an hour with the weather. I couldn't stand hearing that animal suffer anymore. How they'd let it scream for two hours without relief I don't know. I went to my truck and got my rifle. Lance tried to stop me, but I was already headed down into the ravine. I shot the poor beast. I wanted to go to the truck to see what happened to my wife, but I didn't. I tore myself away from it and crawled back up top. The last I had seen her she was as beautiful as ever, showing me her new rodeo outfit she'd gotten. I wanted to keep that."
Lacey drew him closer, one arm enfolding him close as he found a safe haven with his head against her chest, her other hand gently stroking his head as he spoke. She lowered her face, burying it into the top of his head as her lips gently caressed over his. Lightening was zigzagging through the night sky, lighting up the room as she held him close and thunder rumbled close by. It all seemed to fit with Wesley's horrendous story, and she did all that she could do to protect him from it all, laying entwined with him in his bed as he finally, after years of keeping it bottled up, let it all out.
He shook softly in quiet sobs, but they weren't pained tears. They were all very healing as he let go of the pain he'd bottled up inside, the heartache and the loss. He held onto her tightly, unwilling to let her go. It seemed he was through talking and he just needed to be held as he cried himself into an exhausted sleep, cuddled close in the arms of the woman he loved.