Note: This is the second part of a series of fan fiction. Please keep in mind that outside of the primary character, Tom Tyler, all others are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Screencaps are from Tom's movies and are used simply as visuals. With the usual disclaimer aside, if you would like to link back to this story and need help doing so, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and enjoy the story!
After the covered wagon arrived in Marshall, Missouri, its travelers decided to spend the night there. Twilight was starting to fall. The men outside set up camp and spent some time collecting dry wood nearby, while Julie started to prepare supper along with Joe, who rode the stallion all the way across the country. Joe had plenty of experience in long-distance travel on horseback, and preparing supper afforded him some time to speak to the only woman in the group. As he pared some root vegetables for dicing, Julie added some beef stock to drinking water in the cooking pot for stew. Joe glanced at her, thinking that she tried to be engrossed in what she was doing while at the same time thinking about Tom.
“Pretty long day, huh Julie. You seem worried about Tom. I know you care about him.” Joe leaned back and wiped the back of his right hand against the side of his jeans. His green eyes had a devilish twinkle in them, dirty blond hair disheveled across the top and back.
Julie hesitated before answering. “I do, Joe. Maybe too much.” Out of habit, the right corner of her mouth turned down while she thought. “What happens if we don't get Tom to our destination in time?” She uncrossed her legs, smoothing the skirt of her dress.
“Aw, we'll get him to Oklahoma in time, Miss Julie. It's just that – well I was wondering.” Joe picked up his knife and started to dice the parsnips and potatoes. Julie watched his slow, deliberate movements. The neat piles of chopped onions and carrots were joined by the other vegetables, forming a colorful row, ready to be added to the cast iron pot.
“Wondering what?” Julie caught a whiff of smoke from Joe's cigar which rested on a chunk of sedimentary rock next to the cooking utensils.
“I think there is something you should know about Tom and I don't rightly know how to put it to you.” Joe placed the diced vegetables so quietly into the pot, no splash of water could be heard. He looked at her and smiled, revealing his straight white teeth. As they spoke, Tom crawled to the rear of the covered wagon and leaned against a board, savoring the clean air. He was not supposed to move around too much, and was also afraid Julie might see him. Tom kept out of their direct line of sight and snuggled beneath a blanket. He thought he heard his name being spoken outside and did not wish for anyone to know he overheard any conversation about him.
“Why?” Julie curiously asked Joe. “It's not serious, is it? I mean outside of his being ill.” Her eyes cast down towards the cooking pot over the campfire.
“Well sort of. Maybe I should not have said anything.” Joe picked up the wood spoon and stirred the slow-cooking stew. Julie was hungry, as were the other men who sat on the other side of the wagon tending to the horses. “No. I was wrong to say anything, Julie. I know how you feel about him. I have to respect that.” Joe took a drag on his cigar, holding it in his weathered hand. Tom heard every word quite clearly, jolted into an awareness he never felt before. 'Did I do something wrong?' Tom thought to himself. He crawled back towards the middle of the wagon and pretended to sleep while supper cooked. 'I wonder what Joe was going to tell Julie?' Tom became a little scared but told himself not to reveal any feeling as such nor act as if he heard the conversation, for fear of alienating Julie or one of the men. He pulled the blanket up to his face and thought he heard the two men on the other side of the wagon. Tom shut his eyes and concentrated on the slowly fading sunlight on the western horizon. He breathed deeply, developing a natural rhythm, an exercise Julie taught him to help ease his physical pains. Supper will be ready by the time he awoke from his nap, and Tom was already starting to forget the conversation that transpired between Julie and Joe not more than ten minutes ago.
To be continued...