This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show, which belongs to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.
Time and the Lady
Dark hills at evening in the west,
Edwin Arlington Robinson
It is evening, finally. There is some fog and a little rain. I suppose the summer is gone. The days are shorter now with the coming of autumn, and the nights are longer. I am relieved to hear the commotion of the day fade and give way to a quieter time.
Still, the darkness offers little comfort. Peaceful sleep, free of nightmares, is a rare blessing, and I cannot bear even the thought of you being tainted with such specters as those that plague my dreams. I am besieged on all fronts, and the struggle has lasted for so long now that days and nights merge, blurring time in the confusion, while the sounds of strife crowd together in an unceasing drone. Sometimes the din is so deafening that I fear it will subdue us in this lingering chaos. So much has happened, and yet so much remains to be done.
My Dear, It feels as though a lifetime has passed since we were together, so long now that I dare not count the days. That time of sunlit joy appears only in memories and vague imaginings. I tried to recall a favorite poem we read together one afternoon, long ago, but only a few words of it remain….
I cannot help but wonder how strange it is, that the heart so easily remembers what the mind has long forgotten.
Oh, how I have longed to leave this turmoil behind, to return to a simpler, better time…. to walk with you through the willows by the lake, the two of us rapt in the fragrance of a quiet, springtime evening. The simple thought of it sweeps away all sound, and for a moment, we are alone with each other once more, enveloped in the cool, soothing silence that surrounds us.
Then I remember the haunting stillness on that last day we were together….the last time I held my lady. I remember how we spoke of simple pleasures, and that we trusted fate to protect what we held most dear…how wars must, inevitably, be fought, and how ideals must be upheld, sometimes at sword point…. that our parting, however painful, would be brief, and over time, forgotten.
I knew how frightened you were, even as you looked up at me with flickering defiance, smiling to hide your heartache, and trying so hard not to cry. But pride and courage are sometimes not enough, and even my softest words could not dispel the dread your smile denied. I remember the stillness at that moment, as your eyes filled up with love, and spilled over at my touch ….the last time I kissed you….
I could not finish the poem I wrote to tell you all that I felt, and feared. I knew, beyond all imaginable doubt, that separation would strengthen our bond, and that our love would endure beyond time itself. But when I tried to kiss your tears away, I replaced them with my own, and as we stood beside the lake where the willows had hidden our first kiss, where we had promised our love and our lives to each other, I only hoped you would understand all that was unspoken between us, what my heart tried to tell you, and all that my words could not explain.
We had seen the storm clouds of war gathering, slowly at first, thundering like muffled drums in the distance, and when our country cried out for her sons to protect her, we rose, with passion, to her defense. When we pledged our lives to our belief, we did so with uncomplicated certainty that our cause was just, and that our future lay safely in the arms of our right and noble purpose. Our declared intention was not to impose our standards on others, but to uphold our solemn, sovereign oath to defend our honor, and all that we held sacred…. and to protect those whom we treasured more than life itself.
We rode away, draped in pride, with sabers polished and banners flowing like ocean waves beneath a bright blue sky. When our horses pranced to the music of cheering crowds it was as if Heaven’s own trumpets heralded our coming. And as the thunder of the approaching storm grew louder, we rushed to meet it, eager to vanquish our rivals, and to battle, like boys, for the sport of it - imagining that winning would be all too easy, and that our victory was ordained.
How could we have known, as we raced toward our glorious destiny, that fate had already betrayed us…. that the dreams I promised would be safe with me would be burnt to ashes, that everything we cherished would be destroyed…. that war would claw us apart in its savage grip, and steal our lives from us.
You must not think I loved you less when I left to defend our country and our honor. I could not have done otherwise and still been worthy of your love. A man honors his responsibilities before he considers his own comforts, and, if necessary, gives his life for that which he loves most. Did you fear I had traded love for pride when I rode away that day? Could you not see, my Dearest, that you were my country, my own responsibility, and that which I revered above all else? Loving you gave me courage…and such hope. The greatest joy of my life was knowing that whatever happened, you would always belong to me. What I would not give to tell you that, once more….to touch you….just once more….
But no love escapes War’s vengeance. Our clear bright sky, so full of hope and beauty, gave way as the darkening clouds of conflict filled with lightning, gathering their force until the terrible storm came hurtling toward us, all-consuming, unrelenting, and unstoppable.
Hell’s darkest demons followed us into battle, promising glory and a victory cheaply won. No one who rode to defend his country imagined it would be otherwise. To do so, in respect for those who had gone before us, was an honor, not a choice. We were soldiers, dedicated to our cause, with no notion of defeat until War’s bloody talons gleamed, sharper than any sword that pierced young hearts, and the demons descended on their unsuspecting prey, ripping away their souls as they tore their lives from them….
Some days the sky was so dark that I could not tell morning from night, but when the smoke-shrouded sun pried through the fog we saw what a terrible price we would pay for glory. We could only watch, again and again, in muted disbelief - too angry to cry, and too consumed by sorrow to speak. Had my own heart been cut out, I would not have felt it. We were like sacrificial lambs, unjustly condemned to be punished for our pride, and slaughtered for our loyalty by a malevolent and unforgiving foe.
Hell is not a firey pit, or a burning inferno. It is a cold and barren place, devoid of love, or warmth, or pity, where even blood is chilled, where tears fall from blackened, hollow eyes and freeze on lifeless faces.
And yet, there comes a time when the enemy is not Death. It is Fear. And even now, I would choose to die rather than to live my life in fear. I did not dread death so much as the endlessness of living without you. When all that surrounded me seemed like an illusion, you were the reality. When all that surrounded me was false, you were the honesty. You were all that was beautiful, lovingly defiant, and amazingly real, and all of Heaven’s angels could not have made a sound so sweet as the song of your silvery laughter, or the warm, velvet whisper of your love…. the last time you kissed me.
Had I the choice to give my life for yours, I would have done so without a thought. It would have been no sacrifice. I would have gratefully offered my unworthy existence to know that you would live, and that in time, we would share eternity as one. But now, when I see your face so far beyond my reach, I think that we were doomed, like Dante’s star-crossed lovers, to drift through an empty, timeless existence, close enough to see and feel each other’s longing, but too far apart to touch.
Oh, Mary! It is so easy to die, and so very much harder to live, to try, day after day, to make sense out of the insanity that threatens to sink us in its infinite darkness. It is so difficult to find reasons to begin again when the last fragments of our lives have been strewn like broken shards, and ground into dust. If I am to be left here alone, I can only believe that I am here to find a reason to be proud again, and to somehow find a way for those who will come after us to be safe again.
It is all too easily that men tear down everything they have built, and mourning their loss, they leave nothing of value in its place. But as long as a man mourns, refusing to forget and to leave his grief behind, he has no need or reason to go on. I know, now, that sorrow is only a way in which a man clings to what he has lost…. for fear that he must go on alone.
I will find a way, my Love. I will find a way to finish the journey we started together, so long ago - sad that you cannot come with me, but knowing you understand all that I could not find words to say, and that the part of me that loved you will always belong to you.
All that I have done, I did in remembrance of those few perfect moments we shared - that fleeting instant in the vast expanse of time - when you were my Lady, and in honor of those precious lives that were lost to us, but who, had they lived, would surely have loved as we did, and filled all of heaven with joy.
Forgive me, my Darling, for leaving you again, but I must go as surely as you must stay. Regretting it as I do, and as fervently as I wish it could be otherwise, I do not believe we will see each other again. How ironic. But for your love, my sweet Mary, I could not have come all this way….
The evening grows darker and a million stars come forth to light your way, just as they did when we walked through the willows at twilight, so many years ago. I depart, my Dearest, knowing that gentler spirits will watch over you tonight, and as you sleep in the arms of angels, you are at peace, content, and safe at last.
Send Tieranny your feedback here!