Two years later…
"You are talking nonsense Ruby."
"I'm dying Chris. There's nothing I ain't saying that isn't the truth. You heard Doc Cider…"
Chris sat at Ruby's bedside, reaching over grasping one of her hands. It felt cold. Clasping it, he brought it up to his lips and gently kissed it.
"That doctor is an old fool. I got the boys downstairs fetching another doctor from Treeport. He'll have you right as rain in no time…"
"Where is Gabriel?"
"Gladys has him at the cabin, I could get somebody to…"
Ruby slowly shook her head, purplish circles underneath her eyes. She looked awfully pale, and each breath seemed to be a struggle. She laid back, clinging onto life. Her sweaty hair was pooled around her, and her cheeks seemed too hollow.
"No, leave him be. Last time I saw him he was sleeping like a little angel. I don't want him to remember me like this…"
"Ruby, I said stop it…"
"Have you seen her?"
Chris dropped his eyes, unable to answer.
Ruby's recovery had been a long one, but the doctors counted her lucky for even making it through the first month. She had lost a great deal of blood, and the injury to her head had nearly killed her. Much to her surprise Mannix continued visiting her almost every day. He still needed the cane to walk, and would often get winded whenever he walked or stood for too long. His other injuries were minor, and had recovered basically the same as her. Besides some horrible scars, by the time spring slowly started to come the only thing that still seemed vivid was the memory of what had happened. It made the papers of course. As much as Chris didn't want to, he still brought her the paper to read almost every day. Here she would lay back scanning the stories, or listen to Chris reading it since her head now ached something awful. He had told her everything that had happened that night at Minnie's. Ruby insisted on every detail, and how things had actually ended up.
When he admitted that both Warren and himself had both killed Joe she simply sat up in her bed, picking away at one of her old colorful scarfs. When Chris tried to apologize, Ruby sighed and shook her head telling him that it was self defense, it would have either been him or them, simple as that. By the time Ruby was back on her feet she had heard basically all of the stories and rumors surrounding what had happened. People were calling it a massacre and as sad as it really was, it was completely true. Jody's gang had held up at Minnie's after murdering everyone, and almost killed everyone besides Mannix and herself. In total there had been thirteen murders. A few locals had attempted to question Ruby, but Chris along with the mayor had hurried them away. Originally Chris had come forward with almost ten thousand dollars in cash to Ruby just a few days before she was able to leave Doc Cider's. When he handed the envelope full of cash, Ruby had raised an eyebrow.
"What is this?"
"It's the bounty money for Jody's gang. The men who found us wanted us to have it…"
Ruby sighed looking down at the money. Raising her eyes she stared at him.
"What happened to the bodies?"
"Of the men?"
"Well OB, John, the general, and Warren were buried up state. Warren and the general by the military, and John and OB by their families. As for Daisy and Jody's gang…well…they were thrown into the fire pit outside of town."
Sighing, Ruby stared down at the money. For the last few weeks she had simply been laying in bed in a state of limbo. The pain and been terrible, and most times she simply escaped by sleeping or not thinking of it. Today the reality had hit. There had been a massacre, and she had been taken advantage of. It was her own fault, plain and simple. But nevertheless, lots of people had died and there they were…
"Give it to the bankers…I don't want it."
"Ruby, come on…"
Ruby shook her head.
"I'm not being dramatic or anything. I just don't want it. It's blood money…"
"Well, that sure makes me feel like a bastard. I kept my share."
"You did your job and killed that bitch, you deserve it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"You tripped up Daisy though, that was after Warren beat and shot the shit out of you. I didn't quite catch it, but I would have been a goner if you hadn't of tripped her up. Come on Ruby, you were beaten to shit and shot by scared men, please…"
"Yeah well, shit happens and in the end i didn't think Warren was a bad guy. He was faced with a problem, and sadly when that happens…people get hurt."
"What are you gonna do now?"
Ruby shrugged sitting up.
"Go back home I guess."
Chris sighed before Ruby reached into the bedside table, and pulled out the leather bound journal. Holding it up she sighed.
"When I checked my bags I found this."
Chris squinted looking at it.
"The law may call him Grouch Douglas…I'll remember him as Joe Gage. I think he tossed this into my bag when things started going sour. While I've been recovering I've been reading it. It's dated back almost seven years ago."
"What's in it?"
"His entire life story. Man wasn't any saint, but…I want to show you something…"
She opened to the second to last page before the rest went blank. Handing it over, Chris sat back and looked down. After a moment he looked up.
"It's to you?"
Ruby nodded as Chris began to read out loud.
"Ruby. I'm writing this down before we all start having dinner. I'm hoping I can get a chance to slip this into your bag when nobody is looking. I have a feeling in the next few hours things are about to get awfully dangerous and I've made damn sure you won't be harmed. I know after whatever you witness your feelings towards me very well may change and I don't blame you in the slightest. I haven't been with many women. In fact ever since I turned my back on my own family and joined Jody and Daisy, I honestly gave up on the thought of ever meeting someone. That was until tonight. You are special Ruby. Nothing like any woman I've met before. I think you are one hell of a palm reader since you got the thing right about me meeting the love of my life. I hope by dawn I can convince you that what has happened, needed to be done. My family is with Daisy, Jody, and the others. Some may think we are blood thirsty killers, but if I get a chance and you'll listen, I can tell you that we are a family. We have done the things just to survive, and if all goes as planned I'm hoping I can convince you to come with us if you'll have me. I'm hoping to put all of this behind me and actually start a life down there. Bob has family down there and says it's beautiful. There's a beautiful beach he talks about often and I could see us going down there. I want to prove to you I can take care of you, that is if you'll have me. If you don't, I promise…and I mean promise make sure you aren't harmed. The others may not agree, and if Jody knew that I was writing where we were going he would shot me down like a dog. But if you can't stomach the thought, I will make sure you walk. Just know, I love you Ruby. I didn't think it was possible…but I do. Just recently I looked into my family in this area. My family that I turned my back on years ago. My mother and brothers are dead. My mother passed away just a few years back, and my brothers died in a carriage accident just this year. They all had wife's and children, something to leave behind. I don't have anything…besides you. If you are reading this several things could have happened. I'm just hoping in my heart, it will be laying underneath the stars with me listening to the ocean. - J"
Chris finished and looked at her.
"Would you have gone?"
"If things had turned out differently, would you have gone with him?"
He silently handed the journal back. Ruby held it, turning it slowly over in her hands.
"I can't say for sure because things didn't go differently. That's the truth. Grouch Douglas was a blood thirsty cold blooded killer. What he did up at Minnie's was unforgivable. But after reading this journal, knowing his story, and having those few hours with him. I know deep down inside Joe Gage wasn't a bad man. In fact, I think he was looking for a chance to change."
Chris sighed before Ruby sadly smiled.
"So, that's that."
The two continued sitting in silence as the warm spring time sunshine poured in through the windows.
One Week later...
Chris saw Ruby off on old Pallor just a week later. The bankers had recovered the horses as well, and Pallor had been well taken care of in a stable next to town hall by Chris. When the Doc said she was back on her feet, Chris insisted she stayed in town a few extra days by setting her up in a room above the local saloon. He had taken a room there until he could seek out a home to his likeing.
She had slept a lot, but each evening Chris arrived to take her downstairs for a nice dinner and drink. The two would sit across from each other, mostly in silence eating listening to a piano player by the bar. Her hair was pinned back, always a scarf keeping her bangs out of her eyes. Finally there came a day she told him she wanted to go back home and was more than capable to make the journey alone. The day he saw her off, he kept shaking his head telling her it wasn't right letting her go alone. Making a face, she motioned around to the clear skies and reminded him that the snow was well on it's way to melting this side of the mountain. Spring was coming, and the air was mild. She had traveled plenty all alone in the past, and just wanted to be alone to gather her thoughts and finish recovering. Chris shook his head.
"I might sound crazy, but…this last month or so, I've actually enjoyed checking in on you. Maybe it's because we both shared the same fucking horrible experience but…your a close as a friend as I got here."
Ruby made a face.
"Please, you're the sheriff of Red Rock. I've heard people…they love you."
"Yeah well, they won't forget who I was either. Just recently I've been able to admit to myself I haven't been the perfect person…"
Ruby took a step forward and put her finger to his lips. Smiling, she used the back of her hand to gently stroke his stubble covered cheek.
"Nonsense. You are a good person Chris Mannix. Now say goodbye and shut up."
Chris smiled before he leaned down and kissed her cheek. Pulling back, more than a little embarrassed he wouldn't make eye contact. Instead he laughed, and shook his head.
"Come on now, let me help you up…"
Once Ruby was on Pallor, she waved and began to ride off.
"Bye Mannix, you take care of yourself!"
Watching her trot down the path, his heart suddenly felt very heavy. For the first time in years since his own father died, he felt tears beginning to sting behind his eyes.
Time passed, and finally a few months later, just spring continued to blossom, Chris decided he wanted to pay a visit to Ruby. Red rock had certainly kept him busy, but his thoughts were still with her. Deciding to head down one beautiful morning, he was wondering how he could try and convince her to join him in the Easter church services the following week. As he rode up to Ruby's, a small cabin set back on the hills he instantly grinned when he saw her outside brushing old Pallor down by the shed. The strangest fluttering feeling entered his stomach as he approached and called out to her. Ruby smiled and turned, completely facing him.
That's when his entire expression dropped. Stunned, he couldn't believe his eyes in what he was seeing. She was grooming Pallor outside her place. Her hair done up in a bun with strands fallen down framing her face. Chris dismounted his horse and led it over before stopping dead in his tracks. Ruby stood there wearing a beautiful dark purple dress. As she stood there, smiling he saw her stomach. It was just beginning to show from her thin frame, perfectly round by the frabic of her dress.
She was pregnant.
Stopping, he stared at her, his stunned expression giving himself away as he slowly walked over. Ruby smiled, placing down the brush she was using on Pallor and walked over. Her hand gently rubbed her showing stomach. She wasn't huge, but it was clear as day she was with child. Smiling, she came over as he took his hat off. Instantly his eyes went down to her stomach. Ruby smiled, she looked pale but otherwise completely beautiful. Off somewhere a bird chirped then became still. Ruby smiled, cocking her head to the side.
"How are you sheriff?"
Chris stared at her speechless before Ruby smiled.
"Come on, I made some iced tea…"
After an hour, both sitting on Ruby's porch she explained to him that shortly after leaving Red Rock she discovered she was pregnant. She had been awfully sick and at first thought how weak she was feeling was from her injuries this winter. She visited her own doctor, who confirmed it.
"It's Joe's isn't it?"
Ruby sadly nodded.
"Yeah, it is."
"And you've living up here all alone. How come you haven't come to town?"
"There's a town over here and it's a whole lot closer. Besides, I've been getting along just fine. This was honestly the last thing I expected, but nevertheless here it is. I should have known, I read Joe's palm that night and it said he would have one child. Just didn't know it would be with me."
Ruby smiled, rocking back on her chair. Chris still continued looking at her belly. Shaking his head, he took a deep breath overwhelmed.
"You can't possibly be thinking of doing this alone?"
"Why not? I've been on my own for years. I don't need any man. Joe has done enough, and he's dead. I'm fine."
Chris shook his head again before looking out at the land. It was a warm mild day and a breeze had just picked up causing the tin wind chimes of Ruby's slowly clink back and forth. Rubbing his chin, he looked at her.
"Ruby, you are truly one hell of a woman. But can you honestly love this child after what happened?"
"Of course. It's half mine, and besides…after reading Joe's journal I rather remember him for the man he was with me. Misunderstood, sure…you might not look at it this way, but I can. I would like to believe there was a reason why I lived through that night…"
Looking down at her stomach she gently rubbed it.
"Maybe to have this baby and give it the life Joe couldn't have…"
Sighing, Chris shook his head.
"It isn't right. I know you don't need anyone to take care of you. Trust me, you have proven that. But that baby…it needs a father…"
"Who says? It will have me." Chris stared at her.
"What I'm saying is…maybe…well…"
He rung his hands together before lifting his eyes and looking at her.
"Maybe we outta, well…maybe get married." Ruby stared at him without any expression.
"Have you lost your mind?! I don't wanna marry you! You are a racist weasel. I know all about you and your family. You would have shot me if you had the chance."
"Wait there and hold up. I'm a changed man. Being the sheriff of Red Rock, and after what happened at Minnie's really put some focus in my life. Besides it was Warren that shot you. I hope that blow to that head of yours didn't make you forgetful…"
Ruby glared at Chris.
"I don't need a man Chris. I was married to a wonderful one and he died, then I met Joe and well…we know how that ended. If he did one thing right in that miserable life of his it was giving me this baby, and I'm not about to marry the first guy out there who asks me to marry him."
"You sister need a lesson in manners. I'm a fine gentlemen, would be a fine husband, and a fine father."
Ruby waved her hand sitting back.
"Yeah sure, I could see you loving that baby like your own…"
"Well missy, we'll just see about that." Ruby continued laughing, looking off at the woods.
"Yeah I guess we will…"
In the following months Chris made it his mission to prove himself to Ruby. He rode to her cabin almost every day for a month straight. He insisted on chopping her firewood, bringing her flowers that she often tossed over her shoulder, cooking her food, and taking care of Pallor. Ruby was as independent as possible, always rolling her eyes, and telling him she was perfectly capable. Still, Chris continued showing up every evening. Both would have dinner together as he told her about the latest happenings in Red Rock. They would sit on the porch, listening to the crickets chirp, and the fireflies buzz, before she saw him off. Most nights when she turned in, she would lay awake, hands on her belly feeling the baby gently move within her, wondering honestly what she was doing. She hated to admit it, but she missed Joe. She wished there was at least a grave or resting spot that she could visit. Instead each night she would reread a few pages of his journal, hearing his voice within her head. As always, she would lay back finishing up with the last page wondering honestly if she would have agreed to go with him had things gone differently. Finally there came a warm Sunday morning when Chris was over, sitting on her porch feeling the baby kick for the first time. Never before had she seen somebody so amazed by such a simple thing. Sitting there she smiled, as his eyes lit up and he grinned.
"I'll be double dog damned! Feel him kick!"
"Who says it's a boy? It could be a girl?"
"Well if it is she sure is feisty, like her mother."
Smiling, Ruby looked at Warren before nodding.
"Okay." Chris looked.
"I'll marry you. I think you might be a good father for the baby. I'm not saying I'll love you, but hey…I guess I could learn to live with you."
Grinning, Chris leaned over gently kissing Ruby's cheek.
Shortly after the two were married in town. They sold off Ruby's cabin and land, and ended up getting one closer to Red Rock. Together, the two of them had a pretty decent savings, and the cabin they bought were just on the outskirts of town with a barn out back. Chris, now wearing a gold wedding band that matched her own, had stood on the massive porch of the cabin and smiled sticking a cigarette in his mouth. Just a few yards away was a small pond where he had seen ducks swimming in just last week when he viewed the property to buy. It had been a miserable hot summer, and Chris counted himself lucky to have the next few days off to spend with Ruby while his deputies looked after everything. Pallor, along with his own horse were tied up and fed in the barn, and a million stars seemed to be shinning in the sky. Just then Ruby waddled out, she was far along, her pregnant stomach showing perfectly from her white sundress she had wore earlier that day when the reverend had married them. Holding onto her tin wind chimes, she smiled before trying to reach up and took them up. Smiling, he walked over taking them.
"You best get off those feet Mrs. Mannix…"
He hung up the wind chimes with ease before leaning over and gently kissing her neck. Smiling, Ruby's leaned back as he wrapped his arms around her, laying his hands on her stomach.
"Say, how about a swim?"
Ruby raised an eyebrow as Chris smiled. Shortly after, both returned from swimming in the pond. The cool water had been refreshing, and both soaking wet used blankets from inside to dry off. Both laughed, as Chris' bangs dripped in his face. Smiling, he kissed her again.
"My, my, my, how did a stupid ugly bastard like myself get a woman as beautiful as you?"
Ruby made a face waving her hand at him.
"Please, I'm as big as a mule."
"Stop that, you're beautiful…and so won't this baby…"
Sliding his hand into the blanket that was wrapped around her, his hand slid up to her full breasts. Tilting her head, the two began to kiss. That night, they both found themselves to the double bed they would now be sharing. Chris nervously fumbled with the lantern, almost dropping it twice on his way to bed. He found Ruby waiting for him, naked and smiling. Afterwards, Chris rolled off her, flushed, sweating, and exhausted. Collapsing back, he laughed completely spent staring up at the ceiling. Ruby smiled, propping herself up on her elbow as her hand lightly danced across his chest.
"So how was that?"
Mannix turned looking at her before he laughed.
"Mrs. Mannix, I know you are gonna make me a happy man."
Smiling, Ruby leaned over kissing his cheek before snuggling in close. That night for the first time in months, she didn't dream of Joe. In the following weeks, as Ruby's stomach grew, she became more and more uncomfortable. The summer nights were hot, and she often laid back in pain by the baby moving. Chris would return home exhausted, but always drew her a cool bath and would wash her back and hair talking about his day. One morning he surprised Ruby with showing her the wooden cradle he had made up for her in town. When September came, Chris was informed while at the town jail looking over documents that Ruby, who was visiting town with him seeing the mayor's daughter had been taken to Doc Cider's by going into labor. Instantly Chris dropped his papers, rushing out. Twice he almost fell up the stairs, before being stopped by one of Doc's nurses.
"I'm sorry sheriff, you can't go in."
Mannix looked at her as if she was insane. On the other side of the door he heard Ruby's pain ridden screams. He looked over, completely helpless.
"That's my wife in there…"
"You take a seat and wait, she's going to be a while."
Before he could say another word the door opened for just a moment, in that flash he saw Ruby sitting up in bed, hair down as she screamed leaning forward. With that the door was latched and locked, blocking him out completely.
Trying the doorknob, he knew it wouldn't be any use to break it down. Instead he sat down on the narrow wooden bench in the hallway and hung his head down low. For the first time in years, he silently prayed.
Two hours later, he heard cries. Lifting his head, he waited before the door opened. Doc Cider was smiling, wiping his hands as he strolled over. Chris shot up like a bullet.
"It's a boy. Both mother and child are fine, you can go in sheriff…"
Chris didn't want another second, instead like a little child on Christmas, he pushed past the doctor, and raced inside the room. Ruby was sitting up, the baby wrapped up in her arms. Sitting there she looked drained, her hair hanging down in strands. The two nurses had finished cleaning up and were covering her up. Looking, she smiled.
"Chris, I got somebody I want you to meet…"
Chris slowly approached, his eyes frightened as he dragged a chair over, slightly limping since in his hurry, he had forgotten his cane. Sitting, he instantly smiled in utter amazement. Laying there, snuggled up to Ruby's breast was the most beautiful newborn Chris had ever seen. The baby had thick black hair, and it's tiny little eyelids closed.
"Look at him…"
"I thought we could call him Gabriel. You like that?"
"That's perfect…" Getting up, he sat on the edge of the bed before leaning down, gently kissing the sleeping baby's head. Ruby smiled, as he continued looking down at the baby, like a man who had fallen completely and helplessly in love.
Three months later…
Chris was busy up in Treeport on business, while Ruby was at home with the baby. In the last few months, Chris had proven that this child was indeed a blessing. She never thought Chris Mannix could ever love something as much as he loved Gabriel. The first week they had taken him home, he constantly kept waking the baby up by scooping him out of his cradle, convinced he wasn't breathing. Finally Ruby insisted that the baby was just fine and he needed to let him get his sleep. Whenever she fed him, Chris would watch smiling, and as soon as he got home, he would go straight to the cradle, making faces and noises, kissing the baby all over. He didn't see this baby a child from another man. He saw him as his own. In fact, when they brought the baby to it's first Sunday service, Chris showed him off like there was no tomorrow. The baby, still at such a young age seemed to light up whenever he saw Chris, and fell asleep the fastest whenever he held him. Gabriel was a good baby, thick black hair, and sparking blue eyes. All ready he was giggling and gurgling and deep down inside it made Ruby's heart ache all ready seeing Joe in him. The week that Chris was away, she held the baby by the fire, unable to believe it had been a year since Minnie's. Rocking the baby back and forth humming, she stared down. She would raise this baby, having it believe that Chris was indeed it's father. Someday, maybe someday she would tell him the truth, but at this exact moment she knew as much as she felt she owed it to Joe, he would have rather her raise their son right, no attachments of the past, or who his father really was.
Chris had proven himself indeed, and as much as he drove her crazy, she figured she loved him nevertheless. Not the same as Robert, not the same as Joe, but in a different way. Looking down at the baby, she smiled.
"You sure do look like your daddy…not too sure if I'll ever let you know who he was, or what he did. Chris is really your real father, and will always love and protect you. Your real daddy…well, I think he would have adored you. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if things had turned out differently. Would I be rocking you on a beach someplace down in Mexico? Well, despite all his flaws, your daddy showed me a side I'm sure not many had seen. I just want to let you know, those few hours we shared together…we loved a lifetime worth."
The baby gurgled as she smiled, leaning down, kissing his forehead.
One year later…
That spring Chris had gotten Ruby pregnant.
The two were watching Gabriel blossom into a very happy go luckily active baby, watching him learn to crawl, walk, and find even the simplest things amazing. Often Ruby would find Chris and him playing by the barn out back. Chris would have him riding on his shoulders as he ran around in circles making Gabriel giggle, grabbing onto his hair. Gabriel was the light of their life, always smiling, blowing kisses, and laughing as he dragged his stuffed bear and wooden blocks around. Chris was always proud of him, and would spend hours playing with him, remarking on how amazing he was. Once, after they got him to bed, the two stood side by side watching him sleep before Chris smiled sadly and said how much he looked like Joe. Smiling, Ruby nuzzled against him and led him into the bedroom.
That night, they conceived their very own child.
The pregnancy had been fine, and more than often Chris would sit Gabriel on his lap and point to Ruby's stomach, telling him that he was going to be a big brother. Gabriel, sweet as always would kiss her belly, laugh before running around the cabin. When Ruby was almost nine months along, uncomfortable, and tired, she had spent the morning looking at her son's palms as he played. Her son was going to choose a different path than his father. He was going to be a good man, with a bright future. She laid him down for his nap, brushing that thick black hair back, smiling. When she walked out, looking around her home, she knew she was finally happy.
That's when the pain came, and everything went black.
Chris arrived home from town that evening, only to find Ruby laying in a pool of her own blood. Racing in, he gave her a shake. She seemed lifeless.
She was pale, and wasn't talking. Giving her another shake, he gathered her in his arms and put his hand on her belly. For the first time in this entire pregnancy, he didn't feel his baby move. Lucky for him, Gladys a housekeeper that came from time to time to help Ruby in the later months of her pregnancy with Gabriel since Chris had insisted she didn't try to be carry him too much in the last few months. She arrived just as Chris was trying to drag her to the horse. Agreeing to watch the baby, Gladys stayed behind as Chris held onto her as he rode as fast as he could to town. Doc Cider and the nurses helped her upstairs, and this time Doc turned and looked at him.
"Sheriff, you gotta stay out here…"
Chris shook his head. "If you gotta choose between saving her or the baby, save her." The doc nodded before shutting the door. Shortly after, Ruby's screams filled the hallway, and Chris found himself sitting on the narrow bench all over again. Sitting there, instead of praying, he cursed Joe Gage. He knew it was his spirit returning, taking Ruby from him for loving his child as if it was his own. Putting his head in his hands, he begged for his wife's life. Ruby's screams continued as the night went on.
"I tried everything i could but I'm sorry Sheriff, we're losing her."
Instantly Chris shook his head. More than anything he wanted to slam Doc Cider against the wall.
"No…there has to be something you can do…"
Doc shook his head.
"She'll be passing soon. I made her comfortable, but I would go see her now…"
Chris stood there in a trance before finally he forced himself to go into the room. Seeing Ruby, caused him to almost turn around and run. She laid there, pale, circles under her eyes laying there. Beside her in a bassinet was the baby, wrapped up gently crying. Walking over, he sat down. She didn't look like she had before when she delivered Gabriel. This time it was different. Her lips were a terrible purplish blue, and she seemed to be struggling to breath. She laid back, eyelids fluttering as he sat down and grasped her hand. They talked for a little bit, before finally she admitted she knew she was going to die. She wasn't scared, not that her children had such a wonderful father to look after them.
Chris shook his head, tears forming behind his eyes.
"Why did I just have to have my own child…this is my fault. Gabriel was more than enough. Why did I have to be so fucking selfish?!"
"You weren't. You have a beautiful daughter. You never, and I mean ever blame for for this. I knew my life line was coming to a stop soon. I'm just glad I was able to have a chance to start a family with you and be happy for a while. I'll admit Chris, I couldn't stand you for the longest time…but you are a good man, a changed man. You raise these children as best as you can, meet another woman, and move on."
"I mean it. I wanna name her Christine…Chris for short. You teach her to be a tomboy, to climb trees, fish, and get dirty. You make sure Gabriel is a good brother to her, and keeps an eye out for her. You tell Gabriel that he's special…I still have Joe's journal, but honestly, I say burn it. You are really his father Chris Mannix, and don't you let him follow in any of his parent's footsteps. You teach him to be equal with everyone, and kind. Let him know his mother loved him dearly, and…that I'll look in on him from time to time. Okay?"
Chris, who's own tears were rolling down his cheeks nodded, still grasping onto her hand.
"I will…I promise…"
"And you Chris Mannix. You live your life. I gotta admit, you not drinking that damn coffee that night was the best thing that could have happened to me."
Chris smiled through his tears, bringing her hand up to kiss.
A few hours later, Chris sat back, his daughter wrapped up in his arms as he gently hummed to her. When he looked down, he knew Ruby was gone. He knew she had seen her, and knew she had been at peace when she finally passed. Still, seeing her like this made his chest heave. For a good second he wasn't sure if he could honestly do this. Instead, looking down at his newborn daughter he knew better. Leaning down, still holding onto the baby he kissed Ruby's forehead.
One year later…
Chris held onto Christine's little chubby arms, coaxing her to take a step on her two wobbling feet. Gabriel was pulling his wooden train set around the room as Gladys cooked dinner. That evening after the children were fed and put to bed, Chris saw Gladys off before setting down in front of the fire. This past year had been hard, but the people of Red Rock, seeing him now as a widower, had made damn sure him and his children were taken care of. Ruby had been buried in town, and he visited her grave almost every Sunday. When he wasn't acting as sheriff in town, he loved spending every waking moment with his children. They were his life. Scratching his new beard, he dug into his pocket and held Joe Gage's journal in his hands. Looking at it, he sighed before knowing he had made his decision. Gabriel would know about Joe. He was his father, and that was all there was to it.
"Joe you bastard, I certainly hope you see your boy…and you know that he'll never and I mean never be like you."
With that, he tossed the journal into the fire.
Chris Mannix sat on his porch, more white showing in his hair than usual. He sat back smoking his pipe watching his son and daughter argue as they attempted to climb onto a horse he had bought Christine for her 16th birthday. Christine was everything Ruby had said she would be and more. She was a feisty little tomboy, wearing slacks and a blouse, her hair done up in braids. She swore at her brother, saying she knew how to mount the horse and to back up before she slugged him one. Gaberiel had taken after Joe almost exactly, towing in height. His black hair combed back as he laughed, eyes squinting.
"Whatever you say lady…"
Christine swatted him as both laughed, playfully pushing each other. Chris watched, now an older man but content. He was planning on retiring soon as sheriff, and wanted to spent the rest of his time finishing raising his children, and maybe making a go of the ranch idea Gabriel had tossed around last year. He knew it was only a matter of time before they were married off with their own families, but until; then he was enjoying them. Having never remarried, he made raising them and taking care of his own his business. He had missed Ruby something awful, but knew deep down inside she was watching all three of them.
Sitting back, he smoked his pipe watching his children, and counted himself very lucky for hitching that ride all those years ago with John Ruth and Warren. Very lucky indeed.
Thank you for all of the kind reviews!