"So, that woman, Mary. Are you sweet on her?"
It was an innocent question, but Arthur could hear the suspicion in Sadie's voice as she eyed him from the passenger side of the wagon. He wasn't sure if she could see the hesitation in his face, so he stared ahead, snapping the reins to keep the horses following the path on the road.
It was around mid-day, and they were on their way back to camp with the wagon. Arthur had originally intended to make a supply run on his own, but Sadie insisted on coming along as "backup" in case he ran into any trouble. Arthur found it a little strange at first. Sadie wasn't usually one to volunteer herself for shopping trips (as she so eagerly reminded him on their first run together), but this time, she seemed almost grateful for the excuse to leave.
He wasn't expecting to run into Mary Linton again.
He had been looking over the list of provisions he made before leaving camp, when he glanced up and saw her there, looking at the items in the store. Just the sight of her made him want to jump out of his own skin. He felt goosebumps over his arms and a strong warmth in his chest. The list nearly dropping from his clammy hands, he made to duck out of sight when she turned and called out to him. He froze, his mind going into overdrive at what to say. How could he explain how he wound up all the way in Rhodes? Would she think he was following her? Would she—
"Arthur?" Sadie had called his name just then, sensing his panic. She had one hand on the holster at her hip, and her eyes were scanning the marketplace to find the lawman that had scoped out her comrade.
When Sadie's eyes flicked over to Mary, she pulled her hand from the holster, but her face still held that same intense suspicion. At the time, Arthur had written it off as the simple wariness of a stranger, but it was the exact same expression she was giving him now. Even in that small, isolated minute in time, she had seen the history between them.
Clearing his throat, Arthur muttered, "No…well, yes. I mean…" He felt his face grow warm, like he just laid all his cards out on the table for her to see. Well, he never did have much of a poker face.
Setting his jaw, he snapped the reins again, urging the horses to pick up the pace. "What business is it of yours, anyway?"
It came out harsher than he intended, and Sadie turned to scowl at him before shrugging her shoulders and turning away. "'s not, I was just wonderin, I suppose. You seemed nervous, back at the market, and I thought something was wrong."
Arthur had to stop himself from laughing, but he couldn't help but let out a disbelieving chuckle. "What? You startin to worry about me, now?"
"No," Sadie scoffed. "Just wanted to make sure no one's onto you. Don't need you puttin' everyone else in danger because you went off and saved some damsel in distress."
Arthur chuckled again. "Yeah, that's all I need, ain't it?"
He sighed. As much as he wanted to believe otherwise, there probably wasn't much left between him and Mary at this point, at least not that he could tell.
Mary was so…ambiguous with him. It was hard to figure out if she still saw him the way he saw her. There were some days when he wondered what she would say to him if he asked her outright. Other days, he thought he was just fooling himself. Mary was his last chance to live a normal life. As she moved further away, the chances of Arthur getting out of the outlaw life went with her.
The silence that hung in the air between Arthur and Sadie wasn't uncomfortable, but it was getting to be so stifling that Arthur thought he should say something. He didn't want Sadie thinking he was some hapless transient like Trelawny, drifting wherever the wind would take him. The gang was his family, and he wasn't about to abandon them.
"Mary and I were…involved before," he said, choosing his words deliberately. "It didn't last, and I don't think she thinks much of me at this point, besides seeing me as a damned fool." He smiled, despite the jab at himself. "She'd be right, though. I already made my choice."
Sadie watched him for a long time, her eyes distant and focused on something he couldn't see. She opened her mouth to speak, then decided against it. Leaning back in her seat, she folded her arms over her chest, her eyes hidden by the brim of her hat. "Alright."
They rode the rest of the way at a gentle pace, with nothing but silence between them.