I hope you've been enjoying Scarlett and Blizzard as much as I have. This has been one of my most fun projects to date! I love the interaction with you readers and making you a bigger part of my story-telling process. Surprisingly, Scarlett and Blizzard is starting to reach wind-down time. Don't worry, there are still a few chapters to go. Just not enough to get us all the way into November. The good news in that is Scarlett and Blizzard will be available in its full form sooner than I thought. The "bad" news (if you can call it that) is I'll have to find a new project to do on my blog. I've got some ideas and as we get closer to finishing this project, I'll clue you in. But I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all you awesome readers for participating and enjoying this project. If you'll be near Liberal, KS tomorrow morning, I'll be at the Farmer's Market from 8 - 12 and I'd love to see you there!
P.S. Don't forget to answer the questions below!
The tension over the next few days was so palpable you could cut it with a knife, if you’ll pardon the cliche. The pups seemed to catch our fear and were never far from sight. Mclintock would whine outside the bathroom door when Mom was in there. Cogburn and Rooster began pacing in front of the doors as though keeping constant guard. Everyone was jumpy and there didn’t seem much we could do to assuage our paranoia. After a late night talking, Mom sent Scarlett and I to bed with the instructions to not think about anything for the night. "You two need to get some rest. Stop worrying for now." Yeah right, Mom.
Rooster followed me to my room and hopped around my bed. “Give me a sec, boy,” I said. I picked him up one-handed and dropped him gently on the blankets.
He scouted out the softest patch of quilt and curled around it a few times before finally settling down. I flopped down next to him after putting on my pajamas and he eyed me with as close to a glare as a dog can get.
“What? It’s my bed.”
He yowled and began his circling ritual again.
I smiled. Careful not to disturb him, I turned and crawled under the covers. My mind was racing. Scarlett never relocated the gas can. Shorty promised to keep an eye out for it, but he hadn’t been able to tell us anything helpful about the whole situation. While Scarlett refused to accept that someone on Starwood may have been involved, I was beginning to wonder. It did seem awfully strange that the gas can would show up after McFinney set his thugs on me. I felt guilty for suspecting any of our hands. They’d been with us a long time and it didn’t seem likely that any of them would have tried to hurt Josiah. Nothing made sense. For several hours my mind circled ideas like Rooster circled a blanket. When I finally did sleep, my dreams were broken-up repeats of all the things which had gone wrong that winter.
Sunlight was streaming through my bedroom window by the time I woke up, which was odd because I never sleep in. You can’t when you live on a ranch. I rolled over and glanced at my clock. My eyes popped as I bolted from bed. “8:45? Snap!” I thundered around my room to get ready for the day before barreling down the stairs. “Mom! Mom! I don’t know how it happened, but I slept through my alarm…”
“I know,” she said calmly. “I turned it off last night.”
“Do you know when the last time we had a girls’ day was?”
My mind was still trying to wrap around the fact that I was an hour late for school and my chores weren’t done. “Uh…”
“That’s what I thought last night. So I called the school already and told them that you have unfortunately become very ill and won’t be in school today.”
“Wait, you lied to Mrs. Perkins?”
“Not exactly,” Mom said with a smile. “I simply told her I couldn’t see sending you to school with how you’re feeling.”
“But I’m not sick.”
“Maybe not physically, but I think we’re all getting a little heartsick. A weekend away from the ranch would do us a lot of good. Shorty and Josiah will be in charge while we’re gone and I’m sure when we get back everything will still be in good working order.”
“You should consider yourself lucky,” Scarlett added as I tried to digest this. “When I was in school, Mom never called me in sick if I wasn’t.”
“You need to pack a weekend bag, “Mom interrupted. “Things that are comfortable and cute would be best.”
“What about the puppies?”
“They’ll be fine. Josiah will take good care of them. Now go on, get your bag packed. I’ve got breakfast ready to go with us.”
“And my chores?”
“Already done,” Scarlett beamed. “Josiah and I finished them up over an hour ago.”
“Well, I guess I’m fresh out of arguments.”
“Good, get packing.” Mom grinned and pushed me toward the door.
Thirty minutes later with fresh donuts in hand, we waved goodbye to Starwood for a weekend getaway. Not long after getting in the car Scarlett asked, “So, where exactly are we going?”
“Well, I was up late looking at some different things and first on the list is a visit to the spa in Teton Village.”
Scarlett and I gasped. “How were you able to get appointments?”
“Luck was on our side.” Mom shrugged as though this was to be expected. “After that we’ll drive to Twin Falls and spend the rest of the weekend there. We’ll go to the theatre, hit the malls, just have fun for the whole weekend. Then we’ll come back home and try to remember how to work a ranch.” She winked at us. “Then again, maybe we won’t want to.”
We laughed and the rest of the drive was spent chatting. As we walked into the lobby at the spa, my eyes had a hard time deciding what to stare at first. Everything about it exuded luxury and relaxation. Waterfalls splashed nearby and it was all I could do not to stick my hand in one. I felt like I should whisper if I needed to say anything as we waited. Once my massage started, I sank even deeper into the feeling of absolute luxury. “Gracious, what happened here?” the masseuse asked, touching one of the bruises on my back.
“Oh, uh, got into a fight,” I replied.
“Honey, that looks awful! No wonder you have so much tension. But don’t worry, I’ll be gentle and we’ll work everything out. Sound good?”
For the next eighty minutes I basked in the serenity of the spa. For the first time in weeks I just let my mind wander. I stopped worrying about what was going on at home. I didn’t think about Josiah or the Double Rocking B or anything else. Everything was at peace and life was oh so good. I could tell Scarlett and Mom were feeling just as relaxed as we floated out of the lodge and back to our truck. We drove up to Twin Falls and stopped at a salon. Scarlett and I had already done our hair recently, so we had our nails done while Mom tried to decide what to do with her hair. “You should try some streaks, Mom, it would be fun.”
“Oh no, sweetie, that’s for young people.”
Scarlett giggled. “Don’t tell that to Mildred.”
“She’s young at heart,” Mom replied with a smile.
“Are you saying you’re old? Come on, Mom, it would be fun,” I said.
“I don’t know…”
“Give it a try, Mama. I bet some blue would look really cute.”
Mom shook her head firmly. “Oh no, if I’m going to do streaks they’ll be a natural color. No one has naturally blue hair.”
“Pink then? It would blend well with your color.”
“This from my daughter who never dyes her hair?” Mom asked with a laugh.
The bantering continued until the stylist took Mom to his chair. Scarlett and I laughed as we chatted easily with the manicurists. It seemed like no time at all when Mom’s stylist called us over. “Well, girls, what do you think?”
Mom turned to us with a smile. Her strawberry blonde hair was cut into a short bob and the stylist had woven platinum and pink into it.
“It’s adorable, Mom,” I squealed.
“Very chic,” Scarlett agreed.
We stopped at a diner for lunch before then hitting downtown Twin Falls. While I wouldn’t call Mom stingy, normally she was very careful about spending. But with this trip careful Mom went out the window. If we saw something we liked, she added it to our cart or picked it up. After a particularly expensive stop Scarlett finally asked, “Mom, are you sure we can afford all this?”
“Of course,” Mom replied. “I wouldn’t have brought you here if we couldn’t. I’ve been putting away for a special weekend with you girls for a while. I just kept putting off actually planning it.”
The day continued and after checking in at our hotel, Mom checked the weather reports for the next day. “It should be warm enough we can go to Shoshone Falls tomorrow. We’ll do some hiking, look around and just enjoy the day. After dinner, we’ll go the movies. There’s a cute kid’s movie out that would be fun to see.”
“Sounds good, Mom,” Scarlett replied. “How did you manage to do all this planning yesterday?”
“Sleep is for kids, right?” Mom teased. “I stayed up most of the night looking at what options were available. Which is why tonight I’m heading to bed early.”
“I thought you said sleep was for kids,” Scarlett teased.
“I can be a kid if I want and this kid needs her sleep,” Mom retorted with a smile. “You girls can stay up if you want, just keep the volume down.”
Scarlett and I went into the parlor of our suite and chatted quietly. Just as we were getting ready to call it a night, Scarlett’s phone buzzed. She looked at it and then frowned.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Josiah just texted me. Sheriff Henley caught John McFinney. He’s holding him overnight for questioning in relation to the attack and the fire.” She looked up at me with a slight smile. “This whole nightmare might be over soon.”
I wanted to believe her, but something inside me whispered that we weren't in the clear yet.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius