The wagon train filled a good part of the road that led out of Fort Concho. The sun had not yet risen, but there was plenty of commotion--horses neighing, mules braying, teamsters yelling at each other, Lieutenant Overton trying to arrange his raw recruits into some sort of line, hasty goodbyes, last minute additions to the freight, including sacks of mail and dispatches sent by Colonel Mackenzie.
Clay sat atop his big wagon and observed the scene with some enjoyment. He was all charged up and anxious to get going, looking over at the lieutenant, who would be yelling orders to move out any minute now. Then he felt a tug at his sleeve. Looking down he saw Hannah, lips pressed together, trying to smile. She handed him a small bag. He took it, then reached down and lifted her up to him with one arm, planting a passionate kiss upon her lips, eliciting a flurry of catcalls from his buddies. She fiercely grabbed onto him and whispered into his ear. “Take care, darlin’!” He let her back down and she ran off, hand over her mouth, and disappeared into the crowd.
Clay kept looking after her, then turned to the bag on his seat. She had packed him a lunch of fried chicken, some carrots and pickles and an apple. A small bouquet of freshly picked Indian paintbrush was wrapped in moistened paper. And a small envelope. When he opened it, a small picture of Hannah fell out and onto the dusty ground. Clay leapt off the wagon and quickly retrieved it. He jumped back up and unfolded a small piece of paper from inside the envelope. A single sentence: “Come back to me. Hannah.”
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