LOVE SWEET HOME
Mail Ordered Bride Romance Fiction Novella
© Copyright Cupideros, Monday, August 17, 2015
11, 408 Words



Description:
When Starr Oakes wants to move out West and become Rex's Mail Ordered Bride events get out of hand until destiny and fate make a way for Love Sweet Home. 




CHAPTER 1

Friday, October 6, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Carriage Ride Downtown, Chicago
Morning


Stubborn, twenty-five-year-old Chicago Socialite Starr Oakes hated being dishonest as she rode in her carriage to downtown Chicago from Superior Street where they lived in a mansion.  It tore at her heart.  She covered her lovely straight-black hair, shoulder-length hair with a cute little peach and blue boater hat.  The hat accentuated her beautiful flat forehead, her long nose and her cute-oval face.  Starr Oakes' small mouth had thinned flattop lips; lips that kissed only one-man, Kedric Jones, a man she loathe.  Big, arrogant, a junior lawyer who desperately wanted her hand in marriage and he was willing to wait for Starr to give in to despair.  He was the exact duplicate of her Dad's personality. 

"Stop at the Hinna's Fashion dress shop at the corner, Charles.  I plan on visiting a friend and shopping for an hour.  You can wait or go to the park and come back if you want." 
“Thank you, Ms. Oakes.  I'll go to the park and feed the pigeons."
Starr smiled back at Charles.  Then she struggled to climb out of her black carriage.  To her surprise, she was actually getting the handle of the frumpier stylist bustle attachment of her blue and white dress.  The peach ribbons on the skirt and bodice at the back of her bustle, she adored, best, however. 

Hinna's dress shop, which had a big spacious interior and several entrances and exit, provided the perfect subterfuge.  Starr spoke to the salesclerk for a second.  Then she turned back to see if Charles had driven away.  Starr thanked the salesclerk for her dress suggestions and told her to wrap it.  "I'll be back in a few minutes."  Starr quickly walked to the South side, away from the Chicago Park and exited Hinna's Fashions.  She hailed another carriage.
"Take me to the Lake Chicago Bank please."
"Yes, Ma'am!” exclaimed the man as he took her fare. 

Starr gave him a generous tip under the understanding that he'd keep his mouth shut.  She'd seen her Dad employ the move several times at business luncheons as a growing teenager.  Under the best of conditions, shewould tell her powerful lawyer dad, Derral Oakes, and her stay-at-home mom, Patrisha Oakes, why she planned to withdrawal half her savings from the family bank, Lake Chicago Bank.  It was her money.  And she needed it soon to make the trip to Jada, California to be with her Mail-Ordered-Husband, Rex Hassa.  His picture burned in her mind: triangular face, dark sandy brown hair, happy eyes and blonde mustache.  He said he has to constantly shave to keep the stubble off his chin.

Her Dad disapproved of the Mail-Ordered Bride arrangement.  An arrangement concluded over the past five months, suspense filled months.  Back and forth, she and Rex sent letters: love letters declaring their affection, sharing their likes and dislikes, revealing finally that Rex owned and ran a successful mining camp in the town of Jada, California. 


Staring out the window, Starr was jostled from side to side, as the carriage ran over the cobblestones.  Starr Oakes smiled a knowing smile to herself.  Sophisticated Chicago I'm going to miss you.  This place where marriage prospects abounded, this big town, rightfully, any girl love to visit and find her beau.   But this is not the place for me.  I love the country.  I want to live on a farm. 

Why her Dad disapproved didn't surprise her.  He grew up near Sutter, California and the 1849 gold strike.  Derral Oakes hated the place.  He called the men lawless hooligans with no morals or intelligence, except in spending gold coins.  Her Dad went on tirades about Starr negotiating behind his back.  "To think you've practically auctioned yourself off like a whore!" he vented.

Starr told him that Mail-Order Brides was a common phenomenon; something lots of women did who wanted to get married; women who wanted to go West and live on open land and space.  She had answered Rex Hassa's Mail-Ordered Bride right out of the Chicago Tribune.  Rex Hassa ran the mining camp; he wasn't one of the scoundrels mining and spending his brief gained nuggets of gold.  If her dad had to weigh the two, Mail Ordered Bride section and the Stock information and business news section, he’d chosen stocks and business every time.  That is what the Chicago Tribune meant to her dad, Derral Oakes.  He'd never seen the Mail Ordered Bride section.  He didn't care.

Starr's mom sympathized and felt Starr's lonely anguish. Patrisha Oakes knew what twenty-five-years old felt like--old maid.  Her mom at twenty-five gave birth to her only child, Starr.  That's what old maid felt like--one chance to have a child.  Several miscarriages happened to her mom, but no one talked about that.  And if Starr inherited her mom's genes, like Darwin insisted in his Origin of the Species, time slowly slipped away.  Starr, the old maid, probably forever forfeited her chance to have a child.   So she determined to go after what she wanted most.  Destiny was the watch in her left hand, and she often consulted it to guide her life.  Fate, unfortunately in her right hand, came along as the twin Nemesis of Destiny. 

The fateful-five-year Civil War conflict burned up Starr's best years for marriage, fifteen to nineteen.  Dying, blown to bits, crippled or missing eligible men didn't make good marriage prospects at all.  Go West; get married there, Starr's gut told her.  And Starr determined to go out West and make a new life. 
"Lake Chicago Bank, Miss."
"Thank you.  Will you please wait for the return trip?  I'll pay you generously for that as well."
"Yes, Ma'am!"



CHAPTER 2


Friday, October 6, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Carriage Ride Downtown, Chicago
Morning


Starr went into the bank.  "I'd like to withdrawal half of my money and send it to the Bank of Northside."
"I don't know whether that is such a good idea, Ms. Oakes.  Your dad's money practically runs this bank."
Starr smiled sweetly.  Messes only her typical dad managed to create.  "That's why I want to move it to my new bank."  Starr brown eyes stared hard at the balding banker.  He was a short man who wielded power by holding on to people's money. 
He moved very slow and handed Starr a withdrawal slip.
"In fact, I want to move my money half to my new bank.  I'll take the other half in bills."
The short-baldheaded banker's jaw dropped.  "That’s not a very wise--"
"Diversification is the smartest financial move one can make, right?"
He stammered.  "Well . . . at least not all of the money is in one bank."  He seemed relieved to know that competing banks lost out on the majority of Starr Oakes considerable holdings.  And Starr knew her Dad's ruthlessness in finances.  He'd go to the other bank.  He’d demand her money be frozen.
"The financial transaction--to--to move the money--to your new bank will be done by five p.m. today.  As for the rest, he turned and nodded to a young handsome looking clerk."
The young clerk brought out a black bag from behind the gated windows of the bank. "The Balance, Ms. Oakes.  Do come back if you decide to change your mind."
"I will," Starr smiled sweetly again and lied.  She needed to control the chaos to erupt when her dad found out of the withdrawal.  Derral Oakes turned vicious when people crossed him--family member or not. 

Starr walked out of the bank a free woman.  Of course, she had wealthy Rex Hassa, her Mail Ordered Husband to count on, but having one's own wealth topped all.  She did.  And if going to the mining camp turned out as bad as her dad predicted, the extra funds provided the perfect back up plan.
"Take me to the West Bank of Chicago."  Starr handed the carriage driver the fare and another generous tip.

Minutes later, Starr had deposited two-thirds of the money in her real new bank. 
"Thank you for joining our bank.  We offer several advantages over traditional banks such as the ability to wire money across the states,"
"Thank you.  I don't think that'll be necessary, though."
The bank clerk had round spectacles and a full head of brown hair.  Starr didn't know why bankers all had brown hair.  Maybe brown hair meant conservative or secure.

Really happy, Starr rode the carriage back to Hinna's Fashion dress shop and entered the South door.  She picked up her new pink day gown and walked out the front.
"How were the pigeons, Charles?"
"Anxious.  Nervous.  I've never seen them like that."


"Home, Charles."
"Will you be going to the ball at the theater tonight?"
"I don't know, Charles," Starr said with a real happy smile on her face now.  "I supposed I'll be expected to show my pretty face."
"Mr. and Mrs. Oakes said they'll be staying in.  Just thought I'd ask."

Starr adjusted the new dress box on the seat beside her.  Slowly she gained the upper hand over the new bustle dresses ability to complicate her entering and exiting her private carriage.  "Kedric will pick me up, Charles.  So you can have the night off."
"That'll be great Ms. Oakes."

Starr stared out the window on the ride home.  You're move dad.  You won't keep me here in Chicago for long.  Just three more days and I'll be eloping to Jada, California land of grapes, mining camps, and my new love sweet home. 



***


Starr went to the ball and danced with Kedric.  One of them had a wonderful time.  It wasn't Starr.  Every moment she thought about Rex Hassa and how she missed him.  Sometimes to ease her lonely feelings, she kissed his triangular face picture.  His last letter came one week ago.  Running a mining company involved a lot of hours, Star assumed now.  Until she got pregnant, and she expected to get pregnant right away, most of her days consist of learning the town of Jada.  Starr, from Rex's letters, had quite a lively little place to negotiate.  They had a small school and Rex planned on opening an orphanage for the children whose parents had left them, abandoned them.  Mining took its toil and some people got tired of paying ten dollars for a loaf of bread, thirty dollars for a meal, fifty dollars for clean washed clothes by a Chinese immigrant whose language the miners didn't understand.  When they got tired they just left.  Rex said he knew a lot of people in Jada.  Starr figured the mine employed the most people, majority of Jada's population.  That in a sense made Rex an even bigger power broker than her dad, Derral. 

Had the power gone to Rex's head, too?  Did his ex-girl friend, Janny Nuzzi's spontaneous nature, the cause of their breakup, still inspire Rex's feelings? Her mind grew increasingly busy worrisome about the relationship to be, before it even happened.   In his mind, Starr Oakes, perhaps, might be just another woman to know and use.  She didn't think of herself that way.  In her mind, Rex spoke the truth and cared for her.  He wanted nothing more than to love her with all his heart. 



CHAPTER 3


Sunday, October 8, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Home of Derral and Patrisha Oakes
Evening


Starr Oakes opened the door laughing and smiling.  Kendric her boyfriend held onto her elbow.  They just returned from the theater seeing a play about love and marriage.  Starr had her train ticket to Jada California in her purse. 
"In the den," her dad, Derral, spoke.
"Shall I escort you to the den?" Kendric joked.
"I think indeed you shall," Starr replied. 

Starr knew better than to try to spoil her last three days in Chicago.  On the ninth of October, she'd be on her way to Jada California for good or bad.  "Mom and dad, we had a wonderful time," continued Starr as she sat down and started removing her wrist length black lace gloves.  "I was just telling Kendric that Victoria Woodhull will be running for President of United States next year.  She'd get my vote, if I had one.  Women will not sit by and be coddled like children as this century ends.  Elizabeth Blackwell had already proven women will not faint if they study hard; she got her medical doctor's degree in 1846.  Women do more than just walk around looking pretty.  We write books and take photographs, invent things.  Being a housewife, is the least of the things women were capable of doing."
Derral, her dad, smiled.  "Then I suspect you've changed your mind about this Mail Ordered Bride nonsense," he chuckled, and then offered a glass of Sherry to Kendric. 
Kendric Jones took the glass and gulped it down to Starr's obvious disgust.  Her mom turned her face away back to her Godey's Lady's Book Magazine.
"I tabled the matter for a while," Starr artfully dodged her dad's accusations. Once she eloped, her dad, mom and Kendric simply adjust to their new lives.
"Then Kendric has something to ask you."  Derral nodded to Starr's dad as if they were in court.
Kendric cleared his throat and got down on one knee.  One big knee since he stood six feet, two inches tall.  He weighed about two hundred and ten pounds, but all of his weight looked like muscle.  "I know this isn't sudden, but, Starr I've been pursuing you for three years now. Will you marry me?"
"I knew he'd propose soon, dear Starr. Answer, yes."
Starr's jaw dropped open.  Looking past Kendric toward her dad, Starr quickly composed herself and let out a big laugh.  She shook her head from side to side.  "Ha hahahahaha. Surely you're joking Kendric."  Starr took off her green and peach small boater hat.  She'd tied her straight black hair up in an updo.  She wore a dark-blue bodice with dark-blue bustle skirt.  She put the boater hat on the small divan beside her chair; then she adjusted herself in the luxury burgundy chair.  "Mom these bustle dresses do give us a bit of trouble?"
Kendric had fire in his eyes, but he acted civil.  "Starr?"


Derral jumped up.  "I've had enough of this Starr Elizabeth Oakes."  He came forward in his gray bow tie on his wingtip white shirt, charcoal ambassador vest with a silver watch chain attached.   He continued his conservative dress with black pants and shoes.  Starr's latest delay and deflect tactic broke the usual composure on his square face, more than annoyed at Starr's latest delay tactic.  His stiff arms flanked his sides as he stood near to Kendric.  "This exceptional young man possesses every quality for a society lady."
"Then let him go and marry that other societal lady."  Starr turned to Kendric.  In a clever and subtle move, she closed Kendric's two hands with her own, shrouding the glittery large diamond ring inside the tiny felt black box.  "I like you Kendric.  You're great for going to shows, theaters, picnics."  She let her pretty brown eyes fix on Kendric's small hurt gray eyes.  But I am going to marry Rex Hassa.  I am going to Jada California."
Derral reached inside his right pocket as if to check his watch.  "You won't be catching a train to anywhere."  He waved the train ticket.  "See this train ticket."  Derral ripped it in two pieces.  "Wasted money.  Wasted time.  He threw it to the floor and Starr's mom rushed over to pick the torn paper up.  "Derral you said we wait until tomorrow to confront her with this.  She's our only daughter."
"And our only daughterhas got to learn to obey," Derral said turning back to Starr after lecturing his wife.  "Now the money you shifted to your Bank of Northside is frozen.  So I don't know how you're going to live in that--that cesspool of a mining town, Nada."
"Jada," Starr said firmly in an even tone.  Her oval face looked peeved, but she expected this.  Twelve years old, she was not, not anymore.  But something endless petty directed her dad to meddle in her life.  "That's my money dad," Starr continued knowing the escalating battle had a good side.  It deflected attention away from Kendric's obvious humiliation. 
"I bought that shabby little Bank of Northside.  The manager's explicit instructions are to get my signature before a penny is withdrawn.  No daughter of mine is going to ruin her life.  Just throw it away on a mythical mining company owner in a town that doesn't exist on the map."
Starr jumped up, entirely fed up.  "Who gave you the right to go through my things?  My bedroom.  I am twenty-five years old.  And Jada exist!"  Starr pulled out the cherished Mail Ordered Bride letters from her oblong blue rose purse.  "How come I have a postmark on my letters?"




CHAPTER 4


Sunday, October 8, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Home of Derral and Patrisha Oakes
Evening


Eyes cast down looking at the floor, Kendric finally hopped up.  "We've--I've checked and double-checked, Starr."  Kendric shook his big rectangular mountain man face. 
"You're a lawyer Kendric.  How do you explain these postal marks?"  She gave him a good look, but withdrew them before her dad attempted to transform them into fire fodder.  "I have a picture of Rex Hassa."
"Chicanery comes in all forms," Derral added. 
"I'll bet, dad!  What else did you halt or prevent?  She probed nervously.  If he found out about the West Bank of Chicago, her real treasure she counted on if Jada turned out to be a shame, she was done for.  Churning began to flip flop her stomach as if it were that time of the month, only she wasn't due for two weeks.  Rex Hassa had to be real.  He said he'd meet her at the train station.  "Since you won't treat me like an adult, I'll just be going now."
"Where to?" Kendric pleaded.
"Starr!  Don't you leave this house!  You have no money!  You'll be back by morning," her dad, Derral shouted. 
Patrisha tried to hush Derral.  "Starr's a smart girl.  Tricking her for five months isn't possible, Derral."
That was the last thing Starr's two ears heard as she stormed out the den and opened the front door and slammed it behind her.

Starr ran her head bowed down, in tears crying.  As she ran toward the barn from the front, Charles, in his brown pants, white shirt and brown bow tie, coming from the barn where he parked the carriage in a rush ran inside the side servants entrance of the house screaming, "Fire!  Fire broke out on the Southwest side of town!"  Maybe Charles didn't see her in the darkness around their mansion home? Wide open, he left the barn doors standing as if he'd be back.  Their big mansion house looked intact.  Starr's brown eyes blurred, but she blinked several times.  What fire?  Wherever the fire happened, it happened far, far away from Superior Street of Chicago.  Sitting in the black carriage collecting her thoughts, Starr Oakes reassured herself.  She pulled out the Mail Ordered Bride letters.  "This can't be a mistake or chicanery.  All the strange workings and characters in Jada, California in Rex's letters defied the imagination.  The gold mine might be using up the last of the gold vein and have to close.  His glorious mansion house overlooked the small growing town of Jada, California; it stood on the hill on the outskirts of town.  All of that couldn't be made up even if Rex tried.  Her dad and Kendric just kept pushing one more and another lie to keep me under their thumb." 

Charles hadn't rushed back out and Starr refused to rush back in.  After waiting for a minute, she hopped up and practically hauled herself into the stage seat and clicked the reins of the black horses.  In a rush of unanticipated reaction, the two horses sped out of the barn into the night as Charles screamed in the background, "Come back Starr. Chicago is on fire!  It's dangerous to be out!"

But Starr had turned the corner to exit the Oakes estate and drive into downtown Chicago.  She only had one more day to wait.  By eleven o'clock tomorrow, Rex Hassa's train came in and she'd and he'd elope to Jada, California.  One night wasn't too long to wait for a lifetime of the bliss of starting a new love life, new marriage and her new family. 



CHAPTER 5


The two horses’ manes flow back, whipping, behind them as Starr rode at high speed away from her troubles.  All she thought about was the insolence of her dad's arrogance.  Kendric’s sad, hurt face pulled at her heartstrings to reconsider her choices.  Choices already made, and once Starr put herself on destiny's path, she rarely reconsidered.  Reading romances taught her one thing as a teenager: those books never grasp the essence of a real-life love relationships.  It is not the start of love that makes a romance; it is the maintaining of a love that creates a love relationship. Trouble, fights, accusations, obstacles, struggles, paired to healings, making up, calling a truce of peace and healthy compromises to understand one's husband or wife defined love. 

More than once, to avoid hitting people, her black carriage almost turned over.  Too many people ran suddenly out into the night, the Chicago streets shouting fire, fire!  Starr turned her head this way and that.  She saw no fire.  Not a single building burned, smolder or even smoked.  She kept riding until she reached the First Chicago Hotel.  She parked, ran inside to reserve a room for the night.
"I need a room for one."
"Just one."
"Just me."
"We have rules about renting a room for one female."
"Surely, you don't claim I am one of those girls," Starr Oakes looked herself up and down to reemphasize the point. 

The hotel clerk, had a full head of hair, he wore round spectacles, gold rim, and had big ears.  His black silk puff tie, white shirt, aqua vest, and pants all screamed respectability.  Around the sleeves, he wore black sleeve garters, to adjust the sleeve length.  "I'm under strict orders not to allow women alone."
"I'm Starr Oakes.  You've heard--” Starr cut herself off.  "Thank you.  Youare not the blame for stupid unfair rules toward women.  Victoria Woodhull is running for President next year and if she wins, we'll be seeing a lot of changes."
The First Chicago Hotel clerk looked puzzled, as if he had never heard of a lady running for president of America.

Starr turned to leave.

"Please be careful, uhm, Miss.  Chicago is on Fire!"
Starr turned around slowly.  "People keep shouting it out, but I haven't seen one ember or glowing flick of flame yet."
"These things start slow.  Some say it started on the Southwest side of town, in a farm stable, fire moving rapidly, leaping from building to building, like a high-wire circus performer street to street, torching everything in its murderous path."
"Our mansion is constructed of fireproof bricks."
"This hotel is too.  The buildings burning all over Chicago near downtown are made of fireproof bricks supposedly." 

Starr realized Charles had been shouting fire, fire about Chicago as a whole.  She threw her hand over her mouth and turned to leave.  "Thank you for the warning."  The screams and shouts continued as Starr climbed back up the carriage.  Her bustle dress did not help matters.  If she became careless, she'd go up like a bale of hay.


Starr went from hotel to hotel.  Her choices dwindled until finally, she climbed down, soot on her face from touching a dirty street lamp pole, and she entered what looked like a seedy hotel of ill repute. 
"I'd like a room, please."
"Better to be in a fireproof building than in a home right now," the hotel clerk smirked and looked her up and down.  "You want a single or a double," the leer he gave her turned Starr's stomach.
"I'm on my way out of town in the morning.  I'm getting married."  Starr signed the book, Mrs. Jones, afraid of her dad constant halting strategies.  He might stop her from getting on the train somehow.
"Married are we," said the tall thin hotel clerk with an Irish accent.  "Right this way, Miss. I'm married.  But if, you want some company."
Starr, tired and exhausted from listening to people shout fire, and dodging them with her carriage and horses, turned around in a burst of energy and slapped him with her black lace gloves.  "I am a lady, Sir!"
The thin hotel clerk grimaced.  "Sorry.  I misunderstood."

Starr nodded and followed the man to the lift.  She avoided any further eye contact.  She saw a man with a sleeveless T-shirt on roaming the hall the hotel clerk stopped the lift on.  "It's right this way.  I wouldn't come out until morning Miss."  He turned the key, and gave her the spare.  "You should be okay for the night.  You can look out the window to see if the fire is getting closer.  Keep the door close and maybe they'll have put the fire out by morning.  We have a very good fire department in Chicago.  Lots of them fought in the great Civil War."

Starr closed the door and almost fainted.  Her room had one lightbulb, one round table and one mattress thrown haphazardly against the wall. The small window let out to a small balcony.  Some good that'd do her if the fire came.  "God please help your servant," pleaded Starr Oakes before she shook off the half-clean sheet and plopped down on the bed falling fast asleep.




CHAPTER 6


Monday, October 9, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Downtown Chicago Hotel
Morning


Starr woke up to a banging on her door. 
"Fire!  Fire!"
Starr looked around outside the window and saw smoke.  She flung open the door and saw the man in the sleeveless T-shirt, staring and leering at her.  Starr flung the door closed only the man stuck his foot it in.  "I'm just warning you Miss.  Fire is consuming Chicago."
"Let go!" Starr kicked his ankle as he screamed in pain, until he removed it and before he reacted, she slammed the door close.  "This building is fireproof."
The grimy man yelled, "So are all the other Chicago buildings burning up like leaves!"

Starr looked out the window.  He was right.  Storefront after storefront had the yellow and red flames licking out the windows.  Starr grew afraid.  People ran out into the streets.  They stood there, caught up in the spectacle, unknowing what to do.  It was morning thank goodness, though.

Knock! Knock!  Knock!  "The building is on fire.  Get out!"
"I'm not leaving!" Starr shouted.
"It's the hotel clerk!"
Throwing the door open, Starr looked exasperated.  "Someone--"
"I sent him to get everyone on this floor out of the building.  I assigned one long-term tenant on every floor to do so.  Come, we don't have much time!"

Starr had nothing, so she just walked out of the grimy third-rate hotel.  In the street crowd, the sleeveless T-shirt man ambled up to her.  "I told you the truth."
He smelled like liquor now.  "I saved your life, you owe me--something!"
The sleeveless man leered. 
Starr yelled, "Hotel clerk!" 
When the sleeveless T-shirt man turned and backed away, Starr fled toward her carriage only to find someone had stolen it, the horses. 

Unable to flee, she looked for someone of respectability.  Seeing a man in a yellow ascot tie, blackjacket, pants and boots on his red horse, she asked, "Are you going to the train station?"
"Train station?  That might be a safe place to be.  Hop on!"
"Thank you."  Getting on a horse astride became next to impossible.
"Hold on.  I hope your husband is not around."  He leaned down and grabbed Starr by her waist.  He hoisted her up onto his lap, sidesaddle on his red horse.  "There."

He took off galloping at such a high speed. 
"Only way to make the people make way," he half-laughed. 
Starr felt uncomfortably close to the man's anatomy.  She held onto the shoe of the saddle though as they jostled together down the cobble streets toward the train station.  Holding on to her oblong blue rose purse, she asked, "Do you know what time it is, Sir?"
"Nearly eleven o'clock."
"Gosh! I'm going to miss my train."
"What did you say?" as the gentleman gathered up speed.  "I'm nearly late for my train, too."


All-around Starr, buildings crumbled like paper lanterns.  The fire moved like a creature grabbing structure after structure, park benches, storefront windows, clothes, and steps, alleys burned in yellow and red, as the stranger made his way through the maze of clear streets.  Finally, they reached the train station. 

"You can survive here for a short while I think."
"I can."  Starr sighed.  She brushed off as much soot, dirt as she could and went into the train station.  As she was leaving for the train depot, she heard a man asks, "Where can I find this address Superior Street?  My fiancé lives there.  I'm supposed to meet her--"
The stranger scratched his head, "Superior Street?"
Starr heard her street mentioned.
"Superior Street is in flames by now, Sir."
Starr turned around.  From the pictures he'd sent her, Starr recognized Rex.  "Rex!"
"Starr!  Starr Oakes!"

Starr and Rex pushed people out of the way as they fought to make their destinies their fate.  Starr launched herself into his strong able arms.  "Rex!  I've had such an ordeal last night."
"Are you safe?  Did anyone harm you?"  He carefully looked over her soot smudged pretty oval face.  He took out his white handkerchief from his gold vest and wiped her face and pretty forehead clean again.  He kissed her forehead.  "There you're all better now."
Starr started sobbing.  "My parents.  I fear they are gone, Rex."
"You want to go back to your house?"
Starr shook her head no.  Then yes.  Then no. 
"The man said Superior Streets up in flames.  Starr, if they're still there, they couldn't survive.  The fire is everywhere."
Starr nodded.  "Let's get the train to Jada.  My dad tried to stop me from leaving.  He tore up my train ticket."  Starr began opening her oblong blue rose purse.
"I have enough money for us to get home--to Jada."
She pulled out her train ticket.
"I thought."
"I bought two tickets just in case.  Dad tore up the one I had left in my bedroom.  I had to--" Starr began to cry.  "I'll tell you all about everything later.  Let us get out of Chicago to Jada, California.



CHAPTER 7


Monday, October 9, 1871
Northside, Chicago, IL
Downtown Chicago
Train Station
Mid-Morning


Starr and Rex boarded the train.
"We will be diverting the train to the less populated, fire trouble spots.  You will reach your destinations on time."

Rex sat across from Starr in the train compartment.  "I think they'll let us sit together," he said.
"They'd better," Starr joked.  All of Starr's dreams started coming true again.  Twenty-four hours ago, her life crumbled into a rubbish heap.  "This day is a new time for Love Sweet Home."
Rex looked out the window.  "That's a ghastly blaze, a living creature consuming everything in its path.  Too bad Chicago wasn't built of fireproof bricks."
Starr stared out her window taking in the spectacle.  "Those are fireproof bricks!"
He turned to her astonished.  "What happened?"
"Fate, Rex.  Fate."

Starr closed her eyes and cried.  She muffled her face into her two folded arms.
Rex pulled down the window shades.  "Don't look any more, Starr.  It's all over.  You're going to a new, better place.  Here . . . here."  He sat next to her and pulled her sobbing face into his barrel chest. 



CHAPTER 8


Sunday, October 15, 1871
Los Angeles, California
Train Station
Mid-Afternoon


Days later, the train stopped off in Los Angeles.
"We can catch a coach from here to Jada, California."
"My dad said Jada, California is not on any maps.'"  Starr face showed her determination. 

"My carriage is just a block down the street."  He pointed to the finest carriage Starr Oakes ever laid eyes on.  The carriage practically had rhinestones trimming.  "Diamonds."
Rex chuckled, "Glass, but I'd like to go in style and advertise the town's wealth.  I always try to keep the people entering the town, instead of leaving.  That there is Tommy Barnes.  "Hey Tommy, not too long a wait?"
"No boss.  You're train arrived right on time."
"Tommy is your second-in-command?"  Starr whispered the rest, "The lonely man who wants to follow in your footsteps."
"I'll let him too.  Not just yet, I have to keep running things for now. 
Starr observed Tommy appeared worse than Rex's description.  Tommy's anguished bony tan face looked as if he overworked in the gold mines.  His amber eyes looked bright enough and his brown and curly hair alone gave away his youthful age of thirty. A gold Lombardy silk vest, a Cartesian red ascot tie, white shirt and black pants and boots Tommy wore.
Rex opened the carriage door for Starr to get inside, "Tommy is the best-dressed man in Jada, California.  Isn't that right, Tommy?"
"That's right, next to you, Rex."
Rex started to get inside but stopped.
"How's the gold vein holding up?"
"We had better find something in a year of two, Boss."
Rex grinned.  "Have faith Tommy boy.  Have faith," said Rex as he entered the rhinestone decorated black carriage, too, and banged on the front side of the carriage.  Tommy clicked the reins of the two black horses.
Starr jerked backward, "Wee!"
"Tommy drives very fast, too."
"You sold me, Rex," Starr laughed.  "I never believed my, dad, though.  You're too real in your letters to have made any of it up.  The little fourteen years old who wanted to be an outlaw, Lydia--"
"Lydia Best.  She's real and you'll get a chance to meet her.  Fastest gun in Jada, but a bit hot tempered."
"I founded the town, and we need to reach a certain population before we can get on the map."


Starr chuckled.  "I'm not crazy after all.  And the mustache and goatee preacher that goes around proclaiming the word of god."
"Paulson Paylor.  He's going to marry us soon as we arrive.  I’ve got the Rex Hotel lobby all decked out and pretty for you, Starr."
"You're amazing.  But it can't all be good.  Everyone's life has trials."
"You are calling me a liar?" He leaned back away from Starr for just a second.  "I don't know what your dad told you, as a lawyer.  He knows about population and map requirements."
"In your letters you never said you founded the town of Jada!"  Starr’s eyes went blank from adulation and concern.   Had fate just delivered her into a bigger battle?  Her dad, Derral used his position and influence to her detriment.  Would Rex Hassa do the same if they disagreed?  He glossed over the trials.  She did have her money in the West Bank of Chicago, if it didn't burn down.  In spite of her happiness, her gut told her Rex had a lot on his plate and she'd merely be an accessory to his life unless he made time for her. 
"Founding the town isn't the hard part, Starr.  Keeping it alive and going is." 

They rode through a flat, treeless wilderness for a while and finally reached civilization again.  A small civilization cut into the valley of Southern California.
"Jada, California!" Tommy Barnes called out.
Rex Hassa turned to look outside the windows for a second.  "And you Miss Starr Elizabeth Oakes didn't tell me you were so darn pretty either.   I don't know whether I want the miners seeing you.  Your small oval mouth, thin, flattop lips and smart brown eyes.  Lovely black hair, just plain pretty, plain pretty as you can be Starr."

Starr blushed for the first time in her life.  "Thank you for the compliment."
"Nah, never mind."  He grinned and opened wide his own gentle brown eyes.  "I'm just glad your mine.  The miners can be an ornery bunch around women, but you’re my woman so they'll all behave themselves, except for Arun Stell."
"Arun Stell.  You mentioned him once, I think."
"Nah.  Maybe, I didn't because he and I are feuding over the entire town.  I may have to kill him one day.  Just so you know, Starr."

West, California was beginning to live up to its reputation.  Starr hated violence, but she knew it was necessary at times--the Great Civil War proved that.  However, she wanted a life in Jada with Rex alive, not six feet under.  "I can't think of a better man to run the town than you, Rex."  Starr bent forward and planted a big soft kiss on Rex's lips.

"Now that is a welcome, never to forget." 



CHAPTER 9


Sunday, October 15, 1871
Jada, California
Carriage Ride into Jada
Afternoon


Jada was a town, more like a strip of a town with buildings lining up on both sides.  Rex pointed out the various spots of interest.  The Rex Hotel held all the upper-class people, fine people, who you might see in ascot, bow or puff silk neckties.  Hotel Arun possessed all the gamblers and hardened miner men looking to blow off steam after selling their gold.  They rarely wore neckties.  Vigilante pants and work shirts for this bunch.  The livery stable held their horses and sat next to Hotel Arun.  Sheriff Eddie Wellham's office sat beside Rex Hotel.  Next to the Rex Hotel stood the post office run by Rex himself.  After Jenny Nuzzi, Rex's ex, split-up she went to worked Arun's Hotel.  Jenny didn't like Arun, but she didn't like Rex either from what Rex said.

Starr listened to the layout of the town in horror.  "It's like a family feud."
"No it's not!" Rex laughed.  "Most people are good natured."
"Rev. Paulson wouldn't think so."
"That's because it is his job to make people feel miserable and turn to God."
Starr laughed.  "People need God."
"God's grace put these other buildings across from those."

On the other side of the street, an orphanage ran by Paulson worked on and off as the children needed a female hand and more financial support.  Glenda Royal wanted to spruce up the barn structure.  Miners destitute runoff and leave their children to be raised by the Glenda.  Rev. Paulson Paylor spent all his time preaching to the town between moments of stark quietness and contemplation.  He paced around holding his Bible and praying for the lost souls of Jada.  He never bothered with Los Angeles, which committed worse sins, because those were not his flock.  His church sat beside the orphanage.  Lydia spent her time in Arun's Hotel trying out her shooting skills, and trying to build a reputation as a killer outlaw.  Ibbe ran the local grocery store, next to the Church, but it was Rex who brought in most of the foodstuff.  He allowed her to sell it and keep the profits.  His miners needed to eat good foods for their hard work during the day.  The Chinese quarter, run by Wang, held sixteen people who washed the miner's clothes for a hefty price of two dollars per shirt, four dollars per pants, five dollars per socks and jackets.  They also ironed people's clothes.  Chinese quarter followed the Ibbe's grocery store.  Rumby's Saloon welcomed newcomers who didn't want to associate with the two most powerful men in Jada, Rex and Arun.  Rumby's Saloon flanked the Chinese Quarter.  Wyth’s mining shop kept the men's equipment repaired.  Lydia's Best mom ran the local restaurant call Best Jada Cooking.  Zoe wanted Lydia to follow in her footsteps and become a cook, but the fourteen-year-old was having none of it.

"That reminds me, Starr.  I want you to do me a favor."
"If I can.  Where do we stay at?"
Rex pointed, “The big house on the hill."
"All the other houses scattered around the town?"
"Everyone else's houses."  Rex turned back to Starr.  "We're in the midst of the biggest population boom in our five-year history."
"Five years!"
"Starr it takes years to grow a small town into a big city.  It’s not like growing the stubble on my chin,” Rex rubbed his chin.   “But we will get there, though.  I have faith in God."



CHAPTER 10


Sunday, October 15, 1871
Jada, California
Downtown
Afternoon


Rex jumped out when he saw Rev. Paulson emerge from his church.  He wore the same dusty black frock jacket to his waist and a different white shirt and black pants and shoes.  "Rev. Paulson?"
"Yes, son.  How can the Lord help you?"  Rev. Paulson Paylors’ straight, ear length black hair looked unkempt and rushed, just like Rex described in his Mail Ordered Bride letters.  Starr thought the image amusing.  In real life, Rev. Paulson's appearance was even funnier.  He had dead black eyes, gentle looking and drawing one's attention away from his scrawny face.  He spoke really slow and seemed to nod his head every so often as he listened to every word spoken.  "Why that's great, Rex, son!" Rev. Paulson's voice thundered suddenly.  "It's time for the Lord to speak."
"Wait Rev.  I need to get married now.  The Lord wants men and women to get married right?"
"That's the gospel truth.  Bring the little misses out.  We can marry her right here in the street," Rev. Paulson started to amble to the rhinestone black carriage.  His mustache and goatee was the only thing that looks orderly.  "May God Bless this Marriage!" Rev. Paulson's voice thundered suddenly.   In a normal tone, Rev. Paulson commented, "Do you two agree to honor and cherish one another?"
"I do," Starr said, trying to hold back the humor in her voice."
"And you, Rex, son?"
Rex laughed.  "We want to get married in the Rex Hotel.  I got it all decked out and pretty for Miss Starr Oakes from Chicago," Rex pointed to redbrick Rex Hotel, between the Sheriff's Office and the Post Office.  Hanging over the front of the balcony of the Rex Hotel, a white banner read, "Welcome, Love Sweet Home."
"Everywhere is God’s Church!" thundered Rev. Paulson's voice, without even glancing over at the Rex Hotel.  "And he is no respecter of certain persons!  No matter their wealth or position!"
Rex chuckled.  "I do.  I do."
"Then by the power invested in me from All Mighty God!  I pronounce you man and wife!"  He added, rather quietly.  "Son, now go and make babies; this town is in sore need of fresh blood."  Rev. Paulson nodded and walked off toward the hills behind Jada where the mining camps were.  He seemed to be quietly conversing with his maker and talking in whispers.

Starr and Rex Hassa watched Jada's town preacher walk off into the distance in his black frock jacket to his waist, white shirt and black pants and shoes. 
"I guess we're married," Rex said, marveling at Rev. Paulson.
"All that matters, Rex, is God's blessing.  That's all we need."


Rex lifted Starr out of the rhinestone black carriage and carried her to the Rex Hotel.  He stopped for a second."
Halfway across the wide Jada Main Street, Rex stopped.
"Am I, too, heavy?" 

It wasn't like Starr's height different much from Rex.  She stood five feet eight inches to his five feet ten inches.
"Gosh no, Starr, you're only about one hundred and thirty pounds on a bad day.  My nose has an itch.  Do you mine?"
Starr giggled and raised her left hand, but not knowing where to scratch she just pulled out his dirty handkerchief and swiped down the left, right and center of his nose.  "Better?"
"Much?"

When Rex entered the Rex Hotel, a large shout of well worshipers yelled, “Congratulations Rex and Starr.”
Starr almost cried again.  Here in one month, she almost died in the Great Chicago Fire and now the Jada, California townspeople welcomed her like royalty.
"Our royal bride has arrived," said, Sheriff Eddie Wellham.

Rex slowly lowered Starr to the wooden floor of the Rex Hotel.

Starr whispered to Rex. "Is this the sheriff?"
Rex whispered back, "Can't you see his tin star?"
The tin star lay half buried under his black Western tie on the center of his shirt.
Rex turned.  "Eddie why is your badge not on the right breasts, as we agreed?"
"Because, most gunmen shoot for your guts.  It's a bigger target."
Everyone including Starr and Rex laughed.
"I'm married," Rex shouted.
"I couldn't find the preacher," Zoe said.  He was out contemplating or something."
"He married us just a second ago.  Did you hear his thundering voice?"
They all laughed. 
Ibbe quipped, "Thought he was blessing the town again--to grow.  You know."
"Make babies," commented Glenda Royal.

"He told us that, of course.  Never mind."
"I want to see the house, Rex."
Everyone grew quiet.
"Free drinks for all," Rex yelled.  "Starr.  I know you've been through a lot.  You can see the town is real.  The house is real, only--only."
"Only what Rex!"  Starr feared the worse.  He lied.  It wasn't his house.  "Outlaws destroyed it!" she joked.
"Very close."  He paused. 
"He lost the house, to Arun, gambling," answered Sheriff Eddie Wellham.  "I told him one day, Arun spoil his life.  He wanted to take over the town ever since he arrived three years ago."
"Bastard.  I'll win it back in another card game."

Starr thought to herself, So much for Love Sweet Home.  Why had fate suddenly turned again?  What must she do to control her home life?  "I can live in this hotel for a while Rex, but I need a home.  Especially--"
"I know after your ordeal, Starr.  I'm truly sorry."
"Arun can't move in for thirty days though," Eddie Wellham added.
"Why didn't you tell me that, Eddie?"
"You won the house from Arun after he built it.  You know the rules, no contracts are final for thirty days."

"Come on, Starr my beloved.  We have until Monday, November 13th to solve the problem.  I'll show you our home."



CHAPTER 11


Sunday, October 15, 1871
Jada, California
House of Rex and Starr Hassa
Afternoon


Starr found her eyes looking on and on forever.  "This is bigger than my dad's house."
"It's got everything, four full baths, den, living room, swimming pool, exotic furnishing--all French.  Take a look at these fine art paintings from Europe."
"There is the man playing a guitar.  I forget who painted it.  In my house," Starr paused, I had a guitar.  I never learned to play it, though."
"I'll get you a guitar to practice."
"Just living here is a dream, Rex."  She jumped up into his arms and hugged him. They stood almost equal, only, Rex was two inches taller. 
"I spend my time in the living room mostly, working on the mining business papers.  Arun's win caught me off guard."

Starr tried to take it all in.  But she found it difficult.  She started sobbing.  "My family is probably all dead, Rex.  Dead!"
"There . . . there!"  He hugged Starr.  "They didn't want you to fly free, though.  I'll never forget that.  You're a grown woman, Starr Oakes, a smart grown woman."

Starr considered Rex, her new Mail Ordered Husband's words.  "You're so right.  To think, listening to their orders might have killed me." 

They sat down on the dark-green French Settee.  "Starr I love you.  You're smart and I'm blessed to have met you in that pile of Mail Ordered Bride letters.  Starr don't ever leave me, no matter what you hear.  Jada's a small town and people gossip, Starr.  Promise you'll come and get me and don't do anything rash."
"I promise."

Starr wanted to understand him.  For once, she needed to understand Jada.  Arun wouldn't be in a necktie.  She'd be able to tell him by the town photographs in Rex's photography book.  Rex and Starr talked all into the night.  He showed her all the important town people.  "Arun the only one you have to worry about."
"Starr put her hand in Rex's hand in his lap.  "A while back you wanted to ask me a favor."

Rex paused.   He got up and paced.  He strutted.  "Zoe, Lydia's mom, asked me to watch over her wayward daughter, Lydia."
“She doesn't need watching over. Lydia can shoot a gun! You said."
"Yes, but Zoe is worried her only child is going to get killed, by some miner or gunslinger looking for a fight."
"And?"
"Starr you're a lady.  Take Lydia in and clean her up.  Turn her into a lady."
"That little runt with the short blonde hair tied back behind her head, in the boy's jeans and leather tan vest, riding a six-shooter on her hip?"
Rex replied the very same one.

Starr waited.  "Let me think about it.  Give me a day."
Rex replied, "I have to go to bed now.  Tomorrow is a busy day in the mine."
"Hug me, Rex," Starr pleaded. "Just hug me while you drift off to sleep."

They hugged together as they lay in Rex's big wooden four-poster bed.



CHAPTER 12


Tuesday, October 17, 1871
Jada, California
House of Rex and Starr Hassa
Afternoon


Two days flew by and Rex became less and less present in Starr's life.  Starr began to try to tidy up the place, before considering this place belonged to Arun now.  Arun Stell, Rex's nemesis.  Forty years old he also stored a big frame on big bones.  Starr saw him a couple times when she picked up groceries from Ibbe's Grocery Store.  But Starr wanted her own home.  Something had to be done.

Rex came home from the Jada mine.  He rubbed his stubble chin. "Starr honey, so much has happened and I'm trying to work out a deal with Arun." 
Starr set out the dinner plates.  "I made chicken and greens and mashed potatoes.  I scrape together the ingredients for apple pie with sanguine pumpkin spice."
Rex placed his John Derby black hat and matching cutaway coat on the coatrack.  He wore white shirt, red ascot tie tucked under an emerald Middlethrope vest and black pants.  His white shirt had red sleeve garters.
Starr looked up.  "What a handsome beau.  My beau."  Starr’s brown eyes soaked in his refreshing strong presence.  Everything about him reminded her of her nature--womanly nature.  Inside tingling feelings of desire stirred and Starr knew she wanted a child right away.  Of course, all the trouble with Arun held things in check.  "Beau," Starr went around from the other side of the table to Rex.  As her short plump fingers squeezed his hard biceps, she commented. "Those sleeve garters.  Honestly, I can take your measurements and you can dispense with those things.  They're awful."
Rex looked down at his red sleeve garters, used to adjust the shirts length.  His chin rubbed against his red ascot tie.  "No one has ever complained before."
Starr walked away in her light-blue Amelia dress.  The dress flowed with her natural form allowing her to work, bend, and wash clothes as needed.  "That's because you work around a bunch of men."
"Chinese Wang's been supplying my clothes for four years now."  Rex pulled out a chair and sat down.  "Lydia!"
Starr looked up.  "Lydia the outlaw."
Rex waved a dismissive hand while he smiled.  "Lydia is a sweet kid.  I mean she's got the body of a woman at fourteen like any other teenage girl, but you'd never find it under those boys outlaw clothes she wears."
"I ain't coming in.  No Chicago Society Dame is going to take the outlaw gal out of me."
"Get in here Lydia!"
Starr took a step backward as Rex's tone reminded her of Derral, her dad.  Her deceased dad.  Starr rubbed her smooth forehead.  "Rex don't yell at her!"
"What!"  Rex held a fork in his left and a knife in his right.  "She's a child, Starr.  Don't go and accuse me of acting like your tyrannical dad."
"But--you!"
"Lydia!  Get your tail in here.  I promised your, mom, I'd make you a lady."

Silence.

Starr went into the kitchen and put her hands on the sink.  She understood the tugging loyalties her mom faced now.  Love that romantic notion full of snares and traps and repeating motifs.  She barged back into the dining room.  "I won't have you using that tone against Lydia or anyone Rex Hassa!"  Starr put her hands on her hips.  Her fingers trembled.


Lydia sitting at the table smiled.  Pointing using a scruffy dirty finger, she pointed at Starr's agitated face and aggressive pose.  "That kind of society lady I can be.  When do we start?"

For a second, the tension between Rex and Starr hung like rubber oozing from a rubber plant.  Then Rex and Starr laughed. 

"I assure you, Lydia.  That is not how a society lady acts--"
"That's how she reacts," Starr interrupted Rex.
"Reacts, acts," Lydia picked up her fork and speared her half of chicken; she brought it up to her mouth, "long as I'm not turned into a creampuff."
"Now young lady!" Starr rushed over to Lydia and snatched the chicken on a fork away from Lydia.  "No lady eats like a mountain man.  You're civilized.  You have manners.  Eat as Rex is eating," Starr gently placed the forked chicken breasts down.  “First pick up the knife with your right, and hold the chicken in place with your fork.  Then cut off small slices to eat."

Lydia snarled, and shook her head sending her shoulder-length ponytail flopping from one shoulder to the other.
Starr stared at the movement.
Rex started laughing.  "You’re doing better than the other women I've hired for this task, Starr."
Proper slices cut into tiny pieces, Lydia replied, "Yeppers.  Glenda Royal failed.  Janny Nuzzi, I frightened her so bad she went from working in the Rex Hotel into Arun's Bar."
Rex shook his head. "Arun has no bar.  It’s a hotel, Lydia."
"All the drinking going on there," Lydia mumbled her small lips full of chicken, and dressing.
"Eat and swallow, then talk Lydia."
Lydia shook her blonde ponytail again.  "Now how can a person eat and then talk.  This is getting to be bothersome."  Lydia pushed away from the table.
Rex grabbed her by her beige work shirt.  "Stop it.  Sit.  Finish your meal."

Lydia slowly sat back down.

In the living room, Rex and Starr went over the Lady Societal Program for Lydia.  Starr agreed with it mostly.    Lydia sat on an armless, wooden felt emerald chair like a rock on a log in the forest watching and listening.
"Don't try to take her gun away."  Rex paused, "That's the last lesson."
Lydia leaped up knocking over the armless wooden emerald chair and bolted from the house.

Rex halted Starr from calling out.  "That's enough for one day."

Starr put her arm around Rex as they sat on the long paisley blue couch.  "Rex.  I can't settle in.  I'm afraid Arun is going to want the house soon."
"We've got twenty-eight days left."
"Why don't you just buy the house from Arun?  Be done with it.  I have money in my West Bank of Chicago."
"You mean if it is still standing."
Starr snuggled and laid her oval head on Rex's chest.  She listened to his beating heart.  "I have ten thousand dollars in my purse, Rex.  The house isn't worth ten thousand to Arun."
"Arun's not that simple, Starr.  He's forty years old, feeling as if he should be better than I.  Pride is making him keep the house.  He won it gambling.  Just as I won it from him gambling, two years back.  He won't sell for anything.



CHAPTER 13


Friday, November 3, 1871
Jada, California
House of Rex and Starr Hassa
Afternoon


Over the next few weeks, Starr made considerable progress with Lydia.  Today, Lydia wore a moleskin gray long skirt and matching Edwarding jacket, white blouse, black two-inch belt and her six-shooter gun belt around her waist.  Starr just finished showing Lydia how to walk like a lady and not to strut like a gunslinger who just took a handful gulp of water from the local river.  Both women stood a half-length of the den apart from one another.  Light from the chandelier over the dining-room table, cast a radiant glow on the once hooligan girl outlaw Lydia.

"You look like a fine upstanding Western lady, Lydia."  Starr stood by the west wall of the den admiring her work. 
"Yeppers. Not bad letting my hair hang down to my shoulder for a change."  Lydia made the curious left to right motion of her head, sending her hair bouncing from her left to her right shoulder.  "Not bad at all."  Suddenly, Lydia pulled her colt six-shooter in a flash, rotated it around on her forefinger and then pointed it directly at Starr.
Starr gasped.  "Lydia!"
"Just keeping up my practice.  I was aiming for the man guitar playing painting behind ya."
Starr looked behind her.  Starr breathed a sigh of relief.  "Please no more drawing your gun while in the house." Starr sat down on the dark-green French settee.
Lydia shrugged her shoulders.  "Yeppers. Whatever you say?" Lydia holstered her gun.  She pulled out the armless wooden chair sat down at the mahogany dining table in the den.  "But a girl outlaw has got to keep up her speed.  Arun isn't going to wait around for the good and polite you know."

Lydia loved her space and Starr grew used far away from her.  Starr wanted to ask, Lydia why the shifted her head left and right all the time, but then Arun became a more important interest.  "What do you and Arun have against one another?"
"Shoot-out."
"Shoot-out?"
"Yeah, he challenged me to a shoot-out a year back and I smoked him.  Almost shot his left shoulder off."
"My dear.  You could have been killed."
"Eddie Wellham will take care of Arun if that'd happened," said Lydia spreading her legs and leaning back in the armless mahogany dining-room chair. 
Starr grimaced.  "Rex said Eddie--Lydia please sit up straight, legs together, like a lady."
"Oooooo all right."
"Rex said, Eddie Wellham doesn't like being sheriff," Starr continued.  "Eddie is not a good shot."
Lydia gave a loud roaring laugh.  "But Arun don't know that.  See Mrs. Hassa, Eddie Wellham used to be a pugilist, a fighter.  He once went twenty-two rounds with the English Bareknuckle champion, Ben Caunt.  Lost a bout to the best-known Bareknuckle champion Jem Mace, but that was controversial because the crowd jumped into the ring fearing Jem might lose the fight.  Jem boy got to rest up a bit more in the fortieth round."
"I guess Arun doesn't want to fistfight."
"No bully wants a failure on his record.  That's how Eddie manages to keep the peace here in Jada."


Starr rubbed the dark-green French settee she sat on for a second.  "That gives me an idea."

Hard footsteps came down the long hallway, through the living room.  Starr called out, "Rex!"
"Rex ain't back this early, Ma'am.  Sorry for interrupting you and all."
"Rex?"
The hard, methodical menacing footsteps continued,

A big man turned the corner.  He wore a lead brown cowboy hat, black vigilante pants and vest, white shirt and no tie.  He had a long rectangular face, full-length beard and sideburns.  His small blue eyes looked out from overcast bushy blonde eyebrows.  Arun looked at the scene.  "If it ain't the new society dame, Mrs. Starr Hassa and the society runt Lydia Best."
"Arun you get out of here!" Lydia yelled.  Lydia stood up and spread her legs and put her right hand close to her gun holster.
"Lydia wait.  Now Mr. Stell, I understand there is a contract yet to be expired."
Arun took big long steps forward as he looked around.  "Ten days to be exact.  I'm just inspecting my property."
"Rex's property!" Starr shouted.  "Rex and Sheriff Eddie Wellham agreed the contracts not ended yet."

Arun kept walking and looking at both ladies.  He tried to walk between the small coffee table and footstool, but his bulk merely pushed over the coffee table.  A small green and white tea set that Lydia and Starr had drunk during their break fell over."
"Get out of here you scum bastard!" Lydia shouted.  "Don't make me shoot you."
Starr moved to get between the two fighters.  "Stop Arun.  Leave.  I won't have any guns, yours or Lydia’s, fired in this house."
"My house!" Arun yelled.  "I'm tired of waiting.  I won this house fair and square.  I built this house!"
"That's all in the past scum bucket.  Do as the lady wants, leave."  Lydia had her right arm spread wide over her holstered six-shooter.
Arun ignored her.  "I got an idea.  Why don't Mrs. Hassa and I just go into the bedroom," Arun motioned his head to the hallway east in the house.  "And work out a little deal."
Starr trembled but put her hands on her hips.  "I have access to ten thousand dollars."  She scoffed.  "This house isn't worth ten thousand to you, Arun, but it is to me."
Arun tapped his dirty cowboy boots on the living-room rug, a scene out of the old Oregon Trail.  "I traveled out here from Illinois.  You're probably not too far from where I lived, since you're from Chicago, Mrs. Starr Oakes-Hassa.  You should know, by the way, your daddy, and mommy got all burnt up in the Great Fire."
Starr's knees buckled for a second.  She let her slumped shoulders down.  Hearing of their demise in such graphic form startled her.  Tears came to her eyes."



CHAPTER 14


Friday, November 3, 1871
Jada, California
House of Rex and Starr Hassa
Late Afternoon


"He's bluffing, Mrs. Hassa,” Lydia turned her head left and then right, as if waiting for someone else to come into the room.  She focused back on Arun.
"More than three hundred lost their precious lives, and 17,450 buildings burnt over more than 3.5 square miles.  One-hundred-thousand people now homeless.  They say over $200 million in damages and all started by farmers.  De Koven Street barn of Patrick and Catherine O'leary.  Northside--that's right you came from Northside, Mrs. Hassa.  Northside got hit hard, tsk tsk." Arun turned to Lydia.  "Does that sound like someone who is lying?  Uh Uh!" Arun yelled.
"Don't yell at her!" Starr broke out of her own misery.
But Arun had drawn his gun.

Rex appeared in the doorway and raised his forefinger to his lips.  He wore a gold Spencer vest, white shirt, black ascot silk tie, black pants and shoes.  In a half-second, he had run across the rug and leaped on Arun's back.  A gunshot went off and hit the chandelier over the dining-room table.  The chandelier came crashing down but Lydia, quick on her feet moved several steps away from the dining table. 
Rex hit Arun across his chin.  Arun dropped his gun.  Rex dived on top of him, as Starr screamed and hopped backward. 

The men rolled and fought against one another.  They turned over chairs, the coffee table, the settee got knocked over as Rex stood up and Arun punched him on to the dark-green French settee that fell backward.  Arun looked for his gun, but Rex came flying back from the behind the overturned settee and jumped on Arun's back.  Rex reached for the gun.  Both men had it in their hand.  Arun pushed Rex's chin back using his left hand while Rex slammed Arun's right hand, holding the gun, down to the floor.

The gun went twirling, spinning out to the center of the dining room.  Arun threw off Rex and crawled on his belly for the gun and picked it up before Rex got up.  "Now that we've all had our exercise, it is time to settle things," Arun boasted. 
"You forgot about me you worthless pile of horse manure," Lydia said.
Arun shook out his left arm.  "I used to be a dead shot with my left, until you ruin my arm.  But what you forgot little lady is that I shoot with either hand, right or left.  Often in the Civil War, those Yankees forgot all about that," Arun leered and grinned at Lydia.


"I didn't forget," Lydia snarled and stood poised on her toes in her black granny boots.  "I beat you before and I can beat you again."

Rex made a move to reach Arun. 
"Stop right there.  I offered your, Socialite Chicago Dame, a deal.  I and she just go back into the bedroom for a while, and I'll forget all about the house."
"You're crazy," Starr said.  "I wouldn't sleep with you if everyone's life depended on it.  There are more worthy things than property.  Love.  I love Rex Hassa."
"Isn't that how it always ends?  The rich boy gets the prettiest lady," Arun motioned with his gun to Starr.  "Come here, and no one will get hurt."

Lydia yelled, "Arun I'm warning you!"
"What!  You're just a little girl.  You won't shoot me twice.  You're probably having nightmares over the last time you shot me."
Lydia grimaced.  Her corner lips turned down.  "You said no shooting in the house, Mrs. Hassa, but there comes a time."

Arun fired first, but Lydia rolled onto the ground and rose up on one knee and fired off two shots to Arun.  One hit him in his gut; the other shot hit his chest." 
Arun froze.  His right hand loosened on the gun.  "You shot me!  I can't believe you shot me.  You're an evil little lady.  No one can make a lady out of you--"
Arun's big body fell backward; he crashed on top of the green and white porcelain tea set that went shattering into tiny pieces on the dining-room floor.
Lydia rose on her two feet.  "Yeppers.  Sometimes Mrs. Hassa the only way to be a lady is to take care of yourself."  Lydia spun her colt six-shooter on her trigger finger two times and snapped it back into her holster.

Starr found herself speechless. 
Rex ran the two steps and hugged his wife.  "Starr!"
"Rex!"

They hugged each other. 

"Rev. Paulson warned me Arun aimed to come up to the house.  I came as fast as I could."
"Rex, I, offered him the ten thousand dollars."
"He wanted to knock me town a peg of two by harming you, Starr."  Rex looked over to Lydia.  "Guess we didn't tame the outlaw girl in you all the way, Lydia--"
Starr interrupted, "But that was a good thing, Rex."
“Yeppers.”  Lydia smiled and started for the exit.  She stepped over Arun's dead body. "Cleaning house isn't my best skill; so I'll see you two entangled hearts around town sometime."
Lydia's small, sure lady like footsteps echoed as she left.




CHAPTER 15


Friday, November 10, 1871
Jada, California
House of Rex and Starr Hassa
Late Morning


One week later, Rev. Paulson visited the house.  "Hello!" his voice thundered.  "Hello!"  He wore the same black coat, pants, white shirt but his mustache and goatee looked neat and freshly trimmed.

Starr answered.  "Rev. Paulson, we're in the den."
"The Good Lord loves a couple that spends time together," he started off thundering.  Then he lowered his voice to a normal tone, "Just like you have to shave that stubble, Rex. It's been one week and the world don’t run by itself.  Especially a mining company with three-hundred men, who need the assurance, their jobs will be continuing."
Rex and Starr sat at the dining table looking up where the chandelier once hung.
"Rev. Paulson, you're right," Rex said.  "The mine has only got a few years left before the gold vein exhausted."
"That's what I wanted to tell you, Son.  Tommy Barnes was working on that problem.  Like, you set him off to do."
"And?" said Starr.
"Yes?" said Rex.
"The Good Lord does provide when the time is right!" thundered Rev. Paulson.  "Tommy's found a silver vein.  Richer than the gold vein."

Rex and Starr jumped up for joy.  They hugged one another.  They yelled.  They grabbed Rev. Paulson and they all jumped up and down.
"Now this town can truly thrive!" thundered Rev. Paulson.  "I've been praying and praying you boys have success to keep Jada California going."
"We'll be on the map for sure now," Rex said.
"And now that everything is settled, I can tell you more good news, Rex."  Starr held her hands over her belly.  "I'm going to have a child!"

Rex's jaw dropped.  "I always had faith you were not an old maid."
"I'm not an old maid," Starr exclaimed.  "This will be one of many children."
"May the Lord continue his blessings on this family!" roared Rev. Paulson, as he turned abruptly and started making his way out of the house.  His voice turned quiet as he murmured, to himself, and walked contemplatively down from the house on the hill into the rich valley of Jada, California.

Starr and Rex went on to have five children three boys and three girls.  Rex retired from the mining company and became Mayor of Jada, California as their population reached the number required to be listed on the California map.


--THE END--










































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