For years I've been plotting a story which follows on more from the mini series than the book, and attempts to right what I consider to be the major wrong of what Larry McMurtry wrote in the book sequel... namely who Lorie ends up with. It's completely subjective, I know, but it always rankled me because I love the character of Dish (and DB Sweeney ain't bad either).
So, I finally sat down and wrote the first chapter. If anyone's interested in LD fic and the pairing of Dish and Lorena I'd love to get your feedback!
All That Remains
The day Lorena had been dreading had arrived. She knew from the nervous way Dish fingered the hat in his hands, shuffling awkwardly from one foot to the other, and looking about the room to avoid her cold stare. She knew it was coming ever since Dish had appeared at Clara's ranch in the middle of a snow storm, half frozen and alone, having ridden all the way from Montana to find her. He believed himself in love with her, wanted to marry her, wanted to make a respectable women of her, she supposed.
She had tried to deter him. Lorena had never paid him any attention beyond that of common courtesy, if you could even call it that. She resented his presence at Clara's ranch, the place she was growing to think of as home. It had been so long since Lorena had anywhere she could think of as home, and Dish threatened to ruin it. He was a constant reminder of her old life, her years in the dusty room above the Dry Bean in Lonesome Dove.
Memories of her old life were forever linked to those from her days in captivity with Blue Duck and his gang. Lorena wouldn't allow herself to think of that time. Instead she remembered how Gus had saved her, how safe she felt with him, how much she loved him.
But Gus was gone. Killed by Indians and buried somewhere in Texas by the Captain. It had been six months since he had passed through these parts with Gus's coffin, following the same trail the herd had taken north to Montana but this time heading south. She had said goodbye to Gus, she had the letter he had written her hidden away with the few possessions she had, most of them from him. She had said goodbye but she hadn't forgotten him – she wouldn't forget him, as long as she lived.
Lorena would certainly not forget him for Dish. She cared nothing for his feelings for her. They were an irritation, something simply to avoid. The only problem was Dish did everything he could not to be avoided. His working at the ranch was one thing, but he had soon proved himself invaluable to Clara. Naturally gifted with horses, Dish easily managed the work of two men which suited Clara just fine – her husband, Bob, had finally succumbed to his head injury the previous year and July Johnson, though he meant well and was learning quickly, simply did not have the experience to make a good ranch hand.
In Dish, Clara had someone in whom she could entrust her beloved horses. She could share with him her plans for the future and discuss breeding or treatments for lame horses that no one, save Cholo, even understood. Lorena knew Clara wanted Dish to stay, even if she never said it. It made her answer to Dish's question all the more difficult to make.
When he hadn't said anything in a full five minutes, Lorena sighed in annoyance and put her sewing aside. She wished Clara hadn't taken Sally and Betsey to the dentist in Ogallala. She wished she had gone with them, despite the impracticalities of having to take Martin with them as well. Instead Lorena had agreed to Clara's request for her to stay behind and watch the boy while they were gone. Cholo, July and Dish were there to look out for her, so she was not afraid to stay on her own. In fact, Lorena was relieved to avoid the crowds in town. The last time she had gone into Ogallala the people and the noise had made her feel shaky. She preferred the peace and quiet of the ranch.
But in staying she had presented Dish with an opportunity to speak with her alone. He never would have approached her if Clara and the girls were there. She continued to ignore him and crossed the room under the pretence of checking on the sleeping Martin in his cradle by the window. With her back turned, she finally heard Dish clear his throat.
"Miss Lorena?" he mumbled, barely audible. He coughed a little and tried saying her name again.
"What is it?" she answered sharply, still not looking at him. Lorena was tempted to poke Martin awake so she could tend to him and avoid Dish for a while longer.
"I been thinking... that is, I was hoping..." Dish fumbled with his words.
Lorena gritted her teeth, swallowing her rising anger. Sinking into the chair beside Martin's cradle, she looked up at Dish with a less than inviting stare. He took a step forward, struggling to say whatever was trying to escape from his lips. His eyes were imploring above his walrus moustache that covered half his face.
"I'd make a good husband," Dish blurted out, then swore under his breath at himself for obviously saying with the wrong part of his prepared speech.
Lorena felt no sympathy for him, she suddenly just felt tired. She wished herself away, some place far away, but where to she did not know. Lorena had always dreamed of San Francisco, and had pestered first Jake and then Gus to take her there. Both men were gone, but San Francisco was still there. She had Gus's money from his half of the cattle herd, waiting for her in the bank in Miles City the Captain had said. There was nothing stopping her from drawing on it and going west to where it was cool, where she could see the ocean. But she had not gone to San Francisco. She had not gone back east to find what little family she might still have there. Lorena had stayed in Nebraska with Clara and her family where she felt she was wanted and perhaps even needed. She had stayed here and so had Dish.
Clara knew that Dish wanted to marry her. They had discussed it on one or two occasions. She had asked Lorena what she wanted for herself – children, a house of her own – but Lorena had not known how to answer. The one thing she truly wanted was Gus, but she couldn't have him. Even if he hadn't been killed, Lorena knew Gus was in love with Clara, not her.
Lorena had not thought of children until she came to live at Clara's. Betsey was her constant companion now, so bright and eager to befriend her that Lorena found the attention overwhelming. Sally was kind to her as well, if a little preoccupied lately with her own infatuation with the ranch hand with the walrus moustache. Lorena saw the way the girl looked at Dish, and was also aware that he was oblivious to her feelings, thinking of her only as a little sister to tease.
But it was Martin who made her think about having children of her own someday. With Clara busy with the horses, he had become her responsibility during the day. Lorena played with him, fed him, bathed him and loved the little boy. But she never thought of him as hers – he was Clara's. She might not be his real mother either, but Lorena knew that the older woman had taken Martin in, and in turn his father July, after losing her own sons, and she loved him possessively.
Clara had suggested to her that having children would be the best part of being married, if she chose to marry, that is. Clara made it very clear that she was not pushing her to accept Dish when he asked, but nor did she discourage his attention towards Lorena. She frequently praised his work to Lorena, noting how she pleased she was when Dish took up her offer to practice his reading at night while the girls did their lessons. Lorena wondered if Clara had intentionally orchestrated her own reading tutorials to ensure they spent more time together. Either way, it meant she could not avoid him all of the time, which would have suited just fine.
So there was the possibility of children to consider. There was also the knowledge that she would be protected, have someone to watch out for her so she wouldn't be taken again. Lorena knew this was probably irrational, that she was already safe at the ranch, but nevertheless she did not discount it. Dish was not as bad as some, and she had known bad men. Dish was amiable, headstrong, and so fiercely devoted to her, but it was nothing she hadn't experienced before. There had been plenty of men who had loved her, and some she even fancied she loved back in her younger days. But it wasn't real love, only need – the need to get away from wherever she was and to be looked after. The only real love she had was for Gus.
Dish was the one here with her now. His expression was anxious as her stony silence continued, but he took another step forward.
"Lorie?" he said, dropping the 'Miss Lorena' which had sounded so stilted and awkward coming from his lips.
Lorena stood abruptly and crossed the room to the chair where she had abandoned her sewing. She picked up the pinafore she was making for Betsey and started picking savagely at the tacking she had placed there only an hour before. She steadfastly refused to acknowledge Dish, but out of the corner of her eye she saw his shoulders slump a little more as he stood in the middle of the room, unmoving and unsure what to say. She sighed again in frustration.
Lorena knew some things would have to change. She couldn't stay with Clara forever, nor could she rely on the woman always being there. She had seen too many people close to her die to trust that. Lorena would have to make her own way eventually, and that thought frightened her more than she cared to admit.
After a few more minutes, Dish finally turned around slowly and headed for the door, defeated. He only paused in his retreat when he suddenly heard her voice, which in itself was a miracle because she spoke to him so infrequently.
"All right," she said emotionlessly.
Dish turned around with a puzzled expression on his face. Lorena glanced up from her sewing briefly and immediately felt annoyance that he did not understand her.
"All right, I'll marry you," she clarified.
Dish opened his mouth in surprise but with obvious joy so she hastily continued.
"But I have conditions," Lorena stated firmly.
"All right," he responded, barely able to say even that.
Lorena stuck the needle into the cloth on her lap and bit her bottom lip.
"I won't be married to someone called Dishwater," she said sternly. "What's your real name?"
Dish blinked. It had been so long since anyone had called him anything else. "It's William. William Boggett."
Lorena nodded, it made no matter to her. "I won't leave here just because we're married," she went on. "As long as Clara wants me to stay I will."
"I like it here, too." Dish smiled and seemed to hope she might smile back. Lorena didn't. In fact she knew what she said next would remove the expression from his face too.
"I won't ever be yours," she snapped, her voice hard. "My heart belongs to Gus. Understand?"
Dish's brow furrowed and his fingers curled nervously around his hat brim once again. "Lorie, I know–"
"I love Gus," said Lorena, cutting him off. "Now and always."
Dish contemplated this for a few moments before nodding in acquiescence, his eyes downcast. Lorena felt no pity for him. He had to know going in that this was how it would be. Those were her conditions.
"All right then," she said coolly.
He looked up at her, unsure what he was supposed to do now. She pinned him with a grim stare, silently instructing him not to even contemplate approaching her. She felt grim satisfaction when he took a step back and seemed eager to leave the room.
"I guess that's settled then," he murmured, a blushing smile returning to his face. He glanced over his shoulder at the door, suddenly intent on leaving before she could change her mind.
A strange look crossed his face at the sound of his name. Lorena frowned at the apparent pleasure it brought him. It rankled her, the same reaction his mere presence was having on her, as it often did.
"One more thing," she said, the desire to remind him where he stood with her all too evident in her voice.
"What is it, Lorie?"
"I want you to shave off your moustache. I hate it."
Lorena knew the demand was childish, she really didn't care less that he wore the ridiculous looking thing. But she wanted to see how far she could push him, if for no other reason than to vent her irritation that this was the direction her life was taking. She knew Dish was particularly vain about his moustache. As she suspected he appeared flummoxed at the request, but within moments it had passed. He nodded to her and quickly left the room before she could say anything else.
Left alone, Lorena stood and took a few steps across the room towards Martin's cradle before she stopped. He was still fast asleep. She looked back at the sewing but she had no patience for it now. Instead Lorena put a hand to her throat and wondered what she had gotten herself into.