Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

There was only time to act. Starr Ann saw to that.

After a fifteen-hour sleep, Starr Ann took a sip of the coffee I had waiting for her this morning and said, "The Posse should start arriving any time. Do we have the boots?"

I nodded yes about the boots, and Starr Ann caught me up on what she had planned. Hard to believe one little cowgirl got so much arranged in such a short time. Goddess, that's my Starr Ann.

Lori and Jodie got here before that first cup of coffee was halfway gone. Jodie was stunning in a beige brushed cotton shirt with a turquoise bandanna around her neck. Lori cut a heroic figure in midnight blue tailored slacks and a white silk shirt, flared just right at the neck. One glimpse of them, and I realized I needed to get to my room and change.

By the time I got back, they were all there. Quieter than I've ever seen them.

Frannie, smiling but subdued, was on the couch with CJ and Joyce, telling them about the conversation she'd had with Jamila that night of the big campfire and snowball toss. Seems Jamila liked to sketch, and she'd promised to send Frannie some impressions from Iraq. In a month or two, after she and Lane got their bearings.

Over by the window, looking outward, Nina and Gina had their arms around each other, slightly swaying, not saying a word.

Lost in thought, JoeyJo and Heather did what they could to pacify Bates and keep him out of trouble. When Bates growled and nipped at Heather, JoeyJo snapped out of her reverie and said, "Never saw the little monster take to anybody the way he took to Jamila. Did you see her put her face right up to his that night?"

Mimi wiped her cheek and pretended to have something to do in the kitchen. She didn't.

Over by the front door, Eryll was speaking softly to Folkrockgirl, who looked like her young heart was about to break.

The only one sitting alone was Cap'n Dyke, and her stony expression left no doubt she wanted it to stay that way.

I'd had just enough time to scan all these precious faces when Starr Ann came in the front door. She took a deep breath. "Okay. Everybody knows their part. I brought Lightning around. Jodie, great job with the wagon. Lori, what about Lane?"

Lori said, "Starr Ann, honey, I don't think she's going to come with us."

Starr Ann didn't say a word, just walked upstairs. Fifteen minutes later, we were all rushing over to help her maneuver Lane into the wheelchair.

Lane was saying, "Starr Ann, please! It's not gonna help anything."

Starr Ann looked around at everybody, then back to Lane. "Did you ever think it might help us?" And before Lane could get any angrier, or say no again, Starr Ann wheeled her onto the front porch.

At the foot of the steps was the old fashioned buggy Jodie borrowed from the saloon girls in town. They must have worked real hard to get it that shiny. And the dark upholstered seat was all fixed up with a soft extension for Lane's leg to rest on. Alongside, all the pretty Posse horses stood calm and steady, not moving much more than to swish a tail.

Out in the grass, slick and handsome as could be, Lightning stood under English tack, with Jamila's boots reversed in the irons.

Lane didn't move a muscle for a long time. Then she sighed, pulled her gaze from Lightning, and inclined her head toward the buggy. "Will you lift me into it, please?"

Starr Ann led Lightning on foot, with Lori driving Lane just behind and the Posse trailing, all the way to the river. We stopped there on the bank for a few minutes of peaceful silence. When a hawk flew over, circled, came back and soared off again, we watched her until she was a speck on the sky, then just the memory of the speck.

Starr Ann took Jamila's boots from the stirrups and placed them in Lane's arms with such care, then she removed Lightning's tack and set him free. He picked a few bites of sweet river grass and sauntered over to sniff at a shiny wet rock. Then, a blue streak of horse electricity shot through him and he kicked his heels real high before striking off toward home. By unspoken consent, we all let our horses run right with him. I barely had time to swoop Starr Ann up with me, so we trailed back with Lori and Lane, but by the time we turned for that last run at the barn, we were one big herd, pure nerve, muscle and sweat.

I don't have to hope Jamila was with us. None of us does. There's a peace in our hearts that tells us she was.