Easter sat in the carriage with her skirts hiked up over her knees hoping for a cool breeze as they approached the small town she had grown up in all those miserable years ago. She had been thirteen years old when she stole her daddy’s only hor...
Easter sat in the carriage with her skirts hiked up over her knees hoping for a cool breeze as they approached the small town she had grown up in all those miserable years ago. She had been thirteen years old when she stole her daddy’s only horse that cool October evening and rode as fast and hard as the horse could to get away. It was hours after her fifteen year old sister’s wedding. Easter had known that with Losha wed and moved out their father would focus all of his energies into the abuse that he had normally shared between the two girls ever since their momma had died on her alone. He was a violent drunken man with a temper that kept the town folks away. They had left the wedding quickly when Losha’s husband, William, began flipping tables in a drunken stupor. Easter wasn’t happy about her sister’s choice in a mate, but she understood her desperation to get away from their father.
On the walk home, Easter kept looking at her father, his balding head and potbelly made her cringe every time he touched her. She knew the pain that awaited her at home. As she watched him march, she decided that there was nothing left for her here. She needed to find her own way of escape, and it wasn’t going to be into the arms of another abusive man. When they arrived home she let him hit her; once, twice, three times to the face. She spat blood and one of her front teeth onto the dirt floor as he approached her again, removing his belt. Quicker than she knew she could move, she scurried across the ground to the front door where he kept the Remington. His pants dropped to the floor as he turned to grab at her causing him to trip over his own two feet. She whirled around and fired straight into his face. That was the night she was reborn.
Easter’s birth name had been Caroline after their mother because of their identical bright red curly hair, but when she decided to take her salvation into her own hands that night she renamed herself Easter. Standing with the gun still warm in her hands and her daddy’s blood spilling across the ground, she knew that they would look for her, but she no longer cared.
Easter shook as she changed into the only dress they had kept of her mother’s. It was too big for her small form but it was the nicest thing they owned. Quick to leave, she grabbed the gun in one hand and her daddy’s whiskey in the other. After a quick swig of the bottle she threw it onto the side wall of the cabin and lit it on fire. The old, dry wood burnt fast. That night, as she ran out the front door she vowed to never to look back. She made a mental note to write to her sister as soon as she found where it was she was going.
Easter rode the horse into Savannah three days after her rebirth. She had never seen a town so bustling with life and immediately knew this was the place for her. Being thirteen with no education and no skills Easter walked into the largest saloon. Confident that she could be the maker of her own destiny, she marched right up to the owner and demanded from him a job. The owner, Jebediah, was a tall burly man with black hair that was streaked with gray. His low growl of a laugh rumbled above the saloon business. Easter knew she must have looked like a feral child wearing a woman’s dress that was too large, and a thick layer of dirt and sweat stuck to her from three days riding. Years later Jeb would tell her it was her fierce blue eyes, disheveled red hair and her fighting spirit that made him agree to employ her despite her young age. Over the years she went from scrubbing floors to running the saloon with him as the Madame. Her scrawny petite form filled out and she became a well sought after curvy woman. In addition to her natural bright red hair, her sapphire blue eyes gained her quick popularity with Jebediah. She became one of his most trusted employees and friend.
As soon as Easter had settled in Savannah she wrote letters to Losha often. Their correspondence was the only thing she had left of her old life. When William died in the war Losha had written to her pleading for help with the farm. Easter had sent money to her to help, but it wasn’t enough to cover all their expenses. After speaking with Jeb about her worries for Losha, he confided in her that once the war ended that he was looking to expand business. As soon as he heard of the situation with her sister he knew it was the right time to open a second saloon and send Easter to run things while he travelled between the two. Easter was hesitant to accept. She didn’t ever want to go back to that town. She hated the thought, but she worried about her sister.
It had taken two years for Easter to have the plans put into play. Now here she was, sweat running down her back as she nervously returned to this haunted town. She knew everyone would be surprised to see her take charge as the new Madame in the saloon that her boss had built with her in mind.
Easter hung out the open side window and hollered at the man driving the covered wagon. “Eddie turn onto the main town road commin’ up on that side…on the left.” She motioned with her arm towards the left as the man shook his head in acknowledgement. The horses slowed to make the turn. Near town, Easter sat back in her seat pulling her skirts down, and pinned up some of the red curls that had escaped during the long ride. Her heart was pounding in excitement. She would finally get to see in person the two nephews and niece she had heard so much about from her sister Losha.
As she peered out the window she frowned. The town hadn’t changed much from all those years ago. There was an extra shop or two. The only new building being built was her saloon at the far end of the dirt road. It was almost completed except for some paint and decorations on the inside. Easter would take care of that once she found her sister. “Back in hell.” She whispered as she observed the small groups of backwoods people moving about the town center. It was going to be a big change coming back from the crowded streets of Savannah.
Eddie pulled up to the saloon and Easter gratefully jumped out of the hot wagon. She could feel eyes train on her. “Eddie, sweetheart do mind helping me with these bags?”
Eddie smiled at her and nodded. “Of course little one.”
They had known each other ever since she started working at the saloon. Eddie didn’t like the look of a little girl working there, and had taken her under his wing. As she grew older he became her protection and she trusted him with her life.
The day grew hotter as they worked on dragging all of their things from the carriage to the two rooms set up to be their private quarters. The inside of the saloon was still incomplete but all the walls, plumbing and rooms were finished. They decided to take a break and sit out front and watch the town’s folk.
“Sure is quiet here.” Eddie said as he took a bite out of an apple.
Easter snorted in response. “Yeah, I hope Jeb thought this through.”
Eddie peered over at her, sweat sliding down his dark face. He tossed the apple to her and she gratefully took a bite. A woman with her young son were watching the exchange and she gasped. Easter rolled her eyes and tossed the apple back. “Need to reacquaint myself with the people here. In Savannah everyone was used to seeing our friendship.”
Eddie nodded. “It is going to be different but…” He paused and looked at her fondly. “You are going to do great.”
Easter leaned back on her elbows and stretched her legs. She was soaking in the relative quiet of the street when she heard the screams and cries for help from the shop down the road. She sat up and reached for her Remington. Eddie heard them too and stood up.
Easter listened to the cries of the woman. “Losha!” She gasped. She knew it was her sister and her children before she saw their faces.
She could feel the pounding footsteps of Eddie behind her as she ran with gun in hand. She saw Losha first, sprawled in the dirt, crying as a large angry man hit and stomped on her. A little girl was curled up not far from her screaming. A teenage boy, beaten so badly he was having a hard time standing was looking around desperately for someone to interfere. Rage overtook her as she ran. She stopped and fired once into the air before leveling the gun to the side of the man’s head.
“You won’t be the first women beatin’ man I’ve shot with this so step away from my family.” Her fierce blue eyes focused on his face. The man paused, measuring her before standing tall. He put his hands up in the air and stepped away from Losha and the children.
“No woman can shoot a man in the street and get away with it.” He tapped the side of his head. “Think about it.” He took one step towards Losha and Easter cocked the gun. He stopped, glaring at this new fire-haired woman. “The farm or the girl, it’s her choice.” He growled at Losha.
“Take the farm!” Losha cried as she scrambled away to protect her children.
“Ma! No!” The beaten boy yelled, his lip splitting and fresh blood dripping down his chin.
“Hush, Shurley.” Losha snapped, patting her sobbing daughter’s hair. She grimaced as she picked the girl up and stood on shaking legs behind Easter. The man’s grin spread wide across his face as he dropped his hands to his side.
“I’m not the only witness to this.” He tipped his chin towards the onlookers standing along the street. “The farm is mine. You have twenty four hours to get your stuff out. If you aren’t out by then I take the girl and the farm and there’s not a damn thing a whoring widow like yerself can do about it.”
“Eddie.” Easter said and motioned with a nod towards the saloon. He nodded, watching the large man as he touched Losha’s shoulder. She cringed away but followed him as he directed her. Shurley and Thaddeus followed closely behind, their heads hung low.
Eddie helped Losha and the children down the street as Easter backed away still aiming at the man’s head. “We’ve got no more business with you, mister. I suggest you move along.”
The man merely smiled a wolfish look. “Names Dutton. I have a feeling we will be seeing each other plenty.”