One of my favorite episodes is "Where the Heart Is", but I often wondered about all the little unknowns in the story. Why did Sully suddenly up and leave for Boston and why, when he got there, was Michaela so cold and distant all of a sudden? This is my interpretation of those events told alternately from Michaela's and Sully's points of view. I have, as little as possible, actually reiterated the events and dialogue of the episode, instead referring to them and adding my own interpretation of the thoughts of the characters, as well as added scenes and dialogues that I feel might have taken place. In a very few cases I have written the same scene from both points of view. This is my interpretation only and in no way is meant to reflect upon or denegrate the characters created by Beth Sullivan.
by Rebecca Burkhart
In his lean-to, deep in the woods near Colorado Springs, Sully lay dreaming. In his dream, as happened quite often, Abigail came to him. In this dream she was carrying something. It was the rocking horse that Dr. Mike had found, the one she'd asked him to finish just recently. "Abby," he called. He could hear baby Hannah cooing in the background.
Abigail smiled. "Thank you, Sully," she said. "Thank you for everything." She looked back over her shoulder, then at him again, standing aside so he could see what she was looking at. It was Dr. Mike with the children and Matthew and Ingrid, sitting on a blanket in the meadow, enjoying a picnic. They looked up and saw him. Dr. Mike smiled and with her eyes invited him to join them while the children cried out in delight and ran to grab him by the arms and pull him over to the blanket.
When he awoke, he had only a vague impression of the dream, but he knew a problem he'd been wrestling with had been resolved and a decision had been made.
It was Sunday and Sully made his weekly visit to Abigail's grave while the townsfolk were in church. "Abigail," he began, "I loved you. A part of me will always love you. When you died I thought I'd never love again, but ya can't tell what the heart's gonna do. I think my heart's gettin' ready t' love again an' I want you t' know it don't mean I don't appreciate what we had. I ain't never gonna forget you, Abigail." He heard the sounds of people beginning to emerge from the church, but he remained kneeling by his wife's grave, pondering his decision and all it might mean. A rustling noise broke his reverie and he turned as an abashed Brian skidded to a halt behind him.
"Sorry" Brian said.
" 's all right. I'm done." Sully accepted Brian's invitation to eat with them. Actually, he hoped to get Dr. Mike to take a walk with him today, just the two of them. He hoped to find the courage and the words to talk to her about taking their friendship a step further, to explore the possibility that the feelings that had been blossoming in him since he'd first laid eyes on her were more than just friendship. Thing was, he didn't want to scare her, to ruin that very good friendship. He had never had a friend like her. She had pulled him out of his self-imposed isolation until he felt himself once more a part of the town. He wished he could figure out how she felt. He thought back to that photographer who'd come through last spring. He'd gotten right to the point. "If a lady like Dr. Quinn looked at me the way she looks at you, I'd go down on one knee and pledge myself to her forever." Sully hadn't wanted to hear that at the time, but as he approached the picnic area where Dr. Mike, Colleen, Ingrid and Matthew appeared to be playing tag with the picnic cloth, he tried to fathom what he saw in those eyes, now. Welcome, friendship, warm regard -- was there something more? He took a deep breath ready to ask her to go for that walk, when they heard a commotion across the bridge.
"Dr. Mike! Dr. Mike!" It was Horace, coming full tilt and holding out a piece of paper, a telegram. Momentous news, no doubt, given Horace's speed. He handed the telegram to her solemnly, face etched in sympathy and Sully could tell the news must be bad.
Dr. Mike's face registered surprise and then shock and dread as she passed the telegram to Colleen who read, " 'Urgent. Come at once. Mother is gravely ill. Your loving sister, Rebecca.' "
As they sped to where Dr. Mike had left her wagon, Sully's emotions were in a turmoil. He was disappointed to miss their walk, but he could feel Dr. Mike's pain and worry for her mother, so far away -- and not only far away in miles -- he'd seen how they interacted when Elizabeth had come here after Dr. Mike's illness. He was also filled with dread that if Dr. Mike returned to Boston, she might never find her way back to Colorado Springs. But she needed him now and as he took the reins from her, indicating that he would drive them back to the homestead, he could see she was trembling.
As Michaela recovered from the first shock of the news, she took deep breaths and tried to calm herself enough to think of all that needed to be done. Thank goodness Sully was there to handle the wagon. She knew her nervousness would only communicate itself to the horses. Sully always managed to be there when she or the children needed him.
"Would you stop in town, please?" she asked him. "I need to get some things at the clinic and to see about tickets for the stage." Sully nodded and clucked to the horse. Michaela arranged for the tickets and put together packages of medicines for people in town who might need them. She urged Matthew to get a haircut but he was in a difficult mood and was balking at being dragged to Boston, away from Ingrid. Finally she'd told him impatiently that this was just one of those things he'd have to do, like it or not. She had too much else on her mind, right now.
On the ride out to the homestead she went over in her mind the clothes they would bring. She wished they'd had time to get some new things. Nothing they had was really appropriate for Boston and the children had been outgrowing a lot of their outfits. How was she going to present the image to her family and friends of a doctor with a successful practice, who was also a good mother, when their clothes were in tatters, the boys hadn't seen a barber in weeks and their language was appalling! Why hadn't she spent more time instilling proper grammar into them? But there were other things to worry about now. The telegram said nothing about her mother's symptoms and she couldn't imagine what might ail this remarkably healthy woman. She was startled out of her reverie by Sully who said, "We're here" and gently helped her from the wagon.
Michaela sent Matthew to fetch the large trunk and the smaller valises from the barn where they'd been stored since she'd moved there more than a year ago. Inside the house she began sorting through clothing, folding those items she deemed acceptable, tossing aside those that were not. Colleen objected to packing her Christmas and Founder's Day dresses.
"They're my fancies" she protested, "th' only two I got!"
" 'Have' , Colleen, 'have'. 'They're the only two I 'have'!" Michaela cried, a note of desperation in her voice.
Brian took the opportunity of this distraction to transfer his favorite pair of pants from the discard pile to the trunk, but Michaela caught him and they had it out about patched pants and grammar. Suddenly, unable to contain herself, she flung down the dress she was folding and hurried outside, sobs tearing at her throat.
Sully followed and laid a comforting hand on her arm. With him Michaela was able to be herself and to articulate her fears. "My mother's never been sick!" she cried. "She's always been so strong!"
"You're every bit as strong" Sully assured her.
Michaela took comfort in their conversation and talked about her fears of going back to Boston when Colorado Springs was now her home. Sully told her that the place where you're born always has a pull and surprised her by revealing something of his own background. She hadn't known that he came West all on his own at age 10! Finally she allowed him to pull her into his comforting embrace, feeling his caring and compassion. She'd never had a friend like Sully. She wished ... but she brushed the thought away before she could fully articulate it in her mind. This wasn't the time.
Late that night, Sully lay awake in his lean-to, thinking about that afternoon. He had seen the worry and panic in Dr. Mike's face and sensed that it wasn't just her mother's illness that had her upset. She had told him many times how her mother felt about her life in Colorado Springs. Dr. Mike was strong and independent and determined to do what she wanted with her life, but he knew there was a part of her, however deeply she tried to hide it, that wanted to please her mother, too. He figured she was afraid once she got to Boston, she wouldn't be able to leave. Truth was, he was afraid of the same thing.
He suddenly realized how accustomed he'd become to having supper at the homestead, to playing with the children, taking Brian fishing, teaching Matthew things. He enjoyed his conversations with Dr. Mike, too, even when they disagreed. He looked forward to their trips to the Reservation. He liked watching Dr. Mike with her patients -- her caring and compassion. It would be hard to go back to the loneliness he'd all but forgotten since he'd started spending so much time with Dr. Mike and the kids. Brian had called him 'family' and he'd denied it was so but, truth was, they were the nearest thing he'd had, other than the Cheyenne, since Abigail. Holding Dr. Mike in his arms this afternoon and comforting her had seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. At least taking care of the homestead, he would still feel a part of them. He rolled over and fell into a troubled sleep that deepened only as dawn began to break.
He awoke with the sun in his eyes, and realizing how late it was, took off at a run for town, terribly afraid he would miss seeing Dr. Mike -- and the kids -- off.
As the stagecoach thundered along, putting more and more miles between them and Colorado Springs, Michaela reflected on all that had happened during the past 24 hours. This morning seemed a blur after a sleepless night and she barely remembered the ride into town, loading their luggage on the coach and saying fond good-byes to everyone. She'd watched as Matthew and Ingrid shared a tearful farewell. For some reason it made her think of Sully and she'd peered into the crowd to see if he had come to see them off. There was no reason he should -- they'd said their good-byes last night. He'd promised to take care of everything at the homestead and, as Brian was quick to point out, Sully always kept his promises. Why, then, was she feeling disappointed that he wasn't here, now? But then, as the drivers climbed into their seats, he'd emerged from the crowd, waving. She'd waved back as the coach began to roll and Sully had continued waving until they were out of sight.
Michaela dozed off and on, thoughts of her mother and what possible illness could have stricken her alternating with thoughts of the life she was leaving behind. At least in Boston there were hospitals and other doctors available for consultation. Medication was readily available as well without having to send to Chicago -- or grow it herself. Medicine was less primitive in Boston. In Colorado Springs even the simplest thing could become suddenly complicated and complicated things were often impossible. Just last week she had treated young Jeremy Harper, only 2 1/2 years old, whose panic-stricken parents had rushed him to the clinic, gasping for his breath. Fortunately she had been working late, updating patient records. Still, it had been touch and go as none of her treatments, including steam, seemed to work. Finally she'd had to resort to an emergency tracheotomy, a dangerous procedure even in the sterile conditions provided by a hospital and certainly perilous in the clinic. But she remembered the quick job she'd been forced to do on Black Kettle right on the table in the homestead and clenching her teeth, she breathed a quick prayer and did what she had to do. It had been successful, thank God, she had stitched it up just the other day and Jeremy was breathing normally again. Hopefully the danger of infection was over.
She remembered leaving the grateful parents with their tiny son, stepping out of the clinic for a breath of air, shaken and drained. And Sully -- how had he known? -- had been waiting out there for her. He'd put an arm around her and led her to the bench and sat with her as she relived the incident, hardly daring to think what almost had happened. "Don't think about it" Sully advised her.
"But nothing was working ... I tried everything ... if I had lost him ..."
"No matter what happened, ya gave it your best" Sully assured her. "Ya always do."
"I just don't have the facilities here ... the sterile operating room, the equipment, the medicines ..."
"Shhh" Sully comforted. "Jeremy's all right." He had gone back to the homestead that night to check on the children so she could stay in town to monitor her patient's condition and the next morning he had brought the children by on the way to school and had fetched breakfast from Grace's ...
Michaela's thoughts were interrupted by their arrival at another way station. She had been using these stops to clean herself and the children up to the best of her ability, hoping to keep them all as presentable as possible. They boarded the train in St. Louis which made a welcome change from the rattling and bumping of the stagecoach.
As they chugged across the prairie, Brian was fascinated with the flatness of the land with 'no mountains'. Nothing like Colorado, that was for sure. The closer they got to Boston, the more worried Michaela began to feel. She was more nervous going from Colorado to Boston than she'd been when she made her journey from Boston to Colorado Springs. How was Mother? What would her family think of the children? Of her? What would they have to say about her practice in Colorado Springs? Would they notice a change in her? Had 'Boston' Michaela been replaced by 'Colorado Springs' Michaela? She could imagine that her sister Marjorie would have some disparaging remarks. What would her mother have told their friends and neighbors -- people who had been her patients until her father's death -- who didn't believe she was a 'real' doctor?
Mixed in with her nervousness, however, was a real anticipation. She couldn't wait to see the house on Beacon Hill -- Martha, Harrison -- her old room! Then there was the library, the opera house, the Charles, the ocean! There would be so much to show the children -- things she'd told them about that up to now they'd only been able to imagine.
Before she knew it they were pulling into the station in Boston and she was doing her best to overcome the effects of five days' hasty travel -- smoothing hair, straightening collars, and scanning the crowd to see who had come for them.
Sully waved the stage out of sight and then headed for the livery feeling oddly lost and not quite sure why. He stopped there to drop off some work for Robert E who smiled at him sympathetically. "Won't be th' same around here without Dr. Mike" he commented. Sully nodded, avoiding his friend's frank gaze. "Y' know, Sully" Robert E continued, "Wasn't too long ago you were tellin' *me* t' follow my dreams ... " He glanced in the direction of the cafe. "Best advice ya ever gave me."
"We all got dreams" Sully said noncommittally. "I'll come back for that t'morrow." He strode over to the mercantile for supplies.
"Shame about Elizabeth" Loren remarked as he gathered the things from Sully's list. "Now there's a real lady." He plunked items down on the counter as he searched Sully's face. "How long Dr. Mike say they'd be gone?"
Sully shrugged. "Guess it depends on what's wrong with her ma."
"Well, whatever it is, Dr. Mike'll fix it" Loren declared stoutly. He leaned on the counter, glancing around him and shaking his head. "Won't seem th' same around here without Brian runnin' in for candy every day!"
"You're takin' care of things at th' homestead, Sully?" Dorothy wandered over to join the conversation. "Now if you need anything, or any kinda help -- you just ask!"
Sully, feeling uncomfortable under Dorothy's penetrating gaze, nodded and smiled, then paying for his purchases, he got out of there. Way they were acting, you'd think Dr. Mike had died or something ... and he was her left-behind husband. He wandered down the street, avoiding the clinic, which looked stark and empty with the closed sign on the door. He figured he might go check his traps and do a little hunting while he was at it. Then it hit him that he didn't need to bring meat for Dr. Mike and the kids. He certainly didn't need much for just himself. He reflected that even new habits were hard to break.
This became further apparent when at suppertime his footsteps took him automatically to the homestead. Well, he needed to be there, anyway, to take care of things. He saw to the stock and tended the garden, noting with concern that the water in the well was quite low. It had been a long time since the last rainfall.
Chores done, he glanced around. Chickens clucked, birds called, the horses stamped and whickered in their stalls. The cow lowed. But it was quiet. Too quiet. No smoke rose from the chimney. Brian and Colleen weren't in the yard squabbling over whose turn it was to do what. Matthew wasn't splitting wood while trying to settle them down. No Michaela came to the door to thank him for the turkey or whatever he'd brought, to invite him to eat with them, or just to talk. This would probably be a good time to work on the repairs and renovations he had planned for the homestead, without a lot of children or women underfoot. Truth was, though, he wasn't sure his heart was in it.
He'd abandoned the homestead when Abigail died, thinking he'd never return. But something about the new lady doctor -- the way she'd picked herself up from the mud without squealing or crying, and later, the way she'd taken down the sign in Bray's store -- the one forbidding Indians and dogs -- when he'd come in with Wolf and Black Kettle, the way she'd looked directly into his eyes ... he didn't think he'd ever forget that look and something had compelled him to offer the homestead in answer to her advertisement for a place to live and set up practice.
He had figured, that done, he wouldn't go back, but then she took on the children when Charlotte died and he'd helped her when Brian ran away. She'd accepted help from him and the Cheyenne without question and had stepped in front of soldiers stampeding on horseback, one with a drawn gun, to prevent harm from coming to the Cheyenne who'd helped her. She'd doctored Black Kettle, Robert E and even Sully, himself, here. And suddenly he couldn't stay away. He took supper with them most nights, often providing the meat himself. He helped out with the children and somehow, despite their many differences, he and Dr. Mike had become friends. Best friends. Good memories had replaced the bad and being at the homestead was a good thing, once again. But now, with everybody gone, he found it hard to be there. He couldn't help wondering if it would be a waste of time to fix up the homestead -- if anyone would be coming back to enjoy the results of his handiwork. Shaking his head as if to clear it, he called to Wolf and headed back to his lean-to and a solitary supper.
Michaela sighed and sank deeper under the covers, again thankful to be in a real bed at last. She was exhausted but almost too keyed-up to sleep. The last two days had sped by. Marjorie and Everett had met them at the station and, as usual, she had gotten off on the wrong foot with her sister by insisting on seeing Mother right away. She had spoken to doctors Hanson and Burke who were like night and day in their attitudes towards her. Dr. Burke, who insisted on her calling him William (although she wouldn't yet let him call her Michaela) was young and apparently receptive to new ideas, including women doctors and Indian medicine. Dr. Hanson she remembered vaguely from her days working with her father, mostly because he always made a great show of leaving the room when they appeared together to examine a patient. He preferred discussing her mother's condition with her banker brother-in-law, rather than any of the daughters, including one who was a colleague. He was outraged when she disagreed with his diagnosis of liver cancer and scornful of her research on hepatitis caused by improperly cooked seafood -- oysters in particular.
Thank goodness Dr. Burke -- William -- was more open-minded, despite the fact that he'd been working with Dr. Hanson for 10 years. She wondered why she didn't remember *him*. Apparently their paths had just never crossed. She had wired Sully asking him to send back the information contained in papers she had written on the Cheyenne medicine, including a liver detoxification tea. Funny, since their arrival she had hardly given Colorado Springs a thought until she sent the wire. She hadn't had time!
There was, of course, a big dinner the first night to welcome them. She found herself very nervous coming into the dining room that first evening to meet family and friends she hadn't seen for over a year. She met the stares head-on, knowing they weren't dressed nearly finely enough. She felt as out of place here as she had on her arrival in Colorado Springs. Well, once Mother was taken care of there would be time enough for new clothes.
Between visits to the hospital there was a whirlwind of visits to family and friends, getting acquainted with brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews and all the hubbub that is created when a large family gets together. Tomorrow her sisters were giving a tea for her. She hoped Sully would be able to find the papers all right and would send them soon.
Dr. Mike and the kids had been gone nearly a week. Sully was wandering aimlessly down the street when Horace burst out of the telegraph office. "Sully! Better come quick! Ya got a telegram from Dr. Mike!"
Sully felt a sudden surge of dread and came running. When he read Dr. Mike's request his first feeling was that of relief. Her Ma was holding her own. She wanted some papers she'd written that contained information that could save Elizabeth's life. He begged Horace to keep the telegraph open until he got back then set off at a run for the clinic. He let himself in and found the drawer where Dr. Mike had said the papers were. He scanned them quickly. Why, they were all about the medicine Cloud Dancing was teaching her! Were those fancy Boston doctors going to let her use Indian medicine on her Ma? Sully felt a small surge of pride that Dr. Mike was going to try to cure her Ma with Cheyenne medicine. He closed the drawer and was about to turn to go when he spotted Dr. Mike's medical school picture on the desk. He picked it up and stared at her image. It had been taken years ago. But the same clear eyes he knew so well gazed out of the picture, the same look of determination was on her face, the same beautiful hair pulled back on her head. He became aware of his heartbeat and of a strange, foreign feeling in the pit of his stomach and he realized how much he was missing her -- and the kids, of course. Well, the sooner her ma got better, the sooner she'd be home. He put the picture down with a sigh and raced back to the telegraph office where Horace had the devil of a time translating Dr. Mike's medical treatise into Morse code. Sully paid Horace and left, feeling very satisfied. She would have her papers soon and there would probably be another telegram for him telling him they'd arrived and thanking him for sending them. And if the cure worked ... Sully hardly dared to hope, but his step was light and his thoughts happy as he headed out to the homestead to take care of the chores.
Michaela was having a very bad time at tea when the papers arrived. Her sisters, all except Rebecca, of course, were hacking away at her -- at her choice of career, her dress, her speech, her grooming, her mannerisms. As she had their first night in Boston, and, indeed, for all Michaela's life, Rebecca championed her warmly, defending staunchly all the things Claudette, Maureen and Marjorie saw fit to criticize. It was almost a relief when the maid, Fiona, brought her an envelope. Marjorie, in the heat of battle over Michaela, nearly took the poor girl's head off, but Michaela thanked her warmly, grabbed the papers and made good her escape.
Much later that evening, Michaela tossed in her bed as sleep once again eluded her. But this time it was elation, rather than worry that kept her awake. Elation and more than a slight touch of embarrassment.
William had been superb. He had read the papers immediately, then without a by-your-leave had grabbed her hand and they'd hurried off to the hospital where he'd done a masterful job of convincing her mother to try the Cheyenne dandelion tea as a liver purgative. They would start tomorrow! She had been so elated and so sure that this was going to work that she'd thrown her arms around William in a bear hug, forgetting who and where she was. Her cheeks reddened as she recalled the incident. She had *never* done anything like that before. She was glad no one had seen and that William hadn't seemed offended. It had just felt so good to be affirmed by a colleague after the way her sisters and Dr. Hanson had treated her.
Sighing, she thought about the children. If her sisters had been giving her a difficult time, they had been suffering a similar fate at the hands of their cousins. "You'd think there was no civilized place on earth outside o' Boston!" Colleen complained. She made her voice deliberately cultured. "Propah ladies don't go to *college*, they go to 'finishing school' and they most *certainly* don't become doctahs!" Resuming her normal voice Colleen continued, "Well, if Margaret and Eleanore went t' finishin' school, all I got ta say is I think their teachers left somethin' out!"
"Yeah, well, that's nothin'!" Brian retorted, still rankling from his and Matthew's encounter with their male cousins. "Robert an' Edward think th' Cheyenne are savages an' they say they can't wait t' join th' Army t' help wipe 'em out!"
Michaela recalled how the boys had almost come to blows over that conversation resulting in her sisters' comments about her own little 'savages'. And she had so wanted the cousins to get to know and like each other ... Rolling over she willed herself to sleep. There was much to be done tomorrow and in the days to come.
The days flew by as Michaela and William, behaving almost like naughty schoolchildren, gave her mother the medicine when Dr. Hanson wasn't around. The effects were immediate and profound and as Elizabeth began to feel better, she entered into the spirit of the game, taking the tea as well as Dr. Hanson's treatment, delighting in keeping the whole thing hush-hush.
"Hush-hush" was also the word for their trips to the park to pick dandelions to use in brewing the tea. In Boston such places were definitely "look but don't touch". They avoided the park keepers as much as possible and when they couldn't, Michaela would provide a distraction while William gathered the flowers. Once an official actually caught him with a handful grey, gone-to-seed weeds but William, thinking quickly, put his arm around Michaela and holding the fluff in front of her said, "Quick, make a wish!" The park keeper nodded and winked and looked the other way. Michaela, flustered, managed to comply, then disengaged herself from his embrace, when he did not seem inclined to release her.
Finally the day arrived when Elizabeth was pronounced miraculously cured. As the family and doctors gathered around the bed, Michaela and William were almost bursting with the secret, so they were not prepared for the reaction when Elizabeth credited them with her cure and they finally told about the Cheyenne tea and its remarkable effect. Her sisters, except for Rebecca, reacted with shock and disbelief. Dr. Hanson, his nose seriously out of joint, was incensed and fired Dr. Burke on the spot. No one seemed to remember or care that Elizabeth was well again. They only knew that Michaela had "slipped something to Mother" and they were outraged. Elizabeth became so agitated that they all left quickly so she could get her rest.
Michaela felt bad for William and even somewhat responsible for his being fired but he had assured her that he'd been looking for an excuse to strike out on his own. She was also feeling elated and gratified that her mother had referred to her not only as her father's partner, but as "Doctor" -- the first time she had done so in other than a scornful manner.
Now that Mother was well and would be coming home in a few days, Michaela suddenly felt remarkably free. After nearly a month of worry and anxiety, she could finally enjoy being home. Home ... a tiny thought tugged at her mind but she dismissed it before it could take hold. There were suddenly so many new things to think about.
William had invited them out to supper and there were new clothes to be bought for everyone. Brian had been so good through all this that he deserved a trip to the confectionery -- a place that had intrigued him since they first arrived. Colleen would love visiting the library ... and there was Mother's homecoming to plan for and shortly after that, the Holmans were giving a ball in honor of Mother's birthday. The prospect of an evening out with William made her heart flutter. It had been a long time since she'd had a colleague willing to acknowledge her medical skills. Her heart was light and she was able to dismiss Matthew's grumbling as she led them into the haberdashery.
Sully sat near his lean-to, knees drawn up to his chin, and gazed into the fire without really seeing anything. He smelled something, though. The meat he had been roasting on a stick had burned to a crisp. He gave the stick a push and it toppled into the fire. He wasn't hungry, anyway. Three weeks had gone by with no word from Dr. Mike. Had she gotten the papers? Were they in time? Had she been able to help her Ma? Did Boston even *have* dandelions?
He had a hard time keeping his imagination from running wild. Dr. Mike had told him what a busy place Boston was and he worried that she'd been run down on her way to pick up the telegram. He worried that Elizabeth had died, or worse, that she'd had something catching and they'd all took sick and died. He tried not to think that Dr. Mike had just forgotten about Colorado Springs and everyone here -- about him. His sleep was plagued with dreams. He was in a strange place full of fancy buildings and lots of people. Sometimes in the dreams he was walking down cobblestoned streets hand in hand with Dr. Mike; sometimes he dreamed he was looking for her but he couldn't find her anywhere ...
A visit to Cloud Dancing convinced him they were dreams of the future and the next day he went to see Robert E. "Could you look after the homestead for awhile, Robert E?"
"Sure thing, Sully. Everythin' okay?" Robert E looked at his friend with concern.
"Yeah. I just gotta go outta town for awhile."
Robert E nodded. If he suspected what his friend was up to, he kept his own counsel.
Sully continued, "I been takin' care o' th' stock ... been takin' th' milk to the Wilkins family who could use the extra. I also been waterin' Dr. Mike's garden since it hasn't rained in awhile. Water's gettin' pretty low, though."
"Water's low everywhere" Robert E replied. "We don't get some rain soon, we're gonna have us a regular drought."
Grace, who was passing by carrying a pot said in exasperation, "How'm I supposed to cook without water, I'd like to know?"
Robert E just looked at Sully and shook his head. "Don't worry, Sully. I'll look after things for ya, long as you need."
"Thanks" Sully clapped Robert E on the shoulder and hurried off to see Horace about a ticket for the stage.
The dawn that followed a night fraught with dreams found him out along the track where the stage passed by. He'd had a time fielding questions from Horace yesterday about his "business in St. Louis" and he didn't want to board the stage in town where his departure would be certain to set the townspeople to gossiping. When the coach came by he flagged it down, then climbed up to the roof with his bundle and settled down for the long journey, his thoughts far away, remembering Cloud Dancing's last advice -- to follow his heart.
Michaela had a splendid time purchasing new outfits for herself and the children. It was worth it just for the look on Colleen's face at having her first "boughten" dress. Brian amazed her by consuming a huge sundae, ice cream being quite a novelty to him. The dinner and dancing with William had been elegant and wonderful and now they had Mother's homecoming to look forward to the day after tomorrow. "You *will* come for supper that night?" she urged William as he saw her home after a walk by the Charles.
"I wouldn't miss it!" he said earnestly, looking directly into her eyes.
Michaela smiled, then glanced away under the intensity of his gaze. "Knowing Mother, she'll insist on coming down for supper."
"Then I'll be sure to be there, if only to keep an eye on her!" William's look belied his words. He went on, "I was wondering if you might wish to accompany me one day when I make the rounds of my pro bono patients. Perhaps you could even offer some alternative suggestions for their treatment from your store of knowledge."
"Oh, William" Michaela said, flustered. "I'd love to!"
"Fine!" William beamed. "I know you'll be busy with your mother's homecoming the next couple of days, but let's say Thursday morning? I'll call for you at 8:00." And with a small bow, he was gone.
Michaela watched as he retreated down the street, her heart beating more rapidly than she liked. It had been so long since she'd worked with a real colleague -- and been treated as such by anyone other than Cloud Dancing. She'd exchanged wires with Dr. Bernard in Denver from time to time which were always courteous, but not the same as consulting face to face. She had actually met Dr. Cassidy, also of Denver, just this fall, but he had been insufferable, allowing a patient of his to die rather than letting her give him treatment she knew he needed and that she could provide. Now here was William, not only asking her to accompany him on rounds, but speaking to her as an equal, indicating that *she*might have things to teach *him*. Even David had never gone that far. She closed her eyes for a moment, remembering William's intent look, then opened them quickly as another set of features threatened to replace his in her daydream. Enough. It was time to consult with her sisters about the menu for the homecoming dinner.
Sully made his way toward Beacon Hill on the last leg of his journey. Boston astounded him. Nothing Dr. Mike had told him had remotely prepared him for this. He was attracting a lot of stares here as, indeed, he had since he'd hopped off the train. No wonder. Even the porters at the station were in fancier duds than he was. He remembered how out of place Dr. Mike had been in Colorado Springs when she arrived in all her fancy clothes. But a little Colorado mud had taken care of that! He never liked being the center of attention and wished for a moment that he could turn invisible.
By asking the way of some rather taken-aback passers by he was able to find his way to the Quinn house. He gave a low whistle when he saw it. It was huge and quite as fancy as the people of this town. His admiration for Dr. Mike went up a notch when he thought how she hadn't even batted an eye when accepting his humble and very much in need of repair homestead as a place to live and set up her practice. Seeing what she came from made him realise how much she had given up to move West, but rather than turning up her nose at his homestead, she'd made it a real home. He climbed the steps, took a deep breath and rapped sharply with the brass knocker.
A stiff and starched gentleman opened the door and the look on his face made Sully wonder if he had inadvertently stepped in something in the street. He was careful to wipe his feet before crossing the threshold. He heard talk and laughter coming from a room off to the side and headed toward it despite the man's gabbling something about 'announcing' him first. He entered a large room filled with elegantly dressed people seated around a long table. They all turned to stare at him and he stopped short, feeling as if he'd suddenly walked into a wall.
Michaela was having a wonderful time at dinner. When they had first arrived she'd felt so nervous and out of place. She felt as if her new life had changed her so much she could never really be at home here again. She felt as if there were two Michaelas -- a Colorado Springs one and a Boston one and she wasn't sure to which of the two worlds she really belonged. But for now she felt right at home here in Boston. For now, the world of Colorado Springs seemed very far away. Bringing her mother home, being here with all her family, having been a part of her mother's cure, having William here beside her, all combined to make her feel she had, indeed, come home at last.
With William's hearty endorsement, she suddenly found herself a heroine and people were asking with interest rather than skepticism about the dandelion tea and other Cheyenne medicine. Marjorie still looked as if she'd swallowed an unripe persimmon, but the animosity between them went back a long way and perhaps, in time, they could find a way to be friends. Meanwhile, she was basking in the moment, enjoying getting to know William better.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the front hall. They could hear Harrison loudly protesting as he hurried after someone who came bursting into the dining room. Michaela looked up in surprise and shock as suddenly her two worlds violently collided.
Dinner was over and Sully sat in the room that had been allocated to him, reflecting on the events of the evening. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but it certainly wasn't this. He looked at his surroundings - an enormous bed with a canopy -- he was used to sleeping on the ground under a canopy of stars. A fireplace right here in the bedroom -- hmmm -- not a bad idea. The fireplace reminded him of Dr. Mike who'd offered to get someone named Harrison to make him a fire. They had servants for every task imaginable -- they did everything but eat your meals for you. It amazed him further that Dr. Mike, who had come from all this, had been able to survive so long on her own. He really couldn't figure her out.
When he'd entered the dining room on his arrival, he heard the children call his name in happy surprise, although none of them got up. The reaction of nearly everyone else made him want to check the bottom of his shoes again but he resisted the urge. Mrs. Quinn, ever the gracious lady, had stood and greeted him politely as if he stopped by every day, and saw to it that a place was set for him for dinner. A woman with dark red hair, older than Dr. Mike but looking enough like her that he figured she was one of her sisters, was grinning at him delightedly. He'd hoped for a similar reaction from Dr. Mike but she looked as if she'd just found a beetle in her salad and avoided his eyes, looking around instead as if to gauge the others' reactions. He felt as if he was the last person she expected -- or wanted -- to see. All this made him decidedly nervous and he found himself shoveling food in faster than normal just to cover up.
There was a man seated next to Dr. Mike with whom she'd been chatting animatedly when he'd walked in. He'd introduced himself as William Burke and questioned Sully about his 'occupation' and whether it was business that had brought him east. Another Dr. Mike look-alike with bright red hair and a pinched and angry face had referred to him mockingly as a 'mountain man' while the darker-haired sister tried to hush her. Dr. Mike had found her voice at last to speak of him and their friendship, including the fact that he had saved her life more than once, which made him feel somewhat vindicated. He didn't like it one bit, however, when that Burke fellow expressed his 'gratitude' to him for this. Did he think Sully had done it for him? All in all he was quite glad to leave the table and be shown to his room before he was tempted to do something that would further scandalize these elegant folks.
Dr. Mike followed him and spoke to him in a very stiff, formal way about having someone make up the fire. Sully had had about enough and asked her outright if she wasn't glad to see him. He felt hot with embarrassment at the memory. Why had he asked? Why had he even *had* to ask? They were standing so close, he felt intoxicated by her presence. A fire was the last thing he needed. All this time he had been dreaming of being with her, of talking with her and now she was suddenly so cold and distantly polite. She was a stranger. Gone was the comfortable, friendly relationship that had grown up between them back home. She finally admitted to being glad to see him, just surprised that he was here. He told her how worried he was and she thanked him and said goodnight and that was it. Now, as he stared at the door through which she had exited moments ago he asked himself what he'd been expecting. Apologies from her for not staying in touch? A happy 'I'm so glad you're here'? A hug? A rundown on what she'd been up to? -- Obviously her mother was well on the road to recovery -- Questions about life and people in Colorado Springs? Instead she'd hardly said three words to him since he'd arrived, all in that stiff, pained, formal voice, calling him 'Mr. Sully'. He hadn't had a chance to talk with the kids, either. He'd imagined their reunion in many different ways, but this was not one of them. Sitting on the bed he smacked the bedpost in frustration. Why had he come? He didn't belong here. And now that he was here ... what next?
Michaela left the room swiftly, closing the door behind her, then stood, her back to the wall, breathing hard, trying to collect her thoughts and get a grip on her emotions. Why did he have to show up just as she was becoming reacclimated to being home again? It was as if he were an unwelcome reminder of the life she'd left behind. As long as he stayed in Colorado Springs she'd been able to keep her two 'worlds' separate but now that he was here she knew she'd been deluding herself.
She thought back to the days before the telegram about Mother's illness had arrived. She'd been feeling alternately happy and nervous about her and Sully's friendship. It made her happy that they seemed to be getting closer, but at the same time she was frightened. She found herself very attracted to him and she knew a part of her hoped that they would become closer. She just couldn't read Sully. Sometimes she would catch him looking at her in a certain way that made her heart jump and the next thing he would take off, not showing his face for days at a time. Still, things seemed to have been changing recently -- he'd stood with an arm around her in the town picture, he'd made that beautiful saddle for her and helped her to ride in the Colorado Sweepstakes, even handing her a flower from the blanket of roses that Flash had worn after the race. She'd gone to the pre-race festivities and to Grace and Robert E's wedding on his arm. He ate supper with them most nights and had even taken to giving her an occasional peck on the cheek goodnight. Her own feelings were a mystery to her as well. She had felt impatient with him when he seemed unable to let go of Abigail's memory, but when he wanted to renovate the homestead to make it more livable for her and the children, it had made her decidedly nervous, dredging up all sorts of unresolved feelings of her own. She had been starting to come to terms with some of this, and was looking forward to sharing their picnic on that fateful Sunday when the telegram arrived. That had turned everything upside down and put everything going on between them aside for the time being.
She had been glad that she had Sully to rely on to look after things at home and that led her to wonder somewhat indignantly, who was looking after the homestead now that Sully had come traipsing after them. She realized guiltily that she hadn't even asked him how things were at home or even how *he* was, for that matter. He'd said he was worried and she supposed that was her fault, too. She should have sent another wire but she had just become so caught up in her mother's cure and family and ... William. She hadn't given Colorado Springs ... or Sully ... more than a passing thought since she'd sent the original telegram.
So now Sully was here. A reminder of all she had left behind, a reminder of issues she wasn't sure she was prepared to confront at this time. Standing there in the room with him so close had shaken her more than she liked and his remark about building fires had, for some reason, made her rather uncomfortable. For a moment she had thought he was going to kiss her. A noise in the hallway jarred her out of her thoughts and she looked up to see her eldest sister smiling at her. "Rebecca! I thought you'd left with the others!"
Rebecca hooked her arm companionably with Michaela's. "I thought it might be nice for us to have a little talk. Are you in your old room?" They began to move down the hall together.
Michaela smiled. "No. It occurred to me that Colleen might enjoy staying there. And she's thrilled! She loves beautiful things!"
"Yes, Mother told me about Grandmother's silver dresser set."
"Colleen won't let anyone touch them!" Michaela laughed. "She actually hit Brian once when he used the brush on his wolf."
Rebecca raised her eyebrows. "His wolf?"
Michaela sighed. "Sully gave it to him as a puppy last Christmas." They had reached Michaela's bedroom and moved inside, arranging themselves comfortably on the armchairs set before the fireplace.
"I like your Mr. Sully," Rebecca said warmly.
Michaela blushed and lowered her eyes. "He's not 'my' Mr. Sull," she replied.
Rebecca gave her sister a penetrating look. "Does he know that?"
"We're just friends," Michaela insisted, flustered.
Rebecca reached out and grasped her sister's hand. "Michaela," she said, "remember me? It's Rebecca ... the one you always confided in?"
"Oh, Rebecc,a" Michaela gave way to her pent-up emotion. "I'm not sure *what* we are anymore!" Rebecca said nothing, but sat back, indicating she was prepared to listen. "Of course you know that he lets us live in the homestead he built, and Mother must have told you how he took care of me when I was ill ..." Michaela threw up her hands. "He brings us food when he's been hunting, he splits stovewood for us ... he even wants to add on to the homestead to give us more room!"
"You say that as if it's a bad thing. It sounds to me as if he's been much more than a friend."
Michaela repeated the helpless gesture. "He takes Brian hunting, teaches him about tracking and survival, and he does things with Colleen and Matthew, too. He's assisted me with procedures at the clinic and he always checks on us when the weather is bad. We make weekly trips to the Reservation to help treat the Indians. He's been there for us through so many bad times ... somehow, he always seems to know when he's needed ..." Michaela's voice had become soft.
"And you've fallen in love with him," Rebecca said quietly.
Michaela lifted her head, startled. "I didn't say that!"
"You didn't need to," Rebecca pointed out.
Michaela clasped and unclasped her hands nervously. "I'm ... I'm very *fond* of Sully .. we all are ... as I said, he's a very good friend ..."
Rebecca shook her head, smiling. "Oh, Michaela, you were always so good at diagnosing others, but you've never had a clue what was going on in your own heart ..."
"I beg your pardon?" Michaela tried to look indignant but Rebecca kept smiling at her and finally she shook her head ruefully. "It's just that we're so ... different!"
"On the surface, perhaps," Rebecca replied seriously, "but in ways that count I believe you're more alike than you know. As soon as Mr. Sully walked into the dining room tonight I could feel the spark."
"Of ... commonality. And ... of something else ..."
"Something else?" Michaela asked weakly.
Rebecca leaned forward placing a hand on that of her sister. "Michaela, what possible reason could there be for Mr. Sully to pack up and come all the way to Boston?"
"He ... he said he was worried ..."
"There are ways of obtaining information about your welfare without making a grueling 2000 mile trip ..."
Michaela breathed deeply and removed her hand from Rebecca's. "I ... I'm tired now and William is calling for me in the morning to visit patients with him." She stood up and moved toward the door.
Rebecca rose with her. "Then I shall see you tomorrow," she said, giving her a swift hug. "But think about what I said, and listen to your heart."
Michaela closed the door behind her sister and closed her eyes as well. I won't think about it now, she told herself. There's too much else to think about ... too much to do. Right now I must get my sleep so I can be ready to accompany William tomorrow. William. No, she wouldn't let her thoughts stray in that direction, either. Sleep was the thing. Blessed, dreamless sleep.