"When are you going to let me take you away from this life and make an honest woman out of you?" Sebastian asked Mathilda sulkily, pulling on his pants and removing an uncounted sum of money from his pocket.
"Just as soon as you're ready to bring me home to that nice ranch of yours out by the lake," Mattie answered him as she always did; lazing on the bed half draped with sweat stained sheets and the other half bathed in sunlight streaming in through a high, narrow window.
"Ah, Mattie. Why can't you just agree to be my mistress and let me set you up in a nice little cottage outside of town?"
"And just what do you suppose I would do with myself when you aren't there?" She pouted, wondering why he didn't know how much his proposal tempted her, and how it hurt her even more.
"You could plant a garden and learn how to sew and cook and do other useful things," he suggested.
She laughed in disbelief, hooking the buttons of her dress and looking at her reflection in the faded mirror to make sure the bustle hung just right over her bottom. "Sure, I could just see myself, pullin' weeds and shooin' away the rabbits when they get too close to my vegetables!"
Sebastian's throaty laugh thrilled Mathilda, "That would be a sight to see! Two young hares, rump to rump like dueling pistols, crouched by the gate."
"You would have to teach me to shoot," Mattie suggested, wistfully thinking that maybe then she could challenge his wife to a duel. Mattie didn't speak that last thought out loud, but Sebastian read it in her face and he pulled her into his arms for a long, lingering embrace.
"Someday," he fisted his fingers into her thick, blond hair, whispering the unspoken promise in her ear; and she tried not to let her heart believe him, though it had been lost so very long ago.
She smiled her best unassuming smile and pushed him out the door. She was still dreaming about a garden overlooking the lake, blooming with a thousand flowers, when the next knock came at her door.