Two years gone, and he was never coming home. Her hands were cracked, her back a mess, and there was so much more to do under the oppressive sun or the morning damp or the chill of night, a wolf in every shadow.
She saw the stage coming up the road and stopped and balanced her chin on her hands, her hands on the hoe handle, the hoe balanced beneath her in the tomato patch. There was music coming from the coach, and a woman in a faded scarlet dress sat next to the driver, who grinned into the sun under a worn silk top hat. The music came from inside, and she was just enchanted enough to forget to pick up the shotgun at her feet.
The coach ground to a halt, cloaked in a plume of dust, and the man lifted his hat and produced a pistol and sheepishly asked if they might have a bite to eat. Sarah couldn't help but for a moment consider that rejecting Jason's proposal of marriage might have been a mistake, though the vision of that haggard old man with the pot belly soon dispelled that thought from her mind. Everything in her life had been a mistake, and this was the crowning moment.
Sarah dropped the hoe and turned around and began walking towards the house, her fingers straying towards her apron, wherein lurked a small pistol John had given her when he left. She couldn't hope to kill the lot of them with it, but she could use it to deny them a complete victory, for she hadn't yet been forced by man or beast to do anything against her will.
She fondled the weapon as she walked up the hill to the house, her mind mulling it over, her fingers dancing about the weapon, made warm from its proximity to her body and the labor of the day, dancing around it but never grasping it.
Sarah turned on her heels, leaving the pistol to lie in her apron. She walked with purpose down the hill towards the man with the gun and the woman in the faded dress and walked right up under her tired face, and squinting in the sun, asked, "Are you headed north?"