Emma’s end

It was a signpost. It pointed to the left, where Dead Fox Junction was, the same always, and to the right, into the darkness, the great unknown. Everything that had happened in town was meaningless now, it was over, and now it was time to choose. Stay or move on. In the darkness Emma’s eyes searched the silhouettes of the people she had known for so long, looking for Sarah.

Sarah was the only one Emma really loved. Some of the others were friendly, cute, like children to her, including Johannes. But Sarah… Sarah had seen and touched many people, and she preferred Emma. They longed for each other’s gentle touch, for the private moments when they could finally be themselves. Around Sarah, Emma didn’t have to be the eternally strong and impervious woman she needed to be when dealing with daily business in the saloon. Sarah knew just as well as Emma did what it was like to be despised and feared by the “good citizens” of the town. They found solace in each other.

Emma’s eyes had searched the small crowd around the signpost several times without finding Sarah’s dark hair. Johannes hovered around her, asking questions. A cold sinking feeling made Emma tremble. She remembered how Sarah had sat by the fire with Johnny. How she had spent more time with him today then with Emma. Could it all have been a lie?

Something in Emma snapped. It didn’t matter anymore. The men who called her names, whom she always had to hide her feelings from, they were walking drunkenly into the darkness. She could finally just break down and cry her eyes out. Her knees gave and she dropped her rifle to the ground. The tears came in a gush and she couldn’t help but cry out. It was over now. No saloon, no Sarah, everything was gone.

Three pairs of feet were vaguely visible through the tears. Johannes, Evaline and Laura, but their voices didn’t get through to Emma. They didn’t understand. Emma belonged in Dead Fox Junction, without the saloon she was nothing. Nothing but an abusive, cruel woman who should go to hell. She looked up towards the town, there were still some lamps on behind the windows. She helplessly shuddered, crying.

Johannes grabbed her by the arms and helped her up. Evaline and Laura still hovered, talking, but Emma couldn’t focus. Johannes’ face swam before her in a sea of tears.
“Why are you still here?” She croaked. “You can be free of me now. Go! Go and find someone who can love you, dammit! Leave me here where I belong.”
Johannes shook his head. “You belong with me.”

Emma embraced him and buried her face in his chest, something she had never done before. “I’m so sorry.” She wondered if he knew how she had betrayed him, if he understood how little he meant to her, how she had ridiculed him, how she had found comfort in the arms of another woman. Why did he still want her? What did he feel for her that he would forgive her all this?

Johannes took her hand in his and started to walk. “Come on. We should go.” He lead her towards the darkness, the great unknown. And Emma allowed it. She allowed a man to guide her, to save her.

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