One Decision Too Late

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt


Drama Romance Western


This chapter picks up two years "The First Circus" left off. from when Kat and Jaime were teenagers.

Kat’s POV

The Circus returned for the next two summers. That last year, I was fourteen, and Jaime was sixteen. The Circus was only in town for a couple of nights, it was such a short time, but I looked forward to it every year. Not because of the performances, I was getting bored with those, but because I got to spend time with Jaime.

We were sitting on hay bales in the stable next to the jail, talking. The hay smelled sweet, but it scratched the backs of my ankles. Other than that, the firmly packed bales made a comfortable seat.

“I want to go with you when you leave this time.”

“Gee, Kat, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a hard life, and I don’t make much money.”

“So get a different job, you could stay here and….”

“I don’t know how to do nothing else.”

I sat there in silence, not knowing what to say that, with a storm of hurt and confusion swirling in my core.

Jaime jumped down off the hay bale and turned to face me. “I gotta go. The Ringmaster will be looking for me. Will you come to see me before we leave out tomorrow?” Jaime asked with a small smile.

I turned my back on him and left the stable without another word.

When I got home, I went straight up to my room. I heard my stepmother Adella call out that supper was ready, but I pretended I didn’t hear her. My Papa had moved into her big house on the outskirts of town after she and my Papa had married, and because of the size of the house, I could get away with pretending I was too far away to hear her. 

Tears stung my eyes, blurring the stairs in front of me, causing me to stumble and bash my shin painfully against a riser about halfway up.

I gritted my teeth and dashed the tears away violently with the back of my hand.

I threw myself down on my bed and hugged my pillow. I hadn’t shut the door behind me, so a few minutes later, I felt the mattress sink as my stepmother sat down beside me and patted my back.

“Katherine, tell me what’s wrong.”

I sat up and tucked my legs under me, picking at the quilt that covered the bed.

“I told Jaime that I want to go with him when the circus leaves tomorrow morning.”

My stepmother’s eyes widened, and her eyebrows shot up, but she didn’t say anything.

“He said he didn’t make enough money, and he didn’t think it was a good idea.”

“Jaime said that?”

“Mama. I told him I loved him because I thought he loved me too.”

“Well, if he is worried about being an adequate provider, then it sounds like he does love you.”

“Should I go with him then? There must be something I can do with the Circus. Maybe I could learn to be an acrobat.”

“Over my dead body!’ My Papa’s voice boomed from the doorway. “No daughter of mine is joining the circus!”

 Mama Adella quickly moved to his side and put her hand on his shoulder. “Now hold on, John. I think we should wait and talk about this when we are all calmer.”

“Oh, we will, alright!” My Papa jabbed his finger in my direction. “You will stay in this room until you get some sense in that head!”

With that, he slammed the door so hard it made the floor shake, and I heard the snap of the key turning in the lock.

I jumped down and rattled the doorknob, and when I realized he really had locked me in, I banged on the door and shouted. 

“Papa! Let me out of here! I’m not a child!”

Contrary to my words, I slid down with my back to the door and bawled like a baby, my forehead pressed against my knees.


Papa’s POV

I walked out the front door, feeling Adella’s eyes on my back. I could tell that she disagreed with me, and maybe it was wrong, but I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I wasn’t letting my daughter throw her life away with some ne’r do well. 

I walked around town, checking on things for a few minutes, and when I felt a bit calmer, I went back home where my darlin’ wife was waiting. 

“Martha,” she said to her maid. “Will you set dinner out now?” Martha nodded and pulled the covered dishes from the warming tray and set them on the table.

I kept bracing myself for Della to list all the things I had done wrong in my handling of Kat, but she didn’t mention anything about it all through dinner.

“I heard Midnight’s foal is nearly ready to be born,” She said, referring to Kat’s horse.

I hunched over my soup. “Yup. Pretty near.”

Della chattered about the lack of rain and the goings-on at the dress shop until dessert was served, and Martha left the room, throwing a puzzled glance over her shoulder.

“John.” My wife said, and I gritted my teeth. “She loves him.” She held her hand up when I opened my mouth. “You had your say. Let me have mine, please.”

“Do you know what Jaime said when Kat told him earlier that she wants to join the circus with him?”

I shook my head. This wasn’t the tack I expected her to take, so I had nothing to say in response.

“He told her no. Because he can’t yet provide for her. That tells me that he is a responsible young man who cares for our Katherine.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Get to know him, at least.”

I took some time to think about what she had said, but I didn’t let Kat out of her room, and I had my wife bring her meals since I knew Kat would still be furious with me.

The next afternoon I rode out and caught with the Circus a few miles out of town. I had decided that my wife was right that I could at least get to know the boy.

I talked to the Ringmaster first. “Jaime left. He found a different job.”

“A different job? Where? With who? Not many opportunities in these parts.”

The Ringmaster shrugged. “I don’t know. He didn’t say.”

I asked a few of the performers and got the same answer, so I had no choice but to ride back home empty-handed.

May 26, 2021 19:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.