Falling for the Outlaw’s Eyes – Extended Epilogue

Penelope’s parents descended like a hawk upon a straying chick in the middle of the day. It was barely three months later, and a good thing that the house had quickly been renovated.

Penelope could see the surprise and excitement on their eyes when Charles gave them a tour. He didn’t have to—Penelope told him that he didn’t owe them a display of the materialism they loved so much, but Charles wanted to humor them.

They had prepared themselves mentally and emotionally for their coming following their letter all those months ago and the ordeals they had been through, but they had been uninformed of the date. When they did suddenly appear, Charles hoped Penelope would be able to stay in character, as they had discussed, until they were gone again.

“The first rule,” he had told her after she panicked months ago when he reminded her of the message in the letter, “is to not be panicked by them. You should not let them have as much control as anxiety over you.”

She sighed, leaning into him to better enjoy how he was massaging her very tense shoulders. “That won’t work. It has been the default setting between them and me for as long as I can remember.” She placed each hand on his splayed legs on the bed, in the middle of which she was seated. “They come into the room and I suddenly cannot breathe. Truly. I don’t think anything will have changed from thence. I think the distance and length of time it has been will even make it worse. I will be so conscious and hyper alert to what I think they may say next.”

“Hmmm,” he mused, working his fingers on her neck area and feeling her relax some more. “Why don’t we try to manage the actual thing that is making you so tensed up about them? Can we do that? Can we try to figure it out?”

“I told you. They always seem to take away my air. I don’t know if it is a conscious or unconscious thing, but it is eminent in everything they say or do. They want to take me and put me in a box they have created. They have an idea in their heads and try to conform me into it. When I, occasionally, am not willing to bend, my mother acts like I have taken her life, and my father sides her by shaking his head mournfully at me. Can you take a moment to ponder upon how much that makes me unsure of myself? I always feel I can never be right with them.”

Calmly, he replied, “What if you take solace in the fact that you are right with yourself and so all their demeaning attitude doesn’t matter? What if you let yourself build upon the fact that you are enough? What if, in fact, you put it at the front of your mind that all you have done since you’ve left their wings and come here is build? Don’t underestimate the woman you have become over these months, Penelope. Don’t let these people make you underestimate that.”

“They won’t see it—that’s the problem. I will come before them, and the only thing they will envision is that child they can order around and impress things upon. They will come in here and want to run the place from that very second they set foot in the door, you inclusive.”

He kissed the back of her neck softly. “You won’t let them.” The way he said it gave her a certain assurance. It made her feel stronger than she always felt.

Still, these were people she had lived with all her life, and there were doubts. “It is hard, Charles. It will be very hard.”

He laced his fingers in hers and squeezed. “I will be right there with you, love.” He nibbled her earlobe and then the nape of her neck. He liked how it made her shiver and try to block him with a raised shoulder. It tantalized him. “We literally battled a cave full of traps and dangerous men together. We appeared victorious on the other side. What can’t we do when we stay united in mind and purpose against their tricks and whiles?”

More relaxed, she laughed. “Sounds like we are planning some coup.”

He gave her more kisses she tried to block carefully. “For you, I will be the general in your army.”

They said to be forewarned was to be forearmed, and so Charles had his arsenals ready by the time a retinue of coaches drove into his premises on a cool evening.

He peered through a curtain and saw them park.

“They are here,” he simply told Penelope who was propped up in the bed, reading. She closed her book calmly and placed it on the bed. She went to the wardrobe and picked out a dress for herself, and a shirt and pants for Charles.

Downstairs, they opened the door for their guests, with wide smiles that didn’t reach their eyes but were convincing enough.

“Oh, Penelope darling,” her mother said and fell upon her neck, letting out sobs without water or emotion. Penelope stood still while her mother kissed both her cheeks. “It’s been so long. I have missed you so much, as has your father. The house is so empty without you. Already, I told your father that we are to take you back with us at once if we do not meet everything satisfactorily with you. So, is everything wonderful with you?” She raised her eyebrows and gave a quick glance towards Charles to show she was talking about him.

Irritated already, Penelope forced a smile and smartly stepped out of her mother’s touch. “As you can see, I am happy and well, mother. Charles and I have a blissful marriage.” She looked up at her husband with genuinely delighted eyes. “We are very happy and satisfied with each other.”

Her father cleared his throat and began to speak. “I think your mother was more concerned with Charles still having the ability to take care of you adequately. You know, a man can be very wealthy, fall upon hard times and lose everything…” As though on cue, Charles and Penelope looked at each other, their eyes communicating. If only her parents knew the half of what they had been through. But, of course, there was none of it they could tell. “But coming here to see the beauty of this grand house, the well-kept vegetation around, and the vehicles arrayed out there, we know you are in good hands. We will not need to take you back with us any longer.”

Penelope’s lips compressed in a tight smile. “We are still outside, father, because you both have not given us the opportunity to leave the doorway and go into the sitting room. Also, we appreciate you acknowledging the beauty of this house and the evident goodness in which we live. However, I will like it be known that I would not readily be taken away by you from my matrimonial home if it were another way round. I would, if ever it crossed my mind to be tired of a love I swore to forever cherish in whatever condition, have had to come to the decision on my own after weighing the consequences, or not, in my actions.”

She saw her mother begin her familiar wringing of hands. “Now, now Penelope, you do not have to sound so curt with us. We are your parents and we will always want the best for you. There is a certain status of wealth and standard of living you have been brought up with. It is only natural that we be concerned about wanting to keep it that way for you even after marriage and leaving our tutelage.”

Again, Penelope smiled, something she was finding so easy to do with how she and Charles had practiced being calm instead of resorting to the natural aggravation such situations brought her into. “Again, you must realize that my age has brought me into a place of knowing what I want and living in a way as to bear whatever consequences come with getting it. Nonetheless, there is the number of things that change about your thoughts and wants when you are exposed to newer people and situations.”

“Why don’t we all go in and settle at the table to wait for the delicious meal Alice is preparing?” Charles said, saving them from continuing another round of banter. Looking at how resolute and fired up Penelope was, he knew she could go on attacking her parent’s ideologies forever, bringing down the demons of her life with them one after the other. And, her parents—typical of folks who believed they had all the right answers—could go on defending themselves and their thought patterns forever. The best he could do was find them a middle ground or, better still, become the middle ground.

The food was good. Alice had outdone herself as always, and it further added to the image Penelope’s parents were glad to see.

Her mother wouldn’t stop talking about how grand the house was, and how proud she was that her husband had chosen the right, capable man for her daughter.

Finally exhausted of it all, Penelope dropped her fork unto her plate and faced her mother. “Shouldn’t you rather be happy about the man’s character than his financial capability? What should sustain the happiness of a woman? A man’s wealth or his absolute love for her?”

Her mother stared at her, feeling challenged. “You would rather have married a poor man then? Any man at all? From the gutters, even, because you want to be happy?”

Penelope held her stare. “That is not the question.”

“Your question, thus, is so purposeless that I cannot conceive its meaning.”

“That is none of my fault then,” Penelope said and began to eat again.

The atmosphere around the dining table had become so stiff that the silence that reigned for just a few seconds seemed so much longer.

“You have a mouth to ask saucy questions and put up an attitude to challenge your parents now because your father actually did the right thing by choosing this man for you. You should thank him every day of his life. If it had been the other way round and you had known lack and want and financial insecurity for one single day of your married life, you would be too humble to run your mouth now!”

Penelope smiled, chuckled, and then began to laugh. She could not control herself. Instead of saying all the happenings of the last few months that would make her parents stare in horror, all she could do was laugh at their confident ignorance.

Her parents watched her, perplexed of what the matter was and who this strange woman before them could be. The daughter they had raised and known wouldn’t laugh out so loudly at the table, or anywhere else in fact. That daughter had known how to comport herself as a lady who had a background of wealth and status. That daughter seldom talked back so vehemently, standing rigidly on a point of view the way a woman who knew her place and the honor she got from staying in it didn’t. That daughter had been less of everything they were seeing now.

The parents looked over at her husband, fearful that she was shaming them by this display of erratic behavior before him, but he was there looking at her like something that had dropped out of the sky. He looked at her like gold he would like to polish and be with every single day. It struck them that they were the outsiders in this thing that was going on, the last ones to be invited to the party, and so they had no idea what was happening. They just had to sit back and watch, mouth agape.

Things were a bit better after dinner. Maybe it was for the reason that they were all tired of the back and forth… Or it was that the food was satisfying enough to dispel all held grudges.

Presently, they sat in the sitting room and sipped freshly squeezed fruit juice and munched on cookies.

“Would you like more juice, Father? Mother?” Penelope asked in a sweet voice when the pitcher on the stool beside them was almost empty.

“No, dear,” her father replied just as politely.

“You, Mother?” Penelope turned to her mother who was staring at one of the paintings on the wall.

“This must cost a fortune, right?” she asked, pointing at the painting, her eyes on Charles.

Charles looked at Penelope, hoping the slight hadn’t gotten to her deeply

Penelope smiled at him and shook her head.

As if in their minds and suddenly remembering she had been asked something, Penelope’s mother turned to Penelope and said, “Oh. Sorry. My mind was so engrossed with this work. I didn’t mean to snub your question. I don’t need anything more. Thank you. You both are wonderful hosts.”

Charles noticed that her words sounded really genuine, which meant that the earlier confrontations at the table were now over in all their minds. He understood that it was probably the way things had been swept under the carpet for years and years. It explained why it was so difficult for Penelope to move on from it all.

“Well,” he said, shifting in his seat and wondering how best to let her know, without her knowing, that it was an original piece he had gotten out of a cave in the middle of nowhere, “it is quite an exquisite one. It was sort of…gifted to me.”

“Wonderful!” Penelope’s father shot in, clapping his hands and sitting forward in excitement. “I have a theory that a man who is influential amongst friends who are wealthy enough to give gifts is the wealthiest of all. That man may live well without spending a dime in his life. It is why I work so hard to get connects to the right people and positions. My love, sometimes, complains that I am not around much. She doesn’t realize that I am out there building influence that will make me unable to be poor again for the rest of my life.”

“Hmmm,” Charles mused, seeing the man’s point of view from the angle of his father’s stored up treasure for him. “True. Most times, it is about who you know.” He could not say more than that.

“Now,” her father continued again in an animated tone, “you seem to know wealthy, influential people. You also have a lot yourself, of course, judging by all this, so, I would like to admonish you to invest wisely. Take it from me who has a credible business able to pay you returns in a hundred folds years later—a man is nothing without his investments.”

Penelope’s mother was nodding hard. “Take it from him, son. My husband knows what he is saying.”

First of all, for some reason, her calling him son made him cringe. Secondly, considering the life he knew his wife wanted to live—with volunteering at the Union and breaking away from the shackles of her upbringing—it would be unwise to allow her father (and mother, of course) be close to them in the name of being invested in his business. He did not see any of it ending well.

The best thing he could do was to withdraw and decline…respectfully, of course.

Clearing his throat, he got to it. “With all due respect, sir, I appreciate your offer but I would like to decline at the moment.”

“What do you mean?” The older man said with a hurt face. “Don’t you realize the opportunity of a lifetime I am giving you as my son-in-law? Do you know how many outsiders want in on this pie but haven’t been found credible enough?”

Charles was feeling hot all of a sudden. He didn’t want to have a confrontation like this. He didn’t want to be cajoled and compelled into something that could boomerang.

He tried another approach. “I have already invested in agriculture, sir; in a farm set to begin yielding returns soon, and so will not like to delve into other things at the moment.”

He saw that he had piqued her father’s interest. He sat forward still and looked hungrily at him. “Tell me more, son. I can teach you other things you need to know on this investment you have made. I can tell you how you can get enough proceedings to later invest in my own ventures. Do you understand? Tell me more! I will help you!”

Now, Charles’ head could no longer take the pressure. He stood up and took hold of Penelope’s hand to hold her up too. With an arm around her waist, he announced to them, “We won’t be investing any further than we have already done, because our spare wealth is already tied up in preparing for something more important.”

He looked at the curiosity in the eyes of both of them, and then he looked at his wife, just as she began to rub her stomach.

He saw the surprise on their faces even before he said, “What is more important to invest in, sir and ma’am, is your grandson.”

They were quiet for some seconds after his announcement, and then Penelope’s mother blurted out, “Preposterous!” Her face showed the surprise and unbelief she felt. “You will rather focus on building family instead of wealth? You will discard my husband’s offer for a child?” Charles stood staring, not knowing what to say in reply to this woman who should be happy for him and her daughter. “I think young people of this age have lost their priorities!”

Charles’ teeth clenched of their own accord. “For some of us, not everything is about money. Money won’t be enough.” He thought of his father’s letter and the longing to watch his mouth physically read it to him…a longing that would never be met.

“Actually,” Penelope’s father came in, “I think I understand the young man’s standpoint. Penelope, for example, is the best investment I ever made. I don’t regret it.” Penelope looked at her father, with tears filling her eyes and her mouth trembling with words she could not articulate. “I say a hearty congratulations to you, sir—and to us too.” He looked at his wife by his side and held her hand. Her face looked to be fighting a war between maintaining her stance and syncing with the majority. Finally, she smiled.

Charles grinned. “At the end of the day, we are all just seeking better investments—paths to redemption,  you can call it.”

THE END


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9 thoughts on “Falling for the Outlaw’s Eyes – Extended Epilogue”

    1. This was one of the best stories I have read. Very intense but ended well. Still would like to know how they did find the treasure though? Wish this part of the story would have been detailed.

      1. I agree with you. Feel a little cheated. BUT…

        After the way – things progressed and got them out after they ditched the outlaws . The outlaws were apprehended when they came outby sheriff and posse which were alerted by un-named man.
        I remember that he still had the map and that his Friend Sam used his share of the treasure to take a trip; I figure that they went back together and found the treasure.
        They had to have done that as the rebuilt the wing that had fire damage etc.
        I also think that his fathers letter showed he was probably the un named man.
        I may be completely wrong but as an observant reader this is my take.

    2. This was a good it kept you wondering what was coming next .T he evil men got what they deserved. I was glad they finally found there way out of the cave, and we’re able to go back on their own and found the money and fixed part of the house that was burnt. They truly loved each other I was happy for them

  1. Hi Leslie, I was really glad Charles and Penelope’s marriage was strong and able to withstand a visit from her unbelievably controlling parents.

  2. A good story and Penelope was blessed to marry Charles and to find true love and have different values than her parents

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