Sunny One So True

T.C. Belcher

 

 

The engine growled in protest at the sudden stop.   Metal wheels screaming against the metal rails at the drastic change in speed as the engineer laid on the break. The passengers were thrown forward with the sudden jolt of it all and just as quickly tossed carelessly back into their seats.  All the passengers pushed to try and get close to a window to see what was going on.  What had caused the sudden stop, being unable to hear anything the window seemed the next best option. Pushing and shoving as they tried to get as close to a window as possible.  Shortly two scruffy looking men came threw the door from one end of the passenger car while another pair came threw from the back.  The two that came in together first were arguing over who was gonna do what.

 

“Heyes said I could do it this time.”  Kyle whined.

 

Wheat Carlson spat on the floor scoffing at the complaining of his companion then rolled his eyes, “Like I care what Heyes says.”  He mumbled.  As Lobo and Preacher looked at one another, Preacher rolled his eyes as Lobo shook his head,  “All right all you people off the train.”  Wheat bellowed being his usual loud obnoxious self.  “Now!”

 

Slowly the people began to file off out of the car from one end or the other.  Kyle and Preacher stayed by the steps to help the ladies down while Wheat and lobo stayed on board until everyone was off.

 

Down the tracks Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah “Kid” Curry were talking to the clerk in the mail car.  The man took his job seriously and had not responded to Heyes usual “Stand and Dee-liver!”  Kid unsuccessfully tried to hide his smile at the irritation in Heyes eyes when he looked at him, and shrugged.  Up on the roof of the car Hank had found a trapdoor.  He pulled the door easily open and dropped in with his gun pulled.

 

“Will you open the damn fool door.”  He shouted at the clerk, who had jumped about a foot at the sudden appearance of the man.  Kid and Heyes looked up as the door flew open and the clerk came flying out.  Kid caught the man and sat him on his feet.

 

“Easy there Hank.”  Kid smiled at the clerk, “You all right?”  The clerk nodded numbly and moved away.  Heyes was peeking into the car to get a look at the safe.  He turned and looked the others and grinned.

 

“Boys, this won’t take long at all.”  Heyes sighed with confidence.

 

Jumping up into the car he settled himself next to the safe. He removed his hat and plopped it on the floor next to him.  Took off his gloves and ran his hands threw his hair taking a slow deep breath as he did so. Then closing his eyes he place his cheek against the cool smooth metal of the safe.  As he did so everything else around him fell away.  There was nothing but him and the sounds the safe made as he moved the dial to work the tumblers.  His concentration was absolute.  Kid shook his head as he watched his cousin begin to work.  He wasn’t to sure that opening a safe wasn’t almost a sexual experience for Heyes.

 

While Heyes manipulated the Tumblers on the safe in the mail car one of the passengers made her way closer to where Kid and Heyes stood.  She couldn’t believe her eyes.  She was sure it was them, it had to be.  They had changed so much since the last time she had seen them.  But there was something about the manner and attitude of both men that was so familiar to her.  The physical resemblance was so strong. The blonde with the curly hair and sparkling blue eyes.  The smile of the dark one, he had dimples and eyes filled with mischief. She crept closer, as close as she dared.

 

“Somethin’ I can do for you Ma’am?”  Wheat drawled startling her.  He began smoothing his shirt and hitching up his pants trying to improve his appearance like he had a chance to impress this lady.

 

“Is that by chance Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry?”  She asked quietly ignoring the fact that the man was checking her out.  She was very pretty in her stylish traveling suit.  It was a soft blue color with darker trim. It was cut just low enough to show a tease of her breasts and fit her form perfectly to her waist showing off the assets that nature and good genes had given her.  The shirt of the suit fell in such a way as to show of the curve of her hips and give a hint of the log legs that it hid underneath.   Obviously it was new, as was her hat and soft leather shoes.  She wore her hair in the latest style and showed off her high cheekbones and the flash in her eyes.  But most appealing about the whole package was the fact that she was aware of none of this. 

 

“Well,” Wheat took off his hat and scratched his head. “That’s Hannibal Heyes all right, but Jedediah Curry.”  Kids given name threw him.  “That there would be Kid Curry.  Don’t think I knowd any Jedediahs.”

 

“Oh it just has to be them.” She muttered to herself as she wondered back toward the other passengers leaving Wheat looking after her with a puzzled expression on his face that quickly turned to annoyance at the idea she wasn’t interested in him.    Oh how she wished she could go up to them and give them a piece of her mind, telling them what they had done to her and how it effected her life.  Some day they would know all right.  She would make sure of that and she would also make sure that they got what they had coming to them for it.  She would see to it if it were the last thing she did!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“But, but Miss Amy ma’am you can’t do this.  You can’t take Han to the headmaster.”  Young Jed Curry glared at the little girl a couple of years younger than he was standing behind the staff member who was waiting for young Hannibal Heyes to climb down out of the tree he climbed to gain access to the second story pantry window.

 

“Jed now stay out of this.”  Once he was down she grabbed him by the ear and began dragging him toward the three-story building that was the School for Waywards they had been sent to following the deaths of their parents.  Hannibal never made a sound. Just went along.  “Young Hannibal here must learn that he cannot simply do as he pleases when he pleases.”

 

Jed looked at the little girl again and sneered, “This is all your fault.  You are such a tattle tale.”   Then he took off running after the adult and his cousin.  The little girl started to follow but at a slower pace pouting.  Trying very hard not to cry.  No matter what she did to fit in something always went wrong. “But, but Miss Amy please don’t do this.  He’ll get beat again.”

 

“Well he should have thought of that before he tried to break into the panty and steal more food.”

 

“But, but, but,” Trying hard to have his cousin’s silver tongue, but the words he needed just weren’t coming in his panic to think, “we was just gonna have a picnic and stuff like that down by the big ole shade tree is all.  Honest.  He wasn’t gonna take nothing big, just some apples or something.”

 

“Jedediah Curry you know that we are not here to have picnics.   Do you think apples grow on trees.” Jed came up short and frowned at that one, but she went on not realizing what she had said, “Food costs money and we have to many children to feed to waste it on something foolish like a picnic.”  She then dragged Hannibal up the stairs into the building and slammed the door on Jed. 

 

With a heavy heart and sigh to match he turned and plopped down on the stairs.  Standing below him was Sunny.  All big sad brown eyes, a dirt smudge on her nose and the most pitiful look on her face. She was wearing a dress that was just a shade too big for her, well worn and slightly dirty.   She was trying very hard not to cry, but a tear slipped down her slightly tanned cheek as she looked up threw her lashes at Jed.  With another sigh he told her, “Now don’t do that.”

 

She stuck out her lower lip in a pout and softly, “I didn’t mean to tell.  Honest I didn’t Jeddy.  I was just tryin to tell some of the other kids so that they could come too and she heared me.”  Another tear chased the first down her cheek. “I’m sorry.”

 

Jed sighed again.  He was feeling much put upon at the moment.  First his best friend in the whole world was dragged off to be punished for trying to help them have a little fun and now he had to deal with a cryin girl. “Don’t call me that!” he frowned. 

 

As the tears began to come a little more freely, she quietly sobbed, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Sorry for what brat girl.”  Gloria appeared from around the corner of the building.  She shoved Sunny almost causing the younger girl to fall down. “What did ya mess up for everyone now.”

 

Jed rolled his eyes. ‘Great’ he thought, ‘This is all I need.’ “Why don’t you just go pick on someone your own size.”  Jed cautioned the older bigger girl. 

 

Gloria strolled up to Sunny with the usual smirk on her face and again pushed the younger, smaller girl out of her way. “I have just as much right to be here as you do Jedediah Curry.  I know this little pest has done something and I want to know what.”

 

“Ain’t none of your business.”  He stood up on the next to last step, making him slightly taller than Gloria.  “It’s my business and hers and I don’t want to talk to you about it.  Why you always gotta pick on her anyway?”

 

“Cause she’s a pest.”  Gloria pushed Sunny again causing the younger girl to fall onto her backside.  But Sunny was brave and didn’t cry. “And Cause I can.”

 

“Well I said leave her alone.”

 

Gloria walked up to Jed and stood nose to nose with him, “Who’s gonna make me?  You?”  She started laughing.  “I really don’t think so little boy.  You can’t do anything right either.  Not without that cousin of yours to back you up.  And I don’t see him no place.  Probably in trouble again.”  She looked at the two younger children and shook her head wondering off to find something else to do.

 

Jed jumped down off the step he was on and held out his hand to Sunny.  “Are you okay? She didn’t hurt you?”  Sunny shook her head no and took his hand allowing him to pull her to her feet.  “You did good that time you didn’t cry.”  That brought a reluctant smile from Sunny.  It was common knowledge among all the children in the home that Gloria was a bully.  And for some reason she had taken a strong dislike to the little girl known as Sunny.  Even the staff had noticed how mean Gloria was to the littlest girl currently at the home.  Han had told Jed once that he had over heard several of the staff members saying that the only reason why they could figure out that Gloria was so mean to Sunny was that Sunny was the type of child that folks came looking for to adopt.  She was cute, bright, and still very young.  Gloria was quickly approaching the age where she would be hard to place.  Her attitude didn’t help matters any.  From that day forward despite the fact that Sunny was a bit of a pest, the boys had taken upon themselves to try an help her stand up to Gloria.  And she was learning.  She didn’t cry, as often, when Gloria picked on her.  Problem was she couldn’t seem to learn to stand up for herself to the older girl.  Sunny was afraid of her.

 

Later in the day Hannibal reappeared.  He had received the usual beating and had been assigned some extra chores to do.  It was decided that if he had so much time on his hands he should use it constructively.  As he left the building Jed and Sunny ran to the steps to meet him.

 

“I’m sorry Han.” Sunny began.  “I didn’t mean to get you into trouble.”

 

Hannibal was staring across the yard toward where Gloria was surrounded by her gang of friends.  “It’s okay Sunny.  It wasn’t your fault.  Someone else told Ms. Amy that if she listened to what you was tellin the other kids she would catch us doing something wrong. “  He looked at the youngster and smiled, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”  His gaze moved back across the yard.  Gloria saw him looking at her and her smile broadened and she waved at him.  Hannibal smiled back and raised his hand in response.  Jed watched this and felt a shiver run down his back.  Han’s smile may have touched his lips.  Barely.  But it had come no were near his eyes.  Jed knew that smile and he knew that this was not his cousin Hannibal standing there any more this was Heyes.  He wasn’t exactly sure when he had begun to think of Han that way.  He knew it was after they had come here.  Jed had noticed the change in Han.  There was the boy that he had grown up with, but there was another part to Han now.  That new part was meaner, angrier and more grown up.  That was the part of his cousin that he though of as Heyes.  Sometimes that was a bad thing and other times it meant adventure and excitement.  That look Han had just given Gloria was part of the new darker part of his cousin and Jed wasn’t sure about anyone else, but he knew that look scared him. 

 

Gloria on the other hand found the expression on Hannibals face very funny and it made her laugh even harder.  To bad she couldn’t get a good look into his eyes.  She wouldn’t have laughed so hard.

 

Miss Amy saw the exchange as well.  She worried about Hannibal.  She had long ago realized this boy had a lot of anger in him.  She worried that it would explode one day. But at the same time she was much good in Hannibal Heyes.  He was bright and a natural leader.  She was deeply moved with the depth of his feelings for his younger cousin.  She had seem him protect Jed at any cost.  Since Sunny had arrived she had noticed that this protectiveness wasn’t just reserved for his cousin.  He tended to be just as protective of the younger children.  She had seem him many times run interference for them with the likes of Gloria or any other bully around.  He also kept them entertained with his vivid imagination and sense of adventure.  She loved to stand and watch when he and the other children were not aware she was there.  The things he could get them to accomplish was amazing.

 

Hannibal reached out and took Sunny’s hand and looked at Jed. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

 

“Han.”  Jed asked, “was it Gloria that told?”

 

“Yep.  She’s the one that over heard Sunny talking to the kids we wanted to come along with us.”  He shrugged, “Since she wasn’t one of them she decided that she would make sure we got caught.”  Then he grinned, a real one.  One that not only touched his lips but the mischief glowed in his eyes. “But I have a plan.”

 

Hannibal managed to round up the other kids.  The ones Gloria did not consider to be among her friends.  As the others listened eagerly he outlined his plan to them.  As the days and weeks passed, little things began to happen to Gloria.  Her chores were never done quite right anyone.  Her share of the dormitory was never quite clean enough.  It never failed if she was picking on someone or trying to get another into trouble a staff member would come around the corner just at that moment.  It was a well-coordinated effort on the part of the other children.   And always just around a corner out of the way Hannibal stood watching with a small smile on his face.  As much as he was enjoying this.  It wasn’t quite enough.

 

Finally a day came when the children caught wind that a family was coming to adopt a child.  They wanted a little girl.  Gloria made big plans to make sure that all the other girl’s would be busy someplace else, so that she could meet this family first.  Jed heard her boasting about how she was not gonna be around much longer and she was finally gonna have a family.  He ran and found Hannibal and told him what he had heard. 

 

“Well then.”  Han looked into his cousin’s eyes.  Jed once again saw Heyes there. “We will just have to make sure that Gloria isn’t anyplace around when that family gets here.”  He got a thoughtful look; “In fact I think Sunny should meet that family first.”  He looked at Jed.  “What do you think?” 

 

Jed began to smile and nodded his head.  “Yeeaaahhh.”

 

Once again the other children where gathered and a plan was laid out.  The other children all agreed that Gloria did not disserve this chance.  None of them could think of a better plan to prove a point to Gloria than to see to it that the best shot at this family went to the one among them that Gloria disliked the most.

 

Finally the day arrived.  Gloria had been warning and threatening all the girl’s for days.  She had it planned out exactly what she was going to do.  Little did she know that someone else had a different plan.  Once again Hannibal made sure that Gloria had to be kept behind, because her chores were not satisfactorily done.  Then because the ole cook Ms. Charlene loved him and disliked the way Gloria treated all the other children she agreed to send Gloria on an errand to the root cellar outback to bring in some fresh vegetables for her.  Once she was out their Hannibal who had followed from a distance locked the door behind her. 

 

The woman was in her middle twenties; she had a warm and welcoming smile.  She had eyes that were both sad and loving.  Her slightly older husband seemed a little overwhelmed by the number of children they were being introduced to.  Neither of them seemed to be completely taken with any of the girl’s until they saw Sunny.  Jed had to take her hand and lead her to the room the young couple was waiting in and then gave her a push threw the door.  Suddenly very shy, Sunny had no idea what to do.  She stood in the doorway trying not to cry.  The young wife noticed her first and gently touched her husbands arm.

 

“Oh darling look at her.”  She gasp, “She looks just like Emily.”  Emily was the husband’s younger sister who had died as a child of approximately the same age as Sunny.

 

Her husband turned and looked at the frightened little girl looking at them with huge eyes.  Slowly he walked over to her and squatted down in front of her.  “Hello.”  He said gently and offered his hand to her.  “My name is Orly Smith and that pretty lady over there is my wife Sally.  What is your name?”

 

“Sunny.”  She replied so quietly that he almost didn’t hear.

 

“What a pretty and unusual name.”  He smiled at her.

 

“My mommy gave it to me.  She said that my daddy said before he died that I was his little ray of sunshine and he wanted her to name me that ifin I was a boy or a girl, and cause my daddy died before I was borned mommy promised him that she would.  So when I got borned she did. And then when I got bigger she got sick and died too and I had to come live here.”

 

The young wife came over to join her husband.  She knelt on the floor next to him and asked.  “How old are you sweetheart?’

 

“I’m 6 almost 7.”

 

The wife looked at her husband with pleading eyes.  She had fallen in love. “Oh honey.  How can we not.”

 

The husband looked at his wife and shook his head.  “Well it isn’t exactly up to me.”  He looked at Sunny.  “What do you think young lady?  Would you like to come and live with us?”  Sunny looked at them with big eyes that seemed to have gotten bigger.  “We have a big house that you can live in.  You can have your own room, new clothes and shoes, why I bet we could even find a puppy or a kitten for you if you wish.”

 

Sunny looked at from one to the other and shyly asked, “Could I have a pony too.”

 

The husband began to laugh, “I think maybe we could arrange that.”

 

“I’d be a good girl.”  Sunny said, “I promise I won’t cause no trouble at all.  I’ll be quiet and do my chores and lessons and and and….”

 

“Oh sweetie.” The wife pulled Sunny into her arms and hugged her.  “We know you will be a good girl and we promise to give you lots of hugs.”  She let go of Sunny so that she could look into her eyes.

 

“Deal?”  The husband asked.

 

Sunny looked at both of them, “Okay.”

 

Out in the hall two boys looked at each other and smiled.  Han turned to Jed, “Guess I should go unlock that root cellar now.”  And headed down the hall.

 

Jed followed running slightly to keep up, “Do ya gotta.”

 

They looked at each other and laughed again.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As she walked down the street, Sunny saw ahead of her the sheriff hustling the two men into the jail.  She gasp, ‘it’s them’ she hurried down the street and stormed into the sheriff’s office just as he slammed the cell door on the two men.  They were dusty and dirty from days on the trail and running, but she would know them anywhere. 

 

Sunny stormed into the sheriff’s office, “Oh no not again.”  Standing there with her hands on her hips she demanded, “There you two are!  I have been expecting you for days now.  Where have you been.”

 

Heyes and Kid exchanged a look.  Kid shrugged at the puzzled expression on Heyes face.  “Ma’am?”

 

“Honestly I swear.  How are we ever going to get this survey done for father if you two keep getting into trouble.”

 

“Ah miss. I think you are mistaken.  These two here be bank and train robbers….”

 

“Yes yes I know.”  She sighed in exasperation.  “This happens all the time.  They seem to look like two criminals’s known as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, but I can assure you Sheriff they are not.  This worthless pair are surveyors for my father Orly Smith,” At the mention of the name realization dawned on Heyes. “As I’m sure you know my father is looking to build in this area opening a general store and possibly several other businesses.  These two were sent ahead to scout out land and possible towns.  My father sent me to find them when he hadn’t heard from them for weeks.”  She sighed, “I have had to bail them out of at least three other jail because they keep getting arrested, or drunk or some other thing.” She looked at them again, “Honestly boys.  What am I gonna do with you.”

 

Kid looked at Heyes again in confusion.  It was all Heyes could do to keep a straight face as he mouth the word Sunny to his partner and the memory of the little girl with the big eyes came back to Kid and he did a double take.

The sheriff was indeed aware of the major land deal that the mayor of this small burg planned to make with Mr. Smith.  Everything this young woman said seemed to make sense.  But yet ….”Ma’am I’m gonna need some proof of this.  Isn’t there some way you can prove who these two are.”

 

Sunny pulled herself up to her full height and did her best to look offended.  Thoroughly enjoying herself at this game.  “Sheriff. Are you really questioning my word in this matter?  I mean really, I can wire my father for proof but I’m afraid that he will be very angry at that continued delay and I honestly don't know what that would do for your town and the deal he has with them.  Confidentially he does have his eye on another town that he has heard the railroad will be closer to and another town has already lost this deal over exactly this situation.”  She shook her head and looked pitifully sad, “Do you really want to take that chance?”

 

The sheriff sighed and reluctantly opened the cell door.  Heyes and Kid hurried out before he could change his mind, grabbed their hats and gunbelts and headed for the door.  Sunny looked at the sheriff and smiled, “Thank you soo much.  You won’t be sorry.”  Then she followed them out. 

 

Outside and well away from the sheriff office the two outlaws turned and faced the girl from their past.

 

“Sunny?” Heyes asked.  Kid had started to grin.  Finally grabbing her in a hug and spinning her around as she giggled with delight.

 

“I didn’t recognize you at all.”  Kid laughed setting her back on her feet.

 

“I would have been surprised if you did.  I mean I was only 6 when I left the home.”

 

Kid looked at Heyes. “How did you know?”

 

“I remembered the name of the man who adopted her.”  He answered accepting his own hug now.  “That was an unusual first name that fella had.” He shrugged, “It stuck in my head.”  Then he looked at her sternly, “You took some chance in there.  You really shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“What if they find out you made the whole thing up.”

 

She looked from one to the other; “Oh I didn’t make everything up.  My father is going to build here and I couldn’t let them put you guys in prison.  Not after what you did for me.  I owe you my whole life.”

They looked at one another then back at her. “What do you mean?”  Heyes asked.

 

She looked from one to the other of them. She saw the puzzlement in their faces, “You really don’t know do you.”  They shook their heads.

 

“We never heard another word about you after you left with your folks.”  Kid added.

 

“Come on then.”  She linked her arms threw one of each of theirs, “lets go to the restaurant at the hotel where I’m staying and I will buy you a good dinner and explain.”

 

Kid’s smile got even bigger. “Sounds good to me.”

 

Sunny laughed, “Some things never change do they?”  She looked at Heyes.

 

He smiled, “Nope.  And that is one I doubt ever will.” 

 

The entered the hotel restaurant and were shown to one of the finest tables.  Once their orders were placed she smiled and went on, “I know you two arranged things so that I could meet those people.  If Gloria had had her way I would have been locked in the attic or something.  Of course you guys had no way of knowing what you got me into.  You see fellas, they were well off when they adopted me.  Not millionaires by any means, but money was never a problem.  As the years went on my father invested that money very well in other peoples businesses and in the railroad.  He also helped others invest their money.  By the time I was a teenager he was a millionaire.  So you see, because of you two I not only had a family again, but one who could give me everything I could possibly ever want.  Believe me my father knows all about you two and how good you were to me at the home.  If he had been here he would have done the same thing and not have thought twice about it.”

 

Heyes gave her a skeptical look, “Sunny I kinda doubt that.”

 

“Yeah” Kid went on, “we had to have robbed some train or safe some where along the line that had money in it that belonged to your father.”

 

“Oh there is no question of that.”  Sunny eyed them with amusement, “More than once Daddy said to me, ‘Girl if those two weren’t responsible for you being in our lives…’ Oh yes,” She nodded laughing now, “I heard that many times.”  The check was brought to the table, Sunny signed it and the three of them left the restaurant and approached the front desk.

“Mr. Lewis?”

 

“Yes Miss Smith.”

 

“Would you please give me that large envelope that I left with you the other day.”

 

“Yes Ma’am right away.”

 

Heyes reluctantly spoke, “Sunny, as much as we would love to stay and visit longer with you, we really should be getting out of this town.”

 

“Oh Hannibal wait just one more minute please.” 

 

“Ma’am” The desk clerk handed her a large envelope.  Sunny opened it and with drew a smaller envelope and handed it to Heyes.

 

“What is this?”  He asked as he opened the envelope.  Kid looked over his shoulder with curiosity.  When they saw what was in the envelope they both began to speak.

 

“Sunny no we couldn’t possible….”

 

“No you can’t…”

 

She held up her hand to silence them. “Look boys don’t try to tell me that it won’t come in handy.  Because I know it will.  Neither my father nor I will ever miss it.  Please boys take the money.  You did so much for me…”

 

“Honestly Sunny.”  Heyes told her, “Mainly we were just getting back at Gloria.”

 

“Yeah.”  Kid added, “You just happened to be the little girl they chose.  They could just as easily picked someone else.”

 

“True on both accounts.  But will please just take it.  And if you ever need anything ever…”

 

With a resigned sigh, knowing it was no use to argue he shoved the envelope in his pocket and leaned down to kiss her on the cheek.  “Thank you very much sweet girl.  Now we really gotta go.”  Kid kissed her other cheek and murmured his own thank you.

 

Almost before she realized what was happening, they disappeared out of her life again.  But she signed content in the knowledge that she had finally gotten to tell them how important to her they had been.