The Clementine Experiment
Part 32 of the Ranch Days series
By Maz McCoy
“Would you like to kiss me?”
“What?” Hannibal Heyes looked away from the store window and into Clementine Hale’s brown eyes.
“Would you like to kiss me?”
Heyes looked around. Although the main street in Claremont was busy their section of the boardwalk was empty. “Here?”
“No, silly, not here!”
“On the lips.”
“No, I meant where in town?” A sudden thought struck him. “On the lips?”
“Wow,” he grinned.
“Come with me.” She took hold of his hand and led him into the alley between the stores, then across the grass towards the river. When they reached the trees on the river bank Clementine stopped and turned to face Heyes. She leaned back against a tree. “Here.”
“You can kiss me here. If you want to?”
“Sure, I want to.”
“Then kiss me.”
“Okay.” He swallowed, then wondered if his breath was fresh. What if it wasn’t. He ran his tongue over his teeth, seemed clean enough.
“Are you going to kiss me or not?”
“Oh, yeah.” He took a step closer and she smiled. He placed his hands on her shoulders, his face moving down towards hers, then closer and closer. She closed her eyes and puckered. Eventually his lips connected with hers and she wrapped her arms around him crushing him against her as their mouths melded.
Heyes began to enjoy himself and let his arms move down her back as she sighed and…slipped her tongue into…and began to… Sheesh! Woah! He didn’t think respectable young ladies knew to…He pushed her away.
“Mmmm.” She still had her eyes closed and he watched, fascinated as she licked her lips.
She opened her eyes and gave a contented sigh. “I’m fine. That was lovely. Thank you.”
“Does this mean we’re walking out together?”
“Might?” He was confused. Surely after a kiss like that…?
“I have Jed to consider.”
“What’s to consider?”
“He likes me too.”
“Yeah, but you just kissed me.”
“I know, but I haven’t kissed Jed yet.”
“Why would you want to? I think we were pretty good together and after a kiss like that…”
“But I need to compare you.”
“Clem, I don’t understand. I thought we just…” His eyes narrowed. “What’s to compare?”
“If I am to choose between you and Jed I need to know what I’m getting. I know you are a wonderful kisser, Hannibal but what if Jed is better?”
“He won’t be!”
“I’ll have to find out.”
“What, you’re gonna just walk up to him and ask him to kiss you?”
“I did it to you, didn’t I?”
Yes, she did. Darn. “Look, Clem, Clementine. I really like you and I’d like us to be more than friends.”
“So would I, Hannibal.”
“Good, so there’s no need to bother with Jed.”
She placed a hand on his vest. “Of course there is more to walking out together than kissing.”
He swallowed. What the heck did she want a sample of now? He waited.
“If we were walking out together would you give me a token of your affection?”
Phew. “Of course.”
“What would you give me? No wait! Don’t tell me. Just bring it to me.”
As Heyes stood dumbstruck, Clementine backed away towards the town. As she walked off she called out a time and place for them to meet again before he had to ride back to the ranch.
“Would you like to kiss me?”
“Hell, yeah! I mean, what?” Jed turned to face Clementine as she stood beside him on the boardwalk outside the mercantile. He had just been admiring the ribbons she pointed to when her question came out of the blue.
“I said, would you like to kiss me?”
Jed looked around. He could see Bill and Marty across the street and Heyes was sure to be around somewhere, not to mention the ladies standing chatting just a few feet away. “Here?”
“No. Come on.” She took his hand and led him down the alley between the stores and behind the livery stables. A strong smell of horse manure accosted their nostrils but Clem kept going until they were out of smell-range. She stood beside a large stack of fresh hay which conveniently shielded them for the view of the town. Clementine looked into Jed’s blue eyes. “So, do you still want to kiss me?”
“You know I do.”
“Then kiss me.”
“Okay.” He took a deep breath, leaned forward and down a little and…His lips touched hers. She sighed. He pressed a little harder and she threw her arms around his neck pulling him close. Their mouths fused, their bodies moulded together and she…Oh, woah her tongue was…Ooh, that was…Wow. Sheesh. Did young ladies do that too? Maybe he should…Jed gently pushed her away.
“Mmmm,” she sighed, then opened her eyes and smiled at him. “That was wonderful. You’re an amazing kisser.”
“I am? I mean, I am!” Wow, who knew?
“Would you kiss me again? Just so I can be sure?”
“Er, yeah, why not?” He grinned and moved in once more. Lips locked, mouth melded, serious smooching ensued. Eventually they separated. Both smiling.
“Clem, are we walking out together now?”
“Perhaps? You mean after a kiss like that you ain’t sure?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, Jed. It was a wonderful kiss. It might even have been better than Hannibal’s but…”
“Heyes kissed you?”
Jed’s eyes narrowed. “Did he take advantage of you?” His hand rested gallantly on his gun butt.
“Not as much as I’d have liked.”
“No, he did not take advantage of me.” Jed relaxed. “So, if we were to walk out together would you give me a token of your affection?”
“I have to admit I am torn between you and Heyes.”
“Yes. I don’t know which of you I’d be happier to be with.” She peered up at him and smiled. “I would like to see your token though.”
“Of your affection for me.”
“Good. When you have it, bring it over to my house.” She turned and walked back to the main street.
“Yeah,” the man replied as he placed two cards on the saloon table and the dealer dealt him two more.
“What do men give a woman as a token of their affection?” Heyes asked as he sat at the table twirling his hat in his hands.
The men at the table laughed and Heyes looked up. He saw the lewd expressions on their faces. “Not that! I know about that!”
“You sure, boy?” a dark-haired man asked giving Heyes a toothy grin.
“I’m sure.” He turned to his friend as Bill tossed some coins into the pot. “What do you give a sweetheart so she’ll remember you?” There were more guffaws and raunchy suggestions from around the table and Heyes sighed. “Oh grow up!”
“Men give women flowers,” Bill stated as another coin hit those in the pot. “They seem to like that.”
“A handkerchief,” another man offered. “I remember my Ma always carried a handkerchief my Pa had given her when they were first courting.”
Heyes nodded, this was the sort of information he need. “And?”
“If you’re real serious you’d give her some jewellery.”
“That’s probably too expensive for him.”
“She might get the wrong idea, think he’s proposin’.”
“You proposin’, kid?”
“He ain’t proposin’.”
“Maybe a comb she can put in her hair.”
“Or how about a brush? Women are always brushin’ their hair.”
“My missus brushes her hair at night. Why is that? It’s only gonna get all tangled once I get in with her.”
“And what’s the thing with ribbons? I mean how many ribbons does a woman need?”
Heyes smiled and nodded as the poker players continued to offer suggestions.
“If you wanted to impress a girl what would you give her?”
Marty dropped the sack of flour into the back of the wagon and looked at Jed standing on the boardwalk.
“You got someone you want to impress?” Jed didn’t answer but he did look across the street at the doctor’s office. So that was it. “Why d’you want to impress her?”
“So she’ll walk out with me.”
“So what should I give her?”
“How much you got?”
Jed reached into his vest pocket and pulled out some fluff and a handful of coins. He spread them out in his palm and showed Marty. It didn’t amount to much. His shoulders drooped. It probably wasn’t enough to impress a girl. He looked up at his friend.
“Not all women are impressed by things, Jed.”
“She said she wants a token of my affection.”
“I see.” Marty rubbed his stubbled chin. “Hmm, we’d best get thinkin’ then.”
Hannibal Heyes stood outside the home of Doctor Ellis Hale. He wiped his boots off on the back of his pants legs before adjusting the collar of his shirt. He patted his vest pocket, reassuring himself that his token was there. At the sound of footsteps he turned to see Jed walking towards him. The young man carried a bunch of wild flowers. Was that all he had? Heyes smiled confidently. “Hi.”
“You here to see Clementine?”
“Got a token of your affection?”
“I sure do.” Heyes patted his pocket. He looked at the flowers. “That yours?”
“No expense spared, huh? No expense at all.”
“Let’s see what Clem says shall we?”
“Lets.” Heyes knocked on the door and they waited.
Sitting on the porch outside Doctor Hale’s house Clementine examined the gift Heyes had just given her. She turned the comb over in her hand studying the beautiful floral decoration.
“Oh, Heyes, it’s beautiful!”
Heyes beamed and gave Jed a confident smile. “May I put it in your hair for you?” he asked Clementine.
“Oh, please do.”
Heyes took the comb and gently placed it in the young woman’s hair securing her tresses away from her face and taking the opportunity to feel its soft, silkiness as he did so. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She touched the comb and beamed at Heyes, then turned to Jed. “Did you bring me a token too, Jed?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He held out the flowers.
“Oh.” Clearly it was not what she had expected. Heyes smiled. It wasn’t what she wanted either.
“I thought about buying you somethin’, Clem but there was nothin’ in the store as pretty as you.” She began to warm to Jed’s way of thinking. “I couldn’t see anythin’ to show you how I felt about you either. Then I saw these flowers and realised they were a reminder of your natural beauty. Every time I see a field of wildflowers I’ll think of you. I’ll think of the prettiest thing in all God’s creation.”
“Oh, Jed, that’s the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.” Jed beamed at Clementine and grinned at Heyes. The dark-haired young man scowled. His usually reticent friend sure was gabby all of a sudden. And he was supposed to be the one with the silver-tongue. Clementine touched a hand to the comb once more and sniffed the flowers. “Oh, now I have to make a decision.”
“Maybe, once you have, I could take you on a picnic?” Heyes offered.
“I’d prefer it if you’d take a buggy ride with me,” Jed informed her. “Save you havin’ to sit on the damp ground.”
Heyes shot him a look. “Or we could take a stroll to the cafeteria and have a…”
“I’ve decided!” Clementine announced, interrupting Heyes. Blue eyes and brown eyes focussed on her. Manly shoulders stiffened. Egos were braced. “I choose…” She looked from Heyes to Jed and back to Heyes.
“Who?” Heyes prompted.
“Who, Clem?” Jed urged.
“I can’t choose.”
“What?” they chorused.
“So I choose you both.” She smiled, satisfied with her decision.
“You can’t!” Heyes stated.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because…” Jed’s eyebrows furrowed. “Heyes, tell her.”
End of Part 32