The Longest Day
By Maz McCoy
Standing by the upstairs window he watched as the carriages approached the house along the road from town. There were three of them, each carrying three passengers and a driver, probably hired for the day. They swung into the yard in front of the house is a wide semi-circle before pulling to a halt in a cloud of dust. There has been little rain in the past three months leaving the ground compact and cracking. They had already used some of the winter feed for the horses and if there was no rain soon he would need to buy more feed to supplement their already meagre stock.
He looked at the familiar faces of the people below; listened to the murmur of voices but could not catch the topic of their conversation, although he’d bet money that he knew what it would be. As the passengers began to alight from the carriages he turned his back on the window and caught sight of himself in the full-length mirror that stood in the corner of the room. It always startled him to see an older face looking back. There were more wrinkles now about his eyes, flecks of grey in the hair at his temples and he had needed to punch another hole in his belt to get the darn thing to fasten properly. He studied his reflection. The black pants and crisp white shirt with string tie were not his normal attire. He wished he could have worn more comfortable clothes but that would not have been respectful.
He picked up the hat resting on its crown at the foot of the bed and settled it on his head. Satisfied with the view in the mirror he took a deep breath and then let it out slowly as if strengthening his resolve. Turning from the mirror he walked towards the door, hesitating when he gripped the handle. He closed his eyes and images flashed through his mind. Memories of times shared. A safe, a train halted in the middle of nowhere, the sound of men’s laughter, the pounding of hooves and long, long hours in the saddle, a crumpled Wanted poster, a telegram and downstairs, in the front parlour, a long wooden box.
There was another challenge to face but this time he was on his own. This was going to be the longest day.