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Teresa’s Surprise – Barbara V.

Word Count 2,378

# 3 in the Christmas Gifts Series

Christmas was on the way at Lancer. Everyone was busy buying an wrapping gifts. Teresa was making sure everything was perfect with the tree and the pine baughs placed around the house. She supervised the placing of ornaments on the tree, much to Scott and Johnny’s frustration. 

“I don’t know about you Boston, but I’m wore out!  Put it here, Johnny; no it goes over there, Johnny; tie the ribbon tighter, Johnny! I don’t see what differnce it makes, long as they are on the tree. And with all that fussing to get the tree just perfect, I did not get even one cookie for all my hard work.”

Scott was listening to his brother, trying not to laugh, but failing miserably. “Johnny,, you know Teresa wants everything to be just right. She believes it is a reflection on her if her efforts are lacking. She’ll be in the kitchen soon, and we are not allowed in there, so we’ll get a break.”

Murdoch was arriving at his desk and heard Johnny’s bemoaning the unfairness.  

“Johnny, you’ll get no more cookies today. Maria pinned me in the hall proclaiming serious injury to your backside if she caught you anywhere near the kitchen. She was a dozen cookies short and saw that pink shirt of yours as you were running from the kitchen. That would point to you, Son.”

“Red! My shirt is faded red, not pink. Besides I wasn’t counting. Did she really say a dozen cookies? I only grabbed a couple before I heard her coming. I’ll make it right with her after we open presents on Christmas. She’ll love what I got her.”

Scott gave up trying to hide his laughs. “Little Brother, I think I need to spend more time with you on your arithmetic lessons. There is a wide difference between a couple and a dozen.”

Johnny was prepared to counter Scott’s insult when Teresa came through the room.”Murdoch, I need Johnny to take me to town. We still need some more gifts for the orphaned children at the mission. Fr. Mike just got five more children who lost their parents in a fire. We didn’t have them in our headcount.”

“Of course, darling. How sad; those children losing their parents that way.” With that, Teresa left for the kitchen to continue with the baking. 

“Wait a minute. Why am I her official driver?  She has gone to town almost every day. If it’s not Green River, then it’s Morro Coyo or Spanish Wells. How much does one woman need to buy?  And why isn’t Scott roped into this chore?”

“John, she hasn’t made that many trips. I need Scott here to help with the books, and writing up the proposal for the Army.  Would you like me to swap jobs between the  two of you?”

Shock played across Johnny’s face as he thought about the books. He exited the room, headed to the kitchen. “Teresa, I’m ready to leave when you are.”

Teresa opted for Green River as her destination. She headed to Widow Hargis’s store to find gifts, then was to join the ladies in her sewing circle for a quick meeting. They needed to check to be sure all the children would receive a new set of clothes, new shoes and a small toy. Johnny told her he was going over to pester Val for a while. 

The widow helped Teresa choose the age appropriate gifts for the new children. She wanted to show Teresa some new items just in as well. 

“My dear, these gifts should do nicely for the children. The older girls may like some hair ribbons. I am out of ribbon at the moment, but Hattie should have plenty. Her dress shop is doing very well.” 

“Miss Hargis, that is a wonderful idea. I will head there as soon as my meeting ends. You’ve been very helpful. Merry Christmas to you.” Teresa headed out the door on the way to her next stop.

Leaving her meeting, Teresa’s friend Sandra waved her down to chat for a bit. 

“Sandra, it has been a while since I’ve seen you.  I’m headed to Miss Hattie’s shop. And have you seen that gorgeous dress she has on display? She said it was an original creation by a famous designer from France.  It’s beautiful, with lots of lace at the collar and and sleeves. There are tiny roses made of ribbon sewn on to the lace. The dress is satin and a lovely shade of blue. I look at it whenever I’m in town. I would love to have a dress like that.”  Teresa was fairly gushing, describing the dress to her friend.

Amused at Teresa’s enthusiasm, Sandra tried to help with what she thought was a good idea.  “Why don’t you ask Mr. Lancer to get it for you? You know he will. You are like a daughter to him.  Just ask him!’

“Oh I couldn’t do that.  The dress is quite expensive, and money can be tight this time of year.  He has done so much for me especially now that Daddy is gone. He would probably get it for me, but I wouldn’t feel right if he did. Besides, where would I wear a dress like that? No, I’ll have to be content to look at it when I come to town. Let’s go there now. You’ll see what I mean.” 

Unknown to Teresa, Johnny made a stop at Hattie’s dress shop to discuss the purchase he made. He needed Hattie’s help. 

Miz Hattie, Teresa sure loves this dress. Every time we’re in town, she goes to your window to look at it. Do you think it’ll fit her?  I sure hope she likes it.”

Hattie patted Johnny’s cheek in a motherly fashion. “Johnny, she will love it. I already have Teresa’s measurements, and the dress should fit her perfectly.”

“Thanks Miz Hattie. Remember, Teresa can’t know I bought the dress. It’s her Christmas present. She always looks after us men and doesn’t ask for much. Can I pick it up tomorrow?  Oh, but what if she asks who bought the dress? If I know that little lady, she’ll ask.” 

“Not to worry, my dear. I have my little tale rehearsed. One little white lie won’t hurt. I’ll have it wrapped really fancy for you, and add a big bow.”

“Thanks Miz Hattie. I see her coming this way with her friend. I gotta scoot out the back. She can’t see me here or she’ll guess something’s up. Bye, and thanks.”

Teresa stopped at the window. “Oh no! Cindy, the dress is gone. Someone must have bought it. Let’s go see Miss Hattie. Maybe she’ll say who bought it. I’d like to know who the lucky lady is.”

Hattie made sure the dress was well hidden from view. Smiling, she greeted the girls. “Hello ladies. What can I help you with today?” 

“Oh Miss Hattie, the dress from the window is gone. Please, won’t you tell who bought it?  We won’t tell.”

“Ladies, you know I shouldn’t, but since it seems to be important for you to know, I’ll tell.  A gentleman came in just after the stage arrived. He said he would only be in town a short while, and he was buying it for a very lucky lady in his life. After the evening stage pulled out, he was gone. I really don’t know much about him. He didn’t give me his name.”

Sounding defeated, Teresa remembered true her reason for the visit. 

“Oh well, it was worth a try.  Thank you Miss Hattie.  Oh, I need some ribbon to use as hair ribbons. We are putting together gifts for the orphaned children. The older girls may enjoy hair ribbons.”

“Why certainly. You pick out the colors you want and I’ll give you a yard of each. Consider it my contribution to the children.”

Teresa made her selections, and she and Sandra left. They parted ways with cheery holiday wishes, as she returned to the sewing group to deliver the ribbons. 

Johnny was sneaking down the alley trying to avoid Teresa seeing him. He turned and ran directly into Val. 

“Boy, what are ya’ doing in my town on a week day, and why are ya’ sneaking around in the alley. You get one of the ladies from the Soiled Dove mad at ya’?”

“No, Val.I had to bring Teresa in for shopping, and I’m getting her Christmas present from Miz Hattie.  I didn’t want Teresa to see me leaving the shop, so I went out the back & came through the alley. She thinks I went to your office to pester you.”

“Well that ain’t no lie. Ya’ do know how to do that.  Just behave yourself. Wouldn’t want to have to lock ya’ up again.”

Johnny and Teresa completed their tasks and were on the way home. Forgetting about the dress for a while Teresa filled Johnny in on the preparations for the children. Teresa chatted all the way home. Johnny just listened and nodded to her.

Early the next morning, Johnny slipped out, heading to Hattie’s shop. He was going to pick up Teresa’s gift.  After retrieving the beautifully wrapped box, he thanked Hattie, wishing her a Merry Christmas. He was able to get back into the house without being caught. He safely hid the box in his armoire. He smiled at his deception and prepared the second part of his gift to to Teresa. 

Christmas morning finally came. The family gathered to open their gifts. 

Johnny watched as everyone was seeing the treasures awaited them in the gaily wrapped boxes. Johnny wanted to be sure not to tip his hand too early, so he put on his little boy look that everyone had grown to love. 

“Open mine last Teresa. You know I’m not good at picking out gifts. I don’t want you to be disappointed.”

“Oh Johnny. Any gift given with love is never a disappointment. I will open your gift last if it makes you feel better.”

Finally Teresa was ready to open Johnny’s gift. As she unwrapped the box, she found only blue ribbons. The family looked at Johnny, concerned that the ribbons were the only thing Johnny could think of to give Teresa.  Murdoch made a mental note to speak with Johnny. Teresa tried to look surprised and happy about the gift. 

“Thank you Johnny, they are very pretty.” As she picked up the ribbons, she noticed an envelope in the box. “What’s this? A letter?” 

Scott was growing impatient. “Well, open it, and let’s see what it says.”

Teresa opened the letter an silently read its contents.


You keep this house running with all the efficiency of a General.  It may seem that we do not appreciate your efforts, but we do. You cook, clean, sew, mostly stitching up  my rips and tears. You help Maria with all the cooking, and make the best chocolate cake around.  Sometimes you can be a pain in the rear end, but we know how much you do for us.  I’m not good at picking out gifts, and I’m not much good at writing letters either. Scott helped me some. I do have another gift for you. It’s under Murdoch’s desk. You mean the world to me, Little Sister, and you deserve to be happy. 

Love, Johnny

Teresa sat staring at the letter. Tears escaped from the corner of her eyes. She reached over to Johnny and kissed him. Murdoch and Scott wondered what was in the note, but Teresa chose to keep it private. 

“Johnny this letter is so touching. I’ll keep it always.”

“Well, don’t just sit there. Wipe your nose and get your present.” Johnny smiled in anticipation once Teresa sprinted to Murdoch’s desk. Pulling her present from beneath the desk, she was struck by the large bow, and beautifully wrapped box. 

Murdoch was amused but also growing impatient. “Well Dear, you’ll never know what Johnny got for you unless you unwrap the box.”

Teresa removed the bow and tore the wrapping from the box. Ad she removed the top, she stared a minute the let out a squeal of delight.

“Johnny, you didn’t! You shouldn’t have. Oh my. It’s beautiful I have admired this dress for months.” Clutching the dress she flew into Johnny’s arms, tears flowing freely now. 

“Thank you so much. You have no idea how happy you have made me. It was you Miss Hattie was covering for. Sneaky.”

“If you don’t like it I can take it back and get you something else. Miz Hargis got some nice saddle blankets in.” 

“Johnny Lancer, you will do nothing of the sort. I love this dress so much.”

Johnny’s eyes were sparkling with mischief. His father and brother came over to congratulate him on his gift. The three men watched Teresa twirl around the room, holding her dress up to her body, dancing to a tune only she could hear. 

Johnny reached out and snagged Teresa as she made another turn.”Well, come the next Cattleman’s Association dance, I bet Audra Barkley won’t outshine you. You will be the belle of the ball. All those ladies are gonna be green with envy.”

“I already have a date for that dance when it is held. I am taking Johnny Lancer. And yes, you will dance.”

“Okay, but watch your toes.  I am glad I could make you so happy. Merry Christmas, Little Sister. 

Murdoch watched his ‘daughter’ with delight. He moved over to his younger son. “John, that was a wonderful gift. You had me worried when all she got was the ribbons. It seems you are now very good at picking gifts.”

“Thanks Murdoch. I found a good use for some of that listening money you gave me. She is really happy, isn’t she?”

Nodding, Murdoch threw his arm around Johnny’s shoulders, squeezing him in an embrace. Scott moved to Johnny’s other side and slapped him on his back. “That went well, Little Brother.”

Murdoch asked the room to settle down. “Now that I have the attention of all my ‘children’, I would like to wish all a very Merry Christmas. 

December 2021


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7 thoughts on “Teresa’s Surprise – Barbara V.

  1. Very sweet story, but if it’s the thought that counts Johnny’s gift of blue ribbons should have been acceptable to all. Johnny’s loving spirit saved his Christmas from Murdochs tongue. Thanks for sharing and keeping Lancer land alive. JML always ♥️


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