Word Count 1,332
Written for the Lancer Writers January 2023 – Betrayal Challenge
Johnny slouched against the garden wall, soaking up the heat from the sun-warmed adobe. It felt good to just sit. After the past couple of days, it was a welcome relief.
Damn Harlan Garrett. Him and his lies had almost got Scott killed. A hair’s breadth to the left and…
He rolled his head back and forth against the wall as if he could dispel the image from his mind. Of the blood running down the side of his brother’s face. Of Scott worrying more about the bastardo than himself.
But wasn’t that just like Scott? Worrying more about others than himself? Willing to put himself in harms way to save another. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.
His hand slid to the butt of his gun, the holster tied low on his thigh. After the business with the Deegans he’d kept it strapped on even in the house much to Murdoch’s silent disapproval.
Another thing to damn Garrett for.
He’d been willing to meet the man half-way for Scott’s sake. Even after the remark the bastardo had made about his mother. And had he been the only one to notice the condescending tone Garrett used and the once-over he had given the place when they arrived? Okay, it wasn’t what the man was used to but it burned in his craw just the same. What he couldn’t understand was Murdoch just standing there and letting Scott leave without lifting a finger. It had been obvious to him by the look on Scott’s face it was the last thing he wanted to do. One word from Murdoch and all this could have been avoided.
And even though Scott was hurting physically the pain had to do more with how he felt towards his abuelo.
Wasn’t easy, learning someone you loved had lied to you all these years. That it was revenge against Murdoch Lancer that had driven Garrett to say and do anything to keep Scott away from him. Even had him dragging Scott’s old fiancé all the way to California as part of a scheme to get him back to Boston.
It was plain Garrett had used Scott against Murdoch. He was sure Garrett cared for Scott in his own way but getting back at Murdoch was his way of balancing the books.
Maybe Garrett and their old man had put their feelings towards each other aside and were making nice for Scott’s sake but what about Scott? How did he feel?
His brother had a damn good poker face that he used for more than playing cards.
Was that what Mama had done? Taken him as payback for something Murdoch had or hadn’t done? Surely that wasn’t the only reason. Mama had loved him. She was the only one who had.
He banged his head against the adobe wall in frustration, fingering the butt of his gun.
Damn, he thought he had worked through all this a while back. One more thing to lay at Harlan Garrett’s feet.
Oh, Mama could lie with the best of them when it suited her purpose. When it put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Like changing their names when they moved from village to village. For their protection she’d said. He knew now it was because some Pink was getting too close. Teresa’s revelation that day by the creek had planted the first seeds of doubt and had made him see more of Mama’s actions in a new and not so flattering light.
He had believed everything his mother had told him. Had grown up hating Murdoch Lancer for throwing them out. As he saw it, the only crime his mother had committed had been falling in love with the pendejo and having his baby.
And wasn’t that the crux of it? Mama never said so but he knew. Had been reminded of it daily in every border town he had had the misfortune to find himself in.
Mestizo, half-breed or worse.
The baby the high and mighty Murdoch Lancer had been ashamed to acknowledge. And when he had had enough he had shown them both the door. Wiping his hands clean of the painful reminder of his indiscretion.
But Mama had lied.
Like Scott’s abuelo had lied.
For a moment the hardened cynical gunfighter was once again the scrawny mestizo with the split lip and bloody nose, unwanted and unloved by everyone but his mama.
She had lived by her own rules. So had he. It was one reason why he and Murdoch butted heads so often. It was against his nature to bend for anyone. Was that one reason Mama did what she did? Taking away her freedom would have killed her as surely as Benevento’s fists had. Is that what Murdoch had seen in him? Why he questioned every decision, every choice he made? The need to break his spirit before he broke his heart as Mama had?
Not that long ago he figured living at Lancer meant conforming to a litany of rules and conditions he could never live up to. While he still bucked from time to time it had gotten easier.
Scott had done some bucking of his own. Going into the army for one. Coming to California for another.
An explosive exhalation of breath surprised the birds flitting among the branches of the tree shading this side of the garden.
Honesty was needed on all sides. Not that he gave Garrett too much credit on that score but for Scott’s sake he would, this once, give the man the benefit of the doubt. With honesty there would be a chance at acceptance and forgiveness. If Garrett hoped to have any kind of relationship with Scott he would first have to accept it would never be the same.
That had been the hardest for him. To accept what Mama had done. Accepting that the responsibility of caring for her had been to much for one small boy to shoulder. That it was not a betrayal of her to want something more.
A voice emerged from his murky past, the time and place as well as the speaker long forgotten: “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”
He stood, sidestepping the bench to drape his arms over the wall, looking out over the land he had come to love. The pastures full of the blades of grass his old man was so proud of, the hills beyond and in the far distance the mountains a hazy smudge. A sense of hope and possibility had slowly grown inside him, filling the emptiness he had carried for so long. Knew it was the same for Scott. A sense of belonging. Of family and home.
This business with Garrett had proved he still hadn’t fully come to terms with Mama’s lies. Regardless of Murdoch’s insistence that the past was the past his had a habit of nudging him now and again. But he had never been one to dwell on what ifs. If he believed what Teresa had said Mama’s actions had laid the foundation for who he was and the choices he had made. If he believed Mama’s, it didn’t change nothin’. He would still be who and what he was. You just had to play the hand life dealt.
Mama was Mama; passionate and fiercely independent but also needy and possessive. But she was gone, laid to rest in an unmarked grave in some shithole south of the border. He would never know what had made her do what she did but he could no more turn his back on her than betray his new family.
“Te amo, Mama.” He whispered, the fragrance of roses scenting the breeze. Her favorite flower. There was a time when she would wear them in her hair. “Te amo.”
** Nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the single person you thought would never hurt you.
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10 thoughts on “To Love A Sinner by DaleL.”
Very emotional, moving and heartfelt. Thank you.
Hi, Helen. Thank you for reading. I’m happy to hear it struck such an emotional chord with you. Again, thank you for reading and taking the time to let me know.
Hi, Caterina. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the story. Thanks!
Hi, Patricia. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks so much for reading!
Very well written story. Definitely tugged at my heart strings. Thank you for sharing
Hi, Carol. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for taking the time to let me know., its much appreciated.
Short but touching
Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the story.