Thursday, June 06, 2019

Poplar Mountain by Dellani Oakes Part 2

Dollie has gone up the mountain to fetch Lucius Henry, to help set up the play party set for that evening. He agrees happily.

Lucius and Dollie walked down the well worn path to the school. It wasn't much over a mile and the day was sunny but cool. Lucius sneaked peeks at Dollie as she talked. She was always so bouncy and excitable. Her enthusiasm amused him. The most mundane tasks, like milking a cow or darning a sock, filled her with joy. A city girl, Dollie delighted in all that was rustic. She didn't mind doing things by hand that in the city could be done by machine. She'd learned to weave, sew, knit and make baskets. Her little apartment, that she shared with her sister, was full of her crafts.
"I'm surprised none of the boys would help out," Lucius said by way of distracting himself. If he continued to stare at her, she'd cotton to it. Not only that, he'd likely fall down the mountain if he wasn't careful. He'd far rather look at Dollie than his feet.
"Too busy spiffing themselves up for the party. You'd think it was a cotillion, the way they're carrying on. I declare, they're worse than the girls."
"Well, for folks like us, this is a grand event," he replied quietly.
Dollie glanced at him. Lucius has his hands jammed in his pockets. She touched his arm tenderly.
"I'm sorry, Lucius. I forget...."
"Our little play parties must seem silly in comparison with the pretty parties you've been to back home."
"I didn't really go to the parties back home. Those were for the rich and beautiful. I'm neither."
"You may not be rich, Miss Dollie...." He stopped abruptly before he said something inappropriate. He desperately wanted to tell her she was the most beautiful girl in the world. "—but you're the closest thing to a princess that we got around here." His blush deepened.
Dollie didn't miss the blush or the disquiet. To ease his embarrassment, she giggled at his joke. "Well, the princess tried to command those boys to help and didn't get very far."
"Don't worry. I'll get them hopping," he assured her as they passed behind the clinic. "You head on up to the dining hall. I'll go by the boy's dormitory and see what I can do."
"Thanks, Lucius. You're a prince."
He bowed deeply, sweeping his hand behind him as if pushing back a cape. "Mine is but to serve, Your Highness."
Blushing, Dollie giggled nervously. She liked Lucius more than she wanted to admit. The boys back home had never interested her much, nor had they treated her like a grand lady. Lucius always gave her the feeling that she was the most important person in the world.
Lucius righted himself, stepping closer. "Do you have an escort to the play party tonight, Miss Dollie?" His voice deepened, growing husky.
"I—I don't."
"I'd be proud if you'd consider me your partner for the dancing."
"I'd be delighted, Lucius."
"Thank ye, Miss Dollie. You do me an honor."
"Just Dollie," she whispered, dropping a slight curtsy. Embarrassed at her boldness, she turned and ran the rest of the way to the dining hall.
Lucius watched her until she was a pastel blur. Turning his steps towards the boys' dormitory, he whistled a happy tune. Fond of the mountain tunes of his ancestors, he chose There Was An Old Woman. Soon, he was singing in a clear, ringing tenor, "There was an old woman in our town, in our town did dwell. She loved her husband dearly, but another man twice as well. Sing too-di-um, sing too-di-um, Whack fa-lal-the-day." He reached the end of the song when he got to the door of the boys' dorm.
Snatching up the first four boys he found, those who couldn't outrun him, he drove them like cattle over to the dining hall. They, of course, complained the entire way.
"Luke, you got no call," his younger cousin, Jed, whined.
"Y'all oughta helped Miss Dollie without being told. What would your mothers think, you making a lady work all on her lonesome?"
"She had to ask you," Jed pointed out rudely.
"But I didn't know she needed help, or I'd of been down here all ready."
"That's cause you're sweet on Miss Dollie," Jed teased.
Lucius cuffed his cousin. The teenage boy hopped ahead, teasing and chanting. He danced backward, sticking his tongue out until he fell over a tree root and sprawled on the ground.
"Teach you to keep a civil tongue," Lucius said as he helped him up.
"Shucks, I'm just telling the truth," Jed replied, sulkily.
The other boys filed into the dining hall. Lucius kept Jed back a moment.
"You don't ought to say things like that, Jed. What'd Miss Dollie think if she heard?"
"Well, ain't ya?"
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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