Monday, June 10, 2019

Poplar Mountain by Dellani Oakes Part 3

Lucius manages to snag a few boys to help Dollie set up. His cousin, Jed, teases him about liking Dollie.

Sixteen year old Jed saw deep into his soul. Lucius couldn't hide from him how he felt about Dollie. Blushing, he partially turned away.
"Don't have to say a word, cuz. Reckon I know that look. Didn't Jake look that way over Rachel Gibbons 'fore he popped the question?"
"Ain't poppin' nothin'," Lucius replied sullenly. "No way Dollie'd take a man like me serious."
"What's wrong with a man like you?" Jed could see the time to tease was over. "You're a hard worker, ain't ye? You've got a spot of land to build on...."
"I ain't been to college. I'm not a proper gent. I'm a poor farm boy from up the holler."
"You're more a gent than most citified men we ever met," Jed replied stolidly, punching his cousin good naturedly. "What you lack is confidence. You look at Miss Dollie sometime, when she thinks you ain't, you'll see what I mean." Raising an eyebrow, he put his index finger beside his nose, giving Lucius a saucy salute.
The boys worked hard and soon the dining hall had been transformed with pictures and colored paper streamers made by the younger children. The party was only for the teenagers, an end of the school year celebration before graduation. Once the decorations were up, the boys raced back to the dorm to finish getting ready.
Dollie and Lucius walked up to the girls' dorm where she and her sister had an apartment. They acted as house mothers for the girls. The smell of fresh bread greeted Lucius as he opened the door for Dollie. Not the cornbread he was used to at home, but the yeasty scent of hearty wheat bread.
"Did you bake that just for me, Miss Dollie?"
"I'm afraid that's Patty's doing," she replied. "I'm set to poison you with barley soup."
"If I'm about to die, I'd as soon it was with a slice of Miss Patty's good bread and your hearty soup in my belly. You two ladies are such fine cooks, I can't believe no man back home snapped you up."
"I'm afraid the men back home aren't as easy to please," Dollie said, her cheeks flushing prettily. "Their standards for a wife are quite different."
Lucius snorted. "What more does a man need than a pretty girl who can cook? Me, I want a help mate, got some smarts to her, pretty enough to please me, and can make a meal sticks to my ribs." He gazed pointedly at Dollie.
Casting her eyes down, she felt a surge of pride. "Most of the boys back home didn't really want a girl with brains and an education."
"Why ever not? Sometimes, a man needs a good conversation."
"They were more interested in kissing than conversation," Dollie's sister Patty came around the corner from the kitchen. "A girl with brains might contradict them, in any case."
"Howdy, Miss Patty." Lucius shook her hand, grinning. "Well sir, there's a lot to be said for kissing. But a sharp disagreement once in awhile, why that makes the kissing that much better." He winked at her.
Patty, who was two years older than Dollie, chuckled. She was a well built woman in her late twenties. With blonde hair, blue eyes and a smart-alec streak, she tended to scare men away. Thus far, the only men not scared off by either sister, were Lucius Henry and his older brother. Lucius had made plain the first day he saw them that he had his sights set on Dollie. Though he enjoyed Patty's wit and good bread, he was far more interested in her younger sister.
Patty might have been upset by it, but Lucius' older brother, Willem, was more to her liking. They'd gone to town once or twice to the moving pictures. They'd also spent a lot of time courting in the old mountain ways. Willem didn't work on his daddy's farm anymore. He had a job in Harlan, Kentucky working as a jeweler. He'd all but proposed to Patty and was waiting until he'd finished the house he was building, before he formally asked her. They had an understanding, which was like an engagement, without the ring. At least that's the way that Patty defined it.
"Wash up," Patty commanded. "Dinner will be ready in a jiffy."
"Thanks, Miss Patty." Lucius went into the small bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Patty dragged her sister into tiny the kitchen. "So, did he ask you?"
Dollie's dark brown eyes sparkled as she nodded. "You said he would, and he did!" she whispered.
Patty grinned, hugging her sister. "That man's got eyes only for you. Told you that a million times."
"Then why doesn't he speak up?" Dollie washed her hands in the kitchen sink.
"Because men like Lucius have to study about things awhile. Not that he's slow witted, cause he's smart as a lick. Just he's got to look at something from all angles. He's deliberate and thoughtful."
"I don't mind that in a man, but I do like some action too."
"Now Willem, he's the opposite. He's impulsive and spontaneous."
"That goes well with your personality, Patty. I'm not much of one for impulsiveness."
"Might give that a try some time," her sister said, winking at her.
"I'll consider it."
They clammed up when Lucius walked back in. He suspected they'd been talking about him. If he was the reason Dollie was smiling so big, he didn't care. He had in his mind that he was going to find a way to steal a kiss or two. It was time he let her know how he felt, and officially started courting her. He loved Dorothea Belloit more than he'd ever thought possible. Being a shy man, he just couldn't find the words to tell her. His mama always said actions spoke louder, so he was determined let his actions do the speaking for him.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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