Thursday, August 01, 2019

Poplar Mountain by Dellani Oakes Part 18

Dollie and Lucius break the news of his father's death to his mother. She tells them about Earl as a young man.

Dollie blushed. The gentle golden glow from the kerosene lamp gave her an amber hue. Lucius thought it was the prettiest she'd ever looked. The only thing that would make her prettier would be if they kissed. Her face softened, her lips plumped. She looked so blissful, it was like a dark haired angel fell to earth and landed in his arms.
To prove it to himself, he moved across the room, intent on kissing her again. Dollie took a step back, holding up her hand.
"You should probably see me home, Luke. I—I really liked this," she gestured vaguely between them. "But, in your mama's house?"
"Prolly not," he continued the thought. "Thanks for bringing me up. I wasn't in no state to be on my own."
"Will you be all right now?"
He nodded. "Gotta be strong for Mama and the young'uns."
"When you feel yourself failing, you let me know. I'm here to make you strong."
He took her hands, kissing them. "Just knowing you care makes all the difference. I love you, Dollie."
"I love you, Lucius."
"Marry me," he demanded. Shaking his head, he stepped back. "That ain't the way I meant for that to come out," he scolded himself. "I sure didn't mean to ask you so soon, nor to make it sound like you got to."
"I expect you know my answer already," she replied.
"I expect I do. You don't have to give it to me now. When I give you a better proposal, then you can answer me."
"That sounds fair," she said with a happy sigh. Though she would gladly give him her answer now. Every muscle in her body gave a resounding yes!
Lucius drove her back down to her apartment. He gave her one last kiss before parting. Dollie walked into the girls' dorm in a daze. She'd completely forgotten the circumstances under which she'd left. Patty and several of the older girls were still up, anxiously waiting.
"Well? What was all the ruckus about?" Patty asked as soon as she closed the door.
Startled out of her thoughts of Lucius, Dollie gasped. "Oh, you gave me such a turn!" She drew a deep breath and sat on a nearby chair. "They found Big Earl," she said quietly.
It occurred to Dollie that she should send the girls to bed, but they'd hear about it anyway. Best they heard the truth from her than an outrageous lie from someone else. She motioned them to sit. "Mr. Henry was found down by the creek. I'm afraid he's dead."
"You're sure it's Will's daddy?" her sister asked.
"Quite sure. They had Lucius identify him."
"Oh, how awful!" Patty gasped. "My Lord, Dollie. Did you see him?"
Her younger sister gulped and nodded. "From the bank. Not up—close."
"How dreadful!"
All the girls hugged the two young women, weeping quietly. It wasn't Big Earl's passing so much as the fact tragedy had struck their friend's family. They all knew Samuel and most were close friends. Some were sweet on the handsome young man.
Dollie and Patty got the girls to bed around 1:00. As they dropped heavily into their own beds, Patty sighed.
"I hope he's found peace. I always thought Earl to be a wounded spirit. He must have been a gentle, kind soul once."
"What makes you say that?" Dollie's impression of Earl was that he was mean spirited and cantankerous.
"Remember the foal whose mother died after its birth? None of the mares would foster it, no matter what the men did. It was failing. We all tried feeding, remember?"
"It took to you some," Dollie remembered.
"True. So I sat with it to keep it company one night."
They had all done so in shifts. The foal's death would have been quite a loss after that of the mare.
"Earl heard about it from Samuel. He came down to see if he could help. I don't to this day know how he did it, but he talked that creature into living. It hadn't prospered a whit since birth, but he stroked and talked to it. When it was done, it followed him like he was its mother. He fed it and it grew fat and sassy. He had his bad spells, but Earl was a good man." She sniffled.
"Rachel said the same. Honestly, I never saw that side of him."
"You would if you looked at someone besides Lucius."
"That's unfair," Dollie exploded. "Earl Henry has never been nice to me—even when we met. He went out of his way to be ugly. He blamed me for something. I don't even know what I did."
"Lucius loves you more than the land. Earl was afraid you'd keep him from it."
"Just how do you know that? He never said that to me."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes 

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