Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 21 by Dellani Oakes

Luke's friend, Albert, tells him that he understands about his problems with his father. He offers to listen if Luke ever needs to talk about it.

It took a few moments for them to realize that adults and students alike stopped what they were doing and cheered them on. The sound eventually penetrated their little bubble of joy. Boys especially clapped, cheered and wolf whistled. Lucius set her down, mortified. Dollie took one look at him and completely lost her embarrassment. Instead of blushing, she held Lucius' hand and took a bow. Encouraging him to do the same, she took another bow. After her third, he finally joined her, laughing at his own mistake.
"Reckon I'll have to marry you now, Miss Dollie," he said with a laugh. "Folks will talk."
"I don't care one whit. I love you and I don't care who knows it."
"I'm thinking of your reputation, Dollie," Lucius said quietly.
"Lucius, you and I know, love's all that matters." She tugged on his hand until he met her eyes. "How's your mama?"
"She'll manage. 'Spect it'll be hard for a while. Young'uns didn't take it as bad as I thought, 'cept Sally. Samuel—well, he took a few licks hisself over the years."
"How about Jacob?"
Lucius took his head. "He's still too young. Daddy didn't cuff me till I was eight or nine. Jake ain't barely that. Mostly me and Sam protected him. The only good to come of this is my baby brother will never have to learn to hide from his daddy." He shoved his hands in his pockets, digging his toe into the dirt. "Dollie, I got to thinking."
"Oh?" She started walking downhill.
Lucius walked with her. She took his arm as they made their way down the dirt path.
"Am I gonna be a mean old bastard like my daddy? What if I raise my hand to our children?"
"You won't." She hugged his arm, bringing him close. "You'd never hit a child or me. You're not that kind of man. Only time you'd raise a hand would be against someone who deserved it."
"How do you know that, Dollie? What if I'm as bad a man as he was?"
She turned to face him, hands on her hips. "Lucius, do you drink?"
"Once in a blue moon, Dollie. You know that."
"Then you're already twice the man your daddy was. I believe the only time you'd hit someone is if they drove you to it. And they'd have to back you into a corner or threaten your life for you to do it."
"Not just my own," he said quietly, taking her hands. "If anyone came against you, I'd shore tear him apart with my bare hands."
Dollie sniffled, blinking back tears. Lucius wanted to kiss her again. She looked so beautiful and vulnerable. He didn't dare repeat his earlier performance. He'd hear about it from his mama when he got home, sure she'd already know about it.
Unable to pull himself away, he walked her to her office. As there was no one else around, he risked another kiss. Feeling slightly better, he set out to find Patrick so he knew what his job was for the day. He found his boss squatting by the swimming pool, examining the electric pump.
"Damn thing is plumb tuckered," Patrick said, rocking back on his heels. "I can't kick no more life into it."
"Want me to look at it?" Lucius offered.
"Don't see how it'll do no good," Patrick replied. "Best go see Mr. McDowell in Harlan. Told me last time I was there he had a rebuilt one he'd sell us cheap."
"Sure. I'll take Will's truck. He needs it back anyhow."
"Then how'll you get back?" Patrick asked him, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Will can bring me. Reckon he'd like to be up here anyhow."
"True. All right. You go on and do that and I'll yank this 'un here out."
"You got it, boss."
Lucius stopped by the office to let Dollie know he was heading into town.
"Does Will know?"
"I hope the sheriff told him. If not, reckon I'll tell him."
"Do you want me to go?"
He shook his head. "You got things to do. I'll be fine, Dollie. Don't worry none."
"But I do worry, Luke. Can't love someone without a worry or two."
He chuckled, kissing her hands. "I'll be back in a couple hours, I reckon. I'll try to stop by."
"I'll come up to the house later. I want to pay my respects to your mama."
"That'd be grand," he replied. Wanting to kiss her, he forced himself to leave.
The drive to Harlan provided him with the opportunity to yell and vent his anger like Albert suggested. He didn't cry. He knew eventually he'd shed tears for his father's passing—if not for the man himself—in time.
Will wasn't home, so Lucius tracked him down at work. His brother worked at the jeweler next to Mr. McDowell's shop. Lucius stepped in to speak to the mechanic before going in to find his brother. When Will saw his younger brother, he stopped talking to the man next to him and ran to Lucius' side. He grabbed his brother in a bone crushing hug.
"Thank God you're all right," he said with a happy sigh. "Tell me what happened."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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