Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Poplar Mountain Part 23 by Dellani Oakes
The brothers head back to the school with the new pump. Afterward, they go up to the house to find that their family has arrived to grieve with their mother.
Rachel's watery smile faltered when she saw Lucius. "Did you talk to Willem?"
"Yes, ma'am. He'll be up here soon."
She nodded. Samuel hugged his mother, then went out to chat with his cousins.
Aunt Virginia, Rachel's younger sister, brought Lucius a plate of food. "You eat, Luke. Been a long day, sugar."
"Yes, ma'am. Gonna be longer here shortly when the crops come in. Don't know what I'll do then."
"Lloyd already got that sussed. Him and he menfolks will be here to help. Don't worry none about it."
"Reckon I got time off comin' anyhow. 'Spect I'll take it then."
"If you don't have time, I'll give Patrick Michael Kennedy a piece o' my mind!"
Lucius chuckled. Pat Kennedy had tried to court Aunt Virginia since her husband died. She'd never said yes, but she hadn't said no either. He kissed his aunt in the cheek and took his plate outside. He sat on the front step balancing the plate on his knees. He had just finished his food and pulled out his Zippo, when the grumble of a truck in low gear, met his ears. He stood and walked to the edge of the porch.
"It's Will!" Samuel called. "An' he's got company!"
The truck stopped at the base of the yard. Joshua got to it first, opening the driver's door. Willem swung his brother up to ride piggyback. Sam opened the passenger door. Dollie and Patty, dressed in subdued dresses, climbed out. Samuel went to the back for something and lifted a crate from the bed. He carried it to the house with Will and Patty.
Dollie stopped to talk to Lucius. "So sorry for your loss, Mr. Henry."
Lucius took her hand, kissing it. "Who's being formal now, Miss Belloit?" His blue eyes twinkled.
She smiled, melting his heart. "My great-grandmother called her husband Mr. Belloit their entire marriage."
"How inconvenient. What'd he call her?"
"Sookie. It was a nickname."
"I should hope so. Sookie Belloit sounds like a disease pigs get."
Dollie didn't mean to laugh so loudly. The men and children looked at her, mildly appalled. Dollie blushed. "You get me in trouble, Lucius."
She elbowed him in the belly. Lucius felt his gut tighten when she was that near. He wanted to touch her, kiss her—
"Walk with me," he said, steering her away from the house.
"Can wait a bit. Got so many round about, she won't notice. I wanna show you something."
They walked about a quarter mile, slightly uphill, to a level piece of ground with a weathered shed and an old, battered pump.
"Papaw used to have sheep up here. That's the birthing shed. Had the pump laid in cause lambing is a messy business. I's thinkin'—it's got a mighty pretty view and good, level ground. The pump is still good, even if it's banged up some." He paused. "What I'm trying to say—to ask you...." He dropped to one knee, taking her hand. "I ain't an educated man, Dollie, but I love to learn. You've already taught me so much. And I love you so hard, it hurts. Dorothea Belloit, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
"Oh, Lucius!" Dollie dropped to her knees beside him. "Yes! Oh, yes!"
He stood, helping her rise. "Would you live up here with me? I'd build you a fine house with a real flush commode...."
"Lucius, I'd camp in the woods with a hole in the ground and a campfire, as long as you were with me."
His strong arms circled her and he kissed her deeply. Her scent surrounded him, making him giddy. Her taste excited him. He wanted to sweep her in his arms, carry her in the shed and make love to her. It was a ridiculous notion, but love and lust aren't logical. He didn't act on his impulse, but couldn't deny that it was there.
"I got you something," he said eventually.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the blue cloth bag Will had given him. Inside was the dragonfly ring. Lucius presented her with the ring. Dollie burst into tears as he placed it on her finger.
"It's official. Now I can kiss you all I want," he mumbled in her ear.
Dollie tilted her head up, presenting her lips. "Why, Mr. Henry, are you being fresh?"
"Yes, Sookie, I believe I am."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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