Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Poplar Mountain Part 60 by Dellani Oakes
Timothy McCreary survives the beating. After it's all over, Mr. Bertram tells them he has something to say.
"How did Squires find out about the coal?" Will asked.
"He's got eyes and ears all over," Mr. Bertram said. "Been sheriff too damn long and got greedy. He found out about the coal and decided to get it any way he could. He bought up land around here, but the coal wasn't as rich as the vein on the Henry land. Coal company wasn't interested in it. When Earl wouldn't sell, that's when things turned nasty. He was determined to convince your husband to sell. When that didn't work, I reckon he kilt him, thinking Will and Luke would be the weak links."
"My boys don't bend," Rachel said proudly. "And they don't break."
"Broke a little bit, Mama," Luke said with a wry grin.
"You ain't broke," she replied sternly. "Just beat to hell and back."
"Who was the man in the sheep shed?" Will asked.
"Best we can figure, he was one of Squires' men. Easy enough to cover up his identity. Reckon we may never know who he was, unless someone comes lookin' for him. I figger he got caught by his own fire," Mr. Bertram said.
"So, what're you gonna do about the coal, Rachel?" Uncle Wilt asked. "That's a mighty fine offer the company made."
"Fine or not, I'm not selling," she stated firmly. "That's Henry land and has been long as anyone can remember. Coal companies only want profit. They don't see the beauty of a place. There's no way on God's Earth I'd let them tear apart my home. I got all I need—family, friends, the farm."
Mr. Bertram smiled. "We'll stand behind you one hundred percent, Rachel."
"I thank you for that. My boys and me will work the land together. If I got to rent out some, I'll do that. But I ain't sellin'."
After breakfast, Will and Lucius went to the girls' dorm with Dollie and Patty. Dollie wouldn't let Luke out of her sight and insisted on having him down at the school in case of emergency. Nothing anyone said could dissuade her. She made up the room closest to the apartment. With Will's help, she scooted two of the small beds together, making it wide enough for two.
"I'm bunking in with you. I don't care what anyone says or what they think of me. My reputation be damned! I'm not leaving you alone to fend for yourself."
No one dared argue with her, especially Lucius.
Plans went forward for the wedding of Patty and Will. As soon as Luke was better, he helped his brother at the house. Everyone in the valley came to help. Soon, the house looked like a home. Work began on Lucius and Dollie's house. With everyone pitching in, they expected to finish it in a few months, just in time for Thanksgiving. The Belloits decided they could get away again in November for another wedding.
The night after Patty and Will's wedding, Lucius and Dollie were having dinner in her apartment at the girls' dorm. School was due to start in three weeks, so they still had the place to themselves. It seemed quiet and somewhat depressing for both of them.
Lucius tried to start several conversations, but Dollie couldn't seem to concentrate enough to reply. Soon, he quit talking, waiting for Dollie to speak.
"I miss her like crazy," she said with a soft sniffle. "It's always been Patty and me. I've never spent more than a day without her."
"She and Will won't be gone long," Luke assured her.
"But she'll be living with Will in her own home. And I'll be here until we're married. I've never been on my own before."
"You'll be fine, Dollie. Won't be so long before we're married and you're living with me. And I'll have you to wake up to each day—and fall asleep with each night."
She blushed, ducking her head. "I imagine I'll like that," she whispered.
"I imagine we both will," Luke chuckled, taking her hand. "I love you, Dorothea Belloit. And I wanna make a home with you and have a passel of young'uns."
"Just how many are a passel?" her tone tried to scold, but couldn't quite.
"I dunno. Thought maybe three?—five?—eight?" He laughed when she hit him with a couch pillow. "Watch that, Miss Dollie. Remember last time you whacked me with a pillow?"
Dollie burst out laughing. "I'm not sure which of us was more embarrassed, me or you."
Luke blushed, ducking his head. "Me, I reckon."
She scooted closer on the couch, her hand reaching for his. "I love you, Lucius Henry, and I can't wait to be your wife."
"Neither can I, Dollie."
She squeezed his fingers. "No. I mean, I can't wait." She raised an eyebrow.
Lucius frowned. Was she saying what he hoped she was saying? "Do you mean—? Are you sure?"
"Never been more sure of anything in my life. Lucius, will you make love to me tonight?"
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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