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Archive for September, 2010

The Letter

Conner splashed through the shallow, but quick, stream giving no care to the water splattering his clothes to his chest and soaking his boots. Staying dry did not fit his mood so taking the extra time to find a fairer crossing was about as likely as him waiting for his brother to return with the horse before setting his sights and determined motion toward the only place his mind could focus on since reading the letter. A farmhouse some twenty miles away containing a wonderful family of seven, and more specifically, the dwelling place of one Julianne Sweet: the author of said letter. Only at this moment, Conner could not affix her family name to the woman now fueling the heat of his travel.

My dearest Conner,” a lovely hand began. If only it stood alone on the perfumed page. “You have been utmost in my thoughts of late, even more so than those of my family. It burdens me beyond any I’ve faced to tell you that since our last meeting I have received a parcel welcoming me to the University as both faculty and student.” Conner picked up a twig fallen from a tree in the grove he now stormed through and broke it first in half, then in half again, until it was too short to break any further. Each time he discarded one of the half-lengths with as much energy as his arm would allow. He began to feel the muscles in his arm and chest rebel from the sudden jerking and extensions they were being forced to perform.

Suffice it to say, the preparations alone will be quite an ordeal for me and my family,” Julianne continued. “I cannot clearly state my current torment as it would mean leaving them behind for longer than I’ve ever been away. And then there is the matter of my feelings for you, Conner Readling.” His face twitched into a scorn at his remembrance of these words and found a suitably sized stone to kick. “Oh, my love, my voice. Where would I be if not for you and your strength? You encouraged this foolish girl into dreaming of advancement and gave me hope enough to solicit the University.” Oh, she would know his strength and how foolish she truly was when he arrived! “Were it not for you, this dream would never have been realized, and yet how can I feel excited at its prospect when it means being separated from your arms?

Repeating the letter to himself added only more anger to his rage. She would leave him? She would choose to live a life where he was not a focal point? Not today she wouldn’t! No, she would hear him roar and feel his wrath. Today she would know what a man he truly was and how much she would so easily cast aside. They had been friends since childhood and this would be the second harvest since they stole their first kiss behind her father’s wagon. Too many church services holding hands to count them all. Until today, he simply knew she would become his wife and he her husband; and yet, she decides otherwise.

Please come to see me as soon as your work allows. I must look into those eyes and be filled with your affection if I am to have the will to make even half this journey. Truly yours, Julianne.

“’Truly yours? Hah!” Conner reached the outer-edge of the Sweet farmstead and climbed over the fence he had helped build and mend catching the inner seem of his pants on a splinter and nearly tripping into the mud face first as his pants ripped from crotch to knee. “Bah!” he yelled at everything and at nothing in particular.

Across the fields of beans the Sweets were known for Conner saw the house standing bold white among the sea of green and began the last leg of his ill-tempered excursion following a tamped groove of dirt between two rows of bean. It made for awkward walking due to it being so narrow and forcing one foot to land directly inline with the other. To any passerby, he would certainly look the fool with his hips swaying to and fro as if he carried a salmon between his thighs and purposed not to let it fall. But he began to slow the closer he stepped to the house when he saw several people milling about and his own family wagon, complete with horse, out front. “What in the…?”

His own brother met him at the end of the bean field where the lawn’s edge delineated the home from the farm. “Conner!”

“Get out of my way, Stephen!” barked Conner.

“I tried to reach you, but you did not take the road. Why are you so filthy, and what happened to your trousers? You’re legs are not that comely to be showing them off in public.”

“They were caught. Now move, I must see Julianne. I have no time for your play.”

“Do you have time for this?” Stephen handed him a page of the same paper and in the same hand that sent him here.

“What is this?” demanded Conner, but he did not wait for a reply. He snatched the page and moved around his brother making his direction towards the wide front-porch of the Sweet family home. Why was everyone outside? And his mother and father here as well?

“You might want to read that,” advised Stephen. But Conner neither read the page nor gave his brother any head and within moments he was near enough to the gathering of people to hear them all fall quiet.

Mr. Sweet raised his hand in a wave. “Tom!” he called.

That stopped Conner in his tracks. “Sir, we’ve known one another now for many years. I apologize if you take offense, but my name is Conner. Conner Readling. And I wish … no, I demand to visit with your daughter. Julianne? You do remember her name, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mister Readling. I quite remember the name of my eldest daughter, and I do know you to be Conner. If you’ll do me the kindness of turning your attitude around, as well as your head, you’ll see that I was addressing Pastor Millstone. His name is Tom, if you’ll remember.”

Blushing, Conner bowed his head in acquiescence and acknowledged the preacher as well. And the next several minutes were a blur of movement by each family’s member, admonitions of his attire by his mother, and claps on the back from the men, all the while not seeing Julianne among the assembly. In his confusion he’d forgotten about the page in his hand almost fully crumpled. Remembering his brother’s advice, Conner spread the page back to a semblance of its original form and read. And read it again. And again.

“I told you to read it,” said Stephen smiling the biggest grin he’d seen on his brother in quite a long time. “I didn’t know it dropped away when I was asked to deliver it.” Conner stared directly into his brother’s face and searched for any malice or foul play. He found nothing but that silly grin.

“Come with me, boy,” his father said. Doing as he was told, he allowed his father to lead him to the rear of the house where tables sat full of food and bowls of punch, and off to the side an arbor had been erected and adorned with flowers of all shapes and colors. “Your mother might prefer you to wear this.” And in a state of wonderment, Conner took and donned his father’s best church-going jacket covering most of the dirt and grime he’d acquired during the last several hours. There was nothing to do about his leg showing through his trousers, but time had its own pleasures.

“Have you read this?” Conner asked his father.

“Yes. We’ve all read it and if you’ll stand right here, you’ll see what our answer is. Not that it matters, it is an answer only you can give.” If his father noticed his lack of ability to utilize any muscles in his face, he made no mention of it. They had stopped walking several paces away from the tables, beneath the arbor. Conner stared out at the open fields of bean crop. Acres of it circling his vision.

“You’ve all … read it?” asked Conner. In reply, his father tenderly grabbed his shoulders and spun him around to reveal that everyone had followed them around, including Pastor Tom, and they all stood close to the door that led into the rear hallway of the house waiting for something. But what? His wits had failed him. His mind aloof. Then with a sudden moment of clarity he screamed at the top of his lungs, “YES!” just as the door opened revealing Julianne in a simple, white dress.

P.S. I feel passionate about the fact that I cannot do this alone, my dearest Conner. If you would agree to come to me tomorrow at my parents home, and ignore the improper way of my asking for your hand instead of you for mine, our lives could be joined under God and we can travel to the University as husband and wife. I eagerly await your answer.

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