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"And even when you think you're finished, it's not over yet," for KING & COUNTRY, "It's not Over yet"
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Currently reading Dubliners by James Joyce

For A Lady's Honor

January 9, 2021

FREE WRITING

3
    The first time I ever took notice of Ian Littlefield was when he saved my honor.
    Well, that might have been an exaggeration of it, but at the time I was sixteen and prone to romantic exaggerations, typically coming from over-consumption of the ladies' magazine. Oh, I might have proclaimed to be the most practical, no-nonsense girl in all of Butter County (for the sake of impressing my grandmother and mother), but inside I was a romantic.
    However, my romantic notions did not extend to the one-room schoolhouse where Mrs. Rolf attempted to keep thirty or so children of varying ages under control. There were merely four boys in the schoolhouse who were my age remotely close to my age: Allan Keeton, Nelson Spillett, Jacob Brum, and Ian Littlefield. Allan was a self-proclaimed agnostic and regularly took the Lord's name in vain. Naturally, he was not someone I wished to associate with; besides, he was rude to everyone and perpetually patronizing and ungentlemanly to the girls despite his claims of being progressive and believing in votes for women. Nelson Spillett was what is now called "the class clown." I don't think I ever saw him serious in my life, except during one of the summer revival meetings when he crawled to the front of the tent on his hands and needs and begged for God's forgiveness with tears. Jacob Brum was a nice fellow, but he was a flirt if I ever saw one and I couldn't be sure if he liked me one day or Jennie Trevarthen.
    Ian Littlefield was our neighbor, actually, living about a ten or eleven-minute walk down the road. His father had been in the army and fought in the last Indian Wars and even been to Mexico. Now Mr. Littlefield was a settled farmer who nevertheless got a bad eye from the neighbors because he knew a smattering of Spanish and everyone thought he was cursing at them when he spoke it (I, for one, never heard Ian's father curse in his life; he was too mild-mannered). Nevertheless, for lack of available playmates the Littlefield children came often to our house when we were young. So one might say I grew up with Ian around, even though we didn't really talk. Maybe that was why I looked over him in my quest for romance. I might have considered him if he was more outgoing. He wasn't unpleasant to look at, though certainly not as handsome as Jacob Brum (though not as ugly as Nelson Spillett), and he was steady and a hard worker—perfect husband material. But at sixteen one looks for sweep-you-off-your-feet romance, like in the dime novels, not for husband material.
    As stated before, however, there really was no romantic possibilities in our little town of Charity. There were those four, and a great many boys younger than them, and then men ten years or more older. Nobody for a sixteen-year-old girl. So for the time being, I resigned myself to the dime novels and ladies' magazines for my imagined beau.
    And then he came. I first saw him in church, sitting in the back pew with his family. I nearly tripped on my own foot when I saw him. He was a good height (not tall, sadly, like in the novels) and with the most dashing blue eyes I'd ever seen. He glanced at me as I entered, and smiled. If I'd been a true romantic I might have swooned. I didn't, though, instead I blushed bright red and sat down with my family, hiding a smile. What a charmer. Who was this mysterious stranger? What was he doing here?
    "What's with you, Elsie?" my younger brother Jeremiah asked. "It's rude to giggle during church."
    "I wasn't giggling. Besides, last week you put a cricket in Mama's purse, and if that isn't sacrilegious I don't know what is."
    Jer snorted, and then we turned our heads to the parson's wife playing the piano and began to sing.
    I found out soon enough who the new boy was at school the next day. All the girls were talking about him.
    "He's Timothy Green," Lillian Billings, the parson's daughter, said. "His mother is going to be our new choir mistress. She's a singer all the way from Richmond."
    "Hmph, I guess we'd have a good enough choir without calling for someone down South to come up," I grumbled, feigning disinterest. "Your mother does it usually, doesn't she?"
    "Yes, but Mother is very busy now running Sunday School and she hasn't the time. Besides, isn't Timothy a dream? I think he's the handsomest boy in the whole town, now," Lillian said with a romantic sigh.
    I might have been thinking the same thing, but I didn't say anything.
    "He's awfully pale for a boy. Does he ever go outside, do you think?" asked Mabel Bennett.
    "Well, there he is right now in the schoolyard, so that's your answer," I retorted, gesturing to the lean figure watching Nelson and Allan wrestle.
    Lillian didn't need to be told twice. She walked down there without any hesitation and instantly threw her arm around Timothy's. Mabel and I could see by her chatter that she was already working her charms. Now, Lillian wasn't the prettiest girl in school by a long shot. That would probably either be my sister Anna or her friend Jennie Trevarthen. Even I was considered in society to be more of a beauty than our rather flirtatious parson's daughter. Nevertheless, despite her plainness, Lillian was still the most popular with the boys, just because she had more feminine wiles than Delilah herself. Oh, she never did anything unseemly—mostly—and they never caught her kissing anyone in the barn, but she would go after a boy and attach herself to him until she grew bored of him and left him for another. She'd done it to nearly everyone in the school between the ages of twelve and eighteen, except for Jacob, who was too devoted to gaining Jennie's affection to be distracted, and Ian, who would only blush, laugh awkwardly, and walk away.
    Anyhow, I saw her readying herself to do this to Timothy Green too, and I knew I had to get down there before she got her claws in him. Lillian had her fair pick of boys, if she so much as sent them a glance. It was my turn.
    "Hello," I said, holding my head up and keeping the perfect posture the ladies' manual always recommended. I hoped it would contrast severely with Lillian's lurching walk and slumped shoulders. "I've heard you're new here. Welcome to Butter County. I'm Elsie Gardner."
    "Oh, hi," said Timothy, flashing that gorgeous smile. "Timothy Green."
    He held out a hand. I was surprised for a moment, before hastily shaking it. I might have been more impressed if he'd kissed my gloved fingers, but nevertheless...what a gentleman! I couldn't imagine any of the other boys in the schoolyard being so well-mannered and polite! They'd as soon put a mouse in you palm as shake it. I was smitten at once. Here was my mysterious stranger, a foreigner from afar, come to find the most well-mannered accomplished lady in Charity (me, of course) and take her for his bride.
    My hopes were slightly dimmed that first day of school by his academic performance. He was quick with words, it seemed, but very dull at anything else. I felt like smacking my head against my desk when I found he hadn't the faintest clue of how to do algebra. For a boy from far off, grand Richmond, he certainly wasn't very smart.
    My fears were relaxed when he caught up with me and my sisters and brothers on the schoolyard path, as we were walking home with the Littlefields.
    "Are you all going this way too?" he asked, walking in step with me. "I live over by the railroad, you know, running past the general store."
    "You must be on our other side, then!" I exclaimed. "But what house do you have? The only one there is the old McCarthy place."
    "Yes, my father is fixing it up for us to make it a home," he replied with another flashing smile.
    "Oh, that's very wise of him; I'm sure he got it for a cheaper price," I said, trying to smile back.
    "He knows most of the beams are rotted, right?" piped up another voice.
    I turned in surprise to see Ian Littlefield on my other side. Sometimes I forgot he could speak.
    "Well, uh..." Timothy said, at a loss.
    "I'm surprised the house hasn't been torn down," Ian went on. "I went inside it once. Roof isn't sound. I left as quickly as I could."
    "I'm sure Timothy's father knows what he's doing," I replied shortly, irritated with Ian for raining on Timothy's news. No wonder he never spoke; he was likely to put his foot in his mouth at every turn.
    Timothy and I spoke the rest of the way home. I grew more and more infatuated with him with every word he said. He was charming, witty, and always so supportive of everything I said. Despite his academic faults, he seemed to know a little bit about everything, especially about travel. He'd lived in so many different states before coming to Pennsylvania—Virginia, Texas, even far-off wild California. He was a wanderer, he said, going everywhere with his family so his father could find work. His mother had been so pleased to be able to come back to Butter County—her parents lived here, and she wanted to find a place to settle so the children could get good schooling.
    "Where are your sister and brothers now, then?" I asked. "I didn't see them in school."
    "Oh, they weren't feeling up to it today," he said dismissively. "Mother believes children shouldn't be forced to learn if they're having a bad day. Learning should come naturally, by desire."
    "Well, it seems to me most children wouldn't learn anything, then," I said, rather shocked. "I love reading, and history, and most subjects, but if my mother never made me go to school or do my homework I would probably never have gotten out of the first reader."
    Timothy shrugged. By then we were at the crossroads to the railroad and then towards our land, so he waved goodbye.
    "I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Elsie," he said, and my heart fluttered. How romantic! What boy ever said that?
    "He's an interesting fellow," Jeremiah said on the way home. "A little funny, but fun, I guess."
    "He's a city boy," Ian said. I looked up at him, surprised at such a display of opinion. He was glaring straight ahead, his jaw set unhappily.
    "Well, you certainly weren't very polite to him," I pointed out. "Goodness, all that talk about his house. Can't he have a little peace of mind that it won't fall down on him?"
    Ian got very ready, and for a while didn't say anything. Then:
    "It might fall down on him, though. I told you, I saw that roof, and I don't think anybody but a professional roofer could fix it. Certainly not some city man."
    "Oh, Ian!" I snapped, stalking ahead and walking briskly until I reached our house.
    I saw more of Timothy the rest of the week. He always walked home with us. Ian didn't say anything to him anymore, but talked quietly with Jeremiah instead. I was glad of that. Really, who could not like Timothy? He was always nice and always a gentleman, and never said a cruel thing in his life, even when Nelson put a snowball down his collar. To make matters even better, he always paid attention only to me.
    Mama grew a little worried about it, after she saw him specifically go up to me after the Sunday service.
    "Isn't that Green boy a little forward?" she asked while I was helping her prepare our typical Sunday afternoon luncheon. "Just going up to talk to girls? Why can't he talk to the boys?"
    "Well, I suppose it's because they don't talk to him," I said, shooting a meaningful glance at Ian, who was hunched over the newspaper with Jeremiah and Josiah Littlefield reading the latest on the war. We always had the Littlefields over for Sunday afternoon luncheon.
    "Hey, we talk to him!" Jeremiah protested. "It's not our fault he always goes after the girls! He's worse than Jacob."
    "And that's saying a lot," Ian muttered.
    "I think you both are simply jealous," I said, "because Timothy is a gentleman and has a way with words."
    "I don't know how much I would consider going after my daughter like that gentlemanly behavior," Mama grumbled.
    "Mama!" I exclaimed, mortified that she would say such a thing in front of the Littlefields. "He's only being friendly."
    "There's a word we used to use when boys got friendly with girls," Mama said. "Flirting."
    I didn't want to think of Timothy with such vulgar terms. He was being polite. He was showing his interest in me. He was...was he courting me?
    Every time I saw him again, I was certain he was. He would speak to me all the time, walk me home from school, carry my books (the sign of a beau in our little schoolhouse!) Even my friends had to agree.
    "I thought for sure he was interested in me at first," Lillian said, typically focusing the attention on her merits. "You know how horribly annoying all these boys are around me. I feel like they all try to flirt with me. It's simply infuriating."
    "You certainly don't discourage them," I muttered.
    "I'm very happy for you, though, Elsie," she went on. "He's a perfect gentleman. A prince. I think you should consider yourself very lucky."
    "Heavens, Lillian, we're not engaged or anything," I laughed.
    "But you might be soon," Mabel giggled.
    "I don't know," my other friend Ruth Chiverton said. "Are you sure he's good enough? He's not very intelligent."
    "What are you talking about?" Lillian asked. "He knows all the latest fashions from Richmond! What sort of young man around here has any sense of female apparel?"
    "Well, really, is that necessarily a good thing?" young Margaretta Rolf, the teacher's daughter, said, and we all blushed.
    "I'm only saying," Ruth went on after that awkward pause, "he certainly isn't a genius at school, and that's what bothers me a lot. We all know Elsie is at the top of the class. What on earth will you do if you marry someone who is so clearly a dunce academically."
    "That's rather harsh, Ruth," I put in. "He knows a little about everything."
    "But a lot about nothing," she retorted.
    "Oh, stop being naysayers," Mabel snorted. "It's true love. I think it's romantic."
    "Do you know how we could tell for sure?" Lillian said, a gleam in her eye. "If he invites you to the skating festival."
    The Winter Skating Festival was one of the most talked about events of the year. It typically occurred in late January, as a sort of follow-up to Christmas and New Year's. Charity met with her sister-town Birdsborough at Blue Marsh Pond to skate late into the night. It was well-known that if a young man asked you to the skating party, his intentions were serious.
    However, I wasn't so sure Timothy knew this. Luckily, I had the opportunity to tell him so that very Sunday.
    The two of us had both agreed to participate in Mrs. Green's Christmas choir. Timothy did it because his mother was the choirmistress, naturally, and she needed another bass. I did it because Timothy did it, and because I was certain they needed the blessing of my high octave range (though I was rather put out that Mrs. Green had me as an alto and not a soprano). My mother was all right with it, provide she and my father and siblings did not have to wait to drive me back. Little did she know how pleased I was that she didn't; Timothy and his mother walked me home then.
    Anyhow, that practice had gone particularly well. We finally had old Mrs. LeMore settled on her range (she was a tenor with the men, it turned out), and as two of our sopranos were ill I was pleased to fill in for them on the melody. Mrs. Green had told me I had a voice like a nightingale.
    And, then, to make matters even sweeter, Timothy asked me a question that made my heart leap.
    "Elsie, if—if a young man wants to show a girl he loves her around here, what does he do?"
    What did he do? He loved me! Oh, it was as clear as the stream on a summer day. Clearly he was hinting at how much he loved me. He wanted to prove himself to me! Fight for me! Declare his adoration!
    It is to my credit that I did not flutter my eyelashes, swoon, or lean in for a kiss. No, I kept my head, despite the all-engulfing power of the ladies' magazine in my thought processes.
    "Well," I said, with a great deal of self-satisfaction, "he will ask her to the Winter Skating Festival of course."
    "And what is that?"
    "We have it every last week of January. Saturday. Charity and Birdsborough get together to skate on Blue Marsh Pond."
    "That's perfect!" he replied, with another heart-fluttering smile.
    I was on air for the rest of the week, watching him, waiting and waiting for it to happen. He had to invite me to skate with him. It would be a sign. I could already imagine what Mama would say—she would say I was growing up. I could get married as soon as I was eighteen—the wedding would be fabulous. We'd have it in the Mills orchard, and Grandma and Grandpa would be crying...
    But he didn't ask me. Not all that week, not with all of our walking to and from school, he didn't say a thing. I was beginning to get impatient, up until the week of Christmas. Maybe he was waiting until after the holidays.
    "I don't know why you're so worried about it," Jeremiah said as I sighed while watching Timothy walk back to his house. "You're only sixteen, Elsie, you're not going to get married anytime soon."
    "Mama was married at eighteen."
    "That's two years away! I don't understand why girls are so obsessed with weddings. It's ridiculous. Are you sisters this bad, Ian?" Jeremiah groaned.
    "They're too little," Ian replied tersely. "But it seems to me you shouldn't be thinking bout it till you're maybe seventeen or eighteen, and maybe not getting married until you're twenty or so. Anything younger seems like trouble."
    "Oh, you're boys, that's why!" I cried.
    Christmas Eve I was about ready to give up. The choir was getting ready to go on stage to sing 'O Holy Night,' and if any time was a time to do it, it was now. There would be nothing more romantic than being asked to the Skating Festival than on Christmas Eve. Maybe he had backed out. Boys were so quiet about these things.
    As I followed the choir into the back room behind the curtain after the last song, I felt bitterly disappointed. What was wrong with Timothy? Why didn't he ask me?
    I took a ridiculously long time tidying my music, waiting for all the chatty ladies and grumbling men to leave the room. Finally it was just me and Timothy. He finished putting his hymn book away, and then turned to me, stepping so close that I felt my heart turn.
    "Elsie," he said, in a very odd voice.
    "Yes?" I answered, wondering if I ought to flutter my eyelashes. Mama always told me I had very long and beautiful eyelashes.
    "Well, I just wanted to say something."
    "Yes?" I waited expectantly. Here it was. He was going to ask me. He was most certainly going to ask me. I would be a married woman in two years, no doubt. After the Skating Festival he would probably ask my father to court me, and then we would go on buggy rides and dance at the ballroom over in the hotel in the city. And maybe he would propose to me in the spring, around some beautiful flowering trees, and...
    "You've made me a very happy young man," he said. "Your advice was the best advice I ever had before. I asked the girl I like to go to the skating festival, and she said yes."
    What? I felt my breath leave me in a whoosh. There—what girl? I didn't care, though. I couldn't care. All I could know was that it was a different girl. Not me. My dreams fell flat, punctured like an inflated pig's bladder when your little brother puts his fingernail into it.
    I made some sort of strangled noise, like a baby choking on milk, and turned to leave. My foot caught on his, and then I was falling...right into Timothy Green.
    He caught me, his arms going instinctively around my waist. For a moment I was struggling for breath and words. Then my eyes instinctively blinked as the door to the back room opened. Timothy and I were stuck in a very awkward position, staring at the amazed face of Allan Keeton, who I swear, had never entered a church for the last three years at that point, and of course chose that day to finally do it again.
    "What—what are you doing here?" I snapped, pulling myself out of Timothy's hold and quickly straightening my clothing.
    "Nothing worse than what you're doing here!" he snorted. "I'll leave you your privacy."
    And he slammed the door with a laugh. "Wait a minute!" I shrieked. "We weren't—that was an accident! Allan Keeton, get back here at once, you—"
    I threw open the door and tried to run after him, but it was cold and I hadn't a cloak. Timothy never bothered coming after me, and so I finally walked all the way home by myself, sobbing quietly in the icy air. I prayed Allan wouldn't say a word about what he saw. Goodness, we were both innocent as infants, but Allan had a filthy mind and I couldn't imagine what stories he would think up to tell about us. That wasn't even my primary woe, however. Timothy—that deceptively wonderful, perfect, false, boy! I felt like a fool. Mama was right. Ruth was right. Even Jeremiah and Ian were right—I was so stupid.
    Matters only got worse. As soon as Christmas break was over and I went back to school, I found that my reputation was in shreds. The girls whispered about me, the boys shook their heads. Even Mrs. Rolf turned away from me. Finally I couldn't stand it. I went to Lillian, who as the parson's daughter and essentially the head of society knew almost everything. But even she had a cold look when I asked her what they were saying about me.
    "Allan Keeton says you and Timothy were in each other's arms in the back of the church," she said. "For shame, Elsie! In church!"
    "We weren't doing anything!" I protested. "I promise! You know me, I'm not that kind of girl."
    "Well, you were certainly swooning over him," she said sourly.
    "Lillian, when have I ever lied to you? I swear, I only tripped and knocked into him."
    "Hmph. If that's so, why doesn't he deny it?"
    That was a good question. Timothy said nothing all day, ignoring the boys' taunts, keeping to himself and his siblings, and paying me no mind. He didn't even walk home with us.
    "You're really going to catch it at home," Jeremiah said. "Mama's going to skin you alive."
    "Father will be so angry," my little sister Joyce said.
    "Really, I'm embarrassed," said Anna.
    "I told you, I didn't do anything!" I protested. "If anything, it was Timothy's fault for catching me. I wish everyone would believe that, and the coward would tell the truth so both our honors might be spared! If I'm such horrible company, why are you all walking with me, then? Just go away! I must be a terrible example to you all."
    "That's a good point," Jeremiah snorted. "Come on, guys."
    My sisters and the younger Littlefields began to walk away. Ian, however, kept at his steady pace, a little bit behind me.
    "Aw, come on, Ian, you don't honestly believe her?" Jeremiah called. "You know how much she's been after Timothy."
    Ian shrugged. I turned to him. 
    "Yes, you hate Timothy, what do you care? Go off with the rest of them."
    He paused, and I paused, my face red and upset.
    "You know, I believe you," he said finally, looking at the ground.
    "Of course you do," I retorted.
    "Honestly, I do. Sure, all this nonsense with Timothy Green was ridiculous, but I know you. You've never done anything like that with a boy. You're not Lillian Billings...you're too smart for that."
    I bit my lip, trying to hold back tears. I sure had been pretty stupid though. Falling for that simpering city boy who only spoke to me because he had no other girl to speak to at the time. I didn't deserve Ian's good opinion. I didn't deserve anyone's.
    "You were right," I murmured. "He asked another girl to the skating festival instead. I guess I was just a toy to be played with."
    "I'm sorry. That probably didn't feel too nice."
    "No," I replied, sighing. "But I guess maybe it's for the best. I'm not ready for romance anyway, clearly."
    Ian shrugged, scuffing his shoe into the snow. "He's awfully rotten to not say anything to the others, though."
    "Why should he? It's not his honor."
    Ian was silent for a while. We came to my house, where I saw my mother's face staring out the window at us. 
    "Well, I guess I'd better go," I said. "See you tomorrow."
    Ian nodded, but I guess he lost his words again because he didn't say anything, walking off very quickly. He was a nice boy, I decided. Not as handsome as Timothy, but at this point I was likely to never trust a good-looking boy again. I concluded I would give away my collection of dime novels and stop reading the romance stories in the ladies' magazine.
    Mama was surprisingly not angry with me for the stories my traitorous sisters brought home. She believed me, of course, but didn't scold me too hard.
    "It was very imprudent of you to imagine that boy had anything but poor intentions," she said, putting me to work at once kneading the week's bread. "I knew as soon as I set eyes on him that he was a useless philandering loafer. Eighteen already, did you know? And he's still in school, with no academic knowledge and no way to work with his hands. I don't suppose he'll be likely to go to the military either. He doesn't seem like the sort to fight for his country."
    "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked miserably. "You might have spared me a lot of misery."
    "Sometimes it's better to let the child put her hand in the fire than remind her twenty and five times not to," Mama said with a resolute sigh. "You seem to have learned your lesson—and thank goodness it was you and not either of my other two girls. You've always had a more practical mind, Elsie, and I presume you'll be back to work now that this romance nonsense is over."
    I did go back to work. Despite my utterly crushed reputation, I felt a lot better now that I was certain that Timothy had no feelings whatsoever for me, rather than being confused as to whether he did or not. And besides, I knew at least two people knew I was in the right—Mama and Ian.
    The next day at school, Timothy didn't show up to class. Neither did Ian, until about halfway through our history lesson, when he barged in, breathless, and sat down quickly. Mrs. Rolf looked down her spectacles at him.
    "Ian Littlefield, I have never seen you so abominably late before. Do you have an explanation for this tardiness?"
    "No, ma'am. I—I had something to do before school."
    Mrs. Rolf looked from him to Josiah Littlefield, and then to his two small sisters Emma and Victoria Littlefield. They shrugged innocently. Ian was lucky. At least his siblings didn't rat on him.
    "I suppose it was so much more important than learning about the War of the Roses," she snorted finally. "Take out your book and join the rest of us, please."
    As Ian pulled his book from his desk, I saw a flash of red on his hand. His knuckles were bleeding, the skin torn across them. He saw me staring at his hands, and quickly put them in his pockets. Typical boy, never bothering to bandage any wounds until every piece of clothing is stained with free-flowing blood.
    Right before lunch break, the door creaked open again and Timothy Green stepped into the room. His perfect triangular nose was stuffed with cotton to stop bleeding, and I could see it was a little swollen. Mrs. Rolf gave him the bad eye, put out that yet another student had interrupted her class with a tardy appearance.
    "What is it now?" she asked as he went to the front of the room.
    "I have something to say, Mrs. Rolf," he said, crumpling his cap in his hands. Suddenly he didn't look so handsome. He looked very pale and weak and whiny.
    "It had better be important, because this is the second time class has been interrupted," Mrs. Rolf replied in a dangerous tone.
    "Well, there have been a lot of stories going on about me and Elsie Gardner," he said, hunching in shame. He looked so pitiful, but I glared at him. Was he finally going to tell the truth, the coward?
    "I just want to say," he said, not even looking at me, but more at Ian, "that they're all wrong. I already have a girl over in Birdsborough, and anything Allan Keeton might have seen was purely accidental."
    Whispers spread throughout the schoolroom, and I sat very stiffly. The only one who wasn't whispering was Ian, who kept reading his history book like nothing was happening.
    "I didn't mention it because—because—" and Timothy looked at Ian again. I glanced over too, and saw Ian make the slightest of nods. "—because I—I liked the attention I got, and—and that was awful rotten of me to now come forward."
    Timothy stepped off the platform. Ian coughed.
    "Oh," Timothy finished. "I—s-sorry Elsie."
    "Apology accepted," I said very coldly.
    He went back to his seat, keeping his head down. Ian didn't give him even a glance. Mrs. Rolf cleared her throat.
    "Well," she said, "that's that. Allan Keeton, perhaps think again before spreading tall tales about someone. You certainly don't have a clean record yourself."
    We went back to work, the gossip ending that very day.
    Over lunch break I went up to Ian. He was eating alone, as usual, and looked a little surprised when I sat in the desk next to him.
    "Hey," I said, "did you do that?"
    "Do what?" he asked, stuffing a sandwich into his mouth so he wouldn't have to answer my questions.
    "Uh...make Timothy apologize." I stared suspiciously at his torn knuckles, and then glanced across the room at Timothy's nose, which was now twice its size.
    "He was a little stubborn," Ian murmured, hiding his hand with a slight smile. "But city boys can't fight."
    "Um...thank you."
    Ian shrugged, finishing his lunch and putting his pail back in the lunch room. I didn't get another word out of him about the subject for the rest of the week, and to this day I can only guess that he must have threatened Timothy with an awful lot if he didn't apologize.
    But after that day Timothy Green didn't speak to me, and out families kept far apart. I walked and talked with my siblings and the Littlefields instead, and gradually Ian began to talk a lot more. Usually I found if I could get him to laugh he would open up a lot more.
    As for the Skating Festival, well, I didn't even want to go at first. Mama insisted I go, however, saying I needed to get out more and stop fretting about what people would think. So I did, and I saw Timothy's girlfriend from Birdsborough. She wasn't really that pretty at all, her eyes were kind of dead and her hair wasn't half as beautiful as mine. But I guess it was probably all right, because she was about as dumb as Timothy as far as schooling went (those Birdsborough schools always were simply dreadful) and maybe that made it easier for the two of them. Ruth was right about that. I probably couldn't have endured Timothy if it had ever worked out. Seeing him talk about such shallow things with his girl...he really wasn't very entertaining at all.
    Nevertheless, I felt pretty down about it as I sat and watched the couples skating. I was shy to go out on the ice myself alone, so I worked on my crocheting instead. Mama would have scolded me for being rude, but I didn't really care anymore. Oh well. I had plenty of time for romance anyway.
    Just then, I heard the crunching of snow behind me, and glanced up to see Ian Littlefield towering over me, his face flushed. I guess it wasn't from cold, because two seconds later he blurted something out in a cracking, awkward voice.
    "Elsie, do you...do you want to skate?"
    I might have dropped my crocheting. Me? He was actually asking me? Well, of course he was. It wasn't like there were really any other girls for him to ask that would actually say yes. Nevertheless, I held firm, before my notions of romance could come back.
    "Well, of course," I said, keeping my voice steading and putting on my skates so I could look at my feet but not at him. "Only, mind you, we're not a couple or anything. I'm quite finished thinking about romance for a while, so if we skate, we're doing so as friends."
    "All right," he replied. "That's fine with me."
    He held out a hand, and I took it. We skated shakily to the center of the pond. Goodness, we sure didn't look like anything special, the two of us uncertain on our feet as clumsy newborn calves. That was all right, though. I think after that I didn't have a romantic bone in my body. I couldn't care if Ian or I had tripped and fallen face first onto the ice. At least I had finally found a young man who was dependable and not about to lead me on for nothing. Someone who would fight for me.
    I have to say, though, after that incident I never again worried myself about handsome strangers. Ian Littlefield was good enough for me.
Another excerpt from my book

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  • January 9, 2021 - 11:29am (Now Viewing)

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4 Comments
  • The Ravenclaw Dragon

    Oh, this is so good! I loved it! By the way, you said this was an "excerpt from my book". What book are you writing? Keep on writing!


    4 months ago
  • anemoia by a thread

    Wait, your novel?! Can I hear your elevator pitch/back cover type description?


    4 months ago
  • anemoia by a thread

    I LOVED IT. I love a historical setting and feel, and everything came alive in my head. It felt like I was there.


    4 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    Oh, I love it! It makes me feel so joyful and peaceful inside. :)


    4 months ago