Courting Miss Greene Ch. 06byJuneSummers©
Lizzy stretched out her arms and let out a long sigh. "I'm so positively worn out," she said. "I've been running to and fro all day, then I had to prepare Abby's bath and now I'm doing her laundry as well!"
Mrs. Greene pulled the sheets out of the water and peered at them with a critical eye. "Don't complain, dear," she said in a stern voice. "When you're married to Robert Clark you won't have to lift another finger for the rest of your life."
"But surely neither will Abby when she marries Thomas," replied Lizzy, "as I'm sure she will... eventually."
"I'm sure she will," agreed Mrs. Greene, "but he's only the second son. He may well get nothing."
"Oh, no!" Lizzy shook her head. "Robert and his father dote on Thomas something terrible. They would never let him go penniless."
Mrs. Greene gave her daughter a little smile. "I'd like to believe so, dear," she said, "but the fact of the matter is we don't know the details."
"I'm not afraid to ask Robert about it," said Lizzy. "Robert and I can talk about anything... And I do mean anything."
"Apparently," observed Mrs. Greene, "since you're not shy to discuss things with him you're unwilling to share with your poor parents." Mrs. Greene chuckled for a moment when the girl's face turned red, but she stopped when she noticed the melodious humming coming from the bathroom.
Lizzy bent towards her mother with a wide grin on her face. "I can't believe it! Abby's so in love she's actually singing to herself!"
"Who would have thought?" Mrs. Greene asked in rhetoric.
Lizzy sighed with a far-off gaze. "I wonder whether I'll be like that when Robert makes me a woman."
Mrs. Greene blinked at her youngest daughter. "There's no need to rush things, dear," she said. "It'll happen soon enough, you'll see."
"But I've loved Robert for much longer than Abby's loved Thomas," the girl protested with a pout, "and I'm the one who actually has a wedding coming up in the foreseeable future."
"Well, you're not going to ask Robert to climb in through your window, are you?" her mother asked.
Lizzy's eyes widened at the thought. "No, I couldn't imagine him doing that."
"And I don't think your father would be too amused if he came in through the door only to go up the stairs," continued Mrs. Greene.
Lizzy nodded. "Not to mention how awkward that would be," she agreed.
"And you wouldn't want to intrude on the Clark's hospitality either."
The girl nodded again. "Nor on anyone else's," she added.
"And he seems too much of a gentleman to go cherry picking with you in the forest," continued Mrs. Greene, "or skinny dipping in the river for that matter."
Lizzy hung her head. "Oh, I should have taken my chances back in Northfair!"
"Then I suppose you'll just have to wait until you return to Alder Hill," concluded Mrs. Greene.
Lizzy let out a long sigh. "That'll take forever!" She imagined herself in the carriage, staring out the window at the endless lines of trees. Just when the dread of desperate longing was about to overtake her, an idea sprang up in her mind. Lizzy would have shared it with her mother if she had not seemed so pleased with the idea of her youngest daughter remaining a virgin for a little while longer. The girl bit her tongue and kept her thoughts to herself although she could not stop her mouth from curling into a tiny grin.
In the adjacent room, Abby lay back in the warm, soapy water. Her knees were sticking out because she could not stretch her legs in the small bathtub. She kept splashing them with water to keep them warm the way she always did. All of a sudden she stopped when she realized she was humming some random song. "Oh, Thomas," she said with a sigh and hugged herself, longing to be back in his arms.
Those strong arms!
Her mind involuntarily wandered back to their first encounter, how he had carried her into that garden shed and pushed her to the floor. The initial horror was gone from her memory and it only seemed strangely exciting to her now. Perhaps they could replay that episode with a different turn of events. Abby bit her lip to stop herself from giggling while she fantasized about the possibilities. She knew Thomas liked it rough, but she had not realized before how well suited they would be in that respect.
All of a sudden Abby heard her mother's voice inside her mind, asking her whether she would say "yes" when Thomas would ask her. She could hardly refuse him now that they had gone all the way, but Abby had to admit to herself she felt no different about the prospect of marrying than she had done the day before. Abby wanted to stay true to herself above all else, but she guessed she would have to force herself to change her mind sooner or later. If only she knew what it would take to accomplish that...
Mr. Greene answered the knock on his front door. "Ah! Good morning, Thomas!" He greeted his visitor with a broad smile.
"And a very good morning to you, Mr. Greene," the young man replied with a little bow. "Mrs. Greene," he added when he noticed the woman further down the hallway.
Mrs. Greene was barely able to contain her giggles while she scooted towards the staircase. "Abby!" she called out. "Here's a young gentleman to see you!"
Upstairs a door flung open and fell shut again. A flurry of footsteps halted at the top of the stairs, but the girl made her way down with regal composure. Somehow she looked different today. Her father guessed she had tried something new with her hair. Her mother wondered whether she had altered her dress in some fashion. Her suitor only stared in awe until she reached the floor and met his gaze.
"Hello, Thomas," she said with a warm smile.
The young man realized his jaw was hanging open. "H-hello, Abby," he stammered. He produced a bouquet from behind his back and offered it to her.
"Oh, how lovely!" the girl exclaimed, inhaling the sweet fragrance of wild flowers. "Did you pick them yourself?" she asked Thomas, noting the dark stains on his boots. The field was still wet from yesterday's rain, but apparently that had not deterred him.
"Well, Ginny told me which ones to take," he admitted.
"Giving credit where credit's due," observed Mr. Greene with an approving smile.
"I'll put them in a vase, dear," said Mrs. Greene, taking over the flowers. "Why don't you and Thomas run along?"
"Yes, you two have fun," added Mr. Greene, urging his daughter out the door, "but not too much!" he warned, waving his finger at the young couple.
"George!" his wife reprimanded him.
"Why, I hardly said anything," protested Mr. Greene.
Without another look Mrs. Greene shut the door behind the youngsters. "You were implying," they heard her stern voice explain.
Thomas and Abby blinked at the door, listening to the muffled bickering. Then they turned to each other and chuckled.
"You know, sex is supposed to be better when you make up after a fight," remarked Thomas while he led Abby down the street.
The girl struggled not to grin. "Now you're the one who's implying things," she accused him.
"No, really. It's quite common," the young man continued. "They call it make-up sex."
"Oh? And what if you don't make up?" asked Abby.
"Then it's angry sex," he answered.
In shock, Abby forgot to look where she was going and tripped on a cobble, but Thomas managed to catch her in time. "I think we're going to have a lot of that," she told him when she was back on her feet.
"You do?" asked Thomas. "I thought I was on your good side now. I enjoy being on your good side. Then again, I wouldn't mind being on your bad side... as long as I'm on any of your sides... Because both of your sides are good... since they're yours."
Abby suppressed a giggle while she listened to Thomas' rambling. Her heart stopped when he reached inside his pocket. Surely he would not ask her this soon! "What's that?" she asked, trying to see what he held in his hand.
"Breadcrumbs," answered Thomas, unfolding his handkerchief to show her. "I thought we might feed the ducks. Do you know of any good places?"
Abby gaped at him in astonishment, wondering whether it was a joke. Then she realized he was serious and smiled. "There are usually ducks under the bridge," she said, taking his hand to lead the way.
The young lovers drew quite a few curious glances from the villagers while they ran giggling down the streets. They only slowed down when the little, wooden bridge came into view.
"I hope you don't think I'm being childish," said Thomas while they walked towards the middle of the arched structure. "I just thought our relationship should consist of something more than just sex, no matter how wonderful and amazing it is."
Abby raised her eyebrows. "I'm surprised to hear that coming from you." Why had she had not thought of it herself? Perhaps this was what she had been missing.
Thomas offered her the crumbs. "Ladies first?"
Abby took a handful and cast it over the railing. The ducks below had already gathered in anticipation and the nearest ones quickly gobbled up the crumbs.
"Aw, the ones in the back got nothing," observed Thomas. He took a handful of his own and sent it flying with a large swing of his arm. The ducks quaked loudly in surprise and changed course accordingly. The ones who got nothing were now the first to reach the crumbs. "Now everyone got their share," remarked Thomas, looking rather pleased. He shook his handkerchief to release the remaining crumbs. "Alright. That was it, duckies!"
Abby giggled. "I can't believe you talk to ducks," she said. "How cute!"
Thomas leaned back against the railing and cast her a curious glance, wondering whether he should defend his masculinity from that word. "I talk to my horse too," he said, before she would think he was partial to only one species.
"Oh?" Abby grinned. "And does he ever talk back to you?" she asked.
"Of course he does," answered Thomas. "By whinnying and neighing," he explained when he saw the surprise on the girl's face. "And then there's always... body language..." With a mischievous grin he snaked an arm around Abby's waist and drew her close. "But you know all about that," he said in a low voice.
Abby blushed from embarrassment, knowing what he was referring too. She placed her hands on his shoulders and lifted her face to allow him to kiss her.
Thomas bent towards her, but stopped himself before their lips touched. "I was trying not to think about having sex with you today," he said with a sigh, "but not an hour has passed and I'm already failing hopelessly. You'd think I'd be more at ease after yesterday, but I want you even more now."
Abby's heart jumped when he tightened his grip and squeezed her. On one hand she wanted him to go on and have his way with her, but on the other hand she also recognized the merit in his original intention. "We could dance instead," she suggested, guessing it would be the next best thing for both of them.
A grin crept across Thomas' face when Abby started humming a song. He listened for a while and hummed along when he recognized the tune. He took her hand and sent the both of them twirling across the bridge and down the path into the field on the other side. They kept gazing at each other, recognizing the other as being their one constant against an ever-changing background. Every now and then they giggled, realizing how silly they must look if anybody saw them, but they were also aware they had reached a certain understanding.
After a while they inevitably got dizzy and slowed down to a halt. Thomas held Abby close while she rested her head against his chest. He thought it safe enough to kiss her hair. "So where do we go from here?" he asked her.
Abby glanced up at him, wondering whether he was referring to their day out or the future of their relationship. "We'll go forward of course," she answered with a little smile. "Together."
The girl looked up, surprised to see her friend in the tavern. "Lizzy! What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," the other girl replied, "but your mom already told me when she said I'd find you here. Why didn't you tell me yesterday?"
"I would have," answered Katie, "if it hadn't been for my sudden, little bladder problem."
Lizzy cringed when she remembered. "Of course."
"But it's not what you think," said Katie. "I just clean the tables, do the dishes, sweep the floor and stuff like that. It's not like I'm giving warm Windfarn welcomes to travelers or something. Well, not yet anyway." She let out a nervous giggle while she put down her cleaning towel.
Lizzy stood aghast. "Katie...!"
"Although I have to say it's quite annoying being the only virgin in the tavern," she continued. "The other girls keep referring to me as the maid who's actually still a maid. Really, it makes me want to... Argh!" She clawed her face to illustrate her point.
"So things didn't work out with Jeff?" guessed Lizzy.
Katie sighed. "No, he couldn't handle it," she confirmed, "just like Mark and Ben. I even warned him beforehand, so he knew full well I only did it because I was nervous. But he got all offended anyway and that was the end of it. Those worthless boys! You can tell Abby she was right. I need a real man. A man who'll say, 'You know what, girl, I'm gonna do it to you good and hard no matter how much you giggle at my manhood.'"
A patron sitting in the nearby corner promptly choked on his drink.
"But where to find a man like that?" wondered Katie, ignoring the coughing in the background.
"Well, at least it doesn't sound like I missed all that much," remarked Lizzy, trying to cheer up her friend.
Katie nodded in agreement. "So where's Robert?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Oh, I'm meeting him after lunch," answered Lizzy. "He said I should take some time to catch up with you in private. You know, without him getting on your nerves."
"That's really nice of him," replied Katie, genuinely impressed. She sat down at an empty table and motioned her friend to take a seat as well. "So he's not the possessive, controlling type, is he?"
"Oh, no! Not at all!" Lizzy assured her friend. "Robert always wants me to be happy and comfortable about everything."
Katie's eyes narrowed while she studied her friend's face. "And yet?" she prodded.
Lizzy sighed. "And yet I'm still a virgin too!"
"Well, that's hardly surprising," said Katie, "with Abby watching you like a hawk all the time."
Lizzy shook her head. "No, Abby was alright with it. Robert and I got engaged pretty quickly, and then I got the ring, so..."
"So what's stopping you?" asked Katie. "Is he stalling you until the wedding or something?"
Lizzy frowned when she considered the possibility. "I'm starting to think so," she said, "but not for the reason you'd expect." She bent over the table and lowered her voice. "We tried it once, but..."
Katie bent over the table as well. "But?"
"It was my fault, really," said Lizzy. "I cried out because he was so big, and then he stopped because he didn't want to hurt me. He said we could try some other time, but he's never made another attempt since. I didn't think too much of it because we haven't had any opportunities lately. But looking back now I'm starting to suspect he prefers to wait until we're married because then he'll have to do it. And then he won't have to feel guilty about feeling pleasure while I'm in pain. Robert's awfully nice like that, but maybe sometimes he's too nice."
"Are you going to tell him that?" asked Katie.
Lizzy cringed when she remembered what she had said to her mother the day before. "I don't think so," she admitted, "we can talk about most things, but I don't want to hurt his feelings."
Katie blinked at her friend. "Because he's being too nice?"
"Because he'll inevitably hurt me," explained Lizzy. "I'll be ripped in two, cleaved in twain, torn asunder and what not. At least it will feel that way to me, considering my low pain limit, you see? But how in the world could I tell him that?"
"Oh...!" Katie grimaced and covered her mouth.
"What's wrong?" asked Lizzy, but she knew the answer the moment Katie averted her eyes. Lizzy remained frozen and focused her gaze on the wood grain of the table. The agonizing moment seemed to last forever until at last she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She looked up with tears in her eyes. "Oh, Robert!" she cried. "What are you doing here? I thought we were supposed to meet after lunch!"
"We were," he confirmed with a sigh, "but for some reason I assumed you'd be at your friend's house. I only came in here to see if I could get one of the coachmen to pick us up." He nodded at the patron in the corner. "How are you this morning, James?"
"Very well, thank you, Mister Robert," the man replied. "Ladies," he added with a tip of his hat.
The girls nodded in turn, blushing from embarrassment while they wondered exactly how much James had overheard.
"Where's John?" asked Robert.
"He's gone fishing down by the river," answered James. "I don't think he'll be back before dinner."
"Oh, of course," replied Robert. He had lodged the coachmen in a room upstairs, but he reckoned the hustle and bustle of the tavern was a bit much for an old man like John. James, on the other hand, was still young and not averse to fraternizing with the locals. "Will you be available today?" asked Robert. "I know I told you to take some time off, but..."
"That's alright," said James. "The carriage will be ready to pick you up after lunch."
Robert gave him a nod. "I'd be much obliged."
James nodded in turn, but for some reason his eyes were drawn to Katie's.
Lizzy followed his gaze and realized her friend must be feeling left out. "Katie, when are you free to go?" she asked.
"I only work mornings and evenings," she answered, "so I have the afternoon off." She gave her friend a little smile when she realized what the other girl was getting at.
Lizzy turned to her fiancé. "Robert, can Katie come along with us?"
"But of course," he answered, although he had been looking forward to some time alone with Lizzy.
Lizzy suppressed a giggle when she watched Robert's face. She knew him well enough by now to see he was doing his best to hide his disappointment. He had no idea things were actually turning out better than either of them had planned. Lizzy could hardly wait to tell him so.
Abby shrieked when all of a sudden something whizzed by before her eyes. It only missed her face by a hair because she managed to evade it in time.
Thomas turned to see what it was, cursing at himself for having failed to protect her. The object bounced a few times until it got caught in the high grass under the trees. Thomas picked up the ball and scanned the surroundings for the perpetrator. His face looked like a thundercloud when he saw two boys running towards him. "Is this yours?" he demanded, holding up the ball.
"Oh! Mister! Mister! Can we have it back, please?" the boys cried in concert.
"Well, if you can find it," replied Thomas with an evil smirk. He dropped the ball in front of his feet and sent it flying over their heads with the hardest kick he could muster.
The boys gaped in awe and set off at once when the ball disappeared behind the trees. A little girl who had been trailing behind them stopped in her tracks when they ran back without so much as a glance at her. She was out of breath and lacked the energy to go after them. When she realized she had gotten left behind, she dropped on her knees and burst into tears.
Abby blamed Thomas for the little girl's plight. "Now look what you've done!" she snapped.
The young man shrugged. "How is it my fault? I'm sure they'll come back for her when they find out she's missing."