Did he really want to marry a beautiful girl he hardly knew? An Unlikely Arrangement.

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A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement

Chapter 6

Peter watched his mother motor off in the used Ford Model T to pick up his future wife for a day of shopping. The sky was gray, matching his mood, and a light drizzle continued to fall. Did he really want to marry a girl he barely knew? It was clear she had no interest in marriage. Why was Mother so cheerful about this? Ruth did have the most amazing eyes though—and her skin, like milk. She was beautiful. He sighed, loaded up the last of his bottles, and hopped aboard his French Baur milk wagon. He was proud of his wagon and horses, bought with the money he had saved for college. His own business kept body and soul together right now.

During his route, there was plenty of time to think about his future. He worked from dawn to dusk most days. This was a slow route today and enabled him to remain at home until Mother left for her rendezvous. Patch and Bunny clopped along at the regular pace, and the rhythm lulled him into euphoria. He did his best thinking during this time. A man of purpose, he needed to see the sense in this arranged union before he could commit to it. Mother met the Squires in church and began comparing notes on the single fate of both their offspring. Before Ruth’s errant behavior, he knew they had conspired to get him and Ruth together.

“Good morning, Peter!”

The singsong voice of his first stop, Mrs. Jones, shook him out of his reverie. “Good morning, ma’am. A little bit of a wet day today.” He swung off the truck and hoisted her order down.

The bottles clanged on the way to the porch. He noticed Mrs. Jones stood rooted to the spot, as she did every morning, and watched him approach. She also remained there when he returned to the truck. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed she tracked his every move. He really didn’t understand why women did that. It is only milk. Surely, these women had other things to do. The attention made him uncomfortable sometimes. It was the same at the next house, and the next. One lady asked him how he maintained his strong arms and kept his waist so trim. “The loadin’ and unloadin’ I guess, ma’am.” He turned quickly to hide the blush he felt rush to his face.

He hurried to finish the route and get back to the house, although, trepidation attached itself to his mood. What if Ruth told Mother there was no way she would marry him. He had to admit, she danced in his thoughts all day. Her chocolate eyes, and the curve of her figure beneath the green dress, aroused him. “I haven’t had these thoughts since I was a boy of fifteen. What has become of me?” The horses whinnied at the sound of his voice, no help at all.

***

          The house stood quiet when Ruth entered the foyer. Ginny wanted to stay and engage in girl talk, but she sent her away, in no mood to listen to her prattle.

“Sarah?” She called the name softly. Silence the only response.

The loud creak of the stairs echoed in the large house. The doorway of her room was open, but she swept passed it and continued down the hall. This was Sarah’s usual shopping day and the perfect time to examine the letters in Mother’s closet. The air was chilly, but sweat dampened her palms. She decided to go through the guest room. Her heart raced when the doorknob offered no resistance. She flung the door open. The bed was made. There was no clutter on the dressing table, no sign of anyone.

“Are ya at it again, Ruthie?”

She whirled to face the voice. “Damn! You scared the life out of me, Sarah. Don’t sneak up on someone like that. I wasn’t doing anything, only making sure you have done your job properly.”

“I have done my job proper, to be sure, young lady, and you watch what is comin’ out of yer mouth. I suggest you get back to your room. Or, would ya be wantin’ me to tell your mother about your little escapade in her room? You’ve had a full day. I want to hear all about it, but right now, I must get your supper and make sure all is put aright. A wire came from your folks. They will be arrivin’ home day after tomorrow. Better prepare.”

The hall felt hollow, unfamiliar. She watched Sarah hurry down the stairs. After her day with Mrs. Kirby, the evening stretched long and lonely. Her parents would be home soon and plans made. Was it supposed to be this way? She felt transparent, invisible, as if the only thing that mattered was the proper thing. Never mind her feelings, or desires.

Leaden feet moved toward her bedroom door. Was it all a dream? Would she wake up and find it had all been a horrible nightmare? The door remained open as she sat upon the bed in her room. The hallway summoned her, and thoughts of the perfumed letters beckoned.

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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