Her heart beat fast. Was it fear and confusion? An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 3 – 4

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Chapter 3 – 4

Had her parents told her about their plans, Ruthie was asked.

“No, they did not. I hadn’t a clue until I met you last night. I apologize for my rudeness yesterday, but you have to know, I don’t want to marry. I want to see the world. My parents have other plans for me because I sneaked out a window yesterday.” She looked up and spoke boldly. Maybe her honesty would deter him.

“I see. You are an unwilling participant. It makes it much more difficult to woo you. You are a beautiful woman, Ruth, a prize for any man. I might not be what you aspire for, but I own my own business and do very well. I could take care of you,” he said. “Mother will be so disappointed. I can imagine the parade of girls she will put before me.” He looked up quickly. “Pardon me, Miss Squire. Of course, this is not about me, it’s about you. I am afraid I thought aloud. Please forgive me.”

“Mr. Kirby, you are a fine-looking man. That’s not the problem. I want to do things, see the world. Please understand. I am not ready.”

Peter raised the teacup to his lips. “Certainly, I would not want to marry you against your will, but your parents are hell-bent to have us wed. My mother, too. What shall we do? You can’t run away. They made it very clear last night the arrangements are made and an agreement struck between my mother and your parents.”

She sighed. “I know, Mr. Kirby. I’m still thinking of a plan.”

“Please, call me Peter. After all, we are in this together. I have no reservations about marriage to you, you know. I would be honored to have you as my wife. Can we go through the motions for right now, please our parents, and see how things go? What do you say? It has buoyed Mother’s spirits after the sadness of the last two years. My happiness is her sole focus right now.”

“Doesn’t an arranged marriage seem wrong to you, Peter? Don’t you believe in love? Real love? Don’t you want to fall in love?” she pleaded.

Peter hung his head. “My mother and father’s marriage was arranged, Ruth. I never knew a day when their love wasn’t strong”

Her mouth fell open in disbelief.

“You see, if it worked for my parents, I hoped it would work for me. Mother’s instincts are good when it comes to people. I trust her.”

“Well, she is wrong in this case. I am wild, uncontrollable. I do not like rules. I will be a hindrance to you. Marriage may look attractive to you from your parent’s point of view, but I am a different breed. I’ll make your life miserable.”

Peter looked up. “I will take my chances, Ruth. I want this to happen. Won’t you go along for a while? It won’t happen right away. We could ask to post-pone it for a bit. Grant me this one favor. Please.”

She didn’t answer. Her plan had failed.

Elizabeth Kirby swept into the room.

“What have you two young people been talking about?” she asked.

“The weather mostly, Mother. I am not sure a trip to town is a good idea tomorrow. It looks as though it might be a wet day.”

“A little rain won’t hurt anything, will it, Ruth?”

“I suppose not, Mrs. Kirby. It will be good to get out of this house for a spell.”     Elizabeth stood. “Come, Son. We should let this dear girl rest for the afternoon. I intend to keep her very busy tomorrow. It is so lovely to meet you, Ruth. I look forward to tomorrow morning. Is eleven o’clock all right? We can do lunch in town.”

“Certainly, Mrs. Kirby. I will get a message to Ginny.”

Peter rose, took Ruth’s hand, and raised it to his lips. “It was a pleasant visit. I look forward to the next.”

The door closed, and she heard a giggle behind her. She turned to see Sarah, arms akimbo and a big smile on her face. “Is it a blush I’d be seein’ on your cheeks? You did like him, then?”

“Forget it Sarah, you are not going to convince me.” She ran upstairs, anxious for the sanctuary of her room. She didn’t know what she felt. He is kind, good-looking, and his mother warm and friendly. It still does not change anything. It could be an act. He might be a mean, cantankerous, evil beast. One meeting did not prove anything. Still, her heart beat fast and butterflies whirled in her stomach. It’s fear and confusion, that’s all. The reflection in the mirror confirmed the blush. Her hair, a bit ruffled, created a sultry look, the image of a virtual stranger. She shook herself and went to the door. “I must get in touch with Ginny. I cannot wait to get out of this house! I’ll try Father’s study again.” She tiptoed down the stairs and tried the door. It opened with ease. There, on the old desk, stood the candlestick telephone. She started to dial the operator when Sarah burst in.

“What are ya doin’, Ruth? You’re not to use the telephone, and you know your father’s study is forbidden when he is not here.”

“I’m going to ring Ginny and tell her about our shopping trip tomorrow. Surely you can’t object to that.”

Sarah stood silent and frowned. “My, and the wrong decision could get me fired. An idea is a-comin’ to me. I need to go to the market for tonight’s meal. I might be willin’ to run by her house and deliver the message m’self. If you use the telephone, Nellie will tell your folks. You cannot trust that busy-body operator.”

“Oh, Sarah, what a capital idea. Are you leaving now?” She rested the earpiece back in the cradle. Eager to have the house to herself she grabbed Sarah’s hands and turned her around twice.

Sarah jerked her hands free and placed them on her hips. “You are a bit eager to have me gone. What do ya have up your sleeve, missy?”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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