A Bride for Tom
Dedicated to: my readers who make writing worthwhile
This book is part of the Nebraska series. Here is the order of the books in this series that I’ve written so far:
A Bride for Tom
A Husband for Margaret (coming Fall 2010)
Eye of the Beholder
The Wrong Husband (coming Fall 2010)
His Redeeming Bride
Loving Eliza (though Eliza moves to South Dakota, she is a minor character in His Redeeming Bride)A Bride for Tom
Margaret Williams nudged her friend in the side. “Don’t look now but Tom Larson is coming over here.”
Jessica Reynolds looked. Of course, she had to look. Whenever someone said, “Don’t look,” they secretly hoped you would, and Jessica had to oblige her friend. She directed her attention to the lanky blond who asked Daisy to dance.
Daisy shook her head.
His shoulders slumped, he turned toward the next lady in line. He, however, was not a graceful young man for in the next moment he succeeded in toppling into Beth and they both fell onto the barn floor.
People around them chuckled, and yes, Jessica was one of them. She’d never seen a clumsier person in her entire life. Whatever was Tom Larson doing working on his pa’s farm? He’d be best suited away from anything sharp.
Tom stood up and offered to help Beth to her feet, but Beth shoved his hand away. “I’ll do it myself, thank you very much.” Then she got up, dusted the dirt off her skirt and stormed off.
Tom’s face was red, but to his credit, he didn’t give up. He just proceeded down the line to the next lady who happened to be Rachel.
Margaret grabbed Jessica’s arm and dragged her across the barn. “There’s no need to stand in line like a sheep waiting for the slaughter,” she whispered.
Jessica secretly agreed with her, though she had to admit that she felt sorry for him. At the rate he was going, he’d never find a wife, and everyone knew he was hoping to get married and get his own farm. He was trying too hard, she thought. She shook her head as another lady rejected him. Someone had to teach the poor man how to act around women.
As she stepped forward, Margaret gasped and pulled her back. “What are you doing? He’s done with this side of the barn. He won’t ask us to dance.”
“He needs help.”
“But not yours.”
“Then who’s going to help him?”
“Who cares? As long as it’s not us.”
Jessica sighed and put her hands on her hips. “Really, Margaret. Just the other day you were instructing your little sister on manners. Is it good manners to leave this man in the state he’s currently in?”
“What will Peter think?”
“He’ll think I’m doing Tom and the woman he ends up marrying a great service. Besides, Peter couldn’t make it tonight. What am I supposed to do? Spend my time moping in the corner?”
“Yes. You are engaged to him.”
“And this won’t change that. Now, go find someone to ask you to dance.” She smiled and pointed to Ethan. “He’s been staring at you. Go over there. Maybe we can be in the same square dance.”
Margaret loudly groaned but made her way past the refreshment table.
Jessica turned around and saw that Tom was walking her way. She glanced down and saw that a napkin was stuck to his boot.
“Hello,” he greeted as he ran his hand through his wavy blond hair. “My name is Tom Larson.”
“Yes. I know.” Everyone knows who you are...and not for a good reason. “You have something stuck to your boot.”
He looked down. “Oh. So I do.”
When he was ready to touch the sticky candy that was responsible for gluing the napkin to his boot, she stopped him. If he touched that and then her...Well, that would just be gross. “Hold on. I’ll get another napkin and wipe that off.”
She hurried to the table and glanced back to make sure he wasn’t touching his boot. Good. He wasn’t. She snatched a cloth napkin and returned to him and scraped the candy and napkin off his boot.
“Oh, well, I could’ve done that,” he said.
“I know.” She just thought this way would be safer. What if he was trying to clean off his boot and lost his balance? She’d been watching him stumble around all evening. “But it’s fine now. I’ll be back.”
As she made her way to a trashcan, she caught Margaret’s eyes and saw her friend shaking her head at her. Jessica shrugged and returned to Tom.
“I never got your name,” he said.
“I’ve heard the name Reynolds before. You live in town, don’t you?”
“Yes. My father used to make shoes and boots.”
“That’s it. I bought these boots from him. No wonder your name seemed familiar.”
“So...would you like to dance?”
“That’s alright. I under-” He stopped and gave her a cautious look. “Did you say ‘yes’?”
The very fact that he seemed shocked by her answer brought a smile to her lips. In some ways, he was a little cute. He was like a clumsy puppy.
“Yes, I said yes.”
A wide smile crossed his face. “That’s great! Come on.”
She raised an eyebrow as he headed for the dance area without her. He obviously didn’t know he was supposed to take her hand and lead her there.
When he turned around, he appeared startled that she wasn’t right with him.
She waited for him to come back. If he was going to find a wife, she had to teach him what to do and what not to do. This was one of those ‘not to do’s’ on the list.
He came over to her. “Did you change your mind?”
“No, but you didn’t take my hand. See?” She pointed to Ethan as he took Margaret’s hand and led her to one of the squares where people were getting ready to square dance. “That’s what gentlemen do.”
“Oh. I hadn’t noticed that before. I’m sorry.”
As he extended his hand to her, she chuckled. “I guess it’s not that big of an issue, but some ladies won’t dance with a man unless he does that.” She accepted his hand and thought he had a nice firm grip. Not too tight but not lax either. Really, it was just right.
They went to the same square that Margaret was in, and Margaret gave her a ‘you poor thing’ look. Jessica simply shrugged. When the music started, it occurred to her that Tom had two left feet. He bumped into other people and tripped twice. It was up to her to prevent him from falling. Still, he had a big smile on his face and eagerly followed the commands. One thing was for sure: he had enthusiasm. And that was refreshing. He probably enjoyed life more than most people.
When the music ended, they returned to their original position in the square and clapped their hands. Jessica chanced a glance at Margaret and saw her nod in Tom’s direction. Wondering what had her friend worried, Jessica looked over at him and saw that he was fiddling with the button on the cuff of his shirt. She didn’t know why such a thing should bother Margaret, so she decided to ignore it. Maybe it was the fact that Tom was even waiting for the next round of square dancing to start that had her friend upset. He did, after all, spin Margaret too fast when she had to switch partners.
The poor man needed to learn to dance. It just wasn’t right to make him continue on like this. She didn’t believe he was intentionally being a bad dancer.
She nudged him in the arm. When he turned to her, she whispered, “Let me lead this one, alright?”
He seemed concerned. “Am I that bad?”
She hesitantly replied, “You just need a few pointers. Really, it’s minor things.” And that was true. If he could master the basics, he’d be better off...and so would those who’d dance with him in the future.
When the music started up, she took the lead, which caused some odd looks from the others, but she pretended not to notice. Tom fell in step and managed much better. Good. That meant he picked up on things quickly. Just as they got to the last command in the square, he raised his arm and her hair caught onto something from his shirt cuff.
Her head jerked back. “Ow!”
“What? Oh no! I’m sorry.”
She couldn’t see exactly what he was doing but she reached up and felt his free hand trying to undo the button on his cuff.
“I had a loose string,” he explained. “It must have gotten tangled in your hair.”
She groaned, wishing she had worn a braid instead of letting her hair hang loose.
“Move away from her!” Margaret snapped and shoved him aside.
Jessica shrieked and stumbled against him. Boy, that hurt!
“Her hair is attached to me,” he told Margaret. “See?”
“You big oaf!” Margaret yelled. “Only you would be so clumsy.”
“I-I’m sorry. It was an accident.”
“It was an accident,” Jessica quickly assured her friend.
“Well, both of you stop trying to get out of this mess,” Margaret demanded. “That hair is too wound up in that cuff and you’re making it worse. Go over there and I’ll bring back some scissors.”
“Scissors?” Jessica gasped. She didn’t want to cut her hair! “Can’t you just yank off the string?”
Margaret pulled them off the dance floor so they wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. “Jessica, your hair is wound up in his button. There’s no saving it. You ought to be glad it’s not your neck.”
“I...I’m so sorry,” he said.
Jessica blinked back her tears. She brushed her hair a hundred times every night...and all for what?
When Margaret returned, she ordered for them to remain still.
Jessica heard the devastating sound of the snip that set her free. When she stood up and saw how long the strands were that had been cut, she sharply inhaled and touched her head and let her hands slide down her neck. The damaged hair reached a little past her shoulders. It had been past her mid-back. Her beautiful hair. It was ruined!
“Jessica, I-I don’t know what to say,” Tom rambled, his eyes wide. “I didn’t mean to...I mean, I wasn’t trying-”
Margaret set her hands on her hips and glared at him. “I think you’ve said enough. Fine. It was an accident. Will you please leave before you do anymore damage?”
He lowered his head and walked away.
“My hair.” Jessica felt the tears fall down her cheeks before she realized she was openly crying.
Margaret clucked her tongue and shook her head. “Peter’s not going to like this one bit. He’s going to be upset when he realizes what happened and why.”
“But I was only trying to help.”
“And look at what good that did you! I warned you that there was a loose string.”
“I didn’t see it. I had no idea what you were trying to tell me.”
She sighed and shook her head. “Well, what’s done is done. There’s no use in crying over spilled milk. Come on over to my house and I’ll cut the rest of your hair.”
Jessica took note of Tom as he left the barn. As bad as she felt for him, she hated to cut her hair. It took her years to get it just the way she wanted it. Well, this was a hard lesson. Sometimes when someone tried to help someone else, it only made things worse.A Bride for Tom
The next day, Jessica sat in front of her bedroom mirror and brushed her blond hair which fell slightly past her shoulders. There was no hiding it. She had lost a good four inches last night. Well, that’s what she got for not wearing her hair up...and deciding to dance with someone known for bumping into things. Still, it was an accident, and looking back, she felt bad for Tom. He had the look of a wounded puppy. She also felt sorry for whoever did end up marrying him. His wife would have to keep a safe distance from him in order to avoid getting hurt.
The knocking on her door interrupted her thoughts. “Yes?”
Her mother peered around the door, a kind smile on her face. “Peter’s here.”
Yes, he would be. He had mentioned taking her on a picnic. Whatever will he think of my hair? Though she realized her hair was safe with him, she pulled it back into a braid. It was a scary thing to lose so much of it in one instance, and she didn’t want to tempt fate.
She sighed and left her room. As she got closer to the parlor, she slowed her steps to take a good look at Peter. He was refined. Much more so than Tom. He wore a suit and his light brown hair was neatly combed. He stood in front of the window with a slight smile on his face. He also seemed confident. She hadn’t noticed that about him before. Tom, with his worn shirt and denim pants and blond hair that looked as if he constantly ran his hand through it, wasn’t refined at all. As far as being confident... Well, it was obvious that he wasn’t sure of himself. Maybe that was part of his problem. If he had the same confidence that Peter did, maybe he’d handle himself better.
Peter turned and saw her. A wide smile lit up his face. “Jessie, you’re certainly beautiful this morning.”
“You mean there are mornings when I’m not beautiful?” she joked.
“You know what I mean.”
Her mother came into the room, holding a basket and blanket. “You’ll need this for the picnic.”
“Oh. Yes. I forgot.” Jessica had prepared the meal before she went to get dressed for the outing.
Peter took the basket and blanket. “I reserved the horse and carriage, so we can take a ride around the lake.”
“That sounds like fun,” her mother said, clasping her hands together. “That’s just the thing you need after having to cut your hair,” she told Jessica.
“I heard about that,” Peter replied. “I hope it doesn’t take too long to grow back. Your hair is one of your loveliest features.”
Her mother sighed and shook her head. “A shame too.”
“It was an accident, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Jessica said. Lord knew that crying hadn’t done her any good.
“Whatever convinced you to dance with Tom Larson anyway?” Peter asked.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. I guess I thought I could teach him how to be less clumsy with women.” Then she gave him a wary glance. “Are you mad at me for dancing with him?”
Peter laughed. “Mad? Why ever would I be mad? The man’s a bumbling idiot.”
Her mother shook her head. “Let’s not get into all that. You two should concentrate on having a good time today. Jessica dear, I’ll talk to you when you get home.”
Jessica sighed but agreed to let the matter rest for the time being. She wondered if her mother would criticize her for dancing with another man while engaged to Peter. Whatever the matter, her mother would, in deed, talk to her when she came home.
“Are you ready?” Peter asked as he opened the front door.
As she joined him, she wondered whether or not she should stay home. She didn’t think Peter’s statement regarding Tom was a nice one but needed time to think through what she should do about it, if anything.
“Here comes Tom. Watch out or you might lose your hair, Ma!”
Tom glared at his twelve-year-old brother who was sitting at the kitchen table with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other.
“Joel.” Their mother shot him a warning look as she turned from the cookstove with a spatula in hand. “That’s enough of your teasing.”
Tom sat across from his pesky brother who snickered at him. He couldn’t wait to get his own place. Then he wouldn’t have to put up with his annoying brother anymore. The dog hastened by Tom’s side and panted in anticipation for the meal to come. Tom usually snuck in food to the animal during meals because he couldn’t stand having the poor dog peer up at him with those sad eyes.
Joel glanced over his shoulder and when he saw that their mother had her back turned to them, he set his fork and knife down and made a screaming motion as he grabbed his hair.
Tom grabbed Joel’s fork and knife and let the dog sitting next to him lick the utensils. Just as Joel voiced his protest, he swiftly returned them to Joel and smiled.
Their father and Dave came into the kitchen and sat at their usual places.
“Ma!” Joel screeched. “Tom let the dog lick my fork and knife. I need new utensils.”
“I did not,” Tom lied.
Their mother looked over at their father. “Did you see anything?”
Their father shook his head. “When I got here, the utensils were where they belonged.”
“Well, I am not eating with these.” Joel picked them up as if he were handling a dead rodent and pitched them into the sink.
“That’s it, Joel. You’re helping me with dishes,” their mother stated.
“Because you just made more work for me, young man.”
“But they had dog spit all over them.”
“Are you arguing with me?” She placed a hand on her hip and stared at him.
Joel sunk into the chair. “No, Ma.”
When Joel turned his attention to Tom, Tom raised his eyebrows and gave a slight smile. There. That should teach the little weasel to harass him. Tom hadn’t had a moment’s peace ever since Dave told everyone what happened. Too bad Dave witnessed the whole thing. He sighed. He really needed his own place. His two younger brothers were such a nuisance.
“So Tom,” their father began, “when are you going to get your own place?”
Tom inwardly groaned. Not this question again! “I’m waiting until I get engaged.”
“Oh great,” Joel muttered to Dave. “We’ll never get rid of him.”
“Joel,” his father warned.
Fifteen-year-old Jenny entered the house. “I’m done hanging the laundry. Tom, I’m sorry but I couldn’t get that hair off your shirt without cutting it. I’ll sew it back up after supper.”
Tom decided to ignore his brothers’ quiet chuckles.
While their mother and Jenny set the food on the table, their father cleared his throat and looked in Tom’s direction. “You’re already twenty. It’s about time you thought about owning your own land. Not everyone waits until they’re ready to get married to get established. Your brother Richard lived by himself for two years before he met Amanda.”
“I know,” Tom grudgingly admitted.
The men waited until the women were seated before they said grace and started to eat.
Their mother shook her head at her husband. “There’s no hurry in any of this.” She patted Tom on the arm, which only succeeded in making him feel like a child. “Don’t rush into anything.”
Across the table, Joel pressed his hand to his heart and pretended to cry.
Tom straightened in his chair and grabbed a roll before the other hounds ate them all. “Look, it’s not that I don’t want to get out of here. I just don’t have enough money yet.”
“What do you mean, you don’t have enough money?” Dave asked after he took a drink of water. “You’ve been saving up for two years.”
He sighed. He had to use a good chunk of that money to buy a present for Jessica so he could make up for his blunder at the dance. Otherwise, he’d never be able to look at himself in the mirror again. But he didn’t care to explain that to his little brother!
“Never mind, Dave,” their father said.
Dave shrugged and returned to buttering his roll.
“I’ll tell you what,” their father continued. “I’ll let you start building on that space of land east of here that you said you like. We can even help. A sod house is all you need to get started, and it’s relatively inexpensive. In the meantime, I’ll find some work for you to do to pay me back.”
Tom thought over the plan as he tore the roll apart. The dog nudged his leg, so he quickly slipped a piece of it to him when no one was looking. He quickly patted the dog’s head and chewed the other half of the roll.
He really had hoped to find a bride before he made arrangements for his own land and house, but what if his family’s fears were going to come true? What if he never found a wife? Did he really want to grow old and die here...in his parents’ home?
“Alright,” he finally agreed.
“Yay!” Joel cheered.
Their mother shot him a ‘be quiet’ look.
“We’ll get started in November,” their father stated.
That soon? Tom thought they were talking about next year.
Their father picked up his cup of coffee and said, “That way we don’t have to rush the rest of the harvest or the planting season next year.”
It made sense. But still, Tom didn’t relish the thought of living alone...even if his brothers were a big nuisance. Sighing, he finished his meal.A Bride for Tom
Jessica sat on the swing on her front porch, trying to read the book in her hands, but she couldn’t concentrate on it. Though three days had passed, she still couldn’t get Tom Larson out of her mind. Maybe that was because every time she touched or looked at her hair, she remembered why she had to cut it. That, of course, led to thoughts of Tom.
When she saw a young man walking down the road toward her house, she thought he was Tom simply because he’d been on her mind a lot. Then, as he got closer, she realized that it was Tom, and he was holding a package in his hands. Was he coming to see her? She quickly adjusted her shirt and skirt and straightened up. Why did she even care how she appeared? He may not be coming by to see her. And even if he was... Well, why should that excite her?
She picked up the book and turned her attention to the words on the page in front of her. She read the first sentence three times before she realized that, though she was reading it, she really didn’t know what it said. This was ridiculous. It was just Tom Larson. And she was engaged to Peter. Oh good grief. What was wrong with her?
Tom halted in front of the porch and cleared his throat.
She pretended to be startled and glanced up.
He shifted from one foot to the other. “I hope...I mean, can I...?” He motioned to the top of the porch.
Realizing what he was trying to say, she nodded. “Come on up.”
He lumbered up the steps and stood in front of her. “I wanted to apologize for the other night. You know. Your hair. I can see that you had to cut it.”
His contrite expression made her smile. Shrugging, she said, “It was due for a trim.” Suddenly, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It was just hair after all. It would grow back. She scooted over. “Would you like a seat?”
“Thank you.” He sat next to her, keeping a safe distance between them and held the box to her. “I thought that this..gift...might help...you know, with your hair and all.”
She had to admit that she was flattered he seemed to be shy around her. Not that it meant much. He was shy around every lady he came across, from what she’d seen. Still, it was nice that he cared so much about what she thought. She took the box and thanked him. She lifted the lid, surprised by the number of items in it. There were several ribbons, three bonnets, a brush, a comb, four barrettes, and a hat.
“I wasn’t sure what you like to wear, so I picked up everything I found at the mercantile. I hope something in there is to your liking.”
She laughed. It was a sweet gesture. “A simple apology is enough, but I do like all of these.”
He looked relieved.
“Try not to feel bad about what happened. I know you didn’t mean to do it.”
He smiled. “I appreciate that. I see that you’re reading. I won’t take up anymore of your time.”
“Wait,” she said as he began to stand up. She placed the lid back on the box. “Do you have to go somewhere?”
“No. I mean, I do have to get back to my pa’s farm, but that can wait.”
“Would you like to have something to eat and drink? It is around noon.”
He seemed surprised by her invitation. “Are you sure?”
She stood up. “I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t mean it. I can make you a quick bite to eat and some coffee to drink before you head back home.”
“That’s really nice of you.”
“It’s the least I can do for a man who bought me all these gifts.” She opened the screen door and motioned for him to follow her. “I can’t get you anything out here.”
He immediately jumped up and joined her as she went into the house.
“Ma?” she called out. “We have a guest.” She turned to him and smiled. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable in the parlor. I’m going to put this in my bedroom.”
He nodded and stepped into the other room, so she headed down the hallway. As soon as she placed the box on her dresser, her mother entered her room.
“That’s not Peter,” her mother whispered before she shut the door so they could speak in private.
Jessica rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “I know that, Ma.”
“Who is he?”
“Tom La-” She shook her head, looking bewildered. “But what is he doing here?”
“He came to apologize about my hair. Look. He even bought me a present. Wasn’t that nice of him? No man has ever been that considerate before.” She took out the hat and put it on her head. “It really is a lovely shade of blue, don’t you think?”
The woman frowned. “I don’t know if it’s wise to accept that gift, honey. I mean, what if he gets the wrong idea?”
“If I didn’t take the gift, he would’ve been hurt.”
“Maybe. But what will Peter think?”
She placed the hat in the box and took out a barrette. Deciding to pull the sides of her hair back, she snapped the barrette in place and brushed her hair so it fell slightly over her shoulders. “You know what Peter will think. You heard him call Tom a bumbling idiot,” she continued, her tone sharp. It still bothered her that Peter said that.
“Granted, it was wrong for him to say that, but he is your fiancé. You shouldn’t be accepting gifts from other men and entertaining them when you’re already engaged. It’s not proper.”
She sighed. “It’s just a lunch, Ma. It’s only right that I give him something to eat and drink during the lunch hour. Besides, you’re here. There will be no misconstruing the situation.”
“You aren’t planning to make a habit of this, are you?”
Jessica set the brush down by the box, refusing to look her mother in the eye.
“I’m not thinking of a romantic attachment, but I do think the poor man needs help. He can’t dance and he keeps bumping into people. If I taught him how to be...less awkward...in social situations, I’d be doing all women a favor. Who knows? Maybe I can even find him a wife.”
“Peter’s really not going to like this.”
Jessica’s face flushed with anger. “Who cares?”
The woman gasped and put her hand up to her mouth.
She groaned. “What I mean is that maybe it’s time to show people like Peter and Margaret that Tom isn’t as idiotic as they say.”
“You must be careful because if you’re not, people will get the wrong idea.”
“Why do you think I’m telling you this? The fact that you know what I’m doing is proof that there’s nothing underhanded going on.” She went to the door and opened it. “You’ll be with us at lunch, and you can verify that everything we will discuss is innocent. I’m thinking Tom might like some of those leftover pork chops if we put some of that apple glaze on them.”
“That’s a fancy dish for lunch.”
“Look at all those things he gave me,” she whispered, motioning to her dresser. “I don’t know how much he spent, but it couldn’t have been easy for a farmer’s son to come up with that kind of money.”
“We’ll have to give him some cake for dessert too. Though,” her mother stopped her before she could leave, “you can’t accept anymore gifts from him.”
As soon as Jessica and her mother arrived in the parlor, Tom stood up from his chair. “Hello, Mrs. Reynolds,” he greeted. He fiddled with the hat in his hands and shifted from one foot to the other.
“Hello, Tom. That was a very lovely gesture to give Jessica something because of the mishap.” She glanced at Jessica. “I’ll get lunch prepared. Jessica, you should take Tom out to the porch and keep him company while I get the food ready.”
“But I thought I was going to help,” Jessica argued. Especially, since it was her idea to invite him to eat.
“And leave the boy bored? That won’t do. Go on.”
“Alright.” She looked at Tom. “Would you like to come back out to the porch?”
“Yes. Sure.” He placed the hat back on his head and walked forward.
Jessica turned toward the front door when she heard her mother gasp. She glanced back in time to see Tom trip on the rug. He managed to steady himself but the rug pulled the small table along the floor and sent the vase teetering. Her mother caught the vase before it fell off the table. Clutching the heirloom to her chest, she breathed an audible sigh of relief.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I...I didn’t realize the edge of the rug was in front of the chair.” His face grew red. “Well, I mean, I saw it, but then I took a step forward and my foot-”
Her mother smiled. “That’s alright. Everything is fine.” She set the vase back on the table and smoothed the rug out. “See? It’s like it never happened.”
“Come on, Tom.” Jessica waved him forward as she did a quick scan of the floor. It looked clear of any potential obstacles. She decided it was best if she held the door open for him. She realized that this wasn’t exactly how things were done, but she didn’t want to take any chances with the porcelain figurines on the shelf in the entryway.
Tom managed past her without incident.
Before Jessica could join him on the swing, her mother gently tugged on her arm. “What is it?” Jessica asked.
“Be careful,” her mother whispered.
“Why? There’s nothing out there that can break.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Just as Jessica was going to ask for clarity, her mother turned and strode to the kitchen. She shrugged and joined Tom on the swing.A Bride for Tom
Tom watched as Jessica sat next to him. His body warmed from their close proximity. He hoped she didn’t notice. She was the prettiest young woman he’d ever seen. Part of him couldn’t believe she was even talking to him. It almost seemed like a dream, except in his dreams he wasn’t clumsy around females.
“It’s a nice day,” he said, trying to think of something she might be interested in hearing. “It’s perfect weather for September. Not too hot and not too cold.” He tapped his thumb on his knee. “I guess it’s that time of year though. I mean, now that August is gone, the hot days are pretty much behind us.”
“Yes. And just think last week I had to wear a shawl. I don’t think summer is over quite yet.”
“Probably not.” He sighed. He was no good at making small talk, and it didn’t help that he couldn’t think straight with her being next to him. Here was his chance to make up for the dance, and he was ruining it.
“I like the barrette. Did you notice I’m wearing it?”
No, he hadn’t but he shifted back so he could see it and nodded. “It looks nice.” Good one, Tom. The weather’s nice. She looks nice. Can’t you think of a better word than ‘nice’?
“Everything you gave me is lovely.” She glanced at her hands which were neatly folded in her lap. “You do know that you didn’t have to get me those things, right?”
He wasn’t sure. She’d looked so horrified when she realized she would have to cut her hair that it reminded him of his mother when she got so upset his father went right out to get her a present to apologize for upsetting her. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to try the same thing. And it hadn’t. In fact, it seemed to work out great since she invited him for lunch.
“Anyway,” she continued, “just so you know that when something happens and a girl gets upset with you for something, you don’t have to spend money to make amends.”
“Oh. Alright,” he slowly responded, not sure where she was going with this. Did she mean that she wasn’t interested in him?
“So...when do you start digging up the crops?”
He blinked. “You mean the harvest?”
“Yes, that’s the term. You’ll have to forgive me. I don’t have many dealings with farmers or their sons.”
“But I’ve seen you a couple of times dancing out at the barn.”
“Because my friend Margaret doesn’t want to go alone. She doesn’t have any sisters of courting age to go with.”
He refrained from rolling his eyes. He wished he could go alone. Having Dave and Jenny go along with him was like having his personal journalist taking notes on everything he was doing. Dave and Jenny had to come back home and tell everyone everything that happened. Tom really had to get his own home. Well, at least they weren’t here right now. So if he made a fool of himself, no one would harass him about it.
Turning his attention back to Jessica, he asked, “Was Margaret the one who cut your hair?”
He recalled the angry brunette in vivid detail. He thought fire was going to come out of her mouth. Some women were too scary, but he decided to keep that thought to himself.
A few moments of uncomfortable silence passed before she spoke. “Would you like me to teach you how to dance?”
He turned to her in interest. He’d hope to see her again, but he hadn’t expected her to actually say yes when he asked her. He wasn’t planning on asking her until after lunch though. There was no sense in spoiling a meal if she said no. But here she was asking him. Resisting the urge to leap off the swing and holler his good fortune, he restrained his excitement enough to simply reply, “Yes. That would be fine.”
She smiled. “When can you come out