Thursday, October 29, 2009
All Hallow's Eve Party by April Dawn
Melinda closed her eyes, grasped at the trailing ends of the ties which held her hands immobile behind her.
"Bite the apple, Linny"
"You can do it."
She approached the apple, which hung suspended by a string and licked her lips. Turning her head one way, then the other, she tried to decide where to begin. Her corset kept her from bending too far in either direction, so she lifted her chin, coming at the apple from slightly beneath it. Her teeth bit into the flesh of the fruit, and elation filled her as the juices spurted into her mouth.
"You did it, Linny." Her best friend Sara said, rushing to her side as she stepped back from the bitten apple. "You will be the first to marry!"
Melinda smiled, chewing on the sweet morsel as Sara removed the bindings from her hands.
"Shall we have some tea, and find out who your husband will be?" Sara asked.
As Sara speculated about the possibilities, Melinda's eyes once again returned to the spot where Anthony stood. His eyebrows lifted as his gaze shifted meaningfully to where the apple still hung. He grinned, and she fought not to grin back.
"I heard that Franny drank the tea, and it told her that she would marry a duke! And now, she is engaged to his grace, the Duke of Rochester."
"Mmm," Melinda said, eyes never leaving Anthony.
His head inclined slightly toward the entrance of the barn, indicating the open expanse of pastures beyond. Her breath caught, and she shifted her gaze to where Sara stood.
"Why don't you go, Sara? You can tell me all about it later." When Sara protested, Melinda held up a hand. "Now I want to hear positively everything about your tea, but I… I promised my father I would be home early, and I wouldn't want you to have to leave on my account."
Sara pouted and looked at the door. Melinda followed her eyes, seeing Anthony's back as he stepped through the doorway. Her heart lurched. Sara turned toward where the tea was being poured, then looked back over her shoulder toward the door again.
"Look now, all the cups are nearly taken. I insist that you enjoy your tea." Melinda said, shoving her gently toward the table. "You can tell me everything tomorrow."
"All right, but you go straight home." Sara said, giving her a quick hug before whirling to hurry toward the table.
Adjusting her bodice and slapping at the wrinkles in her skirts, she started toward the door. Stepping across the threshold, she noted the darkening sky and empty expanse of land. Looking around, she fought the urge to call for him. She moved toward the far end of the barn, her pulse pounding in her throat.
"Not frightened, are you?" A deep male voice came from beside the barn.
"Not at all. I'm far too old to let a silly night frighten me." Smiling, she faced the obscure darkness.
Anthony slipped from the abysmal world of shadow and into the moonlight. His dark hair was tousled, and she found herself itching to brush a wayward lock from his forehead. Her fingers clenched at her skirt to quell the impulse.
"I'm glad you came out to walk with me. I never thought that Sara would let you out of her sight."
Eyebrows raised, she tried to give him a reproving look, but her grin broke free. "She was very insistent tonight. I think she wishes to try new things, but is too afraid to try them alone."
His hand came to her elbow, and he took it delicately in his fingertips as he helped her over a hole in the ground. Warmth spread through her from at the contact.
"She's always been that way." He laughed, a rich sound that warmed her in the chilly night air.
"I was told that you will be leaving to attend school in England soon," she said, speaking the words which had remained silent between them for months now. "It should be very exciting." She turned her head, blinking rapidly to keep the tears from coming.
He grunted his agreement. They walked along a piece and soon came to the large white fence at the edge of the barn. Anthony jumped to the top of the fence effortlessly, extending a hand to her. She took it, and he lifted her as she placed her foot on the bottom post. When she held the top of the fence, he grasped her waist and lifted her over the fence and to the ground on the other side. The brief contact of his fingers at her waist sent a thrill of anticipation through her body.
He had helped her over this very fence so many times in the past, but lately…
"So, you bit the apple." He said, dropping to the ground alongside her. "You're next to marry then."
She giggled, trying to sound lighthearted while her insides twisted. "Silly superstition." She waved her hand as she spoke.
"Perhaps," he said, his fingers touching hers for the barest moment as they walked together. "And perhaps not. You are eighteen now. It is time to take a husband, is it not?"
"I suppose it will be."
Head down, she watched him in her from the corner of her vision as they passed the storage shed near the main plantation house.
"And I am nearly nineteen. My father will be pressing me soon enough."
"Parents are rather insistent on the matter."
His fingers brushed hers, but this time he grasped them, holding them lightly in his own. She glanced up at him, and his face lit with a roguish smile. A thick lump had formed in her throat, and she fought to swallow past it. He pulled her toward the shed, and she went with him, leaning back against the draw of his hands, but not truly resisting.
Reaching behind him, he pushed the shed door open and drew her inside. Her chest felt as though it would shatter into a million bits when her eyes met his.
"I… We should--."
"Shhh." He silenced her, placing a long finger over her lips. "It’s all right."
The door shut behind them, and he sat on a small bench, drawing her onto his lap.
"You and I have been friends a long time, Melinda." His eyes held hers so fully that she couldn't have looked away even if she had wished to. "Lately our friendship has changed. I know you have felt it too."
Butterflies seemed to have taken up residence in her stomach, and they fluttered in crazy patterns as he took her hand in his and kissed it.
"I love you, Linny," he said. "Say you love me too. Say you'll marry me and make me the happiest man who ever existed."
A whimper left her throat, unbidden, and she leaned in, her palms gently holding his cheeks. Her lips met his, softly and tenderly. He moaned as she pulled back from the kiss, his hands running up and down over her arms. The fiery quality that his eyes had acquired made her insides turn to pudding.
"Of course I'll marry you, you goose."
Whooping, he slipped his arms around her, his lips finding hers. His mouth covered hers, not the sweet, tender kiss she had visited on him, but fiery and passionate. A kiss she would be content to stop time and live in for the rest of her life.