Welcome back to Sweet Saturday Samples. I know it's past Valentine's Day, but I couldn't resist putting in a tidbit from one of my novels that has to do with some of the emotions we humans feel toward those we love in a most particular way. No, it's not going all graphic sex on you. I don't need to go there.
This piece is from Trail of Storms, and features two secondary characters at their "pick-up" wedding as they flee the oppression of Reconstruction following the American Civil War.
Several days later, Heppie stood at the altar in a strange church and gave a nervous giggle. At last! Her face felt warm, and she wondered if she was blushing. She took a deep breath to suppress another giggle. George stood, ramrod straight, clothes brushed free of dust, sandy hair combed carefully into place over his half ear, looking like he’d keel over if he didn’t wiggle something soon. Heppie looked at the minister, who was thumbing through his prayer book. She couldn’t read his expression and wondered if he objected to marrying two strangers. Two shabby strangers.
She wore the same dress as every day. It was all she had to wear. Ma had brushed at it with her hand, trying to get the worst of the dust off, before they stepped through the church door. Heppie wished she’d been able to wash her dress or at least take a bath, but time had run out when the bustling little minister arrived, shepherded by Robert Fletcher. Several curious townsfolk came in their wake—drawn by gossip that a traveling couple had asked the minister to marry them—and accompanied the wedding party into the church.
Fortunately, my hair looks nice. Hannah had brushed it, braided it, and coiled it intricately at the back of Heppie’s head. I’ll make a good appearance from the back.
The minister looked from his prayer book to them and opened his mouth to begin the wedding ceremony. At first Heppie didn’t hear a word he said. She knew he was talking, because his mouth moved, and she could hear a droning sound like a thousand bees circling her head, but nothing made sense because George was looking down at her, and she was drowning in the depths of his blue eyes.
When George finally broke eye contact to look at the minister, Heppie got her ears working again. George stuttered, “I … ah … do,” and the minister looked at Heppie.
“Do you, Hepzibah Bingham, take George Heizer for your husband, to love, obey, and cherish him so long as life lasts?”
Heppie stared at the little man in the frock coat. Did she want to marry George? She swallowed, panicked. Will I love him until I die? Do I have to obey everything he says? She looked at George, her eyes drawn to his right ear. Can I cherish that little half-shot-off ear as long as I live? George squeezed Heppie’s hand and smiled down at her. His touch steadied her, and she knew he loved her. Settle down, Heppie, she thought. You can do this. Just be quick about it before you change your mind again!
She turned to the minister and said in a rush, “Yes, I do. What’s next?” As soon as the question left her lips, she gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth, mortified at her audacity.
The minister looked surprised and slapped his prayer book closed with his hand still inside. After a moment, he opened it again, moved his finger down the page, and found his place.
“By the power given to me by God Almighty, this county, and the state of West Virginia, I proclaim you husband and wife, duly and legally married according to the rite of the church. Two dollars, please.”
As Robert took up a collection for the money, George wrapped his arms around Heppie. “The preacher forgot to mention this,” he whispered, and lightly kissed her on the lips. “I’ll never put cows ahead of you again,” he vowed, then kissed Heppie with a thoroughness that dizzied her brain.
She clung to him, warmth spreading from her lips to the core of her being, a tingling wave that awakened an overwhelming need to somehow knit her body together with his. Frightened by the intensity of her feelings, Heppie broke away, her breathing short and quick. George winked at her, and she looked at her hands, still gripping his shirt. She dropped them to her sides, wondering, Did Hannah feel like this on her wedding day?
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