Hello readers! I hope all you guys are doing well in these troubling times, and that an escape into some reading/writing provides some happiness to you today.
Onto another chapter, but before I would like to once more thank the new story faves/follows, and give a big shout out to the two new reviews from Tweety and imajisaheartlandfan. Thank you so much for the support yall!
The clouds turned a shade of orange when dusk was upon the land. The faintest arc of sunlight still remained on the horizon, but the sky was already turning a shade of dark blue. After a long day of work, all the lumberman gathered around a fire pit to roast a hog, with plenty of beer to go around.
"Nothing stronger than beer!" The foreman made sure to make his men aware that even though tonight they're relaxing, tomorrow is another day for working and no man should be hungover around heavy logs falling from great heights. Their boss graced them with his presence for a few more jokes about the trade before leaving for his quarters.
There was music. An elderly man named Rudy played the guitar. He strung the instrument while young Joey played the harmonic in rhythm to the song. All in all, the men of the Appleseed Timber seem to be a fine bunch to party with and Arthur didn't regret the decision to stay for food and drinks. He sipped on his beer, waiting for the food to be roasted.
"I couldn't lie even if I wanted too!" One of the men proclaimed, his name was Matt and he was one of the more vocal of the bunch. He took another drink of his beer. "The moose up in Roanoke Ridge are twice as large as your ordinary sort, I thought it was a monster when I saw one, ain't no lie. And those antlers, let me tell you – the trophy from them is hanging at my home in Arkansas proudly!"
"I'll see it to believe it, Matt, why don't you run back and get it and we'll wait here - I promise!" Another man chaffed Matt and the circle erupted with laughter.
"Ah, to hell with ya," Matt waved a dismissive hand at the lot of men.
Amelia was sitting on a log near the fire, not adding much to the conversation herself. Arthur was having a good time as he chatted and laughed with the men. They sat next to one another – despite the hostile interaction they had earlier, there seemed to not be any feelings of resentment.
Arthurs's eyes reflected the fire he watched. He had a drunken smile plastered on his face, all that worry that was stewing in him earlier seemed to have evaporated. Either that, or he hid it in the corners of his mind - he wasn't even sure himself. Troublesome thoughts would pass by every now and again and to this, he would respond with a few swigs of the beer.
He hid well when sober – but the drink seemed to have unwound him. With his guard down, Amelia noticed how troubled the man must really be. She saw the conflicting emotions that swirled subtly through Arthur's face. His brows would furrow then relax. The lip would twitch bitterly upward as if reminiscing on some long-lost memory, perhaps pleasant but turned sour. His expression would then return to a passive smile.
'Not my problem,' Amelia thought, finishing her beer while leaning back on the log, resting her hand for support. She looked at the pair of musicians, from Rudy and then onto Joey. She caught glances of Joey's eyes watching her for a moment before looking elsewhere. He did certainly favor looking her way and in one of those moments, she offered a cheeky smile while not breaking eye contact. The most common courtship sees a woman blush and looks away. Amelia did not posses the lady-like subtleness - it caught the young man off guard and Joey looked away first.
Amelia internally laughed.
Arthur noticed this brief exchange, he eyed the boy for a moment and mentally commented on the young man's reaction, 'Smooth, son.'
An hour had passed, the music stopped but the chatter was still loud - one of the men passed out the roasted food and everyone tucked into their plate. It was midnight and a million stars decorated the sky above. The weather was cool, but the gathering around the fire provided enough warmth, on top of the food and drinks that kept coming, there was no way one could be too cold.
Arthur glanced over at Amelia who was covering herself in the poncho. He picked the end of the wool material. "That's a fine piece," he commented, initiating the first conversation since their earlier hostile exchange.
"Ma' sowed it for me before we left home in Portland."
"Yea, I do recall she had a talent for that," his words trailed off as he let go of the material. He had a hefty amount of drink in him, but he seemed to be less affected than most men have by now. Amelia, not feeling the conversation regarding her mother's home economics skill would be necessary right about this time, she opted to get some distance from her and the partying man.
She rose up from where she sat, "Can I go for a walk? I'm asking for permission."
"Don't be so sarcastic about it – and yes go…just start yellin' when you see yella' eyes." She scrunched her forehead not sure what he meant by yellow eyes. Arthur noticed and so he finished his sentence, "Wolves."
"Ah…well, I'll be just there," she pointed to the rail tracks, feeling a bit more apprehensive about the walk now.
"Take this with ya'," he pointed to the lantern that sat next to them.
"A gun would perhaps be more of a threat to them yellowed-eyed wolves." She tried but he only offered the lamp. She sighed, lighting the lantern and hooking the metal loop around her belt.
Arthur watched her walk off into the darkened region of the field, the lantern provided a beacon for him to follow.
In a matter of minutes, he noticed the young boy whose name was Joey get up from where he was sat, all while eyeing the direction in which Amelia travelled to.
Joey approached the crate with beers, reaching out for two bottles. But someone stopped him, grabbing the same two bottles he held. Joey made eye contact with Arthur and the boy's eyes darted down quickly.
"Going for a walk, son?"
"Yes, I mean, just making rounds around the company ground, normal stuff, needs to be done."
"'Course! But listen," he lowered his voice, "You best not try anything out there and even if a single hair falls off the girl's head…Well, I'll be sure to tie you up an' drag you from here to Tumbleweed right behind my horse. Do we have an understanding?"
Joey swallowed a nervous knot that formed in his throat before nodding in compliance, "I understand, sir."
With those acknowledging words, Arthur let go of the bottles and allowed the boy to have them. As Joey walked away, he could still feel Arthur's eyes on him. Many men threatened, but not many meant it the same way Arthur made these threats sound – Joey feared for his existence around that guy.
"Wow, there are some rough terrains on the roads leading to Tumbleweed!" Joey heard Arthur say before walking off in his own direction.
"Jesus," he whispered to himself.
Joey caught up to Amelia, trying not to startle her by calling out her name. She slowly turned and greeted the boy, when he offered a beer, she accepted that too.
"May I join you for a walk, Miss."
They walked in silence, for the most part, enjoy the peace and quiet the night provided along with the beautiful view of the night sky with countless stars above. Joey took out a silver harmonic out of his pocket. He began to play slowly, a quiet tune that soothed their walk and filled the silence.
"That man you're with, your Pa', would he approve of us strolling like this?"
Amelia raised an eyebrow, "He's not my father, just a friend of my Ma's, don't worry about him"
"Sure acts like a Pa'."
"Don't think he cares enough to worry like a father."
"I don't know - he seems to care. I mean the man has threatened me twice today on your behalf."
"Here I was thinking he wanted me gone," she murmured to herself mostly, certainly amused by this information.
"What was that?"
"Never mind, he's crazy."
He expression was serious, but she aimed to sound sarcastic. When he realized that she was joking, he chuckled at the comment, "You're funny, I'm not used to such humour from where I'm around"
"And where is you around from?"
"Charleston, Mississippi. Ain't nothing special about it."
"What is you doing all the way in New Elizabeth?"
"I was looking for a job, which ain't easy nowadays in Charleston, and well, they were recruiting to various organizations like these, I just got drafted to this particular one," he took another drink of his beer. "Took what I had in one suitcase and was on the next train heading west. What about yourself, where are you from?"
"Whoa, big city! A fancy gal like yourself, I assume, is wearing poor frocks as a disguise seeing what the other half of us live like."
"Shut up," she nudged him jokingly. "Ain't like that."
"Well, it sure don't seem like it. You're looking like a regular ol' mountaineer in them pants and poncho."
"Do you have somethin' against pants?"
"No, 'course not – hey, I wear them myself," he nervously chuckled. "So, what is that brings you out here then?"
"Alright silver tongue devil, it's been a long day and that is a long story that I don't particularly want to share tonight."
"Then ask me somethin'."
She thought for a moment. "Don't you ever get lonely out here without family, just all these strangers?" Amelia swirled her beer in the bottle before taking another sip.
"Well," Joey adjusted his posture and cleared his throat, pondering the question for a moment "I'm lonelier back home than I am out here, these guys are better for me than my family."
"Is that a story for another time."
The conversation seemed to have died between them, an awkward silence ensued, and Amelia felt tipsier with each drink, so she suggested it would be good to head back to camp. At least two hours must've passed since they left - they walked quite a circle around the area. Joey suggested he would walk Amelia back, to which she replied that their quarters are practically next to one another so surely, they must be walking in the same direction. She laughed and he furrowed his brow. In polite society, a lady would happily accept the proposition and let the gentleman guide her through the darkness and back to her quarters. Or so mother would say. While she was no lady, she assumed it be best to take his proposition without any more sarcastic remarks. She nodded and hooked her arm on his - she saw couples do that back in the city. The pair walked alongside one other.
"Why is that you're known as young Joey?"
"The guys tease me about it, I'm the youngest."
"You know, my Ma' to this day calls me 'Melia. Like," She shifted herself toward Joey even more, "Little 'Melia, back when I was a kid, she would call me that all the time and it drove me crazy. Then it sticks with you, ya know?"
"I don't want that to stick. I'm a man now, I'm earning my keep out here with all the other man, so I should think that Joe would suit me better."
"You're still just a boy, Joey." Amelia teased.
"I'm near to being eighteen, I'm defiantly a man."
"Still a boy!"
"Oh yeah?" He spun her around, "Would a boy be brave enough to do this?"
He neared her face with his until their lips touched ever so gently. Amelia closed her eyes and savored the feeling; a warmth overwhelmed her on such a cool evening. A feeling that was unfamiliar, she smiled against his lips. Underneath a million stars, in the middle of nowhere in total wilderness, Amelia Linton experienced her very first kiss. He pulled away and looked at the blushing girl. She, on the other hand, was a little more embarrassed than she would like to admit. Changing the mood, she gave the boy a light smack on the cheek before spinning around.
He stole her first kiss, yet she would not complain of being robbed. "For a small-town Mississippi boy, you sure have charm."
"I knew you were just big talk," he said teasingly.
"Hey! What does that mean?"
"You looked at me like a big shot back at camp, but you blushed too!"
"Yea…cause, I'm embarrassed for you!" She let out a hearty laugh just as they approached the tents back at camp.
"Well, this is us. Goodnight Miss. Linton, I had a great time with you tonight. Before you head out tomorrow, make sure to say your farewells to me – and when you're away, I might just write to you."
"I will…and I might just read these letters too. Goodnight, Joe."
Both teens, smitten after an eventful night, parted into their individual tents.
Amelia entered the tent; the wooden pallet floor creaked with each step. Arthur was still awake, writing in his journal - he paid the girl no mind when as she entered. It was a large living quarter with two beds – both on opposite sides of the tent's walls. In the middle, a washbasin. Next to the basin laid their luggage. She saw that Arthur occupied the bed at the far right, so she claimed the one on the left.
Without lifting his eyes from the book he commented, "I thought you two had run off together for good, it's been hours."
"Ha ha," Amelia sarcastically answered. "I lost track of –"
"I don't care," he drawled.
Amelia rolled her eyes while thinking, 'You do, you big bastard.'
They did not continue their conversation further.
She plopped on the bed and a wide grin formed across her face; a pillow and a blanket greeted her, and she salvaged the moment of being on something that resembled a bed. While not the best of standards, being that it was only a foldable bed with thick material for a mattress, she could not complain - considering the last few days had her sleeping on the cold hard ground. Within minutes, she fell into a deep slumber.