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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 10

UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 10

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UNTIL T I REALLY DO CHAPTER 10
“Will you not only have a wedding with me, but will you also stay married to me?” Matthew's words echoed in Sharon's ears, forcing a smile to her lips until she cheeks began to hurt. But, she couldn't stop smiling neither could she stop staring at the new addition to her finger; the ring. The beautiful ring that fitted her finger so snugly, she wondered how she went all her life without it... without him. How had she gone all her life without Matthew and these wonderful emotions only he could create within her? Her smile broadened as she screwed the ring further down her finger. She could still picture the look on the rest of his family's face when Matthew announced their impending wedding. Certainly, none of them appeared pleased by the news —none except Nana— and while Sharon found that she didn't care for their opinion, it was the look on Gretchen's face that caused Sharon's smile to broaden; the look of absolute horror. It nearly seemed like someone had slapped her hard across the face, causing the blood to drain from her face until she was as white as a corpse. Sharon knew Gretchen wanted Matthew back, and it was the realization that she had not only won in the unspoken battle between herself and Gretchen that brought so much satisfaction Sharon's way, but also the realization that she had won Matthew's heart. Unlike the many times others had chosen themselves above her —her own father choosing his liquor over her, and the vile Jenkins choosing the cancellation of his debt over her— it warmed her heart to know that Matthew had chosen her above Gretchen and even above his own father's threat to divorce her. In many ways, Matthew's father reminded her of her own father for they both seemed to share a penchant for manipulation. And although there were times she wondered what had come of his threats to deprive Matthew of the money he needed to pay his debt if he didn't divorce Sharon, she wasn't certain she wished to find out. Rising to her feet from where she was perched on the edge of the bed waiting anxiously for Matthew to show up, she made her way to the window and pushed the curtains aside. Her eyes scanned the darkness, looking for signs of Matthew returning from the stable where he had gone to water the horses right after dinner. It felt as if he had been gone for hours even if she knew it had merely been minutes since he left and she came up to the room. Still, she missed him. The part of her that did not like being apart from him for too long, continued to search the dark environment until she spotted movement and easily discerned his silhouette. He approached the building, a small smile curving her lips as he neared. But just as he reached the front porch, he paused in his track. Sharon watched him, slightly confused by his hesitation. She barely saw his face and from her position, she couldn't see the porch, but she assumed he was speaking to someone on the porch. Curios, she leaned further against the window and peered down at him, hoping to catch a glimpse of his companion just as he took the stairs that led him up the porch. She saw nothing then. She neither saw nor heard anything even as she listened for the sound of the front door opening. Withdrawing from the window, Sharon turned to face the door, hoping he'd make his way inside. Doubt clouded her mind, the images of his assumed companion filling her with unease. But she pushed her doubts aside and instead stood anxiously by the window, her eyes fixed on the door, her hands clasped before her as she toyed with the ring on her finger. He asked me to marry him, she mentally murmured, reminding herself of her victory —me, not Gretchen. He loves me, not Gretchen. He chose me, not Gretchen. Still, with every second that ticked by, her doubts seemed to get the upper hand; but he's with Gretchen right now. Perhaps they're even kissing. Perhaps he still loves her? She shook her head, trying and failing to push the thought aside. Turning sharply from the door, she stalked over to the bed where she resumed her position on the edge. She could not be certain Matthew was even with Gretchen, least of all give in the thought of them possibly kissing. She would wait for him to return to her. He would return, wouldn't he? Groaning, she sprang to her feet, her thoughts torturing her. Perhaps if she went down there, she would put her fears to ease. Perhaps then she would even see how silly she was acting! Grabbing her night coat, she turned and made her way out of the room and through the dimly lit stairs. The building was silent, making it clear to her that Matthew was most likely still outside. Whatever he was discussing seemed to be important, she decided, slowing as she reached the foot of the stairs. Perhaps it was best she went back upstairs? If he was in the middle of an important conversation, it would most likely be with a farmhand and not Gretchen. Perhaps it had to do with seeing about their wages? She tightened her grip on the railing, willing her legs to take her back up the stairs. Yet, curiosity held her captive, her fears threatening to drive her to the edge of insanity until she was resuming her walk through the building and to the front door, coming up with an explanation for her presence if asked; she would simply say she had come down for a glass of water and heard sounds on the front porch. Not only was it a good excuse, it would help to ease the tension that was sure to arise once he realized she had only come down here to eavesdrop. Releasing a soft sigh, she slowly pulled the door open and pushed the screen door. It gave way before her, darkness temporarily blinding her until her vision adjusted to it enough to see almost clearly. Still, Sharon doubted what her eyes saw. For certainly none of it could be true, could it? And if it was indeed true, it couldn't possibly mean anything! She was simply being silly! She was overreacting. She was letting her fears win. She was letting it drag her into that very dark place again when she should be enjoying the light Matthew's love seemed to provide. And why was she crying?! She mentally scolded herself, willing her tears to stop pouring down her cheeks. But they wouldn't stop. The darn thing wouldn't stop no matter how much she begged them to stop! Her tears were as stubborn as the image of the two people before her, lost in each other's arms; Gretchen and Matthew. They clung to each other like their lives depended on it, failing to even notice Sharon's presence —or choosing to ignore her. Indeed, nothing else seemed to matter to the couple as Gretchen's face remained buried in Matthew's chest, his hands running down the length of her back as he rested his chin on her head. It was a simple hug —one that tore at her heart strings, but one that could have several explanations nonetheless. Perhaps Gretchen simply needed a hug? Perhaps rather than be with his wife who had stayed up all evening awaiting his return, he chose to spend his time with Gretchen? Bitterness sprang up in her heart and she fought desperately to shove it aside. She would simply return to bed and ask him about it the next morning. He would not lie to her, would he? Even as the thought filtered through her mind, she reminded herself that he wasn't her father. He wasn't a liar. He wouldn't betray her. He wouldn't give her up like a piece of unwanted property. He wouldn't choose Gretchen over her. No, he loved her —her, not Gretchen. Releasing her grip on the knob, she turned to go back inside when Matthew's next words stopped her dead in her tracks: “I love you, Gretchen.” The wind carried the words to her, forcing a chill down her spine. “I can't stay, I must leave.” Gretchen's murmur only helped to heighten Sharon's grief. The silence that followed screamed at Sharon, bombarding her battered mind with thoughts that made it nearly impossible to maintain her footing; why would Gretchen inform Matthew of her need to leave? Did he ask her to stay? Did he want her to stay with him? Wasn't Gretchen Matthew's first choice for a wife? Didn't Matthew have to marry Sharon because Gretchen turned down his proposal? Perhaps he asked her to marry him again, and after she turned him down for the second time, he had chosen to give the ring to Sharon as a means of spiting Gretchen? Why were they here tonight? Was this his final attempt to get Gretchen to marry him? Would he demand the return of his ring once Gretchen agrees to his proposal?! She meant nothing to him then. Like her father, Matthew was using her for his own benefit; to make Gretchen jealous enough to accept his proposal. Gretchen was to Matthew what liquor was to her father; everything. And Sharon was to Matthew what she was to her father; nothing. “I understand.” Matthew finally whispered, dragging her back to the present. Forcing her feet forward, Sharon silently closed the door behind her and made her way back to her room. She could never win.frown settled on Nana Lois's brows as she rose her gaze from her embroidering, to the object of her inquiry —an inquiry that had gone unanswered for longer than was deemed appropriate. Seated on a matching gray sofa across from her, Sharon's hands worked in a mechanical movement, dragging the needle back and forth the white fabric. Her attention was seemingly possessed by the work before her, but as a loud hiss escaped her lips with the fabric falling from her grip, Nana Lois immediately knew that Sharon had been distracted —again. She had only began to notice the changes in Sharon's mood a month ago when Matthew's family returned to San Francisco. And for a while, she was worried, not only because she assumed the poor girl's mood would improve once the Steiners' hostile presence on the farm had been extinguished, but also because whatever it was that was distracting Sharon had led to a few domestic accidents —one of which had nearly caused her a finger on the chopping board. But as the weeks progressed and with them, Sharon's distracted demeanor, Nana Lois's attention was quickly drawn to something else. Even now, it wasn't Sharon's demeanor she was looking at, it was Sharon herself. It was the slight —barely visible— changes that had taken place in only a matter of weeks. It was the way her once tan skin suddenly appeared quite pale. It was the several freckles that peeked through the hem of her neckline. It was the dark sacks underneath her eyes that told of her lack of sleep. Turning her attention to the blood that now stained Sharon's finger from where the needle had pricked her, Nana said, “Are you okay, dear?” “Yes, I'm fine,” A shadow of a smile appeared on her face. “It's nothing.” For a slight second, Nana Lois considered ending the conversation there, but she was truly concerned. If her suspicions were right, then perhaps it was best if they didn't expose Sharon to any more dangers that could see her burning the farm down, and perhaps even herself. Leaning forward, Nana kept her gaze on Sharon as she asked, “do you suppose you could be pregnant?” It was too soon to know for sure, but she assumed Sharon must be experiencing some changes that could confirm Nana's suspicions. Silence followed her question, and she didn't think it was even possible, but Sharon's face seemed to get whiter, her hands immediately settling protectively on her stomach. Interpreting Sharon's silence to be a confirmation of her suspicion, Nana smiled broadly. “Oh, dear child!” She squealed, clasping her hands before her as she bounced cheerfully on the sofa. “Matthew will be delighted! Unless of course he knows! And here,” reaching forward hurriedly, she retrieved the discarded dress from where it had fallen to Sharon's lap. “You can't be stressing over things like these. Let me do all the work, I don't want you getting into any more accidents. Oh, and we must see about getting Dr. Harrison to come around the farm and take a good look at you, see if there's—” “No!” The words died on Nana Lois's lips as her gaze immediately shifted to Sharon who was now on her feet. Confused by her outburst, Nana raised a brow. “No?” Sharon ran her tongue over her bottom lip as she rubbed her arm nervously. “No. I— um...” Her frown returned. “What do you mean no? I'm quite certain I haven't said an objectionable thing these past few seconds, now have I?” She asked, daring Sharon to disagree with her suggestions; all of which were for her own good. Nana Lois didn't exactly appreciate being argued with. “Of course not, Nana,” Sharon finally spoke after several seconds of silence. “Good,” she nodded firmly, rising to her feet and taking the fabrics with her. “I'll finish with these dresses later. Right now, it's best to get started on lunch while I let you relax and rest those muscles of yours. You'll thank me later when you see how much strength is needed to birth a child.” She grinned, turning from Sharon. “Nana, wait!” Pausing in her tracks, she turned to her. “What is it, child?” “I must beg something of you.” She raised a brow, curios. “Go on.” “Well,” Sharon glanced down. “I must beg that you do not break the news to Matthew.” “Why not?!” It was a silly request, and while Nana did not think it was up to her to break such news to Matthew, she didn't think she could keep quiet about it either. Heck, the whole farm was about to be buzzing with the wonderful news! “Well, we cannot be certain just yet.” “But we're almost certain. Tell, me, have you been sleeping soundly?” She raised a brow to which Sharon solemnly shook her head. “Seen that monthly flow of blood yet?” She waited for her to shake her head for the second time. “And how's your appetite? I don't suppose you've eaten much in the past few weeks.” “My period could simply be late. And perhaps I'm only stressed, especially with the wedding coming up.” Nana shrugged. “Perhaps.” It was also a possibility she hadn't considered. “It would be silly to break such wonderful news only to be disappointed if we find out that we're wrong. Matthew will be devastated. It is best we wait.” Nana did not like the idea of having to wait, but she supposed it was the right thing to do given the situation. She would simply wait until they were fully certain about the pregnancy. In the mean time, she would enforce her new rule of keeping Sharon rested and away from further chores until they were both certain.+ ~*~ Sighing deeply as she settled on the edge of the bed, Sharon ran her fingers over her stomach, her nightdress clinging tightly to her wet body. Nana Lois knew of the baby. She didn't know how to feel about the older woman finding out she was pregnant. She herself had only begun to speculate the possibility of being pregnant a week ago when she had vomited her breakfast on the kitchen floor, the smell of coffee having stirred her bowels. She had since begun to find the smell of other foods unbearable and had begun to struggle since then to keep her food down. It would seem that not only was her husband most likely to wake up one day and throw her out so he could be with another woman, but her life was to be ruined further by the possibility of being pregnant. Indeed fate was beyond cruel to her. Sharon knew that Gretchen's absence on the farm was of no consequence when she possessed Matthew's heart. Her marriage to Matthew was doomed to only last for as long as Gretchen chose to stay away. Soon, Gretchen would return and Matthew would be reminded of his love for her, bringing their marriage to an end. She wasn't stupid enough to believe that the arrival of a child could change any of that. Sharon knew all of that to be true, yet, she kept her head held high, refusing to sulk or wallow in self pity. She instead spent the weeks that followed her dreadful discovery of Matthew and Gretchen together on the porch —confessing their love to each other— preparing her heart and mind for his rejection. It would not hurt so much if she was to be prepared. She tried her possible best to despise him, while keeping up the façade of a loving wife, but she couldn't despise Matthew. Her heart ached for him, her mind was full of him and her body longed for him. Reaching up, Sharon released her damp hair from the towel that held it in place just as the door swung open and Matthew walked in. Her heart skipped at the sight of him, his messy brown hair and white shirt with sleeves rolled all the way up to his elbows, making his appear even more seductive than she remembered. As if reading her thoughts, a smile brightened his features, forcing a small smile to her lips in response. Rising to her feet as he slammed the door shut behind him and crossed the room to where she stood, capturing her lips. She kissed him in return while fighting to maintain her control over her heart and emotions. She told herself over and over again that she could not be a victim yet again to another man's deception. But as their kiss deepened, Sharon knew she was losing herself to him. And she cursed herself for it.How do you feel about being Mrs. Steiner tomorrow?" Matthew asked, his arms curling around her thin waist as he buried his face in her neck, kissing her. She giggled softly, pushing her elbow against his abdomen as she pulled away. "I'm already Mrs. Steiner, Matthew." She said, pointing out the obvious. It was true; she was already a Steiner, but the knowledge of it did nothing to dampen his excitement over the thought of a wedding. Somehow, Matthew never felt like their first marriage was real. There was always the dull feeling of guilt in his heart that haunted him, reminding him of her desperation when she had agreed to marry him the first time. Perhaps it hadn't even been an agreement, perhaps she had simply gone with the only option forced upon her. But now, she was going to be his wife by choice, not by force. And there was almost no feeling on earth that could compete with how he felt. "I know." A broad smile claimed his lips, his gaze holding hers. “I am just glad that this time, we get a traditional wedding with you in a dress, flowers, a cake, family, and friends. Do you know the best part, Blondie?" Reaching for her hand, he laced his fingers with hers, his smile broadening at the slight tilt of her brow in question. "I have your consent this time.” He murmured gently, leaning forward so that the warmth of her breath washed over his face. “I don't feel as if I'm forcing you. That, Blondie, will always be the best part." He brushed her cheek, his finger curling a stray tendril of her hair around itself as he covered the small distance between their lips. The kiss was brief; briefer than he would have liked. And when she pulled away, his smile was immediately replaced by a slight frown. Her gaze fell to the wooden floors. “You should get back to work,” she said, dismissing him. He watched her, confused by her strange behavior lately. He wasn't certain of when she started acting this way, but he knew it had been going on for a while. Perhaps his family's presence had taken a bigger toll on her than he had initially realized? He knew he didn't exactly have the best family on earth, but he hadn't thought their coldness toward her would dampen her mood so much. And to think his family was due to arrive the farm once again from San Francisco in only a few more hours! Was that what bothered her so much? Did she not like the idea of having to tolerate their presence yet again for the wedding tomorrow? Perhaps it was. He also found himself hoping his family would not extend their visit beyond a day after the wedding. Tolerating their presence for a few weeks the last time they were in Ferndale was bad enough, he didn't think he could survive yet another week with them, especially with his father. He was still slightly offended by his father's initial proposal to divorce Sharon. It was clear to him that his father did not approve of his decision to forge ahead with the wedding, but he didn't care. All he cared about was this beautiful blonde head staring back at him with the most breathtaking ocean blue eyes he had ever seen, and lips that were impossible to resist. But he needed to resist her for now. It appeared to him that for whatever reason known to her alone, she was eager to get rid of him. Perhaps it was so that she could get back to putting the finishing touches to her wedding dress? He knew she and Nana had worked for several weeks on the design. "Yes Ma'am, I'll be out of your hair right away." He offered her a smile as he turned and walked out through the back door. + ~*~ Greg Steiner took his hat off as he climbed out of the carriage late that evening. He had just concluded a meeting with his business partners in Ferndale town and decided that after the wedding the following day, he would be on his way back to San Francisco. Indeed, the only reason he had agreed to return to Ferndale in the first place was because of the meeting he had with a business partner. If it was left to him, he would certainly not be on his silly son's farm, taking part in a wedding that was Matthew's ridiculous attempt at independence. He didn't understand it; neither his son's decision to hold on to a dying farm, nor his decision to stay married to... Well, her! —he thought, his eyes settling on the object of his reverie. She sat on the front porch, the oil lamp that hung just by the side of the front door, illuminating her features. He thought in that moment how alike she was with her father; the drunk that had put up quite the show on the farm a few weeks ago. They shared the same features, a similar frown creasing her oval shaped face as she stared back at him. It must be a real shame to be associated with a man such as her father. It must especially be worse to look so terribly similar to him. Which was why Greg could not understand his son's decision to stay married to her, thereby tying himself forever to her ruined family. Rising slowly as he approached, she folded her arms before her, the frown on her face maintaining its position. "We need to talk.” She said, breaking the silence. Greg raised a brow, slightly amused by her impudent approach. “We do?” “Yes.” She shifted, moving her weight from one foot to the other. “Whatever for?” Greg couldn't possibly see what the two of them could have in common to warrant a conversation between them. Didn't he already make it very clear that he did not approve of her relationship with his son? Wasn't his attitude toward her already dismissive enough? Exasperated, he waved her off. “I don't have the time for chit chatter. I already endured the torture of sitting through a long, boring meeting.” He said, stepping forward. He made to go past her. "With due respect sir, I think you might want to hear what it is that I have to say." Pausing in his tracks, he turned to her. His gaze ran down the length of her once more, cementing his earlier conclusion that she was not good enough for his family. Yet, he did not think she would let him walk away from whatever conversation she appeared desperate to have with him. So, with one final sigh, he said, "Ten minutes." "Two minutes is more than enough, sir."

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