UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 11

UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 11
Matthew's hands shook nervously as he stood at the end of the make shift aisle, waiting for Sharon. The day had finally come! Excitement washed over him, making it nearly impossible to maintain his footing. Glancing around at the perfection of their wedding venue, a wide smile settled on his lips. The farmhands had done their best with the decorations, even going as far as sticking wild flowers to every chair. Everything was perfect; from the peaceful looking blue clouds that loomed above, to the calm lake before him, to the guests that consisted of his farmhands, members of his family, Nana Lois, and even Gretchen. Considering their last conversation before she left for San Francisco, he had been surprised to find her present in the carriage that arrived the day before with his family. Her eyes no longer sparkled with life, but he knew Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her family's fortune with as much grace as she could muster. A part of Matthew pitied her, he thought, her gaze coming to rest on him. She mustered a smile and a nod, prompting him to reciprocate the gesture; he pitied her for the sadness and fear he saw in those eyes. His family was here, but Sharon's wasn't. He was slightly disappointed by George Freelance's decision to neglect the invitation he had sent through his farmhand two weeks ago, but he wasn't surprised. The invitation to George was nothing but a polite gesture; one he hadn't expected George to honor. And if Matthew was going to be honest, then he had been hoping George Freelance would stay away from their wedding, considering what had happened the last time he was here on the farm. His gaze shifted to Nana who was seated on a chair in the front row, her eyes dancing with pleasure. The last time George Freelance was here, he had nearly hurt Nana Lois. Matthew did not look forward to seeing the older man in the near future. Perhaps only when George was over his obsession with liquor and gambling? He was sorry Sharon even had to be burdened with such a father, spurring him to mentally vow to make up for all of her father's short comings, to love her unconditionally, and to protect her —even from George Freelance, if there was ever a need to. Turning from Nana, he refocused his attention on the path before him, waiting anxiously for Sharon's arrival. Time slipped by slowly, and with it, Matthew's patience. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, the smile on his face was quickly displaced by a concerned frown. Soon, the look on the crowd's face mirrored his own. Cupping his hand over his forehead, he stood on tiptoes and tried to catch a glimpse of the building, hoping he would in the process, catch a glimpse of her. But even as he did so, he recognized the futility of his action for the lake was several miles from the house. Frustrated, fear sent a cold chill down his spine; where was she?! Perhaps something happened? Was she hurt? Was she in need of his help? Turning sharply to Stanley who stood by his side, he said, “I'll go to her. Keep the guests busy.” While Stanley had a look on his face that screamed 'how?!', Matthew didn't pause to answer the question. He instead hurried down the aisle, ignoring the loud murmurs of their guests. Unhitching a horse from his family's carriage, he mounted it. His heart slammed painfully against his ribcage, fear clouding his vision as he raced home. He imagined finding Sharon hurt and drowning in a pool of her blood. Shaking the image aside, he reached the building, pulling his horse to a halt by the wagon that was tasked with bringing Sharon to the lakeside. The driver —his farmhand— turned to him as well, the impatient look on his face making it very clear to Matthew that he too had no idea where Sharon was. Alarmed, Matthew hurried up the stairs, his heels barely making contact with them. He pushed the door open and swept the down floor with his eyes. Finding no sign of her, he turned to the stairs, taking them two at a time until he was pushing their bedroom door wide open. “Sharon!” His lungs constricted as his eyes swept the empty room. “Sharon!” He stepped inside, his limbs trembling as he pressed a finger to his forehead in a failed attempt to ease his mounting headache. Several thoughts raced through his mind, one of which was the possibility of Sharon being hurt, or worse; kidnapped! It was possible, especially with a man like Jenkins being interested in her. “The bastard!” He muttered, trembling. There was also the threat of her father. He was a fool for inviting George to their wedding! What on earth had he been thinking?! Stepping further into the room, he turned around in a circle, the motion causing his head to spin. He pressed his hands against his ears, racking his brain for answers, his desperation making it difficult to think properly. Pressing his eyelids shut, Matthew fought to regain control of his breathing and his pounding heart. He knew he needed to be in control in order to fix the problem. He knew he needed his mind to be calm enough to think up a solution. Still, he knew he didn't have the time. For all he knew, she desperately needed him. Tearing his eyelids apart, he made to turn around when a flash on the edge of the bed caught his attention. He stared at it, realizing then that it was his grandmother’s ring. Confused, he went to it and picked it up, noticing then the piece of paper that laid underneath; a seemingly worthless piece of paper he had half the mind to ignore, until he picked it up as well and hurriedly ran his gaze through it. It was then that Matthew no longer considered the piece of paper to be worthless. It was then, in that moment, that Matthew's pounding heart finally began to slow down until it was threatening to stop completely. It was then that his legs finally caved beneath him, forcing him to crash to the bed. Rubbing his eyes with his sleeves, Matthew told himself he could not possibly be seeing correctly. His mind was making up things, torturing him with a cruel lie. He was simply anxious and afraid! He read the note again, aloud this time: Matthew, I'm gone. Don't try to find me. I want nothing to do with you or the wedding. Goodbye. Sharon. Simple words, they could not possibly have gone beyond five sentences. Yet, the note in his hands caused his limbs to ache; it felt like it weighed a million pounds, crushing his heart with every word it carried. He must have been seated there for hours, having lost control of his limbs, and possibly his mind. For his mind could not be interpreting the note before his eyes properly! His own darn eyes were betraying him! It was him, not Sharon! Sharon would never betray him. “Matthew?” Matthew did not hear the voice beside him, and he barely felt the light weight that settled on his shoulder as a hand rested on it. “Oh Matthew,” He was pulled against something. “She's gone, isn't she?” He shook his head; it couldn't be, she couldn't be gone. “I'm sorry.” “Find her!” He heard his own desperate voice. “We searched. We found you here an hour ago and saw the note in your hands. You wouldn't release it but with much probing, we pried it out of your fingers and read it; Sharon is gone.” He recognized Gretchen's voice. She was here to mock him, wasn't she?! How was it that the two women he had managed to fall in love with had ended up wrecking his heart? “Lies!” He yelled. “Matthew, please rest.” Rest?! He couldn't rest! “Kidnapped. Inform the Sherriff.” He tried to move but his legs stubbornly ignored his command. “I'm afraid you are wrong.” His father's voice rang in his ears. He hadn't known he was in the room. Who else was here? Who else came to see his misery?! He tried again to rise and run from the world that was shattering all around him, but he still could not move. “She has been kidnapped,” he offered, trying and failing to ease the pain in his heart. “Matthew, she left.” His father said. Irritated, he turned fully to him. This was what his father wanted, wasn't it?! He never did approve of Sharon. “How would you know?!” Anger rang in his voice. “Because she told me. She came to me for money and I gave it to her. She asked me to pay for her stage fair and a new life and I did.” His father's words were like multiple stones being pelted at him. Shocked, he sat gawking at the monster before him who might as well have grown horns. “I might be a monster, but Sharon is the bigger monster. The sooner you accept that, the better.” What is this about?" Angry hazel eyes ran down the length of her, seemingly striping her bare until she was reduced to nothing before him. For a second, Sharon considered walking away from Greg Steiner, but the thought was quickly pushed aside by an even more urgent thought; she needed to leave, and the vile man before her was the only one who could help her. Straightening, she cleared her throat. "I want what you want—" Laughter filled the air, halting the flow of her words. Momentarily rendered speechless by the older Steiner who stood laughing for a few seconds, she watched him in silence. Then, as if regaining his composure, he turned his attention back to her and raised a brow in an obvious show of mockery. “Sheryl... Is that it, is that your name?" She fought the urge to roll her eyes at him. "Sharon, sir." "Of course, Sharon," he chuckled, waving his hands in the air, as if to wave her off. "I have had a really long day and would like to get some rest. Standing here and having a conversation with you is doing nothing but worsening my headache." He sighed. "Now, if you will excuse me..." He made to turn around. Without stopping to consider her actions, she reached out and grabbed his arm. She yanked at it, forcing him to turn back around. The smile on his face was immediately replaced by an angry scowl. “I believe I am owed a little over one minute, sir.” She said, barely able to speak past the emotions that clouded her mind. Silence followed her words, his angry gaze holding hers for several seconds. Sharon imagined him turning and walking away once more and she truly did not think she had the strength to stop him for the umpteenth time that evening. Perhaps this was fate's way of telling her she made a terrible mistake by coming to him? What possessed her into thinking he would be interested in helping her? "Fine, you win,” he finally said, forcing a loud breath to escape her lips. Nodding, she began; "I know of your dislike for me and how you feel plagued by my presence. I know you do not think I'm good enough for your son and are willing to do anything —including withhold money from him to pay off his debt— until he divorces me." She paused, her gaze fixed on him as she watched for a reaction. Nothing. He instead stood there, unflinching. Sighing, she continued: "I know Matthew loves Gretchen; I have seen more than enough evidence of their love for each other, and now more than ever, I'm convinced he will never be in love with me. Sooner or later, he will return to Gretchen and I'll be left with nothing.” Seeing Matthew with his arms around Gretchen had confirmed everything to her; she didn't belong here. No matter how hard she tried to convince herself that perhaps Matthew did love, she knew she could never belong here. His family hated her, her father was unable to care for her and now she was with child. But as she stood watching the two lovers that evening, she decided she couldn't —No, she wouldn't raise a child with a man who was as deceptive and conniving and evil as her father. She needed to get away and while she hated having to resort to begging for help from Matthew's father, she couldn't get away without money; something only he could provide. "For whatever reason Matthew has chosen to wed me again tomorrow, I will never know. But I refuse to be humiliated any further. I cannot possibly bear the shame." "Twenty seconds, Sharon," he said, stroking his moustache. "I will leave," she said. She was certain his eyes lighted up with her words as well. It was true then; he desired her departure much more than she had initially suspected. Deciding that she would take advantage of his desperation, she said, "I need money however, to begin a new life. I am worth nothing and my father cannot help me in any way." He chuckled, his fingers still stroking his moustache. "Yes, of course. He's probably out cold somewhere in a gutter or something." Clenching her fist at his jab at her father, she bit down on her lower lip to keep from retorting. She needed the bastard, whether she liked him or not. "Nonetheless," he raised his hands in surrender. "I will give you a check," "I need cash, sir," she answered quickly. "Sharon, the money I'm about to give to you is way too much to be carried in cash. But, I will give you cash, perhaps for a stage fare?" He raised a brow. "Thank you." She bit out, somewhat relieved, yet, not fully so. The stubborn part of her that cared about Matthew felt guilty for planning to run away. "No, dear. You have made my job a lot easier." And with that, she followed him into the house to conclude their business. + ~*~ Her conversation with Mr. Steiner the evening before filled her mind as she stared at herself in the mirror. The image of the young woman that stared back at her was unbelievably beautiful; loose curls framed her oval face, falling to her shoulders that were left bare by the plunging neckline of the white dress she and Nana had labored for several weeks to bring to perfection. And it was indeed perfect, intricate lace designs forming the full sleeves that covered her arms and cuffed her wrists. The soft fabric clung tightly to her waist, held bound by a light pink ribbon that formed the high waistline, before falling elegantly down her body and forming a train behind her. Clutching tightly to the bouquet of red roses in her hands, tears slipped slowly down her cheeks. She wondered how such perfection could embody the tragic emotions that were ripping her apart from the inside. She wondered how a day set aside to be the happiest day of her life could be doomed to be the worst day of her life. Her world was falling apart. It was also possible that her world had never really been together. Perhaps for a while, with Matthew, she honestly believed it was, but she had been wrong. Even now, as she stared at her image, she could make out the sacks underneath her eyes; the ones that embodied the weariness that had deprived her of sleep the night before. While she had laid burdened by the decision she knew she would be forced to make today, Matthew laid sleeping beside her with his arm around her; the same arms that had held Gretchen. She knew she would always come last in Matthew's life. Right next to Gretchen was his family. She didn't think she mattered at all and she didn't know why it bothered her so much. She tried to gain solace in the fact that they had only gotten married for his inheritance and true enough, once he had his money, he wouldn't need her. He didn't need her, so she needed to leave. Sniffing, she wiped her face with her hands and turned stiffly to the door. Pulling it open, she hurried down the stairs, abandoning her bouquet on the dining table before hurrying out through the back door. She was thankful for the solitude in the building. It had been difficult to get rid of Nana by convincing her to join the rest of the guests by the lake, but she had finally succeeded, knowing Nana's presence would have certainly made leaving impossible. She reached the stable quickly, and pulling open the stall of the horse Matthew had gifted to her. She stirred it in a different direction, away from the house, and away from Matthew.Get out!" The words barely formed on his lips, rage racking through his body as he staggered to his feet and turned from his father. "Matthew?" He heard his father's voice, just as a hand took hold of his forearm, pulling him to an abrupt halt. Turning swiftly around with rage, he grabbed two fistfuls of his father's lapels and yanked, lifting him off of the floor until his feet dangled in the air. "Matthew, Please!" Someone called frantically in the room. It was most likely his mother, but Matthew couldn't turn to acknowledge her. He could do nothing but stand there, his fists tightening their grip on his father as rage pumped violently through his veins until he trembled with it. “Matthew! Stop, please!” She begged, forcing him to relent. Glaring up at his father one more time, he saw for the first time how vulnerable he really was as fear clouded his eyes. He released his grip on him, stepping back as he fell to the ground. "Get out of my house. Leave my property." He managed to speak past his rage. "Matthew, surely you don't mean it." He turned to face his mother, his eyes burning with unshed angry tears. "If I return to find him here, Mama, I just might commit a felony. Take your husband and leave my property." He hissed before yanking door wide open and walking out. He slammed it shut behind him and made his way down the stairs. Not knowing exactly where it was he was going, he knew he had to get away; it was a need —a burning, undeniable need to run as far as his legs could take him. He needed to run from the insanity that was his life, from the cruelty that was his family, and from the terror that was his love for Sharon. But his legs didn't seem capable of running fast enough. He stumbled over nothing as he struggled to go down the stairs. Every turn he took was an excruciating reminder of Sharon's betrayal. And to think she had done this on the day of their wedding! The thought of it nearly made his laugh; the day of their wedding, of all days! She had chosen to connive with his father to run away in exchange for a few hundred dollars. Money! It was all for money! She married him for his money and the second she realized he didn't really have any, she gave up their marriage for money. Wasn't that the exact reason Gretchen turned down his proposal? Only Sharon was so much more ruthless than Gretchen. Leaving him at the altar was worse. Everything felt like a lie— Sharon, their love, their marriage, the joke of a wedding, everything! And he was the fool that felt for her lies. He was a fool to have thought that the daughter of a drunken gambler could be less of an opportunist. Stumbling through the kitchen, he had reached the back door when a firm hand clasped around his wrist, stopping him. "Matthew?" Nana Lois called, concern lacing her tone. "You can't let her go." She said. Letting out a mirthless laugh, he turned to her. "She's gone. Good riddance, Nana. Now, if you would excuse me," he yanked his arm free and turned to leave. "Matthew!" She yelled, her frantic voice stopping him. "You can't let Sharon go!" "Why is that, Nana?" He turned back around, angry, but especially exhausted. For some reason that was beyond him, Matthew suddenly felt the overwhelming need to cry. And he did. Stumbling forward, he fell into her arms and gave in to his grief. “Matthew,” she whispered gently, her hands moving up and down his back in a soothing manner. “You can't let Sharon go.” "Why?" He managed. He needed an explanation; he needed to know why a woman he trusted and loved more than anything on earth would leave him. "She's pregnant, Matthew."+ ~*~ Sharon stood nervously in the station, frightened and confused. Several hours had passed since she ran away from her own wedding, and she was still stuck at the station, unable to decide where to go after having received the disconcerting news that the only stage heading to Centerville would depart the following day. She considered sitting and waiting until the next morning. Perhaps she could even sleep on a bench in the station? It didn't appear safe to her, but she knew she didn't have a choice; she could not go home to Matthew, neither could she go back to her father. Both options were not truly options because the first was sure to reject her and the last was most likely somewhere gambling his soul to Satan. Matthew must know of her decision by now. She shook her head, scolding herself for allowing the thought of him into her mind. But she couldn't help it. She couldn't help but to think that her decision could hurt him; perhaps she just wanted desperately to believe it would. She wanted to believe he would miss her enough to try to find her; to try to bring her home and perhaps even apologize. But with every second that ticked by, she knew she was holding on to a bleak hope. Glancing up at the grey clouds, she turned to tie the horse to a lamp post, before settling on the bench. Once it was morning and the stage arrived, she would pay the man to add her horse to his stage. She straightened her legs and laid flat on the bench. Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms tightly around herself while trying her best to get as comfortable as was humanly possible on a wooden bench. She must have fallen asleep because she was jolted awake by the feeling of something moving underneath her. Pushing herself to a sitting position, her eyes traveled her surroundings, a loud gasp drifting from her lips as realization settled in the depths of her stomach.

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