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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 2

UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 2

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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 2
Wake up.”+ There was a painful tug on her arm, dragging her out of the darkness until her eyelids were giving way to a blurry image. “Hey, wake up!” Jenkins. The slimy drunk! Immediately, she remembered where she was. Groaning, she sat up straighter and waited until his image became clearer. She tore her eyes off of him long enough to take in her environment; the wagon. What was she doing in a wagon?! “Hurry up now.” A sharp pain followed his words as he grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the wagon, until her wobbly feet were coming to settle on the ground. She opened her mouth to protest, but his hold on her simply tightened as he began dragging her along. Where were there?! Her eyes drifted from left to right and back again, realizing as she did that they were on what seemed to her like a farm. She was uncertain, but there were several ridges in the distance, and the white two-story building Jenkins was now dragging her toward seemed like the home of the farmer. Several potted colorful plants sat on the porch, lining both sides of the stairs. There was a porch swing as well, and the screen door leading into the building stood firmly shut. Wincing in pain, she bit down on her lower lip and fought to keep herself from stumbling. It was difficult to keep up with Jenkins, and the pain in her head, coupled with the painful grip he had on her arm, made it impossible to fight against his hold on her or to protest his actions of dragging her against her will to a destination she knew could only bring bad news. They reached the building and he took the stairs two at a time, causing her to indeed stumble and fall forward, pain immediately shooting up her arm. “Ow!” She gritted her teeth. “Get up, whore!” The pain in her skull immediately told her he had taken a handful of her hair and was jerking her upright with it. Weak —physically and emotionally— it was a wonder she was able to rise to her feet and stumble up the stairs until she was barely standing by his side. Every muscle in her body hurt, and her belly ached from its deprivation of hunger. She staggered, nearly falling forward once more until his hold on her arm tightened, steadying her. Ignoring the pain in her arm and entire body, she simply focused what was left of her energy on keeping her two feet planted on the floor. She certainly could not afford yet another fall. The door swung open and her blurry vision came to rest on a pair of dusty boots. “Here she is.” Jenkins angry voice drifted to her, shoving her forward. His sudden movement caused her to lose her footing once more, and with the absence of anything to steady her, she braced herself for the fall, her vision blurring once more. “What in the world?!” She hit something solid, and rather than fall to the ground, strong arms encircled her, breaking her fall. Her wobbly feet were suddenly relieved of their task of having to hold up her weight, and her bruised body was suddenly nestling against something solid. “It ain't my fault she chose to starve herself.” Jenkins snarled. She would have snapped back at him if she had the energy to respond, but she unfortunately did not have any ounce of energy left. Her body was weak, and her mind was going blank. Fatigue washed over her until it was simply impossible to keep her eyelids apart. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Nestling further against the firm, solid surface, her eyelids flickered shut. “You better pray to God she doesn't die, you animal!” The unfamiliar voice sounded upset. Who was he? Her mind scrambled for answers, but came up with none. “Or I won't just have you arrested for theft but I will also have you arrested for murder! Get off of my property, and never come back!” Unable to fight the darkness any longer, Sharon gave into it. ~*~ Matthew stared at the blonde head asleep on the bed. Not only was she frail, she was bruised as well. There was no doubt in his mind that Jenkins had been abusive toward her, and if he doubted his decision to marry her in the past, now he was certain he made the right decision. He should have known Jenkins would hurt her! He should have known, and he should have gone along with the fool to bring her home with him, rather than subjecting her to his cruel treatment. Frowning, he stared at her swollen face and blood stained dress. She certainly needed a change of outfit and perhaps even a warm bath? He knew the bath could wait, but he did not think the change of dress could. Unfortunately for him however, he had given Nana Lois had taken time off to spend time with her new grandson. Therefore, he would have to take her clothes off himself, and help her into another one. Would she be upset by the time she wakes up to find herself clad in something other than this ripped, ugly gray dress? And where was he going to get a dress her size? Jenkins delivered her over to him without a dress, and the mere thought of helping her out of this one without her permission, caused heat to climb up the side of his neck and set his entire face on fire. He would hate for her to wake up and catch him in the middle of taking her clothes off. Worst still, he would hate to catch a glimpse of her unclad body without her permission. Running a finger through his hair, he let out a soft sigh. He would indeed see her unclad, sooner or later. Once they were married they would certainly need to spend time together, wouldn't they? They would live as man and wife, wouldn't they? Sure, their meeting was unconventional, but he indeed hoped to have a real marriage with her. Still, the thought of catching a glimpse of her unclad body made him nervous. She certainly had a lovely face —malnourished, yet he knew once she ate the right diet, then her beauty would become even more pronounced. Her thin, pale lips would become fuller and perhaps even gain some color. Her pale skin, stained with bruises, would heal and regain life. Her messy, tangled blonde hair would appear lush once it had been exposed to some oil, and a brush. She was indeed lovely; it would only be a matter of time before that fact becomes even more pronounced. If her face was lovely, then he had no doubt in him that the rest of her was lovely as well. His eyes drifted down to her neck, where the neckline of her dress fell short on her collarbone. Slowly, he reached out and ran the tip of his index finger over her neck, mentally willing his touch to awaken her; it didn't. After several minutes of debating with himself, Matthew soon made his way out of his room —where his new soon-to-be bride laid asleep— and down the stairs to Nana Lois' room. He knew it was an invasion of her privacy to search her trunk for clothes, but he also knew she would not have minded if she was around. Finding a long sleeves white nightdress in the trunk, he carried it back up the stairs and to his room. Releasing a soft sigh, he leaned over her, hefting her frail form into his arms. A soft moan escaped her lips at his action, causing him to freeze for a second. Once he realized she was still asleep, he took off the buttons around her neck behind, and peeled the dress off of her body, revealing an old, worn out shift underneath. A small frown tugged on his brows at the sight of the old garment that clung to her body. It seemed several years old and undersized. “The innocent girl you're forcing to marry you in exchange for the cancellation of her father's debts.” He suddenly remembered Stanley's words the morning before and immediately felt sorry for her. She was certainly from a less than modest home, and was most likely unable to afford new undergarments. After contemplating whether or not it was appropriate to take off her undergarment, Matthew decided it was; she was going to be his wife anyway, and he hated seeing the rag on her. He would buy her new undergarments once they were married.6 With a small smile creasing his face at the very thought of being married to the sleeping beauty before him, he began taking off the rag that was in no way befitting of her. And for a second, after he had succeeded in taking off all her clothes, he let himself catch a glimpse of her, before helping her into Nana Lois' nightdress, deciding in his head that the rest of her was indeed lovely. Sharon stirred, turning over to the side. The surface beneath her was uncharacteristically soft, she thought, even as her fingers grazed something soft as well. Confused, she opened her eyes, her fingers curling around the soft object —a pillow? She rubbed her eyes; uncertain of what it was she was staring at. But it was indeed a pillow, and as she pushed her weary body upright, she was shocked to find that she was on a bed. A bed! Gasping, she stared down at herself in horror, her eyelids expanding the second her eyes came to rest on the unfamiliar dress that had replaced her gray dress. Instinctively, she clutched her neckline; the blood draining from her face as she considered what it was that must have taken place. The monster! The monster had ruined her! He took advantage of her weak state and most likely forced himself on her. This was his room, wasn't it?! Her eyes glided over the closed wooden door opposite the bed, the dresser by the wall, and the fireplace on her left hand side that stood in between two windows covered with blue draperies. The room seemed a little too luxurious for Jenkins, but what other explanation did she have for where she was? Horrified, she pushed the white covers off of her legs and scrambled out of the bed, her vision spinning the second her feet settled on the soft surface beneath. She clutched the bed frame for a second, afraid she would fall on her face. A sound from her right caught her attention. Turning sharply to the side, her eyes immediately came to settle on an unfamiliar face. He stood by the entryway, a small frown pulling at the center of his bushy brows. Confusion shone in his hazel eyes, and his rosy lips stood slightly apart. Curly brown hair fell to his forehead, and his clean shaven face made him appear quite handsome. Who was he? She thought, her eyes moving slowly down the length of him. Clad in a clean, white shirt, his rolled up sleeves exposed his hairy forearm. He held a tray before him that contained a bowl, pitcher and a cup. She tore her eyes off of the tray in his hands, moving them down the length of his brown pants and polished black boots. Suddenly, a wave of exhaustion washed over her. She staggered, falling to the hard wooden floor, even as what appeared to be a frenzied sound reached her. Something took hold of her body, carrying her gently and placing her on the bed. “Do not try to rise,” he leaned down over her, hazel eyes beholding her with concern. Confused, she stared at him; why was he concerned? When was the last time anyone gave a rat's ass about her? Who was he? Surely she couldn't trust him, even if his hazel eyes seemed to hold no falsehood in them. For all she knew, he worked for Jenkins, or at least knew Jenkins, and she could never trust anything that had to do with Jenkins. No, what she needed to do was get away from here! “You are too weak, and starved.” Leaning further down, he brushed her hair aside, a broken sigh escaping her lips. His eyes darted to her in question. He was handsome, she thought, scrutinizing his face that was only inches away from hers. His eyes, rather than reflect hostility, seemed to reflect gentility. They were not dazed, or tired looking, they were instead clear, bright, and sober. Then he was no drunk? She wasn't sure she knew a man who wasn't a drunk. Her eyes shifted to his nose, scrunched up slightly as a result of the small frown on his face. His warm breath tickled her skin. Slowly, she moved down to his lips, her eyes resting on them for much longer than she had intended. They were moist, rather than cracked and dry, and they were only an inch away from hers. Instinctively, she swallowed, averting her gaze to the white wall. “What do you want?” She said. “I brought you something to eat.” She shrugged. “I'm not hungry. I'm not eating anything that monster has to offer.” She stuck her chin out, suddenly reminded of her anger. “I'm not a monster.” The softness of his voice surprised her. Turning back to him, she found him kneeling by her bedside with his elbows leaning on the edge of the mattress. She raised a brow, refusing to be pulled into whatever game he was playing with her. Certainly, he was sent here by Jenkins, and certainly he was as vile as Jenkins. “Are you not? Then why do you condone kidnap, why do you associate yourself with a man who has kept me prisoner against my will?!” She half yelled, frustrated as a wave of dizziness washed over her. His frown deepened, and for several seconds, he knelt there silently. Tired, she rubbed her brows in a failed attempt to ease her headache. Maybe she must accept her fate? Maybe she must reconcile her mind with the fact that she was stuck being Jenkins's prisoner. “You are weak,” his words surprised her. She turned to find him scrambling to his feet. He crossed the room, walking over to the dresser where she noticed for the first time, he had placed the tray. He lifted it up, and carried it back to her. Settling on the bed beside her, her eyes remained fixed on him as he lifted a spoonful of soup to her lips. The sweet scent of lentils and pork drifted to her nose, stirring her appetite. But it wasn't her hunger that made her tear her lips apart and accept the meal into her mouth, it was the look in his eyes; the look of compassion. It was a look she had not seen in many years —since her mother died. + ~*~ Matthew did not rise to his feet until he was certain she was asleep again. Carrying the tray in his hands, he made his way back down the stairs and placed the dirty dishes in the sink. He didn't think it was wise to leave her side and return to work on the farm, but he needed to instruct the farmhands on a few things. Perhaps he could count on her to sleep for at least an hour? Deciding to check on his farmhands, he mounted a horse and rode to the field where the workers were busy building more ridges for the farming season. Barely able to concentrate on his work for more than a few minutes, he rode back home, and made his way back to the room. She was still asleep on the bed. He carried the chair by the dresser over to her bedside, and sat there for a while. Bored, he went over the morning newspaper for the second time. When she laid sleeping until evening, he imagined she was beyond exhausted. Perhaps she would sleep the entire day away? He hoped she would, and more than anything, he hoped she would wake up tomorrow with a clearer mind, and a willingness to accept his marriage proposal. Darkness did very little to hide the firm outline of his bare back as he stood shaving by the fireplace. He must think she was asleep, she thought, spellbound by the man before her, even as her eyes trailed down the length of him and her mind memorized every dent in his form; sweat clinging to his finely chiseled muscles that was no doubt carved out of hours of hard work. It wasn't dawn yet, and she had woken up earlier to the sound of movement. Briefly confused, it had only taken a second to remember where she was, and another, to recognize the man who stood shaving by the fireplace. Why was he here? Her eyes shifted from one part of the room to the next. Where was Jenkins? She thought, freezing in her attempt to scan the room for him as the stranger turned toward her. Most likely blinded by the darkness, he didn't seem to notice she was awake when he made his way over to the dresser and picked up his shirt from where it hung on the arm of the chair. Shrugging it on, she ignored the slight stab of disappointment in her chest by his actions, and instead slid further down the sheets. She watched him neatly tuck his shirt in, and when he finally made his way out of the room, she was surprised when the sound of the door being locked did not filter back to her. Utterly confused —both by her environment and by the odd stranger who had walked out a second ago— she waited for a few more seconds before crawling out of the bed and tiptoeing to the door. Her fingers settled on the cold metal of the knob. Slowly, she twisted it and pulled, a loud gasp drifting from her lips as it gave way before her. She stood frozen for several seconds, her fingers curling around the knob; why had he left the door open? Jenkins always locked the door. There were even times he tied her hands and locked the door, keeping her prisoner against her will. Was this a trap? Was she being tricked into something sinister? Her mind immediately wandered to the day before when the strange man had spoon-fed her and stayed by her side until she fell asleep. He was nothing like Jenkins. His touch, as he brushed her hair aside, had not stung. He hadn't laid a hand on her since they met, and his eyes held no hostility in them. If anything, his eyes gave her an odd feeling of safety. Still, the majority part of her was skeptical, and the part that was afraid of what she knew Jenkins was capable of, forced her to turn back around and crawled back into bed, rather than take the window of escape before her. There was no true way of escape. Even if she could save her own life, it would come at the expense of her father's, and while she was almost certain she hated him, she couldn't stand to see him die; she had already lost one parent. Perhaps she had even lost them both? She seemed like she had, because father never remained the same after her mother's death. Moaning softly, Sharon was surprised to find the stranger leaning down over her. She glanced around, realizing then that she had fallen asleep, and from the brightness of the sunlight that streamed into the room, she must have been sleeping for a few hours. "Good morning." His words surprised her; Jenkins would never be so courteous. Pushing the sheets aside, she sat upright and rubbed her eyes. "Sorry I woke you up, but the rest of us already had breakfast and I didn't think it would be wise to leave you sleeping until you are forced awake by hunger." She realized then that he held a tray in his hands. A frown immediately settled on her face. "Will you tell me who you are and what I'm doing here? Do not think for a second that I will accept your food if you do not give me the answers I need." Her stomach responded with a loud growl. Embarrassed, her lips fell wide open as his eyes shifted briefly to her stomach, and then to her face. He raised a brow. "I believe the monster you have caged in there," he motioned to her stomach, "thinks otherwise." She gasped, heat climbing up the side of her neck and setting her entire face on fire. He shrugged, leaning down and placing the tray on her lap. "Perhaps I must leave you to your meal?" He straightened. "Once that monster is fed, then we will talk. Right now, I am not certain he won't keep interrupting our conversation if he is not fed." Her face burned some more as she watched him, his eyes twinkled with humor, and while she thought it made him appear even more handsome than she had thought in the past, she hated him for humiliating her in such a manner. She didn't realize she was holding her breath until she watched him close the door behind him, leaving her alone in the room. It was several more seconds before she regained control of her breathing, and a second more before she turned her attention to the plate of toast and hot cup of black coffee before her; he was right, she needed to feed the monster in her stomach. But she was never going to tell him that. STORY CONTINUES BELOW ~*~ Matthew smiled to himself as the axe made contact with the wood, a piece of wood slicing through the air and missing his eye by an inch. He stepped back, shaking his head. He was distracted, and by the blonde head. The same scene of their conversation earlier in the day kept replaying over and over again in his head. He kept picturing the look of embarrassment on her face —the slight parting of her lips, the widening of her eyelids, her dilated pupils, and the cute dust of pink that stained her cheeks— and he couldn't help but smile. Perhaps he was cruel for teasing her like that, but he had to admit he liked the look on her face, and he especially liked the monster in her stomach for betraying her true state of hunger to him. And to think she had sought to deceive him by lying about being hungry! Certainly she knew he was aware she had only eaten the afternoon before. Yet, she was stubborn, and feisty, and especially brave. If he was correct, then she must have given Jenkins a run for his money. She did not strike him as one to easily be threatened or intimidated; Jenkins really must have had a hard time with her, which explained his willingness to hand her over to Matthew. A slight frown extinguished his smile; would she be more open to him than she was with Jenkins? He had tried to show her he was nothing like Jenkins, but she still had that guarded look in her eyes and he knew he could never force her to marry him. He would ask today, but that was all he could do. He had only tomorrow left to find a wife, after that, he would be left with no other choice but to bend to his father's demands; the blonde was his last chance. Wiping the sweat off of his forehead with a handkerchief, he made his way back to the building carrying the chopped wood on his shoulder. He placed it by the back door, washed his hand in a basin Nana Lois had left outside the building because she could never stand for him to come into the house with dirty hands in addition to the mat she left because she hated for him to bring dirt into her 'freshly scrubbed floors. Turning from the basin, he made his way into the building and up the stairs. Pausing by the bedroom door, he made a fist and pounded lightly on it. He stepped back and waited for a second. When she did not respond, he pushed the door open, his eyes immediately coming to rest on her. She stood by the bedside, her arm slung slightly over the headboard and her eyes fixed on him. "May I come in?" She frowned. "W-why?" "You asked me a question earlier; I thought you would like to know the answer right now." She watched him. "First, you must tell me what happened to my clothes." She motioned to herself, and he glanced at the white night dress, immediately remembering taking her clothes off and helping her into it. Embarrassed, he glanced down. Surely he could not tell her he had been the one to undress her? Yet, he did not feel comfortable about lying to her. "It was ripped, and stained with... blood. I'm sorry, I should not have violated your privacy like that, and I cert-" "You, and not Jenkins?" He glanced up and shook his head. "Jenkins is gone." The frown on her face deepened. "Where? Then he didn't hurt... He did not do anything, did he? Did you?" She glanced down briefly, her face paling the second she lifted her eyes up once more. Briefly confused, he watched her clutch her neckline, and immediately understood what she meant. Shaking his head furiously, he momentarily imagined the torture she must have endured with Jenkins to even conceive the thought of him forcing himself on her. "No, of course not!" The very thought repulsed him. A loud sigh escaped her lips, but she did not release her hold on her dress. "Then why are you here? Who are you? Where is Jenkins?" "May I please come in, Blondie?" He said in reference to her hair, and also considering the fact that Jenkins had not bothered with introductions. Her hold on her neckline slackened. "Blondie?" He nodded. He had no idea what her name was, and had been dumb enough not to ask. "May I come in? I promise to maintain a respectable distance." She watched him, skepticism clouding her eyes for a few seconds. He stood still by the doorway, deciding if she didn't want him to go into the room, he would simply respect her decision. He understood she was frightened and confused, and he fully blamed himself for not putting her fears at ease earlier. Slowly, she nodded, surprising him. "Thank you." He closed the door behind him and made his way to her. Settling on the bed, she motioned to the fireplace. "Sit over there." "Fair enough." He offered a bow of his head before heading over to the fireplace a few feet away. Settling on the chair, he clasped his hands before him. She released a loud breath, her eyelids snapping shut briefly in what appeared to him to be an attempt at calming herself down. He waited, understanding her need to take a moment to think. She sat still for several seconds, his eyes taking in her form; she was thin and dangerously close to being malnourished. He took note of her slouched shoulders and blistered hands that sat on her knees, assuring him of their ability to handle hard work. No doubt, she was accustomed to working, and her slouched form was an indication that she had little or no training in etiquettes. He was however barely surprised. Didn't Stanley mention something about a gambling father? Her father had lost her in a bet, hadn't he? Then she was from a less than reputable home; nothing like Matthew had ever been around, least of all, considered marrying. But he was without a choice. She was not the lady of his dreams —or his parent’s dreams for that matter— but she was all he could get given the short notice. Her eyelids flickered open, and she stared at him. "Let us begin with the unpleasant question; where is Jenkins?" "Gone," he sat up straighter, somewhat nervous because he knew he needed to ask for her hand in marriage in the next few minutes. "Gone? I am confused, gone where?" He opened his mouth to speak, but she raised a hand to silence him. "Do not answer that, I would hate for it to seem like I care anything for the rogue's whereabouts. If Jenkins is gone, then it can only mean one thing —he lost a bet to you, and I am what he lost." Shame immediately washed over Matthew at her analysis, for she was indeed right; Jenkins had lost to him. Perhaps he was as guilty as Jenkins? Perhaps he was as despicable as him? "Do not look so surprised by my ability to guess," she answered dryly, "my own father lost me in a bet, and now, the man who was only a few hours ago about to force me to the courthouse to marry him, has lost me again. I wonder who you will lose me to." "I am no gambler, Blondie." He murmured. She shrugged. "You are certainly the first to go through the trouble of trying to gain my trust. Now, we must move on to the next question —who are you?" "Matthew Steiner, and may I ask who you are?" "The drunk didn't know my name, did he?" She scoffed. "No doubt he forgot to mention that to you when he lost the bet." She looked pointedly at him. "It is information I am unwilling to share as well." "Then I will call you Blondie until you trust me enough to tell me." "Then you will never know, because I will never trust you." She said. Her words felt like a jab to his chest. Surprised by his reaction, he simply ran his tongue over his bottom lip. "What do you want, Mr. Steiner?" She asked. There was the question; the one he knew would provoke his proposal. But, he was uncertain of what to do, or say. He was uncertain of how to ask, and afraid she would refuse. Perhaps he must come out straight and tell her —demand that she be his wife? No, he shook his head. He would ask her. He would ask her because she deserved to be given an option perhaps for the first time in her life? She deserved a choice. Rising to his feet, he thought he saw fear flicker in her eyes. Holding her gaze, he went down on one knee. "Blondie, will you marry me?" It was a simple question, one that carried no emotion in it. It was nothing like the time he proposed to Gretchen —even if he was turned down, and it sounded to him like he was making a business proposal, rather than a marriage proposal, but while he hated the lack of emotions his question carried, he hoped she understood that he didn't love her, and he couldn't pretend to be in love with her. She sat still, confusion reflecting in her ocean blue eyes. Then, her confusion gave way to doubt. She stared at him with question and suspicion, and soon enough, anger was setting her eyes ablaze. Rising to her feet, she planted her fists on her hips. "No." "Wha—" "I said no, Mr. Steiner. Now that you have the answer to your question, am I free to go?!" She stared at him, sarcasm lacing every word. She obviously meant to mock him, her eyes beholding him in fury. Shocked —too shocked to even speak— Matthew nodded, and watched in silence as the second woman he ever asked to marry him, turned her back on him, leaving him kneeling there, his hopes and dreams on the floor with him.

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