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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 4

UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 4

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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 4
Matthew was married to a stubborn woman. With his frown deepening, he waited until the supplies were loaded into the back of the wagon before burying his hand in his pocket, finding what was left of his little savings, and handing it to the shop owner. He had come to town to send a letter informing his father of his marriage, as well as to see about buying fabrics for new dresses for Sharon. He wasn't certain if she could sew, but he didn't exactly have a choice because the price of one dress went for the price of two fabrics, and while he was ashamed to admit to his financial status, he was unfortunately unable to afford dresses. She would just have to make some herself, or at least wait for Nana to return in six days and get started on them. The ride home was silent. Matthew found his fingers trembling in an obvious show of nervousness —or perhaps it was a show of his unwillingness to return to his new bride? He didn't know how to feel about Sharon, for while he certainly pitied her for her misfortune of having a drunk, gambling father, it was difficult —impossible even— not to find her attitude highly annoying. He eased the wagon through the broken-down gates of the farm, pulling it to a halt once it was before the house. Glancing up slightly at the building, he let out a soft sigh as his fingers released their hold on the reins; he did not look forward to going in there. And perhaps he didn't have to? Sharon made it very clear she didn't like him, and the more time he had to spend in her presence, the more certain he was that he didn't exactly like her either. Perhaps it was best he spent the rest of the afternoon working with the farmhands? There wasn’t exactly plenty to do, but he needed an excuse to not be with his wife. Sighing yet again, he jumped down the side of the wagon, leaving the supplies behind as he unhitched the horses and led them to the barn. The rest of the afternoon couldn't go by quickly enough. Matthew kept his eyes on the work before him, but his mind stubbornly reminded on the woman he was now married to. Their marriage didn't seem like it was going anywhere but he hoped it would last long enough for him to come into his inheritance. A small frown settled on his face, a strange feeling of disappointment washing over him as he wiped his brow. It was all he wanted, wasn't it —his inheritance? He didn't need a wife, especially not now; not when it was only less than a year ago Gretchen turned down his proposal. If he let himself dwell on it, then he would reluctantly admit to being heartbroken. Perhaps Sharon's decision to eventually leave would be good for both of them? “Who do we have here?” Stanley's words drifted to him, dragging him back to the present. Turning to Stanley who was now putting down his hoe, Matthew's frown deepened. “Who's the beautiful lass?” Stanley wiped his hands on his pants, his eyes fixed on something behind Matthew. Turning sharply around, a soft breath escaped his lips as his eyes came to settle on Sharon. Clad in Nana's white sundress, the white apron around her waist helped conceal the oversized nature of the dress. The white bonnet on her head —also belonging to Nana— kept most of her face hidden, yet he thought she looked beautiful. Perhaps it was because of the way the gentle breeze played with her skirt, tossing it back and forth her legs? Perhaps it was the way she expertly made her way down the grassy field? “My wife,” he heard himself say. He wasn't sure why he said it, but he thought it was in response to a question he had been asked… or was it? Matthew wasn't certain he was reasoning correctly in that second, his eyes journeying with Sharon as she made her way to him. She was coming to him, wasn't she? “Congratulations sir, she's a real good looker.” With his face catching fire, Matthew felt a stab of pride as he waited anxiously for Sharon to reach him. As she neared, her face became more visible and his anxiousness for her to reach him quickly became less bearable. “Isn't that George Freelance's daughter?” Stanley asked and he shrugged, waving him off. “But boss, wasn't she supposed to be married to Jen—” “Get back to work, Stan.” Matthew barked the order, turning briefly to acknowledge Stanley, and realizing in that second that Stanley wasn't the only one who needed to get back to work —all his farmhands needed to get back to work, for they all stood on various ridges, staring at Sharon. He wasn't certain if their decision to stare was borne out of curiosity, or because the sight of a woman on the farm was a refreshing sight next to the dry soil they had been staring at all day. Shaking his head, he called, “all of you, back to work.” He barked the order, before turning back to Sharon who was now only about three feet away. Covering the distance between them, he offered a smile in greeting. “Need my help?” He lifted a slight brow in an attempt to hide his delight in seeing her, even if he was certain he couldn't hide the redness of his face. He however hoped she would simply assume he was sun burned. She shook her head, to his disappointment. What was wrong with him? One minute he was avoiding her, and the next, he was excited to see her! Perhaps it was as a result of the farmhands' fascination with her? There was no doubt in his mind that he was the object of their envy and the thought did something to his ego. “Lunch. I figured you would be hungry.” Her words shocked and thrilled him all at once, rendering him speechless. She frowned. “You're not? Forgive me, I assumed you would be. I had a table set on the porch for the farmhands, and...” He watched her, his eyes fixed on her lips as she spoke —they were beautiful, as was every part of her. Just then, she turned around, surprising him. “Wait!” He called after her retreating back. Pausing in her tracks, she turned around, her frown deepened further. “We are indeed hungry.” “You are?” Relief flooded her eyes, her frown dying. A small frown claimed his face, a part of him liking this thoughtful side of her. “The men would be surprised if I offer them food and might even get used to being treated so well,” he rolled his eyes. “But they'll be extremely thankful to you.” She smiled —a breathtaking, refreshing smile that caused his smile to broaden. “I can do this as often as they'd like. Cooking is one of my fortes. Well, cooking and sewing.” “Great, because I got you come fabrics. Glad you found Nana's clothes,” he motioned to her outfit, “but I'm uncertain she will be pleased to find you in them when she returns.” “Nana?” He nodded. “My housekeeper. She's away for a few days, but she'll be back. You two will get along just fine.” “Oh, I um—” She glanced down. “I thought...” “What?” Shaking her head, she raised her eyes to him. “Lunch?” He nodded. “Have you had any?” She shook her head, “I could eat in the kitchen. I imagine the men would want to eat and discuss, or argue about things only men understand? It'll be best to afford you all your privacy.” “We could eat together.” He said before he had the time to think his words through. Something clouded her eyes; something he recognized very well was the wall she always managed to build around herself to keep him away. “I always eat alone.” Releasing a sigh in frustration, he nodded slowly. “I will just let the men know there's food then.” She opened her mouth to speak, but Matthew didn't give her words the opportunity to form, before turning around and walking away from her. With the men on the front porch engaging in lunch several minutes later, Matthew kept his eyes on the dry soil, his hands wrapped around the hoe and his mind on the work before him, ignoring the dull pain that stabbed at his heart as well as the pangs of hunger that protested his decision to abstain from lunch. Her eyes remained glued to the lone figure on the farm, sweat glistening off of his now bare back as he worked. She had been watching him for several minutes, fully expecting him to put down his tools and make his way to the front porch where she had laid out lunch on a table. Still, after watching the farm hands abandon the farm to rush over to the porch for their meal, Sharon stood, silently disappointed as Matthew adamantly chose to keep working. She didn't understand it —his decision to keep working, rather than take a lunch break— and she didn't exactly like it. Earlier, he seemed enthusiastic about pausing for a meal, even suggesting that they eat together. His suggestion had taken her by surprise, and she had tried to point it out to him, revealing the painful truth of her having to dine alone for so many years. It would have been different to have him eat with her, but rather than eat with her, he chose to turn away, abandoning lunch altogether. And the food? It had been somewhat of an apology for her behavior earlier. She imagined it was the right thing to do, considering she had taken her frustration out on him when he hadn't deserved it. He hadn't exactly force her into marrying him, she had agreed to it, albeit not really having a choice. Perhaps she simply did not understand Matthew Steiner? She frowned, turning from the kitchen window. He was certainly an odd man. She was at a loss for what to expect from him, which was why she was determined not to trust him. If there was one thing she had learned in her years of dealing with men, it was that they couldn't be trusted. Her own father had gone over and beyond to prove that one fact to her; men couldn't be trusted and she only had herself to look out for. Matthew didn't return to the building that afternoon, and finally frustrated by his decision to ignore her, Sharon laid in bed that evening, eyes fixed on the white ceiling. She didn't dare think of the reason for her insomnia or the dull pain in her chest; she didn't dare think that they had anything to do with Matthew. His decision to avoid her presence was what was best, wasn't it? Groaning, she sat upright, folding her legs before her. Perhaps a glass of milk would help her fall asleep? Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling had certainly proven to be an abortive solution after all. Rising to her feet, she made her way out of the door. The stairway was dimly lit, the light from the kitchen helping to light it up a little bit as she walked. Frowning, Sharon paused in her tracks; hadn't she turned off the stove earlier that evening before going to bed? She was uncertain, her mind nearly fully occupied by Matthew and his unfathomable behavior earlier. It was possible that she left it on, or that Matthew left it on when he finally decided to come into the house. Taking the remaining stairs down to the kitchen, she paused by the entryway her eyelids widening as her eyes came to rest on Matthew. He stood there, oblivious to her presence as he wiped his bare body clean. The tub in the center of the room where the table once was, made it apparent that he had just taken a bath, and while Sharon knew it was required of her to turn from him and run back up the stairs, her legs held her captive where she stood, her eyes fixed on him. For the life of her, she couldn't move —neither did she have the desire to do so. She stood, secretly reveling in the sight of him. Water glistened off of his skin, dripping further down the length of him and forcing her gaze to move along with it until she was pausing slightly below his waist. Swallowing, a voice in her head yelled for her to turn away but curiosity urged her on —curiosity, as well as a strange, unfamiliar feeling of warmth crawling through every part of her skin until it was setting her entire body on fire. She had decided to continue with her perusal of his unclad form when Matthew suddenly turned from her. Shocked, she imagined he caught her in her shameful act and would no doubt think the worst of her. Shame made it impossible to do anything but stand there and watch as he reached for his pants that sat on top the table —which he had pushed against the backdoor to make room for the tub— and pulled it on. She stood watching, the tension easing from her body once it became clear to her that his silence was an indication of his ignorance of her presence; if he had seen her, he would have said something by now. Sharon waited for a few more seconds to confirm that she had indeed not been caught staring. Once this fact was ascertained by his continued silence, she slowly turned around and silently made her way up the stairs, her body trembling slightly with an unfamiliar emotion. 3 ~*~ Matthew was avoiding her. Sharon could tell, his presence having become scarce since the evening she stood watching him get dressed from the shadows. She only managed to catch a glimpse of him once every afternoon through the kitchen window when she stood in the cooking lunch. Her gaze would mostly wander to his body, her mind conjuring images of his nudity. She would succeed in pushing the image away, but would never succeed in pushing aside the feeling of warmth that would always accompany that image. The fact that it had been nearly an entire week since she watched him get dressed did not seem to matter because she couldn't forget the incidence. Sighing in frustration, she took the pie out of the oven and placed it on the work table; it was time to inform the farmhands of the readiness of their lunch. Matthew had taken to eating with the men on the front porch since the afternoon he offered to eat with her, and then changed his mind. Sharon had caught herself severally desiring to have him share a meal with her, but had always pushed the thought aside, refusing to give it room to take root in her heart. Turning from the pie, she stepped into the hot afternoon air, Matthew's gaze drifting to her just as she did. A slight frown creased his face at the sight of her, and while Sharon fought to convince herself that the frown on his face was not an indication of his displeasure in her presence but that it was as a result of the discomfort of the sun, a part of her was fully convinced that he was indeed displeased to see her. Straightening, she shoved the thought aside and made her way to the field, the tool in his hand dropping to the ground as she approached. "Lunch is on the porch." She said, and rather than wait for his usual nod or muttered thanks, she decided she could do without them today; it was best to keep some distance between them. She turned around and walked away. She entered the kitchen and ate her mashed potatoes and gravy in silence. She had barely placed the plate in the sink when the sound of the front door opening drifted to her. Turning around, she was just in time to see Matthew entering the kitchen, a frown creasing his face. "I will have the front porch cleaned out." She offered. He shook his head. "The men are still eating." "Would they like some more? I do not suppose there's a lot left, but we-" "We have visitors, Blondie." His frown deepened. "Visitors?” Confused, she frowned. Nodding, he let out a breath, "my family. I suppose they'll be here in a few more minutes. I have been informed they're at the gates. " Unsure of how to respond to his announcement, Sharon simply nodded. Matthew let out yet another loud breath before settling on a chair by the table. Placing his elbows on the table, he ran his fingers through his hair. "Father should have sent word ahead." He grumbled, visibly frustrated. "Do you not wish for your family to visit?" Shaking his head, he rose to his feet once more. "It has been an entire year without them stopping by. Obviously, he's here to confirm whether or not I'm married; to see things for himself. And if he is to see that things are not as they should... " Groaning, he cursed and Sharon cringed. Surprised by her reaction to his foul word, she realized she hadn't heard anyone curse in days and had unconsciously gotten used to not hearing it. "Things are not as they should be; we don't even share a room, least of all talk to one another." Even as he spoke, the image of him standing bare before her flashed before her eyes once more, setting her entire face on fire. Turning sharply from him, she stared at the plate in the sink. "We have our differences." "Differences that will act as reason enough to force my father to withhold my inheritance. I cannot let that happen. " "I am uncertain of what is required of me, Matthew; I already married you to help you get your inheritance. What else must I do?" Sharon heard his footsteps behind her, her body stiffening as he drew near and the strong smell of his sweaty skin mingling with the smell of dust, drifted into her nostrils. Against her better judgment, she found the smell intoxicating and for a brief second, imagined pressing her nose against the side of his neck. Shocked by her own thoughts, she clutched her hands before her and glanced down, her cheeks catching fire. "Blondie," desperation laced his voice, urging her to turn around and look at him; indeed, desperation shone in his hazel eyes. "I must beg your indulgence for a few days, until my family returns to San Francisco, that you pretend to be in love with me." What do you mean?" Sharon stared wide eyed at him. Rubbing his neck, he began to pace the room. "We cannot sleep in separate bedrooms, you must let me at least hold your hands, and perhaps even..." Pausing, he turned to her, his gaze shifting to her lips. Matthew knew quite well that his request would not sit well with her but he didn't believe either of them had a choice. Sighing softly, he said, "Perhaps even kiss you." Color immediately sprung to her cheek, turning her entire face red. Tearing her eyes off of him, her gaze fell to the floor. "Only for a few days; until my father gives what is rightfully mine to me." He said, his eyes fixed on her. She stood still for several seconds with her gaze still on the floor as if in contemplation of his request. Straightening, she lifted her gaze to him, a slight frown on her face as the dust of color began to fade. "Very well, but you are to sleep on the floors. You may hold my hand, but only briefly and you cannot kiss me on the lips, perhaps on the cheek and only if it is absolutely necessary." He nodded, grateful she was even willing to concede to his request. It wasn't the marriage he expected, but it was enough. "Thank you," He said. Her frown faded in that second, her eyes lighting up with something he couldn't quite read. Nodding, she shrugged. "It is the least I can do." Turning from her, he made his way out of the kitchen, dreading the arrival of his family. + ~*~ Sharon waited until Matthew was out of the kitchen before releasing the breath she knew very well she had been holding since his entrance. It was the first full conversation they had had in a long time and hearing him ask her to pretend to be in love with him was not what she had been expecting to hear. Straightening, she hurriedly made her way to the front porch to gather the dishes. Pushing the front door open, she found that the men were still eating and made to go back inside when her eyes caught sight of Matthew. He stood only short distance from the building with his hands buried in his pocket and his gaze fixed on the road ahead. Sharon traced his line of vision, a slight feeling of unease forcing a frown to her face as she caught sight of an approaching carriage. She turned back to Matthew, and suddenly felt sorry for him. He stood, a lone figure under the blazing sun; a figure seemingly craving support. She didn’t think she was the right person to give him any support, but she didn’t think she could ignore the overwhelmingly new and certainly strange desire to do so either. Untying the apron from around her waist, she placed it on the porch, smoothed her skirt and shoved the stray strand of her hair that whipped her face behind her ear, before gently making her way to where he stood. Even as she approached, she imagined what his reaction to her presence would be; perhaps it would displease him? Perhaps it was his wish to welcome his family alone? Perhaps she was wrong to come out here? Just when she decided it was best to return to the house, he turned around and their eyes locked. Tired hazel eyes came to settle on her his brows, pulled together by weariness. Pausing briefly in her tracks, she was surprised when he held out a hand to her. Nodding, she covered the distance between them and placed a hand in his. They didn't speak, but his sweaty palm told her he was nervous as the carriage came to a halt before them and the coachman pulled the doors open. ~*~ Green. It was the first thing Sharon saw when the door to the carriage was opened. The green emerged out of a carriage, revealing an older woman who was most likely in her late fifties. Her green hat kept her hair hidden but still managed to blend perfectly with her eyes and matching dress. When she smiled, Sharon immediately saw the resemblance with Matthew. "Mama," Matthew confirmed her suspicions when he released his hold on Sharon's hand and stepped forward to give the woman a hug. "Oh dear boy," She patted his cheek with gloved hands. "Look at you, skin and bones! What have you been eating?" "Or not eating," A voice called from behind Matthew's mother. "Grace," Matthew turned from his mother, blocking Sharon's view of the mysterious Grace. "Oh Matthew!" Sharon watched Grace engulf him in a hug, her white hat hiding her face. When she pulled away, Sharon merely caught sight of her white lace gloves as her hands gripped Matthew's shoulders. "Look at you, handsome as always. Perhaps a little lean, but nothing Mama's hot meals can't fix, now is it?" "And you Grace, are a woman now," She giggled. "Why, you're quite right." Matthew turned from Grace, giving Sharon a better view. Grace, a tall, slender young woman, seemed about a year younger than Sharon. She barely saw her face because the hat was indeed a barrier, but she imagined she was pretty. Her pink dress was the latest fashion had to offer and the diamond earrings that winked from both her ears was a clear indication of her wealth. "Where is Papa?" Matthew asked. "Away on business," A voice called behind them, and Sharon was shocked to find that there had been someone in the carriage all that time. She glanced behind Matthew, catching a glimpse of a strange woman. "Gretchen?" It was a mere whisper. Sharon turned just in time to see Matthew's face turn pale. "Hello, Matt," Stiffly, he turned around. "Gretchen," He seemed to try again, but the word came out sounding more strained than the first time he had said it. "What are you doing here?" "Displeased to see me?" Gretchen let out a soft giggle. "Surprised," he said. "But not displeased? And will you just stand there, or will I get a hug as well?" Matthew stepped forward, pulling Gretchen into his embrace. It was then that Sharon saw her. Unlike the other two women, Gretchen didn't have a hat shielding her face. Her fiery red hair was pulled into a fancy braid behind her head, curly strands framing her beautiful, freckled face as her slender fingers moved back and forth Matthew's shoulder in a way that left Sharon feeling uncomfortable. As if sensing her presence, Gretchen lifted her gaze, brown eyes immediately coming to rest on Sharon. A thin smile curved her lips, her perfectly carved brows rising slightly in question for a second —only for a brief second. Then, as if unbothered by Sharon's presence, she settled once again in Matthew's arms, her lips brushing against the side of his neck. Sharon felt a slight frown claim her face. "And who is she?" A voice called, most likely causing Matthew to remember her presence because he immediately pulled away, ending their embrace as he turned around to look at her, his face blazing red. "Um," He licked his bottom lip nervously, causing the frown on her face to deepen. "A maid? What happened to Nana Lois?" Grace asked. "And isn't that Nana's dress?" Suddenly feeling conscious of her appearance, Sharon glanced down. Indeed, she looked like nothing short of a slave. She hadn't bothered to comb her hair that morning and had spent the better part of the day making lunch for a handful of farmhands. "This is Sharon," Sharon hadn't noticed when Matthew left Gretchen's side, until he was placing a hand on her shoulders and pulling her slightly against his side. "My wife." She turned to him then, surprised to find him staring down at her. "What?!" Grace half yelled. "I had hoped dearly that Papa had been wrong," "Grace," Matthew called out in what sounded like a warning, but Grace didn't seem bothered by it. "Why would you make such a horrid mistake?!" "Now, now, Grace, surely Matthew knew what he was getting himself into when he decided to get married. Didn't you, Matthew?" Sharon turned to find Gretchen staring at them, a forced smile on her face. Gretchen turned briefly to Sharon and raised a brow in what seemed like a challenge, and in that second, Sharon decided that she didn't like Gretchen, or Grace. She was uncertain of her feelings for Matthew's mother, but she didn't think she would like her either. It certainly explained Matthew's dread after finding out his family was visiting. Leaning further against Matthew's side, Sharon watched in satisfaction as Gretchen's eyes clouded with jealousy. It was in that second she realized Gretchen was in no way related to Matthew. Perhaps she was in love with Matthew? Sharon didn't care anything for Matthew, but she didn't think Gretchen was good enough for him either. As a matter of fact —she thought, forcing a smile to her lips— she would let Matthew know what she thought of Gretchen if he ever asked. "Sharon Freelance Steiner," She ran her gaze over the faces of all three women, pausing when she got to Gretchen. "It's a pleasure to meet you all," tilting her head to the side, she raised a brow, "especially you, Gretchen."

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