The Creek

April 16, 2011
By , South Plainfield, NJ
“Can you keep a secret?”

The words were whispered into Minnie’s ear, light as a secret kiss or butterflies wings. She strained to catch the words, and once she had them, she turned them over and over in her mind, searching for a hidden meaning. With the hem of her dress bunched up tight in her hands, standing in a creek and letting the water cool her feet off, she could not find any double meaning in the question.

“I know many secrets I have not yet told you,” she said in response, turning around, still ankle-deep in the creek. She smiled at Lewis, standing so tall and dashing before her. His dark hair fell in a smooth swoop over his forehead, casting a shadow over his smoldering eyes. He smiled, rosy lips stretching out in a Cheshire grin around dazzling white teeth. He was almost too handsome; certainly, he was too handsome for Minnie.

“And just because you haven’t told me these secrets, I should trust you?” Lewis mused with a smirk.

Minnie stepped carefully over the rocks on the side of the creek. Her bare feet danced lightly forward, carrying her to Lewis. She grabbed the lapels of his coat and pulled him forward. “I’ve kept us a secret, now, haven’t I?” she said softly.

Lewis grinned at the boldness of his young companion. He was four years her senior, but she was capable of running circles around him and always kept him on his toes. Even now, she was fluttering her eyes and smiling in a way that left him feeling a bit dazed.

“Well, that’s true. Maybe I can tell you a secret.”

“I’m dying to know,” Minnie replied, leaning in close to whisper into Lewis’s ears. A shiver traced his spine, and he placed one hand on Minnie’s waist.

“Well, I shan’t keep you waiting any longer, then. I’ll tell you the secret.”

With one hand on her face, Lewis pulled his lover in for a kiss. Minnie thought of all the other moments, just like this one, she had spent by the creek with Lewis. They had met here; they had talked and kissed and loved here. The creek was there special spot, without a doubt. When they pulled away, Minnie’s cheeks were flushed. “That was a lovely secret, indeed.”

“I wish that were the whole secret, my love; unfortunately the real secret is not quite so nice.”

Minnie felt dismayed at his tone, but tried not to show it. “Oh? So you try to sweeten the truth with a kiss before letting me feel the pain.”

“How can you be so sure pain will be involved?”

“You are not stating anything to the contrary, so I can only assume I will be hurt by this.”

“Minnie…” Again, Lewis reached out to touch Minnie’s face, but she pulled back. “My dear, sweet Minnie…”

“Please, if I am going to hear bad news, don’t put it off. Say it outright.”

Lewis’s face fell a bit. He shuffled his booted feet into the rich dirt before him. Minnie’s own feet were still bare, looking incredibly tiny and delicate in front of these big manly boots. He was so tall and strong, whereas she was bony, petite, delicate…how could he hurt her?

“What if I told you I loved you?”

Minnie blinked. She had not been expecting to hear that. “You have told me many times that you love me.”

“But if I said I loved you, really loved you, and never wanted to be with anyone else?”

“I would not know anymore whether to believe you,” Minnie said. “Before you began this talk about secrets, I would have known your words to be true. Now, I am not so sure you are being honest, but I will tell you that I love you just as dearly as I once believed you loved me.”

“What if I asked you to marry me?”

Again, Minnie felt taken aback. “You know I am too young to marry.”

“You’re sixteen. You are of the perfect age to be wed.”

“I’m not ready to be married.”

“Well, I am not asking you to marry me. I am merely wondering what you would say, if I were to ask for your hand.”

“I have made it quite clear I am too young to marry.”

“Fair enough.” Lewis’s tone was shorter now, clipped. “It matters not, anyway. I am engaged.”

A hard knot, like the pit of a peach, formed at the bottom of Minnie’s stomach. “Excuse me?”

“I am engaged, Minnie. The young lady I have been courting found out about our affair. She is threatening to tell everyone, the whole town, about you and me. I will be a ruined man unless I marry her.”

“How did she find out?” Minnie blurted, before asking the true question on her mind – “Who is she?”

Lewis swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “Her name is Suzanne.”

Immediately a picture formed in Minnie’s mind. She lived just a few houses down from Suzanne. Big-boned, sturdy, with stringy hair the color of straw and a large nose. “She is not a pretty girl,” Minnie commented, partly out of spite and partly out of truth.

Lewis shook his head and reached for Minnie, who pulled back. “Nowhere near as pretty as you, it is true. But then, no one in this whole town can hold a candle to you.”

Minnie gulped down a lump in her throat, a lump of hurt. Again, though, she hid her true feelings. “Of course they can’t! Look at me, Lewis! Will you ever find a girl as beautiful as me? Especially in Suzanne – will you ever find an ounce of beauty in that wretched girl?”

Minnie noted with resentment that Suzanne was only fourteen. “Lewis…I will marry you. Let me marry you and let us run away together. Who needs this town? I have no ties here. My family does not care about me, the way you care. I do not love anybody in this town the way I love you. Forget Suzanne and her threats. Be with me, please.”

Lewis’s eyes were ravaged, torn between anger and love; a passionate war raged against his irises. All he said, though, very calmly, was, “I thought you were too young to be married. You are older than Suzanne, who says she is willing to marry me.”

“So you don’t want love. You want marriage.”

“If I wanted marriage, would I have stayed with you for so long?” Lewis grabbed Minnie’s hand. “I want love. But I want a family, which Suzanne can give me. I want love, but I want a career, which I cannot have with you. Either the whole town will know of our affair, or I will run away with you and have to start anew. Who will hire me, outside of this town? Here, I have security. Outside of this town, I have nothing –”

“But love. You have nothing but love outside of this town, Lewis. You would have love, you would have me.”

“Love cannot earn me money,” Lewis said bitterly.

“With money, you cannot purchase love.”

“Minnie, don’t be difficult. I asked you to meet me here today so I could end this affair we’re having. I can’t see you anymore. But I needed to let you know my true feelings for you. I needed to let you know how much I care for you, how much I love you.”

Minnie ignored him and walked forward into the creek. She sat on a rock and let the water wet her up to her knees, soaking her dress straight through. It clung to her legs uncomfortably, but she ignored that as well. She waited, staring at the creek until tears welled up in her eyes and blurred her vision.

Minnie wondered at herself and wondered at how she could protest the idea of marriage for so long until faced with the thought of losing Lewis. She wondered at how she could be so strong and sure of herself until she realized she did, in fact, need a man to be so strong and sure. She wondered at her ability to give up all her beliefs in order to keep her love by her side.

She heard Lewis’s strong boots clunking away through the woods, tripping over tree roots and branches on the ground, and only then did she allow herself to sob out loud. More than anything, Minnie wondered if all the creeks in the world were created this way, born from the tears of defeated girls who have lost everything.





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babagirl said...
Apr. 28, 2011 at 7:49 am

you are an amazing author please write more i would love to read more

 

 
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