The Sweetest Rum
ChapterIt must have been nearly four in the morning when I shut the book because I heard father downstairs getting his horse out of the stable. He
was leaving for Philadelphia today. I suspected he might be going to meet Taylor’s father but I was not sure. He always went to Philadelphia in the middle of spring.
I could not sleep and I did not dare read another poem, so after I heard father galloping away I got out of bed and put a dress on. I studied the dress from last night and thought of how everyone had looked at me in it. Disgusted with myself I dressed in the ugliest dress I had. It was an old brown dress, with a high neck and not flattering at all. It was not even close to being in style, but it was treacherous so I wore it.
I ventured outside first to watch the sun rise. It was beautiful. The sun rising was something I wished I woke up to see every morning. It was like a huge sign telling me to keep going. The sun came back every day and so could I. I watched it for a while letting the colors fill in my life and then I went to the chicken coop to gather eggs.
The chickens were ever so excited to see me, clucking their heads off because usually whoever came to visit brought food. However, I did not have food now so they left me alone while I stole their eggs from all the hiding places they thought I did not know about. I collected the eggs in my apron and took them into the house. All of our eggs sat in a little basket in the kitchen, I added the new ones to the basket and cracked some older eggs from a few days ago into a pan to cook. I watched dazed as they sizzled in the pan, they smelled delicious and I remembered Lily would be waking up soon and would be hungry too. I shifted my eggs to a plate and then cracked some for Lily who I heard coming down the stairs.
“Good Morning sunshine.” I greeted a tired Lily who was still rubbing sleepy dust from her eyes.
“I heard you get up what time was it?” “After father left, probably at four thirty.” I
smiled and put a plate of eggs in from of her. She was still dressed in her night gown, I would have to remind her that she should dress before coming downstairs on days when Father was home.
“Did you have fun last night?” she was eager to hear stories of all the handsome men I had danced my heart out with.
“I did, and I only missed a dance once when I needed a break.”
Lily’s eyes were wide in awe that one women could have so many admirers.
“Did they all tell you how beautiful you
looked?” I winced inwardly remembering Eli’s graces. “They did tell me. They also said they could
not wait until the younger Miss Smith could attend dances as well. Then I told them that having two of us around could blind them or send them into hysterics.
Lily giggled and pretended to look shocked. “You did not!” she protested.
She laughed and moved on to her next question with a sly smile “Was Eli there?”
“Yes” I answered carefully “Did you dance with him?” “Yes” I said not being able to help a smile
creeping across my face. Lily caught a look of dreaminess over
her face. “I wish I could have gone and danced
I laughed and kissed her head. “I feel sorry for that poor child of God when you get your claws on him.”
I left Lily to her dreaming and went to change my horrid dress. I had suddenly
remembered we had church today, I was not feeling so atrocious as to were an old brown rag to services.
While changing into a nicer dress I thought of everyone that I had danced with that would be attending. Most importantly Eli. Eli and his uncle were very holy men, if the family had had the money to send Eli to a school for clergy in Britain they would have.
I heard Lily’s footsteps up the stairs just I finished with my buttons.
“Do you need help with your buttons Lily?” I called down the hallway to her room.
“Um... yes please a little.” she called.
I came out of my room and made my way towards hers. I knocked gently and pushed opened he door. There she was in front of her mirror trying to get her short arms in the direction of her back and button her buttons. I came to her side and nimbly did up her buttons. Lily smiled at the me in the mirror in thanks and I smiled back.
She spun around blossoming out her skirt “How do I look?”
“Like a silly Lily.” She stopped spinning and sank to the
floor her dress billowing out all around her. I watched her as a look of stupendism
drew on her face. “I’m going to put a lily in my hair.” she
cried so excited by the idea. “Do not for get you have to wear your
bonnet I uttered to her back as she sped from her room.
I followed down the stairs tying my own hat string under my chin. Mother was in the back garden with Lily helping find a flower that would still show when she wore it beneath her bonnet. When they had finally situated it just right we began the short walk to church.
Nearly everyone in our little town went to church together so we met with plenty of our neighbors on the walk. I sat in the back of church with all the other young men and women. Mama, with Lily strutting by her side went closer to the front. I looked slightly to my side when I felt someone sidle onto the pew beside me, it was Taylor. He gave me a quick smirk, as if we shared some little joke or connection, which I did not like to think that we did. I very rarely sat next to a man, but Taylor must have decided that we were together enough to claim a seat beside me. I did not pay him much attention at first, but when Eli took his normal seat behind me to the left with a grudging look seeping from his face, I regretted letting Taylor kiss me last night. I wanted to hide or at least run out of the church, but the bell had begun to ring and I was stuck in my seat. I turned around just lightly and winked discreetly at Eli a little signal that he promptly and studiously ignored. I sighed and focused my eyes back on the pastor who was reciting some very meaningful verses that he seemed to be saying directly to me.
I am a flower of Sharon
a lily of the valley. As a lily among thorns so is my beloved
among women. (Song of Songs 2:1-2)
I thought of how care free Lily was. I decided I would try to be like her. I would be like a Lily so I could be loved like a Lily. The pastor continued on to another verse.
My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices. My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.”
...Arise, my beloved and come! (Song of Songs 2:9-11; 13b)
I almost exploded in sobs as I thought of Eli and his stag like attitude. I thought of how he did as he pleased and roamed his land. I remembered his words to me the night before. How he told me I was beautiful, the first time he had ever told me, the first time I think he had ever noticed how much a had grown up since we were little. I quickly wiped away a tear with my handkerchief. I felt a little touch on my right hand. I glanced down and saw Taylor reaching for my hand. He must have thought I was thinking or possibly even dreaming of him when I heard the verses. I guardedly pulled my hand away. Gathering up my courage that only
days before I had told Eli I did not I have I glanced over my shoulder at him. He gave a soft smile and my heart thudded its way into my mouth, then he nodded gently toward the pastor telling me to listen to the next words that Eli had begun to form silently on his own lips.
I adjure you, daughters or Jerusalem,
by the gazelles and hinds of the field, Do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time.
(Song of Songs 2:7)
I very nearly choked after those words. I jerked my head around rather noisily and gave Eli a very wide-eyed hunted deer look, which quite fit the circumstances of the reading. He gave me a teasing smile and I felt the gap between us from the previous night begin to close and heal. I refocused my gaze on the pastor only to feel a sharp nudge on my right side from Taylor. He wrinkled his brow confused by all my head turning. I just nodded silently his cue to ignore me and he did shrugging his shoulder lightly.
By the time the bells rang again and church was over I was ready to go home and either dance my heart out or cry my heart out. I had not decided which one I was going to do yet. I stood up and made my way out of the church trying not to push to hard or run any little children over. Taylor was desperately trying to keep up at my side but I was flying out the doors and he was just walking, very speedily, but still walking. Standing in the fresh air arms wrapped around myself he caught up with me. He laughed and made some silly
remark about home quickly I had evacuated the church, and then he said something about a fire. I looked at Taylor in surprise and pretended I was on earth and not floating away into the sky.
“Would you like to go on a picnic m’lady?” he asked offering his arm.
I pretended not to notice his arm and looked over his shoulder toward Eli who was just exciting the church doors and was deep in conversation with the preacher.
“Trinity?” he asked again when I did not
I almost said no, but quickly realized Eli and I and I had not verbally settled everything yet so I just nodded my head.
“I will be at your house in an hour then m’lady.” he said grinning with all his teeth and even using his ears a little bit in his bright smile.
I watched Eli finish talking with the preacher and make his way down the step where Lily greeted him and convinced him to compliment the lily she had tucked up in her hair beneath her bonnet. Seeing my chance I approached them.
“Lily.” I playfully chided, trying hard not to look at Eli. “Leave him alone he could not tell a lily from a sunflower.”
Lily gaped unbelieving and Eli shrugged admitting it was true with a wink. Lily gave him a cold stare and stalked off. I began to follow her when Eli’s voice caught my ears in my turning head.
“Enjoy your picnic m’lady.”
I could even begin to fathom how he had over heard my conversation my Taylor but somehow he knew, and he did not sound very
jealous, which made me happy. Perhaps Eli had done some reading of poetry of his own last night that had caused him to see my my position and why I was forced to spend time with other men besides himself.
I went home and instructed Lily to help pull together a picnic. She cooed and raised her eyebrows at me.
“Is it for Mr. Handsome Taylor Rhode?” she asked impressed.
I rolled my eyes at her. She was always struck by Taylor’s ‘luscious hazel eyes and silky brown-gold hair’ as she liked to say. She immediately began to make ‘the greatest picnic ever’ for ‘Mr. Handsome’, as she put it.
I did not really care how she made the picnic just that she got one started. I quickly changed from my church clothes into a red, square cut neck, printed dress. I check my appearance tucking a golden curl behind my ear as I skipped down the stairs to be greeted by Lily holding a basket and mother tucking some cloth napkins in to it. I heard the sound of a carriage outside and I gave them each a quick peck on the cheek and was out the door and helped in to the carriage with no worries of Eli, knowing that again we were on good terms.
I enjoyed the picnic well enough. Taylor kept his distance but was chattier about more personal things. He was mostly interested in Lily when I told him she had prepared most of the picnic after he tried to thank me for making it so delicious. He wanted to know everything about her, and for several long minutes I thought he was going to consider dropping me and running after
my ten year old sister. When we returned back to my home I was
terrified I was going to have to deal with a replay of last night but Taylor helped me with out a word and only a short kiss to my fingers which I had lately come to expect from every man I saw or anyone that ever noticed or talked to me.